19TH HOLE: The Readers Take Over - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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19TH HOLE: The Readers Take Over


This, the ski experts tell us, is the year of the revolution in skiing (SI, Nov. 25, Dec. 16, 23): the year of the shortswing and the reverse shoulder and—if you're good enough—of that supremely skillful maneuver, Wedeln. Well, I believe the experts (and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED), and furthermore I admire them. I only hope they will not overlook another brand-new ski technique, one we dogged, middle-aged skiers have launched in direct competition. It's easy to learn and has real style. It combines the outthrust lower lip with the hoisted shoulder, and for lack of a suitable foreign phrase we have named it, simply, the shrug.

Our graceful art has developed slowly, after 20-odd years of shrewd observation. Back in 1935, when we hiked up to Perkins Pastures, stuck our feet in our toe straps and slid here and there among the boulders, we overheard for the first time some talk of skiing stances.

"Look at Durrance," people said. "He gets into this deep crouch and keeps his feet well apart. A little practice and it's easy." We crouched down earnestly and spraddled our legs. And we practiced fervently.

About 1940 we discovered the Skimobile; we wore steel cables instead of rawhide thongs on our boots; and we had located St. Anton am Arlberg in the atlas.

"Look at Schneider," people said. "He stems, and he's always in control. All it takes is a bit of practice." Dutifully we bent at the ankles and pigeoned our feet into a V. There was talk about Telemarks too, that year, but after one disastrous sampling we closed our hearts to the Scandinavians and stretched our muscles for the Austrians. We practiced harder, but it didn't seem any easier. Later a gentleman in Canada was heard from, who claimed to have beginners doing full Christies in a couple of weeks. This sparked a fair amount of furor, some skiers arguing his methods only worked well on ice, others pointing out that in the East there wasn't much else to ski on anyway.

In the late '40s we went to Switzerland, hoping to learn proper ski technique in the maw of the motherly Alps themselves. Here we encountered another course of instruction: down-up-down, down-up-down and no heel skid, please. Dismayed but game, we bobbed and ducked, buckled and bent and vaguely wondered if it were worth it. It all seemed to take so much practice.

Determined after this to stick with the Americans, we invaded Sun Valley in the early '50s, to find other invaders had landed ahead of us—Frenchmen. They fetched along a gimmick called a ruade, a sort of rabbit hop around the corners. "After all, it's quite easy if you practice, and look at Allais...." Some among us looked positively surly, but we worked hard on the rabbit hop. And it wasn't that easy.

Suddenly it is the late '50s, and the ski pros are shifting their hips in the oily fashion of rumba dancers and using the reverse shoulder and assuming something called the Comma Position. This is the young skier's brave new world of Wedeln. And, oh yes, of course it takes a little practice.

Well, we are fat, 40 and philosophical. And we are not to be intimidated any longer. The time is ripe; we are promoting our own technique and it is desperately needed. You start with the defeated shoulder and the planted heel, and this puts you into the Careless Position. Soon you are ready for higher things like that exhilarating downhill maneuver, the Triumphant Totter. And your ability will win instant recognition.

Just the other day an eager youngster came wedeling down a trail, caught sight of a group of Perkins Pastures veterans, and checked long enough to remark: "Would you believe it? They're still skiing."

All it takes is a bit of practice. It's really easy.
Washington, D.C.

We went staghunting yesterday, in Chantilly (SI, Jan. 27), and the whole thing only cost 7,000 francs (about $15) and we had a terrific time.

First we hung around for about an hour, with all the horses standing in a row with their grooms, while they tried to decide whether to hunt or not. It was cold, and the ground was very hard and icy. Finally we started off at about 1:30 or 2. There is no jumping in staghunting! I had a marvelous horse, a Thoroughbred, who kicked all the time, but not badly, because of nerves. Anyway we hunted stag, and every now and then about five doe would go running through the forest right next to us. It was fabulous, and the French always get so excited. Everyone followed the entire hunt on bicycles, cars, foot, and when the stag appeared they would all shriek: "Tallyho!" and "Attention, attention:" etc.

Unfortunately, I was following a very official-looking man, who turned out later to be just learning (which accounted for the horn and the official-lookingness), and so we got lost and missed the best part of the hunt. We found them again, just in time for the kill, when the stag went into the water. All the men then stood in two groups on one side of a circle, and the hounds in a huge pack on the other. There was a man in the middle who held the antlers of the stag, who by that time had been skinned, and others with whips kept the hounds from misbehaving. Everyone else stood around the outside of the circle, and the two groups blew all the hunting calls back and forth to each other. After that, which took about half an hour, the hide is pulled off the rest of the stag, and the hounds, about 35, "go to it." Then it becomes awful, because there are millions of dogs running around with the bladder, heart, liver, in their mouths—all fighting and snarling. It is like a huge rug which moves back and forth dragging the carcass around, and every once in a while two huge, snarling dogs rise in the air above all the others. About 45 minutes later there is nothing left except a huge spine.
Paris, France

I want to tell you of my great interest in the story of George Crowninshield's yacht, Cleopatra's Barge (SI, Feb. 17).

My great-great-grandmother was Mary Crowninshield (daughter of George Crowninshield), who married Nathaniel Silsbee of Salem. My mother's sister was their great-granddaughter.

One of the rumors about the cruise of the Cleopatra's Barge abroad was that she was to try to rescue Napoleon from his island prison!

My sister is the proud owner of the beautiful desk from the cabin of Cleopatra's Barge and, in due course, it will go to the Peabody Museum in Salem.

In recent years two Crowninshields, Bowdoin and Benjamin, if my memory is correct, built and sailed a beautiful schooner, also Cleopatra's Barge.

Also of interest to me was your PAT ON THE BACK for Dorothea Dean of Boston. She is a niece of my wife, who was Ethel Dean, and comes naturally to her interest in athletics. Her father, the late James Dean of Boston, was captain of the Harvard baseball team in both 1896 and '97, and his older brother Dudley was also captain of the ball team in 1891. Besides this, Dud was quarterback of the 1890 football team and won Harvard's victory that year over Yale by a long run for a touchdown with a "stolen" football.

Dud's son John was captain of Harvard's 1933 football team, which also beat Yale, a great day for the Deans as you can imagine.
Rye, N.Y.

If you would get someone to write the true inwardness of dogs, it would interest many people including not only dog owners but those who once did, would like to or are going to own dogs but don't. If there are child psychologists there must be dog psychologists, and it would be interesting if one of them would put a few pooches on the couch and report the findings.

For there is a deviousness and formality to the canine mind which is cloaked by the lackadaisical and often deplorable manner of the typical dog. As a matter of fact, they are bums at heart—deplorable characters even though they are sometimes (as deplorable characters sometimes are) attractive and even lovable. But they are ritualistic bums.

What brings this to mind is an experience I had with a dog last Sunday. For some time, this beagle has been in the habit of trailing mice across our backyard, giving tongue like the Inchcape Bell. Occasionally I have extended such friendly salutations as "Hello, lousy," but he has never deigned to notice me. I think that, with dogs as with people, when one who has always ignored you suddenly becomes friendly, it is only because he wants to sell you something or get something out of you. It turned out so in this case.

I am shoveling the driveway although it is still snowing when the beagle approaches, curls his stern under him to a perfectly unbelievable extent in order to keep his tenderest anatomy off the snow and sits down with his back to me, 25 feet away. He is a perfectly white dog half an hour later, never having moved a hair.

When I work down to close quarters I speak to him, but he does not even turn his head. On impulse—an impulse which I later realized he was thought-transferring to me—I walked up to him and spoke again. No notice. I scratched his ears, patted him and finally gave him a brisk rubbing. He liked it, but he still sat with his back to me. He was shivering, and I decided to take him in to get warm, not that I care anything about dogs but after all, you can't let anything living die of pneumonia if you can help it.

I invite him in and start for the back steps, and he stays so close to my ankles that for a time I cannot see him on account of the accents of my personal architecture. He comes sedately but rapidly into the house.

I take him on my lap and wrap my coat around him, for he is really a very cold dog—so cold that he doesn't notice the savory odors of dinner cooking. He finally goes to sleep and snores. I decide to put him out again and have to use strategy as he does not wish to leave. But once out, he heads down the street as if he knew where he were going and turns into a driveway, so I assume he lives there. He doesn't.

By dark I am shoveling in the backyard, and I hear a succession of whoffles and snorts. Here is this beagle tracking something over new-fallen snow, which is ridiculous, snorting so ostentatiously that I finally gather he means: "Hey, look at me. I'm back." I ignore him, and finally he goes up to the kitchen door and whines until my wife lets him in.

I figure then that he is a lost dog, which turns out to be the case. Apparently he has always gone home by following his own backtrack, but in the snow he cannot do that, of course. Some kids in the street say they think it is Mr. B.'s dog, so I telephone Mr. B. and sure enough, they have a beagle and he is not home. He lives on the other side of the avenue.

I put a rope on the dog's collar, whereupon he squats like the killick on a boat. A beagle looks small, but he is as heavy as lead. I have to use both hands to skid him across the linoleum, up the driveway, down the street, around the corner and onto the main highway. There he suddenly recognizes where he is and is instantly a changed dog. He wants to play. He wants to salute parked automobiles and every tree. He wants to explore. And when I get him home, he is the gladdest dog you ever saw; he whizzes through the door like a sputnik.

Now my point is that this dog knew he was lost a long time before; that was why he came to me for the first time in his life. But instead of coming up frankly, introducing himself and telling me what he wanted, he had to go through this Chinese dance of pretending that he was just resting in our driveway, watching the scenery and didn't know I was there. And even after we had become acquainted, when he came back the second time he had to observe a devious approach.

It would be interesting to know what lies behind this subtlety and indirection; how those devious and circumlocutory approaches to the heart of the problem were first charted in that canine brain. The stiff and complicated protocol which one dog observes in making the acquaintance of another always reminds me of two Britishers finally deciding to introduce themselves to each other in a club, and it can be explained, perhaps, as the instinct of self-defense in either case. But why such formalism must be observed in distress I cannot understand.

It seems to me that someone who has made a study of dog psychology could explain this sort of thing interestingly. Why don't you get someone who can handle it?
Noroton Heights, Conn.

•Why not? Will some dog psychologist please throw Mr. Hackle a bone?—ED.

I have always been a reader of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and I was particularly interested in the series of articles by Willy Schaeffler. This letter is prompted by the question asked your magazine by Richard N. Prince of New York City (19TH HOLE, Jan. 27) who asked where in the East the shortswing technique is taught.

My home has always been in Stowe, and since 1951 I have been skiing nearly every day there has been any snow. I started on the Mt. Mansfield Ski Patrol in 1951 and spent the winter seasons caring for and transporting the "unlucky" skiers down the mountain. In February of 1953 I began teaching for the Sepp Ruschp Ski School and was certified by the USEASA that same year.

I taught for Sepp every season from 1953 until 1957. When I was taught to teach skiing in 1953 everything was pretty cut-and-dried. There was no mention of delaying your swing or reversing your shoulders. Then in 1955 a few articles appeared on the Wedeln and things very gradually began to change from the teaching point of view.

It was regarded by the "important" people of skiing as something that would soon pass if not too much mention of it were made. Even the Austrian boys in the Ruschp School disagreed as to how to interpret this new style.

As we have seen in the past three years, there has been much controversy as to whether we should swing, half-swing, delay the swing and so on. In 1956 three American instructors in the Sepp Ruschp Ski School, including myself, began to work on a complete sequence of the reverse shoulder style.

We started by working together both on and off the slope, taking slow-motion movies and studying the actual mechanics and physics of all types of turns. We arrived at a sequence where the turn is made not with the swing or delayed swing but with the actual reversing of the shoulders and changing of the body weight.

Since we started this study, through our own choosing the three of us are working in different ski schools. One member of the trio is with the ski school at Sugarloaf Ski Area in Maine and I am directing the ski school at Smugglers' Notch Ski Ways with the assistance of the third member.

I welcome the chance to talk and ski with anyone interested in this new technique as taught in my school at Smugglers' Notch Ski Ways.
Stowe, Vt.

One evening a group of golfers were sitting around in the Point Grey Club at Vancouver, B.C., and the discussion got around to the names applied to old clubs.

The question arose as to what a "cleek" was. The majority said it was an iron-headed club, with a loft slightly greater than a putter and a shaft about the same as a putter. Others said it was a wooden-faced club, with about the same loft as a five-iron.

After much discussion and no conclusions reached, I said I would write SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for an opinion, so here we are.
Vancouver, B.C.

•Generically speaking, the cleek is a slightly lofted iron-headed club used for distance. There is also a putting cleek, unlofted and with a shaft about half a hand's breadth shorter than the cleek proper. The iron-headed clubs came into their own as implements of precision and distance with the introduction of the rubber-core ball (about 1902). The basic irons were cleek, mid-iron, lofting-iron, mashie, driving-mashie, niblick and putting cleek. Mr. Clark might want to constitute himself as the Point Grey Historical and Antiquities Committee, and in that capacity purchase for his club A History of Golf in Britain (Cassell & Company Ltd., London) where he will find Sir Guy Campbell's scholarly treatise on clubs and balls.—ED.