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Friday, 1 August 2014

Crooked Mick and the foot race.

Another one from the bottom drawer, resurrected in honour of the Commonwealth Games and the City to Surf race, coming soon.

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The trouble with Mick was that he was good at most sports, but he couldn't really get any joy out of trying to win, and that sometimes confused other people, because even though they could see he was good, he didn't bother going into things.

I mean, take the time the world champion marathon runners all came to Australia to run a race that started at the Sydney GPO, and ended up somewhere out past Parramatta.

Just before the start of the race, the very best marathon runner in the world asked Mick to mail a letter for him, and told him what address to put on the envelope.  It was an entry for a special world champions' race in Paris, and this bloke wanted to make sure it went off as soon as possible, seeing as he was the world champion.

Well Mick was quite old by then, and sometimes he used to get just a bit forgetful, so after the runners had been gone a bit, he realised he'd forgotten the address.  Well no worries, he ran after the bloke to get it again.  It was only a ten-minute start they had, so he caught up with the world champion at the five-mile mark, got the address, and ran back to the GPO, where the post office bloke wanted to know if it was to go air mail or surface mail.

Air mail was just a new thing then, and so people weren't used to thinking about it, and they didn't use it much, but it could've been important, Mick thought, so he had to run after them again to find out how the letter was to go.  He caught up with the runners at the fifteen-mile mark, got an answer, and ran back again, to a post office that was just a few miles back, because he didn't want to wear himself out.

Well the post office bloke at this suburban post office was even more difficult.  Couldn't post it, he said, not without a return address on the envelope, so Mick took off after the runners again, but he was a bit tired by now, and the sweat was getting in his eyes, so he missed the world champion bloke he was looking for as he ran through the field.  So in the end, he ran right through all of the runners, and across the line, still without seeing him.

When the world champion arrived at the line, the tape was down, and Mick was waiting there for him with the letter, but the world champion just snatched the letter out of Mick's hand, and tore it up into small pieces, saying there was no point in posting it after all, that he'd just decided to retire from running.  And you know, he never even thanked Mick for all the trouble he'd been to.  Didn't even ask about the sick horse Mick was carrying.

Yeah, sorry, I forgot to mention the horse.  One of the other blokes had asked Mick to look after this sick horse, and when Mick started chasing around, he didn't like to leave it behind, and it was only little, so he slung it around his neck and took it with him.  It made getting in and out of the post offices a bit hard, but it seemed to do the trick for the horse, and Mick often used to cure two or three sick horses at a time after that, but this runner bloke didn't even care enough to ask how the horse was.

Mick tried a few other sports from time to time, but most of the time he was just too strong.  I remember the time he played tennis, and kept smashing holes in all the racquets till he restrung one with wire.  Mind you, the first time he did that, he used barbed wire, and so he kept puncturing the tennis balls till somebody complained, and so he bit off all the barbs.

Then they complained about him spitting the sharp barbs out on the court, so he spat the rest of them into the soles of his shoes, and so invented the first spiked tennis shoe.  Actually, they weren't really shoes, but canvas and wood moccasin things that he got a canoe maker to run up for him as the result of another complaint — this time it was about him wearing bare feet on the court.  Then once he had a strong enough racquet, he kept bashing holes in the net, and that caused more complaints, so Mick gave the tennis scene the miss.

Truthful Lewis reckons the story about Mick drop-kicking bags of wheat over the Murrumbidgee River in flood time was just a story.  "I'm a good kicker," he told me, "and I'd be hard put to punt half a bag of wheat across."  Anyhow, Truthful reckons it was almost a drought when it happened, and that it was probably a punt in any case, not a drop-kick, but it was a full bag, and Mick was seen by an Aussie Rules talent scout, and signed to play Aussie Rules football in Melbourne.

The club let him go after the second game, because having Mick in the team was just too expensive.  He could score from anywhere on the field, but unless the ball went close enough to a post to leave a scorch mark, nobody knew where it had gone, and they never got the ball back, either, after Mick had kicked it.  So somebody had the bright idea of putting a net across to save the balls, even though there was a bloke there who knew all about the tennis business, and advised them against doing it.  They got it all set up in time for Mick's second game.

The result was that Mick blasted four holes through the net in his first four kicks, and then put the rest of the balls in that quarter through the holes he had made, because people behind the goals were copping serious cuts and lacerations from the bits of string that flew around like shrapnel.  But at least, says Truthful Lewis, you could tell which hole the ball had gone through by looking for the wisps of smoke.  They replaced the net with a reinforced one when they went to move it to the far end at quarter time, but that just meant Mick's first kick carried the posts clean over the grandstand, and into the river beyond.  Luckily, nobody was hurt, but Mick gave it away after that.

And according to Truthful Lewis, that was the last time Mick got involved in competitive sports.  After that, he stuck to duck hunting, just him and his dog.  According to Truthful, who has never told a lie, Mick would chuck his dog up in the air with a fishing line noose on each paw, and the dog would check the birds out, select the ones that were in season, and snare four birds, one on each paw-noose, then float down to earth with them, carefully regulating the tightness of the nooses so the birds could fly just enough to slow the rate of fall.

Of course, the dog was lazy, and that meant it often got a bit careless about judging size, so Mick'd usually have to let a couple of them go as they were too small, and the dog took exception to being sent aloft when there were guns around, but aside from that, they were pretty good at filling their bag limit every day,Mick and his dog.

Remind me to tell you about the dog some time.

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Note: there is a whole book of these stories, which I am currently pitching to publishers, but they will probably appear in an e-book.

There will be quite a number of these on the blog, all with the tags Speewah and Crooked Mick.

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