You hear it as soon as you open the rink door: men shouting “Draw!”, “Guard!”, “Take-out!” and “Good shot!”; the growl of rocks sliding down the ice; the slap-slap-slap of corn brooms; the crack as rock hits rock. We stand in the cold along the sides, stomping our feet to keep them warm, watching the men plot and play. A hip flask passes from hand to hand, then disappears into a pocket. On the far sheet where the draw has already ended, little kids push rocks to the far hog line and give a good heave-ho; their rocks barely make it to the 8-foot circle. The draw ends, the chamois man cleans the ice, closely followed by the tank man sprinkling a new layer of pebble. We head to the kitchen, fingers and toes tingling with cold, noses red and runny. We open the door and walk into a wall of blast furnace heat. Coal-fueled cook stoves roar full blast. Women, sweating, red-faced, hustle hamburgers, hot dogs, slices of pie, pots of coffee. Men and kids sit elbow to elbow along the L-shaped counter, soaking up the food and heat. The men talk about the thaw that cut short last week’s bonspiel, the snow cover, the potential for this year’s crop, the cost of machinery and repairs and gas, the latest government shenanigans, the wheat quota just opened. Food devoured, we head back out for the next draw. We watch some names advance across the board while others come to a dead stop. Will it be a local rink or one from the town down the highway that wins the trophy this year?
(Anyone who grew up in a small Canadian prairie town knows about curling. If you didn’t and don’t know what I’m writing about, this site is a good primer.)
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