Sunday, July 29, 2012

REPRINT: Summer Olympic Croquet Games

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: Since the time of this original posting (1996), my father passed away (2007) and the property on Overlake Drive was sold to a neighbor (2008). But the memories of our croquet games lives on! The following appeared back in the early days of the internet, when DearMYRTLE  first ventured out on the net using AOL's webspace for subscribers, a service option that has since been discontinued. Thank heavens for the Internet Archives WayBack Machine for this copy archived at:

Summer Olympics Croquet Games
(Or Family Reunion Activities Extraordinaire!)
Rather than the Best of the Internet this week, I must take this day to pay tribute to my own father-dad on Father's Day 1996. Although my father is healthy and active, none of us know how much longer our time together on earth will be. As you can guess, I already am teary eyed thinking about this!

On June 1st, we got together for the high school graduation of my daughter Carrie, the last of the bunch. Dad and my step-mom flew over just for the occasion. I am not sure if he realizes what an impact that had on her. The time and attention we give our children and grandchildren says something to them about their worth in our eyes. It lets them know they are something special.

In my case, I remember my father would often take us on weekend jaunts and summer vacations. He took us for target practice in the "wilds" of eastern Washington with a pellet gun. I thought shooting bottles off of rocks was pretty rough at the time. Looking back, I see he was teaching us responsibility, and safety... first hand. He had a movie camera, and took shots of us jumping into the swimming pool at Sol Doc Hot Springs on the Olympic peninsula. Then he rigged the film backwards so it would always show us jumping up out of the pool.
Quite a phenomenon in the days before America's Funniest Home Videos!

Each summer he hosted several large picnics for the office and church friends. These included barbecue fish, roast pig, lots of potato salad, swimming in the pool by the tea house, even water skiing down at the lake! Then, of course, there are the marathon croquet games.

Surely, you've heard of the SUMMER OLYMPICS CROQUET GAMES?!!
I say Olympic, because not only are they Herculean feats of physical and mental agility, but they are played in the shadows of Washington state's Olympic mountain range. Actually GAMES is a misnomer here! This is Serious Business in our family! We have a dog-legged court with 30 foot rockery and hedge obstacles, not to mention the eight foot drop from the starting stake to the first single wicket! Grass here is painstakingly manicured, with careful attention to changing patterns for mowing each week! Sometimes it looks like a Scottish tartan plaid after the lawn service does Dad's bidding!

Preparation began years ago in the smaller croquet court between the house and the swimming pool.
Such flat, unobstructed playing fields now pose no challenge to the well-seasoned participants of today's games. The newest top quality equipment is stored in it's specially designed protective covering, to the side of the court, poised for play at a moment's notice. Somehow the retired set of mallets and well-worn balls still remain close by, should someone wish a final glance at the instruments of brutality from former days of glory. Extra good grandchildren are sometimes allowed to play pre-game skirmishes at the sidelines with these color-faded relics.

Other important pre-game activities include the ingestion of the all important Power Lunch,
best consumed two hours before game time. Traditional 9x13 pans of Jell-O salad, rice-broccoli bake, and chocolate cake are mere adjuncts to the main focus of this Olympic preparation. The secret is in the sauce for the barbequed salmon! I believe this marinade should be lab tested, for Dad will not divulge its ingredients! Nothing illegal for sure; it just aggravates me that he won't pass down this time honored recipe! [Grin, I've got it now!]

Dressed casually, as if to deny the import of the occasion, each Player grabs his favorite mallet.
There is never any question of who gets what color. It is somehow silently understood, and the group proceeds around the corner to the starting post. Volleys are shot - closest to the stake wins first turn, and team players alternate in relative age order from there.
This idyllic view of the south lawn at Overlake was
the site of the infamous Summer Olympic Croquet Games.
The man-eating juniper hedge is off camera to the right.

Onlookers pace, and finally settle on the re-woven lawn chairs on the south deck off the living room.
From this high vantage point one can view all but the 1st and 6th wicket. Yet, to tread onto the playing court is considered in poor taste, so one must rely on the grimaces and gloats on the Player's faces to judge how the game is progressing. The audience follows the time-honored tradition of hushed voices. They know each shot is a matter of life and death.
Zelda, on the deck at court's edge.

Blanche (Jackson) and Glen Player
on the upper south lawn of their home.
Summer Olympic Croquet Game viewers
were permitted to sit on the deck to dad's left,
if they kept quiet and didn't interfere with
game play.
However, nothing can compensate for the killer, man-eating juniper hedge between the first stake and the first single wicket. Should one ever have the misfortune of misplacing the starting shot, it  takes a major operation to retrieve the ball from the dark, 7 foot reaches of the well-trimmed bush's feisty branches. This delay of game is not penalized, however, for it is merely considered an extension of the sport.

There is no end to the length to which Players and onlookers will go to devise plans for the locating and retrieval of said errant ball.
Flashlights magically appear from all corners of the court. Coat hangers, broom sticks, old golf clubs, customized 2x4s... anything is fair game for an arm extension. One year, they even resorted to hedge clippers and a post hole digger to resolve the lost ball situation!

Once this hazard is settled, the play moves on. Tension mounts! Special light sensitive spotlights were long ago installed to aid optimum visual acuity as the dusk settled on the Players. Demands for instant replays, and questions of rules are always settled by Dad. After all, it's HIS court! In our family, its not ONLY how you play the game that counts, its also who WINS!

Personally, I think you're a WINNER, Dad!

I love you!

Your little girl.

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