Biff America: Weapons of mass tradition
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado “-I did not mean to stab Louie in the throat.
I was attempting to stab him in the groin and he ducked.
He reacted like many would under similar circumstances. He grabbed his neck and said, “Ouch.”
Of course I apologized profusely. When fencing, only strikes to the heart, lungs and stomach count. But I did feel compelled to point out that if we were in a life or death duel, a stab in the throat goes a long way towards winning the day.
Louie, being a physician, agreed. But he also pointed out that the accidental slash he delivered across my ear would have gotten my attention had we not been wearing helmets.
For years now Louie and I have been exchanging weapons for Christmas. He has given me “Gil Hibon Pro Throwing Hatchet” and a “Cold Steel, tanto-tip boot knife” I have returned the favor with a set of three “Ken Onion double-edge stainless steel throwing daggers with a human silhouette knife target” and a “36-inch sighted blowgun with two dozen 3-inch steel-shafted hunting darts.”
I thought we had reached the end of that tradition. Bullwhips, blowguns, telescoping steel night sticks, a ball headed war club and a Damascus-steel tomahawk, between the two of us, we had it all.
But then we watched fencing during the last summer Olympics. Fencing is often referred to as “the sport of gentlemen.”
After watching for only a few minutes I proclaimed, “I think you and I would be really good at that.”
Man was I wrong.
Two entry level swords were surprisingly affordable. The mask and helmet was a little more pricy (about $20). With the current state of this economy, Kevlar-padded fencing shirts were out of the question so we have been wearing canvas work coats (from Edgewood Feed Mill) over heavy sweaters, which offers ample protection but also can cause you to pass out from over heating.
In real competitive fencing, the shirts are wired and charged so that when a metal sword hits the target zones, a buzzer sounds and judges and spectators know a point has been scored. Our fencing is based on the honor system, which works out very well for me. When either of us stabs the other in a legal spot we are supposed to yell “Point.”
Sometimes I forget.
As I mentioned before, my stabbing of Louis in the neck was actually his fault (for which he has yet to apologize). As I was thrusting for his groin he “parried” (deflected) my stab up and into the neck protector. I think in real life, fencing a deliberate stab to the neck or groin is considered a foul. But in back yard fencing, it is considered playful.
I should point out that I would never stab my buddy with a real sword. The foils we use have little balls at the tip and produce nothing more than an occasional bruise. To be clear, during the many times we have fenced, both of us are so inept we seldom manage to strike each other let alone injure. Usually we jump around for a few minutes before we succumb to fatigue, laughter and over-heating.
Often while we are flailing around with our swords, masks and work coats in the back yard I’ll repeat the assertion I made when we first saw Olympic fencing, “I think you and I would be really good at that.”
Usually that brings a new spasm of laughter, which distracts my opponent, increasing his vulnerability to an illegal throat attack. Fencing is a gentleman’s sport but I guess I’m no gentleman.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbook.com.
A new Hallmark Channel movie set in Vail, starring Lacey Chabert of “Mean Girls,” will make its debut on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. EST.