Thursday, July 05, 2007

Essay by Bob "The Boule Slinger" Puckett

[borrowed from Bob Puckett's excellent blog at]

I’ve never had a bad day playing Petanque – “The Boule-Slinger”

I have never had a bad day playing Petanque. It doesn’t matter how the rest of the day has been, when I get to the park I can feel the day changing. I get out of my car and something happens: I am no longer mild-mannered, software-engineer Blue Hair Bob – I am something bigger; something wilder; something more old western. A Boule-Slinger!

I walk out onto the dirt, boules still in their holster, my hat on my brow. I have a perfect calm. I am at peace; I know why I am here – I play Petanque! The decomposed granite crunches slightly with each step and my boules rattle like spurs on boots as I walk up from the south. I can see other young guns approaching from the west side of the piste 100’ away. The old man and two more frenchies exit the saloon (i.e., French restaurant) on the north side. Inside I start to size things up.

Who’s here today? Oh, the newbie came back; he’s caught the bug. Poor kid, there’s no turning back now. He’s hooked. I can see it in his walk – a bit nervous, a bit hesitant, but with no way out: he knows he has to be here today, he has to see it again, he has to feel it again. Lanky Todd is here. Lanky’s been at it since he was born; got an unusual, kinda twitchy style – but accurate in a way nobody understands. The old man – he’s why I come, he’s why everyone comes. He hasn’t been at it that long, but he’s good – real good.

He’s the one that got us hooked. “Hey kid, you ever seen one of these?” And then he hands you a 2 pound steel cannonball and your hand molds to it and it feels so right and you loft it a few inches into the air and you feel the weight of it as it lands in your palm. “here, throw it like this”, he says.

Tall Frenchie and Jacque are here. Of course. I beat Tall Frenchie in a little tournament once. It was a fluke. I played well, don’t get me wrong, but it was still a fluke. Frenchie says he can’t play, but it’s a lie. After I beat him that one match, he beat everyone else on the dirt that day. It was a fluke all right. Jacque’s an inscrutable one – throws like a pro; don’t talk much – not in English, not in French. Just throws like he has a remote control in the darn things.

[INTERLUDE: we get to the area where we drop our gear and everyone shakes hands and laughs a bit and asks how we are all doing. We rib each other a little and catch up. We toss to choose teams and laugh and rib each other little more. And now, back to our program…]

Today we play triplets – 3 on 3: Me, The Old Man, and Jacque vs. Lanky, Tall Frenchie, and Columbo (Columbo’s good, better than me, not a shooter though). The Old Man says, “Me point, Jacque middle, Blue shooting.” What? Me shooting? What? He gives me a look and I don’t say a word – I’m the shooter today. Problem is, I never been the shooter. As far as I know, I can’t shoot. And point is normally for the guy who can’t shoot – he can shoot like a carnival act with special effects! No time left to fret – we start.

The Old Man takes his foot and draws a circle in the dirt, throws the pig, crouches down, takes aim, and hits the point. It’s on. Boule after boule. We’re in… they’re in…we’re in. They get one within 6” – and then it comes; they look at me – I’m supposed to step up; I’m supposed to shoot – so I step up, and I shoot. The boule flies. It hits dirt about 12” in front of its target – and then it goes straight at it. It hits – and they give me another look and I hear the clicks of boules being hit together in Boule-slinger applause. It goes on like that. I step up and take aim and miss – but my second throw hits. I step up and let fly and hit the target, come off it at an angle and hit the second target taking them both out with one shot. And each time, I see their eyes say, “tre bien. We knew you had it in you.” We win 13-0, my first Fanny. I shoot about 70% that game, but I remember what Han Solo said, “don’t get cocky kid.”

I’ve never had a bad day playing Petanque – and days don’t get much better than this.


Jeff said...

Thanks for that Jeppy, I played one of my worst matches last night and can't get it out of my head. I must get back on the piste just to clear the mind


Anonymous said...

I thought petanque was intended to remove stress - not induce it!

The good thing is, there's always another boule game around the bend.