A pleasant game of croquet

By Frederick Freudenberger | Jul 28, 2010

Rockland — American artist Winslow Homer's "Croquet Scene" painted in 1864 depicts a refined quartet playing an elegant game of croquet on a serene afternoon. Looking at it you might get the impression it is a game for sophisticates. For example, King Charles the second of England played its predecessor "mall" when it was in high fashion in the 17th century.

Don't let all that fool you.

According to the United States Croquet Association, "croquet as a public sport suffered a setback in the 1890s when the Boston clergy spoke out against the drinking, gambling, and licentious behavior associated with it on the Common."

Winslow Homer died in 1910 and shortly thereafter rolled over in his grave.

On the afternoon of July 25 I played my own game of croquet with my friends. I won't say that the game I played was like the latter games, but I won't say it wasn't either.

Our group included a plumber, several chefs, a very dirty 3-year-old, a dog with hair-loss problems, an arborist, and a sundry of others. The term motley crue fits I think.

The game itself is fun. I think of it as a combination of golf and pool played on a lawn. The basic principle is that you hit a ball with a mallet between the hole in a wicket and move onto the next. However, you can also hit other players' balls to set them off track and mess them up.

Guess which rule we were more preoccupied with.

If you have ever read chapter VII of "Alice in Wonderland" it might give you some idea of Sunday's level of order.

However, the existence of rules is misleading. The real reason to play croquet is the same reason you might play any other lawn game: to relax with friends.

I think of it like fishing: Am I going to catch something? No. Will I try? Perhaps. Will I enjoy myself? Most certainly.

So, on a warm summer's afternoon we gathered at Chris' and Kat's house to "play."

I showed up late to the game as Team Subaru, Ryan, was lagging far behind. As it turned out the other players thought he would be the best one to mess with and constantly hit his ball.

The game continued like that for a while until the child became interested in the orbs. After that, much of the play was interjected with a lawn-chase to get the balls back in their rightful place.

Eventually, he became bored with that game and moved on to playing with rocks.

The dogs were still an obstacle, but they seemed to be much more willing to move out of the way.

At this time I was just hanging around chatting with friends until it was my time to play. I can't even remember who won the first game.

So, after some ribs and chat we moved on to round two. I blasted out of the gate and, I have to say, I was doing quite well for myself.

But, like pool, there are unpredictable setbacks.

Aside from the hazards of dogs and children, the lawn is not always as flat or even as you would like. This can result in fly balls or shots way off track. Also, as mentioned before, people often hit you away from your goal — those sticky wickets.

Jamie and Erin were hot on my tail. After several close calls, some missed shots, and hitting of others balls, Erin passed me and found her way back to the start.

The way the game works is you make your way up the course then back down. Once you reach the beginning again you become "poison." Then, if you hit another players' ball, they are out for good, not just off track.

Needless to say, I had already tried hard to hit Erin's ball before. So, once she had the power I did not last long.

I left again to go chat and forgot the game until I heard some cheering. In a dark horse victory, Team Subaru had made an amazing second game recovery and taken the game.

By the time I had to leave many of us were stained with barbecue sauce, a mallet had been broken, the child was covered head to toe in dirt, the dogs were no better, one of us had almost been seriously inured by a trowel, and where the garden tool failed, one of us had been injured by a mallet.

William Homer is now officially on his back again.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Lynette & Bob Krajewski | Jul 29, 2010 02:13

AWESOME!



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