My Favourite New Sport

By Jim Hagarty

I’ve lost interest in hockey and probably couldn’t even make the cut in the beer belly league now. Same with baseball. Never was big on soccer, tennis, bowling.

But there is one sport I am thinking of taking up and it’s one I think I might even be good at. That is the sport of shin-kicking and over the weekend, a Vancouver man was crowned world champion at the Cotswold Olimpicks in Chipping Camden, England.

I’ve always been good at kicking and am usually mad enough to want to hurt somebody’s shins. And here’s the clincher: I have been to Chipping Camden. If that isn’t a sign for me to take up this cool activity, I don’t know what is.

The sport is 400 years old. It involves kicking your opponent’s shins as you try to throw him to the ground. That must hurt, you say? Maybe, but participants do get to shove hay down the legs of their pants for protection. Growing up on the farm, it seemed at haying time I always had hay in my pants. The sport was waiting for me. And I was occasionally kicked on the farm, most often by annoyed cattle.

I’m a bit disappointed the shin-kickers have gone soft over the past 200 years though. They used to cap the toes of their boots with metal but that is against the rules now. Today’s shin-kickers might be wimps but with some practice, I think I could take ’em.

Yes, wind me up and I would gladly kick the shin out of all of them.

Cats For Breakfast

By Jim Hagarty

Most times I love our two housecats or am pretty much indifferent to them. These two brothers are cute and a lot of fun.

Other times, they are so annoying, they could send a Buddhist Monk over the edge. Not being a monk, imagine the effect they have on me.

For instance. Every morning, the “boys”, as they are called, want desperately to get through the kitchen door out into the garage where their favourite kitty litter tray awaits. The one in the basement is too confining, it seems, with its attached hood, as it appears even they cannot stand the lovely scent left behind by their visits. Better to head out to the uncovered pan in the garage where a cat can sit upright and have a good think while waiting for nature to reveal its greatness. None of this is the annoying part.

This is what infuriates:

Among the truly awful things in life – you can devise your own list – is soggy breakfast cereal. I make sure every day that I have all necessary items in place at the table before I take the irreversible step of pouring the milk onto the crisp new flakes, or rice puffs or mini wheats, or whatever. Because once that liquid hits the solids, the window of opportunity for eating your cereal at its tastiest best is a very small one. We’re talking seconds, not minutes. The flakes begin to degrade the moment they are soaked and must be inserted in mouth quickly or they become milk-saturated corn mush before your very eyes.

Now, this is where the boys come in. Literally, come in.

I know cats don’t understand anything about soggy cereal but I am perfectly aware of the fact that they have very good hearing. In light of that, I don’t know whether they wait for certain sounds to impress their eardrums before making their move, but here’s how it goes.

I pull out my chair, sit down, pour the milk, lift two bites with my spoon and…

Scratch, Scratch, Scratch, Scraaaatchuhhh!

Ignore the sounds of cats scratching at the door to get back in, I am advised, but I cannot. Past experience has shown they will scratch till they somehow make their paws bleed. Really. I bolt from my chair, and rush to the door. Sensing my annoyance, they hang back when the door opens, not sure what awaits. When they finally make their move, they shoot through the opening like bullets through a gun barrel.

Back at the table, I face a mess of steadily deteriorating flakes. This does not amuse.

I have tried to outsmart them but the only sure thing I have discovered in my 56 years is that the cat always wins.

So, I pull in the chair and bang my spoon against the cereal bowl a couple of times. In short, I make all the sounds I would if I were actually eating.

Not a scratch to be heard.

I recently waited five minutes to prove to my unbelieving family that I was not imagining things.

No scratches.

I picked up the milk, poured it carefully across the flakes, and sprinkled on some sugar.

Two bites.

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Scraaaatchuhhh!

Can cats possibly hear the sound of milk being poured on cornflakes from 15 feet away through a thick, wooden door?

I believe they can.

And I believe in another old saying about these strange creatures we allow to walk around our homes: The cat is always on the wrong side of the door.

Back to my opening paragraph. Sometimes I love ’em, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I’m indifferent.

Other times, I look down to see this little defiant bundle of fur and bones walking across our floors and wonder what odd creatures humans are to willingly share their space with such beings.

Someday, I know, they’ll be gone and I’ll feel badly.

Except at breakfast time.

Search for Solutions

By Jim Hagarty
Teachers with guns. NRA solution. There is a famous photo of President Ronald Regan just before he was shot. There are six or seven secret service agents and police surrounding him on the sidewalk, all of them packing guns. Still, the shooter got through. There was an armed security guard at the Florida school. Also one at Columbine. They didn’t, couldn’t, stop anything. Metal detectors at school entrances. Every student and teacher would have to be inspected each morning. Could take hours. Bill Clinton brought in an assault weapons ban with a 10-year expiry date. It was allowed to expire. I remember when drunk driving laws were lax. Pedestrians, passengers and other drivers were at the mercy of the irresponsible ones. Laws were tightened, in part thanks to activists such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). There wasn’t a whole lot of fuss. New generations grew up knowing the new reality and taking steps to live with it. Same with smoking rules. People don’t like change but we are pretty flexible when it comes. When my high school gym teacher retired after 30 years at the school, he said, in his farewell speech to the student body, that he had lost the equivalent of an entire classroom of students to car accidents over the years, many of them the result of drunk driving. I knew some of those students who died. We drag our feet but once in a while, a tsunami of change happens when people have simply had enough.

Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

By Jim Hagarty

I have never been a pastor, so forgive me if I do not know all the ways a pastor should behave. The only thing that comes to my mind about being a pastor is that he should probably be kind, loving and helpful. Perhaps even wise. And maybe his family should be too.

But this is where my ignorance and reality collide sometimes, I will readily admit. If you are a pastor in Toledo, Ohio, you might have a different view of the whole pastoring best practices protocol. Because in that city, a pastor and two of his family members apparently rushed into their church and ambushed a Sunday school teacher who was in the process of teaching a class. After physically attacking her, the pastor, his wife and daughter, dumped out the contents of the teacher’s purse. When the teacher tried to recover her belongings, the pastor pointed a loaded gun at her and threatened to kill her. The pastor, his wife and their 19-year-old daughter, then scooped up their haul, fled the church and are currently on the run from police.

Reflecting on this, the old expression, “Things your find in a woman’s purse” comes to mind. I have not gone through very many women’s purses over my lifetime, but it makes me wonder just what it is they are carrying around in those things that would be so apparently valuable.

I know I am probably missing something here. But am I wrong to wonder what is being taught in pastor schools these days? When I was growing up, things like this hardly ever happened.

I can’t wait to hear what the good reverend has to say to his flock in his next sermon from the pulpit. Maybe, “Rob thy neighbour as thyself”?