Al Batt: This is not a bunch of dried Bullwinkle for this contest

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

A cow chip is no chocolate chip.

I don’t see many cow chip cookies where I hang out.

Al Batt

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Once upon a time in a land far, far away, I was floating happily on the raft of life when I was voluntold to take part in a cow chip throwing contest — a crazy sport that has gone platinum. Voluntold is when someone volunteers you to do something. 

In a weak moment, I agreed to do it. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t I have a shred of dignity left? You’ve possibly asked yourself the same thing after you’ve polished off an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies in one inhalation. I agreed because I’d learned to trust a lot to chance, I was building a resume and I suffered from hypomania, the need to be doing something. In my decision-making process, I used Minnesota reasoning — “What’s the worst that could happen?” and added what Hank Garis wrote, “And half the fun of nearly everything, you know, is thinking about it beforehand, or afterward,” in “Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book.”

I grew up surrounded by cow chips — not literally, but we had cows and we let the chips fall where they may. A cow chip is a dried cow pie. No one living near me had been described as, “Some people have too much money,” but we were in the chips. We couldn’t have anything nice, but we had cow chips. Large cow chips were occasionally used as bases during a game of pasture baseball. 

Our ancestors burned cow dung as a cheap form of natural fuel. Settlers used cow chips to heat their homes during the winter and to cook their food. The chips were nearly odorless. I figure the odd sport came to be because of pioneers tossing cow chips baked to perfection by the sun into a fuel-gathering wagon and making an enjoyable, healthy competition of the chore. 

I made it to the scene of the event. There were four contestants. I thought I saw Jim McKay and figured he was there covering it for “Wide World of Sports.” I was mistaken.

Each competitor selected two chips and the person who threw one the farthest won. If a chip broke in flight, the piece traveling the farthest is what counted. Like everything, it wasn’t as easy as it sounded, but it was easier than sewing buttons on ice cream.

I tossed my first cow chip under a high sky and I won my first-round match. It wasn’t because of my throwing ability. The other participant had approached the big box of desiccated bovine excrement, which looked like Frisbee factory rejects, with apparent trepidation and took forever to grab a cow chip before exclaiming, “Ewww, ewww, ewww!” and throwing the clump of cattle exhaust underhand into the audience. He turned a cow chip throwing competition into a demolition derby. That was easy to do. I hoped there would be no scarring. I tossed mine expeditiously because I’d learned when you’re going to make a fool of yourself, to get it over with as quickly as possible.

I threw mine overhand. It went farther than the football was kicked by my teammate, our punter, who when finally given the playing opportunity, kicked the ball behind him. 

You’ll probably spend your allotted time here on Earth without ever tossing a cow chip, as the sport is unlikely to replace pickleball or even the NFL, but here are a couple of tips for throwing cow chips. Don’t lick your fingers between throws. Keep your mouth closed when throwing cow chips. The rounder the chip, the better suited it is for throwing. Make sure your cow chip lacks moisture. Throwing techniques vary — overhand, underhand or tossed like a Frisbee. Overhand works best.

I moved on to the finals with a great lack of fanfare. Remember white dress shirts? Men used to wear them. My opponent wore a white dress shirt accessorized with a necktie. I sported a T-shirt with a softball team’s name on it.

I gave a noble effort. I didn’t win or even get a certificate of participation, but I did set a personal record. 

The winner was no surprise. He was a member of Congress.

You can’t beat experience.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.