Pole-tossers in skirts

It takes a big man to make it on the pro Scottish Festival circuit

It lands at 10 o'clock after he runs about 20 yards with the thing straight up before heaving it. "I knew I was too late on that one when I released it.

"A lot of it is technique," says George, "like swinging a bat."
After the final toss, which makes Harry Macdonald the overall winner, the sweaty guys sit under a tent in ball caps and muscle shirts, recalling days they were no longer junior Olympians or college standouts, and someone started talking to them about skirt sizes.

"I'd say caber tossing satisfies a lot of that need for competition at a high level," says George, as the other guys begin to trade tennis sneakers for shower shoes and cabers for cigars.

"For most of us, it satisfies a need to compete."
The others nod their heads in agreement. Many of those from Canada once played in the Canadian Football League. Only Mike never participated in organized athletics.

"I grew up in El Paso," he says. "People were always trying to get me to play football. I had other interests at the time--like motorcycles and girls."

But no one seems to care where the men came from. On this day in Arlington, a good 20,000 or so have wandered past to see them do their thing. In Canada and California, they may see crowds as large as 40,000 or more in two days.

Someone at the Guinness stand yells, "Free beer." It's like yelling, "Free sausages" near the terrier pavilion.

There is a flurry of movement, and discussion over the relative merits of Guinness vs. Newcastle Brown Ale before Harvey goes off, returning with a cardboard box of loaded beer tumblers.

I solicit some gripes, by noting that ESPN2 broadcasts air-Frisbee dog competitions but won't carry pro caber tosses. "I wrote Nike about sponsorship, and they didn't even know what [the sport] was," says George.

"I sent them pictures and stuff, and they never even wrote back," says Harry, the North American champ.

A few pros have arranged commercial sponsorships for themselves by, for example, a liquor distributor and a logging company. A Denver hardware store sponsors Mike, who pulls out a shirt reading "McDonald Hardwood Flooring" and bearing a caber dude logo with the slogan, "A good hardwood is hard to find."

Harry volunteers the information that he wears Spandex under his kilt. "That's what everyone wants to know," he says. "That, and if we're football players. Nobody ever believes we're not football players."

The underwear issue has long followed Scotsmen. These guys are more concerned with throwing style, technique, and beer--though not always in that order.

"A lot of guys even use camcorders," says Harvey. "They record other guys, trying to copy their technique, or they record themselves to work on their technique."

This conversation sums up the professional athletic lives of these guys--half-serious, half-goofy, half-focused on where to eat and what to drink next.

Soon, they'll travel back through Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Adidas bags of dirty sneakers in tow, to go back to work as marketing directors, financial planners, and teachers for another week.

But a man has his priorities.
First, the skirt goes to the cleaners.

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