Monday, September 27, 2010


My grandfather Craig was pretty cool. He could play almost any stringed instrument, but the banjo was his specialty. When I was little he would play and sing silly kids songs to me and I would sit rapt in front of him. He had been a championship roller skater and my mother said that on Friday nights when they would go skating everyone would clear the floor and watch him skate.

As he got older he developed some health issues and was put on a very strict diet. He took great joy in waiting until my grandmother was asleep and then getting up and sneaking forbidden foods. If I was staying overnight he would wake me so I could be his partner in crime.

And – man – could he tell stories. He was born in the South Dakota Badlands and worked as a ranch hand in his younger years. He loved telling about the time he was baling hay and had to kill two rattle snakes with his knife. He later moved to Detroit and worked in the Ford plant. Grandpa became a Tigers fan and liked to talk about what a mean SOB Ty Cobb was. Then came the depression and like millions of others he lost his job and hit the road looking for work. Somehow he ended up in Muscatine, Iowa, met my grandmother and – well – here I am.

When I was little I just couldn’t get enough time with him. It was all so fun – sitting up late at night watching Jack Paar and eating peanut butter stuffed celery or sitting on his lap in his rocking chair watching the Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese (and then listening to him sing along when Dizzy would break into The Wabash Cannonball).

Then I became a know-it-all teenager and suddenly Grandpa Craig was a boring old man. He’d start one of those marvelous tales and I would think to myself, “please, not that one again.” He died when I was 18.

So now I’m 60 and a grandfather and my grandkids think I’m pretty cool – and I love to tell stories. I know, however, that someday soon I will become just another boring old man.

I spend way too much time on the internet reading other people’s thoughts about wrestling and there is a noticeable lack of respect among many young posters for those who have preceded them. I suspect that a lot of that is “know-it-allitis”. Three or four times a year someone will post a “Gable couldn’t beat (insert young phenom’s name here)” thread or make comments like, “With that stance (insert the name of a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame here) couldn’t beat anyone today.” It’s all part of the natural scheme of things.

I like to read wrestling books. Anything by Mike Chapman or Jay Hammond is well worth your time. Last winter I was fascinated by Jamie Moffatt’s, Wrestlers at the Trials”. Arno Niemand’s much anticipated book about the 1947 Cornell College national championship team is to be released soon and I will definitely read it. I’m sure I will like it – but it won’t be anywhere near as fun as listening to Bob Majors tell stories about the great Cornell College teams of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. You see – he was on those teams and – man – can he tell a story.

Karma is a funny thing. Last year I attended the USA vs Russia freestyle dual at Cornell and Bob and his wife came up and sat by me. We introduced ourselves to each other and began talking about wrestling and Cornell history. I soaked up every word. Since then we’ve had occasion to run into each other a couple of more times and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

It was my distinct honor to be chosen as a marshal for the 2010 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. The highlight of the experience was spending time with another of the marshals, Lloyd Corwin – a teammate of Bob Majors at Cornell. Lloyd was a two-time All-American in the ‘50s and beat future Olympic gold medallist, Doug Blubaugh, in the NCAA tournament. He’s a wonderfully charming man and I was riveted by his stories.

Paul King is a wrestling fan from Colorado. I met him a couple of years ago at the Iowa/Iowa State dual meet. Paul has a fascinating concept – a video library of great wrestlers sharing their stories. Think how marvelous that would be. In today’s world it could be housed online so that once we get beyond our “know-it-all” stage we could listen to the history of wrestling in America.

I hope someone makes it happen.

No comments: