World would be captivated during quot;fencingquot; event

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2000

It's hard to imagine that the first Olympics of the new milennium are just a year around the corner. Not that I'm a big Olympic fan (I guess the truest statement is that I'm just a big fan); it's just that I like all the pomp and circumstance and folderol that goes along with the Games. After being raised on a Southern diet of football, baseball and Gulf Coast Championship Wrestling, the Olympics let me see badminton and kayaking and equestrian events (horse jumping, for we less articulate types) and air gun shooting (talk about something about as exciting as watching paint dry). There seems to be a sport for all types of people; all physical dimensions; all national origins.

I'd like to propose an addition to the Olympic rota: a sport that would be universal in it's appeal, obvious in it's application, and at least as interesting as yachting and Greco-Roman wrestling combined.

Fencing.

No, not where people flail at each other with epee and foil and saber; but where folks showcase the skills that are learned on countless hillsides and taught with aplomb at certain Agricultural and Mechanical, as well as certain Polytechnical Institutes (also known as Lovely Villages on the Plains").

Before you think, "well, I guess he finally lost what little grey matter was left in that big old jug head of his," think about it. Fences are everywhere, and have been in existence since well before the first Olympiad. They do require a certain skill to master and they serve the most utilitarian of function: they keep what you want in and what you don't want out.

Therefore, I'd like to submit what might make for the most exciting Olympic event since they removed rope climbing from the gymnastics competition.

I see different divisions within the whole of fencing. There could be barbed wire, which would feature the laconic westerners, pliers and hammer in hand, leaning stoically on their post hole diggers (something I heard referred to early in life as "ignorance sticks"). These would be the marathoners of the fencing set, pulling their lines of steel across wide expanses of open space. Scoring would be really easy in this division: the contestant with the least number of cuts, scrapes, and open wounds, as well as the least amount of blood loss, would stand on the podium to receive his gold medal (and medical care).

The more traditional would have to be the split rail fencing, or the Abraham Lincoln division. Here you could really add to the excitanent (and the possibility of it digressing into WWF-style antics) if you not only made the fencer (see, it has such a ring to it) erect a wonderfully level and aesthetically pleasing fence, but made him split his own rails. Purists in the sport could even fell their own tree, and, in direct contravention of high-tech equipment, could use antique axes and adzes. Bob Vila and Tim Allen would be world class judges. Reruns of this would show on PBS for years.

For a truly international flair, we would have to include rock wall fencing. Face it, half of Europe and a good chunk of the Americas are proof that fertile soil does produce big rocks. What would make this contest so well received would be the rule that not only do you use rock from your place to build your fence, but you're also allowed to either borrow from your neighbor, or, in keeping with history, dump your unwanted stones on your competitors land. As I understand history, half the conflicts in Scotland and Ireland had something to do with fence disputes. Imagine what it would be like if national pride and not just a bunch of sheep were involved in the final outcome. Soccer hooligans wouldn't hold a candle to these guys who could throw a fifty pound rock like a baseball.

So, hitch high your overalls, sharpen the point of your shovel, and begin preparation to bring pride and honor to your country through practical fencing.

Personally, I'm holding out until they add square dancing to the big show.