Those of you who have been reading me for a while are no doubt well acquainted with my stormy and tumultuous relationship with the game of golf. And how much everyone else around me seems to love it. And how I, do not. And how I live for opportunities to mock this fine sport. And so, for what I am about to tell you I can only plead prolonged illness and pain meds, plus my obsessive fascination with my new iTouch which, to my possible downfall, has an app for the Amazon Kindle and a one touch “get books” setup.
So the other day I was browsing the pages of books available for the Kindle, and somehow my eye was caught by this book called The Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaason. Now normally I would’ve run as quickly as I could in the opposite direction once I figured out that this book was about golf. But I kept seeing things like, “Humor!”, and “Funny!”, and, “One of the two most hysterical books ever written about golf!”, and so I was totally sucked in. Because you know that I CANNOT resist The Humor.
And then I came to the chapter titled, “Toad Golf”, in which Hiaason describes the unusual circumstances that began to bring him back to the sport after a thirty-two year absence.
“The next time [I swung a club] occurred one night…when my best friend and fishing companion, Bob Branham, called to report a disturbing infestation. The culprit was Bufo marinus, a large and brazen type of toad that had invaded South Florida from Central America and proliferated rapidly, all but exterminating the more docile native species. The Bufo grows to two pounds and eats anything that fits in its maw, including small birds and mice. When threatened, it excretes from two glands behind its eyes a milky toxin extremely dangerous to mammals. Adventuresome human substance abusers have claimed that licking Bufo toads produces psychedelic visions, but the practice is often fatal for dogs and cats.
Which is why Bob had called. Every evening a brigade of Bufos had been appearing outside his back door and gobbling all the food he’d put out for Daisy, his young Labrador retriever. It’s probably unnecessary to point out that while Labradors possess a cheery and endearing temperament, they are not Mensa candidates in the kingdom of canines. In fact, Labradors will eagerly eat, lick or gnaw objects far more disgusting than a sweaty toad. For that reason, Bob expressed what I felt was a well-founded fear that his beloved pet was in peril during these nightly Bufo encounters.”
So Hiasson, as any good friend would do, goes over to Bob’s house to see what he can do to help.
“When I arrived at his house, the onslaught was in progress. A herd of medium-sized toads hungrily patrolled the perimeter of his patio, while one exceptionally rotund specimen had vaulted into Dixie’s dish and engulfed so much dog chow that it was unable to climb out. It looked like a mud quiche with eyeballs.”
And so, what to do?
“Bob and I were discussing our limited and unsavory options when I noticed a golf bag in a corner near the back door. We had a brief conversation about which of his neighbors was the most obnoxious, and then I reached for a 9-iron. Bob chose a 7.
Before the PETA rally begins, let me point out that the adult Bufo toad is one of God’s sturdiest creatures. Bob swears he once saw one get run over by a compact car and then hop away. I have my doubts, but in any case we purposely picked lofted clubs to effect a kinder, gentler relocation.”
And then you know what happened next.
Once I had opened the gateway to golf humor, I immediately discovered the following book: Fairway To Hell: Around The World In 18 Holes by Franz Lidz.
Now as you might imagine there are many essays in this short little book about the discipline needed to play golf, how playing a round of golf creates a strong, ever-lasting bond between two people, and the valuable life lessons golf has passed down throughout the years.
But you know I didn’t read this book for those chapters. YOU KNOW I read it for essays discussing “the world’s only llama caddying school.”
Yes, that’s right. I am going to say it again, because it is just THAT AWESOME. There is a school that exists solely to teach llamas how to caddy for human golfers.
That may be the best sentence I have ever written in my entire life.
Here is how the school’s “headmaster” describes it:
“The innate laziness of my [the author’s] llamas makes me think they’d never cut it as pack animals. Lars Garrison thinks otherwise. ‘They’d make great caddies’, he tells me. ‘They have the perfect temperament. they’re quiet, non-judgmental, and never argue-quite unlink many humans I’ve seen.’ While he concedes Ogar and Edgar [the author’s llamas] might be a bit weak on club selection, he says: ‘At least you wouldn’t have to tip them’.”
It’s impossible for me to pick “the best parts” of this chapter because the whole thing is so damn funny. I’d want to type it all, and I’m way too tired and cranky to do that. So I’ll just leave you with a little excerpt describing Lars’ Llama Training Program:
“The Lars Garrison Technique of Llama Caddying has three stags. ‘In Stage 1, the llama is afraid of the clubs,’ he says. ‘In Stage 2, he finds them an annoyance. By the final stage, the clubs are just something to ignore,.”
Lars begins by demonstrating Stage 1 to Lidz, which involves gently introducing the chosen llama-in this case, “Royal Dalton”- to the physical objects of the golf bags and the golf clubs. It goes pretty much as expected, meaning that as soon as Lars loads Royal Dalton up with the bags filled with clubs, he “gets spooked. He bucks wildly, scattering clubs in to the apple tree.” Garrison explains by saying, “A llama doesn’t know these are golf clubs….He thinks they’re noisy, rattly things that are going to jump up and bite him.” Not really a surprise there, as we are talking about llamas.
Then they proceed to Stage 2, which involves setting a bowl of food in between two bags of clubs.
“Royal Dalton moves tentatively toward the grain and begins to eat.
‘Good boy!’ says Garrison, laying the clubs over the re-filled bowl. Eyes ever alert, banana ears erect, Royal Dalton enters Stage 2 by nosing through the annoying clubs to the grain. ‘To teach a llama, you have to see things from his perspective,’ observes Garrison. ‘Royal Dalton has decided these aren’t meat-eating bags after all’.”
And speaking of meat, (and how often do I get a chance to throw in THAT fantastic phrase? NOT ENOUGH.) in chapter 26 Lidz recounts his tales of playing at the Konkola Golf Club in Chiliabonbwe, Zambia. Says Lindz, “You really know you’re not at Augusta when the scorecard says, ‘A ball coming to rest in a hippo footprint may be lifted and dropped in the nearest possible position to provide maximum relief’.” (Emphasis mine).
He then goes on to describe the various challenges a golfer might face when playing a round-mostly poisonous snakes, as far as I could tell. I squeezed my eyes shut really tightly through that paragraph.
But Lindz says that, “…perhaps Konkola’s greatest challenge is the series of ponds along which its holes are situated. Many a tee shot has gone into the drink, but that’s not the biggest problem.”
“In bold, black letters the scorecard warns ‘NOTE: BEWARE OF CROCODILES ON HOLES 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 18’. To date, almost a half-dozen caddies have been munched on while on ball-retrieval expeditions. ‘Wandering near the water is not the wisest move for a caddy at Konkola,’ says a club member. ‘They become easy meat’.”
So I could end this whole thing with some meaningful paragraph about jumping to conclusions, and keeping an open mind, and always being willing to be surprised, but I hope you all know me better than that.
Because, look-it’s “Time On A Clock O’clock!” Coke Time!