Monday, July 22, 2013

Get Me On That Team!

I have some cousins, who have recommended that hubby and I go out to Bolinas for the 4th of July for many years.  They said it was a lot of fun to watch the parade and the tug of war between Bolinas and Stinson beach.  They haul a rope across the opening to the Bolinas Lagoon between the 2 beaches.  Then the two teams fight it out until the first 3 people on the losing team end up in the water.  Finally, this year DH and I decided we go "watch."  What DH didn't know was with my new found strength and health that if there was any way I could get on Bolinas' women's team I was going to do it.

I had no idea how this whole thing was organized.  Do they only allow Bolinas residents?  Did they just take volunteers from the crowd?  Was there already a team in place that's been training for this friendly grudge match?  My family has owned property in Bolinas for over 50 years, so we think of ourselves as residences.  Since the town is blocked off to traffic on the 4th of July DH and I decided if the tug of war started at 9am, we'd start walking to town at 8am.  We arrived at the beach at 8:30am.
Immediately, I saw a group of woman circling up.  One gal had a clipboard with a full sign up list.  She was calling roll.  As she was calling I'd hear a "HEAR", but now and then there would be no answer.  The head gal would say, "They knew what time to be here.  If they are not here they are late.  If they are late they've lost their spot on the team."  She was a little lenient as gals ran down the beach yelling, "I'm here!!"  I knew though this could possibly be my IN.  I stood just outside the circle smiling in my 4th of July tye dye listening to all instructions just in case I could wheedle my way in.  Finally, the head gal announced they were 4 short.  I announce my willingness to join the team.  They wrote my name down as a possible.  I'm one step closer.
Now the head gal announces the team needs to warm up.  I'm in the circle now.  I'm warming up as if I'm going to be pulling... just in case.  Wrist bands are being passed out to all on the official list.  Again they are 4 short and the 4 wrist bands are up for grabs.  Not looking at the list of possible people she begins passing out the extra wristbands.  Rule abiding bites me in the butt a good deal of the time.  Since they aren't going to call my name I jog over and grab the last wristband.  As we are in the circle we are asked to call out a number to get a head count.  Even though this is a fun activity there are rules and protocol to be followed for a fair win.  It gets to me and I yell out, "Eleven!"  It keeps going to 31.  Oh no we are one too many.  There can only be 30.  One of us has to give up their wristband to the one gal who was on the sign up sheet and some how didn't get one.  No one is jumping at the chance and the head gal says, "Hey if they were late that's the way it's going to be."  But a gal in a very short mini lace dress says, "It's OK she can have my wristband."  I don't think she'd have ripped her beautiful dress, but it would have definitely wiggled up around her waist during the tug of war.  That's my guess.

Now we are at 30.  DH is walking around watching and still doesn't know I'm serious about being on this team; until he sees me pull my workout gloves out of my pocket as we warm up.  I'm strapping them on and suddenly it comes to him that this has been my plan from the start.  OH yeah it was.  It's the 4th of July, I'm in Bolinas and there is a tug of war going on.  Where else would I be?  I'm not letting the Bolinas women's team not have a full roster.

As we are warming up the rules are told to remind the past members and to let the new members know.  NO sitting down.  NO letting go of the rope.  NO more than 30 pullers.  All will disqualify us as a team.  Then we get a pep talk.  She says, "It's all legs lady."  I think to myself, "I've got this!"  My legs are very strong and my arms well they are getting there.  "Ladies, we win because when there is a stalemate we don't give up.  We dig in!  They get tired and we pull them in.  Don't stop pulling until we say to stop pulling," says the head gal.

Now we run over to the rope.  Oddly they all line up on the left side of the rope. I started on the right side, but was the only one there.  I switch over.  I don't know why, but I don't want to be the screw up that loses the Bolinas tug of war.  I figured I could pull well from either side.  We are told to line up tallest in the front on back to the shortest.  This is because of the slope of the beach.  Today we don't have a lot of beach as it's nearly high tide, but we get spaced out on the rope nicely.

It begins.  We pull and pull and it's coming our way quickly.  I figure it must be tightening of the rope across the water.  Now it's pretty difficult we are digging in and pulling.  Our coaches are great telling us to pull.  Encouraging us to hold tight.  Moving people from the back forward as they lose beach.  At one point I'm thinking damn this is WAY more strenuous than I thought it would be.  I should have hydrated better!  It's OK I'm strong and I'm not tiring yet.  I can feel Stinson trying to pull us forward, but we dig in and pull harder.  The crowd is so encouraging chanting, "PULL, PULL!!"  Yelling, "DIG IN, DIG IN!!"
Sweat has now squirted out every pore of my body even though it's probably about 65 degrees out.  How long have we been pulling and digging in... 20, 30 minutes?  Finally, the rope starts coming our way slowly, gradually, now slightly faster.  My finger tips are burning.  My workout gloves are fingerless. They are being sand papered away, but I'm going to pull until they are bloody if I have too.  I am not the going to be the weakest link on this team!  Note to self full length gloves next time.  No sooner do I tell myself that and we hear the roar of the crowd that we've won!  The Bolinas women's tug of war team has won, again!!  We are all hugging, high five-ing, and knuckle bumping with each other and crowd.  What a great feeling, but quickly our attention turns to the men's team lining up on the rope.  I think it's going to be a lot of fun watching and knowing what these tuggers are feeling.
Stinson Beach pulling with all their might.
I have no idea where my husband is at this point.  Shooting photos I'm sure, but right now I'm just a person from Bolinas rooting for my town.  Wanting to know what's going on across the water I post myself close to the water's edge.  I yell whatever the coaches are yelling.  I don't want to give the tuggers any mixed messages.  Where sweat just beaded up on me it is rolling, dripping and pouring off these men.  Their turn is clearly longer than the women's.  Just how much I don't know. They are exhausted.  Some want to sit and dig in, but are reminded you can not sit.  They are changing directions trying to find that last bit of energy and pulling strength.  I see what they mean by having rules of no more than 30 tuggers as I have to resist with all my might not to jump on that rope and help.  I'm sure the whole crowd felt that way.  Finally, again after a long stalemate the rope starts pulling in Bolinas' direction.  Another win!  The men fall into a heap of sweaty exhaustion for a split second.  Then get up to rejoice.

I find out later each bout was timed.  The women's team won theirs in 4 minutes.  The men's team won in 9 minutes.  The head gal said she thought the men's bout was the longest lasting tug to date.  4 minutes!!!  Really?  It was one of the longest 4 minutes of my life.  I can't even imagine having it go on to 9 minutes.
After their win we are told to come get our t-shirts.  I had no idea.  I'm proud to wear my "Winner" shirt all afternoon.  It's covering up my red, white and blue tye dye, but I don't care.  I feel so proud of my accomplishment.  I got on the team and I helped pull it to victory.  Through out the day I get compliments on the win from strangers in the 4th of July party crowd.  I see fellow tuggers in their shirts and we high five or knuckle bump when we see each other.
I had a great day.  It felt great to earn a shirt that says, "Winner!"  Clearly a check on my bucket list.  I hope some day my daughter can make it out here and give it a go.  She'll have a blast.

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