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Ambler, No. 24 [On The Soul of Sports] 

If we should question the teeth of Elephants, that is, whether they be properly so termed, or might not rather be called horns; it were no new enquiry of mine, but a paradox as old as Oppianus. -- Sir Thomas Browne

(c) Rosie Sayers; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

While it is certainly true that I am never lost, but that I just happen to have very little idea where I am going, it is also very true that I often have very little idea where I am going. A man is afforded the opportunity to test his directional prowess in stadiums where athletic events are taking place. For though all men are unique, and no two are completely similar in physical or mental makeup, it still holds that most men have heads. It is, in fact, far more likely for a young man to get lost in a stadium than out in nature, for nature allows us to find our way by the sun or the stars. But as I was saying, most men have heads, and when looking for that particular back portion of a head, lost in a sea of heads, the task becomes excruciatingly difficult.


The author of these audacious Amblers has mixed feelings about the nature of athletic competitions. It is becoming truer that the religious fervor which once dominated our lands is being replaced by an unhealthy adoration for these competitions--men knowing and openly discussing the height and weight of other men. Nevertheless, athletic competitions allow us to freely observe a fundamental aspect of man--competition. It was during one of these events that I left my seat and took on the role of water boy. Juggling four water bottles and stumbling and staggering my way toward the aisle, I finally made it “out of the frying pan and into the fire,” if you will. For though not as congested, the aisle at an athletic stadium is no safe place to be. It is similar to merging into the freeway, and I was that car that, upon getting onto the freeway, seems to have second guessed the choice, and instead of speeding up with the rest of traffic, maintains its original speed.

And there I was, attempting to keep track of whose water bottle was whose without spilling or dropping anything. Emerging from the row I was end, I picked up speed lest I got bulldozed over, and in so doing, I completely disregarded the number of the row. Despite the odds not being in my favor, I eventually did make it to the water fountain where I proceeded to fill up four water bottles while impatient and dehydrated fans cursed me under their breath. I was undeterred, however, and my shirt supporting the home team, I was not pummeled to death. It happened, though, that because I was far too concerned about keeping the specific water bottle with its owner and keeping my eyes glued to the bottles, I reentered to the stadium in the wrong section.

The back of a man’s head is not so unique, and so I labored down a few steps--all the while attempting to keep the water bottles straight--and sought to get a view of the faces from down below. It was at this point that I cursed myself for not making note of the numbers of my row. Numbers are objective. Faces are not. A man may smile and smile and still be a villain. The false face must hide what the false heart doth know. In short, the sea of white faces looked wholly unfamiliar to me until I spotted a particular individual whom I believed to have recognized from before. If this were the same individual, which of course it was not, my row should be three up from his. So dodging bodies and fumbling with the bottles, I proceeded up and down that aisle to get a proper view. Nothing. No familiar faces in sight. At some point in my traversing back and forth through the aisle, eyes no longer glued to the bottles, but wide-eyed in fear of losing my friends, I believe the attendants began to get rather annoyed with me. It was to my fortune that at some point during this debacle the home team scored, putting everyone in a jolly mood.


That athletics are unnaturally taken with far too much seriousness these days is true. But athletic competitions remind us an important lesson, and that is, that though winning is good and more desirable, losing is necessary. They harken back to the soul of man, the now forgotten soul that would dash off to war and fight for a cause. But now the only cause worth fighting for is the fight for the self. Goodness, morality, truth, and meaning all proceed from within us these days and fighting for an ideal is seen as problematic for a pluralistic society.

This mindset has infected modern society to the point where standards, or the ideal, are outdated and not helpful. The only standard that matters is the standard we set up for ourselves. So every kid gets a trophy even if he does nothing but pick at dandelions during the game. Every high school student gets a diploma even if he cannot (or will not) read it. I recently read a somewhat outdated (an often ill-used term) article that argued an English major can graduate with a bachelor’s degree without taking a single course in grammar. But it is not that he can get a bachelor’s degree without taking a grammar course; it is that he can obtain his doctorate without taking, or knowing, any grammar; it is that, if he really wants to, he can be a doctor in English, having no latin and less Greek; that he can teach English at a university without ever having read Plato, Aristotle, or the Apostle Paul. I would not be so surprised if the average English doctorate student read fewer than three plays by Shakespeare outside required class readings and was more familiar with the modern theory on gender than Milton, Dickens, or Chaucer.


When the home team scored and the crowd cheered, I was reminded, and grateful, that the majority of the world does not live in academia. I did eventually find my friends and we watched the band blow and bang on their instruments, inciting the crowd to cheer their team to victory. In athletics, equality is the pejorative. The odd thing about a fight song is that, it does not really encourage anyone to fight. More than likely, the songs invite the crowd to march in honor of their ideal--their ideal team. But, of course, I believe our culture needs more fight songs for things other than gridiron. We should compose fight songs for every aspect of society. The local grocery store should compose a fight song to counteract the horrible globalization our nation has undergone. The checkers and baggers should sing the song while they work; men at the meat counters would slice the meat to the beat; the 'duce-man would juggle apples and oranges; other 'duce-men would spin the celery like a baton; the men stocking the shelves would do so in a beautiful pattern, perhaps the store's logo, as they marched down the aisle; the fans who come to this grocery store would eventually join in; the revolution would be started; the locals would march for their ideal grocery store simply because it was theirs.*

Sam Snow,
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, KS
August 31, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In "The Catacombs,"
Kansas State University English Department,
September 9, 2014

Painting: "Fulham Marching Band"
by Rosie Sayers,
Oil on canvas, n.d.


*The thoughts on the final paragraph are courtesy of R. Eric Tippin who likewise received the same ideas from G.K. Chesterton's fantastic essay, "The Little Birds Who Won't Sing."


Testing Mortars


You might think your home was a battlefield,
the way a bass shiver chills the wall
when a shell thumps ground,
a broad dent in the Earth
some unknown distance away, old dust
beaten from the house like a rug shaken out.
It’s not so much that initial jar,
but the anticipation of the second,
the third,
the fourth,
braced against an impact you can’t see,
can’t time with the mental addition of seconds.
If only you could fast-track sleep
by a careful closing of the eyes, an exact stillness
of the body, a perfect cadence of inhale, exhale.
But again—the thunderous shudder,
desk lamp quaked to the floor,
and you rise to steady the room, piece by piece.
Remember the sigh you breathe
when the tremors stop,
because you can still walk to the front door,
run your hand along the oaken grooves,
twist the brass knob,
and welcome quiet across the threshold. 

Bryn Homuth
On a comfortable couch, recalling a once close proximity to Fort Riley, KS
September 3, 2014

"The Bombardment of Hartlepools (16 December, 2014)"
Oil on Canvas - 1915
James Clark 


Ambler, No. 23 [On Making Mountains out of Molehills]

If therefore any shall affirm the joints of elephants are differently framed from most of other quadrupeds, and more obscurely and grossely almost then any; he doth herein no injury unto truth. – Sir Thomas Brown

About two months ago a friend and I were out west of town and, like Zebulon Pike and John C. Fremont, we made our way along the Pipeline Trail of the state park we were at, with walking sticks in hand. Now, there is a peculiar etiquette concerning the walking stick that one ought to always follow. First, man should only get his walking stick from the dead limbs that have fallen or will soon fall from dying trees. It is best if this stick is slightly taller than the walker but not too tall lest it becomes more of an encumbrance than a help. The height matters when on trails heavily populated by overhanging trees which produce shade and scenery but also spider webs. A stick properly used keeps one from unwittingly getting caught in one of these webs, and the walker is best served by holding the stick slightly in front as if it had a light on its end and was guiding him, and he should, now and again, cry, “Attercop! Attercop!” for added safety measure against the spiders. This done, the stick of a walker should also be relatively smooth and firm. A stick with too many protuberances may cause physical harm to any fellow companions and a flimsy walking stick may falter if one meets with sharp inclines or rocky roads. Finally, every walking stick should be placed at the head or end of the trail when the ambler is finished with it, placing it back in its natural environment from whence it came but in such a way that other travelers may one day notice and use to their own benefit. There is, of course, an etiquette for discarding your staff. One does not merely set it down or fling it away as if it was mere utility for a good walk. No. But when one returns his stick, he must, if it has served him well, proclaim some benediction over it before replacing it. Such a benediction should be thoughtful, and the best ones are witty or rhyme and rely on puns. A few humble benedictions I have heard consist of the following:

O stick! You’ve served me well. May your bark be ever better than your bite!

Stick! You have gotten me out of many a sticky situation. Be free!

Stick! If they made you into a club, I would join you!

Stick! If they made your bark into a bark, it would sail the seven seas o’er and o’er and never cease to remain afloat!

And so on. Thus, the proper etiquette for obtaining, using, and returning a good walking stick. If it was a bad walking stick, then a curse should be pronounced, it should be broken in two, and hidden from sight.


Making our way across the Pipeline Trail with two hardy sticks, my friend and I spotted wild turkey. Unable to catch any, we kept our eyes open until we at once spotted a blue object in the distance. It is very common for man to seek opportunities to both explore and discover. And so we set out to discover whatever this object happened to be, unsure if it was some type of stagnant bird or inanimate treasure. Leaving the path and using our sticks, we weaved our way in and out of pine trees, chanting “Attercop!” and keeping our eyes peeled on this object. It occurred very quickly that the object was not sentient. It remained fixed in its position as we approached. But the thing about forests is that one often backtracks or proceeds around lines of trees, rarely making a direct beeline to his destination. So with eyes fixed on the item we made our way sometimes to the left of it, other times to the right, always coming a little closer to our magnificent discovery.


My friend who accompanied me that day has often bemoaned the sad fact that he will never have the opportunity to name something. That nearly every area of land in this country has been previously trampled on is a sad fact indeed. And so in the genuine simplicity of his character, the man, some weeks later, said to me that since he cannot discover anything new, he may as well be small--as small as a mole perhaps. For then we need much less to be contented and happy. The 1200 acre state park would afford an explorer many years of discovery, if he is the size of a mere mole. The pond is a great lake that can be crossed by the bark of that walking-stick which now seems more like a limbless tree than a stick.

And the world becomes so much more dangerous. A spider bite may mean losing a limb; the majesty of the great blue heron grows into a very real terror when it soars about you like a sentient 747. The true explorer needs this element of danger if he is to have any satisfaction at the end of the day. If the element of danger is completely taken away, the wild becomes nothing more than another type of playground.

And while I am on it I must state that the smaller a man is, the happier and more contented he is. How much better if you are so insignificant that no one is actually thinking about you? If you could go through your day without worrying about what anyone thinks because you have a true view of your own worth, would you not be free from a need to be liked and accepted? But we tell our students that they are the most important beings on the planet, and then we wonder why narcissism and selfishness are so rampant. We tell our students in writing classes that they need to “look within themselves” to write well, and in doing so we create a bunch of writers who create works that are meaningful to a select few but largely useless on a universal scope. True originality and creativity come from speaking Truth in such a way that has not been done before; it comes in making oneself very small, so that he can write about everything else that has become rather large and wild.


Our exploration continued as we dodged trees, all the while convinced that we were doing something unprecedented and illegal, convinced that we were the first souls to make our way out to this area. As we neared the object, its size shrunk and the initial blue tint was discovered to have a good bit of silver and some red. The object was situated near the foot of good old pine; it had been sliced down the middle, though its oval shape still remained, and as we got close enough to take in our first true glimpse, our spirits sunk within us and we groaned, cursing the modern world. For the object which took us from our path was nothing but a Red Bull can. We, at least, rested easy that this time it was not Bud Light*

Sam Snow,
Written at The Ole Midshipman,
Manhattan, KS,
August 23, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II,
After Much Delay and Vexation,
September 2, 2014

Image: "Papa's Walking Stick"
By James Rannie Swinton
Oil on Canvas, n.d.


*I say, if one is going to roam around this world and litter it with his trash, the least he can do is litter it with a higher quality beer than Bud Light. His reputation would be somewhat salvaged if it was a Guinness or a Boddingtons. Better yet if he littered his own parks with the brew of his local land. Better even if he locked himself in his house and trashed that instead of spreading his filthy disease of sloth where everyone else has to deal with it.


Snowy Cabin (An Oil Selection)

"Snowy Cabin"
Oil on Canvas - Year Unknown
Fehmena Assim 

"Better than all, I had known a corner [of a nation] as a householder, which is the only way of getting at a country. Tourists may carry away impressions, but it is the seasonal detail of small things and doings (such as putting up fly-screens and stove-pipes, buying yeast-cakes and being lectured by your neighbors) that bite in the lines of mental pictures."

--Rudyard Kipling, Something of Myself


For more items of this nature please visit our Oil section here but not here.


The Princess and Curdie (A Blurb)

Quite actually, a good book is worth the reading posthaste and a terrible book is hardly worth the mentioning. Therefore, why all the hem-hawing over lengthy reviews? Although the following is not a remonstrance, it may be an adequate resolution. For the purpose of keeping them short and to the point, we submit our blurbs:





"Macdonald has written a fairy tale more verifiable than a great mountain of non-fiction works." -P Tippin






The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald