We are on the bus and it’s ‘wheels up’- an odd combination of images partly contributed by our US courier Bob Chandler but we know what he means. Every time, before we set off, there is a roll call using a number allocated to us. A few voices are a but croaky early in the morning, but it’s always good to know all our tour friends are aboard.
A, 3.45 am start saw us set out for Fargo to fly first to Chicago then on to Detroit. Some light snow there: planes taking off were throwing up clouds of snow mist. Paul Badgero of USCA met us and led us to our coach. New driver Jason remembers David Rutherford from the last Scots Men’s Tour but was the soul of discretion as why that was the case so, David, you relax!
The enthusiastic welcome at Detroit Curling Club honour guard was just what we needed after our journey. This Club was founded in 1885. On a wall there is the original, large certificate from the Royal Club “conveying to the Detroit Curling Club the grateful acknowledgement and hearty thanks…..for kind attention and hospitality to the Scottish Team on their Tour through Canada and the United States…..in 1902-03”. Henry Ford, so much associated with Detroit is reported as having said that history is bunk. Our Team thinks that the 1902-03 certificate and our visit in 2017 prove that then and now curlers appreciate the importance of continuing good traditions. Ours is the tenth tour to visit Detroit CC, making it probably the most visited club in the USA. Continuing a long tradition, the club had held a Burns Breakfast in the morning before we arrived.Joe Livermore,twice past president of the club, and in whose honour the curling hall was named chatted to us. In the hall there is a life-sized model of a pink pig (a hog) bedside one wall, and on it there is horn with rubber bulb: anyone hogging a stone has to sound the horn and pay a fine to the club.
Jim Morris who chairs the Board made the formal welcome to us – and was immediately barracked by his fellow members in song and with good humour.Clarke Perry gave our thanks to the club and its players for the match and hospitality.
At the evening banquet, Paul Badgero himself a former Tourist to Scotland,
presided. The meal and company were both excellent. Grace was given by Dave Turner, born a Scot, and who still has a guid Scots tongue in his heid. As well as Paul other former Tourists were present including David Nelson, Bob Chandler, Dawn Branninger, Mary Anne Wessels and Mary Glowaki. Jim Ramsay, on behalf of the Scots thanked Detroit CC for the tremendous warmth and tremendous hospitality throughout the whole memorable day.
We had another stirring and enthusiastic welcome by US curlers at Fargo with a big honour guard, all wearing black and red curling jackets.
John Mielke, one of the calm, collected, key figures in curling in this area welcomed us. John is a past Director of the USCA and is recorded in US curling’s Hall of Fame.
In the foyer we were entertained by two indigenous Americans, descendants of the Sioux tribe: one a storyteller who spoke and sang in the Lakota language, and and elaborately costumed colleague who danced. The theme centred on the relationship between man and the buffalo. The buffalo was “Walmart to us”, providing food, clothing and shelter said the storyteller.
Each North Dakota rink was made up of curlers from around the State who had often played against each other but not together – something they much appreciated when playing against us. Some US players ha travelled over 400 miles by road from as far away as Crosby on the border with Canada to play one game for the Herries Maxwell Trophy.
We went into dinner in our blazers to applause from our hosts, among them Kevin Kakela, and Dave Jensen who coaches the US junior girls for USCA events.
Chris Sjue who chaired the dinner vividly remembers playing in Scotland in 2012. Bison steak was the big item on the menu, a new experience for us Scots and much enjoyed. The North Dakota players and their ladies were delightful company at table, and many cards and compliments were exchanged.
The mascot saga continues. Sandy, our original mascot, and recent companion Flopsy, were joined by The Dakota Kid who, our hosts thought would give Sandy a rest and bring some sparkle back onto Flopsy’s life! Bill Arnot was allowed one call back to UK to book quarantine and, later, a float for our livestock.
Many-talented Bob Labonte, who played in the 1972 Silver Broom entertained us all after dinner with curling stories, anecdotes, throw-away lines – and sang to his own accompaniment.
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Readers of this blog from Aberdeen Scotland and from Aberdeen South Dakota will be glad to know that curlers from both locales met on the ice earlier in the week and enjoyed each other’s company – of course.
We are now in the charge of Bob Chandler of United States Curling Association, and will catch up again with Russ Brown at the end of the Tour. These gentlemen do a huge amount to prepare for and deliver so many services essential to the Tour: need your specs repaired, find a pharmacist, replace my lost room card – the list is probably endless.
Today we had two sessions at Four Seasons Curling Club with a break for lunch. The Welcome Letter given to each of us started “Dear Friends from Afar: we at Four Seasons CC are very pleased to host you for this day of merry brotherhood.” in our blessed and favorite game.” We were every bit as pleased to be their guests.
John Benton, Director of Curling, is a former US National Champion and played in the Olympics in 2010. The Fogerty Arena is a pairing of an all-year round curling rink and an ice hockey area which share the catering and other rooms.
Stacking of brooms, an intriguing performance for some US curlers, involves a toast and drink of whisky and cinnamon. Let’s say we Scots were also intrigued!
Every curling club we have visited has had one or more ‘names’ – some have lots. Ice man at Four Season is Todd Birr, a 2007 Worlds Bronze Medallist.
One of the events held here is the annual Naked Knees Bonspiel. It is the training rink for the US national team and has had Chinese teams for several days of practice.
Four Seasons founder member Mark Lee spoke of our visit as being a wonderful opportunity for his club and we Tourists to learn how every curler contributes to our sport. At dinner, John Good gave the closing thanks and presented Four Seasons with the RCCC pennant and a model curling stone signed by all Scots Tourists.
Shortly after setting out we stopped to see the ‘statues’ of Paul Bunyon and his ox Babe, legendary figure of the hardworking spirit that went into the founding of the State of Minnesota. Ian Young, busy as ever, took a group photo in -9 degree C so he had to be quick.
During the journey we crossed and re-crossed the Mississippi which steadily increased in size on its 2000+ miles to the sea.
Topographical variation is scarcely a feature of the landscape: for that read ‘flat’. Some people were ice-fishing on a lake.
At St Paul Curling Club we were welcomed by Tim McMahon, President who gave us insights into the long history of his Club. The clubhouse is within the city, and is substantial and very comfortable. In the lounge there are several old curling stones, one weighing 120 lbs. All in all, the welcome here enhanced the feeling that US curlers are excellent hosts.
In the evening Dick and Nancy Nicholson hosted us and perhaps forty St Paul curlers to dinner in the ballroom of their most remarkable, historical home.For more information on this feature of St Paul go to saintpaulhistorical.com and look for Louis Hill house. On each table there was a large curling trophy, some dating back to the early 1900s. These were filled by our hosts and passed around for us to share: it took some practice to do that without spilling any which would have been a shame to say the least. Everything about the house and dinner was classic in the best sense: lets say the experience can’t easily be expressed in words. Our delightful hostess Nancy introduced Chris Coleman who was clearly in favour of developing exchanges of ideas and information across the world such as is being done through our Tour.
Malcolm MacAskill sang Scots Wha Hae to the delight of our hosts. Alan Roe ‘did’ his own poem “Why the Skip in The Head is always Shouting at Me”: it hit the spot with the diners. Alan gave host Dick Nicholson a copy of the History of the Herries Maxwell Trophy.
On Tour, no one day is the same as the one before – or the next, except that they seems to get longer as the Tour goes on. Some brave Tourists re-joined St Paul CC curlers back at their clubhouse after dinner, but can’t be faulted for that as they were on the coach in the next morning.
After an early breakfast in the Gentlemen’s Club at Hibbing we were set for Bemidji, two hours away.
As usual Judge David used his authority to fine fellow-tourists for real and imaginary misdemeanours. Alan Arnot was kept busy collecting fines. This process gives us a good laugh every day and gets our minds going. It’s all part of the plan to survive Tour!
Our bags are getting stressed with the wealth of gifts and mementoes we have received from so many generous people and clubs. Courier Russ Brown, on behalf of the United States Curling Association is preparing to freight some items direct to the UK for us. What a great guy he is, and what a lot he does to make things happen for us and our host Clubs.
We arrived at six-sheet Bemidji at 10 am after a smooth journey through, once again,flat countryside. Welcoming us was President Teresa Trepanier, herself one of the Hope Schmitt team which played in the Worlds many times. Bemidji is home to more successful curlers than we have space to name here. It was a great privilege for us to play against Eric and Riley Fenson,for example,Scott Baird
and not least Mark Haluptzok. For us to finish the afternoon session at evens on the day was no small achievement for us Scots.
The dinner included a sirloin steak which was a triumph for the beef producers and the caterers.
Ian Young’s thanks to Bemidji reflected the privilege we had had as representatives of Scotland and presented our pennant to record our visit.
Bill is playing third in Clive Thomson’s team Mull. He is our website creator and webmaster for the tour. Having posted comments and insights on his fellow team members, he is attempting to hide. He provided some personal bits of his own.
“ My home is in Earlston, in the Scottish Borders. Now 59, my career has been in the water supply industry and I am currently a specialist with the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland.
Sheena and I have been married for 34 years and have two children, Vicki and Rory.
I’ve been a member of Earlston Curling Club for over 30 years and, more recently, of DAFS (Midlothian). I do most of my curling at Border Ice Rink, Kelso.
I’ve been President of Border Province, a Committee member of Border Ice Rink, where I coach when I can and have twice been President of my home club.
I’ve played in the Scottish Seniors Championships for five years, and last year we reached the final eight. I’ve also played a number of times in the Edinburgh International Seniors.
I have enjoyed playing in Scotland against the tough competition of touring teams – including USA curlers, and the socialising afterwards. I look forward to renewing friendships with as many as possible of these USA curlers, and meeting new ones on this tour. I enjoy music and attending concerts, photography and a bit of gardening.”
William is playing lead in Alex Dickson’s team Tiree. He has taken to touring very well and is the strong, silent type. The ‘quiet man’ of the team, he is always where the action is, taking note of what is going on, keeping council and generally being a right good guy. He was suspected of being a deep cover mole for the judge but has lately attracted a number if infractions, so possibly not.
“I’m 59 and farm Barr of Spottes Farm, Castle Douglas, which is in South-West Scotland.My family is Christine my wife, daughters Lindsay, Kirsty and Fiona, and grandson Jay who is six years old.
My home Club is Kirkpatrick-Durham, instituted in 1831. We curl at Dumfries Ice Bowl. I am in my sixth year as President of my Club, and recently completed my two-year term as President of Stewartry Province. I’m proud to have won the Stewartry Province ‘Vale of Urr’ trophy twice, and also the inter county Stewartry v Dumfriesshire ‘Craigielands’ trophy.
On tour I’m most looking forward to curling against fellow-curlers from USA, and seeing a country I haven’t visited before.
I enjoy watching football, both by being at games and on TV, and travelling to parts of the world I haven’t been to before.”
Bill is playing lead in Ian Young’s team Islay. He is also match secretary and I/C Morning Class. As the title suggests, Bill has taken on two of the most important roles in any tour. Although mixing the onerous job of dispensing morning medicine with the need to keep fastidious track of and the reporting of scores???? I guess we’ll see how that has gone. “Back home, I am a farmer to the core. At Kilmux Farm, Leven, Fife, a holding of 500 acres, we have beef cattle and mixed arable.
I’m 58 and my family is Carole, my wife, daughter Jenny and son David. My clubs are Lundin and Montrave which curl at Kirkcaldy.
I have been Club President and Club Treasurer; President of our Province and of our Area; and a member of the RCCC Areas Standing Committee.
Any successes I’ve had in curling have been minor and in the past, but then and now I’ve been glad to enjoy the sporting participation and fun that curling offers.
Spending time on Tour with my colleagues will be something special, visiting so many parts of the USA and the legendary morning class.
I have run marathons in three continents and an ultra-marathon. I enjoy cooking, and have travelled away from the usual tourist spots in many countries.”
Callum is Skip of team Iona. He is probably the most laid-back member of our party where, it has been observed, he is pretty much unruffled by any situation. Maybe that comes from his line of work. Actually he was one of the first to be nearly laid out with the tour cold but he soldiered on wrapped up like a garden gnome. “I am 54 and a farmer at Tranent, ten miles east of Edinburgh.
My wife Lorna and I have three children: Callum, Emma and Alastair.
I am a member of Oxenfoord and of Dirleton clubs. We curl at Murrayfield Curling Rink, Edinburgh.
I am President of both my Clubs and a former President of East Lothian Province.
My best memories of curling so far are curling outdoors – its natural environment – on a beautiful winter’s day with my late father’s pair of keen stones and my old corn broom. That’s curling as it’s meant to be – a lot of fun!
What I’m most looking forward to on tour is competing against all the US teams, then getting to know the curlers afterwards.
My interests and hobbies are skiing, visiting new places and the life-long task of trying to make two ears of corn grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before.”