v. usually: coercing one's hair into a unnatural state, temporarily negating the effects of naturally produced scalp oil and gravity. n. alleged sport: canadian shuffleboard on ice. big stone blocks are slid across ice for position. a sweeper can attempt to alter the path of the stone by furiously sweeping the ice in front of the stone's path. felix unger might watch this event.

A game played by Canadians, Scots and the Swiss ... or anyone else who spends half the year in a climate featuring weather cold enough to keep ice around.

The game consists two teams of four, who compete by sliding polished, vaguely pumpkin shaped rocks down a sheet of ice, aiming at a big bull's-eye. One player shoots, and then yells at two others who are furiously sweeping the already smooth ice surface with little brooms. The leader, or skip mostly stands about but also directs the shots. The ice sheet measures about 14 by 138 feet.

The Scots invented the game¹, but Canada rules it.

Each team starts with eight (8) 40-pound granite rocks. Teams alternate shots, with each player throwing two of their team's eight rocks. The aim is to get one or more rocks closest to the "button" - the centre of the bull's-eye. Knocking the opposing team's rocks out is allowed², and indeed this is a key strategy.

What makes curling challenging is that the rocks "curl," that is, change direction, as they run down the ice based on the rock's speed, rotation, the makeup of the ice, changing ice conditions, how the team sweeps and the whims of the capricious curling gods.

There are no referees or judges other than the players themselves. Enforcement of the rules depends on the honor system and the goodwill and sportsmanship of both teams. Points are counted after each round or "end." After ten (sometimes eight) ends the team with the most points wins. Everyone goes for beverages, especially during bonspiels.

It's part golf, part billiards and part chess ... and part bowling. The participants are not necessarily athletes in the traditional sense. Beer is served at the facilities, if you take my meaning.

It's a sport almost anyone can try ... without the risk of bone-crushing injury that comes with hockey. And did I mention the beer? Okay, good.


Curling sheet diagram

    
                                          | --------- Rings ------------- |
,7MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM 
  7           H                                            t              b                  M 
  '7          H                                     ,12+12+12+12+12       b                  M 
7             H                                   ,12      t      '12     b                  M 
 '7           H                                 12      ,88888,      12   b                  M 
  '7          H                                12    ,888' t '888,    12  b                  M 
   '7         H                               +'    88     t     '8,    + b                  M 
   7          H                              12   ,8     44444     8,   12b                  M 
   7          H                              +    8    44; t ,44    8    +b                  M 
   '7         H                             12   ,8   44   B   a4   ,8    +             H    M 
  ,7..........H............................12 .. 8  . 4   BBB   4  . 8  . +  .........  A    M 
  7           H                             12   88   44   B   r4    8    +             C    M 
  7           H                              +    8    44  t  44    8    +b             K    M 
  ,7          H                              +,   '8    .44444     88   12b                  M 
,7            H                               12   '88     t     ,88    + b                  M 
7             H                                12    '88,  t  ,888    12  b                  M 
 '7           H                                 12      '88888'      12   b                  M 
   '7         H                                  '12,      t      ,12'    b                  M 
   ,7         H                                     12+12+12+12+12+       b                  M 
   7          H                                            t              b                  M 
  7MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM 
              |                                            |              |
              v                                            v              v
          Hog line                                     Tee line      Back line

Footnotes:
  1. kto9 says curling was apparently invented on the continent and brought to Scotland. earliest references are actually in Dutch 16th century paintings.
  2. Except for the "free guard" rule, which prohibits takeout shots of guards before the fourth stone is thrown.

in the winter we take to throwing rocks
along the frozen pond, the winner is closest
to the X we carve and fill with red wax

from the dining room we can see them playing
in two groups either side of the stretch where the rocks glide
silent at this distance and slowly (through the bare window frame)
becoming as grey as the sky entire (over empty plates
  elderly hands fold silverware without a single negative thought
)

a game of tic-tac-toe carved into a tree
above a branch which was difficult to reach when last i climbed it
where kisses defeated hugs

the flames in the stove curl up the vent
fleeing to the night sky as the cat cries at the side door
slinking in and curling up before the fire
nervously listening to the cavalcade of returning players

we really are at our best in the company of others

you have to be really careful
pulling the lid off after using the can opener
i say just before my hand slips
red with spaghetti-O sauce
but not yet blood

Curl"ing, n.

1.

The act or state of that which curls; as, the curling of smoke when it rises; the curling of a ringlet; also, the act or process of one who curls something, as hair, or the brim of hats.

2.

A scottish game in which heavy weights of stone or iron are propelled by hand over the ice towards a mark.

Curling . . . is an amusement of the winter, and played on the ice, by sliding from one mark to another great stones of 40 to 70 pounds weight, of a hemispherical form, with an iron or wooden handle at top. The object of the player is to lay his stone as near to the mark as possible, to guard that of his partner, which has been well laid before, or to strike off that of his antagonist. Pennant (Tour in Scotland. 1772).

Curling irons, Curling tong, an instrument for curling the hair; -- commonly heated when used.

 

© Webster 1913.

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