Texting Old Tom

Today I decided to wrestle with my phone. Perhaps you have experienced similar deep emotions and bruising ego setbacks with this maddening appliance, as I have. It’s a pain in the butt, it constantly finds new ways to vex me, and no doubt it spends its time in the darkness giggling and smirking as it does everything in its power to run up my bill.

Running up excessive bills is why smart phones were invented, with little concession, the right word surely, to providing the customer with value commensurate with the cost.

A lady I met at a party recently tried to reverse my opinion by demonstrating how she could enjoy reading rare books on her phone. She had downloaded them to her iPain courtesy of the nice people at the Gutenberg Project. (This is an organization which has been busy digitizing old books, making them available in electronic format.) This made an impression, since my lovely wife and I have spent far more than is reasonable on books, yet we cannot seem to quell our thirst. The lady at the party explained that a huge variety of books was available — for free — and in seconds could be relayed from the library in the sky down into one’s phone. Then, one could at one’s leisure read the book and generate those lovely chemical pleasure reactions in the brain. Me want some of that.

So after spending far too much time today grappling with unwieldy and cumbersome HR software to apply for  jobs — I think we should be paid for our Herculean efforts, doing HR’s job for them — it seemed a fair deal to reward myself with a wee treat and get me some books. So I hunted and cursed and fell into the Internet mud, but finally after battling my way out, the Kindle book-reading software was installed on my phone, and I was soon reading a complimentary novel, “Treasure Island.” It worked! But now I wanted more.

There were already books on my laptop, made possible by “Kindle for PC,” and if I knew where the books lived on my laptop and on my phone, theoretically I could copy them from one device to the other. Then I could have sweet revenge on my evil black phone, and read a book on my laptop when it suited me, or if desired on the Devil Droid.

To get started I went looking for a new Kindle book from Amazon, and did a search on “golf.” (If you are looking for a regular, non-Kindle book, there are over 22,000 golf titles available through Amazon.) This search turned up some 1200 titles, high on the list of which was one by the golf scholar Valerie Gray. Her impressive work was entitled, “Getting Naked for Tiger Woods: or, I Was A Wanton Golf Tramp.” Yours — the book, that is — for $2.99. (Here I would like to assure my wife that I did not purchase this historical work, and no, I will not be tricked into saying anything like if the movie will be better.) Seeing that my search parameters were ill-chosen, I narrowed the field by selecting “golf history.” This yielded more desirable fruit, rather than the low-hanging variety provided by Ms Gray.

If you have looked around my blog, you found a story (“Golf Literati Dinner”) relating one of the most amazing events of my life, a banquet in St Andrews, overlooking the Old Course, for golf historians and writers, golf collectors, and one of the most famous golfers in history. (I sat next to him.) One of the singular characters of that evening was David Malcolm, a former University of St Andrews biology professor and at the time a redoutable golf historian. I will never forget him, and I am sad to say that this larger-than-life fellow passed away recently. He and his colleague Peter Crabtree had labored for years on a majestic biography of one of golf’s most important figures, Old Tom Morris. This work was published in 2008 in extremely small quantities, a hefty and exquisite tome that I simply could not afford, my ancestors having squandered the family fortune on whisky.

The Kindle Store search under “golf history” gave up 76 titles, and much to my amazement there was David’s book, “Tom Morris of St Andrews: The Colossus of Golf 1821-1908.” A Kindle version was available (for under $9) and I could be reading it in just a few moments. Wow. Soon I was transported, reading the early chapters, learning about the origins of golf, the seminal “Rabbit Wars” and life in early 19th century Scotland, completely absorbed. Then I came across a passage that had me drifting back to my own childhood, when my dad, like countless other dads, took an old golf club, sawed off a chunk, and handed it to their young sons as their first golf clubs. It’s how we got started playing the ancient and wonderful game. The quote, from Old Tom, includes some impenetrable Scottish terms and phrases, so let me help you.

There are a few meanings for the Scottish phrase “chuckie stanne” but the important one here is for ‘throwing stones,’ or small stones that were the right size for tossing or chucking. The earliest golf “balls” were small rocks, followed in the next experimental phase by wooden balls, which were then replaced with such improvements as leather stuffed with feathers, and then balls made from solid rubber. “Bairn” is Scottish for baby. Webbed feet are recognizable by anyone raised in moist places like Seattle.

“I began to play when I was six or seven, maybe younger. A’ St Andrews bairns are born wi’ web feet an’ wi’ a gowf club in their hands. I wad be driving the chuckie stanne wi’ a bit stick about as sune’s I could walk.”

Reading that made me want to get out on the golf course as soon as possible, where my thoughts will be with Old Tom. And you can bet your golf spikes I will not have my phone with me.


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: