MASTER'S - KEEP ON LIFTING

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: DOWN-HOME
Comical tale of a gifted Olympic weightlifter, his triumphs, struggles in personal life, injuries, and recoveries, wear and tear on his mighty body that will plague him and his lifting buddies their lifetimes, he never quitting working out because of the health benefits science has discovered pertaining to the sport.

Submitted: December 17, 2018

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Submitted: December 17, 2018

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MASTER’S KEEP ON LIFTING

A CHAMPION WEIGHTLIFTER’S TALE OF TRIUMPHANT TIMES, PLUS HARD TRAINING - JOINT SORENESS AND INJURY, ACHY PULLED MUSCLES AND TENDONS, SLIPPED DISKS, AND THE HIS WILLPOWER TO FIGHT THROUGH THEM ALL, A CAREER MARKED BY SUCCESS AND JOY FOR LIFE

Cartoon and Yarn by Virgil Dube’ - Copyright 2018

Vernon Mann, his given name at birth in Duval Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida, was undoubtedly born a phenomenon, a person of inherent great strength. Springing into the world at seventeen pounds and twenty-five inches long, his mother Mattie, maiden name Walker, wreaked in pain renamed him Brutus on the spot as the umbilical cord was cut. The reason, her gargantuan offspring just might have sentenced her to walking on crutches the remainder of her life.

Mattie didn’t; she abandoned the crutches after three weeks taking copiously medication. As Brutus developed astonishingly fast, she dedicated her time and unselfish love to her immense son, fed her Brutus liberally, catered to his every good-natured whim, and more than Tiny Mann her gaunt husband, encouraged his athletic prowess into his teens. 

By age fourteen and taking after his Uncle Milton Mann always wearing overalls, a herculean specimen that towered over his brother Tiny, Brutus stood six-three, and weighed two hundred eighty pounds of lean power packed muscle. Brutus could bend horseshoes like tinfoil with his grizzly hands, and carry on his massive shoulders sack after sack from a truckload of 80-pound rock up ladders for his father Tiny a roofer by trade, to spread across tarred-mopped roofs in Jacksonville suburbia. 

Prior to his fifteenth birthday, Brutus was still a naive lad of gentle nature. He had never lost his patience with bigheaded quarrelsome people. However, on this particular July day that virtuous quality would change. As he strolled along Jacksonville Beach, he approached a crowd gathered around the WQYK makeshift radiobroadcasting booth roped off sufficiently inland from incoming surf. The brightly dressed disc jockey was playing the latest rock n roll tunes, rolling his head trance-like, snapping his uplifted fingers in rhythm to the music playing on a spinning 45 lp record, latest hits boomed by three large speakers. Adjacent the booth a tall muscular and older teen showing off for his pretty girlfriend, and a sector of the crowd drawn to him, did a deadlift with the front end of his Volkswagen Beatle. Standing wide-legged afterward, flexing his biceps and spreading his wide lats, he bragged, “I’m Dusty Roadkill, Duval County High School wrestling champ, strongest man on this beach.”

Seeing Brutus at the rear of the crowd drifting from the radio booth toward and watching him, obviously younger than he but taller and much more powerfully built, Dusty intimidated by his size, called, “Hey, big fella, I dare you to duplicate my feat.” 

Brutus replied, “Okay, be right there.” 

Brutus wound through the crowd and nonchalantly deadlifted the Volkswagen Beatle by the heavier rear bumper twenty times with one hand. He placed the rear wheels back on the sand and proceeded to another car parked nearby. There, to the humiliation of the slick showoff, he deadlifted the front end of a Chevy Malibu ten times with both hands before boredom set in. 

The boyfriend dared not try the Chevy. Offended, his pride deeply wounded, he called Brutus a ‘damn showoff’, followed by a brazen name unworthy repeating … then punched him on his left shoulder proclaiming he boxed Golden Gloves. Brutus stunned, then instantly riled, grabbed hold of Dusty and dragged the husky boy several feet, the ragdoll flailing his arms hopelessly. Brutus sat on the disc jockey’s wicker chase lounge alongside the radio booth, jerked Dusty down and across his knees clamping his head down with one arm, then spanked him repetitiously on his fanny with his other hand. Releasing the crying terrified boy at least three years his senior, Brutus not saying a word, watched as the couple snatched up their belongings and fled the beach, Dusty almost dragging his balling girlfriend by his free hand.

The disc jockey had stopped the music, the surf the only audible sound. Presently, he leaned out of his booth looking Brutus in the eye, “Young man, was that necessary, the indignant manner you chastised that fella before this crowd, especially his girlfriend?”

“Probably not, music man. However, that girl needed a desperate wake-up call.”

Years would pass until one day the girl approached Brutus at a weightlifting contest at the beaches amphitheater Band Shell, apologizing for Dusty’s conduct, he her boyfriend at that time. She never married - thanks to Dusty, and Brutus just divorced a fifth time, exchanged phone numbers and would date thereafter, then marry.

But first Brutus would live and learn in the female category.

***

Brutus became interested in Olympic weightlifting in high school gym class, where he casually lifted crude homemade weights constructed by the coaches to inspire the boys to become physical-minded. Once he laid hands on and hoisted the weights the lifting bug stung him badly, and he commenced to train at home with weights that Tiny purchased him; a Weider Aristocrat set to start exercising, plus additional barbell plates Brutus quickly heaved effortlessly. Ironically, Mattie more than Tiny encouraged him onward. 

Inspired by Brutus’ exhibitions of colossal strength in his yard gym, several neighborhood friends marginally interested in the sport joined him to workout to get stronger, their underlying motive to entice girls rather than serious weightlifting. What benefited Brutus most from his training partners wasn’t altogether their companionship, or comments about this beautiful chick verses that gorgeous gal. They were beneficial to him fundamentally to have as training partners to load his hefty weights, so he wouldn’t expend needless energy required for his workout sets and reps. Nevertheless, and at heart, Brutus did enjoy having his training partners nearby to shoot the bull during his demanding workouts.

Moving into his Aunt Clarabella’s rental home along with his older cousin and car mechanic Cecil ‘The Diesel’ Walker, a Mayfair Community quaint stone house two miles from Mattie and Tiny’s home where he lived his youth, Brutus noticed for convenience an outdoor wood frame garage. Clearing out dust-laden debris that didn’t include inhabiting rats, then adding a wood-plank weightlifting platform over the concrete floor, he found the spacious enclosure with garage door open a perfect gym to seriously train. The wary rats never a problem were intensely afraid of the building regularly shaking, sometimes raining nails when Brutus was present doing whatever he did, that seemed kinda stupid in their bamboozled minds. 

However, Brutus’ neighbors to each side and across the street quickly became grumpy, and began to complain. Cletus B. Jones, the old-timer right next door projected his feelings by repeated demands sight unseen over the tall shrub-lined wire fence. “Dudes, stop the banging noise … at least minimize it to intervals. The ground is shaking under our feet and rattling dishes in our China cupboard, my darling Emma-Sue having to cable the cabinet doors shut.” Brutus unable to focus plainly on Cletus through the hedge, apologized to his neighboring nitpicker, also extended his regrets to the man’s sweet wife. He stated each incident for better clarification of his noise, that he would put the Hulk to shame, meaning, his training necessitated massive weight loads and the earth jarring was unavoidable … unfortunately. The protests intensified, spreading to other general area residents who sometimes shouted in chorus, mostly on Saturdays with no band present on front lawns, oftentimes singing in perfect pitch with provocative verbalizations amplified by use of megaphones, the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus Director Darrel Doolittle heading them, the man of fine cultural tastes residing near the street end. The melodic racket in front yard gatherings usually went like this, repeatedly: “Look, Mann, if this keeps up we’ll form a petition of local signatures and have your carcass banned from our community, so be it, so be it, so be it, Mann. Bang no more, bang not more, Mann, bang no more, our dang loud neigh --- bor, bor, bor.”

Several days passed after the initial Saturday display that spanned several hours, broken off by afternoon college football games on TV coinciding with outdoor barbeques. Thursday morning a young lady approached Brutus’ front door and rang his doorbell. Looking up at him through the open screen door as if he were King Kong, she stammered, “Helll … hello, saaa … sir, I’m Jean Strides. I … ahh, I live at the end of the street, annn … and I’m volunteering on behalf of Mr. Jones next doooo … door to your houuu … house. Heee … he’s the strange gaaa … guy yaaa … you see walking the neighborhood each evening with his waaa … wiii … wife, both wearing earmuffs, even during suumm … summer. And Mr. Doolittle feels he’s loosing his touch for classical music because of the nooo … noise, annn … and is entertaining switching to haaa … harrr … Hard Rock.” 

Jean Strides paused and puckered her lips to gather herself better to convey an understandable utterance to the imposing giant. Then, throwing her head back and chest out, she continued cooler and more intelligibly, “Anyway, Mr. Jones is our school principal. Furthermore, he’s President of the Mayfair Community Welfare Committee recruiting several of us schoolgirls involved in civics class at school, to walk and encourage people to sign this important paper. Would you mind signing the petition for a good cause on behalf of our Mayfair Community Welfare Committee, and Mr. Jones? It concerns commotion in our neighborhood that I’m told shakes peoples’ bones, rattles their teeth, jars … sometimes cracks dishes, spooks their pets, and must be eliminated.” 

“Why, sure, little miss. Perhaps our houses here in Mayfair were built over a fault zone, odd for sandy Florida, though. Let me see what you got to determine if I should scribble my name, help out and promote a good cause.” 

Jean handed Brutus the pen and legal pad with dozens of signatures previously affixed. Entertaining signing it blindly, he thought best to read the alleged offenders’ name in fine print. After reviewing it, he laughed, and called over a shoulder to Cecil ‘The Diesel’ watching Howdy Doody on their new Admiral console television set, “Hey, cous, come over here and have a look-see at this paper.” 

Jean watched with interest the chubby man slide off the sofa he must have sat hours. From one knee propped on the carpeted floor, an arm braced on the couch end, he struggled to stand, then lumbered unsteadily to join King Kong. She looked puzzled at the two men suddenly laughing hysterically. She backed away from the weird circumstance a couple steps, sweat forming on her forehead, and waited patiently for their calamitous outburst to wear off, King Kong too choked-up to respond to her, tears streaming down his cheeks from bloodshot eyes. The hefty cous guy behind Brutus lurching loosely clutched his distended belly to keep his strained belt from popping. Not to fall, his other hand clutched the huge gorilla’s shoulders for support, both reeling in a hysterical crack-up and about to collapse together on the floor. Resisting not crying, she remained motionless on the porch until the two buffoons recovered somewhat.

Straightening up and ultimately able to speak, Brutus sputtered, “Jean, I … don’t mean to embarrass you, but I … ah, I doubt you know much about this, ah ... petition, me the fellow this complaint is all about. Sorry little lady, I can’t sign it.” 

Jean bug-eyed, and covering her gaping mouth with a trembling hand, backed further away. Astonished, yet relieved when he handed her the pen and pad, she turned and dashed down the steps from the short half-moon porch and across the front lawn to the street. She didn’t go to another house, as he expected. Instead, she tore down the avenue toward her home. Brutus chuckled, as he quietly closed the door. Then he helped Cecil from his knees to his feet, and guided him to the sofa where they both flopped to resume watching Howdy Doody in Doodyville, with Buffalo Bob, Clarabell, Phineas T. Bluster, Dilly Dally, and the Flub-a-Dub, intermittently braking out in hilarity the interaction of characters with the Peanut Gallery … and, Brutus about to sign the preposterous petition.

Nothing legal ever transpired from the neighborhoods’ petition. Soon the neighbor’s protests ended and Brutus went merrily about his weightlifting workouts, though quieter most of the time, rarely dropping five hundred pound jerks from arms length overhead to the platform. He eliminated doing repetition deadlifts with six hundred pounds off the platform that every workout loosened nails he had to re-drive with a hammer, even nails falling from exposed garage rafters. Rather, he bounced barbell deadlifts and clean high pulls from thick pillows resting on the wood planks, which greatly reduced local seismic readings. 

Sympathetic to Mr. Jones, near and outlying neighbors, he began to divide his workouts between other serious lifting friends at their homes, or at the downtown Y.M.C.A., where management provided a lifting platform for him in the heavy lifting quarter of the spacious weight room. Despite his pacifications, the last gossip spread to him was that Darrel Doolittle had yielded to his internal musical conflicts, classical verses rock, and formed a Hard Rock band, became the cool drummer wearing tattoos and outlandish facial jewelry. And, he practiced both the drums and steel guitar nightly, which stirred up Mayfair neighbors at his end of the street. This benefited Brutus when he wasn’t jarring the Y.M.C.A., Darrel’s band drawing ugly attention from his opposite end of the street. 

Soon, Brutus was seriously involved into statewide weightlifting competitions, defeating a huge man twenty years his senior many times state champion, the newcomer just sixteen years of age.

***

Over the years Brutus’ lifting improved beyond early expectation. He set national teen, national senior, Pan-Am, and world records. Invited by the owner of the York Barbell Company to lift for the York Barbell Club, his travel, personal, and training expenses were thusly covered. Relieved of monetary obligation allowing him to train intensely, he won many elite competitions, becoming nationally and internationally successful, racking up eight consecutive National Championships, and World and Pan-American Championships - each dual achievements. 

Along the way Brutus met gorgeous young women across the globe, a sizable number he fell deeply in love and married. However, his unyielding dedication to Olympic weightlifting triggered serious domestic dissension. Discord culminated in Brutus divorcing one, two, three, eventually five lovely but fed-up women that had entered his matrimonial revolving door. Distraught females pouted initially their separation from their cuddly teddy-bear, then were euphoric realizing after court papers were signed they were free from prolonged estrangements, and the earth shaking was gone with newfound quietness so deafening it often haunted them in their sleep, earthquake nightmares haunting them years.

Time marched on for Brutus pilling the tonnage onto his mighty body. And with time the accumulation began to tell its toll on him, he reaching six-foot-six and three hundred thirty pounds of hardened muscle with only twelve percent body fat. Yes, his body as powerful as it was to resist aging, couldn’t hold up over time to the bombardment of continuous heavy training required of an elite weightlifting champion of his caliber.Bones began to squeak and wear at the joints. Muscles, tendons and ligaments began to tear. And, lumbar disks repeatedly slipped, days of agony following. Even his jaw mandibles ground as he chewed food, the straining and tense muscles of his face taunt to the inth-degree instigated by hundreds of thousands of pounds hoisted over the years in workouts.

But resilient Brutus rebounded, kept healing, and thus training, not just for love of the sport, or his super-duper ego, but as a result of his inherent good health. Also a motivator drove him onward, the unveiling of positive scientific data. Through diligent research studies began to disclose benefits from weightlifting, this bolstering Brutus’ eternal drive, even after retirement, he had to fight through every heavy set by grinding-out each determined repetition.

***

Brutus grew fond of the testimonies of his old friends who he identified, once elite and proud champions. They reincarnated to competition and active Master’s like him, met after motoring distances or flying across the nation to lifting meets to see or help coach aspiring young lifters. Generally after the meets the veterans shared personal histories and grievances amongst themselves in a nearby tavern. It wasn’t just therapy for the aging, was also a means to maintain old bonds.

During one such encounter in Orlando after a Southeast Regional Championships, Brutus and an entourage of his lifting buddies met at Billy-Bob’s-Bar. Seated on stools at the long bar almost everyone ordered beer or mixed drinks. But not Brutus; he responded to the inquiring bartender, “I’d like a fifth of milk.” 

“Hugh?”

“Yes, milk … a tall glass, please. My mama asked me a young boy to swear never to drink alcoholic beverages, or smoke cigarettes. I promised, crossed my heart. Thus far I’ve honored her wish; don’t mean to dishonor her tonight.”

“Okay, a fifth of milk it is, big fella. You’re a fine chap to obey your mama.”

Shortly, the cordial barkeep handed him a tall glass of the whole vitamin-D variety, “I’m Billy-Bob, pleased to meet you Brutus Mann. One of my workers pouring you the milk informed me you were World Weightlifting Champ. To let you know I’m a fan of yours from this day forward.”

Brutus with a white ring around his mouth, responded, “Thanks, Billy-Bob, was a fun career as can be testified by my friends here, all of ‘em fine lifters in their respective classes.”

Billy-Bob looked up and down the bar, “Gents, I’d like to hear some of your experiences.”

As Brutus gulped his cold glass of milk ready for a second, his friends began to divulge their personal stories to Billy-Bob. Samples of old-time experiences began to unfold one by one up and down the bar, some gruesome, some downright humorous.

Former national lightweight champion Clifford Whitney around sixty-five, said, after chugging a mouthful of foamy Budweiser, “Billy-Bob, it doesn’t take much herky-jerky anymore to rattle my old bones. My crushed vertebrae and aching back got the best of me just getting out of bed to drive here. Following breakfast it got worse when my fifth lumbar vertebrae slipped a hundredth time when I slammed on brakes to avoid squashing a squirrel dashing across my driveway as I backed out to leave home.” 

Billy-Bob relaxed, and leaning on the bar, was surprised what he was hearing, and asked, “No doubt Cliff, you like your friends here, are not just fine, but champion lifters.” 

“Yeah, we’ve all had our turns on the victory stand. Believe it or not from my looks today I actually held eight national snatch records spread over a ten year career.”

“Damned fellas, it’s Hell what time does to ones body,” Billy-Bob responded, pouring a fresh glass of ale, then strolling down the bar to help another customer summoning him.

“Billy-Bob,” Owen Mathis, a multi-record-holder and one of the world’s greatest split snatchers, interjected, “weightlifting can be dangerous to people other than the gym lifter, such as two incidences that happened to me one day … no casualties, though. My friend Cletus owning a store in Jacksonville’s Riverside and probably wanting to impress me, invited me to train in his second floor well-equipped gym, with: an official size platform, portable racks, power racks bolted to the walls, four plate holders, Olympic bars and weights - the works. It was situated just above Cletus’ convenience store adjacent a busy street and close angles parking. A young man, probably a friend of Cletus, entered, and began to stretch and prepare to do whatever. I had just cleaned a warm-up of two hundred ninety five pounds and driven it to arms length to complete the jerk. Something told me not to drop the weight to the platform. Sure enough, this lulu guy stooped low then stepped across the platform … right under the weight I was struggling to hold a half-minute… crazy! I finally dropped it with a crash just as he cleared the platform, then jumped big-time in his face. Shaking like a snake-bitten rabbit, he decided enough for the day before his first set of whatever, and fled. 

“Minutes earlier I had commenced to do some snatches, my technique feeling keen this day. I have no idea what happened, but somehow my lead left foot struck the platform wrong in a low split position, driving me off balance to the left. The open window was at the front wall of the gym, it up, no screen, a clear view below of parked cars and people walking the sidewalk directly underneath. Struggling to hold two hundred seventy five pounds, I staggered left; finally realizing I was dangerously approaching the open window. I dropped the heavy weight, it crashing on the sill, the barbell a third outside the window. Thank goodness it didn’t fall completely out, the plates secured with locked collars. A terrified woman directly under the window looked up at me gazing down, me apologizing, she clutching her chest and chocking, a nearby man coming to her rescue. The woman was fine, but needless to say, Cletus never invited me back, nor did I offer to return.”

Seventy-year old former Pan-American middle-heavy weight champion Joseph Hewett sitting cock-eyed on his stool, his forearm still in a cast, the visible hand barely able to grasp the flask holding a Bloody Mary, nodded his head vigorously. “Right you are, Billy-Bob. I had my broken wrist reset recently after it snapped a third time trying to do overhead jerks, dislocating my artificial hip when I fell on my butt, the heavy barbell falling square on my head to wrench my neck, after two months my neck still confined to restricted turns left and right.” Joe paused to swig his drink, then added, “To top that, my left elbow popped out trying to pry myself off the darn floor, me still feeling acute pain in that arm after a partial joint dislocation trying to snatch a national record in Los Angeles back in ‘82.”

James Osman gulping booze and three sheets to the wind was seated three down from Brutus. A notable superheavyweight often competing against him but never defeating Brutus, shared his ghastly injury that ended his career as a record-holding Master.He began his tale with a slur, “Billy-Bob, I had worked in my yard to add an inner layer of fence to my old rotting former fence, pulling cypress slats with a crowbar to keep them horizontally straight. After finishing the job attaching three-hundred boards and driving hundreds of nails, I did my last workout preparing for the first Masters tournament of the new lifting season, to be held April 1986 in St. Mary’s High School. Three days later at the competition my third warm-up snatch increased to two hundred seventy pounds, was light, and a subsequent heavier warm-up went almost as well, except my left elbow suddenly ached again. Starting competition and ignoring the increasing discomfort, I pulled the three hundred pound barbell for my first attempt snatch too far forward. I compensated by stepping forward to save the lift. In a flash my left elbow hyperextended backward, the joint snapping like a pencil. My hand grotesquely rolled behind me still clinging to the barbell before I released my grip. People said later they heard the horrific crack clear in the audience. 

“After my elbow joint was reset three hours later in a clinic forty miles from the school, the cross-eyed doctor with a nervous head twitch, said while grinning, ‘Mr. Bormann, no more snatches for you for a long, long time, if ever’. The sound of his voice was weird, like a tunnel echo, his lips flapping uncontrollable in sync with his lurching head. Time had lapsed from my injury to him resetting my arm, which probably doomed my Master’s career. 

“Realizing this, and peeved, I growled, prompting Doctor Twitch and his attending nurse to bolt from the clinic bay.”

Terry Whiteski entered shared his reminisces. A former national featherweight champion known in the weightlifting world as the smoothest lifter alive, Terry’s technique was as impeccable as his mannerism was sly. “Billy-Bob, my hip replacement keeps popping out, embarrassing when in an uncompromising interpersonal situation you guys undoubtedly sense without me explaining detail before the innocent audience we’ve begun to attract.” 

The entire gathering broke into an uproar, several old-timers almost falling off their stools, Billy-Bob suddenly charitable and giving free drinks and his bar rocking, the laughter spreading onto the sidewalk fronting the bar. Terry’s message passed to curious listeners further down the sidewalk, gossipy additions of explicit detail conveyed to further the hilarity blocks away. 

Brutus’ turn had arrived, and he responded, “Let me tell you how I met the great Paul Anderson, ‘a wonder of nature’ as the Russians referred to him. Age sixteen I accompanied some neighborhood friend’s downtown to the wrestling arena when Paul was advertised to wrestle and give a weightlifting demonstration. Finished with his wrestling bout, Paul with his weights placed by workers on the ring canvas floor, did a couple sets of heavy squats off racks, then one-arm presses with a two hundred twenty pound dumbbell. Finished, he asked if anyone from the audience would like to try lifting the dumbbell. I walked down with six husky gents between indoor bleachers. As the challenge attempts began, the first man barely lifted the dumbbell off the floor. Others following were lucky to tug it to their knees. Standing beside the wrestling ring the whole time, me last and it my turn, I threw my leg up to climb onto the ring canvas when my britches ripped at the butt seam. The terse sound carried in the smoky air across the quiet audience and expansive arena, many believing I had broken wind. I jumped back to the floor covering my butt with both hands, as the wrestling promoter Jimmy Murdock came to my rescue with a bath towel. Several people stood around to conceal me as I tucked the towel over my rear belt and under my waistband. Ready, I entered the ring, hoisted the dumbbell to my shoulders to Paul’s astonishment, and the audience, and heaved it to within an inch of overhead lockout before it came crashing down to bounce on the mat. Paul approached me, shook my hand, and asked, “You’ve lifted before, I can tell.” I responded I did, and from that day forward Paul and I were friends, he coming to Jacksonville when I became the first teenager in the world at age nineteen to press 400 pounds. Paul and I remained close until he died many years later from liver failure, Paul a generous great man.”

James Osman asked, “Brutus, tell us about your banquet after the World’s Championships.”

“Be glad to, James. A large banquet was held for the participating nations in this foreign country I had just won the World Title. The delegations present at several dining tables consisted of coaches, their aids, team doctors, and lifters. We all enjoyed great food and camaraderie between competitors, the merriment pitched high and intoxicating. As I gulped down my delicious meal, the bread to melt in your mouth with lots of butter, my innards began first to churn, then growl, the pressure mounting to a point I had to decide which end to seek release, finally choosing the upper outlet. The guttural burp drowned-out general conversation, suddenly quietness pervading. Everyone leaned over his or her plates, and some with food stuck to their clothes, looked at me in astonishment, captivated by the sheer force of my expulsion that shook an overhead chandelier. Smiles slowly spread across every face, all suddenly lifting their drinking glasses and yelling ‘Bravo’ up and down the tables, many standing to repeat their salute to me –‘Bravo, bravo, bravo’. A number left their seats, men and women coming and patting me on the back, praising me, saying, ‘Well done Brutus, great you liked the meal and you were so freely expressive’. After everyone wiped off their clothes and resumed their social chatters, I leaned toward my coach Smitty sitting to my right, and asked, ‘What was all that about? Why my rued burp so captivating’? Smitty chuckled, then explained, ‘In this and many foreign countries, anyone that belches at the dinner table does so to express his gratification of delicious food. It’s a compliment, Brutus, the best example of appreciation offered the hosts, cooks, and for those sharing the meal with you’. Looking up and down the tables I saw many people burping, and repeated ‘Bravo’s’ and slaps on their backs. What a grand way to eat delicious food … completely uninhibited.”

“Hey, Brutus, how about that time in Denver when you met the famous movie star before the Olympics,” Isaac Began, the ‘mighty mite’ featherweight and multi world record holder, asked, he normally a shy and quiet individual.

Brutus laughed, “Okay, Ike, that was quite an experience. The night before the American team was to fly to the Olympic games, the athletes and Kirk Dugan the famous movie star, gathered in the Hilton Hotel lobby for a photo op, and to tantalize the media. At one point someone from the press corps suggested I lift Kirk over my head. And he agreed to the request crossing his legs and standing rigid. I placed my left hand over his chest, my right hand on his thigh, cleaned him, and then pressed him five reps overhead to arms length. At one point my left hand slipped from his chest to his neck, he jokingly gurgling as if I were choking him to death. Returning Kirk to the floor, another reporter requested I do the same with Cathy Risdon the gymnast, and she nearby, consented. I pressed her likewise overhead … with one arm. Later we all trotted down the street to the theater where a first run of Kirks’ freshly released movie, ‘Texas Jack Duels John Wesley Hardin’ was soon to start. Sitting in a theater seat directly behind Kirk, we all having a jolly good time, I stuck a finger in his right ear. He turned and said, “Look, big boy, you want me to whip your butt?” He and I laughed, me shuttering as if I were afraid he might pulverize me on the spot.” 

Personal testimony in Billy-Bob’s Bar continued in cheerful companionship, drawing steadily a crowd, mostly from outside. Diehard weightlifting Master’s with an attentive audience swaying in the wind of fun, guzzling free beverages, Brutus consuming a gallon of milk, everyone listening to oftentimes humor but also tales of gruesome injuries mingled with weird or outrageous circumstance: bizarre incidences typical of freewheeling weightlifters, gruesome injuries and subsequent surgeries, quick and lengthy recoveries, even hospitalizations, rambling oftentimes strangely gut-busting stories one after another, so many repetitious but with differing aspects followed commonly with high-fives many times resulting in booze airborne to shower everyone in the general area.

The spectacle within the bar eventually reached WWOW radio station a quarter mile away, and was aired by disc-jock Alfred ‘Mighty Manfred’ Dubett. Within minutes a larger crowd had swarmed outside to block street traffic, police officers called to the scene and having to redirect local traffic, people desperate for entry squeezing between unresisting doorsills in a frenzy to enter Billy-Bob’s-Bar and witness history.

***

During his renowned career Brutus had gone through five wives before he turned thirty. Persistence pays, as his sixth wife identified with him and stuck like a fly to sticky trap paper. She initially approached him at a lifting tournament one hot summer day at the beaches Band Shell to apologize for the bad conduct of her then boyfriend Dusty Roadkill’s misconduct before the beach crowd. She said the spanking did much to realign Dusty’s life, he fleeing back to his wealthy family in New York City. We corresponded a short while, he informing me he was attending college. Later I learned he became a lawyer representing gangsters. She knew early on he wasn’t for her, proven by his abrasive nature that long ago day on the beach.

Brutus dated her several months before they became engaged. She keen on dates put off their wedding until a full year later on August 14.

She, Brutus’ latest wife, was named Endless. The name was a product of desperation by her father, after no boys born she his thirteenth girl. She grew into adulthood a fervent woman about personal hygiene and general upkeep. Endless’ coexistence with twelve feisty sisters galvanized her into a responsible tough cookie. This trait worked exceedingly well for Brutus now a Master. Not a trainee, she was a sturdy barbell plate loader that supplied him much-needed assistance, plus offered her first-rate fitness she strived slamming rows of 45 pound plates tightly onto the Olympic barbell sleeve. 

Endless encouraged Brutus to lose weight, he listening and dropping to a lean two hundred seventy pounds. She also aided him through frequent injuries, ever so often wrapping a two-by-ten inch board to his back with ace bandages to maintain spinal rigidity during clean high pulls after he slipped lumbar disks on a regular basis. With eyesight waning and resorting to thick spectacles to see satisfactorily, he hated a glasses tie cord strapped around his head and avoided them. Thus, he tolerated normal spectacles jarring lose often, relying on Endless to be Johnny-on-the-spot to catch them before they splattered on the floor. Having contracted periodontal gum disease, and loosing his upper teeth, and a majority of the bottom ones, the straining often loosened the upper Fixodent denture compound. Endless remained ever alert, she to gather not only his thick glasses, but also his denture when the plate popped from his mouth during a robustly pulled lift. Often this mobility required acrobatic skills, dexterity she steadily perfected with increased incidents, her growing athletic prowess incredibly entertaining for visitors fearing she might be squashed by either Brutus or a heavy barbell falling. During the course of his sets doing clean high pulls, the heavy plates contacting the platform with jolting force, and him pulling with such acceleration, caused the sleeve collars Endless had tightened to loosen, collars and plates crashing to the floor and she fleeing from the garage to avoid resultant flying iron. Endless had a quirky phobia; she hated rats, often chased them from the garage with a broom when they appeared from the shadows spooked by nails often popping loose from shaking walls and the buildings’ ceiling rafters. She meticulously messaged Brutus after each training session, even walked on his back barefoot to pop in place misaligned vertebrae, he groaning with delight. 

Thanks to Endless’ never ending dedication for Brutus to cling to a diminishing career as a viable competitor, he continued to train doggedly as a Master, going routinely to his garage and doing lighter but respectable intensities of what he had done for years as an elite Olympic weightlifting champion.

Brutus and Endless shared a wonderful life other than Olympic weightlifting. They vacationed regularly, visited most states across the country. They built themselves a log cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains, and a separate log cabin gym. They were fortunate to have born to them a beautiful daughter Kimberly, and soon thereafter with Endless ageing, a son they named Jeffrey. Both children began working out with weights before their tenth birthday.

Mr. Jones next door didn’t complain anymore, his eardrums simple couldn’t endure excessive noise. He couldn’t hear even if dynamite exploded next to him, and, he preferred it that way living next to Brutus and his lively clan. As for Darrel Doolittle, well, he took up skydiving, often playing his drums as a promotional stunt for his Hard Rock band.

Brutus in his heyday had become an athletic international star. He won many tournaments in America and several countries, had established five world records. As a Master beyond his prime he kept up his weightlifting, hoisting much lighter weights with advancing age, rehashing his triumphant career, lift by lift, contest after contest, and award after award displayed proudly in his living room trophy cabinet that even Mr. Jones became fascinated with. 

Only by use of crutches or a wheelchair would Brutus Mann ever forsake Olympic weightlifting, the sport in command of every fiber of his enormous and dedicated being.

THE AUTHOR’S TESTAMENT

When my brother Joe and I began lifting weights as teenagers I had no idea I would compete as an Olympic weightlifter. I was an artist from early youth, and that was what I aspired with passion to be as a professional into adulthood. Joe and I began as most boys do egotistically by working out to build muscle, first pulling springs then lifting weights. But in our cases, we became enchanted by national bodybuilding and Olympic weightlifting magazines, plus encouragement from our two training buddies at that time, and early successes in weightlifting tournaments driving us steadily to greater heights, especially Joe moving up the ladder to attain elite status.

If I knew then what I do now, the experiences I encountered over my prime competitive years 1961 to 1966, I would probably not have changed my direction. As portrayed in this satirical account of Brutus Mann, a fictitious character - his glory initially, then subsequent injurious perils marked by: joint soreness or injury, achy and pulled muscles and tendons, and slipped disks, are just a normal concurrence of what a serious trainee must expect and endure to reach any degree of success in championship competition in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. 

This fictional story imitates instances built on but not entirely of absolute fact of my brother and mine Joe’s weightlifting and life experiences, are meant to be a depiction of the fictional character and actions solely of Brutus Mann, and his weightlifting buddies sharing their unusual deeds and aches and injuries.

Today looking back I’m glad I quit serious competition before I permanently injured myself that could have greatly handicapped me aging. Doing so paved the way for other personal achievements and professional gratification working an artists’ career with the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company. The approach I’ve taken since competition when in my prime is like my character Brutus Mann to continue training diligently much like I did back then with the Olympic lifts and associated exercises, but with lessons learned and mistakes acknowledged to guide me into later sensible and controllable exercise regimens to maintain, even better my health as I age. I’m especially happy to hear of recent research results relating to the sport, it’s positive contribution to a weightlifting trainees health, especially data released this year from research over many years and many subjects by Iowa State University, finding that weightlifting is 40 to 70 percent beneficial in limiting strokes and heart attack in trainees of any age working out one hour per week.

So, you veteran Master weightlifters, especially people of sound health released by their doctors to start strenuous exercise and possibly undertaking weightlifting, KEEP ON LIFTING! With sensible, even professional guidance and approach, the prospective benefits outweigh the likely alternative promoted by personal neglect.

THE END


© Copyright 2019 Virgil Dube. All rights reserved.

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