PREAMBLE: I wasn’t going to divulge anything about this secretive and ancient practice, but I’m defenseless against the persuasive powers of “Mych “. She hounded me mercilessly to spill. She could charm a vinegarroon! If this lands me in trouble with the Foulers, it’s her fault!
We Foulers don heavy medieval armor and chase squirrels about the fields in order to strike them with ping pong balls. No squirrels are ever injured. Foulers are animal lovers; we revere the athletic prowess of squirrels. Fouling is actually highly beneficial to squirrels, teaching them valuable survival skills — Like: RUN FROM PEOPLE !
The objective of a Fouler is to get in close for the strike, just like real knights! Accurate striking range is a meager six feet, tops. When a fully armor-clad man is pitted against the agility of a squirrel, the advantage is overwhelmingly the squirrel’s.
Each Fouler is accompanied by a field judge and a squire. The field judge tallys the score, the squire functions as ping pong ball bearer and Best Boy.
The Fouling began slowly that day. As we took the field, a group of incredulous picnic-goers started laughing, laughing loudly I might add. I failed to see what was so amusing. You can see them in the photo positioned behind and to my left.
Little did I know, this day would be legendary in the annals of Fouling. I would confront Tobias, a squirrel who had never been fouled. A squirrel every Fouler desired! Tobias or Toby, as we branded him , was by this time a “marked squirrel”. There were so many bounties and wagers placed on him; it was inevitable his foul-free reign would come crashing down. Here’s how it unfolded on that historic day.
The Encounter… I perceived a rustle and then a slight scurrying in the tall grass. My squire whispered, “One O’clock! Right”! Could this be quarry? My tally sheet contained only near misses. The hours of remaining daylight were growing short. I didn’t want to face the humiliation of an empty tally sheet. Oh, how I wanted just one strike! Then the blades of grass parted and I got my first look. I recognized the distinctive markings and his haughty stare. It was he, Toby!
Toby flashed that mortifying stare then rolled his eyes and looked left, as if to indicate his direction of flight (highly irregular behavior). The range was extreme. He stared and began taunting with sharp squirrel grunts. He gnashed his teeth. He screached a prolonged cry in squirrel falsetto that must have carried a mile. Other Foulers would soon be arriving.
I began my approach. Toby stood motionless as I found his range. I rifled a ping pong ball at his midriff. The ball was perfectly on target. With split-second timing Toby executed an inverted roll and my ball found nothing but turf. The field judge gasped! I looked at Toby in awe — “You Magnificent Bastard” !
My squire supplied me an armful of ping pong balls and I rushed Toby flinging shots in rapid succession. He evaded with precision maneuvers: a barrel roll, inverted-S, and even a tour je te`, the works ! I stood amazed, devoid of weapons, empty-handed. Toby bolted down a path that terminated in a kind of horse shoe with muddy, crumbling shale walls. Had Toby’s exertions confused him? This was a capital mistake. There was no way out for Toby now!
THE END DRAWS NIGH . . . I armed myself with ping pong balls and dispatched my squire at the head of the short path. The field judge crept in my wake. The end was near. Toby was plastered against the crumbling shale wall, trapped. He seemed to be covering a small crevice midway up the steep bank. Toby remained motionless. I closed the range. The field judge cried, ” I don’t like this” and ran for the head of the path. That irritated me. I charged Toby for the final time; my armor clattered as I wound for the strike. I released a dead-eye ping pong ball, perfect! Toby slipped it with a gentle side-step and burst forth as a vague, gray blur. He was gone. The ball disappeared into the crevice. Suddenly an angry swarm of bees emerged and launched a savage attack!
After I awoke in my hospital bed, I realized that I had been duped by a squirrel, the ultimate squirrel; by luring me down that path, Toby made me a pariah among Foulers.