Name: Geoff Houghton
City: Ashland, Oregon, USA
Team: No teams here. I’ve heard tales of sending an Ashland team up North to a tournament and them not getting their butts kicked mercilessly. Maybe it’s just a rumor. We always do a random draw at the beginning of each game. So the guy I pissed off last game because I whacked his chest with a mallet will be on my team next game. Then we get to work together and be best buddies biting at the ankles of our opponents. We’re just a rag tag bunch of cream puffs who get together for pick up games. Besides, tournaments probably wouldn’t allow me in there anyway. I don’t conform. I’m willing to be proven wrong on that score.
Years played: 1+
Occupation: Witch Doctor (AKA Naturopathic Physician. Basically, I stick people with needles, give them drugs and tell them to go eat their kale.)
Super Powers: So many to choose from: Turning on a dime. Switching the mallet from right to left hand as needed. Riding backwards. Staying upright despite crashing into someone. Idling without putting the mallet down. Going into a corner cluster fuck, reaching in with my long cherry picker mallet and extracting the ball. Being needlessly verbose.
Weaknesses: Lower top speed than a bike. I’m not who you’d want to be goalie, with only one wheel to block the ball. Although I’m good at disrupting people’s plans I’m a pretty terrible shot. One more year and I’ll be all aces. ;-)
Favourite Heckle: Aww! Did my words hurt you?
Bike: Bikes scare me. They’re too complicated. Too many things to go wrong. Too many wheels going in different directions for my little brain to keep track of. Derailleurs and freewheels mystify me.
Instead I use a cheap shit Sun unicycle with a 700 c wheel, 32 mm tire and 140 mm cranks. I go through tires pretty quickly when we’re playing on asphalt. Our winter court is smooth cement so I can get a whole season of wear out of it on that surface. My seat is about 25 years old and was taken off an old Schwinn unicycle of mine. I’ve been riding unicycles for about 35 years, so you won’t find me riding one of those duocycles. Actually, I did try riding a bike and swinging at the ball with a mallet once last fall. How DO you guys do it?
We have a tendency to play pretty rough with plenty of train wrecks each evening. Tim (my arch enemy/trusted teammate and bike shop owner) built me a bomber wheel. It’s worth about 5 times as much as the rest of the unicycle. I’ve played a bunch of games on it and it’s still straight. Not a single broken spoke. The wheel goes where it’s supposed to go and never flexes. This confuses me. Prior to that, I rode a wheel that I built myself. It was all wobbly and I broke a spoke every night. I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon.
I tried out my shiny Kris Holm 26” mountain unicycle with a 3” knobby tire. It’s a great mountain unicycle but the fat tire is pretty sluggish on the court. Also, the fat tire, by covering more real estate, is more likely to run over the ball than the skinny tire. This is a problem.
What is your best polo memory? Most nights I don’t remember much of anything except for the spectacular crashes. I lose count of the beers I drink after the first one. The best memory has got to be the night when Andy gave me a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood Scotch as payment for bringing him to the hospital after he impaled himself on his handlebars. Stupid handlebars. Nothing but trouble.
Where do you see polo in 5 years time? For me: as part of my distant history. I don’t think my body will be able to withstand five more years of abuse like this. For the world: More pick up games like ours scattered about in a slightly higher density. More teams vying for treasured slots in their regional tournament Doping scandals. (Some teams were found to NOT take part in their mandatory Safety Committee Meeting.) Then the death knell will come when Walmart starts selling crappy mallets festooned with “cool” skull stickers marketed towards 13 year old boys. I can’t wait.
About your home town
Number of players: 6 to 9 depending on how many of us are injured or distracted. We range from some scrawny guys like me to some with a little more ballast. All of us gentlemen and scholars. I do my best to push them over. We get new members from time to time but usually after a couple of weeks they get scared off and never show their faces. Then it’s back to the core group.
Our courts: During the summer we play at a local school yard asphalt basketball court. It’s got cement walls around 90% of it so it works pretty well. The only drawback is that when the sun goes down it gets dark. Time to go home. In the winter we move to a local parking garage. As long as there are no cars parked there we’ve got free reign to play some bang up polo. Cement walls surround about 70% so there are some big gaps. On the bright side, it’s lit all night so we can stay up past bedtime beating the crap out of each other. Even on a school night. On the down side, it’s a city-owned parking garage and they don’t necessarily appreciate having the pillars of society playing contact sports there. I don’t know, something about lawsuits. Mums the word, eh?
How often do you play? Once a week. It usually takes me a day to recover. Then I resume my normal life for a few days before I head back into the maelstrom.
What is your home town famous for? The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Knee-jerk bleeding-heart pansy-ass tree-hugging lefty liberals surrounded by a sea of red neck republicans. This crazy doctor who commutes by unicycle.
Photographs by Qamuuqin Maxwell, Eric Hansen and Rowan Houghton
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