Rural-spective – The Farm

farm-004This post sat around in a folder somewhere since I went home from Christmas. Since right now we’re right in that shitty-weathered cusp between winter and non-winter, I figured this post might be appropriate.

Going home for the holidays is so great I really don’t need to wax on all the nice, warm fuzzy sentiments that go along with spending time with long-missed loved ones. An added bonus, for a Midwestern Hawaii-cum-Iowa-transplant like me, is that I get to revisit all my early skateboard and snowboard spots, right there on my parents’ horse farm in Marshall County, Iowa. Yup, that’s right. I spent my formative years pushing around a 20’x20’ slab of concrete, when I wasn’t breaking my parents’ rules by jibbing the short rails of their wrap-around porch. All I’m-so-legit business aside, I actually had quite a few veritable spots out here. What follows is a little slide show of some o.g. crust both similarly dis/advantaged farm kids and maybe even those who grew up in the city can relate to. Whether you still skate everyday or you gave up the board the day you received your driver’s license, every skater (and most certainly every snowboarder) at heart has that original parking block or bunny hill (in my case, wooden railroad tie) they still think back on fondly.

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RAILROAD TIE: Okay, so it’s as cold and snowy in Iowa as it was in, say, Breckenridge, Colorado, so you can barely see where the railroad tie lies under a blanket of powder. Because I’m goofy, I’ve to this day got a proficiency of frontside grinds and slides, and an utterly embarrassing inadequacy of backside tricks (the other railroad tie shoulders a very obtrusive bush), a trying shortcoming I try to work out under the BQE each dry day during my lunch breaks. 

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CELLAR DOOR: This was my favorite spot, practically, even though all I ever managed were a couple shy shove-its and Ollie-to-stalls (I only this past year learned how to slappie curbs!). Ooh! And this is a feature I still skate on the cellar doors that populate Brooklyn—the little lip that runs down the door’s edge—so good for slappie grinds! I know they’re super easy to hit, but unless my head’s in a bubble, I don’t know if the greater skate world appreciates this little feature. Can we call them cheapie grinds (because they’re way easy) or does that sound dumb?

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THREE STAIR: This spot was a go-to when my parents (a.k.a. “The Man”) went away on vaca or say, the grocery store. With two solid pushes, I began long ago the great skate tradition of throwing oneself down stairs that have no business being ollied. Not impressed with this three-stair? Fine, I was 12 at the time, and I could barely ollie a two-by-four. This is also the first staircase I smacked my head really hard on (it’s also the first stair-case I, much later, heelflipped up).

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BASEMENT: Whoops! I forgot to take a picture of the basement. Like any kid growing up in frigid climes, basement skating is a sanity-saving godsend. I’d clear out the clutter and try my damnest to figure out a variation of flip tricks. Beyond 5-0ing the lip of a metal wood-burning stove, the best trick I ever hideously mobbed (thanks, Greco, for that invaluable piece of lingo) were variel-heels. It was also at this time that I wore, head-to-toe, protective gear: Pro-Tec helmet, cheap-o knee and elbow pads, right down to freaking soccer shin guards. What can I say? I was terrified of shinners. At the time (which coincided with the popularization of the internet) I emailed East Coast ripper Quim Cardona an embarrassing message littered with validation-seeking questions. Quim was a good sport. Quick to relate to basement skating (“I learned tre-flips in my parents’ basement”), Quim, however, was perplexed with my unhealthy dependence on protective gear. How ever he broke it down (he was very nice about it), he let me know how ya gotta pay to play. I recall skating in full-padded solitude little while longer, yet I immediately stripped myself of the shameful shin-guards, learning, slowly, that bangs and scrapes and fucked up shoulders are all part-and-parcel with skating.

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FIRST BOARD: Double Oops! I forgot to take a picture of that, too. Oh, man, of all the battered, razor-tailed and chipped decks my parents eventually tossed out (after I was well in college), they amazingly spared this guy, my first real skate shop-purchased board. As I mentioned, we lived briefly in Hawai’i, and I remember how finicky I was in 1992 when my mom took me to a surf/skate shop to buy my Christmas present. I looked up and down at what must have been now-collector-item World Industries and Blind decks, but those graphics kinda scared me, so I settled on a not-really-for sale Town & Country deck (replete with staffer-selected Ventures and 38 mm Spitfire wheels) that featured a banana-yellow “Shaka” hand sign. As you can see, the deck is well over eight-inches-wide, and probably (before I chipped the hell out of the nose and tail) no longer than 29 inches. Oh! See those rail-holes? I didn’t want to scuff the awesome graphic. After I graduated, later, to an Alien Workshop (the “Believe” slick-bottom!), I would prop up this bulldog and huck my first ollies over it. That board probably shouldered my first slappie boardslides, too.

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ANOTHER THREE-STAIR RAIL: During winter I could only take so much of the basement, so I would layer up and brave the cold with the crappy snowboard I got from Wal-Mart. (I fished around for this relic, but I think it was hidden somewhere in our corn crib.) What I’d do was climb on top of rail, position my fish-shaped snowboard just so, and slip my Red Ball rubber boots in the stirrup straps before shoving down the foot-or-so of railing. I did this over and over and over until I chipped a corner of the rail and stopped because I was afraid my parents would notice it and confiscate that prized snow-schralper. All I ever managed were frontside and backside boardslides and 50-50s (I didn’t realize nose-presses existed), the latter of which seriously messed me up because the rubber straps, which were fitted through slots in the board, would catch on the lip of the rail, causing me to immediately pitch face-first into the icy deck below. In hindsight I consider this fate fair game for never having conceived of building a proper drop-in ramp.

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DRAINED POOL: I think I speak for every skater when I say I wanted desperately to drain my parents’ swimming pool and skate it, even though I was unaware of how completely unskateable entirely-vert pool walls are. Regardless, now that I return home, my dad tells me that not only is he never going to fill the pool again, but that I could even skate it if I wanted. Too bad I didn’t bring a board home with me, because I probably would have spent most of my stay there in the barn-cum-pool house, acid-dropping into the deep-end and trying my best to finally figure out wall-rides. Maybe next Christmas, though.

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