Flexed Arm Hangs

Michelle’s Note: We got 6 mm of rain on Saturday, the day after we posted Cam’s blog about our 8-week-long drought, and another 24 mm on Tuesday. Apparently Cam should have asked our readers for help a lot sooner! Thanks for the rain dances / the prayers / the positive thoughts that you sent our way. They worked!


And now for Cam’s blog post ….

The big news in Canada is that Gord Downie, the lead singer of “The Tragically Hip” has terminal brain cancer. Gord is from Kingston, which is where I grew up and live near now, and I’ve always loved their music so it’s a bit of a bummer. But as they say on the Zero Hedge website “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” For some people, their timeline is just a little more defined than others.

They never got very big in the U.S., but ‘The Hip’ have been filling (hockey) arenas across Canada for decades. I saw them at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto once and then in Hamilton …  back during my concert-attending days. I’ve even written about them here on this blog once or twice. (Check out this post for example.)

Downie has always written great songs about Canadian stuff. “50 Mission Cap” is about a hockey player named Bill Barilko who disappeared on a fishing trip after scoring the goal that won the Toronto Maple Leafs the Stanley Cup in 1951. That was back when the Toronto Maple Leafs actually won.

They also have another song called “Wheat Kings “about David Milgaard who was wrongly imprisoned for 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit.

Their song “Three Pistols” is about the Group of Seven painter Tom Thomson who went missing on Canoe Lake which is where we used to start our canoe trips into Algonquin Park. Another song called “Bobcaygeon” is about a town in cottage country where I used to sell radio advertising for the station I worked for in Peterborough.

“38 Years Old” talks about the 1973 prison break from Millhaven Penitentiary, near where I live. It happened because there had been a riot at “KP” or Kingston Penitentiary, and inmates were moved in before it was ready … so obviously they found a way to get out.

I’m about the same age as Downie so a lot of his lyrics talk about stuff from my youth. In “Fireworks” he talks about watching the Canada/Russia hockey series on a black and white TV at school.  You see, hockey is so important to Canada that it was part of the core curriculum when I grew up. Later in the song he says “Next to your comrades in the National Fitness Program…” This was one of those fitness tests from when I was a kid. You had to do sit-ups and stuff. “Comrades” is a great word because it sounds very socialistic … you can just see the old black and white movies of skinny kids doing jumping jacks and stuff …for the good of the country … of the mother country.

The next lyric is “… caught in a perpetual flexed arm hang …” The flexed arm hang meant doing a chin-up, usually on the pipe that held up the basket ball net, and seeing how long you could hang there in the upper chin-up position. The longer you hung on, the more points you got. I know I only got the “Bronze” crest, which I’m pretty sure was one of the first ‘participation’ type awards ever. In other words, ‘Hey kid, you’re weak and useless, but you showed up, so here, sew this Bronze crest on your jean jacket (or don’t unless you want to get picked on!) The great thing was that the Bronze Crest was basically the same color as the Gold crest, you couldn’t really tell which is was. Bonus for me. Downer for kids who got gold.

I was never a strong kid so I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do the flexed arm hang, or maybe the gym teacher, Mr. Pool,  gave me a boost to get me into the chin-up stance, whereby I immediately began my descent to just hanging by my arms. “Get down Mather!” “Sorry Mr. Pool.” Some of my friends like Teddy King could have hung there all day long. Sigh …

Not being able to do the flexed arm hang always bothered me. And once I was able to do a chin-up… later in life… not sure when that was… I vowed I would always be able to do a chin-up… until they put me in the ground. No really. It’s a little commitment I’ve made to myself. As I kid when I bought a package of gum there were advertisements in the gum package about not being the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in your face by the big strong guy at the beach. So from then on it was like “Never again.”

When I stop being able to do chin-ups I have asked my family to put me on an ice flow and push me off into the sunset … never to be seen again. This is the Canadian way. You can look it up.

Just to prove that I can finally do the flexed arm hang, I got Michelle to take this photo as proof. And no, she didn’t just knock a chair out of the way. I put this old wagon axle up in the horse barn expressly for the purpose of doing chin-ups years ago.

I debated posting this photo. It reeks of vanity. But how else can I prove that I’m not just full of crap because it’s pretty easy to say “oh yea, I can bench press 450 kgs, but I don’t have my equipment here right now so I can’t show you.”

IMG_0079

No chin-up-ee… it’s the ice flow for you. “Take that Mr. Pool! How do you like me now!”

And with that you must ask yourself, how did a blog about songs from The Tragically Hip turn into Cam doing a ‘flexed arm hang?” If you follow the blog, this shouldn’t surprise you. If you just follow the blog for folksy homesteading off-grid info… well…the horse barn has an old wagon axle in it… how cool is that! Oh, and off-gridders got picked on as kids like everyone else.

And if you’ve ever had one of those experiences when you were young that you always looked back and wished you could change, well, this was mine. Thanks for listening.


Michelle’s Follow-Up: And yes, we’ll be watching (on TV) along with the rest of Canada on Saturday night when The Tragically Hip performs their last concert, in Kingston!

2 Responses to “Flexed Arm Hangs”

  • Neil:

    I can still recall, with some inherent degree of terror, the Canada Fitness Test program we had to do in public and high school… the flexed arm hang was, I think, my worst of the worst out of that little menu of embarassing fitness challenges, my weak arms shaking and quaking as soon as the gym teacher clicked his (analog) stopwatch. Second runner-up for my spazzyness (a politically incorrect term we used back then) was the bean bag shuttle. Maybe one year I got a bronze but usually it just the “Participant” patch was all I could muster up. But, decades later, once I started living off-grid, managing my own woodlot, growing my own veggies, I became strong and hearty and could blow those tests away with ease just like Cam 😉 There’s a lesson kids, hee hee.

  • Marilyn:

    Thanks for taking time out to write another blog, great news on the rain, we surely needed some here in Nova Scotia also. Watch out for those chin up bars, it let go on my husband many years ago and he landed on his knees, couldn’t do too much for a few days, he carries rock around now instead.

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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