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A Counter-Viewpoint

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This article comments on “Croquet Dress,” by James Charlton and Wm. Thompson.

Let us pick up where Messrs Charlton and Thompson have left off, and backtrack from there. In regard to weather, a croquet player of any mettle whatsoever will not be stopped or encumbered by the forces of nature. The conditions of play are to be met and overcome just like the other players on the course. For this type of play, certain preparations and equipment are necessary.

Outfit yourself with the proper gear for rainy and muddy play. Take an umbrella. Rubber overshoes are practical and save an otherwise fine pair of footwear from being ruined by water. As for the shoes themselves, any comfortable pair of well-oiled leather shoes will serve you well on the course. Take care to break your shoes in, as you’ll be spending all day on your feet during lengthy games. A sweater over your shirt should accommodate you in the chilly weather, and it protects your shirt from the invariably airborne soil. Note that your pants will be the second casualty to the mud, after your shoes.

Our favourite sport’s time-honoured tradition of “croquet whites” has never been less appropriate. Gentlemen traipsing through cranberry bogs on their way to the next wicket are not interested in spending the prize purse on a new pair of bleached trousers. Wear dark colours that can absorb stains, but at all times mind that you look presentable. The exception to overland croquet’s ban on white is the shirt, which will contrast sharply with the colours of the rest of the outfit. Concerning colour, a wicketer can choose to wear “hots” or “cools” depending on which colour balls he is playing. Family or team colours (Blues v. Reds) are also appropriate.

Headgear is recommended for certain courses or situations. Most uphill wicketers can well use a light helmet. If a play arises that will involve simultaneous malleting through a narrow passage, prudent players will choose to wear headgear. No official helmet has been designed for overland croquet, but the leather ones used by early twentieth-century American footballers seem to work fine.

Some auxiliary items are peculiar to overland croquet, and should be acquired. The hip flask is an indispensable article for the overland player, not only for its portability but also its individuality. Snug in a pocket, the hip flask provides convenient access to refreshment wherever the player happens to be on the course, eliminating the need for the pesky drink tables common to small course games.

The obvious alternative to the hip flask is the “water boy,” who follows the player with a host of beverages. Water boys are an essential extravagance for the overly rich, but are inferior in practicality compared to the hip flask. The water boy’s array of refreshments is outweighed by the flask’s convenience. The hip flask will never hand you the wrong drink, and, unless you lose your trousers, is constantly by your side. I can’t say that about most water boys, who often fall behind somewhere around the thirty-second wicket. Better to position a water boy at every sixth or seventh station, where he will be ready and able to give your flask a fresh start.

Monogramming also goes over a lot easier with the metal flask. The last attempt to monogram a water boy was made in 1937, and met with disastrous results.

Because of the sport’s long range, overland croquet requires a greater battery of equipment than the garden or club varieties. Mallets can break or get lost in the underbrush after a particularly violent swing or throw. To accommodate the extra haulage, the overland pack was invented around the turn of the century by Richard Cogney. Its compartments hold an extra pair of mallets and balls, a handful of wicket clips, basic land navigation tools and an extra shirt. Change into this spare shirt as you play the last few hoops; you’ll feel refreshed and will finish the course looking splendid. In addition, another space in the pack is large enough to hold a small bottle of Scotch and the latest issue of Harper’s. Overland packs vary in weight according to the material from which they are wrought, with choices ranging from wicker to leather. In team play the packs may be disposed of if each team agrees to leave a reserve of supplies at stations along the course.

Croquet Dress, by James Charlton
and Wm. Thompson

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