Elephant Polo 1999
by Tilman Smith
IX. Trophies and Farewell
Trophy Day - Ladies Challenge - All Nepal Challenge
Thanks to the great coaching of Celia Temple and Laurie F. Jones, many ladies came back to play one last game. Celia's team, the Happy Rhinos, comprised of Jaya Singh, Anna Tara Edwards, Stephani Weaver, Hattie Broadhead, and Tilman Smith played two last chukkas against Laurie's team, the Tiger Tops Specials, comprised of Shamane Simons, Jean Bentley, Sam Autie, Susan Cassone, and Laurie herself. Even though Shamane and the Tiger Tops Specials put up a grand fight, they were no match for the new found talent of Jaya, and the Happy Rhinos took home the trophy with a 3-1 victory. Shamane showed every one up though, but winning the coveted "Most Valuable Amateur Player" award for 1999!
There was a little intermission for the long anticipated Mongolian wrestling match, between the current Mr. Mongolia and a string of challengers. A circle of players and locals scrunched in to see Tsot (I think I have the spelling right.), man about Tiger Tops, try, unsuccessfully, to bring the the Flying Eagle down. Then, the circle tightened even more as a couple of crazy apple farmers and a Nepalese warrior tried their luck. Mr. Mongolia remained unruffled throughout, and was able to retain his majestic crown which was coveted by many, and one Screwy Tusker in particular.
The game that all true fans needed to witness was next, the All Nepal Challenge, where the mahouts from the National Parks and the mahouts from Tiger Tops played one another, mano a mano. All present could see just how fast those elephants could really go and how far that ball could really fly when professionals were in charge! Brilliant playing ended up with the National Parks team winning by one short goal and the games were officially over. This was definitely the year for the National Parks teams altogether.
(Ode to Stephani and all the others who made it look so good ...)
I had the good fortune to play most of the positions this year, but the position that I have become most familiar with is the #3 position...and I have something to tell you. I have come to the conclusion that no one really knows where this position is supposed to be, let alone what it is supposed to achieve. As each chukka began, and we were ambling out towards the pitch, the confusion would begin. What side am I supposed to be on? Am I offense or defense? Shouldn't I bring my camera to catch the good action shots, since I tend to sit still for most of the game? Is the mahout awake?
Now, I know you're probably thinking that I've made it this far without blowing my cover to Alf; that he may have even thought I knew what I was doing out there (I always chose defense.), but experience showed me time and again that I wasn't the only one who was confused. I could name names, but there was even a moment when I had to correct a very highly respected player who had the elephants circling 'round as if on a wagon train in an attempt to figure out where to place her huge pachyderm. Pradeep can vouch for this, because he looked down and was more surprised than anyone to see that it was I who knew where those #3's needed to be.
So, this is an appeal to all those elephant polo officiados out there. Please throw us a bone here, before they go and change the rules on us in 2000. Tell us what that #3 position is really about and help us all look good. All snide remarks and other confessions may be directed towards Alf directly.
Teary Interlude for Good-byes:
Cindy, Susan, and Shamane took flight back to Katmandu to represent the Screwy Tuskers at Jim's annual post games party, while Alf, Annie, Stephani, and I headed by road to the mountain views of Pokhara. Our team was splitting up, but we figured the revenues from all those glamour products would keep us bound forever.
What is left to report after our team splintered off into two directions? The dawn's view from the Tiger Mountain Lodge in Pokhara may never to be forgotten, the final hours wandering the lanes of Tamil may never be so fruitful, and the flight home to family and Christmas may never be filled with so many grand memories of good friends, beautiful places, and the man who made it all possible, our own Jersey #1. Thank you for it all.