Jan. 22nd, 2016

There's one country-western club in my town, which is a bit odd considering the town itself, but I gotta specify that by club I mean CLUB. Not bar. I think by default all bars in this town are country-western bars. First time I went to this club, I ended up line-dancing to No Diggity. They also have a ladies mud wrestling night, winner walks away with $250. Even had it set up tournament-style for awhile, the 6-weeks winner gets a cool grand and, obviously, bragging rights.

So my cousin Naomi, she shows up at granny's and says she's gonna go for it. Her brother's a bronco rider, she figures if he's got a drawer full of buckles for staying on a horse for 8 seconds, she can take out a couple hillbillies in a mud ring. She's strong, true, but she's also a sweetheart with a penchant for the cannabis, so I give my beer to granny, step out of the kiddie pool, and ask her what her moves are gonna be.

"Moves?" She looks at me blankly. "Like, plan them out? It's mud wrestling, you just go for it."

This is no good. I pat her hand, say, "I'll help you sweetie," and stroll into the garage to get more beer and make a call. She needs practice. Coaching. Some solid advice from some solid professionals, and that's not me. There's family pride at stake here. If she goes down in the ring, all the old bags at the bingo hall will be heckling granny for months.

I stroll back out, hand a Busch to Naomi and granny, knock back half of mine.

"Emma and Justin will be here soon, so drink up," I tell her, then turn the hose onto the garden patch we left fallow this year. It's 98 degrees out and has been for weeks, so the dirt is hard and packed but, obviously, we need some mud. I sit back in the kiddie pool and prop the hose up to get the ground nice and gooey.

Justin and Emma show up 10 minutes later. Emma's birth name is Paul, and Paul is a nice mild-mannered sort of guy, but if there's a wig on the head, she's Emma, and Emma is a nasty, unpredictable bitch... which is what you have to be, it seems, if you're gonna be riding around a cow town in Carhartts and a blond wig without getting beat up regularly. Exactly the kind of role model Naomi needs right now.

Justin, though... Justin's been in and out of jail, did some terrible things in the army he'll never talk about, and he gets right into it. While I haul myself up, get more beers, turn off the hose, he prods Naomi into the mud and starts talking.

"Rules - you can't get high first, but you can have a few shots of tequila, get yourself riled up and a little loose. It'll hurt less if you go down. Girls fight dirty, so you wanna go for the head and face. Get an arm around the neck, a leg around the ankle, you're maybe good to go."

Naomi nods, all seriousness, then shrieks as he pushes her shoulder and falls back into the huge mud puddle.

"No, see, no good... it's slippery, obviously, and you gotta find your balance," Justin says, nudging her in the side with his foot. "Stand up, give me a good crouch."

Naomi stands up, laughing some, and flexes her knees. This time when Justin pushes her, she sways but doesn't go down. Fast learner. Did I mention she was smart? Real smart girl. Besides ideas like this, that is.

"Now, what's your opener?"

Naomi just shrugs; so Justin turns to me, "She needs to actually practice, can't swim around in the mud and call it good. You hop in there."

I shake my head. I'm not gonna wrestle my little cousin. Sure, I outweigh her by a good 50 pounds, but she's got height and reach and youth. Also, we're a close family, but not that close. We all turn to Emma, who took it upon herself to pull the curlers out of granny's hair and start teasing it up into an old-lady puff. Nice thing about Emma, she's up for anything. She bounds toward Naomi and without a word lunges at her legs. It's on. Justin stands back to avoid the mud flying while the two grunt and heave and, now and then, shriek a little when some hair gets pulled. Or in Emma's case, shriek a lot - it's not her best wig, and she's gonna have to clean it good tonight, but if it comes off she'll lose her shit.

Granny's covering her eyes, I'm laughing, Justin's yelling advice: "Keep your center of gravity! Twist! Hold her down, no, HOLD HER DOWN!"

Emma and Naomi break apart, panting, and Justin walks back up, crouches down, and says, "Look, if you're losing ground, or outmatched from the start, there's two things you can do to take your opponent completely by surprise: First, and nobody - NOBODY - expects this, is slip a finger up the ass. It'll freak anybody ou-"

Emma interjects, "Not me," and bats her eyelashes at Justin.

"Okay, yeah that's a good point. If by some chance it doesn't freak the other person out, it's a whole new ball game anyway, and you still got the element of surprise and can run away while they're figuring their next move." He glances at Emma, and adds, "Or, you know, you can roll with it, but that's a jail yard thing. Finger up the ass, fight's over, one way or the other."

Naomi can't help but giggle at this, despite the dead-serious look on Justin's face.

"Second thing, with girls, you don't got a real clear target. You're up against a guy, you go for the balls. Generally you can go for the kidneys, but when you're grappling it can be hard to get a clear shot. Girls, you can sometimes get a foot to the cooch, and that hurts, but it takes some room to maneuver. So go for an ovary punch, just low on the stomach and off to the side."

He traces, lightly, right about where Naomi's ovary is, and she nods, eyes big. I file this away in my head. My fighting days are long gone, back in the days of coke and whiskey, but it seems like good advice.

"Plus you can disguise that a little, it's not so obvious a move. If your girl's fighting dirty, go for it, right there. Slam her in the ovary then sit on her back and shove her face all into that mud."

Turns out it's good advice. When the real deal happened, Naomi took down her opponents hard and fast and bought textbooks for the next term with her winnings. As we sat there, whooping our heads off, granny beaming with pride, Naomi turned to me and winked and mouthed, "Ovary punch," then took her victory lap around the ring.

bonus picture )

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