It had to be a startling scene for anyone who happened to pass by the park on that summer morning in 1979.
Two boys were sitting on top of a swingset, armed with peanut butter sandwiches and comic books, looks of determination and joy plastered across their respective faces. Oh, lots of kids climbed up and down that swingset over the years, but these two had the look of people who came to occupy and settle, not conquer and run along on their merry little way.
I was one of those knuckleheads on the swingset.
You see, we had big dreams in those days. Not to be astronauts or doctors or firefighters or even devilishly handsome weekly newspaper editors. No, we set our sights high, and we were fully determined that nothing could stop us from achieving our ultimate goal — to make it into the storied pages of the Guinness Book of World Records.
That day’s effort was to break the world record for pole-sitting, and the rusty swingset at the park was our best option. We figured that this was simply a case of mind over matter, and that if we could just stay committed to the task at hand, glory would surely be upon us.
Unfortunately, as we sat upon that swingset, we had an excellent view of the entire park, and subsequently saw teams getting chosen for a pick-up game of football. Seeing as how it was starting to get a little hot up on that swingset, and we really wanted to play football, we abandoned that goal fairly quickly and missed the world record by about a zillion hours.
There were other attempts. Though we knew our mothers would never let us approach the “flashy” world records — like the Indian man with the long, curly fingernails, or the obese brothers on the little motorcycles — we did go after several other records, like catching quarters that were balanced on our forearms, or eating crackers. We never once got to a point we could even consider close to a world record, but it was a fun way to kill time, and it generally kept us out of trouble when we had a specific task to attack.
I was reminded of that fun summer recently when I came across an article on the London Mirror’s website celebrating 60 years of the Guinness Book of World Records. They revealed in that article that more than 132 million copies of the book have been sold in upwards of 100 countries, and that there have been 50,000-plus claims submitted in the past year alone.
A few lucky people have earned their place in the greatest source of all things important this year, and the Mirror highlighted a few in their story. These are the ones that jumped out most to me:
• The tallest donkey goes to Romulus, a 9-year-old, 5-foot-8-inch tall jackstock donkey from Texas. His little brother (extra points if you already guessed his name), Remus, stands only 2 inches shorter, and the couple that owns them adopted them in 2012 to protect their livestock from coyotes.
I am no expert on donkeys, or protecting livestock for that matter, but I do have a bit of knowledge about coyotes that I’ve picked up over the years. It’s my general understanding that they can be defeated simply by painting what appears to be a tunnel on a giant rock.
• Ukranian strongman Denvs Ilchenko has been known to pull a car with his teeth, spin five people on a pole on his broad shoulders and let a car drive over him. Personally, I call that a heck of a Saturday night.
However, what has gained him the most glory is his new world record for juggling the greatest combined weight, as he was able to juggle three car tires weighing about 59.5 pounds.
Well, last week I managed to carry a case of bottled water and a grocery bag full of potato chips into my house from my car.
All at once.
• Californian Nancy Siefker is a bit of a contortionist and a bit of an archer. To claim her place in the annals of all things truly important, Siefker managed to fire an arrow on to a target less than 6 inches in diameter from a distance of more than 20 feet away. With her feet.
This is an underappreciated skill, in my humble opinion. What if we find ourselves sucked into a time machine that transfers us to the 16th Century and rules of engagement lead us to having to do battle while walking on our hands against a foreign threat?
You’d be happy to have Nancy Siefker on our side then, wouldn’t you?
• We don’t even have to leave California for the next one, as Jason McNabb ate his way into the hallowed pages of Guinness this year. McNabb sat down with a pile of ghost peppers (considered more than 400 times hotter than tabasco sauce), and ate nearly two-and-a-half ounces of them in two minutes.
I’m guessing another world record closely followed that feat, but we are a family paper, so I’m going to flush that comment.
• It’s said that the heart of our nation is the Midwest, so let’s recognize Beth Johnson of Ohio for her patriotic-themed yo-yo, which took her 18 months to create, and now stands as the largest yo-yo in the world at 12 feet in diameter, and weighs more than 4,600 pounds.
You’d need to be a pretty tall donkey to use that thing.