Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/26

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tempted to force the fight by vaulting with the aid of their framæ or leaping-poles over a triple row of mail-clad spearmen.

Hurling is the gymnastic specific for pulmonary complaints; and the best possible exercise for so many hectic and narrow-chested boys of our larger cities would be the game of Ger-werfen, as the turners call it—spear-throwing at a fixed or movable mark. It is a most diverting sport after a week's practice has hardened the flexor muscles against the shock of propelling the larger spears. The missile is a lance of some tough wood (ash and hickory preferred), about ten feet long and one and a half inch in diameter, terminating in a blunt iron knob to steady the throw and keep the wood from splintering. A heavy post with a movable top-piece (the "Ger-block") forms the target, the head-shaped top being secured by means of a stout cramp-hinge that permits it to turn over, but not to fall down—distance, all the way from ten to forty paces. Grasp the spear near the middle, raise it to the height of your ear, plant the left foot firmly on the ground, the right knee slightly bent, fix your eye on the target, lean back and let drive. If you hit the log squarely in the center or a trifle higher up, it will topple over, but, still hanging by the cramp-hinge, can be quickly adjusted for the next thrower. A feeble hit will not stir the ponderous Ger-block; the spear has to impinge with the force of a sixty-pound blow, so that a successful throw is also an athletic triumph. The German Ger-throwers are generally lads after the heart of Charles Reade—ambidexterous boys, whose either-handed strength and skill illustrate the fact that the antiquity of a prejudice proves nothing in its favor. As the least vacillation in the act of throwing would derange the aim, this exercise imparts a perfect command over the balance of the body, besides improving the faculty of measuring distances by the eye. It is, indeed, surprising how soon gymnastics of this sort will impart an easy deportment and graceful manners even to boys in their lubber-years—"Nur aus vollendeter Kraft strahlet die Anmuth hervor," as Goethe explains it: "The highest grace is the outcome of consummate strength."

Climbing, too, calls into action nearly every muscle of the human body, and should be encouraged, though at the expense of a pair of summer pants or summer birds, as the possibility of accidents is more than outweighed by the sure gain in physical self-reliance. There is a deep truth in the apparent paradox that it is the best plan not to avoid dangers and difficulties that can be mastered. In the voluntary risks of the gymnasium the athlete pays an insurance policy against future dangers. In a man's life there will always come moments when the woe and weal of years depend on firm nerves and a strong hand, and such moments prove the value of a system of training which teaches children to treat danger as a mechanical problem. The operation of the same cause may be traced in the realistic influence which the culture of the manly powers generally exerts on the human