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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/29

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19
PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

Dr. Winship, of Boston, lifted twenty-nine hundred pounds with the aid of shoulder-straps; and, unless the historians of Magna Græcia were afflicted with an abnormal development of the myth-making faculty, it would seem that their countryman Milo carried a bull-calf around the arena, and thus carried it every day till he could tote a full grown steer. If the story is even half true, we need not wonder that Milo's powers as a wrestler put a temporary stop to that sport as a branch of the Olympian games, since "no man or god durst accept his challenge."

Wrestling is still the chief accomplishment of the Swiss village champions, and would be the favorite pastime of our rural districts if it had not been kept down by our sickly prejudice against all rough-and-ready sports. Fifteen centuries ago the Olympic games were abolished by the decree of a Christian emperor; the moralists of Old England have tabooed pugilism; our Sabbatarians now include even wrestling among the "blackguard sports"; and Frederick Gerstaecker predicts that the American Inquisition of a future century will suppress skating and ball-playing "as giving an undue ascendancy to the animal energies over the moral part of our nature." For such a century's sake we should hope that the Patagonian savages will prove unconquerable, for a year's life among healthy beasts would be a blessed relief from a long sojourn in the land of an unmanned nation.

But I trust that the propaganda of the Turnbund will save us from such a fate. What a stimulus it would give to manly sports and manly virtues, nay, to the physical regeneration of the human race, if we could made their yearly assembly a national festival! The river-meadows of Chattanooga, or the mountain amphitheatre near Huntsville, Alabama, would make a first-class Olympia, and our Indian summer would be a ready-made "weather-truce," without an expensive burnt offering to the sun. Olives, it is true, do not flourish on our soil; our mercenary souls need other inducements; but the rent of reserved seats and camp-tents would enable us to gild the crowns of the several victors. Imagine the athletes of every village training for those prizes—thousands of boy-topers turning gymnasts, ward delegates running for something besides office, and the members of a Young Men's Association seeking paradise on this side of the grave!

With the decadence of athletic sports, games of skill come generally into favor; hence, perhaps, the revival of archery in the United States, and the pandemic spread of certain amusements which are properly ladies' plays. Riding has gone almost out of fashion, though few sportsmen will gainsay me if I assert that a day in the saddle is worth a week of other sedentary pursuits. A Mexican boy would part as soon with an arm as with his horse, and I never saw a finer picture of exultant health than a cavalcade of muchachos dashing out into the prairie at full speed, whooping and cheering, though perhaps on their way to school or to a funcion of some national saint. The deportment