Friday, May 15, 2009

The Curious Case of the Flying Bowling Ball

There's a reason why Tropica Lanes, down by the Interstate, uses bright red pencils.

It goes back to Saturday, August 7, 1982. It had been a hot, sticky, week. Walt Jensen was with a party bowling the third lane. A family group had lane two. The family was not, by anybody's account, having a good time that evening. I'll call them the Lanes.

The story that's told most often is that car trouble had forced them to stay overnight in Loonfoot Falls.

Tropica Lanes had paper scorecards then, with pencils from the company whose yellow pencils get sold by the box around the beginning of school year.

Mr. 'Lane,' the father, was a bit intense that evening. By the time everyone in his family had bowled two frames, he'd rolled balls straight down the middle, on average: two each in the left, and right, gutters. And, snapped a pencil.

Not intentionally. In fact, years later, Walt Jensen recalled how apologetic ‘Mr. Lane' was, as parts of the pencil skittered across the third lane's foul line.

A few frames later, Walt rolled what he was sure would be a strike. His ball ran down the alley on a perfect curve: but went airborne just short of the pins, flew over the lot, and crashed into the ball pit.

It had hit the missing piece of Mr. Lane's pencil.

At over a dozen yards, the yellow pencil blended right into the wood of the lane.

Red pencils are much easier to see.

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