The Texans on the following pages have found, or will soon find, their way into the Guinness Book of World Records. That means that each of them has done something that the rest of us couldn’t, or in most cases, wouldn’t dream of doing.
Actually, it isn’t that hard to become a new Guinnean. All you have to do is (1) better an existing record or (2) invent your own category in which you naturally excel. The first path is decidedly more difficult. For one thing, the reader will be discouraged to find many categories closed to him perforce. Most of us are unlikely to overtake the record for the largest battleship (72,809 tons) or the most valuable book (one of three surviving Gutenberg Bibles, valued at $2.5 million). Others are theoretically within reach—longest service in a legislative body (83 years), largest ball of string collected (5 tons), and the last name in any telephone directory (Vladimir Zzzyd, Miami)—but who would want them?
No, it is far easier (and perhaps more satisfying to the soul) to invent your own category. But read the book first: record seekers have already staked out territories such as baby-carriage pushing, apple peeling, roller-pin throwing, continuous clapping, grave digging, and most times struck by lightning. It will test your ingenuity just to locate, much less to master, uncharted ground.
We have a word of advice, though. Because. That’s the word. You’re going to need it, because a lot of people are going to be asking you, Why?
Jo Ann Hoss is allergic to boiled shrimp—it makes her eyes swell. Against her better judgment (and after devouring a crayfish dinner), she entered the 1971 Freeport Jaycees Shrimp Eating Contest. Hoss weighs 112 pounds; her biggest rival, “Tiny Turk,” weighs almost 400. Jo Ann nearly gave up the race when a contender tossed his shrimp and disqualified himself. Jo Ann slapped a cold towel to her forehead and gorged on, putting away five pounds ten ounces of shrimp—sometimes shell and all—in just under two hours. Her record for volume has never been approached, although Larry Sibley at Conn Brown Harbor, Texas, set the world record for sheer speed in 1974. Just to prove you can’t get too much of a good thing, Jo Ann Hoss got up from her record-setting feat and went right back to work, operating, yes, a fleet of shrimp boats.
Bowling isn’t like your standard American sport. Bowlers don’t hurt each other, except mentally or financially. They don’t even wear shoes with cleats. Also, they don’t get a tan; the paler you are, the better bowler. It was precisely this total lack of gut-wrenching physical contact that first attracted Bill Lillard to bowling in 1941. Houstonian Lillard was the first man to win three of the four American Bowling Congress titles in one year (1956) when he sewed up the team title, the doubles title, and the all-events title, leaving only the singles crown unclaimed. Since 1956, Lillard’s feat has been matched twice. Bill’s graduated from the days when he wore a sponsor’s name on his shirt. He owns his own alley now.
No one anywhere can talk like Mike McKool. The former Dallas state senator clocked the longest filibuster on record (42 hours 33 minutes) when he argued in 1972 for the inclusion of $17 million for Mental Health-Mental Retardation in the biennial appropriations bill. McKool survived the two days and nights on a package of M&Ms and some lemons. He could not leave his desk, sit, or lean on anything. The little indelicacy of emptying his bladder was discreetly engineered with a urine bag that was emptied three times into a wastebasket in the privacy of a huddle of senators. McKool ended his impassioned ordeal on the morning of June 28, whereupon the Senate promptly voted down his proposal. But all was not in vain; the Conference Committee restored over $5 million to the bill. McKool wasn’t a party to the conference, however. He was at home catching up on his sleep.
JUST FOR KICKS
Why is a Swede who wears fancy French soccer shoes kicking 69-yard field goals soccer-style for the Abilene Christian University Wildcats? Who cares why Ove Johansson is in Abilene? Certainly the Wildcats’ coach is asking no questions; he’s just grateful. The answer to “why,” of course, is that Johansson, who has been in this country for two and a half years, transferred to ACU from a West Virginia college to be with his wife, April. He’s been playing football for ACU since January—Ove’s first experience with the game —because they don’t play soccer. Johansson isn’t in Guinness—yet—but he’s already beaten their collegiate record by four yards. Ove says he knew the kick on Saturday, October 16, against East Texas State was a good one: “I can’t say I knew how far it was going to go, but I knew I had never kicked the ball better.” Except maybe during the pregame warm-up when Ove practice-kicked two seventy-yarders.
You can’t keep a good man like Henry Marshall down for long—even if you’re standing on him. Henry can do 1400 push-ups in 30 minutes just warming up, and 261 of them in one hour with a 150-pound man on his back. But Henry’s real specialty is one-armed push-ups. The San Antonian regularly breaks his own Guinness record of 124 right-handed push-ups in 61 seconds, and 103 in 65 seconds with his left. When he gets bored with that, Henry does 38 on the thumb and index finger of his right hand in 30 seconds. His latest feat—2800 one-armed push-ups in two hours—is a pending record with Guinness. Henry’s next record-breaking attempt will be 8000 two-armed pushups in less than five hours. Why? Well, Henry believes that physical exercise helps him cope with his diabetes and gives him a positive attitude. It makes sense. If he can cope with people on his back all the time, he can cope with anything.
What better way to break the monotony of small-town life than to break a Guinness record? To Alton Young (below) and George Clark (leaping) in Copperas Cove, leapfrogging looked like one of the easiest to beat. So they proceeded to leapfrog—along with twelve others—around the Copperas Cove High School track for nearly 24 hours back in September 1973. Halfway through the event, they got word that a group in Japan was simultaneously trying for a record of 50 miles leaped. The Copperas Cove crew left the yellow peril in the dust, leaping for a mind-boggling 100 miles. Everyone seemed satisfied to leave it at that, except Alton. His latest project is to beat the Guinness marathon roller-skating record.
Fred Newton may say he’s not a good swimmer, but it’s false modesty. In 1930, Fred swam 1826 miles of the Mississippi River from Ford Dam near Minneapolis to New Orleans—the longest distance ever swum. He made it in 742 hours, spread between July 6 to December 29. Fred had a few delays along the way: he ran out of money, he got ptomaine poisoning, and he had to find somebody else to row along with him when his brother went back to school. Fred doesn’t have a swimming pool and today leads a quiet life in Gainesville, manufacturing a device he invented—the Relaxo-bak. A young man recently tried to better Fred’s stunt using swim fins and a wet suit. He made it in under 742 hours, but he should have done a little research first. Old Man River isn’t what it used to be. With some kinks straightened out, the Mississippi is now 170 miles shorter than when Fred swam it.