TBT - (1971) "Finger Wrestling at the 'Bucket of Blood'".

In the early '70s I owned a bar with Clifford Woods on Utila, in the Bay Islands, Honduras. It was a regular event to have contests of strength in the bar as we did not have TV or other forms of electronic entertainment - so we amused ourselves. Imagine that in this day and age!

A friend from Tegucigalpa, Jose Urutia, was going to go into biz with me to build a resort on the island and brought his father, family and some friend s to my hotel, the Bajia Lodge , for Semana Santa (Easter Week), to get to know the island. One night Jose brought his father and attorney friend Julio Centron, to our bar up the road, to the 'Bucket of Blood'.

Now Jose Senior and Julio had been drinking Buchanan's Scotch all afternoon at the hotel so they were loaded when they came into our bar that evening, and sat right down at the rough plank wooden bar. Our bartender Leroy was a big black islander - but a kinder soul you could not find. Jose Senior at that time was the ambassador to Honduras from Guatemala and had even been President of that country for 6 months (a short presidency is pretty normal for Central America). Leroy had been informed as much about Jose and so he was very nervous when challenged by the ambassador to a finger wrestling contest.

Leroy looked at me and I nodded to go ahead as I knew he would be careful with the elderly statesman. So they put their arms in the arm wrestling position across the bar and locked their middle fingers together. Leroy just tried to gently hold firm - but the ambassador rose out of his stool and put his shoulder into a heavy twisting push - the only effect being a very sharp cracking noise. The ambassador had broken his own middle finger.

Leroy was more in shock then anyone. He looked like the next thing would be a firing squad for him. The ambassador's reaction was to pull the broken finger forward and set it straight again from the un-natural angle it had been previously - and then he told Leroy to relax. Clifford got two popsicle sticks and some tape to make a splint for the finger and then we ordered drinks all around.

A week after the group left Utila I saw Jose Junior and asked how things went when they all flew over to the coast and then drove the Mercedes back to the capital city, Tegucigalpa. He said fine - but whenever his father took a turn at the wheel of the car, passing cars from the opposite direction would see his stiff extended middle finger and naturally reacted with a horn honk and their own stiff middle finger!

Life can be funny and near tragic at the same time.