Imagination takes flight with boomerang

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer November 30, 2012 01:00 pm

From the time I landed facefirst in the Crooked Creek Elementary School gifted and talented program there was the question, gifted in what? 

Turning the church hymnal to page 367 on the first try? Throwing a hay bale over a truck stacked five high? Running the ball in football with five guys hanging on me and not going down until I had successfully negotiated two yards in a cloud of mud?

Seems my biggest skill was letting my imagination run wild. I gained more yards in imagination than I did in football. 

As Albert Einstein says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I was no Einstein. But I could almost see pigs fly.

I did have some knowledge too. One day I won a spelling contest that came with a top prize: a boomerang. I was instantly transported to the Australian outback, or at least a field near the school where I gave my prize a whirl. As usual, I was terrified of success, fearing the boomerang would make a swoop through the sky, and then return at terrifying speed. Would I catch the boomerang with my hand, or between the eyes?

Spectators went wild

In reality, the boomerang flew an incredible distance and fluttered to the ground like a helicopter seed pack dropping from a maple tree. The spectators went wild.

Actually, the only spectator was our dog, Skipper. A border collie mixed with a lesser known breed, the Imbecile-setter, Skipper would not fetch. He rolled his eyes and yawned. This coming from a dog that chased every jet flying at 30,000 feet above sea level from one side of Crooked Creek Valley to the other, barking hysterically.

Boomerangs were built for hunting, for sport, for entertainment. In the old days, they were made of wood. Mine was made of plastic and like cockroaches probably will survive the apocalypse and even the Dec. 21, 2012, Mayan calendar predictions of the end of the world.

Australian aborigines, ancient Egyptians and American Indians used non-returning boomerangs for hunting.

My non-hunting boomerang was about two feet in length. Some have been built as long as six feet.

My boomerang flew only a couple hundred feet. Some fly much farther. In fact, one thrower, David Schummy, set a Guinness World Record at 1,401.5 feet on March 15, 2005, at Murrarie Recreation Ground, Australia.

According to Wikipedia, the most reliable news source since gossip over the back fence with neighbors, the boomerang was first seen by western people at Farm Cove (Port Jackson), Australia, in December 1804 during a tribal battle.

“The white spectators were astonished,” an eyewitness said, “at the dexterity and force with which a bent, edged waddy resembling a turkish scimytar, was thrown by Bungary, a native. The weapon, thrown at 20 or 30 yards, twirled round with astonishing velocity, and alighting on the right arm of an opponent, left a horrible contusion behind, and excited universal admiration.”

Astronauts, too, seem fascinated with boomerangs. In 1992 German astronaut Ulf Merbold performed an experiment aboard Spacelab. His findings? Boomerangs function the same in zero gravity as they do on Earth. 

Not to be outdone, French astronaut Jean-François Clervoy aboard MIR repeated the experiment in 1997, as did Japanese astronaut Takao Doi in 2008.

Today, my boomerang’s whereabouts is unknown. I have yet to travel to Australia except through the writing of Bill Bryson, whose “In a Sunburnt Country” is transporting. Yet thanks to that boomerang I have always looked to the horizon. I still throw the boomerang in my imagination, chase it down and see where the adventure leads.


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