Washington The Athlete
: WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY ALBERT F. BLAISDELL AND FRANCIS E. BALL
Many stories are told of the mighty power of Washington's right arm. It
is said that he once threw a stone from the bed of the stream to the top
of the Natural Bridge, in Virginia.
Again, we are told that once upon a time he rounded a piece of slate
to the size of a silver dollar, and threw it across the Rappahannock
at Fredericksburg, the slate fal
ing at least thirty feet on the other
side. Many strong men have since tried the same feat, but have never
cleared the water.
Peale, who was called the soldier-artist, was once visiting Washington
at Mount Vernon. One day, he tells us, some athletic young men were
pitching the iron bar in the presence of their host. Suddenly, without
taking off his coat, Washington grasped the bar and hurled it, with
little effort, much farther than any of them had done.
"We were, indeed, amazed," said one of the young men, "as we stood
round, all stripped to the buff, and having thought ourselves very
clever fellows, while the Colonel, on retiring, pleasantly said:--
"'When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I'll try again.'"
At another time, Washington witnessed a wrestling-match. The champion of
the day challenged him, in sport, to wrestle. Washington did not stop to
take off his coat, but grasped the "strong man of Virginia." It was
all over in a moment, for, said the wrestler, "In Washington's lionlike
grasp I became powerless, and was hurled to the ground with a force that
seemed to jar the very marrow in my bones."
In the days of the Revolution, some of the riflemen and the backwoodsmen
were men of gigantic strength, but it was generally believed by good
judges that their commander-in-chief was the strongest man in the army.