Column #358 COOOOOOOOOP XXVIII
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I am about to frickin’ depart for the BEST frickin’ darts tournament in the world and I don’t mind tellin’ ya that I can barely frickin’ wait!
I haven’t missed Chuck and Stick’s Chicken COOP Open since 2006 when I first took Mike Edwards up on his invitation to venture into the Ozarks to have a go against some of the good old boys. Thinking Deliverance, I had for years hesitated to accept Edward’s offer. Seriously, there is one thing I have no interest whatsoever in experiencing…
But finally I made the great trek to Missouri – and I have never looked back. I had the time of my life and I’m looking forward to more of the same in just a few days.
The COOP is (modestly) billed as the “largest and greatest” outdoor tournament in the world. It’s more than that, much more. For anyone who loves the game – and particularly for anybody who has played for years and lost sight of how it feels to throw with friends for the simple joy of it – the COOP is the only place to be the first weekend of every June.
Just a bit of background…
It was nearly three decades ago that Chuck Gideon and Joe “Stick” Stacy invited a few friends over for a barbeque and to throw some darts at a board nailed to the side of a chicken coop in Gideon’s back yard. The next year they did it again, and then again…
Word spread and the cookout evolved into a small event, quickly outgrowing the little barn. So they moved the event to Noel, a small town cut into the historic bluffs along the Elk River just a few miles away.
This is where the tournament is held today – under a gigantic tent nestled under the towering pines and adjacent to the meandering river at the Wayside Campground near the junction of highway’s 59 and 90. These days more than 1,000 darters, and their families, make the journey. And they have a fantastic time!
This is because the COOP is not just a darts tournament – it’s far, far more than that. It’s a campout, barbeque and fish fry, family vacation, golf scramble, canoe trip, fireworks show, charity auction and a whole lot more rolled into one. There’s even an Easter egg-like flight hunt for the kids.
Throughout it all, amidst scores of tents, camper vans and smoldering campfires, literally non-stop for four days and three nights, are a series of back-to-back-to-back-to-back blind draw darts events. For nearly 96 hours straight they never stop.
In just days it will be more of the same…
This year’s event begins at 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 4 with what’s called the Early Bird Blind Draw which is generally contested sober. It’s followed by the first All Night’er which is generally not played sober, certainly not by the “O’Duds” from the Ponca City group.
There are draws all day Friday and all night Friday.
Saturday morning is the annual Golf Scramble at Noel Golf Course which I hope will be won by former golf professional, Dan Zimmerman, now a COOP regular.
This is my wish because also Saturday morning is the Youth-Adult Blind Draw – an event I actually won a couple of years ago with my partner, Keke – and I won’t have a chance in hell if Zimmerman isn’t on the links.
Draws continue all day and night Saturday pausing only for a chicken wings cook-off (which I suspect will be won by the “O’Duds” if they can still stand), a country band, and a spectacular fireworks display.
Sunday is more of the same but also includes the annual Charity Auction, just another reason among so many why this family event is so special.
I arrive early – on Wednesday afternoon. My wife is joining me for the first time and we’re staying at Arthur Murray’s Motel, just across from the campground. There ain’t no way we’re sleeping with bugs! Plus, I need to rest up before the good times begin!
By midday Thursday I will be searching for Jimmy “Scooby” Boone for a bit of “3 Strikes” – so Scooby, you best bring a lot of cash. I’m done tired of getting’ beat, you frickin’ shrimp.
I’ll be huntin’ down Matt Keller and his purty wife, Heather, who I have my fingers crossed will be wearin’ a bikini.
I’ll be findin’ Mike Keller and his wife, and Wally and his babe and the Murphys – because their campsite is great, they have comfy lawn chairs, the beer flows, and Wally is still in serious need of convincing that double sixteen is a better percentage shot than double fifteen.
I’ll be sure to locate Bob Riederer, partly because he’s probably also avoiding bugs and also because we need to figure out a way to rig one of the draws so we can partner and lose in the first round.
I’ll absolutely be keepin’ a lookout for Bethany Norwood and Olivia Givens, who usually run the charity dartboard with the little stars that I can’t hit. They were little girls when I first met ‘em but they’re eye-poppin’ wimmenfolk now!
I’ll be trackin’ down the Ponca City group and all the O’Duds BIG TIME because they have serious good meat goin’ on.
I’ll be hopin’ to see my webmaster, Kelly “Rags” Ragland who is tentatively planning to drive up from Texas with friends to check out the tournament for the first time.
Of course, I’ll be certain to find Mike and Tammy Edwards, Pat and Robin Law, Mike Hensley, and Jim Norwood – who organize the tournament. Were it not for the efforts of these fine people (and Chuck Gideon, who I hope will stop by) I would be mowing my lawn this weekend.
But what I definitely WON’T BE DOING is going anywhere near Johnny Noe. This man is DANGEROUS! If you have any doubt whatsoever about the accuracy of this statement (or want to learn a little more about COOP goings-on, click this link, but do so at your own risk): Dartoid’s World #269.
Finally, for even more information on this year’s tournament be sure to check out the official COOP website at http://www.chickencoopopen.com.
See you there!
From the Field (and soon to be in the forest),
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