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Fencers I Have Known - page 2

Last updated January 25, 2014


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Derwood (Frenchy) Bible (Continued)

The next day we went on our way. The events of the previous night, the leaky windows and rattling car doors, and the condition of the brakes, was less than reassuring. It didn't get much better. Frenchy began telling me about all of the car accidents that he had been in, which was very unnerving. One of these stories, in particular, sent a shiver up my back. He related that he was driving down a hill in his car and missed a curve. He was ejected in the crash, ending up in a tree with multiple injuries. The police came and picked him out of the tree and sent him to the hospital. He spoke of it as if it was incidental, but it didn't seem that way to me.. From there on in, I insisted on doing most of the driving,

We made it to Chihuahua without further major incidents and found that the tournament was being sponsored by the School of Music and Art at the university. We were treated very graciously by our hosts, and after the morning bouts we went out for lunch. When we came back to our car from lunch, we found that the trunk of our car had been pried open, and we were missing some clothing. Gone were our dress clothes and shoes, and we didn't have much left to wear except our uniforms and a few shirts.

After lunch, competition resumed, and we were fencing all three weapons. One bout, in particular, is etched in my memory. Frenchy again - this time in a saber bout. Midway through the bout, Frenchy made a fleche attack that began at his end of the strip and continued to the opposite end of the strip but didn't stop there. He kept running to the end of the gymnasium, took a left turn and went out through a door. We all looked at each other in bewilderment. We waited several minutes, and finally Frenchy returned. After the bout, I asked him what had happened and burst out in laughter at his answer. He had a case of the "turistas" and had to make an urgent trip to the toilet!

After the competition, the tournament officials and some of the fencers said that, when we first walked through the door to meet them, they thought that we were European fencing masters, apparently because of our beards. We were graciously given a tour of the University of Chihuahua by the fencing master, who was also the head of the School of Arts and Music. Later, he invited us to a special operetta that he and his students were putting on for the governor of the state of Chihuahua that evening. It sounded interesting, so we went to a store in mid-city and purchased ties to wear. We went to the operetta wearing our new Mexican ties, fencing pants and athletic shoes and met the governor. We must have been quite a sight! Later, after arriving back home, a letter from the fencing master to out club indicated that I had officially taken second place in saber (a result that I did not expect, since I had only been fencing for a year or two. Perhaps friendly gesture?).

Frenchy and I had some actual (friendly) duels, under the supervision of Lathrop Gay who kept the action from getting out of hand. Those were the days of pointe d'arrets, which are 3-pointed tips attached to epee blades, which we sharpened to our advantage. We fought bare arm, which was the target. In one of these duels, my opponent put a small round hole in the crook of my arm, and a stream of blood squirted out. It felt like a hot poker when it pierced my arm, although it did not go in very far. After that, I kept my arm more straight and was able to parry the attacks. It was a most valuable lesson. My other duels were more successful. In one of them, my point hit the under arm of my fencing master, which required eight stitches. These duels were conducted bare-chested but with masks, and the major target was the arm, since we did not intend to cause any major injury. We also fenced saber bare-chested. The validity of a touch was not an issue in these bouts, as a cut to the chest would produce a red welt. I do not recommend this type of duelling for anyone, but it did happen, so it can be told as a true story. Today it is, as they say, illegal. Some time later, Frenchy had dispute with another guy over a girl friend and challenged him to a more serious duel. He wrote the fencing master who was the head of the School of Music and Art in Chihuahua and asked if he would oversee the duel, but the professor declined. I am not sure what eventually happened, but I doubt that this duel ever took place, considering the lack of a proper venue.

A few years later, I and my family left the Phoenix area, and I have not had contact with this very fine fencing group since that time. An Internet search for Derwood Bible turned up "Derwood A. Bible, former U.S. Marine Corp. veteran, died February, 1966". I hope this was not my friend Frenchy, but his age and the location (Phoenix, Arizona) fit the facts.

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