Monday, April 20, 2009

A Departure From Hockey Tales

Most men looking for a nibble or two on their privates would select Angelina Jolie to do the honours.

Not a man like Reg Mellor, a legend in the Yorkshire “sport” of trouser legging or trouser ferreting. The tradition involves men tying up their pant cuffs with ropes, dropping a ferret down their pants, and cinching the works with a rope belt at the waist to prevent the animal from escaping. This event does not use fluffy, furry, toy ferrets but real live weasel relatives complete with claws and fangs.

The winner is the man who can survive having the creature in his pants longer than the other participants. Mellor, discovered the sport in his 60s and his original record time was 40 seconds. Over the year he has worked his way up to over five hours – five hours with a “furry piranha” down his pants.

Such a feat could not come about without picking up some tricks, including how to dislodge ferrets from his person. That’s not easily done to wee beasties with jaw strength comparable to pit bulls, but the crusty Barnsley native whacks them near the eyes with a screwdriver.

That’s within the rules of ferret legging, as is dislodging ferrets from one’s body, but only from outside the pants. Apparently this is one time when being “master of your domain” really is taboo.

The only other regulation has to do with performance enhancing substances. Neither man nor ferret can be drugged or drunk. Funny that – if ever an event lent itself to being under the influence of mind and pain altering pharmaceuticals, this would be the hands down winner. As for the question you’re dying to ask…yes, Mellor has been bitten “there.”

"Why, I've had 'em hangin' from me tool for hours an' hours an' hours!,” he boasted. “Two at a time -- one on each side. I been swelled up big as that!," proudly pointing to a five-pound coffee can.

The first North American account of ferret legging came from a 1987 article by writer David Katz. Some naysayers claim the sport is nothing more than a legend, saying it is an urban myth created to poke fun at Yorkshire’s quaint and provincial traditions.

Toronto resident Paul Wilde, an ex-pat from the picturesque village of Huddlesfield, Yorkshire, adamantly denies that. “I’ve heard about it. It’s a tradition, something they used to do in working men’s social clubs.”

Over the years ferret legging has declined, likely because modern men want to protect the brains in their pants more than their ancestors.

Ferret fans fret not – the village of Sedgefield offers ferret racing.

*Mellor quotes from David Katz, “King of the Ferret Leggers,” Outside magazine – October 1987

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