The quality we admire most at The Running Iron Report is resilience. Nobody escapes the injuries, the wrecks, the traumas big and small that life dishes out. The 21st century therapeutic culture, which often valorizes victimhood, has led us astray from old, heroic virtues, and indeed casts them in a negative light. But those are the virtues and qualities that equip us to absorb the blows and keep going.
Running Iron Report raises a mead cup to the badasses who inspire us to walk it off and get back in the scrum.
Rullman inspired this post by sharing a video the other day of Joe Westerman hammering his dislocated knee back into place in a rugby match. From SBNation.com:
Joe Westerman, who plays for Hull FC in the British Super League dislocated his knee in a game against rival Hull Kingston Rovers — but that’s only the start of the story. Rather than leave the field and seek medical attention like a normal human being, Westerman sat on the pitch hammering on his knee to force it back into place. When it finally popped he didn’t scream or hobble off, he just went back to the scrum.
Rugby players are avatars of heroic resilience, sometimes carried to mind-blowing extremes. Like Buck Shelford, a New Zealand player who took the standard of balls-out play to an extraordinary — literal — level. Shelford played in the epic 1986 “Battle of Nantes,” a rugby match between France and New Zealand that more truly resembled a brawl than a sporting contest. As The Daily Telegraph recounts:
“Shelford was caught at the bottom of a ruck 20 minutes into the game, losing four teeth, and sustained a large tear to his scrotum courtesy of a stray French boot. Incredibly, Shelford had his injury stitched on the sideline and played on until deep into the second half, when a knock to the head left him concussed and unable to continue.”
Toughness and resilience are by no means the sole province of men. I mean, childbirth, right? One of the actually worthy social developments of the modern era is the Title IX-enforced ability of women to get in the arena and show their warrior spirit. Take The Rugby War Goddess Georgia Page:
(Apparently the spirit is still strong in these parts. Just a couple of days ago a friend of mine recounted how a young woman in a critical volleyball game stayed in the battle, despite having to leave the court briefly to puke because she was playing sick).
One of the greatest get-back-into-the-scrum episodes in history occurred during the Battle of Shrewsbury in western England in 1403. Plantagenet King Henry IV fielded an army to put down a rebellion led by led by the nobleman and war captain Henry “Harry Hotspur” Percy. Henry’s son-and-heir Prince Hal, age 16, was in the thick of the fight.
Both English armies relied heavily on their legendary longbowmen, and the battlespace was thick with bodkin-pointed arrows, designed to penetrate chainmail and plate armor. Prince Hal took one of these arrows right in the face. And he went back into the scrum. A Tudor chronicler recounts:
“The prince that daie holpe his father like a lustie yoong gentleman: for although he was hurt in the face with an arrow, so that diverse noble men that were about him, would haue conveied him foorth of the ﬁeld, yet he would not suﬂer them so to doo, least his departure from amongst his men might happilie have striken some feare into their harts: and so without regard of his hurt, he continued with his men, never ceassed, either to ﬁght where the battell was most hot, or to incourage his men where it seemed most need.”
After the battle, which resulted in the death of Hotspur and the crushing of his rebellion, Hal was taken from the field for treatment by the King’s surgeon John Bradmore. Removing the arrow shaft was easy enough, but the bodkin point was embedded in the Prince’s skull. Bradmore had to devise an instrument to slide into the socket of the arrowhead, creating a friction fit and wiggling the thing around till he got it extracted. Bradmore himself recorded his method:
“First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen [made to] the length of the wound. These probes were infused with rose honey. And after that, I made larger and longer probes, and so I continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it. And after the wound was as enlarged and deep enough so that, by my reckoning, the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared anew some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow. A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well rounded both on the inside and outside, and even the end of the screw, which was entered into the middle, was well rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly… by moving it to and fro, little by little (with the help of God) I extracted the arrowhead.”
Remarkably, the Prince didn’t die of infection — probably because Bradmore attentively treated the terrible wound with honey, which has antibacterial properties. He healed up and went on to become Henry V of Agincourt (and Shakespearean) fame, one of the greatest of the Plantagenet Kings.
The wound and the scar it left was, as one chronicler put it, “The Marke of His Manhood.”
Of course, none of us want to get shot in the face or have our scrotums ripped open just to prove how tough we are. But in a world that seems infested with soccer-floppers and pearl-clutchers ever on the alert for microagressions and psychic injuries, it sure doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that our little wounds haven’t killed us yet, so we might as well just crack on.
Conicidentally, Netflix drops its tale of Henry V, The King, on November 1. Looks like they’ve minimized what must have been a massive scar…