We fall the extra mile

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John Allen

One-mississippi, twoops! John Allen spins his feet during one of the many 1.5-second intervals in which he stayed upright on a rolling log. Photo: Jeff Miller.

When I first emailed Shana Martin ’02 to request the interview that grew into “Rules to Roll By”, she responded with an offer of her own: “Would you like to try log rolling?” she wrote. “We could meet at Wingra Park (where we teach our classes), and you could have a ‘feet-on’ experience.”

I said sure — all in the name of good journalism, right? If you want to get a lumberjill to open up, you should be willing to tumble head-over-heels into her world.

I told my editors the plan, thus sparking a conversation as to the likelihood of my suffering a spectacular injury.

“We should send a photographer,” one of them suggested.

Evidently, I am not well liked.

Martin is a patient teacher. She was willing to give the photographer many chances to memorialize my falls, and she did so without taking up a lot of his time. Most people, she warned me, manage to stay on the log for only one or two seconds on their first day. A true prodigy might last five.

Still, she brought along a stopwatch, perhaps anticipating I would be a super-prodigy log roller and set a world record on my first attempt. If so, the gesture was kind, but not necessary. I am no prodigy.

But, to the bitter disappointment of our photographer, neither did I injure myself in any particularly spectacular fashion, aside from scuffed shins and a bruise on the reverse of my lap.

A couple of hours later, as Martin and I wrapped up the interview, she told me she was impressed — not with my skills, obviously, but with my willingness to risk broken bones and shattered teeth.

“I make that same offer to everyone who’s ever interviewed me,” she said. “Just about everyone says, ‘No way, I’d rather just meet at Ancora [Coffeehouse].’ ”

That’s On Wisconsin: we fall the extra mile.

Published in the Winter 2011 issue

Tags: Alumni, sports

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