winters chill begins to creep around the glens and
crags of Wales, the country King Arthur once called home,
it is time for me to fulfil one of my more pleasurable duties
as chapter presidentthe maintenance of the Monmouthshire
Lodge. Here I play host to hearty club members who spend
the coldest days of the year diligently working at the true
sport of croquet. There are beds and facilities to house
a dozen players, but most men arent able to stay long,
so I often find myself alone at the lodge. Its a good
time to work on writing and other projects Ive put
off throughout the year. In recent winters Ive spent
days designing and turning out some of the best mallets
of my modest woodworking career.
year I assigned myself the task of clearing the monstrous
lodge attic, hoping to find some new ideas for Phooka hidden
in the rooms secret, venerable corners. I was handing
over the journal to Wonderella Printed after many years
with Watermark. It was the end of an era, and it would be
good to discover some fresh material for the Americans.
excavation yielded many treasures, among them a lodge mallet
used by the chapter during the first half of this century.
It was a full stone in weight and had narrow brass plaques
affixed about its head, each one chronicling in turn the
name and years of service of the presidents of Team Wales.
I mounted the hammer (for hammer it is, an oaken object
rivaling Thors Mjollnir) above the main fireplace
downstairs, and Im still puzzling whether or not I
should update the roster.
few invaluable photo albums surfaced from beneath a crumbling
stack of Phooka issues from the 1930s, back when the journal
was printed in newspaper form. And below these, cozy in
an old whisky crate, a long lost manuscript so fantastic
that I had no choice but to reprint it in its entirety in
this issue of the journal. The story appears directly after
this letter, a testament to one mans fulfilment of
a higher calling in the world of sport. The manuscript was
from the hand of Morris Dwight.
those unfamiliar with the life of Morris Dwight, an introduction
is in order. Simply put, the man is one of the most obscure
and undercelebrated overland croquet players of the early
twentieth century. He invented the pass-strikeor so
the general thought has been. I will leave your own decision
up to yourself, after you read his story, "Winter Wickets."
Nonetheless, Dwight made an art of solo overland croquet
and led Team Wales through two decades worth of successful
after stepping down from his post as president, Dwight retired
to the north of Ireland, a place where some of his many
roots sought sustenance. It was then that Dwight became
uncharacteristically distant in his friendships as well.
Before long he disappeared from public life altogether and
began turning out fantastic tales of his dealings with all
manner of odd creaturesBlack Dogs, ghosts, and Moon
Men among their number.
the strange end to his career, the effect of Dwights
active years in the Overland Mallet Club is impressive.
His legacy includes the conversion of Monmouthshire from
the abandoned meeting house it once was to the lodge it
is today, as well as a family consistently involved in the
O.M.C. My colleague, Percival Dwight, is Morriss grandnephew.
declined the privilege of writing this introduction to his
ancestors work, noting sheepishly that I possessed
the greater body of knowledge of the man. I wouldnt
expect family members to harbour a fanatical obsession like
I have, so here, Morris, is your introduction:
wicketing is perhaps the most demanding of all the overland
croquet variants. The cold air frosts the walls of ones
lungs, the sunlight reflects off icy ponds and into the
eyes, and balls rout themselves into banks of snow, some
not to be found until the eventual thaw. None of these observations
registers as a complaint, however, much the opposite. For
it is the sheer difficulty of winter wicketing that makes
the sport so rewarding. A long day spent afield is that
much sweeter when recollected that evening over a warm drink
no player understood this better than Morris Dwight. The
manuscript I reprint in this issue of Phooka is a recount
of Dwights 1911 winter campaign, which starts out
as an ordinary game but becomes something much more fantastic.
One can never tell, but Im fairly sure that if modest
old Dwight knew we were celebrating his life with this issue
of Phooka he would laugh at us all and accuse us of having
nothing better to do. Im also as sure as I can be
that he would smile to know there are those who put as much
of themselves into the game of winter croquet as he once
did, and thats a thing of which we can all be proud.
We hope to one day post Morris Dwights Winter
Wickets to this website. Until then, a photocopy of
this delightful tale can be had by sending $1 to Clint Marsh,
in care of Wonderella Printed, Post Office Box 10145, Berkeley,