"Throwin' With Bones"
Throwin' with "Bones" is something my old partner, Chris James, and I talked often of doing.
When I'd return from my travels, often with souvenirs -- like the spear once used by an Ugandan elephant poacher, which now hangs on the wall in his restaurant -- Chris and I would make plans to get away together. Throwing darts with whores in Bangkok, blowing darts with Indians in the Amazon or tossing knives with locals in Bombay were just a notch more exciting than our usual fare.
Just for a week, sometime soon, we were going to blow off league and our local tournament routine and hop a plane to some exotic, far away land. Our jobs could wait. Chris' girlfriend, Cheryl, and my wife, Marylou, would understand. Chris an I were going to go throwin' with "Bones".
It was in June of 1995 that Chris and I first learned of Joel "Bones" Hanson. The darts case craftsman extraordinare was featured in a Bull's Eye News story. We just couldn't get the photographs of his hardwood handiwork out of our minds. His cases cut from teak, bocote, padauk and purpleheart were simply wooden jewels. Our darts cried out for a home.
We contacted Bones and over many months consulted with him on the design of our cases. I traveled to Namibia and returned with a thick log of ebony. We sketched designs on the backs of napkins. We sent in our money. And we waited. Anxiously.
The result was simply phenomenal. Chris' case shines like glass. Mine, inlaid with silver and African ivory, is a work of art. Cheryl and Marylou were so impressed that they went to a leather store to have special pouches made -- to protect our cases which protect our darts.
Sadly, life's responsibilities intervened and Chris and I never made it together to Bones' home in Minneapolis. Cheryl convinced Chris that he'd enjoy himself more with her on some remote beach in Antigua. And I moved out of town.
Recently I made my way to Minneapolis alone and met up with Bones at Brits Pub (1110 Nicollet) in the heart of the center city. If you've come upon a Mary Tyler Moore Show rerun recently, in the opening score you'll have seen her gliding in the breeze by the approximate location of Brits.
Brits is a large two-story affair. Beautifully appointed in dark wood and brass, it seems to function as a regular evening stop for many of Minneapolis' young professionals -- at least there were more suits and ties in this place than one normally finds in a darts bar. The menu is varied, though a bit pricy. The beer ... well, who can really complain about beer, at any price.
There's only one board, located in a far, dark corner on the second level. I picked my way around the doubles a couple of times before the lanky (hence the moniker) Bones nonchalantly arrived an hour later -- with a small suitcase.
From his case and onto a table set for four, Bones slowly unloaded dozens of darts cases, each more exquisitely crafted than the one before. Exotic hardwood. Ancient hardwood from trees long ago harvested to extinction. Strange knotted beauties with swiss cheese-sized bore holes, fossilized tracks of long dead bugs and intricate inlays. Bones was proud of his craftsmanship.
Finally, and almost ceremoniously, from a special spot in the bottom of his suitcase, Bones unwrapped the most amazing case of them all. It was gorgeous in its simplicity. About the length and width of a dollar bill and approximately the thickness of a Marboro package, the case was a blend of cream and dark chocolate. Small, worm-like trails wandered like miniature rivers through the luster of its highly polished finish. It was cut such that darts could be loaded from each end. On one side was a secret compartment just large enough to hold a few shafts and tips. Gingerly I inspected it's mysteries.
"Where on earth did you find this wood?" I asked him. "I've never seen anything like it."
"Well", Bones responded, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, "I was wondering when you were gonna ask that. The thing is, it's your wood, Chris' and your wood. It's what I made out of what was left."
"You mean this is mine?!"
"Give me a bull" said Bones, as he tapped his darts from his own special case. "Best two out of three. Chicago-style. Whoop me and the case is yours."
I can't say I've never thrown worse. There was the time that I followed John Part's 180 with a two at a pub in downtown Toronto. There was the sorry night that I spent twenty minutes trying to take out the double one while my opponent struggled to double in, then did double in and squashed me. But this was really bad. Fortunately it was fast.
Bones won the cork and called cricket. Eleven darts later we were back at the line for the '01 diddle. Fourteen more darts (140, 100, 95,100, 66-out) and I was watching Bones delicately re-wrap my case and place it safely back into its home in his suitcase. Bull's Eye News was correct when they wrote about Bones back in 1995 -- the guy can do more than turn wood into art. He can "clean clock" big time.
We ordered a couple of Budweisers and talked for a while -- about the Minnesota winters and about Walter Matheau and Jack Lemmon and ice fishing with Sophia Lauren and Ann Margret. "Yea" I reflected, "I guess my old buddy Chris knew what he was doing when he headed to the Carribean with his girlfriend."
"Got any money?" asked Bones.
"I've got the beers" I offered.
"No, no. I was thinking we might throw for a couple of bucks."
"Yea, right" I responded. "I think I'll pass, pack it in early and catch a flight to Antigua in the morning."
From the Field,