Jerry Nelson: Adding some spice to the Valentine's Day ritual

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Jerry Nelson

Valentine’s Day is a strange holiday, one that customarily involves obtaining fresh flowers in the dead of winter and the consumption of mass quantities of chocolate by a populace that can’t even maintain a normal, healthy relationship with M&Ms.

Other than that, Valentine’s Day is a fine holiday, albeit one that doesn’t include government or businesses closing so that workers can enjoy a day off. I guess the powers that be wanted to avoid any potential responsibility for the aftereffects of recreational canoodling.

This particular holiday poses a conundrum for guys who, like me, have been in a relationship with their Significant Other for a very long time. After all these years and all those Valentine’s Days, a gift of candy and/ or flowers might seem unimaginative and/ or dull.

Jewelry is always a safe bet. But whenever I stand at a jewelry counter I break into a cold sweat, my eyes glaze over, and my mind becomes trapped in a churning vortex of panic. The salesperson could show me a pebble from our driveway and tell me that its price is roughly equivalent to that of the Hope Diamond, and I would numbly mumble, “Do you take checks?”

Every relationship can use a dash of spice now and again, so this year I decided to shake things up a bit. My wife and I marked Valentine's Day by throwing ourselves into an activity that left us slightly breathless, a little sweaty and sore but grinning from ear to ear because we both scored.

That’s right: my wife and I went bowling.

This meant that I would be at a massive disadvantage. I have gone bowling approximately three times in my entire life, twice when I was a teenager and once as a young adult. It had been more than a quarter of a century since I last felt the heft of a bowling ball tugging at my arm’s socket joint.

My wife, on the other hand, had participated in league bowling as a high schooler. When she was 16, my wife, her mother, and their bowling team – the Gutter Gussies – drove to Milwaukee to take part in a national bowling tournament. There once was a time when my wife actually owned her own bowling ball! I was essentially competing against a seasoned pro.

But I have never been one to let a lack of experience or knowledge stand in my way. And I’ve never been known to pass up the opportunity to pay for the privilege of wearing someone else’s shoes.                    

Bowling is a sport that involves intimate nuances and intricate strategies. As a bowling naïf, I understand none of them.

I recall watching other bowlers in adjoining lanes when I was a teen. One guy could throw his ball in such a way that it carved a path that was similar to a question mark on its way to each inevitable strike. Another guy, who had Popeye forearms, threw the ball in a powerful sidearm manner. His bowling ball would be nearly halfway down the lane before it kissed the hardwood. The ball then crashed into the pins with such force that you would swear that it had been fired from a cannon.

I chose to try the curve ball strategy first. Unfortunately, the lane that we were assigned was clearly defective: its gutters contained an overabundance of gravity. This caused my bowling ball to get yanked off the lane and into the gutter long before it even got close to the pins.

I decided that the only way to overcome the excessive gravity situation was to hurl the ball as hard as I could. With any luck, the ball would be able to sprint to the pins before the gutters could exert their nefarious powers.

This strategy worked – sort of. More of my throws made it to their target, but there were numerous times when an invisible hand would sweep my bowling ball into the gutter inches before it reached the pins.

My wife had a much simpler approach. She would casually stroll up to the line as if she had all the time in the world. She would throw her ball calmly, sending it rumbling at a leisurely pace toward the pins. Despite the lack of drama at the far end of the lane, a surprising number of pins would tumble.

I would like to say that I rolled a 300, but that would be true only if we had played five more games. And I won’t divulge whose score was higher.

After all, bowling is a sport that involves intimate nuances and intricate strategies. And gentlemen don’t kiss and tell.

If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.