Sunday, May 22, 2011
Well, my friends and brother strength lovers, I am coming to the end of the career of this great wielder of the Titan rod. His saloon and farm interests began to call for more of attention than ever, which finds him at the close of the nineteenth century completely retired from active show life. He still held the title along with the belt, but was thankful for the seclusion of domestic life, as is always true of a man who has wandered over the world for many years.
Louis was a model husband, a good father and a great friend of every man. I am not saying that because I feel a great affection for him. It is one thing in me to admire a man for his talent, and another thing to admire him for his general principles. If he had any shortcomings other than commonly found in man I would say so, but I can honestly say that he was the only great athlete I never say stones thrown at. Curiously calm, he rarely showed anger even when under the sting of provocation. He was full of kindness and lived an exemplary life before the eyes of all who knew him. His courtesy never forsook him, for in him was all the chivalry of old France, and the hand of arrogance had never touched his brow. As a son of the soil he lived, with the kindred tastes that go with the people of the soil, which are so simple to fulfill. His fealty was now centered in his home, and on his wife and daughter. Although he had always loved his profession earnestly, and served the gods who rule the iron children faithfully and generously. In return they had smiled upon him and crowned his life with success and fortune. His home was a veritable palace of trophies, bestowed upon him at one time and another by his admirers, who ranged form the crowned heads of the world to the poorest plowman.
The first few years after 1900 passed away uneventfully, but Canada was still producing her remarkable quota of strong men, fast growing into manhood. About 1904 Louis began to show signs of ailing health, due to his excessive eating and life of inactivity. His physical appearance had changed, and the body had become very corpulent, so that he would say it was easier for him to lift a ton than pick up a pin. Actually he weighed over four hundred pounds.
He seriously began to consider giving the title to some other worthy man of strength, but irrespective of his ill health, he said that whoever took it must take it in combat so that he would be proved worthy of the honor. In 1906 he agreed to meet Hector DeCarrie a young Montrealer who had displayed remarkable ability, but way below what Cyr could show at any time. Nevertheless, by popular opinion he was looked upon as the best bet on the American continent, since Barre had also retired. It so happened that around the time of the match Louis was in much poorer health than usual. In fact, he had not touched a weight for a long time, and actually done no steady training since his retirement. His physician begged of Louis not to engage in the contest, but the indomitable soul of Louis rose over the weakness of his flesh and he remained obdurate.- lost in the heart of the little whispering voice of other days that was one again fanning the spark of conquest. They met a Sohmer Park, Montreal, but if was a sadly different Louis to the one who had defied the power of the horses fourteen years before in the eyes of a wildly cheering assemblage.
Louis sat down between every lift. Quite different to the vitallic, eager moving man who before was always impatient for his turn. The first lift was a one-hand press with feet together. Louis raised one hundred and fifty-one and one-half pounds and DeCarrie one hundred and seventy-one and one-half pounds, though the crowd hooted the lift of DeCarrie as improper, but Louis waved his assent to the judges to pass it. Cyr made a swing to arms' length overhead with the same weight, and DeCarrie refused to try it. Next they lifted a bell while sitting on a chair, using one hand. Cyr did one hundred and thirty-nine pounds against one hundred and fifty-one and one-half pounds by Hector. The crowd protested again, but Louis paid no attention to it, so they passed on the next lift, which was a two-hand clean lift from the ground to the shoulder and then jerk overhead. The gallant veteran could hardly stand, but he unquenchable spirit of his fathers that had driven the murderous redskins before them rose within him, and he actually pressed two hundred and eighty-eight pounds. This young challenger would not try.
I should have told you that at the beginning that each man had picked four lifts, with the contest starting on Louis' choice. The finish of the set found Louis way ahead, with a total of seven hundred and thirty pounds against three hundred and twenty-three pounds. DeCarrie had only made two lifts out the four. The next passed on to DeCarrie's set, commencing with a one-hand dumb bell lift, which was won by DeCarrie by ten pounds; that is, tow hundred and twenty-pounds against two hundred and ten pounds. Then followed a two-dumb-bell lift. Louis pushed up two hundred and twenty-seven pounds, but DeCarrie could not make the grade and refused to try. Then they had a repetition lift with a one hundred and fifty-one and one-half dumb bell. Louis got in four presses against five by Hector. The final lift was a back lift which Louis easily won, doing two thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine pounds, a poundage which DeCarrie would not try.
Now in repetition lifting, which was quite a fad in those days with some, they would multiply the poundage by the number of times the object was lifted. There on the dumb bell repetition lift, DeCarrie was credited with seven hundred and fifty-one and one half pounds by lifting the weight five times. DeCarrie's set of four lifts was won by Louis with a total of three thousand nine hundred and twenty-two pounds against nine hundred and seventy-seven and one-half pounds. The grand total was four thousand six hundred and fifty-two pounds to Cyr with one thousand three hundred and one-half pounds to DeCarrie. This was his last act, and as the curtain was drawn over the scene it was to cover him as a winner, and a glorious victor.
No wonder the sun set in glory as the last lift was made. The heavens flushed with victory and bathed the waning rays of the sun in gold and blood red - the gold of victory spilling its honors over the blood of a great warrior. Staggering and reeling, he closed the portals of his career in a triumph never equaled, and as the turned to leave, he blessed the young man, on whom he transferred his title. Sickness could not rob him of victory, nothing living could, only death. But the precipice of life found just the same battling Louis of old, calm and dignified.
He passed away at his home in Montreal on November 10th, 1912, with chronic nephritis. His death cast a great sadness over the royal city, and every bell tolled in reverence of her most distinguished son. All the Canadian newspapers carried huge black headlines announcing his demise, and the news shot around the world, with the startling alacrity only equaled two years later, when the world throbbed at the news of the invasion of Belgium.
The ancient province went into mourning, and flags flew at half mast. He was buried in regal state by the Holy Catholic Church in a splendor of magnificence never shown to any gladiator in the history of the world. The pomp of state and church combined, and never was there a royal entourage more glorious than this, for the man who was just a strong man. Every street was packed with mourners all the way from the church to the "way of the cross."
A bare-headed multitude crowded the cemetery, and as the last funeral rites were performed at the graveside, the "Last Post" was sounded, and the muffled drums rolled out their thunder to mingle with the dying echo of the bugle, while the rifles barked out their last salute who has been called "The Daddie of 'Em All," as a Godspeed to his great soul, as it ascended on the way to the halls of Valhalla, where the "Saga" stories tell us all the great gladiators are gathered.
The death of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada's most brilliant statesman and the man acclaimed by the world as the most brilliant orator of this generation, did not receive the same homage as paid to all that left mortal to the great-souled, Louis Cyr. It was the greatest and most magnificent spectacle ever seen in Montreal, where the magnitude of magnificence is out-rivaled. This alone speaks louder than my pen can write of the life of the man, and the esteem in which he was held by all who knew him.
There are pessimists who point out, and tell you that all strong men die young. Bah! We should worry about what they say. All things happen for a purpose, and Cyr died because he was subject to the frailties of the flesh. He was only human, and he killed himself with gluttony, just as you and I would do if such was our weakness. I am making no excuses for him, neither have I cold feet that shake from facts, but I am human, so who am I to judge. Only fools and pessimists judge the death of a man. It is the life the led that counts, the good he did and the lesson he left. From the cradle to the grave the life of Louis Cyr was filled with usefulness. You know what the philosophy of the Arab says; "that man better live one score years and ten in usefulness that three score years and ten in indifference." Cyr did much better than that. If nothing else, he left much in himself to be admired and little to be found fault with. What is it that Kipling says on the creed of man in that famous song of "The Seven Seas?"
"Only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame And no one shall work for money and no one shall work for fame, But each for the joy of working, and each on his separate star Shall draw the things as he sees for the God of Things as they are."
This is just what Cyr did, and what he did was done well and done honorably. It is true that behind the living we see the dead, but such a man is deathless, the kind that lives beyond the grave to spur us on to exemplify and extol the wonders of physical manhood by our own efforts and example.
A few months ago I called on Dr Ammou, the husband of the charming daughter of the great sire, at their home in Montreal. Madame showed me her greatest treasure, the championship belt which her father had won and worn, as he was never defeated it never passed away from him, but remains now a family heirloom. Madame Louis Cyr is still alive and when mention is made of her great lord the color will mount to her cheeks and her eyes flash in honest pride. Louis may be gone, but she is still in love with him. Peter Cyr, the young brother of Louis, is alive and takes care of his farm that lies on the outskirts of Montreal, and he still takes a great deal of interest in the deeds of strong men, but loyal as they make 'em, he never will believe the world will produce another like the brother he worshipped.
Horace Barre slipped out into the great beyond seven years after his great teammate, and so the story is told.
Last summer I made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the herculean monarch of Ironia, and as I stood by the side of his grave the leave of time unfolded, and I read again the life of him who now is but a glorious memory. Like one body attracts another, I felt his great presence, and a wonderful happiness filled me, and I thanked God that such a man had lived. The next day I sailed away from Montreal on the swelling bosom of the majestic St. Lawrence. I watched the royal city through the dusk of the evening as the twilight veil of natural loveliness settled down, shrouding as it were, her great son, until the myriad stars broke out like little drops of jeweled silver, and I thought of what Spencer said of what constitutes our existence, Life, Space, and Time. The Life to live, the Space to expand in, and the Time to do good in. Ah! Yes, most people would live a thousand years all for no purpose. But Louis Cyr exemplified those three gifts as no other man did, by his wonderful, forcible, indomitable strength, and an unquenchable spirit of fire that has blazed a trail in strong-manism never touched before or since. Never did such crowds gather to follow a man as they did him, and we still continue to follow him. Why Not? Millions worship the god of Gold and the flaming diamond. Then is it not nobler to worship the great gift of God - a glorified body with a glorified soul - which He fashioned and made, and placed as a beacon among men to impress us.
To me, men like Cyr are the emancipators of clean living, that carry us nearer to the path of "the way we live" which so many blindly seek. But never has there been another who by his terrific strength and kindly smile, by his flaming spirit and honest heart proved himself to stand equal with the greatest of them all, Louis Cyr - the Great Canadian - "The Daddy of 'em all."
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