MIDLAND With a spin of a kilt, a kick-up of dust and a powerful grunt echoing out with it, something heavy hurls into the West Texas sky.
A competitor digs in his cleats, and readies a picture-perfect form in the throwing circle. Another jabs a pitchfork into a sack stuffed with straw and gets ready to fling it.
From the well-practiced athletic form, to the spin of old pageantry, it’s all part of the fourth annual Rocky Smith Memorial Highland Games.
More than 30 competitors, men and women, competed in the event’s main day of competition Saturday out behind the Midland Horseshoe Arena, and the ongoing Scottish-Irish Faire.
In the most successful iteration of the event to date, the Rocky Smith Games attracted competitors and attendees from across the state, and raised $2,000 to donate to Pink the Basin, the area breast cancer awareness and fundraising organization.
“It’s going well,” event athletic director Michael Murphree said aside competition Saturday. “We’ve got more competitors this year than last.”
Murphree, of Midland, helped start the event in honor of the late Smith, who died after a battle with cancer in 2014.
Murphree and Smith used to travel to participate in events across the state, and Murphree founded the Games to be the local event Smith always wanted in the Permian Basin.
Murphree competed Saturday, as did Liz Smith, Rocky’s widow.
“The month after Rocky passed away, (Murphree) said, ‘I want to do this. Do I have your permission?’ And I said, ‘Yes. Let’s go for it,’” Liz Smith said.
“I thought it was an awesome idea, an awesome memory, and it’s pretty much grown in the last four years.”
The event’s $2,000 donation to Pink the Basin topped the $1,250 the event raised for Pink the Basin in 2017. Murphree said the event’s been able to raise enough money to put on the Games and donate excess to charity in every year of its existence except for 2016, during the cellar of the oil bust.
“The charity thing, to me, is the biggest part,” Liz Smith said.
“It’s something that I know Rocky would’ve really applauded.”
The Games, too, and day of fun and the athleticism in the sun, is something else Rocky Smith would’ve appreciated, they said.
David Brown, of Big Spring, threw for the track and field team at Angelo State in college, and has competed in all four iterations of the Rocky Smith Games.
“It seems like it’s starting to gain a little momentum,” Brown said, spinning to look at the crowd gathered out by the field. The event coincided with the weekend’s Scottish-Irish Faire put on by the Celtic Heritage Society of the Permian Basin.
“It’s good, solid, friendly competition,” Brown said. “Everybody’s competing hard with each other and everybody’s supporting each other while we do it.”
In the future, Liz Smith said she hopes the event will continue attract traveling competitors, but also garner interest from area athletes who might have had track and field or powerlifting experience in high school or college, and get them involved in the combination of stout athletic competition and period festival fun.
“No one out here takes themselves too seriously. We’re all out here to have a good time. We’re competitive, but it’s not that bad,” Murphree laughed.