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Comeback Kid

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Still got that boomerang your dad bought you when you were nine? The one you threw a total of three times on Christmas afternoon? Maybe it's time to dig it out, let go of the shame, and give it another hurl. But don't start planning a trip to the outback just yet--a few trips out back of the Cleveland Museum of Art may be more beneficial.

The only incorporated boomerang school in the country, the Cleveland Boomerang School, has been catching wind in Wade Oval behind the art museum every Sunday morning since 1979. During those twenty years, the school has taught more than 100,000 people how to fling a 'rang, says founder Dave Boehm.

"In Australia, people are jealous of what we do here," Boehm, 56, says. "There, if someone tries to ask questions about boomerangs, people laugh. They figure only tourists have boomerangs." And those jaded Aussies can only dream of harsh winter winds off Lake Erie--which are ideal for badass boomerang-throwing.

The school emphasizes the physics of throwing, which Boehm learned in Australia. "Everyone in the common culture wants to throw it sideways," like a Frisbee, says Boehm. But expert 'rang wranglers know that an overhand throw is the only way to go.

Part of the school's mission is to put a positive spin on boomerangs, after thousands of years of bad PR. Although their origins are ancient--King Tut was buried with 180 boomerangs, says Boehm--nobody really knows what they were used for back then. One myth has the aboriginal people of Australia knocking birds out of the sky with the lightweight sticks when they got hungry. Boehm has seen things differently. "Birds come out and play with it, and they also chase it away," he says. "They think it's an intruder that's gonna eat their insects."

In the early 1970s in Cleveland, Boehm and his friends were sometimes stopped by the cops for their hobby, which they practiced in local parks. When reprimanded, they packed up their 'rangs and went home, unlike other hurlers, who sometimes got nasty. Fearing a future confrontation between the law and an angry boomerang mob, Boehm started the school--which emphasizes etiquette and mass education--in part to keep the peace.

"People assume a boomerang is a weapon," Boehm says. "But even though it hurts real bad if it hits you on the head, it's not gonna bring dinner home."

--Joan Smith

The Cleveland Boomerang School hosts free lessons every Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon at Wade Park Oval. For more information, call 216-289-6324.

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