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I wish I was a derby girl... By NATALIE JOHNSON In the early 1970s a new phenomenon rocked society as we knew it. Mothers shrieked, fathers turned away and the polar axis shifted roller derby was born. These girls didn’t have Farrah Fawcett hair, bellbottoms and platform shoes. They were big, mean and lived to kick ass while wearing costumes and roller skates. Naturally, when we intrepid journalists at Timber found out that such a group of women in skates and spandex had formed in Shelton, I was assigned to try out for the team. Last year Jessica Hendy developed a fascination with roller derbys and decided to form one in the area. She met up with Dusty Pitman, a long time skater and roller derby enthusiast and together, they formed Timber Town Derby. “We got our business license October 10 and started

Derby girls helped Natalie after she ran outside for fresh air. skating in January,” Hendy, now the team’s president, said. “It’s been a long road but we’re getting there.” While roller derby peaked in popularity in the 70s, skating in derbies is making a resurgence throughout the country. “Just in the amateur league alone there’s 52 teams,” Pitman said. Since January, Hendy, who

works for Mason County Youth Programs by day, dons her skates by night in the old Shelton armory with fellow derbiers to practice their skills – skills that, by the way, I do not have. It’s embarrassing but true – I never learned to skate. I did own a pair of skates once, but wiped out so badly in my basement as an eight-year old that I was soured on the idea

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from then on. So hesitantly, I put on my skates, and prepared to join the pack. While I was certainly the least skilled in the gym, I was happy to find that within Timber Town Derby there is a variety of skill levels – some just a bit more accomplished than me, and some ready to join a derby today. While competing with

other amateur teams in Washington is the end goal, derby members told me that ultimately, they wanted this team to be about more than just winning bouts. “Our first intention was to offer a safe environment for women to interact,” Hendy said. “I mean emotionally and mentally safe … roller derby is not physically safe.” For the girls in Timber Town Derby, skating around the track with their teammates is an empowering experience that simply cannot be replicated. “I love to skate, if I can have a team that’s a family and skate I’m happy,” Amanda Hayes said. “I feel good about myself every time I leave this gym.” As I was strapping on my skates and protective gear, I felt a forboding rumbling in my stomach. “Just nerves,” I thought, “nothing to be concerned about.” I rolled into the gym,


After skating a few laps, Natalie had fallen too many times to get up again and let the pros do their job. unsteady on my feet, and prepared to join the team. I pushed off and started gliding. “Hey,” I thought. “This isn’t so bad … in fact, its kind of fun. Wheee! My hair is flying. I’m flying, Jack!” Then I crashed. Hendy whizzed by. “It’s okay,” she said. “There’s no shame in falling, just keep smiling. And pick a cheek so you don’t break your tailbone!” The uncomfortable rumbling in my stomach came

back, but just for a moment. I picked myself up, and joined the pack again. This time I stayed on my skates for five or six laps. I should have been feeling great, but I was getting worse. The sickly hot feeling on my forehead was not from skating, and my stomach was not at all happy. I fell twice in rapid succession and wobbled to the sidelines. It was time for a break. I sat on the cool gym floor for a few minutes, then panic

struck my weary brain. “Oh crap,” I said to Timber’s editor Jesse Mullen, who was eagerly snapping pictures of my distress. “I’m going to be sick.” I stripped off my gear, and bolted for the alley. Jesse came with, of course, to document the adventure. “This is going to make a great story,” he said. “I hate you,” I said. “You probably caught this from Kevan (Moore, Journal news editor) – he’s got the

ngton’s Newest Country / Washi R&R n r Ban ste e d W

flu,” he said. “Well then I hate him,” I said. Needless to say, my skating days were over. My world was spinning already, I didn’t need any wheels. Although my time in the ring was cut short, I learned that roller derby girls are certainly tough (you’ll realize just how tough after a few falls), but they’re not big and mean. They were incredibly welcoming and understanding to me – sacrificing

valuable practice time to be interviewed for this story, to allow me to skate with them, and to look after me when my stomach bug won the battle. Timber Town Derby is looking for more girls, volunteers to referee, officials, sponsors and a new gym – if you can help with any of these, call Jessica Hendy at 265-7228. Photos by Jesse Mullen

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Category 314: Lifestyle Feature Story