By Earleen Hinton
The Rock River became a bit rockier on July 4 thanks to a relatively new competition held in Prophetstown.
Contestants lined up Sunday in the 2021 Farmer’s Rock Throwing Classic to see how many times they could skip a rock across the surface of the Rock River.
“We’ve held it for 3 years,” said organizer and head “skipper” Dan Howard. “Farmer was my dad’s nickname and he taught me how to skip rocks.”
Kids and adults, complete with their own nicknames, walked on to the outcropping near the boat docks at Prophetstown State Park and tried skipping their rocks, some provided by Howard in a bucket and some of their own choosing.
Some stones made it one or two times on the surface while others took an early dive.
That was until the adult men’s division began and Joe Mauck, 26, of Spring Valley, stood ready for his 5 attempts.
Mauck had a 16-skip effort to beat when he stretched into a wide tossing-stance and on his second attempt recorded a 17-skip feat, good enough for the winning toss.
“Nathan had 16 just before me, so I knew it was on,” he said smiling. “You have to stay low and the trajectory out of your hand is the key.”
Mauck is no stranger to the Rock River or Prophetstown with several relatives residing in the town. “My mom grew up here,” he said.
Mauck, donning a festive July 4th shirt, was having fun with the event as were all the onlookers, contestants and host.
“This is one of my connections with the river. I visualized my throw and I saw it skipping across the river as a I threw it,” Mauck said, striking an ESPN-like post game interview tone. “And when it hit 17 and I knew I had it.”
“It” was an official Farmer’s Rock Throwing Classic hat which Howard ceremoniously placed on Mauck’s head.
Bu Mauck is a long way from the P-Town Classic record - 29.
“Our record is 29, but the world record is 88. Kurt ‘Mountain Man’ Steiner holds that record,” Howard said noting that lakes are more suitable for skipping records than rivers.
After the competition, some of the gang of throwers continued the fun by tossing in handfuls of rocks into the river all at once and creating a “machine-gun” spray effect.
“We’re trying to raise the level of the river,” said Howard. “I could do this all day.”