GET IN THE GAME

September 25, 2007 12:00 am

By GERRY STEELE

Baker City Herald

Holding a heavy sphere at one end of a lane of polished wood, Nancy Ferree stares at 10 wooden pins at the other end of the lane. Her thoughts are on how to knock down as many of those pins as she can with one roll of that sphere.

Ferree and the other bowlers at Elkhorn Lanes in Baker City usually realize that goal at least one night a week during league bowling.

Ferree, age 70, bowls in the Wednesday evening mixed league. She bowls for the fun, the exercise and the friendships she forged during league nights.

"I like bowling because it's something the whole family can do," Ferree explains. "I started my kids bowling in the junior league when they were 8 years old. It gave them something to do during the weekends. And, we started our grandkids bowling when they were eight too. All my kids and grandkids still bowl."

Ferree says bowling has become a Christmas tradition for her family.

"We usually get all the kids and grandkids together and make up teams and bowl," she says. "It's a good way for the family to do things together."

Ferree started bowling 45 years ago, when the family lived in Richland.

"I started bowling at the Halfway Bowl, on four tiny lanes," she says. "It was a good way to meet people."

When the family moved to Baker City, Ferree started bowling at the local alley and has done so ever since.

"Nobody ever really taught me how to bowl. I just started throwing the ball," she says. "It's great exercise. In our Wednesday night league the youngest bowler is my grandson who is 19, the oldest is 80.

"You don't have to be good at it to do it. When you get older your average is going to go down," Ferree says.

Ferree, who also plays golf, line dances and swims, carries an average of 145, although in her younger days her average was closer to 170.

"I don't care. I don't worry about the numbers. It's just fun to be out with other people having fun," she says.

Ferree uses a 12-pound ball. Balls range in weight from eight pounds to 16 pounds. A bowler's rule of thumb is one pound of bowling ball per 10 pounds of body weight.

"I think you have to be careful not to throw too heavy a ball," Ferree counsels.

"My first night at league my ball felt like it weighed 20 pounds. But it got better."

Ferree has just started using a new ball and is still in the process of getting used to it.

"My new ball curves when I throw it and I'm still having trouble getting it to do what I want it to," she says.

Ferree takes a three-step approach before releasing the ball. Most people use a five-step approach, but that's just the way she has always done it.

"I've tried switching to the five-step style and it throws me off," Ferree says. "I try to hit the second arrow from the right on the lane, but my ball doesn't always go there.

"The best thing to do is find someone at the lanes who can teach you the proper steps and proper release," she says.

"That's why I like the junior bowling program. It's good to start with someone who can show you the proper way to do things."

A highlight of Ferree's time on the lanes came a few years ago when she and her son, Rob, won a tournament championship by more than 100 pins.

"Rob bowled a 700-plus series and I bowled a 600-plus series," she recalls.

Ferree has bowled several 200-point games during her bowling career.

"Again, I don't worry about the scores," she says. "Bowling is something a husband and wife can enjoy together."

Her husband, Bob, used to bowl with her, but his health no longer allows it.

Ferree has bowled twice at the national tournament in Reno, Nev., as well as at the Oregon state tournament several times.

"But, as I said, I don't do it for the scores," she says. "It's good exercise and I think helps your balance. It also helps arm strength and maybe your legs. It just keeps me active."

Elkhorn Lanes, 3335 10th St., features five leagues — one men's, one women's and three mixed — Wednesday mornings, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings.

Owner Del Stout says the leagues usually have about eight teams per league, except for the Thursday men's league which has 10 teams. Each team consists of four players.

"We have a few bowlers in their early 20s, but the majority of the bowlers are in their 40s or older," Stout says.

He said the lanes are open seven days a week, usually from noon until the last bowler leaves at night (usually around 10 p.m.)