Brains and Brawn… Bob Peoples and the Louisiana Leviathan: Part 6

Published 11:10 pm Thursday, December 2, 2021

BY ALEX CAMPBELL
The crowd nearly smothered Peoples congratulating him on his record-setting performance. Even Bill Boone had to admit that the better man that night was the lanky Tennessean.
Boone would make the 500-mile trip back to the swamps of Louisiana with his proverbial tail between his legs after his defeat at the hands of a man almost 100 pounds lighter.
But there were truly no losers that night as every great competitor needs that antagonist to push them to new heights. Boone had done just that by bringing the second strongest back in the world to compete against Peoples for this place of glory.
As the celebration continued, the workers of the event continued with their usually mundane tasks of completing the competition.
In the days before weights became standardized, one such job after the setting of a record was disassembling the weights from the bar and verifying that the weights were accurate.
Bob Hise knew how to lift, coach, and promote lifting events, so there was little doubt that all would be in order.
However, as the men tallied up their final weight count, there was a very disappointing surprise. The men looked at the weights of each plate, figured, and re-figured. But no matter how many times they looked at it, the answer was the same.
The men quickly scurried over to the meet promoter, Bob Hise, to deliver the bad news. Hise’s heart sank when he was told of the problem.
He felt sick as he realized he would have to deliver the heart-wrenching news to Peoples himself. Despite Peoples’ prodigious strength and tenacity, he was also considered by many to be a good-natured man, but even an easy-going soul has his limits.
Hise trudged over to where Peoples stood back stage with several well-wishers. As the last few fans melted away, Hise stepped forward, cleared the uncomfortable tickle in his throat and delivered the awful news to the strongest man in the world.
When the lanky strongman heard the news, he was devastated.
He wondered if his ears heard correctly. He imagined that maybe Hise had a sick sense of humor and was playing some type of perverse joke.
Sadly, Hise assured him it was true. The weight that Peoples had worked for over the decades was not what he thought.
When they weighed the plates to make sure of the exact weight, it turned out that the final weight was only 699 pounds.
Hise shuffled away leaving Peoples to come to terms with what had just happened. As he looked at the floor with so many questions, a feeble little voice chirped from behind him.
“Mr. Peoples?” the voice asked. If the dejected champion even heard him, he did not acknowledge. There was an awkward pause and then a slightly louder plea, “Mr. Peoples?”
This time he was heard, but Peoples still did not move to address him. The strongman only questioned internally who would dare to disturb him at this moment.
He was so upset, so disheartened, so broken that all he wanted was a few moments to process it all, yet there was someone interrupting his solitude. What could be so important that it could not wait?
Peoples wanted to explode on the person who dared to bother him at his most vulnerable time. Instead, he quietly pushed it down, and turned to see who it was and what they wanted.
There was a newspaper reporter with camera in hand and a look of half terror and half shame on his face. Peoples almost felt sorry for the man.
The reporter ashamedly told him that it was his sole job to come to the event to take a picture of the epic showdown, but due to an equipment malfunction, he was unable to get a picture of Peoples’ final lift with what he now knew was 699 pounds.
He had only two options, return to his employer with no picture of the greatest strength feat in world history, or do something even worse, ask the strongest man in the world who was obviously very angry and frustrated to lift the herculean weight yet again.
In this man’s moment of desperation, he hoped the good nature of Peoples would win out.
Peoples felt the rage welling up inside of him again. Did this photographer not know what he was asking? He trained for nearly 30 years to lift that weight.
He had lifted so hard that Boone said he turned from red, to purple, to black to complete the lift. The adrenaline was pumping from not only the competition offered from Boone, but also the roar of the crowd.
It had taken every ounce of energy to complete the lift just once, now this man was asking him to do it again as if it had been a nightly stroll in the park.
Would a reporter ask a runner who just set the marathon record to immediately run it again? Would a photographer approach a baseball pitcher who just threw a no hitter and ask him to do it again? Would a person ask a heavyweight prize fighter who just went 12 rounds to win a championship to do it again?
The request seems to absurd, but yet, this is exactly what the reporter had asked Peoples to do.
But Bob Peoples wouldn’t be the greatest deadlifter in history if he did not accept the challenge.
What he had done to the roar of the crowd and the gaze of Bill Boone was done a second time for a crowd of one after the adoring fans left. A weight that no man other than Peoples had officially ever done was completed twice on the same night just moments apart.
Peoples meandered his way back into the hollows of east Tennessee as he prepared for his next assault on greatness.
This time, instead of a 300-pound man-mountain from Louisiana standing in his way, it was going to be a 115-pound woman.