James KIRKNESS loves his pop. But that won't stop him from getting in Big Jim's grille sometime this weekend if he doesn't like his shotmaking.
The Kirkness family -- son James, father Jim, sister Barb Spencer and their dear friend Barb Enright -- are a close-knit bunch, but as an entry in this weekend's Manitoba Mixed Curling Championship in Stonewall, they can sometimes let the competitive juices run a little hot.
"It can be interesting. Sometimes family will say stuff to one another that they would never say to anyone else," said James Kirkness, 37. "We're a close family, but we're competitive too. It can get kind of funny out there."
Jim Kirkness, 67, has won three Manitoba mixed championships and one national title. One of those provincial titles was won with his both his daughters, Barb Spencer and Darcy Robertson, along for the ride.
"We've had some success at this event. We haven't won with James yet, but we've been close," said Jim Kirkness. "My daughter Darcy had some business obligations, so we've brought Barb Enright along. She has curled with my daughters since junior days. They've won four women's provincial titles together and we're very familiar with her."
James is listed as the skip and throws last rocks, but Jim holds the broom for most of the shots.
"My dad used to be one of the best sweepers around, but he's not getting any younger, so I do most of the sweeping," said James, who played third for Dale Duguid at the 1998 Brier and won a gold medal at the Canada Winter Games as a junior skip.
When asked about tempers on the ice, Jim broke into laughter.
"You must have been listening to us out on the ice. We're a competitive group and sometimes we don't agree on what shot should be tried," he said. "At the end of the day, it's all for fun, but when we get out there, we do really want to win."
James says curling is never far from the centre of family functions.
"We spend a lot of time together at the cabin in the summer and curling is always one of the topics of conversation," he said. "My dad enjoys having the family around and I know he loves having us curl together. It's a mix of family fun and competition. We all love to win and the chance to win as a family is added incentive."
James spent most of his youth playing hockey.
"I was pretty competitive until I was around 14," he said. "But I was always at the rink watching my sisters curl and whenever there was a spare sheet of ice, I'd throw some rocks around. Once I got into curling, my dad took over and taught me the game. I haven't curled as much the last couple of years, but it's still something I really enjoy."
Jim enjoys watching his kids up close on the ice.
"The girls have done real well in women's curling and James knows the game. When we're in a game, sometimes James will want a shot that's different than the one I would choose. But at the end, we have to leave it up to him, and more often than not he'll make the shot," Jim said.
Action at the mixed provincials continues Saturday with three four draws at the Stonewall Curling club. Sunday sees the beginning of playoff action, with the tie-breakers (if needed) at 4 p.m. and the first Page playoff games scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
The final is Monday at 1:30 p.m., with all the action in Stonewall.