In a quiet West Virginia field, Mark Wilt is flat on his stomach, up to his elbows in muck. He's lost his ball, not a Titleist or Top Flite, but a steel cannonball. He rolled it down Turkey Run Road, watched it veer from the center, thud over cracks in the tar, careen across some shoulder till, and end up below a bridge in a muddy stream.
Actually, that's what the ball is supposed to do, except for the off-road detour. "Now this is dedicated road bowling," laughs John Nelson, as Mr. Wilt fishes around unsuccessfully for his ball, or "bowl," as it's called, for about 10 minutes.
The scene is hardly unusual in one of America's newest and most obscure sports - Irish road bowling - where the errant cannonballs often end up in fields, rivers, and even cow patties. These are just a few of the hazards along rural lanes where the sport is played with passion and a strange kind of precision.