HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL- THE MUD BOWL

High school football in Wyoming in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was a “serious endeavor” played under some difficult circumstances. Late fall in Wyoming is really the beginning of winter in many years, adding weather to the list of troubles with HS football in those days.  Cold weather, dirt football fields, hard rubber long cleats, no face guards and questionable protection with skimpy pads in our uniforms all added to make it necessary to be tough. In spite of all of these conditions, we played with enthusiasm and desire to do our best under in any situation.  In some ways the MUD BOWL game between Riverton and Lovell played in November of 1949 at Lovell typifies the state of the game in those days. 

The night before the 2:00 PM game it snowed at least 9 inches in Lovell. Heavy wet snow that immediately soaked into the dirt football field.  What to do? The Lovell folks brought their tractors and snow plows in the late morning and cleared most of the snow from the field just before the game. Some attempt was made to put lines on the field which as it turned out was mostly futile. By game time the sun had been out all morning and the temperature was climbing to somewhere near 40 degrees. As you might imagine the football field was ankle deep in mud, especially in the low spots near the center of the field.

In his great wisdom our Coach was concerned we might be stiff from the cold and therefore would not play our best. So he insisted that we lather ourselves with analgesic balm expecting that the warming effect would help us stay lose if we were cold. Analgesic balm came in big jars in those days and was lathered on with tongue depressors.  We must have smelled like menthol from many yards away.  Unfortunately we were on fire by game time when the bright sun warmed the November air to at least 40 degrees.  Not on fire in the sense of playing our best game for sure as it was hard not the think about the burning sensation in all our limbs by the time we trotted out on the field.

By game time the mud was to the top of our cleats.  We could tell it was going to be a very long game and worse a very long day. The game began and the opening kickoff was short and before any of our players could get to it, it fell to the ground and stuck in the mud. By the time our player reached the ball he was smothered by Lovell players. And so went the game. Passes went astray and landed in the mud and 4th down kicks landed in the mud before anyone could reach the ball. Running in the mud was mostly a joke and up until just before halftime there was no score. The linemen were throwing mud in each others faces and it was hard to tell which side the players were on as everyone’s uniform was covered with mud.

Lovell put a new player in the game just before half time. A wide run around the end on clean cleats worked and none of us could catch him as he ran for a touchdown. The extra point was a joke as the kicker could not get his foot to the ball as it was stuck in the mud. I don’t remember much about half-time, except I just wanted the game to end.  In those days most of us played both on offense and defense so I played all 60 minutes of that crazy game. We returned to the field after the half as conditions continued to worsen. The mud seemed to get deeper, especially in the middle of the field where most of the plays took place. It began to feel as if the mud was getting to our skin and maybe inside too.

It seemed we might be able to score in the second half. We had several chances but could not get everything right in the mud to cross the goal line. It was shortly after one of these unsuccessful attempts to move the ball much pass the 50 yard line, that the insult of all insults happened. I can still see it in my mind after all these years as if it were yesterday.  The Lovell High band had not ventured to go on the field as usual during half time. They were standing on the side lines at about the 40 yard line all through the game.  It was Lovell’s ball and they showed pass as they came to the line of scrimmage.  There was not much of a pass rush in the mud as it was difficult to get enough traction to move forward. The ball was centered to the passer and we wondered where in the heck he was going to throw it since no one could make it off the line fast enough to get very far downfield. As we looked to see where the ball was going, it was going towards the band! INCREDULOUSLY THERE WAS A PLAYER WAY DOWN FIELD WHO CAUGHT THE BALL AND WALKED INTO THE END ZONE FOR 6 POINTS.  WHERE DID HE COME FROM? THE ONLY ANSWER WAS FROM THE BAND WHERE HE HAD HIDDEN THE PLAY BEFORE!  Well we screamed and hollered to no avail. We had either been cheated by the hometown refs or by gross incompetence!  The game ended Lovell 12 and Riverton 0. A game I will never forget as hard as I try.

After the game we took showers with our uniforms still on hoping to get some of the mud off before packing them to take home. We scrubbed the analgesic balm off of our blistered skin and thoroughly beaten crawled back to the bus for the long ride home.  In our hearts we knew we were right and had played to the best of our ability, but it was a bitter pill to swallow and still chokes as it goes down today.  Maybe those setbacks were good in that they taught us to get back up after being knocked down and try harder next time. 

PYGMIES IN WYOMING (Really ?)

My father and I were in Fort Wasakie one evening for a meeting with elders of the Shoshone. I was about in the 7th grade as I recall and tagged along with my father.  He was working as a Boy Scout Executive in those days, promoting scouting all over Wyoming. After his talk to those assembled about the good things scouting does for young people, several of the elders stayed and visited with he and I.  Somehow the subject of tribal history came up in the conversation and this very old Shoshone elder began telling stories of times long ago that had been handed down by word of mouth for many generations.  His eyes widened when he related the story of a race of pygmies that often raided the tribal villages. He said the pygmies would carry away any small child that had strayed too far from the teepees. It seemed the villagers feared the pygmies and were very unhappy about the loss of their children as one would imagine.  At some point in time the tribal warriors decided enough was enough and gathered together to seek out the pygmies and destroy them. His story continues saying that eventually the warriors surrounded the pygmies in a meadow with very tall grass. They set the grass on fire thus destroying the pygmies.  

Stories of pygmies in Wyoming have been handed down as tribal history from many other tribes. In addition there have been several discoveries of mummies that were claimed to be  pygmies in locations around the state.  One famous mummy was found in 1932 and later was examined by experts. However, differing opinions were given after the tests. Was the mummy of a small baby or a very old man with a height of only fourteen inches?  This mummy seems to have disappeared.

More interesting stories about pygmies in Wyoming can be found on the web including a review of the subject on Wikipedia.  It seems the Shoshones had a name for the pygmies, Nimerigar and other tribes had a somewhat different view of their relationship with the pygmies. 

The conversation in Fort Washakie that evening also included some discussion about the Dunwoody caves as a possible location long ago for some sort of weird and dangerous creatures. A study of the petroglyphs in that area certainly makes one wonder. A current vogue is to claim aliens from outer space visited these areas where rock art depicts strange beings that do not look like humans as we see ourselves anyway.  Just another interesting story from Wild and Wonderful Wyoming. 

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Dinwoody Rock Ar

THE DRIVING LESSON

I was twelve years old. My father had taken me on a trip to Dubois from Riverton and we were returning home in the late afternoon. We were driving along about 40 miles an hour, rather typical in those days, down the two lane road from Dubois. Suddenly my father pulled off the road at a turnout and stopped the bright red 1939 Terraplane Hudson sedan. The Terraplane was rather unusual looking for those times being very streamlined with a swooping rear section. 

My father says it is your turn to drive. I protested but to no avail so I went around   the front of the car and sat in the drivers seat. I managed with some difficulty to get the car moving (no automatic shift in those days) and we headed down the road at about 40 miles an hour. All was going pretty well for a time and then the trouble began. A very large gasoline truck came up behind us and seemed quite impatient to pass, but there was no place to pass in that section of two lane road. Soon were approaching  the bridge over the Wind River.  In those days you had to navigate a 90 degree turn to get on and then again at the end of the bridge  to go back down the two lane road. I went into panic mode!!  The gasoline hauling truck was nearly on my bumper and here just ahead was a 90 degree turn which I was sure I could not navigate at 40 miles an hour. So I tried to slow down, all the time worried about being run over by a big truck. BAD NEWS, I pushed in the clutch instead of the brake, both pedals being close together in those days. The Hudson responded by going faster, or least is seemed so to this totally-panicked 12 year old driver. So I tried my very best to turn the 90 degree corner at 40 miles an hour instead of maybe 20 mph-BAM!!-I hit the right side of the bridge and then bounced over to the other side of the bridge and scraped along that side as well. Both sides of the Terraplane were mangled pretty badly.  The GOOD NEWS is that the bridge was one of those old-fashioned types with heavy steel trusses on both sides rising above the road making it a drive-thru. I say good news because the drop into the river was at lease 25 feet or something like that. The other good news is the gasoline truck did not ram us from behind as its driver had slowed way down to make the Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 11.54.58 AMcorner.  The last piece of good news is that my father could not punish me much for this fiasco since it was his idea.  I have a feeling my mother took care of his punishment.  Only in Wild and Wonderful Wyoming did driving lessons start at 12 years of age on the main two-lane road from Dubois to Riverton.  

 The photo is of a 1938 Terraplane as I could not find a photo of a 1939 Sedan.