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Columns

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer. I start this week's column off with that note because, for those of you who attended last weekend's state track meet in Casper, the reminder might be necessary.

The assignment seemed simple enough. Travel to Casper for three days. Attend the state meet. Shoot photos like crazy and send the occasional blog post home via laptop computer to keep those interested from afar or those unable to travel from Powell to Casper apprised of the action.

But we all know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice, men and sports editors in planning meetings.

Now, to be clear here, I really did do my homework, faithful reader. I checked the weather forecast before I packed. I knew there was a chance of rain. I knew the temperatures were supposed to drop off from the low 70s on Thursday into the weekend. Heck, I even knew the wind —a permanent fixture in Casper — was supposed to rear up.

I knew these things, and still I remembered my first state track meet in Wyoming, parading about the Kelly Walsh track in sunshine and shorts. How bad could it really be? After all, this was the state track meet, with June right around the corner.

I took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Heck, I might have even chewed on the boat.

Let the record show that, before departing for Casper, I made the conscious decision to pull most of the winter gear out of my car to make room for other “essential items.” The winter coat that's been planted in the back seat since last football season? Gone. The thermal blanket that's been in the back seat “just in case”? Gone. Stocking hat and gloves? Not on this trip.

Boy was I suckered.

These are the sorts of mistakes I expected to make during my first year in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into the sophomore jinx because, as many of you are aware, it did not get into the 70s on Thursday. That small chance of rain did not stay small on Friday or Saturday. And the temperatures that were supposed to fall into the 60s for championship Saturday instead decided to keep falling through the 50s, into the 40s, and narrowly flirted for a period of time of entering the 30s —all while a 30 mile-per-hour wind howled its approval.

This explains why, as championship Saturday rolled along, I found myself huddled against the side of a shed, surrounded by others, desperately trying to stay warm and relatively dry. They say misery loves company. Now I know that the reason for that is because its harder to freeze to death if you're sharing body heat with two or three dozen other shivering spirits.

Welcome to the state track and field championships, sponsored by the Wyoming High School Activities Association. And hypothermia.

Last Saturday will go down in my personal history as one of the most miserable days I've ever spent covering a sporting event. I can't, in clear conscience, rank it ahead of standing in a 20-below wind chill atop a hill in Rapelje, Mont., covering six-man football, but it definitely gets solid consideration for second place. Had it not been for a long-forgotten Polartec shirt stashed away in my mountain pack in the trunk, I'm not sure I would have made it through the day.

As it stands, I survived long enough to see what had to be one of the most abbreviated state trophy presentations I've ever attended. Congratulations, here's your trophy, now run and get back on the bus to warm up. Quite the change from the nearly hour-long loitering on the infield that had accompanied last season's awards.

The moral of the story here, faithful reader, is that three-day advanced forecasts in Wyoming appear to be no more reliable than throwing a dart at a wide range of weather options. I'm learning from this mistake, as are many others, I'm sure.

So next May, when you're wondering why I'm standing in snow boots and sweating to death in 85-degree heat at the state track meet, you'll know exactly the reason why.

AMEND CORNER: Remembering Willie

(This column originally appeared in another newspaper in 2002. I think it makes an important point, so I have submitted it, with a few minor revisions, for this issue. I hope you will agree and forgive me for recycling it for this Memorial Day.)

In a song called “The Green Fields of France,” an Australian folk singer, Eric Bogle, addresses a young soldier whose name is engraved on a cross in a World War I cemetery in France.

The soldier, Willie McBride, was 19 when he died in “The Great War,” World War I. At the time, this war was called “The War to End All Wars,” and it was arguably one of the most senseless wars in history.

In one of the verses of the song, the singer asks this question of Willie:

Did you leave any a wife or a sweetheart behind,

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined.

Although you died back in nineteen sixteen,

In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen.

Or are you a stranger without even a name,

Enclosed forever behind a glass pane,

In an old photograph, torn and battered and stained

And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame.

Unfortunately, there are millions of men, and women as well, who have been casualties of the many wars fought over the history of mankind, and nearly all of them are not even names on crosses or photographs in our memory books any more. They are forgotten by history, remembered, if at all, only as estimates of the number of dead in almanacs and casualty lists in military records.

For our collective memory is short, and only our most recent war dead are still real people to those of us who survive. Willie and his comrades, who died in wars so long ago, have no one to remember them at all.

Willie, of course, was British, not American, and when he died, America was not yet involved in World War I. But it is still worth remembering him when we pause for Memorial Day on Monday.

We Americans like to think that we arrived at where we are all by ourselves, but our way of life and our way of government have their roots in conflicts throughout human history. The ancient wars of the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Romans and the colonial wars of the 17th and 18th centuries contributed to the development of our society, just as the conflicts of 1776, 1864 and those of the last century did.

In short, the foundation for our society and culture rests on the military and civilian dead of centuries of warfare. And most of those individuals are remembered, if at all, as names engraved on crosses or as unidentified faces in photographs. A few moments of reflection by us is the only monument the vast majority of them will ever have.

More important, the more we reflect on those faceless dead and how they died, the more likely we are to work toward ending the cruelty and waste of war.

As you remember our war dead on Monday, save a few minutes to reflect on those faceless others who gave their all — guys like Willie McBride.

I'm so excited, I'm just going to blurt it out: The girls have come home to roost!

Yes, our five little pullets (the fancy name for young hens) are comfortably ensconced in their backyard coop.

SPORTS GUY: Prepare to be shocked

According to the saying, lightning never strikes the same place twice. The Sports Guy begs to differ.

Last season, lightning struck on the surface of the Harry Geldien Stadium track when the Powell Panthers produced some last-minute magic in the boys' 4x400 relay. That head-to-head battle with Cody determined a team title and brought the state championship home to Powell.

There are storm clouds gathering once again.

The Sports Guy recently found himself with a few free minutes, so he did what sports editors are prone to do. He simulated the entire state track meet. Twice.

The track website Milesplit Wyoming includes a neat feature that allows users to simulate a track meet. Based on the best times, heights and distances from results input into the site's database, a hypothetical order of finish can be established for any collection of schools one cares to include.

Naturally, I had 3A track on the brain.

According to the machine, Panther fans had best prepare for a nerve-wracking weekend. Its state track scenario has Powell lining up opposite Douglas in the boys' 4x400 relay with a state title on the line.

Sound familiar?

Of course, not every track meet in the state of Wyoming — including last weekend's regional meet —has found its way into Milesplit's database. That's why yours truly spent some quality time with 36 pages of regional track results strewn about the office simulating the state track meet based solely on the results from 3A's two regional meets.

The verdict again has Powell lining up in the 4x400 with a state title at stake. Only this time, the Panthers will be running down Jackson rather than Douglas to defend their title.

Hey, this is starting to sound like fun.

But the possibilities don't end there. Take a look at the girls' regional data and there's a chance we could be looking at a 3A state track meet against which all others will someday be compared.

If the data from the regional meet holds true, runners will line up for the 4x400 relay final with only two points separating first from fourth place in the team standings. If you thought last year's boys' 4x400 head-to-head race against Cody was the peak of drama, imagine how insane the atmosphere at Kelly Walsh will be if four schools — half the field —step into the starting blocks this Saturday knowing that a state title could be a little more than four minutes away.

Of course, there's no guarantee that any of these scenarios will actually come to pass. After all, that's why they play the game and why we love to sit back and watch every minute of the action.

Nevertheless, the data does point in one very clear direction. Both Panther track teams have the opportunity to make some noise in Casper this weekend. Both teams have a chance to come home sporting new trophies for the trophy case, and both are looking at a situation where every performance matters if they're going to make it a reality.

That's exactly how things should be on the final sports weekend of the 2009-2010 school year.

The Sports Guy has a new electronic toy and, weather and wi-fi permitting, will be posting a regular blog from Casper. Check the Powell Tribune's blog frequently to check in on him and get his latest observations from the state track and field championships.

On a recent Friday — the day the East Entrance of Yellowstone opened for the season — Bliss and I loaded in the car for a mother-daughter day in the park.

Charlie, the fat-butted Aussie, came along for the ride as well. Brad, however, declined — asking if he could, “watch it on video” instead. Right ...

This was not what Northwest College needed.

An academic year that had already featured a faculty-adminstration standoff and controversy over recruitment letters added another chapter to the drama last week when a flare-up at an off-campus party spilled back onto campus. That incident resulted in six student-athletes being placed on disciplinary suspension and three members of the Trapper men's basketball program being dismissed from the team.

MY LOUSY WORLD: Brain droppings

Occasionally, a cacophony of disjointed thoughts — “Brain-Droppings” if you will — gather ominously in my troubled mind. I typically file them away and ignore them until my head starts pounding. So today I'll get the relief I need by getting them out onto paper.

Whoever coined the absurd notion, “There's no such thing as a free lunch?” There are plenty of free lunches out there … soup kitchens, homeless shelters, the volunteer-staffed, free Thanksgiving dinners for the poor that most communities offer each November. Even a half-eaten Whopper discarded in a dumpster is technically a free lunch if one is enterprising enough to seek it out.

A couple of years ago, then-Vice President Dick Cheney was asked for his reaction to polls that showed two-thirds of American people didn't think the war in Iraq was worth it.

“So?” he responded, and went on to elaborate.

SPORTS GUY: The big 4-0

“Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
— Dylan Thomas


Forty.

There, I said it. The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging that it exists, and in this case the problem is that yours truly is about to get trampled by the inevitable march of time.

Where's a lawyer when you need one? Somebody darn sure should have shouted “Stampede!” to warn me that it was time to break out the black balloons and pour myself a shot of prune juice.

We're all aware that Sunday is Mother's Day, but unaware of other, lesser-celebrated holidays. It seems like every month I learn of another obscure holiday on the books. Had I not stumbled upon it in my Daily Bread study page for April 30, I'd have never known last Friday was “National Honesty Day.”

Author M. Hirsh Goldberg established this day in the early 1990s as a way to “honor the honorable and encourage honesty.” He said April 30 was selected because “April begins with a day dedicated to lying (April Fool's Day) and should end on a higher moral note.” Truth be known, I couldn't agree more.

Page 58 of 58

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