July 08, 2006
Future Farmers of America
A large number of the boys at Lemmon High School belonged to a staid, reserved type of organization called the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Since I had no interest in pursuing farming or the ranch life, this organization did not interest me in the least. I had nothing in common with the members, except for the fact that, to a man, they were gentlemen. I don’t think talking about Thunder Butte Country would be complete or even honest without naming some of these boys and reciting some of their trails through life.
The outstanding characteristic of this organization and of the boys who belonged to it was one of studious, quiet reservation. Most of the FFA members were friends of mine, non-demonstrative, but friends nontheless. Many of them were members of the boxing team. To my knowledge that was the only extra-curricular activity that any of them took part in. There was a pretty good reason these boys were quiet and non-participating. Many of them had chores to do at home and some of them walked miles to school. Then, of course, the biggie—many of these kids were poor as dirt. I am going to list some of these boys, just because they deserve it:
Paul Hennesy—Paul invited me to their poker games more than once. That was the only time I saw him as he didn’t draw attention to himself around school. A few years ago Paul was appointed Poet Laureate of South Dakota, He has authored a few books about South Dakota, ranch life, etc.
Clayton Buckley—Clayton was a tall, string bean of a kid. I was in a few classes with him and he was a member of the boxing team. He was a nice quiet kid. During the war (WWII), Clayton became a close friend of Charley Foss, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner who became involved in the oil business after the war. He taught Clayton the business ropes and Clayton told me that he, Clayton, spent his adult life in the oil tanker business. I last saw Clayton a few years ago in Arizona, a multi-millionaire. He has passed on since then.
Earnest Buckley—Clayton’s brother. They might have been twins, but Earnest was about half as tall as Clayton. I never heard Earnest say much more than, "hello". He earned a Ph.D. and spent his adult life as a professor at the University of South Dakota.
Jim Delaney—The Delaneys lived on a miserable, hardscrabble farm, a few miles South of Lemmon. At the last high school reunion his brother told me that Jim owned two casinos in Eastern Nevada and he was going to sell out and maybe retire to Ireland.
Jack Bastian—From the Chance area, he stayed on the ranch where he was born. He died a few years ago.
Merle Bastian—Also, to my knowledge, stayed on the ranch where he was born.
There were many, many other boys of the FFA who asked no favors, caused no problems, were rarely heard, or seen, but comported themselves with dignity during their school years and for the rest of their lives.
July 04, 2006
Lemmon High School Days
I was very impressed with Vivian, to say the least. First of all, I hadn’t known any girls before this, and secondly, she was slight, feminine, refined, and very pretty. She also was a senior. Since I was only a freshman, that automatically made her a superior person in my eyes. Vivian and I were very close—you might say confidantes—for the rest of the school year. There were other girls, usually seniors. I have never figured out what [the interest in me, a mere freshman] was about. Perhaps it was no more than the fact that I played football and I was pretty big. People were smaller then, I believe. We were considered a large football team. The line averaged 185 pounds and we were larger than most of our competitors. Well, along with being pretty big, I was often told that I was cute, even pretty. Needless to say, that used to make me fighting mad and led to numerous skirmishes on and off the school grounds. Finally, all of the guys became my friends and I got along very well in school.
High school was some problem for me, academically. Some of the teachers I had in grade school were unable to understand simple long division, or fractions. As a result I had a miserable time with math.
Since I was always working, or playing football, or out for track, band, etc., I didn’t ever get much sleep. I spent a lot of time sleeping in class. The high school annuals even had pictures of me sleeping at my desk and titled, “The Sleeping Beauty". This didn’t endear me to a lot of my teachers.
The football coach figured me for a trouble maker, almost from day one. He had kids on the team who were altar boys on Sunday, were straight "A" students, and played a straight game of football that matched their other virtues. One of these was Bob Jangula. Bob and I traveled on different trolleys. Bob was made captain of the football team at an early age. He was the quarterback and he just did everything by the numbers. I, on the other hand, wanted to be a one man band. I didn’t understand teamwork, or the numbers game. I took great comfort from knocking down kicked balls, breaking up plays, flying tackles, rolling blocks, anything that was rough and tumble and didn’t require me to know very much.
When we played Mobridge, I was playing center. When we had the ball, the defensive guard would hit me in the nose with his fist, when I was bent over to hike the ball. After this happened about four times, instead of passing the ball, I stood up and knocked the guy cold. In spite of the fact that I was soaked with blood from the guy poking me in the nose, I was taken out of the game and suspended for two games. That was somewhat typical of my football career.
Whenever that damn ball got near me, I would take it and head for the goal line. The problem was, at that time, only the two ends and the four backfield players were eligible to run with the ball. I put in my time after school, faithfully for three years, then after another slight from the coach, I just left the team.
The Ag teacher, Mr. White, started a boxing team at this time and I was his star performer, but that is another story [covered in my preceding posts].