Sunday, September 10, 2006
To the north of the Wind River gridiron is a small sandstone rock formation that I thought would be an ideal backdrop for a football game. Therefore, I was certain to return for a future game.
This past week, after two years of having the school fax me their football schedule, I decided to return for a game against nearby Shoshoni—"Perhaps a rivalry," I thought.
I had avoided Pavillion and Wind River High School since my first visit because most of their home games were on Thursdays rather than Fridays—I suspect this is one of those schools that has eliminated the Friday school day and has extended their Monday through Thursday hours. Nevertheless, it has always been pretty much impossible for me to get down there on a Thursday since I have my own school commitments in Powell. But, things changed this year with the installation of lights, and besides, the secretary on the phone told me they'd be playing Friday night games as she was preparing to fax me the 2006 schedule.
It's exactly 164 miles to Wind River High School (in Pavillion, Wyo.) from my home in Powell. I had departed later than I had hoped, but even as the clock was reading 3:10 p.m. when reaching the highway out of town, I was confident I would arrive before the starting kick-off at 7:00.
Reaching Pavillion at 6:00 sharp, I was delighted to have so much time to spare. As a result, I scouted the field and even searched for an access to the rock formation beyond the north end zone as the setting for a potential sunset shot.
One thing that troubled me was the water sprinklers. Driving up, I could see them on the field and at first I thought they were directed at the grass beyond the gridiron's perimeter. However, as I walked toward the field, I was surprised to see that they were indeed watering the gridiron. "What an odd thing to do before a game," I thought to myself and chalked it up to just one of those odd little quirks that might be found in any small town and the grooming of their football field.
I also noticed a lack of significant activity given the game was just under one hour from kick-off. However, things looked pretty much the same the week before in Jordan, Mont. an hour before that game commenced.
By 6:15 and following my initial survey, I saw a few adults and students sitting near the gym. I approach them to ask if the game was to start at 7:30 or 8:00 since I had my doubts about a 7:00 start.
"The game was last night," came the reply from a young man who might have been a faculty member or coach. "Where are you from," he asked?
Quickly I considered a reply that wouldn't leave them laughing their heads off right in front of me.
In desperation and nearly in denial, I lied.
"Well, I'm from Powell, but I'm down here to visit some friends in Shoshoni and thought I'd come over for the game," came my stupid reply.
Later I considered my foolishness in not being truthful. Anyone who lives in Shoshoni (given its small town status as well) would surely have known the game was last night and thus, would have told me so if I had truly been visiting them.
So, I grabbed a camera to record my wasted trip, looked around the town of Pavillion a bit and made my way home in a complete stupor thinking about what had just happened.
The first thing I considered was; after nearly ten years of travelling to strange towns and places all over Wyoming and Montana, this was bound to happen. I should be thankful that I didn't travel 300 miles for the same outcome instead.
Then I started to get mad—not at Wind River High School, but at Wyoming high school football in general. "Who plays varsity football on Friday nights in America," I said to myself. "Only in Wyoming... How blasphemous to the game of football... Everyone plays football on Friday nights if they have lights!"
I considered how good the gridiron looked—it's perfect grass, the new lights that were probably brilliant for a photographer, the backdrop of sandstone, yet the game was played on Thursday night—24 hours earlier. In search of an analogy, I thought of the Stepford Wives or of an episode from The Twilight Zone.
Approaching the town of Thermopolis as the day's light soaked into the darkness, I talked myself into attending the local game there if I saw floodlights—even if they were a "big" 3A school. As luck would have it, the lights were on. Looking at my watch, it was just past 8:00, so I knew there would be plenty of time remaining in the game between Hot Springs County High School and whoever they were playing.
As I walked onto the gridiron at Thermopolis, I found the scoreboard reading 54-0 in favor of the visitors from Kemmerer. That didn't seem possible until I noticed that there was only nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter—the game had started at 6:00 for whatever reason.
It was a day (or night) I couldn't win. The day before I had told my wife, "I'm going to get a good shot tomorrow." What a joke I thought.
As I approached the little town of Meeteetse, I could see the glow of their football floodlights behind a small hill. I briefly considered swinging by and if nothing else to learn of the game's outcome in this six-man contest between the home town Longhorns and the visitors from West Yellowstone. However, I drove right past the turn-off, determined to be able to turn away from the temptation of a lighted football field and content with my day of football miscues.
Before retiring to bed that night, I examined the faxxed copy I received from Wind River High School dated August 7, 2006. There was some comfort in finding that even on the faxxed schedule, the home game with Shoshoni was listed as, "Friday, September 8."
Lesson learned: Always confirm the date and time of any given small town high school football game before leaving home.
The Cougars of Wind River High School are playing host to Saratoga next FRIDAY night. Assuming that's true, I'm wondering if I should redeem myself and make another 164 mile trip. Any advice out there?