Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Antarctica and Ekalaka

Another Bulldog TD
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
It's that time of the year when the innocence of small town high school football takes a back seat to the intensity associated with the playoffs. Despite the transition to a heightened level of competitiveness, the grass roots feel of the small town game never leaves the stage as there are plenty of reminders right up to the title games. Such was the case in Ekalaka (pronounced "eek-a-lack-a") this past weekend.

Ekalaka Chewing Tobacca, spit it on the floor! (A derelict cheer of unknown origin—probably a rival school of Carter County High School.) This is proof that some words are simply fun to speak out loud.

Years ago while applying for a job at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, I read about the issues regarding taking a holiday when working in the world's "Deep South." The discussion had to do with "polies" (those who are based at the South Pole) and non-polies (as in those who work at McMurdo Station). Polies typically travel to McMurdo for an extended weekend and once there, they can take in a movie, bowl, go to a bar or whatever else is offered/available in Antarctica's largest outpost. On the other hand, those who work at McMurdo are known to catch a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand for a brief holiday as Christchurch is the world's jumping-off point for flights to and from the frozen continent. And then the foundation of the joke is formed about what would happen if polies skipped McMurdo and went straight to Christchurch. It was concluded that they would be overwhelmed like a habitual gambler turned loose in the middle of Las Vegas, and thus never seen again.

Ekalaka, Montana is somewhat like Antarctica when it comes to isolated places in America's fourth largest state. Located in the southeast corner of the Treasure State, there is only one paved road leading to Ekalaka—a 35 mile ribbon of narrow asphalt straight to Baker. I've oftened wondered if the high school kids in Ekalaka travel to the larger town of Baker to get away from their small town of 500—reminiscent of Antarctica's polies. In fact passing through Baker is nearly a prerequisite for almost anyone from Ekalaka attempting to get "out of town." When it comes to the high school kids in Baker, it's likely that they travel to nearby Glendive or Miles City when they want to get away from their small town of 1,700. So, like the polies in Antarctica, I've pondered whether the parents of Ekalaka are taking a gamble when allowing their high schoolers a road trip to the bigger towns of Glendive and Miles City. Imagine getting that phone call from the principal at Miles City High School informing you that your child is now a MCHS student. Yikes!

Speaking of road trips... it's a long haul from Powell, Wyoming to Ekalaka, Montana—a 667 mile round trip to be exact. Although I nearly begged my wife to join me in this trip, I travelled solo. Rising at 4:00 a.m., I was on my way by 5:00. My arrival was 45 minutes before the game started thanks to delays brought on by a couple pullovers to photograph and a half hour cap-nap at the Wordan exit along I-94. (I was happy to learn in this trip that I can sleep comfortably in the cab of my old 1990 truck—just purchased last spring—if need be.) The return home took even longer—again broken up by more photo stops and another cat-nap at the same exit. Totally exhausted, I pulled up to the house at 12:15 a.m. swearing I'd never do that again unless there was a hotel before or after the football game.

And what a football game it was—a Montana Class C eight-man playoff game between Carter County (Ekalaka) and Culbertson-Bainville (a.k.a. "Culby"). The first thing that bowled me over was the number of players dressed out for Culby. They had at least 40 players and weren't lacking in the size department either. Watching the two teams warm up, I found it hard to believe that Ekalaka had defeated the Cowboys during a regular season match-up. I was convinced that key players from Culby must have missed that first meeting.

Fruit Scampers
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
The Bulldogs of Ekalaka (smaller and fewer in numbers) were hardly impressive as they warmed-up, but once the game commenced, they didn't take long to establish their dominance as they marched down the field on their first possession and scored. The Bulldog quarterback, Orry Fruit, was most outstanding in that his initial physical appearance didn't strike me as a terribly gifted athlete. I couldn't have been more wrong as Fruit was extremely skilled, confident and deceptively fast—many times appearing either very tired or injured or both, but he never left the game (perhaps a good actor too).

Two small running backs with the same name—brothers Orin and Pat Hansen—joined Fruit in the backfield and proved to match Fruit's athletic ability for the hapless Cowboys. Other members of the starting team for Carter County came across the same way as their quarterback. They were hardly a flashy team to look at, but well disciplined and scrappy to the core. Truly, the game was never in any doubt.

In Culby's defense, the Cowboys started many sophomores and juniors and with those kinds of numbers and size, Wibaux and Ekalaka have surely made note of what might be coming down from the northeast in the next two years.

For now though, I'm eager to know how the Bulldogs of Ekalaka will match up to undefeated Centerville next weekend.

Postscript: Sometimes I'm convinced that this undertaking of high school football is nothing more than an excuse to go to places like Ekalaka, because I doubt I'd ever get to them driven only by curiosity.


Dude said...

If everything works out to a Wibaux Drummond semifinal, i suggest catching it and make sure you're in Wibaux on friday night and visit the Rainbow Club. It will definately be one of the funner trips you've taken.

Morgan said...

I'm there!

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to be there because there are few things better in life than watching Weebeaux taking a beating...and on their home field, that is my kinda cookin'!

Let's eat...or at least watch Wheebox get it stuffed down their throat by Drummond!

With Love...The Chef!

Morgan said...

If you're going to boast about any one team (or talk down another), the Billings Gazette Prep Sports Blog is probably a better place to post such comments. Nevertheless, I'll leave this comment for the record, but further comments of this nature will likely be removed.

dude said...

good one chef, you made fun how wibaux is spelled

stuart griffin said...

Thanks Morgan. It is nice to have at least one blog with class and sportsmanship to visit

RCN said...

You said.
Ekalaka is located in the northeast corner of the Treasure State.

Ekalaka is in the southeast corner of the state.

Fairview and Bainville are in the NE.

Morgan said...

As Homer Simpson would say... "Dou!" I've made the correction, thanks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
montanaprepsports.com said...

Great blog about small town football, love it!

Anonymous said...

i have many loves from both wibaux and ekalalka. great article. lots of love kids!!!!!