May 30, 2012



I’ve been a rodeo fan all my life. But as I’ve gotten a little longer in the tooth, I’ve become more of a fair weather cowboy. I remember going to the Y’s Men Rodeo in Minot during a blizzard. I announced a rodeo in New Town during a snowstorm. We produced a rodeo in Mandan and took a short break during a tornado warning. Now, just a little wind and rain, and I kind of shy away from rodeos.
A great rodeo in Grassy Butte this past weekend. Several world champion cowboys and maybe the greatest bucking horses on the planet.
But, unlike the mailman (neither rain nor sleet, nor hail, shall stop the U.S. Mail), the rain and sleet kept me from going.
So we went out for supper with some neighbors. While we were at supper, there was a college softball game (girls) on the TV.
And it reminded me of a story.
Vern was an athlete up in McKenzie County. He passed away several years ago, but one story of him lives on.
I think, years ago before TV sports gave us a reason to sit on the couch, more people played ball. There were several amateur teams across the plains that entertained people for years. Baseball and softball teams existed in every small town.
There was a traveling team of professional softball players that barnstormed the country challenging local all-star teams. And they were good. Although they were few. Their team consisted of three players. The pitcher, catcher, and one outfielder. The pitcher was a master of his trade. His speed and ball control were uncanny. If someone did hit a pitch, it would be hit directly to the outfielder.
Vern was on the local all-star team. It was late in the game. The professionals were controlling the game. Vern was determined to get a hit. The pitcher had been throwing extremely hard. When Vern came up to bat, the pitcher could see that he was going to give it his all. The pitcher threw the first pitch fast. Real fast. And Vern swung for the fences. Steerriiiikkke Onnnnne! The next pitch, “Steerrikkke Two!”
Then the pitcher, seeing that Vern was beginning to swing real early, said he was going to give him his super-duper fastball. He gave that arm a triple windup and let fly! Vern swung as hard and fast as humanly possible! POP went the catcher’s glove. STEERRIIIKKKKKEEE THREEEEE!
Vern started back to the bench, not knowing that the pitcher had never even thrown the ball! He had made a big windup, Vern swung, and the catcher slapped his mitt, all in the blink of an eye.
Vern’s teammates were roaring as Vern sat down on the bench. “He threw that damn thing so hard, I never even saw it,” he exclaimed!