Against the wind…

Call it serendipity, karma, or most likely, simply coincidence but there are times when the song on the radio so closely resembles your life that you imagine someone, or something is sending you a message. Early Saturday afternoon was one of those times.

As I approached Shoshoni, just before the rock face that so eerily resembles Chief Washakie rolled by on my left, the song “Against the Wind” began on a Serious XM station.

For 15 years I drove at least once, and sometimes twice a day to the little desert town on my commute to work, a total of over 3,000 round trips to “Wranglerville” as I often call this little haven on the high plains.

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Add in 27 years of covering the Wranglers and Lady Blue and you can easily add another 300 or so trips to the total.

The sunny, windy weather, combined with the musical background made this trip a little different.

There are a couple of ways you can drive to the new Shoshoni K-12 school just northwest of town, but there is only one route I take, and I take it every time.

I always drive by what was once Bailey Field. The Cross Road RV Park is clean, neat, and attractive, but beneath the extensive groundwork resides the field I played on and spent a large part of my adult life coaching on.

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Usually, I’m running a little late and cruise by at 30 mph on my way to the football field, gym, or track, but this time I arrived early for the playoff game between Wind River and Shoshoni.

I’ll admit to being a little emotional, it was part song and part rivalry. Being an old Cougar, who played half-century ago now, and a Shoshoni coach for a much longer period, I was drawn between the two old rivals.

Images of my late friends Harold Bailey and Chuck Wells came to mind as well.

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Instead of driving directly to the game, I pulled over on the west side of the RV park and took a minute to say a prayer for Harold and Chuck.

Bob Seeger brought me back to the present as he sang these lines on my radio, “Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind, I’m older now but still runnin’ against the wind. Well, I’m older now and still runnin’ against the wind.”

Figurative wind of course, even though the afternoon promised winds out of the northwest around kickoff at 2 p.m., and unlike people, the wind never disappoints. It’s part of our lives here in Wyoming.

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On to the game and the tailgate party put on by volunteers from Shoshoni, but open to everyone.

There are many rivalries, but this is my rivalry.

On an August afternoon, long ago a skinny 152-pound sophomore played his first varsity down late in the second quarter of a game between these two schools. I got to play three quarters that afternoon and had a pair of quarterback sacks, a big day for a first-year player. Now 50 years and 75 pounds later, I was back at the same venue, a different field, but the same Cougar / Wrangler contest that I’d played in five times and coached in several dozens of others as a football and basketball coach.

The fun of a close rivalry like this one is the people. Rarely are voices raised, though there are some clowns I try to avoid, as you might imagine. They’re the snowplowing parents who care about nothing but their own kids and are to be judiciously avoided. Thankfully, most of the fans are good-natured and know this is just a game.

As the guy who covers both teams, I get close to the players. In the case of the Wranglers, many of the players are the sons of kids I coached a generation ago. I see traits I admired in their moms and dads in these young men and get the chance to see the effects good parents have on future generations.

A long time has elapsed since I coached Tracy, Charlie, Waldo, and David, and even longer since I had Jamie, Dave, and Jock as Wrangler players. To put players’ names to mom and dad is easy for me, I knew many of them when they were in diapers almost two decades ago. Jaxon, Korb, Ethan, Dom, Tucker, and Cannon have been a pleasure to watch grow up. Not that I don’t give all of them a little bit of the business each time we meet, but that’s part of the game as well.

Though I played at Wind River, the boys on this year’s team are in between connections to my generation. The kids of the guys I played with and the girls I went to school with all graduated a decade or more ago, and their grandkids are just hitting middle school.

That doesn’t mean I’m not a Cougar fan, because I surely am, I just don’t have as many long-term connections to the boys’ parents as I do in Shoshoni.

That connection generates a little friendly grief as well.

Walk to the Shoshoni side of the field and a chorus of, “Aren’t you on the wrong side?” comes from the stands.

Take a trip around the track to the visiting side of Bailey Field and the same thing happens, “Shouldn’t you be over there with your friends in blue?”

It’s all fun and something I look forward to in every sport.

What I’m not so sure of as I approach 66 trips around the sun is how long I’m going to do this, or if I’ll even be able to continue as the inevitable march of time takes place.

It seems like yesterday that “Like a Rock,” another Seeger classic was the theme song, but now “Against the Wind” seems more apropos.

There was a fleeting moment when “My hands were steady, my eyes were clear and bright, my walk had purpose, my steps were quick and light, and I held firmly to what I felt was right, like a rock,” as Seeger’s classic tribute to youth says.

Now though holding firmly to what I feel is right remains strong, the body doesn’t.

Against the wind, I’ll forge ahead for a few more seasons, the action, the relationships, and the future these kids unknowingly hold in their hands is too much to miss.

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