Harold – “I’ve got no complaints”

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The presenter, with an annoying voice constantly on the edge of tears was emphatically trying to convince us that grades didn’t matter, performance didn’t matter, skills didn’t matter, all that mattered was that everyone be treated fairly. As she droned on, she made the mistake of saying that on a scale of one to four, we were all threes no matter what we did or didn’t do.

It didn’t take my friend Harold Mulholland very long to jump on the bait. The big man stood up in the middle of her presentation and said, “Great, I’m a three. If you need me, I’ll be in my classroom grading term papers,” then he walked out.


I stood up quickly as well and followed Harold from the old board room at Shoshoni back to our classrooms. Of course, we were written up, it was a badge of honor. That was the essence of my friend in a nutshell. Harold was a talented, articulate man with a brilliant wit, and the innate ability to see through pretense and image. He was also one of the best teachers and coaches I ever had the pleasure of working with.

In his unique, eclectic style, Harold passed away early NewYears’ Day, after a brief illness. He almost made 71 years.

You might say our paths were entwined long before we met on a hot summer afternoon at Shoshoni High School during yet another forced presentation by our administration.

When I arrived home later that day, I mentioned that Harold had been hired as a history, speech, and debate teacher. Sue surprised me with her comment, “I knew Harold in Lusk,” she said. “He was the radiology tech at the hospital when I was in junior high, and I babysat his oldest children Kelli and Hoag.”


The road went full circle a few years later when Hoag (actually Harold Jr.) worked on a construction crew with me one summer. His younger brother Ryan was a football and track athlete for me at Shoshoni and shared his dad’s interest in history and politics.

In one of those wonderful examples of where we live being such a great place, the boys became my friends as they grew up. They are now both exceptional men, who’ve accomplished tremendous things in their lives, much like their recently departed father.

Harold and I communicated via e-mail often after he left Shoshoni, and later we switched to texting each other often.


He gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received when I sent him an e-mail that I was taking a job in Riverton.

“Shoshoni lost their coach,” was Harold’s response.

It was far from the truth since Harold Bailey, Tim Ervin, John Seaman, and many other excellent coaches remained on staff, but it was nice to hear.


Harold was part of the greatest faculty I ever had the privilege to work with. In spite of the excellence in every department from PE to physics, and music to English, the administration was always trying to throw a wrench in the works to screw things up. Harold was often the point of the spear in noting the ridiculousness of the latest bandwagon they were trying to force us to join. It was fun to watch him in action.

It was also fun when we conducted a little counterpunching against the bandwagon boys.

A Texas boy at heart, Harold had tales of coaching stunts done in the Lone Star State. He was assisting me with the Wrangler junior high football team one season and came up with this gem.

“Let’s start the rumor that you’re going to kick a live chicken to death before we play Wind River next week,” Harold said.

“Why not?” I thought.

On Thursday morning the following week, I dropped a box off in the principal’s office with a brick wrapped with a towel inside. I punched a few holes in it to look like air holes, and marked on it in bright red, “Do not open.”

The principal and superintendent bit like starving trout on a perfectly placed fly. As we went through the pregame ritual with the boys, the principal walked up behind me and the superintendent peaked around the outside entrance. Neither one of them cared the slightest bit for athletics and had never been in our locker room before.

“Can we help you guys,” Harold asked.

Openly annoyed, they both stomped off as Harold and I had a good laugh.

Harold enjoyed competition, and in one of his previous careers had served as a police officer. He was a renaissance man from the start, a published author, and his varied background was one of the reasons we became such great friends.

On another occasion, during the FBI siege of the Freemen compound in Jordan, Montana. We set up the principal again. As we drank coffee in my room before school, we came up with the idea of getting a few senior boys to ask our very liberal principal if they could hold a bake sale to raise money for the Freemen.

The boys pulled it off perfectly, pounding the principal’s desk when he refused to allow them to hold the bake sale, and claiming they were doing it for freedom. It was another great laugh.

What wasn’t a laughing matter to Harold was his speech team. He took forensics as seriously as any Texas coach took football, and the results were evident.

Shoshoni had good speech teams in the past, but Harold raised the level dramatically, coaching many individual state champions, and winning team meets against much larger schools across the state. He even tutored a national champion in the Voice of Democracy contest. One of those champions was his son, Ryan. Anyone who has ever coached their own son or daughter in any venue knows how hard that can be, but the Mulhollands pulled it off.

Harold and I shared a love of history, though his was more international, and mine centered on the Civil War and the American West. During prep periods we often dropped in on each other’s classes to listen and challenge each other in front of the kids. The students loved the banter, almost as much as we did.

We often talked about authors, historians, and societal trends. We shared very similar political viewpoints and often texted about the sad state of an America at war with itself.

We both enjoyed Mark Twain, and it seems fitting that Harold’s departure from this mortal plane resembles the great American author’s in one aspect. Twain was born in the glow of Hailey’s Comet and departed when the comet returned in 1910. Harold’s passing on his FaceBook listed birthday seemed a similar statement to me, although I later learned his actual birthday was March 22. Yes, another example of trusting the digital age, but I’ll go with the Twain analogy since it fit him so well.

There are so many other stories we shared over the years, but I’ll leave it at this. A man who raises sons who become friends of his friends has done the work he was destined to do.

Harold and I shared a common path for a long time.

I rode with him, I’ve got no complaints.


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