Behind the lines: Our house…football with a view

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    We were driving up from Carlsbad, New Mexico on our way home from a family vacation with relatives in Midland, Texas. Sue was anxious for us to find a place for the night since we’d left Carlsbad Caverns later than planned.

    As I drove north a small town came into view. On the outskirts of town, there was a water tower, covered top to bottom in black paw prints with dates written inside.


    I said, “I’m going to find their stadium before we leave.”

    Sue wasn’t happy, but I was behind the wheel and found a school crossing sign then followed it to find the high school.

    In less than five minutes I found the stadium. It had a huge tiger extending over the home grandstands with a press booth set inside the tiger’s mouth. Though it was July, the stadium was immaculate and looked ready to host a game that night. Football was obviously king in this little New Mexico town.

    This memory brought me back to the best stadiums I’ve encountered here in Wyoming.


    Before I give you my list, let’s take a look at the parameters that make a great stadium. They are the location in the town, ease of access, natural beauty in the scenery surrounding the facility, and the tradition and reputation of the program in question.

    My vote for the best stadium in Wyoming may seem a little strange but it goes to the Midwest Oilers. The field is now converted to 6-man format with shorter length and width than the 9 and 11-man games, but the location is spectacular.

    Seated below a tall ridge on the north side of the field it is an impressive place to play and watch football. The Natrona County skyline is dotted with buttes, oil rigs, and pumping units, but the view from above, looking down on the field is unique.


    My cousins Mike, Gary, Danny, Ronny, and Ricky Gasser all played on that field and Ron related the not-so-great aspects of practicing on it.

    “Dad would get off work early, set up a lawn chair up there with binoculars, and watch the entire practice,” Ron told me. “When I’d get home he had a list of things I was doing wrong and needed to improve on.”

    His dad was my late uncle Eugene Gasser Jr. Uncle Gene played for Riverton from 1942 to 1944, playing Midwest three times, including a hard-fought 2-0 win in Natrona County that my late friend Bob Peck told me stories about.


    Riverton’s field in those days was near City Park, before moving to another fabulous location for football, Tonkin Stadium for several generations. The park and what’s left of Tonkin Stadium remain, but Wolverine Field is now just another modern stadium with artificial turf devoid of character. It’s a great facility, it just lacks pizzaz.

    Tonkin was special, built in a natural bowl and the site of the greatest football ever played in Fremont County when Riverton outlasted Lander for the 1994 Class 3-A state title. I was there, along with four to five thousand other fans.

    The Wyoming state government can spend a billion dollars, (that’s right billion with a “B”) on renovating the state capital but preserving a field that should have been on the National Register of Historic Places rather than falling to the wrecking ball remains a mystery. If it had been located in Cheyenne or Casper would Tonkin have endured the same fate?

    Another favorite field is at Dubois. The new field offers an eastern-facing view from the home stands towards the foothills of the Wind River Mountains. I once caught an image of a herd of 25 or so mule deer jumping a fence behind the Meeteetse bench during a 6-man game.

    As nice as this stadium is, it pales in comparison to the original field located at the now demolished Dubois High School in the center of the little town. I played there, coached there, and covered many memorable games for the Peck family at the Riverton Ranger over the last half-century.

    As a kid, I remember playing one year as a winter storm approached in mid-October. The flurries began, followed by a rush of wind off the towering hills on the north side of the field. It was cold, but when you’re in the heat of battle on the gridiron you rarely notice the weather. I did often notice the deer watching games and track meets from above over the next 50 years.

    When it comes to mountain vistas, it’s hard to beat Lander and Bill Bush Stadium. The view of South Pass and the red buttes to the west led the Tigers to have one of the few home grandstands that look west, directly into the setting sun. It is blinding early in the season for the opening half for the Tiger faithful, but I guess the view is worth it.

    You can find similar views of the mountains in Shoshoni and Cowley. For the Wranglers, it’s a nice contrast from the desert surrounding Shoshoni to the blue gray of the mountains just a dozen or so miles north. The same can be said for the Grizzlies though their mountains belong to Montana.

    The Midwest field has a bit more notoriety beyond being one of the most scenic natural venues in the nation. On October 19, 1925, the Oilers lost to Natrona High School 20-0. Nothing notable in the score, but rather in the time of the game.

    Portable 1000-watt lights were brought in, and the first high school night game ensued on the oil rich ground near Teapot Dome.

    In another coincidence, the first night game of any type was played on September 28, 1892, in Pennsylvania between Wyoming Seminary and Mansfield State Normal School. It harkened to an era we now take for granted well over a century later.

    A final field of note is Gibson Field at Fullmer Stadium in Lusk. Yes, I started coaching there long ago, but the natural bowl of the field nestled below the Silver Cliff makes it an incredible place to watch, coach, or play football.

    In an interview with Greybull High School standout and Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end Brett Keisel at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania during pre-season a few years ago he referred to the Niobrara County field.

    Brett’s home field in Greybull is notable for the clicking, metallic sounds coming from the nearby railroad tracks just a few dozen yards west of the field.

    I asked Brett what his greatest regret was as a football player. I expected some professional game with Pittsburgh or possibly one while he played at Brigham Young University, but instead, he brought up a playoff game at Lusk in November of 1996.

    “Coach Fullmer (Lusk head coach Jerry Fullmer) knew how to play the wind. We drove against the wind all game and Coach Julliard (the late Greybull legend Phil Julliard) couldn’t get a break,” Keisel said. “When we lost that game I cried like a baby for almost an hour.”

    The wind, as well as the sun, are factors good coaches consider, especially when they know a field so well that it’s eventually named after them.


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