Friday, November 25, 2022
Thursday, September 1, 2022
By Con Marshall
Sixty-five years ago, Nebraska’s most popular high school track athlete was a guy named Joe. That’s Joe American Horse. In 1957, when he was a senior at Gordon High School, the crowds at the Nebraska State Track Meet at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln reportedly were chanting “Go Joe,” when the Class B mile was about to be run.
Joe didn’t disappoint. For the third year in a row he was the Class B mile winner and also repeated as the all-class gold medalist. His time of 4:28.1 was the Class B state record, improving on the one he’d set the year before by seven-tenths of a second. Nearly everyone thought he would have broken the all-class record if it hadn’t rained and made the cinder track soggy. He won the race by at least 100 yards.
American Horse had placed second in the Class B mile at state as a freshman. It was the last time he was defeated in that race during his prep career.
The good news is, Joe, who lives on American Horse Creek east of Pine Ridge, is still going strong. Earlier this month he was in Chadron, getting his car serviced at Wahlstrom Ford. He had time to chat and had someone call this reporter to do that. It’s obvious that he still enjoys life. He was smiling and laughed often.
As someone who was “lapped” by Joe at least once in the mile when I was in high school, I’ve long admired him. During that era, I recall reading about Joe and have since retrieved stories written by the legendary Gregg McBride, the Omaha World-Herald’s illustrious sports reporter.
Just prior to the 1957 state meet, McBride had written, “It will be ‘Hi Ho Joe,’ not ‘Hi Ho Silver’ at the Nebraska High School Championships. I refer to Joe American Horse, one of the most colorful athletes in Cornhusker prep history.”
McBride went on to tell that when a fan yelled “Go it. Joe,” as the Class B mile was about to begin at state the previous year, American Horse had straightened up out of his crouch and waved at the fans. Less than 4 ½ minutes after the starting gun was fired, Joe had circled the track four times and had knocked seven seconds off the Class B record.
Bill Madden of the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, also one of Nebraska’s all-time outstanding sportswriters, wrote in 1957 that American Horse was the first athlete in 21 years to win the same event at the state meet three years in a row.
In addition, the Lincoln Journal and Star named him one of the top 10 athletes in the state in 1956-57. “Never before has any high school athlete won the hearts of so many track fans as Joe American Horse did four straight years,” it was stated.
Now 85, Joe is still on the go. He has fond memories of his track experiences and is a master storyteller.
After his terrific high school career, he received a scholarship from the University of Nebraska. Now he could run cross country and also the two-mile during the track season. In high school, he and everyone else in Nebraska was limited to just one race of 880 yards or more. The only other race Joe could run was the anchor leg on the mile relay. As a senior, he teamed up with his brother Emmitt, Jim Taylor and Jerry Jensen to win that race at state. Emmitt also won the 880 for the Broncs.
Joe didn’t talk much about the races he ran in college, but has lots of memories about related experiences. One was going to a meet at Michigan State. He said the Cornhuskers rode the train from Omaha to Chicago and from Chicago to Lansing. They slept in pullman cars which had beds en route to the meet, but were in passenger cars that contained only seats while returning home.
Another time, he was among the Huskers who flew to the Texas Relays at Texas A&M. The flight wasn’t too sophisticated. Four Piper Cubs were the mode of transportation. This was the first time he had ridden in an airplane. He said getting the pole in the plane for the vaulter took some doing.
Joe chuckles when he discusses a dilemma he had in Texas. The doors of the men’s restrooms said “Colored” and “White.” “I didn’t know which one to use.”
Americans enrolled at Nebraska most of his three years there. But he thinks it’s unique that during the Drake Relays in Des Moines, he was among three Native Americans in the two-mile. The others were Niles Brings, who ran for the University of South Dakota, and Billy Mills of the University of Kansas.
“We were all from the same tribe (Oglala Sioux), but ran for different schools,” he pointed out.
He noted that late in the race Mills took the lead “and I couldn’t catch him.”
A few years later, in 1964 in Tokyo, Mills was the first and still is the only American to win the 10,000 meters at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Mills was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation and periodically returns for special occasions, but lived most of his early life in Kansas and has resided in California much of the time as an adult. Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge is named in his honor.
American Horse said he did not know Mills until they had competed against one another in college.
“Now, we’re good friends,” Joe said, who added that the home where he and his wife Dorothy live was built under the auspices of the Running Strong program that Mills founded.
During our conversation, American Horse added that the scholarship he received to run at Nebraska had some strings attached. He was to help sell concessions at NU athletic events. That included at the football game against Oklahoma, just a few hours after he’d competed in a cross country dual with the Sooners.
The Memorial Stadium steps seemed pretty steep that day, he noted. He also recalled selling concessions at state basketball tournaments and helping scrape the Memorial Stadium seats so they could be repainted.
Some of his highlights as a college runner included setting the Cornhuskers’ two-mile indoor record of 9:24.6 and 9:18.2 outdoors. He had a best of 4:12.6 in the outdoors mile. In 2000, he became the first Native American and the first athlete from Northwest Nebraska to be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. Rushville’s Kelly Stauffer also went into the Hall of Fame a few minutes later that year.
Joe is pleased that the Hall of Fame’s publication announcing this year’s inductees included photo of him winning the mile at the state meet 65 years ago.
American Horse left college and joined the Marines prior to what would have been his senior year at UNL. He sustained a broken ankle while he was in the Marines, ending his track career.
He’s kept busy while serving his people through the years. He was the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council chairman twice in the 1980s and also the vice chairman twice. He’s also a medicine man, who among other activities, assisted with the dedication of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State in 2002 and the naming of Highway 27 between Gordon and Ellsworth the Mari Sandoz Trail.
He added that he also continues to attend sun dances and keeps in touch with and assists several of the foster children he and Dorothy helped raise.
Monday, August 29, 2022
Sunday, July 17, 2022
By Con Marshall
Friday, July 8, 2022
By Con Marshall
High school class reunions always coincide with Fur Trade Days. With a long list of events already on the schedule, it’s a great time for old grads to return to their hometown, get reacquainted with their classmates and recall the good times from their high school days
That’s happening again this year. For instance, three Chadron High classes from the early 1960s will have a joint celebration that will begin Saturday following the parade down Main Street. The gathering will be at the Bill Dowling American Legion Post in the 100 block of Bordeaux Street.
It’s not going to bring a huge throng to town, but more than 50, including spouses, have made reservations to participate. Others are welcome join them that afternoon.
At least from an athletic standpoint, the members of these classes will have lots of fond memories to discuss. When they were in high school spanning from 1959 through 1962, the Cardinals went 34-3 on the gridiron with both the 1960 and 1962 teams going undefeated. The 1959 team should have won them all, but finished 7-1 and the 1961 team went 8-2.
The basketball highlight was a biggie. The Cardinals won the school’s first state tournament championship in March 1961.
What happened in ’59 football? Well, the Cardinals outscored their opponents by 30 points a game in the seven contests they won, but lost to a mediocre Mitchell team 39-13 about mid-season. It was the only time during Coach Gordon (Fuzz) Watts’s 11 years as the Chadron High football mentor that the Cardinals were upset. The score was 39-13. They beat all the other teams by at least three touchdowns, but unexplainably, Chadron fumbled the ball 13 times that night and lost 10 of them.
There also was a major disappointment at the end of that season. Because of the blizzard conditions in early November, the Cardinals never got to play Rushville, which had a 20-game winning streak going. The game was postponed twice and finally cancelled altogether because of successive blizzards in early November.
Peru State and Chadron State did play at Elliott Field during that period, but the game had to be postponed for more than a week because the highways across Nebraska were so bad Peru could not make the trip. And when the game was played, Eagles’ quarterback Gary Tuggle suffered a frozen finger that newspaper accounts said might have to be amputated (it wasn’t), and two Peru players suffered frozen toes. Temperatures during that period dipped as low as 18 below.
One of the Cardinals’ wins in 1959 was a 46-0 verdict over Chadron Prep. It avenged a 21-12 victory that the Junior Eagles had posted the previous year when the teams met on the football field for the “first time in ??? years,” according to the Chadron Record. The facts are, Chadron High and Chadron Prep apparently never played a football game against one another prior to 1958 and ’59 and never played again. Prep was closed at the end of the 1961 school year.
In the fall of ’58, Chadron High had just two seniors on the team—Benny Steele and Ralph Byerly. Prep had nine, including one of the community’s all-time great athletes, Dick Muma, at quarterback and others such as Keith Benthack, Bob Broberg, Ken Cullers, Gene Pinsky and Don Schaefer were capable players.
The Junior Eagles suited up just 16 players for the game in 1959.
By 1959, the Cardinals had a lot more size and experience. Senior starters included ends Ray Cottier and Dave Reaser, linemen Wayne Burk and Lynn Gorr and halfback John Rasmussen, who was the quarterback for most of the Prep game because starter Larry Matthesen was ill. Another senior, Rob Harvey, took over at tackle after Gorr suffered a broken leg.
By the fall of 1960, the Cardinals were potent, to be sure. They went 8-0 and outscored their opponents by a 34-9 per game margin. All but one of the starters that season were seniors. They were Bill Rice and Randy Riggins at the ends, Gary Thompson at a tackle, Roger Jones and John Urwin were the guards, Chuck Mitchell at center, Matthesen at quarterback, Paul Kindig and Tom Sims at the halfbacks and Larry Miller at fullback. Another senior, Mel Reeves, could capably fill the bill at all of the runningback slots.
Junior Terry Cogdill was the other starting tackle.
Matthesen, Miller, Rice and Riggins were the stalwarts for the state championship basketball team, which finished with a 23-2 record. The fifth starter was junior Rex Norman. The Cardinals’ only losses were early in the season to Rushville 47-45 and Gering 69-65, which went on to reach the Class A State Tourney semifinals.
Coached by the incomparable Verne Lewellen, the 1960-61 Cardinals defeated Minden 65-59, Hooper 73-60 and Burwell 56-53 at the state tournament. Matthesen, who was a four-year starter and finished his career with 1,236 points and probably would have tallied at least 200 more if the 3-point shot had been available, was a first-team all-state selection, while both Miller and Rice were placed on the Class B all-tournament team.
Rice, who became an exceptional track athlete at the University of Montana, won the Class B high jump title that spring by clearing 6-3.
With Cogdill the only returning starter in the fall of 1961, the Cardinals’ football team had a much different look than it had the year before, but finished with an 8-2 record. The losses were to Gering and Sidney, both Class A teams that season.
That was the first year for the Rangeland Conference and the Cardinals won the playoff game over O’Neill 31-13 before wrapping up the season with a 19-0 win over Alliance, another Class A team.
At the end of the season, Chadron Record sportswriter John DeHaes put Cogdill on the All-West Rangeland team along with Terry Cottier and Rollin Lacy at the ends, Neil Daniels at guard, Norman at center and Denny Bach and Larry Gold in the backfield. Bach was a junior and Gold a sophomore. The others were seniors.
The 1962 Cardinals were a true juggernaut. They went 11-0 and were accorded the Class B state championship by both the Omaha and Lincoln newspapers. Watts said the 1962 team was probably his best because it had the most depth. The coach concluded his 11 seasons as the Cardinals’ head coach with a 79-17-4 record, believed to be the best in Nebraska during that period.
Just four seniors—Terry Doyle at end, Leonard Jones at tackle, Lornie Reeves at guard and Bach at halfback—were starters on the 1962 team. Jones earned first-team all-state honors. The team definitely wrapped up the season on a high note. It won three games in a 12-day stretch, defeating Sidney 18-6, O’Neill 26-7 in another Rangeland championship game, and Alliance 32-6.
Another member of the Class of 1961 certainly excelled in athletics during his storied career as an official. Dale Butler was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 after he had officiated at least 2,100 baseball, softball, basketball and football games and helped develop several dozen umpires and referees.
There were still no girls’ sports in the early 1960s, but several members of the Chadron High classes that will be having the reunion this weekend definitely became involved in athletics as mothers and grandmothers.
Among them are three girls from the Class of ’61. Hazel Campbell Montague’s son Jim set the Chadron High basketball single game scoring record of 39 points in 1982 that still stands, and her grandsons, Cody and Brady Roes, were both football and basketball standouts for the Cardinals. Cody also was an All-American tight end at Chadron State in 2013.
Another member of that class, Beverly Grant Miller, now of Lance Creek, Wyo., is the mother of Jason Miller, who was the world-champion steer wrestling champion in 2007. In addition, the late Harriett Burk Lecher, was the mother of Mike Lecher, who has a 105-50 record entering his 17th season as the Cardinals’ head football coach. Lecher received Huskerland Prep Report’s Class C1 Mike Berens’s Coaching Award last fall. It recognizes a coach’s ability to get the best out of his players.
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
He graduated from Rushville High School in 1964. He attended Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Education from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska.
He was married to Verona Stephens on June 2, 1968. To that union a son, Brent Allen, was born in 1971. Shawn Henry was born in 1979 and Tina Marie was born in 1982. He was a loving, devoted family man. Friends and family knew him as a caring, kind, humble, and gentle man. He had a great sense of humor once you got to know him and he never lost that.
Perry worked for the Production Credit in Scottsbluff and Chadron Nebraska, and took a transfer to Pendleton, Oregon. He also worked in the banking business both in Nebraska and South Dakota. While in Chadron he and his wife sponsored the CSC rodeo team, taking many road trips with those college kids.
He was the Budget Officer and Rodeo Coach for Eastern Oregon State in LaGrande, Oregon. One of the highlights for Perry was being chosen as the National Faculty President for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association for the 1993-94 school year. He retired from his own Real Estate Appraisal Business in 2015.
Horses were always a part of his life. In High School he tried every rodeo event. In College he was the Calf Roping Champion for the Central Plains Collegiate Rodeo Champion in 1971. After college he began team roping, first as a heeler, and eventually as a header. After retirement he was able to spend some time roping in Arizona in the winter. He was active in Rotary until his illness and was once awarded the annual Outstanding Rotary Member Award as well as the Distinguished Service Paul Harris Fellow Award. He was a regular church attendant and served as a Deacon in Chadron, Nebraska and Spearfish, South Dakota. He was a member of Connection Church in Belle Fourche, South Dakota and he knew the Lord as his personal savior.
Perry was preceded in death by his mother Agnes (Aggie) and his father Jules Henry (Hank), son Brent, brothers Blake and Blayne, his sister-in-law Myrna, and his nephew Clint.
He is survived by his wife Verona, his son Shawn, and his daughter Tina Van Kley (Nick), his 3 granddaughters Carmen, Ariyana, and Ida, and his grandson Sidney, his brother Jerry (Karen), sisters-in-law Mary Jean and Judy, and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 26 at the Connection Church (former Mountain View Baptist at exit 12) in Spearfish, South Dakota with a grave side service taking place on Friday at 1 p.m. in Rushville, Nebraska. The family suggests memorials to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix, Arizona or Hospice. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Funeral Home, Box 970, Chadron, Nebraska 69337.
Honorary Pallbearers: Dick Lesher, Larry Miller, Al Setera, Roger Whorton, Tom Willnerd, Andy Beguin, Rex Beguin, Doug Johnson, and Michael Schadegg.