Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Remembering Glenn Denton (1950-2023)

NOTE:  Commital services at Beaver Valley Cemetery just northeast of Chadron, Nebraska will be held at 1:00 p.m., not 2:00 p.m. as previously announced in other media.

Glenn E. Denton, Jr., 73, passed away November 25, 2023.  Glenn was born January 31, 1950, to Glenn E. Denton and Joyce (McLatchy Leavitt) Denton.  He attended Craven Creek School District 79 in a one room schoolhouse through the 8th grade.  He attended high school in Rushville, Nebraska for 9th and 10th grades and graduated from Polson, Montana High School in 1968.

Glenn joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1968.  Glenn was a combat-wounded Purple Heart recipient.  He served 30 years and retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant.  In 1978, Glenn started Camp Hamilton Veterans Memorial Park, Inc. in Bakersfield, California.

Glenn is survived by his wife – the love of his life – Esther; children; grandchildren and siblings.  He was preceded in death by his father and mother; his brothers, Arthur Denton and Gerald Denton, and his sister Mildred Denton Frohman.

Honorary pallbearers include Jose Barron, Oscar Barron, Raul Barron, Greg Frohman, Ronnie Denton, Dave Tiensvold, Mark Marquez, and all of Glenn’s family and friends. Visitation will be held from 5:00 p.,m. until 7:00 p.m., Thursday, December 7, 2023 at Chamberlain McColley's Funeral Home in Hot Springs, SD.

The funeral service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Friday, December 8, 2023, at Chamberlain-McColley’s Funeral Home in Hot Springs, SD.

Committal services will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, December 8, 2023 at the Beaver Valley Cemetery near Chadron, Nebraska.

Memorials may be given to Camp Hamilton Veterans Memorial Park. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Russell Thompson: a fascinating career!

It was just about 90 years ago this fall that the Nebraska Cornhusker football team – under the leadership of coach Dana Bible – appeared to be on the threshold of a great season.  Alas, it wasn't a "great" year, but thanks in part to a newcomer to the team, Whitney's Russell "King Kong" Thompson, the Huskers wrapped up the season with a 6-3 record, and a respectable 4-1 record in the old Big 6 Conference.  It was his second year of playing college ball – his first year was played with Chadron Teachers College.

The Chadron Journal headlined a story about Thompson's success with "Russell Thompson Makes Good on Cornhusker Team."  Thompson, who played tackle, stood 6ft. 4in. and checked in at 234 pounds, proved to be fast and agile for his size.  The paper observed that early in the season, Thompson had a "poor start because he lacked a thorough grounding in fundamentals and a noticeable absence of "fire."  

But he did a quick about-face and reportedly turned in brilliant performances against Missouri and Kansas.  "He is a coming star" said the Journal, noting that Thompson – dubbed "King Kong" – was a veritable stone wall on defense in the season finale against Missouri with the Huskers winning 13-6.    He also revealed an ability to block on offense, bringing "smiles to the Nebraska coaching staff."  Against Kansas, "the Jayhawks found this giant tackle impenetrable."  Nebraska won the game 3-0.

Thompson had played ball at Whitney High School, but newspaper stories say he transferred to Chadron High School, where, he played football and then one year with "Chadron Teachers College."    After being recruited by Nebraska, he played out his remaining three years of eligibility – lettering all three years.

In 1935, George Hallas, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears offered Thompson a contract for $90 per game.  He played four years for the Bears before playing his final pro football season with the Philadelphia Eagles.  He also played one season of semi-pro basketball.

Thompson married Mary Jo Norman in Whitney in 1941 before moving to Wyoming, where the couple ranched near Keeline.  He helped start the Niobrara Convservation District and also served in the Wyoming Legislature in 1981-82.  

Thompson died on February 12, 2001 in Scottsbluff.  The family had been living in Lusk, Wyoming, for several years. Surviving Thompson was his wife, Mary Jo; children Cody of Lusk; Leif and wife Brenda of Philo, Ill; Tom and wife Dixie of Whitney; Roxanne and husband Roy Sharp at the family ranch; Link and wife Debbie of Gordon; 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Monday, September 11, 2023

71 Years Ago – The Cardinals Were in a Tight Spot!

After losing five straight games at the beginning of the 1952 football season, the Chadron High Cardinals and their coach, Carl McManis, were in need of a victory when they faced off against the Gordon Broncs.

We came across the program from that October 17, 1952 game. Despite the small type, we thought you might be able to recognize some of the names from the Cardinal roster – and perhaps a few of the Gordon players, too.

Chadron won the game, 20-7, ending their 5-game losing streak.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Confessions of an old guy!

by Larry Miller

Recently, friend Con Marshall shared with us the story about Rich Fahey and his record-setting achievement with Chadron's Assumption Academy basketball team more than 70 years ago.  That story is immediately underneath the photograph below.

Con, of course, is the go-to guy for anything you want to know about northwest Nebraska sports, agriculture......well, just about anything and everything over the past half century or so!   Con has been more than kind in sharing his stories and photographs with Dawes County Journal over the years.  But when he passed along the Rich Fahey story, I think my memory went on vacation.

While I didn't know about Fahey's record, I did know – but had forgotten – that Fahey had played for Assumption Academy back in the 1950s....AND that I already had a very good photograph of that 1951-52 Panther basketball team!

Another good friend and frequent contributor to Dawes County Journal site is Jim Sandstrom – a Chadron native and boyhood friend (and former baseball teammate of mine) from the late 1950s.  Although a few years younger than Fahey, Jim also played ball for Assumption.....AND.....has sent me several Assumption Academy class and team photos over the years.  It was a few years ago, but I had forgotten the photo below, which is a splendid shot of that 1951-52 District Championship team.  It includes, of course, a nice clear image of all the Panther players, Coach Bill Sollars and Father Miles.   And the smiling No. 6 in the front row is......Richard Fahey!  Wish I'd remembered to re-post it with Con's story!

Thank you, Jim, for sharing story ideas AND photographs! 


Saturday, July 15, 2023

Chadron’s all-time single game high scorer still doing well at 88

By Con Marshall

It happened a long time ago and he played basketball in Chadron just one year, but an 88-year-old Assumption Academy graduate who lives in Sidney has the distinction of scoring the most points in one game while he was attending a high school in this community.

He’s Rich Fahey, who on February 19, 1952, while enrolled at Assumption Academy, poured in 45 points when the Panthers visited the Oelrichs Tigers.  The final score was 72-33.

Fahey’s 45 points are three more than Dick Muma scored as a senior at Chadron Prep in 1959 during a 70-40 romp over Lyman.  No other high school hoops players from Chadron have scored 40 points in a game, but two tallied 39 and six more at least 35.

After recently compiling a list of Chadron Cardinals who scored at least 30 points and another about the half dozen 50-point scorers in the Panhandle, it seems timely to revisit Fahey’s feat and also print a list of the 10 all-time high single game scorers from the three high schools that were once going full force in Chadron.

The Fahey story is intriguing in several ways.  One of them, of course, is that he’s probably older than anyone else who scored a point for any of the three Chadron teams.

Another is that he played at Assumption just that one year—1951-52—after transferring from Provo High School that was located in the village of Igloo near the Black Hills Army Depot. More specifically, both were close to where Edgemont is situated.

Fahey had played both football and basketball for the Provo Rattlers two years before he came to Chadron.  While playing hoops for the Assumption Panthers in ’51-‘52, he was listed as a junior, was enrolled at the Academy again the next year and graduated in the spring of 1953. He says the reason he couldn’t play in ’52-‘53 is because five years earlier in the fall of 1948-49, his older brother was attending Black Hills State in Spearfish and Rich went along and enrolled at Spearfish High.

However, when it was discovered that his parents did not live in the school district his family was notified that in order for him to stay at Spearfish High the Faheys would have to pay tuition.

“That’s when I went back to Provo, but I didn’t go to school the rest of that year,” he said. “I had played some basketball at Spearfish before I left there. “

So Fahey was a freshman all over again academically at Provo in 1949-50 and also considered a freshman while playing football and basketball for the Rattlers. When he enrolled at Assumption two years later he was classified as a junior, but he didn’t get to be a senior in athletics for the Panthers, because he’d played some basketball during his shortened year at Spearfish.

Thus Fahey watched from the sidelines in 1953-54 while completing high school and graduated in the class of 13 in May.  

A story in the Feb. 21, 1952, Chadron Record tells about Fahey’s 45-point feat.  The first three paragraphs follow:

“Paced by Rich Fahey’s 45 points, Chadron Assumption walloped Oelrichs, S.D., Tuesday night 72-33.  The Panthers took the South Dakotans in a blaze of points that kept the score more than doubled throughout the game.

“One-man-gang Fahey racked up his total to exceed by 10 points his previous high of the year.  Switching from his usual guard position to the center spot, the Academy junior couldn’t miss.  He dunked in (not literally as we think of dunks nowadays,) 18 field goals, and just for variety, canned 9 out of 9 gift shots.  Fahey played an excellent ball-stealing game on defense, and got many shots as the result of these tactics.

“McLatchey helped out with 19 points, and Dick Perlinski hit 4 field goals for 8 tallies. Oelrichs was paced by Doalen, who got 16, followed by Serry with 13.”

As noted earlier, that wasn’t the only time Fahey was a big scorer for the Panthers.

In early January, he had scored 34 points during a victory over Hay Springs during the Northwest Conference Tournament played in Chadron. That game story said, “Fahey hit equally well on set shots, jump shots or driving layups.  He’s also a good ballhandler”

On Feb. 15, he scored 35 points against Crawford. The game didn’t turn out well for the Panthers. 

The newspaper article says that with the score tied at 54-54, an Assumption player fouled out. However, the substitute failed to report that he was entering the game, a technical foul was called and one of the Rams made the free throw for the victory. 

Just five days later Fahey had his record-setting performance at Oelrichs.

Lifelong Oelrichs resident Maynard Britain thinks he probably knows why Fahey played center in that fateful game instead of guard.  He said the low ceiling in what was called “The Potato Cellar” made shooting from long range impossible, so the Academy coach put his best player near the basket.

Britain says as far as he knows no potatoes were ever kept in the Cellar, but it was given that moniker because about half of the structure was below the surface. It served as Oelrichs’ primary community center until the mid-1950s, when a new facility was constructed. Now, the new $5 million high school that was opened in early 2022 includes a gymnasium that is as stylish as any in the region. 

The 45-point game wasn’t the last of Fahey’s heroics.  

As the season was winding 

down, the Panthers played in the Class D District Tournament at Cody. Fahey’s classmate, Dan Konrath of Chadron, was there and took the photo of Fahey shooting a free throw. 

Konrath also took a photo of the clock that showed two seconds were left to play, and remembers that Fahey hit a long shot for the 43-42 victory as the clock expired.

However, the Panthers still had to play Mullen to qualify for the state tournament. That game was played in Alliance and didn’t turn out the way Chadron fans had hoped.

The Record had story about that game. It says:  “Panther Rich Fahey, playing his last high school game, gave the spectators a show with his phenomenal long shots from the center of the floor. In addition, he hit from any angle to total 28 points, rebounded well, played a top floor game and was aggressive on defense.”

Unfortunately, Fahey apparently was too aggressive on defense.  Assumption was leading 46-44 when Fahey fouled out with 90 seconds left to play. Mullen added two field goals and won 48-46.

When asked how he became such an outstanding basketball player, Fahey said,  “probably because I practiced more than most.” 

“I lived in the gym,” he added.  “When our family was in Provo and my dad worked at the Black Hills Army Depot, there wasn’t much to do, but there were two gyms and I made use of them.

During a recent telephone chat Fahey said he enjoyed his two years at Assumption. He added that through the years, he has attended several school reunions and kept in touch classmates. Konrath is one of them. The others are Ruth Katen Robbins of Scottsbluff and Joan Murphy Wolvington of Alliance.

“I had to have knee surgery a year ago, and it’s taken me longer to get over it than I thought it would,” Fahey said during the phone call.  “I’m getting along pretty well. I feel fortunate.” 

He noted that he has an oil well near Sidney that keeps pumping, and has a keno business that he tends to. We had to cut our phone call short because it was time for him to take his daughter’s dog to the veterinarian.

Rich wasn’t the only outstanding basketball player in his family.  His son Randy, was a standout at Sidney St. Pat’s in the late 1970s and was the leading scorer on the Chadron State team in 1982-83. Randy married Chadron native Laurie Nydahl and their sons, Spencer and Turner, were all-staters while playing at Grand Island Central Catholic. 

A list of the others who scored at least 35 points while they were attending high school in Chadron accompanies this story. 

Chadron’s All-Time Top 10 Scoring  By *High School Boys

Rich Fahey, Chadron Assumption, 45 vs. Oelrichs in Feb. 1952 (18 field goals, 9-9 free throws). Panthers won 72-33.

Dick Muma, Chadron Prep, 42 vs Lyman in Feb. 1959 (17 FGs and 8 FTs). Prep won 70-40. Muma finished career with 1,545 points.

Kevin Moore, Chadron Assumption, 39 at Holy Rosary in 1970 when he was a freshman (14 FGs, 11-15 FTs). Holy Rosary won 82-70 and the Crusaders’ Pat Mills scored 40 points.

Jim Montague, Chadron High, 39 vs. Job Corps in 1982. (18 FGs, 7-8 FTs).  Cards won 91-65.

Danny Kuska, Chadron Prep, 38 vs. Crawford, Feb. 11, 1950. (15 FGs, 8 FTs.) Prep won 67-43. Kuska scored 26 points in first half. He also scored 33 points in Prep’s 47-37 win over Waverly in Class C state championship game that year and was the state tourneys high score with 62 points in three games. 

Jesse Wood, Chadron High, 38 vs. Hot Springs, Jan. 1996. (13 FGs, 4 3-pointers, 8-8 FTs.) CHS won 72-67.

Kevin Moore, Chadron High, 37 at Crawford, Jan. 1973, (16 FGs, 5-6 FTs.) School record.  Cards won 74-61.

Elliott Eliason, Chadron High, 36 vs. Hay Springs in his final home game in Feb. 2010. (14-17 FGs, 8-10 FTs).  He also had 20 rebounds and blocked six shots.  Cards won 63-42.

Kevin Moore, Chadron High, 35 vs. Bridgeport, Jan. 1973. School record. (15 FGs, 5-5 FTs and 14 rebounds). Cards won 65-42. He also scored 32 vs. Gordon as a senior in 1972-73. Moore scored 1,826 career points at the two schools.

Jesse Wood, Chadron High, 35 vs. Scottsbluff, Feb. 1996, district playoff game, lost 63-59. (14 FGs, 6 3-pointers, 1 FT). Wood scored 30 points in 2nd half, including 20 consecutive points for the Cards. He tallied 1,446 career points while starting all four years.


 *All Chadron high schools. Prep closed in 1961 and Assumption closed in 1971.

+Fahey played only one year at Assumption, 1951-52, when he was a junior.  He did not graduate until 1953, but could not play in 1952-53 because he had spent the first semester of the 1948-49 at Spearfish High before dropping out.  He played at Provo High School at Igloo, SD, the 1949-50 and 1950-51 school years and then came to Chadron Assumption for the 1951-52 school year.  He remained at Assumption in 1952-53 and graduated that spring.   He was 88 years old and still doing well when this was written.

Note: As a sophomore at Assumption in 1970-71, Kevin Moore also scored 30 points in games against Crawford, Holy Rosary and Harrison and 29 vs. Holy Rosary and Lexington St. Anne at the state tournament.  In addition, late in his freshman year at Assumption, he scored 29 vs. St. Agnes. 

Prepared by Con Marshall, January 2023.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Mary Sager observes 105th Birthday!

By Con Marshall 

The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6 that if children obey their parents—"honor your mother and father, the first commandment with promise”-- you may live long on the earth. 

Mary K. Sager apparently followed that directive. She will have her 105th birthday Friday, November 25. She’s certainly lived a long and productive life.  While family members say she now sleeps more and reads less than she once did, she’s still alert, looks nice, enjoys life and recognizes many family members. 

It would be a stretch to say that she recognizes all of the latter. She has more than 140 descendants, including three great-great-great grandchildren.  Among her many blessings is that all seven of her children, who range in age from 71 to 85, are alive and well. She also has a younger sister—Mildred Dawkins—who is a mere 92.  But she has outlived five other siblings. 
Mary was born to Joseph and Josie Masek, the third of their children, in a dugout on Craven Creek a few miles south of White Clay on November 25, 1917. She lived in that same vicinity for nearly 99 years, or until about 5 ½ years ago, when she moved to Chadron to live with her daughter, Mary Ellen New. 

She’s not known many luxuries, but has always made the best of things. She’s described by her family members as being a hard worker, taught her children to work and was a disciplinarian who kept a razor strap handy, but didn’t use it often. She could improvise, was mostly even-tempered, nearly always happy and was a strong Christian believer. 

She always went with her kids to the nearby Extension Sunday-School, read the Bible faithfully and even now, makes sure it is close by.  Like most Americans from her era, Mary was tough and persistent.  She rode a horse all eight years to the District 79 school that was about three miles from the Masek home.  At times she rode in a horse-drawn cart with some of her siblings. 

Alice Denton, one of the daughters, says that after graduating from the eighth grade Mary wanted to go to high school, but her father thought she should find a job. So, at age 14, she packed her suitcase, her dad took her to Pine Ridge and she found a job in a restaurant and a place to live with an elderly lady.  The roof leaked, but a bucket was kept handy in case it rained. 

Before long, Mary found a better job. She joined the kitchen staff at the Lone Man Day School about 15 miles northwest of Pine Ridge. Her main job was baking bread. She and a few others who were on the staff lived near the school in a small blue house that is still standing. 

When Mary had time off, she started walking toward home and nearly always had soon hitched a ride with an Indian family in a horse-drawn wagon. 

On October 25, 1935, she married Harry E. Sager, whose family lived about two miles north of the Maseks. He had graduated from Gordon High School in 1933. The new couple lived with his parents briefly, then built a two-room structure on the same farmstead. In 1945, after the first five daughters were born, the Sagers bought the nearby Stewart place, which, thankfully, had a larger house, and moved there. That became the “home place.” 
The girls—most of them born about two years apart—are Joyce Wellnitz, Margaret Marshall, Alice Denton, Elaine Graeff, Mary Ellen New and Margie Wrede. Elaine lives in Iowa and Margie in Rapid City. The others live in Sheridan and Dawes counties. 

While Harry loved his daughters and treated them well, the story is told that he saw a picture of a handsome boy in the Saturday Evening Post magazine, cut it out and hung it on his wife’s side of the bed. Within a year, Harry Joe came along.  

Harry Joe and his wife, Robin, have operated the home place ever since Harry II (His dad also was named Harry) died on January 3, 1995 at age 80.   

Alice remembers that her mom raised a huge garden.  Harry plowed it each spring, but Mom did most of the rest.  Sometimes she was tending to it by 4 a.m.  Mary then canned “hundreds” of jars of vegetables in a pressure cooker heated by a stove that burned wood. Dad saw to it that the kids kept the box filled with wood so Mary didn’t have to fetch it.  

Mary made good use of the cucumbers, turning them into dill pickles that she kept in a 10-gallon crock. Cousins and neighbor kids usually helped themselves to at least one when they visited. 

The wood stove also was used to heat the water for the wringer washing machine and for the baths that the six girls took in a portable round tub. Like the other rural residents in the area, the Sagers didn’t get what was known as REA until 1951.  

Harry immediately bought a deep freeze that was one of the family’s first conveniences. Running water was brought to the kitchen in ’53, but the house didn’t have a bathroom until 1965 when an addition was built that also included a living room and a bedroom.  

Mary had a pedal sewing machine and was adept at converting flour sacks into dresses for the girls. She also used older garments as the pattern for blouses and other clothing items. In addition, she enjoyed hunting with her husband and was a good shot.  

The story was told at Mary’s 100th birthday party – held at the Senior Citizen Center in Chadron and attended by a large number of friends and relatives – that when Mary was about 90 she had stayed at home to prepare the noon meal while everyone else went to another part of the ranch for some sort of a project.  When the crew arrived for lunch, Mary was not happy. While they were gone she had spotted a coyote snooping around the farmstead, went to get her rifle and it was gone. Someone had taken it without asking. 

While the family was growing up, the Sagers seldom ventured far from home. But in the late 1940s, before Harry Joe had arrived, the six girls loaded into the back of a Jeep, the family’s only vehicle, and went with their parents on a trip to the Black Hills. It remains a memorable event when they reflect on their childhood.  

In later years, Harry and Mary traveled more, nearly always taking a trip to Montana to visit relatives. For her 90th birthday, Mary celebrated by going on a Caribbean cruise.  

The generational breakdown reveals that besides seven children, she had 23 grandchildren, 65 great-grandchildren, 49 great-great grands and the three great-great-greats. The descendants can be proud that “Grandma Mary” has been a productive, diligent person.  They will cherish their memories of her and pass them on to succeeding generations.  

Research shows than less than 1 percent of Americans live to be 100, so Mary has done something really special. She didn’t do it by taking life easy or living a life of luxury.  When asked if her mother was ever sick, Alice replied, “No, she didn’t have time for that.” 

Happy birthday cards may be sent to Mary Sager at 517 Chadron Avenue, Chadron, Nebraska 69337.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Joe American Horse reflects on a great career

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.”

He believes he was one of just three Native 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.