CLINTON-GRACEVILLE-BEARDSLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT
2012 STATE 9-MAN FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS
It is a good time to be living in Clinton, Beardsley and Graceville Minnesota. Our small towns, together, won the 2012 Nine-Man State Football Championships. What a tremendous community building experience. What sheer, unadulterated joy if you are willing to just give yourself completely over to the experience of small prairie towns bursting with pride over the collective efforts of its children. Let's just go with that feeling. Hopefully for months and years to come.
The last time one of our three towns won a state championship was the 1926 boys basketball team from Beardsely, MN. So once every three + generations or so we strike upon the ingredients that make for champions. What are the odds that our family would be here to enjoy such good fortune? But here we are. And enjoy we will.
Even the State HS Football League officials were impressed by the turnout of our small communities. If my math was correct, there were about 1,000 people in the stands cheering on CGB. Keep in mind that the total population of our three towns is about 1200 (Clinton 400, Beardsley 225, and Graceville 575).
Among those 1,000 were a number of 'exiles'- the folks that have built their lives elsewhere after growing up among the good people of our prairie towns. A few of the exiles didn't know what the consolidated school districts new colors were (they are blue and silver) as they may have graduated from the town with the green and the gold shamrocks. There were rivalries and even some cultural divides among these small towns.
There was a fair amount of pain that came with the necessity of closing down schools and busing kids across what is now a 50 mile wide school district. Not a choice any of these towns wanted to make. But this win- this collective win- is possible because we brought all of our children together into this one CGB school district not by choice, but by necessity. And after all these years, the old alums of their respective villages are now excited, happy and know the 'new' school colors. "Go Wolverines!!" They all shouted together. All 1,000 of them. A lot of healing took place on Friday. Healing that was decades in the coming. A good thing.
But oh! the breathe taking fun that was to follow the game. We drove the four hours back to our small town. It was night now and the prairie was dark. There were cars and people lined up waiting to wave on the team starting many many miles from home. People from Cyrus (40 miles east), Morris, Chokio, Alberta--wearing parkas and waving at the cars. The Morris, Chokio and Graceville fire departments had their trucks out and were waiting to escort the team the last miles to their hometown. And in Graceville, MN the Case tractor dealership had turned on the blinking lights on all the tractors in the lot. It was a treat to the senses and to the heart.
It was nothing short of thrilling to watch the cold, dark and quiet nighttime prairie come alive with lights, sirens, and people. Watch this: (start at 1:31 to avoid hearing me yell at my kids)
I am going to digress. I'd lived an adventurous life before settling down in Big Stone County. My work as a Soil Scientist has taken me to every continent except Antarctica. I've traveled through war torn Colombia, hitchhiked alone on the Golan Heights of Israel, meditated in the Taj Mahal in India. But it is this adventure- this adventure in farming and rural life - that is my best. It is moving, grasping, heart rending, and exhilarating. It is profound.
And if you take some still, calm moments you will recognize much good in the people around you. I loved senior football player Ethan Chase's talk to the crowd and his teammate at the Welcome Home party back in the high school gym. I liked how he came to say it, as much as what he said, because in his moment of glory Ethan quoted the bus driver. The nameless bus driver. The bus driver told those boys that they were coming home to a very proud community and that they should cherish every moment and those around them. Ethan typifies these good plains people who know that wisdom resides in everyone- that we don't need to look to people of distinction to find truth and inspiration. That it can be found in all of us in our everyday. And so listen here (for the first minute):
This morning in church we all gave not just one, but two rounds of applause for the football players sitting in the pews. And after church those strong boys were put to good use hauling the Christmas decorations up the stairs for the ladies to begin decorating for the season.
What's left to say? Go Team!