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A rare football shot
Random Thoughts - September 8, 2022
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - Readers of the August 25 issue of this newspaper were treated to a photographic scene that probably will never again be seen. The Chieftains were gathered on the field in Pickering Park with the team and the tall lights perfectly framed in the arch of a huge rainbow, with storm clouds in the distance. Lenor Wilkie of Muscoda was there with her camera and recorded the rare, and probably, once-in-a-lifetime scene.

That scene was part of an unusual game as the Chieftains hosted Southwestern-East Dubuque in a contest that took two evenings to complete because of lightning delays.

I photographed local high school athletics for 54-plus years but I do not recall another time when a contest was called because of lightning and then finished the following evening. I am certain I never went home with a photo of Pickering Park and players framed by a rainbow.

I do, however, have a football story regarding flashing lights. It happened back in the days when photographers used “flash bulbs” to illustrate night pictures. That meant, in addition to the camera, I had to carry a pocket-full of flash bulbs because they could be used only once – and they were expensive.

So when strobe lights became available – that could light picture after picture – I bought one as soon as I could afford that tool.

One of the first games I photographed while using the new light was during a cloudless evening under the stars at Seneca. I don’t remember which team won the contest. I was busy taking pictures with my new equipment, taking many shots.

However, I was told that part way through the game a referee approached a team huddle with the words, “step it up a bit boys, it’s starting to lightning.” However, the flashing wasn’t coming from the sky, it was coming from the photographer who was walking the sidelines trying out a new, and welcome, gadget.

Going back to those “flash bulb” days, in 1959 the local team was known as the “Muscoda Indians.” Coach Carl Larson announced his starting offensive 8-man team against Hazel Green for the first game of the season would be Mike Foley, Gordon Thiede, Don Storms, Dough Wedge, Larry Cannoy, Larry Balousek, Ed Grzenia and Kelton Riley.

Coach Larson had predicted Ithaca and LaFarge would be the toughest competitors. However, the Indians opened the season with a 19-6 loss to Hazel Green with Kelton Riley scoring the touchdown.