If you do something, do it well..

I can’t remember exactly when I discovered in an old metal chest the basketball uniform. It was made of wool and it was orange with black numbers. I can remember looking at it with awe and asking my Dad about it.

He had played for Rudyard High School and the game was his passion. His fondest memory was beating the Havre Blue Ponies when he was a 17 year old senior at Rudyard High. If you dug deeper in the metal chest there was a picture of his team, the 1927 Rudyard Basketball team. He related to me every player and their respective abilities.

His eyes would light up when talking about the team and the games. He was very passionate about the game and how it should be played. My ma had played also for the Hingham High School, but her passion for the game wasn’t as deep as my Father’s.

I can remember always, always wanting to play. My Dad took me when I was very young to games and when we rode home from the various Hi-Line towns he would dissect the game. The message always came through, that if you were gonna play you better do it well. But more importantly if you weren’t the best player on the floor you could do one thing and that was a must.

You had to play with passion, a love for the game.

If you could do nothing else you could hustle, you could scrap, you could play as hard as your body would let you and let the love of the game shine through.

On those long trips home to Gildford, then the 16 miles north to the farm I heard about many games in town halls, barroom dance halls that he had played in High School and for the town team.

No college for him as he had worked like a man since he was 14 years old, but after High School there were still town team games when you played the rough and tumble basketball that grown men play.

My basket on the farm was in a Quonset with a low ceiling. I had the luxury of a cement floor and the basket was exactly 10 feet high, but the darn low ceiling was hard to arc the ball from very far out.

This is where I learned to shoot.

There was usually a truck parked where the free throw line would have been,but the sides were almost always open for shooting. I learned to shoot very well from both sides. I practiced by myself hour after hour and in the winter my hands would be so cold that I no longer could feel the ball. The ball wouldn’t dribble any more as it was so cold. If you tried to dribble it, the thud as it hit the floor was as far as it bounced.

About this time the Gildford Broncs were making a run at the State title in Class C basketball. At that time in Montana there were many Class C schools maybe 130 or 140 small schools, many under 50 students. So to reach the State tourney you had to win or get second in the District tourney, a Divisional tourney and then you could qualify for the State tourney.

I was about 8 or 9 when they got 3rd in the State, the next year they won the whole thing. My cousin David Welsh was a starting guard on the State Championship team. If I had needed any more incentive this was surely it.

If you weren’t raised in a small town, I mean a small under 300 people town you will never know the excitement, the pride, and the passion that goes into a winning season of basketball. When you win the whole she-bang its like the Holy Grail of Basketball. The whole town turns out and the pride of accomplishment is unparalleled.

I went back to work on the game as if my life depended on it.

I practiced night and day and now not only me but all my classmates. We’d seen the elephant and we wanted to be the ones that won it again. My friend Art H. and I played many winter nights till our feet and our hands froze outside his parents little house after shoveling the snow off the hard frozen ground and dreamed the dream.

I won’t go into too much detail about my career, but we didn’t ever win the Big One. I never was on a team that got out of the District tourney.

But, life gives us another chance and when my two younger boys got old enough to play I tried to give them the love of this beautiful game that my Father had given me. They both turned out to better ball players than me and my middle son was fortunate enough to help his team win two state titles.

I will leave you with this:

One evening in a restaurant having dinner my classmate Art H. and his wife were sitting at a table directly across from us. My middle boy was with us and I introduced him to Art and his wife. My son and his teammates had won their first state title. When Art and I started to talk about how much it meant to us when we were kids and how we dreamed of it every day, both of us broke down and cried right there in the middle of the restaurant. Two grown men still knew what passion and love of the game is all about.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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