By Jim Nowlan
Paul Grieve passed away recently. Paul was a good guy, and had a good life, in large part because he had a good wife in Kay (Page), who is always positive, outgoing and caring.
Paul was a good athlete. Somehow, I recall with picture-perfect clarity the Stark County Track Meet in the spring of 1955, the year Paul graduated from Toulon High.
The annual meet was a big deal, bringing together the county’s four high schools for a full day of track and field events, providing one school bragging rights for the ensuing year.
The meet was held that year in Bradford. I was in 8th grade, and I was watching the high jump contest from behind the sand pit where jumpers landed.
Paul was not tall, yet I was blown away, as they say today, after Paul cleared a really high bar (probably a bamboo pole in those days). Paul got up, maybe brushed the sand off, and then, standing straight up, walked under the bar, which was several inches above his head. Paul was undoubtedly pleased with himself, as he should have been.
As a gradeschooler, I just couldn’t imagine that someone could ever jump higher than his own height. Using the sissified scissors technique, I couldn’t clear half my height.
This was before the famous “Fosbury Flop” technique of jumping back first. Paul probably used what I remember as the “Western Roll,” rolling over above the bar somehow. All I remember is that he walked back under that bar he had just cleared!
Keep jumpin’ high, Paul.
Thinking of the annual county meet, in decades prior to my time the culminating event of the meet was the Declamation Contest(s). On a small stage in the field in the early evening, I’m thinking, high school boys and girls gave speeches, maybe read their poetry, or whatever.
I recall being told—he was way too modest to tell me himself—that my late buddy Ernest Robson, certainly no athlete himself, won a declamation contest for Toulon High.
And the points scored in the declamation events sometimes determined which school won the overall championship for that year.
Nice blend of athletics and academics.
On my recent trip west, I stopped over in Casper, WY the same evening, quite coincidentally, as the finals of the National Collegiate Rodeo Finals. So, I moseyed over to the civic center-like arena where about 10,000 fans shouted and stomped as talented young cowboys and cowgirls showed their stuff.
Never having been to a rodeo, and understanding as much about horses as I do about how GPS works, I was fascinated with what I observed to be the incredibly tight bonds between riders and their handsome horses.
Rider and steed waited in their stall for just the right moment to give the signal to release a calf or horned steer from its chute. Rider and horse were as one as they raced out to rope or wrestle same to the ground moments later.
I’ll bet when one of those horses passes, the grief is as for a family member.
Rodeo is dangerous. Earlier in the week—the Casper newspaper was full of it—a young bull rider was critically injured after being stomped. And a coach in one of the chutes was also badly injured when a bull unexpectedly kicked then crushed him against the gate.
I think the most underappreciated—and most at risk—participants in the arena were the two cowboys who throughout the long night gave rides to bucking bronco riders, guided bulls and other animals to the exit gates, and otherwise maintained some order in the ring.
And I’m 100 percent sure I was the only person there wearing an Irish tweed cap of the sort you see on English period pieces on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater!
By Jim Nowlan