This past weekend, my wife and I watched the movie Hoosiers. One of our sons told us that he had watched it several times in the last month. Like most of us, he is sick and tired of listening to all of the negative news and really idiotic TV shows. He stated that for two hours he can go back to a simpler time and watch people who enjoyed life in a small farming community . . . and see a happy ending. Much of the movie was filmed right here in Montgomery County, mostly in the New Richmond area, in the mid-1980s. Of course, I had seen the movie several times in the past, but had not watched it in the last 10 years or so.
Well, my wife and I still enjoy the movie immensely. We grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. "Hoosiers" is like living my childhood over again. Coach Norman Dale reminds me of my two high school coaches, Emerson Mutterspaugh and Galen Smith, when he says, "My practices aren't designed for your enjoyment and . . . you're in my Army every day between three and five." Just like the team members in the movie, I respected my coaches at Darlington, worked hard, and did exactly what they told me to do.
"If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we're gonna be winners;" . . . a good life lesson for anyone.
As a youngster, I seldom missed watching a high school game. I admired the Darlington high school players, and I also kept tab of the other county teams and leading scorers. Dad put up a goal on the side of the barn. My brother and I practiced and practiced, dodging chickens and corncobs and rocks. We played when it was 95 degrees, and we played with snow on the ground. We shot baskets inside the barn at my cousin's place across the road. And we threw a little rubber ball into a coffee can nailed to our bedroom wall. In the 1960s, we both became "Indians" for the Darlington varsity team. We won some great games, and we also lost some great games.
We didn't know it at the time, but later on I realized that losing can teach you as much about life as winning.
There were some ferocious rivalries among the small schools here in the county. It seemed that we always played harder against Linden and New Ross. And certainly all of the little schools took great pleasure in beating Crawfordsville. It didn't happen very often, but when it did, it was like winning the state tournament!
My coaches instilled in me that teamwork was the key, as Coach Norman Dale said, "Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important than the other."
But there were also many great scorers from the little schools, players like Jimmy Chitwood who said "I can make it." . . . players like Charlie Bowerman and Whitey Reath from Alamo, Daryl Warren and Fred Johnson from Linden, Bill and Keith Greve and Mike Mitchell from Waveland, Steve Pierce from Waynetown, Rick Haas and Lee Fouts from Coal Creek, Don Threlkeld and Rich Douglas from Darlington, the three Haffner brothers from New Ross, Dave Williamson from Ladoga, Jim Slavens from New Market . . . just to name a few. I remember seeing Charlie Bowerman at the Crawfordsville gym when I was about 10 years old, and getting his autograph. And when I was a senior, I was fortunate enough to be the leading scorer in the county. Little kids looked up to me . . . and wanted MY autograph. As Myra Fleenor said in the movie, "A basketball hero around here is treated like a God;" . . . and Coach Dale replied, "You know, most people would kill to be treated like a God, just for a few moments."
Well, as I look back on those days, it was not the high point of my life as Myra implied, and I did not "sit around talking about the glory days." But it was a special time in my life for sure.
It seemed like the entire community attended the high school games. You had to arrive early to get a seat. Most of the students were at the games on Friday or Saturday nights. Many were in the pep block, some played in the band, checked coats, and sold refreshments. The PTO sold sandwiches and snacks during halftime. The principal and many teachers also showed up to support the team. The basketball team represented the town and community. When the small high schools closed in 1971, the era of our own Montgomery County "Hoosiers" came to an end. It is not the same today, but at least there is still a rivalry among North, South, and Crawfordsville.
I feel very fortunate to have experienced small school basketball. I still tend to root for the underdog. "Let's win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here." If you have time, watch "Hoosiers" again. "We've got spirit, yes we do; we've got spirit, how about you?"
And remember . . . if you are older, like me, keep movin'. "Don't get caught watching the paint dry."

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.