Snowball

I was trying to capture the wind whipping the snow across the playground, but it really just looks like I didn’t make the effort to get close enough to take a picture of the “warm-up,” if that’s the right term for today’s pre-game.

I set up shop early this morning in the living room, watching the snow come down. Then I realized I was hearing some noise our house doesn’t usually make, but it took longer than it should have (it was early, remember) for it to occur to me that it was wind. A mid-November blizzard.

So before Oz and I went out for our Saturday Inspection Tour, I put on my Muck boots, a sweatshirt, my winter jacket and a knit cap over my ballcap. Before I even reached the first house on our tour, the cap had come off and my jacket was open. I took my gloves off sometime before I met a new neighbor and his bird dog Molly, and when Lisa, Fred and Rufus happened by (Social Saturday!) and Lisa’s ears were cold, I loaned her my knit cap.

All of us, including Brian, who is here maybe from Montana, clearing trees out of the middle of his newly-purchased lot and staking out a possible house location prior to a springtime ground-breaking, managed to pick the calm in the storm to go out with our dogs.

By the time my phone rang, interrupting my plan for a midday nap, the snow had done all the snowing it was going to do, but visibility was once again not great as the wind lifted great gouts of snow and carried it eastward.

My phone call was from a PE teacher for the school district who was having trouble with the middle school football scoreboard. He was hoping I would have some tips for him.

And while I could barely hear him due to the wind whipping across his phone speaker, I eventually managed to suss out that the high school was going to be playing football this afternoon, and that’s what the scoreboard was needed for.

The last game of the shortened middle school season, which now feels like it was months ago (or about three weeks ago, depending on whose calendar we’re using), I was having enough trouble with the remote connecting to the board that Mary, the athletic director, and I decided the old board might be on its last legs. Or at least the remote was.

But while mine was a blank-screen issue, Matt was having trouble getting the remote to talk to the scoreboard. I wasn’t being much help — I do much better at remembering how this remote functions when it’s in my hands, rather than trying to visualize it from a distance.

I offered to come in and see if I could figure it out, but Matt said he’d just wing it. After thinking it over a bit longer, I called him back. I didn’t want to offend him, but I did wonder if he had turned on the switch for the scoreboard itself. The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like the remote was trying but not finding the board.

No, the switch was on — he’d checked, he said. Or at least that seemed to be the gist of what he was saying — the wind was really whistling across his phone. I decided I should just go into town.

I wasn’t sure why the game was taking place at the middle school when the high school, which used the college field for years and years and years, finally got its own gridiron just a few years ago. But the high school field, it turns out, has bleachers, and there didn’t seem to be any way to turn spectators away.

This game, I learned (not that I even knew it was taking place before Matt called), was supposed to be spectator-free, due to the increase of covid cases, perhaps both locally and statewide. There were several cars angled toward the field, so I asked if parents could watch from their cars, but Matt said there weren’t supposed to be any spectators.

Matt and Dave, the high school wrestling coach, were helping a little ATV truck with a plow blade make it off the field as I arrived. Standing next to a bunch of bright-orange spray-paint cans used to mark the boundaries of the field, I examined the scoreboard, which seemed to be functioning.

It turns out, my diagnosis was correct — Matt and I just had the wrong switch. Since it wasn’t the one on the back of the board, he started working his way down the extension cords, only to realize the powerstrip everything was plugged into needed to be reset. “I should have called you back,” he said.

Right about then, one of the referees came over to make sure everything was good with the clock and to find out who was running it. It sounded like Matt hadn’t really planned on doing that, but he and Dave said they would be there. It also sounded like while they’ve both had plenty of experience playing and coaching football, they were new to the world of clock-keeping.

I did ask, and I was even sincere, if they wanted me to stay — although if the answer had been yes I was going to go back home for the Muck boots, another pair of socks, some snow pants and a windbreaker to put under my jacket. While the two of them thought this was the latest regular-season game the high school has ever played, Western routinely has November games, so I know how to dress for them. Layers, lots of layers.

They said they had it under control, so after looking up the field with them to see if some coach was wearing shorts as he does for every game (answer: yes, but then all the players were in short pants too), I called it quits and headed for my car, where warmth awaited.

The air temperature itself wasn’t really so bad, and the sun was shining, but that wind was wicked cold. The teams had pulled their busses up to the sidelines, although whether anyone used them during the game I don’t know.

I tuned into the final quarter of the game on my way to buy groceries. Funnily enough, the first thing I heard from the announcers was that the scoreboard had gone down and had been removed from the field, so it clearly wasn’t coming back. I did have a guilty moment then, wondering if I should have stayed, but they managed to complete the game, probably with stopwatches, the way I did it for years before the scoreboard was purchased.

[Not a good week for technology in Gunnison. It turns out redundancy is planned over Cottonwood Pass, but the work stopped on account of covid; and we can’t fault the equipment operator who cut the line midway between Gunnison and Montrose because Century Link did a bad job of locating its own line for him.]

Gunnison beat arch-rival Olathe 35-0 today, in what may or may not be the final game of a delayed, shortened season. The Cowboys won’t be going to the playoffs, but they may play Del Norte next week, virus and weather permitting.

One of the announcers said he really hoped the game would come to pass, noting that this year’s seniors have had quite a rocky ride with football. After two years with only a junior varsity team, due to low numbers of participants, Gunnison was set to return to the varsity level — and then Corona came calling, shrinking the season as one final insult.

I’m just going to hope, if it happens, that it’s a road game, so I don’t have to feel any sort of responsibility for keeping score on a snowy, windy day.

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