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The Very First “Friday Night Lights” Happened In Midwest, Wyoming In 1925

in News/Good news
20929

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
wendy@cowboystatedaily.com

For most of the residents and visitors in Wyoming, the town of Midwest is nothing more than an exit sign on Interstate 25 between Buffalo and Casper.

But the tiny town created during the oil boom of the early 20th century has a little-known claim to fame – it was the location of the very first high school football game played at night under electric lights.

“Ironically, even though we call it ‘Friday Night Lights’ now, Nov. 19, 1925, was a Thursday night,” said Phil LeMaitre, a Midwest native and author who has written a series of novels based on his experiences growing up near the Salt Creek oilfield. 

“The Midwest Oil and Refining Company, which was one of the major players in the Salt Creek field, brought in the lights. They thought it was a novelty thing,” LeMaitre told Cowboy State Daily. “And they set up a game between Midwest and Casper. The feeling was that the nighttime games would draw more of a crowd from the oilfield workers in the area, and perhaps even people from Casper, which it did.

“But I’m ashamed to say that Midwest didn’t even score a point that night,” LeMaitre said “Casper beat them 20 to nothing.”

Artificial Lighting

By the mid-1920s, college football had begun experimenting with artificial lighting, but no high schools had attempted the technology until the Midwest Oil Company provided the means to hold games at a time when more of the local oilfield workers and families could attend. 

Midwest has had to fight for its claim as the location of the first night high school football game. Residents in Westville, Illinois, have put up a sign claiming that in 1928, the nation’s first lighted high school game was played there in a game against nearby Milford.

First Lighted Game

But Midwest’s night game was held three years before the Illinois game and a full four years before the first professional night game. Between 400 and 1,000 people turned out for the game, braving the freezing cold weather.

“For the football game, Midwest Refinery Company electricians set up 12 floodlights of 1,000 candlepower each around the field, four more of 2,000 candlepower and from the top of an oil derrick near the field, a huge searchlight swung its beam over the players and the crowd,” wrote historian Tom Rea in his blog post on WyoHistory.org.

“The Salt Creek Museum (in Midwest) has the football that was used in that first lighted football game,” LeMaitre said. “And it was a white football.”



Coach Harshman

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, a 20-year legislator, is also a native of Midwest who knows Wyoming football better than most. He spoke to Cowboy State Daily from a football camp in Chadron, Nebraska, where he was coaching his Natrona County High School football team, a position he has held for 37 years.

Harshman, like LeMaitre, played high school football for the Midwest Oilers, and takes pride in the team’s place in Wyoming football history.

“I remember as a little kid going to those games,” Harshman said. “They used to play up where the baseball field is now, where the intersection of the highways is. 

“When you used to go to Midwest, (there were) thousands and thousands of (oil) derricks, and each one had gas flares on top, so it was light around there the whole time,” Harshman continued. “There were thousands of people that lived out there.”

State Champions

Harshman recalled that when he played high school football in Midwest, the team won the state championship in 1979.

“We were playing teams like Sundance, Upton, Moorcroft, Tongue River, Big Horn,” he said. “That field is kind of down off the edge of the cliffs there, and you’d have people parked all along the top and then people parked outside. So we’d have some really nice crowds, and a lot of fun. A lot of community support.”

LeMaitre also recalled fondly his Midwest high school football experiences.

“My senior year, we had a great, great team,” he said. “And the team behind us, they graduated in (1987), they also only lost one game. So for three years’ stretch we only lost four games. And that has never been repeated.” 



SIDE NOTE:

Interestingly, the very first night football game played under electric lights took place in 1892 and also had a Wyoming connection. The game, played in Pennsylvania on Sept. 28, 1892, was between Mansfield State Normal School and Wyoming Seminary – but the “Wyoming” referenced the Wyoming valley of northeast Pennsylvania. And the game was a bust, only lasting 20 minutes because the lighting system turned out to be inadequate … and several players reportedly had unfortunate run-ins with a light pole.

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Cheyenne Mom And Daughter Crafting Beds Out Of Meal Delivery Kits For Rescued Dogs

in News/Good news
20108

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Deborah Dunham said her mom, Alice Pitcher, is consistently trying to find a way to use items more than just once.

For pretty much all of Dunham’s life, her mom has been the type of person who does not like to waste things.

And Dunham has followed in her mom’s footsteps — now reusing packing material to make life for rescued dogs in Colorado a little more comfortable.

Dunham and Pitcher both make beds for an animal rescue operation in Colorado.

“We’re both sewers and we will randomly find things to use scrap fabric for,” Dunham said. “So we volunteer with an animal rescue down in Colorado and we were curious how we could do more for the animals.”

So the two began making dog beds, stuffing them with using scrap fabric.

This way, the dogs at Soul Dog Rescue in Fort Lupton, Colorado, would have fresh, new beds to sleep on as they waited to find their forever homes. Plus, if they tore up the beds, there is less likelihood of them choking on the tiny pieces of fabric, Dunham said.

But after making the beds stuffed with fabric, the mother and daughter discovered another way to make beds while also using what would have been waste.

“I started getting the Home Chef meals and the meal delivery kits come with a lot of packaging,” Dunham said. “There’s this insulation inside and while the company says it’s compostable, the only thing that can really be composted is the inside, the rest would just go into a landfill. But for a pet bed, it’s perfect.”

Now, Dunham and Pitcher are collecting meal delivery kit insulation material from Cheyenne residents in order to make more pet beds for the Colorado shelter, as well as a shelter in Cheyenne.

While Dunham noted that the beds themselves could not be washed due to the insulation material, the idea of getting one more use out of the insulation was attractive.

“It got used once and that was once more than it was intended for and it’s not going to waste. Plus, it will be a nice bed for a dog, even if it’s just to transport them,” she said. “Everything I do revolves around what else can I do for these animals. If we can make them comfortable in a crate, that’s great.”

Dunham put out a call for materials on Facebook and actually received “five or six” responses from people who wanted to help, she said. Pitcher is currently working on making the pet beds and the more material they receive, the more beds they can make.

Dunham said she never really thought about the desire she and her mother share to to keep more items out of landfills, but when she thought about it, she liked the fact that she and Pitcher can extend an item’s usefulness just a little bit.

“My mom is so much more creative in how we can reuse things. I just happened to have the material and she put it into action,” Dunham said.

Soul Dog Rescue works to save animals from suffering and mistreatment due to overpopulation and lack of resources in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The organization works to spay and neuter animals on Native reservations and have rescued more than 15,000 animals to date.

Anyone interested in donating materials to Dunham can reach out to her on Facebook.

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