Prompted

Spring 2019

Prompt: Extracurriculars

In 1960 my classmate (no names, please!) and I became publishers of the notorious Grinnellian Rebellion. We started this underground newsletter as a humorous alternative to the Scarlet & Blah, the official voice of the student corpus. It was written on a manual typewriter and then mimeographed surreptitiously in Goodnow Hall. Paper cost a lot of money for us impoverished juniors. Fortunately, friends would kick in a ream or two of paper.

The mailroom supervisor, who was indifferent, senile, or had a sense of humor, stuffed each issue into students’ mailboxes. Then we’d stand outside to see who snorted and threw our magnum opus in the trash or laughed uproariously at the parody. Happily, none of us were caught and expelled. He went on to be a direct-mail writer and I a corporate communications director.

In the late 1960s, field hockey was a club team with no official coaches and no official budget, but we had the complete support of Ms. Buck and Ms. King, who arranged for transportation to our away games. Those of us from the East Coast, where hockey was highly competitive, recruited our friends so that we could field a complete team. We were lucky because we had one experienced forward, one experienced halfback, and one experienced fullback; so we had the coaching covered!

You can imagine our delight when we won the state championship in 1968, surely fueled by spirit and grit more than talent. On our way home, we stopped for dinner and carried our 3-foot-tall trophy crowned by its hockey player into the restaurant with us to keep it safe. The hostess looked at our prize and said, “I see you girls won a golf tournament!”

I vividly remember auditioning for the musical Stop the World, I Want to Get Off during the 1968–69 season. Merritt Olsen ’68 was cast as the lead, Littlechap, and I was cast as Ginne, an American cabaret singer, one of his conquests. I recall how intense rehearsals were but how easy Merritt made it seem. His acting was so natural and he was so professional that he immediately put all the cast at ease.

In one scene, Littlechap and I had a flirtatious moment onstage after I sang a song and sat in his lap. It was so much fun to trade lines with him and see how the audience appreciated his performance as much as I did. Although this was my first acting role, taking part in the theatre at Grinnell and working with such a talented actor and the rest of the cast was a thrilling experience for me.

Freshman year I was a member of Cleveland Hall’s after-dinner basketball team. I think we were playing Loose Hall, and with 20 seconds left, we were behind by a point. We stole the ball and called a time-out.

I remember saying, “Don’t give me the ball,” as I knew I wasn’t the one to trust! But with seconds left, and me standing in the corner to not be anywhere near the action, Dave Rosenwasser ’73 tossed me the ball.

As I heard the ref count down from five, I threw the ball with all my might towards the basket, and to my shock it swished through; we won by a point.

I even called my parents after the game to let them know of my “heroics” of that evening. I still remember the ecstasy I felt years later!

For spring 1960 track/field intramurals, I entered the softball throw as a Dibble freshman. My principal opponent was a rangy, sophomore, 6-foot-5-inch Iowa farm boy. All his throws were perfect liners, rarely 10 feet off the ground. His best was 293 feet.

We had a big tail wind north of Darby Gym. I remembered high school physics — the best distance is achieved with a 45-degree angle. With that science and the tail wind, 310 feet won.

The next year, we were both back to compete. He threw the same 293 feet with no wind for Rawson. My second-best for West Norris was 290. I always wished I had been able to throw like him when I wanted to.

On a whim (and a compelling green Mac field), I joined Grinnell women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the Sticky Tongue Frogs. Joining Ultimate — a self-refereeing spirit of the game played by people who occasionally dress in costumes to play a sport — was, in a way, entering the culture of Grinnell. Indeed, my Ultimate community is composed of some of the strangest, most caring, eclectic, athletic people I’ve ever known — including my now spouse, Caleb Leedy ’16.

For four years, we drove across the country for tournaments, played in frostbite-inducing weather and on the beach in warm-to-us March weather. Along the way, I learned to bid, handle, heckle, and cut. We qualified for Division III Nationals three years, and while playing, I dislocated my shoulder an equal number. Today, I’m reminded of the weird goodness of meeting and befriending humans whom I likely would never have otherwise met, but can’t imagine life without.

Winter 2018

Prompt: Winters in Iowa can be brutal.

Having been nurtured on the drifting snows and subzero temperatures of Western Pennsylvania, I scoffed at the warnings about Iowa winters. Little did I realize that a mere couple of molehills stand between the hallowed streets of Grinnell and the maniacal winds of Northern Canada. They streak southward with a cold so intense that you can feel tiny icicles growing on your bones just looking out the window from a snugly heated room. Preparing for the brief walk from South Campus to ARH, we bundled ourselves into coats, mufflers, hats, mittens, and fleece-lined boots. I remember one morning the radio said we should avoid looking directly into the wind because our eyeballs would freeze. My advice to you: Be sure to leave for class five minutes early on those days. It will take you that long to strip off all those layers.

Iowa winters are no joke, and while everyone might tell you to spend time getting the right coat, my biggest piece of advice is to invest in practical footwear with excellent traction! I experienced a classic Grinnell blizzard right before finals, and in my attempt to get to my dorm to grab study materials, I slipped on the ice over the train tracks, breaking my arm instantly. Young, stubborn, and a little stupid, I took Advil, wrapped my arm in a towel, and went to bed. Since the health center wasn’t open until 9 a.m. the next day, I went to my 8 a.m. class before getting my official diagnosis and cast. Once home on winter break, my doctor gave me a very stern talk about my choice in weatherproof footwear.

My daughter included Grinnell in her college road trip only “to please the old man” in late summer 2007. After crossing into Iowa from the south Annie asked, “What’s with the flags on top of the fire hydrants?” “That’s so the firemen can find them in the snow.” Her eyes widened and I heard her think “OH MY GOD!”
People who had never seen snow screamed in Burling Library when the first flakes came down.
In Clark Hall we opened all the windows on the third floor and threw water into the hall so we could skate. There was terror when a freshman skated through the large window at the end of the hall and attempted to swing around on the fire escape pole but only flew into the darkness. A snowbank left him uninjured. Alcohol was involved.

I grew up in Illinois, not many miles further south than Grinnell. But as the winter of 1957–58 arrived my freshman year, it felt like there was nothing between ARH and the North Pole but miles of frozen tundra and biting winds. I finally called my parents to ask for money for a parka and winter cap. They agreed, but were surprised because in high school, I had never worn a cap or anything heavier than a light windbreaker.
Four Grinnell winters, however, turned out to be a kind of “boot camp” — good practice for what came next when, upon graduation, my wife and I moved to Minnesota, the nation's “ice box” state, where we have lived ever since, parkas and all. In short, Iowa winters proved to be just one more example of how Grinnell helped prepare me for life!