Prompted

Spring 2019

Prompt: Extracurriculars

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.

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.

Winter 2018

Prompt: Winters in Iowa can be brutal.

As a native Iowan, nothing really phases me, but there was one night in the winter of 1991–92 that was particularly memorable. That night, the aurora borealis was clearly visible from Mac Field — gorgeous glowing green and white lights dancing across the sky. I ran out to see as soon as someone shouted down the Langan Pit hallway and completely forgot to put on my shoes. Yes, I ran out into the snow of Mac Field barefoot AND stood out there to watch the lights for about 10 minutes before I realized what I’d done. I ended up having to wear double layers of socks for weeks and not being able to feel my feet for the next four days — minor frostbite. Whoops.
– Stephany Schmidt Hall ’9

In the winter of ’82, I lived in a four-room triple on Haines 2nd. When the steam radiator behind our couch was cranked open, the central room became insufferably hot and stifling, so we always opened the windows. Standard protocol when approaching the dorm was to try to lob a snowball through a window. Surprise and laughter were guaranteed for a successful toss, and bonus points were awarded for actually hitting someone.

Winter 1978–79, B.B. King’s in Iowa City: We borrow a car, and I sensibly suggest checking the oil first. Everyone else insists there isn’t time. Car burns out partway there. On snowy roadside, we solemnly contemplate our mistake until a nice patrolman drives us to town, saying car will be towed to “Barney’s Standard.”
Post-concert, no one we ask has ever heard of Barney’s Standard. We’ve broken someone’s car, then lost it entirely. Eventually discover garage’s new name, escape Twilight Zone, somehow get home.
Only I return with destroyed car’s owner, who hitches it to another car, then I — the least guilty party — must steer it without heat or lights on the highway at night with a large truck bearing down and the driver’s window stuck halfway open, freezing. Exiting highway, we land in snowdrift. Borrowed shovel breaks.
Replacement engine: $350, split several ways.
B.B. King: worth it.

It was 23 degrees below zero ― actual Fahrenheit temperature not that silly wind chill nonsense ― with a foot or so of snow on the ground. Born and reared in Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi River, I simply bundled up and trudged off to my Saturday morning physics class. The only other person who showed up that morning was a young man named Roy [Pengra ’69] who hailed from South Dakota. We waited 15 minutes for Professor Clotfelter (who wisely stayed home) then decided coffee at the Forum beckoned. I will never forget our instant laughter as we opened the doors and found every room bustling and bursting with students who apparently found it too cold to go to class but no problem at all to take the day off to play bridge or pool. Fifty years of married life later, Roy and I still count ‘hot coffee at the Forum on a very cold day’ as our first date.