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Column: Ragtime Cowboy Joe

There are not too many things I enjoy more than watching college football on a beautiful fall day. I even love watching a game or three when it’s ten below outside, and the wind shakes the house. I’d pick a good college game over the NFL anytime.

In my seven-plus years in Montana, I have thoroughly enjoyed starting to follow the Big Sky, and while I have picked a favorite between Montana State and Montana, I’ll keep that one to myself. I love that the two Montana teams can complete in an actual playoff. It is much more exciting than watching Alabama play Georgia, Clemson, or Ohio State for the national title every season.

The team I have always enjoyed watching the most is the University of Wyoming.

I have followed the Cowboys for as long as I can remember, and it’s much more than just a game. It’s pride in my school and home state, and most importantly, it has been a way that I have and will always bond with my family and friends.

Growing up three hours away from Laramie, I went to numerous games every year, usually with my Grandpa Jack and Grandma Kathryne. Saying I was lucky to have such great grandparents would be an understatement. They were two truly special people, and I could never spend enough time with them. We would do a lot of wonderful things together, but what I remember most is traveling down Interstate 80 to Laramie to watch our beloved Cowboys.

My Grandpa was an inspiration to many and an idol to me. He had played both football and basketball for the University of Wyoming. In fact, he played basketball with Kenny Sailors, the man credited with inventing the jump shot. World War II would interrupt his college career, and during his time in the service, he was the pilot of a B-17. He would go on to serve as a teacher, coach, principal, and later as Superintendent of Sweetwater County School District No. 1. He was a man of high moral character and one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He had a deep passion for Wyoming sports from the time he played, and I always loved to see his reactions when Wyoming would score a touchdown or kick a game-winning field goal.

My Grandmother was kindhearted and caring, with barely a care in the world. To me, it seemed her whole world was her grandchildren. She reminded me of somebody from a Norman Rockwell painting. She was from another era in which people saw the good in the world all the time.

For as long as I can remember, we would leave on Saturday mornings to make the three-hour trip for football games. I have so many wonderful memories of traveling on snowy roads and singing the school fight song “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” so many times that I’m not sure if we even talked along the way.

My grandparents would always make sure these were special days. We would eat at great restaurants, they would stop and buy us memorabilia at the school store, and we would have a lot of fun tailgating before games. We would do the same for basketball season, but this would take us all over the western United States for conference tournaments and NCAA tournament games.

By the time I was in fifth grade, Wyoming was amazing at both football and basketball. The football team won two consecutive WAC titles, and the basketball team made the cover of Sports Illustrated and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. I thought this was the way it was supposed to be.

I also noticed my grandparents seemed happy at the games. I would find out quickly that Wyoming being good wasn’t always the case, and they were really enjoying these moments. In the following years, we would go to many games, but the teams would never be that good again. We still had a lot of fun, and I have a lifetime of memories.

I’m happy to write about these two special people, but also sad because I can no longer enjoy the games with them.

Grandpa and Grandma, the football season has started again. Wherever you are, I hope you’re smiling down on us. When I’m singing “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” I’ll be thinking of you, and I know you’ll be singing too.