Ralph as a young man was extremely competitive. He knocked a board game away from me when we were 10 or 11 because I was winning. He hated to lose. I do as well. It's one of our many bonds. Quick to fire, as easily quick to cool off.
Delmer and I were talking a couple years ago. Delmer and Ralph were roommates through college at Eastern Montana College and Country Club. It was called that because you really didn't have to go to class, or read or take tests actually. Just pay your tuition and get a degree. It was one of "those" schools. Anyway Delm and I were talking and a conversation we had inspired this post.
Ralph is a kind, gentle man now. I suppose marriage and two daughters have taken his edge off. A border-line midget at 5' 6", if he was 6' he would have been sought after by many schools as he was a great athlete. I say that but then as you read this, maybe not so much.
Extremely competitive as I mentioned. But now the story.
The first time Ralph broke his hand was in Little League. Striking out or flying out on a pitch with runners on base as I heard it. I wasn't there. I was busy trying to be a cowboy. Spending my summer days working while the rest of my friends frolicked in the beautiful Malta sun. Anyway, Ralph strikes out and punches the dugout and breaks his hand. For the first time. As you have probably figured out by now, this is the theme of this post. I'm going to tell you my favorite "Ralph breaks his hand punching something" story.
There was a sign at the Mustang Lanes Bowling Parlor. Mustang Lanes had six lanes. The lane on the farthest right had a sign that read....
TOUCH THIS WALL
If you were to lift this piece of 8x11 paper, you would have found a Ralph sized fist hole in the wall. One day when we were bowling for fun, Ralph failed to pick up a 4-10 split. Very difficult. Nonetheless he barely missed and was so mad he punched the wall and left a hole in the sheetrock. It's a good story. Not my favorite "Ralph breaks his hand punching something" story but good nonetheless. No, my favorite happened when we were seniors at Malta High School.
It was a Thursday. Thursday's were especially grueling for Ralph and me.We made weight for the weekend and then didn't eat for the rest of the week. Maybe we could have dieted sensibly, but then back in those days, that was for wussies. No instead, we didn't eat, and we sweated off pounds. Our nightly garb before we stepped into the wrestling room consisted of the following: long johns top and bottom, then sweats, then plastic suits, then sweats again. The first layer could be ringed out after practice with our sweat.
We wrestled one weight class apart. Me, at 105 pounds arguably the toughest weight class in the state, and Ralph at 112 pounds where the guppies, noodle arms and Ralphs hug out.
Anyway, we were having takedown drills. Get in the circle for three takedowns with a partner and then give up the room for the next two guys. I was against Craig French. A stellar wrestler at 98 pounds. Ralph was in the circle next to me against Craig's younger brother Mark. Craig couldn't take me down on a bet. Mark was Ralph's JV workout partner but on this night he owned my height-challenged amigo. I had finished with Craig winning all three and was getting ready to sit down next to the wall and catch my breath.
Our wrestling coach was a man named Gordon Kroon (CRONE). He had a big voice. He was a guy who woke up in the morning and decided if he wanted a beard or not. By five, he had two inches of thick beard. At pep assemblies, he stood IN FRONT of the microphone and everyone could hear him. As I was pummeling Craig, I could hear Coach Kroon yelling at Ralph.
I collapsed to my ass next to Ralph.
"How's it going?" I asked.
"Fucking great." He answered in only the way that if you know him you can appreciate.
"I just gave up three takedowns to French. Uncle Gordy is busting my ass. I haven't eaten since Monday and I think I just broke my fucking hand again."
"How did you do that?"
"I punched the wall." He then grabbed an ice pack out of the med kit. He was miserable.
He rallied against Chinook and beat Zane Powell something like 6-4. I had wrestled Zane three times the previous year and Zane never saw the start of the third period. Counting the gym lights every time.
At the state tournament, Ralph placed third. Defeating the only kid he had lost to in the quarters very decisively and helping our team win a third place trophy at the state tournament.
Ralph and I would finally meet up to wrestle each other at an alumni event in 1984. His outside sweeping single leg takedown was almost unstoppable. I didn't stop it that night but I did use my patented power switch and tied the match. Though he was out of shape and in no mood to wrestle, we wrestled hard. I was still in Malta in those days and worked out a couple of nights a week with the Mustangs. I took his arms back like the noodles they are but never tried to tip him. I was happy with a tie match. This is the first time I've ever admitted I let him tie me.
The sad story is that the third place trophy we fought so hard to win, along with dozens of other great Malta trophies, disappeared on December 23, 1996 when our beloved high school and the home of so many of my stories perished in a fire. I have three bricks from MHS along with a pair of auditorium chairs that I bought at our 20th reunion. I paid $310.00 for them. Outbidding my great friend, Ralph.
I get to see him in less than 60 days. We all get to see him then. The LBOH, which is never the same without him, will be complete.
Godspeed Ghoulies. Your friendship can never be replaced.
I talked to Ralph tonight. I told him "I'm going to write a book. It's going to be called 'Ghoulies, my life and stories with Ralph'.
He said " no one will buy it."
I told him " I know I can sell 12 copies at the LBOH."
July 17th can't get here soon enough.