You would think that high school mascot names would not be that big of a deal — but they are. In towns big and small, school names help identify a town. Especially in smaller towns, mascots are powerful stuff.
It has always frustrated me that high schools in my hometown in Iowa and here in Lander have used Tigers as their mascots. A tiger is a ferocious, brave and tough animal, but what the heck does that animal mean to towns in the Wyoming mountains or back in the cornfields of Iowa?
Riverton athletes are the Wolverines, which at least is a local Wyoming animal. Wyoming Indian High School uses the Chiefs, which is perfect. Dubois Rams accurately describe that town’s poster animal.
In Newcastle, they go nuts over their Dogies, which works well for folks along the Texas trail where millions of cows (and get along, little dogie) were trailed back in the day. Lingle goes a little further with the Doggers.
Torrington sits on the Oregon Trail, hence the Trailblazers mascot name. Laramie dominates the high plains, hence the Plainsmen representing their school.
Rawlins players are called the Outlaws, which has nothing to do with its location as site of the state prison. By definition, an “outlaw” is an old western term for an ornery horse. Their logo is a mean bronc. Two out-of-state mascot names, which I have always loved, are the Belfry Bats in Montana and the Sturgis, South Dakota, Scoopers, although I’m not sure what they scooped.Another South Dakota high school is Mitchell where the Kernels play — drawing on the famed Corn Palace there.
Bruce Pozzi up in Anchorage referred me to the Aniak Halfbreeds. It’s not exactly politically correct but yes, that is their mascot. On a college level, the UW Cowboys mascot name is perfect.
My local college growing up was the Upper Iowa University Peacocks. Huh?
I love the idea of colleges drawing upon their state’s historical mottos like the Oklahoma Sooners, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes and Ohio State Buckeyes.
But back to Wyoming.
Here in Lander, I always thought we should be the Mountaineers or the Pathfinders. When your hometown school has been the Tigers or the Lions or the Panthers for decades, such things are slow to change, if ever.
The Wind River Cougars and Pinedale Wranglers are good historical names, as are the Kemmerer Rangers, Big Piney Punchers, Greybull Buffaloes and the Buffalo Bison. I like the Worland Warriors’ name because they are in a county named after Chief Washakie.
Veteran Wyoming sports writer Patrick Schmiedt wrote a blog back in 2011 where he cussed and discussed various school mascots.
His friends thought the Gillette Camels of Campbell County to be the worst mascot name in the state, but it does roll nicely off the tongue. I’m not sure where the Evanston Devils came from.
Once upon a time, the biggest mine in Wyoming was at the little town of Sunrise, hence the Guernsey-Sunrise Vikings, which came from the Miners from Sunrise and the Longhorns from Guernsey. This somehow turns out to be Vikings, those folks with big horns sticking out of their caps. I guess the mascot name works for them so that’s good.
Players of the new Thunder Basin High School in Gillette call themselves the Bolts, I assume because that area generates one heckuva lot of electricity for Wyoming and the rest of the country. It must have been an interesting process coming up with a mascot for an entirely new school. I like (Thunder) Bolts.
Schmiedt wrote about an interesting situation where the new Tongue River school combined the Dayton Elks and the Ranchester Rustlers. He hated to see them give up their wonderful mascot names to adopt the Eagles, which is already used in 1,200 high schools across the country. It is the most common mascot name. He thought Tongue River players should call themselves the Elk Rustlers!
His favorite mascot is the Pronghorns at little Farson-Eden. He said that school is the only high school in the country that uses that mascot. He thought the Carpenter Coyotes were bold to pick a mascot for which there is a bounty for folks who can find them and shoot them and collect a few bucks along the way.
Several friends sent me hilarious experiences they endured concerning their local schools’ mascots. I would like to invite readers to please email me your funniest stories. Thanks in advance. I will publish a future column featuring all these funny stories.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 30,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.