Last week’s trip to Atwood, Illinois meant so much personally. We took I-29 down to St. Joe and then Route 36 across much of the heartland. It was when we crossed the Mighty Mississippi that the warm fuzzies began. Familiar rural landscapes, small towns recited from my youth, Illiopolis, Casner, Chicken Bristle. A feeling of being home lay upon me like a comfortable quilt.
Catching up with classmates from Atwood Hammond High, Class of 1975. 45 years in the blink of an eye. And reconnecting with others. Don Swartz, now in his 90s, telling me his lovely bride Mary Ann reads my column, what a hoot!
The dedication by the Illinois State Historical Society of the Tug Wilson historical marker brought out close to 50 people, Atwood’s population a mere 1300. My town seemed so large growing up, how can that be? Visited the house I grew up in. Less than a thousand square feet harbored all 5 of us Lindgrens, I had no idea how poor we really were, we never went hungry.
My old buddy Lyle Dorjahn providing succor smack dab in the middle of the country. He regaled us with tales of Atwood athletic accomplishment that only he could recite. Lyle took work as elementary school custodian so he could coach the cross country and track teams. He was a 51.1 quarter miler back in the 70s, a lifelong athlete and a great motivator. Has taken his small team to one of the most powerful and promising in the state.
Southeast central Illinois still beckons me home. I fit there, just as surely as Tug Wilson.
Olympian. Big 10Commissioner. AD at Northwestern and Drake, catalyst for the Drake Relays, President of the US Olympic Committee. Atwood, Illinois’ most famous son.
I dubbed Lyle “Mr. Rajah” after our tour down memory lane, 120 years of athletic achievement archived in his collection and between his ears.
The Fighting Knights are led by a couple of legitimate studs. Senior Layton Hall (red shorts) is a sub 15 kid that would make any coach smile. Lyle’s grandson Logan Beckmeir (lane 1) is a sophomore with a great head on his shoulders and legs to get him there.
Run Guru Elite, Inc. presented the Knights with some big color and a bigger message for those chasing them. Not for the last time, Giddyup!