A loud cheer for all the little schools

Morgan Township guard Jacob Hernandez takes the ball up past Hebron guard Jacob Everaert during a game last season.

Nostalgia overcomes logic when it comes to high school basketball. As it should.

For reasons that have everything to do with hometowns and heart, we have not surrendered the little Hoosier towns and their little schools that fight each other valiantly for basketball glory.


If we ever do, Indiana finally will be somewhere else than where we grew up. If we have nothing but old affections for old glories, that is well enough to celebrate.

No matter where I lived or traveled, I always check in with hometown Indiana newspapers to see how the little schools did last night. Most have vanished.


But even today there is something grand and real about small Indiana towns resume battling in high school basketball as they will soon. Did Morgan Township and Washington Township High win? Did LaCrosse make it? How about Kouts? All the schools too small to play 11-man football.

Their identity survived the cultural wrecking ball and perpetual civic debates over efficiency versus pride.

I grew up with that debate.

The dispute in my father's family over alien invaders, old wounds and community honor was remarkably genteel and thoughtful as it was related to me later.

He played basketball for the Cynthiana High School Annas in deep southern Indiana and, by the time he returned from World War II and from raising his family in Florida, a hometown argument was aflame.

It was school consolidation.

Indiana has long-since survived that typhoon, and he cast the deciding opinion at my Grandmother Pearl's request. So he studied the issue for her and other family aunts, uncles and cousins thereabouts and, after due consideration, told them he could find no logic to reject it.

And because he was a designated man of substance — war hero, family man, a de facto leader in many realms — they obliged his judgment. But it hurt his natural pride. He had been a sports star for his school and fought bitterly against those other towns.


It was personal.

Fifty years after those days, he pointed to long-since healed wound on his upper arm that occurred when a Owensville Kickapoo player had run him off the floor and into an elevated stage at the end of the court. There were hard feelings embedded in that scar.

He rebalanced the cosmic equilibrium 80 years ago by inventing a play in which he took the ball out of bounds under his team's basket, bounced the ball off the posterior of an inattentive opponent, stepped inbounds, grabbed the ricochet and scored a bucket.

That led to a thunderstruck gym and then pandemonium. Eventually adults changed the official rules barring such posterior-bouncing strategies.

They played in tiny gyms once called "band boxes." In one gym, the coal stove to heat the gym actually was stationed just inside the out of bounds line. Yes, inside the lines.

He had been as much a hometown celebrity as any kid growing up shooting perfect long set shots in the 1930s could be.


So they all knew he would not support the merger lightly.

Yes, the Annas would go away for obvious financial and efficiency motives, and be merged with these hated heathens in Wadesville, Griffin and Poseyville to form a new high school known as North Posey High. Even the name seemed laughable and inglorious. They built the school far enough from any of the towns not to tempt old hostilities.

Oh, it was so awful for many townsfolk in each hamlet. So shameful to surrender civic identity and independence. We are who we are. They are they. We will hate being part of them, as much as they will hate being part of is.

If school consolidations were only functions of tax management, the decisions would always be easy.

Everywhere south of Indianapolis before 1960 was a patchwork of tiny towns once woven together by equally tiny high schools of 100 students or fewer.

No one in those towns thought they could bear the indignity, but they did. After a very few years, those old resentments were put aside and new friendships were shaped. Children are unburdened by history they don't know, and efficiency triumphed because Hoosiers are temperamentally frugal.


Even North Posey High has created its own path to achievement and history.

Indiana, at least the rural Indiana of my childhood, grew up. That was 60 years ago.

It's only nostalgia and sentimentality. There's no doubt of my motives.

I'll always root for the little guys. I like what they let me remember.

David Rutter was editor for 40 years at six newspapers.