It all started with the Beetdiggers.
Taking a break from driving during a two-day road trip, we were walking along Main Street in Brush, Colorado. We noticed a sign on a store window: Go Beetdiggers!
Okay, as high school mascot, maybe a beetdigger doesn't have the same aura of ferocity as its more common cousins, all those lions, tigers, bears, and bulldogs out there. But at least it has a clear connection with the area's major industry of raising sugar beets.
The Beetdiggers (who probably "Can't be beat!") sound a little tougher than their neighbors further down the road—the Rocky Ford Meloneers. When your town is famous for its sweet, juicy watermelons and cantaloupes, maybe toughness isn't quite so important.
Still, both of them are far ahead of Fort Collins, where the wrestlers and football players must be some of the toughest guys in high school sports. You'd have to be, to overcome a mascot like the "Lambkin."
Of course, back home in South Dakota, we have our share of school nicknames that, when it comes to that good old fighting spirit, are a couple linemen short of a full team. Some of them don't even seem to make sense, unless you know a little about the history of the town.
Like the Sturgis Scoopers, for example. The town, near the frontier military post of Fort Meade, had an early reputation for "scooping" money out of the pockets of the soldiers. These days it offers the same service to bikers during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The "Scotties," for the prairie town of Phillip, doesn't seem logical at all unless you know that the town was named after Scotty Phillips, an early rancher who helped bring the buffalo back from near-extinction.
For a real macho image, though, you can't beat the good old Mitchell Kernels. No, that's not "Colonel" as in military, it's "Kernel" as in corn. Back in the early 1900's, a lot of small towns built onion-domed "corn palaces" that were decorated with grains to celebrate agriculture. Mitchell has what may be the only one still being used and still freshly decorated every year.
My favorite sports mascot is still one I saw a few years ago in Montana. A sign in front of the school in the little town of Belfry proudly announces, "Home of the Bats."
I was surprised and disappointed, though, to discover that one well-known animal native to Wyoming and South Dakota doesn't have a team named after it in either state. The only school I found using it as a mascot was Rudolfo Anaya Elementary in Albuquerque. And that simply doesn't make sense. Everyone knows New Mexico doesn't have native jackalopes.