Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Voting for Minnesota’s most unique high school mascot & insights into other team names in our state February 26, 2013

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

MY ALMA MATER, Wabasso High School, has a white rabbit as a mascot. As you would rightly expect, a rabbit does not conjure up an image of athletic prowess. But I do not care. Rabbits reflects the name of the community, Wabasso, a Dakota word, I’m told, meaning “White Rabbit.”

The rabbit mascot also stands out among all the Eagles and Tigers, the most common high school team names in Minnesota, and the country in general, according to Terry Borning, author of MascotDB.com, a free searchable database of team names and mascots. (More on that later.)

Rabbits, though, was not unusual enough to grab the attention of USA TODAY’s High School Sports staff which is sponsoring a competition to find the nation’s most unique high school mascots. Staff chose five mascots from each state and Washington D.C. in the first round of the contest.

Tom Ressler created Blooming Prairie's logo, a black-and-white Awesome Blossom , in 1979.

The Awesome Blossoms logo from the school website.

Now the public will choose their favorites, via online voting, to advance to the second round. One winner from each state and D.C. will move on to regionals and the opportunity to win prizes ranging from $100 to $2,000 for their high school athletic departments.

In the running from Minnesota are the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, Roosevelt Teddies, Jordan Hubmen, Sauk Centre Mainstreeters and Winona Winhawks.

I’ll admit to a fondness for Blooming Prairie’s Awesome Blossoms, for several reasons. Any school strong enough to sport the name Blossoms deserves to win. Second, Blooming Prairie, a farming community of around 2,000 located 15 miles south of Owatonna, is the smallest of the Minnesota communities vying for this honor. I will always pick the smallest, most rural town and root for the underdog. (Plus, I really like the “Prairie” part of the town’s name.) Third, my second daughter first introduced me to the Blooming Prairie mascot when she was in high school and attended an Awesome Blossoms basketball game with a good friend. It was also the first night she failed to get home at a reasonable hour. Enough said on that.

Apparently, the Blossoms got their name from an area newspaper more than a century ago, according to one source. “Awesome” was later added by locals.

A seen from Main Street in Sauk Centre, home to the Mainstreeters.

A scene from Main Street in Sauk Centre, home to the Mainstreeters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Now, if I had to choose my second favorite from the Minnesota five, I’d select the Mainstreeters for the sole reason that I love Sauk Centre native Sinclair Lewis’ satirical book, Main Street.

So there, if this interests you, click here and go online to vote. Voting for the state winners continues through March 5. Those 51 winners then advance to second round regional voting from March 6 -14. Six regional winners then enter the finals March 15-25.

Terry Borning with TC Bear, the Twins mascot.

Terry Borning with TC Bear, the Twins mascot. Borning attended Concordia College in Moorhead, home of the Cobbers.

NOW, LET’S DELVE DEEPER into Minnesota high school mascot names via Terry Borning of the earlier mentioned MascotDB.com. Just a note, Borning, of Billings, Montana, and a computer science adjunct faculty member for an Arizona college, is my cousin. He has 43,799 sports team names and mascots in his database covering U.S. and Canadian high school, college and professional teams, past and present.

Borning’s interest in team names stretches back to high school, when he played nine-man football for the Hendricks Huskies. Hendricks is about as close as you can get to South Dakota in southwestern Minnesota without actually living in our neighboring state.

Hendricks and nearby rival Ivanhoe have since consolidated, becoming the Lincoln H I Rebels. Lincoln references Lincoln County where the schools are located while the “H” and “I,” obviously, stand for the separate communities. Adds Borning: “The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were a dominant NCAA basketball team at the time the schools consolidated in the early 1990s. The teens of that time considered themselves rebellious, so the moniker fit.”

That led me to ask my cousin how schools choose mascots and to specifically cite examples in Minnesota. He notes the popularity of Vikings here (11 high schools with this mascot) and the once common Warriors and Indians (no longer used), plus names like the Flying Dutchmen, all traced to ethnic heritage.

Agriculture and local industries also factor into names like the Moorhead Spuds, Austin Packers, Bemidji Lumberjacks and Crosby-Ironton Rangers.

Team names can extend, too, from the school’s name such as Lindbergh (Hopkins) Flyers, Robbinsdale Robins, Red Wing Wingers and Burnsville Blaze.

A white rabbit statue sits along Minnesota Highway 68 in Wabasso.

A white rabbit statue sits along Minnesota Highway 68 in Wabasso. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

In the past, animals, such as my beloved Rabbits, were common as mascots.

Recent trends during school consolidations are to forge a new identity such as the Northern Freeze Nordics comprised of students from the small northwestern Minnesota communities of Newfolden, Viking and Holt. (Yes, I had to check a map.)

The Otto the otter statue in Adams Park in Fergus Falls. The Otter Tail River runs through this city where the Fergus Falls High School mascot is the otter.

The Otto the otter statue in Adams Park in Fergus Falls. The Otter Tail River runs through this city where the Fergus Falls High School mascot is the Otters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Naturally, I wanted to know what mascots Borning might have selected for that USA TODAY contest had he been given the opportunity. He suggests these stand-out Minnesota names: Moorhead Spuds, Esko Eskomos, Thief River Falls Prowlers, Edgerton Flying Dutchmen, Two Harbors Agates, Grand Meadow Superlarks, McGregor Mercuries, Mahtomedi Zephyrs, Blackduck Drakes, Fergus Falls Otters and Barnum Bombers.

Just reviewing that list, I can see the connections between many of the mascots and their respective communities.

Borning also points out some unique Minnesota team names that have been lost to history such as the Jasper Quartziters, Tyler Danes, Walnut Grove Loggers, Granite Falls Kilowatts, Hendricks Midgets, Tracy Scrappers and Freeborn Yeomen.

I photographed this logo a year ago at Randolph Public Schools, home of the Rockets.

I photographed this logo a year ago at Randolph Public Schools, home of the Rockets.

Finding information on past high school sports team names has proven challenging for Borning, so he continues to research information for MascotDB, the only searchable online database of U.S. and Canadian high school, college and professional team names/mascots. “Reading up and discussing great and interesting team nicknames and mascots has always been a fun pastime for me,” he says. That led him to develop MascotDB.

Given the sheer amount of research he’s done, my cousin was able to tell me that only three U.S. high schools have Rabbits (not to be confused with Jackrabbits) as their mascots. Those are in Atlanta, Texas; Delta, Utah; and Wabasso, Minnesota.

Go, Rabbits.

A water tower in Wabasso sports the school's mascot, a white rabbit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A water tower in Wabasso sports the school’s mascot, a white rabbit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FYI: Click here to visit MascotDB.

Borning also welcomes information and questions about sports’ names/mascots. Contact him at info at mascotdb.com

Also, click here to learn more about the origin of the Rabbits mascot at my alma mater.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

You call the $50,000 shot August 19, 2011

IF YOU ARE BITTEN by a bat that flies away, you should expect to undergo a series of rabies shots.

If you win $50,000 while assuming the identity of someone else, you should expect fall-out from your actions.

Right about now you’re likely wondering why I’m writing about bats and bills all in the same post. Well, both made the news in my community of Faribault this week. One has garnered national attention, the other not.

First, the bat bite, not because it’s less important than the $50,000, but because it’s easier to write about and no gray area exists. You get bitten by a bat that can’t be caught, like a 9-year-old Nerstrand boy did in his family’s barn recently, and you get rabies shots. Simple. Black-and-white.

But, if you potentially win $50,000 like 11-year-old Nick Nate Smith of Owatonna did last week by shooting a hockey puck from 89 feet into a 1.5-inch by 3.5 inch hole at a Faribault Hockey Association fundraiser, you’re talking an entirely different story.

On the surface, this would seem black-and-white. Accomplish the amazing feat, win the prize.

However, Nate isn’t Nick. And it was Nick, Nate’s identical twin, whose name was pulled for the chance to score the $50,000 by sinking the puck into that incredibly small space.

The problem, however, is that Nick wasn’t in the hockey arena when his name was drawn, so Nate stepped in for his brother, made the shot and supposedly won the $50,000.

That is until the Smith family admitted to event organizers that Nate had subbed for Nick.

Now a Reno, Nevada, insurance company for the puck-shot event is investigating, the $50,000 payment remains in limbo and the story of the amazing shot and the follow-up controversy has gone national.

In our house, we’ve discussed this whole $50,000 hockey puck debacle numerous times already. Opinions have varied from:

  • Just give the kid the $50,000.
  • Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?
  • He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest.
  • What if a friend had stepped in and taken the shot? Would they give him the money?

Can you guess which comment is mine?

You better believe that the second response, “Why did the Smiths tell them it was Nate?”, is not my statement and resulted in a lecture from me about honesty and how the family eventually would have gotten “caught.”

I don’t pretend to know every detail related to the hockey puck shot event. But I do know this much: Nate isn’t Nick.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN to offer your opinion. Would you award the $50,000 to Nate Smith? Why or why not? Vote by submitting a comment.

IN A 24-HOUR unscientific online poll conducted by The Faribault Daily News, 63 percent of the 245 respondents said Nate Smith should get the $50,000. Thirty-two percent said he shouldn’t. And five percent checked “I don’t know.”

MEDIA FOCUS on the Smith story has been substantial. Click on the sources below to read some of the coverage.

CBS The Early Show

The Faribault Daily News:  the initial story published on August 12 and a follow-up story published on August 14

ABC News

National Public Radio

BY THE WAY, my comment is the third one: He doesn’t deserve the $50,000. Nate isn’t Nick and the family wasn’t intially honest. Choose to agree or disagree. It’s your shot.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling