A couple of items ... For the past number of years, the Claremore Zebras and the Mustangs of Oologah have opened the football season against each other. Both sides take great pride in beating the other.

The close dividing line of the two schools means many of the players know each other and may even be friends. Despite the rivalry on the field, both sides usually walk away at the end following friendly handshakes.

This was certainly not the case back in the early 1960s when Claremore and Miami locked horns in the old Verdigris Valley Conference. To say the two sides hated each other is an understatement.

Back then, only one team from each conference (or district, if you prefer) advanced to the state playoffs. During the 1961, '62 and '63 seasons, Claremore and Miami were undefeated in conference play when they met the ninth week of the seasons. Each time, the two sides knew the championship was on the line.

The pot finally boiled over on Nov. 8, 1963.

The Zebras had won four straight times leading up to the 1962 season. Miami, led by sophomore Steve Owens, the future Heisman Trophy winner, upended the Zebras, 22-14 at Lantow Field.

In 1963, it was time for the Wardogs to dump Claremore once again and this time to do it in front of their own packed home crowd. Despite both teams holding 8-0 records, the Wardogs were feeling cocky.

Things didn't go quite the way the Wardogs hoped. Keeping Owens in check all night, the Zebras roared to an easy 34-6 win.

Late in the contest, and realizing that they were not going to win, a few of the Miami players decided to fight. Zebras senior lineman Darrell Arrowood tackled a Miami runner (no, it was not Owens) right in front of the Wardogs bench. The Wardog got up and took a swing at the Zebra.

When Arrowood answered back with a punch of his own, the entire Miami bench jumped on him. The Zebras, the coaches and several fathers raced to the rescue. While running across the field, it was quite a sight seeing Arrowood holding his own, right in the middle of the brawl.

When order was restored, there was Arrowood with his shy grin.

The game finally ended without more problems, but the night wasn't over.

I am not sure what the arrangements are today, but back then the Zebra Quarterback Club always fed the team after road games. It was always at a nearby restaurant. While the Zebras were having their post-game dinner, someone was busting several windows on the team bus.

A police escort was called for the bus' departure to the Will Rogers Turnpike. Even that didn't stop several carloads of boys from throwing more rocks at the bus while on the turnpike.

The next year, fate took a hand in the fiery feud. Miami and Claremore were put in different conferences and did not play.

Things reverted in the 1970s and once again the two schools renewed their rivalry. While some exciting and hard-hitting games followed, the boiling point of the '63 contest was never equaled.

I didn't see Darrell Arrowood for more than 35 years. Then one day, there he was at a local ice cream store. Since we had known each other only one year in school, I wasn't sure he would even remember me.

As I approached his table, he broke out in a wide smile and said, “Hi, Larry.” It was great talking to him again after all those years.

Funeral services were held for Darrell about a week ago. The broad-chested gentle man will be missed by his family and his friends. Probably most of them didn't know about his high school football playing days.

For the ones present that November night in '63 at Miami, however, none of us will forget when Darrell Arrowood went toe-to-toe with the Wardog football team. ...



Despite my enjoyment of good scary horror stories, what follows sends goose bumps up my back each time I think about it.

Last week, Ray Bingham was in his usual spot at Claremore's Legion Field. As he does at all home American Legion games, he was taking admission fees at the gate when a flying bug hit his ear. It was later learned that the creature was a yellow jacket.

It stung one of Bingham’s ears on contact and then again stung his finger as he tried to remove it. Not only did Ray fail to get it out, he only caused the creature to dive deeper into his ear. In the process, the yellow jacket struck 11 or 12 more times, Ray said.

Getting someone to man his post, Ray went up in the press box with the hopes that Dr. Darryl Reed might be able to administer aid. Known as “Ballpark Frank,” Reed is a dentist and bugs in ears are a little out of his line of work. Still, he was quick to help, but the inside of Ray's ear was already swollen shut. Reed could not see inside the ear and advised Ray to go to the emergency room.

“It took them more than 20 minutes to get that thing out,” Ray said of the ER staff. “The stings hurt, of course, but the buzzing in my ear was the worst part.”

It should be note that Ray returned to his post that night. After being released from the hospital, he continued taking tickets at Legion Field.

In honor of his painful experience, Ballpark Frank and the rest of the upstairs crew greeted Ray’s return by playing a special song over the public address system.

It was “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

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