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July 23, 2009

Who'll stop the rain

We had a rain delay at the state softball  tournament in Fort Dodge the other night  but didn't have to postpone any games. Nothing newsworthy in that until you add a little perspective.


Rain has bedeviled the state tournament in recent years. Last year, for instance, heavy downpours washed out 12 games and delayed seven others. I help the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union at this tournament and we had to return to the field on Sunday to finish the Class 4A championship game.


There have been numerous other interruptions, delays and washouts in the last 10 to 15 years -- in stark contrast to the good fortune that blessed the tournament in its early years. The IGHSAU moved it to Fort Dodge in 1970. It's played at Rogers Park, a sparkling complex with several diamonds north of the city.


For those first years in Fort Dodge, I think something like 400-and-some straight games were played without a rainout. It was amazing. Rain could be pummeling Badger, a few miles to the north. It could be raining in Fort Dodge proper. But not a drop fell on Rogers Park. We used to joke that E. Wayne Cooley, then the executive secretary of the IGHSAU, would stand out by the road and, like Moses parting the Red Sea, send half the rain clouds scudding off to the south and the other half to the north.


That kind of luck eventually ran out, of course, and when we did get rain, it sent us into a scramble mode. Writers, broadcasters and IGHSAU staff work at long tables behind the backstops. There’s a nice roof over those areas now, but they were uncovered for years, exposing us to sun, rain and whatever else Mother Nature pulled out of her bag. When the rains came, we’d rush to cover our equipment with towels or gather it all up and head for shelter at the concession stand or in our cars.


We used to write our stories on Tandy TRS-80 laptops -- Trash-80s we called them. These were among the very first notebook computers. They were light, compact and ran forever on batteries. But the screen was tiny and you could read only five or six lines of copy at a time. Still, they were the latest thing. One time I hustled to the car to escape the rain, rested the TRS-80 on the steering wheel and resumed writing. I looked over and Randy Peterson from the Des Moines Register was doing the same in his car.  Sometimes you just have to make do.


When the rain approached this week, all we had to do was call up a weather site on our laptops and check the storm's progress on radar. Not so back in the day. Girls Union officials had to go across the road to the airport to check the radar, return to report their findings and them go back later for an update. Ah, the marvels of technology.


There's a chance of rain on Friday, the last day of the tournament. If it comes, there's not much we can do other than wait it out. We might have to put our equipment away, but chances are we won't have to dash to our cars.


Which is good, because this old horse doesn't dash anymore.



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