Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Randy Duncan


Some of these columns get more difficult to write with each passing day.
Randy Duncan

Today my prayers are with the family of Randy Duncan. 

Duncan was a 79-year-old Des Moines man who died yesterday after courageously battling brain cancer for many years.
He was a friend of mine and he was one of the best football players in the long, rich football history at the University of Iowa. 

Duncan was a strong contributor to the first of my three "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines" books that chronicled the Hawkeyes' football history.

While interviewing him for the book, Duncan told me how he almost quit the team in his sophomore season.

In retrospect, it's a good thing he didn't quit.

Hearst Randolph "Randy" Duncan went on to become an all-American while playing quarterback on the 1958 team that remains the best in Hawkeye history.

This is part of what I wrote on page 121 in the book:

"Bump Elliott, the backfield coach, recruited me [to play at Iowa]," Duncan said. "He was a good guy. He was the only reason I went to Iowa.

"Head coach Forest Evashevski was a mean SOB.  He constantly berated me and was on my back. I was thinking about quitting. I went to Bump and said, 'Bump, I don't know if I can take this anymore. This guy is on my back all the time. He never lets up.'

"Bump said, 'I'll tell you something, Randy. When he gets off your back is when you should start worrying.'"

Fortunately for himself and fortunately for Iowa's football program, Duncan remained a Hawkeye and quarterbacked the 1958 team to an 8-1-1 record, the Big Ten championship and a 38-12 victory over California in the Rose Bowl.

Duncan performed so well as a Hawkeye that he was the first player selected  in the 1959 National Football League draft by the Green Bay Packers. 

Instead of going to the NFL, Duncan played in the Canadian Football League.

Following his football career, Duncan earned a law degree from Drake University, and practiced law in Des Moines until his retirement.

I'll miss him a lot.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Split Personality


I was having a conversation with a very good friend the other day when the subject somehow moved to an automobile that could be turned
Amphicar. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
into a boat. 

Keep in mind that no one was consuming alcohol during this particular discussion, so I 
had to assume my friend wasn't telling me a phony story. 

"The vehicle was called an Amphicar, and I rode in one," my friend insisted. "It could be driven on streets and roads, and it also had propellers in the back that could turn it into a boat." 

Hey, I thought I'd heard everything, but this car/boat deal had somehow slipped past me. 

Anyway, I looked it up on the Internet and, by gosh, Wikipedia described the Amphicar 770 as an amphibious automobile that was launched at the 1961 New York Auto Show. 

Credit [or blame] the Germans for it, just like the 1959 Volkswagen with no gas tank that I bought from Dan Callahan. 

The Amphicar was manufactured in West Germany and marketed in the United States from 1961 through 1967. So it didn't last long. 

More from the Wikipedia description: "The Amphicar's engine was mounted at the rear of the craft, driving the rear wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission. For use in the water, the same engine drove a pair of reversible propellers at the rear, with a second gear lever engaging forward or reverse drive. Once in the water, the main gear lever would normally be left in neutral. By engaging first gear as well as drive to the propellers when approaching a boat ramp, the Amphicar could drive itself out of the water." 

I advanced this conversation one more step by telling my friend that I'd look through Popular Mechanics or the car ads to see if I could find an Amphicar that's for sale. 

Then, again, maybe not. 

What's a guy with a Honda and a Miata already sitting in a 2-car garage going to do with a 1960s vehicle that doesn't know if it wants to be a car or a boat? 

Especially during an Iowa winter.

Monday, September 26, 2016




I seem to recall going to Balltown, a tiny town of 60 or so people in northeast Iowa, back in the previous century with photographer Bob Modersohn to do a feature story for the paper.


The reason I'm bringing up Balltown is because the place has been in the news lately.


Some knucklehead wrote on the Internet or somewhere else that Balltown is a community with a dirty name.


Whatever clown that wrote that stuff evidently didn't know his or her history.


Legend has it that Balltown actually was named after John Ball, a settler who lived on an island on the Mississippi River in 1850 or so.


Bob Modersohn and I sure as heck didn't go to Balltown to do our story because we thought it had a dirty name.


Indeed,  it never dawned on us that Balltown might be a town with a dirty name.


Not that Modersohn and I were altar boys by any means.


We knew all the cuss words and occasionally used them in world-class style, especially when we were talking about bosses at the paper.


I actually think we went to Balltown to find out if the town had a ballteam or a ballfield.


Of course, we also knew that a feature of Balltown was that it was the location of Breitbach's restaurant, the oldest in Iowa.


As I recall, Balltown had neither a ballteam nor a ballfield.


By the way, if it wasn't actually Modersohn who went to Balltown with me to do the story, it was Dave Finch, another photographer at the paper.


Finch and I had some assignments that were real doozies.


I know it wasn't Larry Neibergall or George Ceolla who went to Balltown with me.


I've sent Modersohn a message to find out for sure if he was the photographer who accompanied me to Ballfield.


He'll get back to me, and I'll let you know.


I also asked Modersohn in my message if it was on the Balltown job or on an assignment in some other northeast Iowa town that we each consumed a quart of beer in the company car on the way home. 


Don't forget, that was a long, long time ago.


Modersohn and I were a lot younger then.


And please don't tell my grandchildren that part of the story.


[Photo of Balltown on the map and facts about Balltown history courtesy of Wikipedia].

Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's Nifty To Be Fifty


This early-autumn Sunday was a day of celebrating for our youngest son Kevin and his family. It's Kevin's 50th birthday, and his wife and kids think it's pretty nifty for him to be fifty. So does Kevin. The birthday fun has been going on for a while, and it may last well into the night.  Kevin, his wife Donna and kids Nathan, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, and Megan, a senior at Valley High School in West Des Moines, joined a gang of us for brunch at Wellman's on Ingersoll.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Former Iowan Richard Hayman Checks In

Hello, Mr. Maly. 

As usual, I hope this quick note finds you doing well.

As I work on my dissertation, I am more convinced than ever that we are going nowhere as a country until we fix public education. In an interesting conversation with one of my sisters this past weekend, I was reminded of how starkly different things are in Iowa than they are in places like Memphis, where we have large populations of poor and under-educated who really have no access to a decent education. Free bicycles for perfect attendance are hardly an inducement when you are signing up for 180 days of fearing for your safety and well-being. We are systematically creating a large underclass, not so much seen in places like Iowa, but inescapably present in places like Memphis. The civil unrest of the Summer of 2016 suggests to me that as long as we continue to perpetuate differences, we will have differences. Public education, and educational leadership, must play a defining role in shaping a better future. I think our Union depends on it.

It's great to see the Hawkeyes off to a good start. I must take partial credit for the beat-down last weekend. Before the game, from my living room, I gave the team a pep talk, and told them that I wouldn't hold them back. They were free to go out and light it up. It was time, especially with Coach Fry in town, to deliver one of those Frying pan whuppings that have for too long been absent from the rivalry. I was thrilled the team responded.

I have written in the past about our quarterback situation, so I'll not say anything more than it is great to see C.J. prospering in the role. What I will lament, however, is that I have yet to see a Hawkeye  video featuring Akrum Wadley. I would call it: Wadley's Greatest Whiffs. Akrum Breaking Ankles. I have always liked this kid, and hope that he stays healthy. Like he says, there is plenty of room for him to get carries. Speaking of carries, I really NEED to see Derrick Mitchell get some handoffs. I think we have a mauler on deck, and I'm looking forward to the first time he gets some meaningful carries.

The team is loaded with good guys, hard-working guys, who are buying into the system. I frequently find myself thinking about General Ferentz, leading his troops into battle. We seem to have developed a strong mentality of giving it up for the team, and I think the guys have realized that it the best way to get everyone home. It's  really gratifying to watch. It really is.

Finally, I wish we would see more articles about how few of our players are getting into trouble. We could compare and contrast with SEC teams! Surely, I'm not the only one who has noticed that these guys are behaving dramatically different off the field.  I am sure there have to be some feel -good stories in what this army of guys is doing off the field, and on slow sports days, it would be nice to see those kind of stories appearing. Maybe I'm reminiscing about The Big Peach.

Here's to a great season!!

All the best,

Richard Hayman

Friday, September 9, 2016

I'm All for It


People are asking me what I think of the Kirk Ferentz deal at Iowa.

Kirk Ferentz

They're referring, of course, to the nice contract extension and the nice pay raise the Hawkeyes' football coach is getting.

I'm all for it.

I doubt many people critical of the extension and raise went through what I went through in the previous century.

The 19 consecutive non-winning Hawkeye  seasons, I mean.

The firing of Jerry Burns, Ray Nagel, Frank Lauterbur and Bob Commings in that ugly chapter of Hawkeye football, I mean.

That wasn't fun.

The 19 straight years of lousy football weren't fun for Burns, Nagel, Lauterbur and Commings; they weren't fun for Iowa's athletic administration; they weren't fun for Hawkeye fans, and they weren't fun for me.

There are only so many ways a guy can explain a football defeat in print, and I think I discovered all of 'em.

What Kirk Ferentz is doing at Iowa is fun.

I'm glad he's getting a contract extension and a pay raise.

He's a class guy who is running a class football program at Iowa.