A weekend with The Observer

By Barrett Henderson, The Observer January 15, 2009 02:51 pm

The following column is a somewhat “behind the scenes” look at a normal winter weekend working with The Observer sports department.

I’ll be honest, last weekend was not exactly normal. But, as it was unfolding I knew it would be classic column material.

Sunday through Wednesday in local sports are moderately easy. However, once Thursday comes around it seems like Sunday is an eternity away.

Let’s begin with Thursday evening and a trip to Joseph, to cover the No. 2 Imbler girls basketball team and top-ranked Joseph.

I’m not sure there would have been any amount of snow that would have kept Paul Harder and I away from this game.

Luckily the roads were clear and I met Paul in Elgin and we car pooled from there.

We felt uneasy on the way up when we passed a snowplow pulled over in Minam. Did he know something we didn’t know?

The girls game lived up to the hype and was phenomenal. Both teams have tremendously talented players. It was a boxing match from the beginning as Imbler may have left winning a 12th round knockout.

I returned home just in time to see Florida’s celebration after winning the national title.

After typing the Imbler and Joseph game recaps, I got to sleep around midnight knowing another trip to Joseph was hours away.

I gave myself ample time when I left La Grande around 12:30 p.m. Friday to get to the Jo-Hi wrestling tournament by 2:30 p.m.

The weather was gorgeous and I knew I’d want to enjoy the drive by taking my time.

At times, I can be La Grande’s toughest critic. The isolation and weather can take a toll this time of year. But Friday I experienced what attracts people here.

I get it now.

I probably stopped four times on the drive to take pictures of my surroundings. The combination of the Wallowa River, the mountains and the crystal clear day would have won the appreciation of any cynic.

When I got to Joseph, I was once again blown away by great athleticism. The wrestlers at this year’s classic were amazing.

The great thing about the Jo-Hi is the championship-style bracket. It allows individuals to truly shine.

The end product was 1A programs with four or five wrestlers really turning some heads by beating 3A schools.

I ask the readers, if you have some free time on a weekend please get out and watch a wrestling tournament.

Some of the best local talent can be found on the mats. Joseph head coach Randy Garnett made a great point in saying, “Wrestling is the toughest sport out there. In wrestling you cannot blame anyone but yourself. If something goes wrong its on the wrestler.”

I returned to La Grande around 7 p.m. and began making calls for the other local games.

Friday nights are the most difficult of the week. With only two sports writers and many local events, it can make for some late nights.

Last Friday was no exception, but I slept in a little so I could be well rested for my drive to North Powder — or so I thought.

I’m not sure where we got the information and it was most likely my fault, but I drove to North Powder thinking the No. 5 Powder Valley boys basketball team would be hosting No. 8 Wallowa.

I was incorrect.

I apologize for anyone else who made the same mistake, but I was right there with you.

After making a call from the Powder Valley parking lot, I found out the game was in Wallowa and made a U-turn.

For anyone who remembered last Saturday’s weather it was a bit different than the previous two days. I could see dark ominous clouds over the Wallowa Mountains, but I went for it.

It would be the second of four bad decisions that night.

Number three came as I was driving through Elgin. Now, I write the following to keep reality and honesty in my column, not to come off as a hoodlum.

 I got pulled over just outside of Elgin for going slightly over the speed limit, and I mean slightly.

Seeing the blue and red lights flicker behind you may be the worst feeling in the world.

Being that I have not been pulled over since I was 17, eight years ago, I thought I forgot the feeling.

After running my license and learning that my driving record was as clean as a Martha Stewart kitchen, the officer let me off with a warning.

Thank you sir, I won’t need another.

My final bad call on the night was continuing to drive. As appealing as the top 10 match-up was, it was a near white-out from Minam to Wallowa.

Being from Florida, let’s just say I have not had too much experience driving over 20 miles per hour in the snow.

Saturday night was no exception as I drove the final 15 miles to Wallowa at 17 miles per hour.

I made it back home safe, crawled into bed and was thankful it was a long time before the next weekend.