You are here: home   Heard Around the West   Tonopah, Nev. and its "Fighting Muckers"
  • This article by Betsy Marston originally appeared in the Feb 07, 2013 issue of High Country News.
  • To read the full article, you must login or subscribe.
Please enter your email address to begin:

Follow Us
Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0


Tonopah, Nev. and its "Fighting Muckers"

News: Feb 07, 2013
by Betsy Marston

Heard 45.2

Utah "Remember," says photographer Greg Woodall, "when enviros and liberals were the ones who were 'anti-this and anti-that'?" Courtesy Greg Woodall.


What's in a name? If the name is Dixie State College, based in St. George, Utah, it's nothing to sneeze at. Recently, as the college began moving closer to becoming a university, locals saw this as the perfect opportunity to sever any connection to the South's history of slavery and racism. Defenders countered that the name most likely derived from pioneer attempts to grow cotton in southwest Utah. Besides, they say, hundreds of local businesses pride themselves on the so-called "Dixie Spirit" of friendliness. Perhaps the name has good intentions, but as the daily Spectrum pointed out, the history of the college also includes hosting mock slave auctions, flying Confederate flags and erecting a statue honoring Confederate soldiers. Spectrum columnist Sally Musemeche talked to lots of people about the issue, and many were baffled and saddened that anyone would be offended by such things, or by a sports team named "The Dixie Rebels." "Only the over-sensitive" could possibly read racism into this, they said; Dixie really means "the spirit of independence." If that's true, Musemeche suggested, then the college ought to start celebrating the state's own civil war -- an armed confrontation between the Mormon settlers in the Utah territory and the armed forces of the U.S. government, which lasted from May 1857 until July 1858: "Go, Dixie!"


Speaking of names, how about the high school in Tonopah, Nev., that calls its basketball team the "Fighting Muckers"? Or Orofino, Idaho, with its team dubbed the "Maniacs"? As reader Wes Perrin discovered, unusual names for high school teams are a Western staple, with Phantoms, Blue Devils and Sun Devils standing out from all those Huskies and Eagles. But we believe the most unusual name can be found in Yuma, Ariz., where basketball players don warm-up suits in black-and-white stripes because their team is called the "Criminals." Students buy merchandise from a store called the Cell Block, reports the San Francisco Examiner, and the team mascot wears a burlap prison uniform and a plaster-of-Paris head with a scary, scrunched-up face that resembles somebody's notion of a perpetrator. The odd name was born 103 years ago, when Yuma's high school burned down, and the only available site for classes was a former territorial prison. Students used the old cells for several years, but the Criminals name was officially adopted in 1913, after a rival team from Phoenix claimed that Yuma cheated and "stole a victory." The team decided to treat the slur as a badge of honor, and in 1917, the school board officially approved the distinctive moniker. Perrin notes that for several years, the Criminals -- cheered on with a hearty, "Go, Crims!" -- faced a rival in the felon department: Bagdad, Ariz., fielded the "Thieves" until 1958, when the team's name was changed to the less interesting "Sultans."

There is 1 more page in this article...

Introductory Offer - Save 20%

Print with digital OR digital only

From our friends

What another journalist has to say about HCN:

"High Country News is a rich resource for those among us who long to hear the voices of the West. The stories and commentaries are always well-written, with strong regional flavor, by knowledgeable professionals, and prepared and presented by editors with high standards."

Barbara Ellis, Denver Post News Editor

Sweet-talk from a loyal reader:

"I have been a loyal reader ever since the famous/infamous roadkill issue, years back. I just wanted to note that I regard HCN as the finest magazine I have ever read in my life and it keeps being so."

Tim Kingston, California

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  3. What's killing the Yukon's salmon? | An ecological mystery in Alaska has scientists and...
  4. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
  5. North Dakota wrestles with radioactive oilfield waste | Regulators look at raising the limit for radiation...
HCN Classifieds
Subscriber Alert
More from Culture & Communities
Our reliance on drones to patrol the borders
An artist’s road to redemption Review of 'The Painter' by Peter Heller.
The virtues of old-school car camping Backwoods adventure isn't the only way to develop an affinity for the outdoors.
All Culture & Communities
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone