In the small hours of the night of March 1, 1910 a thundering mass of wet snow, earth, rocks and trees ripped a terrible swath down the 5,000-foot peaks surrounding Stevens Pass in Washington. It completely engulfed a Great Northern train, which had been stalled by lesser slides. More than 100 persons died, but no one knows just how many because an unknown number of trackwalkers and gandy dancers had sought refuge in the stalled train and were killed along with passengers and crew.
Since then Stevens Pass has piled up a history of avalanches, which take place at intervals of about six or seven years, but this has not prevented the summit of the pass from becoming one of the country's most popular ski areas. Early this year, however, tremendous snows fell in the Cascades. Eventually, during chinook rains, they acquired an icy surface. Then, last week, the greatest snows in some 30 years hit the icy crust and promptly avalanched. All four passes through the Cascades were blocked, and road crews fought day and night to open one or another at intervals to one-way traffic. Early Sunday morning, Jan. 24, a massive slide from Mt. Lichtenberg crashed over a ski hut real-estate development, killing four persons and injuring many more.
"We warned the developers that they were building in an avalanche area," says Governor Dan Evans, himself an avid skier, "and that prospective purchasers should be notified. We were informed by lawyers for the development that we were damaging their potential for sales and that we might be subject to suit."
Out of the tragedy may come some good. Evans intends to introduce a land-use management plan that "will give us at the state level an opportunity to really get some broad criteria for development of land."
Not that skiers are going to wait. Shortly after the fatal slide, skiers bound for Stevens Pass, which was closed, hung around Skykomish, hoping the road would reopen. When an ambulance came through carrying an injured man who had been caught in yet another avalanche, skiers immediately bearded highway officers, demanding that they be allowed to proceed to their sport.
JUST FOR KICKS
Marin County, just north of San Francisco, is bidding to become the extra-point and field-goal-kicking educational center of the U.S.
Chances are it has become so already. Last season Marin County high-schoolers averaged 78.7% of their field-goal attempts, against the national pro average of 59.4%. They weren't cheap shots, either. The shortest field goal was 26 yards, and these high schools use college-width goalposts. They also had a 95.5% conversion record, compared with the NCAA average of 88.3%. In one game a San Marin High kicker set a local record of three field goals in one game—at 43, 41 and 29 yards.
Typical of the county players' approach to kicking is the family of Bobby Cooper, who plays for Novato High. His father centers, his mother holds and his sister shags in all-year practice sessions. Last year Bobby missed only one extra-point attempt.
Inspiration for the Marin specialization is Gordon Tovani, himself a barefoot kicker who tried out with the Oakland Raiders in 1960. He was 34, which made him one of the team's oldest rookies, a fact that led to his release.
But his love for the kick has not diminished. Tovani conducts clinics with Marin coaches and uses charts, diagrams, films and timing devices in his teaching. He is a medical supplies distributor, but his big kick is kicking.
BIG MAN IN OMAHA
Three years ago Gary Kipfmiller of Detroit was three years out of high school. He had knocked around a bit as an auto factory laborer and was thinking of becoming a welder when a better idea hit him. Why not become a professional wrestler? After all, he weighed 415 pounds.
After he enrolled in a professional wrestling school a friend suggested that he try out for the Olympic wrestling team, which was possible because he had not yet earned any money wrestling.
Kipfmiller headed for the tryouts at Ames, Iowa. There he met Don Benning, head wrestling coach at the University of Omaha (now the University of Nebraska at Omaha). Benning offered him a scholarship.
Today Kipfmiller is the star of an undefeated college wrestling team. He has also done something about his size. He is down to 365 pounds. And he is undefeated in 10 matches this season, with eight pins and two decisions.
Under Benning, the university has become a national wrestling power, somewhat handicapped by the fact that it belongs to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics rather than the larger and more prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association. As Omaha U., the school helped get the NAIA going and won't desert it now. Otherwise, it would be a serious competitor for the major wrestling powers—Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Navy—in the NCAA championships.
As for Kipfmiller, he has an eye on 1972 and the Olympics.
The personal advertisement in the classified section of The Dallas Morning News said: "Alice: I love you more than duck hunting. Dave."
Now that the season's over....
THE HORSEY SET
A few years ago it seemed certain that the horse, except for appearances at racetracks and in Western movies, was a vanishing animal and the village blacksmith (Vulcanus americanus) an endangered species.
Not so. The horse is making a strong comeback as a recreational facility and there is, therefore, a surging demand for blacksmiths.
Consider New Mexico State University. It started a course in horseshoeing a few years back and has been swamped with applicants ever since. The course, elegantly labeled "farrier science," was intended for local cowpokes, but it has been attracting far-flung farriers from all parts of the nation, including Brooklyn, where there is a shortage of both spreading chestnut trees and smiths.
Cost of the course is $150. Students also must buy $45 worth of lab equipment—pulling nippers, hoof nippers, a nail clincher, hoof-pick, clinch cutter, pritchel, hoof knife, rasp, hammer and apron. These are not easy to find at Woolworth's.
ONE FOR THE BOOK
With the University of San Diego three points ahead and about one minute of play remaining, San Diego's Oscar Foster drove for the basket and was fouled by a University of Redlands player. At the same moment, a fight began and the officials ruled that Foster would not only be awarded one-and-one shots for the original foul but would also be shooting a double flagrant foul on two separate Redlands players. Total: six consecutive free throws, all of which Foster made. Final score: San Diego 81, Redlands 73.
Thinking the six throws might be some sort of record, someone telephoned Steve Boda of the National Collegiate Sports Services in New York. Boda could find no listing for this sort of thing but said that Foster's feat would be so noted "until somebody comes up with something better."
JUST NOT CRICKET
As Britain prepares to convert to the metric system, abandoning feet and inches, it is running into problems, some of them quite upsetting to a people who revere tradition.
Consider cricket, for example. Should the cricket pitch be converted into metric measurements? It is now a good, sound 22 yards. Should it be rounded out to 20 meters, as Major Rowland Bowen, editor of Cricket Quarterly, has suggested, thereby lopping 4½ inches off it?
By no means, thunders the Marylebone Cricket Club, arbiter of the ancient sport. "The measurements will stay the same," proclaimed a Marylebone official, "with the metric equivalents shown in brackets."
THERMAL POLLUTION AGAIN
As if we don't have pollution problems enough, a study team in New Mexico has now catalogued 64 environmental threats—some of them previously unknown to science.
The team (which calls itself an environmental consortium) includes representatives from six New Mexico universities and colleges.
The problem that has attracted the most piquant attention in the state is "biological reduction of chili wastes." The chili pepper and the pinto bean are New Mexico's two official state vegetables.
"Chili wastes [from processing plants] pose a significant sewage problem in at least one New Mexico city," says the consortium, "and little is known about how to treat it."
The Gourmet Chili Society of America, headquartered in Albuquerque, came up with an immediate suggestion:
"Sell the chili wastes to the hash joints of Texas. They will never know the difference."
Neighbors who objected to the barking of his Labrador retriever led a Toronto man to put together a house-to-kennel intercom system. When the dog barked he soothed it with a few comforting words or, if necessary, a stern command.
At a recent party he demonstrated the system to his guests and one of them, an early-morning jogger, remembered the house-to-kennel hot line the next time he went for a run. He detoured to his friend's kennel and roused the slumbering Labrador, then provoked him into a mild spell of barking.
"Shut up," came the drowsy command over the intercom.
"O.K., boss," the jogger replied, then fled the neighborhood.
It has been three years since the District of Columbia's Woodrow Wilson High School won a basketball game. It has piled up a record of 55 straight losses. It has averaged better than 30 turnovers a game.
There are reasons, of course. Woodrow Wilson's Tigers have no gym of their own this year and must practice at Alice Deal Junior High. But even then the players can't get in until 4:30 p.m. because the Deal girls are working on gymnastics. And they have to quit at 6 o'clock. Deal was locked up during Christmas vacation and the Tigers could not practice for two weeks.
Coach Don Fugel offers another reason. Most of his players, he explains, were sent to Wilson because it has a good scholastic reputation.
"The talk at home is grades," he says despondently.
GONE ARE THE DAYS
Most of us can remember a time when, pedaling a new bike, we rode grandly past the front porch and, giving the full Nixon gesture, yelled, "Look, Ma, no hands!"
Forget it, at least in Maryland. Now the state has a law that makes it unlawful to crash into the corner mailbox, a utility pole or a brick wall unless you have at least one hand on the handlebar. You can't even carry a passenger unless the bike is specially designed for that purpose, so no more handlebar sitting. Nor—perhaps the one sensible provision of the law—are you allowed to hitch a free ride by clinging to a bus or truck. Not even on roller skates.
THEY SAID IT
•Tex Winter, Washington basketball coach, back from Fairbanks, Alaska, where the temperature fell to 50° below zero: "I don't think we'll be going back to Alaska. I've seen it. I believe it. I think I'll let it go at that."
•Al Cementina, coach at Lick High, to which Jim Plunkett transferred after his freshman year at Overholt: "We reviewed the ethnic composition of our student body and found we were underbalanced—we needed a quarterback."