Nebraska 14 – ‘How Captain Bender Won the Game’, Addison Erwin Sheldon

In continuing the Nebraska literary theme, I do have to search widely, though I have featured Sheldon before. Here, we have a poetic praising of a football game, and for Cornhuskers at the very least, this celebration will be no surprise.

The game in question is documented in the following newspaper clipping from The Omaha Sunday Bee:



And here’s the full story:


In Commemoration of the Notable Football Contest of November 14, 1903.

Sight to stir the student blood.—
That stern battle Kansas showed
Upon her hollow field within the limestone hills :—
In a thousand Lincoln eyes,
Doubt debates with sore surprise,
From two thousand Kansas throats
Roll their weird, fierce battle-notes,—
Like a caverned coyote’s cry.
Like a bat across the sky,—
Floats that cadenced Kansas chant,—
“Rock-chalk” song of things that haunt
Those cretaceous sea-built plains ;—
Cross-bones, skulls and grim remains
Of some wild-eyed Troglodyte
Slain in Saurian foot-ball fight,
In fierce Stone Age rushes which the fancy fills

Still above the doubting fear
Rises, strong, Nebraska’s cheer;
Plunge on plunge the Kansas foe
Pounds our line with bitter blow,—
Mass en masse the Kansas guard
Breaks a path across the sward.
Near and nearer yet toward Nebraska’s goal;
Yard by yard in slow retreat.
What! It cannot mean defeat,
For the Scarlet and the Cream!
Vanish, mad Jayhawking dream!
Booth, O mighty coach and true,
Give us victory anew!
Borg and Mason, tall and strong.
Hold that headlong Kansas throng.
Shout, Nebraska bleachers. Call
Louder still, “Stonewall! Stonewall!”

Back upon our five-yard line,
Like a storm-bent mountain pine,
In the last ditch dying hard
For that slender strip of sward;
For the glory and the fear
Of our Alma Mater dear;
For the honor and the fame
Of our loved Nebraska’s name;—
Stand like granite, living stone,
Cornland muscle, blood and bone,—
Athlete heroes,—spirits picked.—
Bender, Wilson, Benedict—
Twice and thrice the Kansas breakers backward roll.

Name him,—the football hero name,—
Who can win the desperate game;
Who in fierce Kansas’ face
Can cross the white-barred battle place,
And plant the ball upon the farther line in victory.
Charge on charge; blow for blow,
Swings the conflict to and fro.
The low November sun
Tells the last half nearly done;
Beating heart and anxious eye.
Vainly for the victor cry.
Guard and tackle, back and end,
Still their hard-pressed line defend.
Suddenly upon our right
Springs the Captain into sight,—
Springs from a struggling mass,
Shot through a narrow pass.
Under his arm the ball,
Past tackle or recall;
Headed beyond control,
Straight for the Kansas goal.

Hark! That Nebraska yell!
Was it the grandstand fell?
Whoop, every megaphone
Till the last lung is blown.
Up to that Kansas sky
Hats, coats and blankets fly.
Ho, Kansas, blue Jayhawk,
Croak thy weird chant of “chalk.”
Wave Scarlet and the Cream
Let the Platte eagle scream.
In Lincoln town tonight
Bells ring and bonfires light,
While all with loud acclaim
Write on the football scroll of fame
The Captain’s name who won the field
In Lawrence town in 1903.


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