1928 - Alderson High School - 1968


A. A. Asbury 09


This story goes way way back, back before the football field had lights and back a few years before Abe McLaughlin came to Alderson to coach football. The event happened before school consolidation when each town in Greenbrier County had their own high school. It’s an amusing and strange story, but nevertheless true. The names of the characters have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty. I have checked the facts in the story with several sources and I can assure you, on my best Scout’s honor, that the following events did take place. The story was first related to me by an old old-timer in Alderson who, by his request, shall also remain anonymous.


If you are young or have recently moved to Alderson, you may not know that at one time a road ran through the football field. If you begin at Steve Keadle’s house and head down the hill on North Lee Street passing to the left of the Community Center, the road now ends at the bottom of the hill where it abuts the football field beside what is now the Head Start Center. At one time this road continued on and ran through the football field passing behind the “old” grade school, now torn down, where it connected up with what, at present, is called Lee Street. The road was not paved and it was the main road leading into town for those folks coming to town from the direction of Alta. It ran down to the river, where travelers could make a right turn on the river road and go into town. The road beside the bank leading to town was not yet completed so traffic on the road running through the football field was often heavy, particularly on Saturday afternoon when families were coming to Alderson to do their shopping and to stock up on groceries.


The road was usually in bad condition and filled with ruts which made playing football on the field somewhat difficult. Football games were played on Saturday afternoon, so due to traffic on the road, the rules for playing football on the field had to be adapted. In addition to referees on the field, there were always two or more policemen. These men had different kinds of whistles from those used by the referees. The police whistles gave off a monotone sound somewhat like the sound of the British coppers’ whistles in London, England. This sound was clearly distinguishable from the sound given off by the whistles used by the referees. The rule was that when a policeman blew his whistle to let traffic through the game would stop. Upon hearing a police whistle, if the teams executing a play and were too close to the road, then the players had to freeze and hold their positions. If they were on the road, they would move away, let the traffic through and then assume the exact positions they held when the whistle blew. If the player had caught a pass and was in midair when the whistle blew, then he was to take two steps backwards to get to his starting position. After everyone had retaken their positions, a policeman would blow his whistle again and the play would resume. This was somewhat awkward, but that was the way it had to be done to accommodate traffic on the road, particularly since large trucks often didn’t slow down when crossing the field. Occasionally, a wagon and a team of horses or mules would also pass through. The understanding was that these wagons were not to stop for fear that the crowd noise would scare the animals resulting in pandemonium on the field.

Policemen on the field also served another function. It was not unusual for fans to bring their favorite “beverage” to the game and the resulting “induced courage” would contribute to fights breaking out among spectators from opposing teams. It was not unusual for the game to be stopped so that the police could clear fighters from the field. Many times during half-time the fights turned into a “free-for-all.” The police would more often than not let them “have-at-it” during the break in the game in hopes that this would cool passions during the second half. These half-time “activities” were considered by many of the more placid fans to be an additional and exciting attraction of the games. Alderson fans got to know many of the men (and sometimes women) who would fight on the field. They often gave fighters nicknames such as Battler and Mountain Man and they would sometimes place bets on the outcomes of fights.

There was another condition of the field that affected play. The field was only 80 yards long. There was a corn field 35 to 40 yards deep at the eastern end of the field and the rule was that a player could, if he thought he could make yardage, run a kick off or a punt return from within the corn field. Otherwise the ball would be placed at the edge of the corn field. If and when a team gained 20 yards, the ball would be moved back 20 yards, thus making the team “travel” the usual 100 yards for a touchdown.


It’s important to the story that you know something about a young lad that everyone called Dropsy. This boy got his nickname, Dropsy, from his activities in school. Every time he came upon a pretty girl he would drop a book close by. After he had stopped to pick up the book, he would start up a conversation with the girl. This technique worked well for him and he had it down to a “fine art.” However, his classmates caught on to his technique and started to call him Dropsy. Of course, Dropsy really didn’t have to use any “trickery” to start such a conversation. He was quite a handsome and personable lad, noted for his “gift of gab.”

Dropsy was big for his age, a boy everyone considered to be destined for great things in football. Dropsy was raised in a section of town lying between the river and the railroad tracks to the west of town, just down the tracks from where the Railroad Depot now stands. His summer occupation, along with others in that area of town, was to climb aboard coal trains that had stopped along the tracks in Alderson and throw off chunks of coal. Families who lived in this area did this in order to collect enough coal to heat their homes in the winter months or to sell for a few extra dollars. Train engineers turned a “blind eye” to these activities. They knew they would lose much of the upper layer of coal from the top of their trains as they traveled along the tracks, so why not let these people have it.


The owner of the stand of corn at the end of the field always planted his corn rather thickly hoping to maximize his yield. The rows of corn were often planted just 6 inches apart which made the corn quite dense and creating a thicket of corn rather than what one usually thinks of as a patch of corn. Even in the fall of the year when the corn had turned brown and the “ears” had been picked from the stalks, one could not see into the thicket with much depth. The farmer also had placed a Scarecrow in the middle of the thicket that he had constructed himself. He had welded a spring about 18 inches long in the middle of an old tire rim and placed the Scarecrow atop the spring. This had the affect of letting the Scarecrow sway back and forth in the wind which made it quite effective in keeping birds out of the corn. When Dropsy was a sophomore, it was this Scarecrow, the thicket of corn and Dropsy himself who saved the day at Alderson’s homecoming football game.


The homecoming game that year was with Ronceverte High, which at that time was a hated rival of Alderson. Alderson was undefeated going into the game as was Ronceverte. There was a big build-up for the game and many Alderson fans were placing bets with Ronceverte fans. Favorite beverages were flowing freely and there were many pregame fights. The police came in force and were ready for this. They had built a big cage on the edge of the field with steel bars, where fighters were incarcerated. But that didn’t do much to stop the fighting and the police didn’t pay much attention to the cage fights. Their motive was to remove unruly fans from the field so that the game could take place.

The game was tied, 14-14, at half-time. During the second half both teams went scoreless until late in the 4th quarter when Alderson scored and Ronceverte blocked Alderson’s kick for an extra point. And then Ronceverte scored and made their extra point. The score now stood at 21-20 in Ronceverte’s favor. It looked at this point as if Alderson had lost the game since there were only about 30 seconds left to play. On the last play when Ronceverte scored, Alderson’s tailback was injured. Dropsy was a backup for the tailback on Alderson’s team, so he was sent into the game. Dropsy knew that he probably would have to return the kick-off and he was standing at the edge of the corn field. The kick-off was long and Dropsy ran back into the corn thicket to receive it. Dropsy knew that since there were only about 30 seconds left to play, he would have to return the kick-off for a touchdown if Alderson was to win the game. What he did next was controversial, but a neat bit of thinking. He ran to the Scarecrow, removed his helmet, pulled the Scarecrow backwards along the spring and placed his helmet on the scarecrow’s head. He waited for just the right moment when the opposing players were at the edge of the corn field and then he released the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow sprang upward, swaying back and forth. As it happened, during the summer months, the area had received more rain than usual and the corn had grown higher than is customary. Because of this, only the tip of the Scarecrow’s now helmeted head could be seen bobbing above the corn. Dropsy could hear the Ronceverte players hollering, “THERE HE IS BOYS, LET’S GET HIM AND WIN THE GAME.” Dropsy could hear those players “cutting” through the corn and at this moment he ran crouched down in the corn toward the side line. He could hear the Ronceverte player hitting the scare crow, WHAM, BAM, WHAM, BAM and hollering, “PILE ON BOYS.” When Dropsy reached the side line he cut up-field and broke from the thicket of corn to a huge roar from the Alderson fans. There were no Ronceverte players close to him as he ran to glory. As Dropsy passed the Alderson stands he was leaning back with his head pointed upward and high stepping like a drum major leading a band. As he passed the stands he waved to the crowd and the school girls that Dropsy had chatted up during the school year, clapped their hands, stomped their feet and shouted “GO DROPSY GO, GO DROPSY GO.” Alderson’s cheerleaders stomped their feet, twirled around and got so excited that they began to do back-flips, something they had never practiced or done before but something that came to them through their own high-spirited excitement. The three cheerleaders back-flipped down the sidelines alongside of Dropsy as he crossed the goal line. At that point the Alderson fans broke out in a loud cheer, “DROPSY, DROPSY, DROPSY.” Alderson made their extra point and won the game 27-21. Dropsy had saved the game and he was a hero like Alderson had never seen before, or since for that matter. Dropsy was carried from the field on the shoulders of his team mates to wild cheers of the Alderson fans.


Of course Ronceverte protested saying that what Dropsy did was not legal. The referees checked their rule books and according to the rules at that time, they could find no rule which stated that a player had to have his helmet on at all times. So the 27-21 score stood.

Dropsy had two very successful football seasons during his junior and senior years, but he was never again to make such an exciting play as the one he “pulled off” when he won the homecoming game during his sophomore year. Dropsy went on to play college football and to a successful high school coaching career.

A few years later after another road leading into town, now Route 12, was completed, the Board of Education was able to convince the town of Alderson to close the section of road that ran through the field. Subsequently, the road was divided into what we now call North Lee Street and Lee Street. Also the corn patch at the eastern end of the field was purchased and the field was expanded to regulation length, so exciting plays such as the one Dropsy “staged” were no longer possible. However, Dropsy’s run to glory will remain as one of the most exciting plays in the annals of Alderson football.