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home : columns : columns
February 28, 2020


1/8/2020 11:03:00 AM
Minneapolis Lakers crashed in Iowa cornfield 60 years ago

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist


It was a wet, then snowy, fall and winter in southwest Iowa back in 1959-60. It was mid-January, pheasant hunting season had just closed, yet some cornfields were still not harvested - kinda like things have been here for the last two years.
A group of Minneapolis Lakers basketball players would learn to greatly appreciate that knee-deep snow and unpicked cornfield.
Nine Lakers players along with Coach Jim Pollard had traveled to St. Louis to play the Hawks. I'm guessing that Bob Petit, their usual nemesis, had a role in their defeat that early afternoon. Oh how I disliked that guy as he stuck the dagger into my Lakers in that era.
I remember his long jump shots from the corners, even in the pre-three-point shot time period. If he missed, he grabbed the long rebound and dunked it. No wonder he was one of only three players to average a 20-point, 20-rebound season. Also, he won the first most valuable player award for the season in those early league days.
It was to be a bad day all around for the team, coach, families and pilots that day.
A snowstorm had hit that day and the old DC-3 that mister miser, Robert Short, had converted from cargo to passenger plane set waiting to take off. Finally, just around dark there was a break in the snow.
They took off heading for Minneapolis.
Shortly after takeoff they lost all electrical power, no lights, no instruments, no heat, no defrosters. They got lost and got into the clouds and couldn't even use the North Star to guide them home.
Somewhere near Carroll, Iowa, they broke out of the clouds and spotted the town water tower. They couldn't find the airport so circled a couple times for another place to crash land.
Luckily the pilots were old farm boys and they spotted a cornfield in the now somewhat moonlight. Figuring that would be a rock-free, softer landing, they descended into the cornfield with their landing gear down, between the rows of corn. Their tail wheel even hooked a top barbed wire on the edge of the field, a tail hook so to speak, to slow them down.
Their landing was soft and they all jumped out into the deep snow. The town had figured out by then there was a plane in trouble and were waiting for them with cars and a hearse they fortunately didn't need.
All survived, no injuries. A pilot, who surpassed Captain Sully of modern fame and a movie, was recognized as a hero by his passengers and a town hero in Carroll, Iowa.
Bob Short? He gave him a $15 plaque.
When they arranged to fly the plane back to the Twin Cities, after clearing a runway in the cornfield, plans were made to have another pilot fly it out.
The original pilot would have nothing to do with that. He said I put it in there, I'll fly it out - and he did.
Iowa pheasant hunting
Later in that decade I would find myself pheasant hunting in that same area. Hunting with Barry Janssen, a Windom fifth-grade teacher, he had found some good pheasant numbers just one county west of the plane crash. We used Denison, Iowa as our headquarters and had some great trips to the area.
We would leave after school, hunt Saturday and Sunday, then be back for work Monday morning. We usually had four or five roosters apiece in the coolers, and the dogs were pretty tired. We also know where the meaning of "dog tired" came from.
The Belgian Malinois
If you've been following the things being achieved by the current canine corps in service to our Department of Defense, you've probably heard of the Belgian Malinois.
They look a lot like the German shepherd, sometimes called German police dog due to its usage in Germany during World War II and, of course, "Hogan's Heroes" on TV.
They tend to be a bit smaller, males at 70 to 75 lbs. and 24 inches high. Females are 10 to 15 percent less. Their coloring is extremely beautiful, usually a rich fawn color with black ears and a large portion of the muzzle.
Considered in the herding class but now recognized for their trainability as action dogs in the U.S. Army, they probably date back to earlier days in France. Properly trained, they sniff out whatever they are disciplined to do.
They bond greatly to their master or trainer and will give up their own life to save them. Since the first Iraq wars they have come home and are adopted out, with some success, to proper home settings.
Today they are probably the number one dog being used in service to our country. They have now surpassed the German shepherd in that role.
If you see one, ask to be introduced and tell them thanks. I've never met one but I'm guessing they would understand.








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