Rivalry through the generations

Meghan Helton, Reporter

Rider-Old High week has come and gone once more, along with its standing traditions. The cowboy hats that flood the halls for the Roundup assembly, the eery jingling of bells on Mum Day.

But only a handful of people know how these traditions were created or how they have evolved through the decades. For instance, when honors chemistry teacher Stacie Martin was in high school, Roundup never fell on the same week as Rider-Old High. 

“We had Roundup week, where we did Roundup and had a dance, and then we had Rider-Old High week which was our homecoming,” Martin recalls. “I think, probably, it does make more sense to kind of tie those things together. But they used to be two separate weeks.”

While combining these two weeks was a huge change, it was only one of the many traditions that morphed over time. 

“When I first took this job, all the kids were concerned about traditions and things changing and they were afraid of change,” head band director Loy Studer said. “So we started talking about things, and they didn’t even know what The Happening was.”

Due to student behavior, The Happening went away for some time. The same year Studer came to Rider, he restarted The Happening with a few new twists.

“We added the parade portion because the parade was never part of it,” Studer said. “And we changed up the format of it a little bit, the inside portion’s more like it was back in the old days when it started. In ‘74, I think is when it started. Because for a while we had fireworks and the parade and then we’d have a local band that would play.”

But, when a drought swept through Wichita Falls in the early 2010s, The Happening was changed once again. 

“We don’t have a bonfire anymore, with the drought and all that,” longtime staff member Patrick Templemeyer said. “Plus, you know, there’s really no place to hold it anymore. And I understand why we don’t have fireworks anymore, same reasons.”

However, tradition isn’t the only thing that have evolved through the years. 

The Rider-Old High rivalry is known throughout the city of Wichita Falls. But, time has altered it significantly. 

“I don’t think it’s really a rivalry anymore. They’ve won two times in 10 years,” Studer said before the game last week. “It’s not really a rivalry. A rivalry is competitive where the other team can beat you, and you have lots of respect for them because they can beat you at any time. And it’s not that we don’t have respect for them, Old High, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying that it’s not really a rivalry.”

Most agree when it comes to this aspect, seeing how the records are stacked. Dating back to 2003, Rider has won 14 of the past 17 meetings. 

“The only thing that really has changed is that Old High really is no competition for us,” Martin said. “You know, when I was in school, you didn’t know who was going to win. Now, you pretty much know who’s going to win. Which is fine, it’s perfectly fine. But, there used to be a little bit more equal competition between the schools. But, now, we’re just better in every way.”

Also surrounding the rivalry are several rumors, myths and legends that have yet to change. Dead coyotes and dead horses, these stories have stayed the same for years.

“There’s always been stuff about the guys who were going to trap the coyotes and chain it to the front door of Old High,” Templemeyer recalled. “Like, how are you going to do that? They’re always saying they’re going to kill a coyote and drop it down the smoke stack or things like that.”

As if killing coyotes wasn’t enough, there have always been other absurd myths. 

“There was an urban legend that somebody had dropped a dead horse on the lawn of Rider,” Martin remembered. “That never happened. I don’t know how anybody would do that.”

But these tall tales, like most urban legends, were just that. Stories spread by word of mouth.

“You know, things that happened or things that didn’t,” Studer said. “Some of it’s exaggerated. But, you know, who doesn’t need a good urban legend?”