One day in fourth grade, my teacher decided to put away the books for an hour and give a local civics lesson.
“Who is the mayor?” she asked.
“Morgan’s uncle,” we answered in unison.
“And who is the prosecuting attorney?”
And on it went, a roll call for the who’s who. But then she asked, “What is our school mascot?”
“The Don,” everyone else said.
I had to stop and think about that one. My family didn’t follow the local sports scene, so this was the first time I had heard this word.
“The dawn,” I thought. “That’s an interesting concept. Intangible, sure, but in a way so powerful. You can’t stop the dawn. It arrives every morning.”
Or, at least, I thought something along those lines. In any case, I was wrong. This is our school mascot:
The word “don” used to refer to a Spanish nobleman. Today, it is more commonly associated with mobsters. Why the founding fathers of Doniphan R-1 chose it as the school’s mascot, I don’t know. The only explanation I could find was on this website, and I’m doubtful of its accuracy.
In any case, the Doniphan Don might be one of the most insensitive mascots still out there.
Did you have a bear or some large cat as your school mascot? If so, there might have been paw prints painted on the road leading to your school. We had sombreros painted along the road leading to our school. I don’t know who signed off on that, but the implication is bad. To see paw prints leading to the front of a school building simply means that an animal walked in that direction. To see the imprint of a hat leading to the front of a school building means some drunken fool stumbled along and bumped his head a few times along the way.
If you had a mascot at your basketball games, it was probably some kid dressed up in an animal costume. Our mascot dressed in a poncho and a straw hat, and what a cheap poncho and straw hat they were! The garb resembled some cheesy Epcot souvenir, certainly nothing befitting a true nobleman.
But if you think we’re a bunch of bumpkins unaware of culture or history, well, you’re probably right. But at least we weren’t the only ones.
Whenever our sports teams played other schools, someone always asked about our mascot.
“It’s just a guy named Don,” was the usual response.
Whoever answered was wrong, but nobody else knew enough to call him out on it.
For the girls, the mascot’s name was especially problematic. We weren’t the Lady Dons, we were the Donettes. Unfortunately, “Donettes” also is the registered name for Hostess brand’s donuts. Who fears a snack cake on the court? Nobody.
But if we could all be so wrong about our mascot, maybe we also were wrong about who mattered and who didn’t. Maybe none of it ever mattered.