I met Emil Wendt in Rohnerville, in 1940. We were still wet behind the ears kids. He and his buddy were tossing a football into the air and sometimes punting it to each other. Both were anxious for me join in their game of mayhem, but a stronger mind advised me to decline the invitation and to keep an out-of-the-way distance. I passed on the opportunity to prove my ignorance. Being as I was from a one room country school, I was completely naïve about football. My sound judgment told me not to get involved. I couldn't reason as to why a person would want to play with one. When it was tossed into the air and fell to the ground, it didn't even bounce like a ball. Why would anyone have such an attraction to a ball that he would guard it almost with his life? Anyway, for that day, the inner person undoubtedly saved me from several bruises and owies.
Our next meeting was in high school. He was in one grade ahead. We played together one year on the lightweight basketball team before the Selective Service began beckoning and demanding that he prepare to travel. He apparently wasn't overjoyed in walking to war; so he enlisted in the navy.
In my opinion he was the most talented Fortuna High athlete of all time. No doubt there are others who were good at what they did, but he was also gifted. He was left handed, maybe a tad shorter than a storybook athlete and seemed to be made of steel. He played guard on the lightweight basketball team and had the ability to pass a ball that was even difficult for a teammate to catch. I should have taken catching lessons because the ball would come in at umpteen miles per hour and would have eight different kinds of spin on it. Most opponents could only watch it go by. My first game with him, I was a substitute. The first pass he made to me went into and out of my hands. I didn't see where it went. It may even have gone out the door and down Thirteenth Street. The ball went to the visitors and I wanted to get lost. Most embarrassing!
Unfortunately Fortuna didn't field a football team. I can envision him as going both ways. He would have been a quarterback on offense and the equivalent of a linebacker on defense. I am certain he would have excelled because he was left handed and would have been a bear at defense.
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