I grew up on a farm, near Hesper, ND. My Dad saw to it that I had a Basketball hoop both outdoors and one indoors in the haymow to use in the wintertime.
When I was in the 6th Grade Hesper had two years of High School. I got to play those two years on the high school team. When I was in the 8th grade they let me play on the boys team. We won all the regular season games, but when it came time for the tournament, they would not let me play.
When I got into high school in Maddock, they had nothing for girls in sports. Not even Physical Education. They just gave us the credit.
The year after I graduated the Texas Cowgirls came to Maddock to play. As I was walking into the gym to watch the game I meet the coach of the Texas Cowgirls (Shirley Dorow) and coach of the men’s team in the hallway. The coach of the men’s team knew me and said to the coach of the Cowgirls, “there is a gal that can play ball for you” She stopped me and asked if I wanted to try out after the game? I said sure. I remember I did not hit many shots as, I was so nervous. They evidently liked my ball handing. To top it all off I was left-handed and had a left-handed hook shot that was hard to stop.
Shortly after the try out I had a letter from Dempsey Hovland. Dempsey wanted me to join the team in Bismarck, as they were traveling with the Globetrotters for two weeks playing the preliminary games. I wanted to very badly, but my folks would not let me do that. By this time I had been out of high school a couple years, one-year attending college and another coaching the Hesper boys grade school basketball team.
I still had my heart set on playing for the Texas Cowgirls. Dempsey Hovland the owner was writing me and asking me to come into training camp and try out.
I finally got the approval of my parents, but I had no money to get to training camp. Dad told me to take the combine and go out around the slews and the money I got for the flax I could have to get to training camp. I managed to scrap up 60 bushels of flax; at $4.00 a bushel was more then enough to get me into camp.
Much to my delight I made the team and signed a contract for a year. All the gals were new to the team, except Linda Yearby and Joan Rupp. We trained for two solid months. I was so happy to get on the road. I was one of the taller gals, so got to play center or forward. I liked the center position the best, as I could get my left hook off easier in that position.
I got to do part time driving for the team. I was doing three things I loved to do drive, play basketball and travel.
The fall of 1960 the Texas Cowgirls were sent overseas to play in Spain and Morocco for the Department of the Army. Then over Christmas and New Years the team went to Alaska for 15 days. I have lots of memories from those two trips. We played our servicemen on their Bases. We even got to ride on a dog sled to return to our plane. That was when we played at Northeast Cape 18 miles from the Russian border. To make a gym for us to play they had to make room in the hanger, pushing back the planes, helicopters, and fire engines. The audience had to sit on all that to watch the game. We had a huge helicopter for our dressing room.
The more games we had the better I liked it, especially the double headers, sometimes traveling all night to get to the next game. Being one of the drivers I got more them my share of speeding tickets. I never had to pay them, but the minute I started living in Minnesota and transferred my license from North Dakota to Minnesota I had to many tickets! After I told them that I was doing part time driving for the Texas Cowgirls they let me go and dropped all the tickets.
Dempsey usually booked games in our hometowns once every year. It was fun playing against guys I had played with growing up. The whole team would stay at my Mom and Dads. We had to get the cows milked before we went to our game.
Harlean Hudson, Elvera Neuman, Bernice Holladay and myself had a little reunion last February in Las Vegas. Three of us had stayed in contact over the years and after finding Harlean we planned a get together. We had not seen Harlean Hudson for 42 years. We had a great time reminiscing about when we meet Wilt Chamberlain and other great players, as we traveled across the country.
I thank God for the opportunity to play the game I love and travel across our great country meeting famous people and having lots of wonderful experiences alone the way.
After I retired Dempsey would call me and want me to join the team for a weekend, if they were playing in my area, for which, I gladly did. I worked for Control Data after retiring and remembered when George Mikan came through the plant. My boss knew I had played ball, so he brought George Mikan over to me so I could meet him. It couldn’t get much better then that.
Virginia Hill Butz