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There is a long-smoldering dispute, it turns out, over who is the rightful owner of the Monon (pronounced MOE-non) Bell. Originally the dinger was the property of the Monon Railroad Line, and if The Ballad of the Monon Bell can be believed, "It rode like a masthead on engine ninety-nine, Crawfordsville to Greencastle, then further down the line." In 1932 the railroad offered the bell as a permanent trophy for the annual football game between the Little Giants of Wabash and the Tigers of DePauw. Since then the bell has traveled the 27 miles between the two campuses according to the football fortunes of the respective schools. The concept of shared ownership is honored in the bell's paint job: half of the yoke is coated in bright Wabash red and the other half is painted DePauw "old gold."
Amazingly, the football series between the two schools, billed as "the oldest small-college rivalry west of the Alleghenies," has been split almost as evenly as the bell. Last Saturday marked the 100th playing of the DePauw-Wabash grudge match, and the record going into the game was 45-45, with nine ties. Wabash destroyed that symmetry by defeating DePauw 40-26 before 8,400 in Greencastle, but the Little Giants' advantage is seen as temporary. Says Wabash head coach Greg Carlson, "I'm gonna guess that after 200 Monon Bell games, we'll be no more than three or four apart."
Given the closeness of the competition, one might expect the thrills and the agonies of victory and defeat to register equally on the two campuses. Instead, DePauw—larger than Wabash, with 2,100 undergraduates and a sprawling, architecturally diverse campus—feels outgunned and put-upon by what it calls the Cavemen from Crawfordsville.
Wabash leads DePauw in the all-important category of inventive Monon Bell heists and in most other dubious manifestations of school spirit. Over the years, for instance, a scarlet "W" has been daubed on Greencastle landmarks so many times that paint remover is a fixed item in the DePauw budget. (One story has DePauw football coach Nick Mourouzis calling his wife to the window one morning, saying, "Look, someone's burned an 'M' in our lawn—for Mourouzis!") Last year The DePauw, which calls itself "the oldest and coolest college newspaper in Indiana," decried such vandalism but lamented that most of the great tales of Monon Bell derring-do starred the Cavemen.
"Are we lazy?" the paper wondered. "Are we no longer creative and sly? Are we perpetually hung over? Whatever our problem may be, with some creative planning and a little Tiger pride, baby, we can surely get a plot a-brewin' that will give Wabash something to suck on."
Right. Ten months later the iron door slammed shut on Matthew Ingle, and Wabash students hooted in derision.
It's not hard to account for the mischief gap between the two schools: Wabash lacks the civilizing influence of women. Otherwise, Wabash and DePauw are strikingly similar. Both were founded in the 1830s as private liberal-arts colleges, and both thrive today in typical west-central-Indiana towns. Academic standards and the cost of tuition are high at both schools; the Greek system defines social life on both campuses; graduates of both routinely become doctors, lawyers and corporate leaders; and each school claims illustrious alumni. Dan Quayle graduated from DePauw, as did lawyer and civil-rights leader Vernon Jordan, U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton, popular novelist John Jakes, astronaut Joseph P. Allen and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart. Wabash grads include AT&T chief Robert Allen, Buffalo Bill All-Pro tight end Pete Metzelaars, bestselling novelist Lawrence Sanders and Thomas Riley ("What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar") Marshall, vice-president under Woodrow Wilson. ("A two-term vice-president," a Wabash undergrad notes emphatically.)
Despite the similarities, the students see their differences writ plain. "We've stereotyped each other," says Wabash junior running back David Kogan. "We think DePauw guys are yuppies and pretty boys from wealthy families. They think we're caveman grunts with no style, no class, no social graces. There's no thought put into it. It's just tradition."
It's Wabash Wallies versus DePauw Dannies. (Wallies derives from the mascot, Wally Wabash, who wears a red letter sweater and a papier-mâché head that is four feet high and three feet wide. Danny, erroneously linked in recent years to Dan Quayle, is a decades-old euphemism for sissy. Wallies are reputed to be crude. When a Wabash raiding party left its "W" calling card and poured red dye in DePauw fountains before last year's game, the Dannies' response was predictable. "Here at DePauw," the campus paper sniffed, "students write with pens and pencils, not spray paint.... Spray paint will only impress big-hair high school girls."
The Wabash Bachelor answered by reprinting an article from an Oregon newspaper about a DePauw woman from Portland. "I like the school, but not the Midwest," the young woman said in the story. "Shopping in the Midwest is horrible. The closest city is Indianapolis and they are going to build a Nordstrom there but until then everyone just buys clothes from catalogs." A photograph of the pretty student in earrings and ball gown was captioned NATALIE'S DRESS COSTS $360.