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Robert Cantwell
February 15, 1960
Marianne Moore's poetic exhortation to the Brooklyn Dodgers astonished her admirers. They did not know that in the past she guided even more redoubtable heroes—among them, Jim Thorpe
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February 15, 1960

The Poet, The Bums And The Legendary Red Men

Marianne Moore's poetic exhortation to the Brooklyn Dodgers astonished her admirers. They did not know that in the past she guided even more redoubtable heroes—among them, Jim Thorpe

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Three other Yale football players after Vance McCormick served as part-time coaches of the Indians: William Hickok, William Bull and Harry Hale. Though not yet an effective team, the Indians began to produce stars, and new names appeared in American sport, strange and exotic: Isaac Seneca (who was on Walter Camp's All-America team), Little Boy, Owl, Brave Thunder, Fast Bear, Two Hearts, Lone Star, Wauseka, Lubo, Frank Mt. Pleasant, Exendine and Charles Dillon, who is credited with having had the ball under his sweater in the famous hidden ball trick that was first used against Harvard. The citizens of Carlisle, many of whom had first viewed the coming of the Indians with some misgivings, became ardent supporters of the Indian School. They unanimously backed General Pratt in his ceaseless battles with the Indian Bureau. Miss Moore, through her friendship with the brilliant daughters of Dr. George Norcross, the minister of the Second Presbyterian Church of Carlisle and a famous historian, had met the general and his family and was also one of his ardent backers.

She did not go so far as some Carlisle children who grew up believing that plumes of smoke from burning sulphur and brimstone floated over the government buildings in Washington, but she did, like most of her contemporaries, make heroes of the Indian athletes. Indeed, the social life of Carlisle generally became imbued with the Indians' victories, as they mounted up, in a fashion that would have been incredible under other circumstances. "We were just proud of them," Miss Moore says. "The whole town was."

Then, in 1899, Glenn Warner was appointed the first permanent coach, and the great teams, rather than the great individual stars alone, began to emerge as a new phenomenon in football.


By this time the teaching in the school had reached the equivalent of that of the early college years. Enrollment was stabilized at about 1,100 students, some 600 to 700 boys and around 400 girls. They ranged from the earliest grades to college years. The school colors were red and gold. There was an excellent magazine, The Red Man, a famous Carlisle Indian band, four literary and debating societies and a constant procession of distinguished lecturers and entertainers. And finally, a crowning glory to General Pratt's tenaciousness and the Indians' achievements, the great chief Geronimo himself came to Carlisle. The old fox stood before the students and said: "The Lord made my heart good. I feel good wherever I go. I feel good now as I stand before you. You are here to study, to learn the ways of the white men. Do it well. Obey all orders. Do as you are told all the time and you won't get hungry. He who owns you holds you in His hands like that, and He carries you around like a baby. That is all I have to say to you."

When the future of the school seemed brightest, General Pratt made a speech in which he called the officials of the Indian Bureau "barnacles." He had previously called them just about everything else, but this proved to be too much: he was summarily retired. Whether or not there was any real danger that the school would be given up, feeling persisted in Carlisle that it might be. It had always operated at a deficit; the government appropriation was never enough to support it. General Pratt's standing was such that he had been able to get donations from religious and charitable bodies to keep it functioning.

But the athletic association had accumulated money, and the Indians, now on their own initiative, turned large sums over to the Indian Bureau administration as an emergency fund to be used as needed. How much is not stated, but it was evidently considerable. The Indians restored the old Carlisle barracks—fine, Federal-period buildings—and improved the grounds. They built Indian Field, a good modern field on the stony tract where the first Indians learned football. They gave the school a new administration building, a college hospital, a complete print shop with first-class printing equipment, and a new wing to the original group of barracks buildings.

All of this Miss Moore saw from the perspective of a schoolgirl at Metzger. When she graduated she went to Bryn Mawr, where, by some academic mischance, she was accounted backward in English in college, and never got better than a C. But she amused herself and her friends with little poems:

If you will tell me why the fen
appears impassable, I then,
will tell you why I think that I
can get across it if I try.

After graduating in 1909, she returned to Carlisle to study typing and shorthand with the country boys and girls at a business college. Her first job was with Melvil Dewey, the originator of the Dewey Decimal System for classifying books in libraries. That fall the commercial English teacher at Carlisle "suddenly wearied of pedagogy," as she remembers it, "and departed to sell L. C. Smith typewriters." She was offered the job, the authorities indicating, with many misgivings, that they only made the offer because they had no one else to turn to. Miss Moore was reading Tolstoy, Turgenev, Henry James and George Meredith, and, while she had no fear of the Indians, she did have doubts of her ability to solve the arithmetic problems that she would be required to teach.

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