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Archive for Friday, September 11, 2009

Hird brothers recalled

September 11, 2009

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Wednesday’s Dugan Arnett article on the Springer twins meeting via rival football teams Saturday at UTEP reminded Lawrence attorney Rick Hird of another adversarial clash of brothers, both Lawrencians.

Beyond the bloodlines, the aftermath of the face-off has even more interesting tidbits, one of them a heroic life-saving maneuver.

Kansas University’s Justin Springer will trade trash talk with twin Jeremy of UTEP at El Paso. As linebackers, they won’t share the field at the same time, but they’ll exchange barbs. The late Carl and Wayne Hird of Lawrence mixed it up during a 1944 clash when Carl, a 1942 KU letterman, played for the Olathe Naval Air Station while Wayne (1943-45 all-league center) anchored a KU crew that walloped the Sailors, 33-14, in Lawrence. You can be sure they traded zingers.

“I recall as a youth seeing a Journal-World article that had a photo with the two of them standing under the goal posts in Memorial Stadium. Lawrence was a much smaller community in those days, and it was quite unique,” says Rick, a son of Wayne.

Carl Hird Jr. died at age 72 in 1995 after a long career as a builder, developer, entrepreneur and all-around solid citizen in and around Lawrence. He finished up at KU in 1948 after his Navy career and worked for five years as a male adviser at Haskell Institute.

Wayne developed as a nationally known thoracic surgeon whose quick wit and medical expertise made it possible for Jere McElhaney to have a long and productive life and serve two terms as a Douglas County commissioner.

In 1973, young McElhaney was on a science-class field trip at South Junior High. Two city-operated rotary lawn-mowers buzzed nearby; one of them picked up a four-inch piece of wire and rocketed it smack through Jere’s heart. He was rushed to Lawrence Memorial Hospital, where, as luck would have it, Wayne Hird was available. No time for gloves or antiseptics. Wayne ripped open the kid’s chest, removed the wire, did manual heart massage and handled the surgery to the point McElhaney left the hospital in amazing shape in 20 days.

All kinds of crazy angles over the years, but one of the real kickers is that when Jere got married, Wayne Hird was a guest of honor who presented McElhaney with the piece of wire, a shirt thread still on it, displayed in a box.

Ever adventurous, Wayne Hird got involved in para-planing and died in 1985 at age 59 when his aircraft crashed on the Lawrence Country Club golf course only about 100 feet from Hird’s home.

Both Carl and Wayne Hird had terrific careers after their football days at KU. The Springer twins could do a lot worse as graduates.

l The KU football media guide folks need to add two names to join Willie Pless at the bottom of page 22 under the heading of “Jayhawks in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.” Included should be Harold Patterson, former three-sport star at KU, inducted by the CFL in 1971, and George McGowan, inducted in 2003. Both ex-Jayhawks were sensational wide receivers.

The editors also should emphasize (page 184) that John Traylor and the late Rev. John Francisco broke the modern racial barrier for KU football in 1955, a year before Homer Floyd first played as a sophomore. Homer deserves credit for his career, but so do John and John for the dignified way they served as zone-breakers in very touchy times.

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