Homecoming TP, high school mascot names and other ‘traditions’

October 1, 2022 8:00 am

Toilet paper streamed from the trees in Bussey ahead of the Twin Cedars High School homecoming. (Photo by Bob Leonard)

Iowa Writers 'Collaborative. Linking Iowa readers and writers.I dropped by the Bussey, Iowa (population 387) Post Office a week ago Friday morning, right about sunrise, to get the mail. I was delighted to see the Twin Cedars High School kids had TPed the town for homecoming.

In 2021, Twin Cedars had 95 students enrolled in the high school, which means there are about 23-24 kids per grade on average. Given the level of effort and the number of buildings hit, it looks like most kids spent much of the night at it.

Imagine the fun!

For some of you, dear readers, wipe the frowns off your faces and imagine that you are young again and ready to push the envelopes of our existence. Run with me! Embrace the cacophony of the chemicals in our brains and glands, dopamine, hormones, pheromones, and adrenaline, mixed with the pure wonder that we even exist.

I remember TPing the night before homecoming back when I was a kid, and it was so much fun –and so laden with emotions. Driving in the cool autumn air, then hopping out of the cars, running, throwing TP as far and high as we could into the trees, trying to be quiet, but unable to stop laughing, yet fearful of getting caught, and me trying to stay close to the one girl I liked more than anyone else in the world, trying to make her laugh, without her thinking I was a weirdo.

The school didn’t sanction such shenanigans, so we were on our own. After TPing my senior year, a new kid invited us to his house to hang out because his parents were gone. He brought out some shot glasses and welcomed us to raid his parent’s liquor cabinet. He handed me a bottle of Southern Comfort, and I looked at it and read the label.

The label read, “This is the end of your football season if you are caught and your Dad is going to kill you.”

I admired the Twin Cedar’s kids’ efforts, and I hoped they wouldn’t get in trouble when school started and that no one had gotten into trouble overnight.

The Bussey Public Library, decorated for homecoming. (Photo by Bob Leonard)

They nailed the library.

Wilson’s Corner convenience store windows bear the homecoming message #shavethemohawks. (Photo by Bob Leonard)

This is Wilson’s Corner, a convenience store and the only place to get gas in town. Cold beer, drinks and snacks, and some excellent pizza. Nice people. The gas pumps are old, so there’s no paying at the pump. A weather-beaten paper sign says we are supposed to pay inside before we pump gas, but no one does. The staff behind the counter looks out the window, sees someone is there and turns the pump on.

If you are running on fumes and heading east, north, or west, you better get gas now as you have about a 20-minute drive to another gas station in Knoxville, Pella, or Oskaloosa. If you are heading south, you are probably okay, as there is a Casey’s in Lovilia about six minutes away.

It’s hard to see, but the pane on the left above is soaped “HAPPY HoCo.” The school logo is the T and C intersection with crossed sabers.

The right window pane has 2022 by the logo, and below is #shavethemohawks. The Mohawks are the Moravia Mohawks. Moravia (population 637) is about a half-hour drive to the south. I suppose this reference is to use a Twin Cedars “saber” to metaphorically shave the Mohawks.

The school has branded itself as the Twin Cedars Sabers. I’m not sure where the “Sabers” part comes from. Twin Cedars references the confluence of Cedar Creek and North Cedar Creek, approximately half a mile south and east of the school.

Many would protest using the mascot “Mohawks” because it is racially offensive. And likely, the “Sabers” also, as too militaristic.

I don’t know why they are the Moravia “Mohawks.” Moravia is named after the Moravian faith, or the Moravian Brethren, one of the oldest Protestant denominations. It was founded in the Kingdom of Bohemia sixty years before Luther’s Reformation. Moravian families left Salem, North Carolina, in 1849 to start a colony in the west. Money was sent to purchase 40 acres of land for a town site by several benevolent Moravian sisters. Their wish was for town lots to be sold and the money used to build a Moravian Church.

So, where does the mascot “Mohawks” come in? I have no idea, but I suspect it will be long before the term “Mohawk” is rejected in this small community.

Actually, I “know” how it happened. Not in reality, but in my head.

For most of Iowa, one-room country schoolhouses were consolidated in the 1950s and early 1960s. Let’s say that happened in Moravia (not a rabbit hole I need to go down to prove for these purposes). Someone on a committee likely said, ”now we have our lovely new school in Moravia; it needs a mascot. A name. What should our mascot be?”

“How about the Moravia Muskrats?”


“The Moravia Monks?”


“The Moravia Mudlords?”


“The Moravia Mohawks?”

“Yes! That sounds fierce.”

This means that the mascot today and then means nothing, and has never meant anything, EXCEPT as an insult never intended, and there is no other meaning behind it besides the alliteration.

This also means that NO mascot anywhere means ANYTHING!

If it is racist or sexist or insensitive, get rid of it — times change.

Some people will say, “it’s a tradition!” So what? If your “tradition” is a racist insult, what kind of a tradition is that? Certainly not one to be proud of. Get rid of it.

(Photo by Bob Leonard)

They got the basketball court at the park too.

(Photo by Bob Leonard)

And, of course, they got the high school. I asked an administrator at the school if anyone got into trouble for it. “Nope,” he said.

Homecoming and TPing is a classic rite of passage for the kids and a rite of intensification that builds community. People leave their everyday world, come together in a liminal state, and emerge from the other side anew.

Alas, Twin Cedars lost the game 0-71.

But of course, ‘tis better to have played the game and lost than never to have played at all.

The community is stronger for it.

About this column

Robert Leonard’s column appeared originally at “Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture.” It is republished here through the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative.

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Robert Leonard
Robert Leonard

Robert Leonard is the author of the blog "Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture," on Substack. He also hosts a public affairs program for KNIA/KRLS radio in the south-central Iowa towns of Knoxville, Pella, and Indianola. His columns have been published in the New York Times, TIME, the Des Moines Register and more.