HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. -- There are 803 plots here in the Confederate Memorial Cemetery, 60 miles East of Kansas City. Memories fade and generations die out so it's understandable that only four headstones are decorated this week, 142 years after the end of the Civil War.
|It doesn't matter how sensitive, fans go after each other. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
"We've got two leg bones, three arm bones and a lock of hair," Kay Russell says proudly of the grave's contents.
Russell is an interpretive specialist at the cemetery -- at a place that invites a lot of interpretation this week. The remains entombed at E-36 aren't complete, but they're enough to keep this place fairly famous among Civil War buffs, historians and -- whether they know it or not -- every Missouri and Kansas fan who has a stake in Saturday's Border War showdown at Arrowhead Stadium.
And there are quite a few of each heading into the biggest football game each has played.
E-36's remains belong to one William Quantrill, which is both creepy and inspiring. The notorious Civil War figure has been dead since 1865. Wow, flowers? Still, 79,000 people will gather Saturday night in some small part because of what he left behind: A rivalry of unparalleled length, depth and antipathy.
Nicknamed the "bloodiest man in the annals of America", Quantrill and his raiders rode into Lawrence, Kan. in August 1863, basically burned down the town and killed 150 residents. Quantrill's guerilla band came over from Missouri, a pro-slavery state back in the day, to Free State Kansas. It's debatable, though, whether Quantrill was more about revenge than forwarding a philosophy.
From that moment it hardly mattered. Twenty-six years after Quantrill was gunned down, Kansas and Missouri played their first football game in 1891. Fights broke out in the stands. They weren't arguing about who made a pass at who's homecoming date.
It was less about football than deep, ingrained social scars. To some, Quantrill was a hero. To others, he was a murdering terrorist. Whatever the case, a rivalry was born.
This week, again, it is more about football as a form of revenge. The second-oldest college rivalry in existence (oldest west of the Mississippi) will re-ignite under the lights of national television, in a sold-out NFL stadium with the national championship at stake.
Eighty-five-year-old Don Fambrough is one of the fire starters. As a former Kansas player, assistant and head coach he has enough Missouri hate built up inside him to, well, fill a cemetery. In later years, he has been brought in to the KU locker room before the Missouri game as a ceremonial figure to throw a match in a tub of gasoline.
"At the end (of his pre-game speech) I let the players know this is not a showdown," Fambrough said. "It's war. It is total war. I let them know Missouri started that war when they sent Quantrill over here.
"I had a wild-ass freshman who believed everything I said. He put down on a test that Quantrill was a Missouri grad."
To this day the guerilla raider's legacy is as split as the loyalties to Kansas and Missouri. Author Paul Petersen said the "Jayhawkers" who conducted their own raids from free-state Kansas into Missouri were just as ruthless as Quantrill.
"To me," Petersen said, "they were the terrorists."
"Kansas ought to be somewhat ashamed of 'Jayhawkers.' If I was a Kansas grad I wouldn't want my mascot to be that," said Jim Beckner, who has roots on both sides of the conflict. His great grandfather was a member of the Sons of Unions Veterans. Beckner is a Civil War re-enactor who is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Is it any wonder, then, that Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel got a taste of the hate during an unofficial visit.
"I had never been to Columbia before," said Daniel, a Texas native. "Me and the quarterback coach were at Coldstone Creamery getting some ice cream ... Right when we were leaving someone said, 'Hey, beat KU all four years you're here and we'll still love you no matter (what).'"
Daniel is 1-1 as a Tiger vs. Jayhawks going into the biggest game of this rivalry since they threw punches in that first encounter, also in Kansas City.
Both sides carry the enmity with them on a daily basis. "Muck Fizzou" is one of the most popular student T-shirts at Kansas. If you think that's tacky, someone around Columbia has come up with a shirt depicting Lawrence burning to the ground accompanied by the word "Scoreboard."
"They make light of it with the football game," said Petersen, a Raytown, Mo. Native, who has written two books on Quantrill. "You can print out the T-shirts and everything but the rivalry is there."
It was there in 1960 when Missouri was ranked No. 1. The Tigers lost to Kansas, which got two touchdowns from Bert Coan, who was later ruled ineligible. The damage was done. Missouri slipped to No. 5 in the polls. The Tigers were later awarded with a 1-0 forfeit victory by the conference and technically finished undefeated. But try to find a Tiger today who considers that an unblemished season.
Coan playing that day might have cost Missouri a national championship. Each school's media guide still claims victory in the all-time series record.
"It's kind of weird isn't it?" Coan said from his home near Nacogdoches, Texas. "My God, put it to sleep."
It was there in 1969 when during the course of a 69-21 Missouri victory, Kansas coach Pepper Rodgers allegedly flashed a peace sign across the field. Rodgers said he got half a peace sign back from Missouri coach Dan Devine.
It was there during all those years Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart refused to spend money in Kansas during road trips. It was there during Fambrough's playing career when the temperature dipped into the single digits on Thanksgiving 1946 in Columbia. There were no stores open so Kansas coach George Sauer sent young Fambrough over to the Missouri equipment manager for anything that could be used to keep the Jayhawks warm.
"He said, 'I ain't giving you s---," Fambrough said.
So, according to Fambrough, Sauer ordered the team bus to ram through fence gates and park behind the Kansas bench so players could sit in it and keep warm.
"It's never been just a football game," he said.
Trying to contemplate things he probably doesn't know the half of, Pittsburg, Kan., native Kerry Meier weighed in Saturday after the Jayhawks beat Iowa State.
"It's really kind of personal what went on," said Meier, a Kansas backup quarterback and receiver. "Once you become a Jayhawk you become part of the tradition."
Modern cable-ready rivalries are almost posers by comparison. Mike Krzyzewski is his own corporation. Ask North Carolina's Roy Williams which rivalry is more bitter. As Kansas coach one year, Missouri students raised a sign referencing his recently deceased mother.
Where is their Civil War? Their Don Fambrough? Their Norm Stewart? Their leg and arm bones?
Television has largely ignored this rivalry, mostly because neither school has won squat in a long time. The schools last went to a major bowl a year apart -- 1968 for Kansas, 1969 for Missouri, both in the Orange Bowl. But the Tigers and Jayhawks will meet Saturday in what was dubbed here first as Armageddon at Arrowhead. The winner advances to the Big 12 title game on Dec. 1 in San Antonio. Win there (beating either Oklahoma or Texas), and Missouri or Kansas most likely will be playing for a national championship Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
But back to the cemetery for a second. Remember only parts of Quantrill are buried here? The other remains are in Louisville, Ken., where he was killed, and his hometown of Dover, Ohio. Quantrill's skull once ended up in a fraternity. A childhood friend tried to sell some of his remains. This is one famous raider.
How disgusted would Jayhawks everywhere be to know that in 1992, the Higginsville remains were moved there from the Kansas State Historical Society?
How's that for scoreboard?
"That's a good word," Russell said. "He's the most well known person out there."