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This is what the 1905 Moorhead High football team would have looked like in color, but what’s the deal with the goat?

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After colorizing this 1905 photo of the Moorhead High football team, more people noticed the goat in the lower left corner. Why is he there? Special to The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Pictures from 100 years ago can be so fun to look at. They give us a quick glimpse of what life was like long before any of us were born.

As cool as the images are, sometimes it's hard to relate to the people in the photos. Between the lack of color and the unsmiling faces, it's almost as if they weren't real, live, breathing people. But add a splash of color here and there, and it all changes.

Colorizing vintage photos makes them come to life more than anything else. That's one reason Moorhead Spud History, supported by the Moorhead Schools Legacy Foundation, is reaching into its archives to add a little life to the past. The most recent update: a colorized photo of the 1905 Moorhead High School football team.

Look at these handsome young lads after colorizing, and you might even be able to picture a couple of them blending into today’s student body. For example, look at the boy in the grayish turtleneck kneeling on the right side of the middle row. He looks like he’d fit right in walking the halls of 2020 Moorhead High.

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After colorizing, some people in old-time photos look like they would fit into today's modern world, including this boy from the 1905 football team. Special to The Forum

The boy with his hand on his shoulder in the quilted pants and the hair parted down the middle, maybe not so much.

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Even after colorizing, this boy on the 1905 Moorhead football team still looks pretty old-fashioned. Special to The Forum

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the black-and-white photos, and they’re certainly not being destroyed, but colorizing them perhaps makes the students of yesterday more relatable to students of today.

“It just feels a little more personable,” said teacher Brian Cole, who manages the Moorhead Spud History Facebook page. “I’m working on a photo of Nellie Hopkins outside the first ward school from the 1930s. And you know, the little kids, you can see the grass stains on their jeans, and you can see that they have a tear in their shirt. It just gives it just a bit more authenticity when it’s in color.”

People who saw the colorization of the football team on the Moorhead Spud History Facebook page seemed to like the look. But one question kept popping up: What’s up with the goat?

The goat on the left side of the photo is more noticeable after it was colorized. But why is he there?

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Mascot? Probably not. When this photo was taken in 1905, the team was simply known as “The Moorhead High Football Team.” This was years before they would become the Moorhead Spuds, but they certainly were never the Moorhead Goats.

A lot of theories are surfacing to explain "Goatgate."

Some have speculated that the Moorhead boys might have been emulating the U.S. Navy Football Team, which has a long history of the goat as a mascot. The midshipmen claim that the goat is good luck. Other teams of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the New York Yankees and Yale, were pictured with goats.

Cole says one thing is sure: The goat in the Moorhead High picture didn’t get there by accident.

“That was an indoor studio, so they actually had to bring that goat inside someplace,” Cole said. “So it wasn’t like they were out on a practice field and the goat just showed up.”

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This original photo of the 1905 Moorhead High football team was donated to Moorhead Spud History by Teri Litherland Thorsen. Special to The Forum

So while the boys might have thought the goat in this photo would bring them good luck, as the 20th century progressed, the goat in sport took on a much different meaning.

“A ‘goat’ was an athlete who failed garishly, hilariously and at the worst possible time,” wrote Charles Pierce in a Sports Illustrated story.

However, by the early 21st century, any New England Patriots fan could tell you being called a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), like Tom Brady, was a very good thing.

If anybody knows why Moorhead’s football team invited a goat to their photo session in 1905, please visit the Moorhead Spud History Facebook page . They’re also looking for donations of other historical Moorhead High School photos to build up the school’s archives. Goats are optional.

Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience.
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