Congrats to Ken Magee and Jon Stevens for pulling together their outstanding book The Little Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Rivalry to be released on September 1.  I helped them out with a few things – some of the history of course and with a few photos – and from the early specs I’ve seen the book is a fantastic way to consume the history of this great rivalry.  The photos alone – over 200 inside – are off the charts.  Props to Kenny and Jon for scouring the earth to dig up many of the beauties inside.

My buddy Oscar Munson made the cover:


Here’s the official release:

The battle for the Little Brown Jug continues:
New book commemorates Michigan-Minnesota football rivalry

Though the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota may be in different divisions after this year’s game, the 110-year legacy of the Little Brown Jug lives on. In the latest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of Sports series, authors Ken Magee and Jon Stevens take readers on a visual journey of this iconic rivalry’s history in The Little Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Football Rivalry.

“We hope that the readers will gain a better appreciation for these two great universities and how much of football parallels history,” Magee said, “be it the early century, roaring 20s … or many other historic moments in our past. The legacy the battle for the Little Brown Jug leaves in its wake many great men, not only on the gridiron, but in society.”

The book contains more than 200 images that have been donated from the private collections of local sports enthusiasts, photographers, and libraries. Many of the myths and stories that surround the famous trophy are examined and corrected, and various other tales are revealed for the first time. Glenn E. “Shemy” Schembechler III, son of the legendary Coach Bo Schembechler, wrote the foreword for the book.

“I hope that this book can highlight an underestimated football rivalry and tradition between two historic college football programs,” Stevens stated. The book will release in time for one of the last games the two schools will play consistently on September 27, 2014.

A portion of the profits from book sales are being donated to the Ken Magee Foundation for Cops, which benefits police officers permanently injured in the line of duty, and their families, to attend Michigan Football games, all expenses paid.

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

To follow the latest on the book, follow ‘LittleBrownJug’ on Twitter here.


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The new Schembechler Hall museum is quite a sight – definitely check it out next time you have the means.   According to #1000SSS “the Towsley Family Museum inside Schembechler Hall will be open to the public on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year. The museum will be open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on those days and is free to the public.”

The best stuff (to me) is the memorabilia, the vast majority of it is on loan from the personal collection of Ken Magee, the owner of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia.   A couple items of note.  Ticket to the 1898 Chicago game that inspired Louis Elbel to compose ‘The Victors’:

1898 Michigan Chicago - Ticket Stub - Louis Elbel the Victors They also have a press “ribbon” to The Victors game in the display case.

This made my jaw drop – a custom-engraved badge presented to the U-M team from the epic 1909 Penn game (held in Philadelphia), when the crew of the U.S.S. Michigan came to the game and helped rally Michigan to an epic victory:

1909 U.S.S. Michigan - Penn - Michigan game

Elsewhere – one downside is that despite being a (very) spacious facility, they decided (at least for now) to not include the Little Brown Jug— not even the replica that has been on display in the museum for years. 

That said, consider #1000SSS forgiven for including this note inside the display dedicated to the LBJ rivalry:

ActuallyThat’s probably not very interesting or significant to most fans, but I was thrilled when I saw it.   The myth of Yost asking for the jug’s return really came to light as a part of the Little Brown Jug Lore series on these pages, and specifically in Chapter 8: The (True) Origins of The Little Brown Jug Rivalry

P.S. I would have tied the ‘myth’ term in the sentence with Fielding Yost but I will leave well enough alone :)

P.P.S. Speaking of 1909, one ball on the Righteous Tower of Victory Pigkins (#RTVP) is of course from the Syracuse game that year.  The score on that particular righteous pigskin?  44-0.  /wink.


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Michigan Jug October 31 1903

On today, the 110th Anniversary of the Little Brown Jug Game #0, a repost:


One headline in the November 1, 1903 Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Tribune declared, “VICTORY, THOUGH THE SCORE IS TIED.”  Further down toward the fold it blared, “YOST AND MICHIGAN PRACTICALLY BEATEN.”

It was that fierce battle, played Saturday October 31, 1903, that spawned the greatest of the college football rivalry trophies.  At the direction of coach Fielding Yost, Michigan’s student manager Tommy Roberts purchased a five gallon jug that was left behind in the aftermath of this epic clash that served as first, a Gopher souvenir, and later as the trophy that’s been presented to the winner since 1909.

The Tribune described Yost’s Michigan team, winners of 29 straight heading into that game, this way:

Her lineman were giants on the attack, and were adamant on defense.  Her backs were great battering rams, with the speed of the wind, guided by an intelligence in play almost superhuman.

Her team work was near perfection, and the eleven representatives of the maize and blue were like some powerful machine, continuously in motion.

That line is a nod to Yost’s revolutionary tendency to speed up the pace of play, earning him the famous tag ‘Hurry Up’.

Now, we know the game ended in a 6-6 tie when the teams exchanged touchdowns, then worth 5 points each, in the second half.  Michigan took the lead when the great Wolverine back Willie Heston found the end zone first midway through the half.  The Gophers tied the score in the final minutes of the game and added the extra point to secure the tie.  Depending on who you read, the game was either called with “a few seconds” remaining on the clock (Tribune), or two minutes left to go (Detroit Free Press).  Afterwards thousands of Gopher fans stormed the field to celebrate the game-tying tally.

Naturally the Tribune saved a few good lines for the hometown victors tie-ers:

When [All-American tackle Fred] Schacht made his two gains of four yards each, the of the maize and blue went to pieces.  They could not stand it.

Michigan was fighting against eleven madmen, and the madmen won.

Century old Chart
You’ve got to love this—the Tribune even included a diagrammed play chart from the 1903 game on the front page.  Click to supersize it, it’s pretty cool after you figure out the key:


What happened next is of course the stuff of Little Brown Jug Lore, and you can get your fill here:

Chapter 1: What Really Happened in the 1930s
Chapter 2: Spinning Myths
Chapter 3: Getting it Right
Chapter 4: 2013: A Space Quandary
Chapter 5: Red Wing Roots
Chapter 6: Is the Greatest Trophy in College Sports a Fake?
Chapter 7: Open Questions
Chapter 8: Doc Cooke and the Real Origins of the Rivalry
Chapter 9: Gophers Here, Gophers There – When Michigan played Minnesota Twice
Chapter 10: How It Started: Minnesota Madmen 6, Michigan Machine 6
Chapter 11: A Righteous Sip, and Why Michigan Bought the Jug
Chapter 12: Making It Official—Jil Gordon & Painting the Little Brown Jug


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Straight to the miscellanea:

Honoring Falk > Postgame:

Q. For the last 40 years your equipment manager Jon Falk has been the keeper of the jug. Any last words about Mr. Falk and knowing he’s got the job one more time that concludes his tenure here?

Hoke:  “Well, we gave it to him when we got in the locker room. I just hope he doesn’t take it home. But no, very emotional, very happy. Jon, his loyalty to Michigan and Michigan football is special.”

I caught up with Falk after the game as he was heading out of the stadium.  He told me when he got the jug he told the players, “There’s no coach & there’s no player bigger than Michigan football.” 

Uniform notes >  Team wore LHS decal in honor of Lucas, son of former All-B1G tackle Adam Stenavich.  As Sap pointed out, that’s the first non-player or coach to be honored in such a way (POTUS Ford, Bo, Ron Kramer).  Timeline updated.

Mood >  Slight uptick, but that was way closer than the score of course and..well…meh:

chart Jug History slaughtered but forgiven >   At the conclusion of the broadcast Mike Patrick absolutely butchered the history of the jug, talking some nonsense about Minnesota taking the jug to Michigan and the crock being made of clay from the 1930s….Say what?   Shoe and Bando were all over it and while I didn’t hear it live, I felt a strange disturbance in the Jug if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. In 10 seconds Patrick sent jug history back to the 1930s.

All that said, ABC is forgiven thanks to Ed Cunningham who, with 2:45 left in the first half, said this:

”And they are playing of course for the Little Brown Jug, which is played for every year between Michigan and Minnesota.  And there’s was an old story that was a water bottle, and he left it at Minnesota and called and said, ‘Hey can we get our water bottle back?’, a thirty cent water bottle.   They said, ‘No, come and get it next year if you win.’”

“Well that’s not true, that isn’t actually what happened.”

Bless you Ed.  You just earned a beer or a mixtape compliments of  Glad someone out there is listening.   Best guess?  Ed caught my article in the game program as part of his prep or heard me on WTKA or WWJ driving over to the game.

Photo Oct 06, 5 31 19 PM

Hurry Up >  Ed C’s take was prompted by the answer to the Aflac trivia question:

Photo Oct 06, 3 44 58 PM

Penn broke that streak on November 16, 1907 when they took down the Yostmen 6-0 on Homecoming.  And speaking of that streak, it was a mere two wins long when on October 5, 1901 Yost delivered a 57-0 beating of Case for all-time win #100 the program.

Timeless > My “Oscar Jug” replica made it home and is chilling in my office.  A huge thanks once again to artist Jil Gordon for making it for me.  What a great spot to set another timeless possession: my MaraWatch:

Photo Oct 06, 5 40 32 PM


Maize & Blue NationOn FalkPhotos5 Takes including this on Funchess:

I don’t see any defensive backs under 6 feet being able to defend this guy. By the time Michigan is playing Michigan State, he will command a double-teams on every route.

mgoblog: Press Conference WrapPhotos.
Touch the Banner:   Takes galore.
Maize and Blue NewsRecap


More from this site:

So we have two photos of the original, what I call the “Oscar Jug”, i.e., the Little Brown Jug as it looked after Minnesota equipment man Oscar Munson found the jug, brought it to AD Doc Cooke and painted it up.   Readers of this site have seen these a few times but here they are:

Two Sides

You know I’m a fan of Jil Gordon, artist, creator of True Blue 365, famed LBJ score painter agreed to take on a special project for me.  I received this today, and…wow:

Oscar Jug I’ll be toting it around tomorrow.   A huge thanks to Jil – this is awesome.

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The story of the origins of the Little Brown Jug rivalry is being retold and again this week.  I’ve maintained for the past few years that the idea that Yost wrote a letter to Minnesota asking that the jug be returned is not only silly, there’s plenty of evidence to backup that it’s just false.  To those just tuning in this week for some jug knowledge here’s the basic breakdown of what really happened, and further, why the idea that Yost wrote a letter to get the crock back is far-fetched at best.

Warning: to those who cherish the idea that Yost wrote a letter demanding the return of The Little Brown Jug—avert your eyes.

The first thing to understand is how wild and varied the documented stories of the origin of the Jug rivalry were in the first couple decades.  I covered this in this LBJ Lore post.  You’ve got Minnesota coach Doc Williams right after the 1909 game saying that Michigan in 1903 carried the jug with them all year (false), painted scores upon it (false) and that Minnesota “willfully stole the jug” (false) that season.   In 1919 the Minnesota Tribune wrote that the Gophers originally stole it from a gym in Ann Arbor (false) prompting Michigan to write for its return (false).  In 1920 the Michigan Daily suggested the jug was a good luck charm for Michigan during 1903 (false). .

In 2004, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published a piece called “Minnesota Myths” that took a fresh look as some of the fabled traditions in the state. In it writer Joel Rippel brought to light an alternate explanation of the birth of this rivalry documented by Doc Cooke himself. A paper written in 1929 by the former athletic director offered a less sexy version of how the rivalry actually started.   I contacted the Minnesota library and obtained a copy of what appears to be an early draft of Cooke’s memoir containing several handwritten edits.

In A brief history of the Little Brown Jug, there is no mention of a letter, wire or request of any kind from Michigan or Yost. Cooke reveals that he and Gopher captain John McGovern simply met prior to the 1909 game and decided that the jug “might be material to build up a fine tradition.” Cooke writes that McGovern brought the proposal to Yost and Michigan’s captain who “immediately approved the idea, and so the tradition was inaugurated.”


In A brief history.. Cooke wrote that “a rope loop was tied to the handle of the jug and the jug was suspended from a hook above my desk, where it remained unmolested for six years…”

I found this awesome photo at the Minnesota Library of Cooke’s office inside the Minnesota Armory dated to 1905, showing the would-be trophy suspended from the ceiling, validating at least part of Cooke’s story:


This is backed up by a piece in the February 14, 1904 Detroit Free Press describing the placement of Cooke’s souvenir:

Minnesota Jug Trophy

Demonstrating the willingness of writers to embellish the jug story, consider that Cooke’s own 1929 paper was spiced up a bit when reprinted in the 1941 Minnesota game program. What was a polite proposal in the ‘29 draft (“It was suggested that the jug might be material to build up a fine tradition between the two institutions, and John was appointed a committee of one to present the matter to Mr. Yost…”) evolved into a fiery instruction from Cooke to McGovern in the ’41 program (“You tell that Michigan captain that they can have their jug back if they beat us tomorrow.”)   Now we’re talking!

But don’t just take Cooke’s version.   In 1953, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the famous 1903 game, Oscar Munson, the man who found the jug back in 1903, wrote his own version of events surrounding the origin of the rivalry.  Shortly after finding the jug he asked Cooke if the jug should be returned to Yost to which Cooke barked back, “Heck no, make him win it back.”  When the Wolverines returned six years later, Munson recalled this scene in Cooke’s office:

We didn’t play Michigan until 1909. The day before the game, Coach Yost came into Doc’s office for a visit as usual. The first thing he saw was that old water jug hanging in the ceiling. “What’s that?” he asked Doc. He told him it was the water jug Michigan had left behind six years ago. ‘That’s the first time I heard about that,’ laughed Yost. Doc suggested Michigan should try to win it back and it was all right with Yost.”

Munson basically retold the same version in a 1960 interview (he died not too long after).  “When Yost came to see Cooke [in 1909] he saw the jug.  They decided to let it go back and forth with the winner of the game.”

There’s much to believe about Munson’s words. It’s not surprising, given that the jug was purchased right before the 1903 game, that Yost didn’t remember or that he hadn’t even heard about the souvenir Minnesota confiscated six years earlier.  I mean, why would he really care?  There many reasons why Yost wouldn’t bother to write or wire Minnesota about a missing 5 gallon jug his manager purchased right before the game even if he knew he left it behind.  Given that the crock cost around 30 cents and game tickets went for around $2-$3 that season, it was hardly an item of value.

Even if Yost was a wildly frugal man, as Lloyd Carr has joked/suggested over the years, consider this:  According to the November 3, 1903 edition of the Minnesota Daily, the gross proceeds from the game were in excess nearly $31,000, to be split between the teams:

1903 Minnesota Game Receipts

After expenses per the November 4, 1903 Detroit Free Press, Michigan netted $13,000.   At thirty cents a pop, Yost could have used that money to buy over 40,000 Red Wing 5 gallon jugs.

Let’s say Yost did care about leaving the jug for whatever reason.  Maybe he indeed was wildly cheap.  Or perhaps he was bitter about the roughness of the 6-6 tie.  Or maybe he heard through his friends in Minneapolis that the Gophers kept the jug and knowing how cocky Yost was, he didn’t like it. Was Yost expecting Minnesota to drop it in the mail or put it on a train back to Ann Arbor (“be extra careful with it Doc–it’s fragile!”)?  How much would that shipment cost?   

The other side the letter myth is Cooke, as the story goes, telling Yost he’d need to “win it back”.   First off, on the longshot Yost a) knew about the jug being missing, and b) cared enough to write a letter to want it back, it’s doubtful that Cooke would be so bold as to tell Yost to pound sand.   Even if he did, Minnesota and Michigan didn’t have another game scheduled in the near future (and as we know, didn’t meet for another 6 years).  When was Yost supposed to have the chance to “win it back”?

So that leads us back to Munson and Cooke’s accounts.   Let’s say Munson and Cooke in their writings conspired to tilt the origins of the rivalry to a Minnesota-created tradition, that is, to dismiss Yost’s role.  Fine.  But check out the account of Tommy Roberts, the Michigan equipment manager who bought the jug in 1903.  Roberts published his version of the origins of the rivalry sometime around that 50th anniversary as well.  Not only did he confirm that the crock was bought in Minneapolis (which wasn’t widely known until then), Roberts recalled that it was Minnesota who “wrote” to Michigan before the 1909 game, saying, “we have your Little Brown Jug, come and win it.”

Assuming Roberts was at least partially responsible for leaving the jug behind back in 1903 (he was the equipment manager fergodsakes), certainly HE would have been aware if Yost wanted it back.  Heck, he probably would have gotten a earful from the Old Man.  Yet Roberts mentions no desire from Michigan or Yost or anyone to have the jug returned. Instead, as he writes, it was a one-way challenge from the Gophers in the days leading up to the 1909 game.

I found other writings that support Cooke’s version of the birth of this tradition. Dr. Willie Kerr Foster, a gym coach at Minnesota from 1905-1929, included an account of Cooke’s role in the jug rivalry in his paper The Doctor Cooke that I Knew.   Kerr says Doc was merely looking for some material for a pep rally speech prior to the 1909 Michigan-Minnesota rematch, and this sparked the idea of playing for the jug.  Kerr portrays Cooke as a humble man who “[never] wished any credit for the part he played in establishing this marvelous college tradition,” perhaps explaining why Cooke may have offered captain McGovern a joint role in his 1929 memoir.   The Minnesota Daily archives reveal that Cooke indeed flashed the jug at a pep rally-like event just before the 1909 game.

While there are subtle distinctions in the Munson and Roberts accounts, there’s much to believe about Cooke’s version. Applying a bit of Occam’s razor here, given a bevy of romantic explanations of how the rivalry began starting with coach Henry Williams’ quotes after the 1909 game, from the Minneapolis Tribune suggesting it was stolen from Ann Arbor, to the 1920 Michigan Daily version of the good luck charm, to today’s version of Yost pleading for the return of the precious jug, Cooke’s story is the simplest and the most reasonable.  Plus, almost every account, accepted or unaccepted, agrees that the challenge to play for the crock came from Cooke.  All this said, shouldn’t we consider Cooke’s own account the most believable? 

Funny, the man who is conspicuously quiet about the whole thing is Yost—the man never was silent, seemingly about anything.   Check out the stacks of letters, records and clippings in the Yost files at the U-M Bentley Library.   That said, would it shock anyone if decades later he spun a yarn to a nearby reporter, recalling how much it hurt when he realized he left that five gallon jug behind in 1903?

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On the week of the Little Brown Jug game, is there a better time to welcome a member of the Jug Brotherhood?  

James Heike 
A hearty congratulations to James who created a beautiful replica jug, sent me the pics and his story and thus punched his ticket to eternal glory.   He’ll never have to buy a drink again in Ann Arbor or Minneapolis.   Here’s a look:

Heike 2  And don’t look now but James went the extra mile getting it signed by #16.  Proof that Denard signs jugs if you ask him nicely:

The Man Himself 2

James, let’s hope that Michigan wins and paints the new scores somewhere other than immediately above the Michigan ‘M’ (which seems to be the clubhouse leader in the local betting houses) so you don’t have to make a tough decision on your Denard signature :)

Here’s Heike’s story in his own words:

My buddy’s been bugging me to write in for a year or two now and in the spirit of jug week, I figured I’d finally share the story of my own Little Brown Jug, how it came to be, and what makes it just a little bit different from the other jugs you’ve featured on the site over the years.

It all started 2 years ago.

Michigan 58 – Minnesota 0
I was in my living room with a bunch of buddies, watching Michigan steam roll Minnesota – by the second quarter, Vinnie Smith had thrown, caught and rushed for TDs and we were all busy celebrating each offensive penalty called against U of M because they meant more “Yards for Denard.” Life was good.

But as we were eagerly awaiting the U of M bench flooding onto the field with the jug held high over heard, we got to talking about getting a jug of our own. At first I thought we could surely find a boutique shop online and order a replica. But as we searched nothing came up. In fact, we could only find one reference to a replica Little Brown Jug anyone online–

I read the article about that first brave soul who set out to create their own jug and knew I had to do the same. I searched for weeks and finally came across a perfect 2 gallon jug, left in a barn in rural Michigan. I ordered the jug and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Michigan 35 – Minnesota 13
By the time Devin Gardner was making his first career start, the jug was complete. What I thought would be a fun craft project turned into an all consuming endeavor. I’ve estimated that I sunk some 50+ man hours into my jug. Meticulously reproducing every detail, right down to the hand writing and idiosyncrasies of the score columns.

It was a fun experience though; it gave me the opportunity to learn even more about my favorite team, the history of what was once a fierce rivalry, and a deeper understanding of the tradition and passion that dates back to a game played some 30 years before my grandfather was born.

Starting on that date in 2012, a new tradition was born that I hope to continue for a long time- each fall, when the Maize and Blue take on the Golden Gophers, I’ll be hosting a jug party at my house. Last year, we had a huge turn out highlighted by the score writing ceremony after the game. Looking forward to notching another crooked score on the jug this coming weekend.

Making it Special
Back in February, I was making plans to drive to Rochester, MI for a secret rendezvous with my girlfriend’s family. I was planning on asking for their permission to marry their daughter, but needed a good cover story to get out of town without raising suspicions. One afternoon, my soon to be fiancee came up with the perfect out, “did you know Denard is going to be signing autographs in Ann Arbor this weekend? Haven’t you always wanted to get that jug signed by him?”

It was a perfect cover- I made the drive to Ann Arbor that weekend, secured her parents blessing, and headed to Ann Arbor to meet my favorite athlete. Pretty great weekend if you ask me.

When I got to the M Den, the line was already snaking through the two story building. I waited in line for 4 hours, and just as I was finally approaching the table I was cutoff. “Only 600 autographs, and unfortunately you’re 601.” I was dumbfounded. I pleaded with the employee to let me go ahead but he wouldn’t budge. In a last gasp of desperation, I pulled the jug out of its protective bag. Everyone, and I mean everyone, took notice.
Where’d you get that?!”
Can you make me one?”
Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that!”

The employee who had stonewalled me just moments ago suddenly had a change of heart, “Well I guess I can let one more through,” he said. As I set the jug in front of Denard, that infectious smile lit up the room, “Wow… now that’s cool!” he said.

It is pretty cool, at least to me it is. I love seeing #16 scribbled across that labor of love every day, perched in its glass case. My now fiancée doesn’t seem to mind it even though it’s taking up precious space in our living room.   And this Saturday, when our boys take the field after an agonizing two week lay off, it’ll be cool to break it out again and relive the tradition of the original trophy game all over again.

Well done James!  

Falk with artist Jil Gordon and the replica jug she created.  Jon makes the jug actually look “little”

What a cool event for Jon Falk held at MGoPatio last night!  Props to Wolverine Beer for running the tap and for Slow’s BBQ for delivering the food.  I dialed up WTKA this morning to talk about the night (and a little jug business) with Ira and Sam:

While I can’t recap everything, I captured a few of the quotes delivered by Jon’s longtime colleagues Coach Jerry Hanlon and longtime trainer Paul Schmidt.   Coach Hanlon started by joking about how stingy things were at Miami, OH when Falk worked there, but because of that Jon brought a certain attitude to Ann Arbor: 

“He put in our kids into a mode that not everything in this life is free, not everything that’s going to happen to you is going to be great.  He kept them on a straight and narrow program.   He brought a realistic attitude on how to handle the kids, and I really believe he’s done as well as any coach here in developing young men and having them understand that this isn’t a free ride, you have to work for what you want to get.  I have a great deal of respect for him.”

 Hanlon, in his vintage M sweater, chatting up Falk and Jon’s daughter Katie

And Schmidt shared this: 

“I’ve had the privilege to work with five head football coaches, and I’ve got to stay as we’ve gone through transitions as well.  You guys don’t know because you’re not in the locker room, but on gameday the guy with the most genuine love for Michigan is right there—Jon Falk.  Every player knows it and every coach knows it.  It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Akron, or Ohio, or Michigan State, home or on the road, he is fired up.  He gets the players fired up.  When they’re walking out that door they hear Jonny’s voice in their ear…and it’s special.”

Photo Oct 01, 8 08 16 PM Paul Schmidt

Photo Sep 30, 5 44 37 PMA Better look at the replica

Speaking of the jug….I will be out and about on Saturday talking a some Little Brown Jug Lore, first live the show with the fellers from The Wolverine between 11 and noon.  I’ll be live again in the Victors Lounge with Ira, Steve and Sam at around 12:15pm.   And maybe elsewhere – stay tuned!

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