Once upon a time, in a small town surrounded by acres and acres of woods, there was a curse.


Though the town was small in size, the people who lived there were larger than life. The local school had just enough players to form a full football team, and twice as many cheerleaders. Not a single citizen of the town ever missed a game, or any other opportunity to come together as a community. Other teams who traveled there to play football marveled at the excitement the cheerleaders generated. The town became famous for its enthusiasm and good sportsmanship. Though the small football team had never once won a game, the spirit of their fans was greater than any other. It was said that their chants could be heard for miles, even through the densest clusters of trees in the woods.

 


It was not only visitors to the small town who could hear the cheers.



Down a twisting, turning dirt road, far deeper into the woods than the small town, there was an old cemetery, one of the oldest in the country, overgrown and all but forgotten. The small town’s voices were so loud, their clapping so resounding, their stomping feet so echoing, that the spirits of the cemetery woke from their sleep.



Who is making all that noise? one spirit grumbled.


How do we stop it? another complained.


“Go, team, go!” the cheers continued, shaking the trees from their branches.


It’s terrible! a third spirit cried. The others shouted their agreement.


Everyone calm down, an old spirit said. I’ll fly ahead and find out who is responsible for the noise. You stay here.


The old spirit made its way through the woods, and as it came closer to the town, the volume of the cheering increased. How was a spirit supposed to rest with all of this racket?!


At last, the spirit emerged from the woods and into the town, where a football game was in progress. The visiting team had scored 40 points, and the home team hadn’t made a single touchdown, but fans filled the stands. On the sidelines, the cheerleaders of the home team led the spectators in their supportive shouts. Ribbons knotted into bows sparkled in their hair, and no one’s smiles were bigger—though there were plenty of happy faces in the crowd.


My goodness, the spirit said. It is not noise, but a celebration! 


The spirit raced back to the cemetery, where their neighbors had gathered.


Come and see, the spirit said.


And so, the spirits flew to the game and wondered at the action and excitement of a sport invented long after the cemetery, and at the vibrant colors and beaming smiles in the audience. In the center of it all were the cheerleaders. The spirits had never seen such…well, spirit.


Look! one spirit said. I’ve seen them do those moves before, and repeat this chant. It’s a routine. We can learn them, too!


Delighted that they could once more be part of the small town’s community, the spirits flew to the cheerleaders and joined in the chants. It was certainly a surprise for the cheerleaders when the spirits joined them, but anyone who wanted to cheer was welcome in their small town. Their voices only grew louder.



For the visiting team, the appearance of spirits was a less pleasant surprise.



“The town is cursed!” one player cried, dropping the ball in his panic. 



“They have ghosts on their side!” another said, pointing.


Actually, the old spirit said, we are spirits.



The polite correction terrified them even more. Players from the other team ran screaming from the field, and as their fans saw what had frightened them from their game, they also fled. Soon the other side of the field was a ghost town, if you will.



“They’ve forfeited the game!” the home team realized. “That means we’ve won!”


“We couldn’t have done it without you,” the cheerleaders told the spirits. 


We are happy we could help, they replied.


The spirits agreed that, having cheered themselves, the crowd’s excited chanting couldn’t possibly disturb their rest. In fact, they would sleep better amidst such happy and lively sounds.


It is only a shame that we could not stay with you longer, the old spirit said to the cheerleaders. Now that we know the noise was only your cheers, we are ready to return to our rest.


“I have an idea!” one cheerleader said. She ran over to where the visiting team had crashed through the wooden fence around the football field in their quick escape. She returned with one of the stakes from the fence. “Everyone, give me your ribbons.”


All of the cheerleaders removed their sparkling hair bows. One by one, the cheerleader tied them around the wooden stake. Before the spirits’ eyes, the broken piece of the fence transformed into a dazzling scepter. 

“This will be our Spirit Stick,” the cheerleader said. She planted it firmly in the ground on the sidelines, right beside where the cheerleaders stood. “We’ll have it with us always to remind us of our new friends and our very first victory, and how a little extra spirit can go a long way.”

Touched by the tribute, the spirits wished the small town well and returned to their cemetery for pleasant rest and sweet dreams of sparkling ribbons, smiling faces, and small town victory.


And there you have it, the spirit stick.