One of Dave Hunziker's fondest memories as a young boy growing up in Kahoka, Mo., was when he'd crawl into bed with his father at night and listen to a St. Louis Cardinals game on the radio.
One of his most difficult memories as a child was watching his father succumb to cancer in 1979.
"The only thing that seemed normal to me at that time was watching or listening to Cardinals games with him," Hunziker said.
Now in his role as the play-by-play radio voice for Oklahoma State men's basketball and football games, Hunziker hopes to give his listeners what he received as a kid from those radio broadcasts.
"Sports is a great distraction," he said. "I like to help people. I like to give people a fun little break, give them something to look forward to."
Hunziker, 52, visited his hometown on Friday and spoke to students in the high school gymnasium in Clark County, where he graduated from in 1984. He stopped by Kahoka to pick up his brother on his way to Ames, Iowa, where he broadcast the Cowboys' basketball game on Saturday against Iowa State.
He was in Kahoka long enough to eat dinner with friends at Big Ed's, owned by Clark County classmate Ed McAfee. He also found time to bowl three games at Strike Zone Lanes, where he worked as a kid.
"My dad was a big bowler, and some of my fondest memories were in that little ol' eight-lane house," Hunziker said.
Before he left Kahoka on Friday, he told the assembly of students that they can "get anywhere they want from Kahoka."
"If you want to pursue your dream, there's no reason you can't," he said. "Don't let anyone else tell you what makes you happy. There are all kinds of forms of success, and it might not be a fancy car and a big house. You might want to stay here to be close to family, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's all kinds of ways to be successful, but don't ever get too low with the lows or too high with the highs."
Hunziker first got involved with broadcasting as a 17-year-old for KMEM Radio in Memphis, Mo. His first play-by-play experience came in January 1985 when Clark County played Kirksville in the Highland Tournament in Ewing, Mo.
"I still have the tape from that one," he said.
He attended the University of Missouri with the idea of becoming a radio sports broadcaster, and he spent three years in Columbia, Mo., after graduation doing pregame and postgame reports for football and basketball games. Hunziker later worked in radio and television at Radford (Va.) University and was at Western Kentucky for one year before the opportunity arose to take over at Oklahoma State.
It was hardly an ideal situation. A plane carrying 10 people associated with the Oklahoma State men's basketball team crashed on Jan. 27, 2001, in rural Colorado. One of the men who died that night was radio broadcaster Bill Teegins.
Hunziker helped the Cowboys' fans through that difficult time. "There was a lot of suffering still going on," he said.
He delivered his signature line -- "Pistols Firing" -- for the first time during the second game of the 2001 football season against Louisiana Tech. People liked it, so he kept using it.
He had developed a style that was formed during his childhood.
"As a kid in Kahoka, you could hear all kinds of games on the radio -- the Cardinals, Royals, Tigers, Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Reds, and on a good night, the Pirates and Yankees," Hunziker said. "You'd hear all these different styles of announcers, and I paid a lot of attention to their styles -- what I liked and I didn't like."
He was thrilled on Friday to get together with Ella and Greg Wirsig, teachers at Clark County when Hunziker was in school and still on the staff there today.
"I visualized myself sitting in those bleachers a student and what that would have meant to me a long time ago," he said. "You never forget the influence people like Ella and Greg can have."
Hunziker said he recently did something he's never done before as he was preparing for Oklahoma State's football game against Missouri in the Liberty Bowl.
"I got to type the words "Kahoka, Mo.," into my spotter chart," he said, referring to Clark County linebacker Jacob Trump being on the Tigers' roster. "I've known his dad and mom forever, and that was a cool moment."
Just another example of how you can get anywhere you want from Kahoka, Mo.