Sunday, December 31, 2006
So the old thing is 150 to 160 years old. That means that some of my old wooden sticks (or the pieces that are left over) that are around 30 years old must be worth ....... let me get the math right ...... a bit over $300,000 each. Yipes! I'm in the money.... I'm in the money!!
So I'm hearing that its hand carved from a piece of hickory. Well I think all of my old sticks are probably ash but what the heck. Ebay here I come! Easton watch out with your flimsy little hollow shafts. Wood is back and I'm walking with wood again.
A carved stick huh? Well most of mine had had a little carving done to them too. A skate blade here a skate blade there. "Ah ref I didn't hook him." Sheeeit - mine might have done a fair share of carving up themselves. I wasn't known for carrying my stick too low you know.
Historically the black rubber hockey puck wasn't invented until much later. Maybe someone's going to find some ancient piece of frozen horse pucky at the bottom of their freezer and send it to the hockey hall of fame too. I'm sure I don't have anything that old hangin around but I'm going to start asking the guys. Maybe they know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody ...... Wouldn't that be something - sending a chunk of horse douver to the museum. I'd want to be discreet about it though; wouldn't want everybody to know it was me, Jasper Wheats. Couldn't really handle the popourazzi being an old fart and all now. But give me the money, baby!
Yeah - I'm still walking with wood and you should be too.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Walking With Wood
Years ago, (or as the say now “Back in the day…”) when I was still just a young pup, the Christmas Holidays were more than just a special time. They were a time for playing lots of hockey. Now days the indoor rinks aren’t even open on Christmas day. Whats ya gonna do????????
Can you remember when you got new skates or gear for Christmas and you couldn’t wait to use the stuff. Like getting a new Northland R 5 lie stick (or maybe it was a Norcon) – made from real wood remember? “Thanks Santa!” Or, “Thanks Mom and Dad!”
I remember getting new skates the year before. Nothing real special. They were all black, hockey style tubulers but the toes got soft when they got wet. I wore those babies out over the year and saved my own money for a real pair of Bauers. Fiberglass reinforced toes, lots of structural support. You know the boots. Anyway the folks now really knew how much I loved playing the game. It was nothing organized just a lot of little pickup games two on two, three on three, and if I was by myself it was a little stick handling and a lot of shooting.
Well Dad took me out before Christmas to the local Western Auto store. They always had a seasonal sporting goods section and Dad let me pick out a new stick for one of my presents. Sure, I now knew what one of my gifts would be but so what – it would be something that I really wanted instead of a new package of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom undies. Shoot – enough of that stuff already. So they put a new puck in my stocking too. I had several pucks that I had dug out of snow banks and I had learned how to use epoxy and clamps to “fix” broken sticks that I had found. But the new stuff was going to be great. I was so damn happy I could hardly handle it.
Our family was pretty big. I had a bunch of sisters and two younger brothers (a shit load of stories to follow about those two). We opened our presents on Christmas Eve after church. Boy was it tough to sleep that night. And in the morning we had to all get together again for breakfast before we could go outside or doing any other fartin-around. Probably it was pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon that Christmas day – I don’t really remember. But Mom could be pretty tough on you about tradition (bless her soul – tradition is what keeps us going sometimes ya know) and we did these things before playing.
Finally, “Ok you can go down to the pond now. But you can’t stay too long, I’ll send someone to get you in couple of hours and earlier if it drops below 10 degrees.” Sweet! I had a heck of a lump in my throat and couldn’t believe how stinkin happy I was.
The pond was maybe two acres and was in a little hollow between our neighborhood and the next one to the south. You could get to it from the White’s backyard and they kept part of it shoveled off with their Toro lawn tractor and they flooded this area sometimes too. There was a little floating dock or raft that was by the shore. It was made of four 55 gallon drums and some two bys for the deck. Frozen into the pond, it made a good place to sit and pull off your snow boots and put your skates on.
Well, I don’t know what they teach now but in those days the rule was that a stick should be cut to length so that while in your stocking feet and held upright it just reaches under your chin. Sized up I cut my new stick. I had a rubber knob from one of the broken sticks I had found and stuck it on the end. I raided Dad’s tool box for black friction tape and taped up the blade. Not much for brains back then I taped it about three inches up the shaft too. Again – oh so sweet!
Back up stairs from the basement I’m in my room. Now I’m putting on my long johns, oversize jeans, a tee-shirt, sweater and two pairs of socks. Heading to the front door out of the closet I snag my old wool coat, a thick stocking cap, my snow boots with metal clasps, and grab Dad’s buckskin mittens with wool liners. My new stick is standing by the front door. I stick the puck in my coat pocket. I bend over, feeling pretty flexible back then, pick up those Bauers from the entry rug and slide them over the blade of the stick. You know you could do that with tubulers – pretty slick. I put the mittens on, yelled at Mom and headed out the door with the wooden stick over my left shoulder with the skates hanging on my back. Walking with wood – it felt so good!
Bam, the closer on the storm door finally pulled in and I was about half down the driveway. I heard the door open again (its great how crisp the sounds are on a good cold winter’s day) and Mom yells, “You forgot your scarf.” Sheeet! She knew I was susceptible to the strep and always made me wear a scarf around my neck to keep me “extra” warm. The damn thing was an ugly sulfur yellow, of thick woven wool (not knit so it didn’t stretch much) and was itchier then heck. I head back to the front porch, set my stick down, take the scarf from Mom, wrap it around my neck and tuck it into my coat above the collar. Mom says, “Don’t get hurt.” She shuts the door and I’m on my way again.
The White’s house was only the second house from us but I had to cross a street to get there. Our street crested in front of our next door neighbors’ and was pretty much down hill from there. If I got it right I could do a little slip sliding on the packed snow in the street that the snow plow never seemed to scrape up. I do a little skip shuffle and I’m sliding a bit. The sand in the packed snow stops me and I’m walking again. Proud as can be. Walking with wood! I sure hoped that the neighbors were seeing me.
To get to the pond you’ve got to turn on the street at the White’s, go to the edge of their property at a vacant lot, trudge though the snow down the hill into the hollow and arrive at the edge of the pond. The snow was fairly well packed around the shoveled area and you could walk on top of it to get to the raft.
I can see that I’m the only one at the pond. Must be a bit early ‘cuz of it being Christmas and all. I start walking on top of the snow bank. The snow is crunching here as I break through some of the top crust. Oh jiminy if I didn’t step into a crusted over depression and had my right foot hip deep. I put my stick and skates down and used the stick as a brace to pry myself back out. Crap! My boot filled right up with snow. I hadn’t snugged up the clasps tight enough. Never did. Actually I always had them loose and never fastened the top one - ever. It just didn’t look cool to do that.
Well, I don’t think that anyone had seen me so it was funny to me but not embarrassing. But I could tell that the snow in my boot was already melting. Meaning my socks were getting wet which would shorten my skating time before my damn toes froze up. I’ve got to hurry and get to the raft, deboot and brush off my socks.
Done. I’m laced up and ready to go. I pull the puck out my pocket and throw it out ahead of me.
There’s nothing like it. Nothing better than it except for maybe holiday hockey.
I skate to the puck and fumble a bit of stick handling. We’ve got some wooden goals with chicken wire and I take a wrist shot. Got a little lift on that. Boy this stick feels good. Did a few cross ice passes to nobody and had to dig the puck out of the snow bank. Good thing the snow had a crust so that I could see the mouse holes that the puck made. I pickup the puck and make a behind the net sweep heading towards the opposite end and take a shot from about 20 yards out. The puck hits the wooden post and bounces out dead to the right. I skate hard for it, cup it in the blade and spin behind the net again. Sheesh! I’m airborne. Just like Bobby Orr in that famous photo but I’m on the wrong side of the net. I hit a damn reed sticking up through the ice behind the net and it stopped my left skate dead as a door nail and sent me flying.
Pond hockey – there’s nothing like it!
You know I wasn’t wearing elbow pads nor shin guards. I landed hard and slid for a little bit. Pond ice ain’t too smooth. And I hadn’t been out long enough for any parts of me to be numb from the cold. Damn that really hurt! My right knee was going to have a decent bruise – again. Later in life I’ll realize that even wearing the best equipment I’ll still end up with swollen elbows, cuts and bruises.
Of course while this shit was happening, Mike White had come out his basement back door and caught the whole friggin incident. Mike was a year older then me and played hockey for the school. Quite a hot shot, later during his junior year he tied with another neighbor for scoring lead for the team. So he yells at me “Way to go Wheats! You skate worse than my old granny.” Well I was pissed but at least someone else was coming out to play. I always appreciated that these guys that were better than me would let me skate with them.
Others showed up later and we managed to get a little shinny going – no lifts allowed. The time flew by and before I knew it one of my younger sisters was yelling from the side that Mom wanted me to come home now. Back to the raft and I work at unlacing with frozen hands on iced up laces. Jeepers I had had fun. I slip back into my snow boots, punch the stick through the skate blades knocking out caked in snow, pitch it all over my shoulder and head on home.
Pond hockey! Yeah, holiday hockey!
I gotta tell ya – it felt good – Walking With Wood!