Woodstick Men of MSU

1963 MSU Spartan Lacrosse Team Recreated

Old Memories Given New Green Blood

Saturday we got together with teammates from the original Michigan State lacrosse club, which started in the 1962-63 season, and became a varsity sport in 1970. It was downgraded to club status again in 1996 due to Title 10 considerations. With almost 100 men’s high school teams now playing lacrosse in Michigan and 60 women’s programs, the time has come for the sport to be elevated again for both genders. The get-together was sponsored by the Michigan State University Lacrosse Alumni Association and was a great opportunity to renew friendships and recall what we aold guys all refer to as the woodstick days, when all players used wooden lacrosse sticks, not the plastics and aerospace composites of modern times. Let me say at the outset thanks to Luke Griemsman MSULAA’s very enthusiastic and capable leader. Organizing lacrosse players is only slightly less frustrating than herding cats.

Some of our teammates had played lacrosse before: Bruce ‘The Dwarf” Goodwin in Baltimore, Bud Shultz in western New York, and Dave “Wags”Wagner a transfer (in his bright red Battling Bishops red shoes) from Ohio Wesleyan. These three men were responsible for the birth of the game at the university. Bruce now lives in San Diego, Bud in St. John’s Mi and is still working for MSU’s medical school, and “Wags” is a retired foreign service officer, living in New Mexico.

Bill Prahler recounted how he got the team-name “Dancing Bear,” and how in the return game in South Bend, the Irish came onto the field after we were warming up, and walked around us single file three times all chanting his number. Once the game commenced, the war was on, but it was all clean. At the game’s end, the Irish goalie shook Bill’s hand and said, “All is forgiven.” It’s all class down there in South Bend. Bet on it. Bill now lives in Potterville, Michigan . A long-time high school coach, he is currently an assistant coach for the MSU women’s lacrosse club team.

Ex U.S. Marine Turf Kaufman, came to us from MSU football and later came to play a critical role in lacrosse becoming a varsity sport at the university. When he first joined us he could not cradle a ball and ran down the field carrying the ball in his stick, held out directly in front of him and of course he was immediately dubbed, The Spoon. Turf lives in Williamston, Michigan. His hair is silver and he remains irrepressible.

Chester “Chet” Grabowski, came to us as a would-be defenseman, but coach Bruce Goodwin somehow moved him over to goalie and during a practice in the indoor dirt arena in the Intramurals Building, one of us somehow clipped off the end of Chet’s nose with a stick. The bleeding goalie was taken quickly to Olin Health Center for treatment and one of our teammates dutifully followed along with the nose piece wrapped in a towel. Chet of course, became “Nose,” and a terrific goalie. He was also extremely competitive. In one game he came out of the net to take an attacker, but the guy got by him. A defenseman was supposed to automatically slide into the net behind Chet to cover the unattended net, but failed, and a goal was scored. And as the refs dug the ball out of the net, Chet chased our defenseman down the field shouting at him and pounding on him on the helmet and back with his goalie stick. Nose lives in Denver. Nose asked us Saturday, “Did that really happen? Yes, Nose, it happened.

We also heard how Steve Harrington was assaulted by a Notre Dame player, who knocked out one of his front teeth, and we were reminded of how we stopped the game to search the grass for the tooth, which we never located . Steve had gauze and god-knows-what stuffed into his mouth and went back into the game, whereupon each time he got the ball he immediately drilled a 90 mph shot directly at the player who had taken his tooth and was still marking him. After the third shot, which put the player on his back on the ground, the player withdrew from the game and did not return, and Steve became “Fang.” He now works for a civil engineering firm, and is a long-time resident of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The association dinner at the Coral Gables in East Lansing culminated with an award to Dr. Frank Beeman, head of intramurals for the university in our day and our staunchest supporter in the beginning. We named him our first and permanent captain and presented him with a plaque — with a standing ovation. We also presented Mike “Jolly Green” Jolly (all 6-6) of him an award for bringing us all together. Mike personally tracked down most of us and without his dogged effort there would have been no get-together. Mike is the retired athletic director from Warren DeLeSalle High School in Detroit, and still coaching high school lacrosse.

My good friend and former teammate Bill “Wolfman” Haeger, originally from Lansing, a hockey player-turned lacrosseman, was up from his retirement home in Savannah and we recalled how every March we took off to Torch Lake in northern Michigan to hunt rabbits. During one of those hunts we had an “unusual” encounter with a deer and at some point I’ll write about that in another section of the website. Bill said that recently he had told people this story and that they sat with their mouths open, not believing.

It was great to see all my former teammates and catch up with them. I know it’s that sport can be a little out of hand at times, and that it’s fashionable in some circles to bash sport or paint all athletic endeavors with the same negative brush, but lacosse at MSUwas about as pure an amateur undertaking as can be imagined. No scholarships, no nothing, basically us paying our own way and coming to practice every day solely because we loved playing the game, and working on our skills in summer because we wanted to get better. Our first season we were 3-3, but in my senior year we were Midwest Club Lacrosse Champions, a nice way to go out. Sport teaches a number of things: the importance of practice if you want to improve a skill; how to trust others; how to peform in public and be accountable for your own performance; how to play the game with total effort, but put aside the emotion and aggression when the final whistle blows.

These are lessons that can carry over to other areas of our lives and I was glad to have been part of the start of lacrosse at Michigan State going on a half-century ago.

Mystery Writers to Read

People frequently ask me which writers I enjoy reading. The fact is that I read between 75-130 books a year, so it’s hard to say X or Y. The following list is on the eclectic side, but I  believe I’ve read and enjoyed everything these authors have written (if translated into English).The main location of their stories is in brackets. Their range in tone and story environment is astonishing. Many of these authors have written more novels than just their mysteries series. Some have written or are writing mutliple mysteries series. Some of the authors are deceased. I tend to read more non-fiction each year than fiction, and I try not to  read any fiction when I have a manuscript in the works. That said, here they are:



Nevada Barr [U.S. National Parks U.S.]

Cara Black [Paris]

Peter Bowen [Montana]

C.J. Box [Game Warden, Wyoming]

John Burdett [Bangkok]

James Lee Burke [LOOS-iana]

Michael Dibdin [Italy]

Janet Evanovich [Joy-see]

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza [Brazil]

Steve Hamilton [Former cop, Eastern Upper Peninsula, Canada]

Sparkle Hayter [New York]

Victoria Houston [Wisconsin]

Stuart Kaminsky [Inspector Rostnikov – Moscow; Inspector Abe Lieberman –Chicago]

M.G.Kinkaid [Scotland]

Henry Kisor [County Sheriff, Western Upper Peninsula]

William Kent Krueger [Minnesota, Upper Peninsula]

Henning Mankell. [Southern Sweden]

Ian Rankin [Scotland]

Ben Rehder [Game Warden, Texas]

Kirk Russell [USFWS agent, Northern California]

Maj Sjovall and Per Wahloo [Stockholm]

Dana Stabenow [Alaska]

Pablo Ignacia Taibo II [Mexico]

Janwillem Van de Wettering [Amsterdam]


Lacrosse reunion looming, my mind keeps spinning backwards:

* Midnight, going into my fiftieth birthday, the moment of L, the dog shat curlies in the upstairs bath. It was old then, neutered and fat, with volcanic tumors under its thick coat, incontinent, ashamed. It had always been obedient, anxious to please, physically separating the children when they argued, a regal creature demanding peace in its domain, and a long brushing when it was vain, now victimized by a spastic sphincter, spore unretrievable without prehensile thumbs. There was hushed talk of green-dreaming the old boy, Kevorkian plots, talk made carefully in whispers downwind of him, though his eyes said he knew what hung in the balance.  I cleaned his droppings from the shower stall that night, told him, “Your secret’s safe with me, pal. We admit to the conspiracy and it’s the gas for the both of us. Let’s just focus like old soldiers, on now…today, maybe tomorrow…no further than that. I loved that dog.

* I hit three deer in five miles along jackpines, stopped to pour a dollop of Jack Daniels in their mouths in case the Troops came along to pinch me.

* I  read an obituary listing a doctor’s many academic degrees. Done at his direction, the controller to the end, or out of hushed respect by his leave-behinds? The degrees remain; in all that schooling, I wonder if that detail escaped his attention.

* Two gray cats and a half dozen birds of the same color, sitting on a power line in the humid stillness before the rain falls. Thunder in the distance. They chirpurr in concert.

* I see a video report of quadraplegics in a red-brick VA warehouse, thirty one men, unmovers, watching a visiting ballet company do a bit from Swan Lake or Long Lake, this is not certain. Unmoved, the men stared politely, all the time stuck by their own shit to government-issue sheets. The lead dancer is shaped like an old Coke bottle, a commodity they can never have and mostly learn not to think about. Thank you for your service, boys.

* I wonder sometimes about Audie Murphy, from flaming tank to poweder blue Medal of Honor and Hollywood starlets fellating away while he wooden-walked his way through B-moving picture  losers, to go from the fires of heroism to that, was he sad? Better a Nazi bullet than serial clap from farmgirls wanting equal billing in works of art designed by accountants.

* I think o f 17-pound rainbow trout and silver steelhead, grinding resolutely up dark rivers dappled with the first snows of autumn. There are trouters who want to catch them all, and trouters who don’t care if they ever catch them, and somewhere along this spectrum is truth and reality  for the rest of us.

* I dream of vikings rowing out of a timewarp  [they left Iceland in 954 CE) into Martha’s Vineyard to bear witness to naked men cavorting on sandy beaches, scratching their heads, oars up, “Is this what all that damn rowing was about ?”

* The last misslemen, a pair in North Dakota, another pair in Yakutia, each set wondering, “What if we get off first?” When you have the throw-weight, this psychology is to be expected.

* A nuclear targeter (there are such people), dialing into his computer  all towns that start with K, his least favorite letter.

* A world with no more gasoline, only the carcasses of millions of vehicles turned gardens, loos, dog houses, styes, tool sheds, pay-by-the-hour-no-tell-motels. Vegetable gardens, scientists have discovered, grow best in old Japane se models. The fact is unexplainable. Damn, they beat us even in the time of obsolesence.

* In the euphemistic and lexiconic battle of hunters and antis, hunters no longer kill.They “harvest.”

* There are more wolves in parts of Italy than in all of Michigan, our zoos included.

* Fishing is only incidentally about getting fish out of water.

*John Muir quote: “Most people are on the earth, not in it.” Does he mean we are more prosthetic than organic? I know Muir was a great man, but could it be he ate some loco weed in all that time in boonies?

* Guards at the Department of Energy are recruited from elite military forces and are required to run the mile under eight minutes and go from prone to a 40 -yard marker in under eight seconds. The shock wave of a 1 megaton bomb travels 12 miles in 50 seconds. May I ask: What’s the point?



A thoughtful young poet from far Watersmeet

Entered into the All  U.P. track meet

Puzzled by cries

Of “why poet why?”

Said he, “My fortes are meters and feet.”


A traveller arrived  one July in Marquette

Certain his summer vacation was all set

But imagine his surprise

When snow nipped his eyes

As he bellowed  most vile epithets.


While hunting a black bear in da U.P.

Nary a bruin da Detroiter did see

On his way home he resolved

To avoid getting involved

With game that is so absentee.

Manistee River Pigs in 1972

I most probably will never see

A sportsman fishing the Manistee

Instead we are usually unblest

With snaggers standing ten abreast

Filling the river with their debris.

Before GPS

A traveling man from Kalkaska

Returned with his spouse from Alaska

By her error they fell

Off their route into Hell

Her map-reading you see, was quite spastic.

Spring Snow

Yesterday, our second day of spring, we had 14 inches of fresh, wet, heavy snow. What we really need for our fish, rivers, and lakes is a slow melt-off to allow maximum penetration of the aquifers. This rarely happens, but we shall see. Yesterday I heard a geography professor on NPR telling listeners that based on satellite photos scientists calculate spring is arriving 8 hours earlier, every year, and basically all around the U.S. At that rate, in 50 years, by my calculation, spring will begin around March 4, which will make living here in southern Michigan like living in Sacramento, California in 1965-66. Glad I won’t be here to suffer that. MSU  NCAA basketball tonight: Go Green!

Vernal Equinox

This is the first day of spring and we are expecting overcast skies, and rain.  A 24-hour spike into the high 50s last week had people out in T-shirts and driving their convertibles with the tops down.

The birds are out in full force. In the past week, robins have returned, and sandhill cranes are beginning to show up. The neighborhood hawks are still in evidence, though I don’t see them every day, and I have now spied them in three different locations in the woods, so I’m not sure where their nest is. We still have small patches of snow, but those will soon be gone.

My friend Fred Lee, the retired fishing guide,  called yesterday. We have both been in winter cocoons, me writing, him tying flies for Jim Teeny out on the West Coast. We set a tentative expedition to go after steelhead in April.

Next weekend I’m off to the gathering of wood-stick men, my teammates from Michigan State University’s very first men’s lacrosse team — the first time most of us have laid eyes on each other in 45 years. I deeply treasure my past lives and events, but I seldom relish actually going back, because sometimes reality destroys comfortable illusions or distortions. This time I’m looking forward to it.

This week I’m in the finishing throes of Hard Green Violets, the 7th Woods Cop mystery. The manuscript is at about 95,000 words, which means I’m down almost to the very end and I have the following notes to guide the route ahead: judge won’t sign warrant because of possible fed uproar; Denninger calls about clay pots; Service needs to hit the high country above the south branch of the paint to find out what the fuss was about — the fuss and the fire; visit marquette mining reference laboratory, look at ore body trends; Provo autopsy — Not vanilla, but charred sweet grass grains. This small fact is eye-opener for Service and from this everything begins to fall into place. 

This sort of list of events is as much of an outline as I ever employ. When I talk to students I tell them detailed outlines aren’t helpful to me for fiction, and this sometimes tends to upset teachers. I then usually amend my statement by saying but there is no right or wrong way to organize to do fiction and in the end, all that matters is what you write, not how you got to it. I’m not sure this sort of hint of chaos satisfies the teachers either….

Truth be known: By the time I get to the end of a Woods Cop mystery or any manuscript for that matter –I’m often as surprised as the reader about where I’ve ended up and how I got there, and this is part of what makes writing the stories so much fun.

But now I have to turn my attention to Baraga County Judge Taava Kallioninen, who will be forced this morning by events to refuse to sign a search warrant for Grady Service, which will neither make him happy, nor discourage him from going forward to do what he has to do.

And while I’m pecking away on the computer this morning, my DNR pals, the real game wardens  will be watching the rivers to see if walleyes or northern pike have started moving up to spawn yet. When the fish move up , the poachers will move in and so too will the Woods Cops.

Spring is here, trout season is approaching, snow birds will be packing for the long trip home, blackflies will soon be hatching, all signs that we are headed inexorably toward summer and a lot of time outdoors and above the bridge, eh.

More Joecabulary

beavery: nightspot for women

binbombs: loose stuff in the overhead bin in an airliner

big blue scissors: American Airlines logo

Bordeaugasm: the effect a really fine wine has on some people

buttbumping: rough ride on dirt road

dejasdoodoo: in the same shit again

francflogging: getting rid of your loose foreign change at the airport

cloudshroud: overcast or undercast

funaway: trip strictly for fun

Gulfstream commandos: business travelers on company jets

hivel: small hovel

Internoid: those who live for their computers

laptapper: always on the laptop.

Mickonics: English spoken by Irish immigrants

peeop: chance at an open lavatory. (You’ll appreciate this term as you get older…)

planet France: It’s own world

screep: the sound of fingernails on a chalk board

stewlight: the button you push to get a flight attendant’s attention

swamp pop: frogwater

tootsuit: drunk business traveler

troutonics: a specialized language of river wanderers

Strike Dog & First Sighting

Check out Dave Richey Outdoors (Daverichey.com) for the latest book review of Strike Dog. Dave is the retired outdoor writer for the Detroit News and also well known for making his way around the U.P.’s secret places.

T0day we also spotted our first robin of spring.


Da Boids

Red-tail Pair Setting Up House 

Today the hawk pair was again  in evidence; but this time they were in flight and we tracked them to a snaggy sort of mature oak tree where they are building, or perhaps refurbishing a nest. Haven’t noticed a nest in this location before. Nearest one I’m aware of is about 8 miles west of here, but this will be an easy one to watch, if the birds  don’t have a lot of interference and decide to go elsewhere.  The other nest is such that when it’s clear they’re using, no more walks in that area until June.
Actually this was a day for hawk sightings, five in all: The pair with the nest; and I saw one red-tail cross my street, and another flying low over Centre Avenue; a Cooper’s Hawk, probably fresh from poaching small birds off a feeder, swooped low across Oakland Drive with something in his/her talons.

The Birds, Act II

Today, the neighborhood lovebirds moved west 400 yards to communications antennae atop the Portage water tower. No problem, great vantage point, but it’s fifty yards from Haverhill School and guess what the boids was doing? Fortunately it was an hour before school’s out, so unless the kids were daydreaming out the windows….