As MC, it's my pleasure to introduce our after dinner-speaker. Really, a
guy like him doesn't need an introduction, not a man who's in the
Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, played on four Mann Cup teams, won the
Mike Kelly Award as MVP in the 1953 series, won the Tom Longboat Trophy
as the outstanding Canadian Indian athlete, not once, but twice, and
fathered and coached eight lacrosse players and five statisticians. Talk
about putting something back into the game! Ladies and gentlemen, would
you welcome the Old Warrior of the game of lacrosse, Ross Powless of the
Six Nations Reserve!
Thanks. Gee, it kinda throws a guy off getting applause like that in
Fergus. Times sure change. I remember coming up here from Six Nations
about forty years ago to play lacrosse. At that time who'd ever thought
some day I'd be invited to be a guest speaker at a lacrosse banquet in
Fergus? I've been booed here as a player, booed here as a coach and
tonight I'm likely gonna be booed here as a speaker. I've never made
any excuses for poor performances in the past and I'm not gonna start
tonight. I can't help it if I'm losing my memory. The other day I told
my wife, Wilma, it was the first thing to go on me. She said, Ross are
you sure it's the first thing?
I said I'd come to Fergus on one condition, if I could chew gum while
I talked. Coming to Fergus makes me kinda nervous still. How could I
forget that one Fergus team I played against? Harry Kazarian from Owen
Sound, J.J. Hill from Kitchener, Curly Mason and the Landoni brothers,
Gary and Ron and Peter from Fergus. It was always such a joy to play
against that team. Like the time I went up for the ball, my shoulder
pad slipped and one of them guys slashed me on the way down. Broke my
arm. Gave me the opportunity to go hunting since it sure ended my
lacrosse season. I decided I needed to get away for awhile, so as soon
as I got the cast on, some friends and I went moose hunting north of
Hearst over near the town of Kapuskasing. Usually I'm a pretty good
shot, but I was having a bad day. Every time one of my friends wanted
to connect with me via walkie talkie, I'd hear, Come in Broken Arrow, do
you read me?
Nobody seemed to get my name right in them days. I USed to get called
all kinds of names. Blanketass, Hatchetman, especially when I had a good
game in Fergus. After awhile, some folks started calling me Powless.
But even that wasn't quite right.
Ya see, my family was kinda deprived, in a cultural way, because my
great-grandfather was such an industrious man. He farmed land on three
concessions on Six Nations up to the Grand River near Brantford, now
known as the Home of Wayne Gretzky. My great-grandfather worked hard
and he expected the same from his sons. It got so bad he wouldn't even
let his boys go to pow wows in the summer or in the fall. Pretty soon
people started to feel sorry for the boys. It wasn't long till they
began calling them pow-wow-less. Somehow it got shortened to Powless.
At least that's how I always thought I got my name. Then one day I
was talking to Tom Hill. He's the curator over at the Woodland Indian
Cultural Centre in Brantford, right next to the old Mohawk Institute
where I used to go to residential school That Tommy, he's got lots of
culture. He's a pretty smart young fella, an Echo Hill from Six Nations.
We got so many Hills on our reserve we had to make up new names for some
of them to tell them apart. Now we've got Squires and Smucks and
Git-gits, that's chicken in Mohawk, and Jackets and Shinnys and Pumpkins
and Jeeks. My step-sister was a Jeek Hill and she tells me the Jeeks
are dying out.
According to Tommy Hill, one of my ancestores was a fella named Paulis
Paulis. Guess our family didn't have too much imagination giving a guy
a name like a repeating rifle. But we were always industrious. Paulis
Paulis came up with Joseph Brant after the American Revoulution and
settled in the origional Mohawk Village along the Grand River. The other
Nations, the Senecas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas, the Tuscaroras and the
Cayugas each had their owen places. Tom said the Mohawks were kinda
like the aristocracy of the Iroquois Confederacy. They've found brass
buttons and china and crystan at the orinal Mohawk site. They enen know
Joseph Brant had black slaves, but nobody really likes to talk about
Indians having black slaves. I guess this Paulis Paulis ancestor of
mine was a big farmer, a strong Loyalist and probably a member of the
Church of England and the Masonic Temple.
Now we get to the part I found the most interesting. Tommy Hill can't
say for sure, but it's more than likely my ancestors, and maybe Paulis
Paulis himself, played lacrosse in the original Mohawk Village at Six
Nations. Hell, I said to Tommy, that doesn't surprise me one bit. If
Paulis Paulis was anything at all like my grandfather Peter Powless or
my dad Chauncey or my uncles Sam and Dick Powless and Cec and Titus
Van Every, he was a lacrosse player even before the Powless family left
the Mohawk Village in the 1840's and moved over to Sour Springs Road.
I remember my dad and my uncles playing lacrosse down at the old
Mohawk Stars Grounds about half a mile from Herb Martin's place. Herb
Martin's Special, now there was a lacrosse stick, couldn't nobody match
Herb's craftmanship, it was famous all over the country. And Martin's
Corner Brass Band, I can hear it now, and I can still see Freddie
Martin's boys, Pat on drums, Wilbur on coronet and Linwood on trombone.
People would walk in from miles around in them days to see lacrosse.
Between periods us kids would pick up the lacrosse sticks and race out
onto the field to play. The referee would have a heck of a time getting
the playing area cleared. Didn't matter none. It helped the booth and
nobody ever wanted those games to end anyway.
Six Nations had about five good teams in them days. Somebody was
always trying to recruit a good player away from his old team! It was
the Mohawk Stars who played off the reserve. They used to go places
like Salamanca, New York to the Allegheny Indian Reserve near the
Pennsylvania border. Them Mohawk Stars were tough. I seen Judy Punch
Garlow in goal down at the Mohawk Stars Grounds. Never had no mask on,
no shin pads on, no throat guard. Looked like a leopard sometimes, with
all them black and blue bruises on him. I don't know how he got so
brave. Maybe from having a girl's name. See, Punch's mother was real
tired of having boys. Before Punch was born she decided she was gonna
have a girl. Even picked out the name Judy. After he was born everybody
just called him Judy Punch after them puppets in England.
Old Punch is getting close to eighty now. He's the only one living
from the 1932 Atlantic City team. You should hear him laugh about those
midgets he seen down in Atlantic City, the little bakers with big chef
hats and little wee loaves of bread. I was about six years old when my
Uncle Cec and Judy Punch and the Smith boys, Beef and Harry and Don and
Sid, and the other Six Nations boys went down there to introduce box
See, quite a few of the boys had been working and playing lacrosse in
Buffalo. In Atlantic City, it was sort of the World Championship of
Lacrosse with the boys representing Atlantic City and playing off for six
weeks against five other teams from Montreal and Toronto and Boston, the
top teams in lacrosse in them days.
The first week went okay. Everything was new and the boys had never
been to a place like Atlantic City before. But after that they started
getting tired of the fancy hotel, tired of the beach and even tired of
the movies they went to every afternoon to pass the time. The boys from
Six Nations were used to working hard and always having something to do.
So there they were, in the Playground of the World, bored to death. The
only time they were happy was when they were out playing lacrosse. They
never lost one game down at Atlantic City.
But who woulda thought Harry Smith would be up on the big screen
himself in just a few years? He was as bored with the movies in
Atlantic City as all the others. Yet it wasn't long till Harry became
Jay Silverheels and the Lone Ranger started calling him Tonto.
I'm very proud of Harry Smith and so is everyone on Six Nations.
Not only was he a fine lacrosse player, but he was a Golden Gloves
champion in boxing and a wrestler, and after he got to Hollywood he
helped a lot of Indian people get into the movies. This was quite a son
and quite a family A.G.E. Smith and Mabel Smith raised. People always
want to know about Harry Smith. One time a writer asked me, How was Jay
Silverheels seen on the Six Nations Reserve? Hardly ever, I told her.
I wasn't lying. After Joe E. Brown, the comedian, met Harry out in
Hollywood, he didn't come home too often. No jets in them days. If
Harry hadn't gone to Hollywood to play lacrosse, Joe E. Brown would have
never met him and convinced him to go into the movies. I seen Harry a
few times after he was famous and I used to check out the Brantford
Expositor for his movies. I seen Drums Along the Mohawk, Broken Arrow
and Saskatchewan and lots of others. I used to get a kick out of Harry
speaking Mohawk, especially when it didn't go with the story line. Us
Mohawk would be sitting in the Brantford movie house laughing and all
the other people would by wondering what was so funny.
Judy Punch Garlow told me how Harry got the name Silverheels. One
time the boys won new white lacrosse shoes for playing good and Harry
ran so fast in them new white shoes, all you could see was flashes of
white at his heels. I guess they couldn't very well call him Whiteheels,
him being Mohawk and all, so they called him Silverheels.
I remember one time when Harry did come home to Six Nations. He seen
Judy Punch at a distance and Judy Punch seen him too. Harry got a big
smile on his face and he came running and gave Judy Punch such a big hug
it almost brought tears to Old Punch.
My step-sister Myrtle Smith knew Harry when they were still young.
She's the one who was a Jeek Hill and she married into the Smith family.
Not Harry's family. She married Beef Smith, Harry's first cousin. That
Beef was a heck of a lacrosse player too. He didn't care. He'd run
into them all, big or small. Beef went to Atlantic City in '32 with his
brother Sid and Harry's brother Don. Harry's father was a brother to
Beef's mother, see, because Beef's mother was a Smith before she married
a Smith. No relation, of course. At least that's how I got it from
And she should know. She's a clan mother of the Turtle Clan and she
knows these things. That's my clan too. Anyway, Myrtle and the other
girls used to see Harry at dances and I guess he was so good-looking and
had so much of that charisma that all the girls were just wild about
I knew all Harry's brothers. But I knew Chubbie best. He wasn't big
and stout like his cousin Beef. Chubbie was tall and lean and comical
like all his brothers. In 1945, when I was nineteen, Chubby and me were
playing lacrosse out on the west coast with Andy Paull's North Shore
team. One day I had a date with a real beautiful girl. I'd just bought
myself a new suit and a nice sports shirt, had the collar out over my
suit real nice and everything, had my shoes shined up just right. There
were lots of Indian people waiting for the ferry to Vancouver that day.
Just as the girl and I stepped aboard, Chubbie hollers from the shore,
Hey Ross! I'll need my suit tomorrow so make sure you bring it home
early. And Del Powless will need his socks too. That Chubbie! I felt
like about two cents standing beside that girl, me trying to impress her
I had the chance to meet lots of interesting people out at the Coast.
When Jimmy Martin and I got there, who should be standing at the train
to meet us but Chief Mathias Joe of Capilano and his son. Both of them
dressed in full Indian regalia. Boy, they had some good lacrosse
players out there. The Baker boys, Stan Joseph Sr. and Stan Joseph Jr.,
The man I really learned a lot about life from was Andy Paull. He'd
been recruiting players from Six Nations since the thirties. And he was
a respected man all across Canada. I stayed with Andy and his family
my first time out there. I remember he had poor eyesight and he used to
like to smoke roll-your-owns. He'd be at the typewriter, cigarette
hanging out of his mouth, nose pretty much touching the page, averaging
about seven and a half words per minute. Maybe he couldn't type, but he
really had a legal mind. An Indian person would get into some kind of
trouble upcoast or downcoast and he'd be right there getting information
and feeding it into the lawyers. He saved a lot of Indian people from
prison. He cleared up misunderstandings between Indian and non-Indian
people. At one time he was the President of the North American Indian
Brotherhood and it was Andy Paull who first got me interested in
politics. Course in them days, my mind was mostly on lacrosse.
After I met the Paulls, I visited them every time I got the chance
to go to B.C. Last time I seen Andy's wife, she was in an old age home
out there. We had our usual conversation. She always asked the same
questions: How is your family? How is your son Gaylord? Your wife's
name is Wilma, isn't it? Oh yes, I'd always tell her, it's still Wilma,
it's still the same wife. Good, she'd giggle, Mrs. Paull still had that
little giggle of hers. The Paulls had the belief, once you married, you
stayed married. They were Squamish and they had respect for the eagle;
eagles, of course, mate for life.
I've had the same wife for more than forty years now. After I had
come back from the west coast I had gone to Buffalo to look for work. I
still had a few dollars in my pocket yet. I guess I got too many drinks
in me one night and it ended up two girls took me by cab to the safety of
my brother's home. Later, I found out it was Wilma who'd helped me so
the next time I seen her, I went and thanked her for it and we got
talking and we're still talking.
After we had Gaylord, and Wilma was with child the second time, my dad
laid down the law. He told me, If you think enough of her, you should
marry her. My dad thought I'd found myself a real nice lady, a
beautiful lady, and so, using his judgment and mine, I asked Wilma to
marry me. I thought she'd probably say yes. Wilma's a Bomberry. And,
in my opinion, all the Bomberrys are social climbers. By marrying a
Powless, Wilma would definitely be marrying up. Course, if you ask
Wilma about it, she'd tell you I'm the one who married up. I have to
hope it's just a joke between our two families.
I got to be good friends with Wilma's Uncle Sam Bomberry. When
Gaylord was a kid, we stayed with Uncle Sam while we were doing seasonal
work picking peaches in Jordan. We got a lacrosse team going and it was
made up of Japanese boys, Jordan Station boys and a few strays like me.
We went over to Ohsweken at Six Nations to play lacrosse. We brought
Andy Bomberry with us and, by golly, if they didn't get him to put on an
Ohsweken Six Nations sweater. That was heresy! It wasn't long till I
got one of our sweaters on Del Powless. We ended up beating Ohsweken,
so we wouldn't give Andy a ride back to Jordan. I don't know how he got
home. Or if he ever got home.
Lacrosse was lots of fun in them days. I have to thank my dad
for setting me straight on that. When I was a junior player I thought
there was just as much glory knocking a man down as scoring a goal. I
remember one game George Bomberry and Jum Martin took a couple of lines
of us Six Nations boys over to help Port Dover out. They had a
redheaded coach named Rev. Hare, and Red Kelly, the hockey player
played on that team. My dad watched me play and after the game took
me aside. I'd been knocking guys over left and right, a real tough guy,
I thought, and my dad told me, Rules are made to be enforced. You're
not out there to injure people, you're out there to play your best and
enjoy the game. If you keep playing this way, all the teams in the
league are gonna get even with you, and if you get hurt, your own
teammates are gonna laugh at you.
I was past the age where my dad could put the wood to me, but what
he said went. He loved the game so much he couldn't stand to see me
abuse it in that way. From that time on I started to become a different
kind of player. I continued to do a lot of running and training in the
spring when there was still snow on the ground. I loved running long
distance, just as my father and my uncles did. When others were
starting to tire in the third period, I was still going strong. I know
it's hard to believe, the way I've ballooned up these past few years,
but in them days I could run like a deer. With conditioning like that
and my dad's good attitude, people seemed to want me on their team.
Like in 1949, I was playing with Brantford against Huntsvile. After
the game, a guy comes up to me and asks if I'd be interested in playing
the next season for Huntsville. I said I'd think about it and the guy
writes my name and address down on a Turret cigarette package. I didn't
think nothing more of it. Lots of teams had been showing interest in
me, Fergus and Brampton to name two. I don't know, maybe, I was used to
getting booed in Fergus, I wouldn't have known what to do if the people
in Fergus started cheering.
Before I knew it, the Huntsville people had set up a meeting over
in Hagersville. That was my address, but really I lived over on Sour
Springs Road near Ohsweken. But those people way up north in Huntsville
didn't know nothing about that. So I went over to Hagersville and
we talked about the contract. I wanted to know about the fringe
benefits. I didn't know much about negotiating, except what I'd picked
up from a few players. But I knew enough to ask for insurance,
transportation there and back, permission to go into work late after a
long road game, say ten a.m. or noon, a place to live, that sort of
thing. And, by golly, if they didn't go for it. Wasn't long till Wilma
and the kids and I were living up in Huntsville in a tent on Fairy Lake.
Gaylord really started taking to lacrosse up in Huntsville. Some
kids are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Not Gaylord. Seems
like he was born with a lacrosse stick in his hand and a coontail cap on
his head. That's how I remember when he was four years old in
Huntsville. When I played lacrosse Gaylord and I used to put on a little
show for the fans in-between the periods. I'd stand with my back to the
net and he'd put a little shift on me and go in for the goal. Beat me
Jack Bionda didn't seem much older than Gaylord when I played with
him on that Hunstsville team. Bionda must have been all of sixteen
years old and weighed about a hundred and twenty-five. I was a grownup
man of twenty-four with a wife and family, must have weighed two
fifteen. If you meet Bionda today, he'll tell you, if it wasn't for him,
I never woulda gotten started in lacrosse. I still remember Jack Bionda
running down the arena with his tongue hanging out. He never bit it off
but maybe he shoulda, some of the things he says now. The truth is, I
taught Jack Bionda all he knows.
After setting Jack on the right track I moved on to Peterborough.
I knew it was gonna be tough jumping from intermediate to senior, but a
couple of referees had passed my name on and I thought I'd take my
chances with the Peterborough Timbermen.
One night during the tryouts some of the Timbermen and me went over
to the Montreal House in Peterborough for some ale. We'd had a hard
practice and we wanted to restore some of them lost body fluids. That's
what we used to say in them days anyway. Pretty soon the tap man starts
talking to the waiter and the waiter walks over and asks me if I've got
my blue card. The blue card showed enfranchisement and only people
who'd given up their Indian status and become enfranchised could drink
legally. I told the waiter I didn't have one and he said he couldn't
serve me. Right away the Timbermen stood up and said, If he's not good
enough, we're not good enough neither. When they walked out of the
Montreal House for me, it made my season. Shortly after that, I made
the team and it wasn't long till I was drinking ale with my teammates in
the Montreal House.
Peterborough was the place to play in them days. In 1951, my first
year there, we played outside in Miller Bowl. You couldn't get any more
people in there, 4,500. One series went eight games and we just got out
to the west coast by a whisker. That year we were the first eastern club
to win the Mann Cup on the west coast in eleven years. In 1952 we won
again in Maple Leaf Gardens and in '53 I met up with my young friend
Jack was playing for the Victoria Shamrocks and he'd grown a lot
since Huntsville. He was big and lanky and he could really barrel down
the floor. In Victoria there was a loose ball and we both went up for
it. Jack stuck out his rear end which was considerably bigger than it
used to be and hit me in the stomache. He knocked the wind out of me
and I dropped the ball. Jack's standing there looking at me with terror
in his eyes. Jesus Christ, Jack, I said, I didn't teach you that. Caught
Jack off guard and I raced away with the ball.
We won that year too. I remember standing in line after the game.
I didn't have the finesse of some of the players in that time. I just
worked hard and I'd learned to shift. I used to make a lot of assists
by shifting and beating one man and making another one come to me. I'd
studied the goaltenders and learned their weaknesses and I'd try to pick
up everything I could from my teammates. So, when I heard my name
called, I didn't think I heard it right, thought there must be something
wrong with the microphone. When I heard my name again, I didn't believe
it. Rusty or Moon or one of the Timbermen had to push me out of the
line to go get the Mike Kelly Award as MVP for the series.
When I won that award, well, I didn't win it, my teammates won it
for me, we seemed to be killing penalties all night. Rusty Slater,
Harry Wipper, Nip A'Hearne, Curly Mason. The other team wanted the ball
so much they made mistakes and we got some of our most important goals
a man short. I guess they had to give the MVP award to someone other
than our goalie, Moon Wooton. Moon, he helped me out in so many ways,
but he'd already won it many times than a man has a right to.
To be on one Mann Cup team would have been all a guy could ask
for in this world. But to be on four was just wonderful. The fourth
year I wasn't playing during the season with the Timbermen but they
picked me up for the playoffs. A lot of their players had to go to
professional hockey or football camp and the team was short. It was a
real honour to be asked to help them out.
I'd been playing in St. Catharines that fourth year because some
of the kids were in school at Six Nations and I had a growing family to
support. I decided I wasn't gonna spend my life doing seasonal work,
picking berries here, working in tobacco fields there. Through lacrosse
I got into the carpenter's union, Hamilton Local 18. From there I never
looked back. I worked with a very smart man named Sid Needham. Sid
taught me a lot. He never wanted to be a supervisor, though, he said he
didn't want to take the job home with him. I was a different sort, I
wanted to take it on. I dont' know, maybe having all those kids at home,
I figured I could eventually handle two dozen carpenters on the job. It
wasn't long till I became a foreman. I might have been the tenth or
twelfth choice after guys like Sid, but I always said yes when a job was
offered to me. After I made a few mistakes and learned from them, I was
on supervisory all the time. And in them days there was lots of work
sub-contracting at Stelco and Dofasco and Pigott Construction in
Hamilton. One of the things I'm proudest of is I worked on the
Burlington Skyway Bridge in 1956 and my son Gary worked on the twinning
bridge in 1986.
It was pretty lively in them years the family was growing up. When
I started being a carpenter I was playing for and coaching Lefty
Jordan's Hamilton Lincoln Burners, and later I helped get the Brantford
Warriors going. When the boys started playing organized lacrosse it
really got hectic. I remember in the sixties when Gaylord was living in
Oshawa and playing for the Green Gaels and Gary was playing for
Long Branch. One game I'd go watch Gary at Long Branch and Wilma would
drive on to Oshawa to watch Gaylord. The next game we might switch
cities. It wasn't long till Greg and Harry began playing for Port
Credit. And then there were the hockey games and all the practices on
top of that.
Wilma and I racked up a lot of miles in them years. And a lot of
stats. I still got stats lying around the house from every game we
watched. I could tell you who played a good game on any given day in
any given year way back, how many draws he got, who he lost a draw to
and who was the best centreman to watch. My daughter Gail got really
good at keeping stats for me and I really depended on her when I was
Wilma's no slouch with stats either. I don't know which one of
them it was, coulda been the Landoni brothers or Jack Bionda or Tony
Damico. I coached Tony in Hamilton, named one of the boys after him.
Whoever it was he asked Wilma why she stopped having kids after we had
thirteen. Wilma told him she'd been reading a Statistics Canada report
about the time our youngest child Jacqueline was born. She said she
knew she had to stop after she read that every fourteenth child born in
Canada was Italian.
It's nice having a big family and we're proud of every one of our
kids. At first, thought, I gotta admit I was kinda worried about Gaylord
not that he started out on the wrong foot exactly more like in the
wrong net. Gaylord was five years old and he was playing in this first
lacrosse game, thrilled as could be. He got the ball in front of his
owen net and somebody hollered, Shoot! Even then, Gaylord scored goals.
Too bad it has to be on his own goalie.
I never had Gaylord's finesse as a player. A lot of people think
I coached him a lot but I only coached him one year, in Rochester in
1969, after he'd become an established player. The coach who really
brought him along was Jimmy Bishop. Actually, Bishop had to bring him a
long ways, all along the Lakeshore to be exact.
At that time you had to get a release form if you wanted to play
for any junior team other than the one closest to your home. In
Gaylord's case, Bishop had to get ten release forms, one from Guelph,
one from St.Catharines and eight from Toronto area teams to get Gaylord
to Oshawa.I guess Bishop found some sort of loophole in the constitution
after one of his players broke a leg during the season.
Gaylord was only seventeen at the time and he'd never even seen a
junior game. I took him to Long Branch and he seen a game against Oshawa
During the game I asked him if he thought he could play in that league.
When he said, Sure, I can play in this league, that settled it. We
talked to Bishop and two hours later Gaylord was on his way to Oshawa.
After Gaylord started proving himself, the ten teams said they'd never
be another Powless waved across the Lakeshore.
It was an honour and a priviledge for Gaylord to play for Bishop
on four Minto Cup teams. Bishop created a dynasty. He recruited the
best young players in small towns in Ontario and he taught them
discipline and conditioning. And respect. Had them riding in buses
instead of cars, wearing team jackets and ties. It was high class stuff
But it could still get rough on the floor, One year in the Minto
Cup playoffs in New Westminster, Gaylord tangled with three of them
Salmonbellies. One guy cut him for ten stiches in the mouth.
Cross-checked him but good. It was deliberate, the guy was trying to put
him out of the game. Blood's pouring from Gaylord's mouth when two more
Salmonbellies attack him from behind. Gaylord turned around and spit
blood in their faces. Then the fight was really on! Them Salmonbellies
were gone for the game and Gaylord got a total of seven minutes. Oshawa
won the game by one goal. And the Minto Cup.
Gaylord met some fine people through lacrosse. Like in 1968, the
year he played pro lacrosse with Bill and Jim Squires down in Detroit,
he met Gordie Howe. Gaylord skated with Gordie when the ice was in, and
when it was out, Gaylord taught him how to play lacrosse. Gordie was an
amazing athlete and a fine man. He told Gaylord he'd seen lacrosse out
in Saskatchewan but he'd never had the chance to play the game. The
first week Gordie started off a right-handed player. By the second week
he was switching hands as if he'd been doing it for years. After a month
he could throw the ball from one end of the floor to the other and hit
the net with either hand.
Geordie Howe and I are both lucky guys in one respect. We were
still playing the games we loved when our sons were grown up and playing
too. I only played against Gaylord once. It was in 1967. Gaylord had
played at Expo that year when a Canadian Indian team defeated an
American Indian team. He was twenty-one and I was forty-one. I was
playing for the Hagersville Warriors and Gaylord was playing a few games
with the Oshawa Steelers. The game was in Whitby. There was a loose
ball behind the Hagersville net. Gaylord went for the ball and I stepped
in and checked him with my shoulder, right into his midsection. Some
people say I knocked him out, I don't know. I heard him say once, it
was the hardest hit he remembers. All I know is I thought he was going
to hit me and it was better him than me. I figured if he he'd knocked me
flying, I'd never live it down and I couldn't have that.
That was my last season as a player. But I still coached for a
number of years. I was never to liberal with praise as a coach. If a
player did somthing right, I might muss up his hair or something when he
came back to the bench, but the only time I'd say much if he did
something wrong. Maybe my boys never knew it, but one of my biggest
thrills was coaching six of them on one team at a North American Indian
I'm not doing anything in lacrosse these days, just going and
wathching my grandchildren. Got tweny of them now and I'm just thankful
to be here to watch them grow up. I hurt myself at work a few years ago,
slipped down some stairs and hit my lumbar disc three times on the way
down. I went to a rehab. centre in Toronto and after what I seen there
I'm grateful I only wear a leg brace to keep my foot straight when I
I have to do a fair bit of walking as the housing inspector on
Six Nations. I like this job. It's a lot better than getting ulcers
being a band administrator. Every year I'd just get used to the new
forms and Indian Affairs would change them on me. And them meetings day
and night were getting to be too much.
As housing inspector I start early in the winter and suggest to
people who want to build that they get hydro permits and field layouts
for their septic systems first. After they decide where they're gonna
build, I suggest they keep their lane away from the fence lines because
in the winter the lines act as a snowfence and every little wind comes
up, you've got youself a plugged lane to deal with. I suggest where to
put their well to get good drinking water and we talk about the
elevation of the house, that's always important. I always suggest to
the womenfolks that they have their kitchen in the east and their living
room in the south to make the best use of solar power. And as for the
wommenfolk and bay windows, well, I tell them the only advantage to a
lady having a bay window is so she can run and see who drove by. They
get a kick out of that, but the truth is some people just don't use
common sense. You lose so much heat with them bay windows.
It's worth working all week just so I can go hunting on the
weekend with my sons and my sons-in-law and my neighbours. Gives the
women some time to themselves too. It's about the only exercise Gaylord
gets, seeing he's on compensation right now for his bad back. The thing
is when Gaylord and I get out hunting we don't think about those kinds
of things. It's not till we're home on the couch or in a comfortable
chair ya know how tired and stiff ya are.
I got two bird dogs, Lady and George. I just love Lady. She's
an eleven-year-old Springer and George is a young Brittany. Every six
days Lady seems to know we've been resting long enough and I'm gonna be
opening the trunk of the car and putting in the guns and the thermos.
The dogs go so wild when they hear them bells I put on their collars.
They seem like little kids and it kinda makes me feel a bit younger too.
But the main reason I take Lady is when I come in early, I can always
tell the boys it was because Lady got tuckered out.
I like hunting because you have to use a lot of common sense. Like
when you're looking for a rabbit, you know when it's just left the hole,
it takes short hops while it watches for owls and hawks. Then when it
gets its belly full and hears something, a rabbit bounds to safety with
powerful jumps. I like hunting birds best. Percentage-wise you don't
get as many birds as you do animals on the ground. Birds are so fast and
they have so many ways of eluding you. It's more of a challenge to hit
a partridge than a rabbit.
One day this winter I shot a bird and knocked a rooster down.
George, that's my Brittany, not one of my sons, went and got it with
Lady hot on his tail. George got overeager and dropped the bird. Lady,
she's kinda possessive and likes to please me so much, she tried to pick
it up . Well, George wasn't gonna have none of that. He grabbed it
again. Seemed like the two of them talked it over a bit. Finally, I
seen the two of them come up from the little creek bed over the bank
with the bird in their mouths. What a team! Them dogs taught me a
valueble lesson that day, one I'd like to pass on to everyone in Fergus:
a bird in the mouth of two dogs is better than a bird in the bush.
Wilma told me I'd know when to stop this here speech. She said
the banquet guests would start reaching for stale dinner buns. I'm not
gonna push my luck in Fergus. What's that? Who was the geatest lacrosse
player I ever played with or against? Well, first of all, there is no
best lacrosse player. But if it was possible to get a team of just one
type of player, and not wanting to hurt Gaylord's feelings or to make
Johnny Davis feel bad or Donny McPhail or Ikey Hildebrandt or Roger
Smith, Roger'd be right at the top for sure, or Willie Logan, I'd have
to pick Jack Bionda. Of course, that's a much different era from today,
and us old lacrosse warriors, every time we get together, the older we
get the better we was.