Editor’s Note: Brian Witmer is living in Vermont this Summer, and playing for the Vermont Voyageurs. Internet is spotty while living in the woods in an RV, but Witmer is pushing through, finding ways to connect, and keeping us posted on his free-spirited, lacrosse-filled Summer in Vermont!
Voyageuring – Witmer In Vermont
It might’ve been the fact that we only had one game this weekend. Maybe it was because we had five more runners on the bench for this game than the previous two. Who knows, maybe my body got the memo after last week. Whatever it was, the Vermont Voyageurs were a different team this past weekend against Caughnawaga than in our season opener against Ottawa.
For more great video, click HERE.
I had never been up to Kahnawake before. I had been up to the Montreal/Quebec region a few years ago, but this was my first venture to the region to actually play lacrosse. We left our home base in Eden, Vermont and headed straight north, passing through a one lane border checkpoint seemingly in the middle of a town, and then two hours through the land of goofy French road signs until we reached Kahnawake.
We got there way too early. Google had given us a drive time of three hours, but we made it in just over two. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot, which was a good sign, so we headed in, fortuitously finding a pair of junior teams warming up on the floor. The local team, the Hunters, as well as the Ironheads out of Toronto, were set to face off in less than ten minutes, so we ended up getting to watch some good, hard-nosed box lacrosse while we waited for the rest of our boys to show up.
We did intentionally show up early, even if we hadn’t intended on being THIS early. I had to swap out my facemask for a CLA approved facemask, and our GM was showing up early so I could use his tools to make the change. I would’ve made the swap last week or over the week between games, but the screws to my helmet are beyond stripped and rusted. I was successful in wrangling 3 of the 4 out of my helmet, but even now, one defiant screw holds my straight cage to my helmet.
If you’re asking yourself why I had to change my facemask, then good, because so am I. A couple years back, someone or a collection of someones had the bright idea to change the facemask for box lacrosse in Canada. Inherently, that’s not a bad idea. I get it, great, improving player safety, uniformity, awesome.
What they eventually declared to be the mask that was approved to be worn, is nothing short of criminal.
Whereas the straight cages used to come down out and away from your chin, the CLA facemasks now curve down and rest right on your chin cup… which is on your chin. I don’t see much of it now, (after a couple failed petitions by players and a #changethecage hashtag that evidently did as much as any other hashtag in the brief history of the word hashtag has ever done) but the internet machine is full of pictures from junior and senior teams showing split chins and players with lacerated faces who were wearing these fancy new CLA approved masks.
Anyway, if you were curious how I feel about the mask after having worn it for my first game, I hate it. The vision isn’t any different, nor is there any real performance difference, but the mask is resting on my chin cup, which is resting on my chin, and I hate that.
I digress. I had another equipment change to deal with as well.
My dutifully faithful head, a Rabil something or other, which has been around the world with me a couple of times now, snapped in our first two games with Ottawa. A travesty to say the least. Luckily, I had sent two more of the exact same model head down to New York City for bossman Connor Wilson to string up as clones. All CW had to use as a reference was a handful of iPhone pictures.
The real fun part is that I don’t have a mailing address, so I had to have them mailed to our GM, Duke’s place, and he’d bring them to the game. That was very kind of him, and I appreciate it more than anything, but that meant that I wouldn’t be seeing these heads until game day, and with the junior game preceding ours, coupled with the nightmare mask fiasco, I had a roughly fifteen minutes of warmup before taking the floor with this brand new stick.
I punched both of the pockets an equal number of times. Looked left, then at the right, realizing I had no clue what I was looking for, I picked the one with green sidewall and white mesh because it would at least go with our uniform scheme. That seemed to make the most amount of sense at the time.
Props to Mr. Wilson. From the first whistle to the last, it was a flawless transition from beloved old war horse to a fresh new reinforcement. It threw clean passes, the ball sat, well-behaved, right where it did in my old stick, and I was even able to put up my first three QSLL goals with the thing. Hatty on the first go. I guess this stick works.
As a whole, we were just a different team than we were the preceding weekend. We went on to win 16-7 over Caughnawaga, and hopefully we can show up this coming weekend against the Axemen up in Ottawa with the same style of play as we did this past weekend.
So far my experience with Vermont has been nothing but positive, with lots to look forward to as well as a great group of guys from all over the area I look forward to playing with week in and week out. In addition to awesome on-floor experience, I’m having a unique and relatively new experience off the floor as well.
My buddy, The Mill, and I drove a 1981 Dodge Shasta RV up from Rochester, New York, and we’ve been living in it since late May. It took us a while to find a home for the RV that’s almost ten years my senior, with short stints sleeping in parking lots, parks, and a longer-than- anticipated stay in a driveway near my Uncle’s place in the Stowe/Smuggler’s Notch region of Vermont.
We hunted and searched, playing both the internet hide and seek game, as well as searching on a more human level, going into pizza pubs and bars and explaining to bartenders and servers our situation in hopes they knew a guy or had a zillion acres themselves.
We eventually found our guy, who we met over pizza and beers, and he’s letting us live on his land out in Eden. It took a couple of tries, but we’ve successfully got the Shasta backed into a little clearing in the woods. We’ve got a little kitchen area set up, firepit for cooking meals, a couple camp chairs, our dogs Reptar and Dozer, and not a soul to be seen for a mile in any direction.
We get our water from a little natural spring down the road, and there’s a little general store a quarter mile up the road from that. We’ve got a solar heated shower that just requires five or so hours of sunlight to heat up to a tolerable temperature, and The Mill has a Yeti cooler to refrigerate anything we need to be kept cold. There are little farm stands every two miles it seems, and you honestly can’t beat farm fresh eggs and bowl of hot oats in the morning.
I’ve purchased two paddleboards, and I hope to figure something out as far as a road bike in the near future. The dogs love the water and to go hiking, and hell, maybe I’ll even work a couple days this Summer. The Mill just got us work for next week shooting shotguns and throwing fake dead ducks for a lady who trains hunting dogs.
Life’s good. Life is really friggin good. I don’t think I could recommend this lifestyle to everyone, make no mistake it isn’t as cheap and easy as it might sound. But as I sit here, watching my fire slowly burn down to embers, and as I consider my bank account slowly burning down to a disconcerting number, I’m finding it ever clearer that these sticks are in this fire to burn to keep me warm, just as the dollars I’ve worked so hard to collect are in my account to give me the things that make me happiest.
There’s food in my belly. There’s a roof over my head when I want there to be. I wake up every morning to my dog wondering how great today is going to be. I’m 26 and I’m still playing lacrosse. It’s pretty neat.