It was Mark Duescher who dubbed me "Nort". I
have no idea why, but because he was the leader of our neighborhood
gang it stuck. This wasn't a malicious gang, rather a group
of kids ranging from 1st through maybe 4th grades who loved
playing sports after school, after dinner, on the weekends and all summer.
I was the youngest of this bunch and learned how to compete
The Duescher house was THE ultimate sporting complex: Football,
baseball and basketball were all played either in the backyard
or on the driveway. We had a lot of fun and nobody really
got hurt except for the time Ricky (aka "Chico")
broke a finger when it got stuck in the chain link fence
demarking the north endzone. Yeah, we played tackle football
back there without any pads but I remember vividly in 7th grade, after playing real football for the first time, how lucky we were to come out of it unscathed.
A home run had to clear Graff's
garage and we had to be quick to retrieve the ball lest
"Herman", Graff's huge dog, got to it before we
did. Fouls on the basketball court had to be called right away or someone might
say "little late" and play would go on. One of
the saddest times was when the Duescher's had to add on
to their home and the only place they could do so was behind
the house---right in the middle of our field.
It was a fun bunch of guys who played together for about
three years before the oldest of the group discovered girls
in Junior high.
Some of the funniest things happened during our family
camping trips to Northern Wisconsin. We'd camp in the Northern
Highland State Forest at campgrounds like Starret lake,
Upper Gresham Lake and Big Lake.
There was the time my father wanted to show his boys how
strong he was by trying to push over a dead tree, only to
have a large, rotted chunk fall and hit him squarely in
the head. He wasn't seriously hurt and only bled for a few
minutes. Funnier yet was the time the boat's outboard motor
lost a sheer pin resulting in a loss of steering. The motor
eventually fell into Trout Lake. We were able to retrieve
most of the motor and managed to get it running in time
for our next trip. Still another humorous time was when
we all decided to hike to a point across from the campground
at Upper Gresham. We made it to the point but then couldn't
find our way back so we had to hike in the lake back to
It's time to remember the "Wonder Years" of Grade
Best friends from grade school:
Dave Childs---Best buds from K-3 until he moved to the country and changed elemntary schools.
Reunited in junior high for a semester until he passed away
of a brain aneurism at 7th grade basketball practice.
Randy Nickels---lived only a few houses away and we were
constantly playing basketball or riding bikes. When we'd play 1v1 hoops he'd call out "pumper" and I'd have to let him shoot a long underhand shot uncontested. He didn't have a chance against me any other way, ha ha.
John Olson---A good grade school athlete who was very studious. We were all envious of "Schmo" when he got a brand new pair of Chuck Taylor high tops
The opposite sex:
Amy Ansorge---my obsession from about grades 3-5. We finally
"hooked up" near the end of 5th grade. Too bad
she moved away the summer between 5th and 6th grade, but not until after she gave me a bag of licorice "Snaps". I hated snaps but told her I liked them anyway. I saw
her when we were sophomores when our high school basketball team played at Cedarburg high. She still looked good.
Camping with the family, the infamous school forest
Friday night sleepover and week-long camp,
Funny, but I can't remember any
Wow, it's been a while. Let's move on to Junior High
Best friends from Junior High:
Randy Nickels---By this time we're no longer playing hoops in the driveway, but we walk to school every day just as we had for the past 5 or 6 years. He also turned me on to Van Halen in his basement (which was also the site of a few illicit gatherings when we were freshman. Nothing too out of hand, just the normal "experimentation") leaving me to think "Whooooooooa...this is gonna piss off a lot of parents".
Gary Stoor---"Stu" was the kind of friend everyone needed to have: smart, funny, and his grandparents had a nice cottage with a sauna up in the UP. Stu was best known for his basketball prowess, but not like you'd think. Somehow, Stu could step out of bounds, shoot, and make it almost every time. Then he'd step inbounds and couldn't hit squat, leading me to believe he was either the greatest shooter of all time or just unlucky the court wasn't wider. We played football, basketball and track together.
Pete Stolz---Pete had gone to one of the Lutheran elementary schools in town but came to Wilson in 9th grade. We had spent a couple of weeks together at a Y camp the previous summer but I didn't really know him until the school year started. We immediately forged a bond during pre-season football practice when we'd take turns trying to run each over, making sure we slammed our helmets together at the point of contact. Pete turned out to be a pretty good football player and trackster.
The opposite sex:
I was totally smitten by Cindy B. in 7th grade, but she wanted nothing to do with me. She later transferred to the catholic system so it probably never would have worked. Then there was Julie N from Sheboygan. Our families always seemed to be vacationing at Upper Gresham Lake at the same time we were so I'd get to lay my eyes on her for maybe 2 weeks during the year. I'm pretty sure she was a year older than I, which is probably why I liked the way she looked in her swim suit. Then there was the tall gangly, brace-wearing LJL. I think I first noticed her when I was in 9th grade and she in 8th. I can't recall the early details that well but I do remember how we struck up a friendship that took us through high school, college and beyond. She turned out to be absolutely gorgeous in every way and was probably the only person I could really open up to. Sadly, we never quite connected like a lot of our classmates thought we would and we've lost touch with each other over the years.
There wasn't a whole lot to be happy about during those years as this was the time my younger brother was going through his battle with leukemia. I immersed myself into sports and came to recognize I was going to be pretty good at whatever tried. Our junior high teams usually won and there were some good athletes in the class ahead of me. By 9th grade I was 6'2", 165 lbs., pretty quick, fast and could jump. I started thinking I might have a shot at a D-1 scholarship in one of my sports if I worked at it.
This is an easy one. 7th grade football. I tried to field a bouncing punt and fumbled. Dumb, though I atoned for that miscue later on the opponents drive by intercepting a pass and running it back 95 yards for a TD. I will note that I came close to embarassing myself further by almost falling down at the 20 when I stepped in a small hole housing a sprinkler head.
I guess I'm on about a 2 year schedule for adding to this section. I'm suffering from post-kidney stone surgery right now after what was really a stellar backpacking trip to the Teton Wilderness. I'll probably live, but right now I kinda doubt it, nor do I care.
Best friends from High School:
Randy Nickels---I can't say we were really best friends by this time. He and I rode to school together for the 3 years but I was heavily into sports and he was into working to buy himself a new car. We just sort of drifted away from each other as kids tend to do as they grow up. He was a good guy and class president.
Gary Stoor---"Stu" and I continued to play football and run track together at high school. A rather speedy and well build guy, Stu and I dominated the gridiron as sophomores. I got the glory while Stu did all the heavy lifting. More than once I watched Stu take out a couple defenders with his crushing blocks allowing me to spring a long TD run. In track, we teamed up as juniors to help our relay team finish 4th at state in the 4x200 relay.
Pete Stolz---By the time we got to high school Pete, aka "Dizzy" or "Wally", and I were about the same size though he was a little stronger and I a little faster. We teamed up to make it to state in the 4x220 relay which was a pretty big deal for 2 sophomores. On the football field Pete became a lineman and eventually made first team all-conference as an undersized guard on a mediocre team. Even today he looks like he could still play---except for his graying hair, lol.
Todd Schroeder---"Doc" as he was known back then (and now since he is a radiologist), was a year older than I but we had struck up a friendship when we were placed on the same rec league basketball team when I was in 5th grade. Doc couldn't run a lick but did have a lively arm and was the football teams starting QB for 2 years, and was on the basketball team. He rarely played because the team was stacked, but he always worked hard. We continued to pal around during summer breaks during college
The opposite sex:
I had a few girlfriends during my high school years, all of them excellent sprinters on the girls track team now that I think about it, but "the one" was still LJL. I finally got the nerve to ask her out to prom my junior year which culminated a week in which I was nominated to attend Badger Boy State, and snagged a primo job with the city's recreation department. We went out a few times but it didn't work out the way I wanted too but we remained close friends. Inside I was hurting but what was especially maddening was the selection of guys she decided to go to the major dances with afterwards---guys whose names were not "Dorf". I knew she was making a mistake with every one of them but kept quiet. She was kind enough to admit I was right after the fact, proving what I had thought all along: She was perfect!
When I was a junior, our track team was stacked with talent in every event except the hurdles and throws. More school records were broken that year than any other before or since, and some still stand today. After thinking about it for a while I decided it would probably help the team the most if I took up the 300IH. I could run a pretty good 200 and 400m, was tall and athletic---perfect for a long hurdler. I'd never run hurdles before but I wasn't too worried about that
My first outdoor 300IH race was not a thing of beauty, but I won and wasn't that far off the school record. Subsequent races saw my times drop and on prom day I got the school record. That LJL was my date that night made it extra special. At about this time, however, LJL, a sophomore, had developed a stress fracture or something and was done for the season which made me feel like crap. What to do?
I decided to write her a note telling her that I was running the hurdles for her the rest of that season and was going to win the conference meet for her. I'm pretty sure she was thinking "yeah, sure" but then I won it. Then I won regionals…and sectionals, advancing to the state meet (we won the big school team title that year) which brings us to....
My seed time for the state meet was somewhere in the upper 1/3 but I hadn't been pushed the entire year. I was sure I'd make the podium by the end of the weekend and was figuring on finishing somewhere in the top 3. While waiting for my preliminary heat who do you suppose saunters by? LJL. Before I knew it my name was called and I was in the blocks. I missed my steps badly on the first hurdle but quickly fell into my normal rhythm. Running in lane 3, I could tell I was gaining on the top seed in lane 4 coming around the last turn. A season of experience told me that by the time I hit the 200 meter mark the high hurdlers would start to break down and I, having trained all season with the 400m runners would still have plenty in the tank. Running almost directly alongside lane 4, who would eventually become the state champion, I decided to hook hurdle 7 and went down. As soon as I hit the track I could hear my coach over everything else yell "get up". I didn't finish last, but I might as well have. Every June, around state track meet time, I think about that damn hurdle and how it cost me the gold medal.
I'll hit the college years some other time