ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Alf Jacques guesses he’s made almost 85,000 lacrosse sticks.
“You see in the tree that lacrosse stick in that tree. You gotta know where it is and how to get it out,” Jacques said.
Each one has been hand-crafted from wood, usually hickory. At one point, he could turn out a hundred sticks in a day.
“I used to do this all day. Not anymore,” Jacques said. “You don’t know what its gonna do when you split the wood. The wood is in charge, not me”
He takes special care with each stick.
Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. But in Jacques’ culture, it is much more than sport. It is the Creator’s Game.
“It’s called the Creator’s Game because the Creator gave us the game to keep us sharp. Keep us strong. Keep us healthy,” said Jacques. “And the Creator likes to watch lacrosse games.”
Lacrosse has been Jacques’ life since he watched his dad play on the Onondaga Nation as a boy. He played from high school to the pros.
The Jacques started making wooden sticks in the early 1960s and they watched as modern technology, sticks with plastic heads, helped the sport grow. But ironically, that growth doomed the Jacques’ business.
“The plastic sticks put myself and my father and other stick makers out of business, basically. We went from 12,000 to 1,200 in a month. Poof. But we still made sticks,” Jacques said. “Our men are buried with a wooden stick, not a plastic stick, a wooden stick. And we do our ceremonial game with wooden sticks only. You can’t take a plastic stick into a ceremonial game.”
Jacques gets $300 to $350 for a lacrosse stick, $400 or more for a goalie stick. Some people buy them just to hang on the wall. But he makes every single one to use.
These days, he travels coast to coast, sharing the history of the Haudenosaunee game he grew up with, and similar stick and ball games from native cultures. He’ll share those stories this weekend at the Wooden Stick Festival at Onondaga Lake Park.
“I’ll keep doing this as long as I can make a stick,” Jacques said. “If I make ten in a year, then I make ten in a year. But I’ll keep at it. You gotta keep moving, otherwise, you’re gonna freeze up and be nothing.”
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