Dan and his Letterman Jacket

COW death cleaning

Of late, Hannah has been into “death cleaning.”  It’s a Swedish concept for seniors to get rid of all the crap that they have accumulated over the years, so their children don’t have to do it when dear ole mom and dad cash in their chips.  By the way, she has renamed it as “deep cleaning.”

During the process, Hannah asks if I still want my College of Wooster letterman’s jacket that she thinks is in the upstairs bedroom closet.  Turns out we gave it away a while back, but its significance is not lost on me during an impressionable time in my life.  Let me explain.

I hated the College of Wooster, which I entered as a freshman in the fall of 1966.

COW map of Woo better

In no particular order, I hated the cold, damp, rainy, snowy, windy Ohio weather from September through May; as an aimless kid, without a clue what the hell I was doing in college, I floundered; the pointlessness and dead-ended-ness of majoring in political science didn’t inspire me; I was a passive receptacle in my lecture-oriented classes, obediently taking notes and barfing them back on the tests; I was just a 20 year old going through the motions because that’s what this son of college grads did; all the while listening to so much Mamas and Papas that my head and soul were filled with California Dreamin’ and escape from the Buckeye State.

COW COW name

Every spring, I wanted to transfer, and finally did, to Arizona State University after my junior year.

To clarify, this situation is all on me.  I wasn’t mature enough to make the necessary choices and just wallowed in blaming the institution and my circumstances.  That said, I did have my moments at Woo.

COW tennis team 1968

College of Wooster tennis team, spring 1968

Of the three best things that happened to me at the College of Wooster, being a part of the tennis team was #2.  I loved being one of the guys.  And that’s the connection to my letterman’s jacket.

When I was applying to colleges as a high school senior, my sole criteria for a school was whether I could make the tennis team.  Tennis was my claim to high school fame and I wanted to continue to serve and volley in college.  Back in the day, the College of Wooster was a small school (Division III now) of 1500 students.   Making the tennis team seemed plausible.

Turns out I was selected for the team.  As one of three freshmen to make the team that had six singles and three doubles teams, I played #4 singles.  I fashioned more wins than losses that first year, but mostly I loved just belonging.

COW tennis 1967

College of Wooster tennis team, spring of 1967 (my freshmen year)

With another freshman, Larry Lindberg (#3), I played the backhand side of the #1 doubles team.  The top teams (Dennison, Wittenberg, and Oberlin) beat us like an old rug, but we held our own v. Muskingum, Baldwin-Wallace, and Hiram.

Our team had training meals before matches in the basement of Kenarden Hall.  Always steak, with a side of potatoes, peas, and rolls with honey.  In the spring of 1967, carbo loading was not a thing yet.


On away matches, we ate early at Wooster, then traveled to another campus in the Ohio Athletic Conference and bonded in the three-seater station wagon the college provided.

Our coach, the Dutchman, Al Van Wie, had a peculiar bit of post-match behavioral modification for us.  If we won, which he associated with us playing well, we went out to for a nice meal at TJs in downtown Wooster.  If we lost, we got fast food burgers.

As athletes around the world know, better players can often bring out the best in one’s game, though one still might lose.  And often we as a team played better v. Dennison or Oberlin and played down to the weaker teams like Hiram.  Still, that calculation was lost on the Dutchman and the pattern of post-match meals never changed.

COW letterman jacket

Letterman jacket similar to my College of Wooster one

At the end of the year at the tennis awards ceremony, any player making the team for the first time and playing more than half the matches, which I had, would earn a black with tan leather sleeve letterman’s jacket, similar to what the football and basketball players wore.

Back in the day, this was about as cool as it got.  Once I had my letterman’s jacket, I was so damn proud but never so delusional that chicks would be flocking my way.

Throughout all the moves I’ve made around the country to Arizona to California back to Arizona, then to New Hampshire and to our current home in Maine, I always kept my Wooster letterman’s jacket.  It never really fit and within years of earning it became out of style.  Even so the accomplishment of earning it meant so much that I couldn’t let it go.

So, College of Wooster wasn’t all bad.  By the way, you might be wondering what were #1 and #3 of the best things about my three dismal years there in Ohio.

COW Mule 2

Jim Francis, my college roommate and high school history teacher who was Idaho Teacher of the Year in 1997!  Yeah Mule!

#3 was my college roommate during my sophomore and junior years, Jim Francis (Mule).  As my best friend during those Ohio years, he taught me a valuable lesson in life that I live to this day.

When I would come back from a date with Hannah Kraai, a drop dead beautiful women’s tennis player, with cookies or brownies that she had made for me, I would just keep them to myself, though I shared a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet with Mule.

COW campaign ad

Successfully elected to the Idaho Falls City Council in 2017

Soon, he had enough of my crap and said how it’d be nice if I shared them with him.  I honestly didn’t think about sharing them with him.  I was so embarrassed; I appreciate his courage to challenge me.

That was the moment that I began my evolution from a scarcity mentality (one of fear of the future so hoarding is necessary) to an abundance mentality (life is filled with good and the more you give the more you get).

By the way, he, too, transferred out of Wooster after our junior year.  First to the University of Utah (he as an Idaho boy), and then for the second semester of our senior year to Arizona State where we were roommates again.

Numero uno?  The one and only Hannah Kraai Rothermel.  We dated strongly during our sophomore year, broke up during our junior year; after which I left for the sunshine of the Grand Canyon State with a broken heart.  After our 1970 graduation, I taught social studies, science, and Spanish in Anaheim, California while she taught elementary physical education in Pittsford, New York, within a few miles of her childhood home of Fairport.

COW Sphinx 1969

Hannah, lower left, as a member of the Sphinx local sorority (c. 1968)

Fortunately, in the fall of 1971, she moved to Arizona to see if we had any magic left.  Turns out we did, and we married on July 1, 1972.

And for that reason, I have a very warm spot for the College of Wooster.


Dan and Hannah’s Woo Girls Reunion at Niagara Falls  Part 1 of 2


The College of Wooster Fighting Scots

Rather than going to a big time reunion on campus, Hannah and I have come to western New York for a mini-reunion with three of her College of Wooster (Ohio) dorm mates from the class of 1970.

A few years back the idea for the four women getting together crystallized to the point that last year Hannah offered our place in York, Maine for the First Annual Woo Girls Reunion.

NF 6A  Woo Girls in backyard

Wendy, Bambi, Hannah, and Maxine

Here’s the Line-up of the Four Women of Wooster:

Hannah – All she is cracked up to be!

Maxine – Hannah’s roommate during their sophomore and junior years who remains as upbeat and positive as I remember her when I was a classmate of hers.

Bambi – the life of the party at Wooster who to this day brings joy wherever she goes.

Wendy – the steady rock who is the glue that brings us all into conversations and makes us all feel like we belong.


You may have noticed that I referred to myself as a classmate, not as a fellow graduate of these four women.  You see, though I matriculated with them as a freshman in the fall of 1966 at the liberal arts College of Wooster, I transferred out after my junior year to Arizona State University to be an elementary education major.

You might be thinking, whoa, something must have come up for him to jump ship just before his senior year.  Well, it’s complicated.

NF  Heartbreak Hotel

First, after a rocking year of dating during our sophomore year, Hannah and I hit the skids during our junior year.   Going to the Desert Southwest was my response to a broken heart.

Second, I was a political science major!  Please!  What in the world does one do with a political science degree?   At Wooster all I thought it was going to do was prepare me to be a salesman for Proctor and Gamble (as my teammate on the Wooster tennis team did) or go to grad school.  After 21 years of being a student, I was so sick of sitting in classrooms.  Grad school was the farthest thing from my mind.

NF  Age of Aquarius

Third, in light of #2, I wanted to make a difference.  This was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Peace and love, man.  For me, that meant give teaching a shot.

Fourth, I was sick of the snow and the rain of central Ohio; the Arizona sunshine looked awfully appealing.  I would then be just one state away from doing some California Dreamin’.

NF  Uncle Sam

Fifth, this was May of 1969.  The War in Viet Nam raged and shattered the lives of so many.  I had just one year before my day of reckoning with the Selective Service drew nigh.  Unbeknownst to me, six months later I would draw number 78 out of 365 in the first televised draft lottery.  With my college deferment up and the military drafting guys with numbers up to 195, it was clear my future was not clear one bit, with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

Sixth, I just never adapted to Wooster.  That’s on me, not Wooster.  I was kind of aimless.  Duh, I was a political science major!   I loved being a part of Wooster’s tennis team.   Sophomore year with Hannah was off-the-charts.   But college classes?   The traditional lecture method of teaching that reigned at Wooster was killing me.  I needed hands-on, experiential, conversation-based teaching.  After years at Wooster, all I could do was study, test, and forget.

VP 1 ernie and bert

Hannah with two friends

And yet now years later, I think of the College of Wooster as the best thing that ever happened to me.

You see I met and Woo-ed Hannah Kraai.

Married to my own Woo Girl, I joined her in Niagara Falls with three of her classmates in mid-June of 2016.

Dan Fills You in on 50 Things You Might Not Know About Hannah

She chooses to park in the distant reaches of parking lots to get more exercise.

She loves a glass of wine each night. Truth be told, her wine standards are quite low and she enjoys whatever is set in front of her.  Just no white Zinfandel.

As a kid she loved going with her dad on house calls.  It’s when her love for the elderly was born.

She is a homebody. She is also a damn good sport about my itch to travel.

On the Cabot Trail

On the Cabot Trail

She is done with long distance biking.  After 175 miles on the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island and 190 miles on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, she says no mas.  I have to agree.

Years ago she and I had friends for Christmas dinner at our house in Tempe, Arizona on a day that was 85 degrees!

On Sunday mornings before we had kids and the city woke up, she and I would run six miles on the canal paths in Phoenix, breakfast at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, and go to the swap meet at the nearby Greyhound Park.

Max and Owen

Max and Owen

She wondered if she would be a good grandmother.  Let me tell you, she is an All-Star Omi to Owen and Max.

As a hairdresser, she sometimes does the hair of the recently deceased at Pelkey’s Funeral Home in Kittery, Maine.  She thinks of it as a sacred moment-shared.

She writes every morning.  Letters, postcards, emails.  She takes after her mother Elizabeth in that way.

When Owen or Max needs to have his diaper changed, she is the first to volunteer.

0722121648At the age of 63 she broke her left leg water skiing.  She taught water skiing as a teenager at a girls summer camp.

She took a full time job with health benefits as the activities director at the Homestead Nursing Home in Kittery so I could be a full time PhD student at the University of New Hampshire.

She is a past champion of our family Fantasy Football League.

She has a Masters in Health Education from Arizona State University.

Mrs. ClausShe dresses up as Mrs. Claus each Holiday season as part of troupe of actors who delight the residents at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home in Kittery.

At a party she swallowed a hard-boiled egg whole to win a team-eating contest .

With Los Ninos of Santa Barbara, CA, she and I went to the garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico to provide food and clothing to the families that live there.

She is the fifth of seven children of Elizabeth and John Kraai. (pronounced “cry”)

Of her six siblings, she was closest to her brother Doug, the fourth child.  His death in 2002 left a hole in her heart.

HS 2 Chick bfastHer favorite breakfast out is biscuits and gravy.

At home she has oatmeal every morning.

She has had spasmodic dysphonia for thirteen years.

She does not like cut flowers as a gift, unless they are from a funeral home.

She stopped chewing her nails when as a college girl she waitressed and thought customers would not want food served by a “nail biter.”

One of Hannah's never fail mouse traps

One of Hannah’s never-fail mouse traps

In our family she is the one who sets mouse traps and marks her nightly successes with a black mark on the side of the trap.

Her first year out of college she taught physical education at Thornell Road Elementary School in Pittsford, New York.

Her feet are always cold.  On all but five days per year, she wears double wool socks.

Hairdressers-in-training at the Portsmouth (NH) Beauty School are required to complete 1500 hours and as such graduate at random times throughout the year.  She wrote and read a poem for each of the 35 girls when they graduated.

She never needed or wanted a clothes dryer during the ten years we lived in Tempe, Arizona.  By the time we finished hanging the laundry on our backyard umbrella clothes line, the first clothes hung were dry.

Surprisingly, being a hairdresser, she never uses a blow dryer herself.

Allan JacksonShe likes her country music. Alan Jackson and Vince Gill are two of her favorites.

Her mother-in-law Jean called her a keeper when I first brought her home to Fair Lawn, NJ.   My mom added, Don’t be a fool and let her go.  Mama knows best.

When living in Tempe, Arizona, she would pick oranges and grapefruit off our backyard trees for breakfast.

She likes to solve problems (not the mathematical kind, but the practical, around-the-house kind).

She taught two sections of Intro to Health Education as a graduate assistant at ASU.

College of WoosterFreshman year at the College of Wooster, she and I were in the same French and Sociology classes.

When our son Will was a preschooler, she and he would sing along with the country music singers on the car radio.

She and I were all ready to move from Arizona to Montana in the late 1970s.  Then came Molly.

She plays Happy Birthday on the harmonica when birthdays come around.

For years she led a ten week training for people wanting to become hospice volunteers.  She is the former president of Hospice of York.

She once bought a banjo, left it at a repair shop in Tempe, AZ for 18 months, and needed her friend Ralph to rescue it.  And he did!

Southwest AirlinesOn our honeymoon in 1972 we drove from New York to Arizona in seven days so I could begin grad school at Arizona State. By Albuquerque I was ready to put her on a plane to Phoenix, and she was equally “thrilled” with me.

Twenty years later we had a second honeymoon at the Fun Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

She hopes Owen is left handed to join her in that family club.

She was a physical education major at the College of Wooster.

Similar to Hannah's 1970 Mustang

Similar to Hannah’s 1970 Mustang

Her first car was a dark green, two door 1967 Mustang.

She cries easily when she’s happy.

She drank tea one morning before the Nubble Light 10K here in York, Maine and ended up in the hospital due to dehydration. She was on pace for a sub-40 minute 10K.

She whistles. Who does that? Well, her Dad did.

One of her favorite movies is Love Actually.  Mine is The Graduate, but this isn’t about me.

She is a big fan of John Lennon, George Harrison, and David Kraai, our musical nephew.

Every Thursday you will find her cutting hair at the Durgin Pines Nursing Home.

She was a varsity tennis player at the College of Wooster, Ohio.  She dabbled at field hockey and gymnastics there.

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Above the Virgin River on the way to Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park

When our children and I wanted no part of clinging to mountainside chains 1500 feet above the canyon floor on the way to Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, she was raring to go.

She is all she seems and more.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Appalachian Trail near Smithsburg, Maryland

The crash has nothing to do with the Appalachian Trail

The crash has nothing to do with the Appalachian Trail

We love hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Maryland.  When here in the Oyster State, we have had sublime ridgeline hiking; those easy going trails that make the day feel like a walk in the park.  As we wrap up our week of AT hiking in the South, we come to Smithsburg in northern Maryland in mid-October. During the Civil War, Smithsburg was a hospital town, treating soldiers from the nearby Battle of Antietam.

We’ve come north from Richmond, VA through the I-95 logjam of northern Virginia, west on the I-495 beltway to I-270 to Frederick, MD. Lunching on Subway subs at a local park, we know we have just three hours and change to hike before our dinner plans. We, who think happy hour nachos and margaritas at Ruby’s are a big deal, have dinner plans.

Wolfsville Road in October

Wolfsville Road in October

Turning east towards the mountains from Smithsburg, we head up Wolfsville Road to trailhead parking for 12 cars. A blue blaze trail to the AT takes us into the Maryland woods on this October day at 60 degrees (blue blaze trails are side trails leading to the white blaze main trail).

Blue blaze side trail to the Appalachian Trail

Blue blaze side trail to the Appalachian Trail

Immediately as we head north on the AT we pass the Ensign Cowell Shelter. I’d have to lose a large bet or be held at gun point to stay overnight in a shelter. Lying on a thin pad in a sleeping bag on pine floors, wedged shoulder to shoulder with another of God’s smelliest human beings?  I think not. Snoring!  NASA still hasn’t developed earplugs with enough sound-proofing to give a hiker a good night’s sleep in AT shelters; and don’t get me started on the mice that scurry over and around and, yes through, sleeping bags.  Okay, I admit it, I’m soft.

Check out the Ensign Cowell Shelter.

With an ambitious goal to hike the five miles to and from the Raven Rock Shelter in three to four hours, we have a tight window to make our dinner plans in nearby Ijamsville (the j is silent).  Today is another golden day in the South and the last one before we head home to winter in Maine. (That’s not as appealing as it sounds.) Our trail guidebook says we will be hiking between 1100’ and 1400’ to the Raven Rock Shelter.  We love our mellow Maryland hills.

Rocks aplenty on the AT in Maryland

Rocks aplenty on the AT in northern Maryland

Stepping along the AT of yellow and brown fall leaves, we find the trail well-marked with white blazes. Truth be told the leaves are hiding a rocky terrain similar to ones we found on the boot-shredding AT in Pennsylvania. Still, the trails here in the Terrapin State allow us to talk easily without the huffing and puffing that we do when climbing the mountains of the AT in North Carolina.

From forest to fields to forest

From forest to fields to forest

Soon we are crossing fields, passing other hikers with backpacks who are out for a few days on the trail before the winter snows. When hiking in the South, I travel back in my mind to Civil War times. Surveying the hills, farmland, and valleys as we hike, I wonder what it was like for soldiers as well as the townsfolk trying to survive the ravages and uncertainty of war.  What must have been the terror and hope of slaves traveling the Underground Railroad through this part of the country?

MD 3 Han on ATWondering how far it is to the shelter, we meet up with a young couple from nearby Hood College. They let on that they lost the trail and are turning back. Undeterred, we have no doubt we’ll find the trail and carry on. And we do.

MD 7 trailAfter 90 minutes of hiking and no Raven Rock Shelter in view, we wonder, considering our dinner plans, do we go on or do we turn back?   Four teenage boys out for a first time backpacking adventure, going in the opposite direction, say the shelter is 2-3 hours away. We dismiss their youthful wild guess and hike on.

MD 4 rocky trailSoon thereafter we meet up with a 40-something male hiker, who tells us we are a mile away from the shelter as he points upward to the mountain before us.  We weigh another hour of mountain climbing versus our dinner plans?  With never a doubt, we head back to the trailhead.  for out “don’t miss” dinner plans.

VCU Rams are everywhere on the AT

VCU Rams are everywhere on the AT

Hiking back to the Wolfsville Road trailhead, we meet Bubble Gum (his trail name). Wanting to get to the Raven Rock Shelter before dark, he is understandably distracted talking to day-hiking dilettantes (i.e. dabblers) like us. We do learn that his trail name comes from giving bubble gum to other hikers.  Sadly, he never offers us any.  Such can be the dismissive approach to us day hikers.

Maryland's Appalachian Trail

Maryland’s Appalachian Trail

Heading for the trailhead, we soak in every last bit of our fifth of five hikes on the AT over the last week. After thirty years of running on streets and biking country roads, we have found gold in hiking the trails of the Appalachian Mountains.

MD 5 white blaze trailHeading for dinner, we see the teenagers on the trail ahead. They hear us and pick up the pace!  Kids!  A fool’s errand. We have dinner plans, fanny packs, and years of hiking experience; they have heavy backpacks, youthful bravado, and mistaken notions of their own fitness.  It’s no contest as they finally relent, step aside, and let us pass. We smile graciously as they look beaten and stunned that we two, who are probably older than their grandparents, go sailing by.

Packing up off Wolfsville Road, we navigate the modest 5P traffic through Frederick and Ijamsville, Maryland for our dinner plans.

Wendy and Hannah, 1970 grads of the College of Wooster, Ohio

Wendy and Hannah, 1970 grads of the College of Wooster, Ohio

Arriving at the home of Hannah’s College of Wooster classmate, Wendy and her husband Bill, we are welcomed like long lost friends.  Wendy and Hannah find the forty plus years since they were last together melt away. (While they graduated from this liberal arts college in Ohio, I lasted just three years there and graduated from the Harvard of the West – Arizona State.).  Treated like old friends, we reconnect over wine and cheese, down home dinner, and a mutual interest that allows our stories and theirs to emerge in a soul-satisfying confluence.

We’ll be back again. To both the AT in Maryland and Wendy and Bill’s, you can count on that.