Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rude Awakening

Spring brings many things to the American Midwest.

More daylight. Bright green grass. Trees with fresh leaves. Brilliant flowers.

Allergens. Wild temperature swings. Storms.

We had one of the those in the early morning hours a few days ago. My neighborhood did not suffer enough to have the media come running in their satellite equipped vans. No, this problem was localized.

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I see three things in this homeowners near future.

Insurance adjuster. Tree service. Roofer.

Mother’s Hunting Story

Fact can be stranger than fiction.

My mother seldom told fictitious stories. She stayed with the truth. And with a good memory in her favor, the stories stayed the same with retelling.

My memory does not latch onto the details as firm. I want to tweak, smooth, and improve a tale as time goes along. So pardon any errors in the following. It’s a tale told by mother a few times, although not as often as other experiences.

In the third autumn of their marriage, my father decided to go pheasant hunting on their farm. At the time they farmed 140 acres, mostly cropland, but with the rougher portions still in woods.

They must have owned two guns at the time. Dad almost always kept a .22 rifle in the house. A shotgun would have been the weapon of choice for pheasant hunting.

Every day dad went out for several hours, walking fence lines and other areas of tall grass that the birds favored. He didn’t see even one. He’d return to the buildings in time for evening chores and report his lack of luck. And mother would inform him that “the pheasant” came right up to the buildings again today.

Dad expressed his doubt.

Three or four days into this pattern, mother had had enough. When “the pheasant” showed up, long after dad had taken one gun and gone hunting, she took matters into her own hands. She fetched the second gun, loaded it, and opened the bedroom window. Supporting the rifle barrel on the sill, she waited. When the time was right she pulled the trigger.

Imagine my father’s face when he returned an hour or two later.

“I shot the pheasant. He flapped under the grainery too far for me to reach.”

Thus ended my father’s short bird hunting exploits.

Not Forgotten

They’re all gone now. Victims of the passage of time. The final handful received media attention and honors as society marked their passing, the end of an era.

Due to time and circumstance I knew several of them. They were carpenters, farmers, and businessmen in our community. I attended school with their grandchildren. My father worked with them on American Legion events. We socialized with several.

These were the veterans of the Great War. They returned home with lungs damaged from poison gas or memories of war horrors they kept locked tight inside. Some never returned at all.

Poppies! Who can forget the poetry contrasting the bright poppies to the mud of the battlefield? And who has not purchased and worn a red paper poppy on Memorial Day?

Their sons and daughters are vanishing now.  Their Great War has been followed by others, designated by Roman numerals or names of countries half a world away.  We dress up the names with “police action” or “conflict” as if afraid to utter the truth.

Remember them during your Memorial Day picnics. Include them in your quiet moments of thanks to all the veterans in all the wars. Give thanks for their service and sacrifice.

And if you have occasion to visit the center of the United States, take a few hours to visit and learn in Kansas City.

Liberty Memorial Home of National World War I Museum

Liberty Memorial
Home of National World War I Museum

Current State

Where do you live? Sleep the most often? At the end of the day, where do you call home?

For some of my relatives, friends, and acquaintances their answer is a house or apartment located near their birthplace. Perhaps down the street, or a few miles from where they grew up.

For others the current and original are separated by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles, national boundaries, or cultural divisions.

A few years ago I realized that I’ve lived in this current, adopted of the United States longer than in Wisconsin, where I was born and grew to early adulthood. Where has all the time gone? I got here by an indirect route, with stops of varying time in other states.

Does length of time make it home? Experiences? Intention to stay?

Missouri places

Missouri places

Selected sites (and sights) in Missouri Clockwise from the left:

Meramec Caverns near Sullivan, Powell Gardens in Kansas City, St. Louis Zoo, and Budweiser Clydesdales (iconic beer salesmen).

State of Origin

Everyone has one. It may be one of the fifty that make up the United States. It may be the state or province or great city of another nation. Your place of birth.

My birthplace, hometown, where I grew up seeped into my being for a little more than the first two decades of my life. Then I carried it with me to other places, regions, and experiences.

I’m able to return for visits. It’s good to see familiar places and people. To bring little reminders home to sit on the shelf or hold my morning coffee.

Wisconsin memories

Wisconsin memories

Identifying the mugs from the left:

Peshtigo fire of 1871 commemorated. Drive careful — all of Wisconsin is a deer crossing area. Home town celebrated their Sesquicentennial. State flag remembers miners and loggers. Cows — earned the nickname of “America’s Dairyland.”

Have you visited your roots? Does it bring good, unwelcome, or sad memories?

 

Dad’s Tall Tale

Books and magazines were as common as potatoes in the house I grew up in. But not all stories were limited to the printed word.

Come back in time with me. Imagine you are about four, supper is over, and your father has been helping a friend on his farm that day.

“Tell me a story. About the bear.”

Dad takes you on his lap, sets his cigarette in the glass ashtray and begins.

            I was fencing, up on Hughie’s farm, way back in the woods.  It’s the fence that marks the line at the end of his property.  Well, I was working, attaching the wire to a new post I’d just set when I heard something crashing around in the brush.

         I stood up and looked.  It was a bear.  The biggest bear I’d ever seen.  He stood up and towered over me.  His paws were as large as a dinner plate.  His eyes were as big as saucers.

I opened my eyes wide and held my breath as my father described the bear.

           The bear reached out for me, scooped me up and pushed me into his mouth whole.  Swallowed me down in one piece, just like the whale did to Jonah. 

            Well, there I was.  It was dark, very dark.  I was all pushed together inside of him, his stomach juices moistened my clothes and started to tickle my skin.  I knew I had to do something.  And I had to do it quick.

            My hand found the pliers in my pocket.  I pulled it out and reached deep into the dark inside of the bear.  In a little bit I found what I was searching for, the inside of his tail.  I fastened the pliers unto it, counted to three, and jerked with all my might.

            Suddenly I was flying through the air and landed on the ground with a thud.

            The bear, well, he was laying a little ways away, turned inside out.

Years later, long after I moved away from home, I found similar stories in print as folk tales. They brought a smile and a short laugh. But they lacked the power and emotion of a story told to a child on a parent’s lap.

Clever Packaging

Several weeks ago I received bottle of wine as a gift. It was much appreciated. Family and friends know my tastes and a bottle of local or regional wine passes between us on visits.

This wine originated in western New York State. In case you were unaware — New York has a large wine industry from the Finger Lakes and extending westward and the vineyards cross the border in Pennsylvania. If you drive through this area allow some time to stop, sample, and shop along one of the many “Wine Trails”.

About a week ago I had occasion to celebrate. An excellent time to accompany my dinner with a special treat.

I set the chilled bottle on the table, plucked a wine glass from the cabinet, and rummaged in the drawer for the corkscrew. (My everyday wine arrives in a box and does not require one.)

To my delight and surprise the corkscrew could have stayed in the drawer. All I had to do was to tease up the end of the pull strip, remove the tight plastic seal, and push up a small glass stopper. Easy!!! Neat!! A small O-ring facilitated a good seal on the portion remaining.

For the Corkscrew Chanllanged

For the Corkscrew Challenged

Skilled Work

About a week ago we had a warm, sunny day after a string of cool, rainy ones.

Lawn mowers, gardeners, and chainsaws popped up quicker than toadstools after a summer shower. Suburban residents around here know to grab a fine day when available. (We’re only allotted a few each season.)

Mature trees sprinkled between the houses are a beautiful and practical thing. A swing suspended from a horizontal branch provides hours of entertainment. Birds and squirrels make homes high above human reach. Fruit – some useful like walnuts and hickory nuts – some a nuisance like sweet gum balls – appear at the end of the growing season.

When trees live in close quarters with humans they don’t always make it to the end of their typical life span. The same can be said of forest trees harvested for lumber and paper. But a person tends to notice it more when the skilled workers and their equipment arrive in the neighborhood.

I’m going to view this as a preventative measure. Spring and summer storms bring photos on the news of trees damaging homes. If a nice large limb extends over your bedroom it may ease your mind to have it removed.

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Bright Promise

My flower bed brings a smile this early May day.

If I’ve remembered right, this is year four for my azalea. Okay, I’ll admit it. This is my second attempt. The first one, a lovely plant received for Mother’s Day several years ago teased me. Received in bloom I followed the directions poked into the package and waited. All summer and early fall the plant kept nice green leaves.

When fall came I heaped pine needles around and over it, to protect it for the worst of the Midwest winter. I think I killed it with kindness. The next spring, weeks after I pulled off the mound of pine needles and leaves, one lone green leaf teased me that perhaps the roots had survived. But it was not to be.

My second attempt came from a local nursery. I’ve been scanter with the protective mulch in the fall now. And my reward arrives in the early days of May!

Just a few more days.

Just a few more days.