Vowing to quit procrastinating during 2018 is not one of my resolutions.

By this time most of those who resolved to; lose weight, exercise, or save more money have already returned to kettle chips and the couch while buying a new 110 inch TV for the Super Bowl.

I, on the other hand have just started to make changes for the year, already 16 days old.

For the New Year of 2018 I resolve not to attend any funerals.

This past year I was at seven. Most had suffered long illnesses or were elderly, one a good friend, was killed in a car accident and yet another, a young woman, murdered.

That’s just in our immediate and extended family. There were others, retired co-workers whose services I did not attend.

These were just a few of the 56 million around the world who died last year.

155,000 people woke up every day, not knowing it would be their last.

Every second there were two people who didn’t live to see the next.

Regardless of the circumstances, these were loved ones who will never again sit at the table with us, laugh or hold our hands.

Beginning with our first breath, every tick of the clock is another second less that we have on this earth and no one knows just how many ticks we get.

Why then do we waste so much of our precious time in desperation?

Worry, fear and resentment only chew up what’s left on our personal game clocks.

When I was young death seemed to be something that only happened to old people, long removed from my immediate perspective.

As I grew older car accidents and war took enough of my friends, to remind me that it is not just the passing of one generation but something that can and does happen to anyone at any time.

But still, it was someone else. It couldn’t happen to me.

As I have aged though, thoughts of the end of my time on earth reach through my consciousness more often. When it’s very late and quiet.

Tick, tick, tick.

If we only knew just how many days, minutes and seconds we had, we might try to be a little less preoccupied with things that don’t really matter and a little more with those that do.

A little less with judgment and a little more about compassion.

A little more about involvement and a little less with blind acceptance, or worse yet-indifference.

A little more about using the talents and resources we  have and less worry over those we don’t.

A little more about forgiveness.

I resolve to appreciate the days, the sunrise over a fog covered lake. Sunsets and storms.

Sparkling sunlight on fresh snow, grateful for the chance to witness beauty through frosted breath.

Father Jim Feely spoke in a recent homily, about seeing hospice patients and counseling family members about a way to say good bye.

He suggested the following:

Be grateful. Thank the person for the many things they have done. For being who they are.

Ask for forgiveness. Just in case.

Forgive them. Just in case.

“I love you.”

Say Goodbye.

He went on to suggest we do the same for the living.

Maybe without the “goodbye” part.

For, who knows if this moment might be our last chance.

Tick, tick, tick.



When Joyce Kilmer penned ‘Trees’ in 1913:  “I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree…” The poet, I’m sure wasn’t contemplating the essence  of the cottonwood.

Spring is the time of the year when these lovely trees share their seeds, those fluffy harbingers of misery that show up like wedding crashers in my pond pumps, air conditioning and worst of all-they gum up my fishing reels.

I know that we don’t have one in our yard and I don’t recall seeing one in the neighborhood but there has to be a prolific female of the “Populus deltoides” within a short distance of our house.

The males of the species don’t shed, thank you.

According to the Department of Agriculture, those pesky  little cottony fibers can fly for several hundred yards on the slightest of breezes. If they should land in a river or other waterway, they can spread for miles.

These trees live on average of 80-100 years with the oldest recorded one in the U.S. located in Balmsville, New York.  This one was recently cut down at the age of 300 as it was becoming a traffic hazard.

Folklore tells that George Washington planted his walking stick in the ground and left it there. The stick being made of cottonwood.

Not as good a tale as the cherry tree but as good an excuse for the massive shade, seed bearing, obnoxious deciduous plants as any.

They do like the flood  prone areas along riverbanks and are often used to reclaim strip mining lands and offer erosion control, growing up to six feet a year.

Because of this rapid growth, they do not produce good lumber but are used extensively in the pulp making process, providing a source of high quality paper.

As for the author…

Born as Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886 the son of Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer who invented  Johnson’s Baby Powder and his wife,  Annie Ellen Kilburn.

After graduating from Columbia University of New York he distinguished himself as a freelancer with Funk and Wagnalls dictionary by writing word definitions at 5 cents apiece. He was so productive at the job that the publisher put him on salary.(1)

It was during this time that  he penned the poem for which he became famous.

Even though he had a family to support and had established himself as a poet, essayist and lecturer, he volunteered for military service in WWI, serving as a scout in the famed 42nd “Rainbow Division”.

His service took him to France and the Second Battle of Marne where he became an intelligence scout in a unit that later (in WWII) was established as the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

Although his poem was often criticized and lampooned, it inspired a movement that exists to this day.

Tree planting and conservation had become his calling, leading  to the naming of  many natural areas after him, including the 3,800 acres of virgin timber which make up the Joyce Kilmer National Forest in North Carolina.

He never lived to see the inspiration that his poem, “Trees” provided to the millions of us who value and encourage the care and management of forests.

He never received the accolades given him or his work.

At the age of 31,  Sergeant Alfred Joyce Kilmer was killed by a German sniper’s bullet on July 30, 1918.

He was posthumously awarded the French Criox du guerre for distinguishing himself “by acts of heroism during combat.”



“Poems are written by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

Thank you for your service.


  1. Hillis, John. Joyce Kilmer: A Bio-Bibliography. Master of Science (Library Science) Thesis. Catholic University of America. (Washington, DC: 1962)

My Reality


At least twice now someone going by the name of “Joe” has called from “the gifting center” with an Appleton phone number.

His first question was, “can you hear me okay.”

Of course I didn’t fall for that trick, to get my voice recorded saying, “yes.”

The question remains. Am I still paranoid if they are really out to get me, or am I paranoid because they are out to get me?

Skimming, phishing, spam, shimming, evil twin attacks and the like have proven, to me at least, that they are definitely out to get me.

Every time I Google a topic, I immediately get incessant ads for any and all products even remotely related to the search.

I have no idea how a scantily clad female in a “plunge V-neck backless play suit,” can be the result of an online trip to Cabelas.

Videos in an endless loop pop up with no  conceivable way to close them, except to close out the link. For the record I will never, I repeat never, buy a “Bissell Little Green Portable Spot and Stain Cleaner, 1400m…”

I’m tearing up the carpet.

I get marketing, really I do. But their intrusion into my life has become personal. They can’t be doing this to everyone.

When I click the link to “unsubscribe” it only gets worse.

Now that my credit card companies have finally imbedded a chip to defeat the skimmers at the gas pump and ATM, a new gadget called a “shimmer” has been found inserted into the card reader.

It defeated my chip.

It’s like they know what I’m doing before I even do it.

They, the other “they” insist that I check my credit rating and reports once a year through the big three credit reporting agencies.

Yeah, like Equifax?

My phone texts me with special offers from an unknown number that cannot be blocked. Only an unidentified number to call…

My driver’s license information has been sold, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I’m not worried  about that so much. They’ll have to take a number-and wait for “Counter D-8.”

The fraudsters have gotten very clever, using names and phone numbers that appear to be familiar. Like Joe from Appleton, WI with a 920 area code.

I don’t know anyone from Appleton. Why do they keep calling me?

Every now and then, it’s obvious that they are not from around here.

“Mr. Willoson, I like to be …….”

I got another suspicious email the other day from: ruskecrook@somewhereintheukraine.gov.

“Comrade: I have deleted all of your personal information from our databases. Your social security number, bank account numbers, names of family members and addresses, along with your dog’s rabies shot record.”

“You don’t have enough to steal.”

“Joe” called again the other day. I responded by saying, “No I don’t hear you Joe, but I know where you live and I will come to get you.”



Prayers For The Lost

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Millions of Americans over the last few days have been offering prayers and condolences for those killed and wounded in the shooting in Las Vegas.

59 people  killed, over 500 wounded in a shooting that took place during an outdoor concert.

Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Once again we have experienced the carnage of hate heaped upon innocent people.

Once again we offer our prayers for the victims and their families.

Is anyone praying for the shooter? Stephen Paddock and his family?

We don’t know and might not ever know how he came to think that this act of evil was the only thing left for him to accomplish in this world.

He committed suicide as the police were forcing their way into the two room suite he rented in order to commit mass murder.

I don’t think Stephen Paddock was born evil.

Something in his life caused him to evolve from a wide eyed innocent child into a horrific monster.

One would think that if he wanted to leave a legacy of revolution or promote some misguided cause he would have surrendered and used the media platform to continue his tirade of hate.

Like others before him; Dylann Roof, Syed Farook, Adam Lanza, Harris and Klebold, one would expect there to have been clues and behaviors that would tell the story of his descent into a  life of hatred. Some history of despair which could only be healed (in his mind) by the need to carry out this pure evil act.

Someone, family members, a girl friend or acquaintances must have had some inkling of his solitary, secrete life.

Instead they described him as “caring, kind, quiet.”

His brother was quoted as saying “This was a complete surprise to us. When you find out let us know.”

But then, he killed 59 innocent people and himself.

Since 1984, some 54 murderers have gained notoriety from mass shootings.


Some were disgruntled employees turned down for a promotion or fired from jobs. Some were students spurned by teachers or classmates. Some (or all) were suffering from mental illness. Some were avowed terrorists and supremacists.

Killing was their way to further a cause, get revenge, or get their own Wikipedia page.


There was a time that suicide was an act of despair carried out alone, away from scrutiny of the sun.

Now, more and more often it seems, people bent on killing themselves have found the need to take  innocent lives with them.

By all accounts Stephen Paddock had success, money, and people who cared. He traveled, had company and for all practical purposes, seemed to enjoy his life.

So what happened that pointed to violence and death as the only way out?

How many others are out there waiting for their psyches to justify mass murder?

And should we be praying for them?

Oh, Say Can You See…



Will the last adult leaving America, please turn out the lights.

Of course, an adult would automatically turn out the lights to save energy and lower the light bill.

Likewise, an adult would realize that the battle between our adolescent President and NFL players is kinda like high school street gangs from the 50’s.

Both sides are squared off in the street, wearing chinos and leather, each “double daring” the other to do something even more outrageous.

As might be expected they fail to look past the bravado and address the original transgression.

Twitter has become the place to scream, “Oh yeah? Yeah!”

A gang and mob mentality emerges whenever the subject of racism comes up.

Unfortunately, the adults who could break up the fight are nowhere to be found.

Our political leaders are part of the problem. Beginning at the top, their self interests have long ago taken priority over that of the country.

The police have their hands full, policing themselves. Renegade officers are out there enforcing their own brand of justice while jeopardizing the credibility of a million good cops, trying their best to do a difficult, dangerous job.

The news media, well that’s probably the only thing President Trump gets right. The media is only as good as the next, true or contrived headline.

Mike Tomlin, the Steelers head coach apparently felt it was more important to be “respectful of our football team” than to be respectful of the right, of Offensive Tackle Alejandro Villanueva, to honor the National Anthem.

Villanueva, a former Army Ranger with three tours of duty in Afghanistan, stood alone at the end of the tunnel, his hand over his heart, while the rest of the team huddled in the locker room.

Maybe we need to look to a soldier. One who knows the value of sacrifice for the better good. One who is not afraid to step up and into danger for the sake of others.

Maybe we just need a mother to give them all a time out. Take away their devices. Have them sit quietly for ten minutes alone and think about what is important in their lives and look at the real reason for their behavior.

In a “sign of unity”, team players stood, sat, kneeled, or failed to go on the field at all during the playing of the National Anthem.

Owners and the NFL who in the past have penalized players for celebrating touchdowns, taunting others and carrying sharpies in their shoes, failed to show anywhere near a unified front in addressing the behavior on the sidelines.

Fans booed, players did whatever they wanted, owners and the NFL failed to control what will no doubt become the symbol of the 2017 football season, and Donald Trump blew yet another chance to be like a president.

Lock the door when you leave, and don’t forget the lights.




Fitting In



 Hand me downs were a part of my life growing up. All the families we knew passed along gently worn clothing from the older kids to the younger ones.

As I was the oldest in my family, I got stuff from cousins who got stuff from their older siblings and so on.

After being used by two or three other kids for a year or two each, the pants I eventually inherited could have been as old as me.

The “gently worn” moniker became more like, “not much left.”

But my mom would patch and sew, shorten and take in the waist to make them fit and workable for one more year or until a new batch of new used clothing would come my way.

The parts of the jeans that took the most abuse naturally, were the knees.

This would be resolved by ironing on patches made of some kind of pressed asphalt material that would once again allow the pants to stand on their own.

If those four inch square patches were attached to the outside, it was obvious they were patched. When put on the inside they weren’t so obvious but the abrasions to my knees were.

New stuff was for the start of school. Usually a pair or two of jeans. You know, the kind that could be heard walking down the hallway.

Denim was heavy duty in those days with double stitched seams, and the rivets on the pockets would lacerate your hands if you weren’t careful.

The waist as usually one or two sizes too big and was “taken in” by sewing a folded over portion on either side so they wouldn’t fall down.

Cuffs were always folded up twice, waiting for the inevitable growth spurt which quickly surpassed the length, resulting in a high-water look.

Pants and I haven’t been a good fit for many years now.

I still have some like new 34 inch waist slacks hanging in the closet, anxiously waiting for me to lose twenty or thirty pounds.

The length stays the same but the waist (on the pants) for some reason, contracts.

I had gotten a pair of brand new expensive (well over $20) jeans as a gift which promptly shrank in the closet after only one or two wearings.

Then, one day on a whim I tried them on again.

They fit.

Wow I must be losing weight.

I promptly went to show Sue how much waist room there was and in fact, these were  too big for me now.

She quietly explained that the ones I once had were given to Goodwill and replaced by another pair of a more fitting size.

“A 40 inch waist? What am I going to do with pants of that size?”

“Don’t worry,” she replied. “You’ll grow into ’em.”


Back in ’67




Trolling For Clams

Approaching the border we had all our credentials in order but when I handed the passports over I had fumbled around and failed to have one of them opened to the right page.

Whether it was his cynicism or just a dry sense of humor, the border guard made quick note of that. “After all that work you still didn’t get it right.”

“Where you headed?” he asked.

“Lake Pak ash a kan” I replied, or something like that.

As he turned away he mumbled what I assumed to be, the correct pronunciation which was nothing like what I had said.

Just as we laugh at those from south of the border trying to pronounce simple Wisconsin names like Wausau, Weyauwega or Oconomowoc.

“Any weapons, tobacco, drugs? How much alcohol are your carrying (as if Wisconsinites can’t leave home without it)? One case of beer, I replied.

Then he made another comment that I took to mean “have a nice day.”

I was wrong.

“That wasn’t a comment but a question” he stated. My look of confusion and the long line of cars behind us no doubt influenced his decision not to bother with me any longer.

“Have a nice trip.”

We were now in Canada-going fishing!

Lake Pakashkan is about 125 miles from Thunder Bay which is 500 miles from Green Bay. The last 40 or so, down unmarked logging roads.

11706 acres of sunken islands, rocks and sandbars with a little water here and there just to make you think it’s safe to drive a boat.

Virtually everything has to be brought in. Food, fuel, bait, toilet paper. Otherwise it’s 40 miles back over those same washboard gravel roads to the nearest town, Upsula, which may or may not have what you need.

Naturally the weather was cold, raining, and windy but after ten hours of driving we launched the boats anyway.

And caught fish. Lots of fish.

The rule was; “nothing under 16 inches, nothing over 18” but a big one could go into “the book.”

“The book” was started around 2002 and contained  pertinent information about landing  a Northern Pike over 35 inches or a Walleye over 24.

These were caught in places such as “Jon’s Hole, Harry’s Hideout, Hog Run” and included the time, place, type of bait used and of course, the name of the one who caught it.

Fish were caught, measured and released but once in the book, bragging rights were forever.

It’s an honor system.

Some, it seems might have been just a little less than honorable over the years but hey, that’s fishing.

The biggest Walleye recorded was 33 1/2 inches caught in 2003 on a jig and crawler while the record Northern was listed as a 47 incher on a rapala in 2010.

No record for the smallest but I do have a picture of one that just has to qualify as the smallest fish ever recorded-here or anywhere else. Hannas-fish.pdf

We did place a couple bets on the biggest for the day between the boats. I won one with a 21 inch Walleye and lost the other to a 24 incher.

The latter also went into “the book.”

Nights were filled with, what else but eating fresh fish, cooking for ten and listening to the stories of the day and past trips.

Tough Fishing

Games of ‘Liar’s Dice’ and banter lasted until the last dog was hung.

Morning came early with coffee brewed in a real coffee pot on the propane fueled stove, a pocket full of licorice, beef sticks or trail mix and we were off.

Just like the Post Office, “neither rain nor sleet nor black of night….” lightning was about the only thing that would keep us from  stalking lunker “eyes.”

Breakfast around 9 followed by more fishing ’til 430 then supper, followed by more fishing, ’til dark.

Catch fish, clean fish, eat fish, tell lies, sleep, repeat.

Someone discovered an new way to make old fashionds with crushed cherry starbursts and carbonated water. Plus booze and bitters, of course.

Some will say it’s just about the fish but others contend it’s  bonding with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors and finding adventure on foreign soil.

It’s the fish.

And some of that other stuff.

Saw a moose.

All clams were released unharmed.

Lake Pakashkan (Pa-cashˊ-kun).