Gone Fishing

Matt’s Walleye




My Northern



See You Next Week!

Not a Northern

True Grit




“Hey Mr. Johnson, Can I interest  you  in the worlds’ most informative and fun, fact-filled newspaper in America?”

“Huh. Who are you?” he asked,

“I’m your neighbor, Lawrence Wilson. Don’t you remember? I helped find your lost dog last week?”

“Well, I don’t buy from strangers and especially door to door salesmen.”

“Hm. Hope you dog runs away again you crabby old fart.”

“Hello Mr. Anderson.”

And so it went. “The opportunity to make a fortune,” the add promised. “Put yourself through college, attract girls and be the envy of all your friends.”

So much for that. I couldn’t sell enough copies of ‘Grit'(or anything like it) to buy a pack of gum, let alone a fancy car or get girls.

I’d be lucky to get out of 5th grade.

Opportunities came and went, along with their respective fortunes.

Sell ……” “Learn Real Estate.” “Become a Licensed Financial Planner in only six weeks.” “Earn Real Wealth with …..”

It all came to a head while working my way through college. I got a summer job selling Cancer Insurance which was the new way to address the rising costs of treatment.

My boss/mentor had an opening line that went something like this. We would pull up to a new-looking home with the owner outside, painting.

Mr. Salesman of The Year would walk up and start a conversation.

“Nice looking home you got here. Is it new?” Why thanks replied Mr. Homeowner. Then the hook. “I’d sure hate to see you lose it if you or a loved one got cancer.”

About that time, Mr. Homeowner would either run for the shotgun or let the dogs loose.

After three months of going hungry and flinching every time I heard a dog bark, I got a job as a bartender.

Eventually I found something that required no selling, no convincing, and I didn’t really have to talk to anyone.

All I had to do was run into burning buildings.

Yep, I got a job as a firefighter.

After 30 years or so and yes, I did talk to people from time to time.

Stuff like “Change your clock, change your smoke detector battery.”

“Stop, drop and roll.”

Stuff like that.

Then one day a friend called and invited me to help sell boats at a Midwest boat show.

I was retired and who knows maybe now I can get it. “Sure, I’ll be there.”

He sent some literature with instructions. “Just know everything about these boats. Watch a You Tube video or two and come prepared to sell.”


Thirteen makes and models, along with all the various sizes and prices. Fishing, sport, ski, pontoons, deck boats, day boats, cruisers.  And about a hundred options to boot.

Nightmares of fifth grade came rushing back. I broke into a cold sweat and didn’t sleep for days, waiting for the inevitable rejection and failure.

“Sorry about your house, mister.”

“Hi folks, see anything you like?” “Just looking,” they replied as they hurried away.

“How are you today?” (Nothing).

As if I were a leper, the closer I got to people the farther they shied away.

Then I tried the tactic of hovering between the boats while they looked. You know, like the used car salesman who suddenly appears out of nowhere when you stop to look at a car. He just pops up like a groundhog at Chuck ‘E’ Cheese.

Two women who were interested in a pontoon boat stopped and I led them to our show special. “Yes Mam, 22 feet of deck with a captain’s console, room for eight and a 150 horse engine pushing her.”

I no sooner got them on board than another salesman started up a conversation with them. It seems that they all vacationed in the same area, of Wisconsin. Sounded like they might have been neighbors or something.

After about ten minutes of being ignored, I just sort of faded away, back down to the fishing boats.

Forget about the cruisers, the bow riders….

At least I knew which end was which on the fishing boats. The pointed end is the front (bow). Right (starboard) left (port).

The horsepower is printed on the engine so even I could get it right just by looking.

Finally, a middle aged man and his son approached, looked around and settled on one of the more expensive models, a 20 footer with a walk-through windshield, 200 horse motor.

“We’ll take this one, he said. With these options. “Ok I replied, I’ll write it up.” “But we have a few questions.”

Oh, great. More questions about options, packages, trailer accessories and about seven other things I knew nothing about.

I got another guy to come over and help. I got my manager to help. In fact, he not only spent several hours with the buyer but closed the deal and wrote it up.


First one in the bank. Wow. My first commission ever, and it was a big one.

Not to say that I didn’t really do anything to earn it. Just said “hi” and handed them over like a quarterback to the running back for the heavy work.


Sold one other just like that. Actually it was the manager’s previous customers who stopped by and bought not one, but two boats.

I was on a roll.

Then they started to close down the show. This was the last day. They didn’t need me again until next year.

Next year? I’m rolling now. I’m selling. Now.

They thanked me for my efforts and promised to call in January when the shows start up again.

January? I was just getting the hang of it. What am I supposed to do ’til January?

“Dear Grit……..”



Writer On Strike!





My cardboard sign is printed and stapled to a broken shovel handle.

I have a thermos of coffee and a sandwich or two stuck in my jacket pocket.

I’m ready for the picket line.

I tried to convince them, my family, that when my door is closed and the muffled sounds of talk radio or a Brewer game are heard, that’s my time to write. My thought process as it is doesn’t take much to interrupt and the next great  idea can disappear  in a wisp of e-smoke.

They, on the other hand expect me to be at their beck and call, dropping everything to respond to perceived “emergencies” like an exploding toilet or when my wife’s mother died.

I tried to make the funeral but was totally engrossed in editing two paragraphs of the greatest story ever told.

I kind of liked her too.

So, it’s come to this. No more household chores, no more responding to cuts, bruises or dog poop. I’m walking out, on strike for better writing conditions.

These are my demands.

  1. From the hours of 9AM until noon I am to be in my office undisturbed except when I emerge for something to eat or more coffee. While enroute to the refrigerator others must remember that I am deep in thought and cannot be bothered. A simple nod of acknowledgement will suffice.
  2. 1PM (after a lunch break) to 3:30 PM, I will be available to take on assignments around the house, school or hospital by appointment only. Appointments may be made Mon-Thurs between the hours of 1-3:30 PM, by appointment.
  3. Exceptions may be made for Emergency Government confirmed severe weather emergencies, but only if food is running low and deaths in the immediate family are eminent. Immediate family to be defined as; spouse, legal dependents, the dog (especially if he dies in the house) and select relatives by previously negotiated agreement.
  4. 3:30PM to whenever I wake up-nap time. Then it’s time to get ready for dinner, a short walk and a couple more hours of editing before bed.

This schedule is to be followed Mon-Friday with arbitrary substitutions for Saturday and Sunday if the fish are biting. After all, my creative batteries must be recharged from time to time.

“Hey, where’s everyone going? What’s the moving van doing here? You just can’t do that without an appointment! I do have a say in what goes on around here!”

“Oh look at the time,  3:30.”


Not My Father’s Tractor-Or Was It?

Henry Ford’s Tractors

Some still do the work of 27 horses while most have long since ceased to work at all.

Some still show the gleaming red and grey  paint job which was unique to the brand while many have long since rusted away in abandoned fields and barnyards.

Trees grow through their oxidized frames and decayed rubber tires as nature, slowly but surely takes back the landscape.

These were the machines that replaced horses on the farm and, before rural electric service became a reality, even powered milking machines with a vacuum pump connection extending along the transmission.

By 1945 tractors made by several manufacturers; Ford, John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Case, et.al., had surpassed horses as the main power train on America’s farms.

They pulled a two-bottom plow, and all the implements needed for a young veteran returning home to 40 acres and a herd of milking cows.

A new Ford tractor cost around $600 when they were built but if you have one today that still runs, with hood and tires intact, it can be worth up to $4000.

Parts are still available usually at a junk yard where for a few dollars you can rummage through the field of worn out machines searching for the one that matches yours, hoping the part you need is still there-and still works.

The one we owned was purchased through a grant from the State Vocational  Rehabilitation Program for my dad while he recovered from the effects of polio and was used to raise pickles on an acre of land my grandparents owned.

It also made extra money for us by plowing neighborhood gardens in town.

It was my first car at age 12.

I along with one or two other idiots would race around town sometimes actually doing what Dad wanted me to do but mostly just screwing around.

One day while a buddy, Larry was plowing and I riding the fender, the plow found the one boulder in Mr. Anderson’s potato patch. The tractor stopped dead while I continued to move forward at about 6 mph, bouncing off the front tire.

That old Ford could do wheelies.

Another time, years later with the same two idiots, we were hauling firewood on the farm when Dennis threw a piece of wood which ricocheted off the rear tire and hit me in the back of the head.

He claimed, after several minutes of hysterical laughing, that it was an accident.

Seems that head injuries were a familiar thread through my life.

You really do see stars.

My first business was to use a newer (1948) Ford 8-N with a front end loader with which I skidded logs off a ski hill being built in Waushara County.

Today, it’s known as Nordic Mountain-1100 feet high with runs for skiing, snow-boarding or tubing, a full service chalet and cross country trails.

The trick was to drive straight up the steep grade to the logs already cut, jam on one brake to spin the tractor around, facing downhill while shutting off the engine to keep it from sliding back down (brakes wouldn’t hold). Then I would quickly hook the logs and skid them down to a level field for cutting to length and loading.

We still have one, an 9-N which was built in the early ’40s. It’s condition is  closer to the rusted out models than new but still serviceable when we can get it started.

The starter linkage is broken but if you short across the solenoid with a screwdriver (being careful not to touch the metal) it will arc, spark, turn over and finally start running.

We use it to snake through the cut-over wood lot to bring out firewood; oak, cherry and walnut, hauling it to the pile near the farm house for splitting and stacking.

With chains on the tires we can use it all winter long unless the snow gets too deep or the temperature gets below zero.

Below zero it doesn’t start at all, but then again, neither do I.