Writer On Strike!

 

 

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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.

 

Pilates No More

Move Over, Pilates

Doc says I need to exercise more and lose some weight.

More? I get plenty of exercise.

Like when I forget my keys upstairs and have to run back for them. Or my wallet, or a dozen other things I misplace during the day and have to go back and retrieve them.

Or when I put something down to pick up the thing I forgot….it’s a vicious cycle.

There was the time I drove thirty miles back for tickets left at home.

Not much exercise to be had but my heart rate did get up there for awhile.

Likewise when looking for something in the clutter of my office.

Lots of pacing and swearing but I don’t think that counts.

Let’s see, two flights of stairs from office to bedroom. Twenty-six steps in all. I only have to forget three or four items a day and I’ve climbed enough to tackle Mount Everest.

It’s not that I’m forgetful, just busy.

My coffee maker is in the kitchen upstairs which means four to six more trips up and down with another one or two to find my phone left lying on the counter.

Added to that, two trips to the mailbox, one to look for a royalty check and another to make sure that the US Mail didn’t forget (guess I have to sell something first).

Then there are meals, up one flight x 3 plus a nap (two flights up).

Probably forget the phone again.

Researchers tell me that each step going up burns .17 calories while a step down takes care of another .o5 calories.

At that rate I would have to do about one thousand two hundred forty-five steps to cancel out  the handful of chips I grabbed on the way back from my nap.

Still, some consider stair climbing to be “vigorous” exercise.

Works for me.

Then there’s that list thing.

After being chided by my wife to make a list before going to the store I have finally done it. Then while entering the store I realize that I forgot the list. Forty yards to the store, back to the car and race home, returning to do it all over again. That’s exercise.

There is a reported connection between obesity and memory loss.

Experts say being overweight can lead to poor memory but that is precisely the way I get more exercise.

So now I have to  choose between losing weight in order to help remember things or rely on my poor memory to help lose weight.

Now, where was I?

 

 

Learning

 

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I made the comment  recently, “I’m tired of learning new things.” I Don’t want to learn anymore.”

Having been slightly chastised by that remark, like a politician, I’ll  have to “walk it back” a little.

I’m 66 and only want to learn what I want to learn.

Like how to catch more fish; walleye, bluegill, just about anything that I haven’t caught for a lifetime.

There are other things I would like to learn. How to hit a golf ball straight. How to write more convincingly. How to get paid for my writing, things like that.

I would like to nurture my relationship with those I care for.  Learn a little more about God.

Did I say I want to catch more fish?

Those are the things I would like to learn.

The following are things that I could easily live without.

Things like flossing, and losing weight.

I have no desire to know more about social media; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and all the rest.

Tagging, being tagged, posting a tweet etc.  is about as exciting as a salad of watercress, unless it’s smothered  in Peppercorn Ranch.

Email is tolerable.

I hate it when every ad that pops up on my screen is now somehow linked to a website I have visited.

How “Single girls from DePere” could possibly have come from a recent trip to Cabela’s is beyond me. Really sweetheart, I don’t know how that happened.

Netflix and Amazon are OK, but there is a rate of diminishing returns as far as my time is  concerned.

If it takes longer to search 300 or so movies, trailers and reviews,  than the actual run time of the show-I don’t need  it.

I would cancel the internet altogether, but it’s the only way I can play solitaire.

I don’t really care to learn another language, get a degree or study physics. Especially study physics.

I don’t want to know any more about those “Five fruits never to Eat.” or “The Seven Retirement Facts You Thought You knew.”

Dear Microsoft: “I do not want Windows 10!”

Other habits like exercise no longer appeal to me. Didn’t I just walk a 10K last year? “Been there, done that.” Let’s move on.

Not to say that I’ve never done anything to change my attitude or lifestyle. After all, I did quit smoking (but could easily start any day if you don’t get off my case) many years ago.

Besides, it’s my right to be obstinate-right?

Maybe I do need to learn more about social media. After all, that’s the only way to develop a platform for getting my writing noticed these days.

I Phones, smart gadgets and all other make and manner of devices are a requirement if a person is to communicate with millennials and their parents.

Blogs, texts,  tweets, face book timelines and pages are all necessary evils in the working world of words and pictures.

Grandpa used to scare us with his false teeth in a glass. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

OK, I probably need to floss and save what’s left of my teeth.

And lose 30 pounds to save what’s left of my wardrobe.

It  shouldn’t be that big a deal but it is. Simply get up five minutes earlier, floss, brush and rinse after breakfast and coffee or, coffee and coffee, which is more accurate.

Then sometime during the day make a point to take a walk, ride a bike, work up a sweat or cut down on  potatoes. http://lpwilsonwriting.com/?p=124

I could probably start to learn a little more about a lot of things-except for anything math related.

But I don’t have to like it.

Hats Off

 

I never was much of a hat guy.                                       

None of my heroes wore hats. Not my Dad or JFK.

James Dean wore cowboy hats in one of his movies, ‘Giant’ and owned a motorcycle cap, like Brando.

I doubt if he wore one while driving his Porsche Spyder, however.

It might have blown off…

John F. Kennedy delivered his iconic inaugural address on a blustery January day in 1961, brown wavy hair blowing in the wind-chilled air, as he and Jackie ushered in the era of Camelot.

My Dad always had a full head of hair, parted down the middle and combed back. Until his later days when he too started wearing a hat to protect a thinning head of hair.

That must be it. In Wisconsin especially, hats are a necessary evil as we age and stay in this climate.

And, I don’t have to comb it as often.

I have several. None that say “Old Fart” or anything like that.

A Green Bay Packers cap of course.

A limited edition one that says “2003 Lambeau Field Project Team.”

That one I got, not so much due to my being involved, but on the off chance of being there at the right time and knowing a guy who knew a guy-that sort of thing.

Another Packers cap honoring veterans. That I like.

Another from NYFD. Goes without saying.

And one dedicated to “Our Real Life Super Hero.”

I also have an authentic Stormy Kromer original gray felt hat with the ear flaps.

That’s my winter cap. The ear flaps don’t quite cover my ears anymore but then my ears aren’t the problem.

I need another “Stormy.” The one I have is used for business, pleasure and even worn to church.

It’s getting kind of beat up for anything but basic warmth.

Would like to get another original, this time the classic red plaid style.

As Leif HerrGessell states in ‘Courage Is A Plaid Hat’, Elmer Fudd did not wear a Stormy Kromer.   http://www.chuckhawks.com/courage_plaid_hat.html

I once had a genuine Davy Crocket coonskin cap complete with tail. Somewhere out there is a synthetic raccoon still looking for his fur.

I have a hard hat that I don’t use anymore. Probably should though, when cutting trees for firewood.

I could get a cap that reads, “Old Fishermen Never Die, They Just Smell That Way.” Not enough room on the hat.

Don’t own a Milwaukee Brewers hat. No particular reason. Maybe if they won some games?

Stocking caps are ok for when it gets really cold but they don’t have a bill to block the sun. That’s another issue I have, eyes and glare.

I could wear one of those golf hats, you know, the ones with no head covering just a headband and bill. But then the bald spot comes into play.

Caps as we know them today weren’t always the fare.

Bowlers, fedoras, straw and cowboy hats were popular until a  couple generations ago when sports teams began to push fan-based caps.

A $10 baseball cap can be just thrown away after 6 or 7 years without washing, but a handmade Panama at $200-that’s a forever hat.

A Green Bay Packers Division Championship Cap from 2016 can be had for around 35 bucks.

A 2016 NFC Championship hat-not available.

Hats may have just been around, like forever.

Wikipedia presents the case of someone named “Venus” of Brassempouy, France who had one some 25,000 years ago, back in Paleolithic times. Not much left of it now.

EBAY might refer to it as “vintage.”

There are many styles to choose from. Ascots to Fezzes, Pith helmets to the Zucchetto, which was recently snatched from the Pope’s head by a rambunctious 3 year old.

Just about everyone in America wore a Fedora at the turn of the century, except for women that is.

Theirs were adorned with big bird feathers, sequins and such, or were just big, loud and floppy.

The Military of course has always depended on hats or helmets for recognition and protection, along with a large assortment of weapons and ammo.

So, there you have it. The Mad Hatter, hats in hand, keep it under your hat, ‘Hats off for Larry’ (Dell Shannon), tip your hat, and a tip of the hat goes to…, Top Hats and Tails.

A doff of my cap, to you.

 

In Search of Honey

    Imagine if you can, a middle aged, slightly balding man, cook’s apron flying while banging on a kettle with a wooden spoon, chasing a swarm of honey bees through neighbors’ yards in an attempt to stop and capture them.

Me, I was about 14 years old with my own kettle and spoon running alongside, making noise and dodging the flower gardens, shrubs and trees just because he told me to.

“Wilson, come on we’re going to get some bees.”

We followed across the alley, through Yeska’s yard being careful not to fall off the path between their garage and garden, across the street and through a vacant lot next to Mrs. Wooward’s, while the swarm alighted in a cedar tree in Carl Wiking’s yard which was right next to my own.

“Just climb up there, Lawrence” he said, while producing a pruning clippers from somewhere under the apron. ” Cut the branch.” I’ll catch them in this box.” Where he found the box, I have no idea.

While climbing I never thought about sitting ten feet up in a tree next to a few thousand live bees while hanging on a branch.

Carl Wiking was not a fan of what we were trying to do. He started arguing, something about destroying his tree and then my mother came out to see what the commotion was all about.

The banging? That was to block the communication between the queen and her workers so they wouldn’t swarm, or sting.

He couldn’t however hold the box, continue the noise and contain Mr. Wiking all at the same time so, the bees took off along with our dream of free honey.

Tom Mankowski, like so many others of the day, was nurtured by The Great Depression and tempered like steel from a world war; A tall man, full of tales and hard work, a picture of responsibility.

His day began at 5 AM in his “Call Again Restaurant” making the soup of the day and  the daily special. That usually consisted of a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, fish on Friday and chicken on the weekend.

Burgers and fries with a malt were staples.

Morning counsel was held at the big table near the kitchen door where local businessmen would gather to discuss everything from politics to the hundred weight price of milk.

Tom held court in between frying eggs and pouring coffee.

He enjoyed stirring up more than just the soup.

As soon as the noon time dishes were done he headed for his side hussle; raising Christmas trees, digging graves, mowing cemeteries, looking for bargains and otherwise finding ways to improve the life of his family of ten.

That, I think was the real gravy of his life.

Then returning for the dinner hour, cleaning up and heading home for the night.

He also had the town’s first ambulance.

I was working but not always getting paid, peeling potatoes in the back room of the restaurant when Tom came rushing through.

“Wilson, let’s go on an ambulance run.” I don’t think he even took off his apron. We jumped into the ’65 Ford station wagon, drove down the alley to the garage behind the funeral home where we picked up a stretcher and portable oxygen tank. We then headed for the rural home and a patient who had suffered a stroke.

My job was to help carry the gentleman down a flight of stairs and then, while Tom drove in excess of the posted speed limit, I was to sit in the back to keep the stretcher from rolling around.

As far as I know, the patient survived.

My dad was a medic in the Army during WWII and then an orderly in a hospital so this stuff was right up my alley.

I later spent 30 years working as a paramedic/firefighter and investigator.

Tom, well he gave me the business schemes. Some good, others not so.

He was the master of recognizing opportunities. Need your lawn mowed? Ask Tom. Need to find an antique hay rake? He probably knew where to find one, for a price. Have some old coins to sell? He would buy them, but watch yourself. He could deal with the devil and come out ahead. Might even sell him a bowl of chili afterward.

He would ask me years later, “well, have you found the big money yet?”

Known to only a few until after he died, he gave away food to all who needed it.

He and the family always took up the last pew in church. That was so they could leave after communion and get back to the restaurant for the dinner hour.

When he died he was buried wearing bib overalls, a sport coat and an old engineer’s cap. His Navy emblems, American Legion Cap and a Flag.

There  wasn’t room in the casket for all the symbols of his life.

Beating the Odds

As the legion of Green Bay Packers fans will tell you-the game’s not over ’till the clock reads “00”.

The Monday morning quarterbacks  come out of the woodwork when the team seemingly fails to finish out a game they thought was already won.

The main criticism seems to center around the approach of “not playing to lose rather than playing to win.”

But then again, going for it on fourth and one on the fifty yard line and failing has the critics proclaiming the coach to be reckless in his gamble.

Life is like that. Most of us tend to look for the comfortable, the secure, the less risky way of life. A steady job, family and a supporting circle of friends, leading to a comfortable retirement.

Certainly nothing wrong with that. But could there be more?

The numbers say that comfortable and secure serves the purpose for most of us. That the majority of us would be very happy to look back when all is said and done and see that we lived a good life surrounded by family and friends,  before passing on to the ever-after.

Poker players will tell you that  drawing to an inside straight is a “fool’s bet”  and to be avoided at all costs. However, the odds of drawing one card to a straight flush or a royal flush are even worse, but the pot is much bigger.

The majority of us will never climb a mountain straight up, sky dive or lead a civil rights march.

We could however, make a big difference by moving just a little outside our comfort zone.

What would happen for example, if you spent an hour a month stocking shelves at  a food pantry, checking in on an elderly neighbor or donating to the cause of your choice.

You could roll the dice and follow the urge to play an instrument,  dabble in watercolor or write a poem.

You could run for local, state or even national political office. You could voice an opinion, be part of a community organization, cast an informed vote.

Feel the need to make a difference? Go for it.

Need to express yourself? Why Not?

Have you ever dreamed of running  a marathon (or walking in one)? Put on your shoes.

Want to know what it’s like to risk all  to answer the call- talk with a soldier.

How much would you risk, to heed that voice in your heart that asks, what if?

What happens when you leave it all on the table? When on your dying bed you can look back and say, “I lived a full life.”

Most of us would think of what if?

What if we didn’t?

Follow the link below to see more on beating the odds.

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