Sunday, October 4, 2009

One More Thing

I haven't used the Yahoo mail account for some time. The mail manager tells me that I was deactivated and all messages are returned to sender. If you tried to contact me via rg7rds@yahoo
and had the message returned I apologize. I reactivated the account. By the way, Bulldog, Ella, Beth, Mateo-you already know my e-mail address I use for business, so there's no need to Yahoo.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Is The End

I'm a Morrison/Doors groupie. The title to this post mirrors that of a song on the Best of Doors double album in my CD collection. I've read a biography of Morrison and felt his descent into alcohol was the end of a wonderfully creative person. In the beginning of the book, there was mention of Morrison's drifting away from his US Navy admiral father over a haircut. Morrison's mother pleaded with the father to relent on the haircut issue. Both Jim and Dad went to their graves without ever reconciling. Sad.
My son text messages me. Our four year old cell phones could be featured on an episode the Flintstones for their basic simplicity. I seldom get a text message, nor do I know the mechanics of bringing up the entire message. "I will not be..." the first part of the message reads. I call Dawn at work. She recently tried to decode a text message that turned out to be from a marketing firm. She didn't remember what she did to bring up the entire message. I leave a voice mail message on no.2 son's phone. "Call me." Two hours later I discover the secret. "I'm not coming up Oct. such and such. I didn't like the cruel things you said about the granddaughter."
Another voice mail to no.2 son. "You sure you want to go down this road." It's taken, what, five or six years to bring about some semblance of a connection with him. I wrote him off for dead. He leaves Chicago after trouble with alcohol, drugs and money. Without so much of a note or phone call, he shows up in Arizona, taking a bus cross country. I'm happy to see him. He stays with us 6 or 7 months. Working a mind numbing job at the local hardware store in a town where 75% of the population is retired, he comes home reeking of propane from endless tourist fill-ups. Lack of people his age, a youthful culture and living at home takes its toll. He's gone for several days before we get a letter explaining his departure.
Now, more b.s. He lives in a four unit apartment house owned by daughter and son-in-law. He's the so-called manager. Is it possible they are putting pressure on him? Don't know/don't care. If he had a problem with my descriptions of a spoiled child, he could have spoken to me in person or phoned. His reticence for a face to face or ear to ear connection is typical.
Cut to the chase. I don't have time for this family feud stuff. A long time ago Dawn tells me not to send the daughter a cardboard box version of Family Feud. She says they'd be offended by the satire. Not to mention making fun of a long series of bad feelings which daughter doesn't want to discuss. ..And they don't like my dog and cat.
I'm weary of being careful in the things I say. Therefore, this is the last post on Seven Roads To Home. If you e-mail me:, I'll let you know the address of the new blog. To those folks who've taken the time to follow, comment with nice thoughts and let me in their lives-I sincerely appreciate you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

More Tea

In yesterdays post I spaced out the title. It happens frequently. I'm so busy concentrating on the immediate, I ignore my surroundings. I get a phone call while I'm upstairs. I forget that I'm washing breakfast dishes and hot water is running in the sink. The previous owners of this place choose inexpensive whenever they make a decorating decision. The cheap sink has a divider between the two tubs. It's the same height as the outside surface, hence the sink overflows and floods the kitchen.

Three Cups of Tea is the true story of Greg Mortenson's work building a school in the northern reaches of Pakistan. There is much in the story that inspires me. Some parts are more than amazing, such as the mountain scenery. Twenty years previously, an Irish nurse travels the difficult road that Mr. Mortenson drives in a heavily overloaded Bedford truck. She goes by horse-back in winter with a five year old daughter. The ravine below the road is littered with the skeleton of a bus that got too close to the edge. Mortenson, when asked about the dangers of traveling in remote Pakistan, an area famous for banditry, bands of Taliban and Al Qaeda " benefactors", replies that the dangers of traveling the precarious "goat path" or road to Skardu was greater than any terrorist bullet.

The picture above is my five year old daughter gathering sumac berries to make Indian Tea, a natural beverage high in vitamin C. The eldest daughter is standing on the stoop of the 16X33 foot Vietnam era army squad tent which was our home for a year. The birch woods in the background was our backyard. In summer one had to watch for poison ivy growing there. The tent was constructed on a platform made from flooring salvaged from the dance hall of the county fair grounds. The west end was eight feet off the edge of the hill. A small deck with a hickory tree growing through the boards overlooked a ravine and woods.

We had a four wheel drive truck and an old Plymouth with a push button transmission I bought from a fellow teacher before I quit a four year stint as an inner city teacher. I'd signed a two year contract as part of the Teacher Corps. After four years of combat, I was ready for the Driftless region of rural Wisconsin. Bill and Dolly were a mismatched team I bought for inaccessible regions of the 25 acres at the end of a dead end road we called home. Across the road was a commune of 100 individuals living in 5 army tents like ours and a main wood structure that housed 33 people. They lived close to the land. smoked a lot of ditch weed and birthed babies in those tents. I was the ambulance driver.

We had no running water, no electricity and a three bench sauna for bathing purposes. On Saturday nights we'd listen to Prairie Home Companion on our battery powered radio. I'd saved $6000 on my teacher salary of $8100 over the course of 4 years. We made a grand total of $150 that year. Cabin fever, lack of conveniences and arguments over my wife's smoking habit bounced us back to the familiarity of the city. Two months of living with her parents made me desperate for our own place. Thanks to a loan from my mother, we were able to purchase a 3 bedroom home on the edge of the city close to the suburbs. The backyard abutted the Milwaukee River. The first thing I did with the huge backyard was to convert it to a garden.

The backyard was a skating rink in winter and furnished us with fresh vegetables in summer. I installed a 16 foot above ground pool on the upper level of the backyard and then a salvaged Lord and Burnham greenhouse where I grew tomatoes and house plants. I wrote of our life in the woods and submitted the story to the local paper. I don't even remember a rejection letter. Just a manila envelope with the story of " modern day pioneering inside" .

Yeah, I'm asking myself; "Where are you going with this story." The answer. I don't know. I'm repeating the same scenario from years ago, only bigger and better. The neighbors erect a brand new pre-fab chicken house and I look at our metal shed along the south fence line. We poured a new cement floor early on with the intention of raising chickens. Trite but true. Been there, done that before. 1971 to be exact. Five pigs, four Muscovy ducks, 300 chickens, 4 rabbits that become 144 rabbits, a dog and two cats.

A gray, misty, dismal dawn where the photoelectric light still burns brightly at 7:00 am has me restless. The Pooch comes in from a brief tour of the grounds. He touches noses with Mandy. I look out the deck window and realize that I forgot to turn off the gas grill. Mandy likes her breakfast slightly cooked. I don't want to dirty a pan-I hate doing dishes-so I throw a cheap cut of pork on the grill. I'm too lazy to get my muck boots on to walk out on the wet deck. There's an old running shoe in Mandy's toy box without laces. I slip it on and hop on one foot to the grill. When I open the deck door , the dog cat and cat are sitting side by side staring at me. You can tell they're amazed by my antics. I chuckle at their expressions. They chase each other around the house until I separate the two. Mandy falls asleep on"her" chair and the cat leaves for another outdoor tour.

I need some fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

An October first cool spell hits overnight. At first light, the eastern sky is filled with cottage cheese clouds and rose colored sun-rays. The reflection off the rest of the landscape is dusty rose. I'm filled with awe. I consider going back inside for my camera. I have dozens of rosy dawn photos. I'll use one of those. With a sweat shirt and a polar fleece jacket on, I'm still chilled. Mandy and the Pooch take care of business and head for the back door. The Pooch forgoes his chicken liver breakfast for hunting the perimeter. Mandy has a favorite chair to climb on. On the back of the chair is leftover Wal-Mart blue polar fleece fabric I'd tossed into her dog house. I removed it when we got a new cedar shaving, faux sheepskin dog bed.

Mandy drags the fleece remnant from the back of the chair onto her lap. Putting her paws together as if in prayer, she suckles a piece of fabric she's pulled up into a cone. Her paws flex on either side of the fleece. I learn yesterday on a trip for organic eggs that her true birthday is June 6Th. She'll be four months old soon. Leaving the Amish farm, I pick up the dog rather than trying to coax her into the car. There are too many distractions. "Have I got the right Mandy?" I quip. She almost as big as her mother. Walking to the car the bucolic scene of geese roosting on the ground near the bulk store, a bin loaded with apples, a loose chicken or two, cows and horses grazing off in the distance and corn shocks in the garden, I shake my head remembering my daughter's visit the past weekend.

In previous visits to the Amish farm she worries about roaming turkeys. On this visit she keeps her daughter close in hand. If it were anyone else, they'd be walking the property showing a city kid the animals. There is so much life that her daughter is missing being cooped up in the central city. My son and I gawk at a bald eagle flying across the highway on a trip to town on this same weekend. He, too, is confined to downtown Milwaukee 5 days a week and an apartment bordering the ghetto. His view is different, savoring the sand hill cranes flying overhead and the cool fall air. I wonder what happened to the oldest kid. At four she walked through the woods to a farm school. The disconnection to nature is sad when I consider how she's stuffed her life full of city baloney. When their house is broken into, she talks of buying a duplex in the nearest suburb.

Yesterday's trip to town is a busy one. Stops at Tractor supply for the dog bed and an expensive can of venison dog food followed by a side trip to Wal-Mart where I catch up on the latest gossip and buy the cat fresh chicken livers are only two of many trips. I talk to my mechanic about the truck and schedule an appointment. The trip to the hardware store is canceled when I actually find all the hardware I need for constructing a door to the dog house at Wal-Mart. We shield our eyes passing by the cheese corner. They've got a new sandwich I've had twice in the last week. It's gooey and delicious. When I pull up to the hospital drive-around to run in and pick up a prescription, I'm cussing at the driving habits of a geezer in front of me. I'm remember telling myself when I was younger, I'd never be like those gummers. Now I'm almost a gummer( I still have my teeth). I'll never be a slow, oblivious and dim witted as the people I run across daily.

The last of the green peppers go into the dehydrator. Dawn has the day off as a trade for working a fund raiser on the weekend. I finish off a half bushel of apples in the dehydrator which fill a gallon freezer bag. I take a sample to my Amish friends for their two youngest children. Having a five and ten year old watch over Mandy while we travel to Lacrosse is comforting. Mom asks if I'll dry some apples for snacks for the kid's lunches. They offer to trade apples for the cost of electricity. I tell them I'm doing it as a favor for a friend. "We still are friends?" I ask "Maybe I should run an extension cord to your place." The idea is so ludicrous that we all guffaw. I leave the farm promising that as soon as the dehydrator is free I'll take car of their apples. Mandy falls asleep immediately on the short drive home. She climbs into her doghouse to nap when we arrive.