Sunday, December 5, 2010


At Christmastime, when I was young, we sang carols and church songs like "Silent Night," also the lively, jolly "Jingle Bells." Through the years these were joined by some good new numbers like "I'm Dreaming Of a White Christmas" and "Blue Christmas." Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and "The Night Before Christmas" were our standard stories. Later new song-stories came along, including "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "Angie the Christmas Tree Angel" and "Little Drummer Boy."

I still enjoy the beautiful Christmas songs and music that saturate the airwaves and our lives during the holiday season. for two weeks--or three--at the most. Then I decide that cold, dark, snowy January maybe won't be so dreary after all.
Shopping is not all bad. I love to watch the drivers in the mall lots jockeying for parking slots near the main mall entrance. I am amazed at their skill and guile--at their brass and attempts at downright intimidation.

Later, inside the store, they can be seen using much the same strategies and evasive moves while operating shopping carts--cutting each other off at the corners, and effectively blocking off a small display of a scarce item while deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

I spend a fair amount of time looking at the animated decorations. The sleeping, breathing, snoring Santas. And the tiny mechanical animals and elves that festoon artificial trees, barking, yelping, and belching out tunes like "Jingle Bells" and "What Child Is This?"

One thing I miss from the Christmas past is the whisper of currency that has in so many cases been replaced by the sounds of the verification of "plastic pay." Accompanied by the occasional sad, silent shriek of a credit card that is being stretched far beyond common-sense limits.

I am amazed at recent increased participation in and celebration of the Great Day. At times, entire city blocks of homes and lawns are completely decorated with lights--flickering and flashing all over the place. Some neighborhoods remind one, incandescently, of the Las Vegas Strip.

But I often wonder whether any of the warm illumination of these displays ever finds its way into human hearts. What a wonderful world we would have if each of the tiny bulbs actually represented a true expression of love or a real act of kindness.
Christmas is a wonderful time. A beautiful tradition to remember and to enjoy, and to pass on to our children.

I think the owner of a small shop, without giving it a lot of thought, said it best. When asked about the degree of success of his business, he quickly replied, "Thank God for Christmas!"


Scrawny Christmas tree, discarded,
You've seen better times, I know,
As your yellowed needles fall to
Make a carpet on the snow.

For two weeks you lit your corner,
Adding to the season's cheer,
Then your ornaments were taken,
Boxed up for another year.

Out in the back yard they threw you,
In a corner, in the snow,
But you still serve a good purpose,
Something most folks could not know.

You've made yours a life of sharing,
Would have it no other way,
And despite sad circumstances,
You are still giving today.

A small bird, your branches shelter,
With a painful, injured wing;
If I help you out, and feed it,
It will live to fly and sing.

Christmas brings a bounteous harvest,
Precious joys that we can reap;
First, the warmth that comes with giving,
Then, the memories that we keep

Saturday, November 6, 2010



Homecoming weekend was in full swing at the University of Wisconsin. The city of Madison was fairly overrun by grads sporting cardinal red blazers. The supper club we chose for our evening meal was no different.

One of the fellows clad in UW red walked past our table--or almost past it. Then he stopped, turned around, looked me over and exclaimed, "Great Haircut! I like your haircut!"

Good grief! Elroy Hirsch...old "Crazylegs" himself! Former Big Ten football star--later a pro football standout--then athletic director of the University of Wisconsin.

And, as one old gray burrhead to another, he had stopped and admired my haircut! I remembered the Hollywood movie, "Crazylegs," the story of his life. I wondered how many Badger fans were still around who recalled the famous backfield of Hirsch, Pat Harder, Mark Hadley Hoskins and Jack Wink. And the late, great All-American end, Dave Schreiner.

So...Crazylegs stopped and talked to me? Maybe no great shakes as memories go--perhaps even only a mediocre memory--but one that will continue to live on for as long as I have a need or a desire for pleasant memories.


Bits of tattered, shattered memories
Tend to clutter up my mind,
Ideas of no real value,
May best have been left behind.

Deeds that demanded no special
Skills or education vast,
Charting the life I've been living
Won/lost record of my past.

Simple things and not earth-shaking
Healed no wounds, righted no wrong.
Common day-to-day existence
As, through life, I've moved along.

Thoughts that won't make me a nickel,
Buy a home, pay for a car,
Still, I like to tiptoe through them,
So, they'll remain where they are.

Memories of my youth, and older,
Gleanings from my work and play,
Good or bad, they all add up to
Much of what I am today.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Once more, autumn returns to our special, beautiful part of the Midwest. Again, the river bluffs and rocky crags of the unglaciated “Driftless Area” are afire with the bright colors of the leaves of the various hardwood trees and a variety of other plants that cloak many of our hills. Often these areas of brilliant hues are accented by the dark green of small stands of pines, cedars, and various other evergreens. Hopefully, this year we will have a lot of that “October’s bright blue weather” a famous poet once wrote about. With the blue sky above and the sun shining brightly, the scenery is often indescribably beautiful.

Perhaps we become easier to please as the years go by. These days I find a lot of enjoyment in just watching what is going on around me. In her great outdoor theater, Mother Nature can put on quite a show. And you don’t have to make reservations in order to get good seating, or shell out your hard-earned cash for admission tickets.

The Mississippi River is one of my favorite places for sightseeing. There are many parks, boat landings, and other public areas along both sides of the river that are equipped with plenty of benches and picnic tables. If you prefer, you can almost always find a good place where you can set up a folding lawn chair. And just sit back and enjoy.

Some folks really like watching the traffic on the river. The speed boats, jet-skis, and water skiers. And a variety of fishing boats. On rare occasions, we may even see a sailboat. The huge barge tows are always interesting. We can try to guess what they are carrying and what will be their destination. And we can determine how heavily each barge is loaded, by how deep it rides in the water. And then there are the trains. There is a lot of railroad traffic these days. And still that kind of “romantic something” about the sight and sound of a freight train.

And then there are always a goodly number of finny, furry, or feathered critters for us to watch. For me, no “river watching” time beats early October.


I sit here in shady comfort,
Thanks to a big fleecy cloud.
Speed boats out on the Big River
Go a-roaring by, real loud.

I watch antics by daredevil
Kids in wet suits, with ski-jets.
These half-warm, half-cool fall days are
About as good as it gets.

To the north, the sun is shining,
Lighting up bright colored trees.
Up close, the water is rippling
In the gentle autumn breeze.

This world offers many pleasures,
Such as hearing wild birds sing –
If we relax and enjoy them,
We can feel rich as a king.

Outdoor sights and sounds surround us,
Pleasing to the ear and eye,
But we must reach out and grasp them
And not let them just slip by.

In this wonderland, I find I’m
Almost never bored at all,
With this wealth of nature’s wonders
Right here at my beck and call

I watch a hungry woodpecker
With a jackhammer-like bill
That seems almost as effective.
As a big pneumatic drill.

Every now and then I see a
Pair of mallard ducks fly by.
From somewhere high in the clouds. I
Hear a lonely wild goose cry.

A bald eagle slides down out of
The gray sky, seeking a fish,
But this time he comes up empty –
With unfulfilled, hungry wish.

I can see some fellow fishing
Over there in State Line Slough
He’s been throwing back some small ones,
But caught a “keeper” or two.

A huge barge tow moves down river
With murmuring, muffled sound,
Loaded full and riding low, it’s
Most likely New Orleans bound.

I listen to the soft sighing
Of a lonely autumn breeze
Sifting, sorting its way through the
Leaves of brightly-colored trees.

Nature’s full line of enjoyment
Waits right here for you and me.
A great show, and not expensive.
It is mostly all for free.

About all this day will cost me
Is time, and the wear-and-tear
On the seat of these old britches
And my old folding lawn chair.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Jack Buschbom

When a new family moves into a small town, everyone in and around that neighborhood usually takes notice. The Buschbom family's move into Bloomington, Wis. was no different. We were told they came from Kansas, by way of Iowa, and were "rodeo people." The father, Bill, Sr., was a horse trainer and showman, and he had taken a job with Sheriff Joe Greer's rodeo. The boys, Billy, Jr., who was my age, and his younger brother, Jack, wore cowboy boots and learned the trade early.

While Billy was still in grade school he was already performing with his lariats and trick ropes at rodeos, also shows at the Blake's Prairie Fair at Bloomington and at the Twin Picnic (now the Twin-O-Rama) at Cassville. The family later moved to that river town where the Greer Rodeo was quartered at the old Governor Dewey Farm (now the site of Stonefield Village Museum).

We all admired Billy...for the great skills that won him widespread popularity. And we envied him a bit whenever we saw him in his fancy hat and boots...and one of those colorful, shiny western suits he wore when performing.

Later, as the red-haired Buschbom brothers left each year to follow the professional rodeo circuit (where both gained international fame), many of the hometown fans followed their careers, reading stories of their success in the newspapers and often going to see them whenever they performed in the area.

Jack excelled in competition and for several years was the World's Champion Professional Bareback Rider. Billy ranked well up among the better pro bulldoggers and calf ropers, but gained his greatest fame as an entertainer, first with his sensational rope spinning tricks, and later with his trained horse acts. He had a rare knack for working with horses--for being able to teach a horse to work alone in a small circus-type ring, without a rein or lead-line, and to do various tricks and respond to commands, given either vocally or with the snap of a whip. While a large audience "ooh-ed" and "aah-ed," his beautiful golden horse, Sir Roger, would, time after time, leap up, strike out with his forefeet, then kick out with his rear hooves, while still high in the air. Billy developed and performed with a number of other acts, including those with horses named "Mr. Nifty" and "Little Boy Blue."

Billy and his family owned and operated "Buschboms' Cowboy Cafe" in Cassville, Wis. for a number of years. In his spare time, the cowboy-showman taught many impressive and educational lessons on the local pool tables. But during the rodeo season, he and his big car and horse trailer could wind up almost anywhere in this country or in Canada. Anywhere that afforded him an opportunity to compete and to perform for an appreciative, cheering crowd.

Billy seemed as "at home" in the center of the rodeo arena in the Cow Palace or in New York's Madison Square Garden as he did on Amelia St. in Cassville. His travels and performances afforded him the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with a wide slice of the populace, including many people of prominence. His list of friends included many of the cowboy movie heroes and other show business celebrities.

Billy died young--far too young--in 1976. When I visit my grandparents' graves in a cemetery near Glen Haven, I usually stop by Billy's plot. The large monument is appropriately decorated--etched with sketches of a lasso and cowboy boots. The stone not only tells Billy's name and dates of birth and passing, but also informs us that he was a "World Champion Trick and Fancy Roper," and the "Trainer of Sir Roger, Mr. Nifty, and Little Boy Blue--World Famous Horse Acts."

Goodbye, Sir Roger--Farewell Mr. Nifty--and Little Boy Blue.

Happy trails, Billy Buschbom.


Bill, we recall your singing ropes,
Your big gold-plated dreams and hopes,
Those bright and shiny western suits,
White Stetson hat and ostrich boots.

Trick roper in your early years,
Later roped calves and wrestled steers.
With horse trailer and Cadillac
You crossed this country, forth and back.

Your life was built 'round rodeo,
Horses and ropes...the Wild West Show!
You found the thrill success can bring,
Playing "The Garden," center ring!

Your horse, Sir Roger, thrilled each crowd,
Jumped higher, as their cheers grew loud.
You're missed my many, there's no doubt,
Our world dimmed when your flame burned out.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Old Glory - long, proudly may she wave
I remember the Fourth of July in a small midwestern town. Flags lined both sides of the two block along Main Street. Their wooden staffs fitted into metal sockets that were cast in the concrete, near the edges of the sidewalks. And Old Glory flew proudly and colorfully in the breeze.

If rain threatened, the local businessmen watched the sky. As the first raindrops hit the sidewalk, they raced out to retrieve the precious banners before they got wet. And heaven help any clumsy lout who allowed the Colors to even touch the pavement.

It seems that no one tossed flags on the ground and trampled all over them back then. No one urinated on flags ... or burned them. Perhaps people were well-enough educated and intelligent enough then to express themselves and their beliefs and ideas in words, spoken and/or written. Or maybe they realized that it would just not be worth the effort and the pain involved in attempting to do otherwise.

Today's world, with all of its guaranteed freedoms, only makes my childhood memories all the more precious. Lord knows, I have never been accused of being a "flag waver," but sometimes ... enough is enough.


From the East Coast to Hawaii
I've seen beauty everywhere
And way up high above all of those lands and seas

There is a proud and mighty banner
That's been there two hundred years.
I thrill to see that flag a-flying in the breeze.

At times, I am sad and lonely
And I can't even find a smile,
And just can't quite seem to see the woods for trees.

There's just one thing that lifts my spirits
And makes me my blessings count –
The sight of that old flag a-flying in the breeze.

This great country is my homeland.
It's here that I was born and bred;
Here I can do just almost anything I please,

And I never have to worry,
I know that freedom is still mine –
I still can see that flag a-flying in the breeze.

Sometimes I get feeling grateful,
And then I thank the Lord above,
And when I pray, I get right down there on my knees.

Then I thank Him for His kindness,
For I have been truly blessed,
I have seen that flag a-flying in the breeze.

Thank God,
I've seen that flag a-flying in the breeze!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


And old friend and I often compare notes. We agree that our reading habits have followed much the same pattern. As small boys, our favorite part of the daily newspaper was the “funny page,” while our parents were concerned with the news. Later, we concentrated on the sports pages, and noticed that our parents turned first to the obituaries. Then, far too soon, we found ourselves doing the same thing.

Recently two old comic strip friends, Calvin and Hobbes, have returned for a brief re-run visit. Once again, I turn to the comics first. I’ve never failed to be amazed at Bill Watterson’s discontinued strip. His imaginative genius seemed endless. There was constant variety, with Calvin seeing himself as anything from a disgruntled six-year-old boy to a spaceman or the superhero Stupendous Man or an old Mike Hammer-type private eye.

The art work was always outstanding, with everything from simple close-ups of the main characters to crowd scenes to broad scenic views rendered in brush and ink in the finest cartoon style. And when Hobbes, a stuffed toy, suddenly turned into a fierce life-sized tiger, there was action to burn.

I often think of another great comic strip of years gone by. Walt Kelly, with his Pogo Possum, a cigar-smoking alligator named Albert, and a host of other Okefenokee Swamp animal residents, created an entire make-believe world. Fantasy, yet somehow almost believable. A world of political and social satire that often left us thinking, perhaps at times even slightly embarrassed, and laughing at our own human faults and frailties: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Animals about which I write rarely speak English or try to impersonate humans, but seem perfectly content in their own animal world.


For me, the best time of the day
Is when the sky turns to gray
At twilight, just as the
Evening’s coming down.

Soon many wild critters appear,
Large and small, both far and near,
Along the stream that flows
Two miles east of town.

Out in the main stream, a large fish
Makes a “splash” and then a “splish,”
”Mooch,” the muskrat, pokes his
Nose from his damp den.

From far off, a lonely shore bird’s
Sad and lonely cry is heard.
A great horned owl gives a
Loud “Hoot” now and then

Wily “Riley,” the sly old mink
Loves to slither and to slink
Near the water’s edge where
He’ll likely find food.

He is quite mean, a surly chap
Who just does not “give a rap,”
His demeanor can be
Described as quite rude.

”Shifty Ritchie,” the sly raccoon,
Beneath the big bright full moon
Wears his burglar’s mask as
He proceeds along,

He is always careful to stay
Out of old ”Stripey” skunk’s way.
Stripey’s been known, at times,
To come on real strong.

Silently,”Huck,” a young buck deer
Trusting his sharp, and keen ear,
Tip-toes to the shallow
Stream’s edge for a drink.

An aged crayfish named “Uncle Spud,”
Climbs up his chimney of mud
Stops there awhile and takes
Time out just to think.

Out in a large patch of tall reeds
And other assorted weeds
A happy chorus of
Toads sing their love song.

Perched on a large half-submerged log,
”Boomer,” a pop-eyed male frog,
Tunes up his deep bass voice
And sings right along.

Such riverbank night life goes on
Till the long, dark night is gone.
Whether morning’s skies bring
On fair skies or rain,

No one seems overly concerned.
Most likely they’ve never learned
They’re part of Nature, and
Of the whole food chain.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Recently we spent several days getting acquainted with a new grandson. We are almost certain that this little fellow will be the last of the lot. From here on, we will most likely see only more great-grandchildren. But little Noah joins a great group. We have enjoyed many hours, days, and weeks with our grandchildren.

We often hear that the best thing about “our children’s children” is that we can enjoy them. And then when we are finished, we can send them home. But at our house, I don’t remember a time when we were thrilled or even happy to see them leave and go back to their homes. Our youngsters have not only brought us a large measure of joy and happiness, but have done their part in helping keep Grandma and Grandpa young.

I don’t remember seeing a lot of grandparents holding children on their laps or spending a lot of time with them back when I was a child. But today, in stores, restaurants, and various other public places it is common to see the old and the young together. And enjoying it. In a lot of homes these days both parents are working. And the grandparents are retired, mobile, and still young enough to enjoy the interrelationship with small ones. And what better babysitters could be found?

While putting together a collection of children’s poems recently I decided that I lacked a real “Grandpa-type poem.” So I wrote one. And we may as well try it out here.


Grandpa likes to tell me stories
Of the days of long ago,
Although Daddy says he sometimes
Makes up parts he doesn’t know.

Grandpa likes us kids around him
When he’s finished with his nap.
Some of our best times are when we
Are on his well-padded lap.

Grandpa doesn’t move real swiftly
His thin hair is silvery gray,
And he spends a lot of time in
His rocking chair every day.

He likes telling tales about times
Back when he was just a lad.
To hear him, he minded his folks
And was almost never bad.

Each morning he got up early
To help his dad with the chores.
When he wasn’t busy working,
He played, mostly out of doors.

Some of his tales are exciting,
Yarns about the old Wild West
Of all the things he tells us, I
Like those cowboy stories best.

I like hiking with my Grandpa
Through the woods and by the streams.
He says, “Nature is conducive
To dreaming up worthwhile dreams.”

Down by the pond he explains how
Water floats a heavy ship.
When he throws a flat stone “sidearm”
He can really make it skip.

Grandpa says when I’ve grown larger,
But before I get real big,
He’ll teach me to make a whistle
From a smooth green willow twig.

He says one day he will teach me
How to make a baseball curve,
and to face a fastball pitcher
And not ever lose my nerve.

I’ve asked Grandpa about football.
He said, “That game’s rough and tough.”
But he will teach me to play when
I am big and old enough.

He’ll teach me to throw a spiral
And we’ll study all the rules.
Before long I’ll kick long field goals
Like they do in the big schools.

Today I’ll wear my green sweatshirt
And my Green Bay Packers cap.
We’ll go out and play as soon as
Grandpa finishes his nap.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


The older I get, the more I appreciate our Midwest with its four distinct seasons of the year. Maybe that is because I was born and raised here. I can’t really say that I enjoy winter, but I think I would miss it. I am sure I appreciate spring all the more because of it. We often hear that anticipation is at least half the joy of anything. I’m sure that a lot of us begin anticipating spring when the snowdrifts are still “hip-high to a tall…person” (Shucks, there goes another of my favorite old sayings that my politically correct friends won’t let me use anymore).

I do occasionally run into folks who don’t exactly look forward to the seasonal changes. A few just don’t care much for change. And then there are some that are pessimists who aren’t really pleased with anything. While complaining about the cold, snow, ice, wind-chill factor, and frosty forecasts, they don’t like to be interrupted by someone telling about a newly developed variety of seed potatoes he or she is going to order from that colorful seed catalog that came in the mail yesterday.

Believe it or not, such people really don’t look forward to spring. There is all that unsettled weather to look forward to, weeks of mud to contend with, followed by days of hard work raking and cleaning up the winter’s supply of fallen tree branches and trash and gravel from the lawn. And indoors, how will they ever find time to get all their spring-cleaning done? Then there will be all of that never-ending work in garden. And spring gives them nothing to look forward to but all of that lawn mowing and other hard work and, worst of all, the intolerable heat that summer will surely bring.

And that hot season will give them nothing to look forward to but fall. How could anyone enjoy a busy time of year like that? All of those dry, fallen leaves from the neighbors’ trees that the wind will deposit on their lawns will have to be raked up and burned, or bagged up and carted off. The garden has to be “put to bed” for winter. And then there is fall housecleaning. And soon there will be the cold and the deep snow, the icy, slippery, dangerous roads, and the huge fuel bills.

And when winter is finally finished, along comes that busy, messy, muddy season we call “spring.”


A few drab and shabby snowdrifts
Still insist on hanging ‘round,
But if we’re quiet, and listen,
From the woodland comes the sound

Of the spring’s very first robin;
We stop just to hear it sing,
As it does its level best to
Turn our winter into spring.

As that season rounds the corner
Judging by these signs we’ve seen,
Soon the lawns and pastures will all
Turn from dull, drab brown to green.

Trees and shrubs will all be leafed out
In their lacey finery
As they do their best to please and
To thrill folks like you and me.

We can see the buds now swelling
On the maple’s branches high,
Praying for warm springtime sunshine
As they brush against the sky.

Waves of snow-white and pink flowers
On apple and wild plum trees
Will fill mild air with fragrance to
Awake winter-weary bees.

The brook’s music will assure us
That, once again, spring has sprung,
Nests and dens of many creatures
Will be homes for brand-new young.

In farm fields, the newly plowed ground
Will echo the tractor’s roar.
Awaiting the new birth and growth
This great season has in store.

As we look around, we can’t help
But feel we’ve been truly blessed:
All these wonders of creation
Displayed at their very best.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


The moon has been of great interest to people since the beginning of time. Large, bright, and near enough to the earth to be easily seen and studied in many of its phases, yet not so brilliant as to discourage or prevent people from watching it, as is the case with the sun.

As soon as primitive people discovered that the full moon came around regularly, they could use it to measure and record time. Native Americans often referred to something as having taken place a certain number of “moons” ago. People in some parts of the world still measure their year by the moon’s cycles. The moon determines the date of Easter Sunday.

Some early people worshipped the moon as a god or a goddess. For others, it played a big part in their superstitions. Still today, some people wouldn’t even consider looking at the moon over their left shoulder. Many continue to plant their field crops and gardens “by the moon.” They study the almanac to determine the best days for planting. They insist that some crops do better when planted in the “dark of the moon,” and others in the “light.”

A lot of folks feel certain that the moon has a decided effect on certain people’s thinking. The word “lunacy” comes from the word “luna,” meaning moon. Anyone acting irrationally at the time of a full moon is often considered to just be acting “kind of loony”. I’ve never studied any statistics, but a number of police officers tell me that crime rates, especially crimes of violence, increase dramatically when the moon is full. And the old stories tell us that is the time for werewolves to grow hair and fangs, and for Count Dracula and his vampire buddies to become active.

The moon is the major force that creates the tides in the oceans. Many who have studied the distant ball of rock have seen a “man in the moon”. And down through the years, a few optimists never doubted for a minute that the day would arrive when man would walk on the moon. Its silver light has inspired writers, artists, songwriters, and musicians. An early autumn full moon gives farmers an extra measure of twilight time to harvest their crops, and is called a “harvest moon.” The next full moon is considered a “hunter’s moon.” It is possible for the full moon phase to occur twice within one month. The second such stage is commonly referred to as a “blue moon.” Such double appearances of the full moon within a single month are infrequent, so in describing something that happens only on rare occasions, we use the expression “once in a blue moon.”

And then there are many occasions when the full moon is considered by romantics to be a “lovers’ moon.”


The old couple rocked
In their chairs on the front porch,
Looked up at, and studied,
Autumn’s rising full moon.

Smiling, they held hands,
As they counted their blessings,
Later heard the horned owl
And sad cry of the loon.

The old lady smiled,
Whispered, “We’ve been so lucky.
Many of the Good Lord’s
Blessings have come our way.

“We’ve worked and we’ve prayed,
While we raised a good family.
Sometimes those early years
Seem like just yesterday.

“It’s hard to believe
The time passed by so swiftly.
Our children, once babies,
Have all so quickly grown,

“Matured and scattered
Like dry leaves in the autumn
All seeking new goals, and
Doing well on their own.

“That same moon was up
There back when we were courting.
It seems almost to be
A good and trusted friend.

“It’s lighted our way
Through dark nights of our journey,
As it most likely will
All the way to life’s end.”

He whispered, “Yes, dear,
Our life’s been great together.
We have been a good team
All this time we’ve been wed.

“But we’re both aware
That one-day soon we’ll rejoin
Those old friends and neighbors
Who have gone on ahead.

“Side-by-side we walk,
Traveling down life’s long highway,
As we both wend our way
Up toward heaven’s throne.

When we arrive there,
Once more we’ll see the faces
Of our kinfolk and friends.
There we’ll not be alone.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Paddle Or Drift

Now and then I get criticized for being a bit too “preachy.” And this may be one of those occasions. Some years ago I had the opportunity to work with several other people on an inspirational and motivational project. And I found that I kind of like that sort of writing. Asking people to smile and look for rainbows seems to make more sense than pointing out to them all of the things that are wrong with our world.

There are so many inspirational and self-help books already on the shelves that it is difficult to come up with thoughts and methods that are original. But the facts remain the same. Life is usually pretty much what we make it. Oh, sure, we all have some real tragedies in our lives. Unhappy experiences over which we have no control. But we can determine the manner in which we handle such matters.

Many times dealing with the smaller problems and trying to make the best of bad situations strengthens us and helps prepare us for other, larger problems we will encounter along the way. But only if we handle each matter in a positive fashion. To wimp and whine and enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves only tends to weaken and make us less well prepared to face up to life and the real world.

Why waste time worrying about how we wound up in this awful mess we are in? It makes more sense to spend our time deciding where we want to be and what will be the best possible highway to take to get there. Why not be brave and dream the dream. If we focus on a positive path, and stick with it, we can’t help but find our way. And arrive at our goal with a smile!


Who knows just where
Life’s road may lead
Or where this trail will wend?
There could be a
“Hazard” sign hid
Around most any bend.

The path may be
Rocky and rough,
Steep—uphill all the way,
With cactus, stone,
And bramble bush—
No one can really say.

Our way can be
Thickly strewn with
Problems, both large and small.
At such times—with
The going rough—
We all stumble and fall.

It’s only just
A waste of time
To whimper and to cry
About brass rings
We’ve failed to grasp,
Fortunes we’ve let slip by.

If we feel that
We’re failure bound,
That bad luck’s beat us down,
The mean monster
That we call “life”
Will rob us of our crown.

So grasp that rude
Beast by the horns—
Failure’s not worth a dime—
Let’s live life the
One way we can:
Just one day at a time.

On life’s journey,
We find there’s just
One thing that we can do.
Hang on, take the
Good with the bad
And see the project through.

It makes no sense
To idly sit
And watch life pass you by.
Get right back up
Dust yourself off,
Give it another try.

Picture this life
You’re blessed with as
A special, precious gift.
The golden prize
Goes to paddlers,
Not to those who just drift.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Past

Another new year! One more set of 365 days that we hope to enjoy. And, as time goes by, each of these years becomes more precious.

New Year’s Day has always been a church day for me. Both a holyday and a holiday. But as youngsters we all regretted that it fell during Christmas vacation and didn’t give us another day off from school.

Many, many years ago there was a time when it was almost an absolute must for many of us young fellows to be out and about and making the rounds on New Year’s Eve. Provided the winter weather and road conditions cooperated. For a number of years the huge Checkerboard Ballroom at Prairie du Chien was a great place to congregate. There we were certain to run into almost everyone we knew – friends from all of the neighboring towns. There was no better place for music and dancing, and at midnight, hats, horns, whistles, noisemakers, confetti, balloons, and everything it else required to make for an enjoyable and memorable evening. On New Year’s Eve, most dance bands didn’t pack up at one o’clock, but continued playing at least until “halfway to daylight.”

As the years have gone by, I’ve found less and less need for New Year’s Eve socializing. Less desire to fight the cold and the snow, and take chances on icy roads. And to contend with the unusually heavy, speeding traffic, with many of the drivers not in condition to operate their vehicles at their skillful best. Home is now a comfortable place to be. There is no longer any reason or need to stay awake until midnight to “see the New Year in.”

The year 2000 has treated me well. With health, home, family, and a car that runs well and gets at least 30 miles per gallon of $1.50-plus gasoline, I feel that I just about have it all. I attended my first cat show this past summer. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Then, this fall we attended the “annual grape stomp” at a large winery, complete with grape stomping, grape spitting, and cork throwing contests.

In November we made our first-ever journey to Bankston, Iowa to wish Cousin Grace Gotto a happy birthday. And to help her and her family, friends, and relatives celebrate. The large hall was filled and the crowd included a lot of my Iowa cousins, many with names like Ellerbach, Wilwert, and Hayes. Also quite a few younger Gotto cousins. It’s always great to see those folks again. I’ll say one thing for Bankston. People there really know how to celebrate a birthday.

But the year hasn’t been all fun and games. I attended far too many wakes and funerals this year. An unusual number of my relatives and close friends, both young and old, failed to survive the year. Some day I suppose I will delete the late, great Tom Gifford’s name and e-mail address from my computer’s address book. But for the time being, it will remain. Just for old time’s sake. What an individual! What a great writer! What a great loss his untimely passing was for all of us!

I’ve never been much for New Year’s Resolutions. But maybe I should be. Making the resolutions isn’t usually all that difficult a chore. Down through the years I’ve tried a few. Decided that I would make changes that would improve my health, happiness, and success. Usually we can easily find a few faults, flaws, and weaknesses in our makeup. At least I have no problem there. It’s actually the keeping of the resolutions that presents the problems.

NEW YEAR’S, 2001

Now is the time to celebrate
The birth of a brand-new year,
A time for faith and hope and trust,
Not for worry or for fear.

No time to mope about the past,
But to look forward, instead.
Focus on a brighter future,
Envision great days ahead.

We know with each day problems come,
Every month’s another test,
Our whole lifetime’s built out of years,
Let’s make this new one the best.

We’ll seek out progress and success
As this new year passes by.
If we fail, let’s make sure it’s not
Because we just didn’t try.

We often can blame just ourselves
For defeats in early years.
We’ve ignored the success blueprint
Hidden right between our ears.

We’re all seeking a better way,
Hoping to “get in the groove,”
But things don’t just “fall into place”
We have to make the first move.

Most times there really is no need
To relocate, rove, or roam,
Often our “acres of diamonds”
Lie hidden right close to home.

So let’s get those brain cells working,
Be prepared to plan and dream.
Keep looking for the bright side, and
Find that winning theme or scheme.

Happiness follows clear thinking,
Persistence and strength of heart,
Making New Year’s Resolutions
Seems the perfect way to start!