Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesdays with Buddy the Dog (and toad skin)

Because Roberta has a class that meets on the fourth Monday of the month, I worked yesterday for her and she is working for me today. One nice thing about this is that I get two days in a row off from work -- a sort of midweek weekend.

Last night I went to the library to pick up four items they had on hold for me. I had forgotten what I had ordered, but now I have the following things checked out: Mordred, Bastard Son -- a novel based on the Arthurian legends; and four audio books: Beowulf -- translated from the Old English and read by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney; Shakespeare: His Life and Work -- read by biographers Richard Hampton and David Weston with selections from the plays performed by Judi Dench and Timothy West; Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson; and Dry -- a memoir by Augusten Burroughs about his treatment for alcoholism and the aftermath.
Incidentally, I find his account very interesting, but he goes against one of the most basic principles of Alcoholics Anonymous by violating anonymity. Maybe later on in the recording he will explain why. I do assume that all the details and names he uses -- other than his own -- are changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
After taking Buddy the Dog for a short walk (his official morning walk on a leash), I went to the bank to deposit a couple of checks, and then by Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription. The pharmacist neglected to punch some button and I wound up having to pay for everything else at the register, then return to the pharmacy to have that cleared and pay for the prescription there. This is the second time in the last month that there has been a glitch of some kind with a prescription, and I told Colleen that the pharmacy and I seem to be having "issues." She said they just wanted to see me more often, and then suggested I get my prescriptions for three months at a time. This would save me two bucks over a three month period for each prescription, or about thirty-two dollars a year. So I guess I won't complain too much. It's like getting one prescription free for three-quarters of the year.

Today was the day Joe and Evelyn took their grandkids to the train. Since I wasn't there, Joe gave me a call to see how I am doing. He also told me that they were able to hire a new office assistant who seems to be working out very well. I am glad to hear that, and it was nice of him to check up on me.

Tom is the volunteer conductor all day, so it is one of my days to cook. It is a hot and muggy day, so I have opted for an elaborate southwestern salad -- layers of lettuce, carrot strips, red onion, black beans, kernels of corn, avocado, strips of grilled chicken, salsa, shredded cheese, black olives, walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled tortilla chips. For dessert I got something called a piel de sapo melon. This unfortunate name means "toad skin" in Spanish, but the melon itself looks like a small watermelon on the outside and a honeydew on the inside. It may be common, but I think it will be the first time I am having it.

Hope I don't get warts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Very misterioso

This evening after work, the volunteers and staff gathered for a celebration. I am still not sure what exactly was being celebrated. One version of the story was that a couple of the volunteers were celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They had renewed their vows and had a lot of food left over from the reception. We were supposed to help consume the leftovers.

The other version is that they had been married, got a divorce and had just remarried. The food bit was the same, and we were supposed to help eat the leftovers.

Supposedly they were arriving about 3:00 and we would all eat around 5:30 after the last train had returned from its run and been put away. We closed up shop, the last train returned. There had been no sign yet of the folks with the food, although there was a lot of peripheral activity focused on drinks. Actually, the happy couple arrived around 6:00 and began to reheat the food. We had all been sitting around the picnic tables for a while, wondering what was going on.

Beverages appeared.

Followed by a lull.

Bread, honeydew melon slices, some sort of relish and green pepper strips appeared. Some people were getting restless and sneaking anxious glances towards where the food was being heated.

This went on during yet another lull.

It was getting on towards seven, and having had only a meal bar for lunch, I finally stood up and got a roll to sustain me. A bunch of others followed suit. A box of wine was broached but only one person wanted any. Two bottles of champagne appeared and were set next to the boxes of plastic forks and bags of paper plates. Also four bottles of salad dressing. A sheet cake was put out.

We had another lull during which time people munched on bread and wondered what the relishes might be.

A pan of pasta appeared, accompanied by ambrosia salad, tossed salad and some sort of whipped strawberry gelatin. People delicately dug in, unsure if other options were coming and whether this would possibly stretch to feed the crowd that was pretty hungry by now.

During the next lull people nibbled and began to look hungrily at the sheet cake.

A bucket (literally) of margaritas appeared. Neither Tom nor I drink, but it seems not many of the others were drinking liquor either.

Another lull.

About 7:15 the bulk of the food appeared -- mashed potatoes, a half dozen Italian sausages, a pan of fried chicken, some Italian beef, chunks of cantaloupe and a bag of chocolate-covered strawberries. Also a large fragment of an elaborate marble cake to supplement the sheet cake. The bride (?) likes chocolate, but the Wal-Mart bakery did not have a chocolate sheet cake and had been unwilling to frost one at the last minute. The sheet cake said, "Happy Anniversary" but whether it was an anniversary was still not clear. An ambiguously worded toast to twenty-five years of marriage also left me uncertain. Were those twenty-five years behind or ahead?

At least three trains drove by during this time and honked at us as we all waved to them. Some guy slowly rode his bicycle along County N and looked over curiously. I have no idea what he thought was going on, and I am not sure I knew any more. And I was at the party.

Anyway, Buddy the Dog was there and got to eat some of the leftovers, and he was happy as a lark. He didn't seem to worry about what the celebration was for. He just really liked the Italian sauce in the pans he got to lick.

When I got home about 8:00, I realized that I had stripped everything off my bed when I left this morning, intending to do the laundry when I got home. Now the evening was advancing and I had four loads of laundry to do.

Oh joy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


No, the train was not stolen. I stole this account of the arrival of Number 128 from Tom's blog. As he mentions, she arrived back in pieces, so it will be a while before she looks as good as she did in this old photograph.

Number 128 came home to the railroad yesterday, after a long absence, arriving on a truck, in pieces. It will take several years, and many thousands of dollars in donations, to restore the engine and tender to operating condition.

Number 128 was built in 1948, and ran at the Sandley facility until 1981, when it went to Knoxville for the World's Fair Railway. It was rolled, rebuilt, and then went to the Knoxville Zoo. Number 128 was eventually acquired by Ron Krawczak, a member of the preservation society, and it was donated to the museum by his widow.

Number 128's homecoming brings to five the number of Sandley engines owned by the RGN, which is a not-for-profit living museum dedicated to preservation of the facilities, locomotives and rolling stock made by the Sandley Light Railway Equipment Company between 1947 and 1980.

Each of the five locomotives -- an electric work engine, Number 1 (a Tom Thumb, built in the 1947), Number 98 (an American 4-4-0 built in 1957), Number 82 (an American 4-4-0, virtually the twin of Number 98, built in 1958), and Number 128 (a 4-4-2 built in 1948) -- was hand built by the Sandley works, and each is, in its own right, a work of art.

Number 128's homecoming brought back memories to many of the members who witnessed her arrival yesterday. Many of us had ridden behind her when we were younger, from the 1950's to the 1980's, when the Sandley works was in operation. Gary, one of the men who traveled to Milwaukee to bring her home, rode her on his honeymoon with his wife Bev. Jim, who was instrumental in working out the details of the donation with Mrs. Krawczak, had worked on Number 128 when he was a teenager.

We were all glad to see her come home.
When Tom says it will take many thousands of dollars to restore Number 128, he is talking about $50,000. That is no small change for this little non-profit volunteer operation. And as is so often the case with non-profits, it would be great if a major donor would step in and help, but it will probably be the pennies the kids drop into the donation jars that ultimately will make it possible for children who are yet to be born to have a chance to ride behind Number 128 the way Tom did when he was a boy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Buddy the Dog

Buddy the Dog is a nice dog, but he has some ... I hesitate to call them character defects, because they are unrelated to character, I think.

For instance, he is a bundle of hair and likes to deposit clumps of hair all over the house. I do not mean the occasional individual hair. I mean clumps. And he doesn't seem to paw them out. He just sits down, gets up and walks away from a pile of hair.

No sooner had Tom brought the newly cleaned and shampooed rugs back in than Buddy the Dog began lying on them to leave little wads of fine black hair. That's what he is doing in the photo. I got a pet comb at Wal-Mart, and Tom combed out enough hair to stuff a small mattress, but it is basically a never-ending process. I remember Helen combing him once and the pile of hair she got was almost as big as Buddy the Dog himself.

We try to pick up the larger clumps because Tom says they burned out a vacuum cleaner once when all the hair got tangled up in its mechanisms.

He also pads around the house, but he doesn't pad so much as click. His nails on our wood floors go click clack click clack click clack into the wee hours of the night as he roams from one room to another.

He also seems to think that any activity in the kitchen is somehow related to him. The cats will come running at the sound of a can opener, but Buddy the Dog trots over as soon as he notices anyone has gone into the kitchen. He is used to getting some human food to supplement his dog food, and I notice that the bag Jay brought us is for weight control. We don't give people food to the animals, but that doesn't stop Buddy the Dog from looking expectant.

He is, on the other hand, a quiet dog and very friendly without being all over you. He and the cats know one another from of old, and after a couple of exploratory sniffs, they settle down to share the domain. I realize, of course, that this means the cats have deigned to let him remain in their domain, probably remembering that he doesn't stay around all that long when he visits.

The trick now is for us to figure out who gets to come home in the middle of the day to let Buddy the Dog out to answer the call of nature. He could probably last all day, but why risk it? And Tom doesn't want to leave him outside all day with no one here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Odds and ends

The Mighty Huntresses continue to bring us gifts -- birds, half of a mouse and so on. I'm not sure what set them off this week.

Also on the animal front, Buddy the Dog is here for a couple of weeks. Helen is in Chicago visiting and Jay is on his way to meet her there and then head to points east. So this morning on the way, he dropped off Buddy the Dog. They should be back to get him around August 5. With Tom taking care of Peg and Rich's dogs pretty regularly and us having Buddy the Dog so often and having almost taken care of Betty for Bob and Ann, maybe we should just open a kennel. Of course, we'd have to discuss it with the cats first. We already say this is a home for wayward boys and cats, and I guess adding dogs to the list wouldn't be much of a stretch.

Tom went by the Screnocks recently to help with the installation of Joe's computer in his library. That went well, but I was sad to learn that the paralegal they had hired to replace me did not work out. I noticed yesterday that they are advertising for someone, so that means they realize the need for help.

Speaking of the Screnocks, every summer Joe and Evelyn have what they call Cousins Week. They don't do any legal work and for a week they have all of their grandchildren - well, not the two now in college -- stay with them at the farm. The idea is for the cousins to have a chance to get to know one another without their parents around. So that means the Screnock grandparents get to deal with ten kids -- ranging in age from about three to mid-teens -- without any assistance. (This also gives their kids and spouses a week off from childcare for themselves, which is a nice gift to them.) They usually go to a waterpark one day, have some activities for the kids to do at the farm and take them around to various other places that are fun and also educational. They plan to bring them to the little railroad next Tuesday. They will picnic on the grounds and then take a ride and learn a bit about how steam engines work along with some local history. I am not sure if I will be there that day, but Tom will be serving as conductor and will make it special for the kids, I am sure.

Tom has been wanting to take the rugs out to shampoo them, and today is a dry and sunny day. So he hauled the dining room and living room rugs out and I did some floor cleaning while he was at it.

Now I am off to Baraboo for a meeting and maybe a few errands along the way.

Monday, July 21, 2008


It's not funny, but a story on the Madison news tonight about a small printing company in a nearby town facing a complete shutdown had an amusing moment.

They were interviewing one of the young men who works there, and he said, "It's nerve-wracking. I depend on this job, because I've got a truck."

I told Tom some things in Wisconsin sound an awful lot like Texas.


A friend from Chicago days, Hannah Goldschmidt, was in the Dells over the weekend looking at a possible time-share, and Tom brought her to ride the railroad yesterday morning and she came to dinner last night. Hannah is a vegetarian, and Tom made vegetable lasagna. Excellent! Just after we finished dinner, Peggy came over with her dogs and a niece, Lindsay, what was visiting from Milwaukee. They joined us for coffee and dessert and a fine time was had by all.

Today I am off from work, and I have a few errands to run. Peggy and Lindsay had gone to see the movie, Mamma Mia!, Saturday night and recommended it, and friends of Hannah had also enjoyed it. So we may go see it this week, although the critics' reviews I have seen have not been so positive. The big movie, of course, is The Dark Knight, but the Batman movies are not among my favorites. There is a possibility John will be coming up for a while, and he may want to see that, if he hasn't already. So maybe that one will be on hold.

Meanwhile, here is a video of Tom and Cassidy watching television. Okay, it's not Tom and Cassidy, but it's close enough. Click on the arrow and enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Well, the last couple of days have been exhausting at the railway. We are now using the new software, and it works fine. But much of yesterday we kept finding the gaps -- something we could only do by actually using it -- and figuring out how to fill them in. Today Roberta had her first day using it, which meant I got to try to work my station and help her along in the middle of some other chaos (don't ask) that was going on practically on top of her.

Well, okay, I'll tell you. The powers that be decided that today -- Day Two of the new software and Roberta's first day with it -- was the perfect day to start running two trains and work out all the kinks in that system as they went along. The radio conversations -- which were sometimes a bit heated -- were all being done from a microphone right beside Roberta's workstation. So we were trying to wait on people, do a bit of training, troubleshoot the occasional problem and ignore the shouts in the background. And this was all on the busiest day of the year so far.

Somehow we have all survived, and I think with each passing day things will improve.

At least, I can hope so.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rabbit and ribbit

This morning Sundance came crying into my bedroom, hopped in bed and demanded attention. She was covered with dew, so I assumed she had been out hunting. She jumped off the bed and ran into the living room, then came back and started on me again. I finally surrendered.

The take this morning was another bunny (dead) and a frog (live). Tom disposed of the bunny while I put the frog out onto the deck. This time only the frog hopped away.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flip flop

This evening when I got home, I turned on my computer and waited for it to load. I kept hearing a popping sort of noise, but the cats didn't seem to be up to anything. A few minutes later, I decided to look under the bookcase. Helen had told me the last time they found a headless bunny, the head showed up sometime later under a bookcase.

I did not find the head, but I did find another bunny. This one was alive but had gotten itself stuck in one of the sticky traps for the mice. I put on gloves, picked it up -- have you ever heard a small rabbit cry? -- and took it outside. Surprisingly, I was able to get it disentangled from the trap. It sat for about half a minute in the rocks out front by the door and then hopped away.

Not carrying a basket of Easter eggs, but I think it was happy.

At least it wasn't a snake.


Flowers and such

This is what I see when I look out my window in the morning -- a patch of blackeyed Susans. Because my side of the wildflower garden is more sheltered and shaded, the flowers do not bloom as soon and they do not grow as tall. One happy result is that the flowers do not get as beat up by the wind and rain.

Tom scattered wildflower seeds when we first moved up here, and each year has brought a different look to those areas. This year the Susans really came into their own. Other flowers bloomed first, and we had an early wave of pink and purple, then a lot of blue, but now the predominant color is yellow, mixed with some whites.

On the other wildlife front, yesterday afternoon during a thunderstorm, a single turkey ran through the backyard like she was heading for shelter somewhere down the ridge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wooly wooly

Common mullein, also known as wooly mullein, is an erect herb. First year mullein plants are low-growing rosettes of bluish gray-green, feltlike leaves that range from 4-12 inches in length and 1-5 inches in width. Mature flowering plants are produced the second year, and grow to 5 to 10 feet in height, including the conspicuous flowering stalk. The five-petaled yellow flowers are arranged in a leafy spike and bloom a few at a time from June-August. Leaves alternate along the flowering stalks and are much larger toward the base of the plant. The tiny seeds are pitted and rough with wavy ridges and deep grooves and can germinate after lying dormant in the soil for several decades.

A couple of these things popped up in the area between the front yard proper and the woods. Tom was fascinated by them -- they are huge, five to six feet high. Today I decided to try to identify them online, and this is it. The bad news is they will drive everything else out, so Tom just headed down to chop them down. I think he said something about taking his chainsaw, but I don't think they have gotten quite that big yet ...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Today we tried to work while a new computer system was being installed that will change the way we sell things and presumably (I'm hopeful but cautious) will speed things up and ease things along. It was more than a little crowded and chaotic, and during most of the day I was trying to do four things at once. I was totally ready to go home at 5:00. Tomorrow I am off work, but I have to go in from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for training on the new system. I shouldn't complain. Tom was conductoring today, but he had to go in early to help move some things around for the computer installation. So he was there from about 7:00 a.m. until 5:45 or so. And he's an unpaid volunteer!

I may just sleep a big chunk of Wednesday. I'm the lucky one, though. Roberta, Ann and Mary have to work all day and then stay for the training afterwards.

When I went into the living room this morning, there was a headless baby bunny lying on the carpet. Oh, and one ear.

Sundance's eye looks fine today. Cats!

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Dells-Delton social life

Rich is in Canada working for a couple of months, so Tom invited Peggy over for dinner tonight. He got some ribs from Wal-Mart -- precooked -- and gussied them up with more barbecue sauce and heated them on the grill. They were scrumptious and messy, as befits BBQ ribs, I suppose. We had deli cole slaw and potato salad, and Peggy brought over half of a lemon pound cake she had baked. She said it was more like a two-and-a-half pound cake, and I admit it was pretty dense, though tasty.

She also brought over some lilacs for Tom to plant somewhere. He decided there are too many skeeters out for him to fool with it tonight.

So now we can settle down to watch two episodes of The Big Bang Theory and try to digest dinner.

A trip to the cat doctor. But wait! There's more!

This morning was pretty productive. I got a couple of papers graded and handled some related business with the Institute. I returned one book to the library and picked up two others they had ordered for me. I got a mailer so that I can send Cynthia my picture.

Most importantly, we took Sundance to the cat doctor over at Dells Animal Hospital.

It seems that Dancer has Horner's Syndrome -- a sign of nerve damage, caused we think by her bot fly problem a couple of summers back. It doesn't require treatment in and of itself, but we need to keep watch for potential problems with eye and ear infections. It is a sort of feline version of vertigo along with sinus problems. Sundance meowed piteously most of the way over, but she was completely silent on the way back. I thought the doctor had given her a sedative, but Tom said she was just traumatized from the very complete examination she got.

When we got home, I received a call from Fr. Jude Peters at Holy Hill, inviting me to his silver jubilee on Saturday. I remember Jude when he was just entering the Carmelites, and it is hard for me to think he is already celebrating twenty-five years of profession. Unfortunately I have to work and will miss the jubilee. On the other hand, he also asked me if I would be willing to revise and udpate the history of the Shrine sold in the gift shop. I already did a minor revision some years ago, but they never got around to printing it and a lot has happened since. So this time I will be able to do a more complete version, and I will be earning money as a writer. Hurrah!

I plan to go down to meet with him about this project later in the summer, and after the railway job shifts into lower gear on Labor Day, I will be able to devote serious time to getting it done.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

R Place

Without giving the whole complicated story behind it, Bob and Ann Lacost at the railway wanted to take me and Tom out to dinner, and tonight was the night selected. Without going into that further, it turned into a situation where about ten other people invited themselves along.

At any rate, we wound up suggesting R Place, the one nice place in the Dells that we take guests to for a real dinner. Don and Mary Kay Rich own the place, Don cooks great Northern Italian food and Mary Kay is a welcoming and friendly hostess. It has been a while since we were there, but they welcomed us and the whole crowd to a very nice meal.

That may not sound too exciting, but that is a Saturday night in Wisconsin Dells when you are a bunch of retired folks who run a little railway.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Cynthia asked for a recent photograph that she could hang in their new home, a photo to replace the one that I gave them twenty years ago. That was a picture from the days I was skinny as a rail, and I had had it made into a puzzle as a Christmas gift for the kids. I wasn't sure that my appearance had improved any with the passage of decades, but Tim kindly took some shots when he was visiting. This is the one I selected. (A print is on its way, Cynthia, eventually.)

If it looks terribly Texan and terribly patriotic, that is because it was taken at the employee and volunteer picnic on July 4th after I had been working at the railway all day. I thought a straw hat would be better than my railway cap. At least, it was different from what everyone else was wearing.

I know I may look solemn, but when I smile for a photograph, it always looks pretty absurd. So the best I can manage is something like complacency. Tim also tried to get some candid shots, but in most of those I look like I am whistling for a dog or doing some kind of duck imitation with my lips.

Meanwhile, we had terrible storms all night last night and I got little sleep. We are due for another line of them in an hour or so, and then it should settle down to hot and muggy. At least we did not lose power, and there are no trees down as far as we can tell.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cateyes and other things

As I mentioned, Sundance seemed to have something wrong with her eye -- she has had this problem before -- so yesterday I called to make an appointment with the vet to see her this afternoon. Then last night, she looked much better and we thought maybe it wouldn't be necessary.

This morning Tom thought maybe it wasn't better, so I planned to take her at 2:45. When I brought the carrier up from the basement, she sniffed it and disappeared. I was wondering if she had run away, but I eventually found her hiding under my bed. Around lunch time she came out and her eye looked almost perfect, leading me to call and cancel the appointment.

Now, of course, several hours later, the eye looks less than perfect again. Not terrible, and definitely better than a couple of days ago. But still ...

There were no other appointments available today, and tomorrow and Friday Tom and I both are busy all day. We will keep putting the ointment on her eye (or trying to, at least) and hope it keeps getting better.

I wish I knew why it can look fine for a while and then look messed up. It is the third eyelid (the nictitating membrane) that is the problem, and it seems to not open fully all the time. When it does open, the eye looks good. Then it will not open all the way for a while. According to what I have read, this means the cat is sick. Or sometimes it doesn't mean anything. The only way to find out is to get her to the vet.

She doesn't seem to have any other symptoms. Tom says she is sleeping a lot, but -- hey! She's a cat. That's their job.


I think this is the feline equivalent to that funny noise your car makes until you take it to the garage for repairs. Then the problem disappears.

Oh, there was another frog on the rug this morning -- this one dead. And a wild turkey ran through the back yard while I was having breakfast. Yesterday I kept hearing a skritch-skratchy noise like a mouse, but I could never find it. This morning there was a fat little one in the trap behind the bookcase in the library. And that's the critter report.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cats gone bad

This evening Sundance starting whining and talking under the table. Since her eye has been infected (I may have to take her to the vet tomorrow afternoon) I went to check on her. She had brought in a small frog and was waxing verbose over it.

I scooped up the frog and put it on the front porch. Sundance went prowling around trying to find it, so I scooped up Sundance and put her on the porch.

She came back in and prowled around, meowing and making a general nuisance of herself, no doubt waiting for one of us to go to bed so she could jump in and prevent any reading from going on.

I did finally go to bed and had just picked up my book when Tom opened the door to my bedroom to announce that the cats had brought in a snake.

It was a small but fat garter snake that Cassidy had dropped under the dining room table. Tom shone a flashlight on it from a safe distance and I picked it up -- after prudently putting on some canvas work gloves conveniently near at hand, just in case -- and tossed it out the back door.

Cats! These are definitely not the new and improved version.


Do you put things up or do you put things down?

Thirty years in the monastery trained me to put things up. A place for everything and everything in its place. The fact that the initials the Disclaced Carmelites put after their names were OCD (the initials for the Latin name of the Order), which can also mean obsessive-compulsive disorder, may not be an accident.

Thirty years of marriage and a houseful of kids taught Tom to put things down. When he is interrupted while reading a book, he just puts it down wherever he happens to be so he can deal with the latest crisis. When he wants it, he'll find it again -- sooner or later. He sees no reason to put away the iron and ironing board because -- hey! -- he'll eventually iron some more shirts. The list could go on, and he would assure you that I recite it to him with some regularity. (The kitchen is the particular sore point, although we are making progress. Not perfection, just progress.)

One reason I put things up is that I tend to forget where I put things down. Yesterday several of us spent a half hour trying to locate a pricing gun that I put down (instead of up) when I had to go answer the phone and then got distracted by other tasks before getting back to what I had been doing. It was indeed where I had put it, but because it looked like part of the lathe on which I had carefully set it, four of us looked right at it several times before I finally saw it from the right angle to recognize it.

Anyway, up or down?

I think I can

Tim took over 600 photos at the railway Saturday, but I hadn't seen any until Tom posted a few. Here is my favorite, showing the little train that could trudging along through the woods and dells. (That rock formation on the side there is a small version of the formations along the Wisconsin River that give the area its name.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008


So this afternoon, Gary comes into the shop and says, "Congratulations, Michael I saw your name up on the board."

Puzzled look from Michael. "What board?"

"The board at Perkins. You won the drawing this week for two free meals."

There is a Perkins more or less on the way home from the railway, and every now and then Tom and I stop and have dinner there. Last week when we were there, I noticed that they had one of those boxes that you put your business card in and they draw one every week. The prize is two free meals. For some reason, I had a couple of outdated business cards with me, and so I tossed one into the box. If Gary hadn't told me I won, I doubt I would have ever known.

So I stopped by on the way home this evening and got my gift certificates. Tom was already grilling for tonight's dinner, and Tim is still with us until tomorrow. He heads back to Chicago tomorrow morning, having taken seventy-two gazillion photos at the railway. He picked a good day. It was beautiful weather and we were incredibly busy. No one seemed to mind having their picture taken, either, so that was good. These pictures will be used on the web site and in other advertising stuff.

Anyway, Tim will head home and tomorrow evening, after another long and likely busy day, Tom and I will head for Perkins and see what we haven't already tried from their senior menu.

It's not the first thing I've ever won, but it is nice nonetheless.

Fourth: A Recap

We had a very busy day at the railway -- the busiest Fourth of July in memory. We are not sure why, but a number of factors probably worked together. The weather was beautiful, sunny and dry. The mosquito problem has diminished, even if it has not disappeared. Lots of people seem to be doing things locally rather than drive far away for the holiday, but the fact that this is an actual three-day weekend meant that the tourist population was great by comparison to recent weeks.

My flag tie was a big hit.

After a long day at the shop, I went to the picnic for the volunteers and employees. Tom and Tim Dodd (who had marched in the Witwen Fourth of July Parade in the morning) also came, and a good time was had by all. I had deviled eggs for the first time in a long time, and my first watermelon of the year.

I called Mama and Daddy to wish them a happy Fourth, too. I hope all the Dodds had a good day. I still remember all the Fourths we spent at Daddy Dodd's lake when I was a kid , a sort of family reunion in honor of Mama Dodd's birthday as much as the Fourth as a holiday. Usually that meant the first serious sunburn of the year.

Tim and Tom hit the fireworks in Reedsburg, but I was tired and let them go alone. I was in bed soon after nine and I could hear the fireworks up on Christmas Mountain. But I was comfortable and soon asleep.

Thus endeth the reading.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Later, that same day ...

The thunderstorm didn't amount to much, so we took off for Madison. Well, we tried to take off, but we soon discovered that Berry Road, which had been damaged down by the pond, was under re-construction there today. So we turned around and went the other way.

We went to Savers first, a thrift store where the clothing is affordable at least. I got a tie with flags on it to wear at work for the Fourth of July. I looked for a train-themed tie, but no luck. I did find a vest that fit and would have looked good with a pocketwatch chain draped across my middle, but it was dry clean only and I don't buy dry-clean-only costume bits.

Then we ate Japanese at the mall, wandered around and wound up at the Barnes & Noble. Tom bought a few used books and we headed home. He gassed up along the way, because once we got outside the Dells, gasoline could still be had for $3.999.

Not a very exciting day, but tomorrow will bring a guest (Tim Dodd) for the holiday weekend, and we both got the notice from the gummint that our economic stimulus checks are due this week. Whoo, doggie, won't that be sweet?

Meanwhile, one of my online students has sent me his final three papers but has neglected to send the first, and I am trying to get that one from him so that I can grade them in sequence. (There is a reason for this.) I emailed him about it yesterday but haven't heard anything yet. Considering that the first paper was due in March and he didn't send anything until the end of June, I am not feeling too much pressure to get things graded immediatley. Still, I would like to finish it all up, get his grade in and get paid. Whoo, doggie, won't that be sweet, too?


Today being a day off, I spent a little time cleaning up while Tom was out mowing and trimming weeds around the flowers along the sidewalk. The front porch (more of an entry than a porch, to be honest, although we do have a couple of chairs out there) was filthy. We always come in by way of the garage and laundry room, and most visitors do, too. So we don't always realize what a mess of blown leaves, spider webs and other detritus is there. I swept it not long ago, but a broom is not adequate for the job.

So I took out the shop vac and cleaned it up reasonably well. The shop vac is good for this sort of thing, but the cord is about six inches long, so it is not the most convenient machine. But it sure does suck up those webs and cocoons and leaves. The porch is not spotless, but it is a vast improvement and the fancy flamingo that Peggy made for us at Christmas can watch over it again with some dignity under his top hat.

Then I came in to vacuum the rugs inside with the good old Eureka. I got the one in the dining room done and was just finishing up the living room when it just stopped. I thought I had blown a fuse, but changing plugs didn't help and everything else was still on. So I pushed it again and it came on. Who knows? One more sweep of the carpet and suddenly I am standing there holding the handle/bag part of the thing while the entire base unit sits quietly on the floor. It had come apart in my hands!

Fortunately, I had kept the bolt that I found lying on the floor a week or so back and, sure enough, that was the missing piece. Tom found a nut that fit and put it back together, and now I am back in business. I have been taking the Eureka to work with me to clean the store in the morning because the two vacuums there are useless. Dragging it around, in and out of the back of the Vibe, has probably not been all that good for it.

Now (9:15 a.m.) a thunderstorm is coming through, and radar shows another larger storm coming along behind it. We had been talking about going to Madison today -- it has been months since we went down there, largely because we have been so busy and because of gasoline prices. Expensive name-brand gas was $4.099 around here yesterday; less expensive but still name-brand gas was $4.039. I am so grateful that my work is now only five miles away instead of all the way over in Baraboo. Okay, fourteen miles to Baraboo. Still ...

Travel plans on hold while we wait to see what develops.

And that's the morning report.

As Karl says, "The world will end at nine. Details at eleven."