Monday, September 29, 2008

So is it okay to panic now?

Or, as we used to say in lots of budget meetings I had to sit through, are we having fun yet?

Soft kitty

One of my favorite television shows is The Big Bang Theory. The Sheldon character is a scientific genius with no appreciable social skills and lots of neuroses. (Tom unkindly says that I watch the show because Sheldon is just like me. I deny having any scientific knowledge, however.)

Anyway, in one episode, Sheldon gets sick and his roommate and all his other friends abandon him because he is so needy. They trick Penny, a lovely neighbor on whom his roommate is majorly crushing, to take care of him. In this scene, Sheldon teaches Penny a song his mother taught him when he was a sick little boy. I sing it to Sundance now when she crawls into bed to cuddle.


St. Michael

Now I know none of the Dodds will know this, but today (September 29) is the feast of the Archangel Michael. Also of Gabriel and Raphael, but the feast originally belonged to Michael alone and the other two -- the only other angels named in the Bible (Raphael only in the Catholic and Orthodox version) -- got added in when they decided to simplify the church calendar. Anywho, as Rusty would no doubt say, that makes it my feast day, although I wasn't named for St. Michael but for some friend of Daddy's whose name was Michael Scott and whom I never met.

This icon is one that another Michael, Fr. Michael Berry, OCD, gave me for Christmas a few years back. The scroll the archangel is holding reads, "As foremost of the host of the Lord am I now come."

Michael, of course, means "Who is like God?" in Hebrew.

Happy feast day to any of you out there named Gabriel and Raphael, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dodds and ends

Just a few bits of stuff ...

Thursday on the way back from Reedsburg, I saw a horned owl sitting on the side of the road. I have seen owls before around here, including in our back yard, but this was as close as I have been to one, I think. Very cool and big bird! Otherwise not much of interest happening on the bird and other critter scene.

On the flora scene, on the other hand, it sure seems to have turned autumn very fast. Leaves are turning and falling. Most of our wildflowers are gone, but we have a nice bunch of asters out front that help the sedum provide color. When we were taking down the tree in the back last weekend I discovered some sedum back there, too. I don't know if Helen planted it when she brought the plants out front or if it is a volunteer.

The R&GN had its annual members meeting yesterday. Although I am a member, I chose not to go with the full membership with voting rights, and so I don't have to attend meetings. (I attended enough meetings with the Carmelites to last me forever.) Tom, on the other hand, is a life member and had to go to part of it anyway. I agreed to handle the gift store alone so that Roberta and Mary could both go, but Matt came in to help a bit. It was a busy day, but not too much for one person to handle.

This weekend was the Wisconsin Dells City-wide Garage Sale, and Tom and I hit a few of the sales. There was some really good stuff -- including a six-piece living room suite that was only $45, comfortable and in great shape. Unfortunately we don't have any place to use such an item. Too bad it wasn't around when David and Reebecca were up here a couple of years ago, shopping the thrift stores for furniture for their apartment.

Tom hemmed and hawed over a home theater sound system for the living room and also over a small CD player for his office, but his inherent financial caution won out and he walked away. He told them he might be back, but I know him well enough to know that he won't.

I did buy one thing -- spent a quarter on a Hoberman sphere, a toy that looks like a sort of collapsible geodesic sphere. Open, it is a sphere; collapsed, it looks like a dead spider or some such thing. Mary calls it a stress ball, because it is suppose to relieve stress as you open and collapse it. I have to admit is is somewhat addictive. I tossed it around for the cats who sniffed and then snubbed it. Matt, on the other hand, thought it was pretty cool, so he may wind up with it when I have gotten rid of all my stress. Just hope he's in no hurry!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not that I know anything

I was telling Tom today that in the last couple of days I have actually heard people talk about wondering if they should take all their money out of the bank and hide it. Or about waking up in the middle of the night wondering what is happening to their IRA and 401K, and not being able to get back to sleep.

I suppose one advantage of having nothing much is you don't have to worry about losing it.

But I know when things begin to look so shaky, it is not funny for people with families to support . I suppose Tom and I could clear some more trees (well, Tom could) and we could plant some corn and beans and try to fight off the raccoons for it. The cats could just start eating those mice they keep leaving on the living room or dining room floors. And we could walk to WalMart instead of driving. That would even be good for my health, I bet!

Meanwhile, don't panic.

Or, if you must, remember what Emanuel Celler (once a New York congressman) said: "The panic of the Depression loosened my inhibitions against being different. I could be myself. "

So if you wind up with nothing left but yourself, enjoy being yourself. That's what the Good Lord sent you into the world with, and that's about all you're going to take out of it anyway.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The other day I saw something that I thought would make a funny Christmas gift for John if he comes up here after his first semester at the University of Texas Law School. While trying to find the same thing online (in a size that might actually fit him), I ran across a whole bunch of lawyer gifts. My favorite was a refrigerator magnet that said, "What if there were no hypothetical questions?"

I suggest that for the presidential debates.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

This morning while I was in Reedsburg, I stopped in at the Dollas Store and at Pamida to see if they had anything pumpkinish for the railway's October pumpkin trains. (Every kid who rides the train gets a free pumpkin.) I didn't find anything useful, but I was a bit surprised to see that Pamida has almost all their "harvest decor" (think Thanksgiving pilgrims and such) on clearance to make way for the Christmas stuff they have already started putting out.

Then I remembered that I had seen Kohl's putting Christmas ornaments out for sale last week.

Boy, the leaves have just begun turning!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mumbly Monday

Michelangelo was here until this morning, and we enjoyed his visit. He and I had time for a good visit before Tom got in Thursday evening, and then he and Tom spent time hiking around, working at the railway and so on. I helped them (well, I pulled on a rope and didn't get too much in the way) take down a tree in the back yard. It was a tall skinny birch, a favorite of the woodpeckers and clearly getting ready to fall over on the deck and possibly the roof. Tom had postponed doing anything about it, but with the additional help, he finally agreed with everyone that it had to come down.

Food report: Thursday I made pork chops; Friday Tom grilled chicken; Saturday I made enchiladas suizas (which Peggy loves) and she brought an apple pie (which we all loved.) Sunday night we went to eat at R Place, an Italian restaurant in Lake Delton that is well worth a visit, after which we played Ticket to Ride, the game Tom got for his birthday. Tom and Michael worked together on great breakfasts over the weekend -- scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausage. This morning Tom took off right after Michael got up, so I made him chilaquiles with the leftover tortilla strips from Saturday.

And now back to normal (?) for a while, anyway.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Kristin has been quick to jump on board to help me sort out insurance options, and I appreciate it. As I told her, there is no real need to worry. I just like to play the drama card from time to time. I admit the health insurance has been the ongoing nagging problem for the last couple of years. But I have managed to pay my doctor bills, get my prescriptions and even pay for my colonoscopy without bankruptcy hearings.

As I say, life goes on.

I thank you for your concern, nonetheless.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bad news

Well, I got turned down for health insurance. So now I will have to consider other options. Most likely my only option is going to be live without it and just deal with it. There is a shared high risk program in Wisconsin that I will look into, but I will most likely be unable to afford it. My boss at the law firm had that, and I know that I could not even pay the premiums he paid, much less have anything left over to pay the deductible.

Ah, well. If I can live long enough for Medicare to kick in -- and if there is still any money in it -- I guess I'll be okay.

Trains, trains and more trains

For his birthday, Debbie Kinder gave Tom a beautiful print from an old H. H. Bennett photograph of a train. (Bennett was an important photographer who lived in the Dells and who invented stop-action photography. Debbie is his granddaughter.) Tom printed up a few pictures to go along with it and arranged the photos (the Bennett one is in the middle) on the wall at the end of the buffet, between the dining room and the library. It turned out very well, even though the pictures look a bit lopsided in this photo.

To continue the train theme, Rebecca and David sent him a train-themed board game, Ticket to Ride. After I went to bed last night, Tom and Michelangelo played it to try to figure out how it works. They were a little perplexed at the beginning, but decided by the end that they liked it. I imagine it will be a big hit when everyone is here over the Christmas holidays.

The people who make this game also have one based on a monastery. The ad for it says, "Never trust a Benedictine." I wish I had one to give to some of my Benedictine friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The Riverside & Great Northern Railway had a float in the parade Sunday -- which I missed because I was working at the railway -- and here it is. That caboose is one of our actual cars, but it is not currently in use while some more work is being done on it. Those are volunteers and their children on the float, including (somewhere hidden) my friend Matt.

The Stewards of the Dells also had a float, with a large model of the rock on their logo. I told Tom it looks like a big wasps nest to me.

Meanwhile, last year at Wo-Zha-Wa the Oscar Mayer people sponsored a contest to find a new kid to be in their commercials, and the grandson of our friends Jack and Pat Anderson won. This is a picture of the composer of the famous jingle ("I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener..." You just know his mamma's proud!) presenting Will Wegner with a copy of the lyrics he sang. Will was eight when he won, now nine. He comes from a theatrical family of sorts, his father being a high school drama teacher and his mother also being involved.

And for Daddy -- who is celebrating one of his birthdays today (September 17) -- I have a picture of the Shriners riding their motor scooters.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


While Tom was away in Chicago, his friend Debbie Kinder and her husband came by to set up the display in our yard that you see in the photo. Debbie had come into possession of seven flamingos from a women's retreat group you attends, and she wanted to surprise Tom with them. Because they had been used in an ongoing prank over a period of years, they are a bit battered and worn, but they are now sitting at the end of the sidewalk, bringing the number of pink flamingos in our front yard to 38.

That, incidentally, is quite a bit shy of the number of years Tom is celebrating for his birthday.

Tom is a very generous man, but he also doesn't like celebrations very much, being the center of attention or getting gifts. It made it a challenge for me to find something for him. I found a Hallmark card that plays the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (he has an extensive collection of Clint Eastwood movies) that says, "It's just a birthday... face it like a man!"

There is a craft mall nearby that has little bags of stuff for gag gifts. So I got him a "Pocket Exercise Kit", which consists of a small wooden block. The directions say,
1. Place block in the middle of room.
2. Run around block twice.
3. Sit down and relax. You've done two laps around the block!!

Then there is a packet of three Cow Seeds", which look like Lima beans with black spots painted on them. The instructions say to plant them six feet apart (cows grow really big) and right side up (or cows will grow upside down). Cow seeds are self-fertilizing (don't think about it) and need lots of time to grow. They suggest mooing softly while watering.

Finally there is the "Old Age Survival Kit" which contains
Aspirin: For all your new aches and pains.
Match: To put the fire back in your life.
Rubber band: To give you your flexibility back.
Toothpick: To help you prop your eyes open so you don't fall asleep.
Gem: A reminder of how valuable you are.
String: To tie around your finger so you won't forget things.
Marble: To replace the ones you've lost!!!
Birdseed: For impromptu dinner parties at the park.
I had invited Peggy to join us for dinner tonight, partly because it;s Tom's birthday and partly because Rich is still in Canada. (They got Tom a cap.) She offered to bring an apple pie, and I was planning to make enchiladas suizas. Then after it was all arranged, Tom got a call and has to go to a meeting, so that's that. We will try to get her over one night while Michelangelo is here. She met him last time he was visiting.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Kristin says that I have a quaint life.

Hmm ... Maybe we should rename The Lodge and make it Quaint Acres?

Quaint (according to Wikipedia):
  1. Having old-fashioned charm.
    • It's a very quaint village with old-fashioned storefronts.
  2. Strange or odd in an interesting, pleasing, or amusing way.
    • came forth a quaint and fearful sight - Sir Walter Scott
  3. Highly incongruous, inappropriate, or illogical; naive, unreasonable -- usually used ironically.
    • of a quaint sense of honesty - Paul Engle
  4. (obsolete) Characterized by cleverness or ingenuity; skillfully wrought or artfully contrived.
    • to show how quaint an orator you are - Shakespeare
  5. (obsolete) Overly discriminating or needlessly meticulous, fastidious.
    • being too quaint and finical in his expression - Roger L'Etrange
The first thing that came to my mind was the opening of Poe's "The Raven":
Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary
over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...
I suppose it is quaint, certainly compared to the life I led in Chicago or DC. Small towns do lend themselves to quaint more than major urban centers, I suppose. For one thing, there simply is nowhere to go. When I lived in Hyde Park, I was within an easy walk of the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, of the Museum of Science and Industry, of two Starbucks and at least one other coffee shop where one could sip coffee, watch people and read the newspapers for hours. There were five or six Thai restaurants within a five block radius, and I could hop a bus or train and be in downtown Chicago in no time. Walk out to Promontory Point or along Lake Michigan. Visit a half dozen Unique Thrift Sores. Peruse the used books at Powell's and check out the freebies they left on the sidewalk. Go to the Field Museum or the aquarium or the planetarium, all conveniently located on the Museum Campus by the lake.

Here when all gets deadly dull, you can ... visit the Craft Mall or the Antique Mall. Get a senior coffee at McDonald's. Drift through WalMart or, on an upscale day and with a coupon, Kohl's.

Admittedly, there is the river and the dells and the woods. And even the little railway. And good small local libraries. If either of us were gamblers -- and we are way too prudent and too cheap -- we could hit the casino. But really ...

Maybe it is bucolic, more than quaint, in the sense that my own life seems more rural than village-ish, and I think villages are quaint. There are quaint villages and towns around here, but the trinket shops and waterparks render Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton far from quaint.

My life is not really bucolic, at least not in the sense of actually having a herd of sheep or cows. I am not sure a flock of flamingos counts. And while Jerry has a passle of barn cats up on his farm, I am not sure that a herd of cats is any more imaginable than a square circle. One can say it, but what could it possibly mean?

Anyway, today I did laundry, including the linens from the guestroom so that we can get that ready of Michelangelo's arrival. Then I went to the library -- where I am even now -- to work on the history of Holy Hill a bit. I did make some progress there, which is a good feeling. Tonight after Tom gets home, he will probably iron shirts while I watch The Big Bang and/or read more about ancient Rome or the Maya.

I just noticed that all three of the books I bought on Saturday have the name of the same guy in them. I don't know him, or even if he lives in the Dells, but we have disturbingly similar interests, book-wise. I mentioned it to Laura, my supervisor at the library, and she suggested I call him and tell him to just give me his books instead of going through the library. That way we can just cut out the middle man.

How quaint.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Soggy Saturday and Sunday

Well, it was lightly rainy pretty much all day Saturday. Chris was very tired from his drive up Friday evening, and after staying up late talking with Tom, he slept until almost noon. Afterward they went over to the railway for a while. I decided to try to go by the book sale again later in the afternoon, but despite the rain, downtown Dells was jammed with people. I was pleased to see that the arts and crafts fair had lots of folks, so the bad weather wasn't ruining it for the dealers. There was no place to park within ten blocks of the library, and I decided I didn't need to lug a bag full of heavy books through the rain for that distance. Anyway, there is another sale in October ...

After managing to find frozen okra in Reedsburg, Tom made chicken gumbo for dinner, and we topped this off with carrot cake. Then we sat around and talked for a while before Chris got out his computer, and Tom and I grabbed books and the place turned into a quiet reading room.

The rain got much heavier for much of the evening, and the cats went in and out for a while, trying to decide what they wanted. Sundance was outside when I went to bed to read, so I got quite a bit further in the Maya book before she turned up and demanded I put the book away and pet her.

This morning Tom made blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and Chris headed into the rain between here and Chicago. After he left, Tom got cleaned up to head to Chicago himself. He will stay overnight with Rebecca and David and then see his doctor in Hyde Park tomorrow morning for his regular checkup.

I went over to the railway for a while to visit with Roberta and spell her for lunch. The weather was not actually rainy, but it was cool and overcast, and business was very slow. Add to that the competition with the Wo-Zha-Wa parade (in which the R&GN had an entry), and it was a quiet day at the old Sandley Light Rail Works.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crash of rhinos

I was reading a comic strip about a crash of rhinos (meaning a group of rhinos), and it got me to wondering about other collective names associated with animals. I was aware of some -- like a murder of crows, a pride of lions, an exaltation of larks -- but it turns out there are a bunch more. So for your edification and education, here is a list I found, with some of my favorites highlighted:

A herd of antelope
A colony (swarm, army) of ants
A shrewdness (troupe) of apes
A herd (pace) of asses
A culture of bacteria
A cete of badgers
A battery of barracudas
A shoal of bass
A sleuth (sloth) of bears
A colony of beavers
A swarm (cluster, grist, hive, nest) of bees
A flock (congregation, volary, dissimulation, parcel) of birds
A sedge (siege) of bitterns
A sounder of boars
A herd (gang, obstinacy) of buffalo
A brace (clash) of bucks
A flight (flutter) of butterflies
A caravan of camels
An army of caterpillars
A clowder (clutter) of cats
A herd (drove, drift, mob) of cattle
A brood (peep, clutch) of chickens
A clutch (chattering) of chicks
A bed of clams
A quiver of cobras
A rag of colts
A cover of coots
A kine of cows
A band of coyote
A herd (sedge, siege) of cranes
A float (bask) of crocodiles
A murder (murmuration) of crows
A litter of cubs
A herd of curlews
A cowardice of curs
A herd (bevy) of deer
A pack (kennel) of dogs
A pod of dolphin
A pace of donkeys
A dule (flight, dole) of doves
A paddling (brace, flock, raft—in flight, team, paddling—swimming) of ducks
A convocation of eagles
A swarm (bed) of eels
A clutch of eggs
A herd of elephants
A pod of elephant seals (weaner pod = yearling elephant seals)
A gang of elk
A mob of emus
A business of ferrets
A charm of finches
A school (shoal, run, haul, catch, drought) of fish
A swarm (business) of flies
A skulk (leash) of foxes
An army of frogs
A colony of frogs
A gaggle (skein when in flight) of geese
A swarm (cloud, horde) of gnats
A herd (tribe, trip) goats
A charm of goldfinches
A cloud of goldfish
A band of gorillas
A cluster of grasshoppers
A leash of greyhounds
A down (husk, down, mute) of hares
A cast (kettle) of hawks
An array of hedgehogs
A brood of hens
A hedge (siege, sedge) of herons
A shoal of herrings
A bloat of hippopotami
A drift (passel, parcel) of hogs
A harras (herd, remuda, string) of horses
A pack (mute, cry) of hounds
A husk of jackrabbits
A band of jays
A smack of jellyfish
A troop (mob) of kangaroos
A kindle (litter) of kittens
A deceit of lapwings
An ascension (exaltation) of larks
A leap (leep) of leopards
A flock of lice
A pride of lions
A plague (swarm) of locusts
A tiding (tittering) of magpies
A sord of mallards
A stud of mares
A richness of martens
A labor of moles
A troop of monkeys
A barren (span) mules
A nest of mice
A shoal (steam, swarm) of minnows
A watch of nightingales
A family of otters
A parliament of owls
A yoke (drove, team, herd) oxen
A bed of oysters
A pandemonium of parrots
A covey of partridges
A muster (ostentation) of peacocks
A litter of peeps
A rookery of penguins
A nide (nye, bouquet) of pheasants
A flock (flight, kit—flying together) of pigeons
A litter (drove) of pigs
A shoal of pilchards
A wing (congregation) of plovers
A string (drove) of ponies
A pod (herd, school) of porpoises
A run of poultry
A coterie of prairie dogs
A covey (bevy) of quail
A nest (bury) of rabbits
A pack (swarm) of rats
A rhumba of rattlesnakes -- the best of the lot! And illustrated above...
An unkindness of ravens
A crash of rhinos
A shoal of roaches
A bevy of roebucks
A building (clamor) of rooks
A run of salmon
A family of sardines
A herd (pod, trip) of seals
A shoal of sharks
A flock of sheep
A nest (bed, knot, den, pit) of snakes
A walk (wisp) of snipe
A host of sparrows
A cluster (clutter) of spiders
A dray of squirrels
A murmuration of starlings
A mustering of storks
A flight (gulp) of swallows
A herd (bevy, lamentation, wedge) of swans
A flock of swifts
A sounder (drift) of swine
A spring of teal
A colony (nest, swarm, brood) of termites
A mutation of thrushes
An ambush of tigers
A knot (knab) of toads
A hover of trout
A rafter (raft) of turkeys
A pitying (dule) of turtledoves
A bale (turn, dole) of turtles
A pod of walrus
A nest (herd, pladge) of wasps
A school (gam, pod) of whales
A nest (generation) of vipers
A knob (bunch, trip, plump) of wildfowl
A pack (route, herd) of wolves
A fall of woodcocks
A descent of woodpeckers
A herd of wrens
A zeal of zebras

Try to use at least one of them in a sentence today, and see if you can keep a straight face.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Later the same day ...

Well, Chris didn't manage to get away from work until way later than expected, then ran into bad weather and traffic congestion getting out of Chicago, so dinner was delayed until about 8:00. Tom waited until the last minute to put the pork chops on the grill and then got so busy talking with Chris that he forgot to take them off until one was pretty much tasty charcoal. The others were edible, though, so we managed fine. Chris had brought an apple pie for dessert. After dinner, he and Toim watched the DVD of the draining of Lake Delton while I did the dishes, and then we had pie.

At that point they started talking politics, and I decided to post this short account and turn in for the night.

The weather report is for rain tomorrow morning, clearing in the afternoon. As I said before, Chris doesn't require much entertainment, but I am sure he and Tom will find things to do. I will wait and decide what I want to get involved with when the time comes. There is talk of a morning trip to the book sale, for example, that I will likely join.

Coffee, cats and books

Yesterday and today have been book sale days at the library. Yesterday I helped put books out for the sale, which is today and tomorrow. This morning Tom and I got there just as the doors opened, but we were certainly not the first ones. People were grabbing and stacking and bagging and generally carrying on like book freaks.

Unlike ME, of course!

Actually I only bought three this morning: Joseph Campbell's classic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; a third edition of Gallenkamp's book on the Maya; and one volume of A History of Private Life, the first one on pagan Rome and Byzantium.

The books were three for a dollar, and I saw lots of other things of interest. But there is only so much room on my shelves, so I decided to stop with these titles.

Tom, on the other hand, got about twenty books, ranging from a collection of Zane Grey novels to a biography of Greg Louganis and a book on who wrote the Bible. Yesterday I saw a biography of the adtor Anthony Perkins that looked interesting, but it had disappeared already by the time I looked for it today.

Kathy, the head librarian, told me to be careful not to buy any of the books we had donated last spring. We must have given them four or five large boxes for the sale. I only saw one that looked familiar, but then I didn't look at every book there. This doesn't mean all our donations were bought in the sale last June. They get more books than they can put out, and as books are sold, other boxes are brought out of storage to fill in the gaps. That's why it is worth going to the sale both days.

We went by WalMart on the way home to shop for food for Chris's visit, and now we are waiting for him to arrive. It was supposed to be mostly sunny today, but so far it is cool and overcast. Not the best start to Wo-Zha-Wa. I hope it doesn't rain. The arts and crafts people and the antique dealers will have a lousy time of it if it does.

Despite the title, I have nothing much on the cats or coffee, really. I just liked that picture that I found online and wanted to use it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to the Lodge!

Jerry Williams, a Carmelite priest friend from Chicago (although now he is a pastor in Kansas), used to refer to Tom's place here in the Dells as The Lodge -- until the first time he came up here (before the house was built) and discovered he was camping in a tent. We still joke about The Lodge from time to time.

Over the next few weeks, The Lodge will be welcoming a number of guests back. Tom's friend Chris will be arriving from Evanston on Friday to spend the weekend. The following week Michelangelo will get here on Thursday for a few days. Then Tom's daughter Lucy and a friend are coming in mid-October.

So we and the cats will be busy with hospitality for a while. This weekend's Wo-Zha-Wa activities will make it easy to entertain Chris, not that he's difficult to entertain anyway. For Michelangelo, we may have to work a bit harder, but generally he is happy if he has a cup of coffee in his hand and a bag of cheese curds (don't even ask!) nearby. He likes to work outdoors, so Tom may have him help with some of the fall cleanup around the house. He's also a member of the R&GN Railway, so he might get dragged into working over there some. (That'll teach him to accept our invitations!)

By the time Lucy & Friend arrive, the foliage should be nice and they may be satisfied with a train or boat ride to enjoy the colors.

Just remember, The Lodge has comfortable guest accommodations and Tom is a great cook. Even the cats are welcoming, and if you are lucky, the pileated woodpeckers may put in an appearance.

On another front, I have been plodding along with my book on Elijah and today got started on the updated history of Holy Hill. I am waiting to hear back from the editor of Spiritual Life magazine about when the article they have accepted is likely to be published. I imagine next spring if I am lucky.

I have been having a lot of email correspondence about the Carmelite Institute Distance Learning Program. The new director is interested in sending more students my way, which would mean a nice increase in my income.

I completed and submitted my application for health insurance. I should hear within a week or so if they approve me. If so, coverage will begin October 1. So tuck that away in your prayers.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Muezza (or Mu'izza) (معزة) is said to have been Muhammad's favorite cat. The most famous story about Muezza recounts how the call to prayer was given, and as Muhammad went to put on one of his robes, he found his cat sleeping on one of the sleeves, and instead of disturbing the cat he cut off the sleeve and let him sleep.

Muslims apparently approve of cats, considering them clean and wholesome. Christians, at least in the Middle Ages, associated them with witches and the devil, partly because cats are never mentioned in the Bible.

Sundance must be descended from Muezza.. When I am in bed trying to read, she climbs up and lies down on top of my arm and expects me not to disturb her, even to turn a page. I suspect she thinks I should just cut off my arm and leave her alone.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Many moons ago ...

One of the back ways into Baraboo -- necessitated by the construction that has been going on all summer and complicated by the washout when Lake Delton decided to head south -- takes you along Moon Road. It is not heavily populated, just a few houses and a couple of working farms.

One of my favorite sights, though, is a birdhouse with See Rock City on its roof.

When I was twelve, as I recall, we took a trip to Georgia to see the relatives and so that I could see where I had been born. One stop on the trip was at Lookout Mountain and Rock City. It was terribly foggy, and I think Ted (and I?) actually got out and walked behind the camper at one point because Daddy was having to drive so slowly.

Anyway, I suspect the chilluns is too young to remember seeing Rock City signs on barn roofs and sides, but the birdhouse always cracks me up.

At the railway shop, by the way, we sell Burma Shave signs. Just the Burma Shave one, though, not a whole series with the funny poems. Sigh! Another sign of a youth gone by.

If they did sell a whole set, I would be tempted to buy them and place them alongside our driveway or along the road. Of course, we would not want to have them compete with the flamingos.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sabbath thought

I personally think we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.

(This is not original with me, but it sure fits me too much of the time!)

Golden time

As most wildflowers have disappeared or turned brown, we move towards the golden days. There is a lot of yellow now, lots of goldenrod, some scattered blackeyed Susan remnants and some other leggy yellow flowers that look like blackeyed Susans but without the black center.

Even some of the leaves on trees are beginning to go yellow, but we have had so little rain until just recently that those may just be drying up. We are not yet to the colors shown in the above photograph, but soon it will be that beautiful on the river.

Our flowerbeds, mostly wildflowers, also are looking pretty scraggly and sad, with the exception of the patch of sedum (hens and chicks) that Helen gave us last year. I didn't expect it to survive the winter, but it not only did that, it has come up flourishingly and is now beginning to show some purple color. I'm tempted to get more so that we have something to look at after the wildflowers have peaked and gone.

Even without new flowers, though, our trees will make the place beautiful for a while. Already the tine crabapples are showing color -- but they are only about the size of grapes.

On the fauna side, meanwhile, there were two dead mice on the carpet this morning and part of another mouse tail. The traps have been pretty full this week, too, another sign of the weather turning.

I just stepped out front and a hummingbird came buzzing up and hovered about a foot in front of my face for a few seconds. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn't sipping his nectar.

And don't get me started on the flies!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

For Ted

A young engaged couple were on their way to church to get married when they were in a terrible automobile accident and were both killed.

They appeared at the Pearly Gates, hand in hand, and St. Peter started to let them in. But first they had a question.

"Can we get married in heaven?"

St. Peter scratched his beard for a moment and said, "I don't know. No one has ever asked to get married in heaven before. Let me go in and check. Meanwhile, just sit here."

The couple sat down on a nearby love seat and Peter went off to find out what he could.

They waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

A day passed, then a week, then a month, then two months.

Finally, after three months, Peter came back with a big smile on his face.

"Well, I've made the arrangements. You can get married in heaven."

The couple started to walk through the Pearly Gates when they hesitated again.

"What if it doesn't work out? Will we be able to get divorced in heaven?" they asked.

St. Peter threw down his quill pen and turn a bright red, clenching his teeth.

"What's wrong?" the young couple asked in alarm.

"Look," Peter told them angrily, "it took me three months to find a minister up here. Do you hav any idea how long it will take to find a lawyer?"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008



No, that's not a Wisconsin sneeze. It is a festive celebration of autumn, Wo-Zha-Wa Days. Wo-zha-wa is a Ho-Chunk phrase meaning, basically, "Let's have some fun!" There are elements of Mardi Gras silliness about it, I guess, as indicated by the cheeseheads on the marching band in the photo, but it is a very family-oriented thing and nothing for anyone to worry about.

Traditionally it has come to mark the end of the season in the Dells, a couple of weeks after Labor Day. There is an arts and crafts fair, antique flea market, live entertainment, a 100-unit parade, a street carnival with refreshment concessions and the Wo-Zha-Wa Run. Most of the activities are free, since it is mostly a local community celebration (although the businesses are hoping to wrest a few more shekels from the participants.)

Many of the shops along the main strip will close for good after this, and Wo-Zha-Wa is also a way to try to get rid of the last bits of inventory if possible before putting up the shades for the winter.

There is another Fall Festival in October, so I guess the tourist-hunting never quite dies in Wisconsin Dells. The R&GN has special pumpkin trains in October. All the kids who ride get a free pumpkin, and it is apparently the biggest month of the year for the gift shop business.

(I probably told you all this last year. Well, as I told someone recently, I no longer have senior moments. Now I have junior moments. Senior is pretty much all the time.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Summer's end

I haven't seen the hummingbirds out front much this summer, although I have occasionally noted one among the wildflowers in back. The last few days, though, the front yard birds (or the backyard birds now in the front yard) have reappeared and are fighting over the feeder just like last year. It may be that the wildflowers are starting to dry up, which they seem to be, and that the birds have to go to the feeders now for their sugar fix. Whatever the reason, they're back and buzzing.

I am also noticing turkeys along Berry Road again. I know they have been out there, somewhere, but now I see some almost daily. A deer ran across the road as I was on my way to Reedsburg, fortunately a block away and easy to avoid. Again, maybe it is the seasonal change and the time of day. Or maybe it is the warmer weather.

The last few days have been quite warm, hovering around and even over 90. This is the warmest it has been all season. Kind of ironic, now that the tourists season is over and the waterparks -- which need hot sunny days to draw crowds -- are shutting down.

When I drove by the motels and resorts on my way to the railroad this morning, the lots were vastly empty. Quite a sudden change from the summer crowds. As long as the weather is decent, I imagine the weekends will still draw people, but school is back in session and the family vacations are over for now.

Thursday I start my library work again. It will be nice to get back in there. My summer schedule not only didn't allow me any time to volunteer, I hardly had time to go and get a book most weeks.

Tom worked as conductor today, and it was my turn to cook. I made white chili (chicken with white beans, for you Texans who would probably never allow such a thing to pass your lips.) It's not too bad, really. Add a few nachos and a bit of guacamole on the side, and you're all set.

I've seen the white chili recipe using rattlesnake meat instead of chicken, but I think that's just silly. And our local WalMart doesn't even carry Chinese mustard, much less rattlesnake meat.

Monday, September 1, 2008


When I started working at the railway, one of the things we had for sale was this battery-operated Thomas the Tank Engine that kids ages 1 to 3 could ride. It comes complete with track, although you don't have to run it on the tracks.

Apparently it had been ordered for the store some years ago by someone that the present membership doesn't have much use for and no one had ever been interested in buying it. The original price was $299.95, but we had marked it down to $249.95 without any nibbles. I was given permission to take less if someone would buy it, and I half-jokingly said that my goal was to sell it before summer ended.

I would talk to customers about it and got to be pretty funny trying to get dads interested. A surprising number of fathers and grandfathers were interested, but their wives tended to look at it and think, "Where on earth am I supposed to put that thing in my house?" So no sales.

The last few days I had high hopes of getting rid of it, and three or four people were quite serious. But I finally gave up. Labor Day is the last day of the summer season, and it was going to end with this thing still taking up space in the back of the shop.

Then at a quarter to five, a guy came in and I convinced him he wanted to buy it for $200.00, basically what I myself would have had to pay for it using Tom's heftier Life Member discount. The dude bought it, we made fifty bucks on it and got it out from under our feet.

Ironically, the last sale I made for the summer was the battery-operated Thomas the Tank Engine. The head of operations even called me to congratulate me. You would have thought I had sold a Hummer.


Now just so long as I'm not there if he brings it back ...
PS -- Two hummingbirds fighting in the front yard this afternoon.
Two adult turkeys and five poults down by the Berry Road and Brichwood intersection this morning.