Friday, November 30, 2007

A soldier I once knew...

This is an excerpt from something I wrote a long time ago. In retrospect, as kids we didn't understand ... I think. Being married to a veteran now, I do have more understanding.

He sat quietly most evenings in his small house. One might have called it a cottage for it was a poorly made clapboard building. It had two rooms, one was the kitchen, I mean it had a stove, a refrigerator, and a sink with a window over it. On one wall was an old black telephone a rotary phone. One bare bulb hung over the scarred linoleum and chrome table. The three chairs had torn seats with stuffing gaping from the holes. Later in life I was to wonder if he hadn’t furnished his place from pieces he scavenged out of the local dump.

I never saw the second room; I assume it was the place where he slept. All the windows were covered except the one over the sink. It looked out over the yard that my uncle owned with him. The view was of the large ancient oak tree with a kid’s rope hung to the lowest branch. The grass under the rope was worn to dirt from years of many bare feet scuffing it while swinging. Come to think of it, he must have had a bathroom, but then again perhaps he didn’t. My uncle, his brother was one of the first in the family to have a real toilet that flushed and a tub. The house had no basement; the siding was gray speckled tar paper with barn red paint on the eves and trim.

His name was Arnold. He was my Aunt’s brother in law. Lyle and Arnold had served in World War II. Of course I’d known about it, after all I’d seen Hogan’s Heroes and Combat on television. My cousins said that Arnold was weird, something had happened “over there” to make him very strange. He was deaf in one ear; they said and had lost his sense of smell. This caused great fun if someone was sitting near him at a meal and passed gas. We kids would watch his face for some sign and would giggle behind our hands while our folks would give us dirty stares.

My dad once chastised my sister and I when he caught us planning to play tricks on Crazy Arnold with our mischievous cousins. Dad explained that Arnold was Shell Shocked and not quite right. We just knew he was weird and weird meant he would be the brunt of kid’s pranks.

One night our parents were gone and we were left to our own devices. I don’t know how it came about, but one of us had to walk across the yard and borrow something from “odd” Arnold. Somehow I drew the short straw. I stood on the wooden step and knocked lightly, then louder. Slow steps came to the door, the curtains parted, then the outside light flicked on. I trembled in my bare feet which were wet and cold from the summer dew. I crossed my arms across my chest and squinted into the light. “Um, those guys sent me to get some sugar, we’re making, um…koolaid.” The curtain dropped back into place and I heard the lock click open. That in itself surprised me—no one locked their doors, after all it was 1968 and we were in the middle of nowhere.

Arnold stood before me, a short man with dark hair that was rapidly balding. He was dressed in work jeans that were still covered with concrete dust. His jean shirt was rolled up at the sleeves. His hands were clean but looked rough, I guess part of trade as a brick layer. His dark eyes flitted over me and then through me. finally, without speaking a word he backed up and motioned me inside. I stood in the small kitchen nervously clutching the cup I had in my hand. He motioned me towards one of the chairs.

“Sit”, he said. He pulled an enamel coffee pot off the stove and poured himself a cup. He glanced at me and smiled, “It’ll stunt your growth.” He sipped the strong smelling coffee and picked up a cigarette that was in the ashtray. He smoked it down to the butt staring at the smoke as it curled and eddied being pulled out the window by a faint breeze.

I waited not knowing whether I should just bolt out the door or wait. Even as young as I was I felt that he was waiting to tell me something. On the wall was a photo of him and my uncle Lyle in dress uniforms. Lyle had been cavalry that much I knew.

“You and my uncle were soldiers weren’t you.” It was a statement really. He squinted his eyes as he cupped his hands to light another smoke. “Yes,” he said quietly, “we were soldiers. We fought the Germans. It was…” he shook his head slowly and pulled deeply on the cigarette and followed it with a sip of coffee. “It was war... things happened.”

“Like worse than on T.V.?” I asked. He looked at me and then that far away look came to his eyes. “Worse,” he nearly whispered but not to me, to the room, “but in color.” I wiped my hands on my shorts.

“So like did you have to kill people and stuff?” I immediately regretted my words. No one I knew ever talked to Arnold about the War, no one. “I’m sorry,” I stuttered, “I shouldn’t have said that. Um maybe I should leave.”

He sighed and crushed the smoke out on the now over flowing glass ashtray. A faint breeze stirred some of the ashes onto the table top. He put his fingers in them and pushed it back and forth.

“That’s all right,” he sort of grinned around his moustache, “no one has asked me before, I guess they really don’t want to know.” He looked directly at me and straightened in his chair. “Very bad things happened. I’m sure I shot and killed the enemy."

He closed his eyes for a moment; even as a kid I could recognize the pains distorting his face. He lit another smoke and inhaled, I saw his hand trembling. He saw worse I suddenly knew, but nothing he would horrify a young girl with. He pushed himself away from the old table and with the cigarette dangling from his mouth his searched his cabinets. He squinted through the smoke and handed me the bag of sugar.

“Here you go,” he nodded, “watchya came for.” I took the sugar and thanked him. He mumbled something around the smoke and opened the door for me. “See yah.” I said. He nodded. Then closed and locked the door.

I never really talked to him again. Oh we nodded or waved to each other. But I stopped participating in the games the others played on him. Sometimes Arnold would disappear for weeks or days at a time. He’d return in the middle of the night and usually park right under the rope hanging from the oak tree. I guess it was his signal that he really didn’t care to be bothered.

When we played hide n’ seek at night his lights would be out but we knew he was watching from the glow of his cigarette behind the sheer curtains.

Call it Battle Fatigue-- call it PTSD. He never got over it, he never got help. You didn't do that in the 60's.

He lived like a hermit in that small house until he died. He died a bachelor, a loner, a mystery…perhaps too a man in pain. I look back and feel blessed that I was able to share a moment part of his life. At the time I was too young and didn’t understand PTSD, oh I really don’t understand it fully even now.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Walk

Taking a walk on a cold November day is my idea of fun. It isn't an ordinary walk like some people do. My walks are more like hikes with adventures. When I hike along I'm looking for things...observations that need to be made. I can sometimes stop and sit by a 4" waterfall and listen to its music. I may stop to look at a weed. And recall that in September it was glowing with golden colors, while now it was faded to white.
I notice where the sun is at this time of year. I've been watching its pattens over the past 10 years so that I can tell when Winter Solstice is to arrive ... and the sun will begin its trek back across the sky.
It is the little details that interest me. The green blade of grass encased in ice. The foot prints of many animals on the sandy banks of the creek.
Or the story the forest tells me of the windstorm that came through in August. Fungi now frozen until spring's thaw. Plants that have wilted to the ground to lie in wait for the warm weather.
No, my walks are never boring, never anything less than relaxing and good for clearing the mind.
I need to leave my schoolbooks more often.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Legends of the Fall...

Many years ago my grandmother Pearl told me a story about why oak trees kept their leaves.

It was such an intriguing story that I never forgot it and have decided to share.

We were sitting in a wooden fishing boat on the Little Balsam, the waves gently rocking us as our hooks lay dangling from our cane poles in the water...this is the story to the best of my knowledge.

Legends Of The Fall

Many years ago in the fall, all trees kept their leaves, but they would change to their glorious fall colors and remain that way until spring when they would turn green again. The trees were so proud of their colors so Mother Nature developed a small test for them.
One fall a small lowly sparrow came to the grand red maple tree and rested in its branches.
The sparrow was shivering and asked the maple if he could spend the winter in its branches where the beautiful red leaves would keep him warm.
The maple tree shook its branches angrily and told the sparrow that only birds with bright and beautiful feathers could stay in its branches during the winter, no ordinary ugly birds would grace its branches.
Dejected and cold the sparrow left and flew through the forest finally landing on a stately elm tree; it leaves the color of gold. “Please,” begged the sparrow, “my family and I need a tree to spend the cold winter in, may we stay with you and your beautiful golden leaves?”
The tall elm shook and swayed, “No,” the tree replied, “a sparrow is a lowly, ugly little bird, you may not spend the winter in my branches.”
Again the sparrow flew off. Nearly exhausted he landed on an apple tree, filled with bright red apples glistening in the chill of the autumn air. Again the sparrow repeated his request, hoping against hope that he would find a warm tree for his family to spend the harsh winter.
The apple tree replied, “With all of this heavy fruit on my branches, I could not let a bird such as yourself stay with me, get on with you!”
It seemed that no matter which tree he chose the answer was the same. The sparrow was too ugly or too lowly to find comfort and warmth in the leaves of all those beautiful trees in the forest.
At last he came upon an old Oak tree which stood tall on a hill. The sparrow looked up, shivering for now it was very cold and a harsh wind blew from the north promising snow.
Quietly he asked the Oak tree if he, the ugly little sparrow and his family could seek shelter in his leaves and branches for the winter. The Oak stretched his magnificent limbs and chuckled, “Of course sparrow, I have branches and leaves enough for all birds of all kinds. You and your family are welcome.”
The sparrow turned back into Mother Nature and thanked the Oak tree for its kindness.
As for the maple, the elm, the apple tree and others they began to loose their brightly colored leaves and their apples fell to the ground. “Pride has its cost,” Mother Nature said, “and from now on, all trees but the humble Oak shall loose their colorful leaves come fall.”

My grandmother's stories usually had some sort of 'moral of the story' to them also. This one I have passed down too. My oldest son is fond of it, I think.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Memories of a kid...

Yes the cute one in the back of the wagon is me. Of course I want you to note that the 'hat' has not really changed in all these years. I still favor ugly hats with ear flaps. Amazing.
In the first photo we were pretending to drive the wagon, I think. We used to tie a rope to the handle and try to steer it while someone pushed.
Not always a really good way to steer, but hey we were kids and anything goes at that age.
That may possibly be the same red wagon that got multiple coats of paint over the years. I know from the backround that the photo was taken on Grandpa Lind's farm. Well, the farm he used to have anyway. I think it belonged to his son by the time the photo was taken.

I can remember having conversations with my brother and sister ...
*What do you want to be when you grown up?*
My answer was always of some sort of the same:
*I want to be a cowboy.*
*I want to be a soldier.*
*I want to be a knight.*
I think my brother would be kind enough to point out that I couldn't be those things because I was a girl. Girls couldn't be cowboys. And probably in the very early 1960's, girls couldn't be soldiers either. And knights didn't exist anymore.
Of course, being a child, I was blind to that fact and insisted on being one or the other when I grew up.
I am severely disappointed--I didn't grow up to be a knight.
But I suppose Badger, my mule is relieved.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Midterms = hard work!

I soooo want to finish up with this midterm week! It ends today, er tonight. I have 130 coding scenerios to do for extra credit. I don't consider it extra credit, I consider it exercises to help me learn. I've been doing 40 problems a day. Talk about eye strain!
I finished my Critical Thinking class and took my exam, not bad...[puff of chest], I got a 96 out of 100. But it was multiple guess so how could I really mess up?
I took my coding exam--whew. It could have been very difficult if I haven't done all the exercises in our textbook and all the ones in our 'workout' book. Half of the problems in the test were ones I've already done! Yipee!
So now I have to bury my nose in 5 books to finish up the extra credit assignment so I can turn it in by midnight.

I'm thinking many of my classmates won't get this finished as it is a tremendous effort---> and most of my classmates don't open a book until they have 48 hrs to finish their week's assignment. I work hard at it ... and yes I gave up all outside activities this week to do this. Thanksgiving was just another day for 'coding'.

I would have been further along had I not had a colonoscopy earlier this week. Yes, everything went fine, but the knock out drug they give you had me out of it from Tuesday's procedure through Wednesday night late.

Okay, back to coding!!!
As soon as I'm done with that...I'm starting Xmas 'decorates' around here!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Jingle to Me...

Yep, jingle bells to me. We finally reached the point in our house where we had to become a 2-computer household. I've been eyeing a notebook for a while and carefully weighed the pros and the cons.
Yes, there is a real true need for it. I am still in college and doing homework like mad. 'Honey bunches' is getting tired of no internet time and with winter closing in...well let's just say we 'both' need access to a computer.

I got a Dell, the Inspiron 1501. I did all sorts of research regarding it before I even started playing with the components that I wanted. Surprising how a 6lb computer can be so much more powerful than what I have now as a desktop.
Technology is amazing.

I did call Dell and talk to a rep. I'm not doing an add for them, but I do have to say that the gent was patient and very knowledgeable. He didn't try to talk me out of the 1501 and try to sell me something else. The 1520 is comparible but I got nearly the same components across the board for less.
This means I can do my homework from downstairs, or anywhere in the house I choose and hubby can read the local message board and entertain himself!
I also won't have to spend another day listening to my SIL instead of doing my essays! I can take the darn thing with me, plug in earphones, listen to tunes, and do my work!

Jingle Jingle Jingle to Me! [that means I'm paying for it with my own hard earned saved up money]

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving to anyone out there who is on their computers! Our day is going to be very quiet which is nice!!! We are just having supper with our mother in law and the sister in law. I'll 'suffer' through the meal with SIL, listening to all the profound knowledge she has to offer.
She learns everything she knows by watching Dr. Phil and Oprah. Hmmm, very knowlegable!!!
Ask her about computers!!! She knows, by golly you can buy them on Home Shopping Network. You can get a Vista Computer very cheap.
Snort snort snort...she couldn't find the on/off switch on the vacuum cleaner, so how could she operate a computer? Ah, but she knows all about them from TV!

Thank goodness for midterms this week and a huge stack of homework to get done. I can beg off from staying all day and get home to peace and quiet, listen to TSO, and do my homework.
I suppose I could ask SIL to help me with my homework, after all she gives me medical advice all of the time.

Ok, I shouldn't be saracastic, this is Thanksgiving and I am really greatful that I have a wonderful family. Though, I'd much rather be spending the time with my son, his wife, my youngest son [his daughter], and my hubby's daughter [who won't make it this year because of a nasty flu bug].

I do like my relatives, but as with everything, in moderation.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dah Big Deer Hunt...

It is the second day of the Wisconsin 9 day gun-deer season. It is all the rage you know. Male hormones rage, their chests puff up, and they go out in the woods looking for the 'big' deer. While I make fun of the hunters one must realize that they are also doing a job. The deer population for our state is astronomical. One only needs to have a run-in with a buck or a doe with their vehicle to realize how dangerous they are. The statistics are pretty eye opening.
The crop damage is also something to be considered. In the DNR pamphlet it states that there are between 1.6 and 1.8 million deer in our state. Folks, that is a lot of deer.
The impact of the 9 day season is a boon to the WI economy. It supposedly creates $535 million in retail activity, and has a $1 billion total economic impact on the state each year. That is definitely big business.

There are downsides to this 9 day season also. Some hunters are not careful, some hunters are the bad apples that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

All in all, it has been a quiet opening and a very quiet weekend.
I've spent the weekend doing schoolwork and making my calendars and gifts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Walmart Wizard..not...

MMMM, my monitor which is a CRT monitor of old keeps changing colors. After much discussion and research I found a LCD 19" flat panel monitor of Dell's at our local Walmart. It will offer me more desk space and hubby a big screen view of things when he uses the internet.
While I was in the Walmart [I could have ordered from Dell direct, but it was $4 cheaper at Wally World and there was no shipping charges], Mr. Walmart Wizard of computers comes by to see if I needed help.
So of course I was curious as to his knowledge.
He thought I should by the same monitor for the same price built by a company that had poor reviews.
I do my homework.
His reasoning was ... why give Dell the $? Ah, duh, I thought I was shopping at Walmart.

He showed me the 1501 Inspirion Notebook and then proceeded to tell me I couldn't get it any cheaper any where else.
I don't think he liked it when I said, "Oh sure I can. I order direct from Dell, get the same components with XP OS...and a better optical drive, and pay $200 less!"
To which he said there were no computers built with Windows XP anymore.

I said, "Perhaps if you work in the computer section, you ought to research your products. Dell offers this Notebook with XP...and at a better price."

I winked and left.
I like being an informed consumer.
Mr. Wizard didn't....

But that is why he still works at Walmart after all!
[no offense to anyone employed there...okay?]

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Tin Can War

This is very very scary, if you see this deranged looking person anywhere in your vicinity, please fast and far.

I spent part of Saturday target shooting in our creek bottom with my oldest son and his wife. Of course I 'posed' for this shot [the pistol is empty and doesn't even have a clip in it]...goofing off. Joy and I wear the ear 'muffs' to deaden the sound of their .45, and the two shot guns. The 'muffs' didn't exactly fit my Elmer Fudd hat well. I think that is apparent in the photo!

The Tin Can War:
We faced off the tin cans with an arsenal of firearms. My favorite being the .22 caliber rifle and my pistol.
The Cans lined up menacingly on the dirt creek bank. They glistened with all their silver glory just leering at us. I'm sure I could hear them shouting obscenities at us...
I was sure one of them called me a foul name.
I was sure they were gathering for an attack.
One can never be sure of sneaky Tin Cans lurking in the woodlands.
Lucky we had come armed as we did. Or the Tin Can War could have ended tragically.
A super hero showed up in camo and blasted the rest of them away...the ones that had been circling to attack!
Yep, we won, hands down. The Tin Cans were rounded up finally and sent to the recycling bin. A hard battle had been won.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Be Happy...

Life is good when you can get up in the morning and grab your favorite mule and with a 'leg up' from hubby, go for a quick spin in the fresh cold Wisconsin air. I consider myself terribly lucky. I was able to ride the ridgetop. I stopped with Badger and overlooked the expanse of sky and enjoyed the cold fresh air on my face.
Something unique happens while riding.
The worries of the world drop away.
Everything seems a bit brighter.
Everything seems a bit more alive.

Of course when that hen pheasant flew out of the tall grass next to us, I 'spooked' as my mule went stiff legged.
That broke all the tension from work and school up...
I became very happy. I trotted and loped my mule out to the tobacco shed and then back home. I was all smiles when I got back.
And I really didn't want to get off.
Can't I just stay here all day...pleeeeezeee????
Oh well, I'm happy!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What Dreams Are???

Dreams are often entertaining or have some strange meaning. Between school and continual storm clean up, I haven't been able to go riding much since August. I've been able to steal away a few precious rides, but not near enough to satisfy my 'riding cravings'. So....

Last night I dreamt we decided to go riding and we all had to pick out Breyer horses to ride!
We got on our Breyer horses and two of the folks that were with us had --- run a ways!
They must have gotten hurt badly because we couldn't find them or their horses, so we called the rescue squad.
Here comes the good part.
We searched the 'house' because it was a big house...and found the 'Breyer riders' laying in a closet with their Breyer horses.
Boy, now if that wasn't bad enough, the EMT turned to me and wanted to know why I called Rescue for plastic people.

Dreams do NOT make sense.
But I'm not riding any Breyers soon, they were way too wild!
BTW, the Breyer riders came out of it, and we found the horses in another closet...and one under the bed. [I think the Dust Bison, got it]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sitting out by myself...

Thursday night I sat by the bonfire of broken trees while the sun lowered itself into the November night. I moved closer to the fire as the temperatures dropped. Morris snuggled in close to me ... I'm sure he did it to protect me from the Hoot Owl that was calling in the woods not far away.
There wasn't much to ponder, as it was...I just sat and stared into the flickering flames and embers. Once in a while there would be a loud pop and Morris would be startled.
I watched the sky turn from oranges to deep purples and a black violet color dotted with stars.
Very peaceful. I wanted to stretch out there and not go back in the house.
The flames mesmerized me. I think I could have stayed there and let my mind wander for hours.
I mentioned to my hubby when I went in if perhaps when the 'kids' come to visit, if we should have a little campfire.