Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Indeed, what's wrong with this picture?

The elephant trumpets by blowing INto its trunk:
Around here things sometimes work in reverse
don't go the way you think they should
and we are used to that and trust in it;
behold the close-up of the gourd horn
fashioned from a bent-stemmed lagenaria;
the elephant's trunk - the stem -
is fitted with a trumpet mouthpiece
and merely by changing your mouth's
whole tunes are played -
by blowing INto the elephant
whose ears are fashioned from the piece
of the gourd shell that was
surgically sawn away
and split in two;
a self-contained elephant
who dances to others' tunes
in reverse;
through a looking glass
if you want to see.
It won't be pretty.

Monday, March 30, 2009


the good shepherd

These are for youse


to Rev. John Helt and wife Cindy for their imminent destination at the pastoral call - mystical phenomenon beyond my ken - to St. Paul's United Church of Christ in the town of Erin, WI.

John advises he will assume the helm there on June 28th after completing his interim call at his current church in Highland, Indiana.

These are rarified tidings, fit - and ripe - to print in the raccoon news!

That the Helts expect to be residing on Hogback Road in the shadow of Holy Hill is additional good news. That has been a favorite ride for years and years (and years), especially in the fall when the colors are at their peak, and when the late Mrs. Zinn used to have the art fair under the fruit-bearing trees at her apple orchard, with her goats in attendance. We hope John will be able to have his miniature goats once more.

Also, a favorite restaurant, The Alpine Retreat on Freiss Road was a great destination. There are many reasons to rejoice.

Something had to be done to acknowledge this event. I lay awake thinking about these portents and, pondered: what gift could I give? Then I had it. Leaping out of bed at 2 AM I put my emerald shamrock suspenders on the bed beside the sleeping Mona and over Denise with the plan of presenting them to John. They're as good as his right now!

In fact, John and Cindy, wedded to each other in nearly lock-step, footprint-sharing, three offspring-bearing partnership, can wear them together if they want to. And if they do I will be giving them a big hug myself.

The raccoon news appreciates this scoop presented by Mr. Helt, the man who married us 25+ years ago. See previous smoke signal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sewer Raccoon sketchbook entry

Rev. Dr. John Helt
Eagle Scout
is called as pastor for St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Town of Erin, WI
on this date. This means he will come back to Wisconsin from an interim in Indiana.
More particulars are imminent.
We just saw the smoke coming from a cabin chimney
at the foot of Holy Hill.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Jose Feliciano, '10 to 23', vinyl 331/3 RPM album

Son David Jr. brought me another of my old 33's I've culled from my collection for reproducing onto CD, via a machine he has. This one starts with a scratchy recording Jose made when he was only 10 years old, then on Band 2 he segues into The First of May.

Fortunately I was able to find that song First of May on U Tube. Click on the URL below and enjoy. The emotion aroused by these old songs cannot be described. Click to enlarge print.

Raze low the roof beams, carpenter

Time goes by.

This is the erstwhile "bughouse" we constructed against the garage in 1986. A careful look at the above photo shows the little carved date sign in the upper middle - 1986. Elaborately built by an unskilled hand, we sought refuge from backyard mosquitoes in there and had a friendly environment.

The bughouse outlived its usefulness primarily when the commercial building next door rented to a day care center for emotionally-challenged kids, and built their playground directly west on the other side of our fence. Cacophony reigns when the screaming children are outside acting out their plights within a small pebbled confinement.

So we use the bughouse for storage of miscellany now.

In earlier days, when our children were growing up in the late 80's and 90's - pre-day care center - they had a fun time and a secret-ish play house, with imaginings they concocted that are unknown to us. Now in disrepair, the bughouse shows the ravages of time, with punctured screening, peeling paint, and during the months I was in the hospital with my heart trouble a tree fell and skinned off the rain gutter and part of the shake shingle roof, visible in the photo below.

The fallen windmill scupture that spun for years atop a 6 x 6 timber in the front side yard lies bent on the ground. But even though the blades are askew it still spins in the wind, a tribute to the balance and the bearings.

At this time of year, before the greening-up just starting, everything looks a little dismal.

Threads of steel

In harmony with the natural setting at this locus across the street from the raccoon storm grate, the nest is old and has a long history beyond the newer cobwebs now adding to its filaments.
It came from a tall tree in the yard of our old friend, Bill Vollmer. In 1978 we sold the Vollmer homestead at Hawley and Vliet in Milwaukee, enabling them to retire to their cabin in Marinette County. From there they found a little house nearby on the Menomonee River where the Vollmers fished regularly for wall-eye.
Bill became a solid friend following our fast sale of their Milwaukee house that had been on the market for months without a nibble. The selling price back then was $40,000. When we listed it, we suggested they raise the price. Bill thought this was crazy. He thought he was going to hear a Realtor's suggestion that he lower the price, since it hadn't sold. We were adamant that the price could go up by $4,900.
In only 11 days, as luck had it, we had a buyer, and the deal closed. From then on we could do no wrong with that family. Bill and Jane and their 11 children had a welcome coffee pot at the kitchen table whenever we would stop in, which was often.
10 boys and one girl. Like their father, a rugged AO Smith steel handler until he retired, these boys and one girl were fighters. They still are, though the girl lost an important fight of her life some time back.
Do not mess with the Vollmers.
Bill is gone, but Jane is still going strong, and I am in touch with the youngest son, Alan, regularly. Alan and his family live near Peshtigo.
I'd been spending a weekend in Marinette County with the Vollmers, fishing on the river. Bill knew the pockets of wall-eye, and when he caught a carp he euthanized it with a rap on the gunwale and tossed it into the river for the watching eagles, also his friends.
We saw a bright orange Baltimore Oriole flitting in the branches of a tall tree in his front yard. There was a fragile-looking nest hung from some twigs up there. Bill pointed it out. "Oh, wow!" I exclaimed.
"Ya want it, Dafe? I'll git it fer ya!"
(spoken in his gruff voice)
Bill got a long extension ladder from the garage and propped it up against the tree trunk, climbed up and checked to see that the nest was empty - hatched shells were in it signaling the end of its use - then, teetering on his ladder, Bill broke off the foundation twigs that supported the gauzy weaving. He brought the nest down carefully and presented it to me. Not the first thing he ever gave me.
That bird's nest has lasted in our care for 30 years, hung safely high in the hallway, reinforced only by spiders who have added their gossamer threads to it. Some would say that simple threads do not a shelter make.
Others who study the birds of the air and spinning insects think differently.

Bill cleaned his fish traditionally with his tongue handing out.

Getting the family all together for a picture was a daunting task, but Bill and Jane said they had to form up, and they dutifully did.
The threads of the friendship with the Vollmers are also of steel!
there's more..................

Friday, March 27, 2009

Special place

Schoenstatt founder

Yesterday, a fateful day, I drove out to the WI Motor Vehicle Emissions testing site near the Waukesha airport where I learned to fly. The old limo again passed its test with flying colors. Driving home I decided to drive out to Schoenstatt, the spiritual centering spot I've known about for 50 years. In the beginning, when I discovered the little road off Northview near G that the Schoenstatt retreat center and convent was later built at the end of, Schoenstatt didn't exist. It was an out of the way place to go park with a girlfriend.

Eventually the little chapel shrine went up and I devised another purpose for that country lane. Going out there and sitting, trying to contact the the Creator, and thinking - in the very small church, one of eight duplicate Mariane Shrines around the world, has over the years been a significant and private enactment for me. And this time I had a fine camera to use.
I did not take any pictures in the 3-row chapel for there were four nuns praying silently on their knees ahead of me. I was in the back in a row of extra folding chairs, then vacant. I didn't want the sound of the shutter to disturb them.
My son said that the shutter sound may be quietable on this zippy camera, but I like the mechanical sound of the fluttering aperture, audibly slicing snapshots of evermore astonishingly passing life.

Trombone Riley

by Ron Wallace

Follow me!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Friend battles back


A best friend type, a minister of mine and former real estate client, is with his wife returning to Wisconsin imminently after an interim asignment in Indiana. We welcome them back to the home turf.

Always folks to live light off the land, they half-heartedly joke about living in the church parking lot due to the cost of housing they've encountered. I am retired and cannot help them except to endorse my favorite model of trailer, if they mean to really travel light.

The Airstream 'Bambi'. I always wanted one of those.
to be cont'd

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For those whose business

is in the crapper:

Hark! Iris! Or would that be Irae?

Yes, in Russell Moccasins - from the Russell Moccasin Shoe Company of Berlin, WI - you can tread lightly, as you must, in negotiating the to-be-disturbed detritus covering the delicate but powerful shoots of spring.

You want to be able feel through the leather form-fitting soles what lies beneath your feet. Or at least to be careful where you step, the sort of walking that Russell Mocs inspire. http://www.jsonline.com/multimedia/video/?bcpid=1869637852&bclid=1842745343&bctid=16529762001 Thanks to the heads-up of the former hikers of the Baltimore and Ohio Canal Hiking trail outside of DC. including Supreme Court Justice Wm. Douglas and LBJ aide for consumer affairs, Les Dix (I). Because of them, we know of the time-honored shoe-making cobblers in Berlin, WI.

Here at raccoon headquarters the combustible, thicker sticks from last year's plants are carefully gathered up and stacked for kindling bundles, thus igniting our hearth fires using the stored power of the sun.

Fortunate we are

to have a president

of these United States

who can dance

who can negotiate a field

of sticky wickets

without losing his place

and who will knock the ball

at the upright

smack center

at the end of the course;

have faith!

there has to be


in this


let us help

find the lost ball

and play with

a sphere

no partisan, dice-al

sharp edges;

play ball, and

all together now

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We needed that!

A big tip of the hat
to raccooner Stew of eastern Ohio
for this enlightenment on proper
maintenance of the INSIDE of
our computer screen. We thought
some Windex on the outside was
all that is needed.......


Thanks, man.

Let the cat say AMEN!

We have been known to anthropomorphize Mona our cat, we admit.
Yet we must also admit that the words of Philip Chard in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ring all too true.
We've always thought Mona was one-upping us on most, if not all, levels. And today when she brought Chard's column to us with naught but a glare and a silent tapping of her foot on the paper, we got the message:

Le jour de glorie t'arrive!

The First Congregational UCC unleashes its decades-long annual pancake supper tonight. With the recent passing of member Cecil Cox, the supper is again dedicated to him.
Cecil faithfully and historically performed all manner of tasks for the church, including but by no means limited to keeping the bell in the steeple well-oiled. The Men's Club voted unanimously to let the festival of panned cakes bear Cecil's name, in honor of a great man who among other duties annually spearheaded the pancake supper. Thus it is written - in the annual ad in the local newspaper.

Many people come together to make this event the success it has long been in Waukesha. For the last few years the ladies of the church have had a sale of baked goods upstairs for the hungry customers to peruse as they wait for the line to progress downstairs to the dining hall. (A blind piano player used to offer zippy tunes to warm the crowd further, an old-time Waukesha piano-tuner named Harry Smith, who played for his pancake supper and any monetary contents in the vase on the upright piano-top, plus other funds afforded him by the Men's Club. It was a big night for Harry.)

Locally-famous personages are unobtrusively on display flipping pancakes and serving the teeming masses, dressed in aprons and chef-hatted mufti.
But what holds the affair together are the many hands - always, the hands -faithfully and joyfully pulling together to make the event what it is!
(May Cecil's, Harry's, and other departed but once very involved hands in the passing cavalcade, RIP)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A long time ago?

A Coon's Age
( a re-run)

I was being driven by my chauffeur
Wife this morning to Kalypso’s
Formerly Jennifer’s which was
Formerly Dutchland Dairy which was
Formerly Hyde’s Grocery Store and other ventures
In my longening life here in Waukesha

And I said something about not having
Seen somebody “in a coon’s age”
Speaking of a long time
Which set us to wondering:
Just what is meant by “a coon’s age”?

And are we speaking of raccoons?
Or blacks
Who used to be African-Americans
Who used to be Negroes
Who used to be
From a different country

If raccoons are involved in the
Etymology of the saying
It puts one to wondering
Just how long does a raccoon live?

The sewer raccoons about which I’ve written,
The ones who come out of the storm grate
At the corner of Colton & Arcadian after nightfall
And who I believe have a sub-society
Underneath Waukesha

Run pretty spry
Or feisty some might say
So I don’t think they’re real old
But the ones I see could be the young-uns
Sent out from the throne chambers
Of the really old coons
To do the tribal re-con and gathering

There might be some really old
Old coons down there
With long beards
Shillelagh canes and ear trumpets

And they could be blind like moles
For not having seen the light of day
In so long;
And I bet early settlers in Prairieville
Speculated on them being l-o-n-g underground
Those old coons
The ones they hadn’t seen in a coon’s age.

Blacks live about as long as whites do
If they’re lucky
But that’s a whole nuther subject.
Some will read this and cluck their tongues
But I come from a twisted era when
Lawn ornament jockey boys’ heads
Weren’t painted white

And if you started out with
Eenie-meany-meiny-moe you finished up
With a nigger being caught by the toe.
So in my privater ruminations
as I bridge the generations
The White-Out is extraneous
And my pancakes are indeed silently buttered
By fast-running tigers
Chased by Little Black Sambo

Yet, I’m damn careful
Who I talk like this to.
A race was the poorer for concepts like that.
It was the pond I was born into
And had to swim to get to this
Coon’s age from which I’ll attrition out.

Someday; not today.

To a former Raccoon District resident:

Terrance: I thought of you today as I traveling the aisles of Pick n Save with my fancy-dancy Nikon 13.5 mega-pixel camera tucked snugly within my leather Orvis jacket pocket. I was wearing my Russell Mocs http://www.russellmoccasin.com/ and my old but well-preserved red and black wool Conshohocken (PA) hat. In the produce department I spied some potatoes of the Creole variety. That's what reminded me of you. All in all, a brandish day. Great color.
Enjoy New Orleans. (The Crescent City.)
Ed., SRN

Pix enclosed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Who is where he is not wanted?

Squatter's Tights?
We must beg to differ with a correspondent who suggested that the Raccoon News refers to one raccoon who assumed squatter's rights in the particular sewer drain at this address.
It is we above-grounders who are the squatters on land that belonged to the wildlife of this continent and may once again. Like water in a clear stream that has been temporarily murkied by a probe, the stream flowing will once again run clear.
Until that day, the raccoons we know have taken to the sewers as a matter of survival. We are being out-waited. And, like donkeys, raccoons live a l-o-n-g time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uncle Skippy

Donor of SRN's new 13.5 Nikon digital camera, Leslie V. Dix II, known in some circles as "Uncle Skippy," forwarded these two Utube clips below for our enjoyment yesterday, which we in turn commit to the ether for all to hear. Esp. all Dixes. Les is an accomplished trombonist in his own right, something that has run strongly in the family. Our dad was once at a point in his career choice of going as trombonist with Al McKinney and His Cotton Pickers OR to college, per his father's dictate. He chose Iowa State Teachers College and a subsequently noteworthy government career. But music - Dad's first job was as a high school band director at Sun Prairie WI - always figured prominently in his life.

Uncle Skippy, pictured above, his 2nd son, 2nd to this editor, executes and promulgates wonderful trombone in his own right; and my son David Jr rocked with Nick Contorno's Kettle Moraine HS band, on trombone. And HIS son, Mike, is on the high road to trombone accomplishment also.

Here are Uncle Skippy's clips:




This artist is a friend of Skip's from when, years ago, they attended the Navy school of music ahead of playing in the Navy Band together. Naus now teaches jazz at the Boston Berkley School.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Uncle Norman

I have a friend I call Uncle Norman.
He is about 10 years older than I am,
But I am also his Uncle David
- as we do address each other -;
I drove into his woods to see him this morning
And he didn’t appear at home.
For years I’ve always knocked and entered
The back door (behind him in this photo)
But since his wife Sunny died a year ago
And he lives alone
I haven’t been out there as much.
You would think the opposite would obtain
But it hasn’t;

I knocked and when Uncle Norm
Didn’t come to the door I cracked it open
And hollered in.
He didn’t answer, so I went inside and
Shouted some more, including up the stairs
To the bedrooms.
No answer, all quiet. Too quiet?

His car was in the drive;
Maybe he was out walking in the woods.
I took a seat and sipped the coffee
I came with.

Eventually, there was a sound from upstairs.
I hollered again up the stairwell.
Uncle Norm hollered back: “Who is it?”
I told him and he laughed
And said he'd been in the shower,
would be down.

He came down
Into the dining room
Where I was sitting
Next to the Night-Blooming Serius,
A favorite plant of Sunny’s she'd cultivated
over many years.
When it bloomed once,
we got called out to see and smell it.

Norm was in flannel boxers
And with a towel wrapped around
His hair, ‘sahib’ style,
He grinned a welcome.

We had a good talk
And then after about a half hour
I got up to leave,
And by his age-old habit he said he would
Walk me out to my car.
I believed Uncle Norm was
Glad I stopped in,
Like old times.

Both Norm and Sunny are artists.
Norm a painter and Sunny a potter and
Mushroom sketcher, clay sculptor
and woods sensitive.
Norm’s greatest heartache is
Not having Sunny to talk to anymore.

I met them in 1960.
Soon after we became each other’s uncles.
One of the things I really like about
Uncle Norman
Is that no matter what I may do,
And I’ve done some bad things,
He is always in my corner.
Like a friendly cork, floating
Over a temporarily sunk bottle.

He’s Norman, my uncle,
And my friend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

At his master's feet, avec creeket

reposes at his master's feet
while one of Zepata's creekets
looks on
Red is the color
in hats and bandanas
and Barnum's Animal Crackers

Agnomily courtesy of Laurie Dix Kari of Wasilla, Alaska
The Master from Deanna Geiman of Pleasant Valley, Maryland

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gone but not forgotten

" hip-hip-hip........."


No dust on this Bible

Good poem from 3/24/09 Christian Century
(Click on text image to enlarge)
For musical accompaniment, play: