Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Big Maryland fighter had no bone to pick with us

Visiting fireman John Means Jr.
came to Appleton WI Jan. 30, 2012
to see the new Pierce Fire Engine tiller truck
being built at the Appleton factory
for his Howard Co. Maryland fire company.

John has driven fire engines for several years
and is licensed now to drive tiller on this
2 million dollar truck.  A tricky job.
He humbly describes it:
"You gotta turn left when it feels like
you should turn right...."

Highly maneuverable for getting a big rig
into tight places,
fireman John, Dee's 'little' brother,
will handle the machine deftly,
we know.

See a sample video

Below, there is a current Facebook photo 
by photographer
Emily Means:
 'firefighter's togs at the ready to jump into.'
Volunteer firefighters have these rigs set up 
to go at a moment's notice 
by their front or back doors.

Emily is John Means Jr.s' daughter,
a senior at Westminster High School, MD.

There are a total of I think seven firefighters in the immediate
Means family.  Emily's mother, Doreen, a paramedic,
has been one one of them.

While John was here to view the new firetruck
we rendezvoused with him after hours yesterday
when he was off duty from the Pierce engine plant.

As it happened, Pierce put the fireman contingent up
at a night-time rest site, The Raddison Paper Valley Hotel,
which was only a few blocks from Lawrence University,
Erin's work-site where she is the Archivist.

We picked John up at his hotel and had a joyous evening
together.  Part of the time we were at Erin's apartment
where we got some pictures:

Left to right, Erin, John, Dee, and Erin's friend Ben
gathered around the Phil Kari moose femur leg bone.
See previous SRN post about that.  We took Phhil's bone with us
to show John.
It rests on an old chair from the Wildgrube family farm
circa 1880.  The Wildgrubes were our great-grandparents.

Erin refurbished and reupholstered the chair, with Ben's help.

This was John's first visit to our state.
  He brought a CD of a brilliant grand-parents interview
done as a school project by daughter Emily with her Gramaw Jeannie and Grandpa Poppy.
(See previous SRN postings: 'Poppy's Barn'.)
Gramaw and Poppy share their happy memories of many years together in Pleasant Valley MD
with Emily and a video camera which quickly did not inhibit them.

It was a golden family time together.  A partial reunion, an earth-salt family I am lucky to be
part of.  Same for Leland and Erin, too.

Monday, January 30, 2012

All things are connected, especially if you live long enough

Bob Sellars
communicated by Email yesterday
a piece of technical information
he wanted to share
because he was truly amazed by it.

It has to do with the modern VW plant
in Dresden, Germany.

Bob, no longer able to facilely operate
his typing fingers
due to his degenerative muscular problem,
has a willing caretaker
who types what Bob asks him to.

A scientist by profession
Bob has for his lifetime shared 
info on what amazes him.

(He once told us how raccoons
if pursued by dogs in water
will, when it comes right down to survival,
turn and bitingly attach a dog over his snout

and hold the attacker under the water
until it drowns.
And many other intriguing
and useful facts have been imparted
by Bob.)

We welcome Bob's return to
his keyboard, with the help of 
a hired aide.  His faithful wife Libby
is heartened too by the
continuation of Bob's word-smithery.

Yesterday's video was

Bob's Email read as follows:

This is one amazing emails we’ve seen in sometime. We thought you will enjoy watching this.
I have watched a number of advertisements about the new developments of VW. If you are ever in Dresden area, be sure to include this factory in your tour.

          Love, Libby and Bob.
          Received this from Bob. Marshall, whom some of you know.

Subject: FW: A Factory Like You've Never Seen Before

Only the Germans can do this.  INCREDIBLE

Want to see why the Germans have a positive trade balance, in
spite of paying workers some of the highest wages in the world? Watch this: It is truly incredible.


Lt. Les Dix on maneuvers preparatory to landing on D Day in WW II

The below poem arrived 1-30-12 from THE WRITERS ALMANAC:

Letter Home

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package—soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.
"Letter Home" by Ellen Steinbaum, from Container Gardening. © Custom Words, 2008.


Backwards In the Sun

A man loathe to give up the manual typewriter
To bow to the age of computers
Who liked push reel lawn mowers
Wringer washers
And treadle sewing machines:

 I announce that
Something good happened here to mitigate
My reluctant accessions adopting the new over the old
While sitting as a machinist
 Marveling at what my word processor
And color printer can do;

 I like to correspond with fountain pen
And then hang the letter backwards in a sunny window
For a while before sending
To study the line without the ability to read text
As though the right or wrong  will show
And save me from mistake or unmeant innuendo

Hand script, even supposedly horrible hand script
Sometimes dangerous from the front side
Takes on a loveliness when viewed backwards
And this is interesting when one thinks
Of evaluations involving all angles and facets
Rather than merely the most obvious surface

(How often have I sent letters not so carefully inspected)

The thinner the paper for this sunlit viewing
The better:
I remembered a box of old onion skin typing paper
I had from when thinner meant more copies
Yielded by typewriters and carbon paper
Before clicks and double clicks and infinite production

I got this dusty box down and opened the lid
To find nearly a full box of crispy thin sheets
Audibly-crinkling onion skin paper
Talking paper very loud to the touch
After all that time being cooped up

Like a presumed useless ugly duckling
Or love-starved oldster getting dryer
It leaps to respond to the slightest tactility
And you cannot buy it anymore
Who needs it?

On the word processor so novel to me
I can practically put cardboard through
And obtain glorious-looking pages
But they don't talk when I handle them
They are dead except for the images on them
Not so with onion skin
It says something

You must be of an age to appreciate V Mail
From World War II when loved ones communicated
Across seas on government-mandated crackling tissue paper
To keep the weight of transport down
And to reduce bulk
 It was a practical and beautiful medium

I inspected my father's letters then on the flip side to the light
After I had digested all from the most obvious facade
I knew there must be more from him than that
Which showed on just one surface;
 I was only six years old

I searched side-ways both sides and between the lines
 I became familiar with the look, feel and sound of onion skin
My one contact with Dad and so much  preferred
To the dreaded telegram on dead yellow paper;
That bad paper never wanted never came here
And to find a whole box of  lively paper fifty years after
Those haunting hungry scrutinies was a blessing

I had it among my high basement cobwebs
Must have known it had value
It had escaped years of throwing out
In silent peace like a covered bird
 Intact a perfectly good box of now off-white paper

Backwards fountain-penned sheets in sunny windows
Will vibrate while this irreplaceable and
Obsolete box lasts

It will last long this new lost art
Because there are so many dry leaves fitted in the old box
Like memories they are so very thin
But strong
Tearing such gossamer  is  not as easy as you'd suppose

In my cyberspacial kingdom there are many color images
In my computer's memory favorite old snapshots
And vivid drawings I've committed to that realm
And my fountain pen will not quit till I do

A way is pointed to a blending
Validating procedures and leanings  in the doing,
Printing computer-generated transparencies
On talking paper - with penned script -
 And  backlighting these marriages not on an electric monitor
But in the window backwards in the sun

(DD CIRCA 2000]

(When Dee helped June Bjorklund move last year, June gave her a partial box of rare onion skin paper for me)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lee closing the gap

See this:
Rerun this:

1 ·  · 
    • Leland Dix Close the gap one page at a time
      January 12 at 3:38pm ·  ·  2

Saturday, January 28, 2012

For those in travail, and you know who you are....

Illustrated, so to speak, by the raccoon news

Friday, January 27, 2012

Love IS all there is

Painted on a gourd leat as it died
517 Arcadian Ave, Waukesha

Granny holds on

Margaret Helt
with son John, daughter MaryAnn, and the late Clifford Helt,
Burlington IA farmer
who himself took 10 days without food and water
before he passed

A pickup with its battery on ground
seen at the Dousman WI Firkus farm sold by me as a realtor, once

John's mother Margaret takes a motorcycle ride in 2008 with a friend

Margaret does a stint at a local food pantry


Margaret Helt today lies dieing hard
in a Burlington health facility
with her family at her side,
if she goes......

This report from John this morning:

Dear Friends
I wish I could report that Mom crossed over in the night, but....
Yesterday morning she rallied a bit: puckering her lips for a kiss, opening one eye a bit, and moving her jaw as we sang hymns and prayed. I thought that might be the final push to get to the other side of that apparently deep and wide river. But it wasn't.
Cindy's father lasted 10 days after food and drink, so we know this could potentially go another two days. Every day is another notch lower, but she has not yet hit bottom.
Everything is set and we are just waiting. We have said and sung and prayed everything we know.
If her death does not occur by 3 this afternoon, we call Anni in Boston and tell her not to get on the plane, and her brothers not to rush here tomorrow, and we move our plans into the future.
The one good thing is that Mom is not suffering.
As I reassured son Aaron last night, it is OK to pray for death at this point.

(John will eventually do his mother's funeral.)


From The Writers Almanac, Garrison Keillor
 Jan. 27, 2012

Don't Look Back

This is not
a problem
for the neckless.
Fish cannot
swivel their heads
to check
on their fry;
no one expects
this. They are
torpedoes of
compact capsules
that rely
on the odds
for survival,
unfollowed by
the exact and modest
number or goslings
the S-necked
goose is—
who if she
looks back
acknowledges losses
and if she does not
also loses.

"Don't Look Back" by Kay Ryan, from Say Uncle. © Grove Press, 2000. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Playing? Or, a life and death struggle between hummingbird and honeybee? / WHS 2014 reunion

had some inquiries* about yesterday's SRN-featured
tiny-tongued bat
 so we revisited the video clip 
(furnished by St. Paul, MN RR museum docent, Bob Heeschen, 
play it -

Indeed, the bat was stopped by our digital
aimed at the monitor 
as he lapped cactus nectar
with a minature (but not so for him) tongue.
And that was not all the delightful  video

Hummingbirds' whirring wings were slowed
by the slow-motion filming videomaker 
to allow us to witness what
in real time would be barely visible:
a hummingbird did roll-over flips through the air 
with a competing nectar gatherer, 
a honeybee.

Over and over the hummingbird rolled
as it chased the bee away
- I tried roll-overs in 1966 in a Cessna 150 single-wing; it was chancy -
 the bee/bird encounter happened
so fast that it nearly escaped the eye
were it not  for slow-motion photography.

Just before that, a hummingbird flew
into a spider's web and was nearly caught
by an also hungry spider.

No matter how tiny the tongues of
some animals are
the urge of nourishment attainment
is universally potent.

The tongue shape
is an oft-repeated theme
in nature.

Bill Vollmer, using his tongue, cleans wall-eyes he caught in the Menominee River
near Marinette WI

Yesterday I bought a can of Pringles
and thought of a tongue
as I placed a Pringle on my 
own similar tongue.

A battle of tongues
so to speak.
The frail potato chip wafer
was no match for my 
75 year old crushing proboscis.

And it was not easy to eat just one.


And speaking in of tongues,

Fellow classmates at Waukesha High School, class of 1954, are planning
another, yet another reunion, for the year 2014.  That will be their sixtieth

As fresh meat, I have been gently pressured - tongue-talked - into participating in a planning committee
for this elderly event.  Although I have not gone to a single reunion, ever,
when the tongue screws were turned by Bill Nelson (above center top)
and Sally (Martin) von Briesen (below, leading a cheer)
and augmented by another '54 classmate, Jack Hill
(see the end of this link to a post
all three, coaxing, coaxing, coaxing.....

I said today - OK, count me in.
It could be fun.
I might have been missing something.......

People wishing to register comments 
to the SRN are invited to do so via Email c/o

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let's stay together/a campaign slogan is born/SRN says Amen


Al Green gushes after Obama sings song


Obama’s rendition was dubbed “terrific” by the musical great, who thought the head of state totally “nailed it”, reports TMZ.com.
Green, of course, is referring to Obama singing part of the first verse of the song on Sunday night at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
The clip was swiftly posted on Youtube by amused viewers, garnering millions of hits.
“I was thrilled that the President even mentioned my name, and if the President can get the economy going again and get everything going that he wants to, then we'll all be together,” Green told TMZ.

Licking: a lexiconography

A bat pollinates a desert cactus flower;

Postage is applied in England;

 Maryland niece-in-law has a seriously-studded tongue;

But if you're REALLY serious;


2 1/2 lb. beef tongue
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp. pickling spices

Place tongue in pot. Add onions and spices. Cover with water. Simmer uncovered for 3 hours. Drain and cool. Remove skin and serve.

Having gone in this from the tiny tongue of a bat to the large tongue of a steer, the raccoon news does not represent to have run a detailed gamut of miraculous tongue uses and effects.

Still Fickle Bat

A bat I thought was you
Fluttered around my head
Last night after the lights
were turned off

I opened the door
To let you find your way out
But you stayed
Would not go
Winging around my sought repose

Nibbling my ear lobes
The way you used to do
 I went out myself
And you followed me

Joining another bat
Zig-zagging in the darkness
Both of you exchanged squeaks
And left

I lay awake a long time
Wondering if you’d be back
 The only way to keep you
Is to set you free

[DD 2007]


Monday, January 23, 2012

Ice sculpture; Dee's dish; Pueblo bowl; new old friends

As stated yesterday, our Saturday outing at Key Westconsin for dinner was preceded by a look-see at the ice sculptures performed on the sidewalks of downtown Waukesha as part of the annual Janboree  winter events.

Above, an ice block chipping is in the foreground of the raccoon news in the aforementioned Putney Building.  Out site is outlined in pink, with an orange arrow pointing to our three front windows.  Hospitable candles glow in these openings pretty much day and night.  Our friends doing drive-bys can spot where we are by those lights.

Dee was writing one of her numerous letters down in the living room before we went outside to look at the ice sculptures.

This view of the sculptor at work in front of our Five Point locus was shot from our loft office, with zoom.  You can see the leaking thermopane window behind the 'matching' beveled-glass (icy) cross.  It's a small diminishment of our otherwise mostly splendid living condition in this vintage 1882 one hundred and seventeen million year old limestone building.  The windows and other features of the old Odd Fellows unit were updated about 17 years ago.  The double glass is leaking between the panes of glass, not on the inside, unlike the Arcadian Avenue house where the wavy, original 1914 windows sometimes on super cold days had frost on the inside of their single panes. 

The ice, never a problem here, would melt as the furnace eventually warmed the rooms.   It was a lot ruggeder there.

Yesterday, we said that Dee had crab cakes at the restaurant but we failed to show them in the illustrations.  Here she gets ready to mash her superb baked potato.  The cakes were full of crab meat, not much filler.


In 1972 I took a six month trip from Milwaukee up through Canada, down the west coast and eventually back to WI through New Mexico.  (See http://raccoonnews.blogspot.com/2011/11/never-to-die-snapshots.html)  
On that long journey I bought a bowl from the Pueblos in Taos.  Have guarded and treasured  it ever since.  It is made of micaceous clay, a material plentiful to the NM aboriginals.  I don't know how old the bowl is. It would date at least from 1972 which now is a long time ago. The natural, unpainted, unglazed surfaces of the bowl, inside and out, offer a visual and tactile treat for me.  I cradle the bowl often, and to look into the many particles of the rough clay.

Touching this precious bowl is something for me like touching a mezuzah.




Last week I took the opportunity of introducing two men who have both been pictured in the raccoon news but have never formally met.  As a meetng ground we looked no further than Dave's watering hole across the street, a frequent topic in the SRN.

These chaps are like Dee, and I don't just mean they are friendly toward me.  Like her, no matter how and when you point a camera at them the exposure is assured of being a winner.  No second tries needed.

Waukeshans Hawk Mahoney and Joe Beringer