Saturday, December 28, 2013

Odd Fellow antics; Sleepy Man Banjo Boys with Dueling Banjos; The Video - a poem; Never Mind!


KD Cat plays with her gift, which was a Walgreen's CAT'S MEOW *
That is, we found it at the entry counter leaving the store on a Christmas-shopping day.
We bought it for our cat.

What happens: A mouse-tail-ish wire circles the oil-cloth yellow fabric  disc.  It goes one way, stops at random, 
reverses direction (maybe, maybe NOT - may keep on going left or right!),
the cat's eyes grow large as she leaps one way, then another........

Powered by three C batteries.  So far they have not burned out.
We do turn it off regulary, and have more batteries ready.

The best gift we've ever given a cat, by far.
(See footnote)

On the same rug, New Yorker son Lee and Ben from Appleton/Rochester, WI
play Lee's gift to Erin and Ben:
a super-great board game titled

Again at the Odd Fellows,
visited for Christmas by son Leland
and daughter Erin, brother plays sister
in a re-enactment of historic competition.
Lee, from New York City;
Erin from Appleton, WI.

Erin brings favored Waukesha South (now a) night-shirt.
It is wearing well.
Behind her is an earlier picture of mother Denise.
Two beauties in their own rights.

Erin's face obscured by candle.  Picture taken through the kitchen pass-thru.
Table laden with good food by Denise.



Dueling Banjos - Sleepy Man Banjo Boys


For another tune, go here:


From Sunday's Writers Almanac 12-22-13

The Video

When Laura was born, Ceri watched.
They all gathered around Mum's bed —
Dad and the midwife and Mum's sister
and Ceri. "Move over a bit," Dad said —
he was trying to focus the camcorder
on Mum's legs and the baby's head.

After she had a little sister,
and Mum had gone back to being thin,
and was twice as busy, Ceri played
the video again and again.
She watched Laura come out, and then,
in reverse, she made her go back in.

"The Video" by Fleur Adcock, from Collected Poems 1960-2000. © Bloodaxe Ltd, 2000. 

And another one:

Christmas Sparrow

The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
 of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked into a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

"Christmas Sparrow" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House 2013


* Footnote

It came to our attention
after we had bought THE CAT'S MEOW
that the Christmas cat toy has been
advertised relentlessly on TV.

But we don't own a TV
haven't for 4 years
so we were immune/unknowing of the cleverness
 of this device beforehand.

Our first sight of it was at 
Walgreen's circa 12-10-13. 
Never saw a TV ad for it.
We knew at first blush this was a good thing without TV.

But The Raccoon feels an apology of sorts
is due those readers who perhaps
have seen on TV the Cat's Meow
ad infinitum, maybe ad nauseum.

 It's still a darn good thing!
OR, as Roseann Rosannadanna used to say (ON TV):

(A section of the box label)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Smart dog; Helt retires; Harry and David gift box; This cat will hunt

From Jim Billings
Waukesha High School class of 1954

A Nativity Scene was erected in a church yard. 

During the night the folks came across this scene.

An abandoned dog was looking for a comfortable, protected place to sleep.  He chose baby Jesus as his comfort.  No one had the heart to send him away so he was there all night.


  We should all have the good sense of this dog and curl up in Jesus' lap from time to time.

The dog is a shepherd.


Minister friend
Rev/Dr John Helt
who married Dee and me on 11/11/83
at Friedens United Church of Christ
13th and Juneau, Milw, WI
announced his retirement from ministry recently.

He liked his last -served church so much 
and is so settled there in the shadow of Holy Hill
- Colgate, Wis. -
that he pledged to stay there after he's retired.

Read the below letter which he gave the raccoon permission to reprint.

(Remember: St Paul's has a charming cemetery in back.)



A gift box from Harry and David's
came the other day, a lovely array of fancy baked goods
- the poppy seed lemon cake is delicious! -
but was unsigned as to who sent it.
We looked through the wicker basket and all over it -
even cut open what turned out to be an insulated wrap -
with negative results.
It came from Harry and David's in Oregon.

So we don't know who the kind donor is.
In hope that a raccoon reader is the sender
and will see this -
we say: thank you!


This picture of KD on the salmon-painted step-ladder
(Attn: Congo Esthetics Committee)
was taken Friday, pre-dawn, on our waking up.
Dee rearranged the furniture to accomodate our Xmas tree
that is now down from the storeroom and  getting restrung
with mini-lights.

KD Cat loves the placement of the ladder. It used to hold
Wis Guthrie's 1965 Dirt God against the opposite wall, 
but that's where the Xmas tree goes.

Now she can hunt doves on the windowsill feeder where they
boldly consume birdseed, one or two of them fearlessly.
Others, more timid, fly away when KD pounces at the window.
She usually leaps like a coiled spring from the top of the wing chair
but now with this arrangement she can jump from on high.

She also thinks she is less visible with some altitude on the birds.

KD looked at me when I called "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!"
The flash caught her two glowing green eyes,
Most photogenic.


A merry Christmas to you!


Christmas Light

When everyone had gone
I sat in the library
With the small silent tree,
She and I alone.
How softly she shone!

And for the first time then
For the first time this year,
I felt reborn again,
I knew love's presence near.

Love distant, love detached
And strangely without weight,
Was with me in the night
When everyone had gone
And the garland of pure light
Stayed on, stayed on.

"Christmas Light" by May Sarton from Collected Poems. © W. W. Norton, 1993. 


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ye shall find the peanut wrapped; Flying ribbons; Out of a dark sleep

"Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger." Luke 2:12

Dee Dix is an employee of the First Congregational UCC Church.
Her duties include the Sunday School.
Last Sunday was the annual potluck and Advent Workshop.

Dee decided to offer the littler kids the opportunity
to make a popsicle stick manger for their craft project.

In planning the activity Dee had plenty of popsicle sticks
and hot glue tools.  She made a practice manger here at
the Odd Fellows.

She wondered how to fashion a baby Jesus to
lie swaddled within the structure.

She thought of the peanuts that I feed the squirrels.
She thought too of the gauze bandages we still have from when
Leland fell and injured his knee way back when.

Dee wrapped a peanut in a gauze first-aid swaddle
and her project was headed for success.

More than she anticipated, for every single little kid
wanted, nay, insisted on making a peanut Jesus.

Notions like this are what gladden hearts at the Congo.

The kids are taught to add a piece of straw in their mangers
between now and Christmas
for every good deed they perform.




Flying Ribbons

Out of the corner of my eye.
what is this I'm pleased to spy
through the dining room window glass?
Did a flying ribbon to the arbor pass?

Ribbon lengths we carefully laid
in the back yard where our daughter played
now are chosen by a Mourning Dove
to build a nest in colors loved

that once adorned our dear girl's hair,
may happy be the bird who saw them there,
flying ribbons from our flown girl's braid,
relifted and towed, then surely re-laid.

The dove amidst the sheltering vine
will watch us pass her incubine,
but we'll not stop, we shall not stare,
enough to know a child's up there.

David Zep Dix 1999



On Dec 4th Dee uncovered this old amaryllis bulb that had been
placed in a dark furled sack in the storeroom.  She'd been looking for
Advent and Xmas decorations when she found this forgotten bulb
and looked inside the paper bag where it'd been placed
for another year.  Laid to rest. 

It had sprouted in the dark, no light.
A trace of light green was nevertheless there.

We celebrated this renewal that required no investment!

We gave it a few days on a windowsill to more fully awaken.
A bit of water was added to the old soil.
Then Dee re-potted it very carefully, exposing the white fresh rootage -
and the old dark - gently, and surrounded the revitalizing bulb
with fresh soil.

Exposed to some light during the further awakening on the sill
the amaryllis bulb had begun turning a darker green with some streaks
of pink, which may be the color of the blossoms, if it blooms.

We will see what it does.
It will be nice if it does bloom those dramatic red flowers
but it it doesn't
the phenomenon of the reawakening
will be good enough for us!
Right now it measures 1-3/4 inches.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lights, bells, Christmas miscellany; Rev. Leroy and Doorman Brian; A train engine; A-hunting we will go; An elucidation; Rumspringa (Amish)

Behind-the-scenes man oils Congregational church bell, 100 E Broadway, Waukesha 
in the midst of fallen pigeon droppings. (Historic)

An historic (keyword) Christmas card insert.

A Christmas tree bedecks fallen Black Trumpet restaurant.  Erected 12-6-13 by here-unknown patron(s).

Bells, lights.... Christmas


Rev. Leroy of previous SRN mention and I had a chance encounter with Brian the Doorman, the former
resident at the Odd Fellows who has also been previously SRN mentioned. 

The Rev. and I had a 7 AM breakfast engagement on Tuesday the 3rd of Dec.  Brian was having his breakfast (Dave's) at the booth next to ours and after a brief update on his movements since vacating the OF for a condo, I took advantage of the opportunity when Brian was paying his check to introduce my two friends. I asked Brian the Doorman (see: to sit down while I took a picture with my lower crustacean cell cam.  The strangers seemed to like each other. Chances are they might not have met were it not for this common friend.

Thus, earthlings become acquainted with each other through the sometimes-thought nefarious conduits of even the sewer-lines.  At the end, rising from our restaurant seats I then spied Lynn Gaffey's husband having his breakfast in another booth. We too greeted each other, figuratively jingling the bells of Xmas. It all was a delightful mix within footsteps of the raccoon domicile across the Five Points street and down/up two flights.

Leroy in our conversation mentioned his old Carhartt jacket he has formed an attachment to. I later drove out to his home near Saylesville to get some pix.

He boasted finally sewing new pockets into the ragged but rugged mean work shield.

The Rev took an old pair of jeans, cut pockets out and fitted another layer of front heavily-used pockets
in his jacket friend.  His seamstress, Noy, an  'associate' credited him with good work, and she would know.

Thus Leroy is prepared for more miles in his Carhartt.
It was the traditional tan color when he got it years ago
but it turned gray through many successive launderings.

And that reminds me of Phil:

My son-in-law Phil Kari
of Wasilla AK had gone through more than one Carhartt
jacket.  He has one for good and at least one other for utility wear
such as for bloody work when sawing up slain moose with his chain saw
for carting back to his hunting camp in the wilds.

Phil was the presenter of the moose leg bone
he brought down with his family to WI in an airplane
to give to me, a non-hunter, at a wedding not long ago.
A nice and very thoughtful guy.

For more Carhartt and bone data, see:

Notice my brother-in-law's Carhartt jacket in the photo.
With some fellows it is a kind of uniform of ruggedness.


A Christmas card for US Army buddy Bob Heeschen,
a railroad museum docent in St. Paul
also previously mentioned on these pages
We served together 1958-62

For more info on this
scroll down to train engine


WEDNESDAY, NOV. 27, 2013

The Last Deer Hunt

By Joel McNally the Shepherd Express

Ed called up Charley and said the two of them owed it to themselves to go on one last Wisconsin deer hunt. They weren’t getting any younger and everybody else in their old deer hunting party was long gone.
Boy, those were some great memories, if only they could remember them. Young people today didn’t have what it took to drink and play cards all night and then get up at dawn to kill stuff.
Not that everything was perfect in the old days. Ed and Charley always used to say DNR stood for Damn Near Russia.
But Ed heard there was a whole new attitude now toward deer hunting in the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Scott Walker. The leaders were no longer namby-pamby academics with highfalutin’ scientific theories about wildlife and conservation.
Garter snakes and butterflies were no longer calling the shots.
It was men with guns who had civilized this land in the first place. Wisconsin once again had leadership that admired how men with guns could improve upon nature once and for all.
Real estate developers had taken over the DNR. When men got tired of shooting stuff or snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere, they could clear out all that scruffy wild stuff, pave over it and build some buildings that would sell for a pretty penny.
So one last time, Ed and Charley found themselves driving up north for the hunt. You’d think a lot of memories would come flooding back, but Wisconsin looked strangely different.
The small towns they passed through didn’t look anything like what they remembered. The main streets looked like bad teeth with lots of dark diners and vacant video stores.
The countryside looked different, too. There weren’t any neat, whitewashed farmhouses or barns with “Mail Pouch” painted on the side. Across enormous expanses, sometimes you would see sprawling, anonymous buildings in the distance enclosing acres of God-knows-what.
For old time’s sake, Ed and Charley stopped in Hurley and tried to look up a lady they remembered. But the teenagers working the drive-thru of the Wendy’s, where one of the most famous houses in the state once stood, didn’t know anything about their own town’s colorful history.
When Ed and Charley got to what had once been their favorite hunting camp, their jaws fell open. The trees in which they had sat for hours in silence waiting for deer to wander down overgrown forest paths were all gone.
Gone too was the rustic lodge in the woods owned by a retired Chicago cop they’d always suspected had bought it with his illegal payoffs. Huffy loved to tend bar and tell war stories from the big city.
Oh, and the woods were gone, too. So were the wetlands. So was the little stream where deer would stop to drink.
Now it was all one immense parking lot surrounding a gigantic Cabela’s, a cavernous emporium selling every known variety of expensive outdoor gear to triumph over the vast outdoors that no longer existed.

Where’s the Wilderness?
Ed and Charley had no choice but to drive on further north where they knew they could hike into pristine wilderness, hoping once again to be surrounded by that exquisite solitude that sometimes made hunting seem almost spiritual.
They knew the Wisconsin they remembered was gone forever when they were surrounded by a small army of men wearing paramilitary uniforms, prodding them with semi-automatic military rifles.
The men began interrogating Ed and Charley, asking what they were doing in Penokee Hills and what eco-terrorist organization they represented.
Ed and Charley said they’d always remembered this land as public property. The men said the rules had changed in Wisconsin. They were private security flown in to protect an out-of-state mining company while it conducted environmental tests.
As soon as the DNR approved the test results, which was a mere formality, the mining company would start blowing these hills to smithereens and hauling them away.
Where Ed and Charley were standing was going to be a mammoth pit extending for miles in every direction, including down.
Then one of the men going through Charley’s wallet found his Sierra Club membership and things really started getting ugly.
Waterboarding was suggested. One guy said Ed and Charley looked like some of those wild Indians who lived nearby. Maybe if they fired their rifles at their feet, the two of them would do an environmental rain dance.
The men settled for just shooting over their heads to run Ed and Charley off.
Driving home, Ed and Charley didn’t say anything for a long time. Their state was supposed to protect them from people like that.
They used to worry about the DNR being overzealous in protecting Wisconsin’s wildlife and land. Now, Ed and Charley were worried who would protect all those things and everyone else from the DNR.

We pick up our free copy
of the Shepherd Express tabloid
at The Steaming Cup
at Clinton and Main Streets in downtown Waukesha.

The fact that the Express is distributed in a rack there by the door
 is some proof that the owner, Kerry Mackay, is not an all-bad guy.


and another thing
is an elucidation on the name NEDRA
(see last week:
from our daughter Erin in Appleton WI
the archivist at Lawrence University.

After reading her last week raccoon 
she provided a researched link on the NEDRA matter:

Thank you Erin!


'Bring a torch'
on harp guitar


SRN photo, Waukesha 2012



You see them in their black carriages along the highway as if they
got separated from some funeral cortege and now must deliver
the dead on their own. The men wear beards but shave their
mustaches. The women wear long dresses and tight bonnets.
The children play with wooden toys and point when they pass
televisions glowing along the roads as if each house had a soul
all its own. They keep bees. Raise crops. Train teams of horses so
large they look like they've been exaggerated. If an Amish man
promises to meet you at noon by the courthouse with a dozen
cages of chickens, he'll be there. When the children are about to
turn into adults, they go on a rumspringa to see which world suits
them best. Girls dangle jewelry from their ears and necks. Smear
makeup on. Boys get behind the wheel of a car. Barrel down gravel
roads. Stop in a field. And baptize themselves with a bottle of gin.
A few go out for football. The girls join the cheerleading squad.
Then return home smelling of perfume or cologne. Giggling as
they stumble up the stairs, long after the candles have been blown

"Amish" by David Shumate from Kimonos in the Closet. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013