Sunday, March 1, 2015

Snow and Cold In The Good Old Days

A reprint from The MoreStories Place, February, 2009


By Harold Ratzburg

When I read the news from years back in the Marion (Wisconsin) Advertiser, being an Old Geezer, I always start remembering how things were back in the good old days.  Kay Reminger's  article about the"Joys of Winter Weather in the January 15, 2009 paper also stirred up a coupla flashbacks.  And like most Old Geezers, it always seems that my memory of the way things were back then means that we think that we had it a little tougher than kids and grownups of today.
Take for instance snow and winter survival.  I read where Wisconsin is having record snowfall this year.  The weather stations on TV keep us pretty well up to date, so I always keep an eye on the weather in the old home town.
It does seem that when I was a kid-----and we had to walk 4 miles to and from school in the blizzards, up hill, both ways----(well, maybe it was only 1 3/4 miles, and we did get a ride to school cause each morning Dad had to haul our milk to the cheese factory which was just kitty corner across the road from Maple Valley Grade School)  And truthfully, if it was too cold, Dad would come top pick us after school or somebody else was there to help out.
But on some days we had to hoof it all the way home between the snowbanks.  One year I remember the banks that had been plowed up beside the road where really heavy drifting occurred, were so high that walking on the top of the banks, like any red blooded kid would do, we could reach up and touch the telephone wires along side the road.  I am wondering if Wisconsin still gets snow like that?  Part of it was also the snow plowing equipment the Country had.  I remember the big plows, which I believe were called "wing plows", that had a special blade that could pile the drifted snow really high beside the road.  I wonder too, if the counties in Wisconsin still have the big "V" snow plows, that were needed to open the roads after a real heavy storm and drifting.  Most plows I see  today in New Jersey are the simple single blade that can be angled to one side or the other.
Childhood memories also include one winter when we had an ice storm on top of about 10 inches of snow.  The crust was so thick that you could walk on top without breaking through.  It was heaven for a kid with his Flexible Flyer sled.  (Hey, did you know that you can always tell an antique collectible Flexible Flyer by the way the runners at the rear do not curve up and back into the sled so that there is no way that you can spear yourself in the leg when running with the sled to make a "belly flopper" start down the hill?  Those old sled's runners came straight back almost to a point.  Us "collectors" know all that stuff.) 
Anyway, getting back to the ice sledding, we had a hill that gave us a run of about  two or three hundred yards---on ice--- so it was a real kick.  Our only problem was that the run went from the cow pasture down to an open field at the bottom of the hill and there was a barbed wire fence to separate the two. Us kids tied the bottom strand of barbed wire to the top one between two posts so that there was clearance enough for us on our Flexible Flyers, but we had to be careful to slide through the fence where the wire was tied up the highest.  That got a little dicey on glare ice, but I am happy to say that we managed to hit the right spot every time and never tore ourselves up on the wire.  We had one heck of a week of sledding before a melt came and ruined it for us.
I don't believe that there are too many old Geezers around anymore that can remember the old farm house refrigeration systems.  Those systems centered around the farm "ice house", which was a wooden frame building, (on our farm I remember it as being about fifteen by twenty feet) filled to about four or five feet with sawdust, in which ice was buried in the winter to keep it from melting in the summer.  In the warm weather, the ice was dug out of the sawdust a block at a time and carried into the cellar in the house where there was a home made ice box, made by my Grandpa.  It consisted of a heavy wooden frame and sides, lined with tin of some kind.  That's where we used to keep the milk and other food from spoiling. 
On special occasions when  company dropped in, a block of ice was dug out of the sawdust and chipped up, and put around the old hand cranked ice cream maker to make good old home made ice cream.  That was always a real treat for us kids.
Now, how do you suppose that the ice came to be buried in the sawdust in the first place?  There were no ice delivery trucks around.  No Sir Ree.  That there ice came from Kinney Lake, about three miles up the road from our farm, where the big campground is located now.  The way it worked was that people got together to help each other, so at some appointed time, they would show up at Kinney Lake with their horse drawn sleds and ice cutting tools, and cut the ice blocks out of the lake and haul it home on their horse drawn sleds.  This could be done because back then, it was an accepted fact that the roadways would not always be clean down to the pavement or gravel surface.  There was a frozen layer of packed snow over the whole roadway which made sledding possible.  Come a thaw, that kinda killed the surface for the sleds, so ice for the iceboxes had to harvested in the coldest part of the winter. 
The ride to and from the lake was a long one behind a team of horses.  Dad did not get our first Ford-Ferguson, kinda high speed, rubber tired tractor until 1942.  The old Fordson tractor with the big iron cleats on the wheels that we had before just was not suitable for a slow haul of three miles, and those iron cleats were not welcome on the roadways either.  It's weight on the ice of Kinney Lake could have caused a problem also.  Come to think of it, hand cranking that old Fordson to start in that cold was almost, if not totally, impossible.  It was difficult enough in warm weather.  On the really cold winter nights, the old Model A Ford family car was kept in the cow barn so that it was warm enough to start in the morning.
Working with a team of horses made one daily job a llot harder.  That job was to clean the cow barn.  Those damn cows produced plenty of fecal matter (also known as cow sh---oops, I mean manure) in the gutters every day so it had to be shoveled out twice a day.  Motorized barn cleaners were unknown back then.  To make it more difficult in the winter, with lots of snow, it was sometimes not possible to haul the manure away in the wheeled spreader and spread it directly on the field because the snow was too deep, but it was possible to haul it out to the field with the horse drawn sled and put it on a pile there until spring came along.  Bottom line, it meant that that good old fecal matter had to be shoveled three times as much, first to get it out from behind the cows, then unloaded by hand from the sled, and then shoveled by hand AGAIN to put it in the manure spreader to fling it out on the fields.  Hopefully, when you were finally spreading the stuff, if you could manage to drive INTO the wind, it made the job a lot more pleasant and cleaner for the driver.  Those old spreaders were quite good at spreading the stuff up high and around, and a good stiff wind could really carry it forward.
Enough of the memories of an old Geezer.  I hope you have enjoyed my rambling old stories.

            Copyright 2009,  Harold Ratzburg

 Harold Ratzburg was born at the start of the Great Depression and raised on a Dairy Farm in Wisconsin.  He served four years in the US Air Force in the 50's and was stationed in Germany, where he met his wife Anneliese, who helped get him through College to become a Civil Engineer.  After a time as a Highway Engineer and College Instructor, he wound up as a City Engineer of a small town in New Jersey.  Twenty four years later he retired to become an old geezer telling old stories on his new fangled computer.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How To Prepare For A Blizzard



   By June T.  Bassemir

   When the television news paints all of Long Island in a bright pink color you know they expect us to be covered with snow and if the wind accompanies the storm, then we have a blizzard. That's all there is to it.
   After you fill the house with milk, eggs, bread and cake you're all set to hunker down and just watch the flakes fall.  The wind makes the flakes come down in a sidewise fashion which causes deep drifts in different places.  It also makes looking out the window a futile exercise because the screens are covered with snow.  One needs to find a window or door window that is clear to really see what's going on outside.  The bird feeder is emptying fast as the birds enjoy their breakfast and the squirrels are not aware that the red line on the thermometer has stopped at 20 degrees.
    Since  you can't use the car to do any window shopping, you might as well find a good book or follow your hobby path to fill in the hours while the powers that be either plow you out or make the temperature rise to melt the white stuff away.  Fortunately, there are many books here to read or reread and there is a hooked rug waiting to be worked on.  There's enough wood cut for at least 8 hours of comfy company from the wood burning stove while the parts of the linen get filled in with colorful loops.  And when you get tired of listening to your own thoughts there are Masterpiece discs to watch.
The snow blower stands ready with the electric cord attached and the jammed on/off switch recently sprayed with CR40.  It just needs someone behind it to push it in the direction of the driveway but that someone was unable to buy waterproof boots in time for this storm.  L.L. Bean has the style that would be just the ticket but they are back ordered until May 23rd.  Surely the need will be over by then. 
    Besides, that date in my daybook is for a scheduled wedding in NYC where I am expected to be.  This storm that is dominating the news will be long gone by then... but not forgotten.
    No acorns fell from my oak trees and all thought it was going to be a “No Snow Winter”.  So much for folklore. 
See you in the Spring!


    June Tuthill Bassemir is the widowed mother of four and grandmother of 10.  An artist and writer, she  volunteers as a docent in a 1765 farm house.   June loves old cars and antiques, and has also enjoyed furniture stripping and rug hooking.  "I used to say I was a stripper and hooker.but with so many trips around the sun, no one raises an eyebrow anymore. They only laugh."  June has given up furniture stripping, but is still an avid rug hooker.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Picking Stones and Building Barns


By  Delores Zillmer Miller

One hundred and thirty five years ago our ancestors came from overseas to seek their fortune.  Settled in Central Wisconsin, which was  a wild land of forests, trees and rocks.  In their German/Prussian/Poland  homeland, they were peasants working for rich absentee landlords. Houses and barns were built together, the cow herds provided the heat for the house.  Emigrant tickets were provided by relatives already in America.  Here they decided to become dairy farmers.

 Four feet of frost every winter  forced boulders to the ground surface, which had to be picked before the land could be cultivated.  A contraption known as a stone boat, 4 feet wide, twelve feet long, looped upwards in front and pulled by a good team of horses.  These peasant children walked over the  acres hoisting pebbles, rocks, stones, cobblestones and boulders.    Sometimes the horses spooked and ran away, scattering stones over freshly picked soil.

In the early years of the twentieth century, farmers decided to build barns. The barn was essential for storage and livestock shelter.   The good Lord had provided these rocks:  granite, basalt, quartzite, sandstone.  Masons worked for a dollar a day, building a stone wall, ten foot high, two feet deep, three feet in the ground.   Rocks weighed about thirty pounds, and for a 36x50 foot barn, 4000 rocks were needed for the 272 feet total of rocks.  Filled with a sand concrete mortar, huge boulders made the corner stones, chiseled the year.  This took about six weeks, crews slept in tents, housewives cooked and baked each day to feed the crew.  No one builds barns like this anymore, only in our memories the lore and legends remain.


CONTINUE CLICK HERE:
 
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 Delores Miller lives with husband Russell in Hortonville, Wisconsin.    In the summer of 2007 they  celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party hosted by their five children and ten grandchildren.  It’s been a long road.  Dairy farming until retirement in 1993, they continued to 'work' the land, making a subdivision of 39 new homes on their former hay fields.

Picking Stones and Building Barns


By  Delores Zillmer Miller

One hundred and thirty five years ago our ancestors came from overseas to seek their fortune.  Settled in Central Wisconsin, which was  a wild land of forests, trees and rocks.  In their German/Prussian/Poland  homeland, they were peasants working for rich absentee landlords. Houses and barns were built together, the cow herds provided the heat for the house.  Emigrant tickets were provided by relatives already in America.  Here they decided to become dairy farmers.

 Four feet of frost every winter  forced boulders to the ground surface, which had to be picked before the land could be cultivated.  A contraption known as a stone boat, 4 feet wide, twelve feet long, looped upwards in front and pulled by a good team of horses.  These peasant children walked over the  acres hoisting pebbles, rocks, stones, cobblestones and boulders.    Sometimes the horses spooked and ran away, scattering stones over freshly picked soil.

In the early years of the twentieth century, farmers decided to build barns. The barn was essential for storage and livestock shelter.   The good Lord had provided these rocks:  granite, basalt, quartzite, sandstone.  Masons worked for a dollar a day, building a stone wall, ten foot high, two feet deep, three feet in the ground.   Rocks weighed about thirty pounds, and for a 36x50 foot barn, 4000 rocks were needed for the 272 feet total of rocks.  Filled with a sand concrete mortar, huge boulders made the corner stones, chiseled the year.  This took about six weeks, crews slept in tents, housewives cooked and baked each day to feed the crew.  No one builds barns like this anymore, only in our memories the lore and legends remain.

CONTINUE CLICK HERE

Friday, January 30, 2015

Annabelle Lee

   By Dean Rea


     I thought I was the last person on Earth, and then I heard a knock on the door.
     “Dang,” I said aloud. “Who could that be?”
     Who expects an intrusion when you’re all alone in the world and when you’re thinking about Annabelle Lee? As I’ve told you repeatedly, I met Annabelle Lee quite by chance while I was in the sixth grade, and we have been friends forever.
     At least that’s the way I remember it.
     I also recall that Annabelle Lee taught me how to kiss. Not the peck-on-the-cheek or slightly-on-the-lips way. I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but we kissed a lot.
     Annabelle Lee also taught me how to dance. Not the hippy-hop stuff. Not the tango. Not the hold-you-lightly-in-my-arms stuff. But the up-close-and-tight kind. You know what I mean. In any event we got well acquainted dancing, talking strolls in the moonlight.
     She also taught me a lot of other stuff, especially about women. I was an only child whose only friends had been boys my age. Annabelle Lee was my age, but with her help I discovered that’s where the similarities between girls and boys ended.
     We liked to take hikes, to ride bikes and to sit and talk about our futures. She wanted to be a nurse. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, but I said I wanted to be the president of something, which I hoped would impress her.
     Eventually we fell in love. It wasn’t that hold-hands stuff or sit-snugly together stuff. Well, I can’t explain without blushing.
     We had a family and we moved a lot. First to Jefferson City, then to Kansas City and then to…

     And we had a lot of fun playing cards like hearts, pinochle and the game where you use two decks. It’s called…
     Well, I thought I was the last person on Earth, but the knock on the door must be Annabelle Lee coming to surprise me.
     “Come in,” I called. The door opened and a woman dressed in white entered.
     “You’re not Annabelle Lee,” I said disappointingly.
     “No,” she said. “I’m your nurse, and it’s time to take your pills.”


From “A Lifetime of Writing,” a self-published collection of Dean Rea’s writing; cartoon by the late Roy Paul Nelson

Dean Rea is a retired newspaper journalist and university journalism professor. "Confessions of a Professor" is the title of a memoir about his 30-year teaching career that will be published in late January.  He and his wife Lou, who live in Eugene, have explored the back roads of Oregon for more than a half-century. He continues to work as a freelance writer, photographer and editor and teaches two high school writing courses as a private academy. His hobbies are fly fishing and building model airplanes. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

She's Trouible With A Capital T

by Sandra Gurev

Missing not having a dog in our lives for many years, my husband, Jerry, and I decided to check out some eight week old golden retrievers.  Owning a different breed was not an option for us.  Our last golden, Jenny, had all the attributes of her breed: intelligence, sense of humor, friendliness to children and desire to please.

We drove to a small town in New York State in pursuit of a puppy.  The five pups for sale all had winning personalities as they approached us with happy grins and tails awagging.  We chose Sweetpea because of her eyes and expressive face.  She came home with us that day.

A few week's later we realized that we were overdue for a dog obedience class.  Sweetpea had gnawed through the knobs on our new kitchen cabinets and had drawn some blood from my arms and lip through her rough play.  She treated me as she would a litter mate.

Our trainer gave us one private lesson with Sweetpea after I was in tears one day from her aggression.  She put Sweetpea in a "down stay" thirteen times!  It took grabbing Sweetpea by the scruff of her neck and shaking her for her to obey the trainer.  "She's a tough one," she said. 

Besides the group lessons the trainer recommended providing Sweetpea with daily puppy play time to work out her considerable energy.  She advised finding other young dogs in the neighborhood and setting up play dates.  We developed a routine with Liberty, Bear, Cassie, and Edison.  Their owners were amicable to our bringing Sweetpea to their yards for play.  Since they all had invisible fences, for the most part she stayed on their property.

CONTINUED CLICK HERE

 Sandy Gurev is a wife of fifty-one years and mother of two sons and four grandchildren.  Sandy was an elementary school counselor prior to retiring to Williamsburg, VA nine year's ago from Rochester, NY. Her volunteer work includes providing lunch to cancer patients and fitting women with wigs after they have lost their hair.  Playing competitive duplicate bridge and belonging to two book clubs rounds out her time.  Within the past two years she has written a memoir for her grandchildren and a couple of articles for the American Amateur Press Association. Sandy found that writing helped to reduce her perception of pain while she was awaiting back surgery.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So, This Is Christmas …


by Rev. Lou Kavar Ph.D.


It was quite unexpected. Her mother fell on a patch of ice the week before Thanksgiving. The broken hip was a concern, but following surgery she was admitted to rehab. It seemed as though all was well. But then there were complications. She died about a week ago. The family gathered for the funeral on the Saturday before Christmas.

Three adult sons are living with their mother. One had spent time in jail for a drug related offense. Another, well….the neighbors said that he was “a bit slow.” The third left a failed marriage. They were trying to get by on mother’s social security and working various jobs in big box stores and fast food restaurants. They were good neighbors and helped others, including doing yard work for those who due to age couldn’t keep up with the work. Just last week, the notice went up on the front door: the bank was going to foreclose on the mortgage. What would be next for them?

I met for coffee with a man I know. In his 40’s, he’s a successful business man … and white. His wife, working in government, is African-American. They have two teenage boys nearing adulthood. While the boys are mixed race, most people identify them as African-American. The man tells me that he’s afraid for his sons. “What will happen if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if they have a run-in with the police? I don’t know how to help them.” Yes, it’s a problem Black parents face, but this white man finds himself confused and troubled on how to sort out his own experience of “white privilege” while being a good parent to young African-American teenage boys.

CONTINUED Here:

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Visit Lou's blog  here:

http://blog.loukavar.com/2014/12/22/so-this-is-christmas/