Sunday, February 14, 2021


Meme found on Ace of Spades blog.

The rose below has since been covered. Coldest temperatures since 1899 coming to this part of Texas along with 2-4 inches of snow.

Small plants for starting the growing season are in the pantry and the metal garage has a small electric heater on til this is over; and a small propane heater on during the day. It helps, but in no way warms the shop enough for protecting. 

Main propane tank topped off hopefully soon. Mostly to have the ability to run the generator in case of power outage for a few days.

Rumors that the local peach crops are in danger this season due to coming winter weather.


I was 8 years old. Old enough to be given my first pocket knife. A big moment in a young boy's life, given by his grandfather. 

I have written of my grandparents here early on when I started “the after” blog posting. They played an important part in my youth. Also time on their ranch and our weekend visits.

Grandpa fled Czarist Russia. Left as an “old” boy, a young man. My grandmother Rose, too. They both left their country very young, on their own, to make a life in this country. They came in through the front door. So did my father from Norway.

Grandpa was a designer/builder of all things. I spent many an hour in his make-shift foundry and metal-working shed where all things farm-related were heated, hammered into shape and attached into working machinery. Many hours in his company doing “manly” work. Milking cows, riding on the fender of his Ford tractor, tending the land and assorted barn chores.

Grandfather made everything. Metal-working, wood-working, even basket-weaving and shoes for his children. Everything. A hundred percent self- sufficient.

Cedar logs would break free from log rafts and floated up the river next to their home. Grandpa would snag one of these giant logs. A dog was set into the end of the log and it was dragged onto the shore at high tide. Grandpa now owned the log.

He would cut them into blocks from which he would hand-split cedar shakes for his barn.

I sat down next to him on one of the blocks and watched. The cedar shakes would split and make a popping noise when the froe was set and the wooden mallet swung. Each cedar shake was a project in of itself. Hundreds of them. A beauty to watch. Works of art.

He set his tools down, sat next to me that day and picked up a freshly cut Willow limb. Inch in diameter or so. Using his pocket knife, he whittled off a six-inch piece. It was time for me to learn how to make my own whistle from a tree limb. He had given me one earlier as a gift.

When the Willow sap runs, the bark and wooden can be easily separated. But the making of a whistle took some skill and I understood this was taught to him when he was a young child. Now, it was my turn.

After the small tree limb was in hand, my grandfather took his pocket knife by the blade and started tapping the bark all round the small cut limb. He was saying “umpa-lala, umpa-lala, umpa-lala.” He turned the small limb and again lightly tapped the whistle to be, explaining with a slight grin that saying “umpa-lala” was the magic that needed to be said during this procedure. He insisted. Again, more tapping, more turning and “umpa-lala.”  

Within minute or two, the bark was freed of the inner limb. It could be twisted back and forth while maintaining its shape and form. But this part of the procedure was delicate. To be done lightly with a touch. Once and if the bark was broken or cracked, the whistle had to be started all over.

Once the bark was loose, the embouchure hole was notched. (Had to look that up). A taper was whittled where the bottom lip would be placed.

The wood limb slid smoothly from the bark. Both pieces were noticeably wet with sap.

The notch in the wood slide was cut off to become the mouth piece. A small flat was cut off the top to allow air to enter the whistle. It was then set back inside the bark.

Then the remaining piece of wood was slid back into the bark and became the slide, that when moved, would change the sound pitch.

Like magic, a little carving with a pocket knife, “umpa-lala” and a patient touch resulted in a handmade wooden whistle for his grandson. A wonderment. 

The lesson was not done.

A branch was set on my lap. Grandfather told me to get out my new pocket knife and make a wooden whistle.

We sat there together, me carving/notching and grandfather explaining the dos and don'ts of using a pocket knife, “umpa-lala, umpa-lala” and time passing in perfect moments.

When was all said and done, I placed my whistle between my lips and made music. A musical instrument, with the ability to change sound during the playing. All made from a tree branch, using a pocket knife and my own hands.

To this day,  that moment is as bright as a morning sun.

As a VocEd teacher, I got to recreate a thousand moments like this, over and over. I would teach a procedure, do the procedure, complete the procedure.

And the fun invariably came when I turned the new procedure over to 25 students and guided them through start to finish.

The smile on their faces and the look in their eyes were always great moments for me. I saw myself in those eyes.......

Grand old days.

Damn!! Those kids are in their 40's now.

Umpa-lala” works. Try it!

I found this YouTube video that is similar to grandpa's whistle lesson some 67 years ago.


                                     (too much information in the photo below))

The doctor told my wife that he will shave off part of the bone here, break this bone and the other one in the big toe. Twisting the big toe, he explained that he would use staples there on the outside. The next toe he will shorten and put in a pin. He was moving her toe(s) around asking if this hurt, or does this hurt or how about his. It did.

Entering the orthopedic facility was an exercise in going into the belly of the beast. Sign in, temperature taken, masks on all and the passing through of doors.

Environment sterile, no magazines to look at, signs on chairs saying do not sit due to social distancing. Pictures on the walls were of wrinkled paper in various forms. Artsy fartsy stuff. 

Everyone was very helpful, but hard to hear words through masks. The fix was always to pull the mask off, say it all again, then put the mask back on. Office workers in the back rooms were working with masks off and looked guilty as sin when they saw us see them. That very same look when getting caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

The doctor was younger, polite, professional to the “Nth” degree, well documented in his profession. There was not any personal interaction beyond the business of getting my wife's toes examined and setting in motion the repair. 

My wife joked through her mask, several times. Little jokes. Little humor. But the doctor never entered into the conversation. Once he made a remark, my wife joked back and he had to note that what he said to her was not meant in any negative way. He had to qualify that saying some folks would have taken offense at the honesty/friendliness of his comment and medical opinion. So, no personal interactions. Just business. Just the facts. An appointment made soon.

The younger nurse who initially checked us in asked if there was anything else we needed before the doctor would arrive in the room. I asked for a cup of black coffee and an egg, bacon cheese croissant. And damned if she did not just joke back with me. Made me laugh out loud. Humor in daily living/working is there but sometimes we have to pry a little bit.

Day surgery upstairs, the bride will be put out, maybe an hour or hour and a half. No weight-bearing for a few days. Come back and see me in a couple days, a week or two and then a few more weeks to take out stitches and pin. Then a few months of healing and taking it easy.

Do you have any questions?”

And off we went to shop and lunch around the outskirts of town. Filled the coolers with good meats, a large paper towel and jars of this, boxes of that.

Chinese take out for lunch and surprisingly good. I told my wife that she and I could eat our way through Tyler Texas quite easily. Take a year or two, though.

Tyler is a small Dallas. Still easy for us older folk to navigate and offers everything under the sun. Great economy booming and easy to see once one enters the ring-road around Tyler. 

The packing of small businesses in every nook and cranny was a sight to see for us country folk. And Tyler is just far enough away. 

Roads home quickly turn into America 30 years ago. Fields to the horizon, lakes and farmland all leading to our speck of the place we call home.

There waiting for us in the driveway were two young men with a tall ladder and walking towards our front porch. We arrived two minutes late from the appointed time for them to change out heating/AC filters in our high ceilings.

We owned that day trip to Tyler, but damned if were not late to my wife's appointment and late getting home. We are folk who both have always been early to each and every appointment/social gathering our entire lives. Being two minutes late puts us on edge. We are never never ever late. Arriving early is a fault we have to always manage.

After things settled and the shopping was put away, I told my wife that I will be waiting for her when she comes out of surgery. A cold vanilla milk shake in hand. She smiled.

Now I know why I have those shooting pains between my right eye and ear. Probably no more than a spring adjustment.



A reoccurring theme in the weeks ahead.  For years, this blog has taken aim at days like we are living now. Never really knowing exactly what was coming nor how it would rear its ugly head. But any of us can look around us these days and plainly see we are in "the after." And, this it is just beginning. 

No hidden agenda anymore. Living in several different Americas. We are pitted against each other and I am most impressed at how well the upheaval in our daily lives has been orchestrated by the upper crust. The noise is getting louder and louder. 

Advice now?? That, too, has changed. Do this? Plan this? Put some of this away? Consider...? What about...? the list is long. But giving any advice now would take pages rather than quickie comment or two. I use to get away with that. And in all of this, it is still one man's opinion.

As for me, I am just trying to keep up with the crazy. Every day. The absolute insanity that the human species can go to such lengths to inject chaos into every breath of fresh air. To negate every iota of goodness and common sense. To negate everything my eyes, ears and taste buds are telling me is real. That the color of our skin and what hangs or does not hang below is up for debate and change. Normal is everything but just that.

My God, does anyone really think that wearing more masks is an answer to self protection? How has the American become so easily convinced to jump into the out of control Tsunami. No seeking high ground and thinking. Just jump in and damned to those raising their hand with "...I have a question...?"  

Violence is ok and a methodology openly promoted, mainstreamed and the only out for everyday common folk is the "off" button and stay away from crowds. 

And the rabbit hole deepens so I am turning around now and re-surfacing. 


Cold cold weather upon this Sunday morning with snow and ice just off to our left. Propane topped off yesterday. Gas tanks filled. Fresh bread baked. Pot of soup on the warm. Two layers of clothes with the heaviest of New England winter socks taking care of these old feet.  

We are as ready as we can be here in the Piney Woods and the bride wants Swedish pancakes for Valentine's morning breakfast.

Thanks for the visit this week.

1 comment:

  1. 7 degrees, windchill of -13 and snowing up in Wichita Falls! Hope she came through the op okay! Stay warm and safe down there!