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La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm) from Lena, WI
La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm)

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Farm Name: La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm)

Year Farm Established: 1946

Location: Stiles, WI

Years I’ve been farming: 68 years

Animals I raise: None, except wildlife.

Crops I grow: Vegetable gardens, flowers, rye, and pastorage.

Hobbies I enjoy: Feeding and providing habitat for wildlife.

The proudest moment on my farm: For the first time in over 60 years, bobwhite quail was sited on our land.

Pets: Just all sorts of wildlife who visit us daily.

Farm Motto: "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well." -- Blessed Julian of Norwich

Farm Blog
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  What lovely photos! And I just love reading your posts. Looking forward to more

Come visit me, The grass is greener!.

01/28/2015 07:09.05 AM Report This Comment  
  Trains 'n Truckeys (Part IV)
"Good morning, America, how are you? Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son. I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans, I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done." ." (Refrain from "City of New Orleans")

Another time my Pa was walking along the same stretch of track during the heat of another Summer's day. When he had made his way a third across the trestle over Devereaux's Crick, which ran through Younger's land, he suddenly heard the drone of the train engine and clacking of the rails. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw the train looming up on him; the engineer dozing in his seat and the engine blotting out all else in Pa's sight as it lurched its way onto the trestle.

Pa's brain must have been racing at a furious speed. He told me that he instantly calculated that if he ran away from the train, he would either be run down or would have to jump from the bridge and probably break his legs in the rocky stream bed below. So Pa ran toward the train, which was shorter in distance, and at the last second he jumped to the sloping sand at the end of the trestle. The train rumbled past; and Pa said that with the engineer asleep, no one would have ever known that he'd been killed for days. More on trains next time. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/24/2015 08:45.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Trains 'n Truckeys (Part III)
"Dealing card games with the old man in the club car, penny a point - ain't no one keeping score.
Won't you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle, and feel the wheels rumbling 'neath the floor.
And the sons of Pullman porters, and the sons of engineers, ride their father's magic carpets made of steel,
And mothers with their babes asleep, are rocking to the gentle beat, and the rhythm of the rails is all they feel." ("City of New Orleans," --Steve Goodman)

I was talking about the railroad that ran from Oconto out West to Oconto Falls and beyond. For years and years a train ran daily in the early afternoon from the Falls to Stiles Junction and left off cars on a siding at the Junction to be picked up by the trains that ran North-South. I can only wish that I remembered the names of the railroad lines. This particular feeder line was, and is to this day, in disrepair. Since I was a small boy, it was pulled by a single small green and yellow diesel locomotive. In the youth of my father, it was a smaller steam engine. In both eras it was and is a slow train, clacking monotonously over the rippling, uneven rails, sounding a tired whistle at the few road crossings along the way. When I think of this train I think of it being the hottest part of the Summer, some airless day in August, with the cicadas whirring in the 90 degree heat and the train itself wavering in the thermals from a forty away as I watched it from Caldie road in front of my cousin Vincent Younger's farm.

With this description, you can imagine how it was if someone should be out and about anywhere near this line. My great-aunt Emma Younger, who was sister to my Grandpa Brabant, told me that back in the '40s she had a corn patch near the railroad and when the train would go past in the early afternoon the engineer would see her out working in her garden. He was moved finally to stop the train and scold her for working out in the heat and told her that if he ever saw her out there again when he went by in hot weather he would stop the train, get out of the engine, and carry her bodily back to her house! Grandma Younger was tickled by the story. (Please scroll up for Part IV--Gary)

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/24/2015 08:40.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Trains 'n Truckeys (Part II)
In the present day and age we forget that more people walked along the railways than they did the roads. Most roads in dry weather were incredibly dusty. If an automobile passed, you were likely to be covered in the stuff. In wet weather the roads were under a thick layer of mud. In either type of weather, one had to be step around or over the plentiful droppings from the teams of horses that every farmer still used. The railroad grade provided a clean and straight road from one village to the next. The evenly-spaced railroad ties on the bed of small rocks meant that with a little practice, a man or boy could march at a measured pace, covering long distances with less effort and what's more, usually removed from the prying eyes of perpetually nosy rural neighbors. This last was especially important as anyone who walked past down the road was an immediate topic of discussion in those days before radio and television. No one likes being talked about, and in the days of Prohibition, certain young men (like my father) simply didn't want to be noticed at all as they traveled from one place to another.

The track that ran from Oconto to Oconto Falls and on out West was especially pertinent to my father. As a teenager he helped run a moonshine still during the Prohibition Era. As I'd written in my earlier blogs about Pa's moon-shining years, the still and shack was just a short ways from this railway. When enough corn whiskey had been distilled, Tom Burdick, who owned the still, would load the jugs on a handcar that he had appropriated and transport them in the dead of night the fourteen miles or so to Oconto. There, one can only surmise, were railroad employees who augmented their income by accepting bribes to load and hide the bootleg whiskey for shipment down to Chicago. Word was that the moonshine produced in this area went to Al Capone's syndicate there.

A popular story told in my youth was the time ol' Tom was on a loaded handcar when a train unexpectedly appeared. They say Tom had to pump his handcar like a demon in order to stay ahead of the train. It made for a good story, but I suspect that like many tales from that period, it was all too good to be true. One can be assured that a smart operator like Mr. Burdick would've been apprised of any and all trains scheduling. Still, it could've occurred that an unscheduled train or at least an engine had been directed to make a run to Oconto for repairs and such the like. More about trains next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/21/2015 08:03.20 PM Report This Comment  
Uncle Glen and Uncle Earl were both conductors on passenger and freight trains. Wouldn't it be interesting to know if they and your Pa ever crossed paths? The C&NW was only one of the railroads they worked for - it's just the only uniform that we found. Hmmm..... next thing you know, we'll probably find out we're cousins somewhere along the way! :)

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

01/18/2015 07:33.25 AM Report This Comment  
  Trains 'n Truckeys (Part I)
"Riding on the City Of New Orleans, Illinois Central, Monday morning rail. Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, three conductors; twenty-five sacks of mail.

All along the southbound odyssey - the train pulls out of Kankakee, and rolls along past houses, farms, and fields, passing trains that have no name, and freight yards full of old black men, and the graveyards of the rusted automobiles." ("City of New Orleans, --Steve Goodman)

"City of New Orleans" is my favorite song. It was written by Steve Goodman and released by Arlo Guthrie in 1972. One of the reasons that the song is so important to me is that it strikes a nostalgic chord by describing the passing of the passenger train as an integral part of American life. Another reason is that my Pa's early life was closely intertwined with the railroad and this connection was carried on down to my own time.

You don't need me to tell you the importance of the railroad 100 years ago. Roads were secondary, seldom graveled, even more rarely paved. If you wanted to travel more than a few miles, you used the railroad. In the youth of my father, Dave Truckey, there was a depot in Stiles, and another in Stiles Junction. The Junction was the link-up between the railroad that ran North-South from Green Bay to points Northwards up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the one that ran East-West between Oconto and points Westward into central Wisconsin. There was a third railroad switch located a mile South of Stiles with a water tower called Oconto Junction. This junction connected with yet another railway to Oconto which ran along the South side of the Oconto River.

Now this extensive rail system around Stiles was to serve the lumber industry. Stiles at one time was one of the largest towns North of Green Bay. A mill of over 100 saws once straddled the dam over the Oconto river there. Of course, there were also mills at Oconto Falls, five miles upriver and in Oconto, some eight miles downriver near the bay of Green Bay. In addition to all the previously mentioned lines, there was one more "secondary" railway which ran from the mill at Stiles along the dike that created a head of water for the mill and North and then West to join up with the line that ran between Oconto Falls and Oconto.

It was in this "railroad-rich" environment that my Pa spent his younger years. He told me once that he'd traveled these rails in the Prohibition years with a pistol strapped in a shoulder-harness. (This was the same time that he ran a moonshiner's still near the East-West railway.) Pa said that if he had been caught carrying a gun on a passenger train at that time, he could've been put away for quite awhile. My father had a lot to do with these rails in his early years, and I will elaborate on this for a number of ensuing blogs. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/17/2015 07:50.32 PM Report This Comment  
  Farms In Winter
Love the post. We do have a longer growing season, but there are some days I wish we had the snow. It's such a novelty around here. But trust me, a couple of days of it, and we're ready for it to disappear again. With our 'warm' winters, we have that luxury. But man, oh, man, does a nice nap sound good right now! Without the snow, that just doesn't fly around here! Stay warm, Gary! I'm sharing this post so my other Southern friends can enjoy it, too!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

01/11/2015 06:43.49 AM Report This Comment  
  Farms in Winter
It is now deep in Winter at La Ferme Sabloneuse. I enjoy reading the blog posts of "The Farmwife" by Julie Murphree and "Casa Smith-Coushatta" by Kathleen Tiberius Smith. Both live in Louisiana and write about how they, as small farmers in the Deep South, contend with the cold, rain, and ice of Winter in their neck of the woods. As "The Farmwife" has related to me, the milder weather in the South carries with it the added burden of an extended growing season. I can understand this. We here up North complain about our brutal Winters, but some of us are able to appreciate that with it comes some much-needed down time.
Old Joe, a farmer I worked for in the '70s, told me that he lived for Winter. That was when he could hunt rabbits if the mood struck him, or go snowmobiling; but what he really loved doing was ice fishing. That man could catch perch, crappie and bluegills when no one else would be getting a nibble. Another farmer, a young man in his early twenties, told me that his happiest time when he was just out of high school and worked for his father on the family farm. He told me how he and his dad would milk, eat breakfast, and then do the usual Wintertime chores: cleaning the barn, spreading manure, and putting down fresh bedding. When they were done, they had at least eight hours free before evening chores. My friend had fond memories of how he and his dad would take long naps while his mother cooked and baked.
In Nebraska, where Punky, my daughter Amanda works, this time of year is when they repair, refit, and overhaul the tractors and the various attachments that's been worked so hard during the long months of planting, cultivating, and harvesting from the Texas Gulf Coast up to North Dakota. It is also the time her man Matt goes to the John Deere plant out East to pick up new harvesting equipment for the upcoming year.
Since the earliest days of the Republic, artists and poet have celebrated the subject of the farm in winter. Currier and Ives, not to mention Redlin and many other painters, have produced idyllic images of the same. There is nothing more apealing to the sentiments of a Countryman and Countrywoman than the image of a farmstead or cottage warm and secure for the Winter.
Last Wednesday was my day off. It was a cold day with the high temperature reaching only to zero. In the late afternoon, as the sun set and it was getting dark in our living room, I turned on the Christmas tree lights, (yes, it's still up) and I stretched out on the couch. My Ruthie was in the kitchen baking cookies and it was a slice of Heaven. I dozed in the darkening room, with only the lights of the tree for illumination and the smell of warm, sweet cookies in the air. From time to time Ruthie would speak and I would answer, but mostly it was just the colored lights, the aroma of baking, and a quiet sense of contentment; the contentment of a farm in Winter. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/10/2015 07:24.51 PM Report This Comment  
At least David shot his tractor accidentally. Remind me some day to tell you the story of why Randy shot his baler - on purpose!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

01/09/2015 06:37.34 AM Report This Comment  
  Fun With Explosives, More Truckeylore (Part IV)
Rather than explosions, this final blog on the subject has to do with shooting. I had alluded to the time when Eldest Brother David shot his own garage. David's garage shop was a pleasant place to be in. He would have a fire in the Sears box stove and we'd pull up a couple of old chairs. It was in this setting that he was working with Pa's Kentucky Rifle, measuring varying amounts of gun powder into his charges in order to determine how much black powder it took to shoot the muzzle loader's ball accurately at 100 paces. Eldest would decide upon the amount of gunpowder, load the rifle and then step outside and shoot at a target set up against one of his conical woodpiles. Since my brother's property was next to mine, the afternoon would be punctuated with the unmistakable report of a muzzle loader every 20 minutes or so. This would irritate My Ruthie to no end, but as for me, it made me smile. It meant that my brother was happily engaged in a favorite hobby. I was reminded of the chorus lines from Shakespeare's "Henry V": "Now thrive the armourers, and honor’s thought reigns solely in the breast of every man."

Now as many of you know, the external hammer on many rifles have a "half-cock" position. This is where you set the hammer when you have a round (or charge) in the chamber. It's a safety mechanism which ideally, prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin or primer by accident. To fire the rifle, one needs only to thumb the hammer back to its firing position, ready to be released by pulling the trigger. The term "going off half-cocked" comes from the phenomena of the safety mechanism failing and the hammer falling forward to set off the round. The problem is that one needs to take special care in lowering the hammer so as not to have it slip from your thumb and fire off the charge. This is what Eldest failed to do one Autumn day. He fully cocked the hammer back in order to insert the percussion cap onto the "nipple" of the Kentucky rifle and when he tried to ease the hammer forward, it slipped from his thumb and ignited the charge. David must've had the rifle laying flat on his workbench with the muzzle facing toward the end of the garage that housed his tractor and lawn mowers. We never found the bullet. When he showed us the bullet hole in the shop wall, we did some amateur ballistics and it appeared that the ball must've hit his tractor and then caromed elsewhere. There was no bullet hole in the east wall of the garage and no leakage from the circa 1950 Farmall, so the bullet must've ricocheted around the eastern bay of the garage and then buried itself somewhere where it couldn't be found. Perhaps someday it may be discovered, but I prefer to think that like many such stories of Truckeylore, the mystery of it all makes the story all the more appealing. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/07/2015 07:42.07 PM Report This Comment  
  Fun WIth Explosives
You are hereby banned from hanging out with Randy. This is something he would just love to do! :)

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

01/07/2015 07:09.43 PM Report This Comment  
  Fun With Explosives, More Truckeylore (Part III )
When it did clear, that's when I saw that the cornstalks were on fire. Pa and Clete ignored my squawks of alarm as they continued to congratulate one another and I was forced to stomp out the flames all by myself. It must've been a comical sight; two older men acting like kids while a skinny 24 year old was dancing in the corn patch like a demon-possessed scarecrow. I was able to put out the flames and then I went back to open up the supper club for the evening. I assume Pa and Clete retired to the Homestead to make coffee and tell stories. Needless to say, there was a brand new story to tell. More about this next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/03/2015 06:54.56 PM Report This Comment  
  Fun With Explosives, More Truckeylore (Part II )
Now the trouble with black powder is that over time it becomes unstable. At least that was what I was told. The retired Oconto County judge, whom I mentioned a number of blogs past, told me a story that when he was an attorney, he agreed to handle a messy divorce for the husband. That husband brought in as evidence a can of black powder. He related that he had built the makings for a wood fire in the stove of his shop and stepped out for a moment. When he'd returned he went to light off the stove, but was prompted for some reason to open the top of the stove. Sitting atop the wood and newspaper inside the stove was a can of black powder. It would've seemed that one of his stepsons had surreptitiously placed the can in the stove on behalf of his mother. The judge went on to tell me that the divorce case proceeded relatively civilly and the tin of black powder was not needed as evidence. It wasn't until years later, upon his appointment to the bench, the judge was cleaning out his attorney's office and came across the forgotten powder. He was able to find someone to dispose of it safely. As for me, when I heard this story I gasped.

I must admit that it wasn't until I had done a little research for this post that I discovered that black powder is very stable and even when stored for over 40 years can be used safely. Of course, we didn't know that 30 years ago.

Now the reason the judge told me this story is that I had told him about my experience with Pa, Wild Bill's brother Clete Beaudin, and an old tin of black powder. This was in the Autumn of '83. I was working my way through college, Pa was in his 70s and Clete had recently moved back to Wisconsin. Cletus had an old tin of black powder and the wisdom of the time dictated that he needed to dispose of it. (Can you already perceive the necessary ingredients for a great story?) So on a bright sunny October Sunday I returned home for a few hours between working the Sunday brunch at a supper club and returning there for the evening. I came home to find Pa and Clete ready to light off Clete's can of powder in the garden. The two men had placed the tin in the Home garden amongst the dried-out cornstalks after leaving a trail of powder leading up to it. Pa had rigged up a gasoline-soaked rag at the end of a wooden pole and as I stood by to watch, Pa set a match to the rag and Clete set it to the powder trail. We all retreated to a safe distance as the flame followed the trail of powder just like in the movies, only faster, sending up volumes of white smoke. The explosion was even better than we expected, in flash, sound, and smoke. A movie-quality fireball rolled up to the sky and a cloud of white smoke hung over a blackened mini-crater in the sand. Both Pa and Clete were hooting like teen-agers as I watched the smoke clear. (Please scroll up for part III)

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

01/03/2015 06:38.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Brava, Gary!
What an absolutely beautiful post! Taking today's obstacles that society faces, I think everyone should read your post, take it to heart, carry the light and celebrate one of the two most honored days of the year. And if only a few of us do this, then just imagine how many people we can touch and how much better a place the world will be to live in this time next year! God bless and be with you and yours, always.

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

12/28/2014 02:19.55 PM Report This Comment  
  Light, Darkness, Warmth, and Cold
The Germanic tribes called it Yule. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia. The Druids lit bonfires and the First Nations people had their own ceremonies for this time of year, the Winter Solstice. It was only natural that the early Church Fathers decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus at the very same time. As a Catholic Christian, I believe every part of the Nativity story. Each year at this time I watch a dvd of "The Nativity Story"; for my money, the best portrayal of the event as described by the Gospels. Now as a Countryman, I respect any ritual which instills hope and in turn, endurance, in the face of the darkest and coldest time of the year. In the face of cold , we warm-blooded mammals crave warmth. In the face of darkness, we humans desire light. As we learned to use fire, we were able to keep both at bay.

As we go through the Christmas Season, we sometimes become jaded with the overload of programs, music, and especially advertisements which secularize the Holy Day. I had almost decided that I wouldn't add to the overkill with another Christmas blog but then I read the Christmas blog post of "The Farmwife". Julie Murphree's article is as good as or better than most that I've read in quite awhile. It made me realize that the miracle of Christmas is so grand that there is always some new perspective or realization that we can glean from it. I believe that this is because each of us has our own unique and personal experience and appreciation of Christmas. Each of us has our own Christmas story to tell, indeed, our own Christmas sermon to preach.

Julie Murphree's article was a gem on how to really "live" Christmas. (Quotations are mine. It's the only way I could figure out how to emphasize it.) As for me, I relate to the hope, faith, and acceptance in and of God's holy design. In "The Nativity Story", I loved how the shaft of light from the combination of stars and comet lit up the stable and how the Holy Family was warmed by the peaceful collection of livestock surrounding them.

Fittingly, Pope Francis, in his Christmas homily stated: "Isaiah's prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds."

At this time of year we all yearn for light in the face of darkness, warmth in the face of coldness, and to add an even more important part of our human condition, love in the face of loneliness. It is my resolve to take the light, warmth, and love of Christmas and following The Farmwife's admonition, live it throughout the next year. Christmas has only just begun. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

12/27/2014 06:47.26 PM Report This Comment  
  Love it!
I just spent the last twenty minutes playing catch up and reading all your latest posts. I will probably spend the rest of the day chuckling. I can just picture you and David as children, hunkered down and trying to be so adult-like in your hunting attempts. And all I can see is Pa and Earl, covered in mud from head to toe, with more of it dripping down on top of them from the trees and power lines. Thank you, Gary, for all of these great stories!

Come visit me, The Farm Wife & Paradise Plantation.

12/21/2014 12:49.44 PM Report This Comment  
  Fun With Explosives, More Truckeylore (Part I )
The previous thread on muzzle loaders and black powder reminded me of a few "contratemps", or mishaps with explosives that have become a part of Truckeylore.
I've already related how Pa had inadvertently seeded nitroglycerin into the soil one of the fields of La Ferme Sabloneuse through a combination of glycerin coolant leaking from a gas engine-powered wood saw and nitrate fertilizer spread over the same area. As I've written, the following Spring, as Pa dragged the field in preparation for planting, he heard a popping noise whenever he drove the drag over the spot where the saw rig had stood the previous Autumn. In spite of himself, Pa had created nitroglycerin at La Ferme Sabloneuse.

At about the same time, in the late 1940s, Pa decided to try to create a conducive habitat for wood ducks. Pa's brother Earl had come upon a stash of dynamite and so the two of them decided to deepen the seepage in county-owned land adjacent to La Ferme Sabloneuse. They planted the sticks in the mud and lit them off. The resulting explosion hung massive globs of muck on the power lines on the Truckey property next to the County park. Fortunately, this blasted earth did not upset the power flow to the residents of Oconto County and so no repercussions ensued.

Now Pa's friend Wild Bill Beaudin was a kindred spirit. That man had a lot of experience with black powder, especially in regards to loading his ball-and-cap Navy Colt revolver. Bill also liked to roll his own cigarettes. He even had his own Zig-Zag rolling machine. The problem was, Bill liked to smoke regardless of what he was doing. I can still see his 6ft-4inch frame in an "Indian kneel" over whatever task he had at hand with a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. So one time Bill was crouched over the workbench preparing cap-and-ball charges for his pistol when an ash from his ever-present cigarette fell onto some black powder. Bill ended up losing both eyebrows and half his beard. He thought the situation so funny that he refused to shave off the other half and used his facial appearance as a conservation piece. More about these adventures next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

12/20/2014 06:22.38 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part VII (Muzzle loaders)
So when I prepared for this muzzle loader deer season, I went through the learning process with the two aforementioned rifles. It was much the same as the post I'd made over two years ago about Eldest Brother David (09/11/2012). I found that David's Hawkens wasn't able to strike the percussion cap consistently hard enough to ignite the charge. I was finally able to fire off the existing charge and then cleaned the Hawkens and then put it away. As for Pa's Kentucky rifle, I found that the hammer would set off the cap, but the sparks wouldn't set off the charge in the barrel. I had to unscrew the nipple and then sprinkle some powder next to the touch hole. I screwed the nipple back one and then was able to bulls-eye the target. I had to laugh when I realized that a frizzen and powder pan would've worked better. As for the Hawkens, I expect that I'll have to research on how to tighten the internal spring that gives the hammer enough torque to set off the cap.

Nowadays for hunting with muzzle loaders, they use what's called an "inline system". This type of rifle breaks open between the hammer and the barrel. You still load the weapon from the muzzle, but instead of loose powder, wadding, and bullet, you drop in two Lifesaver candy-shaped rings of compressed powder and then the bullet, (no wadding). At the breech end of the barrel is a little aperture in which you insert a primer cap. You snap the rifle shut and when you pull the trigger the primer cap sends sparks through the center of the to "life savers" which ignites all the powder at once, instead of the slower, more gradual ignition that you have with loose gunpowder. This results in longer range and greater accuracy. On the Outdoor Channel you can watch hunters use such a rifle, (with an attached scope) to take deer from some 200 yards.

Finally, last Sunday eve as I climbed down from Eldest Brother David's stand at the North end of La Ferme Sabloneuse after seeing no deer..... again. The thing about muzzle loaders is that you have to unload it by firing it. So I set up the target again and sure enough, the Kentucky rifle shot sure and true, bulls eyeing the target again. I put the gun in David's shop, to be cleaned in a day or so when I had more time, and I walked down the road towards home. As I got to my driveway I saw five deer cross the road a quarter mile South of our land. Again, I had to laugh. So ends my first real muzzle loader season. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

12/13/2014 06:53.23 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part VI (Muzzle loaders)
During the development of the firearm, gunsmiths found that they could greatly increase the accuracy of both muskets and cannons by "rifling" the barrels. This simply meant grinding grooves inside the barrel of the weapon. As Wikipedia states: "Rifling refers to helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis. This spin serves to gyroscopically stabilize the projectile, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy." It was German craftsmen who came upon the idea. German craftsmen who'd emigrated to Pennsylvania (the "Pennsylvania Dutch), in turn, developed the Pennsylvania Rifle, which, in turn, became the "Kentucky Rifle". Both Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett achieved fame with the Kentucky rifle. During the American Revolution, frontiersmen with their rifles were used as "skirmishers" and snipers. As skirmishers, those militiamen fired two or three shots into the British ranks, targeting officers in order to disrupt the battle formation of the enemy. Because the rifling of the rifles would quickly become clogged after these few volleys, the "riflemen" would then withdraw and leave the battle to the muskets of the "rank and file" of the general soldiery.

During the Battle of the Alamo, Davey Crockett reportedly shot an enemy soldier walking across the plaza of the town of San Antonio from some 250 yards away. The marksmanship of the "Texicans" at the Alamo became legendary and this reputation was carried on through the Civil War. Such was the legacy of the Kentucky rifle and its later derivative, the Hawkens. In later times, the firing mechanism was altered so that a percussion cap was placed over an aperture (nipple) which shunted the cap spark to the charge in the barrel. This eliminated the problem of the powder in the flash pan getting wet during bad weather. More on muzzle loading next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

12/10/2014 08:32.26 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part V (Muzzle loaders)
So let me give you a tutorial about muzzle loaders. You know how the old rifles worked; you poured black powder down the muzzle, then wrapped a ball in a greased patched and shoved it down the barrel with a ramrod. (You can find a wonderful description of this in Laura Ingalls Wilder's first "Little House" book", "Little House in the Big Woods".) In the 17th and 18th century they used a piece of flint fastened to the hammer which struck a "flash pan" filled with fine powder which, in turn, lit off the powder in the barrel. The piece of metal covering the pan was called the "frizzen", which was ingeniously designed to provide the friction needed for the flint to create sparks. Wikipedia describes it nicely:
"The frizzen, historically called the steel, is an "L" shaped piece of steel hinged at the rear used in flintlock firearms. It is positioned over the flash pan so as to enclose a small priming charge of black powder next to the flash hole that is drilled through the barrel into where the main charge is loaded. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer or cock—which includes a shaped piece of flint held into a set of jaws by a scrap of leather or thin piece of lead—snaps forward causing the flint to scrape down the face of the frizzen (historically called the 'battery'), throwing it back to expose the black powder in the pan. The flint scraping the steel causes a shower of sparks to be thrown into the pan, igniting the black powder and sending flames through the touch hole, which in turn ignites the main charge of black powder in the breech of the barrel, shooting the projectile out the barrel."
Now the powder in the flash pan was of a higher quality than the black powder poured down the barrel. It was of utmost importance that the hammer, flint, and flash pan all operated without fail. Otherwise you would experience the "flash in the pan" which would fail to ignite the charge and result in a misfire. This, in turn, in the frontier, would, at best, cause you to miss your game and at worse, cause you to lose your life. In those days you had to carry two separate flasks, one for the black powder for the charge, and another, smaller one of fine powder, to use for the flash pan.
From the 16th to the middle of the 19th century, the armies of the European nations, and later, the Regulars of the young United States Army used smoothbore muskets. This meant that the barrels of these weapons were smooth inside, just like a modern day shotgun. The upshot (pardon the pun) was that the soldier could fire more volleys before the musket got too fouled to work. The downside was that the muskets' accuracy was limited to about 75 yards at a maximum. This was compensated for by the European armies developing tactics of massed volleys by compressed blocks of troops. They say that a well-trained infantryman could fire up to four rounds a minute, quite an accomplishment when you think of all one had to do to reload in the heat of combat. -- Gary

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12/08/2014 07:47.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part IV (Muzzle loaders)
I've been trying to hunt during the muzzle loader season. Over two years ago I had written about Eldest Brother David having bought himself a Hawkens .50 caliber CVA rifle and spent two days test firing it and Pa's .45 cal. Kentucky rifle. Pa had gotten a kit and built both the rifle and a .45 pistol back in the '70s. When Pa knew his time had come he told me that he wanted me to have the muzzle loaders. I took the rifle once squirrel hunting, just for the fun of it and sure enough, I had a shot at a grey squirrel that was clinging to the side of an oak. I decided to "bark" it, c'est-a-dire, to hit the tree next to it and kill it with the explosion of bark from the ball. This, in theory, prevents you from tearing off half the squirrel with a .45 caliber bullet. As it turned out, I missed the tree and shot the squirrel through the head. It was weird. The ball went neatly through the critter's skull without any collateral damage. When I related this story earlier this week to the owner of the gun store in Oconto Falls, he laughed and said, "I bet you don't tell people about trying to bark it, you just tell 'em that you tried for a headshot and nailed it!"

A few years later, David wanted to try hunting during the muzzle loader season. He borrowed the Kentucky rifle and a year or so later asked if he could have it. Since I was just happy that Pa's gun was being used, I said okay. A year or two later, David asked to have the pistol as well. For the same reason I agreed. During those seasons, David would load both rifle and pistol and take them to one of his towers. He figured that if he shot a deer with the rifle, he'd be able to deliver a coup de grace with the pistol. Unfortunately, David never did see a deer during those seasons.

So two years ago Eldest bought himself that Hawkens. He spent time shooting them both and announced to me that both of us would be able to hunt that muzzle loader season. As I wrote back then: "I suspect that he needs a native load-bearer and as I was the closest thing to one living in the immediate area he figures that I needed the enticement of my own muzzle loader in order ensure my participation." I don't remember, actually, if we had the chance to hunt together that year. I'd probably had to work 50 plus hours as is the norm for early December with the USPS and David probably chose not to hunt the last Sunday. More about Muzzle loaders next time. -- Gary

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12/06/2014 05:28.53 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part III (Eldest Brother David)
"Hunting alone means you are on your own time-line. You don't have to worry about others, and taking their needs into consideration." A perceptive observation by "The Farmwife's" husband Randy. This definitely holds true for me. But for me, For these past many years, I've been dutifully loyal and supporting to Eldest Brother David. I've already told you how one of my greatest experiences of hunting was being there for Eldest as he was recovering from his heart surgery and had dropped a deer with a great long shot from his stand. As I'd written before, being there to field-dress David's deer for him and then drive him to have his deer registered, all the while listening to him elate about his accomplishment was better than if I'd shot one myself.

After all this, in the last few years David had become so limited in his physical capabilities that my hunting consisted of doing drives for him as he sat in one or another of his stands. I didn't mind that. I've already stated how much I enjoyed helping him. In spite of everything, my brother engendered loyalty. I basically gave up hunting for myself in order to be there for him. Last year, the first in decades that neither of us hunted, grieved us both. We both knew down deep in our hearts, that an era had ended.

How I looked up to him! I remember when I was a small child, I was sitting in the living room of the "new house" watching "The Twilight Zone" with my brother Wayne at around five pm on a November evening during deer season. We heard a muffled sound outside the bay window and Wayne screamed as we both looked up and saw David grinning at us from outside. He had returned from deer hunting on our land and couldn't resist the opportunity to terrorize two of his kid brothers. My memory is faulty, but I believe Eldest was about 22, Wayne about 16 and I about 10. I can still see him, young, dark and thin; looking every bit the part of a young Indian hunter as was his (our) heritage. You must understand, my brother David held a position that was almost sacrosanct in our family's French-Canadian tradition, that of the oldest brother. To be honest, I worshipped him. Whatever Eldest said was law.

I had a dream one night after David died. I was a kid again, in a blind sitting on the ground alongside of my brother. Both of us had the old single-shot 20 gauge shotguns we'd hunted with back then, hunkered down in the old red coats we wore at that time. It was a child's dream; one that hungered for something that had never really existed, but like all such dreams, it was of the "ideal"; a happy place that exists only in our imagining. Regardless, it expressed my love and admiration for my eldest brother. --Gary

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12/03/2014 07:09.41 PM Report This Comment  
  Early Winter 2014, Part III
How many of you love Winter? So far, only our friend Suzanne Snyder freely admits to this. The rest of us range from being ambivalent to being downright hateful towards the season. My dear Belle Soeur Susie, who last year broke in Winter by breaking her wrist and fracturing her pelvis, is renowned for her "I Hate Winter!" yell, shouted out at each and every forecast of approaching snowfall and/or subzero temperatures. Of course, this last Winter she'd had to shout it endlessly.
This time of year I always think of Ezra Pound's parody of the old poem "Sumer Is Icumen In". Written in the Wessex dialect of Middle English, even in its original form it conveys the joy and relief of a new season of life.

"Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med,
And springþ þe wde nu,

(Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow
And the wood springs anew,)"

That was only the first stanza. You'll have to go on Wikipedia to read the entire original poem. As for Pound's "Winter Song":

"Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM."

While I certainly try to find things about Winter to enjoy, this poem describes how I feel much of the time. -- Gary

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11/29/2014 07:59.45 PM Report This Comment  
  Thanksgiving, 2014
So what are you thankful for?

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'thank you', it is sufficient." --Meister Eckhart

I've always loved this quote. For me it emphasizes what we tend to forget; that there is much in our lives that we should be thankful for. When I feel down (and in this day and age, this is an everyday event) I remind myself of the gifts I've been given. Instead of looking down, I look up, and even in the cloudiest of days I can see beauty in the sky and see God's creation all around me.

So, again, what are you thankful for? I won't bore you with my list, I would much rather hear yours. All I can wish for you is that you are able to recognize and appreciate what is good in your lives and how you can use these gifts to help others.

I've posted the following saying before: "You cannot always have happiness, but you can always give happiness." This is what I try to remember everyday. If I can help other people; if I can ease their suffering and increase their joy in this life, then I too, have reason to be thankful. --Gary

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11/26/2014 08:18.52 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part II
Didn't see a darn thing today but I went to the Hunters Mass tonight in Oconto and I'll be out there tomorrow. I found that I was actually looking forward to hunting for the first time in decades. Lord knows that my Pa had had to hunt by himself for many a year before his sons grew old enough to accompany him. In short, I am made to believe that if you don't like to hunt alone, then you are not a true hunter. Our American (and French Canadian) predecessors certainly had to hunt alone and in addition, had to make sure that they weren't in turn being hunted by unfriendly First Nation warriors. I try to remember that when I'm bummed out about not seeing any game. As for my Pa, I had written some two years back how it must've allowed him an escape from his worries as a husband and father to go hunting.

"One time he came home from work around midnight right after a fresh snow under a full moon. He saw fresh rabbit tracks in the snow. While the rest of us slept, he took his little single shot .22 and followed the rabbit tracks. I imagine it must've been pleasant for him; being alone in the quiet moonlight, enjoying a chance to provide for his family in an older, more traditional way instead of sweating in the noise and stress of the paper mill. After trudging the length of his forty, Pa spied the rabbit huddled in the lee of a fence post. One crack of the .22 and he had yet another rabbit for the freezer, (much to the joy of my Ma, to be sure)."

So what is it about hunting? As I'd written a year before: "For us humans, as I'd described a year ago, we feel the need at this time of year to hunt for or slaughter the proteins and fat that we will need from wild game or domestic animals. It is cold enough to store meat and also cold enough for our bodies to sense the need for added fat. It is not for nothing that Thanksgiving has become a feast day for us to overeat and grow fat at the threshold of Winter. We will need it during the months to come."

And again, to quote a Facebook friend: "Fall comes and we are drawn to the cozy warmth of the hearth fire and heavy meats." More on hunting alone to come. -- Gary

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11/22/2014 07:49.04 PM Report This Comment  
  Hunting Alone, Part I
For the first time in my life, I am hunting alone. Eldest Brother David has passed, Pa's been gone for almost 30 years, and Wild Bill Beaudin for 37. Big Brother Tommy hasn't hunted for many years and despite my urgings, has refused to take it up again. Too bad, Tommy was a decent shot. My nephew Dave is not able to hunt this year as well so I am all alone.

I'm torn. In the distant past of my youth the whole point of hunting was to have fun spending time with Pa, Eldest, Big Brother Tommy, and whoever was dumb enough to hunt with us all. A part of that, certainly, was a boy trying to win the respect of his elders. This, of course, harkens back to humanity at its earliest; we are descended from hunters and gatherers. Looking back, I have to smile ruefully. Hunting with Pa in order to have fun and earn respect was, often an exercise in futility; oft times you got neither. Pa was difficult to hunt with; it's as simple as that. He would send Tommy and me out to make elaborately-designed drives and then rail at us when we got mis-directed in the thick woods. If you spotted a deer, no matter if it was just a flash of white disappearing into the underbrush, Pa would demand of us why hadn't we shot at it. And Lord, if you missed a shot.... it was better that you said nothing and hoped that he hadn't heard your rifle. I think what I miss about Pa was his enthusiasm. He was the only man I ever knew who in his sixties and seventies, still loved to hunt. Of course, if you actually got a deer, then you earned his praise. For us "sons of Dave", it was gratifying indeed.

As it turned out, both Big Brother Tommy and myself got our very first deer within seconds of each other on a warm opening day of 1982. We were all sitting at various points in Caldie's woods when I heard the Youngers shoot in the next "forty". Sure enough, I saw some does and a buck heading towards Tommy on the old railroad grade. They checked when they saw Tommy and then I heard him shoot. The deer broke from the "right-of-way" and headed past me. For one of the few times in my life I did everything right and dropped the eight-point buck with a running shot right through the heart. I heard Tommy yell, "I gotta deer!" To be totally honest, I was as happy for him as I was for me. I can tell you that it was a joy to find Pa and tell him that the both of us had gotten deer. Pa was so pleased that even at the age of 73, he field dressed both those deer for his sons. Later that Winter, Pa took it upon himself to buy a mounting kit and spent a few days putting my eight-pointer on a velvet-covered plaque. I had earned my Pa's approval as a hunter. He was well pleased with me, and regardless of all the baggage that went with this father-son relationship, I was pleased as well. More about Hunting Alone to come. --Gary

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11/21/2014 08:08.41 PM Report This Comment  
  Eary Winter 2014, Part I
While not record-setting, it's been cold here this week at La Ferme Sabloneuse. The ground is undeniably frozen now and ice is covering every pond and lake here in Oconto County. No katydids rasping these nights. Last Friday I noticed a large flock of Sandhill cranes croaking, and circling, gathering together for their migration South. They are the last of the migrants to leave, save for the robins, which will stay as long as there's enough bare ground on which to scavenge. The cold weather hadn't started the rut season; it was going on full bore even before this cold snap, but I am made to wonder if this snap will actually lengthen the rut because the early cold might interfere with normal white tail activity. (This is a question I'll have to ask a "real" deer hunter. I'll get back to you all about this.)

While the early arrival of Winter, 2014 means at least a temporary end to Autumn chores (e.g. the last raking of the oak leaves from around the Bear Garden, digging up the cornstalks, and hauling and spreading a final load of manure) it also allows me to get an early start on Winter tasks. (A Countryman must be a "glass half-full" kind of man or else he won't remain a Countryman) I was able to start pruning the old apple trees. It was so cold that I could only work out there for a half-hour or less. I will continue to keep at it another day or so until I'm finished. Sadly, the first tree, what we call the "Winter Apple", is almost dead. The trunk is hollowed out and only one limb remains alive. I can only hope from year to year that it continues to survive. Today there was a light snow falling most of the day as I accompanied dear Belle Soeur Susie on an errand she had to do for her son. She and I, in my little old pickup went slowly on the slippery back roads to her family's homestead in order to pick up some bales of hay. We then hauled them all the way down past Green Bay to her son's property so he could cover his septic tank before the frost sank down too deep into his lawn. It's just one of the many preparations we have to make for each Winter. More on Early Winter 2014 next time. --Gary

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11/19/2014 04:47.58 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part III
How long is Autumn? Over two years ago in these blogs, (8-24-2012) I'd done a blog entitled "Autumn is Here". At this latitude Autumn starts in late August. It is a long season. It starts at this time and runs until Thanksgiving. This year we've had our first taste of Winter with a slushy snow event around Veterans Day and a so-called "Polar Vortex" predicted to bring 20 degrees below normal temps for the next week or more. The ground will freeze around La Ferme Sabloneuse, making it impossible for me to dig up the cornstalk roots or spade over the raised beds in the Home Garden. I can only hope that early December will bring the aforementioned "Squaw Winter" so I can catch up on my end-of-season gardening. Early Winters are nothing new around here. I've written before how I've finished up disking a field for a neighboring farmer during an October 28th snowstorm in 1981, having his Ford tractor sliding around the snowy-sandy hilltop of his sandy field. The disk assembly was too heavy for the little Ford and as a result every time I used the hydraulic to lift the disk, the front of the tractor rose up as well and I was balancing everything on two wheels as I skittered along the crest of the hill.

This Late Autumn reminds me of 1985. It's been too wet for many farmers to get out and bring in their corn, just like it was back in that year. By the start of Deer season that year we had some permanent snow in the woods, the ground froze up, and the ice was thick enough to walk on in the swamps and marshes. The cornfields were finally able to be harvested. Now most farmers held off harvesting so they could hunt deer but two of my cousins on my Ma's side, Russ and Dewey, who shared the Shallow home farm, decided that work came before pleasure, and spent most of that late November week bringing in their corn. As it turned out, the second weekend of Deer season, November 31 and December 1st, saw the "Blizzard of '85", dropping some fourteen inches of snow on NE Wisconsin. (This was the weekend of the semi-famous "Snow Bowl" of the Green Bay Packers versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Of all the farmers around our neck of the woods, only my cousins had a corn crop. All the rest saw their corn sit throughout Winter in deep snow, a Providential source of food for the deer population during a truly hard time.

This Winter has already started at La Ferme Sabloneuse (so much for the "Late Autumn" moniker). More about this next time. --Gary

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11/15/2014 09:21.59 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part II
My literary muse, Hal Borland, once wrote a whimsical article about a personified Autumn descended down Tom's Mountain in upstate Connecticut a few weeks early in order to announce his eminent and inevitable arrival and then return up the mountain. The same could be said about Winter here. On the last day of October I drove My Ruthie out to the breakwater at Oconto which juts out into Green Bay. As my latest posted photo shows, the northeasterly gales were driving the waves right over the causeway. Even though the Sun was shining intermittently, the scudding cumulus clouds were spitting snowflakes on us two from two miles away. We stood out in the freezing wind while Ruthie took her photos. Those few flakes were the harbingers of things to come. This is what I love about Late Autumn; we have our days of Indian Summer and Squaw Winter. Indian Summer is what are called the warm Autumn days after the first killing frost. Squaw Winter refers to the mild days after the first real snowfall. Please don't lecture me about those racially-loaded terms. As for me, a Countryman who identifies himself as a "metis", I use those terms with respect for the First Nations people.

Comme d'habitude, at this time of year we get things ready for Winter. On the second day of November I raked leaves, both at the Homestead and at the Home Property. As the trees get bigger, the amount of leaves get larger. A person on my mail route asked me, "Have you noticed how many leaves we've got this year?" I knew the answer, but I just smiled and nodded and kept on shuffling through leaves.

At the Home Property, my Ruthie had ordered a load of black dirt that was dumped next to our back door. As the year progressed, I noticed that weeds had grown on the dirt pile and needed to be hoed out. I had put it off until I noticed this last weekend that the tops of these weeds had been chewed off. Sure enough, the deer had come up to within a few yards of the house and had consumed them. There's a lot of deer around here this fall, despite the previous harsh Winter. I look forward to the coming Deer Hunting Season, which is the highlight of Late Autumn here at La Ferme Sabloneuse. -- Gary

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11/08/2014 08:23.51 PM Report This Comment  
  Late Autumn, 2014, Part I
I've addressed this subject before, of course. "Another Late Autumn", (11/30/2013) and "Late Autumn", (11/14/2012) speaks on the same theme.

The post from November of 2012 quotes (who else) Hal Borland talking about how he enjoyed the widening of the horizons of the countryside where he lived in rural Connecticut. I also quoted one of my favorite lines from Kenneth Grahame's "Wind in the Willows": "He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple."

Fittingly, last Sunday, my Ruthie and I cut out a number of pin cherry trees and scrub oaks in the areas in front of our house. (This would correspond with the post I'd done on "Culling" a few weeks back) The next evening we marveled at how open this area appeared from our front bay window.

The post from the last day of November, 2013 was mostly about the departure of wildlife before the approaching Winter. We are presently a month later here at La Ferme Sabloneuse, (the end of October), still, it is late Autumn. "Comme d'habitude" (as usual) I am surprised at how fast the season has progressed. On warm days I can still hear the katydids (much hardier than the crickets) rasping and croaking from their cover among the bushes and underbrush. Hal Borland wrote that he heard a katydid as late as mid-November during his time on his farm along the Housatonic River in Connecticut. If I do hear one this late, I shall let you know.

I had spent some six hours raking leaves at the Homestead. Now I shall have to spend another few hours raking oak and yellow maple leaves here at the Home Property. I need to do this in order to prevent the leaves from smothering next year's growth of new grass. That's the crux of our never-ending project here at La Ferme Sabloneuse; to grow trees in order to provide cover and humus to the soil and then to encourage the growth of grasses in order to do the same thing. More on Late Autumn, 2014 next time. -- Gary

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11/01/2014 08:35.48 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part V
This final story has to do with a haunted farm house. We've all heard of some such house in our respective neck of the woods where weird things were supposed to have occurred. This story had to do with an old farm house on what's called the "Airport Road" leading from Couillardville (about 4 miles east of Stiles) on east to Oconto. This story was told to me by no less than the Oconto County judge himself. The poor retired farmer who lived there would wake up in the middle of the night to feel something grabbing his toes. After some time of experiencing this the farmer put the house up for sale and moved into town. One Sunday morning after church, the farmer drove out to the place, driven by his regret and shame at having let his imagination get the better of him. As he sat in his car that morning, staring at the vacant house, he saw the curtains of his former bedroom window being pushed aside, yet no one could be seen in the window. The poor farmer revved up his engine and sped off, relieved to done with the place.

When this all had occurred the aforementioned judge was an attorney, practicing law in Oconto. Late one Saturday night he, his wife, and another couple were out late wining and dining at an Oconto supper club. They all got to talking about that haunted house because the other couple happened to be the local realtor and his wife. The realtor said that he had the master key for the key-keeper for the house and in their alcohol-fueled exuberance, they all piled into one car and drove out to the place at around one in the morning. Of course this was in the day before the existence of those bright mercury-vapor lights that lit everything up in the yard or motion detector porch lights. It was dark as could be as the foursome drove into the yard. They tiptoed up onto the porch, giggling like school kids, with just one flashlight among them to see their way. As they got to the door, the porch light came on. (Remember, no motion detector lights back then) Needless to say, this took the wind out of their sails and all four of the formerly intrepid intruders beat a hasty retreat back to the car and back home.

For years after hearing that story, whenever I would drive past that farmhouse (it stands to this very day) I used to make the Sign of the Cross... just in case. -- Gary

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10/28/2014 07:06.44 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories
I love these posts, Gary!

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10/27/2014 12:07.58 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part IV
My Ruthie's mother Regina was a fiesty, yet grand old lady, a wondeful grandmother to my children and an independent thinker who was ahead of her time. She loved gardening, birds, and was the best cook I've ever known. Naturally, one can see how she would be near and dear to my heart. My Ruthie, who I think is the best cook in the area, freely admits that her Mom was a better cook and that her mother, Ruthie's Grandma Ceil, was better yet! As for me, I'm just glad those two took the time to teach my Ruthie about cooking and that she was willing to learn.
Now Regina would clean the rectory at St. Anthony Church in Oconto Falls for Father Pat Benardy, who was a close friend of the family. Once or twice Regina would see an elderly couple descend the stairs in the rectory and walk out the front door. She sensed instinctively that they were spiritual images. Regina would actually greet them and they would say hello. Finally, Regina asked Father Pat who they were. Father Pat answered matter-of-factly that he saw them all the time. He figured that the couple must have lived in that house many years ago and that what they were seeing were "imprints" or echoes of those people.
As it turned out, my Ruthie cleaned both the church and rectory at St. Patrick Parish here in Stiles for a number of years for Father Carl Steiner. Many times Ruthie would see an old car pull up and three people would come into the church to pray, on old man and woman, and a younger woman who Ruthie assumed was their daughter. The old man and woman would prostrate themselves on the floor before the altar, their arms outstretched. The younger woman would just sit in the very last pew. Ruthie would continue her work and after awhile they would get up and depart. Ruthie would watch them leave. She would hear the church door open and close but she would see that the doors never moved. Ruthie would ask the daughter if she wanted her to leave so they could be alone in the church but the woman said that no, that Ruthie could stay and do her work. Ruthie says that the old man would always tell her "danka" (German, for "thanks") as they left.
The funny thing about the car, a black sedan from the '40s, was that Ruthie would see it coming up the church hill, and then when they left, go down the church hill, but it would never re-appear on the road below.

Just a couple of years ago the lady who cleans the church now button-holed me after Mass and said that she heard that I had done a history book on St. Patrick's. She asked me if there were any reports of anything weird being seen in the church. I told her what Ruthie had seen but this lady said that she would only see the barest outlines of people out of the corner of her eye. I think that Ruthie was able to see more because of her sensitivity. Regardless, we're not afraid of these spirits. If they are drawn to worship the Lord in His own church then they are definitely okay with us. --Gary

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10/25/2014 06:49.26 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part III
My Ruthie is one of those people who are called "sensitives", that is to say she has always been "open" to seeing those who've departed this life. When Ruthie was a child she would awaken from time to time to see an older woman in a black dress and apron, with her white hair tied up in a bun, tucking the covers around her. Ruthie would even see an indentation on the side of the bed as if an unseen person was sitting there. Ruthie would tell her mother Regina about this and finally one morning, when her father George was at the breakfast table, her mother told her to describe the woman. Once Ruthie finished, she went up to her room to play and her father told her mother that Ruthie had described his mother to a T.

Grandma Lotter had died in that house and in the fashion of that time, was "laid out" in the front room. Regina had the same gift. She and George had moved into that house after WWII. A time or two, while Regina was ironing in the front room she would hear a woman crying. Looking up from the ironing board, she would see casket in the corner. Regina asked her parish priest, what it was all about. The priest told her that the next time this happened, she should pray a rosary for that soul; that what she saw and heard was a plea for help from someone who needed prayers.

Accordingly, the next time my mother-in-law heard crying from the corner of the room, she recited a rosary for the repose of that soul and Regina was never bothered again. A couple more ghost stories next time. -- Gary

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10/22/2014 10:13.35 PM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up
Beautiful posts, Gary. I can just hear those acorns!

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10/19/2014 07:14.21 AM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014, Part II
So my experiment this last Summer had been a resounding success. I'm not bragging, merely rejoicing. The sweetcorn was incredible! We ate a bunch, we froze a bunch, and we gave away yet even more, some to my friend Dana and a couple dozen to my sister Mother Superior Donna's convent. (It was gratifying to hear how much the sweet petite Vietnamese sisters loved our corn!) We had so much corn from that patch of garden that we never even got to consume the sweetcorn in the Home Garden. (The grey squirrels got those.) My Ruthie was able to bake and freeze some squash and we had some half-dozen pumpkins. In addition to all this, we had some magnificent sunflowers. (I posted a photo of those last time.)

So one day this week I cleaned up the enclosed part of the Home Garden. It took a few hours; First I had to take down the fencing and then roll it all up, then I had to gather up the 2 x 4 boards that I used to line along the ground level, and then pull up all the poles. Next I had to prep and then start Eldest Brother David's Farmall after a long idle period (it started immediately). I hooked up the "tractor trailer" in the wooden shed next to the "Old House" and then drove it out into the valley and loaded up all the fencing materials, all to the tune of falling acorns. Over two months ago I had written that the oaks were starting to drop their acorns. I had mentioned that this was early, though now I suspect that the dry spell then was causing the oaks to drop a few unripe ones much like apple trees drop some green apples in order preserve moisture for the rest. This week the acorns are dropping like a hard rain. The tractor shed at the Homestead, with its aluminum sides and roofing, was pinging all day long. It was funny, because after I'd painstakingly backed the tractor trailer into the wooden shed with all the garden fencing left inside, I drove David's 1950 Farmall A over to its home in the aforementioned tractor shed and carefully backed it in next to Pa's 1938 Farmall A. As I did so, above the growl of the tractor, I was startled to hear the sharp rap of yet another acorn bouncing off the roof just above my head. I had to laugh. It seemed to me that everything at La Ferme Sabloneuse was still in cohesion, despite the losses we've had to endure. The tractors still ran, the gardens still grew, the acorns still fell, and yet another year is coming to a close. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

10/18/2014 07:15.27 PM Report This Comment  
  Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014, Part I
I take a break in my "Ghost Stories" theme in order to write about a mid-Autumn event that is close to my heart, cleaning up the gardens and prepping them for next year. I've perused my past blog postings and found these entries: "Garden Fatigue" and "Requiem of a Garden". This year I'll just call it "Cleaning Up". I know already that this shall be a multi-part post so please bear with me. (The latest photo I've posted is one of my garden experiment this year.)

I don't remember if I'd posted about the enclosed garden I had set up last May in what had been the "Valley Garden". With the passing of Eldest David last Winter, the Valley Garden was left unattended. It is my intent to put this piece of land through a process of renovation; leaving it fallow for a couple of years and then seeding it down with a legume (hairy vetch). Still, I wanted to do something this year that I'd been thinking of doing for a few years now, which is to enclose a small part of the Valley Garden in fence in order to keep the deer and raccoons away. In years past, David and dear Belle Soeur Susie had planted a large vegetable garden in one half of the Valley Garden and put the other half in winter rye. Year after year, however, the deer, and then the raccoons, had ravaged everything. I suggested to Eldest that I could put some of the garden behind fencing, webbing, or netting, but he was never the innovative type.

So this year I found a roll of wire netting in the barn at the Homestead and I resolved to try out my idea. I arbitrarily decided upon a 20 by 30 ft. garden and plowed, dragged, roto-tilled, then planted it with sweetcorn, squash, pumpkins and then sunflowers, just for fun. Later, with Big Brother Tommy's help, I pounded in metal fence posts with eight foot wooden poles screwed into them. When I stretched out the metal netting, I was chagrinned to find that it was a 100ft. in length. Yes, do the math, it fitted perfectly with the dimensions of the garden. As I tucked the last of the wire around the last fence post I looked up to Heaven to give thanks, first to The Lord, and then, perhaps whimsically, to the two Davids for their intercession.

More about Cleaning Up, Autumn 2014 in a day or two. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

10/15/2014 07:20.31 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part II
The neatest ghost story from those days was the one Pa told about his sister Ruby. Before the Truckeys had come to Stiles they had traveled from place to place throughout northeast Wisconsin. At one of those places an old farmer had expressed an interest in Ruby, even though he was much older than she. The old man had even given Ruby a rosary as a gift. Ruby and Pa's father, my grandfather Theophile (Tuffel), had tried to disuade the man but to no avail. Finally, one night the two men returned to the the Truckey home arguing about the matter. They were in the kitchen, which was the only lit room of the house. Pa said that he was awake in the next room and could hear them talk. Like Pa, Ruby and the rest of the family were in bed. Tuffel Truckey was seated at the kitchen table with his back to the next room when he saw out of the corner of his eye a white-clad arm appear next to his shoulder and throw Ruby's rosary on the table. Tuffel turned and saw nothing, but the old farmer yelled and made for the door. "I'm not staying here!" he shouted.

Tuffel tried to calm him down. "Wait," he told the man, "at least let me get you a lantern."

"No!" hollered the farmer, "I'm not staying another minute in this house!" The old man left and never bothered Ruby again. Tuffel closed the door and took the rosary. By now, of course, the entire family was awake. At this point of the story Pa would go on to relate every word that was said by his father and sister, but in order to keep this posting within blog parameters I will have to boil it down: Tuffel asked Ruby where her rosary was; (he thought that she, in her white nightgown, had thrown it on the table, and that the white arm he'd seen was hers. Ruby, who had just returned home from working at another farm, said that she had put it in a box that was still inside her locked suitcase. Tuffel had her open everything up and of course, the rosary wasn't there. Tuffel held up the rosary and asked the whole family if anyone had thrown it on the kitchen table. Of course, everyone said that they were in bed and hadn't seen anyone else get up to do anything.

So that's how this ghost story ends. The old farmer's terrified behavior and his steadfast refusal to tell Tuffel what he saw made for a great tale. Sad to say, Ruby's experience wasn't her last one with the supernatural. She was the first of Pa's syblings to die in adulthood. Ruby married and had ten children before she became ill at the age of 37. As she lay on her deathbed her family gathered at the house. Pa told me that one evening, as he and some of his sisters entered Ruby's room, they all saw a dark shadow on top of her chest. As they came in, the shadow seemed to leap off her chest and off into a corner of the room and disappeared. Ruby gasped out, "It was on my chest, crushing the life out of me!" I remember that as a child, that story alway scared the heck out of me. More ghost stories next time. -- Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

10/11/2014 07:17.47 PM Report This Comment  
  Ghost Stories, Part I
The title I've chosen for this series of posts is perhaps a little misleading. Yes, there's going to be a number of what can be called "ghost stories", but as a Catholic Christian I know that it is much more than that. Oftimes we are blessed by the intervention of our guardian angels who, of course, are directed by the Good Lord.

Having said all this, I am chagrined to relate that Grandma Truckey and at least one of her daughters liked to use the "spirit board". My Pa told me that back in those days before TV and even radio, in addition to playing cards and telling stories, when his mother and sisters were feeling adventurous, they would break out the spirit board, basically, a ouija board. The dichotomy of a faithful Catholic like Grandma Truckey using a spirit board is beyond my ability to explain, although I offer as a similiar example of such a paradox the behavior of Saint Padre of Pietrelcina's parents who, after the saint's birth in southern Italy in 1887, went to a fortune teller, as was the custom in that time, in order to find out what she had to say about his future.

The only story that Pa ever told me about Grandma's spirit board is the time she had it out and it spelled out the neighbor woman's name and that she was coming. A minute later the Truckeys saw her coming down the road to visit. Despite her use of the spirit board, Grandma Truckey seemed to be in the Good Lord's graces as a result of her pious faith and her willingness to help anyone in need. In a past blog, I told the story of how a farmwife in labor, who had been turned out into a blizzard by her frantic husband, made her way over a mile in the snow to Grandma's house because she knew Grandma would help her. In another blog, I wrote about the time my sister, Sister and Mother Superior Donna, then a child, was sleeping with Grandma at her home. Donna woke up to see a powerful and stern-looking angel hovering near the ceiling of the bedroom. Donna marveled at, rather than feared, the angel.

So there you are, ghosts and angels and the Truckeys, more stories to come. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

10/05/2014 08:48.32 PM Report This Comment  
  More on Culling
This post follows closely in theme to "Fall Chores". One of the fall chores I do is the annual brush cutting of the land in front of my house on the Home Property. It had all been in Norway Pine that Pa had planted in 1950. It had been logged out three times since then. The last time we had the loggers clear out every mature pine in that area. We spent one miserable Summer carrying off every branch and bough in order to encourage the growth of hardwood saplings and grass. These last few years I've cut out all the new underbrush (mostly raspberry bushes) each Autumn while spreading grass seed now and then in the hopes of establishing a tree-dotted lawn in front of our house. I use a gas-powered rotory brush cutter for the small stuff and then, as mentioned last time, axe, saw, and clippers for anything larger.
In this operation, it is the tree seedlings and saplings that are culled. As defined before, culling is simply eliminating species that a Countryman doesn't want to grow in order to help those that he does. What I want to grow in this area are maple trees. So, any of those seedlings are left to thrive as best they can until the next culling. What oak saplings there are, I will allow to remain, but any new seedlings of oak and pine I ruthlessly eliminate. The same goes for the pin cherries. I welcome them as soil-fixing ground cover. Basically, they are a "pioneer plant" like the sumac and Norway pine. My Ruthie was able to transplant quite of few of these to the barren sand on the edge of our back yard. I also welcome their blooms in April and May. Neamoins, (nevertheless), while I do allow the larger ones to grow, I cull the rest.
I am encouraged by the young maples. At this time of year even the smallest seedling is easily seen by its red and yellow leaves. I mark some with red ribbon in case I want to transplant them or give them away as "passalong plants" (as the Farmwife calls them). The rest of them are left to do their best. It is my hope that before I die, My Ruthie and I will be able to stroll through a wonderful park-like front yard of tall grasses punctuated by red maples, white birches, pin cherries, shady oaks and a few selected white pines.
Whether this comes to pass in my lifetime or not, I will have left this piece of land in better ecological condition than when I received it, just as my Pa had over 60 years earlier. --Gary

Come visit me, La Ferme Sabloneuse (Sandy Farm).

09/27/2014 06:17.56 PM Report This Comment  


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