Thursday, August 20, 2009

Winnebago Archers

New York came to Wisconsin, so we had to do it up big Midwest Style for sure.

Dad invited Yvette and I to join him as guests at his private Winnebago Archery Club for Tuesday league night. We quickly and graciously accepted.

I had taken the long bow out for a little practice the week prior. [Must have been around the time of Junior High since I last shot. 'Round here, archery is a short Spring or Summer gym requirement. Public school students also have to learn how to polka during the indoor months.] I shot at one of the targets pitched permanently 'in the back.' I hit the target for the most part, but ended up losing one of the arrows in the brush. My parents have an eight acre property, less than half is manicured, and the wild grass, alfalfa and flowers grow several feet high. After ten arrows or so, I retired for the evening, the bow was awkward and it was a little rough on my fingers. Oh boo.

Though not as bad as when I took one of my Dad's compound bows out to practice a couple weeks later. The bow was strung with about 40-50 pounds of pressure and twice I snapped the soft inside of my left arm, which produced a lovely purple welt immediately. [You cannot legally bow-hunt in WI with less than 30 pounds; you probably wouldn't be able to get a kill shot. Do you know your state's limit? Texas doesn't have one, which some consider unethical. You really only get one chance to kill with bow and arrow, unless you are as quick with your arrow as Legolas, so you need near-perfect visibility (I don't think my dad will venture beyond 30 yards in a tree-stand) and accuracy.]

Anyways, in-between these two events, I went to an archery club with no motive other than to trail behind my dad and our family friend, Russ, while they shot, and drink beers at the club house. I figured it would be a pretty spot-on representation of WI for Yvette as well.

Dad, Yvette and I shared the front bench seat of the F150 and jammed out to the local classic rock station, 93.5 WOZZ-FM, on our way to the club. Yvette and I had just returned from cruising downtown Oshkosh, so we had to quickly change into clothes better suited for the woods. i.e. long sleeves. [I have only found three ticks this summer, but one was a deer tick, which I believe is my first. When I was in girl scouts, I would go to summer camp. One of their tricky ploys to deprogram the innate 'ew!' girl reaction to bugs, was to award prizes to girls who found the most ticks. One night I woke up to a tick tip-tapping around in my ear. I was psyched. It was like my tenth tick that week or so.]

When we got to the club, I actually felt a nervous tightening in my stomach. I felt like a 'fake' and I was afraid our novelty appearance wouldn't be appreciated by the regulars. Hunting is super male centric. Yvette and I were the only women on the grounds. The first guy we saw had been hanging around the parking lot fiddling with something or another. He just stared at us. My dad didn't say 'Hi' to him, so I didn't either.

Dad and Russ did a super short warm-up practice at the targets pictured below. Then we went to the club house for beer. Yes, you totally drink and fire weapons in Wisconsin. There were coolers set-up all over the property for easier convenience. Yvette wound up buying a bunch of club merchandise: t-shirts, can cozies, mugs and hats; the most 'Big Al' has sold all year. He commented that the books would probably look off this month. However, it was the purchase that lightened the air, so to speak. 'We were cool.'

After finishing beer 1 and opening beer 2, we set off to shoot the first 14 out of the 28 targets. The set-up reminded me of a golf course: each target was positioned at the end of a cleared path, there were markers dug into the ground indicating where to stand and shoot, and each next target was accessible by walking the path of the previous.

The actual targets were cardboard cutouts of various wildgame in the area. Each cutout had a 'bulls eye' drawn over the animal's heart to indicate where to aim. Remember that Yvette and I had no intention of shooting, so we didn't arrive with bows. Big Al gave us kiddie bows and 'found' arrows. They couldn't have given more than 25 lbs of pressure, and one we didn't realize was broken until half way through the course. I started out strong and ended weak, Yvette advanced through-out. Our only goal was to 'get cardboard.' Screw aiming. Dad and Russ had sights. I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to close my right or left eye to focus. (see photo below, really poor form.) The harder I tried to make sense of it, the worse I shot. Needless to say I lost another arrow.

Thank God for the coolers. The course was short, each path's distance was no more than 15 yards, but the woods were thick and the mosquitos were hungry. The beer helped numb their presence. I went High Life all the way. Miller = Wisconsin. And it is still the best 'cheap light' beer in my humble opinion. It's even satisfying warm.

Dad and Russ were super patient with us. I think they were just impressed that we tagged along. I found out we were their first female guests. Neither my mom, nor Russ' wife, had an interest. So strange to me. Things can get pretty old-fashioned around here and people do not like to try new things.

After we finished the short loop, we went back to the club house for another round. Yvette and I snapped the photo below, which was taken in front of a mural by the women's (doe's) bathroom.

I had a really excellent time hanging with the guys. Hunters appreciate the quiet (they sit alone all day, still as the tree they sit in, for fun) and nature; my kind of folk. True, as the shirt below can testify, there was a definite air of testosterone, but most guys around here are mild-mannered country boys, rather than of the southern good 'ole boy mentality. I'd like to go back to the club; you can guest twice before membership is required. But, hunting season is around the corner and that means the cold will be coming as well. However, Dad is pretty hell bent on procuring at least one hunter out of the family, so we'll see. I keep telling him I'd like to start with small game (rifle), but he doesn't have any interest. This family loves their venison chops on the grill.

[PHOTO: the man to the left MAY have a goatee, but i do believe the playing cards were in practice, rather than illustration. regarding the man to the right, not sure why the hunter featured on his shirt is wearing a face mask. now that is just over-the-top.]


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

[Defined] Useless Tidbit #1

This is what women in these parts dub the 'Man's Mall.'

Not to be confused with Menards, which is a little more on the 'commercial' end of home and garden improvement megastores.

Fleet Farm sells everything.

One's shoppping cart might include:

1) stable door
2) animal feed for Roger the rooster to Henry (pronounced on-ri) the horse
3) clothes (flannels for $14, the same kind you can buy in soho for $179)
4) generic Fleet Farm branded food, in bulk (nuts, dried fruits, candy...think trail mix)
5) fun expensive machines to play with in the yard
6) wood
7) rifles (and ammunition)
8) fishing poles
9) hunting action figure dolls (see below)
10) camouflaged duck tape (my dad bought immediately without need)
11) full sized kayaks

Since you don't have a Fleet Farm near you, you can buy this sweetie, Bow Hunter Ann, for your own sweetie here.

However if you can get to a Fleet Farm, I suggest you try to. Everyone that works on the floor has to wear blaze orange, it's like Halloween (or gun season, for all you in the know) year round.

Last week I purchased wrapping paper there that featured a deer-themed print (smiling bucks, antlers floating around on their own, broadhead carbon arrows, trees) for only $1.99. I'm going to wrap all upcoming presents in it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preparing for the Cold

Come November folks will begin assembling emergency kits for their vehicles, non-perishables for home kitchen cabinets (the kind you donate to food drives, not necessarily out of generosity, but for admission to some local function), loads of antifreeze for their various fluids, be it in a car or home -- all in an effort to sustain when immobilized.

I've started early, with the only goal being to prevent boredom. I'm not planning to parade around downtown donning a snowsuit and I am totally unacquainted with snowmobiles. I don't own a 4x4 vehicle, or any vehicle at all actually, and I don't plan to purchase one anytime soon, so I do expect a lot of downtime indoors December through April.


My gramma met her best friend, Nellie, over fifty years ago. They owned large wood-paneled victorian homes two doors down from each other on Twelfth St, one block from my family's church, St Vincent's, and half-a-block from our favorite chocolatier, Oaks. My gramma migrated to Oshkosh from Little Rock to marry my grampa, and Nellie came all the way from Belgium to marry Ralph. As was typical in most '40s romance films, those darn men in uniform swoop into town and BLAM! you are married and with child.

I meet with Nellie on Mondays and Thursdays for two hours. The first half of our session is a french lesson and the second is reimbursement: company. Yesterday I also brought along oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, which I baked last night, for her. I was confident at age ten that I wanted to learn the French language. At that time schoolteachers were advising Spanish, as it was estimated that the US Hispanic population would be growing. Not that I could have been bothered with practicality at that age anyways, or now, really. I was in love with Gay Paris, or at least everything I saw in my favorite Hollywood classics.

I dropped my french class in high school. It is rare that I quit a project, but I was falling behind from missing classes and I had no one to practice the language with at home. It'd be cool if the schools offered free or discounted classes to parents unacquainted with their child's studies, so that they could provide more encouragement and involvement at home. Like the Head Start literacy program, which provides texts and reading guides aimed at both children and parents.

So here I am, almost 29, and without any actual use for the language, but still deeply in love with an idea.


I'm still playing piano a bit, but not as much as I feel I should. I think the problem is stemming from stiff wrists (I need to get my butt in to see a chiropractor, pronto) and boredom with repertoire. A friend gave me the last addition to my library for my birthday last year, a compendium of Chopin's Mazurkas, the Henle edition pictured left [the best, in my opinion]. Before that, I had browsed Patelson once with a friend I have now lost touch with. I purchased the sheet music to Rachmaninoff's Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano. My friend played the upright bass classically and offered to transpose the cello score for his instrument, but that never happened, and since I never enlisted a cellist either, I can only putz around [but also play with a lot more freedom than I could have otherwise]. I put this book on my Birthday Wish List, hoping for inspiration. I need to get Henle's edition of Chopin's Nocturnes and Waltzes as well--I eat that kind of stuff right up. Listless melodies for a melancholy soul.

Once I find some kind of part-time work, which will lend some residential stability, I plan to advertise my services as a piano instructor. I prefaced this in a previous blog entry. I cannot ignore the coincidence of encouragement I have received in the last month to pursue this lifelong passion. I always thought I'd end up teaching in my later years, perhaps as a mother or grandmother. I took a pedagogy class in college [I graduated with a music minor] and did some private teaching to daughters of family friends during my summers off. It was so cool to see kids light up at the touch of sound, so proud of their creation. To most it was more a forum for open expression of all kinds, not just musical. The girls would confide in me secrets of every sort. So I suppose 'mentor of appreciation' would be a better title for my previous services.

It's my experience that the Piano Adventures series is the preferred curriculum for children, just fyi, for you future mommies and daddies. In case you'd like to teach yourself, I've had success teaching adults with the Alfred's series. I'd like to take on five students or so as a test trial. I need time to add [write my own] supplemental theory, history, appreciation and composition lesson plans. No way in heck I'd feel OK introducing the instrument and method without the whole kit and kaboodle. It infuriates me that so many folks out there are allowed to teach without; what a detriment to the children. Hopefully there are some, not turned off all together by the practice, who seek out more information as teenagers and adults.


If I haven't given myself enough exercise in sitting, I have been compiling a book list for lazy mornings. Other than writing for this blog, I haven't spent much time immobile; I'm always running outside or around the house to do this and that. I have assumed the role of 'maid' here, and least we forget that a woman's work is never done. I have a fantastic list of 18th C. Gothic Literature to pull from. I stumbled upon Melmoth the Wanderer last year, and, wow, it is probably one of the three best surprises in all of art I have experienced. I just started The Monk but have to interrupt for Russell Brand's recent memoir, My Booky Wook, which I'm reading for my two-person online book club.


I almost just continued on with pursuits equally interesting and worthy, but face it, that could get overwhelming. I could pile on the world and still find more things that seem urgent to explore. I'm bookmarking this page btw, for the days when I'm in a sour mood and have 'nothing to do.' Maybe you will too. I encourage you to check out recordings of the music I listed, and the books, above.

This is what's going on in Oshkosh, in my little part.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Take a Walk, with Me

Last Friday Cody and I ditched out on a bleak weekend forecast for a three-day getaway 'Up North.' We woke to an alarm to get an early start and did the rounds 1) food 2) dog food 3) beer etc... with impressive grace and fluidity while juggling over-easy eggs and the 'proofing' of the house.

The day prior, my temp employers dropped the hint that there wasn't enough work to do, at least for pay. I hadn't made a single plan yet for the weekend, so when they pushed me to decide what I'd do with an extra free day, I gave a goofy face. But they badgered on, maybe because they felt too uncomfortable to let it quiet; to some, like them, the opportunity to work is their only means to survive. I probably should adapt to that mentality soon; running on memories of decent paychecks doesn't get you far. So I threw out the idea of going Up North to ease their worries; I'd enjoy the time off.

Yes, 'Up North' is a proper noun here. It's a common a reference as going Home, to Menards or Fleet Farm, or to Work. It's similar to how folks in the UP refer to Camp. Game hunting, especially white-tail deer, is huge in Wisconsin and most families have owned acres of land for hunting purposes for generations. Because of the climate you need elevation and shelter [from the snow and frozen ground] to keep warm, so you build a 'second home;' blue-collars, too. During hunting season it is not uncommon to see a train of camouflaged men (and some women) driving North on 41 to their respective cabins or shacks every weekend, leaving behind wives and children to make do without. It's just as common to see deer corpses peeking out from the sometimes too small confines of a pick-up truck on Sundays.

I think my Dad imagined our cabin to be more of a hunting retreat when he purchased the lot in the late-80s, but he soon found there was little game on the 20 acres to hunt. So instead, the four of us, Mom, Dad, Carrie and Me, weekended together Up North with board games [played on the dining table pictured, which my Dad built as a gift to my Mom for her 30th bday] in lieu of compound bows and marshmallows for jerky.

We used to go up three out of the four weekends every month, but as Carrie and I got older we wanted to spend more time with friends and less with 'the family.' [Always looking for something more, eh? Glad I've come to my senses now, not after it's too late to enjoy their company.] The past few years, the cabin is lucky to see us once every season. Other family members will go up and enjoy the wide open space; you can be as loud as you want to be, no one around to complain. But with the main traffic coming from visitors, some of the minor repairs have fallen to the wayside. I set out for the cabin this past weekend on a mission to restore my favorite piece of Wisconsin.

Cody was less than pleased by the work I had set out to do; he just wanted to play. In between refinishing the exterior window trims, shampooing the entire floor-plan of carpet, gardening and other general duties, Cody and I would walk the path my Dad sickled around the property. While I was working he would sit nearby and watch, which did get a little annoying at times, because it had an awesome guilt affect. [Cody pictured, waiting for me to finish weeding]

There is one important rule to abide at the cabin: no stickin' TV. Seems obvious, right? You'd be surprised... I find the experience of just being within walls that breath satisfying. I can sit for hours and stare up at the canopies of trees, the ripple of chatter among the leaves, the heartbreaking contrast in line and color against the heavens and so on. I think I could possibly lose my mind if I never breaked from the absorbing tractor beam of elemental life. Like old folks in their wheelchairs seated by a window overlooking a peaceful garden. Empty filler.

I woke up Saturday morning, after ten wonderful hours of rest, with a smile on my face. Cody was already awake and stirring next to the bed, 'Wake up! Wake up! Let's play! I'm hungry!' I turned onto my side so that my hand would reach him below the level of the mattres. My gaze was directed out the West facing window and I spied a woodpecker doing his spazmatic dance on a tree not twenty feet away. It was so cool, made me laugh. The force of this little guy's pecking almost disjointed him from the tree trunk, his little body was all a jiggle and jerk.

There is a radio positioned above the kitchen cabinets that is permanently tuned to 93.5 WOZZ, all classic rock all the time. There is never a time when the radio isn't on, except overnight, which might come off a little strange considering the supposed break from 'city' life and noise. However, the sweet sounds of Zep and Skynard are their own frequency, one with the gods. Since I was alone I changed the channel to the local NPR broadcast for breakfast; even I wasn't ready to rock quite yet. I like to futz with crossword puzzles while I'm eating, although I'm finding that I greet them with increasing labor as the week progresses. It seems to me that the paper increases the level of puzzle difficulty throughout the week. Mondays' puzzles are my favorite, 'I'm a genius!'

I surprised myself Sunday morning by waking up and getting the move on out the door. I could have stayed the day and relaxed, but my body woke up in third gear. I had had my share of hard work, my hands and wrists were sore from scraping the paint off the window frames and my allergies were still bugging me despite the carpet cleaning. I was also in need of some serious sudsing. There is a small shower stall in the bathroom, but it's hard to get a proper wash with limited hot water and immediate contact with 'the elements' following the shower. While I was weeding I came into contact with far too many insects and arachnids for my liking. Some of them ambushed me by hiding in the leaves, when I grabbed a handful to remove from the flowerbeds, miniature paintballs were fired into my palm. Paintballs of a gooey sort, yellow and brown in colors. I tried to wipe the mess off on the grass, but it's wild grass Up North, not manicured, there is more earth showing than green, so I ended up adding a layer of mud to the mix. So I tried spitting on my hand and using a leaf as a scraping instrument, nil. It just IS up there, no fighting it.

I rewarded myself for a good job done by stopping at Dairy Queen in Shawno on the way home. I was ready to order the standby [Butterfinger Blizzard] but was convinced by the monthly special advertisement to side with the Girl Scout Thin Mint Blizzard. I'd stick with the Butterfinger unless you can convince the pimple faced teens to skip the mint syrup and double the cookie!