There is no better way to experience solitude than in the forest, especially if it is in near wilderness. That’s one of the side benefits of deer hunting in Wisconsin. Solitude.

Enjoying the solitude of hunting.

Where I hunt is known specifically only to those who also hunt the property. That gives every hunter the solitude of their won “territory” where being able to harvest a deer can be done safely. High-powered deer rifles are designed to be deadly. Extreme caution is required to avoid accidents.

Being safe is critical to feeling a sense of solitude.

Sitting in a collapsible blind still requires a minimum of movement to avoid spooking deer that may come near during hunting hours. It also isolates the hunter from the elements and observation by other humans. Solitude.

Solitude is precious. It takes a being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the pressure of city living, and the stress of whatever curves life throws your way. Solitude gives you time to think, time to reflect, time to consider options. It is peaceful. It is quiet. It is energizing. It is refreshing.

The camaraderie of deer camp is special. Shared meals. Hunting stories. Work projects. Cards. Alcohol. Friendship. That’s rifle season; 9 days in late November in Wisconsin.

I also bow hunt and that gives me even more opportunities to enjoy the solitude of the forest…by myself. Whether I harvest an animal is less important than being able to rejuvenate my spirit and deepen my faith.


Rut Monster

Many years ago when my friend and long-time hunting partner, Rick LaJeunesse, was with me, I shot a 9-point buck on public land. That deer was in rut at the time. I knew because of his neck size. Now there’s another Rut Monster to tell stories about.

Rick has unfortunately gone to the bigger hunting ground and I no longer hunt in our old stomping grounds…except for when I want to stay close to home. The new location is a two-hour drive to a wilderness area of northern Wisconsin. It’s private property that we’ve been cultivating to provide areas where deer are likely to visit.

We’ve put trail cameras out in several locations on the 40-acre parcel. They’re checked when we get a chance and most show does wandering by but we have captured a wolf and several bears on the cameras. Some bucks, too, but none like the one we’re now calling the Rut Monster (below).

Crocker Hills Grandpa
At 11L10 a.m. on November 6th, this bad boy posed for the camera to show off his prowess.

This monster was captured during daylight, which is one sign that it was during the rut. Another indication is the size of his neck…distended to almost double its normal size. As far as we know, he’s still roaming the north woods. We’re anxious to see what his offspring will look like!

Penalty Kicks

Soccer officials generally like to avoid having penalty kicks decide the outcome of a soccer match. For the uninitiated, a penalty kick is warranted when a defending player denies a goal scoring opportunity to the attacking team within the penalty area.

Soccer Penalty Area
Soccer penalty area extends to 18 yards into pitch from goal line. Penalty kicks are taken from the penalty mark and players must stay 10 yards from the mark defined by penalty arc.

When teams have played the regular time allotted for a match and remain tied, the match goes to overtime periods for most high school competition. If no winner is decided but a winner must be determined for one team to advance, a penalty kick shoot-out is in order. In the shoot-out, each team has five players take penalty kicks against the opposing goalkeeper.

Referee signals for penalty kick.

Whichever team scores the most wins. If it’s still tied after the first five, the shoot-out continues with single players from each team until there’s a winner.

From this explanation you can hopefully understand why officials prefer to avoid penalty kicks to determine a winner…but that does not mean referees give an unfair advantage to one team or another to avoid a shoot-out.

During a recent tournament for high school varsity teams, it was imperative that a winner be chosen to advance to the championship bracket or be relegated to the consolation bracket. Two of the three matches we officiated required a shoot-out to determine a winner. They were tied after regulation and went direct to penalty kicks as the rules didn’t allow overtime periods.

It is rather common for officials to award a direct free kick from just outside the penalty area instead of signalling a penalty kick to influence the outcome of a close match.

In three successive matches–two junior varsity and one varsity game–I awarded five penalty kicks. In both sub-varsity matches the penalty kicks (PKs) influenced the final result because the kickers scored goals against their opponent. In the varsity competition, the keeper stopped both shots but the opponent still won the match by making other shots on goal.

Standard Transmissions

First, allow a definition. Standard transmissions enable a driver to shift gears in a vehicle by depressing a clutch before changing from one gear to the next. This is in opposition to the standard in most vehicles on the road today: Automatic transmissions. Avoid confusing “standard issue” automatic transmissions with standard or manual transmissions. I know, we can’t call it a manual transmission because it implies only males can operate them. Malarkey!

It is my firm belief that driver education vehicles should only be equipped with manually shifted standard transmissions. Anyone learning with a manual transmission should be able to drive anything.

The tricky part was going from low to high range. You had to coordinate pulling up the low/high lever on the gear shift correctly as you changed during clutch depression. Many times, double clutching was required to properly engage gears. Going down from sixth to fifth was also a slowing down challenge.

Gear Shift Pattern
N is neutral with R signifying reverse.

I learned to drive a farm tractor when I was 12 years old. Knowing how to drive a standard enabled me to get a job driving flat bed trucks for a lumber yard when I earned my driver’s license at 16. The trucks were 10-speeds (not counting reverse or neutral) requiring you to start in first gear, low range, and work your way up to fifth gear, then shift to high range and work your way up from 6th to 10th gear to increase speed.

Technical stuff, I know, but learning to drive with a standard transmission teaches you how to keep proper distances from vehicles in front of you, especially on hills, and how to ensure you have enough room to slow down and avoid collisions. The coordination to stop involves clutch, shifting to neutral to disengage gears, and braking; all requiring conscious thought. Most passenger vehicles with standard transmissions only have five speeds and the shift pattern is tight compared to a larger truck’s gear shift. There’s also a reverse gear set slightly apart from the shift pattern to avoid accidentally shifting into reverse; that’s hard on the transmission.

Learning to drive with a standard transmission usually involves the grinding of a few gears as you get the hang of the pattern, clutch smoothness, and shift requirements. Try it sometime; some place safe.

Behind the Stripes

For more than 20 years I have officiated high school soccer matches for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). My officiating career started while I was coaching my children when they played soccer.

Two of them played at the competitive or select level and it was important that there be at least one licensed official among the team’s parents. The reason: Too often there were not enough referees to conduct a match.

Yes, there was a shortage of officials 25 or more years ago, and today the problem is exacerbated by rude treatment. When players, coaches, and fans disrespect officials they risk the potential of shortages. Young (and older) referees only tolerate abuse for so long before quitting.

State associations are pleading for schools to tone it down and control unsporting behavior so more officials can be recruited.

What players, coaches, and soccer fans may fail to realize is the role of soccer referees.

The job is three-fold:

  1. Make sure the game is played fair;
  2. Make sure the game is played safe; and,
  3. Respect the spirit of the game and keep it moving.

Lord knows I’ve considered hanging up the cleats several times, but the camaraderie of the pitch keeps me going…now more than 700 matches.


Originally published in 1981 on page 207 of The World’s Great Contemporary Poems, edited by Eddie-Lou Cole

A frontier

to explore strange atmospheres

and probe the depths of


broadening horizons

and yielding room to grow.

A vision

of touching divinity’s aura

and opening the mind to life,

expanding dimensions

and dispelling myths of time.

A dream

of survival.

Impatient Drivers

Far too many of us are impatient drivers when we’re on the highway. Fact of life because we’re usually in a hurry to get somewhere to do something…or we’re already late for an event for some reason. Never mind that the other drivers have no clue why you’re so impatient.

If you’re like me, when some impatient driver comes up fast behind me and rides my back bumper, I hit the brakes or slow down to teach them a lesson. I want them to be courteous and respect my right to be on the road as much as I respect theirs. This usually makes them irate and more impatient.

It has that effect on me. But then I stop and think for a second, cool down, and back off a few car lengths. That shows concern for avoiding accidents and often leads to a perfect opportunity to pass them safely.

Granted, an impatient driver is quite likely to be considered a fast driver, as opposed to a slowpoke. From my perspective, I’d rather deal with some driver who understands the perils of speed. Better than one who is oblivious to how much their snail’s pace endangers other motorists. There have been occasions when a burst of speed has saved a collision from happening by clearing the situation. Being alert and braking is a good option, too.

  • Technology Perils
Oops! I’m driving!

What I fear more than impatient drivers is inattentive drivers. With today’s technology, far too many drivers are yakking away on their smart phones, trying to text or read messages popping up on their devices. They need to pay attention to the highway! It only takes a second for an obstacle like a deer crossing the road to result in an accident.

In the same boat are drunk drivers, who generally have no clue what they’re doing. The solution: Pay attention and obey the law!

Addicted America

I take a lot of pills every day; some are prescription, others are natural supplements. All are intended to keep me healthy, but I often question whether they do keep me well or serve as addictive placebos. Are we addicted, America?

I take natural supplements after careful personal study, but I often wonder if the medical profession as we know it in the United States is missing the boat when it comes to offering natural alternatives to what they prescribe. For instance, Valerian root has properties akin to Valium since its the root plant for the prescribed medication. Some will dispute the natural alternative’s value but it works for me and I can stop using it any time.

America, we are a nation of addicts. Forget about the cartels and illegal drugs flowing into our country. Think about our health care system instead. What typically happens when you visit a doctor in our Western society?

First, you are weighed, have your vitals checked (blood pressure, pulse, etc.), and answer questions about how you’re feeling. Then you wait.

Second, the doctor comes in, reviews the notes, and does a cursory check of your eyes, ears, nose, chest, lungs, reflexes, and probably asks you to bend over and cough. Then some advice about losing weight.

Third, the doctor may ask if you need any refills or…depending on what they have observed, will write you a prescription with little explanation of what the benefits or side effects might be. Out you go to pay the bill if you haven’t already coughed up the co-pay.

Some of us remember the old wives’ remedies that worked as effectively as the pills prescribed today. Cures like apple cider vinegar or castor oil. Nope! Can’t have that today; we trust what the doctor says we need, which is often an addictive medication like the crisis we face today over opioids. If you read the prescription label carefully, you may often find it tells you NOT to stop taking it without talking to your physician. Interesting.

Perhaps the cartel we need to worry about most is that linking the medical profession with the manufacturers of “legal” drugs and the insurance companies which support the writing of prescriptions with endorsements and television commercials encouraging us to “check with your doctor.”

The manufacturers make bundles of money, so they can afford to lobby politicians and get legislation enacted that favors their continued addiction of America’s citizens. Seems like rather shady business, but we have succumbed to it because it is legal and we are unsure of the consequences if we quit taking the prescribed medication.’

Is there a solution? Perhaps a widely-read expose on the problem, or transparency on the part of the cartel members but neither are likely. The media like their advertising revenues.

How many prescriptions do you take daily? Do you really need them?

Defining Success

Success is being recognized as an expert in your chosen field of endeavor. At least that’s one of my responses for defining success.

Another is that success is an intangible feeling that accompanies a sense of accomplishment…a job well done whether anyone else notices or just you.

A third definition of success is the ability to live comfortably within one’s means. How many million-dollar-plus lottery winners have lost it all because they couldn’t live within their means? They splurged or over-spent without thinking about stashing half the cash off the bat in retirement savings or some safe investment.

How do you define success?

A person can strive all their life pursuing an ideal that is unattainable but yet they believe it can be achieved. Is that person successful because they are passionate about their objective?

Consider a destitute person with an addiction to alcohol whose daily goal is to find enough cash to scrounge up a cheap bottle of wine and drink themselves into a state of oblivion. Is that person successful if they get the money and the bottle? Deep down, yes…if you believe success is achieving a goal. Some, however, would consider this person a failure for other reasons even though they succeed on a daily basis.

Let’s put it this way: If you are passionate about what you do–professionally or personally–and pursue that passion with purpose, you will be successful. You know what you want and how to get it. Those are important elements in defining success. Let’s leave it at that.

Not Enough Snow

When snow falls in Wisconsin, an inch or two is nothing. When a foot or more blankets the ground, we know winter is going to be around for a while. After months buried in it, we come to despise the white stuff.

I have often told people about how much snow we “used to get” when I was younger. Most don’t believe me when I explain it was piled up along the road so high you could touch the power lines from the top.

At right, for those doubters out there, is proof from this 1962 image. There’s barely enough room for one vehicle to pass through the snow banks along the road.

Imagine having that much snow in the city or town where you live. My memories are digging through the piles to create tunnels or under-snow fortresses for snowball fights.

Today we grow weary of too much snow and curse a new dusting of the white stuff when we should look at it differently. Father Mark Vander Steeg in his sermon today (March 3, 2019) suggested he try to remember and look at the snow as though we were children. Find joy instead of drudgery.