Category Archives: Personal Observations

Grandpa’s Report Card

Children attending school receive report cards to demonstrate the progress they make in the areas of their education. The cards serve to provide their parents with benchmarks on how their children perform and in which areas they may excel because of heightened interest.

Parents—and grandparents—however, are not graded on their performance as caretakers of their children and surrogate educators. Parents are the first teachers their children experience. A child’s grandparents do not have the responsibility for education that their parents do, and therefore earn passes for teaching…to a certain degree.

Grandpa's Quarantine Beard

Yet, I can’t help but wonder how I’m doing as a grandfather now that I have four and soon five grandchildren. I have the advantage of establishing my own criteria and grading myself accordingly over the last five-plus years of being a grandfather. Here’s my self-rated report card:

  1. Time spent with the grandchildren: C.
    1. The challenge has always been and will continue to be one of distance. My grandsons live with my daughter and son-in-law in Chicago which is at least a three-hour drive from home. My granddaughters live with my son and daughter-in-law near Milwaukee which is about a two-hour drive, depending on traffic. As a result, we generally see the grands on special occasions, when they venture north, or when we’re asked to watch them while their parents attend some event.
  2. Patience with their behavior: D.
    1. Both sets of parents have different philosophies on child discipline, both of which conflict with how my wife and I disciplined our children. Even though one grand exhibited “naughty” behavior, it is not for us to use that terminology with them. So, I have little patience with testing behavior in my belief children need discipline…and that, at times, requires corporal punishment such as spanking. Wrong in today’s parental culture, hence the D grade.
  3. Serving as a babysitter: B.
    1. I’m good at keeping an eye on my grandchildren when I’m in charge of their care. I let them have some rope but am close enough to prevent them from harming themselves. I’m better when they’ve been put to bed and are sleeping…for the most part. I can comfort a grand who has woken up crying and get them back to sleep easily. My magic touch and calming voice come in handy.
  4. Reading and teaching: A.
    1. My mother taught me to read and always emphasized characters and phrases. A skill I inherited to become an exceptional storyteller, or reader. I love it when one or more of my grandchildren sit on my lap and let me read a book to them. As they’ve gotten older, they like to read books by themselves, or at least look at the pictures. I still have opportunities to teach them when we visit museums or similar attractions.
  5. Playing and having fun: B.
    1. Opportunities to play with my grandchildren are fleeting, so I try to have fun and make games or other activities fun for them, too. One of the best times is when we get all four of them in a swimming pool and I can swim or dive and come up in front of or behind them. The youngest enjoys it when I ferry him around the pool in his water wings.
  6. Providing discipline or guidance: Incomplete
    1. I’ll refer this to #2 and leave it there since my children prefer that I keep my distance when it comes to discipline.
  7. Taking care of basic needs: A.
    1. Never had a problem with changing a dirty diaper, wiping a runny nose, or fixing a batch of macaroni and cheese or some hot dogs. And I’ve been able to tell when one of the grands has soiled a diaper. Some smells, to me, are easily recognized. I look forward to the day when diapers are only a memory.
  8. Sharing memories or life lessons: C.
    1. It’s easy to inject some history of our family, especially my parents, and the related life lesson when the opportunity presents itself. I just need to avoid usurping parental rights.
  9. Keeping them safe: B.
    1. As I get older, my reflexes are slowing down but I’m still as quick as ever when it comes to catching a grandkid seconds before a serious injury. One that stands out is saving my oldest granddaughter from running full speed into the downed tailgate of my pick-up. If something does happen and there are no serious injuries, I concentrate on letting the grands know they’re okay and that they’ll be fine…provided I’m confident of that.
  10. Admiration for their parents: A.
    1. Even though I may not show it or express it, I am proud of my children and their spouses and how well adjusted and smart their children have become. Kudos to them.

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!

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.

The Reluctant Daughter

Rafters enjoying a river floatStopping by a small grocery/convenience store/gas station/bar and restaurant on my way to deer camp, I had to yield to a young woman carrying 12-packs of beer to the cooler. She didn’t look happy about her assignment. I guessed her to be the owner’s reluctant daughter. Her age had to be 15 or 16; old enough to want to enjoy the summer although not old enough to borrow the car and get away.

Not that getting away is easy in a small village near a popular rafting river when your parents’ business involves supplying snacks and beverages for the rafting enthusiasts. Not easy when the nearest larger community, defined as having a fast food restaurant, is more than 30 miles away. And certainly not easy when there are few young men around to serve as boyfriends, or girlfriends to hang out with, either.

She seemed reluctant.

Dressed in shorts and a nice top, she had the look of a worker who wished she was doing something—anything—else. Mom was behind the counter, selling licenses to customers, ringing up  purchases, and explaining about the bathroom and when the van left for the tubing run. The daughter (I assumed the two were related because of their similar appearances), acted as if she had no choice in the matter.

It was Saturday. The weather was ideal for tubing down the river. The store was busy. The bar and restaurant were busy, too, so it was “all hands on deck”. Every available person was needed to help take care of customers and bring in the cash. After all, it is the family business!

I’m sure she got paid for sacrificing her Saturday, but that had little bearing on her reluctance to do any more than she had to…much less interact with the customers with a friendly smile and cheerful disposition.