Wanderung 4 was all the fault of my sister Lois. More accurately, it was the fault of her granddaughter Carrie who suggested they all go roller-skating. Ordinarily, roller-skating is not considered a dangerous sport, but my sister took a tumble coming off the floor and broke three bones in her right ankle. This instantly converted her planned 5-day visit to Dallas into a 5-week visit punctuated by an orthopedic operation. Finally she progressed to the point of being able to hobble about with crutches and a walking cast, so we drove out to Burlington to pick her up from the airport and stay until she could safely negotiate stairs and drive a car, two essentials to life in rural Wisconsin!
Since Lois was not very mobile, I anticipated a relaxing visit in the bucolic countryside. The countryside was, in fact, quite relaxing. The soybean fields were turning a pretty yellow, which I think is natural for this time of year, and the cornfields a dry brown, which I think is not natural. I imagine the dying corn crop was due to a local drought—certainly it did not rain hardly at all the entire time we were there.
It was even relaxing to read the local newspaper. In the Journal Times for September 10th, the four main articles on the front page concerned high school truants, a new store that obtained cheap prescription drugs from Canada, a collection of 5,470 paper cranes on display in city hall, and the overwhelming vote of the citizens of Mount Pleasant to become an incorporated village. Each of these articles was interesting in a low-key sort of way, but there was certainly nothing their to make your blood pressure rise except maybe the 36.5% truancy rate for the Racine Unified School District. Lois said our mother, a schoolteacher back in the 1920s, used to get very outraged at reports of school truancy in the paper.
But the other 3 articles were more relaxing reading. The opening of Canada Drug Service in Wauwatosa was big news because people could buy a 3-month supply of cheap Canadian drugs by mail instead of having to physically travel to Canada. Of course, the Bush administration’s Department of Justice(?) was attempting to quash this rebellion against exorbitant U.S. drug prices by threatening federal lawsuits to shut the Canadian drug importing businesses down. As justification, the Department of Justice(?) claimed that federal law allows only manufacturers to bring medicines into this country, not private citizens. Of course, I later read that arms of the U.S. Government such as the Veteran’s Administration were buying cheaper Canadian drugs to save money, but that is the government rather than us lowly citizens. What is sauce for the U.S. gander is obviously not sauce for us silly geese, at least in this case.
But the wheels of justice, even if greased by drug company campaign contributions, will still grind somewhat slowly, so until the full force of Ashcroft’s Department of Justice(?) is brought to bear, U.S. citizens buying Canadian drugs will have a brief respite from the sky-high prices charged by the U.S. drug monopolies. The fact that these sky-high drug prices also finance extravagant ad campaigns that flood evening TV with ads for this, that, and the other prescription drug nostrum is rather like adding insult to injury, if you ask me. You know what I mean—those ubigquitous, upbeat adds that end with sentences like, “Nostrum is not for everyone. Do not take Nostrum if you are overweight, pregnant or psychotic, or if you plan on becoming overweight, pregnant or psychotic. Certain side effects like exploding heads or limbs falling off are exceedingly rare, so ask your doctor if Nostrum is right for you!”
The article on the paper origami cranes said that they were a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks constructed by a student at a local middle school. Certainly it was a graceful and peaceful way to remember those victims, and a decided contrast to politicians using the tragedy to whip up public hysteria and support for further wars. I thought about the little origami cranes when I saw the flags flying at half-staff at the Union Grove Veteran’s cemetery on September 11.
The article on the vote of Mount Pleasant folks to become an official village was also positive. Becoming an official “village” might not seem like a huge honor to us big city folks, but the citizens of Mount Pleasant clearly saw it as a step forward because they voted 3,250 to 281 in favor of village-hood. As a village, zoning will be possible and they are hoping to encourage the establishment of new businesses in the area. One of the folks voting for the change of status had a much more mundane desire, the hope for “municipal water”. The well water around here is as hard as nails (think brown rings of rust everywhere and curious looking sediment in the bottom of every glass of tap water), so I could easily understand that. If you take a total count of the front page headlines, you basically had only 1 “bad news” item and 3 “good news” items, which is a ratio that would tend to put you in a good mood rather than a bad mood for the day, don’t you think?
But the coup de grace for a relaxing, feel-good story was the banner headline in the Local news section that reported a puppy had been successfully returned to his family. The puppy actually had a harrowing journey, being stolen from the back yard and later sold to a gentleman for $30 in a bar. The puppy was returned when the gentleman was also offered a cheap color TV and suddenly realized instead of just a cold beer and pretzels he had purchased, to coin a phrase, a hot dog (Sorry!). This story was accompanied by a big, heart-warming picture of the puppy enthusiastically licking a boy’s face—the very picture of domestic felicity.
However, despite the bucolic countryside and feel-good newspaper, our visit was not nearly as relaxing as I had anticipated because the social schedule set by my sister was exhausting. She had band and dance group performances each weekend, and recorder group practices during the week. We were caught up in this social whirl—Monika knows how to play a recorder and I had to try to learn to dance 18th century English country-dances. Lois dressed us up in authentic period costumes for these performances. What I learned from the experience of fumbling with innumerable buttons whenever I had to go to the bathroom was, basically, “Hurray for Zippers!”
In these costumes we drove down to West Lafayette, Indiana, for the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon where Lois’s Revolutionary War Band of Musick and dance group were going to perform. This event focused on the history of Fort Quiatenon, which was established by the French and changed hands over the centuries to British, Spanish and American rule. The arrival of the French voyageurs was re-enacted each morning with a canoe race to the boat ramp, and the military units marched up and down with great pomp and re-enacted historic battles with their flintlock muskets and canon.
There were so many vendors of handcrafted and 18th century goods that we couldn’t even visit them all during the spare hours we had that weekend, and food vendors offered an interesting variety of comestibles including “sauerkraut stew”, which folks told me was quite good. Five stages for live performances offered non-stop entertainment from so many different groups that we couldn’t possibly see all the ones we wanted to. Lois’s Band of Musick and the country-dance group performed once each day, and on Sunday I stepped in to replace Bruce in the last couple of dances—he had to be the drummer for his military unit in a re-enactment. Fortunately, the other members of the dance group were really good at cueing me (with pushes when necessary!), and I didn’t fatally mess up any of the dances—phew! We both found we enjoyed this kind of dancing, I think in part because the music is really kind of catchy—think of an 18th century advertising jingle—and the dance movements are a nice mix of different kinds of figures and actions, somewhat similar to modern square dancing.
On one of the non-dance, non-play, non-sing days during the month we were at Lois’s, we went sailing with my brother-in-law on a very nice sailboat owned by his son David. Besides being a very experienced sailor Bill is a brave man as attested to by his Korean War combat awards and the fact that he let me steer the boat! I had a blast and the 12-15 knot winds and moderate swell provided some good experience. We sailed from Racine harbor almost south to Kenosha and back in a couple of hours, which is really hopping for a sailboat. I mean we got that sucker all the way up to 6.8 knots, which is almost 8 miles an hour, which is pretty near 10 miles an hour, which is definitely faster than you can walk!
All went swimmingly, so to speak, until we were approaching the dock on our return trip. I had the rather simple task of stepping onto the dock and securing the boat with the lines. Instead of stepping, I leaped like a gazelle over the lifelines onto the dock. Somehow in mid leap my right shoe came off and fell into the harbor! After landing successfully if gracelessly on the dock, I started to tie up the boat with “one shoe off and one shoe on” as the saying goes. My shoe had resurfaced behind the boat, surprisingly in a full upright position with the rubber sole floating flat on the surface of the lake. It looked quite literally like the shoe was walking on water but without, of course, its owner or rather occupant. With its canvas top spread to the wind, my shoe gamely set sail north toward Milwaukee and I sadly gave it up as lost. But Bill had a boat hook and clever Monika circled around on the dock to a branch near the harbor exit and grabbed the errant shoe as it sailed by, so I was completely shod once again (highly embarrassed and my right foot a bit soggy, however).
During our weeks at Lois’s I was constantly seeing travel trailers parked at RV dealers and sometimes even beside the highway with “For Sale” signs on them. I kept looking for a light 25 footer with the floor plan we wanted at a price we could afford and finally found one at a dealer on I-94. It was a 2000 model Flagstaff ultralight trailer and we really liked the clean, bright interior. The dealer agreed to sell it for $9200 and after thinking it over for a day we decided to go ahead. After having the hitch components and trailer brake control added to our truck, we paid our bill and towed it over to Lois’s, stopping off along the way to practice backing up in a very large, very empty parking. Backing an articulated vehicle combination like this is particularly tricky, and I needed all that back experience to get the trailer into the storage pad in front of Lois’s house. We spent much of our final week of our visit outfitting the trailer and installing various and sundry things. These installation activities would, as it turned out, continue throughout the tip and even until Christmas when Judson and Sarah gave us a special RV cutting board (fits over the stove burners) and shoe caddie (fits along the wall).
Copyright 2004 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt