Monday, December 22, 2014

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXIX- Train Spotting

This is the twenty-ninth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

Train Spotting

[Okay - so two things I want to know more about - at least two: the world before 'the train'; and how to bring the train back (do we really want to?).

Jack had been pretty quiet so far. Something had been troubling him so now he said; "Billy, I was wondering; you say that the train changed everything in our world - including our memories. How do you know that it wasn't you that was changed?"

"Yeah," JJ added, "according to you everyone in the world would have changed. Wouldn't it be easier to have just you change and leave everyone else the same."

"What do you mean; easier?" Billy asked.

"Well, perhaps easier to believe." JJ laughed uncomfortably.

"You think I'm making this up? You think I'm just telling a story?" Billy was clearly getting upset.

"No, no, Billy." Jack said; "It's not that at all. It's just that if you think about this - you know all I'm saying is - couldn't it have been a case of you being on this train for what? at least a few hours. And somehow during that time you could have been assimilated into the same reality (may I say, universe?) as the train?"

Billy stood up and walked to the porch railing and looked out over the back yard. The squirrels had moved their chase into the woods behind the shed. Then he turned around and said; "Why would I have gotten on the train if it wasn't the normal thing for us to do?"

JJ laughed; "You're kidding right, Billy? I mean seriously; getting on that train was the most normal thing for you to do. That was the kind of thing you did - all the time. That was just how you were - don't you remember?"

"Not really. " Billy said quietly.

"More evidence for our point." Jack said.

"I don't see that." Billy protested.

"It doesn't matter." Red interrupted. "You guys are arguing over details that aren't important. It doesn't matter whether the train changed Billy's universe or it changed everyone else's. You guys are missing the point. Where did this train come from and how do we bring it back?"

Everyone looked at Red. Jack said; "Hmm, good point."

"That's right, Red." JJ agreed; "It's not important to the issue of the train but it might be very important to know more about this before we consider whether to try to bring it back again."

"If we even can." Red added.

"Oh, we can alright." Billy said; "I'm certain of that."

"Okay you're on, Billy. How do we do that?"; Jack said

"Well, " Billy began, "I think ordinarily it would be next to impossible to re-connect with that universe. I don't know how we managed to connect to it in the first place. Maybe it was some sort of random mutation sort of thing."

"Like what drives evolution?" Red asked.

"Yeah, I guess so. " Billy said; "I guess you could think ot it that way. If such a thing happens on a molecular scale why not on a 'universal' scale?"

"Anyway, " Billy continued, "after I got off that train, it disappeared back into wherever it came from and since it was just a random thing that it showed up in the first place, finding it again would also depend on random chance."

"Grandpa, this is like your multiple universes idea, isn't it?" Red said.

"Yes, I think it is." Jack said; "But who knows how many of these universes exist. It could be an infinite number (at least in our perception)."

"Right." Billy continued; "So it would be next to impossible to find that particular train again - in that particular universe. Unless..."

"Unless what?" JJ asked.

Billy smiled and paused for effect.

"Come on Billy." Red protested.

"Unless, someone had some link to that universe. Some physical piece of that universe that might serve as a guide."

Red said; "Like bread crumbs?"

"Right!" Billy said; "Or like a tether to pull that universe back to this one again."

 "So Billy, " JJ asked, "did you take something from that train?"

"No, " Billy said as he looked at JJ, "But you did."

JJ stared at Billy as he thought back to that day. Billy smiled as he waited for it. Then JJ gasped; "The milk can cover."

"Do you still have it?" Billy asked.

"I think so. " JJ looked at Red. "Isn't it still hanging up in the garage?"

"Yeah," Red said, "as far as I know it's still hanging above those shovel hooks by the workbench."

"Well that can lid, " Billy said triumphantly, "was from the train. And that is what will bring it back."

"Okay," Jack said, "assuming what you say is true, how do we do that? How does that lid bring the train back?"

"Yeah," JJ said, "I've had this thing for - what -  almost 20 years, and it hasn't brought the train back yet."

"Are you sure." Billy smiled.

"Yes, " JJ insisted, "don't you think I would've heard it - or seen it - if it had?"

"Perhaps you weren't listening - or looking." Billy said. "Remember I told you that I've stopped in to talk with old Mrs. Olsen in Oakwood? Well, she's heard it -- many times since that day."

"And she's probably senile." JJ laughed.

"That's not very nice to say about someone, JJ. " Billy scolded. "And anyway, she's as sane as you or me."

Red laughed and then caught herself.

Billy smiled at her and added; "Okay, she's as sane as you guys."

"She does live right next to the tracks." Jack offered; "If anyone would hear it, she would, I guess."

"Have you heard it, Grandpa? "Red asked; "It would go right by here wouldn't it?"

"No, I've never heard a train go by here." Jack said, "At least not since they stopped running. We used to hear them all the time. In fact we got so used to the trains that we didn't even notice them any more after a while."

"Could that be why you haven't noticed it since?" Billy asked.

"Oh, I think I would've noticed it now." Jack said. "Marge certainly would."

"But the can lid isn't here is it." Billy said. "It's over at JJ's, right?"

"And the old tracks didn't go anywhere near our house. " JJ said. "So, of course we wouldn't hear it."

[Oh just great - I changed the last few paragraphs and now this following bit no longer works. So now what do I do? Go back to the original? See - this is why I shouldn't change things once published. Like just let it go and work with it.  Well I'm in it now. Check out the comments to this blog to see the original. Maybe this will be a worthwhile improvement.]

"But you said that Mrs. Olsen heard it .. " Red said.

".. hears it!" Billy corrected.

"Okay, Mrs Olsen hears it." Red continued; "How would she hear it if she doesn't have something from the train, too?"

"Yeah, this bothered me for a while too, you know." Billy said; "Then I remembered that on that day when I got off the train in Oakwood and went over to Mrs. Olsen's to use the phone to call Mr. P, you  know? And I left my train ticket on the table by the phone. You know, the punched ticket I got on the train? I remember writing your number on it, Mr. P. so I could dial it and then I must've just left it there by her phone. I certainly didn't need it anymore - I thought. So I kind of forgot about all about it, you know?"

"And Mrs. Olsen kept it?" Red asked.

"I asked her that when I saw her last spring,  and she said she'd  kept it because it seemed very strange that I should have such a thing. And maybe it meant that I my story - our story - wasn't so wild after all."

"So, did you get it back?" JJ asked.

"No, she couldn't remember where she'd put it, you know. She said she'd look for it and call me if she found it." Billy said. "She hasn't called."

"Maybe she does remember and just doesn't want to give it up." Jack said.

"Maybe." Red said; "But why would she want to keep it?"

"Well, the only thing I can think of is that the train meant more to her, you know?  It was a link to her life on the farm. You know, her past,  before her husband died and all that.  Maybe she just wanted to hold on to that."

"Okay, "JJ said, "so she's got a link and I've got a link. So how do we use my link to bring back the train."

"Well, I was getting to that but you keep interrupting." Billy protested. 

"Sorry." [ someone said. ]

[ Okay now that I've changed the bit with Mrs Olsen, I guess I don't need this following part either. Maybe I don't need to bring in the G.I.  - I've got to think about this some more. Oh what a tangled web we 'devise' when first we practice to 'revise.']

"Well, you know the guy I met in Glendale? Well it turns out he was the same guy I was talking to on the train." Billy continues. "You know that GI who was in the war."

"Your kidding." Jack laughed. "This is getting weirder by the minute."

"No kidding - really, remember I told you that he got of in the City? Well, on the train - you know while we were talking - he was telling me how hard it was making ends meet on his pension and all. So I gave him ten bucks that I had planned to use for the movie - popcorn and candy and all, you know. I wasn't going to go since JJ didn't come with so I figured it would help him out a little."

"That was very nice of you." Jack said.

"But why is he still here - in this universe?" JJ asked.

"I don't know for sure but I think the fact that I'd given him something from my universe actually  pulled him into my universe when he got off the train."

"I bet he was really confused." Red laughed.

"He's in Glenwood." JJ winked at Red.

"Yeah, he's been very 'confused' since then." Billy smiled. "But he remembered me, you know, when he saw me.  And this really confused the doctors -- for a while. "

"I'll bet." Jack said.

"And I remembered him, of course. It was like old home week, you know, for a while there. And then the doctors figured it out -- or they thought they did -- and they decided it would be better to keep the two of us separated. "

"Why?" Asked Red.

"I'm not sure." Billy said. "Maybe they couldn't come up with an explanation and didn't want us re-enforcing each others' delusion - or something - I really don't know."

"So he's the one who has brought the train back? " JJ persisted.

[ gotta go - the coffee is cold and I'm warmed up now so back on the bike and back home]

[Dec 28, 2014 - Okay lets pick up where we left off on the modified version above  (so forget the GI, okay) ]

"Well, like I said," Billy continued, "I've been talking to Mrs. Olsen, you know? I wanted to know how often she heard the train, and when."

"Good idea." Jack said.

"Yeah well,  it turns out she remembers very well because it happens pretty much every day when it happens."

"What do you mean 'when it happens'. " JJ asked.

"Well it runs in cycles, you know. It doesn't happen all the time -- like every day and all. It's not regular like that. But when it happens it usually happens the same time of the day and it usually happens for a few days in a row and then it doesn't for a while."

"Did she ever keep track of when she heard it?" Asked Red.

"Not really." Billy said; "But she said that it was pretty much the same time of the day that she remembered the real train coming, you know, when there used to be a train."

"How about the regularity thing. Did she remember anything about these gaps. Did she say anything about when it started and when it stopped?" Jack asked.

"Not really. She said it seemed to just come at random times. Sometimes a month or so apart and sometimes over a year or so. She said it was really variable."

"Does she remember when it started?" Jack asked.

"Well, you know that she heard something that day you guys were looking for me. She still doesn't know if that was a truck or not because she wasn't really listening, you know. It caught her off guard."

"Did she start hearing it again after that?"

"She said she didn't remember hearing again until a few years later. Maybe as many as ten, you know? At the time she was spending a lot of time away from home; helping her daughter take care of her new baby and all. So she might have missed it for a while. But she said the first time she remembers hearing it was just before Christmas ten years ago. She was putting lights on the bushes outside her house when she heard the train go by. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. Then she heard it again at about 8:00 in the morning the next day. And then again at three that afternoon. And that's the last she heard for a long time. "

"So it didn't come again before Christmas the next year?" Red asked.

"No, like she said, it was really random. She said that it's happened maybe a dozen times over the last ten years -- that she's heard anyway."

"When was the last time she heard it?" JJ asked.

"Yesterday afternoon." Billy said with a smile.

[Whoa, I didn't see that coming -- wait, that's too soon -- it doesn't make sense -- Billy would have had more of a sense of urgency.  Let's try this...]

"When was the last time she heard it?" JJ asked.

"Almost a year ago, now. She said it was just after Thanksgiving last year."

"So you think it's due?" Red asked.

"That's why I'm here." Billy smiled. "I ...

[ Wait a minute. I think I like the first thing better after all. Let's go back to Mrs Olsen hearing it yesterday. But we'll just change the time.]

"Yesterday morning." Billy said with a smile.

"Yesterday?" Jack said -- amazed.

"She called me right after it happened -- I'd asked her to -- and she said it was the first time she's heard it for over a year. So I drove out here and that's what I was doing over by the bridge -- waiting for it to show up at three."

"Did it come?" Red asked.

"No. Well, at least if it did, I didn't see or hear it.  So I called Mrs Olsen and asked her if she heard it. She said 'Yes, right on time at three.' So I started thinking about it and that's when I remembered the ticket and thought of the link it might have."

"Why didn't you just go to Mrs. Olsen's and wait for the train there - wouldn't that have made more sense?" Red asked.

"I guess so, now that I think of it. But, well I don't know but I guess I didn't want to include Mrs Olsen in this any more than I had to, I guess. Like I said, I don't know why I went to the bridge. Why did you guys choose yesterday to go for a walk?

"Good point." Jack laughed. "I have to admit it was quite a coincidence."

"No duh." Red laughed.

 "So anyway, " JJ said; "you're saying that this is the first you thought of this 'bread crumb' thing?" Jack asked.

"Yeah, I was sitting on the bridge, you know, and going over all this in my head and trying to think of some reason for all of it.  And then I remembered the ticket thing and then I remembered the milk can lid that JJ found and that's why I was so glad to see you, Mr. P -- and Red."

"So you really don't know that this how to bring the train back." Jack said "It's just a theory."

"A pretty good one. " Billy protested. "Don't you think so?"

"I think we have the makings for an experiment, Grandpa, don't you? Red said.

"I think you're right." Jack agreed. He has taught her well, he thought.

"Okay, " JJ was looking at Billy, " what you're saying is that since it came twice yesterday that the odds are good that it will come again today -- at least."

"Yes, according to Mrs. Olsen"

[Oh Oh. Do you see the problem here? Again, it's a matter of urgency.  This dinner happened the evening of the 'second day'. A whole day has been lost here. Why would Billy allow this when time is so critical? ]

[that's all the time I have for today..... ]

Sunday, December 21, 2014

David L. Ellingworth (1961-2014)

My favorite Nephew and one of my best friends died last week. He was only 53 years old.

It might seem strange to the casual observer for me to call David a best friend because we saw so little of each other over the years. He would pop into my life at odd times - sometimes invited, often unexpected - and then disappear back into his world.  More about that later.

We first met when he was 2 years old. He moved into my parents' house with his two brothers (age 1 and 3) when I was 14. He immediately fell in love with my stuff and this didn't sit well with me. He thought I was cool to have such cool toys - which was cool, you know - but he was only two and everything he touched seemed to break. I could never find a place to put my stuff where he couldn't find it - and play with it, and inevitably break it. Maybe this is why I've always been so good at fixing things.

I don't remember how long he lived with us but, as both of us grew up, we continued to share a common interest in cool 'toys' like ears (old cars that had potential) and tractors (he preferred John Deere because that's what my Dad had on the farm). Basically anything mechanical; preferably anything that needed fixing up, and most important anything that had some link to our past. And David actually got really good at fixing things himself.

David and Carrie planting Poplar 'sticks' 1999
It was hard not to like David (even for a spoiled fourteen-year-old like me) because he would do anything for anyone. He was kind-hearted, fun to be with and sometimes too(?) exciting. He was always moving; sometimes without thinking - it seemed.  This got him in some trouble at times.  The farm house, where we grew up,  had very steep stairs which we all had trouble learning to navigate as toddlers (I know that I rolled down those stairs a couple times) but it seemed like David had more than his share of tumbles. And I have vague memories of other times in his life where he'd lead with his head. These made for great stories, and he'd laugh about them after he got out of the hospital.

David and Stuart 1999
At many times in my life, David was there when I needed him. He would call and say; "Stuart - what are ya doin'?". And then he'd come over and help me roof the house, or fix the windows, or plant  trees, or fix the tractor. There was always something going on and he wanted to help - if he was in town.

When David started driving truck (over the road) he would often call - out of the blue - because he was thinking about something, or had come up with an idea. He'd be in Florida, or Arizona, or New England. One time he called and asked me if I knew the words to the song "American Pie".  He wanted to know what the words mean. I didn't know ( but, this past summer, I learned that song and was thinking about showing off and playing it for him next time I saw him - if he was still interested.)

David loved to be involved with anything to do with family. He would sometimes call to see if I was at the farm of if I knew what Roland (my brother) was doing so we could get together to work on some project; either at Roland's woods or at the farm.

One time he called from the truck stop in Madison and said he had too many
David and Roland planting Oak trees  (2011)
hours on his log and needed to kill some time; could I pick him up and go to dinner. So Debi and I went to dinner with him and we caught up on all the family news. After dinner we dropped him off back at the truck stop and he was gone again.

Even though he called often, he didn't like talking on the phone. He would say what he had to say and then cut it off - sometimes abruptly - with; "Later" ( no 'bye' - just 'later' ) and the line would go dead.

And then I wouldn't hear from him for months (sometimes years). But I often thought about him; out there on the highway, on his way to here or there - whereever. He liked being on the road. He was in control of his life when he was driving. Nobody to tell him what to do. Nobody to talk him into doing something that he'd regret. Like I said, he'd do anything for anyone. 

I don't pretend to understand the world in which he lived (a fact he reminded me of often). Nor do I understand the demons that he fought so hard. But he was a good friend - perhaps more because of his nature than mine. Even thought I didn't hear from him very often - lately, at least - it was comforting to know he was out there and thinking about projects that we could work on the next time we got together. Some of these were really 'out there',  but they were always interesting. 

So David; I will miss you dearly. I will think about you often and wonder where this new road is taking you. I hope you find peace.  Later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXVIII - Crazy?

This is the twenty-eighth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[What do you think?]


JJ stood up next to his wife. The combined 'risings' removed the weight from the porch swing which caused it to tilt suddenly towards Red, who was listening so intently that it caught her off guard and she nearly slid off the arm she was sitting on and had to grab the chain that held the swing to keep from falling on her butt.

JJ whispered; "Let's hear him out, okay Gwen? Just a couple more minutes and then we'll go." He looked at Gwen pleading with his eyes. She looked at Red. Red shrugged her shoulders and smiled like 'what can it hurt."

JJ was still looking at Gwen when he said out loud; "So Billy, how did you bring the train back?"

Billy gave a nervous laugh and blushed; "Well, I didn't exactly bring it back myself. But I met someone who has."

"Let me guess, " Gwen laughed, "at Glendale, right?"

"Actually 'yes' as a matter of fact." Billy said.

Everyone settled back after hearing this and collectively relaxed and nodded.

"I know what you think," Billy continued, "but remember that just because someone is in a crazy place doesn't necessarily mean they're crazy."

"Come on Billy," Gwen laughed, "you've gotta admit it's a pretty strong clue."

"No, " Billy protested, "you know, sometimes we think people are crazy when in reality they just don't have enough sense to keep their mouths shut."

"You can say that again." Gwen snorted.

"Billy, " Red interrupted, "I'm curious about this world you say you lived in before the train came. "

"We all lived in." Billy corrected. "Well, except for you - you weren't born yet."

"Wait, Red, " JJ said, "can we find out more about this guy who supposedly brought the train back, first."

Gwen slowly shook her head. It was obvious that she had really heard enough of this. Marge stood up and said; "Gwen, can you help me clean up?"

Gwen said; "Thanks Marge, I'd love to." She gave Red a looked like 'don't you want to come with?'  Red gave her a 'please let me stay - I want to hear this' look. Gwen sighed and followed Marge into the house - giving JJ a quick, stern 'I'm leaving you in charge' look over her shoulder.

[This is bogging down a little. Maybe now that the 'ladies' are gone we can move along at a brisker pace. ]

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jack Pynesapp and his Granddaughter Red: Part XXVII - Billy's story

This is the twenty-seventh in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[This is the story. I'm going to just get it down without much fanfare or other business. After I see what it looks like, I will decide on how it fits in the rest of this story. ]

Billy's story.

[ I don't know why I want to add too much 'staging' to this scene. When I read books, I usually just skim over this stuff anyway. But here goes...]

The meeting with Billy developed pretty much as planned. Marge fixed a nice meal and the whole family was able to attend. Billy showed up and everyone really enjoyed reminiscing about the old days when JJ and Billy were growing up together as best friends.  They all sort of avoided the elephant in the room until after dinner when everyone headed to the back porch for coffee.

It was a warm late August evening and everyone settled into the chairs and swings on the back porch. Red sat on the porch railing.  Gwen and JJ sat on the swing. Grandpa and Marge sat in their rockers and Billy settled into the big old wicker chair. They watched two squirrels chase each other around the trees and up on the roof of the shed.

Jack looked at Billy and identified the elephant when he said; "Okay Billy, what was that you talking about last night - about the train?"

Billy took a sip of coffee, cleared his throat and began; "Well Mr. P., here's what really happened that day.  You remember that I jumped on the train. Well, I walked in through the door to the car and was looking for a seat. I turned around I saw that JJ wasn't following me so I went back to the door to see why not. By then the train had started moving. I saw JJ and you, Mr. P standing by the tracks." Billy looked at JJ and continued; "JJ, it looked like your Dad had grabbed your arm and was keeping you from joining me on the train. This seemed pretty strange since you and I were planning to take the train to the city that day."

"If you and I were just catching the train to the city, why was Dad along?" JJ asked.

"He came along because he had to talk to Mr. Jensen about something."

"Our neighbor, Mr. Jensen?" JJ asked.

"Yeah the train stopped there to pick up milk from his farm. Mr. P was only tagging along that day to talk to him about something - I don't know what."

"I can't imagine." Grandpa interrupted. "This doesn't make any sense at all, you know that.  Mr. Jensen never shipped milk on the train." 

"I know that's what you think Mr P.,  " Billy said, " but let me continue? Just let me tell this. Okay?"

"Okay." Grandpa sighed.

Billy continued; "So we were going across the bridge by then, you know, and I couldn't jump off. And after the bridge the train was going too fast so I sat down next to this guy, you know the guy I told you about. The homeless guy from the war. He was telling me all about what he'd done in the war and how he'd gotten shot and all the problems he'd had since he got out of the hospital and discharged and all. Well you know, I got caught up in the story and missed the next stop. So I decided to ride the train to the city and back again. This guy's story was pretty interesting so before I knew it we were at the last stop, you know, at the city station."

"The guy got off the train in the City with a lot of the other people so I sat there and watched them unload and load. Nobody sat by me on the way back out so I sat there by myself and just watched the scenery." 

While Billy was telling this story, Red moved around and sat on the arm of the porch swing next to her mother. She leaned against her Mom and put her arm around her shoulders.

"Why did you get off in Oakwood and not ride all the way back to the stop were you got on?" Red asked.

"Good question." Billy smiled self-consciously, and continued; "I messed up, you know. Maybe because I'd missed getting off at that stop on the way in so I had it in my brain when the train stopped there on the way out. But I got off and before I snapped out of it the train was already leaving."

"And then things really started to get weird." Billy continued.

"Started to get weird?" Grandpa laughed.

"Yeah, you know I was a little disoriented because I still sort of thought it was the stop at Mr. Olsen's place. So I started walking along the tracks to the road crossing. As I walked the tracks changed. Everything changed, you know, sort of aged. That's the only way I can explain it. So I turned back - I don't know why - maybe to ask someone, you know. But when I walked back to the stop, everyone was gone. Every thing was gone, you know, there was no sign of a stop. Nothing."

Jack looked at JJ and said; "That sounds familiar.".

"Right," Billy said, "it was sort of the same thing you guys said happened to you at the stop."

Billy continued, "so the only thing I could see was the road crossing so I walked there and then went up to that house and called you Mr. P.. I didn't know what else to do. I was pretty shook up, you know."

Red said; "I can imagine."

Gwen had heard enough and she had to speak up. She looked at Billy and said; "So Billy, how long were you committed to Glendale?"

"What's Glendale?" Red asked.

Billy said "Glendale is a Mental Hospital in the city. My Mom had sent me there when we moved away."

He looked at Gwen, smiled and said; "I was there for four years."

"Were you crazy?" Red asked.

"My Mom thought I was. " Billy smiled at her. "After I told her this story."

"I can't imagine why." Gwen said sarcastically. "Do you think you were?"

"Crazy? Well, no I don't" Billy said softly. "Mainly because I know this is what happened that day and even though it sounds crazy to everyone else, I know it happened."

"Okay, hold on Billy." JJ interrupted. "What you are trying to say is that the whole world changed that day for everyone except for you."

"I'm not trying to say it, " Billy said, "I am saying it, Because that's what happened. Everything changed - including you - when I stepped off that train."

Gwen snorted derisively. JJ continued; "Okay, assuming that something changed that day, how do you know it didn't change just for you? You know, while you were on that train."

"Billy you have to admit," Jack added, "that would make a whole lot more sense. You were on the train all that time and that could have had a lasting effect on  your perception of reality."

Billy said; "That's what they were trying to convince me of at Glenwood, you know. "

"But you didn't believe them, " Gwen said, "even after four years?"

"Well, I pretended to - finally - I realized that if I didn't, they wouldn't let me go. So after a while I just went along."

"And they believed you?" Gwen asked.

"After four years you learn how the system works." Billy laughed; "And you learn how to work the system, you know."

Gwen looked at JJ and said; "Maybe we should give them a call."

"Wouldn't do any good." Billy smiled. "They won't take me back. They're overloaded over there and they are convinced that I'm not a danger to anyone - no matter what stories I tell."

"So that's how you got out?" Marge said; "You convinced them that you are harmless even if you are delusional."

"You got it Mrs. P." Billy said.

"So why are you wasting our time with what you admit is just a delusion of yours?" Gwen asked. She looked at JJ and said; "And why are we even listening to this?"

Before JJ could answer, Billy said; "Because it's not a delusion, " he insisted, "and I can prove it."

"How?" JJ asked.

Billy stood and looked from face to face as he said slowly; "Because I have discovered how to bring the train back."

"Yeah, that's what you said last night." Jack said. "How do you think you can do that?"

"And WHY would you want to?" Gwen asked; "Assuming what you say is true, and the train somehow changed reality (even if it was only for you). Why on earth would you want to do that again?"

"It does seem like you'd be asking for trouble." JJ agreed.

"But nobody is saying anything about actually bringing the train back." Jack interrupted; " I think that just because Billy thinks he knows how it might be done, it doesn't mean that it can be done. Right Billy?"

"Well, not exactly." Billy smiled; "You see, I know it can be done because I've already done it."

"Okay that's it." Gwen said as she stood up. "JJ, let's go. I've heard as much of this nonsense as I can stand."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXVI - Grandpa's next move

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[Now I'm really stuck. I know what Billy wants to say but how do we get it? When, where, and to whom does he tell it? We're in Chicago today on an over-night visit. This will give me something to think about on drive home. ]

Grandpa's next move.

[Meanwhile, like I said the ladies would like to become involved... ]

"So how did your walk go?" Marge asked after Red had left with her Mother.

"It was a beautiful day." Jack began; "It was just warm enough to make the ice cream a real treat."

"You know what I mean." Marge said quietly as she stirred the hot dish she had made for supper.

Jack began setting the table. "Yes, I know what you mean." He began; "Like I said, it was a nice day for a walk. It was just another walk to town. Like we always do: we walked; we talked; we laughed."

He saw Marge look at him and frown as he poured the milk. "The train didn't show up if that's what you're worried about." He laughed. "Nothing happened. It was a totally normal walk - except for Billy."

"Billy who?" She began and then answered herself; "Not Billy Thompson." She brought the pan over to the table and set it down. "Where did you see him?"

"Yes, Billy Thompson. " Jack said; "He was sitting on the bridge over the river when we walked up."

"What were you doing way over there?" Marge asked. "That's not on the way to town."

"No, but Red wanted to see where we saw the train."

"And you took her there?"

"What was I supposed to do?" Jack protested.

"I don't know" Marge said. "I guess -- " she paused, thought about it and then sighed, " -- well guess I don't know."

"Anyway," Jack continued as he began eating, "He was pretty excited to see us."

"You talked?"

"Yes. Well I didn't even recognize him at first (of course - he's changed quite a bit from what I remember ) but he recognized me and he came over to where we were and introduced himself.  "

"Did he say why they packed up and moved away so suddenly?"

"Well, sort of." Jack continued, "It was all part of another story he was trying to tell us. He's got some strange idea about what happened with the train and he started to tell us about that. He told us that when he'd first told his Mother about what really happened, she decided to move away."

"Did he say why?"

"Well, from what little he said tonight, we - Red and I - kind of thought she might have committed him to some sort of treatment."

"So what did he say?"

Jack recounted the conversation as closely as he could remember as they ate dinner.

"Wow, I can see why Red was afraid. I would be too." Marge said finally. "You two out there in the middle of nowhere and with a crazy man."

"Oh, I don't know if he's crazy." Jack protested. "He seemed very normal - except for that story."

"So I suppose you're going to want to talk to Billy some more - find out what he's talking about?"

"I supposed we should, don't you think?"

"I think you should call the men in white suits. If you wanna know the truth."

[Okay now what's the plan? I'm back from Chicago. Now what?]

"Okay, I know what you should do." Marge said as they started clearing the table. "You said Billy'd call you tomorrow right?"

"That's what he said."

"Okay, I'll call JJ right now and see if he and Gwen can come over tomorrow night for supper. If they can then when Billy calls, you invite him to join us."

"And Red, too." Jack said.

"Well, I suppose so." Marge said reluctantly.

"There's no way she'll want to miss this." Jack laughed.

"No, she won't .."  Marge said. She gave Jack one of her frustrated looks.  ".. now that she knows about the train."

Jack started loading the dish washer. "Okay, sounds like a plan." He said brightly; "Now we'll just see if he actually calls."

[I knew Marge would come up with a plan.]

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXV - Escape

This is the twenty-fifth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[Is Billy really crazy? Is it time to skip some 'time' here - like jumping to 'Act II'? I'm going to write out what happens next at the bridge and maybe later I'll decide to use that as a flash-back if I decide to jump after all. ]


Red looked at her phone for the time and then looked at Grandpa and said; "Grandpa, we need to head back now. Mom's picking me up at four and that's in ten minutes." She was facing away from Billy and she gave Grandpa a quick wink.

"Oh, is it that late already?" He gave Red a slight nod to let her know that he understood. And then he said to Billy; "You know Billy, we should sit down and talk about this. I'll bet JJ would love to hear about this too and I know that I'll have questions."  ...

[I'm sorry but none of this is working for me. I'm torn between wanting to escape this crazy man and wanting to find out what he's talking about. I'll go back and read the last part and get a running start at this.]

[Okay, let's try this... ]

"I can give you guys a lift if you want." Billy said as he got into his car. The three of them had just climbed down the bank at the little bridge over the road that ran by Grandpa's house. Billy's car was parked on the shoulder where he'd left it.

"No thanks, " Grandpa said brightly, "the house is just up there, you know, and we can walk that little ways."

Red gave a quick wave goodbye to Billy as she turned and started walking away.

"Okay, " Billy said over his shoulder, "I'll call tomorrow about getting together with JJ." And then he said in a louder voice so Red could hear; "Don't tell anyone else about this, Okay? Not yet."

"Right, " Jack said; "Okay, talk to you tomorrow." And he turned and followed Red up the road.  Billy drove away - the other direction.

"Red, wait for me." Grandpa called out as he hurried to catch up.

"Grandpa, you're not serious about listening to this guy, are you." She had stopped walking and turned to see that Billy had, in fact driven away. "He's wack-a-doodle. You know that, don't you."

"I don't know, Red. What if what he's saying is true?"

"That crazy story? And that picture of the bridge? Like new? You know he photoshopped that. Or else he found a picture of it somewhere and took a picture of the picture."

"Perhaps he did. But why would he do that?" Grandpa added; "You didn't give him a chance to explain how he got that - or what it meant."

"No I didn't, Grandpa. Because I was terrified. I just wanted to get away from him as fast as possible."

"But we could've heard him out, at least." 

"Grandpa, think about it. You know why he moved away, don't you? When he told his Mom that crazy story, she had him committed. And they had to move away to avoid the questions and the embarrassment."

"Yes, that crossed my mind, too. " Grandpa admitted. "But, what he says does make some sense. And it answers some questions that have been troubling me about that day."

Red and Grandpa resumed walking. Red continued; "And why doesn't he want us to tell anybody else?"

"Well, if you're right about his mother committing him for telling that story," Grandpa laughed, "perhaps he's a little punchy."

"It's not funny, Grandpa."

"I'm sorry, Red." Grandpa said - seriously now; "I know you're right. But aren't you a little curious? What if what he's saying is true?"

They walked for a while in silence. When they reached the driveway to Grandpa's house, Red said; "Okay, Grandpa. Let's let him tell his story - with Daddy there too - and then we'll see."

They got to the door and Grandpa stopped and said; "You know, I was a little scared too. I was glad you came up with that story about having to get home."

"One of us had to think of something." Red laughed as they walked inside.

"Think of what?" Grandma asked.

"Oh, nothing." Red smiled at Grandma. "Grandpa and I were just playing a game."  Then she looked at Grandpa and winked. "You've got the next move, Grandpa."

Early Saturday

Holiday Break

Junior bowling has a 6 week lay-off for holidays and tournaments so this morning I hopped on my bike and headed to campus for coffee.
Lake Mendota - Alumni Pier
The Memorial Union doesn't open until 8 on Saturday so I had some time to kill on the 'closed' terrace. I watched the waves dance to the sound of the cold north wind and listened to the gulls sing accompaniment. The wind wasn't that cold but I was still glad when 8:00 came around and the doors opened.

No coffee

Now Peets Coffee Shop doesn't open until 9:00 on Saturday, so I'll have to write 'on water' for a while this morning. But the adventures of Red and Jack will have to wait for the coffee, I'm afraid.

How do you think it's going so far? I'm kind of excited about the way it's heading. I think there is a great deal of danger lurking around the corner. I didn't intend this at the onset. Who could have known it would go here? Me? No, don't kid yourself; I don't know any more than you at this point. I have an idea, yes.

There's Billy; a dicey character at the very least. Is he crazy? Where has he been all these years - really? Is Billy telling the truth.? What is the truth? It's pretty tough to totally disregard what he says because we know the train existed. Both Jack and JJ saw it take Billy away and then disappear. Maybe Grandpa and JJ are both as crazy as Billy. Just ask Jimmy. Will it fall on Red to figure all this out? Will the various ladies in the 'cast' have some input? I'm sure they'd like to.

It struck me that this is kind of like live theater - or improv. You'll see what I mean. There are little quirks that came into the story which really had no meaning at the time (I thought) but they will take on greater meaning later on. It's just lucky, I think, that I put them in there.

Remember that each chapter has to stand on it's own; I don't go back and change (insert/delete) things. This story is written - and published - one chapter at a time.

Coffee's on.  Let's see where it goes...  (the story - not the coffee).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXIV - The bridge

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[Where do I take this now. Should I stay here with just these three? Or should I jump to somewhere and include JJ ( and Gwen? - and Grandma?) in the following conversation? Probably in Grandpa's house at what? dinner? I've thought about this and I say 'no'. ]

The Bridge

"Billy, this is my Granddaughter Red"

Red smiled and reached out to shake Billy's hand. "I've heard a lot about you."; she said.

[No, Billy doesn't say; "I hope it was all good." ]

"Are you JJ's Daughter." Billy asked as he took her hand.

'Yup, that's me."

Billy looked studied her for a minute and then sighed; "Wow, I guess it's been a long time. How is your Dad these days?"

"He's fine. You guys haven't seen each other since high school?"


"So Billy, " Jack interrupted, "what brings you out here after all these years and why haven't you stopped in to see us?"

"Well, I didn't know if you'd want to see me."

"Why not?"

[This is boring. Let's move on.  Let's see where this goes and that will tell me how much needs to be added here.]

"Mr. P,  let me show you guys something. Come over to the bridge for a minute."

Billy motioned to follow him as he turned and started walking to the bridge. Red gave Grandpa a 'what's going on' look. Grandpa just shrugged and starting to follow after Billy.  "Let's see." He whispered.

The old 'iron' bridge was built for the railroad and was still in use for the new trail. It crosses over a valley that holds a small creek. At least it's a creek at this time of the year. In the spring and early summer it's a full-fledged river and gets to be nearly 100 feet wide in places. Back in the railroad days there were only railroad ties on the bridge bed to hold the rails on top of the steel girders. When they removed the rails they replaced the ties with a solid wood decking. The steel girders criss-crossed  up the sides and over the top to form a sort of open-air tunnel. The whole thing had been painted grey at some point but now the paint had peeled or chipped away and it was mostly brown colored from the rust.

"They haven't kept this up very well." Billy said as he reached the bridge. He passed his hand over the girder next to him and pulled off a small piece of peeling paint.

"They don't have a large budget." Grandpa said.

"They must figure it's still got plenty of strength for  a bike path." Red added.

"So, " Billy said., "I wanted you to see this close up. And then I wanted to show you this."

He took out his phone and after a few strokes of his finger he handed it to Grandpa. "Look at this."

Grandpa looked at the picture on the screen. "It's a picture of the bridge. " He handed it to Red. "So?"

"Were did you get this picture?" Red said as she looked at it. "It looks brand new."

Billy smiled and nodded. "I took it right here, last week."

"What?" Grandpa said. "Let me see that again."

Grandpa looked at the screen again. "That's pretty weird, Billy. Red's right, it does look new."

"Come on Billy," Red said, "you photoshoped this or something, right."

"No. Honest, I didn't do a thing. That's a real picture and that's how the bridge really looked - last week."

Billy smiled. He was loving this. He always did have a love for the dramatic. And he was milking this for all it was worth.

"Okay, " Red said. "what's the deal? Why was the bridge suddenly new when you were here and why isn't it new now?"

"I don't know." Billy laughed. "That's what I'm trying to figure out, you know."

"No, we don't know." Grandpa said - getting a little annoyed. "I think you'd better explain."

"Okay." Billy sat down on the railing and cleared his throat. "This may take a while." He motioned for Red and Grandpa to sit and he leaned back against one of the girders.

"This past spring I found myself 'between jobs', again, and I thought I should come back here and see if I could learn any more about the train, you know. I live in the city now but it's only a half-hour drive out here."

"This is the first time you've been back since you moved away?"

"I've been busy Mr. P, you know, and one thing's led to another and before you know it all these years have passed." He looked at Red as he said this.

"I know how that happens." Grandpa nodded.

"Well, so I came back here and walked the trail all the way from here to Oakwood, you know, retracing that part of my trip on the train, you know. I don't know why but I thought that something might happen, I guess. You know."

"That sounds familiar." Red smiled.

"When I was in Oakwood, I stopped at that house where I called you after I got off the train, you know."

"Yeah, the old farm house. I think that lady still lives there, doesn't she."

[Have I named this place yet? Or the lady? I don't think so.]

"Yes. Mrs. Llyons." Billy said. "A nice lady. She was there and we had a long talk. She must be in her nineties now and she was so glad to have someone stop in for a visit."

"I'll bet." Red said; "But that does this have to do with the bridge?"

"Patience, young Ms. P, "Billy laughed, "I'll get to that. "

He continued; "Well, she remembered me - very well - and she remembered you and JJ. I can't believe you guys haven't been back to see her."

Grandpa smiled. "Why would we?" he asked.

Billy continued; "Well I did, and you know that day she said that she'd heard a truck that sounded like a train. She remembered that you thought that was interesting, you know. And JJ must have asked her about a whistle because she said that after that, she has heard the truck AND a whistle - like a train whistle - quite a few times since then."

"Has she ever seen anything?" Red asked.

"No. "

"How does she know that it's not a truck?"

"She doesn't, you know. She still thinks it's a truck but she can't figure out the whistle. And before you guys were there she was sure it was just a truck but when you asked about a train it kind of put it in here head."

"Sounds like it really did. You know the power of suggestion." Grandpa said.

"Grandpa, you're starting to sound like Jimmy." Red laughed.


"Just a kid we know." Red looked at Grandpa and smiled.

"Sorry, " Grandpa said, "Go on Billy. What does this have to do with the bridge - again."

"Well, this was last spring, you know, and I gave her my phone number and asked her to call me whenever she hears the 'truck'. Anytime, day or night, you know like leave me a message if I don't answer."

"And did she call?"

"Yeah, like at least once a week and sometimes twice a day. I kept track and it seemed that they were pretty much the same time of day each time. You know early morning or later in the afternoon."

"Your kidding."


"And it never crossed her mind - after all these years - that this was kind of strange."

"I know, right. But 'no' she just thought it was -- well I don't know what she thought. I guess she just accepted it and didn't really think about it. After all, it couldn't be a train, you know. There aren't even any tracks any more, you know. She kept saying this. "

"So what did you do then?"

"Well, I came back here, you know. I came back here at around the time of day that she'd heard the sound, you know, and waited."


"And nothing." Billy sighed. "But I didn't give up, you know. What else did I have to do now that I was between jobs. So I came back here again and again."

"Why didn't you stop in and see me - or JJ?"

"Well, I didn't know if you'd want to see me after what happened, you know."

"After what happened?" Red asked. "The train?"

"No, not the train." Billy said. "I thought JJ would be mad a me for telling the story to everyone after we'd agreed to keep it quiet, you know."

"You're right, we were. For a while. But when you moved - without saying anything to anybody - we got concerned and then I guess we got over it. At least I did. You'll have to ask JJ yourself."

"Why did you move away?" Red asked.

"Well, there's something I never told anyone about that day. You know. Not even you guys."

"What's that?"

"It's pretty weird." Billy said.

"Weirder that the Hogwarts Express?" Red asked.

"The what?"

"Oh, that's just what Jimmy calls it." Red said.

"I should meet this Jimmy sometime. He sounds like  hoot."

"No, he sounds like a pig-headed jerk." Red said. "He thinks this whole 'train' thing is just the rantings of a crazy person."

"He's not alone around here. Trust me."

"So why did you leave?" Red persisted.

"Well, it's not true that I didn't tell anyone what really happened." Billy confessed. "I told my Mom."

"So?" Grandpa asked.

"So, you know how I said that I didn't really talk to anyone on the train while I was riding?"

"Yeah, why not, " Red asked, "if that would've happened to me, I'd have been asking questions all over the place. I'd have tried to find out what was going on. This was so weird, how could you stand to just ride along?"

"That's just it. "Billy said, "It wasn't weird to me. You know it was the most normal thing in the world to jump on that train and ride it to the city." 

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Grandpa, "Of course it was weird. You'd never been on a train in your life."

"Hadn't I?" Billy asked - all mystical and all. "So had you, Mr. P. ," he continued, "So had JJ. In fact, I was shocked that you guys didn't come along with me - at least JJ. We used to do that all the time, you know."

"Grandpa, " Red interrupted, "I thought you said the trains weren't running any more."

"They weren't." Grandpa insisted. "They hadn't run since I was a little boy and certainly not since Billy or JJ were born."

"That's true;" Billy agreed; "now."

"What do you mean? Now? " Red asked.

"You see, that train changed everything." Billy said, as he looked up the trail in the direction that the train had come; "Somehow that train changed things from the way they were to the way that they are, you know?"

"No Billy I can't imagine." Grandpa said, he was becoming exasperated.

"You see, when I got on the train that day the world was one way - you know the way it was then; with trains running every day and picking up milk and taking people and freight back and forth to the city and to the towns and farms and all that. But then when I got off the train in Oakwood (there wasn't even an Oakwood when I got on the train by the way - just that farm where Mrs. LLyon's house is now) .."

"And when I got off the train .. " Billy looked at Jack and Red and he continued; ".. when I got off the train in Oakwood the world was the way it is now, you know. Or," he laughed, "the way it was then, you know, when I got off the train - the way it was then but like, completely different, you know from the way it was when I got on the train. And that's why I was so confused when you picked me up that day. It was like I'd stepped out of one world and into another. You know? But not really different over all - like the same people and places and all - and pretty much the same history (I didn't know much about history at the time since I hadn't paid much attention in school)." Billy blushed a little and smiled.

"Okay, you say everything changed for your when you got off the train." Red said as she looked over at Grandpa. "But what about everyone else? Grandpa, and JJ and all?"

"Yeah, what about us?" Grandpa asked "That train just suddenly appeared out of nowhere that day and then it disappeared the same way. I mean literally disappeared. With all traces that it had ever been there. "

"I know that's what you think happened." Billy continued. "You see, the world changed and everyone changed along with it; including you. That is - everyone except for me.

"Nothing changed. " Grandpa insisted. "The train came and the train went again.  Yes, things changed when the train was there but they went back to the way they were when the train left. Nothing changed permanently."

"Look Mr. P, " Billy continued quietly - slowly, "I know this is hard to understand. Believe me, I've struggled with it for all these years and I don't understand it. But I know that this is how it happened. I know it's weird and it's even weirder that for some reason I didn't change. Why is that?  I don't know. Maybe it's because I was on the train. But I didn't even change when I got off the train in Oakwood. How weird is that?  I don't know why but nothing changed for me like it did for everyone else. I still remembered the way it was before the train. I remembered and nobody else did." Billy's voice trailed off and he looked down at his shoes.

"Grandpa?" Red said quietly as she turned her face away from Billy and towards her grandpa with a look like 'let's get out of here'. She was getting a little scared.

Grandpa smiled uneasily and gave Red a little nod. He was getting a little scared as well and was starting to wonder if there wasn't a more sinister reason behind Billy's sudden departure all those years ago. If he had really told his Mom this story, what would her reaction have been?

"Hey, guys." Billy said with a laugh. "I know what you're thinking. I'm crazy right? Yeah, that's what my Mom thought too, you know. That's why we moved. She thought it would do me good to get away from here and have a change of scenery and all. And that's why I haven't told anyone else about this - until now."

"So Billy, " Grandpa said,  "why now? Why are you telling us?"

"And why do you think we'll believe you." Red added. "Even you said it sounds crazy, right."

Billy lifted his head, looked Red in the eye, and said very deliberately; "Because, I've found out how to bring the train back." He shifted his gaze to Grandpa and added; "But I need your help Mr. P."

Monday, November 24, 2014

A walk in the woods

Blackhawk chapter of WWOA and Walnut Council Field Day


(I would like to thank Carol Nielsen for many of the photos included in this article. Click on any image to open a larger view.) 


It was a brisk Saturday morning in October 2014. The Walnut Council; Wisconsin Chapter and  the WWOA (Wisconsin Woodland Owner's Association); Blackhawk chapter held a joint field day near Waterloo Wisconsin on the farm of, and hosted by, the Weiland family.

This is the first time I've attended one of these field days. All the stars were aligned, you might say.  I wish I could've seen this 20 years ago when we first started planting trees on a large scale [more information on my re-forestation experience]. I had a great time and came away with a ton of new ideas and techniques (and reinforcement of some 'old').

The day started with some warm coffee and a lot of people meeting and greeting each other. Since I was new and didn't really know anyone else (and I am very shy) I was happy to watch and take it all in.

Finally we all sat down for a brief business meeting which was mainly about the two groups welcoming members of both groups and saying how we should do this more often (at least that's what I heard - my hearing isn't the best and I was sitting towards the rear - yes that was dumb).


Bob Weiland

Luckily for me, our host had a strong voice so I could understand him as he gave us some background of his plantation and introduced the program for the rest of the day:
  • Pruning demonstration
  • Portable saw-mill demonstration - cutting fenceposts from Locust logs. 
  • Goats as a management tool to control invasive species.
  • Lunch:  a goat soup was provided as a demonstration - to supplement our sack lunches (it was good).
  • Tour mixed hardwood/softwood stand planted in 1998-99
  • Tour mixed hardwood/softwood stand planted in 2006

Pruning demonstration 

Notice the vine-covered 'bush'
in the foreground.

This tree farm is about the same vintage as mine so many of the issues discussed were very relevant to me.  The first item on the agenda involved pruning walnut trees. I just completed the second round of pruning in 5 acres of walnuts that were the first trees that we planted in the early 90's. Most of these are now pruned as high as I can reach with a chainsaw; from the ground.  It is recommended that you prune walnuts up to 16 feet - for two sawlogs.  I have been wondering how I will do the next pruning.

Here is how they solved this problem. A Brownie self-propelled, single person, man-lift.

When compared to the alternatives for pruning high branches, this unit provides:
  • ease of use (compared to pole saws which are hard on the body)
  • far more accurate cuts because the cut is right in front of you even 16 feet above the ground.
  • single user; the lift is completely controlled by the person in the 'bucket' and it is compact enough to easily maneuver between tree rows - as long as the hills are not too steep or snow too deep.
This device was the hit of the morning for most of those gathered. Bob explained how he had found this unit used, on ebay and had it shipped up from Illinois.  If not for this fortunate find, the price would have been prohibitive for a single grower to absorb. Perhaps a group like the Walnut Council could purchase one for it's members.  But how would you manage such a thing? Nobody knew.


The Locust logs were cut from a mature woodlot area on the farm. Black Locust makes great fence posts because it is strong and very  resistant to decay. It is said that if you want to know when you will need to replace a Black Locust fence post, just set a rock on top each post. When the rock has weathered away, it's time to replace the post.

I've seen many sawmills in operation and this was a nice unit and fun to watch. It wasn't he highlight of the day for me.


Cucumber vine takes over
One of the areas on the farm has defied forestation attempts. Plantings have failed due to overgrowth by invasive species. The cucumber vine has been a real problem in one low area (see also picture of 'Brownie lift' above).  Attempts to control this vine have included the use of herbicides, mowing (a special sprayer/mower was built just for vine control), etc. So far the vines have proven to be too durable.

Hungry goats to the rescue
They have discovered that goats love cucumber vine. So they plan to fence in the area where the vines are a problem and let the goats do their thing.

The goats also provide alternate sources of income for this working farm: milk, cheese and meat.  During lunch break our hosts offered us some goat soup as a demonstration of that particular market. It was good soup.  Why is it little hard to think of eating goat?

Tree farm tours

After lunch we all loaded into a wagon and two ATV Gators (and some walked) for a tour of the 200 plus acres of woodlots. This was really the highlight of the day. I'd forgotten how beautiful the foliage was until I saw these pictures.

This picture gives a hint of what was to come. There are alternate rows of conifer and hardwood. The Black Walnut are yellow (what leaves are left) and the Red Oak are red(ish).

This plantation is a beautiful example of the planting technique which has been recommended (required) for CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) re-forestation. Alternate hardwood (deciduous) and softwood (conifer) every other row. The conifers act as trainers for the hardwood so they will grow straight and self-prune. Here you see Pine/Walnut/Pine/Red Oak alternation. This was repeated - more or less for this entire 185 acre planting (1998-99).

You can imagine how many jaws were dropping among those in attendance.

Note: if you zoom in on the white stake behind Bob, you can one of his innovations. His various wood plots are color coded and he numbers each row with a white stake on every 10 rows. Therefore we can see that this is Walnut row is the 90th row in the red woodlot.

One of the amazing things, for me, on this tour was the level of expertize and breadth of experience represented in this group of people.  Every stop inspired a lively discussion of techniques and fundamental principles for silviculture in general, and management for high value lumber production in particular. We had the local county DNR Forester well as other representatives from the DNR. We had forest consultants and, I believe, representatives of the lumber industry in attendance. They all chipped in with good advice for when and how to prune. When and how to thin a stand. Chemical recommendations for release of seedlings and control of competition (mainly grass).  I can't remember everything they said but some information dove-tailed with my experiences so hopefully I can remember it long enough to apply it on my own tree farm.

Stand thinning.

Let me see if I remember some of the things that were discussed:

These rows were obviously carefully planted and well spaced with a good (great) survival rate. They have been pruned. The question was how much more pruning was needed and when thinning should start.

The consensus was that the Red Oak are doing just fine and can take care of themselves and will self-prune.

The Walnut could start to be thinned in places. Look up when making this decision. Which tree is dominant in the canopy? Is this dominant tree straight and clean for16 feet - or is the less dominate tree of better form? (perhaps consider taking out the dominant to release the better formed tree.) These decisions should to be made early in the process, of course.

Much emphasis was made on top-down pruning techniques. Don't worry about lateral branches if they are not close-crotch. Pay primary attention to the leader. Make sure there is only one leader. The lateral branches will take care of themselves  (in a stand like this, at least). Walnut are particularly good at developing multiple tops due to death of the terminal bud (from deer, insect, disease, and cold).

About pruning and thinning.


Some of these Pine 'trainer' rows could be "row thinned" in places. Some newer recommendations for CRP plantations call for two rows of hardwoods for every row of conifer (I hope I got that right - since my farm is already planted it's a moot point for me). No one seemed too concerned about pruning up the conifers.

Here's a web site that I googled which explains some of these thinning techniques [Web site from University of Georgia]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXIII - Milk Stop

This is the twenty-third in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

Milk Stop

[This has been a week of record cold here in Wisconsin. There has been just enough snow our part of the state to keep me off my bicycle.  Last night a (very) warm south wind blew in and melted all the snow.  So here I am at Mother Fools Coffee Shoppe (Sunday destination)]

"Grandpa, can we go see where you guys saw the train?"

Grandpa and Red had finished there sundae's and walked back from the ice cream store. They had just crossed the bridge and were about to climb down the bank and onto the road by Grandpa's house.  Red had already taken a few steps farther along the trail, and beyond the path down the bank, and was looking back at Grandpa with a pleading smile.  

"I suppose we could do that." He said reluctantly.  He thought about it for a second and then he shrugged and said;  "Okay, why not." 

"Thanks Grandpa." Red started off down the trail with such an enthusiastic pace that  Grandpa had to fairly run in order to catch up. 

"Hold on, Red," Grandpa gasped as he caught up with her, "we'll get there. Let's just walk, okay?" 

"Okay, Grandpa."; Red laughed "Sorry, I just can't wait to see this." 

"There's really nothing to see. It really looks the same as anywhere else along here."

"I don't care. I want to be there, you know, just to see what it's like. "

"It's not going to come back, if that's what you're hoping." Grandpa said, "JJ and I have been there a hundred times since then and nothing has happened." 

"I know, Grandpa," Red protested,  "that's not why I want to go. I just want to see where it happened." 

"Okay." Grandpa laughed and they walked on. 

They had just rounded a slight bend and Grandpa said; "Here's about where we first heard the train coming from back there." He pointed back the way they had come.

Red stopped and looked back. She stood there for a minute and listened. There was no sound except for the birds in the trees and the cicadas. 

"See, there's the old iron bridge up there in the distance." Grandpa said as he turned back and and continued walking. "And it was right up here that the train stopped and picked up the milk from that farm." 

Red joined him and they started looking around the area where the train had stopped. Red was searching the grass and weeds next to the trail and down towards the ditch on each side of the trail. There was no sign of any kind of landing. No clearing or widening of the path. No tracks or breaks in the tree line on either side of the trail. There was nothing to indicate that this had ever been anything but more of the same railroad right-of-way. 

"See," Grandpa said finally,  "Like I said, there's nothing to see."

But Red had stopped looking around and was focusing on the old iron bridge. 

"Grandpa," She said, "there's someone sitting up on that bridge." 

Grandpa looked up followed Red's gaze. "There sure is." He said.

"He's was there when we got here." Red whispered.";  But he's been sitting so still that at first I thought he was just part of the bridge." 

"Maybe he's sleeping." 

"He's dressed too well to be homeless." 

As they watched, he stood up and started walking towards them. Red and Grandpa went back to their search - maybe a little embarrassed for staring. 

The stranger approached and as he got close he stopped and looked at Grandpa. "Mr. P?" He asked.

Grandpa looked up and studied the man's face for a minute and then gasped; "Billy Thompson. Is that really you?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXII - Trails

This is the twenty-second in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]


[This is trying my patience. I keep wanting to skip ahead and see what's going to happen. But there are things that I believe I must take care of first. Have you ever felt like that? ]

Red and her Grandpa were walking along the trail. It was obviously well used by bikers and hikers but so far there were no other other folks in sight. You could tell the trail had been mowed recently because there was nicely clipped grass bordering the pea-gravel path for about six feet on either side. The trail was taking an easy bend to the right and entering a wooded area. The trees on either side have grown up, since the trains stopped running, and now their tops form a gentle roof over the trail. It's not dense enough to darken the trail or make it seem dangerous or foreboding. It's just a little shade from the late summer sun.

"So Red," Grandpa said finally, "what have you been thinking about the train?"

"Okay, Grandpa," Red began, "remember when we were talking about how each of us has our own universe and how when we're close to each other these universes are nearly identical and as we move apart they are no longer identical."

"I remember that, yes, or course I do." Grandpa smiled. 

"Well, I was thinking. You know, we never talked about what links us together - you know - like our universes. What makes our universes alike when we're close and different when we're apart."

"Not necessarily different, I think." Grandpa said. "But perhaps free to be different, you know less restrained."

"Okay, whatever. That doesn't make any difference to what I'm thinking. I mean there must be something that ties our existence together and it's stronger when we're close and loses strength as we move apart."

"That's pretty deep thinking, Red."

"Yeah, maybe, I don't know." Red blushed a little.

"You mean like magnetism or something?" Grandpa asked.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"I guess there could be something like that, ", Grandpa agreed, "but what would it be?"

"It doesn't matter - something, all right? Don't over-think this okay?"

"Sorry - go on."

"Okay, well if there is something like that it would hold all our universes together, wouldn't it?"

"I suppose so, to a degree, I guess."

"I mean everyone on earth, you know, like all of us - all people."

"I guess we're all relatively close to each other if you think about all of space and all."

"Yeah, Grandpa, that's what I mean.  And whatever attraction we have could be strong enough to effect all of humanity - you know, kind of holding us all together. Like, everyone on earth."

"Okay." Grandpa said, "so what does this have to do with the train?"

"Just hold on Grandpa, I'm getting to that." Red said as she walked along. She was enjoying herself here and she was in no hurry to get to the point.

By now they had walked thought he shady part and the trail was now passing between cornfields on both sides. The old rail-bed had been raised up about 8 feet (in order to maintain the grade for the trains) so they were well above the surrounding fields. They could look over the tops of the fully grown and tasseled corn and see Mayville in the distance. It looked like it was about half a mile to the first houses and then it was only a couple blocks to the ice cream store.

"Come on Red, what does this have to do with the train?" Grandpa insisted.

"Well, I think that somehow while you guys were walking that day, that train came by and disrupted whatever force was holding you together with everyone else and somehow you got pushed next to some other universe - or universes."

"Hmm"; was all Grandpa could say.   He stopped walking and looked at Red. Then he turned and started walking again.

They walked along quietly for a while. The afternoon sun was warming thing up nicely and Red took off the jacket she was wearing and tied the sleeves around her neck and wore it like a cape. 

After they walked for a while she looked over at Grandpa and said; "So, what do you think?"

"That's an interesting idea." Grandpa said; "So you think the train caused some sort of disruption in the fabric that holds everything together. "

"Something like that, yes a fabric." Red stopped and picked up a rock and threw it into the ditch. Grandpa stopped and picked up a candy wrapper and put it in his pocket. And then they both started walking again. "Hmm, a fabric, " She continued, "that's good, Grandpa."

"Thanks." Grandpa smiled. Then he continued;  "And so you think this only effected your Dad and me?"

"And Billy."

"Yes, and Billy." Grandpa said; "And as soon as it went by us the effect faded and we re-attached back to our own universes?"

"Except for Billy because he got on the train."

"Yes, it would have been different for Billy, I guess. "

"But he came back so it must have only been a wave or something like that, you know."

"You really have been thinking about this, haven't you." Grandpa said admiringly.

"Yeah, like I said. I mean, haven't you, Grandpa?"

"Yes, of course. I've been thinking about time warps and that but not the universe thing."

"If it was just a time warp, how could Billy stay in that time and you and Daddy not?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well the fact that Billy was able to ride that train and then come back to the same place - more or less - that he left, you know. I can't explain this very well. I mean he was able to join that other universe (whatever it was) and then return to the same universe (or universes) he left and then things just keep going the way they were as if nothing happened."

Red continued; "And not only was that train from a different time, it was from a different reality. It wasn't just back in our time - it was back in some other time. Some other reality. Some other history. Some other universe."

"But close to ours." Grandpa insisted.

"Yeah, close. It wasn't like space aliens or anything. It was very close to our world but not our world, you know, our universe."

"Yes, that's the strange part of the whole thing." Grandpa admitted. "And that's also the scary part. And that's why your Mother is so worried about you (or any of us) going on this trail."

"Yeah, I know. That's what she said. We had a long talk about it, you know."

"Yeah, I heard about that, you know, from Grandma."

"But you and Dad have looked for the train and it's never come back, right?"

"That's right, but that doesn't mean it never will. It happened once, you know, and it might happen again. Nobody knows."

"Well, if it does happen, you know, if we do see the train, we don't have to get on - like Billy. We can just watch it go by - like you guys did. And then we'll be safe, right?."

"But wouldn't you be curious to see what Billy saw?" Grandpa asked.

"Maybe." Red thought for a few steps and then said; "It would be cool to ride it to the city and back like Billy did. After all he did make it back safely and nothing bad happened to him."

"Yes, there is that." Grandpa admitted; "I agree, it would be tempting. But what if Billy was just lucky, you know, what if it was just dumb luck that he made it back to the same place he left?"

"That's a scary thought.";  Red said.

"Yes it is." Grandpa said. "Very scary. So don't even think about getting on the train, Okay?"

"Like it's ever going to come back." Red laughed.

"I'm serious, Red. If you ever see that train  - or anything else like it - promise me you won't get on it."

"Grandpa, I've already promised Mom and Dad." Red said annoyed.


"Okay, Grandpa, I promise."

"Thanks Red."

They were just coming to the ice cream place and this time there were no races to see who would get there first. They walked into the store.

"You too." Red looked at Grandpa.

"What, me too?" Grandpa asked.

"Promise me you won't get on that train." Red looked at Grandpa with her sternest look.

Grandpa laughed (perhaps too nervously); "Okay, Red I promise."

"I'm serious Grandpa."

"Okay, Red." Then he continued almost under his breath; "Like it's ever going to come back." 

Red heard this and they both laughed.

Red ordered a strawberry sundae and Grandpa; a hot fudge. They took their treats outside to eat on the patio.

[I've spent a couple days working on this part. I usually just hit 'publish' to, you know, keep it real. But, like I said, I need to be patient (and careful) here. Like no more 'dreams', you know. Not yet, anyway.]

[Note on revisions: This is actually the third version of Part XXII. I added a bunch of background to the second version and published that version. I read it and hated it and pulled it back down (it was tedious) and went back to the original version. This is that - more or less. I will hit 'publish' in the future - this is a blog, after all, and doesn't need to be so composed - don't you think? ]

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jack and Red: Part XXI - And now.

This is the twenty-first in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

And Now ...

[Hmm, now I've done it - haven't I? Have I written myself into a corner? I'm a little frightened, but I believe in the story so I'll try not to worry. Have I told too much? I think I've told just enough. What do you think? ]

[So now I need to go back - but where?]

"I like that color for the shed, don't you?" Jack looked over at Red who was swinging gently on the  back porch swing - pushing herself with her feet against one of the pails filled with apples that Red and her Grandpa had just finished picking.

Red looked up from the message she was writing on her phone and gazed across the yard at the old shed. "It looks a lot better than it did, Grandpa."

"We did a good job."

"You had a lot of help"

"Some of it better than others."; Grandpa said with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.

Red smiled.

"Have you seen James since then?"; Grandpa asked.

"No. Why would I?"

"Oh, I don't know." Grandpa said, looking back at the shed.

"I'll see him when school starts, I guess."

"Monday, right?"

"Yeah." Red finished the text and put her phone away. "Monday."

"Are you looking forward to it?"

"I guess." Red admitted; "It'll be nice seeing everyone again."

"Like James?"


Grandpa smiled and decided to drop the subject. They both sat quietly and rocked; Grandpa in his old rocking chair and Red on the porch swing. They watched two squirrels chase each other around  the shed and up into the trees.

"Do you feel like a walk?"; Grandpa asked finally.

"Been awhile."; Red smiled at Grandpa; "like, all summer."

"Yeah, too long, I think." Grandpa smiled back. "I've been dyin' for an ice cream cone."

Red laughed; "Yeah, me too." She stood up and started for the porch steps; "Come on."

"I'd better tell Grandma." Jack said.

 Red stopped on the steps and looked at her Grandpa. "Do you think she'll mind?"

[I'm having a hard time with names here. Where do I use 'Grandpa' and where do I use 'Jack'?]

"No, she's not worried." Jack looked at Red; "How about your folks?"

"I think they're over it. Come on, let's go. Tell Grandma and I'll meet you out front."

[Is this boring? I'm having a hard time moving the story this morning. Maybe I just needed to take a breath Huh?  It's nice to be back with just Grandpa and Red, though.  I think some of the trouble is that I am starting to see where some of this could be going and it's hard to concentrate on the 'present' - you know - keeping it linear - somewhat.]

Red was waiting in the driveway when Jack came out the front door. He smiled as he hurried to join her. He saw her questioning look and said lightly; "No problem. Let's go."


At the end of the driveway they turned left down the road towards town.

Red stopped and said; "Grandpa, lets go the other way?"

"What? On the trail?" He asked."Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Yeah. " Red laughed. "You said Grandma wasn't worried.  So why not?"

"I don't think your Mom would like it."

"Hey, I said that she was over it. What can it hurt?"

Grandpa thought for a second and then said;  "Yeah, what can it hurt? As long as you think it's alright."

"Sure. No biggie."

They turned around and walked back towards the snowmobile trail. Grandma Pynesapp stood in the living room and watched them turn around and head the other way and she sighed.

Red and her Grandpa climbed up the embankment to the trail, crossed over the old railroad bridge, and started walking towards town. The pea gravel crunched under their feet as they walked. The wild flowers were beginning to fade and some of the leaves were starting to turn color.  Bu itt was a warm, sunny day; perfect weather for a walk.

"Have you and Dad ever tried to find the train again?" Red asked as she walked.

"Many times."

"But you've never seen it again, have you?" Red asked.

"Not a sign of it."

"Do you think it really happened. Was it really there?"

"Yes, Red, I'm sure of it. It wasn't a dream and it wasn't an illusion. It was very real."

"But how?"

"Good question." Jack admitted. "I wish I knew."

They walked for a while.

"I've been thinking about it, a lot, you know." Red said finally.

"I bet you have." Jack smiled. "I was counting on that." 

[What does Red think? It'll have to wait. The coffee's gone. Time to go]