Letter From Home “Chatting It Up” 7/11/11


My Dad would have loved sitting on our lawn while chatting with those passing by.

I have commented from time to time about my Dad’s love of striking up a conversation with total strangers and covering all sorts of topics to spend the time.  I made note of that when writing about the Saturdays spent in Stevens Point on shopping trips when I was a boy..

Dad often chatted it up with other men in nearby cars that seemed to have the same Saturday occupation as he did.

I thought again this evening about Dad’s love to converse with others while I spent a perfect summer night in Madison.

James and I spend a lot of summer, along with the warm weeks of fall, outside on the lawn with good books.  Our lawn is such that it has a look and feel that is welcoming, and is located so to enjoy a fair amount of foot traffic.  As such we often meet new faces, while also greeting friends and neighbors.

More often than not our reading is cut short due to the folks who walk past and stop to say hello and chat about the weather, politics, and even world soccer games.  They are the type of people my Dad would have found interesting.

A walker from the neighborhood that we see regularly came by with a visiting relative.
I welcomed her to Madison and asked where she was from. She said Alaska and I
asked with perhaps too perfect comic timing (given she was a stranger) if she could see Russia from where she lived. We laughed and then she added she lived in Barrow.

The conversation flowed easily and it seemed in a few minutes that everyone had known each other for a long time.  She left us with a great story about the polar bear alert system for when one of the beauties lumbers about and takes a wrong turn down one of Barrow’s streets.  Get the kids inside, keep the dog in the house, and look about as you venture back outside.

While most times the bears stay well out-of-town, and can be seen scavenging far out on the whale carcasses, they at times do get near the town and as such the alert system is used to both protect the people, and the bears.

The story made me aware of how little I have to worry about with only a mother racoon that looks at me warily as she protects her young ones.

This evening a middle-aged couple came to our side of the street and informed us that they had walked by several times over the weekend and were finally glad to meet the people who had such lovely flower gardens.  (Thank you.) Their southern accent was charming, and after inquiring discovered they lived not far outside Rolla, Missouri.

James and I told them about staying in Rolla one night when there was a local coon dog convention taking place and the sounds of the animals at 4 AM can be rather ‘unique” when they are being kept inside the motel!

The couple was staying in the guest house of a resident up the street.  The man was an artist (metal sculpture) and had his work for sale at the just concluded Art Fair On The Square.  He spoke of a very sluggish weekend with far fewer people walking around than past years, and reported other artists telling of lagging sales from the Madison market.

It did not take long for Governor Walker to be named, and it is amazing how far away his detractors live.  No one seems impressed with what Walker is doing to the state employees or their incomes.  The Art Fair was one prime indicator of his harming the state.

His wife was 55 and as the discussion turned to politics she informed me about growing up in Texas and somehow mentioned that her grandmother was a cousin to Lady Bird.

“As in Lady Bird Johnson?” I asked.

“The one and the same”

(Talk about interesting conversation!)

As the questions were popped out of my mouth and the answers returned I found one tidbit most interesting.

It seems that some relatives of Lady Bird were upset that she placed many items of the family into county historical museums, and other places for safe keeping as opposed to spreading them among family.  After all the years it seemed there was still a bit of family angst over the decisions with some mementoes.

The woman I was speaking with met President Johnson soon after he had left the White House.  The former leader was visiting a small store she was working in.  “Affable and pleasant” was the description she had of the shaper of civil rights policy in the nation.

As these two folks inquired about where to eat, and we encouraged them to seek out dinner at La Rocca’s and they headed in that direction eager to find a good meal at affordable prices, two more folks came up with hands extended.

“We wanted to say hello”.

A retired married couple from Sturgeon Bay who had sold their home and now live in the neighborhood knew I had worked for a time on the thumb of Wisconsin.  They had met James a couple of days ago, and wanted to introduce themselves.

The man is a retired stock broker and had been a class mate of the current owner of WDOR radio, where I worked starting in 1982.  (Small world.)  We traded memories of the wonderful life to be found in Door County, but also knew that things are pretty swell in Madison.  His wife seemed genuine when she told me that she recalled “Trevor James’ on the radio and asked how I came to have that air-name.  I gave the short version of my young nephew wanting to hear his name on the air.

It was just a great night to be ouside as the sun set and lightning bugs took over the evening air.  I thought about life and how fun it can be to just do nothing but talk with others.

This is what my dad enjoyed so much in life.

Dad never sat on my lawn to enjoy a part of my life, or see the view.  Yet there are times in the recent past when there is a certain something in the way the breeze blows, or the way the sky looks, and I think perhaps he is seeing it after all.  If he is listening in on the conversations from our lawn I know for certain he is thinking “That’s my boy.”

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