Pregnant, Broke, And Homeless In Madison

The Wisconsin State Journal has been doing some remarkable and insightful reporting this year on the homeless situation in Madison.   There is no way the accounts from those featured in the paper does not touch the heart, or anger the political nature within to prod for changes.  But there is also anther reaction that has to be honestly discussed, too.

At what point do some of the homeless need to address self responsibility?

Today on the front page of the WSJ there are two photos accompanying a story about the challenges this city faces regarding homelessness.  Above the fold is a young looking woman on State Street that seeks money from passersby.  The sign she holds reads in part “Pregnant and Broke’.

On the bottom half of the paper the second photo is placed showing a young looking grandmother, a five month old grandson, and the child’s mother.  The family has been homeless for about five years.

One can ask many questions such as where are the fathers in these stories?  How did either of these women contemplate pregnancy when not financially able to raise a child, or even have a living arrangement?  Sex is lots of fun but there also comes the need for responsibility so to make sure one does not get pregnant when one is not able to take care of the child.

No other part of the reports from the newspaper has made me more sad than reading of the children who are homeless and the struggles they go through from schooling to daily living.  Some of the stories breaks the heart.  So to then read that supposed adults who are now homeless do not make sure they do not add to the problem is simply galling.

There are many among the citizenry of Madison who care and are willing to help in one form or another–from paying taxes to volunteering–in an effort to aid the homeless.  But there must be a good faith effort on the part of others–such as those featured on the front page of today’s paper–to act in a responsible fashion.

Many never state these reactions out loud in Madison as the level of liberal guilt that erupts from others can be akin to a gale.  But as a liberal I also feel compelled to be honest.  There is just something very wrong when we fail to ask of those who need help that they not make matters worse for themselves. 

Trailblazer And Grand Ole Opry Star Jean Shepard Dead At Age 82


May 6, 1996 McFarland, Wisconsin

A long rich and storied chapter of the Grand Ole Opry comes to a close with the death of Jean Shepard.  The 82 year-old spitfire had been a member of the longest running radio show family for 60 years.

This morning the singer went home.


Jean Shepard and Gregory Humphrey (Your blogger a.k.a. DekeRivers)

Shepard was more than a singer. She was very much a trailblazer.  Lets not forget at the time when Shepard started her career record labels didn’t see much viability or sales potential in women who weren’t part of an act.

Her 1956 LP, “Songs of a Love Affair,” featuring songs about a marriage broken up by adultery, was one of the genre’s first concept albums, and other gutsy, forthright recordings such as “Act Like a Married Man” helped to pave the way for artists like Loretta Lynn.


Ollie Imogene Shepard was born November 21, 1933 in Pauls Valley, Okla. The daughter of sharecroppers, Shepard — and her nine siblings — grew up singing in the church, and was drawn to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. She grew up in a home without electricity or running water. And every year, her parents saved their pennies to afford a new battery for their AM radio. Shortly before her eleventh birthday, the Shepard family moved to Visalia, California, about 100 miles north of Bakersfield.

In 1952, country star Hank Thompson and His Brazos Valley Boys played a concert near Shepard’s town. She got up onstage to sing a song with them and impressed Thompson.  (Both Thompson and Shepard have signed my guitar.)  Below is Shepard’s signature.


In November of 1955, Shepard got the best birthday present a young country singer could ask for when, at 22, she was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. She was one of three women who were Opry members at that time: the other two were Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl.

During the 1950s, she also became a cast member of the program “Ozark Jubilee,” where she met Hawkshaw Hawkins, the man who would become her husband. The two singers toured together and, in November 1960, they married on the stage of a Wichita, Kansas auditorium. In 1961, Shepard gave birth to son Don Robin.

Hawkins died in the March 5, 1963 plane crash that also claimed the lives of Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.

I have long adored this woman and her style.  She called them as she saw them, and when it came to how country music has changed I was with her every inch of the way.  Throughout her career, Shepard was an outspoken opponent of pop-country music. “Today’s country is not country, and I’m very adamant about that,” she told The Tennessean in 2015. “I’ll tell anybody who’ll listen, and some of those who don’t want to listen, I’ll tell them anyway. … Country music today isn’t genuine.”

Shepard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011 and on Nov. 21, 2015, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated Shepard’s 60th anniversary as a member; she was the only female member to have reached the six-decade mark. At the time of her death, Shepard was the longest-running member of the Opry, and had appeared on the show into her 80s.

There is an absence on the Opry stage with the legends now passed away.  We can only imagine the music they are making now on the biggest stage ever seen.

Why I Should Not Second Guess A Composer


This weekend it all began anew with the opening of the season for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.  The main draw was Gustav Holst’s The Planets.  To say it was spectacular would be appropriate if the word was then underlined ten times in bright red ink.  A massive orchestra with chairs placed tightly to allow for a powerful performance–even the tall pipes required a stepladder to play.  With just small LED lights on the stands so the music sheets could be seen the main stage lights went off for a 50 minute film using images from various sources including the Hubble which was projected on a huge screen which was hung over the pipes for the organ—which was also played.

As I watched this all play out a most unusual and secondary show took place.  James and I always sit on the second mezzanine balcony so from there the images from the conductor was most artistic.  With all the lights out and only a very dimmed floodlight on the conductor from above and off to his left it then created his shadow on the stage floor of his arms moving along with his back and forth movements.  It was akin to how Alfred Hitchcock used shadows in his films—it was simply art all by itself apart from what I was hearing.

At the ending of The Planets I thought—(I am always choreographing things in my head) the chorus should have small lights that resembled stars and walked out from various points among the audience.  Instead they were off stage with only a sliding type door opened to allow for their voices to be added to the show.  I really thought the way they performed was really lacking volume and presentation.  But then I got home and as usual James and I started talking about the performance and he located online the following which blew my idea apart.

“Neptune” was one of the first pieces of orchestral music to have a fade-out ending, although several composers (including Joseph Haydn in the finale of his Farewell Symphony) had achieved a similar effect by different means. Holst stipulates that the women’s choruses are “to be placed in an adjoining room, the door of which is to be left open until the last bar of the piece, when it is to be slowly and silently closed”, and that the final bar (scored for choruses alone) is “to be repeated until the sound is lost in the distance”. Although commonplace today, the effect bewitched audiences in the era before widespread recorded sound—after the initial 1918 run-through, Holst’s daughter Imogen (in addition to watching the charwomen dancing in the aisles during “Jupiter”) remarked that the ending was “unforgettable, with its hidden chorus of women’s voices growing fainter and fainter… until the imagination knew no difference between sound and silence”.

The less I know means the more I need to learn.  And so it goes.

It was reported that all three performances were sold out this weekend.  Overture Hall has over 2,200 seats.    Madison can be proud for having such a place where wonderful music and memories are created.