Charlie Pride Dies, First Black Member Of Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame

The news today of the death of Charley Pride, though awfully sad, also timed itself with a Saturday night and another Grand Ole Opry radio show. That may seem an odd way to write the opening to this post, but if you know the Opry family and the institution that it has remained for almost 100 years you too will grasp why it is fitting. Pride would understand.

The 86-year-old country music legend was being played on our home’s turntable as recently as two weeks ago. His rich baritone has never stopped being an essential part of my musical collection.

The first Black member of the Grand Ole Opry and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame died from complications from the coronavirus. The singer had three Grammy Awards, more than 30 No. 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in 1972, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Yes, the man was most talented and loved by millions worldwide. The Smithsonian in Washington acquired memorabilia from Pride, including a pair of boots and one of his guitars, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In 2010 Pride played the White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle knowing, they too, were seeing a legend.

Tonight the big red curtain at the Opry will lift up, and another show will be presented in a safe manner given the pandemic. There will be kind words about Pride and likely a tribute song or two. We will know the larger Opry family ‘up there’ has a new voice.


The ‘Boy From Hancock’ Is Grinning As Every Branch Is Covered With Snow On Madison Isthmus

Our home on the Madison isthmus looks like a serious-minded painter stayed up all night to ensure that every branch, inch of roof-tops, covers to bird-feeders, and fence posts were perfectly covered with snow. Then the birds were told to stay muted, the squirrels asked to hunker down and not mess the smoothness so that the end result could just be taken in and thoroughly enjoyed.

Six inches of fresh snow is on the ground but the way the snow dotted a blue door in an understated way makes that my favorite photo today. But the other images from every window of our home brought pure delight. It is the snow scenes today that takes me back to childhood, as recounted in Walking Up The Ramp.

Mom had her own snow day traditions. The soup pot would come out, a ham bone from the freezer would follow, and bean soup would then simmer for most of the afternoon. It would be ready to be served when Dad was able to come home for a meal. The windows in the kitchen would steam up, and the comforting aroma of home cooking would greet Dad as he entered the house. While Mom carried the soup to the table, Dad regaled us with stories from his day’s work.

Dad would only come home for supper when he thought he could take a break from the plowing. While eating, he would talk of how bad the roads were from the storm. I loved to hear him tell us how the ramps on the highway were icy and slick, or ‘they can’t get through up on ’73′, but my Mom never seemed to
find the adventure in a snowstorm that I did.

Many times I recall my Dad saying they would need to ‘bring in the Oshkosh’. Those were magic words to me as a young boy. I knew then that the storm was a real nasty one since the Oshkosh was a double-bladed snow truck that would not only push the snow off the roads, but also mound it far off on the shoulders. I suspected that to ride in one was a bit like taking a mini spaceship ride, extra loud and bumpy.

Indeed, a ride in the Oshkosh would have been tremendous fun. Just the same, there was nothing better for really pushing the snow into high banks then when Mom’s brother would pass on our roads driving the motor grader with a huge wing plow attached to it. After he made his trip down the roads, the piles of snow could be over half way up a telephone pole.

I rode a few times in my Dad’s snowplow while he raised heck with the drifts and ice on the highway. Sitting up so high and seeing the snow plume off the wide blade was perfect fun. I still get goosebumps thinking about those rides all these years later. After one school event, Dad was to pick me up and drive
home. The weather forced him to change plans rather dramatically. Instead of pulling up in the Buick, Dad pulled along the school in the large, beefy county truck outfitted with a snowplow. I climbed up in to the truck, gave a bit of a wave to my friends still waiting, and Dad put the vehicle in to gear. No kid could ever
have felt more proud to have a parent pick him from school.

Last night James and I went for a walk in our neighborhood as the snow fell. I had told an older woman (on-line) about my planned walk and she asked how cold it would be, and then having seen pictures of our balcony over the months wondered if it would not be better for James if I just sat out there in the snow until I got cold and then could come inside. Some folks just do not understand winter!

And so it goes.

A President And Dead Americans

Younger Americans might not be aware, that at times of loss of life of our fellow citizens, our presidents have spoken to the nation and aided in the comforting. That has happened time, and again, over the span of our history.

President Benjamin Harrison had his thoughts published following the Johnstown flood.

When such calamitous visitations fall upon any section of our country we can only put about the dark picture the golden border of love and charity. It is in such fires as this that the brotherhood of men is welded. And where more appropriately than here at the national capital can we give expression to that sympathy and brotherhood which is now so strongly appealed to by the distress of large bodies of our fellow-citizens?

Presidents have been so aware of the impact lives lost will have on the nation, as in the case of the Apollo 11 crew, Richard Nixon even had a backup speech ready in case the worst outcome happened.

So it is far beyond the pale that this week our nation saw in just one day, the deaths of 3,054 Americans, and the sitting president said nothing to the citizenry. It was last weekend Donald Trump stood before a campaign rally in Georgia for their upcoming senate elections and proudly claimed he had been working at contesting the election results. “I’ve probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I have in my life. Doing this.”

A national public health crisis has ravaged communities and hospitals coast-to-coast for months and Trump finds his hardest working weeks the ones he has made efforts to undermine democracy.

In late February, there were just a few dozen known cases in the United States, most of them linked to travel. But by summer, the virus had torn through every state, infecting more people than the combined populations of Connecticut and Oklahoma. And as of today (this posting), the national death toll has exceeded 294,300.

It is hard to compute the number of 3,054 people who died in one day. Let me put that in some historical context. That’s 77 more victims than died on 9/11. And since we honored Pearl Harbor this week let us recognize that the loss of life in just one day this week to COVID was 651 more people than died at Pearl Harbor in 1941. And yes, more than the loss of life in the Johnstown flood which started this post.

But that volume of life is being lost in this nation every day, as of late, due to the pandemic. What accounts, then, for the lack of any empathy or leadership from Trump and this White House?

At our dinner table this week that topic was something James and I talked about. With the black-and-white video footage from Pearl Harbor showing ships smoking I made the comment that the tech-laden emergency rooms, after these many months making news, might not have the photographic punch they once did. Does this White House, for all of its apathetic and cowardly handling of the pandemic, think they can skirt over the corpses and national suffering as they leave power?

Trump may not speak to a bereaved nation, but he does, however, make fun of the suffering. As we have read the numbers of hospitalized cases are increasing at a rate that staff is not able to assist them all, and space is not available. Such as in Reno, Nevada at the Renown Regional Medical Center. That is why it was disgusting to learn that Trump retweeted that the garage conversion was fake…which of course, it was not.

Winston Churchill perhaps best makes my case with a few words in his quote, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

He meant it literally, of course. But it can also be understood that he was acting in such a way as a leader and statesman that the gravity of his actions would lead all to conclude he had done his job appropriately. Trump has not worked to make the public feel like any leadership exists in Washington or that government can solve this problem. That is, of course, the Darwinian side of the conservative movement, which is most vile. It is why Trump and those conservatives who have bowed to him, will be held in such contempt by historians.

WDOR Radio At Christmas Time

Among the best times at WDOR radio (Sturgeon Bay) was the Christmas season when it seemed cookies and sweets were always on the desk area in the middle part of the building. Late afternoons we aired Letters To Santa, and my first ever beef cooked medium rare—at a holiday party thrown by the GM–alerted me how mom needed to stop making meat gray! (She never did.)

The record collection of seasonal music over the previous 40 years made for a spirited sound for weeks on-air. And Keta Steebs from the local newspaper (Door County Advocate) calling and asking to have a seasonal drink for the holidays which meant as much talking local politics as anything else.

When I saw this pic (below) my mind flew back and smiles abounded. Life has been good. And radio continues to have a special place in my heart. As does the Allen family who thought I had what they wanted at their station.

Incoming Madison Police Chief Faces Worn Rhetoric

It was not unexpected news, of course. But it was still dismaying to learn about as this chaotic year comes to a close.

The four finalists to become the new Madison Police Chief are becoming better known as the hiring process moves along to a conclusion. As the varying resumes are considered, and the policing practices of the four men are examined, comes the start of the usual verbal rhetoric from the ‘one note’ crowd in our city.

The Wisconsin State Journal published a news article today that underscored the desire of some to be perpetually (and willfully) upset by anything related to our local law enforcement.

During a Wednesday evening meeting, several people sharply criticized the PFC for what they called an undemocratic selection process, citing a cumbersome signup process to speak, minimal time to review the taped interviews before the meeting and no opportunities for community members to directly ask finalists questions.

“It’s disappointing to have an ineffective body who is not listening to the citizens,” said Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores. “For it to not be a process in which the community is truly involved in an equitable fashion is disgusting.

Had Kilfoy-Flores held her verbal taunts and listened more she might have come to understand what the newspaper reported from the meeting.

All the candidates said fear between police and the community can be broken down with engagement.

It goes without saying that the opposite of that last sentence is also true. When the pot-stirrers ramp up the rhetoric, make baseless charges, impune the process so that any outcome seems tainted means they never then need to act seriously or with any modicum of maturity to solve problems. That is why there is a continuing effort to attack every aspect of our police department.

When serious dialogue is allowed there is a greater opportunity to have resolutions to issues. But to get to that level of conversation requires the absence of the only skill-set that some bring to the table. That being a pot-stirrer.

It is sad on one hand, and so typical on the other to see that one can only get included in a news story with baseless accusations of the type reported today.

For the record, the process of choosing our next police chief is being done properly, openly, and in a process-driven manner. Any attempt to smear the process is just worn-out rhetoric.

Southern Night-Blooming Cereus, Remarkable Account Of Great Migration By Isabel Wilkerson

I came across a story in the chapter of The Warmth Of Other Suns that dealt with memories and attachments that Black Americans recalled after the decades following the Great Migration. Going hundreds of miles (or more) and not again having certain connections with people or aspects of their younger years was the price to be paid for the chance at a better life. To flee the Jim Crow south. Isabel Wilkerson wrote an essential slice of our national story that allows for insightful revelations too few care to understand. Brillant does not come close to defining this book.

On the page I have selected for this post comes the story of the author’s relatives and the night-blooming Cereus.

This post would not be complete, of course, without a photo of the flower bloom of the Cereus.

John Nygren Should Pay Cost For Special Election To WI State Assembly

John Nygren

One of the irritations that occurs with politicians, from time-to-time, concerns resignations taking place shortly after winning an election to the office they so earnestly campaigned. Wisconsin is being treated to one of those stories with the resignation of State Representative John Nygren. He won his re-election just over a months ago. But like a raccoon who found something more sparkling the conservative Republican is jumping from one object to another. In this case, leaving the taxpayers with a bill.

When I learn of stories like this, be they about a person serving in the statehouse or a local school board member, it does raise concern. It costs money to hold elections (as in the case of a legislator), and with prompt resignations after balloting it underscores how it short-circuited the process where candidates and issues have more visibility in general elections.

Therefore I was most pleased to read a Letter to the Editor to the Oconto County Reporter which was submitted by one of my readers. I post it in its entirety as it not only reflect my views but needs to be read by others who know this type of practice must be called out.

I see John Nygren, R-Marinette, resigned his seat in the Wisconsin Assembly.  In November of 2018, Nygren asked the voters of his district for a two-year term.  He is quitting before fulfilling that obligation.  In November of 2020, Nygren again asked voters to hire him for a new two year term.  And he broke his word again.  Future employers take note.  Obviously Nygren has no sense of loyalty or of fulfilling his commitments. 

Although the citizens of the district may be better served with an empty chair in the Assembly Chambers.  

There oughta be a law.  If a legislator asks for a full term and resigns for any reason other than serving is a detriment to their health, the cost of a special election comes out of their retirement fund. 

Even if the replacement primary for his seat occurs in February, many municipalities in the district won’t have anything else on the ballot.  Incurring extra costs.  If the primary is in April and the general in May, another special election cost for local governments. 

Be a man John, pay for the costs you incur. 

P.S.  No Wisconsin legislator will resign for health reasons.  They have the proverbial “Cadillac” health care plan.  They don’t have to claim/use sick days like other state employes.  And they get paid, whether they show up for work or not.

Richard Soletski

When Safe Harbor Day Becomes Part Of Our Lexicon

It’s safe harbor day.

It is one thing when geeks and nerds, which this blogger for many years has willingly self-identified, know the term and why it exists. It is another thing, entirely, when many average citizens in the nation understand it, too.

The term means Congress can’t successfully challenge results from any state that has certified election results by today, December 8th. For all the nonsense we hear from the far-right wing, this is not some new and nefarious plot from the ‘deep state’. Rather the law was written in the 1880s to give states some time to figure out any disputes they had about who won before Congress takes over their part of the election process.

Now that the day has arrived let me put it plainly so even Donald Trump can understand. There will be a moving truck to haul your gaudy belongings out of the White House come mid-January.

Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election are over.

The ridiculous claims, charges, lies, distortions, and utter absurdities by Trump and his quirky legal team have allowed for the need of the nation to understand safe harbor’s meaning. Federal law requires that Congress recognize the slates of electors chosen by states that have resolved legal fights, recounts, and other election disputes by this date. And that has now occurred.

Late this afternoon the Supreme Court refused an outlandish request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn the state’s election results. The justices said they would not block a ruling from Pennsylvania’s highest court that had rejected a challenge to the use of mail ballots in the state. What must have been most galling to the Trump White House is that there were no dissenters in the Court’s order that was all of one sentence!

The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.

When Republicans can not even pack a Supreme Court to overthrow an election! When a nation needs to know what safe harbor day means!

The creator of this madness and danger to our democracy is only a little over a month from being removed from the White House. The trouble is the weak-minded among our citizenry have absorbed the illiberal attacks on democracy and seem more than willing to continue damaging our nation. That is a deep concern to this nerdy blogger, who ponders such matters.

Meanwhile, happy safe harbor day!

And so it goes.