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.

Letter From Home “Grandma’s Storm” 6/29/20

I again read my letter penned to Grandma Schwarz in late winter 1977.   The multi-page missive was written over four days and covers a range of topics, but what strikes me these decades later is each day brought her up to date on the weather conditions from Hancock. I informed her “been having snowy, cloudy days” and that it “reminds me of when Mom talked about in Arkansas where it would snow and then be gone the next day”.

I alerted her three days later, much to the chagrin of mom, that I had passed a safety test for shop class, and was all set to run the machines for wood-working.   Oh, and of course that “the weekend sure is supposed to be nice and warm….”

What amuses me as I read the letter, other than my penmanship was pretty good long before the age of the computer ruined it, was Grandma was not on some faraway island needing to be updated on our weather.  She was only in Iowa with relatives!

I have been told by more than one person, who did not grow up in the Midwest, that we talk about the weather more than folks from other regions of the country.  I have never read any poll or anecdotal evidence to know if this is true, but I know that weather seems to never tire as a topic.  And for good reason.

Today Madison experienced what we would have called back home a ‘gully-washer’ as the skies simply opened up and sheets of rain dumped itself for about 20 minutes.   The homes next door were veiled by the intensity of the storm.  There is no way not to be awed by such weather or be pulled to the window or out on the back porch so to watch it.  Feel it.

During a hail storm of some duration in 2005, when James and I lived on the West Side of Madison, I took the umbrella and experienced the drama on our lawn.  The dotted appearance of the lawn is from the number of ice pellets, and the expression and hand motion clearly shows my glee with the storm.

Gregory May Hail storm (002)

I came to know storms should be watched up close from Grandma, as I wrote in Walking Up The Ramp.

We find that often elusive sense of security in a loved one’s embrace. Mother felt safest when she had all of us tucked in under her wings in the basement. Her mother, my Grandma Schwarz, was a bit different. Weather phenomena were something she also enjoyed, but I need to state right up front that I never saw her willingly walk out into a rainstorm or a gale. I do recall standing with her, her arm around my shoulder, at the screen door of her home. She left the door ajar during what my childish understanding thought to be a massive storm. The crashing thunder and bolts of lightning were grand, but there was nothing to fear if Grandma herself was willing to be there in the midst of it all.

I had never experienced a storm in that way before, watching it descend all around, viewing it up close and personal. I absolutely loved the way Grandma watched it, and knew this type of fun could be had at our home too. The question became, of course, how do I convince Mom that letting me ride out the storm from above ground would be a good idea? I knew instinctively that the “But Grandma said…” path of argumentation would likely not produce the results I hoped. My plan would take more thought than that. Moments spent watching storms with Grandma demonstrated two things. The first was that weather was clearly something to be enjoyed, and secondly and perhaps most importantly weather can be viewed up close even when it is wild and unpredictable. That understanding is something I have carried with me every day of my life.

When I was a teenager, and with the aid of our state’s inter-loan library service, I read books about clouds and storms and all the things that made me continuously smile.  Over the past months, with a pandemic changing our daily lives, I have had extra time to explore topics that amuse me.  I pulled a textbook from one of my shelves about meteorology and have been taking my time to again walk through the reasons behind what makes me, as an adult, still smile.

After I had been working in radio broadcasting for a few months,  I was talking with Grandma in her house trailer.  She asked what I liked best about my job and I told her alerting listeners to the watches and warnings from wild weather was something to be very much enjoyed.  There were many parts of broadcasting that warmed my heart, but imparting some drama, and even a touch of the wondrous side of weather, was surely something that my listeners had not heard before.

As the rain fell heavy today on the isthmus and the lightning lit up the gray clouds I thought of Grandma.  She would have enjoyed the storm.  As such, I just had to write this blog post.

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Weather Cartoon That Speaks To Gregory (Your Blogger)

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From Feel That Breeze, a chapter in Walking Up The Ramp, by Gregory Humphrey

There were other folk legends as well that got attention around our dinner table. Others spoke of the timing of the first crash of thunder in the early spring, or the arrival of the first hard frost in fall. We were asked: “Did the acorns set on heavy this year, or did the leaves fall from the trees early? Did you hear the formation of geese flying over, and heading south already?”  We didn’t really need to know about the oak trees or the Canadian geese; we already had wooly caterpillars.

Another source of weather lore intrigued me as a kid. In fact, the Old Farmer’s Almanac still does. I am not making any claim that the Almanac has any more or less understanding of the ultimate outcome of the seasons than the caterpillar, but I will say it is a most novel publication. Who cannot warm to the nuggets such as “a fire hard to kindle means bad weather” or “black bears head to winter dens now”? The Almanac was correct more often than not, and my nose told me so. I would look at the charts and predictions in the fall and when it was reported “ragweed in bloom now”, I sneezed in agreement.

We always had a copy of the small-sized yellow-jacketed publication back home, and it was fun to read both the articles, and their ads which could best be described as quaint. Best of all were the weather predictions that dominated a section of each edition. Accurate by luck or not, the predictions were highlighted with small icons and graphics along with old folklore, and are always fun to read.

Over the years James’ Mom would send a copy our way late in the fall, and come January, I would be comparing the scene out my window to the printed predictions within its pages. I could always dial Marion up and talk about what was going on; she had already ‘pre-read’ the copy she had sent me, so she knew of what I was speaking first hand. There is still something about the old-fashioned look and tone of the publication that makes me aware everything need not be slick, or ‘new and improved’ to be important to our lives, or bring a smile.

One of my first memories of Marion is of her looking up at the Maine sky in the evening and reciting her own favorite weather predicting adage. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” she’d state. Her face seemed to reflect a real sense of dread, as though she had been out to sea herself or had been home waiting for a loved one to return on his boat. “But red skies at night, sailor’s delight!” Her face lit up. Marion lived for those red skies of the evening over the coast of Maine; if she could have lived in a lighthouse, she would have, just to be able to see the sky painted pink more often.

Now that Marion is gone, I miss not getting my copy of the Farmer’s Almanac in the mail with her handwritten annotations. She was always pointing out the parts she thought I
needed to read first. She readily agreed with Mom’s wooly caterpillar method of predicting weather, and always added that if you counted how many stars were inside the ring of the moon as it began to snow, you could tell how many inches of snow would fall in the night. That was harder for me to verify here in the city than it would have been in the country, but I saw no reason why it wouldn’t be true. Even today, though more rare here in the Midwest than in Maine, I never fail to stop and admire a good deep red sunset and think of James’ Mom, who shared a love of weather predicting with me. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight!” 

Memories From 9/11, From My Book

Today at our home, on the Madison isthmus, we observed 9/11 with a special flag.

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From my book, Walking Up The Ramp.

Starting on page 245.

James was at home on Wilson Street on 9/11. Sixteen months had passed since we had met. Using some apples he had picked from a tree just down the block from his place, a tree standing along a desolate parking lot, James was baking a cake when the towers were hit. I was at my apartment and called him with the news. He struggled to stir cake batter and hold the phone to his ear while I recounted the breaking news.

No one alive at that time will forget the day the Twin Towers of New York fell, or when the plane destined for the US Capitol crashed into the field in Pennsylvania while another struck the Pentagon. Chaos. Whatever mundane things we were doing that morning are etched on our memories. Given the gravity of the events and the years which followed, we as a nation will never forget them.

I was at my apartment and had turned the television on as I came downstairs for coffee. The first plane had struck one of the towers, and the smoke could be seen pouring out, but the general consensus, such as it was, hoped that an accident of some kind had taken place. Then the second plane struck, and by now I was holding my cup and wondering what in hell was happening. Though none of us knew precisely what was taking place, it was clear that some type of national attack was underway.

I called James at once. He had worked as a teacher in New Jersey and had friends living in New York. His first classroom had a view of the Towers from the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel. He used to spend time gathering his thoughts between classes, contemplating their massive size. (We would learn later that he, like so many others, lost college chums who worked in the Towers.)

As I mentioned earlier, James was in the midst of making an apple cake and was finding he had more batter than pan. Since we spent a lot of time together, he had his apartment fitted out for basic living but somehow had not found it necessary to have a television. I couldn’t just tell him to turn his set on and watch. Over the phone, then, I was telling him to get his radio dial turned to WBBM-AM 780, the all-news station from Chicago that had been my station to turn to for instant information since being a teenager. I knew that James was not a fan of AM radio, often mimicking the sometimes static sound with a cupped hand over his mouth while trying to impress on our friends that I am more unique then they had any idea about when it came to what I listened to on the radio. Not skilled in fine-tuning radio dials as I, James struggled to get the station set and listen along. I think that on the morning of 9/11, James altered his feelings a bit about radio as he listened to the news. (Though I did question if his conversion were complete.)

In those first minutes of the national tragedy, we made plans for me to pick him up later in the morning. By then, we might know a bit more about what was happening on the east coast, and James’ cake would have been successfully removed from the oven and cooling on the stovetop.

I next called Mom, and knew instantly she was truly upset. She did not want to think about what was going on in New York. Dad had taken the car out for something to be fixed that morning, and so Mom was hearing all the news by herself. She was scared and alone.

Shortly afterward news reports made known that the Pentagon too had been hit. I called an older friend, Kaye, and asked, “What is happening to my country?” Kaye had worked for years in our Capitol office as a ‘floating secretary’, a member of a pool of assistants loaned out to the various legislators. We had become good friends.

Over the years Kaye and I had traded phone calls about every sort of news event as we both loved politics and history, but this one was so god-awful that I recall crying while talking on the phone and watching the events play out on television. She was nervous and yet more contained. She had, after all, lived through World War II. My generation, however, had never witnessed anything like this. (Our friendship would sadly dissolve after I took a firm and outspoken stand against the Iraq War in 2002, and marched for my beliefs. My involvement in the protests was something Kaye very much disproved of, and she let me know of her feelings in brusque terms.)

When the Towers fell, it was the most gut-wrenching moment ever to fill the television screen. I bolted to the shower and just wanted to get together with James. There was something about the events that played out that day which demanded connection to others. On the way downtown, I stopped for more coffee at Borders and will always remember that one of the nicest guys who worked there was arriving as I was entering the store. We had talked many times in the past, but that morning we looked at each other and both just shook our heads and walked in silence through the store door.

James’ cake was cooling by the time I arrived at his apartment and we started that running conversation that would last all day and into the night, and in time would include more people along the way. Since James lived on the isthmus we walked just a couple blocks to the Capitol Square and were struck by how quiet it was. People were out and yet the loudness of the city was calmed by the horror that had struck the nation. No one was yelling, or screaming across the street. It was a serene sadness. Signs were going up on banks and stores; each of the signs had been individually created. Each shared the same purpose: alert customers that their place of business was closing at a certain early hour in light of the news from New York. No two signs were alike, and yet each conveyed the same sadness and the same shock that we both felt.

We took the cake to the home where eventually James and I would come to live during the fall of 2007. We dropped the cake off with Henry and made plans to come back and meet all the others for dessert and tea. We were part of the grouping that made up Henry’s ‘salons’. Over the years, politics, books, and movies were the topics of grand discussions at Henry’s place.

James and I had lunch that afternoon at a small Chinese restaurant on Regent and Mills Streets. The Capital Times had printed their afternoon edition, and it had landed in the news boxes where I bought two copies. On the front page a searing image of one of the towers on fire dominated any print about the story. Inside the restaurant, the mood was somber. All were watching CNN, and eating slowly. There are big windows that face out onto Mills Street and young college students were huddled but lacking the usual energetic movements that accompany such a gathering.

Later that day back at Henry’s, his usual group gathered in the living room, and watched hour after hour as the coverage continued. The only bright spot was the apple cake with whipped cream topping and the tea selection that always made Henry’s home a perfect place to weather a storm.

That single day changed our politics, international affairs, how we fly, and the way we think, and unfortunately how we view others. As a nation, everything changed. In the weeks following the incident, heightened security measures were in place even at the Wisconsin statehouse where James worked. On a personal level, while we still have many of those same people over for tea and dinner and conversations I am hopeful that we never again meet in this nearly one hundred twenty-five-year-old house for a day like the one when we joined in friendship to deal with 9/11. 

Attendees to Madison School Board Meetings Need To Grow The Hell Up

Once again this week the antics of those who attended the Madison School Board meeting made news.  Top of the late-night news broadcast type headlines.   Once again, embarrassing to this city.

The Madison School Board conducted its business in a closed room Monday after chanting and protests drowned out conversation.

An impassioned group of parents, students and community activists expressed outrage and demanded change Monday during the board’s public comment period over an alleged altercation between a middle school employee and 11-year-old student.

A couple of hundred people filled the rows of the Doyle Administration Building’s auditorium the week after it became public that a Whitehorse Middle School staff person was removed from the school for allegedly pushing, punching and pulling the hair of an 11-year-old African-American girl.

When the public comment period ended, though, the board started its regular agenda items, which was met with call-and-response chants, making it difficult to hear what was being discussed.

I am not sure where these people were raised, but wherever that might have been it was not in a cultured environment where decorum and manners were stressed.  And yes, those things matter in society.  It was as if many in the crowd had just been released for the first time in the general public and had no idea what was expected of them.

That the school board needed to have a secondary location to do the work of the community is shameful.  That there are so many thoughtless members of society which makes such a plan necessary is a stain in our city.

I have had the opportunity on many occasions to cover news events for a radio station.  Many a contentious county board meeting, school board, or city council where emotional issues were on the agenda.  But never once did I witness the childlike and boorish behavior of the kind which made for headlines this week as result of the school board meeting.  If this is how some people act in public when they do not get their way let us pray we never have to learn how they act out in private when confronting facts they do not like.

While working with State Representative Lary Swoboda I attended several highly charged public meetings designed to hear feedback on property taxes.  Picture irate farmers from Southern Door County wearing overalls and boots that should have been left in the barn.  While passions were high no one ever cussed or started to talk before Swoboda called on them to offer comments.  While no one got what they wanted from the meeting there were no wild outbursts or untoward displays.

Readers should not conclude that I have always had an easy time at meetings.  When I was a focal point at one of them I made a choice how to proceed.  How to act.  It is a lesson that I wrote about in my book Walking Up The Ramp.  Acting with civility is not that hard.

Shortly after starting my job Lary wanted a press release to the local papers and media concerning the new addition to his office.   Being the person in the office charged with handling the media, and writing the releases I again found myself writing about myself as I had when working in radio.   The release was brief, and factual.

There was no way to have predicted that some women in Kewaunee County who found it their mission to overturn Roe v. Wade would turn on me, and force Lary to feel the heat.   They were quite concerned about the Letters to the Editor that I had penned relating to abortion while living in Door County, and serving as chairperson of the county party. I had staked out a clear pro-choice position.  These women were adamant that Lary replace me in the office with someone who championed placing their head in the sand.

Lary confided that we needed to stem the issue, and since I presented myself very well he thought a meeting in the district with those who were all in a lather would be a wise move. I advised Lary that he might want to alert the women to the fact he runs his office, and will make the decision as to who is employed. Nothing is more unseemly than having the tail wag the dog, but clearly a small group of constituents were attempting to do just that very thing.   Lary always liked it when he could look to be in charge, and giving him the construct of how to handle this matter while making him the leader was the perfect political starting point—both for me, but also for him.

On a Saturday morning at a local gathering spot in Kewaunee County we entered to find a gaggle of women upon whom I had never set my eyes looking sternly in my direction.   I felt they were waiting for my head to spin and for some scene reminiscent of The Exorcist to play out. Instead I walked over to each of them, introduced myself and shook their hand. I offered pleasantries to each of them. Disarming political opponents in ways they cannot refuse is always the best choice.

In the conversation that followed they brought up my letters and views. I reminded them that it was very accurate to say I agreed with the 1973 Supreme Court decision, but that it was also true Lary cast the votes on the Assembly floor, should any issue regarding abortion require legislative action.

Meetings scheduled and attended by adults, be they for the school board or for a political purpose, should be handled in mature and reasonable ways.  Too often, however, the ones who come to sit and holler at the school board remind me of the boots worn by the farmers those many years ago.

They should be left outside the building.

Tri-County Schools In Plainfield, WI Must Have Better Anti-Bullying Program

It took me some time to respond to this matter.  The reason being that I attended Tri-County Schools in Plainfield, Wisconsin, was bullied in my teenage years, and  suffered the loss of my 18-year-old best friend due to his suicide from bullying.  When I turned 50 years old, and after decades of keeping most of the story to myself, I decided a chapter about that time was required in my first book.   I can get rather emotional over the topic of bullying and therefore wanted to take time to place the events at my former high school into a constructive fashion.

In March a student at the school made a social media threat that was supposedly to have been “funny”.  Obviously the school nor the parents took the matter lightly.  A school board meeting was held where public input was taken on many aspects of this incident.  As we all know the issue at hand is one that too many schools have had to deal with over the years.

One of the parents addressed the board on the topic of bullying and the need to be mindful of its impact on students.    It was then Plainfield Police Chief Kevin Fenske spoke.  The Waushara Argus reported in its April 5, 2018 edition that Fenske made the following comments.

“I listen to the bullying thing and I am not going to disagree that it doesn’t go on, but what always upsets me is that I am in that building four days a week. Nobody ever comes to me.

The two or three cases that have come to me, it stopped. But nobody ever comes to me. I am there four days a week, somedays five days a week. But nobody ever comes to me. So, that is why I get frustrated. That is why I am over here shaking my head. Nobody comes to me.”

After reading those words I knew a response was required.

I find it absolutely unacceptable for an individual tasked with responding to bullying issues to think that the person who is being bullied should knock on a door and ask for a conference.  That is not the way those who are under assault from bullying, be it verbal or physical, respond in such situations.  I am somewhat stunned that in 2018 it appears the same problem exists as it played out in my high school years of the late 1970s.

Teachers know full well what takes place in their classrooms, the antics that occur in hallways, or in the lunch room.  It is not the bullied student who should be making first contact with the police chief, but the educators who have the background, experience, and skill set to intervene on behalf of those bullied.

In my book Walking Up The Ramp I wrote about the role of teachers regarding those who are bullied.

I could never just go to school. I always needed to think two steps ahead, to think about my path to wherever I was headed, especially if I was not in the circle of my friends. If I was sure some of the bullies were lined along the hallway paths, or lingering by their lockers I walked around them. There were times in the early part of my freshman year I actually exited the school from one door and entered through another to avert someone wishing to punch me, or shove me inside a locker. In addition to the way to navigate around those who were bullies, I also needed to find ways to shore up my emotional side, and not lose more of my inner self to them.   While I needed to avoid more abuse from bullies in school, I also needed to avoid the embarrassment of going home and trying to explain how something like this happened to me. I needed at all costs to my teenage pride, which is very fragile for any one at that age, to avoid admitting to my parents that I was not able to stand up to, and defeat those who tormented me. I hated being thin, and hated that I was not able to protect myself.

There is no way to overstate the disgust felt when entering a classroom, and being targeted with truly despicable words tossed about from those already seated while a teacher sits at a desk pretending to be a million miles away. There is no way to understand how it feels to be a small-framed guy, and yet urged by well-meaning peers—some really nice acquaintances—to go and clean the smile off the bully’s face. They clearly understood the injustice of it, the incivility of it, and proposed a route perhaps to remedy it.

The fall of my freshman year, I had found a way to dodge those upperclassmen during lunch.   The easiest way was just to avoid the lunchroom. Of course, this did not help my being a small guy. Early in my freshman year I found a nook in the corner of the old school near the elementary entrance, and just simply waited for the noon hour to be over. A few times my cousin who was a schoolteacher passed with her brood of students and nodded. Those were hard days to get through, but when I found an exit strategy I employed it.

That educator, who was even an extended family member, along with all the others who knew what was happening never once reached out to me or to someone in power within the school administration to make the bulling come to an end.

If I read the words correctly from Fenske it would seem the same dynamics are still in play.  He knows bullying is taking place, and that means educators at the school do as well.  And yet….  And yet.

The damage from bullying has been well documented in a number of ways over the years.   We also are aware of the means to address it.  I would hope and trust that in this time of national dialogue surrounding bullying, and those impacted, that more school boards and educators at all schools–but especially rural ones–will be more earnest in addressing it.

Unsolicited Review For My Book “Walking Up The Ramp”

I was perfectly delighted this week in receiving a review of my book Walking Up The Ramp as it was warm and most generous.

I just want to tell you both how much I enjoyed reading Gregory’s book.  I was very interested in all the details, both the happy ones about family life and the radio station and work in the legislature and the sad ones about hard times in school.  I especially loved the descriptions of Gregory’s parents and his relationship with them.  I could see instantly how beautifully it paralleled James’s relationship with his family.  It was obvious long before you two met in the book that you would be perfect kindred spirits and soulmates.  Of course the best part was about your life together, keeping your parents present in your shared life,.treasuring your keepsakes from home and paying kindness forward.  Through it all there was such a wonderful sincere, honest, spirit, such a genuinely friendly interest in people and curiosity about life.  It was a delightful and warming read. 

My Book Starts With How President Nixon Ended His White House Years On This Date In 1974

On this date, August 9, 1974, I was on the red davenport in our living room watching the news coverage of President Nixon leaving the White House as his resignation took effect.  He addressed his White House team in a most emotional way.  It was without doubt thy most honest communication he ever made to the nation.  With months of stress, little sleep the night before, and a staggering lead sentence for his biography Nixon was bidding the nation good bye.

The words I heard as a 12-year-old that morning struck me.  In fact, I never forgot the following line.

“Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother — my mother was a saint.”

That is how Nixon spoke of his mother.  When I turned fifty and started to write my book, Walking Up The Ramp, that in part was homage to my parents, I knew what was need at the beginning.

So I used Nixon’s quote from that day in 1974. Nixon could have said the same about my Dad.

I constructed a moving and sentimental journey in book form not meant to provide a detailed genealogical history but instead the story of their lives. I show how Royce and Geneva Humphrey provided a solid foundation on how to live life, and instilled bedrock values aimed to last a lifetime.

When I was a kid Dad would drive me every Friday night to the local library, where I found so much comfort in the books.  Books were a real refuge for me. After I left home Mom said given what I enjoyed so much perhaps I should write a book someday.

And so I did with respect but candor as I take readers not only inside the Humphrey family home, but also through the contours of my life.

I write what a cup of coffee really represented in Geneva’s kitchen, while Royce demonstrates what ‘paying it forward’ means when helping motorists with a flat tire but refusing payment for his efforts.   Readers step back to a time when Mom showed the virtues of a rainy day while Dad explains why a perfectly shaped Christmas tree is not the best one to select. The pace of life slows down in the Hancock of my youth.  Readers will revisit the barber’s chair, and the lady who staffed the local library housed in a small white building on Main Street.  Memories of road construction in front of the family home, the sounds of water sizzling on Grandma’s cast-iron stove, the sight of Grandpa’s hay-baling operation—all are events recalled with joy.

A newspaper arrives every day in the mailbox, the phone is a party line, and news of President Truman’s death is heard over the radio. There was no television at home.

I weave the tale of life as a lanky kid who loved to read books, was not sports-oriented, and was continually bullied in high school. Stripped of my self-confidence i entered the darkest time of my life. My best friend commits suicide. I write of my feelings of utter despair as a teenager who felt isolated in a small town and without the resources to heal.  But I also write about the strength of the human spirit, and how hope appears in the most unexpected ways. This part of the story is meant to lift the sails of anyone who has struggled to overcome burdens in life. With broadcasting school came the opening to life in which I so long had hoped to participate. From working at WDOR to employment at the Wisconsin State Capitol, a continuing series of stories and reflections makes for a what I know is a compelling read.

Here is what I learned and of which I write.  Put life into perspective. Prioritize what is important. Live authentically. These things take time and came from the most painful and unsettling chapters of my life.

Writing a book like this often felt like leaving my raw emotions on the keyboard.  But there was no way to start my story and not add the parts that made me sad or contemplative.  At the end of the book the message is clear.  No one needs to cast off the better parts of the past just to move beyond the rough times.

But over and over through the book I come back to those those early years and warm memories of childhood where a loving foundation was created by two parents who helped raise a boy into a determined man.