Waushara County Meeting Epitomizes COVID Problem In Nation

We read daily news reports, hear radio broadcasts, and watch television anchors all alerting us as to how COVID spreads. But we also are asked continually to play a constructive role in stemming the progress of the virus so that it can not further mutate. The fear being, of course, a mutation that could not be held in check by the current vaccines. One would think such sound medical advice would register and people would act accordingly.

Right?

This week above the fold in the weekly Waushara Argus there was a most unfortunate photo of just how far removed many in this state are from accepting both science and personal responsibility.

As the news photo caption reads “Dozens of Waushara County residents” “pack county board room“. This is unsettling due to the fact the conservative and Republican-voting county has only 38.4% of its population fully vaccinated.

In the 2020 presidential election, Waushara County voted 66% for Donald Trump. True to form for many such counties all over the nation there is also a staggering disregard for not only the vaccines which are proven to be effective, but also a lack of trying to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus with changes to behavior.

I am not sure how to explain the actions of people in my home county where I grew up. I was most disheartened to see the front page of this week’s Argus with a packed meeting. Only one person in the far back is wearing a mask.

What in the heck is wrong with people? Where does any religious aspect come into play where we need to be our brother’s keeper? What message does this send to children about taking safety measures when adults act so outside the box of personal responsibility?

When I see such optics it alerts me to other larger facets to be considered in relation to the county. There are more than medical concerns when pondering this matter. 

What new business would want to establish themselves in a county with a population that is not able to understand the necessity of being vaccinated against COVID or have any more regard for the larger community? What does it say about a region where facts and common-sense are not being used by people for their own well-being? Is that a place where any serious business operation would want to set up shop?

I fully know my home county is not alone in this regard. Chuckleheads make up too large a portion of the nation. But one wishes to see more intelligence and common sense from the place one comes from.

This was truly a sad spectacle for Waushara County.

And so it goes.

Why It Matters NFL Player Carl Nassib Announced He Is Gay

I rarely address sports related issues on this blog. But the news from Carl Nassib is such that it merits a posting tonight.

The Raiders defensive lineman came out in a statement posted to his Instagram account, becoming the first active player in the National Football League to publicly identify as gay.

I wish we were at a point in the larger society of this nation where such an announcement was akin to a yawn. In places like the city I live, it is not really ‘news’. Liberal and highly educated Madison has embraced living authentically for many years. We are proud, for example, of our openly gay Congressman Mark Pocan, and our openly gay United States Senator Tammy Baldwin.

But the degree to which bigotry and attempts to marginalize gay men and women still occur, and some politicians turn policy ideas into culture war issues for the cheap sake of campaign fodder, proves why the news from Nassib is important to be heard in many places across the nation.

I grew up in a rural conservative town in Waushara County. I just knew it not wise to come out until I was on safer ground. That would occur when I secured a job in Madison and found the friends and environment where coming out was truly one of the easiest events in my life. The part, however, that was difficult for me was knowing that scores of others in places around the state were not able to have that same sense of self, based on the conservative constraints placed upon them.

One of the best ways to reach those conservative areas is to wrap any message in football terms.

Many in the state who follow Green Bay Packers football, and that would constitute a sizable portion, and who perhaps are aware of the gay players who, over time, were part of the teams, know anti-gay behavior was not tolerated by Vince Lombardi.

Multiple players who played for Vince Lombardi, the legendary former Packers and Redskins coach, say that he knew some of his players were gay, and that not only did he not have a problem with it, but he went out of his way to make sure no one else on his team would make it a problem.

Such lessons are important and have value to impart to those who need assurance that being gay is totally fine, and that acting in bigoted ways against gay people is not.

The news from Nassib, therefore, is not an announcement that gay men play the rough and tumble game of football. No, we are well aware that gay people make up all professions. Rather, Nassib stated clearly who he is as a person, not wishing to hide or deflect or lie anymore. He chose to live authentically.

I am proud of him.

I also know how he feels tonight. A little freer. A little less tight in the chest. Deeper breaths never felt better.

I trust that the news does have an impact on others in the state and that it helps carry the ball of progress with gay rights ‘down the field’.

I know we will reach a time in the nation when someone will say they are gay and we will collectively say, ‘that is great’. And yawn.

And so it goes.

Diversity In Rural Wisconsin Should Be A Good Thing

I recall in many of my school years a fellow student named Adrian would often be in classes. His parents were migrant workers who traveled seasonally and worked when crops demanded their labor. As such he was in school for periods of time and then gone again.

The most poignant memory I have of him came after a series of taunts and ridicule from other students, language and insults they had no doubt heard in their homes, about the ‘big car’ his family owned.  I recall that in a flat conversational tone he simply said that the car was not only for travel but also “that is where we live when working.”

I will never forget that conversation and the weight it had, especially for me as the decades have rolled along.  Living in Waushara County meant that we often rubbed shoulders with Hispanics and as such, it would seem that more sensitivity to their lives might have resulted.  But it never developed in that county to the degree that humanity would hope.

We had a few children on our school bus route who lived in small cabin-like dwellings not so far from where I lived, that were used by migrant families. Some would snicker that a scent of their morning breakfast would trail along when the kids ran to their seats to sit down.  

One of those boys was always friendly and I once asked what breakfast was like in his home. He told me usually had fried bread on the stove with meat.  I recall being told his mom made it herself with flour and it rose overnight for the morning meal.  Decades later I was reminded of that bread when in Arizona a Native American vendor was making fresh flatbread on a low stone fireplace near a road.  It was greasy to the touch when eating, but powerfully good. I imagined that was perhaps akin to what that boy had for breakfast many years prior.

Getting to know people has always been something I have embraced.  Without really knowing it was happening or even why I am designed this way has allowed for good friendships to form, and a better sense of the world around me. 

We all have assumptions about people, be it why some spend their money on a larger car, or the scent that comes from the coat near to the kitchen table so to wear when the bus approaches.

I just know that Adrian felt apart and different and some of his classmates made that divide deeper and more troubling. His parents were hard-working and obviously determined to have their child in school.  So the snide remarks and bigotry from some of the homes that found their way to the school grounds was something no kid should have to encounter.

This is why I will always recall his flat and conversational tone about explaining his family car. No kid should need to confront such situations which resulted from bigotry, but that he handled it in such a calm manner is what strikes me these nearly 50 years later.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Newspapers Should Publish Local Government Minutes And Actions

In my mind I can still see Dad combing through the Waushara Argus, our local newspaper, to find the notices concerning local government. Having served on the Hancock Town Board for 40 years he always wanted to make sure the notices about an upcoming meeting or election were printed correctly, and the minutes of meetings along with the decisions taken to have visibility.

Why Dad flipped the pages of those papers was due to the fact he wanted to make sure the work of local government was published, and thereby publicized, so citizens could add their voice and input to the concerns of the day.  He also desired they be kept abreast of how local government functioned.  He knew informed citizens made for contented voters.

I note that memory of mine because Senate Bill 55 would allow for local units of governments to decide if they wished to continue to publish meeting minutes in newspapers. They instead could opt for placing all such material on their websites. I have not seen the fiscal note attached to the proposed legislation but one can correctly assume the ‘cost-saving’ in dollars would not compare to the loss of providing information to the local constituents.

Living in Madison, even with decades removed from my home area, I still enjoy reading the minutes from the county board.   I want to know what is taking place with the school districts and towns that dot the area where I grew up.  One of the main reasons I subscribe to the paper, the one dad read those many years ago, is to be informed on matters about local governments.  That information is made public via the very notices SB 55 now wishes to limit.

I live in a tech-savvy world.  I blog and podcast but my day always begin with printed newspapers to get current with the world and events just around the corner. In small towns and villages around this state folks who desire to get information about the places they live turn to their hometown papers. That fact, along with the continued call for openness and transparency in government from a most unsettled electorate, makes this bill a non-starter.

I readily admit my love for newspapers and my deep respect for journalists who write the copy.  Some might then think my underlying motive for this matter has to do with the health of an industry that has suffered in the digital age.  While I do have concerns about the future of newspapers I also carry with me the foundations of good local government—which means transparency–from dad.

I know people don’t routinely go browsing through official government web sites because they have nothing better to do.  But I do know folks still browse all the way through locally printed newspapers.  I also know many of the folks back in my hometown area don’t have computers but still wish to be informed about local government.  Those are the ones–and all the others just like them spread around the state–who the legislature needs to be mindful of when they deal with this matter.

Senate Bill 55 should never see the light of day.

Recalling Grandfather Herman Schwarz

Just a memory today that needs to be noted.

Herman Schwarz, my grandfather on my mother’s side, was born this day in 1900. He was born in Ozone, Arkansas, (was a twin) and moved to Hancock, Wisconsin in the 1940’s. He married Anna Ross. I was fortunate to have them live across the road from my childhood home. It was a rather awesome arrangement.

They had a sweet cast-iron stove in the kitchen. On cold days I can still see my grandfather pull the main oven door down and sit on it for warmth. I also recall poking the embers with a wooden stick from the side grate while grownups sat at the table talking.

In addition, there were many Saturdays when I would stay with my grandparents while my parents went shopping. It was then that my grandpa would often take the small tractor off down the country lane, with me riding along, to get wood to be stored near the back door for the stove. On the smaller tractor, there was an iron portion to the left of the driver’s seat where I sat–as if the manufacturer knew there was a kid-sized portion they needed to add to the machine. Grandpa had paths among trees heading out towards farm fields that were wide enough to allow for a tractor to be driven.  

As a man, I wonder what stories concerning the first decades of the 20th century he could have told. As a kid, that type of talking, obviously, was not on my radar. Today I would relish such conversations. What does, however, stand out to me from those years is Grandpa snacking before doing afternoon chores, and since I wanted to help throw the corn to the pigs I would sit at Grandma’s table and ask for some of the coffee that was being served.  I wanted to be like the adults, and so in a cup that was far more milk than the coffee, I had my first java experience. Now that is a habit that has lived on and on. (Minus the milk!)

My Doty Land Podcast Makes Front Page Of Newspaper

I woke up to see an episode of my Doty Land podcast made the front page of my home-county newspaper. I was not expecting that to happen, and found a genuine smile came faster to my face than a desire to pour the first cup of coffee.

I truly enjoyed the time in production of this episode about the 1918 pandemic in Hancock, my hometown. The warmth I feel about broadcasting is why there is a studio in our home. The fond memories of my radio days in Sturgeon Bay, and the way radio played a most important role in my formative years are still very much alive within me. Being able to turn all that enthusiasm into podcasts and have a platform (Buzzsprout) along with listening apps from Apple, Google, and others have been a truly rewarding experience.

Decades back it all started when as a boy I ‘played radio’ using my father’s pocket watch for timing and a copy of the Stevens Point Journal for my copy…..

My Doty Land Podcast: Hancock News And 1918 Pandemic

As we live through a pandemic……here is a podcast that takes listeners back in time!

From the pages of The Hancock News podcaster Gregory Humphrey provides insight into how the 1918 pandemic impacted a small town in Waushara County. From ‘cures’ to accurate medical reporting, obituaries to brighter days following the virus outbreak, this podcast is also sprinkled with the music of the era.

In Memory Of Patricia Humphrey, Hancock, Wisconsin

Patricia Humphrey, age 70, of Hancock, Wisconsin died this past weekend from cancer. She and her husband, Gary Humphrey, had observed their 50th wedding anniversary in August. Troy Curtis and Tricia Dawn are the surviving children, with Trevor Dean having died far too young.