Category Archives: Family

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

Dad and Me (ca 1969)

At dusk at the abandoned Dallenbachs quarry turned deep lake in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Dad and I turned our attention from the bluegills to the bullfrogs.  This was a new experience for me, and I was wide-eyed and expectant.  Enormous frogs croaked, a loud, deep, rumbling song.  Spying a bullfrog, Dad pounced just at the frog jumped under his shoe.  Dad felt so upset about hurting the frog.  I didn’t know what to do or feel.  I simply stood quietly, then followed, quietly, to the car.  Fifty years later, the memory has reappeared and found its way into this new poem.

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

From reedy black bank-water emanated the rumbling
thrum that I knew, at four,
came from big bullfrogs. Even the bluegills

eluded our hooks, so we skulked the flank
because we could and because we were serious and excited
and on the hunt. I followed his point to two

gray spheres, an iceberg of frog flesh, its ears
metallic yellow discs just below. Two things
happened then, a concomitance in four

dimensions, the giant frog launching
a great leap, the big man’s
wet sneaker falling hard on the frog

sitting dazed, pink tongue bulging, while dad cussed
a grimace, I watched
and I listened and I knew both were

hurt, the soft body and the gentle mind,
and I did not move or speak
and I did not know what to feel

and I did not know how to help the bullfrog or
the father, hearing not a gravelly croak
on the long lake shore.

 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

A Lamp for Aunt Cari

Hyrum has wanted to make a wood lamp for his Aunt Carolyn, who appreciates art and craft.  We began by spray painting the rough roots of an old stump.  But the wood was so cracked and rotten that we could not work with it without it crumbling into pieces.  We worried that no matter how nice the lamp looked, one fall would destroy it.

To strengthen the wood, we painted it with two coats of diluted wood glue, which sealed all the cracks and breaks and made the old root a solid piece of lamp wood.

We painted the wood again to cover the creamy film of the dried wood glue.  Most of our lamps are stained various shades of brown.  But this lamp we spray painted a glossy black, giving the rustic wood a sleek and exotic look.  “Exquisite” as my sister described it.  She was thrilled with her new lamp, and we were thrilled with her happiness.

Hyrum has become an accomplished lamp maker, with an eye for the right wood pieces.

Grandma’s Pressed-Leaf Greeting Cards

My grandmother Dorothy made thousands of homemade greeting cards from pressed leaves and flowers.  Encyclopedias stacked against the walls of her craft room were crammed full of drying leaves and petals.  Decades ago, she taught me.  And I have taught my children.  Hannah has just produced her first cards, inspired by her great-grandmother.

The process is simple: glue pressed leaves to wax paper, cover with tissue, apply more diluted white glue.  When dry, place the cards one at a time in a paper bag and iron to set the wax.  Then cut and send.  I provide more detailed instructions in the chapter Shirley and Lucille in my memoir Rabbit Lane.

Here are some photos of the process.  Give it a try yourself!

Arranging pressed leaves on wax paper.

Leaves and tissue glued on and drying.

Time to iron.

Match the card size and shape to your envelopes.

My sweet little Grandma with me (may she rest in peace), circa 1982 (when I had hair).

The finished product!

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

 

Pals

My son Hyrum and I recently visited with one of my life’s heroes, Harvey Russell.  Harvey has been a mink rancher, tanner, mountain man, handyman, and friend to American Indians.  He helped me build my chicken coop and brought me to a four-hour sweat ceremony led by Sun-Chiefs.  His Indian name is Many Feathers.  Arriving at Harvey’s place, Hyrum and set to work helping Harvey with his chores and projects, during which he told stories of the “old days” and we laughed and enjoyed just being together.  The happy juxtaposition of these two men, one 16 and the other 81, struck me.  They got along marvelously together, each respecting and enjoying the other.  Kindred spirits, perhaps.  Those ruminations led to this little poem.

PALS

Two men
work together
one 16
the other 81
one coming up
the other moving on
little alike, perhaps,
yet
both keen
to learn
to fashion with sinewy fingers
to be busy in doing
to stand back, dusty and bruised,
admiring their handiwork:
two men
sitting, grinning, laughing
together
each helping the other up and on

Here are more pictures of our visit.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Living

My youngest children came to visit me tonight, to share a meal, to talk about the day, to learn and to play: to be a family.  As they left with a wave and a “Love you, Dad,” I pondered the nature of life and relationships, and wrote this poem.

LIVING

They wave
a backward glance
Love you, Dad
are gone down
the road under
occasional street lamps
a white glaring gibbous;
just yesterday:
dull, dark, red.
They have blessed me
for an evening, as children
are wont, with stories
of their adventures,
kisses on craggy cheeks,
back-patting hugs:
mere youthful presence.
Some distance down
the road their own children will come
on an evening,
find them glad, and lonely:
grateful. I travel now
and again to my parents,
to ponder the passing of time
and story, the transfer
of character and contribution,
on loss and life:
loneliness. I have built
my crooked, creaking house
on robust stones. Flowers
will bloom above
my grave.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Sparrows

Hundreds of House Sparrows took up residence in Harvey’s chicken and pigeon coops, eating several pounds of expensive lay mash and pellets a day, squeezing easily through iconic hexagonal chicken wire.  Our project together on my recent visit to Enterprise was to sparrow-proof the coops.  We measured, cut, and stapled fine mesh screen to the coop’s frames, over the chicken wire.  “Poor spugs,” Harvey chuckled, feeling half sorry for the little birds, with Winter coming.  “Don’t worry,” I ribbed, “they’ll just get to know your neighbors better.”  And we laughed.  Stepping through a narrow coop door to tack up some screen, I felt a mystical change in the air, and knew instantly I had a poem.

SPARROWS

hexagonal holes
in the chicken wire fence
contain
the gentle hens
perhaps
the neighborhood’s shy red fox
an escaped white-pelted mink
but not the house sparrows
who land and poke through
with ease
to gorge on lay mash
yes:
chicken wire was made for sparrows

entering the coop
through the narrow coop door
taut spring twanging
I feel a change
in the air
though the air within
is the same
as the air without
passing sparrow-like through
hexagonal holes
but I sense
I have entered
that mystical zone
where tame hens lay perfect eggs
and chortle
and brood
where brown-eyed mice scurry for mash morsels
where startled sparrows swirl
in a tight and dusty vortex
darting out past the propped door
for the last time
before it closes
newly-clad
with tight-holed screen

Harvey with his wife Mary

Harvey and moi in front of the homing pigeon coop

Hexagonal chicken wire overlain with fine screen

Harvey, Mary, and me on our way to church

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Lavender

To my darling daughter and her lucky groom.  May life’s blossoms ever bloom.

LAVENDER

My lavender has gone to seed:
soft blue blossoms
to brown scratchy scales;
perfume to dust.

You wanted
branches of blue blossoms
for your bridal bouquet.
But they won’t do,
I am sorry to say:
they simply will not do!

Trim the branches back,
you said patiently,
and we will see.
We still have a month,
and they may bloom again,
yet, blue and fragrant.

I trimmed,
I hope,
enough.

 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.