Summer of Pirates


It was the summer of pirates

Jolly Roger crew

set sail on the high seas

of Iowa grassland


Swords and muskets drawn

we plundered and raved

under the pirate’s flag

leaping from ship to shore

from the  old Navy cot

to the Walker’s rockery


I was captain

my two year old sister

the happy stowaway

content to sit on the meandering vessel

while others walked the plank

at my command 


We sailed for days

There was no treasure

only a map

tucked in my pirate belt

that led us in search of that

which we knew not

Summer of Pirates


Was it a soda pop or a dad

Grape soda pop in the cooler

Burned in the arm by my favorite cousin

Bonnie’s cigarette

Storm Lake picnic with all the relatives

My pop drunk as usual

Not the soda can pop

The real pop

Whiskey beer and pop

Glass bottles

Before pop top and twist off

All tucked into the ice to chill


Little Fox

At the edge of the cedar grove on a partly cloudy with chance of rain day,
a red fox came out of the fox hole. As was the custom of foxes, this small
animal would hide in the brush and pounce on an unsuspecting rabbit or bird,
mouse or squirrel, at times find a fresh roadkill or a fish by the stream.
Lately the fox had taken to hanging around the primitive shed roof shack
where I sIt at the window watching for its appearance; it curious and seeking food
and myself curious and seeking a glimpse of its sleek reddish fur and bushy tail.
Just as I feared that the fox was not going to show itself today, there it is.
Right there. See the red against the green? Look under the big cedar tree. Look
to the left of the garden. See. Now the fox is moving towards the garden
where yesterday it dug holes and chewed the bark of a grapevine.
We watch as the fox enters the garden and past the newly emerging pea plants,
the sprouting spinach and past the early forming strawberries. A tap on the glass
and off it runs.

Catch us the foxes,
The little foxes
that ruin the vineyards –
For our vineyard is in blossom.
The Song of Songs 2:15

Little Fox

Memorial Day Weekend

My sister called saying Dad is in the hospital and probably not going to make it. I fly home the next day, well not really home, but back to Iowa, flying into Waterloo airport on a prop plane and feeling nausea. My sister meets me and we go straight to the hospital. It is late at night and quiet, only the beep beep beep of monitors, smell of tubes and clean linens, Dad on his back and breathing. I take his hand or does he take mine, either way, he has my hand and holds it up and far away from himself just like he did in life. I was never good at making small talk whether people were alive or dying and now is no different.

Years before when Mother called me from the heart patient ward of the hospital, probably the same one Dad was in, she wanted to talk about dying, how people around her would die in the night, and she was losing her faith and I couldn’t help her with what little faith I had. I only could listen to her voice as it fell further and further from the hope she had always carried with her. I often regret that I did not have the Word to give her strength, that I did not know God to help her be strong in her faith. Now Dad was dying, Dad who never wanted God. Dad, who said, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” Dad who never talked about Jesus or told Bible stories like his mother did. Who went to church twice that I know of, once when I was baptized and when mom died. Now he was dying, and no one really had anything to say.

My sister and I left the hospital and slept at her place. Dad died on Memorial Day. I regret I didn’t have more to say.

Memorial Day Weekend

Mother’s Maiden Name


Swanstrom was my mother’s maiden name.  Looking back into her childhood of old photos, memories from her stories, and my own remembrance, I know a few things. Her father was a carpenter and built the family house in Iowa Falls, down the street from the swinging bridge over the Iowa River. As a child she played there when the bridge would still swing. People would drown in that river. My mother learned to swim and how to be a junior lifeguard and a Girl Scout. She could name the wildflowers and learned to go without during the Great Depression. Her mother, Anna Hill, was a gardener so I like to think that in the summer there were fresh vegetables to eat and her mother made bread. I know because I can still see her in the kitchen kneading the dough on a huge table, the old gas stove hot and ready to take the loaves. There were lots of mouths to feed, a big family of thirteen children, some already gone away, some to Oregon and Texas, or the grave. Vera, my mother, was the youngest girl born between two brothers. I see her old photos of a tomboy, up a tree or doing sports, her doll rarely played with. I like to think that she knew of love and loss because at her burial site a man stood watching in the distance and never said a word.


Mother’s Maiden Name

Black Jack

Dad played the cards in his living room like he was in Vegas.  Teaching me Black Jack, always taking the card, take the risk when it really doesn’t matter.  No bets were made, no strategy, just seeing where the cards would fall.  As far as I know Dad never made it to Vegas.  He got drunk and played the game in the Vegas of his arm chair.  Jack, Ace, played up in hearts.  Dad taught me to play the cards.  He never taught me to gamble.  I could shuffle like a pro, deal fast, build to 21, make the split.  He always saw two nines instead of eighteen.  Double the risk, shuffle and cut, play the cards out.  Study and watch the cards fall, high roller from his living room Caesar’s Palace.  At times he would even shoot craps.

Black Jack

Old Authors and a New Game

Forty four cards in the deck. There are eleven portraits of authors and each has four titles per author. The game is to try to collect all four titles for each author to make a book. Player with the most books wins. I always wanted to draw the card of Louisa May Alcott the only woman in the deck.

Here’s a new game. Match the quote with the author and the title of the book that the quote came from.

Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?

Words, words, words.

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you.

A man without conscience is but a poor creature………

Others may write from the head, but he writes from the heart, and the heart will always understand him.

What other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one’s self!

For his heart was in his work, and the heart giveth grace unto every art.

God of Jacob! It is the meeting of two fierce tides – the conflict of two oceans moved by adverse winds!

For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Henry Longfellow Washington Irving Alfred Tennyson

Nathaniel Hawthorne James Fenimore Cooper Mark Twain

William Shakespeare Sir Walter Scott Louisa May Alcott

Charles Dickens Robert Louis Stevenson

Pathfinder The Legend of Sleepy Hollow The Brook

The House of the Seven Gables Song of Hiawatha Ivanhoe

Treasure Island Little Women Oliver Twist

Tom Sawyer Hamlet

Play the game without googling or binging or anything else. Just use your literary skills. If you match a quote to the correct author you get one point. If you match the quote to the title you get one point. If you get the title to the author you get a point. If you are correct with the quote, the title and the author you get all three points.

33 points You are the champion of the game and not only do you know the authors and the titles but also the literary style, famous line or theme of each writer.

22 to 32 points You really know your old authors even some that seem obscure to most people today.

11 to 21 points You no doubt have knowledge of these authors and can put two and two together on some occasions.

0 to 10 points Time to study up on your dead poets and authors.

Old Authors and a New Game

Dollhouse Family


The posture of the dollhouse mom is alway perfect in a stern upright way with clothes that come out of a catalog. She always wants children and something to do with them when she gets them.  The activities come out of the catalog along with an instruction manual for having fun with your kids.  The dollhouse kids are always busy in the dollhouse doing their chores and planning to surprise the dollhouse dad when he enters the dollhouse after a long day at work and commuting to and from his employment.  His work makes the dollhouse possible and they know it.  The kids work to keep their toys off the floor so that dollhouse dad does not trip and fall, breaking a leg and making it impossible to go to work.  Dollhouse mom loves to make new recipes in the dollhouse kitchen keeping the dollhouse family healthy with the basic food groups.  Dollhouse dad has his liquor bottle hidden somewhere in the dollhouse where the dollhouse mom cannot find it.  Dollhouse mom prefers dollhouse dad to be sober so that the dollhouse can be perfect in every way.

Dollhouse Family