River Bottom Beagles


Ragged as the Road

 DSC_0017 (800x533)

Brush scraping the sides of the truck like nails on a chalk board.

Buried up to the axel in mud out in the woods. Miles from help.

Slid off the corner on the ice and down in the ditch, just missed the tree.

Stuck way out in the snow with nothing but a shovel to get you back on plowed road.

New snow bending the branches down and dropping their load on the windshield faster than the wipers can push it off so you can’t see where your going.

You take these roads your not going to get out without some scars.

Might wreck your paint job. Sore back and a busted radio antenna.

It’s going to hurt. No way around that.

You can play it safe. Stay home in front of the TV. Truck parked in the garage.

And miss it all.

Never know that feeling of freedom, flying down the road splashing water out of the mud puddles.

Coming up on that corner and not knowing what’s on the other side but can’t wait to see.

A herd of deer crossing the trail.

Goshawk getting up off the road with a grouse in it’s talons.

Sun coming up and setting the ground fog on fire.

Those moments when life is so beautiful it takes your breath away.


DSC_0062 (800x533)






This road I’m on has been cracked by the cold
It’s been scorched by the sun and searched by the soul

And it’s a working back breaking, it’s a pick ax swinging
It’s steel wheels turning on steel rails singing

This road lies ahead like life on a brush
It’s a virgin canvas free from human touch

And it’s ours for the taking or the leaving behind
It’s a ghost of the past with the future to find

Reckless Kelly “Ragged as the Road”


Up early this morning, out on the deck with coffee, just getting light in the east. It’s a cool morning. Heavy dew. Still. So quiet the only sound you can hear is water dripping off the roof.

Lisa’s presence lies heavy in this place. All around me are things Lisa got done including the deck under my feet. Yesterday was a hard day.  The night before was worse. My brain just kept going over what if’s. If I had just done this and this and this, if I had just been there then, if I had just pushed those doctors even harder than I did, maybe she would still be here. Maybe I could have helped her dodge this bullet like she did so many times in the past. For a break from this line of thought my imagination gave me a view of countless days and long nights of growing old alone. I know this is a bad place to be but sometimes you just can’t shut it off.

But this morning was about this morning. Hell with the ghosts from the past and future. If I was a dog I’d lift my leg on them two.

A doe and two fawns came out on the road just down from the mail box and walked down the road. Fawns running back and forth, mom just walking steady. Time to bed down for the day. That spike buck we’ve been seeing came and stood in the road a while, then went into the pines.

The sun was coming up. A deep voiced coyote howled in the corn field. Unusual to hear them during daylight. The rest of the coyote pack joined in and the beagles in the yard gave their version of Stay Off Our Territory. The stillness was gone for the day.

I turned Honey, River and Pumpkin loose and before long they had a rabbit up and running out in the corn. Me and Hope walked up to the cemetery and listened a while. Hope’s mother and grandmother are buried here, side by side. The dogs making music in the corn field are Hope’s great grand kids.

Our grand kids like to follow the trail through the oak trees up to the cemetery, usually with a bunch of beagles tagging along.

Life moves on, ready or not. Isn’t too much you can do about the number of days you get, just how you spend them.

I was back on the deck with another cup of coffee when the young dogs brought the rabbit back around close to the house. I guess if mornings like this are what I have to look forward to I can live with that.






DSC_0066 (800x547)

Chiseled in Stone

You don’t know about lonely
Or how long nights can be
Til you’ve lived through the story
That’s still livin’ in me
You don’t know about sadness
Til you’ve faced life alone
You don’t know about lonely
Til it’s chiseled in stone.

Vern Gosdin – Chiseled in Stone

Lately I have some days that are better than others, but that dark foggy morning last week started out as a really bad one. I was going to pick out my wife’s headstone.

Thinking about the future laid out before me and not much liking it. Not sure I’m up for it.

Driving down the road I came up behind a white truck with no headlights on, going about 35. I just can’t do this today. I looked as hard as I could into the fog and didn’t see anything, put the peddle down and pulled out around the white truck, and saw all kinds of lights on the semi that was coming right at me. Made it back into my lane just in time.

And I had time to think. Not yet. Not today. I have some important things to get done and the first thing on the list is making Lisa a headstone that she would like.

I had them use this picture of Lovey and Dusty and Sundae running a rabbit in the snow at a place we call The Snowshoe State Forest. It used to be just loaded with rabbits. One morning for Lisa’s birthday I took the day off from work and we drove up there with Lisa’s dog Shorty and we sat on the tailgate and watched Shorty run. Right there where this picture was taken. We counted 26 rabbits, although some of them went by a bunch of times. Shorty was running about as good as a beagle could run. Afterwards we went and had dinner with Lisa’s grandma and grandpa, Irene and Stanley. Stayed all afternoon. It was a good day.

The first time we brought John to this spot Rose was in her prime and she was on fire. She brought seven rabbits all together across the trail right between us. Lisa and John just stood there and laughed and laughed.

Shorty and Rose are gone now. Dusty too. Buried on the hill back of the house along with lot of other good dogs. Next to where this headstone is going. This is where Lisa wanted to be, with her friends.

Here’s what Lisa’s headstone will look like. The picture will be laser engraved on black polished granite. The wording in the middle will be more clear and I had them add our wedding date and kids names. Should be done late this fall. I wasn’t sure I liked seeing my name on a headstone, but at least I know where I’m going.

I think Lisa would like it.

The sun was shining again when I drove home.


I Miss My Friend

The first time I held your hand
I knew I was a lucky man

Jamey Johnson – Heaven Bound

It hurts. Damn, it hurts. Never knew you could hurt like this with no broken bones or blood running out. You get busy and you get around people and you get acting normal and you get thinking I’m OK. I’m good. I can do this. WHAM!! Knocked on your ass again.

Lisa was no stranger to pain. She wouldn’t let people see it, but she was in pain most of the time. When we were at home down south she slept on the couch. She tried to sleep in our bed from time to time but it never lasted more than an hour and she went crawling back to her soft couch.

At home on the farm we have a big, soft king size bed and Lisa was able to sleep there most of the time. Some nights it was me and Lisa and Molly and Irene and Buttercup. Molly makes you read shark stories and dino stories. She would be the first to fall asleep (after Buttercup). Irene liked to read to us. To Lisa.

Then I might read to Lisa. I’ve read some good stories to Lisa at home, before we went to sleep. And in hospital rooms to help her go somewhere else while her body was someplace she didn’t want to be.

Lisa loved the story The Master Falconer from C.J. Box’s book Shots Fired. It was the last story I read to her. She talked about it a lot. Nate Romanowski was right up there with Lisa’s heroes John Wayne and Tell Sackett. I wanted to read her Blood Knot from the same book, but never got the chance. It’s a good one, you should read it. Aunt Ruth, someday I’ll buy that book and keep it on the bookshelf, you would like it.

Molly always ended up sideways in the bed about 2 AM so you either got a head butt or you got kicked. Buttercup stayed down on your feet or squeezed in sideways between us. Me and Lisa held hands if we could reach. We never got much sleep. Memories of those nights will make it on the short list of Good Things when my time comes to look back. Maybe even Best Things.

July 28th was our 32nd anniversary. I was at work and Lisa was staying at her folks after getting out of the hospital in Rochester. She called me at work about three times saying how much she missed me. The next day, Friday I got up early, did chores, mowed the lawn and loaded all the dogs and lawn mower and drove up north, took care of the dogs and mowed everything up there before I got to spend some time with Lisa.

She looked puffy and mentioned that she had a hard time getting her breath. That night we went to bed early. I didn’t sleep much. Instead I laid there and listened to her breath. She woke at 1:00 AM, we talked it over and decided to go to the ER and see Dr. Hudala. He is a good one and Lisa knew he was on that night.

We sat the whole night in that little room in the ER (again) and I held her hand and we talked. Chased away the nurses that wanted to draw blood and start an IV. Her arms already looked like she had been in a car wreck. Towards morning Dr. Hudala came back in and said he wanted to keep her in the hospital for a few days and get the fluid drained away from around her heart and lungs. Lisa cried. More nights in a damned old hospital bed instead of at home. But then the steel came back and the tears went away and she did what she needed to do.

We spent a lot of time together in her hospital room over the weekend and she had a lot of visitors. She was happy and feeling good and making everyone else laugh. I brought her a dairy queen blizzard on Sunday, Butterfinger. She acted like I brought her diamonds. Her nurse was jealous and Lisa loved that.

Monday morning I went back to work and they let her out in time to make her appointment with Dr. Hendrickson, then she came home and spent the day with Emi and Donna. Cleaned the fridge, did some laundry, called everyone that was getting a pup from Lovey and worked on selling the last one, then her and Donna went out to the Spot Café for Monday night all the shrimp you can eat, which was quite a few. I called her from work while she was there and got brushed off.

But then she called me back. She called me three times that night. Each time she told me she missed me. She went to bed alone in our big, soft, king size bed for the last time.

The memory of all those times she said I Miss You in that last week will haunt me the rest of my days.

Now it’s my turn to say I MISS YOU.

DSC_0059 (800x533)


Hold On

This is an old post I wrote about Lisa four or five years ago after one of her stays in the St. Mary’s ICU, and never published.  Because sometimes it helps just to write stuff down. Then I revised it about two years ago and added the note at the bottom, and never published it. It’s kind of dark and painful, but that’s where I’m at right now. Still trying to hold on. Maybe later I can let go and tell you a few of the many happy stories about Lisa.

Everyone asks how she’s doing. They want me to say she is doing just fine and that is just what I tell them. I know they don’t want to hear what I tell myself.

She is lying on a cold, hard hospital bed. Her arms are black and blue and purple and yellow from all the needles they have had stuck in them.

A huge mass of tubes and wires are attached to her and they get tangled up every time she moves. There’s a bunch of damn bells and alarms going off all the time and a loud screeching noise happens when she tries to get out of bed.

Her poor tired heart can’t keep up with all the fluid they are pushing into her so it backs up into her lungs. She has to wear a CPAP to force oxygen into her lungs. She hates the mask and keeps trying to pull it off.

She has been given so many different drugs and pain killers that she is seeing things and talking to people that aren’t there. I look in her eyes and realize that the girl I married has temporarily checked out. Gone to a better place, and I wonder if she will be the same when she comes back. I think about all the times she has been through this and wonder how much more she can take.

It seems to help when I hold her hand and so that is what I do. My job. Hold on.

Me? How am I doing? I’m just fine.

I wrote this a couple years ago while going through some hard times. Things are much better for us now, at the moment. And yet there are so many people trying to hold on to their loved one right now and I know the pain they feel and there isn’t much we can do for them except to let them know that we know it hurts.