Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for February 2020

Brain Freeze

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Yesterday was a very inviting glorious blue-sky sunny day for a walk. There were just two primary hazards to trekking our trails to walk the dog. The first was slippery footing on the packed and polished snow tracks we were precariously perambulating. [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.] The footing is really risky on the inclines, especially going downhill. The repeating cycles of melting and refreezing we have endured this winter have turned the oft traveled packed paths into uneven glass-like surfaces.

One alternative is to walk just off to the side of the glossy path, but that becomes its own adventure of struggling to soft-shoe your way on top of the occasionally stable crust, faltering frequently as a boot collapses 6-to-10 inches into the loose old snow below.

Once on the flat of our paths out of the woods, the second hazard became the greater of the two challenges. The old snowpack covering our land no longer holds much air. It’s like one giant iceberg that radiates cold that would make a walk-in freezer jealous. The face-freezing chill was made even more emphatic by the warm sunshine from above offering an opposing reference sensation. The relatively warm air was dramatically losing the battle for dominance.

With the slightest hint of a breeze moving that radiating cold-cold-cold from the massive surface surrounding us and pushing away the comparatively weaker not-as-cold air in the warm sunshine, we both noticed the increasing sensation of a brain freeze.

“Ice cream headache!” Cyndie exclaimed.

Yes, it was that kind of cold.

The thermometers were displaying the mid-to-upper 20s(F), but our brains were registering something much more Arctic.

Happy Leap Day, 2020!



Written by johnwhays

February 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

All Cat

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It’s not enough that Pequenita has established her dominance over our bed day and night, she was recently spotted making her royal self at home on Delilah’s bed.

They do not have a cuddly relationship. Seems to me they get along like cats and dogs.

I expect Delilah was occupied at one of the windows in the front sunroom, barking at squirrels at the time this photo was taken. Pequenita wouldn’t be on that bed if the dog’s toenails were clicking the floor anywhere in the house. At that sound, the cat makes a mad dash for the “safety” of our bed, either beneath it or on top of it. That maneuver is not out of fear, but as a show of her dominance.

While I was writing this, Pequenita was hard at work in the foot attack zone waging war against my blanketed toes.

She is all cat.

We know who’s boss around here.



Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2020 at 7:00 am

Mystery Culprit

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Someone’s been messin’ with the coop. At first, I suspected it was possible that wind-plus-time had conspired to undo some of my handiwork, but after fixing it on Tuesday afternoon and finding it undone again yesterday when I got home from work, I now think something else is responsible.

There is open space between the walls and the roof of the chicken coop which allows for maximum ventilation. The “ceiling” of the coop is nothing but an open mesh of quarter-inch hardware cloth that allows moisture to vent out, but during windy winter storms, can also let snowflakes in.

I learned of that problem when little drifts formed inside the coop after a big snowfall. My crude fix was to stuff plastic and mesh fence material into the gap between the walls and roof. It worked perfectly well to keep snow out without completely destroying the ventilation.

After tucking the material back into place on Tuesday, it looked as good as the first time I installed it.

Less than 24-hours later, this is what Cyndie found:

Some mischief-maker, most likely a pesky bird, had already pulled some of the mesh back out again.

If I didn’t think we would get more snow this season, the material could all come out, but experience leads me to believe there will still be multiple occasions when the barrier will serve its purpose before spring arrives in full.

It is simple enough to tuck it back in place, so I will carry on this little game with the mystery culprit for now.

I won’t be surprised if the next phase of our game includes the eventual appearance of the makings for a nest. At that point, I suspect the interloper will be considering me the culprit causing mischief as I work to dismantle its construction project.



Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

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Other Shadows

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On Monday, I posted one of the better shadow pictures from my photo-taking walk with Delilah over the weekend. For comparison, here are a few other shadows that didn’t come through as well as I would have liked.

I’m not sure what it is about each one that has me feeling they just missed my elusive and intangible ideal, but there is something they lack.

I knew the shadow in this second image was less intense, but I hoped it might still give me something to work with toward a final reward. I’m afraid it fell short.

Almost. Maybe. Not quite.

There is too much going on in that last one for me, none of which nailed it in terms of the individual areas of focus, less so as a whole.

Still, it was plenty of fun trying. Thank goodness I wasn’t shooting film that required developing. It wouldn’t have been worth the wait.

Speaking of developing, yesterday’s big development for me was the online publishing of a commentary piece I submitted to the local Twin Cities publishing staple, Star Tribune.

The editor accepted it for their “online extra” Opinions feature, meaning it would not appear in the printed paper edition. That’s okay with me, as paper readers wouldn’t be able to provide the immediate comments that the e-edition allows. A wise author might stop reading the online comments after the most rewarding appreciation showed up, but it’s a little like not being able to turn away from the sight of a wreck.

I’ll take the good with the bad. It’s more like real life.

I started writing that piece for a Relative Something post, but by the time I finished, felt it deserved a crack at the Strib. Since they seem to agree, I hope you will read it on their site by clicking on the image above. I think they gave it a better presentation than I would have. (The picture was their doing [and I’m very happy with it].)

Feel free to comment, either there, or here. You can tell the world if you think I just missed, or I nailed it.






Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

Missing Credit

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In my giddy excitement over the discovery of pages and pages of informative details about my ancestors who made Pierce County their home in the 1860s last week, I neglected to credit the Pierce County Historical Association and more specifically, properly cite the copyright holder of the book!

Krogstadt, Roland J. 2010. Hartland Heritage: A History of Hartland Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin, edited by Donna M. O’Keefe. Madison, WI

That has since been remedied, with proper citations subsequently added to last week’s post.

On Sunday, I took Cyndie for a drive and showed her the beauty of the high-walled gorge of Isabelle Creek valley. She agreed with my impression that the majority of the steep slopes look no more modern than the images we’ve seen from the 1800s. It is easy to ignore the rare street sign or occasional dwelling and imagine we are back in time.

Immersing myself in so much historical research has me thinking about my trivial day-to-day activities like brushing my teeth in preparation for a night’s sleep or dressing for the day in the comfort of my modern bedroom and comparing it to what the equivalent daily tasks must have been like for my ancestors beside the creek.

The minutia of an individual’s daily little tasks doesn’t tend to be chronicled in much detail in historical journals written a hundred-plus years later.

I can’t help but share one more morsel from Roland Krogstadt’s book, “Hartland Heritage: A History of Hartland Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin” that mentions my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays (S. W. Hays).

Chapter 10, page 311, under the heading, “Weather”

The Hartland correspondent reported to the Herald, “Last Wednesday night, this town was visited by the most terrific and destructive storm of wind and rain ever known in this locality.” The details followed:

About 11 o’clock the rain began to descend and in a few minutes increased to a perfect deluge, while almost continuous and vivid lightning lit up the blackened sky as bright as day, and the thunder rolled with an ominous, heavy, and deafening roar that added to the solemnity of the occasion and awed all who witnessed it by the grandeur and magnificence of this, the greatest of nature’s pyrotechnical displays it was ever our lot to behold. It secured as though the god of storm and flood had turned out the vials of his wrath upon this once beautiful valley, which at sunset of that evening in seeming security lay clothed in peace and verdure, and which but a few hours later was destined to present a scene of destruction and desolation that words cannot but fail to describe.

A list of over 30 properties and the estimated losses followed and included: “S. W. Hays, house flooded, $50.”

In addition to that, “Strickland & Knowlton’s flouring mill, entirely destroyed with contents, $6,500; …Betcher & McDougall, mill dam washed away, steam factory undermined, east wing of factory, 14 wagons, sleighs, cutter woods, hubs, spokes, wagon lumber, logs and lumber washed away, flume and race filled up with mud, fences gone, &c., $4,000.”

I believe that the Strickland mill was associated with my 3rd-great-grandfather Joseph Sleeper and the Betcher mill was the one Stephen W. Hays was managing.

It helps me to better understand how or why Stephen may have moved away after a few more years. It also has me wanting to be less whiny about the comparatively minor suffering we have endured from so many downpours here over the last seven years.

Nature’s wrath is nothing new.



Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

Weather Gift

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What a gift of a day we enjoyed yesterday. Under a late February blue sky, the temperature climbed to a spring-like warmth that allowed coat-less frolicking in the great outdoors. And frolic, we did.

I let Delilah lead a romp through our woods following any animal trails she chose. She was not discerning in the least about the tangled routes she pursued, leaving me to duck and weave my way through a maze of branches which she navigated with ease. It was the depth of snow among the trees after leaving the trails that complicated her progress.

It could be that she got enough of a workout from the deep snow to appreciate the number of times I asked her to pause and wait while I took some pictures. There were fabulous shadows on display that I found particularly captivating, despite my being unable to successfully record most of them.

Most of the time, because of the angle of the brilliant sunshine, positioning myself for a photo of the interesting shadows obscured the scenes with the appearance of my own shadow.

At one point, just as I pressed the button on the camera, Delilah moved her position such that the shadow from her leash appeared right across my shot.

This shadow-print of the rachets on the fence wires came out pretty true to what my eyes saw.

It was an exceptional treat to have such warmth so soon after days of biting below-zero cold. It’s not even March yet and weather like yesterday has given me a strong dose of spring fever.

Hopefully, I won’t regret starting with that thought so early this year.



Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2020 at 7:00 am


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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2020 at 11:03 am