Friday, August 27, 2004


Phil Hey is one of the featured readers on Saturday at the South Dakota Book Festival in Sioux Falls. We'll take copies of the book of his I've just published, How It Seems To Me: New & Selected Poems; Phil will read; I'll make sure people have a chance to purchase one of his books. We'll attend some readings and discussions by other middlewestern writers I admire: Phil Dacey, David Allan Evans, Jeanne Emmons, William Kloefkorn, David Picaske, Linda Hasselstrom, and others.

I'll put up "Saturday's Poem" tomorrow, August 28, if I can gain access to a computer; or on Sunday, August 29, when I return.

I'll be back to blogging as usual on Monday, August 30th.



Last night all three of the finalists for Poet Laureate of Wisconsin - John Lehman, Denise Sweet, and myself - got an e-mail from Cathryn Cofell-Mustschler, chair of the Poet Laureate Commission, saying: "I know by now you are ready to throw a book at us for the LONG delay. Please forgive and trust that we are very near to the end of the process. Governor Doyle does have the recommendation and has promised us a decision within the next couple of weeks, so please be patient just a bit longer!"

The purpose of the e-mail, in addition to urging patience, was to inform us that "In the interim, we are beginning to plan for a reception to honor all three of you, and Ellen Kort [retiring Poet Laureate of Wisconsin], to be held at the Governor's residence some time in October...."

Though waiting for the Governor's announcement is just about killing me, I'll be patient a bit longer. The Great Wheel turns; I'm booked for the full ride. Whatcha gonna do?


June 16, 2004

It's Wednesday morning. I'm at the Second Cup Cafe at 8:00 a.m. again, sitting where the As the Bladder Fills Club gets filled. Ivan Burgess is saying: "I've got to work today. She hasn't called me in weeks and she called me this morning and wants me to come in. Well, when you're poor, you go in when she calls. There's not much I can do about it except complain to my wife."

One of the other fellows says: "We're thinking you're gonna complain to us til 9:00 a.m."

Ivan: "I can't do that. I've got to take Momma to her hair appointment at ten minutes to nine."

Other fellow: "Good. Then you can't be complaining to us."

Later Ivan calls out to a red-headed high school girl who is over at the pastry counter with another girl. He says "Rachel. Rachel."

He says louder: "Hey, Burgess!"

The girl comes over to stand next to Ivan. Her name is Burgess but she is not relation to Ivan - which is obvious because she's good-looking. She is also a basketball player.

"Every day I want you to practice fifty shots with your right hand, and fifty shots with your left hand," Ivan says.

"And another thing," he says. "Out on the basketball court, you're too nice. I want you to be mean out there. You can be a nice girl, but on the basketball court, be mean. I mean it. Now remember: fifty shots every day with each hand. And be mean."

The girl smiles and puts up with it. You can tell she's been well brought up. And perhaps it's not the first time she's had to take advice from Ivan. He's not shy about saying what he thinks. But she listens politely, then when he's done she goes back to the business of getting herself a sweetroll.

After she's left Ivan says: "That girl could score thirty points a game but she passes the ball too much. You should be a team player, but sometimes being a team player means taking the shot. She's just too nice out there."


LTM Manufacturing stands south of Smith Center about four miles, abutting the community's golf course. Like Excel's plant, this one appears unassuming on the outside, with all manner of work going on within.

Mike Nebel founded LTM in 1996; he had formerly been president of Excel but he and that company had parted ways.

Todd Haven has been with LTM since its founding. In fact, in the early days, the company was Mike Nebel and Todd Haven. Those are the roots from which the manufacturer has grown. Todd manages operations at LTM and assists with plant management.

LTM builds a variety of slide mechanisms for rooms that slide out of RVs, as well as slide-out battery trays, storage trays, and LP trays for the RV industry. In addition the company has been making stabilizer jacks. The company sells to firms in Indiana, to Northwood Manufacturing in Oregon which makes the Monaco Coach ("the million dollar motorhome"), and to another manufacturer in Kansas which makes the HitchHiker.

Nebel's company was bought from him by Lippert Components, Todd tells me. The association with Lippert brings "marketing clout. We are Plant #41. They have a huge piece of the pie in the RV market."

"Their main business was building frames for mobile homes, and then for RV manufacturers," Todd says of the parent company. "Now, with us, they are trying to break into the accessory side of the RV market."

One item that LTM makes for Doubletree RV is a storage tray that slides out either side of the RV to 66% of its length. The company also makes a mechanism for a bed that folds up to reveal storage space at the foot end; and folds up, too, at the other end so you can sit up and watch TV in bed. The whole bedroom slides in and out on the LTM slide mechanism.

King of the Road has a web site that shows LTM's patio deck which slides under the fifth wheel trailer when not in use, and slides out when you need a place to sit that's up and out of the mud and dirt.

LTM makes a "jumbo" slide for a fourteen-foot room on a trailer. It makes smaller systems. And now it fashions mechanisms for slide-outs of pick-up-sized campers.

There are thirty eight employees at the plant. Most employees come from Smith County, Todd says, "and some of them are farmers. Farmers have a good work ethic. Right now we have a good group. Whenever we've had problems, it seems those people came from out of the area or out of state."

"A farmer knows how to figure it out," Todd says. "Most of them already know how to weld, they know electric motors and hydraulics. It's easy to teach them. They already have an idea what's going on."

To be continued....


AUGUST 27, 1998

The chiffon sky of the early morning has evaporated - it's clear air, now, and blue sky, the long lay of sunlight. A peacefulness in the village I don't think you'd find in the city, a morning's quiet meditation before the work day breaks loose here. I enjoy the peacefulness of it. I'm sure there are others who would be bored to tears with so much as a week of these days. Part of what you get from a place is what you make of it. If you want to think you need more you will believe this is not enough. I was born to such a pace. I wonder if someone else, out of a more hectic background, could grow to love this leisurely amble of a day?

Moisture on the windshield. Perhaps the chiffon is not yet entirely gone from the sky - there is a light gauze of haze yet in the distance. The morning is bright in spite of it.

In downtown Fairwater, Laper's Garage is open and ready for business; the flags are flying at the Post Office; the lights are on at Stellmachers' lumberyard. All is right with the world.

Driving home from work last night I saw a hawk - it was perched south a mile from the usual place, on the other side of the road. Was it our hawk?

Half the field of beets is still in the ground. The leaves on the plants are turning more and more rusty.

Remember - if it's not what you want, you can't be sure anybody will want it.

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