Monday, December 26, 2011


Richard and Emma Kalms with grandchildren
Richard and Helen Purinton. Photo taken around October, 1948

Washington Island, Wisconsin 

Today, we'll dip into some family history...

Richard Paul Kalms, born Feb. 16, 1885 in Leutmansdorf, Silesia, Germany (now Poland) and came to this country in 1902, sponsored by a brother, Gustavus Adolph Kalms.   He died January 27, 1967.   He married Emma Hoefert Staver  who was born Feb. 10, 1889 in Pomerania, Germany. She came to the U.S. at age of three.  Emma had two daughters with Albert Staver from a previous marriage (he died of pneumonia), Esther and Viola, and together Richard and Emma had six more children:  Martha; Frieda; Walter; Mabel; Hilda; and Leona.


Grampa Kalms was what I might call a Door County peasant farmer, a first generation immigrant who, along with his wife, Emma, raised their family of eight on an Old Stage Road farm.   This was a part of Liberty Grove Township referred to as “the German Settlement.”

Here, stone fences ran in long rows at the edges of the fields, waist high to me when as a kid our family visited my grandparents’ farm.  We went “up north” when we left home in Sturgeon Bay, the county seat and largest town.  The drive was about 35 miles, but it took just under an hour because many of the side roads were graveled, and my father loved side roads. 

Each trip was a major event, through Sevastopol, Valmy, Jacksonport, past the cemetery next to where two bachelor brothers lived in a ramshackle, two-story, clapboard farmhouse with no paint set in a sandy field.  

A most memorable day was in early spring when we spied grayish union suits hanging from the wash line, arms, legs and tail flapping in the breeze.   My sister Helen and I shouted and laughed from the back seat.  This was one of the most unusual experiences on a drive that otherwise seemed long and boring (“When will we ever get there?”).
Grampa’s face featured a thick, dark moustache.  Sometimes in winter he grew a full beard.  Otherwise, he shaved only once a week, as was his habit.  He used no disposable blades, plastic throwaways or electric razor.  Instead, his facial stubble grew from Sunday to Saturday, until it was again time to shave his cheeks and dimpled chin smooth using a straight-edge, stropped generously on a leather.  His shaving routine followed a standard morning breakfast of oatmeal topped with cornflakes and applesauce, eaten after he finished the chores of feeding the pigs and chickens or milking and feeding the few cows.

A round mirror on a heavy nickel stand was placed on the kitchen table oilcloth before him.  Gramma dipped hot water from the wood stove reservoir into an enamel metal bowl and set it down in front of Grampa.  He wetted a towel and patted his face before covering his beard in foamy shaving soap mixed in a ceramic mug made for that purpose.  He applied the cream with a short bristled brush.  When he started to shave, his thin razor made a surprisingly loud scratching, a scrape of sharp metal edge against the stubble whiskers of his face. Residue of soap and whiskers were washed from the razor's edge in periodic dunking before being swiped against the towel.
When only a few soap specks remained and his skin was smooth, he dipped the end of the towel in the hot water once again and wiped his face clean.  Putting his razor away in a slim box, stowed high over a mirrored cabinet, he’d then pull up his two suspender straps that hung down around his hips with his two thumbs, and guide them over his shoulders and over the long-sleeved, cotton underwear he wore.  This was a one-piece suit, top and bottom combined.

Richard, as his friends and his respectful sons-in-law called him, seldom spoke, but  when he did it was with a heavy German accent.  Even with Emma, his wife, there was little conversation between them.

Their kitchen was formerly a shed-roof addition to a pioneer log home, and it had been first used for animals.  At some point it became a living space, a kitchen complete with a nickel-plated wood stove that dominated the southeast corner, a hot water reservoir to one side, warming ovens on top, and circular lids for access to the wood fire Gramma relied on for cooking.  She kept a bed of coals glowing over cold winter nights, for easy restarting in the morning.   

In later years they had a Jungers oil stove in their living room, thanks to installation by only son Walter, who worked installing and servicing heating units as a part of his job with Jungwirth Hardware of Sister Bay.   But the Jungers heater was lit only when it got really cold, and I can’t recall ever seeing my grandparents using the living room, except as a path to the bedroom.  They were always in the kitchen, near the stove, pantry and kitchen table.   You dressed for cold, wearing many layers, and if you sat nearer to the stove, you took off one or more layers.   Gramma wore a grey wool sweater buttoned over her flower print dress.  She also wore flesh-colored stockings that were pulled to the knees over heavy, thick-veined legs.  

One of the few times I can recall my grandfather speaking to her was to admonish her for scratching her legs, a habit she had, something about “starch and eating too many potatoes.”  In her prime, Gramma’s weight was estimated to have exceeded 300 pounds.  Obesity, fairly common in members of our family,  although Grandpa was of average height and weight, was always associated with Gramma.  Late in their years, both of them struggled with diabetes.

In the corner of the kitchen that opposed the stove, between the entry where wood was stored a window with small panes of wavy glass, was Grampa’s rocking chair.  This corner of the kitchen was his den, library, office and smoking room.  When he wasn’t outdoors working or seated at the kitchen table for a meal, nearly all of his indoor time was otherwise spent in his rocking chair relaxing, sometimes snoozing, feet propped on a foot stool.

After meals, he rocked alongside the single-pane glass chewing Plow Boy, or a pipe of Prince Albert.  He preferred his chew with a gumdrop to sweeten the tobacco.  His favorite reading materials were limited:  the Door County Advocate; The Farm Journal; or a western novel.  Richard could read and write, both in English and German, but not Emma, not in either language.  She remained illiterate all of her life, and as far as I know, there was never discussion about teaching her, nor can I recall her having expressed the interest, either.  How did she manage cooking?   She was a great cook, and maybe an even better baker, and she did so without written instructions.  

Richard spent more and more time in his rocking chair as he grew older and arthritis bothered his joints.  This would have started while he was in his mid-60s.  By then, there were no more cows or pigs, and a few years later, no more chickens.  The reasons to leave his chair were minimal: to fetch a bucket of water from the well in the pump house morning and evening;  or shuffle to the outhouse, about one hundred feet from the farmhouse doorway.  The more Richard sat, however, the more debilitating his arthritis seemed to be, until finally, the act of getting up from his chair became a major effort.  He’d need his two canes to hobble wherever it was he needed to be.

But while gazing out of his window on Old Stage Road, chewing tobacco and spitting into a can, or eating chocolate covered cherries, his favorite, neighbors' cars and trucks would drive past, clouds of dust swirling behind them.  You first heard the roar of gravel as a distant whisper, quickly building as the tires rolled closer, throwing stones aside and underneath the floorboards.  Then, just a suddenly it was gone, sometimes with a toot of the car horn.  Left behind was a whitish cloud, fine limestone dust that coated plants and trees along the roadside. 

Occasionally, Grampa tuned in WDOR, the local station,  on his radio.  He listened to news and polka music that followed the noon news.  But he listened sparingly, because his home and farm had no electricity, conserving his radio's battery power.

The older he became, the more padding his rocking chair required, eventually piled with several pillows. The arcs of the rockers and the shifting of his feet wore white spots through the linoleum pattern beneath the chair.  Rarely would he read in the evening.   Kerosene lamps were lit briefly during and after supper, or when there was company.  Most evenings, he and his wife were in bed shortly after the sun went down.

A young Richard Paul Kalms

I can’t remember hearing the question asked of him, either critically or out of curiosity, why he had never electrified his home and farm?  He used a one cylinder gasoline motor to help pump well water for cattle, but he and Emma preferred using the pump handle otherwise.  Simplicity, with modest living.  That was their life as they chose to live it.
By 1965 they had ended farming, and they were physically unable to fend for themselves in winter. Grampa Richard, whose arthritis and lack of daily activity curtailed his mobility, used two canes to support stiff legs when he stood.    

“Ma and Pa,” as their children called them, lived in a farmhouse without insulation, without storm windows, with a wood cooking stove for primary heat, no telephone, and a mailbox out by the road for their only daily, outside communication.  Grampa at one time drove his old truck to the feed mill in Sister Bay, but in later years, he never drove.

Because winters had become too harsh on the farm, they were “passed around” to their daughters’ homes, first Leona and husband Arno, who raised five children of their own but generously shared their farmhouse near Watertown, and then to Sturgeon Bay, at daughters Martha and Frieda.  Two homes were needed, since each of those homes were small. One parent stayed at each home.   Under this arrangement, Gramma stayed at our home, and Grampa at Martha’s.  

In order to be together several days each week, one or the other would be driven across the bay, over the bridge to the other’s home.  Most often, visiting meant just being in the same room together, watching TV together, or sharing meals together. On occasion, they might be given a leisurely ride around town or over nearby country roads.   Once evening came and supper was over, it was time for one or the other to leave, returning to their respective home on the other side of the bay until next visit.

In 1967 they died two days apart, Grampa Richard in the Door County hospital from pneumonia and kidney failure.   

Gramma died two days later, after she had been driven to the Casperson Funeral Home in Sister Bay.  There, family members had gathered to prepare a funeral that would take place one day later.  After Gramma entered the viewing room, she touched Grampa in his casket and fell over, dead.  

Richard’s funeral service was delayed two more days, until Emma was readied for the double event.  

As one of several grandsons who served as a pallbearer on that wintry February, I rode in the front seat of the hearse alongside Clyde Casperson to the Sister Bay cemetery.  Clyde remarked how unusual this circumstance had been, a first in his many years as undertaker.    

The novelty of such circumstance aside, their funeral was a beautiful and fitting occasion, an event that could be observed as tribute to a couple who lived their lives together simply and honestly, and who, in death, had expressed love in a way that words had not.
  - Dick Purinton 

Monday, December 19, 2011


Proposed Island Business Incubator in
architect's rendering, looking north.   Remodeled
cheese factory / chalet is in foreground.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Consider this scenario for Washington Island:

Your township’s population hasn’t changed by more than 25 residents, up or down, in over 40 years.   The main township industry is tourism, with a very small amount of fishing and farming.   Citizens and property owners have scratched their collective head to come up with business ideas that might infuse their community with jobs and help the local economy.  

Along comes a rather unique proposal made not by government, but by an island property owner, a seasonal resident with an architectural business in Chicago who would like to build an incubator for small business. 

Problems occur when this individual applies to get the required zoning permits, and even when he attempts to obtain straightforward, timely answers to his questions.  His proposal would cost the town citizens nothing, and as owner he hopes only that his model business incubator becomes self sufficient in order to pay property taxes and insurance, and sustain itself over time.

What community, especially an island community with maybe an even narrower set of economic opportunities than a similar mainland community, would not like to see such an effort, at no risk to its citizens?

What governmental zoning or planning code, through its respective administrators, would not accommodate such an idea by making every effort to assist in bringing it about?

Not a fictional proposal!

Scott Sonoc, along with his wife Marsha Williams, recently announced by letter to those who had shown support for their ideas, that they would be “…cancelling the Incubator Project for Washington Island…”   
In his letter, Scott cited reasons for cancelling their project that he says point to an ineffective county process for filing and obtaining necessary permits.

In August, Washington Island Ferry Line Board of Directors invited Scott and Marsha as guests in order learn more details about their project.  At that time, preliminary plans for an Island Business Incubator had been drawn to compliment a newly remodeled, former island cheese factory (also referred to as the Chalet after remodeling in the 70s by former owner Thorsten Williamson).  The project location is the property at the NW corner of Range Line and Town Line Roads, which is the physical center of Washington Island.  

The Ferry Line's Board expressed support for Sonoc's Business Incubator idea, believing it to be the best and most practical for island economic development heard to date.

The cheese factory/chalet had stood vacant and on the market for some 30 years prior to Sonoc's purchase.  It had several broken windows and the shake roof needed replacement.  Sonoc, who enjoys the challenges and satisfaction of remodeling and improving usefulness of old structures, making changes that reflect local culture, had remodeled the building to comply with Wisconsin commercial codes.  

Compliance includes elevator to second
floor of chalet, Washington Island's first lift.

While purpose and tenants for the remodeled building have not yet been fully determined, the cheese factory building can serve multiple purposes including small conferences and catered events such as weddings.   Office and display space will also be provided.  

Sonoc then examined the possibility of providing further space, small workspaces that might encourage new businesses, to be made available to artisans, to producers of locally grown/made products that could then be marketed regionally, nationally, or internationally.   He used as a model the excess space in the building his architectural firm owns in Chicago. There, artisans are tenants, and their synergy has further led to individual success stories with expanded business in new locations.

Sonoc’s vision was to build a second structure adjacent to the cheese factory and divide it into suites for multiple occupants, thus providing a variety of businesses with reasonably priced space, a place for island artisans to work.   Advantages with such a building can be found in the access to shared equipment and space.   Examples:  a conference room for business meetings;  an approved commercial kitchen for food processing; common restroom facilities; common mechanicals along with building maintenance supervision.   Such an incubator could bring projected activities, including those who may be artists, from private kitchen, garage or basement into a public space where they might share ideas and grow as businesses.

Rendering of remodeled chalet as viewed SE toward Town Line
and Range Line Road intersection.  As island property owners
for fifteen years, "We are willing to risk our own money to try out
this (incubator) idea," Sonoc stated.

Sonoc's plan comes from a sincere desire to see people succeed and improve their lives.  In its details were many positives. 

From the onset, however, Sonoc said he ran into roadblocks at Door County zoning and planning, and in the end, his frustration ultimately ended pursuit of the project, citing Door County’s negligence and incompetence, where the Planning Department works as "enforcers" rather than "encouragers."  

The following are some of the problems Sonoc ran up against, condensed, as outlined in his letter to interested supporters:

1.          *   Letters were sent, Planning Department personnel were contacted, but responses to questions were slow in coming and when they were received, answers were simply not forthcoming, “…even after six months from our first meeting.”

2.          *   Construction drawings were prepared by Sonoc by the end of June 2011, but due to the need to rezone, issues of parking could not be addressed.  The parking issues were never resolved.
3.     Sonoc could not obtain answers as to “…what is permitted and what is not in an MC zoning district and what the requirements will be.”

4.        *    The Zoning Administrator stated that “…we must obtain multiple zoning permits, one for each ‘use’ in the building, instead of a single zoning permit for one ‘Principal Use,’ as stated in the Zoning Ordinance.”  

This last point was appealed by County Board Supervisor Joel Gunnlaugsson on behalf of the project.  The decision was then reversed by the Zoning Dept.   Following this reversal, Door County wrote Sonoc to advise him that in the future he ought not to have anyone, including County Supervisors, intervene on his behalf.

Other points were made:

·      The County Manager informed Sonoc that “…we cannot submit our site/building drawings for a zoning permit, until our property is rezoned from Gen. Ag. to Mixed Commercial, for the Incubator.  This is contrary to common development practices, because it is necessary to determine the governmental requirements for a proposed building project, especially those requirements that affect the project costs.  In some cases, projects do not go forward once specific government requirements for the project are identified." 

·      A personal fitness-exercise training and dance instruction studio would require “Conditional Use Permits” because these have been decided to be “Fitness Center” uses, not ‘”Personal Service” uses.

·      Parking spaces, according to the Planning Director, for both the Incubator and the adjoining Chalet, may not be shared to reduce the overall size of the shared parking lot.  The Planning Director, according to Sonoc, used his/her discretion to make this decision.  

·      An intended Incubator business that would promote ‘Internet art/poster/book sales’ use needs a “Conditional Use Permit” because this use has been decided to be a “Wholesale” use, rather than “Retail” use. 

·      Sonoc said he was cautioned that “…the Zoning permit expires for any and every use in the building that is not established within the first year or any single use that is discontinued for more than 18 months, in which case a new zoning permit application must be re-submitted for each use that is not operating in the building. “     Supposedly, this determination is because the Zoning Ordinance does not specifically cover a single building with multiple uses, and the Planning Director has discretion to make this decision. 

·      Sonoc was informed that the Planning Director and the Zoning Administrator stated they would not correspond with him via email, but only by regular mail.  This, Sonoc noted, causes “…extended time delays between questions and answers…”    He added that normal response time he experienced from the Planning Department back to him was “…2.5 to 3 weeks…”

·      Sonoc outlined actual costs incurred for Planning Department permits related to the proposed Business Incubator for Washington Island, and the possible fees totaled $2,850.   These were aside from any legal, survey, architectural fees that he incurred along the way.

·      To appeal the “…at least 8 unresolved issues…” would require fees of $3,600, according to Sonoc, and that he might also be required to pay for additional island on-site visits by the Zoning Administrator, at a possible $134.30 per visit, based on mileage and ferry fee.   
     [As a personal note, I inquired about this fee in November with the Planning Department and was assured that although the ability to assess the fee exists, there is no intention ever to assess such a fee, nor has the Department ever relied on this fee.  Nevertheless, it exists.]
Will Door County provide clarification?   

It is hard to read such a letter as Sonoc's and not become upset, confused, and to want to ask further questions of our County government and its processes.   

We have no reason to doubt Scott Sonoc’s intentions or his sincerity.  He has shown himself in his dealings to be a man of his word, to be forthright.

As an owner of multiple properties, he is not a “developer” in the traditional sense, but instead he’s one who revitalizes old structures, seeking to improve what already exists.   He’s shown a deep understanding and respect for Washington Island’s past, as well as its future.   Through his remodeling and construction projects over a ten-year period of time - including fencing for pastureland - Sonoc has employed islanders and provided them with opportunity at a time when work has been scarce.

What happened to cause such a breakdown in County customer services?   Has this Island Business Incubator stalled through administrative entrenchment, the defense of institutional turf over public good?   Are there other, reasonable explanations for why this project cannot get approvals?

In follow-up correspondence, Sonoc wrote:
   “We believe that the County needs to revamp the way it … conducts its business with the citizens of Door County…We are fearful that with any project we undertake, including the Incubator, the County will come back and say something that will cause us to have to spend more time and more money whenever they choose to do so, simply because they can… We sincerely believe the County is an unsafe place to operate a business! …It is the sum of the bad experiences with Door County Government that has created our lack of trust in the County.”

Can common sense prevail for community advancement?   Will the sum of poor experiences cause others to shy away from progressive ideas?

We hope Sonoc’s project isn't dead and done.  But underlying his specific problems is the more confounding obstacle: the manner in which project planning is conducted within Door County.

Door County’s Zoning and Planning institutions, which citizens depend upon to be fair and consistent and lead to a positive future, require close examination by both its citizens and its elected officials.   Worthy projects, some greater, some lesser in scope than the Island Business Incubator will face a similar uphill climb if changes in process aren't considered.
Chalet exterior, remodeling in progress.  12/19/11

-  Dick Purinton    

Upper floor banquet / conference area indicates quality of chalet remodel.  12/19/11 

Friday, December 16, 2011


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Sixty days to the day it left Detroit Harbor for the shipyard, the ferry Robert Noble returned to homeport.

The work was extensive, as indicated in previous postings at this blog site, and a few snags were encountered along the way.  However, a successful underway trial was performed Wednesday, paving the way for a return trip Thursday, December 15.    Rich Ellefson and Hoyt Purinton brought the ferry home, skirting the west shore of Chambers Island rather than the inside route past Eagle Light, due to high winds forecast for the afternoon.   They had a chance to try out the extended rudders and steering system as they surfed across the Door in a west wind, and the breaking seas around the entrance marker.

Engines and systems performed well on the return home, the first prolonged test underway, and fine tuning will take place on several bugs still noted, such as ramp hydraulics.

Here are several photos to show the completed work.  Hoses and engine coolant, and tools will be stowed in the coming days, and serious cleaning will take place prior to painting, if weather cooperates and temperatures allow for maintaining reasonable engine room heat.    -  Dick Purinton

View looking forward and toward the centerline as
you enter the engine room space.
Detail photo looking down along centerline
bulkhead shows engine and gear electronics
pinned in control board where gauges are also
located. Aluminum plate at right protects
against accidental brushing against terminal
Port engine and forward bulkhead showing piping for cooling, fuel, and hydraulics.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hunt In Iowa - Part II

South Central Iowa -

The second morning, Sunday, began with a clear sky.  Rain had stopped a few hours after the Badgers had beaten Michigan State for the Big Ten Championship, which we watched with a hunting group from Kewaskum, WI.

Overnight temperatures were in the lower 20s, so that the ground began to firm up.  More importantly, the return of cold temperatures helped to get the deer moving about.  Because of the wet 24 hours leading up to Sunday morning, deer seemed anxious to move, returning to more normal activity.

Here are sample entries from Sunday, December 4, 2011:

   By the time the Badgers had clinched the Big Ten Championship vs. Michigan State, the stars had come out and the wind had shifted northerly.  We were more than ready for a night's sleep.  Hoyt had already turned in by 9 pm.   A shower and dry clothing felt like heaven to those who were soaked by the rains.  Earlier that evening while the boys showered and changed to dry clothes, I grilled cheese sandwiches at the stove.  It was pretty basic: hot buttered bread and melted cheese, with beer to wash it down.

 In the morning, I was the last to wake up, a few minutes after six.  My ear plugs had done their job! Hoyt and Thor were dressed and ready to go.   The Kewaskum group had left for their hunting grounds, and so had the pair of hunters from New York, in order to walk to their stands before daylight.  For some, there was a mile or more of hiking in the dark from their truck, by flashlight, to the spot they had picked out within the state forest.  

Hoyt had in mind for us a short drive to start the day, with himself walking in a N/S direction, and Thor and I would post east and west on a ridge above a creek in a small patch of hardwoods.  It was 28 degrees with the slightest northerly wind, and the ground had thankfully hardened after the mushiness following Saturday's saturating rain. Still, the pickup truck made deep ruts in the mud near the access gate, and when Thor and I set out to take our positions, we had to high-step through a creek that was swiftly flowing, deep enough to overtop our boots.  

This same drive produced two does for us last year, also on a Sunday morning by coincidence.  We didn't get a single shot today on this drive, but we did see deer on our way to the stand, and Hoyt spotted several deer, one a smaller 8-pt. buck, while walking toward our position. 

Hoyt and Thor changed to dry socks and boots (which they had the foresight to bring along in the truck), while I followed instructions to walk west, staying downwind of a tree break, paralleling  yet another creek bottom.   I would find a suitable location and stay there for quite an indefinite time. I began looking for a good spot to observe activity, and to have an open shot if the opportunity arose.   

As I approached the margin of the creek, an area thick with brambles and downed walnut trees, I saw a buck with two other deer ahead of me, beyond a ravine covered in dense growth.  I assumed all of these deer were bucks.  The lead buck's antlers were high, wide and white in the bright sun, and the size of the buck indicated its maturity.  It took off at a full run and was followed by the others. They crossed the densely covered creek bottom and in no time at all were high on the grassy slope of the far side, following a fence line that divided the land we hunted from private pastureland of a neighbor's farm.  All deer were at a full run, and they hesitated only once, at the top of the ridge.

With the morning sun low and bright behind me, I walked into the thick brambles to a downed tree that would be my seat and my hunting stand.  After the string of deer led by the large buck trotted along the far fence line, more deer soon trailed them.  Two diverted their direction of movement to a finger of trees that headed back toward the creek I overlooked, east of my position, and too far for me to identify antlers, or for me to shoot, had I been able to determine what they were.  There was also too much brush in between for a clean shot.   

Hoyt and I had Iowa antlerless permits only.  Thor was the only one to hold a buck tag.  

Within minutes, another deer, this time a doe, walked into view on the far bank, also traveling east.  It stood long enough for me to sight the cross hairs of my muzzleloader scope, and for the first time this hunt (and the first time in the field with this new .50 cal. gun) I shot.   The deer stood still, looked around for a few seconds, then it trotted slowly to the east.   As I followed its movement, trying to determine if it had been hit, yet another deer came into sight in the creek bottom, not more than fifteen yards away, its head poking above the steep bank on my side of the creek.   I crouched slightly as I began the process of reloading the muzzleloader, a somewhat clumsy evolution, and I glanced at the deer as it fixed eyes on me.  

Then, it disappeared below the bank, reappearing on the opposite bank where it climbed to level ground and open field, looking back toward me.  I saw two spikes between its ears through my scope.   I watched as it loped in the same direction as the doe I had just shot at.   The spike buck sniffed where the doe had stood, then began trotting off with its nose to the ground.

About 45 minutes later I left my stand, having seen at least eight deer in rapid succession, and I crossed the steep creek ravine to examine the grasses on the far side for signs of blood.  None were to be found, not a sign of having hit my target.  The cross hairs had been right on, but my shot was not.  The distance, looking back to the fallen walnut tree where I had shot, was around 80 yards, and within my range.

I recrossed the ravine, snagging gloves and sleeves in the thorns and bramble, only to see four more deer to my south, running across the grassy slope, alerted by my thrashing efforts.   

Nearly at my feet where I took my shot, half buried in grass and leaf debris, was half an antler, a shed possibly from the previous winter, with some of the tines showing signs of rodents nibbling them.  This would be my prize for the day, that and the blast of a 12-gauge from over the hill and through the woods, coming from the direction of Thor and Hoyt. 

Thor, changing to dry socks and boots.

[And this from memory...]

The sun went behind clouds around noon, and with that the air chilled. My damp boots and socks required me to stamp about to keep warm.   After a great start to the morning, for several hours I had seen only the neighborhood fox squirrel as it went from tree to tree, chirping down at the orange intruder.  Perhaps he saw his antler snack in my possession on the log.

Around 1 pm, I called Mary Jo to let her know how the day had been going.   While we talked on the phone, I heard a deep shotgun blast from over the hill and through the woods, a 12-gauge sound.

Thor with his buck.
Ten minutes later Hoyt called me to say that Thor had shot an 8-pointer, and he was tracking it to be sure it was down.   While I offered congratulations, another blast sounded.  "Now he's down," Hoyt said.  "Get the truck and drive over our way."

The rest of the afternoon was spent field dressing Thor's deer, and also the antlerless deer Hoyt had shot, not long after Thor got his deer.   We returned to the bunkhouse late that afternoon, pleased with our efforts.  One other hunter staying there had also been successful, shooting a 10-pointer.  As a trio, we had been lucky, and Thor had made a good shot at a deer that was moving away from him.  But Hoyt had carefully guided him in to that spot, so it wasn't all chance.

During our stay at the bunkhouse our host Terry Mothershead, who also guides during the various game seasons and is himself a terrific hunter (as is his wife and son), showed us the fine buck he took in November during bow season.  It's an example of what may be possible, given the right circumstances and patience in the field.

Iowan Terry Mothershead with
antlers that rough-score in the 180 range.

Although we hunted for four hours again Monday morning to fill our two remaining antlerless tags, we didn't get any shooting in, and we went home with Thor's buck and Hoyt's antlerless deer, and my half-set of chewed on horns.  During our stay, we had met other hunters at the camp, swapped stories, and we had watched two terrific football games on TV (Packers beating the NY Giants Sunday evening).

That's why we hunt in Iowa!

Hoyt and Thor, packed up and ready
to head home to Wisconsin.
-  Dick Purinton

Monday, December 12, 2011


Southern Iowa -

I've asked myself, and I've often been asked by others, "Why go to Iowa to hunt?"

Why would anyone want to pay for a permit to hunt deer- and receive a doe only permit - then travel 700+ miles in a truck loaded with gear, then spend the first day in a tent-blind in pouring rain, with virtually no opportunity to see or shoot a deer?

If you are from Wisconsin, it sounds like a good idea.   And if you have two sons eager to hunt, one who lives in Michigan, the other from Washington Island, steeped in hunting knowledge, and who gets excited just spotting deer from the Interstate - and if you'll spend 16 hours in the truck visiting, plus hours  hunting with them - that's time and money well spent!

But, I wasn't quite so sure of myself Saturday, opening morning December 3.

Rain had only begun to fall that evening, and it picked up speed and volume as the day flowed on.  I was assigned to a blind, a kind and gentle effort that distanced mea from the activities of the real hunters, Hoyt and Thor, who would sit in tree stands.  Eight hours later, I was grateful to have had that tent, despite its leaks and drips.  Each hour, I imagined those two boys in huddled on their tree stands, soaked to their long johns, getting soggier by the hour, shivering, suffering out in the open, waiting for the big buck that would never appear because it was too rainy.  Thankfully, the temperature had been a balmy 41 degrees that morning, a saving grace as opposed to 38 or 36 degrees.   I managed quite well, thanks to heavy hunting parka, coveralls and the blessed pop-up blind.

As an afterthought that morning, I placed a small notebook and pen in my hunting jacket pocket, along with shells, gloves, knife and a bag of trail mix.  What started out as a long day went rather quickly, I found out.  Here are sample entries, with approximate time of day:

   Our bunkhouse is situated in hilly, south central Iowa, an area noted for outstanding whitetail deer. Not only are the deer themselves larger than typical Wisconsin deer, the antlers of bucks are larger in spread and thicker in beam.  It's a fifteen minute drive from the bunkhouse where we slept to the private land where we hunt, rolling land which abuts a large, several-thousand acre state forest.  Oaks, deep ravines and adjacent grasslands with small creeks provide good habitat, along with nearby croplands of corn and soybeans.  

Unfortunately, this year's opening morning we awoke to steady rain on the tin roof of the Bar-M.  None of the hunters we stayed with were anxious to get started in the pitch black wetness, but the call to duty, the short 5-day season, and cost of out-of-state permits made staying indoors not an option.

I was dropped off first at the edge of a field, next to a thicket, while Thor and Hoyt drove further to a low field where they would park and hike to tree stands set up Friday afternoon.  Their stands would be somewhere on a wooded hillside overlooking both woods and field.  I considered their situation often those first hours as the rain intensified.

From roughly 10 am to 11 am, the heavy rain subsided to a moderate drizzle.  I began to hear the water flowing nearby, a 3-ft. wide rivulet that bubbled over stones, once the pounding rain had lessened.  Yesterday when we set up my hunting blind the ditch had been dry.  This ditch flows into a larger ditch, and joins several other small creeks on the property.  The dark, almost rockless Iowa soil is deep, and where creeks become swollen and flow fast, they cut deep, creating steep-sided gullies.

Hoyt told us on our drive here of a hunter on this same property a few years ago who drove his car across the dry creek bed. When he returned near dark after a day hunting in the rain, the water had deepened to 3 feet.   He had no choice but to try crossing with his car in order to get back to his lodging.  The car stalled.  With no one nearby to help, and without cell coverage, he walked to the top of the next rise along the road from where he could place a call for assistance.  Eventually, a tow truck came to pull him out, for a fee of several hundred dollars.   

It might be this way later today, the rising creek, if the rain continues apace.

12:45 and its raining hard as it has all morning.  Haven't heard from the boys since around 9:30 (by phone).  I've seen 7 deer so far, all at a distance, all does as far as I can tell.    My permit is "antlerless only" so I must avoid shooting any deer with horns...that are hard to see if hidden between large ears.   Almost impossible to differentiate small antler points on a moving, distant target.  

I called home and spoke with Mary Jo, a tech marvel in itself that, despite my being far removed physically, I am still tied in to home life.    At our home, in front of our house and near the water's edge, a wounded doe stood for over a day.  Its injury was apparent to Mary Jo, and it seemed unable to eat and was losing strength.   I had contacted friend Bill Crance on Friday, and Saturday morning he performed a favor for us and the doe by mercifully dispatching it.  He had also contacted the DNR to get their approval and to dispose of the carcass.   

This was an example of unintended consequence, not a welcomed sight, this victim of a poorly aimed shot during the gun season that ended the Sunday before.    

2 pm -   It's been spattering into the shooting openings of the blind, pouring continuously for the past several hours.  The little stream before me is now six inches deep and about 4 ft. wide.  The two deer I observed a short while ago ran swiftly through the corn stubble, perhaps moved from their cover by other hunters in adjacent property.  I am in no hurry to leave this tent, not until the sun goes down or the rain stops, not even to answer the call of nature.

Almost 3 pm -  It's rained steadily, hard that is, since noon.  I learned that Hoyt and Thor left the woods, returned to the bunkhouse for a dry change of clothes, then headed back to their tree stands.  By now, they are again soaked, I should think, and more soggy than at midday.    I've seen no deer since 12:30.   

The skies are slowly darkening as the afternoon fades, as if someone is slowly twisting the dimmer rheostat.  My tent, under downpour, now drips inside everywhere, but I'm still thankful my shift will end at dark and I'll not be required to spend the night here outdoors.  Even the ground inside the tent is soggy now.

I observed several small stones and one large flat rock, all in view earlier.  Now, they've been fully submerged and the current is swift, carrying with it sticks and leaves, sometimes leaves in clumps, and they temporarily dam up the shallow crossing in front of me.  It's still a jumpable creek, but it's rising.    

Hoyt told me during his last call that he has the stamina to last the afternoon, but he wondered if Thor may have to head to the truck and a warm heater.   Or, he may elect to walk my way - but I would doubt that, given the constant downpour.

Its been a day maybe best forgotten, memorable only for its miserable, relentless rain and stolen hunting opportunity.     

End of day, Hoyt and Thor return to the truck where I await
in relative comfort.  No shots were fired this day
 As it turned out, both boys stayed in their tree stands until dark, soaking up rain.  I photographed them as they slid down the muddy creek bank and waded across to the truck.   -    To be continued...
 -   Dick Purinton

Friday, December 9, 2011


Photo taken at last year's Christmas party:
 Kim, Frank, and her close friend, Janet Hanlin

Washington Island, Wisconsin -

We lost a great friend and ferry crew member this week, Kim Hansen.  Kim had fought illness over the past several years.  Her great spirit undoubtedly extended her stay with us, and she made others around her happy and comfortable, something we had hoped we might bring to her during our visits.

Kim was joyful and loved to have fun, often nuttiness.   She was the first person I've heard refer to the long sleep as a "dirt nap," while pointing out to her friend Janet her future spot of repose at School House Beach Cemetery during one of their drives together.  Her Christian faith produced such optimistic and forward-looking observations.

Prior to the opening of our current ferry terminal building, we had room in our tiny, old office for only one person at the front desk.  That same person also handled all phone calls, freight, and the considerable book work.  But with this current building, new in 1996, we had need for an additional person to share the work load.  After a stint selling tickets, Kim stepped into the role of customer relations (everything to do with freight, answering the phone, and people in general).  She soon became the dominant presence and our "Ferry Line voice," a job Kim seemed born to do given her pleasant, enthusiastic interaction with both customers and employees.

When former VP Al Gore came to town for the island parade
two years ago to promote windy ventures,
it took no persuasion for Kim to stand in
for the absent Tipper, towing Al's parade
float in this stylish Bobcat.
We'd gone to visit Kim in the past year not knowing if she would be up for visitors. Each time, though, she soon got out of bed or sat up, and within minutes was telling jokes and stories, laughing as much as we did.  

We're pleased to have been counted as friends and associates while she was here with us.

Our thoughts and prayers extend to her husband Frank, her children, granddaughter Caitlin, and family members.  Kim will be laid to rest for her "dirt nap" Saturday morning at School House Beach Cemetery following a service at Bethel Church.  
    -  Dick Purinton