Something I’ve always associated with Puckaway is feeding the birds. Richie always made it a priority; one of the first things we’d do upon arriving is open up the pole barn and fill some buckets with sunflower seed to stock the feeders. This was a way for me to pitch in and work with my grandpa even when I was too young or small to help with much else. The chickadees were so used to us that they’d eat out of our hands.
When Richie got older and his congestive heart failure started making even light work difficult, I’d drive up here ahead of him to take care of chores so he’d have nothing to do but relax and enjoy the place. Feeding the birds was always the first task on my list.
The first several years after Richie passed away, I didn’t do much of anything for the birds. Overnight stays outside of deer camp were rare, so I wasn’t even around to watch them come in. A lot of the feeders were falling apart and our general neglect of the property didn’t make the birds seem like much of a priority anymore. You could hear chickadees from the margins of the yard and there were signs of woodpeckers on every dead tree off of the driveway, but a lot of songbirds stopped coming in all together. It started to bum me out as just another example of how I couldn’t keep up with the place.
And then Jacob was born.
A Puckaway video log entry is an idea I’ve toyed around with since I started posting entries last spring, but I was beat to the punch by almost 25 years. Here’s Richie, in late November of 1991, admiring the fresh-fallen snow:
Grandpa bought a VHS camcorder some time in 1988. Starting that Christmas, it was ever-present at family gatherings, on his trips to Florida and Canada, and it even made it to Puckaway a few times over the years. I have his entire collection of tapes, nearly 25 hours of footage in total, digitally preserved. I’ve left things unedited, only cutting static between recordings. I want to start cleaning this collection up further, and figured a Puckaway log entry would be a fitting place to start.
Taking photos of and transcribing the log pages has been a fulfilling way to connect with the past of this place, but it can’t top being able to hear my grandpa narrating a trip. There’s nothing too profound or significant being discussed, but it doesn’t matter. Welcome to puckaway.net, Beeba. Thanks for posting.
Jake and I rode in around 7:00 pm after a stop at Piggly Wiggly to stock the fridge and cabinets. Got all kinds of goodies: brats and italian sausage, canned veggies, chips and salsa, juice boxes and snacks for the boys (Jake picked out some Little Debbie brownies), essentials like ketchup, mustard, horseradish, and butter, and two six-packs of different Wisconsin craft beers. There’s now a whole aisle devoted to smaller Wisconsin breweries at the Princeton Pig—a welcome surprise. I brought in the groceries and goods from Oshkosh while Jake got his trucks set up by the pole barn.
With the fire danger holding at Moderate, it was safe enough to burn in the pit. I started the pump and began to fill a 55-gallon drum as a precaution, pulled the truck around to the pole barn, poured some old boat gas around the base of the pile, and tossed a match. Wasn’t long before we had a roaring fire. I kept an eye on it while unloading tools from the back of my truck. Once the pine boughs and smaller branches all burned off, we were left with a sizeable pile of thick logs and a warm, low flame. Jake and I cozied up on the bench in front of the pole barn and watched it burn down until he decided he was tired enough to turn in for the night.
Came up at 6:30 and got things settled in the trailer. Turned on the A/C right away as it was 80° out with 90% humidity. Had to clean out the drain hole on the back of the unit as the fan was slinging water. I need to come up with a solution to protect that from the elements and leaves and whatnot while still letting it vent properly. I spent some time in the pole barn getting a workstation set up for cutting down the trailer door, the one project I’m absolutely determined to finish this weekend. Aside from looking much better, being able to latch and lock again, and doing a better job of insulating the trailer, I’m hoping this cuts off one more point of critter entry.
I installed the adapter I needed to finish the kitchen sink drain and tested everything out. I really appreciate being able to wash up inside—sure beats hanging out by the pump with all the mosquitoes. Dressed the bed with the clean sheets I brought up with me and did some general housekeeping. Spent the rest of the night lounging and watching TV. It’s going to be a busy weekend, so I might as well relax while I can. The new “ducting” on the A/C sure seems to help it circulate better; it got down to 70° in the trailer and the difference in humidity is immediately noticeable as soon as you go outside. In bed by 10:30.
Eye in the Sky – The Alan Parsons Project
Thanks to satellite/aerial imagery, it’s easier than ever to see how things are progressing at Puckaway. I’ve collected a few different pictures and found an image slider plugin to use for them. It’s pretty cool.
Bing Maps vs Google Maps
The two heavy hitters in free online aerial photography really show how much the land changes throughout the course of the year. I couldn’t find exact dates, but I think the Bing image is from the summer of 2013 or 2014 and the Google one is from fall of 2014. The marsh ATV trail is well-established now, as both pictures show, and with the Google image you can see the yard pretty clearly.
Leader of The Band – Dan Fogelberg
I was watching some of my grandpa’s old camcorder footage the other day (which I will eventually upload). He was taking panning shots of the big trailer and talking about his plans to build additions onto it. It hurts a little to listen to that now. Richie always had plans like that. This is why Puckaway has an abundance of bricks, lumber, plywood, corrugated metal sheets, piping, small engines, lawnmowers, appliances, and everything else that makes up the clutter we’re now focused on clearing out. My grandpa grew up during the Great Depression and spent the rest of his life never taking anything for granted. Throughout his career with the City of Milwaukee Sanitation Department, he was in a prime position to snatch up all sorts of leftover building materials that otherwise would have been scrapped. Later, when his son-in-law, Andy, owned and operated Custom Craft Vehicles, Richie had another opportunity to grab cast aside treasures. He was always on the lookout for deals and never passed up an opportunity to take on a new project.
Plenty good came from his drive over the years. Grandpa built all sorts of things from the nice hardwood pieces he got from CCV. Some of the bricks he salvaged found a place in landscaping at Puckaway, his home, my aunt’s house, and my parents’ house. Worn-out railroad ties became garden boundaries. Richie had a knack for repairing small engines and I don’t think he ever had to buy a new (or even running) lawnmower, riding or push, in his life. He had plans for everything he salvaged, he had the know-how to see those plans through, and most of what he salvaged in his lifetime ended up at Puckaway.
I’m Your Captain – Grand Funk Railroad
My grandpa kept a log of every visit to Puckaway. And “log” is definitely the right word. These were not verbose journal entries or opinion pieces. He took down the events of the day. The work he had done, what the weather was like, who stopped by–stuff like that. I’m not sure how much they would interest anyone else, but they help me bind my memories of him to this place.
Richie wasn’t the only one who kept the log. If Inee (grandma) came up with him, she’d usually take up the pen. There are entries from their friend Jeannie, my mom, my aunt Linda–it served as a guestbook of sorts where visitors could briefly transcribe their experience. There are even occasional mini-entries and margin notes from a young me. After grandpa died, my dad took over writing duties during deer camp. But while I came up as often as I was able, I would never write.