First snow: Happier times ahead?

Coming out of my cardiac rehab session this morning, I was confronted with our first snow since last March. Sure, it was predominantly a mix of rain and snow, but it was enough to give a bit of a white trace on the parking lots and trees and streets. It was destined to remain on the ground for a very short period of time, but it was wonderful all the same! 

I rather enjoyed this, as I always do, because it seems to represent that we’ve “turned another corner” in the year—that winter is edging ever closer. Perhaps I’m alone in this way of thinking, but I’m hoping that it might bring about a change in everyone’s state of mind. Realistically, though…?

Maybe I’m just ready for another “corner” to be turned in this year of years! There is so much going on in our lives right now, that it’s hard—often—to breathe regularly, it seems. Besides the Covid-19 calamity, it has been a contentious year of political upheaval that has been very draining on so many of our social relationships. Anyone else notice that many friendships and relationships have sort of disappeared because of all this political “great divide?” Sad, isn’t it?

And I’m most definitely ready to turn another “corner” in my own health saga. For the past few years, I knew that valve replacement was inevitable…just not this year! And the need for a pacemaker wasn’t really something I ever considered previously, but the very real necessity to have one implanted during my “surgery week” back in August removed any doubt. 

Throw in the atrial fibrillation that came about somewhere before all of this stuff transpired, and it’s been just one more battle to fight. As I write this now, I’ve had two cardioversions since May, a change to some strong and rather vile medications to deal with the A-fib, and lots of discomfort and worry along the way. A cardioversion is a quick procedure that the doctor sends a control electric shock to the heart to attempt to set the heart back to a normal sinus rhythm. The one I had in May did that, but it didn’t hold for very long.

Fortunately, things on this front are seemingly working out regarding the recent cardioversion and the daily regimen of the meds.  The pacemaker is working fine, and the cardio rehab is a very good thing. I’ve lost about 35 pounds since last spring, for which I’m healthier on that fact alone.

 But enough of my albatrosses for now. As everyone else knows in dealing with life’s numerous curveballs it enjoys tossing our way, it’s a “one-day-at-a-time” thing.

So maybe my good feeling about the light snow that fell this morning—lightly and briefly—will be a signal that better times are ahead; that it’s time to put the current state of things behind us, and move on into a new and brighter time. At least, in my own way, I’d like to think that better and happier times are ahead. It will be nice to see all those smiles again, and maybe some of those friendships can be restored. Let us hope so.

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

That magic summer…

images-1.jpegIt was summer 1964. The railroad had just transferred my dad from Huntington, Indiana, to Ashland, Ohio, and we were in the process of moving. At first I had been enthusiastic about it all, but then as summer rolled around, and my Pony League baseball season with it, I wasn’t so thrilled about the move at all.

As things developed, we had a pretty good team, and I was patrolling center field, making catches that, in distant recollection now, still amaze me! And I actually was hitting the ball more consistently. And it wasn’t only me. Every other player on that team had somehow metamorphosed into steady players and excellent teammates.

It’s pretty much a cliché now to say that we “came together” that summer, but I know of no other way to put it, nor can I think of another group, club, team, or organization I’ve ever been a part of and say the same thing about it. We came together, indeed!

Even practices out at an old rural school several times a week were something to which we looked forward to with the eagerness of the typical fourteen year olds that we were. Often, my good friend and I would pedal our bikes the three or four miles out to the school and meet up with the others. Along the way, we’d have serious discussions about when I was images-3.jpeggoing to have to leave for Ohio and what it would do to our friendship.

As much as I wanted to put those kinds of thoughts out of my head and focus on baseball, there was always something there to remind me about how things were soon going to change in my life. I never wanted to admit that I would be a long way from the friends I’d known most of my life, so I usually tried not to take any of it too seriously.

On the last day of school that year, several parents had a graduation party for us, kind of an “end-of-junior high-getting-ready-for-high school” gathering. During the party, it seems that all anyone wanted to talk about when I was around was how I felt about having to move. I put on a fake persona, one where I shrugged it off and joked about it all, but, truth be told, I was really torn up inside.

And that’s where that summer’s magical baseball season helped. Why we–a ragtag group of basically mediocre ball players–turned into a championship team, is still beyond my wildest sense of reasoning. But we did, winning the championship with stellar pitching, timely hitting, and game-saving defense along the way.

Meanwhile, my parents and my sisters had made the move to our new home in Ohio in Unknown.pngearly August, but I still had a few weeks left of the season. I was invited to spend those days at my good friend’s house so I could finish out. Plus, I had been selected to be the starting center fielder for the All-Star Game, and I couldn’t miss out on that honor.

Somewhere in my “vault” of treasured memories and other pieces of my past is a faded newspaper article about our team winning the championship that summer. There’s an accompanying team photo with our smiling faces as we hold our trophies proudly and throw out endless wisecracks. We’re all sweaty, dirty, and very happy!

What I recall most clearly, though, was that the day after the photo appeared in the paper, I was on a train traveling to my new home in a strange and unfamiliar place and wondering what lay ahead, and the magic of that team of mine tucked away forever.

We all vowed to stay in touch and get together whenever the opportunity presented itself. For a time we did. But we all grew out of being fourteen year olds and our lives found their own varied paths. Eventually, I adjusted to my new surroundings and made some very good friends there. Yet, fifty-two years later, I still remember that magic summer!images-2.jpeg

Catching up: Busy days and friendship through the years….


It’s been a few weeks—nearly a month—since my last post, and I must confess that I really have no good reason to have avoided writing something in that span of time. Suffice it to say, however, that it has been a busy month with appointments, grandsons’ basketball games, getting the Thanksgiving together and the Christmas lights up and working. (Still can’t figure out those light timers!)

A splendid sunrise over the first snowstorm in late November
A splendid sunrise over the first snowstorm in late November

On top of that, we’ve had weather to contend with. About a week ago, we were hit by one of those early snowfalls that dumped nearly a half a foot of snow in most of northern Illinois.

Of course it would come in at the exact moment that my son and I were setting out for a five-hour drive to southern Illinois for our annual pheasant hunt with my good friend and his son.

Driving was slow-going for the first few hours, but the farther south we got, the snow dwindled, replaced by rain. By the time we got to my friend’s house, it was just cold, damp, and clear of any snow. We had a great couple of days there (we always do!) and the return trip home wasn’t bad at all.

About that friend…

Steve and I became long-lasting friends a long time ago, in late-summer 1973, when we both happened to be walking in the door of a small, rural school in south central Illinois at the same time, to begin our first days of teaching careers. Although we had never met before, there seemed to be a sort of instant bonding, since we were both in the same boat and were strangers in new and unfamiliar territory.

Steve was from way down in southern Illinois, a product of Southern Illinois University; I was from the western suburbs of Chicago and a recent graduate of Kent State out in Ohio. To say that it was good to meet someone in the same situation as I right off the bat, would be an understatement. And from that first “walking-in-the-door” meet up, we both tended to do things together, as we wound our way through those first hours, days, weeks, and months as teachers and coaches.

I soon discovered that Steve was an avid hunter and fisherman, two things I had never really done much of, other than a few forays out into the woods with my dad when I was too young to tote a gun. But I was soon invited to join Steve and a few other teachers for opening day of dove season.

That experience is one of those that gets etched in one’s memory! The recently harvested corn fields were drenched in golden sunshine, and the friendly chat among our little group did something that erased all the doubt I’d had about taking a job so far from familiar things. Perhaps for the first time, I really felt included (although I wasn’t a very good shot!), and the day turned out to be much, much more than killing birds. To this day, I cherish that late-afternoon we tramped through those shorn fields, waiting for the doves to come in, getting to know those other guys, and sharing things about my life with them.

My friend Steve
My friend Steve

Being single, Steve and I were pretty free to march to our own drummers. He and I would hunt and fish many times in the years that followed, and summers would find us playing fast pitch softball for a country tavern out in the boonies.

When I finally got married a couple of years later, things obviously changed–except for the friendship! That has remained. When an opportunity to move north came about a couple of years after I married, Carolyn and I took a chance on it, especially since she was from there. Although I spent most of my career there as a result, I really never forgot my beginnings down there in the small town or that very first dove hunt.

Since then, every November’s been a regular routine to travel on down for a day of pheasant hunting with my good friend Steve. We sometimes kid each other about what would have happened had we not been nervously walking into the school, at the same time, all those years ago. I suppose it was just one of those timely strokes of good fortune that we did.

Tales of the Coffee Mugs…

English: Since somebody objected to the image ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who knows me or has read any of my posts here, understands that one of my most favorite things each morning is that first mug of good hot coffee. My day doesn’t really come alive until I can enjoy that first sip of the stuff—almost too hot to actually drink—with a splash of half-and-half, and then, and only then, the day is permitted to begin and all things are possible.

And over the course of the years, our coffee mug collection at home has grown to the point of being ridiculous, almost to the point of qualifying for some Discovery Channel series, I’m thinking. We’ve almost run out of space in our kitchen cabinets that are reserved for the things. Be that as it may, I have two or three favorites I go to regularly, and, conversely, there are those I never use.

My criteria for my favorites consists of the following: size, shape, design or logo or other witty saying on the mug, and memories it conjures up. For example, one of my “regulars” is from the

2328-2448-homeHockey Hall of Fame, a place we visited in Toronto last summer about this time. Another one I enjoy came from the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield. It’s a perfect size and fits my hand ideally each morning (the mug, not the museum!)

A few that I don’t care for are usually those my wife has “collected” from various places she or I have visited. For instance, there’s a squatty, round thing that would barely hold enough coffee to sustain a gnat, but it has some design from Cherokee, North Carolina, that she liked, so it takes up space in the cabinet.

For obvious reasons, we don’t have the same number of mugs at our summer cottage. My two

10810494000D--ronjon_i_dont_do_mornings_mugfavorites were the wonderful mug from Ron-Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It’s a perfect size and has the typical Ron-Jon art work with the shark telling everyone: “I Don’t Do Mornings!”

My other “cottage” mug was the perfect mug, in that it was solid, had the name of the restaurant from whence it was “borrowed” years ago, and made me smile every time I thought of the person who did the “borrowing” and the laughs we always shared.

I write about that mug now in the past tense because while I was washing the dishes one morning last week, it slipped from my hand and met its end in the porcelain kitchen sink. I briefly gave some thought to trying to put it back together, but that would have been a fruitless venture, so it found its way into the trash instead.

I don’t think I’ll ever have another exactly like that one. The restaurant is out of business and our dear friend passed away in late March. I really don’t need some coffee mug to help me remember all of the good times with our friend, but it was a constant, silly symbol of friendship through the years that couldn’t be broken—unlike the mug itself.

I’m sure our collection of mugs will continue to grow, and there will be those I’ll love, and those that will sit and take up space in the cabinet. Either way, they will be little reminders of the good times we share together traveling and seeing new places….CortlandWriter

Goodbye, my friend…



Even with the excitement of publishing a new book, and hearing from so many who have purchased it in one form or another, today is rather sad for me–something which brings everything right back to earth. And that is the passing of a very good friend.


Our friend, in his late 70s, hasn’t been in the best of health the past few years, but this is very unexpected! I intend to write more about our good friend, Bob, in future posts, but at the moment I’m going to step away from the blog, forego any marketing and promoting of THE GOOD LUCK HIGHWAY, and reflect on the many memories I have about Bob and our times together.


Like that freight train out there right now, slowly passing the water tower, our lives are here but for a moment and then are gone away down the tracks. Goodbye, old friend!…CortlandWriter

Fishing (Photo credit: nicholasjon)



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Tradition, Pheasants, Cold Beer…

Every November, the weekend before Thanksgiving, my son and I take off for southern Illinois for two days of pheasant hunting, laughing, and drinking a few cold beers (not all at the same time, mind you!) The occasion is the annual “reunion” with my best friend with whom we spend the time at his log cabin in the wilds near Sparta. 

My son will pick me up very early Saturday morning, and we’ll hop onto I-88 for a short trip west to I-39 where we’ll travel south to join I-55 in Bloomington/Normal to take us deeper into south central Illinois. A few hours later, we’ll arrive at my friend’s remote cabin, and all will be good once more! It won’t be long before the first of many cold brews is fished out of the well-stocked, well-iced cooler. If it’s one of those wonderfully comfortable warm, temperate southern Illinois’ November afternoons, we’ll not have a worry in the world. His dogs, down a ways in their pens, will offer a bark or two in greeting, hoping that it’s time for their romps around the fields out back. 

We will hunt pheasants at Wayne Fitzgerald State Recreation Area on Sunday morning, but in the meantime Saturday will be a day of swapping new stories and re-telling old and familiar ones we’ve heard a million times through the years and simply catching each other up with all that’s been going on in our lives since last we met. And as the day wears on, we will begin to make plans for Sunday’s hunt over near Rend Lake. Despite the impending early-hour “wake up” the next morning, we’ll still spend some hours Saturday night going to one of our “traditional” restaurant/bars for dinner and, of course, enjoy one or two more beverages before calling it quits for the night.

Now I want to make it very clear that I hunt once a year with my son and my friend (and not very well, usually!) but it’s a tradition that is permanently inscribed on my autumn calendar. The old adage that it’s not so much the outcome of the hunt which is important, but the hunt itself surely holds up in this little annual activity we share. My friend, let it be said, hunts and fishes and does things outdoors many, many times during the week. He is a deadly shot and a wise scout when pursuing the prey. His dogs are well trained and a pleasure to watch work as they pad and nose about in thickets and underbrush and along hedgerows that seem to extend for endless miles. 

Up by 5 a.m. Sunday, we dress and scold ourselves for being way too “convivial” the night before, and gather up or shotguns and ammo and head out to the truck. The dogs are loaded up into their travel boxes which are filled with a straw bedding. Usually, we’ll make a quick stop for coffee at the convenience store and then continue the 45-minute drive over to Wayne Fitzgerald State Park. The first order of business will be to visit the “check-in” station and secure our official tags and assigned hunting area. Next, we’ll get back in the truck and make the short drive over to the Lodge where they serve a terrific “Hunters’ Special” breakfast. This cholesterol fest is quite good: eggs, hash browns, bacon, biscuits, gravy, toast, and orange juice. A few more cups of coffee makes it all the better, so we’re well fueled for the morning’s walk in the fields. Afterwards, we drive back for the “meeting” with all of the other hunters as we’ll be instructed by the DNR guy of all the rules and regs that will be in effect for the hunt. We’ve heard them so many times that we can recite them right along with him!

Once we’ve met and been dismissed out to our assigned areas, we wait for 9 o’clock and then set off to attempt to get our limit (2 pheasants apiece). The first 30 minutes always sounds like a war zone. The released birds from the night before have stayed in the underbrush and corn pretty close to the road; they haven’t run yet. Many hunters with luck and good shooting skills on their side, often obtain their limit very early into the hunt. Others, such as us, usually have to expend way too much effort and energy walking the fields and fence rows to come close to “limiting out.” 

We know that the enjoyment of the day is all about just being there, and shooting a few birds is really a bonus. Weary and forcing the arthritic knees to forge on as best they can, I think good thoughts of the post-race beverages and food that we’ll enjoy. Many of the adventures that have transpired after many of these hunts are  legendary–and best left for another post.

How this tradition came to be is a story in and of itself and will be the topic of my next post as well. The friendship that developed between the two of us is well worth writing about. It will take us back to August of 1973, oh, so many years ago. Yet the memories are as clear today as if they had just taken place. It will include watching our sons grow up and be an important part of this tradition. My son, a graduate of Southern Illinois University and employee with the City of Naperville; my friend’s son, a high school graduate and proud Marine who saw action in Faluja, Iraq. It will be about how we watched them grow and share in the tradition themselves.  

I look forward to reliving many of them in the next post. With those good thoughts of friendship and traditions and sons we love, I travel on down this road on a sunny and windy November Friday afternoon…MLA