’tis the season

It’s been a busy week in Tomah, getting ready for Christmas. A real treat every year is the St. Mary’s School Christmas Program put on by the 200 + kids, faculty, and parish employees. On Saturday,  Ann and I went thru the Sparta Christmas light display. On Sunday night, we attended the Gloria Dei Potato Supper followed by marimba concert performed by former Tomah student, Brad Steinmetz, currently a band director up in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014 we had an interview with WEAU-TV’s  Judy Clark at 5:20 PM,  concerning new book Seneca Seasons.  After returning to Tomah we went to the Methodist Church where a choir of home schooled kids performed a very special Christmas concert.

Today, Thursday Dec 18 we are giving a presentation and book signing at the Mauston Public Library at 6:00 PM.

And I’ve been out playing guitar and signing  ??? at 6 retirement homes/assisted living places here in Tomah. We pass out a packet of 23 songs and invite folks to sign along or just follow along, or they can just ignore us!!

So do enjoy the Christmas/New Year’s season. Get out and attend some of those events.



AnnLarryEauClaire BradSteimetz at GloraiDeiChurch JudyClarkLarry MethodistHomeSchools2SpartaLights

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News from Tomah

Yes, winter has set in, the quiet season, when the countryside is barren, bereft of greenery and growing crops. But there’s ample life out there, deer and wild turkeys, and we see formations of geese overhead. I think those are the mentally challenged geese, all the smart ones are down in Missouri and points south.

I remember going out in the fields about this time of the year on that Seneca, Wi farm on Oak Grove Ridge to load up the last of the corn shocks to take them in to the corn shredder parked next to the Big Barn. Seems like half the shocks would have mice living under them, having built their warm dwelling for the winter. Here we come along and destroy it. Those mice would often tunnel through the snow at ground level, and those tunnels were visible from above.

We’re into the second week of Advent and the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Mary is the Patron of the United States, you know. A Mass and celebration afterward is held at our Church on Dec 8. The reception/celebration, in St. Mary’s basement, is for all those who do any volunteer work for the Church. That’s over 300 people. Love those meat balls served with red wine!

Ann and I are out doing science presentations and book signings for Ask A Science Teacher and a book out in late September Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers. We go to Elroy library on Dec 10, science presentations on Dec 11, and Dec 12 at Sparta, Mauston library on Dec 18, Midway Farm Show at the La Crosse Center on Jan 14. Television interviews on WXOX-La Crosse on Dec 12, and WEAU- Eau Claire on Dec 16.

Been out playing guitar/singing at assisted living homes and care centers in Tomah. Six of them in total. We do Christmas songs right now, at noon when they are eating and talking. They don’t hear too good, and I don’t play/sing too good, so it all works out fine!



Barnes and Noble WestTowne 080

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The quiet time of year……

We have reached the quiet time of the year. Lake Tomah has frozen over, the trees are bare, and the songbirds have fled Wisconsin for warmer climes south.  The Advent season has begun, Christmas tree lights are alit all over Tomah, the countryside is blanketed with 3 inches of fresh snow.

Ann and I have been out on the circuit, signing both our newest science book Ask A Science Teacher and a book out in late September Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers. We ordered another 96, the fifth such shipment. They come 24 in a box, so we order four boxes at a time. Also, ordered another 50 science books.

We took a bunch down to Johnson’s One Stop Shopping Center in Seneca. You know their motto “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. Artie Johnson and wife Deb, a former student of mine in Tomah and a very bright young lady, have graciously agreed to sell both books at their store.

We have presentations coming up at Barnes and Noble at West Towne Mall in Madison on Dec 6, Elroy Public Library on Dec 10, Mauston Public Library on Dec 18.

We have television interviews with WEAU in Eau Claire and WXOW in La Crosse in mid December.

Life is good and good health is truly a blessing. Ran a 5K race last night, the Tomah’s first annual Santa Run leaving from Gillett Park and moving onto dark icy pathways. Took me 37 minutes to run it, about the speed of a fast walk! Substitute bus driving a few times this week.

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Meeting people and book signings

Wife, Ann, and I had a very fine time at the Saturday November 8 Craft Fair at  Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on LaGrange Ave in Tomah. We sold and signed about 25 books, both our newest science book Ask A Science Teacher and a book out in late September Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers.

Had a good talk with Mr. Vann, who was the baker in Tomah for many years. He told the story of his surviving a 1969 plane crash of a KC-97 refueling tanker attempting to land at General Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. Four of the eleven on board were killed.

We will be at the Burnstad’s Holiday Showcase this Thursday, Nov 13, from about 4 PM to 7 PM. This Tomah event is very popular with local residents and a big crowd is expected. Fred Weiner, who did the 48 illustrations for Seneca Seasons will also exhibit some of his art work.

Also looking forward to the Nov 15, 2014 Saturday Seneca, Wi.  Town Hall Lions Craft Fair from  9-2PM. It will be good to see and talk to so many of those “dear hearts and gentle people from my hometown.”

007 12 frontcover

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We are coming to Seneca

Reedsburg Book Signing 11  1  1412 backcover???????????????????????????????12 frontcoverWe are coming to Seneca.

The book Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boys Remembers is available from Amazon.com or directly from me, the author, or you can attend any one of the upcoming book signings. We’ve had 2 so far, at Kirby St. Matthew’s Church, north of Tomah, and at Reedsburg Craft Fair, and they have gone very well. Here is the schedule thus far:

Nov 8, 2014 Sat. Good Shepherd Lutheran Church 1221 LaGrange Ave

Tomah, Wi 9 AM-2 PM.

Nov 13, 2014 Thursday, Burnstad’s Holiday Showcase, Tomah, Wi 3-6 PM

Nov 15, 2014 Sat Seneca, Wi. Lions Town Hall Craft Fair,  9-2PM

Nov 7, 2014 Monday 10 AM talk and book signing, Wilton, Wi  Library

Nov 22, 2014 Sat Methodist Church Craft sale, Tomah, Wi 9-3 PM

Dec 6, 2014 Sat Warrens, Wi Cranberry Discover,

Dec 10, 2014 Wed Elroy Library, evening

Dec 18, 2014 Thursday 6 PM, short talk and book signing Mauston Library (Hatch)

Feb 7, 2015 Sat Tomah Historical Society Chili Supper and Fund Raiser at the KC         Hall, Tomah, Wi   4-7 PM

It will be especially poignant to be back in Seneca on Saturday November 15. Hope to see a lot of the people I grew up with. Folks who have read Seneca Seasons invariably have said such things as, “that sure brings back a lot of memories”  or “you know, that’s just how I remember growing up”. One fellow commented on my use of the word “zerk” in referring to a grease fitting on machinery. He said he used the word “zerk” when talking to friends, and they didn’t know what he was talking about. Well, it’s plain to see that those folks didn’t grow up on a farm or been around farm machinery.

My descriptions in Seneca Seasons (my wife Ann picked the title) of the one-room country school out on Oak Grove Ridge brought these comments: “you took me back to 1949, when I started attending such a school” and “the basket social, snowball fights, softball games, spelling bees, Gosh, I had the same experiences.”

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Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers

The book Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boys Remembers is finally out. It is the memoir of my growing up on the Crawford County farm, 2 miles from Seneca, in the southwest Wisconsin. I was born in 1942 on a rental farm on Wauzeka Ridge. The Scheckel family, Dad, Mom, and six kids moved to the 238 acre farm in the spring of 1945.

The older three siblings, Rosemary, Ed, and Teresa were gone from the family farm when I was about 8 years old. So I grew up with Phillip, a year older than me, and Bob, a year younger than me. Three younger sisters, Catharine, Rita, and Diane, came along later.

Seneca Seasons is mostly about us three Scheckel boys growing up together. Chores, farm work, hunting, fishing, arguing, games we played—it’s all in there and more. The threshing crews of the  mid 1940s, farming with three horses, putting hay up loose, cutting oats with a grain binder, shocking corn and shredding, cutting wood with a crosscut saw, milking cows in sweltering heat and bitter cold, and attending the one-country school out on Oak Grove Ridge.

This book is for anyone who grew up on a farm or wish they had, or who wonder what life was like in the United States in the 1940’s and 1950’s, or speculate about growing up in a large family of 9 children, or likes to eat at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

Learn how the one-room country school was a focus of rural life. How family, school, and church stimulate and induce the way we lived later in life. Of friendships formed and lessons learned on the playground.

Find the answers to these questions: Which of the nine Scheckel kids backed up the green 1953 Chevrolet farm pick-up truck and the back axle hung up with the wheels spinning? Which of my sisters run over a brand new 10 gallon can with the truck, claiming that the sun got in her eyes? Who broke his arm falling out of a tree hunting squirrels, put his fingers in the corn sheller, and nearly cut his foot off with an axe? Who urinated on the electric fence- and never did it again? Who put a pig ring in his own nose?

This is a blatant advertisement for Seneca Seasons and it is available on amazon.com. Makes an excellent Christmas gift. My wife, Ann, and I have already had a book signing and will have several more in the next few weeks. At book signings, we sell the book, (40 pictures, 48 sketches, 3 appendices) for only $12. Or an unbelievable deal of 2 for $24. A little joke !!


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Why life on Earth?


Why was Earth chosen to have living things on it?


Five good reasons! First, Earth has water, the most essential ingredient for life. Earth is the perfect distance from the Sun for water to exist in all three states, solid ice, liquid water, and vapor or gas. Water contains oxygen needed for life, it doesn’t harm the skin, and it’s needed for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process of turning water and carbon dioxide, with the aid of light, into oxygen and sugars used as plant food. Water is drinkable, and permits molecules to move around easily. Mercury and Venus are so close to the Sun that liquid water would boil away. The planet Mars, and Titan, a moon of Saturn, may have water below the surface, but that’s only speculation.

Second, our atmosphere is ideal. It contains breathable oxygen, put there as the byproduct of plant growth. Our atmosphere has some carbon dioxide, which animals and humans give off as part of respiration. The tiny bit of carbon dioxide helps moderate the temperature of Earth. Mars, Mercury, and the Moon are too small to keep an atmosphere. You need enough gravity, and Earth has it. As a bonus, the Earth’s atmosphere is thick enough to filter out many harmful ultraviolet rays. Our magnetic field deflects tons of particles from the Sun that would otherwise kill us in short order.

Third, Earth is blessed with a beautiful climate. The temperature is ideal for life. Mercury and Venus are too close to the Sun, and go from 600 degrees above zero Fahrenheit to 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Those extremes are not conducive to life. Mars is a tad warmer, but at 140 degrees below zero Fahrenheit at times, water and blood would freeze. The outer planets have no solid surface and are way too cold.

Fourth, is something that McDonalds and Walgreens have figured out. It’s location, location, location. Earth gets just the right amount of sunlight. Earth is just the proper distance from the Sun to get sufficient heat and light to permit life to flourish. It is too hot on planets closer to the Sun. It is too cold and dark on planets at a greater distance from the Sun,

Fifth, Earth receives sufficient light for trees and other plants to produce oxygen by the process of photosynthesis. The Earth’s rotation, once every 24 hours, insures that each side of the planet receives sunlight on a regular basis. Venus takes 243 days to spin once on its axis. Any place on Venus is in darkness far too long to support vegetation and life.

Recall the Goldilocks and Three Bears bedtime story. The porridge was too hot, too cold, and just right. The armchairs were too hard, too soft, and just right. The bed was too high, too low, and just right. Goldilocks wisely chose the “just right’ version each time.

Earth is “just right” in terms of location, size, rotation rate, mass, gravity, water, atmosphere, climate, and magnetic field.

So far, we’ve been discussing life our solar system, which is a tiny little corner of the Universe. Is there life on other planets in distant solar systems? Most scientists think the answer is yes, but there is no proof. For now, our Earth is all we know, and we had best take real good care of it.

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