The Baby Chicks Arrive at the Scheckel Farm

Oh, did we raise chickens! It was a major source of income for the Scheckel family on the Oak Grove Ridge farm in the heart of Crawford County in southwestern Wisconsin in the 1940s and 1950s.

Mom and Dad bought chicks wherever the price was right, which means the lowest price. They would drive to Olewien or Cedar Rapids in Iowa or Prairie du Chien, in Wisconsin. The female laying White Leghorn chicks were received in April.

The Cornish Rock roosters were purchased in May. They were for slaughter and sold to stores in Prairie du Chien and Viroqua. Often, the baby chicks came by mail. Yes, the rural carrier mailman motored out of Lynxville and would have 4 or 5 boxes of the little peepers stacked up the trunk of his car.

Dad and Mom received a postcard in the mail that gave the date the baby chicks were to arrive. There was always the worry over cold weather. Baby chickens need to be kept warm.

The big day arrived in late March or early April. The mailman pulled his Chevy Coupe into the driveway of the farmstead, instead of the usual mailbox stop. A rope from the trunk latch hung down over the boxes and was tied to the bumper.

All of us kids gathered around, getting as close as we dare. We could hear the chicks chirping and beeping away. We tried putting our finger into one of the air holes of a box. Mom scolds “back away kids”.

One by one the boxes were lifted out of the trunk, kept very level by the handler. Three or four boxes are stacked on our toy wagon. We fought over who got to pull the wagon tongue. Phillip usually did, he is bigger, he is older, and he gets first dibs.

Bob and I held the boxes in place atop the kids wagon as we slowly made the journey to the chicken coop. We paused by the door. Mom opened the door, removed the top box, placed it inside the coop, and close to one of the brooder heat lamps.

The boxes were about 2 feet on a side, and 5 inches high. The side of the boxes had an ample number of half-inch round holes so that the little chicks could get fresh air. Each box was partitioned into 4 compartments using cardboard walls. About 15 White Leghorn chicks were in each little compartment.  This arrangement of cubicles prevented the chicks from crowding together and smothering each other.

We reached in the box and cradled a baby chick in both hands. Then we would dip the chick’s beak into the drinking fountain water. Baby chicks had to be taught how to drink water. Then we would place them ever so gently under the heat lamp, amid admonitions to “be careful not to squeeze them”.

We found them so small and cuddly. We are curious about their tiny yellow feathers, small black eyes, and beaks that opened and closed.

Chickens were Mom’s job. That was her undertaking. Dad would tend to the cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, but Mom raised the chickens.

The chicken coop or brooding house was prepared days in advance. Walls were cleaned, floor scraped clean, and disinfected with a smelly brown liquid applied with a wide paint brush and sprayer. That stuff was so bad it was later banned. But it did kill lice!

The brooder was installed. A contraption with a sheet metal hood, four sided, apron down to about 4 to 5 inches. A thermometer kept track of the temperature. Temp had to be about 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mom had to go out to check the temperature of the brooder almost every hour. Chicks soon develop their own heat, so the thermostat had to be turned down or backed off periodically.

We helped set up glass bubblers for water and small metal trays for chicken feed. Baby chicks needed warmth, water, food, and a quiet brooder house. Sudden, loud, sharp noises would frighten the wee fowl and they could bunch up in the corner and smother.


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The Elevator Falls

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The Elevator Falls

If you are in a falling elevator, can you save yourself by jumping up just before it hits ground level?

I’m selecting question 95 from our new book coming out in October.


A fine question and one that people have debated for many years. Good luck, but if the elevator falls any significant distance, jumping up will not likely save your life.

First of all, if a cable has broken, you would be in free fall and floating around inside the elevator, much like the astronauts in the International Space Station. They are in constant free fall. There is only a slight chance your feet will be in contact with the floor at the moment the elevator hits the bottom of the shaft. But let’s say your feet are ‘velcroed’ to the floor and you can somehow anticipate the proper time to jump upward.

Pretend the elevator falls ten floors, or about 120 feet. You would be going about 88 feet per second or 60 miles per hour. Let’s assume you can normally jump up in the air a distance of four feet. (Only a few basketball players have a four-foot standing jump). You would jump upward at 16 feet per second or about ten miles per hour. So, if you subtract the 10 mph from the 60 mph, you’re still slamming into the ground at 50 mph. Now remember, most of us can’t jump up a distance of four feet. We’re lucky to do two feet. So don’t count on saving yourself in a falling elevator by jumping up at the last second. It will not work, either for you or the star forward of the LA Lakers.

Not to worry, however. If the elevator cable breaks, safety devices will stop the elevator from falling. Elisha Otis invented the safety elevator in 1885 for the ten-story Home Insurance Company skyscraper in Chicago.

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Life Goes On

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Life Goes On

It appears that the Los Angeles Dodgers are passing me over again, and not calling me up to pitch for them this season. I thought I could help shore up their bullpen….well, maybe next year. In the meantime, I will continue to write, bike, fly RC, jog, travel, wife and family stuff, church,  etc. Our new book, I’ve Always Wondered About That is due out in October. I’ll put one of the Q & A below.


If you hit a golf ball on the Moon, how far would it go?


            The moon’s gravitational pull is one-sixth of what it is on Earth. If we weighed ourselves on the Moon, our weight would be one-sixth of what it is on Earth. A person who weighs 120 pounds on Earth would weigh about 20 pounds on the Moon.

Physicists have calculated that a golf ball hit on the Moon should be in the air for 70 seconds and go 2.5 miles. There is no air on the Moon, so there is no air resistance. The ball would not be slowed down by running into air molecules. The best angle to hit the ball would be 45 degrees. The ball coming off the Moon tee would be traveling 180 miles per hour.

Some assumptions must be made. In a bulky astronaut suit, it is very difficult to get the kind of dynamic swing one could make here on Earth.

Also, the dimples on a golf ball are useless on the Moon. Those dimples grab some of the air clinging next to the ball and mix it with the fast-moving air going around the ball. Dimples give the ball extra lift. There is no such lift on the Moon, as there is no air.

In February, 1971, Alan Shepard became the fifth man to walk on the Moon. He took two golf balls and the head of a Wilson 6 iron golf club with him. While on the Moon, Shepard taped the golf head to a lunar sample tool and hit the two golf balls, swinging the club with only one arm. The second one he jokingly said went “miles and miles and miles.” In fact, it went a few hundred feet at best. The astronaut space suit was so confining, Shepard could only produce a very weak swing.

What about terminal velocity? An object dropped from a height of several miles here on Earth will go faster and faster until the force of air resistance upward is equal to the force of gravity downward. When those two forces are equal, the ball does not go any faster. We say it no longer accelerates. It falls at a constant speed, which is termed “terminal velocity.”

A human, jumping out of an airplane without pulling the parachute, will have a terminal velocity of about 120 miles per hour. It would take him about ten seconds to speed up and fall a distance of about 1,000 ft. A golf ball, dropped from a great height above the earth will have a terminal velocity of around 200 miles per hour.

An object dropped on the Moon will not have any terminal velocity. Because there no air on the Moon, the ball will go faster and faster (accelerate) until it strikes the surface of the Moon.

You might want to try this cool science exercise. Stand on a chair or stepladder and drop one of those flared coffee filters. Notice that it reaches its terminal velocity, or maximum speed,  quickly and within a few inches of release. For the rest of the distance, it falls at the same rate. The weight downward (force of gravity) is equal to the force of air resistance upward. No further acceleration takes place.




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UW Madison Writer’s Institute

Source: UW Madison Writer’s Institute

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UW Madison Writer’s Institute

Ann and I attended the UW Madison Writers Institute at the Concourse Hotel this past weekend. We were very fortunate to earn First Place in the nonfiction One Page Prose or Poetry Contest.  The entry was a piece from the Seneca Seasons: A Farm Boy Remembers memoir about growing up on a farm in Crawford County in the 1940s and 1950s. The One-Page is below.

The Missing Yearling                                           non fiction

Bob came back from counting yearlings. “I counted 31,” Bob said. “There’s supposed to be 32, you know, maybe you missed one. All three of you boys go count ‘em,” Mom replied. Phillip, Bob, and I set off to do a fresh tally. We found the herd and counted 31.

We searched for an hour and found the absent yearling, lying peacefully against a short cliff alongside Kettle Creek. We poked and prodded, pleaded, and twisted her tail. She would not move. With tractor and trailer, we moved the young heifer from creek bed to the Little Barn, empty during the summer. “She broke her back in a fall off the cliff,” Dad contended.

All summer I tended to the young cow, keeping a dish pan full of fresh water. I brought fresh grass clippings several times a week, and furnished oats and hay for the stricken animal. She ate and drank like any other heifer. She pooped and peed like a normal grown calf. But she couldn’t stand up.

I stroked her face and jowl, patted her neck, felt her rough tongue as she ate ground corn out of my hand. I talked to her. I confessed my problems and asked for advice. I was ten years old and she was less than two, but she understood. She had such beautiful eyes.

She was crippled for life. Dad couldn’t take her to Seneca to the livestock barn. Finally, Dad called the rendering truck. My new-found friend was shot with a .22 long rifle. She immediately plopped on her side.  The rendering truck operator used a winch and tied cords around her feet and pulled her aboard the truck. Dad talked to the man for a few minutes. Then he climbed up in the cab, started the engine, drove pass the garage, turned left onto Oak Grove Ridge road and headed toward Seneca.

I ran to the back side of the Small Barn where no one could see me. I climbed over the fence and walked down through the corn field about 30 rows in and started crying. I sobbed so deeply my chest hurt for several days.  Not all friends are human beings, I found out.


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