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Friday, August 27, 2021

 I realized today that my homeless struggle was as much about lack of a newsroom as well as an address.

That's because I'm on to a story.

I wrote earlier on in this blog I felt like General Patton, who bemoaned losing his Army during the greatest battle in history.

I am no George Patton but this battle against COVID is our greatest public health battle since the Spanish flu in 1918 which killed in the range of 25-50 million. The pandemic was driven by a lack of good medical information, bad hygiene, close quarter near the end of World War I.

What I missed was that story I always worked on, regardless of newspaper, where I could dig deeply and uncover something hitherto kept quiet. And I allow myself only one use per year of "hitherto" so enjoy, dear reader.

I've written a news story and a column about the story.

After hundreds of unmarked graves were found on the grounds of assimilation schools for the indigenous people in Canada, my mind wandered to the Hayward Indian School in my new -- and last -- city.

The Hayward Indiana School operated from 1901 to 1934 and according to records from the Office of Indian Affairs -- later the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school generally rated as one of the worst in the vast system of assimilation schools. Children were taught how to grow healthy vegetables and raise dairy cattle as job training but the results were sold to the community. Children were fed moldy bread. Most of the runaways from the school were simply out of hunger.

Worse, if an Indian boy attempted to speak his language or honor his elders with a dance, he would be sent to a jail cell in the basement of the boys dormitory.  After once incident, young girls had to wear a sign that read, "I will not squaw dance."

The term "squaw" has been considered for generations to be racist and misogynistic -- well known at the time of the boarding school.

Thus far, my search has been difficult, even with help from folks on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation just miles from my house and office.

I suspect that if there is an unmarked cemetery on the grounds of the old school -- a 640-acre plot now inhabited by Hayward Memorial Hospital -- there are no records to document it.

I have found reams of documentation about the failure of Northern States Power Co, when it flooded the old Indian cemetery, to move graves. In my research, I've found graves -- open to the elements now -- remain on an island on the Chippewa Flowage.

Today I received an email from the National Archives office in Chicago. An archival technician digitized a bunch of letters and records for me.

For friends who know me, this is like Christmas.

And if you know me, you'll know how I intend to spend my weekend.

Yep, I'm home -- in a newsroom.

Peace and a mission unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 23, 2021

 You cant go home again.

I write the cliché because I returned to my hometown last weekend to take one of my brothers out for his birthday.

We had a great lunch, hot beefs at the place where I used to bartend. The recipe hasnt changed in 70 years. As we sat there waiting for lunch, I told the bartender that about 30 years ago on a slow afternoon, an older guy walked in and bought a beer. He asked if we still served hot beefs, like the kind we did in the 1950s. I served him a sandwich – on me – and asked what he thought. Same hot beef, he said, with a mouthful of tender meat. I responded, Yeah, probably the same cow.

Now I was that older guy.

We drove around a little bit – its the first time, though, in recent visits where I didnt get lost on the new highways around town.

My brother asked if I wanted to drive by the old family home.

I couldnt do that.

But we drove down the main street, which has changed and stayed the same. I looked up to see the windows of my dads old law office.

We stopped at the Leinie Lodge where I dont get points off even though Im an inaugural member.

We drove through Irvine Park, our beautiful little reminder of the Northwoods before it was timbered (thats a word up here).

The visit was beautiful and Ill see my brother again soon. Thankfully, hes patient with my humor.

For some reason, though, nostalgia makes me sad – and it shouldnt.

I had a great life in my hometown and so many friends I cant count. In fact we ran into an old friend at the bar. That only makes sense in that city.

I cant be sad for what was once.

Only rejoice in those memories.

Because I returned home to Hayward, my newest and last city of residence, happy to be home.

Which is where I am.

Friday, August 20, 2021

 Thank you all.

In the last 24 hours, passed 200,000 pageviews -- something unthinkable when I started this trip May 1, 2020.

I knew when I received a call that I would get a visit from the regional editor the next day at noon, I would be laid off as part of the GateHouse-Gannett merger. News articles said the new company would find $300 million in synergies and for the first time in my life, I became a synergy.

I surmised I would lose my apartment at the newspaper and the likelihood of a jobless man finding an apartment with little savings would be impossible in a major university town.

So that night, I poured a stiff drink and purchased url for all of $10.

I needed something to do after a job in which I worked everyday and figured I ought to keep my writing skills sharp. (Said skills remain as sharp as one of those second-grader scissors that couldn't cut the cheese -- I'm not allowed to skip that joe now I'm back in Wisconsin.)

I had no grand dreams. My last blog garnered all of 55 pageviews -- 45 of them were mine I'm pretty sure. So I didn't set up online ads or accompanying social media.

My friends, who were more adept online, shared the first few posts via Twitter and within four days, I had 20,000 pageviews -- and The New York Times calling for an interview.

During the nearly 250 posts, I've attempted to be as honest as possible even if I appear a horse's ass on occasion.

And there were times -- particularly when I moved into a rental house in Hayward, Wisconsin, my new home -- I contemplated ending the blog. But then invariably, I see something, experience joy or have to rid my mind of stupid jokes, I realize I have something to write.

The process has been exhilarating and exhausting, freeing and embarrassing.

Rather like life.

And now I now I can't give it up, at least for now. You'll get to follow me as I return to Indiana to get my stuff, any trouble I might get into and a Christmas visit from my kid. 

Thank you, dear readers, for taking this trip with me.

Peace and posts unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


My abundance overflows.

After years of being "too busy" to get to the Farmers Market or roadside stand, I'm working to get the bulk of my calories from fresh produce grown locally.

Oh, and gin. Lots of calories in a martini.

I've said to myself for years there's always next summer. Then next summer. Then I didn't have a job. Then I didn't have my cooking equipment. And so on. Until a decade had gone by before I had purchased fresh, local produce.

This, the summer marking the end of my struggles, I'm making changes.

Above you'll see some of my abundance: arugula and red lettuce; fresh oregano and basil; heirloom brown sugar tomatoes along with mixed cherry tomatoes; green onions -- not the ones from Booker T. and the MGs; and finally a giant $1 daikon, a mild white Japanese radish.

This haul will produce salads through the weekend.

It's not just the abundance of food but of friends, of life.

Some new friends took me to the Sawyer County Fair, where we inspected animals and 4-H entries. Drank a couple beers. Then watched grown men trying to ride angry bulls, upset their privates were knotted with ropes. Also, there were awesome women riders competing barrel racing and a clown (of sorts).

This is not my natural milieu and thus a beautiful experience.

Abundance indeed.

Peace and abundance unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 16, 2021

 Goodness overflows.

A reader of the Homeless Editor blog who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, has offered to buy Mrs. Stoppelkamp a subscription to my little newspaper so she call follow our progress.

A random act of kindness to a complete stranger.

This little trip of mine has produced so many blessings and they continue to unfold, just as the blog nears 200,000 pageviews.

So many random acts of kindness occur everyday, ending up as small details in someone's life. That the kindness is small, a drink, a meal, a newspaper subscription, does not make the effort any less important.

The acts, giving and receiving, form the foundation of a beautiful life so long as we're paying attention.

This entry will be short as this is a busy week and I have much to catch up the reader.

Peace and kindness unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, August 13, 2021

 Mrs. Stoppelkamp called me the other day.

There was a time, when working on a column, I would ask myself, "What would Mrs. Stoppelkamp think?" Then I would buff the rougher edges of my comment so as not to upset her.

When I worked at the Burlington Times-News, Mrs. Stoppelkamp would call to tell me what she thought of my columns. She was forever kind, funny and utterly Christian in her reaction, even in disagreement.

One day, she came in to work to give me a birthday hug.

She always found a way to make my day.

Well she did she called.

"Sawyer County Record, this is Rich," I answered.

"Rich Jackson?"


"This is Nancy Stoppelkamp," she said.

Now this was on production day where we're putting out the newspaper. It's the day where all my elderly colleagues and I sit at our desks and sweat. One minute out of my time is one minute too long.

But for Mrs. Stoppelkamp, the day stopped. I would talk to her as long as she wanted.

We caught up on health, news about our kids and life in general. As always, we laugh much.

Mrs. Stoppelkamp read one of her most recent religious poems and it was quite beautiful.

I don't know how long we talked because people are more important than anything else and I reserve time for all in front of me.

Before hanging up, we promised each other to stay in touch because we hadn't talked in two or three years.

What a remarkable life I've been given to have made so many dear friends, here, near and away.

Peace and friendship unto all of you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 9, 2021


My VisionQuest as a amateur student of history was met Saturday during Jackpine Savage Days in Spooner when I found a bar that commemorated JFK urinating in the joint.

Oh, dear reader, I apologize for all the questions you might have right now.

So I don't bury the lede (journalism jargon for the first paragraph) while John F. Kennedy toured northwest Wisconsin in the 1960 primary, he stopped everywhere. My dad shook his hand twice while Kennedy walked up and down Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls. His driver was my dad's friend Pete Dugal of Cadott.

And when Kennedy made it to Spooner, he had to go.

I don't know when the sign went up on the men's room door but there should be a historical marker outside. JFK peed here. And it turns out I do a really killer impression of Kennedy saying, "I, um, uh, ur, rathuh have to go." Hearing it is worth the admission price.

Second: the jackpine savage.

If you look it up, the jackpine savage online is invariably a man, someone who can live for a long while in the woods, on his own and and without commiseration.

When I worked in Wisconsin Rapids, we found many jackpine savages who lived in Adams and Juneau counties but inevitably they were on the cusp of mental health issues. If you drove past a compound where someone lived in an old school bus, had a pillbox made of sandbags and flying an upside-down flag signifying distress, that was going to be a jackpine savage.

Also, do not turn around in their driveways. Because sure as hell, you're were going to be in the crosshairs of a 12-gauge.

But I love my home state where a bar marks the momentous pee of a political candidate.

Peace and pees unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, August 6, 2021

There I was, presenting this year's Academy Awards along with Tony Randall.

Mind you this is a dream of two nights ago.

So it doesn't matter that Tony has been dead since 2004. Or that I don't really see Tony, we just yell directions at each other. Or that I'm viewing myself in third person, like a little drone is following me. And that I have no role in the movie business.

What matters I've been thrown into the role with no experience, training or rehearsal.

The show is a cluster of epic proportions. No, not like the James Franko/Anne Hathaway debacle. That was a polite, well-staged production of "Our Town" in comparison.

This is like watching "Let's Make a Deal" where everyone in the building has done three lines of blow.

Audience members run everywhere, including on stage and behind the curtain. Instead of elegant envelopes, the nominees are listed on a board like "Family Feud" -- "and the winner is ..."

I don't recognize a star and haven't heard of any of the movies, all of which are sequels.

And all of the categories have been changed, replaced with acronyms that sound like IKEA products. (I  joke on the spot -- biggest laugh of the night.)

One category is moved back stage, where only two movies are nominated and one of the nominees has to walk down this half-mile long hallway and all the audience can hear is the click, click, click of heels for minutes.

Through it all, I can already hear the headlines of "Worst TV ever" and "New presenter the biggest bomb ever."

I started a flop sweat that had to be mopped up behind me.

The morning alarm saved me from the savages of the press.

The meaning of all this?

That's the feeling I suppress from my job and life right now.

Days earlier, I had a dream in which I moved to a community I know moderately but my vehicle was this large, white behemoth with round, rubber balls at tires. I couldn't see out the front window. When I tried to drive straight, it went sideways. If I attempted to park sideways, it lurched forward into bicyclists.

I finally managed to park it and walk the city, only to find I knew nothing about it. The fine-eating establishment I walked into was a seedy strip joint. The food trucks moved as I walked. And the university I sought had moved next door to itself without providing a means of getting from one to the other.

I understand my feelings and reality is much better. I'm used to being the answer guy and six months in, I'm still the question guy. I'm doing much better than my dreams.

And I wish I had a chance to meet the real Tony Randall.

Peace and sweeter dreams to you and my brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 2, 2021

 In a rare condition, my pool is dry -- I am spiking my weekly column for just one week.

I've rarely done this in nearly four decades in which I could write a column.

Sure, I have stuff I could write. I always have ideas shooting around my head like a pinball, trying to hit a neuron to light up and make a noise.

But I have nothing over the last couple of days and rather than noodle out some lame piece -- I see fellow columnists do it often -- I'm going to relieve readers from crap.

I won't bore you with the demands on my time but they are enough for me to fail in fomenting a column. I think "Failing Fomenting" is my new autobiography title.

I did make some blueberry bread for a friend's dinner this weekend and that was a better feeling than writing. I worked with my hands. I made something tangible. The bread was actually consumed.

It's a good reminder to return to the basics of life, friends, family, food.

Peace and blueberry bread unto all of you my brothers and sisters.