Category Archives: Columns

Crazy Cat

Along with a birdfeeder, we also have a heated waterer attached to a porch post. Birds stop there for a drink, but so do barn cats–not at the same time.

I understand the cats coming for a drink when everything is frozen outside. I just don’t understand how they take a drink some of the time.

Most get up on a ledge, also built for feeding birds, but mostly empty these days as cats like to sit there. Some cats take a sip from the edge near where they are standing.

Adventurous cats plunge their paws into the water and drink from the opposite side of the ‘birdbath’.

Taking a drink this way isn’t bad on a mild day, but I’ve seen them do this when it is extremely cold outside.

I haven’t seen any frozen cats, but I can’t see the reason they have to drink while dunking their tootsies.

I just hope they can off their feet fast before they freeze.

Taking a drink from the far side of the heated birdbath.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved

Bob never changed

Since I’m working on my column collection, I’m coming across stories about Bob. This one was written in January 1981. I think it shows how Bob never changed. Over all his years on earth, he had an odd sense of humor.

Here’s misery in perspective — January 22, 1981

Days don’t come much more miserable than this. Outside, the wind howled, whipping snow and sleet into a cold lather.

I anxiously waited for my husband to return home. I expected him to be equally as miserable as the weather — cold, wet, and disgusted. So, thinking of him, I warmed some hot chocolate and turned up the thermostat.

Finally, he came in the door. But instead of stomps, groans, and grumbling about the weather, I heard laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked. I figured I could use a good laugh to brighten my day, too.

“I blew the van’s radiator hose,” he giggled as he shook the snow off his jacket.

“Oh, that’s too bad…. but what are you laughing at?”

“The radiator hose, on the van… It split right in two… Rotten clear through.” He continued laughing as he removed an icicle from his chin.

Had the pressure of the day finally taken its toll? Had Bob popped his cork, causing everything in his head to come babbling out?

Not wanting to upset him further, I said, “Why don’t you come and sit down. Put your feet up. Rest for a while. And tell me all about it. Start at the beginning… the very beginning.”

“I was going to town to get a tractor part when smoke started pouring out of the back of the van.” He giggled.

“It got worse as I drove. By the time I reached town I couldn’t see out the back window.” He laughed again. “I thought the engine had blown.

“The radiator hose broke… just the hose. Not that bad and I was right by the hardware store… I even had my tools with me and money in my pocket.”

“So?” I waited patiently for him to get to the funny part.

“So, I bought a new hose and fresh anti-freeze and fixed it right there… right in the parking lot.” He smiled.

“So?” There must be a punch line in all this.

“Nothing else… don’t you get it?”

“No. All I understand that you had trouble with the van. But somehow I don’t think that’s funny.”

“Don’t you see? It could have been worse… much worse… It could’ve been the engine… or it could have gone out halfway to town… or when we were broke… or when my tools were in the truck… or when YOU were driving alone…”

“I’m not laughing,” I told him as I lowered the thermostat.

“You don’t understand. The hose… the parking lot… Our luck’s changing… I guess you had to be there to appreciate it.”

“I guess so.” I nodded as I drank his hot chocolate. “I’m glad I wasn’t. I might have laughed myself to death.”

That was my Bob.

Bob relaxing back in the early 1980s.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved

Sharing an early column

I continue to work on my column book collection from 1980-81. I thought I’d share one essay today. It’s about three-year-old Becky (Rebecca).

Why Cut Becky’s beautiful hair?

Farmer’s Friend newspaper May 8, 1980

I am going to cut my three-year-old daughter’s hair! I can’t stand it any longer! Becky’s hair is long, blonde, and constantly stuck to a lollipop or a runny nose.

A nearly bald baby, pink ruffles did little for Becky. Even a bow pasted on her sparsely covered head brought, “Gee, isn’t HE cute,” or “Such a nice little BOY.”

I had one last idea to proclaim my daughter’s femininity. But my husband stopped me. He didn’t like the idea of writing GIRL across her forehead in indelible ink.

I had to wait for her hair to grow of its own free will.

Meanwhile, I washed and brushed the fine strands that appeared. Finally, she could no longer be mistaken for CHARLIE BROWN. She had hair the length of my finger.

But along with the changes in her hairline came a drastic change in her attitude. The comb and the Brush became her enemies. Daily she booby-trapped her head as a defense against these weapons. She stubbornly used her hair as a handkerchief, a testing ground for sailors’ knots, and a hiding place for gum.

Becky even tried to camouflage herself as a straw-headed scarecrow. But her tactics backfired. A flock of birds spotted her and tried to turn her into a large nest.

I didn’t mind our confrontations much. It was worth it to see her bright and shiny, if only for five minutes. But the last straw came when she arrived home after chasing the cat.

Her brother heralded her arrival. “Becky’s got that stuff all over her again.” His announcement could mean anything. In the past, she’d been covered with black marker, mud, and manure. I had to wait for her grand entrance to discover what it was this time.

To my horror, I learned Becky had followed the cat through an old fence row. She stood before me with a halo of burrs.

I was at my limit. I picked up my sewing scissors. My hands were shaking. I couldn’t cut yet. I had to calm down and get most of the burrs out first.

I picked as gently as possible. I now know I should have used the scissors and given her a “butch” there and then. Instead, we worked together and cried together until her hair was picked clean and the scissors were no longer needed.

After the work was done, Becky looked the picture of innocence. Her long, blonde hair pulled out of her face in pigtails—nice and neat. I let my masterpiece out to play where the world could admire her beautiful hair.

I may regret it, but I guess I’ll wait to cut her hair until tomorrow.

Photo of Becky taken a little later but still with pigtails.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved

Back in time

My original column collection, made into a book, was a selection from the first four years of my column. My late friend, Colleen Sutherland, helped me choose from my scrapbook. She affixed stars to the one she liked–the more stars the more she liked the column.

Today, I’m going through the complete first two years to make it into a book on its own. I’ll be adding a few extras and some photos–we never put photos in the early years of my column, which is too bad. Now I have to search for some that are appropriate to go into my book collections.

These first columns were in the Farmer’s Friend out of Denmark, WI. It wasn’t until 1982 that the Wisconsin State Farmer added my column to their newspaper, the Seymour Times-Press came later.

At this same time, I was also a local reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Compass.

Setting up another book is slow going, but at least I’m moving forward. It’s something to keep me busy.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved

Daily visitors

The birdfeeders Bob made years ago are right outside our kitchen window. Having feathered visitors is a blessing in winter. I hope the seeds I put out are also a blessing for the birds.


It’s a good thing our barn cats are so well fed. They don’t bother the birds at all.

Copyright © 2020 by Susan Manzke, all rights reserved