Here's another letter home about our lives on the peripheries of the farm up here in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
By way of background, in order to bring in some income while caring for her mom, Louise, in our home, Deb had taken a job as the Forest County Medical Examiner/Death Investigator. She was the county's first trained medical professional to hold the job, but was not being compensated accordingly, so was heavily involved in negotiations with the County Board of Supervisors over her salary.
During this time, a very small, exceedingly energetic 70 year old lady, affectionately referred to as Squirt by the entire community, was coming to our home as a paid aid to help with Louise and some of the household chores. Her husband had recently died, and Squirt had taken a developmentally disabled woman, Cathy, into her home for some added income. We often tried to help Squirt as need arose.
This letter was dated:
December 24, 2007
This week started off on a weird note. Deb had a meeting scheduled for Monday evening to discuss what she wanted in terms of a full-time salary and benefits package in order for her to continue providing Medical Examiner/Death Investigator services for Forest County. Her current annual salary of $12,000 with no benefits for a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 day a year on-call schedule just doesn't cut it. Some of the Forest County Supervisors don't seem to understand.
Anyway, before the meeting, she dropped by Squirt's house and found her a bit rattled. Squirt had just dropped by the pharmacy to pick up some meds, and a stranger that was in the store had followed her home. When Squirt got out of the car at the house, the guy pulled up and got out of his car and asked Squirt if she had a can of gas that he could have. She told him, "No, but I'm sure that the gas stations are still open." He hesitantly turned away and muttered, "I hope I have enough gas left to make it to the station." And then he appeared to drive off. This was particularly wierd since he had to have passed at least one station in following Squirt from the pharmacy to her home.
Deb had Squirt call the police to come out to report the incident. Then Deb had to get to her meeting, so she called me to come in to town and spend the night with Squirt and Cathy in case the guy showed up again. I didn't know quite what I would be able to do if he did show up, other than act as a slight deterrent. I am not a hunter, but do have an old shotgun that belonged to my grandfather, but no ammunition. I have always thought that threatening someone with a gun would just as likely escalate a break-in situation to one of deadly violence, as it would scare them off. I opted not to bring the gun, but had a two foot long ice fishing pole in the car that maybe I could snag him with if I had to.
It turned out that I needn't have been concerned because Squirt met me at her door wielding a golfing putter in one hand and a can of spray Pam in the other.
My vision was fogged for a while. And I still have that greasy kid look to my hair. Also, a throbbing soreness in my left knee cap still has me limping. But Squirt and Cathy are safe and sound.
After taking off my boots in the kitchen and convalescing on the couch for a bit, Marge, the wife of my old haying partner, Butch, showed up at the door. Fortunately, I was able to convince Squirt to crack the door a bit and see who it was before she started sprayin' and swingin'. Marge had taken Butch over to the same meeting so that he could register some personal complaints against the zoning commissioner, and she had been sent over to check on us by Deb.
After repeating all of the sordid details again, Squirt wanted Marge and me to come see some special gifts that she had made that were down her cellar steps off the back porch. So Marge and I followed her out of the house, and down the steps to see her gifts.
Then we turned around to go back into the house, but the door I had pulled shut to keep out the cold air was locked. Squirt's face turned to stone. She had just that week replaced a window that her daughter had broken out when she had gotten locked out, and Squirt did not want to pay again for a replacement.
She checked the nail where she normally keeps her extra key. Not there. She went into the garage to check the car. Not there. We were good and locked out.
Then Squirt gave herself a dope slap, remembering that Cathy had just gone to bed not too long ago, and ought to be able to let us in. We banged on the door and hollered all to no avail.
Squirt had no coat, and I had neither coat nor boots and was in my stocking feet. Nonetheless, Squirt went outside into the middle of thee street to holler to Cathy to wake up and let us in. No luck.
Then Marge and I trounced around the house in more than a foot of wet snow looking for a way to break in. All of the windows were locked, as was the front door. Eventually, I found a pry bar and broke the door jamb on the front door and got in. By that time, Squirt was shivering and hoarse from shouting. My feet were frozen and I couldn't speak coherently from the chattering of my teeth, but we were back inside. I put the door jamb back together again well enough to close the door, and sent Marge home before she caused any more trouble.
I fell asleep on the couch, ice fishing pole to my chest, and feet propped on a cushion thawing, and dreamed of pulling fish and unwanted predators/stalkers through holes in the ice.
The next day, Squirt went back to the pharmacy and found that the guy had attempted to return some razors that had not been purchased there. The police also told her that the guy had also tried to get free gas down in Mole Lake eartlier that night. Someone got his license plate number, and it turned out that the guy was from the big city (Rhinelander) and had quite a rap sheet for fraud and petty theft. Anyway, that was the last that we saw or heard of him.
I guess it sure was a good thing I was there that night. After all, I was able to report to Deb that someone did break down Squirt's front door, but I was able to keep Squirt and Cathy safe.
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