July 09, 2023

Like I Don't Have Enough To Worry About

Like I Don't Have Enough To Worry About

By John R. Greenwood

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, another warning appears. Low coolant in your radiator, low air in your tires, and low-flying planes in your backyard all add up to a life filled with warning signs. The problem is no one pays attention. I should say no one cares. Every day is like a game of roulette. I even started to write Russian roulette, but any word that surfaces a vision of crazy Vladimir makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. 

How do we navigate a world filled with landmines of warnings and fear while maintaining some semblance of normalcy? You have to walk a tightrope of common sense without falling prey to agoraphobia. It's real, and it's spreading like a Canadian wildfire.  

Personally, I take a lot of deep breaths and steps back, always searching for a "happy" medium to keep me informed, safe, and mentally prepared for the next snare. 

This morning's walk was the perfect testing ground for my observations. I enjoy the solitude of an early morning walk. You get to enjoy the sounds and sightings of songbirds and munching rabbits versus the squealing tires of Ricky Bobby or the rumbling exhaust of Whistling Diesel. The sign triggering this piece was the Low Flying Planes warning up the road. Honestly, the sign is a comfort. Fortunately, we have a large tract of farmland visible from my house. It has a seldom-used runway for small planes, a large pond, a hayfield, and a horse pasture. The multigenerational property is well-maintained and a gift to the neighborhood. The sign was itself a sign to open my eyes to more signs. It didn't take more than a stone's throw to be overwhelmed with warnings on metal posts. 

Stop signs are a given, yet they are the most ignored signs. They should replace the word with a pair of dice. 

Unless you want a shotgun in your face, they can take down "No Soliciting" signs. Nobody in their right mind knocks on a stranger's door these days. The only dog in our house goes in a bun; no clean up required.

 "One Way" signs are the most accurate and timely. In 2023 we all believe there is only one way: "Our Way." 

The "Weight Limit 4 Tons" signs at both ends of my road are nagging reminders to skip the pastry and grab an apple. 

Speed Bumps Ahead
Front Page News…

Do teenagers even do that anymore? 

The last time anyone went around
this corner at 15 M.P.H. they were on a horse.

The sign may be a bit tired, but the message is not.

As I came through the gate of my own backyard 
I was greeted by the best signs of all. 
Thanks Mrs. G. 

July 07, 2023

When Is It Time?

When Is It Time? 

By John R. Greenwood

When is it time to part ways with things that have served us well? This pair of sketchy Sketchers is a perfect example. I have a closet full of shoes, boots, and sneakers to choose from every morning when I head out the backdoor, but one pair of shoes always seems to end up on my feet. Like a favorite hoodie or pair of Levi's, we sometimes develop a relationship with items that give us comfort. I've been slipping my feet into these tired old shoes since I retired a few years ago. I've said my goodbyes more than once, only to retrieve them from the abyss with an apology and another day's worth of yard work. It's a split between wearability and respect for something that has never let me down. This premise includes everything from pickup trucks and lawnmowers to slippers and work gloves. For me, it's more than being frugal and squeezing the last bang out of a buck; it's about giving inanimate objects their due. It's hard to turn your back on something that has held up their end of the bargain. Many can relate to this simple story of a beaten-up pair of leather shoes. It extends to our interpretation of the world and how we live our lives. Taking the time to appreciate the little things around us doesn't cost a thing. In fact, it's a habit that pays big dividends in the Bank of Karma. 

My sketchy Sketchers are safe for now. 

We both have work to do. 

May 01, 2023

Waiting For Agnes

Waiting For Agnes 

By John R. Greenwood 

a pound of ground beef she says

I’ll only be a minute

who’s she kidding

its been twenty

in dog minutes

no less 

wag more 

bark less 

she says

naw on a bone

watch the squirrels 

I’ll be right back 

she says

all you do is growl

these days

we never romp anymore

I miss you nipping 

at my ear

she says

the puppies are grown

they’re on their own

the backyard’s empty

we could dig deep holes 

and howl till 

the neighbors 

come home

she says

with all my training 

you’d think 

I would have

 learned by now

she’s right 

I think I’ll go inside

fetch her the biggest 

box of Milk-Bone’s

and a new pink collar

one with sparkles

our puppy-love 

has endured 


cat scratches

porcupine quills

and kennel cough

forty-nine years in June

human years

doggone good years

pee-on-the-rug-happy years


I love that bitch 

April 29, 2023

I've Gotta Split

I’ve Gotta Split 
By John R. Greenwood 

“I’ve gotta split” has a different connotation for me in 2023 than in the 1960s. In the 60s, it meant you had to leave. In April 2023, it means attempting something I’ve never done before.

We recently had two large maple trees in our yard taken down. Although they still had a little life left in them, they’d both become safety concerns. I called our old high school friend Tom at Tom Mullens Tree Service. Domiciled just a few miles away, Tom’s business is as local as they come. Within days the maples were down and sliced into big old rounds. The larger limbs were cut into manageable-length logs that could be cut up later.

We don’t burn firewood ourselves, but I have a friend who uses it to supplement his home heating. The pain of losing two trees was eased by knowing it was going to a good home where it “wood” be loved and appreciated.

With the help of my neighbor Jose and his son Harper, we were able to manhandle the heaviest rounds, move them from my front yard to the backyard, and line them up along the edge of my driveway. There they would await back-recuperation and warmer weather. Because the rounds were much too heavy to lift onto my pickup, I now had to figure out how to load them or reduce them to a size that made them easier to handle.

This is where my “Bucket List” comes into play. Mine is a little different than the more traditional list. Rather than one that includes traveling to foreign countries, visiting the Grand Canyon, or parachuting from an airplane, mine has things like rebuilding a carburetor, tiling a bathroom, and splitting firewood. I recently admitted to my friend and firewood aficionado, Chris Leske, that I’d never split firewood. His eyes widened, and his response instantly bumped splitting firewood from #7 to #1 on my average-man bucket list.

I soon learned that all wood is not created equal and that those rounds in my yard were actually granite slabs carved to look like maple. If you’re planning to cut your wood-splitting teeth you may as well start with the densest material known to man. Anything I attempt to split after this wedge-resilient beast will be like slicing a cheese round with a hatchet. Why not start at the top and work your way downhill.

My maiden voyage splitting wood at the age of 67.75 was both exhilarating and rewarding. I improved with each swing. My confidence and country boy street cred inched up a notch, and with each popped hunk of maple-rock, my smile widened. My back was not that impressed. 

You’ll never know if you don’t try. If you succeed, it encourages you to move on to another challenge, another mountain hill to climb. My bucket list remains fluid. I just purchased a 30-year-old chainsaw that supposedly “ran when parked.” Amazon promised me a new carb kit in the mail today. I might just cross off another bucket lister by my birthday!

Thanks for stopping by.

Now, I've gotta split. 

April 26, 2023

First Mow

First Mow
By John R. Greenwood

Lawnmower clogs of fresh cut grass are a welcome change from the wet snowblower variety. April is only on week four, but if I'd waited any longer to mow, Vincek’s Farm would have another field to hay. A wimpy winter and 24 hours of cool rain had my lawn as thick as the fur on a Samoyed’s back. Even the dandelions looked exhausted trying reach the surface. 

I’m not a lawn snob or grass-rat. I know my monetary limits when it comes to golf course quality lawn care. The moles and grubs keep me on the edge of crazy and a dirty carburetor on the mower almost resulted in the neighbors having to call 911 to report a rabid old man foaming at the mouth in his driveway.

I’ve been an active member of the “First Mow Club” since I was designated a teen. Even though I’m now deep into geriatric territory I still look forward to that first pull start. It’s different now than it was fifty years ago. Now the grass I mow is my own. The mower, the rake, the view from my front window is mine. My yard is far from Augusta National but it’s my personal labor of love—bare spots and all.

There’s been a movement in recent years to turn front yards into native flower gardens or at least let them grow uncut through May. This in an effort to provide pollination habitat for bees. I fully support and commend those who embrace this admirable practice. I’m simply not wired for it. I’ve been edging walks, raking grass, and trimming lawns for my entire life. I did it as a boy to put money in my pocket and as a young father to buy baby formula. Now it’s mostly therapeutic and the best exercise money can’t buy. To sit by and let the yard go wild in the spring would be cruel and unusual punishment for me.

I do have a confession to make. In the heat of last summer I purchased a riding mower to give me some needed relief. It was a not purchase made easily. I felt like a traitor, a sellout, and a fraud. I still do. I feel guilty when I’m barging my way around my 1/4 acre on a mower made for one or more. I could live without it and may yet. In the meantime I think it took a little worry off Mrs.G. She says she wants to keep me around awhile. So, if you drive by and see me tooling around on my rider or following behind a mower, know that I'm in my happy place--perspiring grimace and all.

April 23, 2023

A Strong Foundation

A Strong Foundation
By John R. Greenwood

The photo above may appear average and unremarkable. Still, as I knelt there this April morning, the view reminded me of my personal foundation. Growing up in a small country village surrounded by a supportive community proved to be one of the most valuable contributions to my life. Whenever I begin to dissect what true happiness is, I inevitably return to my roots. Not simply family roots but those of my youth in general.

There isn't a day when I don't refer back to a face or story from my early life. Grade school classmates, backyard adventures, scout meetings, tree climbing, hay fort building, and visions of the old swimming hole all surface. When it's quiet with no outside distractions, I can visualize the endless list of people who strengthened my foundation. The obvious are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and my dear sister. Then the surnames of the childhood families that added mortar to that foundation flow like water: Shay, Dake, Atwell, Davis, Gibbons, Cornell, Baldwin, Frasier, Hodges, O'Donnell, Rumpf, Panton, Lindahl, Bootier, Levo, Orisesk, Barney, Brown, Wheatley, Allen, Claydon, Gordon, Cote, Kahl, Sherman, Hall, Sesselman, Kostka, Bowen, Cline, Schwartz, Hurd, Smero, Koptula, Homiak, Pasmik, and Jones, all just a fraction of the mountainous collection of contributors to my life. I could fill pages with the names of people who've positively influenced me. Every day I channel an event or lesson I've experienced. Even the painful or uncomfortable ones have meaning and purpose in some remote way. How lucky I've been to have lived in the time and places that I have.

I saw that when I stood up and looked at my freshly painted foundation. Those names began popping into my head, inspiring me to write them down. As I write this, the gentle rain falling outside has given me a moment to ponder each name and attach a memory. It's an activity that I practice often and one that gives me immense pleasure. I know many people spend their lives searching for happiness via material things. Although a new car, exotic vacation, or motorboat can bring you short-term joy, the list of names above could only be obtained by growing up where stone foundations can still be found today.

Thank you, the 1960s and Greenfield Center, NY.

April 19, 2023


By John R. Greenwood 

You'd think it would be easy to relax after retirement, but there's a snag—the world has gone insane. Its wake has left me nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room filled with chocolate-laced grandchildren in rocking chairs. I get the same feeling I did when I was little, and my parents would have a good old-fashioned, no holds barred. All you wanted to do was bury your head under a pillow and wait for the smoke to clear. I find myself looking for a pillow a lot these days. Not one of those scrap-filled, overpriced ones the Pillow-Kook hawks, but one heavy enough to drown out the vitriol overrunning our daily lives. I worry I may never experience peace and quiet again. 

We should have done a better job for the generations filling in behind us. We label them as lazy and entitled, but we are the ones who sat back and let things slip away. We promised to clean up after ourselves and failed. We are the ones responsible for leaving the house in shambles.

I try to keep optimism at full volume, but the noise outside my 1/4 acre drowns it out. It doesn't stop me, but it slows it to a crawl. Even as I write this, I feel I'm leaning into negativity. It's spring, and the birds and greening grass are usually enough to put a little bounce in my step, but lately, all it takes are the words "BREAKING NEWS" to knock my feet out from under me. 

Writing is good exorcise, and early morning walks are good exercise. Put them together, and you have a recipe for relaxing. After using both tools today, I feel physically at ease, but I think I'll proceed with caution. 

I'm sure someone, somewhere, will have a problem with something today and feel the only way to solve it is with violence. As much as I'd like to keep a pillow handy, the vision of the Pillow-Kook makes me think I'd be better off with a weighted blanket. 

Sleep tight, America…

Daily Dose

Daily Dose
By John R.Greenwood

After a five-month writing drought, it felt good to hit the “Publish” button. The writing hiatus was a result of general neglect and lack of interest. Although I continued contributing to Simply Saratoga Magazine and an occasional piece to the Town of Greenfield Historical Society Newsletter, those events were scant and scattered. My recent writing has been reduced to emails, letters, and Facebook posts. A short face-to-face with my original writing mentor was a kick in the shin. It forced me to revisit my retirement dream of having more time to flex my creative writing.

After a short but important visit to Bedlam Farm (see previous post), I was reminded of the “use it or lose it” phrase related to writing. In the same way, the non-use of a weakened body part can render specific muscles useless, failure to exercise your writing skills can leave you lost and uninspired. That’s precisely where I wandered off to.

Jon Katz, who has spent his life paying bills with the help of a keyboard, suggested I re-engage my writing routine by jotting down and sharing short journal entries much like the post you’re reading here. It’s another toe-dipping way to re-enter the world of sharing via pad and pen(cil).

The posts may not flow like junk mail, they may drip in at a pace more in tune with the weekly supermarket promo, but they will come.


April 12, 2023

Hopalong Katzidy

Hopalong Katzidy

By John R. Greenwood

Bedlam Farm 

Author Clarence E. Mulford’s 1904 fictional cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy was rude, dangerous, and rough-talking. My real-life writer hero Hopalong Katzidy is polite and gentle as a lamb. He’s more like the 1940s television version portrayed by actor William Boyd. That Hopalong drank sarsaparilla and never shot first. Cassidy’s one-legged hop was the result of being shot in the leg during a gunfight. My Katzidy’s hop was a scripted attempt to improve his quality of life by removing a disagreeable big toe. 

When I read that my friend and writing mentor, author Jon Katz had made the difficult decision to have the big toe on his left foot amputated, I reached out to him. I knew he would not make a life altering decision without weighing all options and risks. My opinion would not be necessary but my support would be a given. 

A day or two after Jon wrote about his plans publicly, I offered my help on the day of his surgery. My only role was to meet Jon and his wife Maria at his home and assist in getting him out of the car, in the house, and into his overstuffed chair. Rather than a well choreographed ballet-like maneuver our version was more “Weekend At Bernie’s.” Still groggy from the anesthesia our patient was surprisingly giddy and even chatty. As I write this several hours later I’m quite certain the pain and seriousness has now sunk in. 

So why after months of blog silence did I choose my friends traumatic surgery as an impetus to put pen to paper? 

Its like a 5th Grade teacher pointing her finger at a ten-year-old boy and asking the question, “Why would you do that?” 

“Because Jon told me to!” 

My mentor, my nagging writing-group leader, my friend, my hero, my Hopalong Katzidy is a persuasive nudge. He hadn’t been in his big-boy chair more than 30 seconds before he was asking why I wasn’t writing more? Excuses only provoke him to hurl them back at you like a true friend should. Jon smothers excuses like a wet blanket on a trash fire. Jonnie Nine-Toes was not going to allow Johnnie Nine-Fingers to head back to Saratoga County without promising to hit the keyboard when he gets there. 

Jon’s support for my writing began with our Hubbard Hall Writing Group over a decade ago. His influence and that experience will last me a lifetime. As a connoisseur of larger than life characters that have crossed my path, Jon Katz is King of the Hill. 

This piece was written about him, for him with nothing but sincere admiration and respect. I wish him a speedy recovery so we can fulfill our mutual promise to spend an afternoon sitting in the backyard at Bedlam Farm, swapping stories about the good old days when we had all of our pieces and parts. 

This one’s for you Hopalong. 


John (with an H) 

Click here to visit Bedlam Farm