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It’s Week #5 already in the 2010 Survey along the South Mississippi Blue Bird Trail, in Long Beach.

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Blue Bird juveniles from the 2009 hatch.

Long Beach Blue Bird Trail Founder, John Lipscomb, Pass Christian, reports that Blue Bird activity in the nesting boxes along the trail, remains slow, way behind last year.

John reported right after the Friday, April 2 Survey, there were only 4 eggs so far in the 13 nesting boxes, although he did record 7 additional completed nests in the boxes during the survey. He advises that last year at this time in the season, there were already 22 birds hatched and 9 eggs in the nests.

John commented a couple of days after the Friday survey, “I am expecting the activity to heat up this week, as there are lots of nests now, and the weather is warmer.”

He added, “I saw an alligator last weekend, in the bayou right behind my home, so the temps are getting right.”

Trail nesting box results during the April 2 survey, included:
Nesting Box #1 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #2 – 4 Blue Bird eggs.
Nesting Box #3 – No activity.
Nesting Box #4 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #5 – No activity.
Nesting Box #6 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #7 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #7 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #9 – Some grass in box.
Nesting Box #10 – Twigs in box.
Nesting Box #11 – No activity.
Nesting Box #12 – Nest built.
Nesting Box #13 – Nest built.

Have a great week!

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With March 2010 now here and in full swing, it is time to start checking on Blue Bird nesting boxes on the Blue Bird Trail on the campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, Mississippi.

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SMRC Blue Bird Trail founder Master Naturalist John Lipscomb launched the 2010 Blue Bird observation and reporting season last Friday, March 5, 2010 with his first checks of the Trail nesting boxes.

John had the following results to report for this first check: “We are off to a slow start this season, due to the cold, wet windy weather here on the Gulf Coast. We have a few pieces of grass and twigs in boxes 1, 4, 6 and 8. Just as comparison, last year at this time, we had 4 nests built and straw in another box. Nest building will get better once we get some warmer weather.”

Following is a quick summary of activity on the Blue Bird Trail during the 2009 Season:
86 eggs laid: 9 were sterile, 5 lost to predators. 67 babies total flew from the nests.

During the 2008 Season, 45 babies flew from the nesting boxes.

Have a good week!

Reese called me last night to let me know:

“Grandma has gone home.”

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Willie B. Cobbins, age 92.

On Sept. 8, 2008, he made a previous call, to let me know that his beloved Grandfather, and my longtime Carroll County, Mississippi friend, Norman Cobbins, Sr., had passed at the age of 102, leaving his bride of almost 72 years, Willie B., behind.

Now, Willie, just a few days short of her 93rd birthday, has gone on to join him, on the other side, in heaven.

She will be dearly missed by her loving family and friends.

Sincerest sympathies go out to Willie’s children and their families and may God be with you and provide you with peace and understanding at this sad time.

Willie was born Feb. 2, 1917, the second eldest daughter and one of nine children born to John Henry “Papa” Nalls and Viola “Nuke” Smith Nalls.

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Norman and Willie in front of their old family home, Jan. 16, 2004.

On Nov. 26, 1936, in the home of her parents, in southern Carroll County, Mississippi, she married her soul mate, Norman Cobbins, Sr. , son of Lee Cobbins and Martha Hobbs Cobbins, with whom she would spend almost 72 years with, as husband and wife.

When she was born, Willie’s parents gave her the name of Willie B., but she never knew what the B. in her name stood for.

All her life, Willie was devoted to Norman and her family. She leaves behind 10 loving children, including: John, James “Bobby”, Sallie, Joe Nathan, Eugene “Gene”, Norman, Jr., DeWitt, Viola, Vernice and Lee Faye, and their spouses, and many, many grandchildren, neighbors and friends.

Up until a year or so, Willie enjoyed excellent health during her life, while she was raising her children, and after they left the family home to make lives and families of their own.

It was a blessing that she could remain in her own home during all of her life, especially during her final years with Norman, before he passed, and since then. Her children have seen that she never spent a night alone during these final years; someone was always there with her in her home at night, in case she needed anything at all.

For many years, every evening, one or more of her nearby sons or grandchildren would stop “up home” to check on Norman and Willie, to make sure they were OK, and to say goodnight, before going home to their own families. Plainly, her children and grandchildren adored them.

Until the last couple of years, Willie’s mind has always been as sharp as a tack. Her memory was incredible.

Her quick wit, her sense of humor and her laugh were just a few of the personality characteristics that made her so wonderful.

Also incredible, was Willie’s cooking! Her fried chicken, her biscuits and her bread pudding were amazing, as anyone who has ever tried them will tell you.

Pat and I had the pleasure of spending a week with her and Norman, several years ago during April, and had the privilege of visiting with them about their life together and their family, and Willie could recite grandchildren and great grandchildrens’ names with ease, as if they all lived in the same house with them.

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Norman and Willie, with your author, in 2002.

As I related in my post honoring Norman at the time of his passing, I first met Willie and Norman one New Years Eve, around 1987, at a “Watch Service” at their church, New Zion Baptist Church, which is located about two miles from their home.

The Watch Service was where those attending would watch the old year go out, and the new year come in.

The service was organized and directed by Deacons of the church, normally the minister wasn’t even in attendance, and featured personal witnessing by all who wished to, thanking God for all the blessings that he had sent their way during the year, and asking Him for more of the same in the new year. All present were also asked to included the person witnessing, in their prayers.

Once all had witnessed who wished to, various gospel singing groups, some accompanied by instruments, would perform musical numbers, until just after midnight, when all would join hands, and pray together for the coming year. Then everyone would shake hands with each other, hug, introduce themselves to anyone they did not know, and then everyone would leave and go home.

In Norman and Willie’s church, he was basically the respected Patriarch of the church, and five of his sons who lived nearby, Bobbie, Norman Jr., Dewitt, Vernus (Reese’s father), and Lee Faye, were among the Deacons of the church. All of these sons, except Bobbie, were members of a popular gospel singing group known as The Cobbins Family Singers.

At the Annual Watch service at their church, the Cobbins boys were always the anchor group to perform last, to lead up to midnight, and the final group prayer. When they performed, with Lee playing the keyboard, that church ROCKED!

During the Service, if they were attending, and normally they were, Norman would sit up in the left front pews with the other Deacons, in a place of honor, while Willie would generally sit up in the right front pews. We visitors normally sat somewhere in one of the back pews, except one time when Norman insisted that I sit next to him in the left front.

I had been invited to attend the Service by a friend there, during my annual post-Christmas Mission delivery trip to north central Mississippi, which I had been making for many years previous to that. Since that first time, I was privileged to attend 7 or 8 other Watch Services there, bringing along my fellow Wisconsin Mission volunteers, for this unique experience.

During that first Watch Service, I video taped the whole thing. After the final group prayer, when I was able to meet Norman and Willie for the first time, when I mentioned that I had video taped the service, Norman asked in he might have a copy of it. I promised him that I would get one to him on my next mission trip down to his community.

The following February, when I was down in his community on a planning trip for a planned Spring Break trip a month later, when I would bring down a group of college student volunteers on a week-long work trip, I stopped over to Norman and Willie’s home, for the first time, to deliver a set of duplicate tapes of the New Years Eve Watch Service.

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Old Family home of Norman Sr. and Willie Cobbins.

When I drove into their driveway, and up to their family home nestled among several Walnut, Cedar and Magnolia trees, Norman and Will were sitting out on their screened front porch, on a swinging love seat, swinging and talking.

I got out of my car, walked up to their door, and introduced myself, telling them I was one of the Wisconsin visitors who attended their Watch Service the previous New Years Eve. Norman said hello, and said that he remembered me. They invited me into the porch, and had me sit on a chair near them.

We talked for a few minutes, and then I pulled the two VHS tapes out of the paper bag I was holding and gave them to Norman, saying, as promised, here was a set of tapes for them from the Watch Service, and that I hoped that they would enjoy watching them.

Norman’s reaction was one of surprise, and then he said one of his favorite sayings that I loved about him: “Whatch you say?” He was rather flabbergasted that I would remember the tapes, and even more flabbergasted that I would follow through and provide him with a set.

He and Willie most gracious and appreciative of receiving the tapes, and thanked me over and over for bringing them to them.

I finally said my Goodbyes and drove away, thinking to myself that I had just met two of the most beautiful souls on this earth, veritably “the salt of the earth,” as the old saying goes.

The next trip down, I stopped over to say hello to them again, and there started a loving friendship that has stretched over the many years since.

The following year, one of their sons, Lee, gave them his old ranch home and had it moved to that location, just a short walking distance from their original family home, where they raised their ten living children. Graciously, after they moved into the old house, they consented to allow we Wisconsin mission volunteers to use it for storage and for lodging for our work groups, for many years to come.

As time passed from that first meeting at their Watch Service, I was privileged to come to know and love all of their ten children and their spouse, and many of their grandchildren, including our Reese, who came to make several trips to our home in Wisconsin and came to become a brother to my two sons and my daughter, and another son to my wife and I.

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Reese Cobbins, grandson of Norman Sr. and Willie Cobbins.

When my oldest son was married, he asked Reese to be in his wedding. My daughter asked Reese also, but Reese had car trouble en route and never made it to the wedding.

My wife and I also made several personal trips down to visit and stay with Norman and Willie over the years, usually in the spring for 3-4 days or so, and would often often act as advocates in their behalf with local governmental agencies over issues they were having with these agencies.

Over the years since our friendship began, while in Mississippi working on homes or delivering shared clothing and so many other things, literally hundreds of Wisconsin missions volunteers, came to stay in Norman and Willie’s old family home, and came to know and love Norman and Willie, too.

Willie was devoted to her family and to others, and was always attempting to reach out to others in her own special ways.

To all who ever stopped to see her, she ALWAYS asked them if they were hungry and if she could cook them something to eat. If it was around bed time, she would always offer to make up a pallet or two, so you could stay and get some rest if you wanted to.

Her home and her heart were always open to you.

Willie was an amazing woman, wife, mother, grandmother, neighbor and friend, who will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

May God grant you peace and some rest, Willie, and please give Norman a hug from me, will you?

See you both, down the road some day, on the other side.

I love you, Willie. We all love you!
*****************************

-Cards may be sent to the family of Willie Cobbins at: Willie B. Cobbins Family, c/o Reese Cobbins, 2083 CR165, Coila, MS 38923.

It Really Is A Small World

It is a distinct privilege to have provided this guest post for my friend Ree – The Hotfessional, during her well-earned travel absence from the U.S. during December 2009. Have a safe and great trip, Ree!

***From the Coast Rat.***

The World is a small place, indeed.

In October of 2000, Blond Girl and I hit the road and drove down from Wisconsin to North Carolina to visit our son and his family, who live there, in Durham.

It was an amazing trip traveling at that time of the year, catching the beautiful fall colors on the trees, as we drove through Ohio, the Hotfessional’s West By-Gawd Virginia, and Virginia, on our way down to Durham.

The timing of the trip was planned to coincide with the Cedar Creek Civil War Battlefield Reenactment, an annual event taking place on the grounds of the Cedar Creek Battlefield State Park, in northwestern Virginia.

It was my hope to meet several of my ‘pards’ from Company K, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry there at the Reenactment, and fall in with them in the Black Hat Battalion for at least one day of the battle reenactment, before heading on down to North Carolina. I had last seen those fellows, mostly from New Jersey, and from Pennsylvania, the year before, at the 135th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, in PA, where some 28,000+ reenactors of us took part in that largest civil war reenactment ever held in the U.S.

As it turned out, Blond Girl and i arrived after dark on the Friday evening of the Cedar Creek reenactment, and found that a couple of Co. K members had made the trip over from New Jersey for the event. We visited a bit, and made plans for my return the next morning, in Union uniform, to take part in the Battle scenario that was to take place.

Sunday morning dawned sunny, bright and cool to begin with, as Blond Girl and I made our way from a nearby town where we had stayed the night, down to the battlefield and looked up my friends, in preparation for the battle to start.

There was a good sized group from the reenactment community on hand for the battle, both Union and Confederate, and I was fortunate to be able to spend time visiting and remembering our week-long experience at the Gettysburg 135th event the previous year.

Co. K Captain at the time, Capt. Bob Patterson, was kind enough to lend me his musket for the battle scenario, and just after noon, we got ready for the battle to begin.

As many people are aware, Civil War reenactment battles and skirmishes are entirely scripted, as to troop movements, and who wins the day, including which and how many participants “take hits,” on both sides in the battle, attempting to accurately portray what actually occured during the original event almost a century and a half ago.

At Cedar Creek, a large Confederate force surprised a large camped Union force in the morning, scattering and routing them several miles from their camps at Cedar Creek. Later in the day, Union forces rallied, and regained the original ground they had lost in the morning, including what was left of their camp and possessions.

Our reenactment started out with our Union infantry force being ‘surprised’ by Confederate forces and driven across the battlefield almost a half a mile, fighting and firing our muskets all the way, at the advancing rebs, in what was termed as a “strategic withdrawal,” as often was the case in many of the civil war engagements of that war.

During our retreat across the battlefield grounds, I probably loaded and fired some 30-40 powder rounds, and eventually had to borrow some powder charges from a fellow Union infantry soldier I had been fighting beside all the way across the valley we retreated on. I had seen this fellow the evening before during our brief visit, but never got a chance to meet or talk with him.

When our Union infantry force had finally reached the point of retreat where we were to stop, we rested briefly and then, start advancing back across the 1/2 mile we had just given up, ‘attacking’ the confederate infantry back across the same ground, to the original starting point.

It was during our brief rest, while we were taking water from our canteens and briefing talking with each other, that an amazing incident occurred.

It was then that I turned to the fellow infantryman stranger beside me, who I had fought right beside all along during the Union retreat, and who had given me a hand-full of his own powder cartridges, and I shock his hand and said: “Hi, I’m Lance; glad to soldier with you.” He said: “Hi. I’m Chris; from DC, nice to soldier with you, too.”

I said: “I’m from Wisconsin, on my way to North Carolina, and I am portraying my great great grandfather, Albert Harland Rolfe, who was a member of the original Company K, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, who fought with the Union Army of the Potomac in the civil war.”

Chris said: “Wisconsin, huh…, are you from anywhere near Beaver Dam?”

I said: “Beaver Dam…, yeah, I’ve got a sister and brother-in-law, Sue and Mick McConaghy who live in Beaver Dam, about an hour and a half from my home.”

Chris said: “McConaghy, huh…, do they have a daughter named Michelle?”

I said: instantly alert and somewhat startled by Chris’s question… “Yes….., why do you ask?”

Chris said: Is she marrying a guy named Paul next summer…?”

Even more startled, I said: “yeeesssss……., why do you ask?”

To my absolute astonishment, Chris said: “Yeah…. Paul is my brother, and I’m the Best Man at their wedding next summer!”

As my mouth dropped open in amazement, I almost fell over, and replied: “You have got to be kidding me!!! Here we are, complete strangers at a civil war reenactment in Virginia, who end up fighting next to each other, within two feet of one another for an hour of historic reenactment, and our paths and family ties are so connected! This is truly, incredible, just incredible!”

Family connections back then in that terrible event were close, and today, observing that historic event, family ties are still connected and close.

At Paul and Michelle’s wedding that next summer, I had the pleasure to photographing their reception in Beaver Dam, and renewing my new friendship with Chris, including having our picture taken together with us both wearing the “Black Hats” of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry.

One really never knows what connection one may have with a stranger next to you.

One thing is for sure: The world truly is a small place.

Here we are in mid-August, on the 15th, and it’s time to wish our 5th family member a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

This time, the celebrant is our first-born, Lucas, known during his high school years in our family as “Luke Duke.”

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Luke and oldest son, Noah.

Luke Duke did a lot of traveling very early, and was in a famous movie, before he was even born, as a matter of fact.

In February of the year Luke Duke was born, I had taken a new position as Foreman of a large cattle ranch in northern Wyoming, and loaded my 4-wheel drive with my clothes, gear, a roll away bed and our Siamese cat, and moved to the ranch that month to start work.

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Luke and Noah, in the park a few doors down from grandpa and grandma’s home in Wisconsin.

I flew back home in June, and packed up a U-Haul truck with our things, and my mother and I moved Blond Girl from southern Wisconsin to northern Wyoming. By staying and working at the medical center where she was working that spring, Blond Girl was able to bring along our health insurance coverage from there, to our new home, and have it cover Luke Duke’s birth, which occurred 35 years ago on this day in 1974.

Living and working out in the wilds of northern Wyoming has its good points and its not so good points, like being 55 miles away from our doctor and the hospital, where Luke Duke would be born. Our nearest neighbors were some 5 miles away, too.

As Blond Girl’s due date approached, and we had a pre-birth appointment with our doctor, we learned that he had recently been banned from practice at the hospital, due to being so late in completing his prior paperwork there. Our doctor, though, advised us that he was on good working terms with the delivery wing staff, and was pretty confident that they would allow him to sneak in and deliver Luke Duke when the time came.

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Luke, Jo and boys.

That development kind of made us a little apprehensive about the delivery, but we had faith that all would work out when it was time.

After Blond Girl arrived on and settled in on the ranch, she made new friends, and even was chosen as an extra in the blockbuster movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which was filmed on part of the ranch.

And then it was the 15th, and Blond Girl was feeling like maybe it was time to start thinking about making the 55-mile trip east, over the Little Bear Lodge Mountains, into South Dakota, to the dusty western town of Belle Fourche, made famous in one of John Wayne’s many western movies.

After leaving the ranch at a somewhat leisurely pace, and gaining the summit up on the Bear Lodge, we spotted a large apple orchard alongside the road, and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop and pick a few apples to take along to the hospital.

It was during this bit of exercise, that blond Girl’s water broke, and put a more urgent presence to the remainder of our trip into South Dakota.

We arrived at the hospital (which has long since closed), checked in, our doctor was summoned, and the birth went well.

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Luke and Truman, at Concert on the Square, 2008.

A couple of years later, our daughter was also born there, and about a year later, we moved back to Wisconsin, where I would go into the real estate and auction business for several years.

As he grew up through childhood, being the first born, Luke Duke was a trail blazer for his younger sister and brother, in many ways. He was an attentive, happy and very curious child, who loved to be read to, and loved to disassemble anything he could get his hands on.

One of his early acquired love of things, was with a set of copper dinosaurs that I had acquired at the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, during one of my trips there during my college geology courses. We also bought a children’s dinosaur book, and, in rather quick order, he knew all the dinosaurs in his book, and everything about them.

As he continued to grow towards high school, his strong aptitudes in the sciences and English communications became glaringly obvious, which his school aptitude tests verified, when he scored in the 99th percentile in several categories.

During his growth, we were fortunate to be able to have Blond Girl be a stay-at-home-mom for several years, so she could be there during those early years with our kids, to better promote their upbringing and nurturing. Best decision we ever made.

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Grandpa and boys last Christmas; who are very fond of the Mardi Gras beads grandpa brought them from the gulf coast!

During junior high and high school, Luke Duke was a popular kid in the neighborhood, and other kids usually came to our home to play, rather than somewhere else. The neighbor kids all looked up to Luke, and he was a pretty decent role model for them.

To celebrate his 16th birthday, we took the kids and Luke’s best friend in high school, to St. Louis for the weekend so they could enjoy Grant’s Farm, the St. Louis Zoo and the Gateway Arch. What a weekend that was!

His interest in the sciences and other creative interests continued to grow, and one would often find Luke making fine, minute sketches with one of his rapidograph pens, or perhaps constructing another ultra futuristic space ship model out of the huge bucket of small leggo blocks we had, that would give any of the star wars ships a real run for their money.

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Luke, right, and his brother and sister, at home.

During high school, art was one of his favorite subjects, and his expressionism knew no limits. Expressing himself in English compositions and short stories, was also one of his creative talents.

We have always encouraged our kids to be independent and self-reliant, and one of Luke’s initiatives in that direction was to request being able to have his own room, out in one end of our two-car garage, which we allowed him to do and helped him to construct, so that he and his very large, black and white cat, Psycho, could have their own space.

Luke Duke also developed a love of cooking, which led him to become employed in our small southern Dane County village, as a short order cook in the local restaurant. He started technical college, but soon decided that it wasn’t the right path for him at that time.

Later, he moved on to excel at cooking at several fine specialty restaurants in Madison, which was only a short drive from our home. Eventually, he and I both went to work for a local Canon copier dealer as technicians, he as a field repair technician, and I as a remanufacturing technician.

Five years later, after he had established himself as one of the most competent field technicians in the entire field force, he and his wife moved to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill research triangle area of North Carolina, where she could attend graduate school and obtain her Masters Degree, and where he now works as a very talented Web Site Developer, for a software company there.

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Luke and boys at Christmas 2008, as Truman tries to single-handedly devour the Ginger Bread House they constructed the previous day.

And several years ago, he decided to work at getting his college degree, and during numerous night courses ever since, has maintained a straight-A average, and will graduate in December with a bachelors degree, with high honors, all while working full-time and helping his Special Ed teacher spouse, raise their (now) two young sons.

During his growing up years, Luke pushed the limits of many envelopes, tested and poked, and made his share of learning mistakes which many of us make during those years. During those same years, he provided so many proud moments for us, his parents, especially after marrying, and he and his wife beginning their own family life, and having two sons.

Luke is incredibly intelligent, creative in so many ways, and logical, like his mother, and now is a wonderful husband and father, who we couldn’t be more proud of.

Happy Birthday, Luke!

I LOVE YOU, SON!

Dad

Welcome again, Blue Bird enthusiasts, to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail, in Long Beach, and the Week #20 Trail Survey results.

During this past week on the Trail, the daily temperature average has moderated slightly, dropping into the low 90s to high 80s, a change that was welcomed by area residents.

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Two growing, Blue Bird babies in nesting box #8 on the Long Beach Blue Bird Trail this week.

The 2009 Trail Survey is nearing an end, with only a couple of weeks left, during which, the last of the 12 Blue Bird babies currently in the nesting boxes will have flown. If they all make it to that point, the total number of babies flying from the nest will be at 67 for the 2009 Season, 22 more birds than flew last season.

And for that, Master Naturalist Buddy John and I are thankful.

Here are Survey Totals this 2009 Season so far:

86 eggs laid: 9 have been sterile, 5 lost to a predator.

55 babies have flown the nest. – Last Year: 40 babies had flown the nest as of Week #18. Last Year Total Blue Bird babies flying from the nesting boxes: 45.

4 eggs in nesting boxes currently.

12 babies in nesting boxes currently.

Here are the results of Friday’s Blue Bird Trail Survey of the individual nesting boxes, on Friday morning, July 17, 2009:

Nesting Box #1 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #2 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #3 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #4 – 5 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nesting Box #5 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #6 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #7 – 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 Blue Bird eggs.

Nesting Box #8 – 2 Blue Bird Babies, possible predator problem. – Last Week: 3 Blue Bird Babies, 1 Blue Bird egg.

Nesting Box #9 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #10 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #11 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Nesting Box #12 – 4 Blue Bird babies. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird babies.

Nesting Box #13 – Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

*****************************************************

John and I will do Trail Survey #21 next Friday, and then John will do the final Trail Survey the following Friday, July 31, when I will be in Wisconsin visiting family and friends.

Have a great week!

Happy Birthday, Bear!

It’s that time of year, again: Family Birthday Time! This time for child #3, Andy, whose childhood nickname was “Bear.”

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One of the times Andy served as an MC at the UW-P Annual Badger Camp Charitable Telethon.

“Bear” was the largest of our three children when he was born, and the only one born in Wisconsin. His birth was rather a hectic ordeal, made so by an overconfident delivery room nurse, who wouldn’t pay much attention to my advice that when my wife goes into labor, she doesn’t mess around. Things happen fast!

I kept telling the nurse, “Better get the doctor on the way, ’cause it is going to go fast.” When she finally paid attention to me, was when she came back into the delivery room and exclaimed, “Jesus, in only 20 minutes, she went from way off to fully ready! Oh my God!”

Yeah, I could have said it, folks, but I didn’t. Fortunately, our doc, when he was finally called by nurse “Bozo,” was only 7 miles away, and came right over. And things went well from there.

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Andy, left, with his brother and sister.

As Bear grew from a baby, into childhood, and into young boy-hood, he always had the biggest smile on his face, and was eager to help and please. It was clear from an early age, that he was the most ‘sociable’ of our three children.

And then, when he was a young boy, the personal characteristic, the interest, that would really define his youth, and young adulthood, truthfully, his first 25 years of life, came bubbling up into his life: music!

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One of his senior pics.

Once music came into his life, he quickly developed a love for “Oldies” songs, listening to them at every opportunity, and was soon singing them in the shower.

His first favorite Oldies singing group, was, The Beach Boys, and virtually every time “Barbara Ann” came on the radio, he would come running to me. saying excitedly, “Dad, come quick, Barbara Ann is on!”

As he progressed through the Elementary grades, and approached entering High School, his favorite musical group evolved into “The Beatles.”

Over time, his singing in the shower performances showed that his singing voice was taking on a more excellent quality, so that by the time he entered his freshman year of high school, he had a beautiful, rich tenor voice.

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Andy, top row, blond hair, singing with the UW-P Chamber Choir.

As a freshman, Andy joined the mixed choir and the band, but it was in choir where he really excelled.

It was also at about this time, that he auditioned for and became a member of the Madison Childrens Choir (MCC), an elite (not elite-tess), structured youth signing organization in the capitol city area. He sand with them for almost three years, and was their most developed tenor voice.

It was with the MCC that Andy had the opportunity to travel to Brazil and Argentina on a two-week signing tour; quite an experience for him and the group!

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Andy, and fellow Mississippi Mission volunteer, Bill, unload donated boxes in Itta Bena, MS to a charitable coordinator there.

He was privileged to be picked to sing two solos during an Easter Sunday performance in a huge cathedral in the capitol of Sao Paulo, their last performance before flying back to the U.S.

Andy said he wasn’t nervous during the solos during the Service, but said that came later when he found out his voice went out over Brazilian Public television and radio to some 30,000,000 listeners and viewers!

To date, that has been the largest audience he has performed for.

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Andy, with good friend, Tim Biles, in a dorm at Mississippi Valley State University, where Andy and the UW-P Chamber Choir visited to do several joint concert performances a couple of years ago. Tim is currently working on his Masters Degree at Valley State.

During one of his high school choir’s performances his freshman year, Andy was able to sing a solo performance, of what else, The Beatles, “Something,” and brought down the house. It was then that everyone in our little town knew this kid’s voice was special.

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Andy tries on sun glasses at the flea market at the French Market, in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Even at those early times when I watched and listened to him sing at concerts and in musicals, I would swell with fatherly pride and emotion when I would hear his amazing voice.

During his senior year, he sang the lead in “Grease,” doing a fantastic job, hitting the notes like no one else in his school could.

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Andy and two buddies, perform at OPEN MIC on the campus of UW-Platteville.

When he matriculated into the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus, where his mother and I both graduated from, he immediately auditioned for, and was accepted into two university choirs. And his long and illustrious university singing career began.

In his sophomore year at UW-P, Andy was accepted into a third singing group, the University Chamber Choir, which is a mixed Honors Choir there. Even listening to those concerts, it was easy for me to pick out his sweet tenor voice there.

During that same year, he auditioned for and was selected for one of the four leads in the university musical that year, “Forever Plaid.” The musical was a huge success, a sellout for every performance, and the only university singing performance that my late father was able to attend and hear his grandson sing in. It was a most memorable evening.

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Andy, MCing a Fall Charitable Telethon on the campus of UW-P.

During his senior year, Andy was selected to sing the male lead, Sky Materson, in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” Many, many people came up to him after each performance to compliment him on his singing, and his beautiful voice.

During the fall of 2001, Andy was an exchange student at one of the universities in Heidelberg, Germany. He had been there , attending classes for a few weeks, and then 9/11 happened.

I had been home from work that morning, ill, when a friend called and asked if I was watching TV. I turned the channel, and there it was. After watching for awhile, channel-hopping like mad, I heard one reporter talk about police officials looking for al Qaeda suspects in several European cities, including Heidelberg!

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Andy, third left-back, with friends in Milan, Italy, during the Fall Semester he studied at a university in Heidelberg, Germany.

I immediately placed a call to the Student Housing Unit where Andy was staying in Heidelberg, and within a minute or two, he came to the phone. I explained what I had heard on the TV about suspected al Qaeda suspects there, and the hijacked airlines and all, and he said he and his fellow students were watching it on TV there in their housing unit. He also said that, as Americans there, they were keeping a very low profile, and would be careful to keep an eye out all around them. Back home, there was still one very worried father, very far from his son.

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Andy and two UW-P Chamber Choir friends, enjoy a little of Beale Street in Memphis, during their trip to perform joint concerts with the Mississippi Valley State University, a couple of years ago.

In addition to his involvement in singing during his university years, Andy also was involved in university student activities, twice serving as the Student Director of the campus group that interviews and selects all of the individuals and groups who perform on the campus during the following year.

During his final two years there, he was chosen to be Homecoming Chairperson for that annual fall event. During that same time period, he also served as one of the several MCs of the Annual Charity Telethon sponsored by the university communications department, to benefit the area special needs Summer Camp.

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Andy, and longtime Mississippi friend, Inez Biles, at Greenwood High School, Greenwood, MS during joint concert with the choir of Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chamber Choir. Inez is an Elementary School Teacher in the Atlanta area.

In his university years, he accomplished much, enjoyed many aspects of student life, and ultimately graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Communications Technologies. Three days after he received his degree, he started his first post-university job, as the Producer of the 6:00pm and 10:00pm news at the NBC-TV affiliate in Rockford.

I have suggested on occasion, that with his singing voice, he should consider trying out for American Idol, as his voice is good enough to make it in as a finalist, and maybe even win the thing. But, that potential experience is his to decide upon, not mine.

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Andy, at home.

As a young man of the business world now, in his late 20’s, currently dating a wonderful young lady, he has my adament respect, admiration and love.

His mother and I are most proud to have him as our son!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANDY!!!

I LOVE YOU!

Dad~