One important feature of the job description of the editor of your favorite weekly newspaper is to expect, and be able to deal with, the unexpected, unplanned and unprepared-for.
This is what I expected to be covering this weekend, along with our annual trip to the Glen Haven Volunteer Fire Department catfish fry Sunday evening:
• Belmont High School’s commencement. (Unfortunately I couldn’t get to Iowa–Grant’s commencement since it was at the same time.)
• The Platteville Public Library’s “instrument petting zoo” Saturday afternoon.
• The three area wineries that participated in The Great Wine and Chocolate Trail.
• The Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning.
This is what I was not planning on covering, but did, in addition to the planned trio:
• Storm damage Saturday afternoon.
• A fire on Main Street early Monday morning.
I wrote previously here that I am not a fan of the processional of every high school commencement ceremony in the U.S., Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.” (To be precise, it’s the trio of March No. 1 in D, “Land of Hope and Glory,” which I don’t think I’ve ever heard in the key of D. Another irony.) I talked to a UW–Platteville professor about this, and she pointed out that it is probably selected because it’s easy to learn, and high school bands and orchestras are usually minus their seniors for graduations, with fill-ins from lower grades and even middle school. (And perhaps the future players who were at the library Saturday, including would-be bass players half the height of the bass.) That rationale makes sense; that doesn’t mean I like it any better, particularly if you hear it several times a year. (Try singing those words when you hear the first six notes at Platteville High School Sunday.)
After starting my day Saturday at Bauer–Kearns Winery in the Town of Belmont, I had planned on going to the other two wineries. After seeing the sky darkening to the west (which as you know is not a good sign any time of the year) and seeing my cellphone weather radar, I decided to postpone wineries two and three until Sunday. Because I did, I got to see the unusual sight of parts of the current surface of Bonson Street wash south and east down Main Street, along with, for the second year in a row, tree damage at Rountree Hall and, for the second time in three years, tree damage near Harrison Park. (That must have been a bad flashback for those who experienced the without-warning 2014 EF2 tornado, as well as those who got an unannounced call from Mother Nature’s tree pruning service one year ago.)
Bauer–Kearns, Sinnipee Valley and Whispering Bluffs wineries — and, for that matter, Potosi Brewing and the future Updraft brew pub — are all examples of one of the best trends in American and Wisconsin business over the past quarter-century or so, the growth of small wineries and microbreweries. They are all in contrast to Budweiser — sorry, “America,” as its labels will say until Election Day, as if Election Day is something to celebrate this year — beer, which, as columnist George Will pointed out last week, is owned by a Dutch corporation. (The weather the past week certainly reached Potosi Steamboat Shandy weather.)
On Monday around 4:30 a.m., my wife woke me saying she smelled smoke in the house. So did I, but fortunately for us the smoke wasn’t generated inside; it was being blown in from the outside, as the smoke from the West Main Street building fire drifted our direction. That ended my sleep for a few hours, but Platteville firefighters’ sleep had been disturbed before that, as well as for the firefighters from Lancaster and Cuba City who assisted at the scene. (That’s a way to find out who works on Memorial Day — police officers, firefighters, EMTs and the news media, among such others as those who provide coffee and doughnuts to the aforementioned firefighters and EMTs.) We all saw the sunrise. As a reluctant early-riser dependent on coffee, I prefer sunsets (which are delightfully late this time of year to sunrises.
I heard people say Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony was the best they’d seen. That isn’t a criticism of previous ceremonies or speakers. The ceremony included five veterans reading the biographies of war dead from Platteville, including Leo Kane (killed in the World War I Battle of Argonne Forest in 1918), John Stewart Cardin (killed in a kamikaze attack near Okinawa near the end of World War II in 1945, Joseph and Dale Howell (missing in action and killed, respectively, in the Korean War in 1950 and 1952), William Beyer (a Navy combat hospitalman who died Feb. 1, 1967, five days before Gordon Stark, who was born in Platteville and died in Vietnam five days after Beyer), and Christopher Splinter (killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Christmas Eve 2003). Our duty as Americans is to not forget them.