In early October, there was a lot of digging going on in our yard and the footprints indicated it was being done by a raccoon.

Ted bought a trap and we caught Ringo that same night (October 8), then released him into the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area the next day. Whew! That was easy!

A few days later, we saw more raccoon tracks. We decided Ringo must have a wife, so Ted set the trap again and we caught the little woman (didn’t actually identify gender-type) on October 13. Look at the pile of dirt “she” dug up through the holes in the trap.

Ted released Number 2 and put the trap away. But wait! There was fresh digging three days later. Ted set the trap again and Number 3 (one of the grown kids?) was sitting in it on October 16.

What is going on??!! Is our yard the neighborhood attraction for the wildlife community living in the woods across the street? Did Ringo pass the word somehow to tell all his friends that the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area is an awesome place and that the transport carrier is in our yard?

In a forward-thinking manner, we decided to keep setting the trap every night until we captured every critter that was digging up our lawn. Two days later (October 18), we apparently captured a friend of Ringo’s family–an opossum. Check out those teeth! He was asleep and woke up when we lifted the trap. He didn’t make a sound, so maybe this was just a yawn. Ted made another relocation deposit at Busch.

We kept the trap baited and sure enough, on October 21, there was another opossum sleeping in it and awaiting transfer.

That’s five critters trapped and relocated. It’s been a week since we trapped No. 5 and there’s no evidence of new digging in the yard, so our 2020 wildlife relocation program might be finished. At least for awhile.

It’s time to make applesauce again. I don’t especially like the job, but we love our homemade chunky-style applesauce, so-o-o-o, . . . .

We bought a bushel of apples–“The World’s Finest Apples,” according to the box. They were beautiful apples.

Ted’s main job is to operate the apple peeler/slicer. Why do they have to put a sticker on every. single. apple??

Then I fill the kettles and cook and mash the peeled/sliced apples.

The applesauce needs to cool before I put it into meal-size boxes for future use.

Ted carries the boxes to the freezer. . .

. . . and we always save a few apples so I can make an apple pie to celebrate the end of the applesauce-making process. The supply of applesauce and the pie reward make the work worth the effort.

Ted and I decided to vote by absentee ballot this year because we think there will be very long lines at the polls on November 3. The line was a lot longer than usual for the 2018 midterms when I counted 75 people ahead of us, and there are always long lines for Presidential elections. Maybe especially for this Presidential election. Besides, the weather could be crummy in November, so who wants to stand outside if they don’t have to?

We’ve never voted absentee or by mail before, but the process was very simple. We filled out our absentee ballot request online and then headed for the Election Authority office just a short distance from our house, where we received our ballots and cast them immediately. As it turned out, if we were appearing in person with a photo ID, we could pick up our ballots and vote without the application. Oh, well. It’s better to be prepared, right?

The roads near the Election Authority office were clearly marked with “Election Authority Office” signs at each corner along the way, but we already knew where it was–next door to where my SCC program used to provide a GED classroom site.

Our first surprise was the number of campaign signs posted along the road and around the parking lot. The signs added a colorful and–dare I say?–decorative touch to a dreary day and a blah parking lot. I didn’t read any of them because I already knew who I was voting for. Does anyone decide how they will vote when they arrive at the polling place parking lot and see those signs? “Oh, I was going to vote for Donald Duck, but the Mickey Mouse sign at least 25 feet from the polling place door caught my attention and changed my mind.”

Our second surprise was the steady stream of cars coming and going and filling the parking spaces. When we left, there were at least as many cars in the parking lot and at least as many people in the room as when we arrived. If there’s a steady stream of voters like this–a rainy Tuesday afternoon–every day, a lot of people are voting early. Maybe the polling place lines won’t be so long on November 3 after all.

Curbside voting was available for those who requested that their ballots be mailed to them in advance. For awhile, there was a long line of cars at the curbside, but not when I took this picture.

When we entered the building, the number-caller shouted “5!” These were our numbers. There were seven election judges working, so it took us less than 30 minutes to get our ballots and to cast our votes. We didn’t really keep track of the time, so that’s a guess, but the line kept moving. I asked the number-caller if she goes home hoarse at the end of the day and she said, “We all do.”

Here’s a partial view of the crowd. There were people (including us) standing along two walls, people seated, and people voting at the tables with the red and white and the black divider screens (right center) and at tables in a large room behind the staircase. We even saw someone we knew–Ed, from the bike shop where we bought our bikes and where we keep finding new bike gear to buy. Ed told me once he has five bicycles and uses them all for different kinds of biking. He’s retired so he works part-time for the Election Authority and part-time at the bike shop. Today, he was answering questions on the floor and directing human traffic in the room.

In less time than we stood in line in 2018, we had fulfilled our civic duty.

I found some more old photos while I was looking for something else. I always enjoy looking at old pictures and remembering the good times they bring to mind.

Some of our visits to Thom’s house included helping him with home projects. In August 2006, we helped him tear out the overgrowth along his back yard fence. There was a lot of it and the yard looked noticeably larger when we finished. Things were going well, so Thom decided to take advantage of the extra help to dismantle some structures he didn’t like in his back yard. There was a good-sized pile of scrap lumber when we finished.

When we visited Thom in March 2008, he needed help lifting, holding, and nailing drywall to his bedroom ceiling.

In July 2006 and August 2008, we went to Houston for family reunions at Steve and Joan’s house. Who knows how goofy stuff gets started? During the reunions, we posed a “directional” picture at every place we visited. On July 2006, we were all on the same page about which way to go for our sightseeing. That’s (L > R) Ben, Phil, Russ, Steve, Todd (you can see a little bit of his hair, his orange shirt, and his black shoes), Matt, and Ted.

By August 2008, we were older and apparently more confused. This time it’s Ted, Carrie, Eric, Steve, and Todd. This might be inside the Houston Space Center main building. It was obviously time for a refreshing beverage.

Ted and I were excited to have grandchildren. Here is our first family group photo with our four children and almost all of our grandchildren. Julian didn’t come along with Thom this time.

We had a larger family in December 2005 when I graduated with my doctoral degree. This isn’t a digital picture (although we bought a digital camera in 2003), so we didn’t know until the film was developed that Annette is only partially present (left).

Going back in time, this is a photo of Ted and me going to a homecoming activity in October 1968. We had already purchased my engagement ring and our wedding rings, but hadn’t told anyone that we would soon be officially engaged. We’ve always counted it as our engagement picture.

Good times. Good memories.

Last week, I received an Amazon catalog in the mail. I didn’t even know Amazon mailed catalogs! I’m not big on catalog shopping, so I quickly riffled through the pages before throwing it into the recycle bin.

During my riffle, I saw a Christmas tree maze. I couldn’t resist drawing my way through the maze. Then I saw another activity page. I finally checked the table of contents (yes, a table of contents, not an index like catalogs usually have), and found lots of fun activities. The promise on the catalog was true: It was “Joy Delivered” and it put an Amazon Prime smile on my face.

Here’s the catalog cover. With the “kid” appearance, it’s no surprise it was a toy catalog.

Here are the activity pages. There’s even a page of stickers (bottom right) to go with “A Winter’s tail Tale.”

The catalog included a page with a recipe for “sip, sip, hurray” hot chocolate and another page to “Make a list, check it twice” with the note that the list may include “anything, like hugs, hats, or talking mice.” Maybe I’ll use that page to make my Christmas list. Who do I know that wants a talking mouse for Christmas?

Today was Ted’s and my third try to reach the eastern terminus of the Katy Trail, and the third time was the charm. The trail repairs between Black Walnut and Machens have been completed. During our ride, we passed the low point of the trail. The high point of the trail is 955 feet, near Clinton in western Missouri.

Since we’ve biked this route twice before, I wasn’t really thinking about taking pictures along the way. That means I have to confess that I found both of these photos online. The season is wrong (see the bare trees), but the low point is still 436 feet, and the depot and the gate at the end of the trail looked just like this.

Our goal has been to ride the Katy Trail from the eastern end to somewhere around Columbia because that’s as far as we want to drive to arrive at a trailhead. Today we met some other bikers at Machens who said they recently took their bikes on the train from St. Louis to Hermann to bike farther west. That sounds like a good idea. We might have to revise our western goal.

Ted and I started today’s bike ride on the Busch Greenway approach to the Katy Trail, then followed the Katy for less than a mile before going up the ramp to the bike lane on I-64 to cross the Missouri River. On the St. Louis County side of the river, we entered the Monarch Chesterfield Levee Trail, a portion of the Missouri River Greenway system.

It was a beautiful fall day for biking.

The levee views were kind of blah, since most of the crops are harvested, and the trees have not yet reached their peak colors. Even so, it was nice to ride along the top of the levee for 23 miles.

Almost immediately after entering the trail, we were surprised to see a small cemetery alongside the bike path

The headstones were engraved in German. This woman’s age was even given in months–89 years and 2 months.

These two markers were the epitome of simple.

We joined the levee trail near the middle of its length. Eventually, the trail will make a ring around 1,200+ acres and we’ll be able to bike in a circle. For now, we biked along the arm to the right, then back to cover the other arm, and then back to the Katy trailhead in the center. At one end of the levee trail, we saw a scenic barn and windmill. The windmill is on the right side of the barn. It doesn’t show well from this angle.

About halfway down the other arm we stopped at a rest stop. It looks like it’s supposed to provide some shade, but it didn’t. The high temperature today was 87 degrees, so a little shade would have been nice.

When I saw this tree, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s begging for someone to kick a ball through it and yell “Score!”

This bike ride was a bit of a “remember when” ride. The Monarch Levee was one of 1,000 levees that failed during the Great Flood of 1993. Its failure resulted in 15-20 feet of water covering the Chesterfield Valley and making US 40 (now I-64) impassable through the Valley for months. Note: At one point in 1993, Missouri was “a state divided.” The Missouri River runs across the state and every bridge crossing was flooded except the I-70 bridge in St. Louis County and a bridge in Kansas City. It was literally impossible to cross the Missouri River to travel north and south across the entire state except near the Kansas and Illinois state lines.

After 1993, the original 100-year levee was replaced with the 500-year levee we biked on today. After the Great Flood of 1993, the City of Chesterfield offered a tax incentive that made the Chesterfield Valley a mecca for retail. This idea has become a model for other cities to develop floodplains. I assume all those retailers hope to make enough money between now and the next levee failure to cover their future losses.

Just for fun, I looked up some of our 110 mm Instamatic 1993 pictures to compare them with our bike ride today. Here are two views of the Missouri River from the I-64 bridge. One was taken today, after weeks of very little rain; the other was taken in 1993 during the flood. See if you can tell which is which. Ted and I remember looking down from the bridge deck in 1993 and being amazed at how rapidly and powerfully the water was flowing and how much large debris it carried.

Today, Ted and I rode our bikes across the Missouri River in the bike lane on the bridge, safely protected from the eight traffic lanes crossing the river. In the summer of 1993, it wasn’t a problem crossing the bridge on the roadway because the highway was closed. The dry road surface ended in St. Louis County shortly after crossing the bridge. That’s Ted on his bike and Kari bravely standing in the middle of the highway, excited about the lack of traffic.

We biked across the bridge several times in 1993. It was a kind of tourist attraction for bikers and walkers. The commuter parking lot on the St. Charles County (western) side of the bridge was filled with cars equipped with bicycle carriers. The river in flood and the extent of the floodwaters were amazing sights. Also, it was just fun to bike on a closed / empty highway across a major river. The photo below shows how far we could go on the eastern side of the bridge. Notice the barriers trying to keep the water off the available roadway.

The photos below were taken from the eastern side of the Chesterfield Valley. Both pictures were taken after the floodwaters receded far enough to open US 40 (now I-64). Picture 15-20 feet of floodwater covering the highway. The upper photo was taken by a newspaper photographer from a helicopter; the lower one was taken by me from the side of the roadway.

Like other sightseers, Ted and I drove across the Valley when the highway opened to gawk at the floodwaters and the damage. Unfortunately, only a few hours after the highway was opened and only a few minutes after I took my photo, MODOT began putting barriers across the entrance ramp to the highway because the water was rising again. Ted and I had to take the long way home over I-70 instead. The highway remained closed for several more weeks.

Thankfully, we didn’t have any drama like that today–just one more enjoyable bike ride.

We’ve had a raccoon digging up our yard every night after dark for more than two weeks. He likes digging in the sod Ted just laid down, in the thinner areas of the lawn, and in every single flower bed. When he finds something to eat, he stands on the first step in the swimming pool (about two inches of water) to wash his food. He leaves his muddy footprints all over our patio, pool deck, and pool steps. Here’s what his digging looks like. Daily. This has to stop!

Ringo shows no sign of planning to leave our yard to dig elsewhere, so Ted called the state conservation department and the animal control folks to get some ideas for dealing with a rogue raccoon. The agencies won’t do anything about the critter themselves “because of COVID,” but recommended a trap baited with cat food. Yesterday, Ted bought a trap and some cat food and set the trap in Ringo’s favorite spot: Ted’s new sod.

When we went to bed, we turned on the patio lights to see if the trap had been tripped. It wasn’t. During the night, I woke up and noticed it was brighter than usual in our bedroom, so I peeked outside to see if the moon was shining in. It wasn’t, but I saw that we had forgotten to turn off the patio lights, so I went to the kitchen to turn them off. As long as I was there, I checked the trap again and it was tripped. Apparently, the lights attracted Ringo. He couldn’t resist the yummy cat food, so he walked into the trap and locked himself inside.

In the morning, I watched him for awhile. He paced a lot and turned in circles, but he didn’t seem overly concerned about his confinement. Sometimes, he’d plant his feet and push against the sides or the top of the trap, trying to get out, and he spent a lot of time digging in the ground between the trap wires. Ha-ha, Ringo! Now you know what “trap” means–you can’t get out! Ted picked the right spot for the trap. Ringo apparently went directly to the trap because we didn’t see any damage or muddy footprints anywhere else in the yard this morning.

Before buying the trap, we had decided to release our captured critter in the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area–not too far away, but far enough that he shouldn’t be able to find his way back to our house–especially if he was riding in the dark in the trunk and couldn’t see where he was going. We loaded Ringo up for his first (and only?) car ride.

We picked a spot at the edge of the woods to release Ringo, and Ted carried him over.

While Ted worked to open the trap door, Ringo did some more pacing and circling. He might have looked busy, but he was paying attention. The instant the trap door opened, he shot out like a streak. I was ready for his escape photo with my finger on my camera button, but he was too fast for me. He’s not in the photo below. The dark area inside the trap is the dirt he dug up between the trap wires while he paced last night.

Here’s Ringo’s escape-attempt dirt pile in the trap. Past experience says he could have dug out a lot more if he hadn’t had to work within those little square spaces of the trap. Add this dirt to the dirt from the wide open spaces of the flower beds and other areas of the lawn where he’s been digging, and you’ll have an idea of how much damage he’s been doing to our yard every night. He’s definitely a master digger! Note: The Katy Trail can be accessed from this parking lot. The white gravel surface of the parking lot (below) is what they use on the Katy Trail. It’s very dusty and that’s why we have to clean our bikes after a long ride on the Katy.

I hope Ringo finds some friends in the conservation area and enjoys digging in the forest. Ted and I will be glad if we don’t have to tamp down the grass and clean the mud from the pool, the pool deck, and the patio tomorrow morning.

My Aunt Ruth sent another humor email today. She’s doing her best to keep those on her distribution list happy.

Ted and I saw this pretty maple tree on our bike ride today. There’s a Canadian goose standing on some wood in the lake and there was a blue heron doing the same thing just to the right of my photo, but he flew away while I was getting off my bike. I miss our maple tree.

My senior year college roommates (six of us) were scheduled to meet in Madison, WI for our annual get-together on August 24. Of course, it’s 2020, so lots of things aren’t happening the way we planned them. Instead of an in-person reunion, we had a Zoom reunion today. All six of us were planning to be at the Zoom-union, but two did not join the meeting–not even after we texted a reminder to them. Again, it’s 2020, so who knows what might have prevented them from joining us.

Not surprisingly, we talked about some of our college memories, including the Viet Nam war protests. UW-Madison and UC-Berkley were the two most politically active campuses in the country in the late 1960s. I was actually stopped at the point of a bayonet during one protest, but that’s a different story. (I wasn’t even protesting!) Lin’s, Carol’s, and Barb’s husbands all served in Viet Nam. Lin’s husband was a POW and Barb’s husband was exposed to agent orange and has some serious health problems as a result. We talked about the parallels of that era and the current Black Lives Matter movement.

A happier topic was technology. We graduated in 1969, long before PC’s, internet, cell phones, social media, etc. We did have radio and television (the 1960s weren’t that long ago!), but electric typewriters weren’t common except in businesses. We all agreed we are glad to have the technology to meet in one place today (Zoom) while we are in Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Missouri.

It’s been 51 years since we graduated from college, but we’re keeping up with the times and still having fun together.