Sailboats in Winter

January 15, 2018 by

(Clinton Lake, Kansas)

Sailboats in dry dock are chorus bells
on a windy hill.

Through two winter miles of Osage woods,
branched low and sheltering,
A hiker comes stumbling down crumbling
     limestone hills, wandering
in and out, skirting lake-flooded creeks,
     boldly sauntering

across boat ramps and silent roads,
     side-stepping hillside seeps,
leaping on fallen oaks, and laughing
     at the deadfall’s creak.

Then wind in the rigging. The music
     of metal fittings fills the sky,

tinkling   tinkling   tinkling

like nothing wintering on a Kansas hill.


First published in Mostly Maine.


Mike takes a hike in Missouri - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Mike takes a hike in Missouri – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer


Frumpy Cat, Trumpy Cat: A Topical Poem On Trump’s Not Going to London

January 12, 2018 by


Frumpy Cat, Trumpy Cat, where haven’t you been?
I’ve not been to London to visit the Queen.
Frumpy Cat, Trumpy Cat, why aren’t you there?
I’m frightened of Mrs. May mussing my hair.


The “Bomb Cyclone” of 2018

January 4, 2018 by

Looking out our window I’d say we have a pretty good blizzard going. Good enough that I’m stuck at home. But then I drive an old Ford van with 2-wheel drive and my apartment house parking is two stories below street level.

Like everyone else over forty, I’m thinking, “This bomb is nothing compared to the storms we had years ago.”

I remember one storm when the snow drifted to over two feet above the electric line in front of our house. Terrible storms when I was a kid.

Then again, I believe we actually only got about a foot of dry snow out of that storm. An oil truck went off the road and knocked down the electric pole. But like I said, before the crew came out and replanted the pole, there was a drift two feet above the electric wires. Terrible storms when I was a kid.

Mike’s First Bright Idea of the New Year

January 1, 2018 by


Our maintenance dept. has dwindled to half of what it was last Feb. The store managers say they would hire people but no one applies. Gee, no one wants to clean toilets for part-time pay and no benefits. 

Time for a proactive approach. Here’s what we do.

We go over to the big, old motel across the street that rents rooms by the week, and we give the guy at the desk a few bucks to have a fire drill. The residents stagger out of their rooms and we call them all together.

Then we announce that our store is hiring for maintenance and offering a case of Bud pounders as a hiring bonus. Just like that we have a ton of people lined up outside the HR office. Enough to cover maintenance five times over. A few will even pass screening. That brings maintenance up to the warm body count we need.

When they show up for orientation, we tell them they will receive their pounders one can at a time at the end of each shift they work. How long will they stay? How many pounders in a case? 24. Four shifts a week. That’s six weeks. Beats our past median longevity. So problem solved.


Store in Beulah Colorado - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

They liked my ideas at my last store.

Gray Fox Inside a Spruce Tree

December 27, 2017 by

I have been thinking about doing chip mosaics for years. Finally tried my hand at it. It is tedious but enjoyable. Kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle without having any pieces cut to fit. It suits me since I like creating by accretion.

To begin with the plan was for a much bigger spruce tree, as gray fox are climbers. Alas, I ran short of aventurine in my chosen shade of green. I also know I could do better with the spruce tree if I lined up the chips to follow the flow of the branches. And if I were concerned about filling in the gaps, more tiny pieces would definitely help.

I am not looking for a polished image here. More like the chance images people see in nature, in clouds or the grain of wood. Suggestive rather than technically correct or realistic images. Gems in the rough.

The stone chips are green aventurine, labradorite, and garnet. Labradorite is an iridescent mineral, and you can see its play of color in the fox’s right ear. These chips are attached with varnish to the back of a postcard intended for watercolor.


Gray Fox Inside a Spruce Tree - chip mosaic by Mike Smetzer

Gray Fox Inside a Spruce Tree

Reducing Water Consumption

December 26, 2017 by

Went into a store restroom and saw two signs prominently displayed above the sinks. The first read: “Low-flow faucets throughout this store help reduce water consumption 42%.”

The second explained in six steps, with illustrations, how to wash your hands. Step 1: Turn on hot water and moisten hands. Step 2: Dispense soap. Step 3: Rub hands together. Step 4: Rinse under the still running hot water. Step 5: Dry hands thoroughly with paper towels. Step 6: Use the same paper towels to finally turn off the hot water.

Our hands are clean but we ain’t green.


First Street, Scarborough, Maine - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

“Snowy Snowy Mike” – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

“E” Is for Enough

December 20, 2017 by

It’s like I was explaining to Vera on the way home from Biddeford. “E” on the gas gauge stands for “enough.” When the needle falls below E, you don’t have enough. That’s when you stop for gas.

Vera was quiet for a minute. Then she asked, “Did you pay the auto club?”


Say what? - photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer

Say what? – photo by Vera Lisa Smetzer


Being Ready for the Bad Guys

December 19, 2017 by

I know a gun advocate I’ll call Bob who carries a handgun in a small camera bag wherever he goes. He wants to be ready to deal with the bad guys. I’ve known him casually for several years. He knows I don’t carry but he also knows I’m OK that he does. The other day Bob asked me if my parents had a gun when I was growing up. I started to say “no.” Then I stopped.

Of course we had guns. We had five of them. We had a family-heirloom muzzle loader that went out to the California gold rush and back. It still worked and Dad sometimes fired it, although the rest of us kept well back. Mom had a .410 that I used to hunt rabbits. I had a single-shot .22 for squirrels. Dad had a pump-action .22 with a scope for squirrels and varmints. And he had a double-barreled 12 gauge for rabbits and birds.

I almost said “no” to the Bob’s question because we didn’t think of these guns as something for shooting people. Obviously we could have defended ourselves. A 12-gauge shotgun is very persuasive. But we had guns in the house for hunting. A handgun or an assault rifle for killing people was never something we considered.

I think of my uncles who fought in WWII and I don’t believe any of them kept handguns or military weapons. They just didn’t seem necessary.

Maybe Bob will someday drop a bad guy. More likely he’ll pull out his .32 and the bad guy will drop Bob. I do understand his anxiety about the world around us. I also understand that Bob feels confident when he carries a gun. But I wish he would put his camera back in his camera bag so we could go birding.


Mike in the Woods, Photo by Vera Smetzer

Mike in the Woods, Photo by Vera Smetzer

How to be an Effective God

December 18, 2017 by

I woke up this morning and realized I no longer want to be a man. I want to be a god. I believe I could be the most effective god ever imagined.

It’s easy. Just give people a big ugly zit on the nose every time they tell a lie. Just that would turn humanity from a race of liars to a race of truth tellers. Not by appealing to moral virtue, which has never worked, but by appealing to vanity, which has never failed.

Hunting Season & Hunting Safety

October 31, 2017 by

Dad wanted Mom to go rabbit hunting with him, but he only bought her a .410 shotgun. Dad thought of Mom as a city girl, so he didn’t feel comfortable having her hunting next to him with a 12 gauge. When Dad decided that I was old enough to go hunting, he had me use Mom’s .410 for rabbits and he bought me a single-shot .22 for squirrels. Dad was a safe hunter. He didn’t take unnecessary chances.

Bernie & Viola Smetzer

Mom & Dad