Monthly Archives: August 2011

Texas Dance Hall

by Kate


In the town of Gruene, Texas, there is an old dance hall.

At this point, I’d like all of you who have been to the tiny establishment of Leo and Leona’s in Newberg’s Corners, WI, to take a closer look. See anything familiar?

This Texas dance hall was built for the local cotton farmers  in 1878. It says so right here.

Now, those were German cotton farmers, and Mr. Gruene was certainly a German. So were the dairy farmers working the land around Newberg Corner’s, Wisconsin, where I grew up- which explains the strong similarity of the world famous Gruene Hall to the ramshackle beat up one I drove past almost every day growing up. Of course, there were no cactus plants outside the Wisconsin Dance Hall. No country music stars either, and the Gruene Hall has been full of those for almost a hundred years. Let’s step inside and take a look.

Lots of windows and a church bench or two let in the early evening light.

In the winter, there is a wood stove. Right now though, it’s a hundred and five in the shade, and the ceiling fans are moving lazily but steadily.

Those pictures on the walls are almost all of famous people who have played here over the years.

Well, country music stars and of course the Texas flag.

There is a working cigarette machine in the corner. I have to admit that every time I see one of these in operating order I feel a sense of delight. This is a piece of history, right here.

 Let’s step on up to the bar now, shall we?

I wonder now and then was ordered at this bar when my brother Robert stopped here on his weeklong Texas bachelor party.

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to grab a cold beer, lets head back into the dance hall.

It is the long hour of light before dusk, and shafts of light fall across the long plank tables.

These tables would fit right in at anthropologie.

So would the warped and well worn dance floor.

They might even like this old faded sign, which is interesting to ponder in the context of farming history and in light of current interest rates.

These scars tell a hundred stories on each table.

There have been a whole lot of dates here in the past 130 years or so.

A lot of music played here, too.

The big stage was still empty at dusk.

The speakers were there though, ready for a big show.

Off to the side of the stage were the dressing rooms.

Let’s head out past the pool tables towards the courtyard.

There is a basketball hoop out there in the dust, and a horseshoe pit as well. It’s like it was made for my siblings. Maybe we should have ended up in Texas, instead of the green driftless ridges of Western Wisconsin?

Well, half of the family is being educated in Texas at the University of Dallas, and of course my in-laws are there. That may be enough of a connection to impart some much needed Southern grace and gentility into the Slattery Clan. As for me. I guess my nine years in North Carolina at least taught me how to wear a pair of cowboy boots.

The sun set while I was out there in that courtyard, with the baby playing in the dust.

I’m grateful to have had such a beautiful time in Texas. Now I just need one of my sisters to do a pictoral essay on Newberg’s Corners, so you can see Wisconsin’s answer to Gruene. I’ve got a few more Texas pictures and stories for you, so make sure you stop back soon.

The Onion Award

Earlier this week, the Slatterys present elected a new winner of “the Onion award”.

 The Onion Award is now a tradition in our family. In our house, someone is always being teased by another witty, sarcastic sibling, or wrestling around on the floor with them (this is usually just the boys, but if you get the girls angry enough, they can get vicious), or making really aggravating noises, etc. etc. And so one of us, I’m really not sure who, came up with the  idea to to cast votes at the end of the summer nominating who they think is the most annoying person in the household. The winner is given a great big, homegrown onion. This summer, Raph had really been pushing to win. He got everyone to the table, handed out the pens and paper, and made sure he was the one to read out the votes. Jokingly, Mom voted for Dad, and Dad voted for Mom. I won’t tell you who Mary voted for because it was not very nice, but I myself did give that person an honorable mention. The only vote Raphael ended up getting was cast by himself. This is probably because most of the time, we all think Raph is hilarious instead of annoying. James voted for me, and I voted for him, as did Colleen and Patrick, making James the winner of the 2011 Onion Award.

Sorely disappointed, Raphael Slattery was not open for comment.

A Piece from the Past

by Colleen

While I have been gleefully packing away all my worldly belongings to head off to college in less than two weeks, Kate has been tearfully writing nostalgic notes on my Facebook wall.  I am convinced that she and Mary still think of me as a fat toddler, stumbling around on jiggly little stumps in a romper.  If I had a picture of myself as a baby, I would post it here to prove that I was exactly that……..18 years ago.

Anyway, as I was sorting through things to pack up, I came across this little bit of satire I wrote for an English class assignment junior year.  This is  prime example of why I will not miss Cashton high school one bit.  Enjoy!

Dress Code Justice

For years girls with small chests have been eclipsed by those who are more endowed.  Year after year, they have stood by at school dances, dateless on the side of the dance floor as their counterparts have swished around the room in the arms of the football team.  Not so any longer at Cashton high school!  Here, the flat-chested girl enjoys a freedom not shared by girls who actually have chests.  The dress code here is flexible and accommodating.

Currently, the dress code states that no person is allowed to wear a shirt that has a neckline dipping lower than a person’s clavicle, or, at most, two finger-width’s below that.  This rule, though, is only applicable to those poor girls who actually have cleavage.  The administration has ever-so-helpfully banded together against such girls, and several teachers have been seen patrolling the halls, hot on the trail of any offenders.  They are very effective in finding and rooting out such outlaws judging from the sullen faces of convicted girls, marching stubbornly down to the office to change into a more school appropriate garment.  The flat-chested girls just smile and give a wave, sporting low V-neck sweaters and low-cut tees, all a relished 6 inches below the clavicle.

But wait, there is more to this dress code than just the necklines of upper-body garments.  In an exhausting bit of research, after trolling tirelessly through the dead boring student handbook, a new rule, never before enforced, has been found!  Apparently, there is a rule about the length of skirts and dresses worn to school.  The hemline of such a garment should not be more than a hand-width above the knee,  Students and staff alike disavow any knowledge of this rule, and the vast quantity of denim miniskirts that appear like a plague in early spring only serves to exemplify this ignorance.

It was quite interesting to note that although there is a rule about the length of skirts and dresses worn to school, there seems to be no record at all of a rule, enforced or not, about the length of shorts worn to school.  I should think that there would be room enough in this elastic dress code to add a clause that limits the length of them as well.  After surveying many students from Cashton high school, it was decided that shorts should be, at a minimum, 3 inches in length from the waist to wherever that would land on one’s upper, upper thigh.  Some students thought that this would be a bit extreme and cut out half of their supply of shorts, but the majority insisted on the decency of 3 inches.

High school dress codes have always been the bane of teenage girls’ existence and will most likely continue to be so in most schools.  Fortunately, there are progressive schools like Cashton high, in which the student body and the administration work together peacefully to create a more free and open style of dress for most students.  I propose a new motto for the school: “Strut your stuff!”  Ah, high school, the absolute best place to learn about justice.

(Note: the motto only applies to girls who do not have large chests)

Texas Style

by Kate

This week, I am sleeping under a sleek curved set of Texas longhorns mounted high on the wall above our bed. The deep green duvet echoes the longhorn theme with an elegant cream colored design. 

Paintings of bluebonnets, cattle, and ranchers adorn the walls above sturdy oak furniture.

A spare cowboy hat is waiting in case we need it.

There is a saddle complete with lariat in the corner, just in case we manage to find and rope a wild mustang on the hot dusty streets of this lovely little subdivision.

And of course there is a tanned hide covering the wide wooden plank floor…

We are living in luxury in the gracious Texas Suite- the beautifully designed guest room at my in-laws residence in New Braunfels, Texas.

Casey’s parent’s fled California a couple years back. In California, they lived in a gorgeous home with a wall of glass overlooking the deep blue Pacific arching out to the horizon. When Casey’s father set off on one of his long voyages as the Captain of huge container ships headed all over the world, they could look to sea and watch other ships coming and going and wait for his ship to come in again. When he retired and his ship came in for good, they headed for the hill country of Texas. Casey’s father is six foot five, sandy haired, blue eyed, and a fervent red blooded republican. The rampant liberalism of California was causing his blood to boil, and Texas suits him perfectly. He bought a ten gallon hat, a pair of Wranglers, and a good pair of cowboy boots and is a model citizen in his new, adopted, passionately conservative, Texan hometown.

New Braunfels is a beautiful town, and although the temperature has soared above a hundred every day, we’ve had an amazing trip. I look forward to sharing my pictures of cool green rivers, small town main streets, and a bona fide Texas Dance hall with you over the next few days. At the moment though, I’ve got a date with a deep pool of water, and I’m about to jump in.

Tell me- did you go on vacation this summer? Are you planning to? I’d love to hear about it. And Mary Brigid, my sister, you had BETTER still be coming to Pittsburgh next week. I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about some trip to Kansas!

Love, Kate

Two-Thirds Sheep-Free

By: Mary

In the very begining of stages of this blogs evolution, I shared my late-winter experiences as a new lamb owner. (See Laundry Basket Lambs and Mary Had A Little Lamb).

 Since then, 6 months has slipped by.

After 8 weeks of bottle feeding, I sent them off to a relatives farm. There, a pasture was in need of being mowed, so it was a helpful solution for my uncle and myself. By this time, I was more than ready to send them off to what I like to call ” sheep foster care”. This worked out great for some time. At one point on a rainy May morning while high on endorphins after having just ran a race, I dropped in to see them. Due to the electric fence being on, I was unable to actually get under the hot wire. I called out their names in hope that they would amble on over and visit with me.The only response I got was blank looks on their faces and the resident goats of the pasture heading my way to visit with me. Annoyed, I yelled out ” What about the good shepherd and faithful sheap?!?” Before leaving I also made mention to them ” Idiots- you know how much money I spent on milk replacer?!”

After the couple of months stint as foster and pasture care sheep, I decided to sell out last week and put an add on Craigslist. I am still the technical owner of Rambuger, but am giving him to my Dad. Oddly enough, I got a lot of responses from people seeking sheep. The man who ended up buying them is a serious sheep guy who farms about 2 hours away. He wants to start milking 600 head of sheep! I found it super funny that on the phone he said, “Can I ask you a question? Do you ever go to a little bar called Leo and Leona’s?” What a small world it is. (Read some pretty amusing stories about Leo and Leona’s here and here)

Now that I am 2/3’s of the way sheep free, I am questioning if this was a one time shepherdess stint for me, or if I would do it again. I guess the answer is, I don’t know. Frankly, I enjoy the challenge of tending to the lambs when they are so small. It’s good busy work..buuuut- I don’t like sheep. When they hit the pasture beast stage I don’t really want to have to worry about them. In the future, I may raise about 6 sheep. This all depends on if I can have them sold to 4-H kids before I even buy them at a day old. That way, I can just feed them up for the first 8 weeks and then sell them off and make some cash. Who knows what will happen. All I know is that I am much more of a horsewoman than a shepherdess. Even if my name is Mary and I take my lambs to school.

The Music Man

By: Clare

As August comes,the realization that summer ends comes with it. One by one, older siblings make their way back to their colleges for another school year. This year, all those leaving are heading down to Dallas, either for college, or jobs. The first to leave has been Cale, who started making his way down yesterday.  Cale has been spending his summers, even sometimes Christmas’, with us for almost as long as I can remember, and is more like a brother to me than a cousin. His jokes never fail to make me laugh, and even his laugh makes me laugh. Cale is also our resident musician. There’s been many a summer night when I’ve stayed up late listening to Cale play his guitar and sing a particular song he is obsessed with getting down perfectly at the moment. I love being on the first or second floor and suddenly hearing Cale’s loud singing voice projecting all over the house from the third floor. Even it’s just him coming into Mary’s room and playing the same scales over and over, we still enjoy it.

(No, he is not asleep. This is Cale playing his scales on the floor of Mary’s room. I really don’t remember why he decided to lie down.)

Cale, we will miss you and your music.

 Folks, Elvis has left the building.

A Sunday Adventure

The Slattery family usually spends Sundays with a big meal with the whole family crowded around the table, followed by a special recreation that it seems each person has to celebrate the special day of the week reserved for rest. But this Sunday, the Slattery family packed up kids and food alike, to spend the day at a family friends’ house for a little get-together. It took at least 45 minutes of complete chaos to figure out who was going with who, and who’s going to take what dish we prepared, but eventually we got on our way. I, Clare, of course, was stuck going with Mom and Dad because there was “no room with the big kids for me”, which I was none too happy about, and poor Raph and James had gone to a separate mass and were left behind because of some miscommunication.

The Kinsmans have been friends with out dad since college, so we’ve certainly seen them before, but I can barely remember the one time I’ve been to their house. Mom would always come home from visiting gushing about their gardens and house, so I was very curious as to what their house would be like. It looks pretty average from the front.

But not so average from the back…

We all went ahead and helped ourselves to some delicious food from the kitchen.

We all ate our dinner on the magnificent shaded porch at the back of the house.

Following the meal, we were free to do whatever. Some took time to relax.

I myself went to explore the grounds. There were quite a few pretty flowers and a beautiful fountain. I just love fountains. Too bad this fountain didn’t have the water running.

They also had a pond, which Adeline had been very excited to swim in. She was quite disappointed when she learned it was too scummy for swimming. She had even come all prepared, wearing her swimsuit instead of clothes. She wears her swimsuit quite a lot.

All good things must come to an end, and after a few hours, it was time to head home, stuffed to the brim and content.

What did you do this Sunday?