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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Hi Folks!

There’ve been ads on TV recently that claim Spring only comes once a year, so we need to take advantage of it.

Sure do hope they’re wrong. We’ve had Spring once this year, and even a bit of Summer, but now Winter seems to be back. Temps were well below freezing and snow flakes were flying on Tuesday. That’s pretty good evidence.

So, unless Spring also comes twice this year, we here in northern Wisconsin may just have enjoyed the shortest Spring and Summer on record.

FRIDAY THE 13TH

Get out your rabbit’s feet, put away the ladders, and nail those horseshoes to the door frame (closed side down). This week brings us Friday the 13th, a day reputed to be a bringer of bad luck. There is some scientific evidence that triskaidekaphobia - extreme superstition regarding the number thirteen - may be backed to some statistics that show more vehicle accidents on that day. On the other hand, other researchers say that’s because triskaidekaphobiacs are nervous and uptight and therefore more accident prone.

INCOME TAX TIME

Speaking of bad luck, the deadline for filing income tax returns this year is Tuesday, April 17. Understand that’s because they didn’t want to force any deadline pushers to lie on their tax returns on a Sunday.

That great observer Will Rogers declared the income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. “Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through if you are a crook or a martyr.”

Anyway, people started complaining about taxes sometime back in the Dark Ages. Income taxes hadn’t been invented yet, but other than that, nothing’s changed much. Problem is, most people in government come to realize all they have to do to afford the price of favors for themselves and/or people who support them, is raise taxes. Some politicians are smart enough to realize that if they raise taxes too much the economy will fizzle and then there will be nothing left for anyone to pay taxes with, so they have to be at least a little bit careful. Sadly, others aren’t quite that smart.

The American income tax has been hated since it began back in the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Complainers include scientists, presidents, congressmen and comedians. Sadly, though, everybody complains about taxes but nobody does anything much about them.

Heck, most of us don’t understand the tax laws. Bet that includes the people who wrote them. Maybe they’re planned that way. Less painful if you don’t know what’s going on.

The famed G. Guttman said, “If the IRS took 100 taxpayers at random and sent each an incorrect notice that they owed an extra $92.35 in taxes and interest, more than two-thirds would probably just send in a check without investigating further.”. He’s probably right. Some of us because we don’t know enough to argue, and the rest because they don’t think it will do any good anyway.

Don’t understand your tax forms? Don’t feel bad. Albert Einstein described the income tax as the hardest thing in the world to understand.

“I want to find out who this FICA guy is and how come he’s taking so much of my money,” was the request of a professional hockey player.

Mark Twain said he used profanity only when discussing house rent and taxes.

One line on Form 1040 instructs the preparer to “Check this box if you are blind.” How’s that again?

Regardless how we feel about the forms, most of us agree heartily with the sentiment of anonymous commentator: “It would be nice if we could all pay our taxes with a smile, but normally cash is required.”

Indeed!

TAX HELP

Tax troubles notwithstanding, this year taxpayers who earned $57,000 or less in 2011 can take advantage of a new Free File program created through the Free File Alliance, a public/private partnership between the IRS and nearly 20 of the nation’s leading tax software companies.

NAPS, a national news service, says the Free File program has already been used by more than 33 million taxpayers and is designed to provide a fast, safe and easy filing option. It’s available on the IRS website: www.IRS.gov/freefile, with the option of selecting tax software or fillable forms. Just collect your tax information (w-2’s, Social Security numbers, etc., deductible receipts, etc.) and log on. There’s no charge, no credit card required. You will need bank routing and checking account numbers to claim your refund by direct deposit.

If you choose the tax software option, you browse a “Help Me Choose a Company” option that directs you to the most suitable software, and then just follow the directions on the company’s website and Free File.

The fillable forms option, designed for people who are comfortable filling out their own tax returns, lets you fill in the blanks while the program does the basic math calculations.

Either way, you can e-file your return and by selecting direct deposit you may get your return in as few as 10 days. You can even track your return with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website. Or, with a Smartphone you can download IRS2Go, so you’ll always know the status of your refund.

CAN’T GET DONE

Taxpayers who cannot collect all their information on time to file properly before the April 17 deadline can either use Free File software or an online fillable form to file an extension request.

The request is automatically granted, but the hitch is that it extends the time to prepare the return, but not to pay any taxes that may be due, so you need to guess at those and send the amount in with Form 4868. Then you have until Oct. 15, 2012 to file your return on Free File.

SING THEIR PRAISES

A fair amount of time was spent handing out praise at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, March 27.

First came the Coleman High School Wrestling team, which was honored for the historic feat of bringing home their third consecutive state championship trophy. They are the second team ever in Wisconsin to accomplish this feat, and for Coleman it was the second time. The first was 50 years ago, when County Supervisor Jerry Pillath was on the team.

With them were their cheerleaders and team managers, all looking proud and handsome in black dress shirts and trousers, green neck ties, with championship medals hung on ribbons around their necks.

With them also were school administrator Dr. Robert Werley, High School Principal Kelly Casper, and her husband and their head coach, Kevin Casper, plus assistant coaches Tom Gould and Jason May, all also looking proud. Assistant Coach Carl Casper was not able to attend.

A plaque recognizing the team’s historic feat was presented by Supervisor Ken Casper, who himself is an alumni of the school, a former school board member and father of the championship coach.

The presentation brought some words of wisdom from Dr. Werley that could well be applied to all young people everywhere - in fact probably to all people everywhere: “Recognition is one of the key secrets of success.” He cited studies that prove this.

Recognize anyone - but particularly a young person - for an accomplishment and they’ll strive to accomplish more. Show that you hold them in high esteem and they’ll strive to prove they deserve it.

“When you’re superintendent of a championship school you get a lot of credit for not a lot of work,” Dr. Werley declared. “These kids and these coaches did it all.”

Dr. Werley, who is retiring at the end of the June, went on to say when he was a young teacher he worked a lot in the arts and was often jealous of the support and recognition given to sports.

Over the years, he has learned why this is the case, and why this may be a good thing, not a bad one.

The role of the school, he said, is to teach students not only how to be good employees but also how to be good citizens and good family members.

Sports, he explained, teach self discipline, teamwork, loyalty and commitment. They stimulate a drive to improve, a drive to excel, and determination to follow through. “What better qualities would you want in a parent, a co-worker, a neighbor or a friend?” he asked.

There was no answer. Because he’s right. There are no better qualities.

Throughout the presentation the team stood tall, proud and handsome. It’s almost a certainty that most of them will go on to do good things with their lives.

PRAISE, PASS IT OUT

Repeating Dr. Werley’s message here isn’t an effort to get you to push your kids into sports if they’re not interested. It is intended as a push to get them involved in something for which they can earn praise.

It is also intended as a reminder to everyone to praise your kids, your spouse, your co-workers, your neighbors, your grocery bag packer, for whatever they do well. It’s important for them to know what they’ve done is noticed and appreciated.

The need for well earned praise is perhaps more basic to human nature than the need for food and drink.

Sometimes we’re too stingy with it!

Put more praise in the world, and the world will automatically become a better place.

ALSO PRAISED

Recognition and praise for another job well done went to County Board Chair George Bousley. It was his last meeting as the Supervisor from Niagara, since he did not seek reelection. He said he has no immediate plans to retire from his job as Mayor of Niagara.

At the start of the meeting, Bousley introduced the newly seated Marinette County Circuit Court Judge James Morrison. Most of the supervisors knew him anyway, since on occasion over the years he had served as interim corporate counsel for the county.

Morrison praised the county and its employees, but he particularly praised Bousley.

“You’re entitled to leave, but many people are sorry to see you go,” he told the retiring chairman. “Your service on the board has been superb - Marinette County has seen many years of great service from you.”

Then, at the end of the meeting, the board honored Bousley with a surprise reception and a few well chosen words of praise.

Vice Chair Vilas Schroeder, Peshtigo, praised Bousley for his humility and dedication and for always keeping an open mind. He also thanked Rose Bousley for sharing so much of her husband’s time, not to mention the cookies for which she is justly famous.

Rep. John Nygren said though Chairman Bousley was not in his district, they have worked together on many projects, often along with Rep. Jeff Mursau, and have built a relationship based on mutual respect, something he feels is badly needed in politics today.

Sen. Dave Hansen cited Bousley’s team approach to government as “something we need to see more of in the state and in the nation.”

Supervisor Ted Sauve, himself a former County Board chair, opted not to speak at the meeting, but afterwards shared a statement praising Bousley as “a man with class, dignity, character and integrity,” as well as a great friend.

Having worked with Chairman Bousley more than a few years myself, benefitting from his advice and observing the many good things he did to settle bad situations, often behind the scenes, I could add a few words, like” tactful, kind, modest, resourceful, and Intelligent!” And, yes, “statesman,” but never, ever, “politician,” at least not in the bad sense.

But perhaps the retiring chairman’s brother, Supervisor Russ Bousley, said it best with the simple statement, “I’m proud that he’s my brother!”

MORE FAREWELLS

This has been a year for farewells, some fond, some not so fond, in Marinette County government.

The elections on Tuesday, April 3 were were the occasion for farewells of the fond variety. As Supervisor Sauve mentioned, the County Board meeting on March 27 was the last for supervisors Jerry Martens and John Guarisco. As the elections turned out, it was the final meeting for Pillath as well, since he was not re-elected.

At the March 22 meeting of Marinette County Association for Business and Industry (MCABI), members approved a resolution bidding a formal farewell to retired Executive Director Don Clewley, the man who led the organization from its inception and was instrumental into shaping it into what it is today.

TIMES ARE TOUGH

Things are tough all over, but according to Fred Allen, they were particularly bad in Chicago a few years ago. Told his audience, “I’m a little hoarse tonight. I’ve been living in Chicago for the past two months, and you know how it is, yelling for help on the way home every night. Things are so tough in Chicago that at Easter time, for bunnies the little kids use porcupines.”

COOKIN’ TIME

Other folks complain about too many Easter leftovers, but we never have a problem with them, except perhaps if there’s too much Jell-O. That can’t be frozen, and can’t be turned into anything else that I know of, so the only thing to do is eat it or give it away. Chocolate candy certainly isn’t a problem. M&Ms of course can go into what otherwise would be chocolate chip cookies. So can chopped up chocolate bunnies and the like. And most of it keeps a long time. As kids, candy money was scarce to nonexistent. We’d dole out our Easter candy a little at a time until Halloween, and eat the last of our Halloween loot just before Easter. Not sure, but I think we ate what little Christmas candy we got at Christmas.

QUICK BREAD MIX

If the gas prices and general inflation have taken a bite out of your budget you may be looking to save some grocery dollars. Make up a batch of this homemade baking mix and store it for quick bread varieties whenever you want them. Have a few recipes today, and there will be more in the next couple of weeks. The recipes are shared by Tawra Kellam, who has a site at http://www.LivingOnADime.com/

HOMEMADE BAKING MIX

9 cups flour

2/3 cup dry milk

3 tablespoon. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening or 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter

Mix flour and other dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Use a mixer on low to cut in the shortening to save time. Store in an air tight container up to 6 months. Store in refrigerator or freezer if using butter. This recipe uses a 5-pound sack of flour when doubled.

BAKING MIX PANCAKES

2 1/4 cups baking mix

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix ingredients until moist. The batter should be lumpy. Cook on a hot greased griddle. Flip when bubbles break on the surface and the edges begin to dry. Makes 15-18 medium pancakes.

BAKING MIX BISCUITS

2 1/4 cups baking mix

2/3 cup water or milk

Mix lightly until dough forms a ball. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 10 to 12 times. Roll dough about 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a 2-inch cutter or the rim of a glass dipped in flour. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. For drop biscuits, use 1 cup water and drop by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet. For cheese biscuits, add 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Makes one dozen.

Thought for the week:

Good Friday has come and gone. Easter remains with us throughout eternity, the conquest of life over death, good over evil, God over Satan. As Clarence W. Hall said, “If Easter says anything to us today, it says, ‘You can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!’”

COUNTRY COUSIN


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