Another Ground Hog’s Day Letter to the men of F3


Last year while finishing up my annual Ground Hog’s Day letter (and drinking) I decided to share it with my cultmates. This year I’m more sober so I should know better but a few of you asked for it so I decided to punish all of you.

Greetings friends, family, and fellow cult members,

As I sit in my basement lair to write this Christmas Groundhog’s Day letter, there is a dog leash tied firmly to the headboard of my bed. 

Ok, now that all those people are gone, I can tell you the perfectly normal (for us) reason for this.  It’s a long story and you’ll want a drink (or three), but I promise, by the end of this letter you’ll feel better about yourself.

We began the year by refinishing an antique toolbox for Chris’ birthday.  That meant we were outside with front row seats to the final season of Skank-O-Vision (refer to last year’s letter), and the show that was playing featured the grandson and the baby momma across the street packing up and moving out.  The skank sister didn’t exactly move out, but she did come by and pick her things out of the front yard while yelling incoherently.  We couldn’t figure out what had happened to some of the other people featured in the show, but later found out that the accomplice had managed to get thrown in jail so “moving out” wasn’t an option for him.  Several weeks later, we saw a sheriff’s car across the street and just a couple hours later, the stars of the show came back and hauled their three male pit bull mix puppies out to the car and left.  2021 was showing some promise and we declared it would be a “Summer of Fun”. 

Jack decided that online classes were a waste of time and came home to sit out spring semester.  Cathy took the opportunity to drag him into all her projects.  One such project involved moving our strawberry patch to an area by the front door and installing a stone pedestal with a bird bath in the middle of it.  As it turns out, attracting birds to your strawberry patch isn’t such a good idea.  The berries that weren’t eaten by the birds were covered in bird crap.

Jack and Cathy also attempted to plant 40 forsythia bushes, but I got drafted when they discovered a Shrek size bolder in the middle of the garden.  It only took a day to lever the boulder out of the ground and backfill the crater.  Jack managed to be unavailable for projects after that.

I decided to plant Squalor Holler in clover so I wouldn’t have to mow it and could keep bees up there.  “Beware of the murder hornets” seems friendlier than a no trespassing sign.  That meant I had to get rid of the pile of wet leaves, so I built a blast furnace with a vent pipe and the leaf blower.  It got so hot that we sintered the dirt on the leaves into bricks. (I also burned off my eyebrows and all the hair on my arms…Twice) This method proved to be so successful that I cleaned up all the leaves and brush on the river front the same way, with the same smell of burning hair.

Cathy decided that she is retired rather than just unemployed so with Skank-O-Vision off the air, she started a period of manic productivity.  Our new raised bed garden was overflowing with young vegetables. She started a blog with recipes, crafts and pictures of fancy table settings.  For weeks I came home to a spotless house, fabulous dinners and a new table setting (which I wasn’t allowed to sit at).  I cut and polished slices of logs for placemats and coasters for photo shoots.  She hung multi-colored pennants around the boat dock and festive yard flags appeared.  2021 was going great!   

THAT is how I knew we were getting a new dog. This dog was going to be different, not like all the used dogs we had in the past.  I insisted that Cathy read a dog training book and do some research prior to choosing our next fur lined money pit.  We settled on a Boykin Spaniel and Cathy’s research yielded a list of suitable dog names.  There was a lot of overlap between Cathy’s list and the one I proposed which surprised Jack and me since mine was a list of popular stripper names from the internet.  In the end Cathy selected Pippa (From the stripper list) but the dog’s full name is Hunters Rest Pippa Dee Doo Da.   Cathy found a breeder in Sewanee TN. who informed us that we would need to come for an interview to determine if we would be suitable parents for a dog of this pedigree.  I was delighted to find out that Boykins are routinely featured in Garden and Gun magazine and were so popular that there was a 2-year waiting list.   With that disaster averted we put our name on the waiting list, scheduled an interview and began getting ready for the “Summer of Fun”.  I knew that Cathy was serious about it when I came home to find enough beer (and beer water) and soft drinks for a moderately sized wedding.

All you past victims of this letter know we bought Jack a very ugly, very disposable Toyota Avalon (LuAnne) when he got his license, with the expectation that he would total it with in the first year.  Even though we had given him a 3-year extension, Jackson had still failed to meet expectations and LuAnne was getting dangerous to drive.  As a punishment for this disappointment, we bought him a Prius.  Because we do eventually want grandchildren we made it the Lexus version which actually looks pretty cool from the outside and has an interior like Italian leather underwear.   It’s in this fine chariot that we sent him forth to continue his higher education.  

By Memorial Day, we were childless again and the starting gun for the “summer of fun” cracked off like a fart in church.  Since we live on the river, we planned to hold court all summer with friends that we hadn’t seen in years coming to join us to celebrate the end of Covid.  Mother Nature is a bitch, and Memorial Day weekend was cold, but we were un-deterred and had some great friends out to spend the day on the river.  That is when Ben re-entered our lives.  Ben is the meth-head {1} son of the woman we bought the house from.  Last summer he tried to move into her cinder block garage on the property next to us.  Fortunately, it has no electricity, water or sewer so his stay was short lived, but there are still burned-out frames of recliners lying about where he left them.  On this particular {2} weekend Ben was feeling nostalgic and was staggering along the river front when I decided to intercept him.  He was nearly incoherent, but I was able to piece together some facts.

  • After the summer heat (and the smell) forced him to move out of the garage, he joined his mother in her double wide.
  • Somewhere around November of 2020, he burned her double wide to the ground.
  • He, his mother and his mother’s first ex-husband were currently living in his sister’s double wide on the hill across the road.
  • His mother was suffering from dementia, but since she never made much sense, they were not sure if it was real.

We were thrilled!

Spring went by fast with various friends coming to join us and occasional “Ben” {3} sightings.  At one point, in broad daylight, Ben came by while we were outside building Jackson a kitchen table for his new apartment.  He was out of his head and carrying a giant jar full of pickles.  He proclaimed that they had been made by his mother {4} and offered to fish one out bare handed for Cathy.  Cathy declined the treat.

{1} Apparently, MS word knows that Methhead needs a dash

{2} MS word thinks that more concise language would help here.  MS word can bite me

{3} Similar to Big Foot sightings but less pixilated

{4} His mother has dementia, and it took us a year to kill all the cockroaches she left behind when we bought the house


Once the table was finished, we rented a U-haul and took it and some of Jack’s other things up to Louisville.  I called a dozen dealers to try to find a drop off point for the trailer before I talked to the owner of the Mr. Goodtech garage.  He was hard to understand, and I told Cathy when I got off the phone that he sounded stoned.  As it turned out Mr. Goodtech was stoned, and he crashed the trailer into several of his customer’s cars as he was helping me walk it across his parking lot.

For Father’s Day Chris brought a 2022 prototype Master Craft Pro-Star professional ski boat down for me to ski behind.  I had a great weekend skiing, and my physical therapy is going well.

In July, my mom turned 80 and we celebrated with a party in my sister’s back yard.  (Covid isn’t really over {5} after all) Rather than rent a tent Cathy and I bought a 20’ x 40’ pavilion which we thought we would use many times in the coming years.  It arrived in eight 50 lb. boxes and Chris came to help erect it.  About halfway through the process Chris pointed out that we had 400 lbs. of tent sitting on the ground and only the two of us to lift it and install 12 legs.  We ended up calling all rest of the Boettners over to get the job done and P.T. Barnum would have been proud.  The party went off without a hitch and afterward, our experienced crew of circus freaks were able to get the tent down minutes before a thunderstorm whipped through area.

The week after the party we attended a wedding in Nashville and stopped by the dog breeder for our interview.  The good news is that I made friends with all her dogs, and we aced the interview.  The bad news is that we got moved up the waiting list.  We also stopped by to see friends on the way back home, but they are normal and have no place in this letter.


As summer waned, things got busy.  Since we knew that all the tourist attractions (Dayton OH, Fort Wayne IN, and St. Croix Falls WI) would be packed, we planned a road trip to see friends and booked our reservations early.  Our friends in Fort Wayne arranged a huge party with a live band that the whole community turned out for.  We had no idea we had so many followers in Indiana.  In St. Croix, Cathy’s cousin hosted us for several days and I got to ski behind another professional level ski boat.  It was at 7:00am in an ice-cold lake but I brough my scuba suit so I was both warm and sexy.  (My physical therapy is going well).  We also stopped by Louisville to see Jack and his girlfriend Phoenix.  We really like her, and she seems like a good match for him. 

For my midlife crisis, I climbed the Grand Tetons in Wyoming with some friends.  It was a group of 4 50’something guys climbing a 14,000 Ft rock near Jackson Hole, WY.  The guide service had an extensive website with instructions and packing lists including the things you would expect like climbing shoes and harnesses as well as layers of various clothing including rain gear. We were all puzzled about the rain gear since it never rains in Wyoming.  We camped at Jenny Lake for two days while we completed some training climbs and the guides evaluated us to make sure they wouldn’t have to carry our carcasses down the mountain.  During these climbs the guides reviewed our gear for safety and made sure we had rain gear.  On the morning we left we were all given our final instructions and a “Wag Bag”.  

A Wag Bag is a double layer foil lined bag/toilet device including a strip of toilet paper, wet wipe and the following warning “Please do not ingest the contents of this bag.  If powder gets in contact with eyes flush with water immediately.  If ingested, administer large amounts of water as soon as possible”

The Restop 2 Disposable Toilet-To-Go is suitable for multiple uses and large enough to hold 8 pounds of Kielbasa. 

{5} Again, MS Word thinks more concise wording would be clearer to my reader, but I have total confidence in you. You can do it!

The first day we climbed to 10,000 ft with all our gear and set up camp on a cliff face with 50 MPH winds.  The climb was hard, and I carried way too much equipment (including some stupid rain gear). It was the most physically demanding day of my life.  The climb to the summit was to begin at 3:00am the next morning so we were all preparing our gear to be able to eat breakfast, poop and climb 4,000 feet of cliffs in the dark when we began to realize that the Wag Bag instructions didn’t include any methods for pooping in a bag in the dark on a cliff in a 50 MPH wind.  Fortunately, our guide Scott took us aside to explain the technique.  The Wag Bag was only for solid waste since we had to pack them back out with us and there was an outhouse for that.  Since our water supply was on the Wyoming side of the cliff, we were instructed to hike down the Idaho side of the cliff to urinate but to be careful that the wind didn’t carry it right back to our campsite.  THAT, is when we realized the reason we brought rain gear (and wished we brought safety goggles).

At 3:00am we left the bulk of our gear at base camp, wedgied {6} ourselves into climbing harnesses and began climbing by the light of our headlamps.  Once the sun came up the views were spectacular, and we were feeling pretty good about ourselves when we found out that we were the only group who made the summit that day.  Reality set in down at base camp when we loaded up our Wag Bags for the trip down to the valley.  Even after all we had accomplished, we were just a bunch of Turd Sherpas.

While I was gone, Skank-O-Vision came back on the air when the woman at Salem’s Lot let her daughter and son in-law move in.  This season’s show is less Breaking Bad and more a weird mash-up of Hoarders and Ramshackle Renovators.  (Don’t bother looking for it on HGTV). In an effort to “Improve” the property they have been removing piles of garbage from inside the doublewide and the garden shed that they refer to as an “Un-finished Apartment” and putting it in the yard.

It was while watching this from our back deck on a Saturday when Rick’s Tree Service came by and offered to give me a tree, they were cutting down nearby.  They knew I might be interested since I had cut a pile of firewood in the spring and was stacking it on Squaller Holler.  After 5 years of waiting, I was finally going to get my wood stove and had secured some industrial pallet racking to build a massive woodshed.  While delivering what turned out to be an old growth forest, Rick discovered an abandoned septic tank on Squaller Holler with his truck, so we now have a “Water Feature”.  Fortunately, the wood rack is rated for 24,000 lbs. and I was able to stack most of the forest in it.  Unfortunately, the planet it was sitting on wasn’t up to the task, the concrete piers sank 6 inches and the whole thing had to be unloaded and dismantled.


In October, after a camping trip with friends during which we saw a bear, we packed up our gear and went to pick up Pippa.  She weighed just 5lbs (while some of her litter mates were 10+) but was the most confident of the litter.  House breaking went well and it wasn’t long before she would ring a bell by the front door to let us know she needed to go poop….in the strawberry garden {7}

{6} The New Oxford Dictionary does not contain the past tense verb form of the word wedgie

{7} If we offer you strawberry jam, you may want to inquire about just how local the fruit in it is.

Cathy subscribed tot he Boykin Spaniel Society which is how we found out that Boykins are the state dog of South Carolina and that we paid a lot of money for a breed that is referred to as “Swamp Poodles”.  

After three weeks of midnight walks and constant surveillance, we were thinking that old used dogs weren’t such a bad idea after all.  Puppies are like babies that can run and have fangs. Like any new parent we shared pictures with anyone willing to stand still long enough and we had conversations about the frequency, size, viscosity and the exact PMS color of dog poop. 

Throughout October we heard yelling coming from up on the hill and would see Ben shambling around the neighborhood shortly afterward.  Then one morning the yelling was louder than usual.  Since I took Peckerwood as my foreign language in high school, I was able to determine that Ben had stolen something, and the natives were restless.  After a couple of hours of this it was clear that Ben had been voted off the island and we haven’t seen him since.  Because we are horrible people, we stalk our neighbors in the jail dockets just to keep tabs on them.  That’s how we found out that Ben got arrested just in time for Thanksgiving.  We also learned that the grandson of the woman we bought the house from (whose son Ben burned down her double wide and now has dementia and is living with her daughter, 1st ex-husband, and Ben, before he got voted off the island), must have gotten out of prison sometime in the fall.  We knew that because he got arrested in October for trying to smuggle drugs into the Hamilton County jail.  He is now living on the hill in Ben’s old room.

Christmas was busy at work, so I had a lot of long days, but the boys came down and Jack’s girlfriend Phoenix was able to join us.  The entire Boettner family gathered at Mom and Dad’s to celebrate, and it was a truly enjoyable time.

We don’t typically do anything special for New Years, but Pippa jumped out of the back of our stationary 4 Runner and broke her rear drivers side leg on the 29th, so we celebrated the new year by making a house payment for an orthopedic veterinary surgeon.  Our swamp poodle tripled in value overnight and we were instructed to keep her calm (and stoned) for 6 weeks.  Even with a damaged leg Pippa is prone to jumping off things so when Cathy has her in bed she is hitched to the headboard with a leash.  (Now get your mind out of the gutter you bunch of perverts) The best part was when Chris came home for his birthday and saw the leash.  He refused to even let me explain.

So, to wrap things up Pippa is in the 4th week of recovery, is stoned and happily chewing on a bull penis as I finish this letter.

On this special day, we send you this blessing.

May you escape the gallows, avoid distress and be as healthy as a groundhog.

Cathy, Mike (9-Volt) and the Swamp Poodle