Oct 052010

A Man of Letters

by David Satterlee
[Inspired by a story told to my sister, Joyce Mock, by my father, Bill Satterlee. (Just to keep family history clear, I “invented” the ending part.)]

“Papaw, will you tell me a story?”

“Sure, sweetie. How about the one where I wrestled alligators, or how about the story of the troll and the princess?”

“No, Papaw; you know the one I like.”

“As you wish, dear. When I was a younger man, I worked on a railroad crew and my job was to repair railroad bridges. It was very hard work and we didn’t have all the large machines that they use these days. But, I was tall and strong, it was good honest work, and it paid pretty good so everything was just fine. Every time a train came by, we had to be sure that the bridge was strong enough to hold it. And, we all had to get out of the way, so we would stand beside the track as the train slowed down and went by.

“Back then, there was a big war going on and soldiers often traveled on passenger trains. There was a strict rule that soldiers weren’t allowed to get off the train until they reached their destination. This was all before there were cell phones or computers. So, if a soldier wanted to send a message to his family or his girlfriend, he would have to write a letter and mail it. Well, soldiers on long train trips had lots of time to write letters, but they could not get off to mail their letters. Whatever were they to do?”

“Oh dear, whatever DID they do?”

“Because the trains slowed way down for the bridge construction, soldiers would lean out the windows, throw letters to us, and ask us to please mail them. Sometimes the letters had stamps on them and sometimes they didn’t. But, that didn’t matter much to me. Whenever I got to the next town, I would just buy a few stamps and then put the letters in a mailbox. I always thought about how much his friends and loved ones would want to get a letter from that soldier while he was away from home.

“Sometimes, a soldier would throw me a letter that wasn’t finished. Sometimes the envelope wasn’t even sealed. Maybe he was still writing it when he realized that this might be his last chance in a long time to send his letter out. When a letter wasn’t complete, I would sometimes add a few lines to, you know, finish it off right.

“And then, one day, I was finishing off a letter to someone who sounded like she was very sweet and very pretty. I looked at the address and discovered, to my surprise, that she lived in the very next town that we were coming too. Why buy a stamp when I could deliver it myself? I worked especially hard to do my best job of finishing it.

“The next day, I found her address and I knocked at her door. She was very sweet, and very pretty too. She took the letter from my hand and read it right while I stood there. I guess I must have finished it off okay, because that is how I met your Mamaw.”

[The title had several iterations. It started out as “The Troll and the Princess” as an allusion to the amount of time that the storyteller spent under bridges before finding his princess. In the end, I settled on “A Man of Letters” as a tribute to a wonderful father who never went past 8th grade, but spent the prime of his life at hard work to provide for the family he loved.]

Copyright 2010, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

Oct 052010

The “Mind of Man” Labyrinth

by David Satterlee

It seemed like a good idea. I built a labyrinth. I’d been thinking about it all winter. It wouldn’t need to be very complicated; just a path mowed in the grass and borders not mown to define the path. A labyrinth is a good thing. It’s somewhere to walk in circles and nobody complains that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s not a maze because it doesn’t have any dead ends and you can always get back out just by keeping on the path.

The path switches back and forth. It’s balancing to the mind and calming to the heart. The path is like real life; it doesn’t get you directly to anywhere, it turns you back when you least expect, it leads you inexorably to the inevitable end. Sometimes you just have to quit doing everything better and just do what comes next.

My labyrinth isn’t some gothic mystical thing. It isn’t a form of worship or prayer. Oh, there’s some symbolism: if you saw it from above, it looks like the convolutions of the surface of the human brain. You enter from the brain stem (near the driveway) and walk toward the amygdala in the center. There are extra folds in the areas of visual and aural processing. It’s an original design and very clever.

I wrote an article for the local newspaper (included below). They didn’t use it.

The whole thing is 60 foot in diameter and sits in the vacant lot that my wife owns next to our house. It cost me 30 foot of string and 2 cans of grass paint that I already had. The funny thing is that the only times I walk it are when I mow the path. It seemed like a good idea.


I was interested to read about a grant awarded to the Gifted and Talented program for the construction of a labyrinth in Chariton. [Chariton Herald-Patriot, Thursday, April 14, 2005, page 7]

This spring, Dianna and I constructed a grass labyrinth on our property in Russell. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry.

Note: the “WWLL” in the Internet URL below is NOT a typo. A picture of the labyrinth is attached. A higher resolution copy is available on request.

David Satterlee
Russell, IA 50238

641-###-#### (Private – Home)

Russell Labyrinth Available to the Public

Russell residents David and Dianna Satterlee created a grass labyrinth on their property two weeks ago. Visitors are welcome to walk it when it is daylight and dry. Although it looks like a maze, the 60-foot diameter labyrinth has no dead ends. It is intended to create mental balance and relaxation while following the reversing folds of the walkway.

This “Mind of Man” labyrinth lay-out is an original design. Visitors may park on the street and enter it at the “brain-stem” on the south side. “Switchbacks at the sides and far end represent auditory and visual processing centers in the brain” explained David Satterlee. “Viewed from overhead, the curves and turns resemble the folds in the surface of the brain.” Additional information can be found at the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator at http://wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org/

David is a Natural Health Writer and retired Computer Systems Manager. Dianna is the Music Teacher at Russell Community School. She says that their labyrinth is a great low-impact way to get some exercise, unwind, and relieve stress. Dianna added, “We began researching labyrinths last year but didn’t have the resources to do anything complicated. We laid it out using a center post, string, and a can of grass paint. Concepts from high school geometry let us do things like bisect angles. David mows the path every few days but the grass separating the paths is allowed to grow.”

The Satterlee’s labyrinth is on private property but is available for “respectful public use” when it is daylight and dry. It is located in the lot next to ############# in Russell, Iowa; just 5 miles east of Chariton and 2 miles south of US 34. There is room for several cars to park on the street. They request that no tobacco be used on the property.

A planned labyrinth in Chariton was previously reported (4/14/2005 p. 7).

[Note: This was written in 2005. We moved away; the labyrinth has been mown over for several years now. It isn’t there anymore. I have removed location and contact information to avoid disturbing the current residents.]

Copyright 2005, 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.