Self-portrait of Terry Teachout in black with window in background.

Terry Teachout and 2005

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This is my old friend, Terry. He passed away in January of last year.

Terry Teachout (February 6, 1956 – January 13, 2022)

I’m in a mood.

That’s because, for the last day I’ve been thinking about Terry, and missing him. Knowing the date of the one-year anniversary of his death was coming up, I started watching a lecture by him on YouTube last night. He gave the one-hour-long-lecture, “Confessions of a Critic“, at the Institute for Advanced Study. I clicked on the link because I wanted to see him and hear his voice.1

Like I said:

I’m in a mood.

Not that I get in moods that often. And I have to say that I like the way he died: he died in his sleep, apparently.

So, there was no long pain, no feelings of regret, and the tears for us around that know this person’s going through sh*t.

You know: pain, fear, and the body breaking down. The things that John Milton knew when writing about hell in Paradise Lost.

My great aunt died that way – fast; no pain.

She and Gramma Anne came out every year when we were little. They’d play Bridge with our parents. Aunt Winnie would drink Grasshoppers and Pink Ladies (maybe both did; I can’t remember), and would take, “just a little bit more” of a piece of pie or cake after holiday meals. And she would line us all up for interminable amounts of time while she tried to get the photos with her Brownie Camera.


one night she and Gramma Anne were coming back from dinner when 90-year-old Winnie opened the door to their rent-controlled apartment in Chicago and died before crossing the threshold.

Dad said he went to her funeral in Chicago (we were in Pennsylvania) and those at the wake were really glad with the way she died. Dad told me they were like, “Way to go, Winnie!” I was maybe 17 or 18 years old.

Ok: nice story. Get to the point, Keiran:

Why am I writing about Terry now?

Because I’ve not been able to write about his death or process it before. In fact, I don’t know if I am processing it right now. Yet, the arrival of the one-year anniversary lets me write about meeting him.

I met Terry in 2005 when he came to take a tour at Taliesin. I did sometimes give “special tours” for those in media. The tours I gave were off of the schedule, and did not rely on strict timing. You could go over with a person (or persons) in your own vehicle, and shoot around the other tours. Still, I started the tour as a normal, “give-information” tour. I might as well have been doing just a public tour. But, while I drove Terry in my car on the inner roads of the Taliesin estate, something flipped in my mind.

I don’t remember the moment, but I went from “professional guide mode”, to suddenly having a deep conversation with someone.

Here’s what I wrote a day or two after that tour:

In Hillside, he grooved on the theater and dining room. I talked about the concerts given there, and how you’re so close to the musicians when they play. He thought that was cool. I told him how once I watched a bat circle over the head of a violinist while the audience tried not to gasp, and he laughed. [Here’s a hyperlink to musicians playing, but I don’t think you’ll see a bat in that footage.]

We talked about Fallingwater at one point, and I told him my idea that Fallingwater is like “the platonic idea of Organic Architecture” (just go with me on this one). “Yes!” he replied. I took him to a great view across the valley, for which he was grateful. We walked about Taliesin’s waterfall. Then we had lunch, where he told me about his New York City apartment, and the art work he owns.

Then we went, after lunch, to the House….

… He was amazed at the compositions (and, really, the pictures don’t do it justice). I’m amazed at the composition. I have never been able to articulate why it works, although the combination of lines and materials work together in perfect tension….

We stood and looked. He got teary-eyed (I love it when that happens). Here’s his blog post [at]…:

At the end of the day, Keiran and I stood together on a hill overlooking Taliesin, gazing at the house and the vast, all-encompassing view beyond it…. For a moment I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“I guess you get used to everything,” I finally said, “but I don’t see how anyone could get used to seeing this every day.”

“Oh, you do,” Keiran replied. “Most of the time, anyway. Except when the wind and sun and humidity are just right. When everything is right.” She paused. “Then it’s so beautiful, it hurts.”

Great guy. Great day. Like the best I can come up with sometimes on tours, all rolled into one.

He and I remained friends after that.

Our meetings almost completely took place in Wisconsin. As the drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, he came out every (or almost every) year to review plays at the local repertory theater I posted on, the American Players Theater. Due to that, I got the extra-special privilege of getting my pick of plays every time he came out, once he told me what he was going to review.

I never asked him his thoughts on the plays (I didn’t want to distract him while he did his job). But I got to see him afterward while his thoughts on the plays percolated in his mind. Plus, I got to hear him tell me that, APT’s rendition of “A Streetcar Named Desire” was the best he’d ever seen. And I learned how he loved farces, like he said when we sat down before “A Flea In Her Ear“. And my husband and I went with Terry to “A View From the Bridge“, and got to say hi to one of its lead actors.1

And then there was the post I wrote here, on bats at Taliesin. In the post I mentioned how Terry got to stay a night in Taliesin’s Guest Bedroom because of an invitation from Taliesin resident, Minerva Montooth. He also wrote a post on his website, About Last Night. But he sent it me so that I could provide feedback before it went live.

I wrote in my “bat” post that –

He described how, at one point,

“A black bird came in, flew around the ceiling, then fluttered out. I never saw it again.”

I loved telling people on my tours that I replied, “Terry… that was a bat.”

fine, fine, fine. But –

what does this have to do with 2005?

Years ago, I realized that I met some really great people in that one year:

which “provides design, engineering, and custom installation services for audio, video, and lighting systems.” I thought that Bill looked at sound systems as a different material in art making.


  • the man who later became my husband.

All things considered…

While I originally wrote more, on the last time I saw Terry with his wife, Hilary; and spoke on her degenerative illness (that was responsible for ending her life) –

I decided that’s not fair to him, or to her, or to the woman Terry was in love with before he died, or others who knew him.

All I know is that, damn: I miss that man.3


Posted January 10, 2023.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken by Terry Teachout and is licensed under Creative Commons. The image is cropped. Here’s a link to the image on-line.


1 And I wish I could tell him that I do not think he was right about poet Alexander Pope, but that’s just because Pope was a Catholic in England at a time that this.was.not.done; but really because I love the poem “The Rape of the Lock“.

2 Actually, saying “hi” to a lead actor at APT is not hugely unusual. Members of the core cast live in town and we all run across each other, just like normal humans. But before that night, I’d never talked to actor Brian Mani.

3 and not because I got free theater tickets.

Photograph by Kevin Dodds, looking north in the hallway of Taliesin's Guest Wing.

Bats at Taliesin

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Last summer I wrote “A Slice of Taliesin“, which described some of the work done by the Preservation Crew at Taliesin. In fact, that work was about twenty feet to the left + 4-6 feet below where Preservation Crew member Kevin Dodds was standing when he took took the photograph above.

Photograph above looks at the west wall in Taliesin’s Guest Wing in December 2006.
Kevin took it after the removal of the non-historic drywall had begun.

Kevin took the photo below a few months later1

The drywall demolition work uncovered a little bat cluster:

Photograph by Kevin Dodds in February 2007 looking at bats found in Taliesin's Guest Wing.

I am typing right now as far away from the screen as I can get because this photo just freaks me out.

Why’s that?

Bats freak me out.

And it’s April, which means that the bats are starting to wake up from their hibernation. Therefore, I’m going to write today about them and about Taliesin. That’s because I did not have a phobia of bats before I started working there.

When I mean phobia

I don’t want them eliminated. And I’m fine with seeing them at a distance. But being around them when they’re flying (or when they fall on the floor, which they can’t get up from), makes me scream uncontrollably. Others will say, “Oh, come on, what’s the problem?” while I’m screaming and running out of the room.

Before Taliesin,

the closest I’d come to seeing them was that scene with the bat in the movie, The Big Chill.

Since I moved to the area in the 1990s to be closer to Taliesin, I would see them flit past my face when I took walks at night in the summers. I was amazed at their echolocation. They’d fly by and it was kind of cool.

So the reaction came on unexpectedly

I believe I had my first negative reaction when cleaning at the Hillside structure later on.

“Nate” (another tour guide) and I were doing some deep cleaning at the Hillside Theater (deep cleaning was another thing I use to do at Taliesin, like I wrote about in the post, “I’m Just a Tour Guide“). We came across a bat sleeping on a wall. Nate slowly gathered the bat up so he could put it in a place away from people. I don’t know if it was the way the bat moved, or its squealing distress call.2 But as Nate kept saying, “It’s no problem, see? He’s just fine. . . “, I kept backing up, replying to him on the edge of hysteria that “it’s ok (!!!!)”

Plus, there were the House openings in April

That was done for years before there was heat inside Taliesin’s living quarters. I mentioned House openings in “Physical Taliesin History“. And more than once, the Opening crew found bats, sluggishly trying to keep warm. So, we designated Tom, a fellow House opener, as the bat catcher. One time, there was one bat that Tom found in the toilet, still alive, but it had fallen in the water.3

Apparently bats would hang on the edge of toilet rims. Most of the time they were fine, but sometimes they fell.

Tom took the wet and cold bat out of the toilet bowl, dried it carefully with a towel, and put it on a rock outside to let it warm up in the sunshine. Then he found another bat. I think it was also hanging from the rim of a toilet bowl, but hadn’t fallen in. He took it outside and put it next to the colder bat.

He swore that he looked over and the second bat had put its wing around the bat who had been wet. And when they warmed up, they flew away.

That’s adorable!

I know. But I still can’t stop screaming when I get around them.

But bats eat bugs!

I know. I know they all don’t have rabies. They are fascinating to watch coming out of chimneys. And I thank my little bat friends for their circumlocution around me when I walk at night. But… you know… screaming.

I also saw them while giving tours

One time, my two guests and I were in a room at Hillside. I saw a bat drop from the ceiling and fly behind them. And I didn’t even squeak.

Another time, I was the first person walking into Taliesin’s Living Room and saw a bat hanging from one of the cypress strips on the ceiling.

Color photograph looking south in Taliesin's living room. Taken October 2003.

Looking south in the living room. I took this photo on Oct. 27, 2003.

The bat hung near the top of the gable in the color photograph above.

I don’t know if anyone on the tour saw the bat (nobody mentioned it), but I did my best to speak about anything that didn’t rise above shoulder height. So I talked about the wood on the tables and the furniture’s low seats. I talked about the piano in the room, the stone on the floors, the fireplace, and the view out of the windows.

And, finally:

There was the story that I told on tours for my last few summers. It has to do with Terry Teachout.

Terry was the culture writer for the Wall Street Journal and died unexpectedly in January of 2022. He and I met in 2005 and became friends. He loved Spring Green, the nearby American Players Theatre, and Taliesin. He was invited to stay one night at the House by Minerva Montooth (a Taliesin resident who lived there with the Wrights in the Taliesin Fellowship).

A few days later, Terry sent me some of the writing he was doing for his post about that night in the House. He related listening to music in Taliesin’s living room (the room you see in the photograph above). He described how, at one point,

“A black bird came in, flew around the ceiling, then fluttered out. I never saw it again.”

I loved telling people on my tours that I replied, “Terry… that was a bat.”

First Published April 5, 2022.
Photographs by Kevin Dodds used with permission.

Studies on bats

The current state of bats on the Taliesin estate has been checked on by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. As you may be aware, brown bats are having problems because of “white nose syndrome”:

Long thing about “bat distress vocalizations:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, on saving Wisconsin bats:

The USDA on Wisconsin bats:

The Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin did a survey of the bats on the Taliesin estate, and I found it on the Wayback Machine from February, 2017:

It was also put onto the Taliesin Preservation Facebook page, here:


1. Mostly, the preservation crew did the work that makes a lot of noise and mess during the winter. That way, they wouldn’t bother guests on the estate during the tour season.

2. I’m very proud of myself for staying through the entire recording of the bat’s distress calls even though I imagined bat distress sounds for about 5 minutes afterward.

3. As for how there could be water in the toilets when the whole house was unheated during the winter: All of the water systems were drained at the end of the season, with anti-freeze put into pipes just in case. Then everything was filled back up in the spring.