The Permanent Family Record
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake remembers: “My family lived on the East Side of St. Paul, near Mounds Park.
“It was winter, and there were warning reports of a ‘BIG BLIZZARD’ that was coming. I either heard about it on the radio or TV, or just from my parents talking about it. I must have felt the urgent need to go outside and warn all of the people about this big thing that was coming.
“I remember it was snowing out pretty heavy, and I had my mother put my snow outfit on so I could go outside and play in the snow in our back yard. (So she thought!) I hopped on my little tricycle, and I managed to ride it about a block and one-half, down the hill in the snow, to the friendly little candy store that my sister and I frequented for our candy treats. I remember parking my little tricycle next to the building on the sidewalk, in the deep snow. I have a very vague memory of going into the store, and there were the owners, a man and a woman, standing behind the candy counter. I must have been really exhausted from riding and pushing my tricycle in the deep snow by the time I made it to the store with all of my snow gear on. I was probably a sight to behold, walking in by myself, all covered with snow, in a blizzard!
“My journey accomplished, I went in and warned them that a ‘BIG LIZARD’ was coming, a ‘BIG LIZARD’ was coming! Like I thought they were going to run and hide and lock the doors! They laughed so hard at me, and I didn’t know why they thought that was so funny. I saved their lives from the BIG LIZARD, and they just laughed at me. They called my parents to come and get me, because I couldn’t pedal my tricycle back up the hill in the now-deeper snow.
“My parents reminded me of this story before they passed on, and we all had another good chuckle about the BIG LIZARD that was coming.
Now & Then
Email: “I grew up in Le Sueur, Minnesota, then the home of Green Giant, founded in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company. It provided summer jobs for many (including me in a different building) and brought lots of activity to town, although the tedium of the jobs belied the ‘excitement’ of seeing workers resting on benches near the street.
“This photo shows the demise of ‘the Factory,’ long vacant. It was a sad sight.
“Charlie Tuna, a name awarded by a co-worker during my Green Giant days, when I wore a slicker suit for cleanup duties. It was probably 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity when the steam hoses for cleaning were in use.”
Life in the Service Economy
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul, reports: “Subject: Like members of the family.
“Just returned from another lunch at the Roseville Perkins with my high-school friends Jim and Mike.
“Dan was once again our server, and he was friendly and efficient as always, and we were making what we thought were clever and humorous comments, as always, when I finally apologized for our feeble attempts at humor.
“His response: ‘Don’t worry about it. You should see my family.’”
Everyone’s a (book) critic! (responsorial)
Hudson Grandmama writes: “I’m with you, Bulletin Board: Life is too short to continue reading a bad book.
“About 20 years ago, I flew to Zurich on business. The book I was reading was awful, and, though I didn’t mean to (at least not consciously), I left it on the plane.
“Three days later, as I was boarding a different aircraft to return home, a flight attendant held up a copy of the same book and asked if it belonged to anyone. No one claimed it.
“Some other reader confirmed for me that abandoning that book was the right thing to do.”
Keeping your ears open
Wicki-Yah: “Overheard from behind the counter in a cafe in a small town in southern Arizona (where ‘many residents claim to not be from Planet Earth’): ‘Do you have a good public defender? Because I can recommend someone I have used.’
“And a gem about a small dog that was occupying a chair at the bar in the local brewery taproom: ‘I do not know why anyone would object. He is far more well-mannered than any boyfriend I ever brought in here.'”
Kathy S. of St Paul: “You know you have to take better care of your garbage disposal when you turn it on and it is making weird sounds, then a plastic spork pops out of it.”
Tim Torkildson: “Ringling Brothers was always identified with its elephants. But just as prominent were the show horses. And let me say right up front that, as a clown, I never met a horse I didn’t hate.
“Circus historians are agreed that the first real circus was created by Philip Astley in England, around 1770. Astley had been a cavalry soldier, and he doted on horses. His show was mostly horses, and was so well received that eventually it went on tour as far as Washington, D.C., where the Father of Our Country took in a performance. (The historical record is silent on whether or not he was able to chew a bag of popcorn with his wooden teeth.) As other circuses popped up around our lusty new nation, they all emulated Astley’s, featuring horses by the dozens — and even the clowns had to have a mule to jest with. Elephants were a much later addition, starting around 1880.
“My feud with horses started right at the beginning, during my first ‘Spec’ performance. Spec is short for spectacular. It is the parade-cum-bacchanal that ends the first half of the show. That first season, I began the Spec parade in a rhinestone-encumbered marching-band costume, complete with a shako that weighed no less than 20 pounds; it relocated my center of gravity, putting it near my Adam’s apple.
“I tottered behind a pair of Clydesdales that had every appearance of docile gentleness. But they had it in for me. As they clopped around the arena with me behind, they dumped a steaming load that I didn’t see in time to avoid. My brand-new fancy ballet slippers were engulfed in a fragrant loaf that left its mark and odor for several months after.
“But that was not the end.
“After marching around the track, desperately trying to keep my shako from toppling me over like a bowling pin, I had to make a quick costume change and come back out to the Spec promenade dressed as a girl rabbit, complete with checkered tutu and a huge papier-mâché head that narrowed my vision down to a tunnel of light obscured by a fine mesh screen. All but blind, I was led by one of the horse handlers to a spot in front of a fine pair of milk-white Arabians and told to hold their halters and lead them around the arena. When I attempted this, the nags threw a hissy fit; one of them bit my rabbit head, taking off a goodly chunk of ear. And the other one head-butted me on the shoulder, sending me spinning into a guy wire and then onto a metal elephant tub. Badly shaken, I gamely got up and tried to lead those creatures again. This time they reared up, ready to squash me like a bug; only the timely intervention of a horse handler saved me from a permanent quietus.
“’I guess they don’t like your costume,’ he said nonchalantly as I waited for my heart to cease beating out a rapid tattoo. ‘Just walk over by the llama and wave at the kiddies.’
“I took his advice with alacrity. I’m not sure of my zoology here, but llamas must be related to horses, since the one I sidled up to greeted me with a gob of spit the size of a golf ball. I realized at that moment that quadrupeds and I were not fated to be good buds.
“Forty-five years ago, Ringling had around 40 horses on the Blue Unit. They were caparisoned with ornate blankets and saddles, to be ridden in parades by the aristocracy of the circus. The show featured several dressage acts, stately and synchronized down to a nanosecond. The days of Poodles Hanneford and his rowdy horse shenanigans were long gone. Those horse trainers and handlers considered themselves the ‘ancien regime’ of the circus world, their position of superiority usurped by parvenu lion tamers and trapeze artists. They lived in a world of their own, mostly British-flavored and so horsey that even the roustabout who shoveled out the horse dung carried a riding crop.
“Tommy Tomkins, who had headlined on the Bertram Mills Circus in England as a lad, was the head equestrian handler. He sported a huge Colonel Blimp mustache and is the only person I ever knew who actually used a monocle. His riding breeches were high, wide, and handsome. He appeared to be perpetually ready for a fox hunt — going so far as to gulp a generous stirrup cup of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup each morning, and repeating this fine old English fox-hunting tradition several more times during the day, and into the evening, until his ruddy features took on the glow of a blast furnace. He addressed every clown the same way: ‘You there, fellow.’ His manner was so baronial, I had to resist the urge to knuckle my forehead when in his presence.
“The trainers and handlers all enjoyed some special perks with the show. Horse lovers flocked to their side before, between, and after the shows, to discuss the evils of boxwalking and who was running at the Preakness that year. These tony visitors always brought large hampers of smoked salmon, imported cheeses, a large selection of digestive biscuits, and plenty of wine. More equestrians came down with gout than were ever injured by a horse while on the show. In return, several of the dicier handlers sold the visitors the cream of the crop for amazingly discounted prices. When the buyer would show up on move-out night to collect his or her bargain, both the handler and the hayburner would be long gone back into the bowels of the circus train. As the concessionaires were fond of saying: ‘Yez pay yer money and yez take yer chances!’
“I attempted detente with those blasted horses several times, trying to bribe them with apples and carrots. But their lustrous eyes never held any sympathy for me. Halfway through the season, I got too close to the back of an Andalusian and was kicked in the chest so hard that the imprint of the horseshoe lingered like a bad tattoo for several years.
“During all my years with the circus, the horses continued to nip at me and try to step on my clown shoes. They shied when I was near and shook their manes at me in a disparaging manner when I was yards away. I learned to give them a wide berth. To this day, I won’t approach a horse, not even a Shetland pony, without wearing a Kevlar vest and carrying a halberd.”
The vision thing
Jeanne writes: “Saw this ‘puppy poodle cloud’ . . .
turn into a ‘bird cloud’
on the way back from St. Peter.”
The highfalutin diversions
Virtual Jigsaw Puzzles Division
Another from Poet X of PDX: “A doily I crocheted many years ago now and gave away — I wonder to whom.”
Band Name of the Day: The Big Lizards
Website of the Day: America by Air