Devil’s Hill: “It was awe-inspiring! It was gigantic!” It was perfect for a Flexible Flyer . . .

Eos: “My sled was a long, sleek Flexible Flyer, the wood well worn by years of use. It was a beauty. That thing was so easy to control, and could turn on a dime!


“One day in December of 1962, my dad loaded us older kids, and our sleds, into our 1959 Ford station wagon [Bulletin Board interjects: Country Squire?] and we drove to Devil’s Hill. He had heard it was a great place to go sledding.

“We parked off the road at the bottom of the hill. It was awe-inspiring! It was gigantic! It was peppered with little bodies on sleds and toboggans. Everyone looked so small.

“We climbed and climbed, pulling our sleds behind us. From the top of the hill, it looked even bigger and steeper. It was scary, but I was a well-seasoned slider.

“I flopped, belly first, on my sled, and off we went. We flew! It was a great ride . . . fast  . . . snow flying into my face . . . cold air. And then it happened. My sled hit a patch of bare dirt and stopped. Right there. No gradual slow-down, no warning. It just stopped. But I kept going. My body, without the sled, continued down Devil’s Hill for another 20 feet. I’m not sure of too much after the dirt.

“When I finally stopped (it seemed to take forever), my snow pants were halfway down my thighs, my nose and cheeks were skinned, and I was crying.

“It was a painful, embarrassing, pride-crushing day . . . and our last trip to Devil’s Hill.”

The Permanent Family Record

Hindsight: “From back in the early 1950s, on the Iron Range, this then-8-year-old little girl remembers the refrigerator.

“My dad was one of eight children. On Sundays, we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Grandparents, in my experience, were elderly people who rarely even spoke to small children. My grandparents were not devoted to the happiness of the grandchildren. They were hard-working people living through immigration, tough working conditions, language barriers and large families.

“Grandpa let it be known that he wanted everybody to come home on the first Sunday in May. Something was up. All of the families crowded into the house at the appointed time. Grandpa, tall and stern, with an imposing mustache, called for attention: ‘All our life, we have been poor. As you can easily see, when we go there will be nothing left.’ All those Depression babies nodded solemnly. ‘Grandma,’ he said, ‘go fetch the stuff.’

“Off scurried our little short grandma, hair bound in a severe bun, wearing a plain dress always covered by an apron, and sensible brown shoes. All grandparents on the Range had accents: Slovenian like ours, or Italian, Serbian, or maybe Finnish. It was just that way.

“Back she came. Out from under her arm came eight little rubber-bound rolls of money. Grandpa cleared his throat as Grandma passed out the eight little bundles. ‘Each family will get $500. Spend it. Something you want or need. You cannot pay bills. Six months from now, you can tell us how you spent the money. Anything is OK: new tires, roof repair, vacation for the family. Now go home and think about it.’ We all left. The adults were stunned. There was little conversation. Five hundred dollars to spend!

“Our family got a new refrigerator — a beautiful refrigerator with a freezer on top, with its own freezer door. We also bought my dad’s beautiful cedar-lined Shell Lake canoe, where we later spent many happy fishing hours.

“My grandparents enjoyed hearing about the dispersal of the inheritance. They probably even smiled. I know we sure did.”

Our theater of seasons
Photography Division

Mounds View Swede: I took this first photo on one of our sojourns to the North Shore of Lake  Superior. It was a cold winter that year, and we were able to walk out on Lake Superior quite a ways. This was taken in Grand Marais, and I like to think of it as ‘Waiting for  Spring.’

“We were curious to see how things looked from out on the lake back towards shore, in case it was interesting to photograph.It wasn’t. Most of the visual drama is along the shore itself, where you see the lake meeting the rocky coast line or the waterfalls there.

“On a return trip in the spring, I photographed these birches with fresh green leaves.  Sadly, many of the birches along the North Shore are dying now. I thought of them as adding a ‘freshness’ there, with their white bark. Enjoy them while you can.”

The Workshop Chronicles

IGHGrampa reports: “Subject: Buying Boards.

“I finally got to the board store (The Home Depot) after some time off from lumberyard prowling. I’ve been battling a series of colds and coughs that may or may not be related. It started as a mild cold, then morphed over to other things that all dragged out over a longer period of time. Maybe the bugs were working in shifts, double- or triple-teaming me.

“At the board store, I went to where the boards were kept. I usually like getting 4-foot 1-by-12s, but they had only a few that were so badly bowed as to be good only for firewood. As I poked around, I came across a 10-foot 1-by-4 standing apart from where I thought it should be. It was an odd color, a dark gray. Curious about that, I read the tag on the end. It was called a gray-stain board. ‘Hmm,’ I thought. ‘What is that used for?’ It wasn’t even planed smooth. I put it back where I found it and moved on.

“A few feet away, I was looking at some other boards when something hit me on the head. It was the odd board. I hadn’t set it back right, and it had tipped over. I wasn’t hurt, but was surprised and may have uttered a colorful expression. Two young women nearby were watching, and I think they were barely able to keep from laughing. I took the gray board and dropped it lengthwise on the floor, where it fell with a loud ‘Whack!’ that carried to the far end of the aisle and echoed back.

“I selected a few 6-foot 1-by-8s that were pretty decent. Katie asked me to make a couple of things that don’t need really nice wood. The boards are acclimatizing in my shop now. I’ll get to the project as soon as I know I’m not going to suffer a relapse.

Again, IGHGrampa: “Subject: Decent board.

“A day later:

“I just sawed those decent boards awhile ago. One of them was quite reactionary. People who work with wood are familiar with something called reaction wood. That’s wood that grows in such a way that sawing it releases tension in the wood and causes it to bind up. In the case of my decent board, the saw slot was closing on the blade. That can cause the blade to stop or the motor to overheat. In the worst case, it can cause a kickback, which means the wood gets thrown violently off the saw table. If you’re in harm’s way, you can get injured. I’ve been surprised a few times, but luckily have not been hurt. This time I was not surprised.”

Our birds, ourselves (Episode II)

The December 29, 2016, Bulletin Board included a note from KQ (“now the Muskegonite”): “I live in a basement apartment, so the windows are close to the ground. I have an evergreen shrub outside — a nicely shaped one with a rounded top. When it snows, it is capped prettily with white. It is the perfect place to scatter toast crumbs for the birds.

“I have a pretty large group of sparrows — at least 20 who land on it as soon as I open the blinds in the morning and wait for me to feed them. I don’t use seed but rather toast crumbs, so there won’t be leftover seed on the ground. You see, in my complex we are not allowed to feed the birds because the leftover seed attracts rodents — squirrels and chipmunks. ( I figure toast crumbs are harmless, and the birds just scarf them down till they’re gone.) . . .

“Yesterday the sparrows suddenly fled in a panic, so fast that I heard their wing beats through the window. Having been an avid birder before I moved here, I suspected a hawk. A few of them came back, only to flee in terror again. so I went to the window … and imagine my surprise when I saw a hawk on the ground between the shrub and the wall! I didn’t move, so as not to startle it. It was beautiful, but in a position where I couldn’t tell how long it was. Went to my bird books to try to identify it, but couldn’t.

“This morning I was surprised to see that it had come back to the same place — beautiful, and much larger than I originally thought. Unfortunately, it startled and flew off before I could check out its markings, so I couldn’t identify it again. I wonder if it was a juvenile, because I don’t think a full-grown hawk would land itself in such a confining space.

“I felt privileged to see such a beautiful bird up close, and I’ll treasure the memory forever.

“By the way, the sparrows haven’t been back all day!”

We have heard, again, from KQ: “THE EAGLE HAS LANDED! Oops! I meant the hawk!

“I no longer feed toast crumbs to the sparrows and other little birds, as the resident squirrel discovered them and ruined the pretty cap of snow on the bush, and now, of course, the weird, warm weather here in Michigan has melted what was left of it. I decided against more toast crumbs and picked up some small bird food consisting of millet and sunflower chips.

“Yesterday morning, I went out and sprinkled about a cup of it around the bush and on top, which fell through to the ground underneath. The birds quickly took advantage of this secure hiding place among the branches so close to the ground. They were pretty jittery and kept flying off in a panic. They would stay away for a while and then come back, only to flee in terror once again. I suspected our resident hawk was in the area, flying around up there, checking this whole thing out. (Mmmm! Supper!)

“The birds came back again and went under the bush to get more seed. Some of it had scattered outside of it near the wall. The next thing I knew, there was the hawk, on the bush! It had landed so stealthily, the birds paid no attention. Then it jumped up and attacked the birds near the wall. The others sped away from under the bush. The hawk took off after them, and that’s the last I have seen of either it or them. Quite an exciting experience.”

Fellow travelers (responsorial)

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin, rose to joegolfer‘s implicit challenge [BB, 2/15/2017], to write a caption for these saguaros joegolfer saw in Arizona recently. He added a P.S.: “I do make out a sitting primate in the middle of the curly cactus. Perhaps it has a monkey on its back?”


Just deserts

Judge Tony: “A new category: punishment that fits the crime.

“Vandalism really bothers me. There needs to be a stronger way to discourage it.

“The story in the February 13th Pioneer Press about the girls’ hockey players who bullied another girl — ‘On the morning of Feb. 5, police responded to a complaint of a car covered in Post-It notes, rubber bands, underwear, birdseed and food ranging from hot dogs to maple syrup, according to the report. Two dead goldfish were near the house’s front door — was a prime example.

“If only I could be the judge in this case, I would sentence the vandals to clean up the car with their tongues alone, and eat the goldfish, in front of a set of webcams, before they were allowed any further meals.”

What is wrong with people (responsorial)

Nana of Many in Woodbury: “I read Skatermom‘s account of the mockery of special-needs students with anger and sorrow welling in me.

“My mom taught Special Education students for 25 years, first in Sheltered Workshops and later in a public high school. We grew up with a respect and admiration for kids who had to work way harder than we did, both in school and in life.

“People who sell things making light of these individuals are bullies. They probably picked on the kids in their own schools and have now gone on to make a living from it. This is a collapse of civilization as we used to know it.

“If I met either Skatermom or her daughter, I would give each of them a big hug. This will have to do for now.”

Our pets, ourselves


The Grand Duchess of Grand Avenue reports: “Sadie is loving this weekend weather report!”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Update from Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Even in mixed company.

“The latest message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:



Band Name of the Day: The Dying Birches

Website of the Day: Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum



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