A goose in the air, mingling with the scent of skunk: It happens every spring!

Our theater of seasons

Al B of Hartland: “A lone Canada goose flew overhead, honk-a-lonking at a good goose speed. Its head turned from side-to-side. I hoped it would find whatever it was searching for.


“A number of subspecies of Canada goose have been recognized, with only a couple being distinctive. In general, Canada geese are smaller in the north and darker in the west. The smallest forms are considered a different species called the cackling goose.

“Skunk smell was in the air. It’s a sign of spring.

“That’s worth honking about.”

The highfalutin diversions
Virtual Jigsaw Puzzles Division

As Spring Training dawns, another from Poet X of PDX: “On the wall at a bar and dining spot, west Portland: Harmon Killebrew.

“The stadium, now used for soccer and one block away, was a minor-league park for several teams over the years, including the Twins.”

Know thy music! Know thyself!
The One & Only Division?

In reply to Poet X of PDX‘s note about his musical eclecticism, here’s Bloomington Bird Lady: “Many of us have eclectic taste in music.

“To me, it’s easier to at least somewhat like the music that your kids are into as they develop their own favorites. I used to really like Moody Blues, for one. The music was beautiful, not ugly and repetitive or overly loud always.

“Then as I got into walking much more, I had a radio headset. This is way before those iPods, for sure. I would actually play Country music — not the twangy kind, but some with meaningful words and companionship for walking.

“I’m hoping someone will remember Dan Seals’s music. His words were tear-jerkers, his back-up musicians were excellent, and even violins (not fiddles, thank you) would play well as he sang whole stories in his songs. I still have a couple of CDs my kids made for me to play whenever I wanted — all the good songs. Sadly, Dan died quite early, and I don’t hear his music being played anymore on radio.

“Being eclectic in taste, I am now saddened by the death of our former Minnesota Orchestra director, who just passed at age 93. What a gentleman he was, and I’m so glad he was always appreciated: a joy to watch him stride on stage, take the podium and see our friends who were lucky to be playing back then, too. Stan Skrowaczewski — he was truly a loyal Minnesotan, and his compositions and elegant manner as Maestro will be long-remembered.”

Just a coincidence? (responsorial)

Semi-Legend:Speaking of great Freddie Mercury videos . . .

Clowning around

Another circus memoir by Tim Torkildson: “At the end of the 1973 season, I looked fondly at my clown alley compatriots for one last time.

“Over the last few seasons, we had shared a lot of laughs, a few hard times, and many miles on the old Iron Lung (our name for the train car where the new clowns had their roomettes). I had been kicked by llamas; peed on by elephants and tigers; swindled out of $10 by a roustabout named Scotty; discovered my inner clown with the help of master comics like Swede Johnson, Prince Paul, and Otto Griebling; been promoted to Advance Clown; and eaten my first bean burrito.

“Now it was time to leave these hallowed halls of harlequiny for a radically different environment. I had received a letter from Salt Lake City, signed by President Spencer W. Kimball himself, calling me to spend the next two years as a proselyting missionary, at my own expense, in the Kingdom of Thailand for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was to report to Salt Lake to begin my orientation in three weeks. From there, I would be whisked off to BYU-Hawaii in Laie for a crash course in the Thai language. And then drop anchor in ancient Siam for two years to discuss the rudiments of salvation with Buddhist monks and tuk-tuk drivers.

“I wanted to say a fond farewell to these benighted buffoons who had tolerated a Minnesota naif and taught him so much — with the maximum amount of obscenity and absurdity.

“I stepped into the middle of the alley, already dressed in a white shirt and tie, with pressed black slacks, and rapped on Swede’s trunk with a handy turkey baster for attention. ‘Listen, you guys,’ I began, my voice husky with emotion. ‘I just wanna say that . . .’

“‘How many wives ya gonna have, mate?’ jeered Dougie Ashton.

“‘I just wanna say . . .’

“‘Hey, Tork, bring me back some prefilled sarongs, will ya?’ This from Chico. The rat.

“‘I just wanna say . . .’

“Several clowns began a rousing rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, substituting the word ‘halitosis’ for ‘hallelujah.’

“‘All of you guys can go to perdition, for all I care.’ I yelled as I strode out of clown alley, right into Charlie Baumann’s starched tuxedo shirt.

“‘You must do this, this Mormon nonsense?’” he asked me sternly.

“‘It’s all set, Charlie. I can’t back out now.’ I gave him a weak smile. I didn’t want any more arguments, especially since he was holding his tiger whip.

“‘Verwahren,’ he said, shaking my hand. ‘Come back vhen you are done. You are a goot clown.’

“Before I could react, he pushed past me into the alley, to begin a rancorous investigation concerning the previous night’s panty raid on the showgirls’ train car.

“I looked around for Tim Holst, who had introduced me to the LDS church several years earlier. This was all his fault, I wanted to joke with him. But he and his wife, Linda, were out shopping for bassinets somewhere.

“I passed out the back entrance, looking at Backdoor Jack and thinking: ‘There’s a face I won’t much miss.’

“I had more luggage than the other missionaries when I arrived at the Mission Home in Salt Lake. President Morris in Thailand had instructed me to bring along my clown ensemble for possible use as a goodwill ambassador for the LDS church. Airlines, then as now, charged me an arm and a leg for the excess weight — which I had to pay out of my own pocket.

“In Hawaii, I spent 10 hours a day learning the basics of the Thai language. ‘Sour tea cup,’ or something like that, meant ‘Hello.’ Being a tonal language, you had to sing it or risk having phrases such as ‘Would you like some rice?’ come out as ‘Get out of here.’ As set-apart missionaries, we were sworn to complete celibacy and obedience to other strictures that could rub a young man the wrong way pretty easily. The torrid beauty of the entire Pacific Rim poured into BYU Hawaii to study English, accounting, and home economics, and these languid island girls were not shy about parading past the barracks where we studied, ate, and slept. Even though I had been exposed to dozens of painted ladies (showgirls) during my years with the circus, I still found myself taking several cold showers a day — as did most of my fellow sufferers.

“When it was learned that I was a professional circus clown, the powers that be set up a one-hour show for me at the campus auditorium, for all the missionaries and student body. I had plenty of my own original material, but I did not scruple to swipe bits and pieces from my colleagues back in clown alley. I especially relished stealing Otto’s old gag of going out in the audience and flirting with the girls while pretending to be cleaning the seats with a rag. I stole several impudent kisses from Melanesian and Oriental lasses that I still cherish today — mostly because my clown persona let me get away with it. Out of costume, I would have been sent packing for such an egregious breach of standards. To paraphrase Mel Brooks’ famous dictum: ‘It’s good to be the clown!’

“In Thailand itself, I faced several challenges new to me as a clown. First, all my greasepaint melted in the tropical heat, becoming impossible to apply. I finally solved this problem by purchasing bags of ice prior to my performance to firm up the greasepaint so I could apply it properly. Next there was the problem of my classical whiteface clown makeup. To the Thais, I appeared to be a ‘phii’ — a ghost. Their initial reaction to my appearance was to screech and head for the exits. Or else cover their eyes and wave their Buddhist amulets in front of me to ward off the revenant’s evil eye. I finally overcame this dilemma by having my companion (LDS missionaries always work as a team) come out before me to explain that although I might look like a specter, I was actually a harmless funnyman (‘tuatalog’ in Thai). This satisfied most people, but there were always a few betelnut-chewing grannies in the back row who remained unconvinced and would pelt me with holy water sold by the pint by Buddhist monks. Finally, my clown shoes, stuffed with horsehair, began to sprout gray wedges of fungus out the sides — making me look like a ridiculous winged Mercury. Through trial and error, I found that Snake Prickly Heat Powder discouraged the growth — not only on my shoes, but on me.

“As my two-year assignment came to a close, I began to ponder about my future career and activities. Did I want to go back to clowning with the circus, or should I aim higher? Most of my companions were set to enroll at BYU in Provo, Utah. They would become doctors, lawyers, CPAs, architects, teachers, and engineers. Have comfortable and productive lives. I decided that when I got back to the States, I would enroll in the University of Minnesota for a bachelor’s degree in theater arts, so I could mold young performers’ minds with my expertise and mellow avuncular humor.

“At the end of two semesters, I called Mr. Feld to ask for my old job back. I was suffering from terminal boredom. He cheerfully hired me back. Since then I’ve always wondered: Did he do me a favor or a disservice? That’s the kind of stuff that gives an old man like me insomnia.”

Band Name of the Day: The Mormon Clowns

Website of the Day: Six-and-a-quarter hours of Dan Seals’s “Greatest Hits”:



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