Look! Up in the tree! It’s a groundhog! A woodchuck! A whistle-pig! A land-beaver!

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Including: Fun facts to know and tell

Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by Al B of Hartland: “I spotted the groundhog high in a small tree. It wasn’t beating around the bush. It was eating the leaves of a mulberry tree. Groundhogs have a great appetite for those.


“Groundhogs are also variously referred to as woodchucks, whistle-pigs or land-beavers. A woodchuck can’t chuck wood. That name is thought to have its roots in a Native American language. The name whistle-pig comes from the fact that, when alarmed, a groundhog emits a high-pitched whistle.

“I watched the groundhog devour dandelions and white clover on our lawn. Those who live-trap the animals say that cantaloupe makes a good bait.

“I went outside. The animal whistled and fled.”

Our birds, ourselves

Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake reports: “Our bluebirds in our back yard had their first set of babies, and now they have all grown up and left the nest. Now the parents are getting ready for their second family of the year and are eating us out of our home! My wife is feeding them dried mealworms, and they are eating them like candy. As you may know, they are not cheap!

“This picture is of the proud Papa keeping a very close eye on his mate while she is out flying around. Wherever she goes, he is usually right behind her, keeping close tabs on her.

“I hope the BB’ers will enjoy this picture of our bluebird. ”

Life as we know it

Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: Mum’s the word from now on.

“I needed to pick up a prescription for beagle Norton last week. Norton had a bout of pancreatitis, which kept him (and Norton’s dad and me) up most of the night before. The veterinarian had given us some meds and also changed his anti-seizure medication from one that I picked up at the vet’s office to one that I needed to get at a pharmacy. He  recommended the pharmacy of a large retail store (the you-can-get-almost-everything-cheaper-there store.) [Bulletin Board muses: Isn’t that almost every store nowadays?]

“I turned in the prescription, gave them Norton’s information so they could create a file for him, and returned about 20 minutes later to take my place at the end of the line of people waiting to pick up their prescriptions. Back when I was shy (yes, I really was; I kid you not), I would just stand in line, facing forward, and wait for my turn at the counter. But now I make conversation with at least one of the people waiting in line with me.

“I was discussing the pros of using a mail-order pharmacy with the gentleman behind me. We chatted about why we liked that option (obviously no standing in line), and somehow we ventured into how we came to be using the mail-order pharmacy option, with me informing him that our (Norton’s dad’s and mine) prescriptions came from the V.A. mail-order pharmacy. After a little discussion about which of us had served in the military (Norton’s dad), the gentleman asked: ‘Did he serve in Korea?’ That kind of shocked me, as I am 70 years old, and Norton’s dad is just two years older. The people we know who served in Korea are in their 80s — at least 85, and some older. Now, I’d had only two hours of sleep the night before, and might not have combed my hair that morning, but I didn’t think I looked that much older.

“I decided then and there that I was all done chatting with anyone in line at any store. And after getting Norton’s prescription, I ventured over to the beauty aisle to see if they had any high-test face cream.”

Everyone’s a comedian!

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Hope I beat the night-show guys.

“I saw on Channel 9 news that the TSA secretly tested our MSP airport last week. Security checkpoints allowed fake weapons, fake drugs and fake explosives to make it through the inspection points 16 out of 17 times.

“On the bright side, however, the one item correctly identified and confiscated was fake news.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”

Donald reports: “Subject: Signs of the times.

“My brother sent me pictures of some signs from outside a gas station (WallingfordSign.com) in Seattle. A sampling:





The little treasures

Sleepless from St. Paul (in Minneapolis): “All I can tell you about these photos, taken in 1941, is that the guys were pre-war friends of my dad.



“I had always assumed ‘City Club’ was the name of the tavern, but in fact, it was a Schmidt brand.”

The Workshop Chronicles — plus!

IGHGrampa reports: “My latest woodworking project: a toy truck that can double as a toy box.


“It turned out pretty well, if I say so myself — all scrap wood and, aside from some brad nails, no metal parts.

“I still have the rocking horse/child’s chair in mind, but have not started yet. The youngest of the grandchildren may outgrow it before I even start it.

“I’ve noticed that kids are like cats in relaxing. Cats can collapse into any place and pose that suits the moment. Children do the same when they’re watching TV. Maybe another chair is just going to be in the way.

“I still have that story character in mind, and have even started on her. But it’s slow going. I keep thinking too far ahead — projecting what she’ll be like as an adult. I’ve got to let her have a childhood.”

Websites of the Day (responsorial)

Semi-Legend writes: “Subject: Bikini cover version

“Your Co-Website of the Day, Brian Hyland’s ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini’ . . .

“. . . reminded me of its use in the Billy Wilder 1961 spy comedy ‘One Two Three.’ It’s, naturally, a torture scene. That’s Horst Buchholz admitting he’s an American spy.

“I was disappointed to learn, on a re-viewing, that it wasn’t the original version of the song.”

Then & Now

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Genealogy has changed unbelievably since I started torturing my family with it close to 30 years ago.

“Back then, I had to drive to libraries, etc., to print out bad copies from microfilm, and file them in numerous ring-binders that I now want to eliminate. Some genealogists with important family pictures or records sometimes played keep-away with each other, or spent a lot of money getting negatives made so copies (and info) could be shared.

“My yearly vacation often included treks to places where my ancestors once lived. Once, as I used snowbrushes and a small snow shovel to uncover family tombstones that had sunk partially into the ground in Wilton, Wisconsin, I was visited by the neighborhood watch — in the form of a mom and small kids who ‘happened’ to walk across the part of the cemetery where I was working. After I explained who I was, where I was from, and what I was doing there, I got tips on local resources — human and written. But first I photographed (on film) the stones, which weren’t getting any younger or easier to read.

“The advent of personal computers, word processing, and genealogy programs for info storage made life so much easier. Many theoretically fuddy-duddy genealogists and librarians were early adopters of computers for that reason.

“The next steps, of course, were email and the Internet, and I started using them before the World Wide Web. I could send questions to Australia re: the distant cousin who went Down Under with his wife and girls in the 1860s, though helpers on the other end still needed physical access to records, etc. Then things progressed so that many sources could be searched and copied online. Kind souls in Australia eventually located descendants of my relative Down Under, though I could only send them my address, etc., because they didn’t have email.

“One improvement alone is worthy of note: digital photography and files. Now photos may be scanned and shared with all concerned. And once documents (including censuses) were available online, it was a matter of time until they were indexed so they could be searched. Some indexing is lousy, of course, and the declining number of people who can read cursive writing heightens the need to transcribe data before only specialists can read it. I can read much cursive writing, but I have a special hatred for a school of writing in which every letter looks like a circle. I submit corrections when I can, but I foresee a time when readers will be able to attach comments to records, to help decipher them.

“The most recent change I see is using DNA. Almost five years ago, I finally located a third cousin who was adopted, using a combination of the Internet and old-time methods. I had heard (years back) rumors of a child/children given up for adoption, but privacy laws kept me from searching for him. As far as the records went, his whole ‘line’ of the family legally died off with my dad’s generation. It finally occurred to me to create a mini family tree that listed the birth mother in a genealogy program online, and a link popped up. Voila! The birth mother’s niece-by-marriage in Tennessee had her listed — and she had met the son given up for adoption. We swapped info, and I called the son to explain our connection. Shortly thereafter, I got to take the son and his wife to an old cemetery in Mendota where our mutual great-great-grandmother is buried. Geek heaven!

“The adoptee could have searched for his mother’s family, because he had her name and access to open records, but he would have had to go up four or five generations and down again to find me, in another state. Which is fun for genealogists, but not easy for a newbie.

“Fast-forward to now, a year after I took a DNA test and confirmed that I’m Irish, etc., but also (yikes!) 1 percent Viking. Recently a woman contacted me because I share DNA with her husband — adopted in Iowa in 1945. Iowa seals the original birth certificates of all people adopted after 1941 — some of whom are getting pretty long in the tooth now. Minnesota law is more complex and allows more access and processes to open birth records — without which adoptees can’t find their roots, or other kin who might welcome them.

“The wife of my new DNA cousin said her husband asked Catholic Charities for his adoption file, and they said they can’t find it. I would volunteer to go search for it, but of course it wouldn’t be allowed. So the wife took the search into her husband’s DNA, and found me somewhere in the third to sixth cousin range. She also found a surname that leads me to guess he is connected to a family line that had appeared to die off. Further testing might provide more kin.

“The ironic thing about all this is that DNA testing ignores sealed files and missing records. TV news recently showed four to six foundlings left at churches who used DNA to find that they’re siblings or half-siblings. There are no adoption records for any of them, but they still found each other — and might find more ties. Ready or not.

“There is a show on TV lately that searches for families of adoptees, etc. It involves a lot of crying, and some — but not all — happy endings. I hope that everyone involved in these shows gets as much counseling as possible, but I worry the most about people charging into adoption searches on their own with unrealistic expectations. Because people is what they is.

“Obviously I sympathize with people seeking to know where they come from — especially those for whom there is little or no documentation to search. But I also worry about the damage that untrained amateurs may cause themselves and others.

“Meanwhile, I’m waiting to see what further DNA testing uncovers. Some folks think that genealogy is boring. Personally, I feel no need for soap operas.”

Band Name of the Day: Fake News — or: The Land-Beavers

Website of the Day: Groundhog

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