Then & Now
Roger Anderson of St. Paul writes: “My grandmother’s maiden aunt Stella Gould earned a living as a photographer in the Mankato area in the early 20th century.
“Among the glass negatives remaining is this photograph of a young doughboy going to war to end all wars.
“I have no idea who he is or was, but I hope he made it home and survived the Spanish Flu.”
GopherLink of Dresser, Wisconsin: “Subject: Looking back.
“One hundred years ago, my grandfather, a trapper from northwestern Wisconsin, enlisted to fight in World War I. He was an infantryman and participated in the final Allied offensive: the brutal Battle of the Argonne Forest.
“Grandpa recounted how, for that final battle, he had been given only a rifle and a blanket — no rations. He had to forage for his food in a terrain that had been decimated by years of shelling and exposure to deadly mustard gas. His experience as an outdoorsman likely contributed to his survival. Many of his fellow soldiers did not survive.
“On November 11, 1918, the Armistice was signed. What we once commemorated as Armistice Day, we now recognize as Veterans Day on November 11, honoring all who served their country.”
Life as we know it
John in Highland: “Subject: Washington, D.C., and the summer of ’55.
“When we were growing up, our family would go on extensive trips, driving to far-off places. In the summer of 1955, we embarked on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the sights and visit relatives.
“The previous fall, my dad, Ed, had purchased a brand-new car, a two-tone 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. My mother had demonstrated her German frugality by ‘talking down’ the price of the car. The 1955 models were in showrooms, and our car was the last of the ’54s, so the salesmen were willing to deal. When we went to pick it up in the back garage at Merit Chevrolet, it was the shiniest and prettiest car we had ever seen.
“There were five of us in the car as we set out the next summer for Washington. Older sister and brother, Pat and Mike, and I accompanied the parents. We left younger brother Tom, who was not quite 3 years old, in the watch of both grandmothers, Louise and Alice. They were more than happy to come to the ‘big city’ of St. Paul and babysit.
“One of the highlights of the trip was traveling on the newly opened Pennsylvania Turnpike. At one point, there was a backup at the entrance to one of the mountain tunnels. A rather exasperated trooper told us that ‘some guy ran out of gas right in the middle of the tunnel.’
“The weather in Washington was hot and muggy. Our Aunt Mary had a large apartment that she allowed us to commandeer for the week. We experienced air conditioning for the first time.
“We visited the Mall and saw the monuments. That is me, dwarfed by the Marine Corps War Memorial, which had just been dedicated the previous year. The inscription reads: ‘UNCOMMON VALOR WAS A COMMON VIRTUE.’
“We also saw the White House.
“On the return trip, we went through Gettysburg and visited the battlefield. We also saw President Eisenhower’s second home, away from Washington in Gettysburg.
“When we got back, Grandma Alice had gone back to her home, leaving just Grandma Louise watching Tom. She said that Tom had to be reassured when Alice departed. ‘Are you going to leave me, too?’ he had asked.”
Our livestock, ourselves
Including: Till death us do part
DebK of Rosemount: “When Taxman and I recently traveled to Denver for the funeral of a family friend, we were fortunate to find willing farm-sitters in the siblings and parents of two of our goddaughters. This family includes a pair of small boys — clever fellows with deep-seated urges to see to the cardiovascular fitness of our retired hens. It turns out that the lads also have a yen to be shepherds, a longing made clear to us at their Maplewood home on Saturday evening when we were celebrating a birthday.
“The younger of the boys caught me off guard, approaching me when my mouth was full of banana cake and cream-cheese frosting: ‘Mrs. K, I’ll pay you nine hundred dollars for Number 10.’ It dawned on me as I chewed that this generous offer was for Margaret, a petite, personable 2-year-old ewe and particular favorite of mine — in part because she is the only one of our ewes who managed to maintain her virtue when Ysidro, her amorous cousin, leapt over the fence and impregnated every other one of his female relatives. As soon as I could swallow, I congratulated the would-be buyer for having set his sights on a worthy object. I felt obliged to add that he could likely negotiate a better purchase price with Taxman, who is blind to Margaret’s charms.
“Margaret’s faults must have been very much on Taxman’s mind, for just moments later, the young man returned, shaking a quart-sized Ball canning jar in which had been deposited a modest array of coins. ‘Mr. K says I can have Margaret for two bucks. When can you bring her?'”
Our pets, ourselves
Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Unpredictable cats!
“For almost 20 years, I have been with the same book club: eight friends who enjoy reading, taking our turns at hosting and discussing the book for that month. Sounds simple, right? Well, maybe not , as one never knows what will happen when trying just a bit too hard when it’s not even that important.
“As time went by, each of us developed some dietary issue, some we’d never even heard of: gluten-free, no sugar, decaffeinated coffee, no coffee at all, and no dairy. Serving a lovely dessert for after the book discussion had become a puzzle to solve so that everyone could go home, not having been cheated while others just ate what they darned pleased. Fortunately, there are now whole sections of the grocery stores where one can find substitutions that are wonderful!
“With that problem solved, another minor issue popped up. Our oldest member, and surely a role model for us, is now gone, but left us with a very high standard of serving anything. She would fuss with her table decor until everything was perfect. We younger ones took her cue, and began putting more thought into how our table would look. For my turn, I decided to use pink Depression Glass dishes, which I’d been collecting for many years. ‘Cherry Blossom,’ it was called, and had been quite expensive to collect. Looking forward to using these for the first time, I had found matching napkins and a tablecloth that ‘would do’ and put the leaves into the table, then laying out the ‘new-old’ place settings. Finally satisfied that all was ready, I stood resting a bit before the ladies would arrive.
“Seconds later I was screaming naughty words as my cat, Samantha, leaped onto the center of the table amidst the decor — which she just had to investigate, being a cat. This fairly old feline had never leaped onto anything before. I hoped she was satisfied, picked her up off the table, checked for any stray cat hairs amongst the goodies just so peacefully lying there, and all seemed OK!
“The BB stories you lovely writers have been sending about cats leaping onto the entree gave me the chance to remember this day, and since then have had other cats do the same thing — something they just have to check out.
“Thanks to you for your interesting stories, beautiful pictures and the ability to tell a story well. I hope we can inspire more writers to join us in the fun. Now that the weather is ‘iffy’ most of the time, take your dull moments and feel the satisfaction of writing and seeing it in print.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: You said it, Bloomington Bird Lady. The more is definitely the merrier.
Our birds, ourselves
Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “Subject: Red-Bellied Woodpecker.
“The red spot on the belly is hardly noticeable.”
Our deer, ourselves
Booklady reports: “We have recently had adventures with deer and pumpkins (and apples).
“Each fall, I put out a number of pumpkins as decorations, hoping they will last from Halloween week through Thanksgiving. Some years it works; some years the deer wait until just before we have company until they destroy the pumpkins. This year, my artful display was attacked just two days after I arranged it. When I looked outside in the morning, the front lawn was pretty well scuffed up and the largest pumpkin had been rolled from near the house all the way to the middle of the road. Closer inspection revealed a hole in the side, with the ‘guts’ totally removed. It looked like a cute orange fairy house.
“Within days, all but two of the pumpkins — the two entirely orange ones — were either partially or completely eaten. We know it was deer, partly because of the identifiable tooth marks, and mostly because we caught them in the act. Yesterday I moved the two remaining orange globes to the center of the front yard. This morning one had disappeared entirely. I really have to set up the trail cam!
“The deer/apple episode occurred on a Sunday afternoon. A cousin had given us some past-their-prime apples, so the Lighthouse Nut dumped them out beside a large oak in the yard. By midafternoon I noticed a fawn gorging itself. It stayed a long time, eating continuously. When the Lighthouse Nut came home, he spotted another deer munching contentedly. As he watched, it staggered off into the tree line, where it suddenly sank down. That’s when we saw two others lying there. They stayed for some time, just resting and chewing their cuds.
“It reminded us of Thanksgiving, when the overstuffed guests just want to collapse on the couch and watch the game!”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Or: The great comebacks
Walt of Wayzata: “Vanity plate sent to me by my son.”
Then & Now
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: 10 times the trouble! (Pun intended.)
“Daylight Saving Time would never be passed into law these days. The only reason it was adopted in 1918 was that most households had to change only one clock.”
Everyone’s a copy editor
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Insert the missing word.
“This one, from a headline on the front page of Monday’s Pioneer Press, is almost too easy: ’Saudis say Iran may violated war terms.’”
Our theater of seasons
(1) Mounds View Swede, reporting: “The first snow can be eye-catching because the change is so dramatic.
“These trees are usually ignored, but the snow on their dark branches making this wavy white line caught my attention. Having a dark background behind the branch made it stand out, and the diagonal line gives it ‘energy.’
“Another branch did the same thing.
“And a usually dismal-looking forest, once the leaves are gone, had a brightness to it that made it more attractive.
“These patterns in my lawn made no sense to me. Why was there snow in places and no snow in other places? I like the effect, but don’t understand how this happens.”
(2) Mounds View Swede, still reporting: “The first snow, on 10/29, caught by surprise some of the flowers I enjoy watching. I felt thankful for those that were still trying to have new blooms. My morning-glory ‘friends’ looked like this at first, and now, several freezes later, are completely gone.
“The juxtaposition of buds with snow next to blooms made it seem like the snowfall was selective — or that the blossoms had internal heaters to melt away the snow.
“And those little forget-me-nots! I remember now to look for them. And though they are small, I felt heartened by their still blooming.
“Not all the blossoms fared so well.”
Comics Page Corollary
The Hoot Owl of St. Paul: “A couple of comics in the Minneapolis STrib this morning (Nov. 5, 2017) show the lead male character dismayed to find his newspaper NOT ON THE PORCH. Then, of course, someone reminds him that the hour has changed and the beloved newspaper isn’t late, after all.
“Dagwood and Crankshaft both got fooled by the time switch off of DST. Dagwood goes right back to sleep, Crankshaft grumbles about the whole deal.
“In our humble opinion, the BEST part of the story in each comic is that both main characters are anxiously looking for a HOME-DELIVERED REAL NEWSPAPER, on newsprint! YES! Long live daily-newspaper home delivery!”
Band Name of the Day: The Cute Orange Fairies
Website of the Day: The 12-year-old prodigy whose “first language” is Mozart