The Permanent Maternal Record
Eos writes: “Subject: Mom.
“Memories of my mom make me happy.
“Mom was funny, kind, compassionate, gentle, strong, tough, generous, athletic, competitive, smart, and loving.
“I never saw her do a mean thing to anyone or anything.
“She was shy until you got to know her.
“She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandma, great-grandma, sister, aunt, and friend.
“She loved playing baseball and basketball when she was a kid, and was still pretty good when she was a mom. She played a good game of pool, and she was great to have on your side in a snowball fight.
“She was a writer and painter.
“She enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles. She loved playing Scrabble, Rage and Rummikub, and she didn’t like to lose.
“When she was young, Mom wanted to be a physical-education teacher. She didn’t get to do that, but the job she chose . . . MOTHER . . . she did that SO well. Together with Dad, she raised eight kids.
“She had a great sense of humor. When she laughed, her whole body got into the act: Her eyes twinkled, her giggle percolated up, her shoulders shook. She was happy.
“She forgave easily.
“She loved unconditionally.
“I miss her every day, but I know her Spirit lives inside of me, my brothers and sisters, and my nieces and nephews.”
The Permanent Maternal Record (II)
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I planted about 12 dozen tulip bulbs last fall [Bulletin Board muses: Gross!], and as I look at their chewed-up tops, I guess all I will see for my efforts is some very fat rabbits and squirrels.
“My mother was wise. She didn’t waste her money buying bulbs or plants; she focused on wildflowers. She was in her mid-50s when my folks were finally able to afford to build their dream home and own their own land. Mom got busy and started planting the flower garden she had always dreamed about. She found most of her plants along the railroad tracks, with the exception of one day when she found an interesting mystery plant in a field along the road. She dug it up and figured she would look it up in one of her gardening books when she got home. She was still exploring this field when she came across a newly opened business called Claypotz Plant Store. What luck, she thought: ‘I’ll bet they will be able to identify this for me.’ So she went in and asked. To her embarrassment, Mr. Claypotz gently informed he that she had just dug up one of his new plantings.
“As the years went by, her wildflower garden grew to well over 200 varieties, all free except for the one from the Claypotz store. My dad was always proud of everything my mother did, but he was bothered by one tall weed he thought she was letting take over her garden. He purchased a ‘dandy’ scythe and stopped by to show if off to my sister. Ruth warned him to be careful and check with Mom before he started aimlessly weeding. My sister said Dad must have leaped out of the car and immediately started attacking the bothersome ‘weed,’ because not 30 minutes had elapsed before her phone rang and Dad said: ‘…and for God’s sake, stay away from the Golden Glow!’”
Our theater of seasons
Or: Where we live (responsorial)
Darlene in Farmington: “Seeing the picture and article about the ducks in this week’s Sunday paper [Bulletin Board notes: They originally appeared here] reminded me of a few years ago, when a pair of friendly ducks came to my patio door and tapped on the glass while I was sitting inside in plain sight at my computer desk. It was like they came asking me for something.
“I did notice that the male duck was the one doing the tapping while the female stood behind.
“Also: The year before, a duck had made a nest and hatched out a brood of ducklings behind the spirea bush by my front door. It made me feel good that she felt safe there. I wonder if they had come to ask permission this time.”
Our squirrels, ourselves
Triple-the-Fun in Lakeville: “We have lots of squirrels around our house, and they scamper off as soon as any humans make their presence known. This makes my experience yesterday very puzzling.
“My husband and I went to Mom’s house to do some exterior painting. Shortly after we set up our ladder, a squirrel showed up. Soon after, two more came, although one of them tended to keep a distance. But the first two were underfoot for an hour or two.
“They sat under our ladder or under a step stool. They came right up to us so that we had to back away, fearful they might try to climb our pant legs. When we tried to shoo them away, they simply hunkered down and stayed put. When we walked to another part of the yard, they followed us! Twice, they sat very still for several minutes with their eyes closed, and we believe they took a short nap. When we packed up and got ready to head home, one followed us to the driveway and watched us leave. Another decided to hang out in the rain downspout, but he came out to say ‘hello’ when I went back to check on him.
“I’m not well versed in squirrel behavior, but this all seems very odd to me. They were small, so apparently young. Had they not yet learned humans are to be feared? I would have thought our sheer size in relation to theirs would scare them away. If any fellow BBers have any insight into their behavior, I’d love to hear it!
Tim Torkildson remembers: “Squirrels were an easy animal to take for granted; to ignore as background noise on a flippant summer afternoon amid the billowing shades of the mighty elms in my Minneapolis boyhood front yard. Yet now that I have pulled up stakes to live among the boulders and cacti of Utah, I find I miss their constant chitchat among the branches. I have to settle for an occasional horned toad, silently blinking at me in an impertinent manner before scuttling away.
“They made fine targets for my slingshot — but I hasten to add that I never got close to hitting one, or even nicking the branch it was squatting on. Slingshots, like pocket knifes and BB guns, were great status symbols for a boy to possess; ownership of such deadly devices gave a boy a certain cachet, an aura of danger and excitement. Which is why, I suppose, my right to carry a slingshot was constantly revoked by my mother for the least little thing. After all, who needs perfectly solid windows — what’s wrong with a few obscure ventilation holes in ’em?
“I saved up for a pearl-handled pocket knife, and when I finally got it, I immediately began carving my initials into every available surface. This was all right for tree trunks, fence posts, and telephone poles, but when my mother caught me hefting my pocket knife while looking thoughtfully at baby Linda asleep in her crib, she assumed the worst and confiscated said knife — which disappeared into the Forbidden Drawer; the kitchen drawer where matches, lighter fluid, and Victor mousetraps, among other things, were kept. The drawer had no alarm rigged up to it, as far as I could tell, but whenever I happened to pull it open, my mother would yell from wherever she was, inside or outside the house: ‘Shut that drawer, young man, this instant!’ Which is why I’m pretty sure to this day she had some gypsy blood in her that caused such devilish second sight.
“I began to take notice of the squirrels, the rotten gray squirrels, when I planted my first garden at the age of 7. We had a sclerotic swing set in the back yard, fully oxidized into rust, that finally collapsed of its own decrepitude, and I begged Mom for the chance to dig up the spot for a pumpkin patch. Seeing no possible way I could turn such an innocent pastime into a melodramatic farce, she acquiesced. And it was a stellar year for my pumpkins: The Jack-o-Lantern seeds I planted sprouted with unabated vigor and took over nearly half of the back yard before the frost began nipping them back in October. Rubbing my hands together like a stage miser, I gloated over the fortune soon to be mine when I went door to door selling pumpkins for Halloween. But when I began harvesting them, I noticed that nearly all had a puckered nick or two on their undersides — the result of squirrels taking an exploratory bite. These blemishes cut into my profits at a murderous rate.
“The next year, I steered clear of pumpkins and planted tomatoes. Once again, the crummy squirrels just had to take a single bite out of each green fruit, causing them to shrivel up and fall off prematurely. My third year as a gardener, I planted sweet corn, and declared war on those dastardly tree rats. I had read that dog poop spread around a garden would discourage marauding squirrels. Since my best friend, Wayne Matsuura, had a Boston terrier, there was no problem in getting a sackful of doggie dust. But the squirrels seemed to revel in it — they clambered up my corn stalks and began chewing on the tender green corn like nobody’s business. Old Benny, down the street, told me that a dead squirrel trussed up over the garden would keep the critters out. He just happened to have a few dead squirrels in his garage at the moment (how he got them and what he did with them I decided were things I didn’t want to find out) and offered me a prime carcass. Any corpse in a storm, I say — so I took the cadaver home and strung it up amidst my defenseless corn. The depredations stopped, by golly, but as the squirrel decomposed, it attracted a convention of huge black flies that buzzed around the back yard like dive bombers — landing on my mom when she wanted to sunbathe and inviting themselves right onto our hot dogs when we grilled. So my older brother Billy cut down the dead squirrel to toss into the garbage, and immediately its live cousins were back — with sharper teeth and appetite than before. I did not harvest a single ear of sweet corn that year.
“I gave up my horticultural dreams after that. But when my mom put in a bird feeder on a metal pole near the kitchen window, I became enamored with identifying all the many different types of birds that showed up for the free eats: blue jays, cardinals, grackles, robins, juncos, and sparrows. But then those pesky squirrels had to get in on the act! They climbed up the metal pole to raid the bird feeder several times a day. This was an out-and-out act of criminal theft, and I determined to stop it. In our garage was a discarded pan of ancient black crankcase oil. Into this I mixed a can of cayenne pepper. Then I coated the bird-feeder pole with the deadly oil. I must say I enjoyed the sight of those fat pompous squirrels shinnying halfway up the pipe and then dropping to the ground to roll around in discomfort. Round One to Timmy!
“Being of an unforgiving and unforgetting nature, I carried on my warfare against the squirrels to even more determined, and whimsical, levels. Years later, when I was with the circus and came home for the holidays, my dad got a big bag of walnuts still in their shells. He had no use for them (since the only thing he ever cracked was his knuckles), so I was able to abstract the whole bag for my nefarious anti-squirrel plan. In our back yard we had a majestic willow tree. I taped walnuts to the very tips of several very pliable willow branches, then sat back to watch the fun. First the squirrels tried jumping up to reach the walnuts — and I was infinitely surprised at how high they could jump. They got most of that first crop I put out. So I taped a second batch of walnuts to the ends of willow branches that were higher up. And now the squirrels were at a standstill. Ha-ha! They tried crawling out to the tip of the willow branch, but the thin yellow branches would not support their weight, and off they would fall, deep into the snow. Maddened by the nearness of this holiday feast, the squirrels just kept trying — and kept falling, twisting in midair in the most comical manner as they plunged into the snow drifts. I was really enjoying myself at the kitchen window, watching this spectacle. Then the phone rang. Back before there were cell phones, the landline phone was usually installed in the kitchen. When I answered, it turned out to be my old circus pal Tim Holst, calling from balmy Florida to see how the holidays were treating me. I told him things were fine, in fact great. I was watching the squirrels falling out of the willow tree trying to get at the walnuts. After a pause, Holst asked: ‘What’s that about walnuts and squirrels in your willow tree?’
“‘I tape a bunch of walnuts to the ends of the willow branches so I can watch the squirrels fall out of the tree. I been doing it for the past couple of mornings. It’s a lot of fun!’
“‘Tork, I thought you said you were gonna go ice fishing or sledding or something. Did you get frostbite of the brain or something? Whaddya mean you tape walnuts to your willow tree?’
“‘It’s true! They crawl out to try and grab the nuts, but the branches are way too thin, see?’
“‘Uh-huh. You think I’m gonna believe that?’
“‘Just a minute, you doubting Holst! I’ll get Mom to tell ya!’
“I yelled for Mom to come to the phone to tell Tim Holst about the walnuts taped to the willow tree.
“‘Oh, hang up that phone and go out to shovel the walk!’ she yelled back at me. Mothers are such unhelpful creatures at times.
“For the rest of his life, whenever we ran into each other at odd intervals, Holst greeted me with ‘Well, well — if it isn’t old Walnuts in the Willows himself!’ I never could think of a good comeback for that.”
Older Than Dirt
Including: The great comebacks
John in Highland reports: “Arlo Guthrie performed recently at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul. The audience included many ‘gray hairs’ and not very many Millennials.
“Early on in the concert, he remembered Pete Seeger, with whom he had performed and who had died in recent years. Arlo recounted a conversation that he had with Pete. It seemed that Pete was concerned that they were getting older, and that maybe they should consider retirement. He commented that they were not performing as well as they had in the past.
“To which Arlo said: ‘Pete, look at our audience! They don’t hear very well!’
“They went on to perform together for another 14 years.”
Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “I often read the Bulletin Board in bed at the end of the day, from my phone. In my defense, the print on my phone is quite small.
“Here’s what I read in the email from Transplanted in The Sunshine State: ‘Since my move from Bogus Brook (Milaca) to Florida, I’ve seen a great deal of wildlife. The obvious, of course: venomous snakes, otters, a bear, some mean golfers.’
“Looked again. It said ‘mean gators!’ Haha!”
The vision thing
KH of White Bear Lake: “I’m not fluent in pond language, but after lengthy observation, I determined it was pausing to reflect and give thanks . . . so we did it together.”
It just don’t add up!
Carp Lips of Wyoming writes: “After the Twins’ Fernando Romero pitched six scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, he stated that ‘I got all my guys behind me, so I’m not scared to throw the ball over the plate. I’ve got nine guys playing with me, so they can get the ball whenever it comes.’
“Hmmm. Nine guys on the field . . . minus the pitcher . . . would leave eight teammates. Unless there was a ‘inth guy plugging holes in the infield or outfield. Not sure how they get away with that.
“Can’t say ‘rookie mistake.’ Anyone who’s played the game knows how many players are on the field.
“Anyway, hope he continues to pitch better than he can count.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “I read that Minneapolis is considering raising the legal age to purchase smokes from 18 to 21. Wisconsin’s is 18. If this comes to pass, will I-94 to Hudson be renamed ‘Tobacco Road’?”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede and his camera have been out and about:
“My young trees in the back yard are rapidly leafing out — a joy to see their leaves again.
“And those maple tree blossoms are getting droopy-looking, while it looks like new leaves are emerging.
“The daffodils seem to be eagerly showing off their yellow blooms.
“And I found a single crocus blooming back in my ‘woods.’
“I pass a tree covered in these blooms on the way to exercise. I don’t know what it is, but I stopped for a look. Those 12 distinct petals seemed unusual to me, but anything flowering after our long winter is a treat.
“No blossoms yet, but just to see my raspberry canes starting to leaf out is another source of celebration. I am always hopeful for two good crops that I can enjoy and share with the neighbors.
“Spring really is a mood lifter, and there seem to be a lot more people walking around with a smile on their face and joy in their heart.
“I wonder if people living in more moderate climates feel such joy as well,or if it is just another nice day for them, so there is nothing to celebrate about.”
Mounds View Swede, again: “Subject: Where the wild things are.
“I visited the nearby storm-water holding pond with my camera to see what spring things were happening there. I was not disappointed, though I do not know what it was I was seeing. I hope more knowledgeable readers can give me a clue.
“The geese I recognized as geese, anyway. There were four of them here. I could not detect a nest, and they were pretty elusive, so getting a clear photo of them required my moving around and patience.
“I am really enjoying spring now that it is here. I wish I had more energy to tackle all the yard work, too. Walking around with my camera doesn’t seem too taxing. And since I have not seen many of these plants in spring before, it is fun to pay attention and wonder what they are.
“Happy Spring, Everyone!”
Keeping your eyes open
Mrs. Patches of St. Paul: “Subject: Spring flowers.
“I can’t take any credit for growing these flowers, but I certainly enjoy looking at them. At the corner of Roselawn and Prior in St Paul, the display will just keep getting better as more blossoms open!”
The Permanent Grandchildrenly Record
Our Theater of Seasons Division
Vertically Challenged: “Oh the great joy of a spring mud puddle!
“Luke & Kaitlyn had a great time!”
Band Name of the Day: Squirrel Behavior
Website of the Day: Outhouse Plant