Great Grandma Paula writes: “Subject: How rich is REALLY RICH?
“Have you ever wondered how some REALLY RICH people spend their money?
“I found out in May of 2007. I went on a trip, with my sister, to Salt Lake City, Utah, to visit our cousin who had lived in Salt Lake City for many years. She showed us some of the wonderful highlights of the city and surrounding areas.
“One truly beautiful spot was Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. I looked the gardens up on Wikipedia after we visited, and I found out the following information: ‘Alan Ashton co-founded software company WordPerfect with Bruce Bastian in Provo, Utah in 1979. In 1994, WordPerfect was sold to Utah-based Novell for nearly a billion dollars.’ A BILLON DOLLARS! ‘After the sell, Alan purchased farm land in Lehi, Utah and gifted it to his wife Karen on February 14, 1995. They planned to build a community garden and farm experience. The name for the project, Thanksgiving Point, was chosen to express gratitude. Thanksgiving Point Institute registered as a 501(c)3 in 1997.’
“The gardens at Thanksgiving Point opened to the public in 1997: 55 acres with 15 themed gardens. It is truly a magical place, especially in the spring, when the tulips bloom. I absolutely loved it, and I managed to capture the tulips in some photos that I can look back on and remember the delight I had in being there.”
The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I was 4 years old the first time I remember a landlord evicting us. The house we had been renting was sold, and I spent some anxious days worrying how we were going to ‘live on the street.’ (My father’s lament whenever a landlord threatened us with eviction was: ‘The blankety-blank landlord is going to throw us right out on the street!’ I spent my childhood wondering: ‘Why not the sidewalk? Do we HAVE to live on the street?’)
“We stored our furniture in the old barn behind my grandpa’s house and joined Daddy in a small town in Iowa, where he was building a school. He had made arrangements for us to live with him that summer in an honest-to-goodness boardinghouse run by a lady named Mrs. Waltersdorf. She was a motherly-looking lady, but still I was a little bit afraid of her — not because of anything SHE did, but because of all the things Daddy had told me that she wouldn’t like ME to do. We ‘mustn’t ever go into her upstairs porch or play on the grass in her front yard,’ and we most definitely ‘mustn’t ever use her fascinating back stairs.’
“My mother seemed very happy and relaxed, and it seemed to me that she was having a wonderful summer, free of housework and cooking as she spent her days reading and sewing dresses for Mrs. W. Only three memories stand out from that summer:
“My sister Nora had to have a tooth pulled, and Mrs. W. allowed her to sit on the sacred upstairs porch. I broke the rules and went out there and joined her. Daddy, who was always terrified of dentists, came home midday to check up ‘on the poor little kid’ and caught me red-handed as I was sticking a colored pencil in her mouth, pretending to be a dentist. He shouted at me: ‘You’re going to give her lead poisoning!’
“I remember the time that Daddy took us to Pete’s Café. I had never been in a restaurant before, and he carried me into the kitchen to show me off to the cook, a tall friendly lady named Blondie. The automatic dishwashers were so loud, they hurt my ears.
“The most wonderful memory of all was when a neighbor girl, who looked like the child star Jane Withers, came to the edge of the yard to show us her talking doll. Since I was not allowed to leave the front step and the Withers look-alike was not allowed to cross Mrs. W.’s grass, I had to view this wondrous doll from a distance. The doll was about 2 feet tall, with long curls, and I thought she was beautiful. The neighbor girl lifted her fancy dress up so I could see the hinged door in her back where she placed the records that made her talk. My envy was intense.”
Ask a serious question . . .
Leading to: The great comebacks
Eos: “It was the summer of 1956. I was 10, and the oldest of six kids. (Two more came later.) My siblings and I had celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day by buying little gifts and trying to be good on those special days.
“A few days after Father’s Day, I asked my dad why there wasn’t a Kid’s Day.
“Looking worn out and tired, he looked at me and said: ‘Dawn, EVERY day is Kid’s Day.'”
The great comebacks
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Time is of the essence.
“Our bowling league recently held its end-of-the-year banquet at the usual location, with one significant difference: We had joined a new league at a new venue for this season. Four teams from our old location moved, so there was some familiarity, even in our new surroundings. The other teams were all friendly and welcoming — to a point. We finished last in the standings.
“Something I did miss: certain bowlers from teams that did not relocate with us. One of my favorites was Dan, a very quiet-spoken person, who had the driest sense of humor of anyone I’ve known. One night during one of our games, the large TV screens (standard equipment in most bowling establishments today) were showing a Minnesota Wild game. As people on our alleys looked up at the game, they asked, and received answers to: ‘Who’s winning?’ ‘What’s the score?’ When someone inquired ‘How much time is left?’ Dan gave an answer I’ll never forget: ‘Does anyone really know how much time is left?’ [Bulletin Board adds: Does anyone really care?]
“Good bowling, Dan.”
May 11 email from Peachy of Cottage Grove: “Subject: Twenty-three years ago today. . .
“It is May 11th again. Twenty-three years without my ‘baby girl,’ Kristina Laurel, our Nina. Twenty-three years without her smile, without our good-night ritual where she would come into my home office and wrap her arms around my neck to say she loved me before she went to bed. Twenty-three years without her genuine laugh, the one that came from somewhere deep inside. Twenty-three years since she and her brother were goodheartedly teasing each other in the back seat of the car. Twenty-three years since she brought joy to the elderly at nursing homes and other community services as Miss Teen Cottage Grove. Twenty-three years since she got off the bus and the neighborhood kids whom she babysat for and who loved her met her at the bus stop with the happy squeals of ‘Nina!’ and followed her home as if she were the Pied Piper. Twenty-three years since she watched her big sisters try to outdo each other trying to entertain me with their silly antics and stood back just shaking her head. Twenty-three years since I heard the back-seat laughter of her and her best friend as they talked about boyfriends, while I drove them to shopping trips. Twenty-three years without her dazzling smile and cheery disposition, to make you feel so much better about things. Twenty-three years without Nina . . . so much that we who love her have missed without her presence at family gatherings, holidays, celebrations . . . what should have been like knowing her possible children and/or spouse . . . what she would be doing in her life 23 years later. Twenty-three years without her bright light shining for all whom she touched. Twenty-three years sometimes feels like an eternity, but often just yesterday.
“I am eternally grateful for the 15 1/2 years that Nina graced our lives . . . but, oh, how I wished for more. I am so sorry that this happened to you, precious daughter. You are loved by not only your ‘Mommy,’ but also by so many who thankfully remember you and your big heart. I hope that you, Chris and Grandma Ellie hug each other tight for me. And, as the late Darcie Sims, Ph.D, said: ‘Thanks for the little while. . .'”
Our squirrels, ourselves (responsorial)
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Here’s something to chew on.
“Triple-The-Fun in Lakeville invited comments on baby squirrel behavior. When I saw the picture of the one in the downspout I became somewhat alarmed.
“Was he just hanging out or coming down from his nest? Downspouts lead up to gutters, and gutters lead to soffits. Hopefully there aren’t roomies up in the attic. (They like to chew wiring.) At the very least, I would advise an inspection of possible entry points on the exterior of the home, from bottom to top.”
Our livestock, ourselves
DebK of Rosemount: “The unanticipated retirement of our sheepshearer has precipitated a crisis here at St. Isidore Farm, where Clarence and the ewes will still be encased in six inches of filthy wool as summer heat comes calling for the first time later this week. When the dreadful news — of the loss of our shearer, that is — reached us a little over a day ago, we leapt into action, soliciting advice (or at least sympathy) from friends and relatives.
“My appeal for help brought a prompt response from Black Ewe, my Maryland sis, who, as she nears retirement from her position in the federal bureaucracy, is contemplating a return to the land. Due here later in the month for a family wedding, which coincides with the arrival of this year’s baby chicks, Black Ewe has already signed on for duty monitoring their fluffy little back ends for a potentially fatal condition known as ‘pasting.’ Shearing is a harder sell. Perhaps I should let Black Ewe speak for herself:
“‘I once shaved a non-sedated cat’s belly so I have some mad skills in the shearing business. But, frankly, getting knee deep in the dirty wool holds little appeal. I will likely do better with pasty chick butt patrol. Though you are definitely poking holes in all my fantasies of owning my own farmette with livestock, I’m still pondering offering respite services to folks in your position. That should keep me close enough to livestock to satisfy. But do you suppose I’ll have to confess my last tour of duty on a farmette?
“‘Remember? It was when we lived west of Howard Lake on that dairy farm. I sometimes babysat for the neighbors who lived on the place across the road. They had 3 or 4 kids and a troubled marriage. And pigs. I was in over my head, especially with the youngest, who was around 2. The older kids were easier, but I was not yet skilled in the art of raising children. Early one evening, there was a hue and a cry that the (very large) pigs were loose. All of them. The barn was 1/8 mile off busy Hwy 12. I rushed out to attempt to herd them back into the pen, but couldn’t make any headway carrying the 2 yr. old and he wouldn’t stay out of harm’s way. I put him back in the house to keep him safe and focused on the pigs. While I’m successfully securing the pigs, one of the kids shouts, “The house is on fire!” The 2 yr. old had set fire to an overstuffed easy chair in the living room.
“‘Somewhere in this scenario Randy shows up. (Note: Randy is ‘The Baby,’ the youngest of us five Dunn kids. He grew up to be a drill sergeant. No kidding.) He may have been there all along. I don’t remember. Anyway, I panicked. As I recall (and hope and pray) I got all the kids out of the house. The phone, of course, was in the house. I was about to rush across the road to call the fire department from our house when Randy appeared with a garden hose and put out the chair fire. Without him, the house would have burnt down. I did not enjoy breaking that news to the Mr. when he came home to find his wife missing (a story for another time) and his house smelling of smoke. I never babysat for them again.
“‘But for the record, the pigs were safe.'”
Life as we know it (responsorial) (responsorial)
The Mambo King: “Listening to Mexican music during last weekend’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, I was reminded of the observation made by Snackmeisterin of Altoona, Wisconsin awhile ago (BB, February 17) that some Mexican music is very similar to German music, especially in its use of the accordion.
“There are, of course, some very good reasons for this similarity. Beginning in the early 1800s and continuing until after the Civil War, there was significant German immigration to Mexico, including the part of northern Mexico that later became Texas. Czechs and Poles also immigrated to Mexico, but in smaller numbers. These immigrants brought their music with them. The Mexicans liked what they heard and assimilated it into their own musical culture. In time, the music evolved into what is now known as Norteno or Tejano music. A major aspect of this music is the featured role of the accordion.
“What goes around comes around, so in an interesting development, a young Dutch musician named Dwayne Verheyden has recently led a movement to introduce the Tejano music to the Netherlands and throughout Europe. He was introduced to the genre while still a baby and developed such a passion for the music that he learned Spanish in order to sing the lyrics authentically. You can hear an example of his music here:
“There’s another aspect of the German/Mexican confluence of cultures that may be appreciated by BBers. The German immigrants to Mexico inevitably got thirsty, and the native fermented beverage, pulque, didn’t quite cut it for them. There were a few beer breweries in the country, but the industry didn’t really take off until the Germans got involved, both by serving as brewmasters and by establishing breweries themselves. Mexican beer is now exported throughout the world. So the next time you enjoy a cold Corona, Modelo Especial, or Dos Equis, raise a glass to the German Mexicans who made it possible.”
It just don’t add up!
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Something doesn’t add up.
“This one almost got away. I came across it while catching up on reading my newspapers.
“The headline on Page B3 of the Tuesday, May 1, edition of the Minneapolis paper read:
‘Twin Cities has its warmest day in 7 months.’
“These were the second and third paragraphs of the article:
“‘The temperature in the Twin Cities reached 84 for a few minutes Monday afternoon. It didn’t break a record but was a reminder that summer is almost here.
“‘It has not been that warm since Sept. 13, when the mercury hit 87 degrees. Thermometers last registered readings above 90 degrees on Sept. 22 when the high temperature was 94 degrees.’
“Let’s try that again:
“It was 84 on April 30, 2018.
“The last time it was that warm was on Sept. 13, 2017, when it was 87.
“The last time it was above 90 was on Sept. 22, 2017, when it reached 94.
“Now, unless Sept. 22 comes before Sept. 13, or 87 is higher than 94, I believe there may be a discrepancy in the article.”
The Permanent Maternal Record (II) (responsorial)
Gregory of the North: “Reading The Gram With a Thousand Rules’ description of her mother’s gardening experiences reminded me of my own mother’s adventures in horticulture.
“My mother loved to grow things; petunias and moss roses were her intentional plantings, but she also cultivated any plant she thought was pretty or unusual, regardless of whether it was classified as a weed: ‘You never know when something that’s a weed today will be a precious flower tomorrow. Just remember roses; they’re really nothing but a thorn bush that probably used to be cut down as a weed.’ (‘Remember the roses’ became something of a family code phrase for something that becomes valued unexpectedly.)
“Well, one day when she was tending to the hollyhocks that grew around the garage, she discovered a new plant that she thought was pretty. It was a dark green and had spiked leaves arranged in a sort of starburst pattern. She began to care for it, giving it doses of fertilizer, and watching it grow. And grow it did! Before long it was big enough that it looked like it could take over the hollyhock patch. She noticed people occasionally stopping to look at the plant, or at her when she was tending to it, and she was pleased that passersby seemed to appreciate it as much as she.
“After some time, when the plant had grown into an impressive small bush, the neighbor from across the alley came to talk with her. The neighbor was a member of the St. Paul Police Department, and he said that he was sorry, but she would have to destroy the plant. After a few indignant objections on her part, the policeman/neighbor told her it was a marijuana plant. Initially, she dismissed his observation; after all, where would such a thing come from, since marijuana is illegal. He assured her it was marijuana, took out a little booklet with pictures of various forms of contraband, and showed her the photo of a growing marijuana plant. He explained that a seed easily could have blown in from someone who was bagging their product for distribution. Some miscreant maybe even tossed some seeds into her garden with the plan of coming back to harvest any growing plants.
“Apparently she was convinced, because she went into the garage and retrieved a spade and a package of herbicide. Within a few minutes, what had once been her babied plant was dug out, stuffed into the burning barrel (which gives you an idea how long ago this was) and sprinkled the hole with the herbicide.
“I was a young boy, watching this all transpire from my nearby sandbox. I asked why she had torn out her plant. ‘Remember the roses?’ she asked. I nodded. ‘Well, this is one that went the other way. This is a plant that turned into a weed.’
“Later, when the burning barrel burned its trash, it emitted a pungent odor unique to an entirely different manner of weed.”
The permanent granddaughterly record
Or: Know thy mother!
Vertically Challenged: “Daughter ‘GeneaGirl’ sent me this pic of the pillow that daughter Sophie made for her for Mother’s Day!
“LOL — love it!”
Life as we know it
Tim Torkildson: “As a child, I was extremely sensitive to music. I remember that one dreary winter afternoon, on a Sunday when I was 6, the TV began an infomercial for the Longines Symphonette Society. The upper-crust British ‘host’ of the infomercial loftily informed us plebeians that we could have the beauty of music in our homes for just $9.99 per month, and then frostily allowed us to hear Mascagni’s intermezzo from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana.’
“I became bolted to the spot at the first notes of that mournful, exultant tune. It bruised my heart, leaving me in tears. Mom asked if I had a tummy ache. I could only shake my head, willing the rest of the world to disappear until that wonderful piece of music subsided like the tide going out.
“The sad fact is my family was not musical. Mom and Dad played no musical instruments, and, outside of tunes from the radio, we had no music in our home when I was growing up. To make up for this awful vacuum (for I believe I was born with an innate hunger to make and to celebrate music), there were the old MGM and Warner Bros. cartoons on the boob tube. Those huge and vigorous studio orchestras introduced me to snatches of Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, along with the wonderfully frisky piano piece ‘Nola,’ by Felix Arndt. I capered along with these classical pieces like a pint-sized Nijinsky. To me, it was pure Imagination Music, propelling me into a throbbing world where anvils fell from the sky and black round dynamite bombs were juggled with careless elan. I’m telling you, brother — it made my blood sizzle! Contemporary music, whether Bobby Darin or the Beatles, left me unmoved. Give me the ‘Espana’ Waltz by Waldteufel over ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles any day!
“In fourth grade, I prevailed upon Mom and Dad to let me take violin lessons. I had been watching the Jack Benny show and figured the fiddle was just the thing to wring some laughs from my compatriots at school. They rented a violin from Schmitt Music for $25 a month, and soon I was rosining up my bow like Jascha Heifetz. Unfortunately, I was allergic to practicing the scales or doing fingering exercises, and so the violin eventually went back to Schmitt’s and I had to content myself with an old plastic ocarina I picked up at the Goodwill Store down on Como Avenue by the bus transfer station.
“As a teenager, I bought Nonesuch-brand LPs at the record store in Dinkytown, driving my family crazy by endlessly playing the ‘1812 Overture’ late into the night on my cheap record player. Those cannons at the end of the piece still make my spine tingle. Then I discovered the comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan, and would yodel ‘My Object All Sublime’ at the drop of a Twins baseball cap. Had I taken the trouble to moderate my volume, I might have had a pleasant though unassuming singing voice; but, inspired by Alfalfa in the old Our Gang comedies, I screeched in a molto forte register that raised blisters on wallpaper. I was the only child in the history of Tuttle Grade School to be invited OUT of the sixth-grade choir when my solo antics proved too distracting during a rendition of ‘The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music.’
“And then I joined the circus as a clown: the Blue Unit of Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows. The marches, gallops, polkas, and waltzes as essayed by band director Bill Prynne thrust me up into a higher plane of existence. There were never any clown gags going on during the trapeze act, so I would sit on an elephant tub next to the band just to hear them play John T. Hall’s ‘Wedding of the Winds.’ The best music, to my way of thinking, was reserved for the clown gags. We tossed shaving cream pies to Fillmore’s bumptious ‘Lassus Trombones’ and took tremendous pratfalls to the accompaniment of ‘Mosquito Parade March’. To this day I still suffer from an earworm infestation from those two perky melodies; in church, when the sermonizing goes a bit flat, I find myself humming one or the other of those pieces and swaying slightly in a blissful limbo.
“During my first year with Ringling, I asked Lou Jacobs to teach me how to play the musical saw, the way he did in center ring. His reply was succinct and to the point: ‘Hell no, kid; the musical saw is my racket.’
“But that didn’t discourage me in the least. In a back issue of Popular Mechanics, I found an ad for the Mussehl & Westphal Company, out of Wisconsin, makers of premier musical saws. I ordered one and scraped away at it until I could do a credible rendition of ‘Aloha Oe.’ Next I bought an old squeezebox at a Saint Vincent de Paul store in Toronto and quickly learned to press out a basic ‘Du Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen,’ with plenty of wheezy oom-pah-pah. Music washed over me night and day — and I reveled in it.
“When I was blacklisted from the circus, I was banished from so much grateful music it seemed I must run mad. But I was fortunate in having an ecclesiastical leader who offered me bountiful and beautiful choral music during my months at Brown Institute of Broadcasting, where I was trying to learn a new trade. Branch President Lewis Church was, by his own admission, nothing much but an Idaho spud — but he loved choral music and put together a choir at Christmas to sing Gounod’s ‘Oh Divine Redeemer.’ By then I had gotten over my Alfalfa compulsion and sang in a decent baritone. As with my earlier experience with the Intermezzo, I could never sing or even hear this piece without the salt tears furrowing my cheeks. Such beautiful music made my circus exile endurable, if not enjoyable.
“I was fortunate to marry a woman with music in her soul. Amy played piano and filled our home with hymns and Scott Joplin and nursery-rhyme tunes for the kids on an old Naugahyde-upholstered upright we bought for $50. When we divorced, I lived in a horrible musical silence for many and many a year — feeling I no longer deserved any kind of charm in my life.
“But now, as the years rudely crowd me, I am once again enjoying the allure of music — mostly from the free stuff on YouTube. I’m trying to broaden my musical tastes. I’ve even — lord love a duck! — started listening to Frank Sinatra. That man had the phrasing of an angel, even though he also had the disposition of a devil. And when the lonely nights seem especially long, and my osteoarthritis keeps me awake, I am listening to the symphonies of Jean Sibelius. I don’t yet understand what that anguished Finn is trying to say in his music, but I’m not giving up — not by a long shot. When he exhausts me with his tonal ambiguities, I play Bing Crosby singing ‘Far Away Places’ for a brief respite. His plaintive croon easily takes me back to my peregrinating years, and present discomforts dissolve for a blessed while.”
Band Name of the Day: The German Mexicans
Website of the Day: “How a Hole Punch Shaped Public Perception of the Great Depression”