If you don’t see a dummy in the room . . . could be you’re the dummy!

Live and learn!
Or: The price of greatness

Deuce of Eagan: “Subject: Who’s the Dummy Now?

“The year was 1954. I was then an eighth-grader at the Cathedral elementary school in St. Paul. That was the year I was chosen to represent our School Police as a sergeant. At our school, this was quite the honor, because Sister Carmela, a former principal of the school, had created the school patrol in the 1930s. I eventually discovered that as an officer, you were often chosen for special duties. One such memorable task is related below.

“One school day in May, I heard my name called on the classroom intercom with a message to report to our principal, Sister Ignatia. She told of a special assignment she had for me; I was to walk to the James J. Hill House and introduce myself to a nun who would answer the door. It was a short walk up the steep hill to Summit Avenue, and I was at the mansion in less than 10 minutes — all the while wondering what to expect when I arrived. (A word of explanation: The mansion was donated to the archdiocese  around that time.)

“As planned, a nun, whom I shall call Sister Mary Giggles, met me at the entrance. She giggled as she led up to the second floor, almost laughing. That was my first indicator that something unusual might be in store for me. She opened one of the classroom doors, and I was hit with about 20 nuns (in full habits back then) facing me while sitting on chairs — and most were smirking. I was introduced to the class. Sister Mary Giggles said I looked like a nice strong young man. Then I learned the assignment. This was a CPR class, and they had no dummies available back then. Yup, they had found a dummy; now I realized what the laughter and the snickering was about.

“The Red Cross was there to teach and certify each nun who performed Artificial Respiration correctly on the ‘dummy.’ It was done differently back then: They taught to roll the victim onto their stomach, then sit on the victim’s legs, apply pressure with both of their hands on the victim’s back in the lung area, then push hard from the lower lung area to the top of the lung. The pushing up on the lungs was to be repeated 20 times.

“OK, do you see the big picture? Twenty nuns of various weights, one at a time, sitting on the top portion of my legs for about 10 to 12 minutes each. Now add the force exerted on my lungs and back for a count of 20, times 20 total nuns — I get 400! How did the dummy feel following all that? I was hurting. I was given a round of applause and a Red Cross lapel pin in appreciation.

“Afterwards, when telling the story, I assigned names to some of the nuns, but hesitate to relate them now. I limped home, proudly sporting my hard-earned Red Cross pin. I had to skip basketball practice that evening and took a lot of teasing at the supper table.

“The ‘special duties’ kept coming that year, but nothing as challenging as my day as a dummy.”

Our birds, ourselves

Al B of Hartland: “A black-capped chickadee, the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts, hung upside down from a feeder. The tiny bird is strong and agile enough to do so with ease.

“Birds are stunningly astonishing and astonishingly stunning.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: So, we happily note, are some (many) Bulletin Board contributors. Thanks so much, Al B — and a belated Happy (milestone) Birthday.

You guessed it. A little birdie told us!

CAUTION! Words at Play!

Helena Handbasket: “From the AWAD email newsletter:

“‘From: Stephen Nycz . . .

“‘Subject: correctile dysfunction

“‘I forget where I saw it in Facebook, but someone suggested replacing mansplaining with “correctile dysfunction.”‘

“‘Stephen Nycz, Flagstaff, Arizona'”

Our times

An early-March report from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “The $^#!!! alarm went off in our building a few mornings ago. Since we saw no sign of a fire, we gathered in the lobby to await an All Clear.

“Of course we learned that one neighbor had her birthday that day, so we sang to her.

“When life gives you false alarms, I figure: Make lemonade.

“P.S. [in other news?] On a recent trip to check out a home store, I met a nice Muslim woman who said she was having her baby in 17 days. Which I think means St. Patrick’s Day.

“I told her I would pray for both of them, though ‘in Catholic.’ She seemed OK with that. Personally, I accept any positive prayers when prayers are in order.

“Later, while waiting to buy kids’ dishes with Beatrix Potter drawings on them, I showed them to two other Muslim women in line. And explained Beatrix Potter’s books, such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘Jemima Puddle-Duck.’ I never noticed how universal Peter Rabbit’s story is until I drew smiles while explaining how Peter disobeyed his mother and snuck under a fence to steal carrots from Mr. McGregor’s garden.

“Obviously, I’m not a gardener. . . .”

Our squirrels, ourselves

Full Heart and Hands Full: “The beautiful snowfall last week finally provided appropriate camouflage for our furry back-yard friend.”


Our theater of seasons
Where We Live Division

Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Daring to Hope That Spring Has Arrived?

“Looking outside, so sunny today, but so much melted snow water everywhere. I hear about people’s basements flooding; see them on the news, mopping up and tossing now- ruined carpets and perhaps electronic equipment — a gigantic TV, for instance.

“We have had our share throughout the years of winters here — since 1964! So many
people have their own stories to tell, and still we chose to live here!

“Since we put an addition on and discovered that all those mandatory inspections while building may have been slightly skewed just for the builder to get the project finished, we have had some leakage on the north side. Worst possible noise one can hear is water dripping inside your house — from the ceiling, not a faucet! Any large amount of snow on the roof, and we wonder: Will we get through the winter without having to find containers to set out under a line of drips? The last few winters have been pretty wimpy and gave us a false sense of having made it through without any problems. One tiny leak found its way into our house, and it only lasted a few hours!

“With about 18 inches of snow left on the peak that we could not reach, we were very glad to see the ‘big melt’ get started! Rain, fog, whatever . . . all that snow melt had to go somewhere. Last evening I looked out to where the birds are waiting for us to come and feed them. Farther back, I can now see a low spot all along people’s back yards. Looks like a lake out there.

“I hope you have weathered the weather for 2019’s winter and are hopefully waiting for the ice to melt before you venture out. The ice hides under the melting snow, and just taking the recycling bin and garbage can back in from the street was not easy this week.

“Please, no more icicle pictures! I know they are fascinating, but I have seen the last ones for this year, I hope!”

And now The Sage of Nininger: “Subject: Spring in our future?

“The most encouraging event for us every year, which reinforced the fact that Winter was history, was the arrival of the first towboat up the Mississippi. Ice was out of Lake Pepin, and the locks were open for business.

“On March 9th two years ago, the Stephen Colby and the Neil N. Diehl arrived in St. Paul, and we rejoiced in the arrival of another spring, my 84th.

“The next day, I caught the Diehl from our kitchen window as it approached Lock and Dam No. 2, following the Colby back downriver.


“Fast-forward to March 12th this year, and the view out our window is dramatically different.


“The river is solid ice shore to shore, our prairie-grass field has over a foot of snow, and Lake Pepin still has about two feet of ice. Hungry deer scratch for food in the trails I blew out, and the prospects for river traffic are well into April.

“Mother Nature sure can test our patience often, but I’ve been there before.”

The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division

Our Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:





“‘(better jokes inside)'”

Know thyself!

Dr. Chrysanthemum reports: “In December, I sent in my Ancestry.com DNA kit, and I received the results in January.

“My wife sent a kit in, too, which they first acknowledged, then lost. She has a new kit but hasn’t mailed it back yet.

“My initial DNA matches included 275 4th cousins or closer, plus several hundred pages of more distant cousins (50 to a page). The number of my 4th cousins (or closer) has since increased to 313. I know some of the people and recognize some of the other names on the list. Some people don’t use their full/real names, however, and others don’t want their results to be public.

“At least one of the people on my DNA match list, a prominent Minnesotan, should also appear on my wife’s list. He is my 2nd cousin once removed (Ancestry.com simplifies the match as a 3rd cousin), and he is her 3rd cousin.

“The number of cousins is not surprising. On Geni.com, I had 100,000-plus blood relatives over three years ago and probably have 200,000 or more now.

“I was, however, a little surprised by my Ancestry.com DNA/Ethnicity Estimate results:

“Eastern Europe & Russia 75%

“— Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland & Lithuania

“— Pomerania

“Baltic States 24%

“England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 1%

“The results are less diverse than I expected. The main surprise is that there is no German or Scandinavian. On reflection, though, the results make sense.

“The Pomeranian is expected. My father’s family is predominantly Kashubian (last of the Slavic Pomeranians), at least for the last few centuries, but further back there are true Poles (mainly from Greater Poland) and Silesians, a putative Anglo-Scandinavian, some Norman mercenaries, a few obvious Germans, a few people with French and Dutch/Flemish names, a sea captain of allegedly Swedish ancestry, and a few people with Polonized German names.

“My mother’s family is from Greater Poland and Silesia and appears to be Polish or Silesian for at least couple of centuries, as far as I can trace them.

“The significant percentage of Baltic DNA is a little surprising. A few Poles of Baltic Prussian or Lithuanian ancestry probably account for the 24-percent Baltic DNA.

“The 1 percent from Northwestern Europe may be an old carryover or perhaps from relatively recent (16th-17th century) Poles of French and Dutch/Flemish descent. Any one of those ancestors would contribute less than 1 percent of my DNA.

“Although the lack of German DNA is surprising, much of that DNA may have dropped out during the gene shuffling portion of reproductive process.

“And, of course, many eastern Germans are descendants of ethnic Slavs or Balts who were Germanized over the last thousand years or so. (Slavs occupied eastern Germany up to the current Danish border and to the outskirts of Hamburg.)

“Consequently, many Germans may register as substantially Eastern European or Baltic in DNA testing.

“Now I’m waiting to see what my wife’s results will show. We have discovered that her Kashubian Polish ancestors lived about 50 miles south of my father’s family and that her German ancestors lived about 70 miles to the west. Over the last 200 years, someone from her paternal grandmother’s family has married someone from my paternal grandmother’s family eight times. [Bulletin Board interjects: Sounds like Mickey Rooney’s family!] None of those people are our ancestors, but perhaps the DNA results will show some other connection.”

The little treasures

Vertically Challenged: “I used to talk with my mom’s cousin (so my 2nd? or 1st cousin, once removed? I never get that straight! [Bulletin Board says: Your mother’s 1st cousin is your 1st cousin, once removed].

“Anyway, we would talk a lot, and we’d talk genealogy, and she’d tell me a lot of family stories. Sadly, she passed away last year, so I was thrilled when her nephew let us look through some totes of picture albums and things she had.


“I loved this pic I ran across, and had to share it, of my great-uncle with my cousin’s sister as a baby. I think the hat just makes the picture!”

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other

Three from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: (1)  “Subject: Honey, we need to shop.

“It is often said that one of the worst things a husband can hear from his wife is: ‘We need to talk.’ For me it’s: ‘Honey, will you pick up a few things at the store for me?’

“Why, you didn’t ask?

“Because it goes a little something like this: ‘I just need you to pick up bread, grapes and my vitamin supplements.’ Let the caveats begin! ‘Get the Cottage Hearth, 12 grain, low sodium, 45 calories per slice. and make sure the grapes are snappy and not mushy. Get the little ones and taste a few to make sure they’re sweet. Oh, and the supplements are the Women’s Vitafusion, the 500 milligram, natural berries flavored in the 150 gummies size. They’re in a large green bottle with a strawberry on the label.’

“At this point, if possible, I take a picture of the empty container with my phone. This is a great help in looking, but has very little value for the finding.”

(2) “Subject: Can you drive a stick?

“One thing that has been disappearing relatively unnoticed, and probably will be extinct very soon, is the standard-transmission vehicle. During ‘the energy crisis’ of the ’70s and the skyrocketing gas prices that followed, I taught a lot of folks how to shift for themselves. In doing so, I saw a distinct pattern emerge. I used to warn the students ahead of time about the learning curve. It involved a shaky start; a short period of surprising competence; a sudden relapse into jolting, stalling, grinding embarrassment — and then the clouds part and you get it. This all takes place in about an hour (if no one gets hurt).

“Another thing I learned early on was that no parent, spouse or friend should be in the back seat during instruction.

“My first experience with ‘three on the tree’ was a Volvo delivery wagon owned by the furniture store I worked for in high school. I used to deliver glass hutches in that thing!”

(3) “Subject: The latest Sven and Ole joke in my head.

“Sven and Ole were havin’ a beer at Muddy Water’s in Prescott, Wisconsin, tonight and I overheard this conversation:

“Sven: So Ole, didja get all dem clocks changed yesterday?

“Ole: Heck no, I’m not goin’ to make matters no darn worse.

“Sven: Whadaya mean by dat?

“Ole: Vell, dey said on da newse dat if da snow melts too darn quickly, den darrel be flooding all over da place.

“Sven: What’s dat got to do with da Daylight Savings Time?

“Ole: I ain’t about to add an extra hour of daylight to make dat darn stuff melt any faster!”

Yah, sure, you betcha!

DebK of Rosemount: “Subject: Ole’s in luck!

“A little Ole humor from my Texas sis . . .


Throw the cow over the fence some hay!
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Tough to play defense while falling.

“This was the caption for the main picture on the front page of the Sports section of Friday’s Pioneer Press: ‘Stillwater’s Sara Scalia takes a jump shot over the Eastview defense that falls for a basket during the second half of Thursday night’s Class 4A semifinal game game at Williams Arena.’”

Everyone’s a copy editor

Donald: “Subject: Yes, go on . . .

“This was the headline for an article on Page D4 of the Business section of Sunday’s paper west of St. Paul: ‘Five tax changes investors should heed as they’”

Clowning around

Tim Torkildson writes: “Subject: PLAYING FOOTSIE IN CLOWN ALLEY.

“Four-thirty this morning finds me awake and marinating my feet in something called Orange Blossom & Neroli, with Honey Extract, Bath Soak — from a company called The Orange Tree. This is by no means an endorsement of said product. Indeed, I have not yet decided if it’s doing my complaining tootsies any good or not. The bag of bath soak was given to me by my daughter Sarah, along with a dozen French-milled lavender-scented soap balls, after cleaning out her linen closet recently.

“Being awakened so early this morning by my burning fiery feet serves to remind me, once again, of what a life of circus clowning has left me with: namely, fallen arches and a tendency towards plantar fasciitis.

“The culprit in all this is not the oversized clown shoes I wore for so many years. Those babies were hand-made by experts, just like a pair of regular custom-made boots or shoes from the finest gentlemen’s shops in London. In those long-ago times, there were clown cobblers — artisans who specialized in sewing together massive footwear, made of the finest leather and stuffed with horsehair, for the discerning professional clown. Gamboling along in them was a pleasure. They cost me the equivalent of a month’s salary, but they were well worth the price. My first pair lasted me for nearly 10 years. [Bulletin Board guesses: No pun intended!]

“No, the guilty party in this case was Capezio, a dance-shoe company out of Totowa, New Jersey. Ringling Brothers Circus contracted with them to provide each denizen of clown alley with a pair of flimsy satin ballet slippers for the half-dozen production numbers we were obligated to cavort in. John Ringling North, a nephew of one of the original Ringling Brothers from Wisconsin, decreed in 1945 that circus dance numbers would henceforth be performed not in just any old clown shoe or comfortable old sneaker, but in pink satin Capezio ballet slippers — in order to give the show some sorely needed class, like a Broadway production. That ukase had never been rescinded, and so when I arrived on the scene in 1971, I had to pound out dance routines on the unforgiving cement floors of sports arenas across the U. S. of A. with a mere gossamer covering to protect my feet. True, the show laid down a grooved green rubber mat around the entire arena track — but it was designed not to cushion our frail feet, but to provide traction for the elephants and horses so they wouldn’t slip and stumble into a litigious member of the audience.

“Those cursed slippers had absolutely no arch support of any kind; it was like jumping up and down on a block of concrete for hours at a time in nothing but a pair of thin socks. And they were so tight we could feel the blood being squeezed out of our feet. Soon enough, all of us First of Mays began to develop shin splints and other Dr. Scholl’s maladies. By the time the show hit Madison Square Garden in the spring, fully half of clown alley was limping around like Civil War veterans who’d lost a foot to gangrene during Bull Run.

“And how did the seasoned clowns avoid this torture? They bribed the wardrobe department to glue arch supports into their Capezios — something we newbies didn’t have the wit, or ready money, to do.

“Finally, after the show played two weeks at the Philadelphia Spectrum arena in June and then headed out west to Denver and beyond, we First of Mays staged a revolt. Arms akimbo, we refused point blank to put on the Capezios — and defiantly mamboed and foxtrotted our way through Opening, Manage, and Spec, in our comfortable and sturdy clown shoes. Charlie Baumann, the formidable Performance Director, threatened us with salary cuts and banishment from the show, but we stuck to our guns, or, rather, our slap shoes, and dared him to do his worst. Anything was preferable to hammertoes and collapsed tarsal bones.

“Baumann reported our insurrection to the owner of the show, Irvin Feld, and like the biblical Solomon, he proposed a wise compromise: If we would buy our own pink high-top Keds, we could wear those instead of the hated Capezios. But no clown shoes during the dance numbers; that was O.U.T.

“We agreed, and soon my feet stopped throbbing very much. But alas, the damage had been done and I never actively did very much to reverse it. My feet started to really bother me again when I was an ESL teacher in Thailand 12 years ago — but all I had to do was walk into the nearest foot-massage parlor and have a lovely Thai maiden pummel my feet for a full hour for just five dollars. It was a delicious agony.

“Today, of course, on my modest Social Security, foot massages here in the States are out of the question. So I soak my hoofs in whatever mishmash of mineral salts I can find on the cheap. And I invest in shoes with the maximum arch support. Still, walking is becoming more of a chore and less of a pleasure.

“I hear that they used to soak sore feet in a mixture of water and Colman’s Mustard powder back in Teddy Roosevelt’s time . . . kinda like a mustard plaster for the feet. I just may have to try that. It’ll probably make me hungry for a hot dog.”

Band Name of the Day: Sister Mary Giggles and the Dummies

Website of the Day: On the Hunt for Japan’s Elaborate, Colorful Manhole Covers


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