Three chocolate shakes on the passenger seat: What could possibly go wrong?

The best-laid plans

IGHGrampa reports: “Subject: What a mess!

“I had a mishap of the week (or for the month — I hope).

“I went to A&W for our supper. Three chocolate shakes were in a carrier thing. I sort of perched them on the passenger-side front seat and blissfully drove away.

“Wouldn’t you know it? At a stop sign, that whole thing just slid right off onto the floor. Whoa! What a mess!

“We were all looking forward to having chocolate shakes with our burgers and fries. What a disappointment! And it’s all my fault.

“I’m going to clean it up after we eat. A job like that has to be planned out before one starts on it. I’ll need a big plastic tub. Hopefully, I can lift the floor mat out without too much spillage. What a mess!

“The worst thing about it all may be the lectures and comments I get at home: ‘You shoulda put it on the floor. I hope you learned a lesson. Etc., etc.’ Old German wives do that so well.

“What a mess!

“Later: Well, it turned out to be less of a mess than I thought at first. Most of it was contained on the floor mat. All I have left to do is clean that floor mat and put it out to dry. I’ll do that after I rest for a while.”

Know thyself!
Including: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

Rusty of St. Paul writes: “I am a reasonably intelligent person. I just can’t retain the meaning of words that I read maybe half a dozen to a dozen times a year.

“Inchoate is an example. The word is familiar to me, but not its meaning. I will look it up (‘not yet completed or fully developed; lacking order’), but then quickly forget and either have to look it up again next time, or more likely just keep reading.

“I think I must have a finite capacity in my brain pan for words and their meaning  — probably because it is crammed full of sports trivia. If Viking players of the ’60s and ’70s are brought up, I will tell you that Ed Sharockman was number 45, a cornerback and held the unofficial NFL record for broken noses at 13. Ask me about inchoate, and I’ll say: ‘I think he played for the Dolphins and got kicked off the team for being a bully.’ [Bulletin Board notes: Close! That was Richie Incognito.]

“Decades ago, we would play the game Dictionary, where you try to trick others that the meaning you made up for a word is the correct one. I would throw zingers in there instead. My friend Mike and I still remember my definition of thaumaturge: ‘The sudden urge to defecate. Usage: “Excuse me for a minute; I’m having a thaumaturge.”‘ This is from a game we played almost 40 years ago. (Correct definition: ‘A worker of wonders or miracles.’)

“What really surprises me is when I read words that I feel I have never seen before. That  seems to happen two to three times a month, usually while reading The New Yorker. Here is an example from two days ago, in this week’s issue: portmanteau. I could figure out its meaning from its usage: ‘The restaurateurs Mark Firth and Andrew Tarlow (“Marlow” is a portmanteau of their names)—who met working at Keith McNally’s Odeon, and first opened Diner, next door to Marlow—have always had a great knack for finding and retaining kitchen talent, using the success of each place to open another.’ Less than 25 minutes later, I am reading a different article in the same issue and read,: ‘The name Gesaffelstein is a portmanteau combining Albert Einstein with the Wagnerian term Gesamtkunstwerk, which can be loosely translated as “total art work.”’

“I don’t think this has ever happened to me before.

“As an aside, I wonder if this is the fastest B-M attained in Bulletin Board history, though I am aware that BB is NOT a competition. [Bulletin Board says: Your double portmanteau, we are sorry to report, is no Baader-Meinhof. Any regular reader of The New Yorker — and that surely must include anyone in St. Paul who reads the mini-reviews of restaurants in New York City — has surely encountered portmanteau many times in that august journal. For that matter, portmanteau has appeared even in your humble Bulletin Board, here.]

“This morning, I showed this issue and the word to my wife, who is also a reasonably intelligent person.

“‘Yeah, so what, portmanteau,’ she said.

“‘Shut up!’ I replied. ‘You know the word?!’

“I decided to look it up: (1) A case or bag to carry clothing while traveling, especially a leather trunk that opens into two halves. (2) Linguistics, a blend. Example: brunch — a blend of breakfast and lunch.

“My wife told me that she knew the word as a carrying case.

“Excuse me, I am having a thaumaturge — and while I am at it, I’ll look up velociraptor: ‘[Trump] is like a velociraptor. He has to be boss, and if you don’t show him deference he kills you.’ Also from The New Yorker.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: The editor in us is curious about something: How did The New Yorker’s fabled fact checkers confirm that other creatures showed the velociraptor “deference”?

A good simile — one that will stand up to analysis — is almost as rare as a living velociraptor.

Our advice: Avoid them like the plague!

CAUTION! Words at Play!
And: Our times

Semi-Legend: “Subject: Portmanteau.

“The New York Times crossword in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (which ran February 6 in its eponymous daily) had a word new to me. The 2 Down clue was ‘Between jobs and loving it.’ Answer: FUNEMPLOYMENT.

“Turns out the word has been around for a while. The Rush Limbaugh website directed me to a Los Angeles Times story from 2009, which explained: ‘Buoyed by severance, savings, unemployment checks or their parents, the funemployed do not spend their days poring over job listings. They travel on the cheap for weeks. They head back to school or volunteer at the neighborhood soup kitchen. And at least till the bank account dries up, they’re content living for today.’

“It continued: ‘Never heard of funemployment? Here’s Urban Dictionary’s definition: “The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life. I spent all day Tuesday at the pool; funemployment rocks!”‘

“Could be a healthy attitude.”

Everyone’s a copy editor
Smart-aleck Division

Donald: “Subject: Oh, does they?

“This headline appeared on Page C8 of the Sports section in Thursday’s paper west of St. Paul. It was for the continuation of an article from a previous page: ‘Gophers’ local stars wants this to be a habit.’”

It just don’t add up!
Or: Only a __________ would notice

Dennis from Eagan: “In Experian’s “Drive Thru” Commercial . . .

“. . . the identity-thief customer orders from the posted menu. Usually when one orders a multi-pack, he/she SAVES money per unit cost, compared with buying them individually. It’s actually cheaper buying three individual Social Security cards than one three-pack!

“How did that fact get past the marketing department?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: There must not be any ___________s in the marketing department!

Then & Now

JayGee of Cameron, Wisconsin: “We were a large family back in the ’40s, and Mom cooked on a cast-iron cook stove. Almost everything was fried, and she had a large frying pan used for whatever came to the table. I remember times when Dad, who had to get his feed mill up and running, would make his breakfast early, using that pan. We always had a crock of lard by the stove. He would melt a couple large spoons full of lard and do his home-grown eggs. It was like floating eggs in a lake of lard . . . and they were so-o-o good.

“But this is about the pan. My two older brothers went to World War II, the family moved to Western Minnesota, I and my younger brother joined the Air Force, and our older sister got married. One at home. The old frying pan was relegated to the bottom of the cabinet and seen no more. Mom and Dad passed on, and her kitchen went quiet.

“Some years later, my brother was responsible for getting rid of Mom’s kitchen stuff and her set of china. (That’s another story.) Judy and I had just acquired a relatively large house, so he told us to take whatever we wanted. This included her canning kettles, pots and a few pans. Most of them were shuffled around in my shop area . . . for years.

“Then David (our son) came home to live with us and take care of our needs. He also cooks great meals for us. One night I watched him preparing a mixture of many vegetables and commented about the large cast-iron frying pan in our basement. He asked me to dig it out for him. Found it! Dusty, and a small amount of rust. I cleaned it up and put the poor thing back to work. He says that it is great for sautéing vegetables (which he insists that we old folks need). That pan hadn’t seen food for at least 80 years.

“I and my younger sister are the only ones remaining from our family now, but David has moved a portion of our history back to life. This frying pan served us well, and now David is reviving it. Many more years, good and faithful pan. Many good memories.”

Now & Then
And: Gee, our old La Salle ran great!

Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “You think potholes are bad today? Here’s a picture of me (middle), brother Tom (left) and late brother Joe by our new house on Conway and Kennard Streets in July of 1954. Looks more like 1854 and the muck Ward Bond and his wagon train had to slosh through.


“But cement and asphalt were soon flowing like lava, and the sounds of earthmovers, bulldozers, hammers and saws filled the air as homes sprang up like wildflowers. The East Side became blissfully and irreversibly civilized, and life-long friendships were forged with our new neighbors: Tedesco, Martino, Freier, Thury, Spranger, Stangl, and Truhler, to mention just a few.

“It was the best of times, it was the muddiest of times.”

Gee, our old locomotive ran great!

Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: He Dances With Wolves.

“Did Kevin Costner regularly dance with wild wolves? A nice waltz or foxtrot, perhaps? Please allow me to lay the bedrock prior to getting into the gist of this story.

“Kevin Costner resided for a few months in the city of Deadwood, South Dakota, during the filming of ‘Dances With Wolves’ in 1989. He quickly became enamored with the Black Hills. Following the filming, he began to formulate a vision he had, a unique business opportunity. One portion of his dream would be to develop a standard-gauge train, powered by a pre-war steam locomotive, pulling 1940s Pullman-style passenger cars, running between Deadwood and Whitewood. The distance would be about 10 hilly miles. The passengers, mostly tourists, could marvel at the pine-covered mountains, rugged rock outcroppings — passing through the gorgeous Whitewood Valley, a 1,200-foot railroad tunnel, crossing the site of Crook City (a former Gold Rush mining town), on to the railroad depot in the quaint city of Whitewood, established in 1888. His plan would also include a championship alpine golf course along the route, and an extensive Western-style tourist resort at Whitewood.

“He had some great ideas; he was quite the visionary. However, I did beat him to the punch — about 35 years earlier. Kevin would have been about 5 years old then. Let me explain how this happened.

“I began spending my three-month summer vacations in Whitewood. The years were 1952 through 1955. My younger brother (by two years) and I stayed with my aunt and uncle (formerly of St. Paul) at their historic 1887, two-story hotel. Our vintage lodging had walls decorated with authentic Western artwork; handmade Lakota blankets; framed sepia-toned prints of Crook City (now gone); wall hooks suspending old gold miners’ hats; vintage cowboy hats; old rifles; six-shooters; oil lamps converted to electric; original wood floors, and much more. It was a real Western-style museum piece. Calamity Jane, a Deadwood icon, would come to Whitewood to stay a few nights when the hotel was new. It was probably around then that she began wearing dresses and did not carry a (visible) firearm. I wonder how many of you remember actress Jane Russell portraying Calamity Jane in the 1948 comedy film ‘Paleface,’ with Bob Hope.

“During the mid-1950s, the population of Whitewood was growing, but still under 400 folks. The common Black Hills attire then was: cowboy/cowgirl hats; pearl-snap button shirts; Western boots and the quintessential Wrangler blue jeans (and occasional spurs when riding horseback). A common sight included horses staked out in people’s yards, a horse trailer in each driveway, and old pickup trucks angle-parked in front of the diner or the municipal bar/café. The town sheriff drove a blue 1952 DeSoto with a single red light and siren. He might have been issued a single bullet, as Barney Fife carried; that’s my guess, anyway. We rode horses a lot both around town and up into the hills. We enjoyed hiking and bicycling; there was almost-daily swimming at Hubbard’s dam at the edge of town, country-western dances every Saturday night at the Golden Wheel Dance Hall above the hardware store, overnight tent camping at the city park — and then there were the numerous rodeos and horse shows.

“My brother and I enjoyed a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience organized by the Whitewood Saddle Club. We rode in a wagon train comprising 11 1800s covered wagons. The wagon train followed a map drawn in 1887. We traveled from Whitewood to Deadwood on an old stagecoach trail that was abandoned about 125 years earlier. I rode the chuck-wagon. Rocks, washouts and large potholes (we city dwellers are all too familiar with them) best describe the route. All of us newly ordained frontiersmen bounced, rocked, swayed and held on for dear life at times; we all tried to remain resolute. I thought I noticed a set of springs on each axle, but now I wonder. Our trek took over five hours. We slept at the rodeo grounds that night and rode in the Days of ’76 parade the next day. The wagons and horses were trucked back to Whitewood, thank goodness!

“Four times a week, a short steam-powered freight train would arrive in Whitewood at midday. It ran on historic 1890 freight track from Deadwood, built by the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad. The track was used in the early 1950s by a CNW 4-6-0 steam engine for round trips between Whitewood and Deadwood. It sort of seemed like the ‘little engine that could.’ What the thrill for the kids. You could hear the whistle bellowing as it chugged through the hills for about 15 minutes before its anticipated arrival. The crew would spend about one-half hour dropping off freight cars on a siding and coupling up others. It would huff and puff while clanging back and forth. We always looked forward to a sudden release of pressurized steam while spinning its wheels sometime during its visit. The crew went out of their way to be friendly.

“Little did I realize that my aunt and uncle were working on a long-shot with the railroad. They had to jump through some hoops, but their request was granted: My brother and I could ride the caboose from Whitewood to Deadwood. We were ecstatic! The charge was $1 each. (Must have been some legal requirement to be ticketed.) We were able to sit in the cupola seats for the entire trip (10 miles at about 5 mph). Great views; it was our Vista Dome Car. We helped the crew button up the caboose prior to entering the tunnel.

“The following year, the freight line was discontinued and the tracks and ties were removed. The depot survived, but without staff. The exiting station master informed my uncle that the records clearly showed we had been the first and only ticketed passengers ever to ride those rails. Kevin Costner planned on using this same picturesque route for his passenger train.

“Costner, a major investor in Black Hills Transportation, experienced a number of roadblocks over landowners’ right-of-way issues, but the courts ruled in BHTs favor in 2004. His plans had changed, however. ‘Kevin wants the railroad but does not want the landowners to feel they have been mistreated. That is his word on it,’ said his father, Bill Costner.

“I revisit many of those wonderful memories when in my back yard during the summer. The distinctive aroma of the numerous Black Hills spruce I planted many years past tend to unlock the joy.”

The simple pleasures
Including: Our pets, ourselves

The Grand Duchess of Grand Avenue reports: “The Duke and Sadie catching up on their reading.


Ask Bulletin Board
Clowning Around Division

Susan of Bloomington: “I recently read about the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944 — an horrific story where 167 people perished, and 700 people were injured.

“I wondered if the official clown of BB, the beloved Tim Torkildson, could comment. Did he hear stories passed down from those who were there? What was his experience? Both Emmett Kelly and Charles Nelson Reilly were there and survived. I would love to hear what Tim would have to say.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “The warming weather has brought some rapid changes as the icicles and roof snow rapidly disappeared.

“This first photo shows a constant stream of drops from one spot.


“One last look at an icicle filled with areas of blue and white. Nature’s art.


“The melting snow began to form a pond in my and my neighbor’s back yard. New things to watch as the sun rose and lit up parts of it.



“And it was warm enough for the squirrels to come out and climb and chase each other.


“Some days the pond had open water to catch the tree reflections.


“The pond has grown to a pretty good size. My rain gauge is just beginning to show as the water starts to sink into the ground, so it’s about a foot deep there.


“It’s a welcome change to have the driveway and roads completely clear of packed snow and ice and a patch of yard beginning to show here and there. I am glad for the distractions the melt and pond have provided as the snow starts to leave. New things to see in my yard.”

Our theater of seasons
Here & There Division

Mounds View Swede, again: “I thought our joint spring pond was pretty impressive this year.


“And as we settle into the slow melt, my yard is ‘pockmarked’ with the leaf melting holes.


“The squirrels don’t seem to mind much scampering around on the snow. I would think their toes would be cold.


“My Oregon son sent some of his first-day-of-spring photos, with daffodils blooming . . .


“. . . and red, white and pink camellias blooming.




“We will be ready in another month or so, I hope, to see such happening here.”

The little treasures (responsorial)

D. Ziner: “After my first trip to find my roots in England and Shetland, several decades ago, I found I needed family-tree software to keep track of the generations. Like Vertically Challenged, I found the relationships puzzling — especially those cousins. The computer program could calculate the relationships, but I needed something more to get to a meaningful understanding. I modified some reference material so it made more sense to me and created this diagram.

190325bbcut-relationshipdiagram“Maybe it will work for others to reduce the cousin confusion.”

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other

Bulletin Board’s Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland, reports: (1) “The darling of the yard and my minimum daily bird requirement, a chickadee, sang of spring. ‘Spring’s here,’ it whistled.

“I stumbled outside into a day that was exactly my size.”

(2) “The smell of spring was in the air, compliments of a skunk.

“On my walk, I encountered robins that had migrated back to Minnesota. I could tell because they were skittish and vociferous. The robins that wintered here are hushed and reserved in comparison. The wintering robins are too beaten up to be thrilled about anything.”

(3) “I walked on snowbanks in the yard while moving about and doing the chores. I was doing well until I stopped to examine an animal track. Then I broke through the roof of the snow and dropped past my knees into the white stuff.

“I’d been like the famed cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, who ran off cliffs and continued to run through the air until he realized what he was doing and looked down. Then he fell.

“One of the many secrets to life is to keep moving as long as you are able.”

Band Name of the Day: The Minimum Daily Birds

Law Firm of the Day: Huff & Puff

Website of the Day: How we golfers feel as spring comes near, from the great



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