Of big black cast-iron frying pans, kitchen-heating stoves, mothers and muffins, husbands and sons . . .

This ‘n’ that

Inspired by recent mentions of cast-iron frying pans and oldfangled cook stoves, here’s The Gram With a Thousand Rules: (1) “I have been busy with tax preparation and plumbing problems these past few weeks. Now the taxes are filed, and the refunds should pay the plumbing bills, so I have time to focus on other, pleasanter things, like big black cast-iron frying pans.

 

“We bought our first home, the little lake cottage, mainly because it came furnished. Oh, the lake shore was lovely, but we were under no illusions about the age and condition of the cottage. It had furniture and kettles and dishes, including a black cast-iron frying pan, all well used by 31 years of renters. It had everything a summer renter would require except for bedding, and it suited our budget just fine.

“We discovered our blessed little home’s idiosyncrasies as the seasons changed. It stood on cement blocks, and the windows on only one side would open; however, each year the house shifted on the blocks, and then the windows on the other side of the house worked. (When we bought our new home seven years later, I annoyed the agent by opening every single window on all four sides of our three-bedroom rambler before I would sign the papers. I remember him saying: ‘Lady, they all work the same way. You don’t have to try all 18 of them!’)

“I digress. I was talking about black cast-iron frying pans. My mom had an old frying pan just like the one in that cottage kitchen, and the fried potatoes tasted just like they were supposed to because that lovely pan was well seasoned when it came to us. It is the only survivor from that cozy paneled kitchen on the lake. It was large enough to serve us well, even when our family grew to eight.

“When our youngest daughter started school, our 7-year-old son bought me a tiny 5-inch cast-iron frying pan, telling me in a sad little voice: ‘Now that you are going to be all alone at lunch time, Mama, this will be just the right size for you.’

“Actually, the thought of being ‘all alone’ at lunch time for the first time in 20 years seemed kind of appealing. It was not to be. That first day of the school year, my husband decided to drop home from the television station to join me for a quick bite. Our oldest son had evidently also taken note of his little brother’s sad announcement, because he biked home between his college classes ‘to keep you company, Mom.’

“Two black cast-iron frying pans can cook up a lifetime of warm memories.”

(2) “Remembering an old kitchen stove, a mother-in-law and a muffin mix:

Back in the day when quick mixes were new on the market, I bought a date muffin mix that became a favorite with my bridegroom. I was not a natural-born cook like his mother, but when I baked these muffins, he got a dreamy look on his face and paid me the ultimate compliment by saying these were ‘almost’ as tasty as those ‘from scratch’ muffins his mother baked.

“We ate dinner at his mom’s house about once a week, and one day I was surprised when my mother-in-law showed me the ‘new’ product she had discovered at the grocery store, asking me if I had tried it. I told her that they were one of her son’s favorites, although he always said they were not quite up to par with her homemade ones. She gave me a conspiratorial wink and said: ‘So that’s what he says, does he? We will show him.’ She mixed up the muffins and then tucked the empty box in the firebox next to the burners.

“Dinner was served, and Mom called everyone to the table. When my guy saw that his mother had baked his favorite date muffins, he nearly swooned with ecstasy. One bite, and he turned to me and said: ‘See what I mean? No mix can measure up to the real thing.’ Mom gave me a surreptitious nod and passed the platter to him, urging him to have another. Just as he finished it, Mom reached back and lifted the lid on the firebox and pulled out the box and showed it to him. Along with muffins, he ate crow that night.

“P.S. This ad from an old Sears, Roebuck catalog shows a kitchen range that resembles the one my mother-in-law used.

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“She could burn small amounts of trash any time of the year, and on bone-chilling days, that little stove made the kitchen such a warm cozy retreat for the entire family. It was handy for so many reasons, not the least of which was hiding a ready-mix box to tease her son.”

Now & Then

Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “Exhibitor’s statement to accompany my 40-card ‘HORRORS OF WAR’ display at next summer’s State Fair:

“Back in 1941, when I was in eighth grade, Sister Winifred, our school principal, sent me with five dollars to the candy wholesaler. I was to get items to sell at the concession stand our school ran at the annual field day at King Edward Park.

“I bought red licorice bits, peppermint balls, jelly beans, black licorice pipes and bubble gum. The bubble gum came in one-cent packs of HORRORS OF WAR cards. I bought a box of 30. Sister Winifred approved my purchases as I handed her the dollar and 37 cents change.

“I spent my dime at the field day on 10 of the bubble gum packs. I had enough bubble gum to last all afternoon and 10 cards to treasure. Over the ensuing eight decades, I have been recapturing my childhood, one HORRORS OF WAR card at a time.

“I can hardly wait for the State Fair to come next August.”

Our theater of seasons

Hindsight writes: “Finally, spring!

“Mud, matted grass, dead plants, dog droppings. Yuck.

“But wait . . . I hear little feet thumping on branches just south of here. I hear distant tweeting, quacking, honking, chirping and warbling. What can it be? Grumpus heard sandhill cranes this morning. The trumpeter swans arrived two days ago.

Version 2

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“Who wants to trudge in the mud? Don’t do it. Get in your car; go for a short little drive. Take your bird book and binoculars. Stop, look and listen — in the trees, the water-filled ditches, the ponds, the rivers and the skies.

“Get ready; they’re coming. Thousands of ‘snowbirds’ are coming home. On Friday, March 22nd, observers at Hawk’s Ridge in Duluth counted more than 1,000 bald eagles, heading north.

“Look up; it’s a wonderful world. The least you can do is go out and greet them.”

And now Birdwatcher in La Crescent: “It has to be spring  — the robins are making a nest on our porch light. Hoping the finches don’t make a nest in our Easter wreath — because if they do, the Easter wreath will be up longer than the season. I know because it has happened in a previous year.

“I would like a nice quiet, warm spring, followed by a low humidity, mid-70s temperatures for summer. I can only dream.”

Our birds, ourselves

Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake reports: “Subject: Backyard Visitors for Breakfast.

“Every morning, we get some of these visitors to eat the bird food that lands on the ground from the other birds on the feeders. These visitors seem to have a set route of back yards that they travel to and stop at every one of them before moving on to the next.

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“This morning, we had 25 to 30 of these visitors show up for their predicted breakfast feast. Most of the females came running first from my neighbor’s back yard — single-file, like they were on a tight schedule and had no time to waste before moving on to their next stop. They want to get the best pickings before the others get there.

“What we saw next were three toms bringing up the rear — walking slowly, side-by-side, with their tail feathers all spread out, keeping a close eye on all of the hens. You could tell that they were on guard duty, trying to impress the hens and to ward off any other toms that may have wanted to pay them a quick visit. They strutted around in all of their glory, and they stayed on the perimeter, keeping a close eye on the hens, and never came up to eat with them. Then some more toms showed up from the same flock, and they joined in with the original three to display their colors as well.

“Soon after the first hens had their fill of the prime pickings, they started again to leave one by one and run to their next stop. This time they surprised us and headed off in a different direction from their usual route, to a residence behind us about 1/4 mile away. We watched them run across the street and head down the long driveway for their next meal, with the toms again bringing up the rear.”

Now & Then

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Subject: The flood of ’65.

“The Mississippi River flooding this year is impressive, but nothing compared to the flood of 1965. I can remember all of us neighborhood kids rushing home from school and heading to Indian Mounds Park to check it out. As to how closely we observed the floodwaters — well, it is probably best not to reveal that, even after all these years.

“My dad liked to take photos, and he was busy in April 1965. I recently found his slides of the flood. Thanks to the wonders of modern computer technology, I scanned them, and here is a sampling.

“First up are pictures from Indian Mounds Park. The Downtown St. Paul Airport/Holman Field was definitely closed for business. There was no flood wall back then to stop the mighty Mississippi from covering it and a large portion of the west bank area.

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“Not much was happening at the Shiely Cement Co., the terminal area or the rail yards, either, located to the east of the airport. Everything was under water except for this elevated portion of Warner Road.

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“My dad worked a the Toni Company in Lowertown and took more pictures down there. The submerged bottom of the Third Street Bridge can be seen under the Hi-Lex sign looking east from the intersection of Broadway and Kellogg.

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“Kellogg Boulevard was covered by the muddy Mississippi for many blocks, as can be seen looking to the west from the same intersection. That is the Union Depot concourse with the Pepsi sign mounted on it.

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“In the same general area, a rowboat goes where trains and cars normally would be found.

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“The final picture was taken from the roof of the original Toni Company building, located at the current home of the Farmers’ Market. It shows the Third Street Bridge, with Dayton’s Bluff in the background.”

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Where we lived

Deuce of Eagan writes: “Subject: Why So Many Rowboats?

Flooding was just a fact of life when living a few feet above normal river level. Old Man River would often pay a visit inland in the early spring of the year. Residents learned to keep their oars handy for a quick exit in the old wooden rowboats stored in their yards.

“I am referring to the village of Lily Dale (Lilydale) that once existed on the south side of the river, less than a mile west of the High Bridge.

“There has been some minor controversy for years over the spelling of its name. A high-school classmate of mine, Don Boxmeyer, along with Gareth Hiebert, both exceptional Pioneer Press columnists back in the day, proclaimed it ‘Lily Dale,’ and that is gospel as far as I am concerned.

“Lily Dale was a quaint hamlet of no more than 25 homes, counting those with wheels and trailer hitches. Its roving streets were not paved, but appeared planned and orderly on plat maps. Some homes had dirt floors covered with rugs. From what I have gleaned from the few residents I have met, they were content folks enjoying an uncomplicated life in surroundings that Mark Twain could have easily included in one of his stories. Some referred to the village as a shanty town, but I never viewed it that way. It was scenic — with the river flowing a few hundred feet to the north and Pickerel Lake bordering the southern edge, both containing an abundance of large fish. Also to the south were views of cliffs containing 450,000-year-old sea fossils. Groves of magnificent mature trees, some with eagles’ nests, framed most of the narrow dirt streets.

“At some point, the county ordered all of the residents to give up possession of their homes, and shortly afterwards all were razed. The last structure to be torn down was the charming little schoolhouse used as their town hall.

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“Interestingly, the sign on its cupola read, correctly (of course): ‘Lily Dale.’

“The land remains, but as an open-space park featuring a boat launch, biking/hiking paths, fishing spots for all to enjoy. Its history is unknown to most park visitors, and I guess we have to accept the fact that progress is in the eye of the beholder.

“One thing that did not change, however, are the frequent spring floods which are beginning to recede now, and floating dead trees accumulating along the Mississippi shoreline, just as they always have done.

“NOTE: Deuce wants to add a couple of personal memories. While composing this story, a vivid Lily Dale recollection came back to me of sitting in my buddy’s ’47 Ford Coupe, in his girlfriend’s driveway, while he returned a blue suede jacket she had left in the car. It was autumn 1958. His car-radio volume was turned up high, and Richie Valens was rocking out with his latest song: ‘La Bamba.’ They eventually married and had a family together.

“Also: I knew another resident, who once resided on B Street in a home with dirt floors, who through hard work went on to be elected Mayor of White Bear Lake, and following that he served for years as a distinguished judge on the Ramsey County Municipal Court, and later on the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

“Thank you.”

Fellow travelers

The Astronomer of Nininger: “On a recent visit to an Asian country, three young men asked me: Of all the places I’ve visited, what was the most beautiful, most exciting; what place must they be sure to see?

“I’ve seen the magnificent desolation of the Antarctic; the sun setting in a brilliant green flash beyond the waters of the Pacific.; the tiny, colorful flowers of the Arctic tundra in its spring; high mountains of the Rockies wilderness; and places that could only have been created with God’s palette.

“I could have told them that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that certainly each person sees something uniquely different, but I told them about an experience more than 50 years ago, when I was a guest at École de l’Air, the French Air Force Academy. This took place in the days of de Gaulle. In any case, we visited a quaint cafe along the beach of the Mediterranean and toasted mutual interests with some kind of cognac. I do not recall that we had any special glasses or whatever else may have been served with it, but it was, without a doubt, the finest cognac I ever tasted. Ahhhh! I have searched for years to find an equivalent nectar, but never succeeded in even coming close. Then a friend told me that it was the total experience, shared among friends, that I recalled, not the beverage itself.

“So I would have to say, in like manner, that the most beautiful, most exciting, the best place in the world exists not by itself, but in the experiences shared with friends. And those treasures I keep close to me, in my heart.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Two many firsts?

“The front page of ‘BUSINESS’ in Saturday’s STrib carries a picture of the interior of the new Life Time Work building in St. Louis Park. This is the caption beneath the photo: ’The new 28,000-square-foot Life Time Work will open Wednesday in St. Louis Park. It will be the first firm’s first co-working space in the Twin Cities.’

“I eagerly await the second firm’s second co-working space.”

Donald: “Subject: What a difference two days make.

The headline on Page 5C of the Sports section in Sunday’s Pioneer Press read: ‘Twins feel a chill after first loss.’ Above the headline was: ‘Indians 2 / Twins 1.’

“This was the caption beneath a picture on Page 5B of the Sports section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press: ‘Twins starter Jake Odorizzi struck out 11 batters in six innings Saturday in a 2-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Target Field.’

“I guess time does heal all wounds.”

Not exactly what (if anything) they had in mind

Helena Handbasket: “Subject: April Fooling.

“I worked in customer service at the local phone company when this hit the airwaves. It was hilarious, annoying and my 15 minutes of fame.”

Ask Bulletin Board
Clowning Around Division (responsorial)

Susan of Bloomington wrote, in the most recent Bulletin Board: “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.”

We presently heard from Mr. Torkildson: “Veteran clowns never spoke of it. One of the Ringling press agents, Art Ricker, told me that clown alley was located below one of the bleachers in the main tent, and that the Hartford inferno not only incinerated everyone’s clown trunks, along with their costumes, props, and makeup, but also left behind the blackened remains of several persons, some of them children, amidst the charred wreckage. Those clowns who went back to check on their possessions after the fire and saw those grisly bodies remained traumatized for the rest of their lives.”

The verbing of America
Tragic Division

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “The headline for a piece on Page 7B of the Sports section in Monday’s Pioneer Press read: ‘Two-horse spill causes 23rd equine death at Santa Anita.’

“The second paragraph and beyond read:

“‘Arms Runner injured his right front leg and fell in the Grade 3 race on turf Sunday, two days after Santa Anita reopened to racing after being closed for nearly a month.

“’That caused a trailing horse, La Sardane, to fall. The 5-year-old mare got back on her feet and didn’t appear to sustain any injuries. Jockey Ruben Fuentes didn’t ride the rest of the day.

“‘Arms runner was tended to by track veterinarians and vanned off. Track stewards said the horse was euthanized.’”

This ‘n’ that

From Kathy S. of St. Paul: (1)  “The discussion of funemployment reminded me of a comment from a job hunting class in May or June 2001. A young unemployed guy said he was enjoying having time off for (golf?), etc. [Bulletin Board says: We did that ourselves, in 1986. Accepted a job in the spring, contingent on starting it the day after Labor Day. Played golf every chance we got, all summer; never got around to the etc.] He was tempted to wait until September 2001 for serious job hunting.

“I have always hoped that he found a job before 9/11.”

(2) “My hope for this week: that the broken souls among us will put their energy into healing themselves and others, rather than lashing out at the world.

“And that, when they need one last chance in this life, we will be able to give it to them.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: That’s a pretty good hope for every week.

The passing show

IGHGrampa: “Subject: Mall Walking.

“March 28, 2019.

“They got new chairs and tables for the Nordstrom Court — very nice wood-grain backs and seats on the chairs, and on the table tops. There’s even a double-length table for large groups.

“They cleaned out the fountain there. That amounts to cleaning out the coins people toss in. I always thought they should put some educated crabs in there. One crab would pile up all the pennies, another the nickels, another the dimes, etc. If a crab found something other than a coin, he might make some appropriate (or inappropriate) gesture to the thrower.

“For a couple of months, they had a barrier around the fountain down the mall street. It implied a lengthy renovation or reinstallation going on there. It was even covered over on top, preventing a view from the level above. Whatever was being done, it took a long time. Today the barriers were gone and the fountain was there unchanged. They hadn’t done a thing to it. Why was it covered so long? That fountain could use some educated crabs, too.

“There’s a pool of water at the bottom of the log flume ride. I don’t think any coins have ever been cleaned out of there. They’d need a bunch of educated crabs. Some fish would improve the looks of that pool — maybe some goldfish or even some koi.

“On driving home on I-494 over the Minnesota River, I noticed the water level was high. The large marshy areas on either side of the bridge looked like lakes. In one area, the water appeared to be only 10 feet below the level of the road bed. Has the river ever been high enough to flood I-494?”

Hmmmmmmmm

Grandpa Bob: “Subject: Testing the I.Q. of Artificial Intelligence.

“Two recent instances lead one to question whether artificial intelligence is ready for prime time:

“My wife queried a well-known search engine (rhymes with ‘frugal’) as to the social scientist and author Jack Prost. The response was: ‘Do you mean Jack Frost?’

“The second occurred in PP’s ‘Sainted & Tainted’ column: A driver was grateful to the ‘good Sumatran’ who stopped to help with a flat tire. Spell-check could use some geography lessons.

“Sadly, the good old days when spelling, grammar, and syntax mattered are melting away like the snows. How will artificial intelligence handle irony, hyperbole, or sarcasm? Probably with less wit than the geniuses who push it.”

Ask Bulletin Board

Booklady: “Inquiring minds want to know:

“In his piece about portmanteau words (and so forth), Rusty mentioned a simile involving velociraptors. You advised him to avoid them whenever possible. [Bulletin Board clarifies: We advised him to avoid them “like the plague.”] To be sure I take the correct advice, which should we avoid — similes or ‘living velociraptors’?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Both, if you know what’s good for you!

Band Name of the Day: The Good Sumatrans

Website of the Day: Why the USDA Hired Artists to Paint Thousands of Fruits

 

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