It had been a bear of a day . . . and then a bear showed up!

Life as we know it

Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “Subject: Perhaps winter wasn’t so bad.

“It was just a week or so ago that I submitted an item to BBonward and remarked that perhaps interesting things worth writing about would start happening again.

“I didn’t specify that I didn’t want those interesting things to involve a bear.

“It had been a rough day. I’d arrived home from the hospital, where Norton’s dad had just been admitted shortly after 1 o’clock in the morning. I’d gotten a little sleep and then filled in for Norton’s dad on his and beagle Norton’s daily two-mile walk — not as early as they usually go, but early for an ‘I’m not a morning person’ kind of gal.

“There were visits to the hospital (where Norton’s dad was fighting off the pneumonia he’d been diagnosed with), alternating with being home waiting for the guy who was supposed to install the new over-the-stovetop microwave (but couldn’t because we need a plug-in, which has to be done by a licensed electrician, which I’m not) and running the zoo, my new name for the place I used to refer to as home.

“And then, as I was relaxing at home in the evening, after driving through a severe thunderstorm — with strong winds that downed trees and branches, and rain that left huge puddles in the road, which I drove through only after watching other cars make it through them without stalling or floating away — I glanced out the kitchen window, and a medium-size black bear was trying to get the bird feeder down. Well, that did it! I opened the window (after grabbing my camera so I could record whatever happened) and yelled at the bear as I pounded on the window. Apparently the bear heard me and lumbered off toward the woods on the side of the house. I had scared a bear! I was so proud. Me, a little old lady, not only brave enough to yell at a bear from the safety of her kitchen, but fierce/loud enough that the bear actually did what she ordered it to do.

“And now I’m happy to report that Norton’s dad is much better, and I’m hoping to hold off for a little while before my next adventure. I need to pace myself. And I’m also hoping that it doesn’t involve the bear (or the skunk I saw down the road one day last week).

“Update: Norton’s dad is home and recovering, and Norton and the cats were overjoyed to see him. The bear has not come back. And, after thinking about the toilet we had to have replaced a couple of weeks ago, which according to the plumber was made in 1973, and the conked-out microwave, which was made in 1980, I’ve been getting a little worried, as I was made in 1946.”

Finders, keepers

Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Two pics of WWII memorabilia.

“I found this towel set at an estate sale in St. Paul, circa the 1990s. I assumed they were from a POW reunion. I am now trying to verify this.



“I thought folks might enjoy them.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We’re certain they will . . . and they will be curious about the meaning of lines like “Who’s got the black pot?” and “Goon in the block.” Maybe we’ll get super-lucky, and someone who knows is still around and can tell us.

This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other

All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “Female buffalo gnats or turkey gnats — the farther north I go, the more they are called black flies — bite chunks from my skin and feed on the blood. They punch above their weight and cause intense reactions and painful itching. The end of May and early June is prime time for these insects, which breed in moving water.

“I feel privileged to see most things. I’m happy I can see the gnats, but I’m never happy to see them.”

(2) “I’d see him at a local cafe when I was a boy. He was missing a couple of fingers. I assumed it was the result of a farm accident. I tried not to stare at his hand. I’d heard about phantom fingers and wondered if he could still feel the missing digits. He caught me looking at his hand and told me that he’d received a bad manicure at the butcher shop. That stuck with me. I’ve never once gotten a manicure in a butcher shop.”

(3) “I bought gas. It wasn’t for me; it was for my car.

“I went into the convenience store to pay for it because I don’t come close to trusting credit-card readers on gas pumps as much as I should, and a large share of them refuse to produce receipts.

“I paid with a card and signed my name on a screen. Have you looked at your signature on one of those credit-card machines? As I peered at my scrawling signature, I knew it wasn’t mine. Oh, it was my name and it appeared to be spelled correctly, but it didn’t resemble my signature. Had there been an earthquake? Were my nose hairs on fire? Had someone else signed my name? That was it! It was signed by the same creature whose photo has taken the place of mine on my driver’s license.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

B. Dazzled of South St. Paul: “Subject: I’m no sailor, but . . .

“From today’s (6/16/2019) Pioneer Press story on the launch of the USS
Minneapolis-Saint Paul: ‘The USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul was side launched. This is because the Menominee River is not wide enough for a length launch, where the ship
goes in hull first.’

“Now, I’m no sailor, but I’m fairly confident that in all but the most  extreme circumstances, the Navy tries to put each ship in the water hull first! Otherwise, the vessel can prove rather difficult to get underway. Not to mention the damp quarters.”

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: So few games over such a l-o-n-g stretch!

“The last item in ‘Twins report’ on Page 3B of the Sports section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press was labeled ‘BRIEFLY.’ These were the opening and closing statements: ‘Jorge Polanco extended his career-high on-base streak to 31 games with a single in the sixth inning . . . It’s the longest on-base streak since Brian Dozier reached 34 straight times from Sept. 12, 2007, to April 23, 2018.’”

Only a  _________ would notice!

Horntoad of White Bear Lake reports: “Subject: Nightly News — Seeing Double.

“This past Sunday, my wife and I were watching the 10 p.m. news on one of the local channels, hosted by a veteran female anchor. About midpoint of the newscast, a story came on that was of little interest to either of us, so I switched to the adjacent channel.
On that station, the anchor, another lovely lady, was reading a local news story. My wife, being a diligent observer of fashion, immediately said: ‘She’s wearing the same dress as the anchor on the other channel! And it has that very unique A-line, kinda asymmetrical-style. And it’s the same color!’

“Who knew? Being that I am a ‘challenged’ observer of what others are wearing, I had to flip back to the original channel for verification. Sure enough, they were wearing the exact same dress, same green color, at the same time. What are the odds of that happening? I had to flip the channel back and forth a couple more times, of course, just for kicks.

“Maybe the four local TV stations need to exchange anchor fashion photos a few hours ahead of broadcast. Or start shopping at different stores.”

What’s in a (team) name?

Donald: “Subject: All bent out of shape?

“During a conversation with my physical therapist, Amanda mentioned that she grew up in a town about 200 miles from Chicago. The fact I found to be most interesting was the nickname for the high-school teams: ‘Pretzels.’

“A new category?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Stranger things have happened . . . like, for example, a town choosing to call its teams the Pretzels. (Don’t you wonder why they’re the Pretzels? We do.)

Where we live
Or: Life (and death) as we know it

The Astronomer of Nininger: “I am a River Rat.

“When the Good Wife and I moved to Minnesota 40 years ago, we purchased a classic Minnesota rambler that overlooked the Mississippi River from about a quarter-mile, across our hay field and a neighboring farmer’s pasture. It was arguably one of the finest views of the river and its numerous islands — some with sandy beaches; others green with lush growth, but mostly weeds. All of them seemed overpopulated with insects that were strongly attracted to human flesh. Its traffic back then consisted primarily of tugboats pushing sometimes a dozen or more barges up and down the river in season.

“In 1997, we moved to a lovely spread right on the river. It was home to our horses and others that we boarded and was named after the ‘Big River’ where it was located. We stayed, planning to be there forever, until we were forced to move. This time, we vowed to stay on the water and ended up some three miles downriver in a splendid home, all brick and with more amenities than we had ever dreamed of.

“Still, with each move we became more deeply connected to the river. At first we had merely a 12-foot Alumacraft and an older 2-horsepower outboard. It served us well, enabling the catch of bigger walleye, northern pike and smallmouth bass than we ever caught in Canada. We moved up to a 14-footer, and eventually to an 18-foot Lund Alaskan. Most recently we acquired a pontoon boat and a pedal boat as well. The Good Wife seems to enjoy pedaling around the bay. That smile on her face says it all. All of these boats seemed to belong to the river. If they could talk, they would tell stories about the river, especially the people we came to know, who, in more ways than one, were fellow River Rats.

“One of these River Rats was Mike, who lived so close to the flowing waters that he surely got flooded every time the river would rise just a few feet. He had a big, white, two-story house with basswood clapboard siding. It was located just feet from the water and was built at the foot of a massive limestone cliff towering upward what appears to be well over a hundred feet. He was a real River Rat who made his living, if you call it that, by snagging logs from the river and running them through his sawmill. I don’t know how he did it, but he could tell what kind of wood each log was while it was still floating down the river, even without any bark clinging to it.. More than once, he was the discoverer of a human body that had been claimed by the river.

“The road leading to his home ran more than a quarter-mile right on the bank of Old Muddy. It would regularly get flooded, keeping most people out. A sign was hung over the road saying: ‘Keep out, Politicians, Horses’ Rears, and Army Corps of Engineers. Nature Lovers Welcome.’ Mike always had reason not to trust any government official —and especially the Corps of Engineers. They were responsible for dredging and maintaining at least a 9-foot channel for river boats. From the corner of his lawn, there was a rocky wing dam jutting straight out more than a hundred yards. You actually could stand on the lawn next to that wing dam and cast a Rapala alongside it. You never knew what would end up on the end of your line, but chances were pretty good that it would be a lunker walleye. I never caught a small one on the Mississippi.

“Along this road were some impressive rocky outcroppings and magnificent views of the river. One of these was named (by Mike) ‘Love Bug.’ He carved a sign and placed a picnic table with bench there, because it was such a peaceful place to take a load off your feet. Our son and other boys from the ‘neighborhood’ would come and fish there. It was deep right at the shoreline. An electronic depth finder registered it was 10 feet deep just two feet from the shore. That massive limestone cliff along the road must have continued straight down, and Mike had cut a road into its edge. But here the boys could fish and swim. It was my fault that we never tied a rope to the trees surrounding that place, but it surely would have been fun to swing out over the water and let go.

“Love Bug was a most enchanting place. The huge flat rock that extended over the edge of the water was a place where perhaps as many as eight boys could sit or recline while their fishing lines swirled about, subject to the current of the river. The boys routinely had a pool, betting a quarter on who caught the first, the biggest and the most. I wonder where they learned that? But you know, not one of these youngsters ended up in trouble with the law or with substance abuse. Still they were all boys. It may be that Love Bug itself contributed to the way they grew up.

“The beauty of a thing is ultimately rooted in its inherent being, not in what we can do to make it more useful or more appealing to the eye of the beholder. It is that way with Love Bug. On the last day of school, our son and several of his friends went down there to celebrate or whatever you do when classes are over for the year. I suspect that they, in a sense, felt a freedom that school being out for three months brings.

“I mentioned that Mike placed a wooden picnic table there, mostly for nature lovers to enjoy a snack or a beverage while passing the time away. The boys had left thereon a foot-long wooden ‘Billy Club’ for the express purpose of whacking catfish over the head, to prevent the barbs from stinging or cutting their hands. Now, that particular afternoon, my son somehow got cut (even after extensive warnings and demonstrations on the proper way to hold a catfish). The cut was not severe, but it was nasty enough to bleed on the picnic table. He was able to drive home, with his hand held out the window of that old pickup. It was still dripping when he arrived. The cut was not too deep, but it did require stitches by Rudy, a surgeon who lived next door to us. We went in to his office, and he sutured the middle finger of our son’s left hand. We did not think much about it. That’s one of the things that just happen.

“That night, Mike and his nephew went out on the town. After driving down that river road past Love Bug, Mike’s nephew dropped him off about 2 a.m. Tragically he left for home, but never arrived. The area was scoured for evidence as to what happened. The river was checked for the missing nephew and his pickup, but to no avail.

“Two days later, a Twin Cities TV news station reported that human blood had been found on the table by Love Bug, along with a Billy Club that surely indicated foul play. This was broadcast for their viewers. When we saw that report on the 5 o’clock news report, we immediately took our son to the sheriff’s office, a short drive away. We explained what had happened to our son at Love Bug. It certainly made sense. The sheriff filed a report but wanted one more thing: He wanted a picture of the cut for the file, so that everything was perfectly clear. So the sheriff now has a picture of my son’s sutured middle finger in the extended-upwards position.

“The nephew was found in October of that year, more than four months after he had driven off the highway and was covered by summer’s vegetation. You might argue as to whether the river had claimed one more victim or not.

“We still catch fish at Love Bug, but since Mike has also passed, we fish from a boat. Every time we pass by, we think of that time on the last day of school. We will never forget that day, nor will we ever forget Love Bug.”

When in Wisconsin . . .

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “When on the Riviera, do as the ‘Rivierians’ do.

“Border towns can be frustrating at times. Here on the Wisconsin Riviera, we welcome and enjoy visitors from all over Minnesota, especially on busy summer weekends. However, some of those visitors are just a little too nice when they stop to enjoy our great restaurants and beautiful rivers.

“Our Wisconsin laws require drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks of intersections NOT controlled by traffic signals. Minnesota Nice seems to require that pedestrians wave stopped cars to go ahead while they patiently wait.

“Three things can result from this exchange of courtesy. Most common is a standoff that results in pedestrian AND vehicle gridlock, with drivers and walkers nodding, smiling and waving at each other until someone gives. Another: A person who is just standing on the corner curb deciding where to go next is wondering why all of the cars have suddenly stopped at or in the middle of the intersection. The third, much darker result is an accident — resulting when a pedestrian who mistakenly assumes that everyone knows the rule encounters a driver unaware or uncaring about the law.

“The benefits of tourism greatly outweigh this minor whining-point about the first two, and fortunately the third rarely happens, but the journey to efficient traffic control and safety begins with a single step.”

BULLETIN BOARD ADVISES: No matter what the law might or might not be, no pedestrian anywhere should EVER assume that a vehicle moving perpendicular to that pedestrian’s path (crosswalk or no crosswalk) will stop before reaching that path.

The Permanent Fatherly/Daughterly Record

Father’s Day email from Doris Day: “Subject: Happy Dad’s Day.

“I was really touched by Shirley Wang’s story the first time I heard it, but it seemed extra-special today — and there is a follow-up bit. It is not a quick listen, but very worth it: Only a Game.

“Hug your dad!”

Could be verse!
Plus: You are what you eat

A pair of notes from Tim Torkildson: (1) “‘Just as reading and learning about muscles is not enough to build muscle, reading and learning about faith without adding action is insufficient to build faith.’ — Juan Pablo Villar

“My flabby faith has troubled me for many laggard years;

“as I have pondered on my lack, I almost have shed tears.

“Someday I must be up and doing what the Lord intends,

“no matter what the sacrifice — of course, that all depends

“on Netflix shows I’m watching and the bunions on my feet,

“plus whether I am on a roll while happily I tweet.

“So if it is convenient, I will faith so exercise

“that angels will rejoice (or drop dead of surprise).”

(2) “Subject: The perfect breakfast.

“I was a pretty tough customer as a child, when it came to eating. I did not enjoy most of the viands ordinarily offered in a Midwestern home during the middle years of the Twentieth Century. Anything in a can was suspect. Elbow macaroni was made of arsenic. And my overheated imagination populated every head of iceberg lettuce with silent green grubs, awaiting the opportunity to bore into my brain pan from the roof of my mouth.

“The only food fit for an 8-year-old boy to eat was French fries doused in ketchup, and hamburgers sans any hint of mustard but smothered in dill-pickle chips. And a glass of milk. Anything else was slop.

“My sainted mother made sure I got a lot of slop. We fought over her culinary child abuse hammer and tongs for many a long year, but her overbearing manner made it difficult for me to put her under my hypnotic sway with the Svengali-like passes I practiced so frequently in front of the bathroom mirror. She was immune to both reason and mesmerism.

“Take, for example, her rude attempt at breakfast. Everyone and their iguana knows that little boys need waffles drenched in syrup for their morning meal. My mother made them only on Sunday mornings, and she spoiled the pleasure of the whole shebang by limiting the amount of Log Cabin syrup I could drown my waffle in to a trifling quart. The rest of the week, I was stuck with cracked porcelain bowls of Malt-O-Meal in the winter and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in the summer — flaccid stodge of the worst kind. I eventually swore on a white-and-red-checkered copy of ‘Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book’ that when I was finally emancipated from my mother’s doleful attempts at nutrition, I would run riot, especially when it came to breakfast.

“And so I did. At age 17, I miraculously escaped to the Ringling Brothers Circus Winter Quarters in Venice, Florida, as a First of May — a new clown. As my slender means allowed, I began patronizing the nearest IHOP up in Sarasota. Fondly do I recall glutting myself on Swedish pancakes with lingonberry syrup until it began slowly dribbling down my earlobes like pahoehoe. I haunted the innumerable greasy spoons that lined U.S. Highway 41, to sample their biscuits with sausage gravy — an oleaginous achievement guaranteed to clot the arteries of a bull moose.

“And then, once the show hit the road and my finances became even more parlous, I discovered sardines in Louisiana hot sauce. A can of those babies cost a mere 35 cents, and there was no need for a plate or bowl — just a cheap white plastic fork. While my fellow clowns looked on askance, I would tear into at least two cans each morning, wiping the greasy chum off my chin with my sleeve.

“Once the circus hit the metropolitan East Coast, I became a slave to bagels, cream cheese, and gravlax. Eaten with slices of raw cucumber, it quickly became an addictive ritual that depleted my pocketbook so efficiently that I began cadging pizza crusts left over from clown-alley blowouts just for sustenance. When the show moved west into the Corn Belt, I had to go cold turkey in Des Moines, settling for an Iowa chop with scrambled eggs to assuage my hunger pangs.

“Huevos rancheros in Texas. Avocado toast in California. Wheat germ with goat’s milk in Oregon. Cheddar bratwurst nestling on a bed of hard-boiled eggs in Milwaukee. My impervious stomach welcomed them all with equanimity.

“Then I married Amy, and we had her whole-wheat pancakes, rain or shine, for the next 15 years. They were good and stuck to my ribs, but as I grew older, my innards relaxed their hold on the means of egress — and whole wheat became too cathartic for me. So I switched to ramen noodles in the morning, which Amy took as a personal insult to her cooking . . .

“When I was single again, I relapsed back into sardines until I moved to Thailand, where I rejoiced over their tangy rice porridge each sunrise. It’s chock-a-block with chicken broth, tamarind paste, galangal root, cilantro, and a host of other exotic botanicals, with a salted duck egg diced into it. Fortified with malt vinegar, crushed peanuts, fish sauce, fermented soybeans, and a soupcon of chili paste, it seemed a tropical ambrosia to me — until I developed a severe case of Bangkok belly and was restricted by my doctor to a diet of rice crackers and soda water. By the time I had recovered, my visa was permanently expired, so I left the country — never to return.

“The next several years were a sorry mixture of supermarket pastries or yogurt smoothies to greet the dewy morn. My taste buds attenuated until I couldn’t tell the difference between a can of Hormel’s corned-beef hash and a bowl of Quaker Five-Minute grits. Breakfast, it seemed, had become a lost cause.

“But then, five years ago, I moved into my present abode: Valley Villas Senior Housing, in Provo, Utah. And cater-corner to me is the Fresh Market, an independent grocery store. They sell, among other things, pig’s ears, fresh tripe, pickled okra, and fresh-baked jalapeno/cheddar bagels. After some trial and error, I have settled on a jalapeno/cheddar bagel, toasted, with cream cheese and a slice of gravlax (with whole scallions on the side) as the perfect breakfast for my declining years. It’s pungent, convenient, and goes down well with a cold bottle of chocolate whole milk. The gravlax at Fresh Market is hellishly expensive, so I don’t treat myself to this perfect morning repast more than three times a week. But on the days I do indulge in this delight, I find the world is a better place for a certain pudgy, flat-footed, and dreamy Norwegian scion and Siamese refugee to live in.”

Life as we know it
Laundry Division (responsorial)

Toothy Grin #6: “Subject: I apologize in advance.

“I always enjoy Tim Torkildson‘s stories. I wish I could write in the style that he does.

“A couple of BBonwards ago, he wrote about doing laundry, mentioning an early electric washer that seems to have been more primitive than my mother’s first electric wringer washer. He mentioned the mangle and how it flattened each piece put through it.

“I was so sorry to think I would have to correct Mr. T, to say that that part of the washer he referred to is called the wringer, and that a mangle is a large machine with rollers, made for pressing bed sheets and other large need-to-be-ironed items (tablecloths). My face is red, however, because I Googled mangle to see if there was a picture of the ones I’ve seen (in the distant past). I was informed by Wikipedia that the contraption for getting most of the water out of dripping, wet laundry is called by either name. How embarrassing, but not so much as I would have been if I had just blithely corrected Mr. T‘s terminology. Sorry, Mr. T, that I even thought you’d made a mistake!

“My husband has told me of getting his left arm caught in the wringer of his mother’s washer when he was a small sprout. He says the shoulder has bothered him ever since. The lesson: Be very thankful for automatic washers with spin cycles that get most of the water out of the laundry these days.”

The darnedest things

WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Rusty of St. Paul: “My brother’s grandson just completed kindergarten and is on his way to first grade next fall. My brother asked him the other day what he was doing for the summer. Finn replied: ‘I am going back to my old preschool [for a summer program]. But it will be at a MUCH higher level!'”

Band Name of the Day: Slop

Website of the Day: “Evvie Drake Starts Over” (the first novel by Ms. Linda of Eagan)


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