The Permanent Parental Record
Happy Medium writes: “Subject: Angels Among Us.
“It was May of 1941 in rural Wisconsin, and our family was living a quiet life.
“I was youngest of five children living on a 120-acre dairy farm not yet paid for. We were dirt poor but didn’t know it. Of course, Mom and Dad did.
“Our new neighbors began renting the 40-acre farm south of our home place that same May.
“One cool late afternoon, I was sitting next to Dad on the front stoop HELPING him replace the sole of a shoe, using the black shoe last and his trusty hammer. I was 3 years old.
“Looking up, we saw our pregnant neighbor lady walk into the yard. She was a tall, beautiful city bride with short black hair and long, brightly painted fingernails.
“She said: ‘The cattle are by the barn bawling. I think they need to be fed and milked. My husband won’t be back for a while. I don’t know what to do. Can you help?’
“Dad nodded, set his work aside and called for my 10-year-old brother. They drove the Model A to the neighbor’s farm, where they fed the cows, milked and bedded them for the night, then came home to do the same on our farm. That was the beginning of a lasting friendship.
“The following spring, our neighbors moved to Minneapolis after farming for one year. They found it was an unforgiving lifestyle and knew they had to try something different. Our neighbor, Mrs. P., proudly said: ‘We came owing nothing and left owing nothing.’
“For years our two families visited each other at least twice a year, until we children were grown and on our own.
“My parents and Mr. and Mrs. P. have passed away, but I recall the fun stories 97-year-old Mrs. P. enjoyed telling about my parents while she and I played the two-handed 500 card game and cribbage. An aside: She would let me win once in a while.
“The one story she enjoyed telling the most was about the winter of 1941, when she and her husband were in debt and didn’t have money to pay for groceries. She said that Dad had come to her house and said: ‘I found this $10 bill in the snow by your driveway. You must have dropped it.’
“My neighbor said: ‘We knew we hadn’t dropped that money. We didn’t have any to drop. That money was from your father and mother. I never knew angels walked among us or lived on the next farm. We bought groceries and paid some outstanding bills. I tell that story every chance I get.’
“I’ve heard of angels among us. It is heartwarming to remember that my parents were two of them.
“Years later, I learned that Dad had once sold a cow for $10.”
Now & Then
The long-awaited return of Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “So often we hear the phrase ‘It’s come full circle.’ Now I have a clearer understanding of those words.
“After about 30 years in Minnesota, then 30 years in Iowa, and almost 30 years in Wisconsin, I am right back where I started out. My sister Nancy and I are sharing a tree-top apartment on the same St. Paul campus where we went to high school and college, just three blocks from where we grew up.
“The neighborhood streets look just the same, except that the over–arching trees are no longer elms, but maples and ginkgos. The streetcars are gone, replaced by more cars and buses. The houses are just the way they were except for some additions, and there are no more empty lots.
“The little neighborhood hardware store is still there, but the adjacent grocery store, where I once saw a huge tarantula on a clump of bananas hanging from the ceiling, is gone. The corner gas station where we filled our bicycle tires with air is now a trendy little Italian restaurant.
“On our way around this circle, we have left many loved ones behind, but their spirits are right here with us, and we are thankful.”
Then & Now
John in Highland: “Subject: The Playground at St. Luke’s.
“The name of St. Luke’s church and school has been changed to St. Thomas More, but many of us will not ascribe ourselves to the new name. We still refer to ourselves as ‘Lukers.’
“I cannot drive past the school’s large playground without its bringing back memories of all the activities that would play out there. It was where more than a thousand kids would gather before the morning and afternoon bells. We would charge out to the playground for a 15-minute ‘recess’ in midmorning. It was such a large group of people that the nuns assigned different sections of the playground to specific grade levels in order to maintain some sense of order.
“One of the games that we would play was called ‘Pump.’ One person was assigned to be in the middle of the playground while dozens of others would line up on one side and, on the word ‘Go,’ run to the other side, trying not to be tagged by the person in the middle. Once tagged, people would join the group in the middle, until only one fast-running outlier remained to run the gauntlet.
“When winter covered the playground with snow, the game morphed into something called ‘Pump Tackle.’ It was a rougher version of the game, and several kids would routinely return from the playground with bumps and bruises. It did not take long before the principal, Sister Francella (affectionately known to us as Sister French Toast), would announce over the loudspeaker system: ‘Attention, children! There will be no more playing of Pump Tackle on the playground!’
“Another form of play that was frowned upon was climbing on the huge mountains of snow that would be piled up whenever we had a big snowfall. When no one was looking, there was always a kid who would climb up and declare himself ‘King of the Hill,’ prompting dozens of others to attempt to dislodge him. Spring would bring searches in the melting snow for all of the flotsam and jetsam and coins that had fallen out of pockets.
“In the summer, the playground was the site of pick-up baseball games. Because the field was asphalt, a baseball would not last very long, quickly turning into a mush ball. At one point, we took it upon ourselves to paint bases and baselines on the playground. It was obviously an amateur job, but we were never discovered, and it prompted a more professional job to be done in following years.
“The playground today has been partially fenced in, and children’s playground equipment occupies much of the lot. Although the changes are nice, they never could have been made in our day. Too many kids!”
What is right with people?
Writes The Astronomer of Nininger: “We may be treading new ground, but DebK and I collaborated and bounced this back and forth. This is a joint submission “from The Astronomer of Nininger and DebK of Rosemount (collaborating but not colluding)”: “We’ve shared friendship and pretend-farmer status for a long time, but quite a lot of distance separates us now, in our retirement years. These days, our time together is usually spent appreciating the culinary gifts of The Astronomer’s Good Wife (whose talents are sometimes lavished on a cut of lamb raised at St. Isidore Farm) or investigating the contents of the wine cellar of The Astronomer’s Nininger estate. A few years back, we varied the usual pattern by traveling together to California, where (among other things) we crashed a Very Fancy estate sale in Santa Barbara.
“This past glorious weekend, we again varied the routine of our friendship, meeting in St. Paul to join forces with a local nonprofit which was hosting its inaugural Speaking Proudly oratory competition for high-school girls. It was a nonpartisan event allowing young women of high-school age to speak on Benjamin Franklin’s well-known statement about our government: ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’
“Seventeen confident and capable young women showed the results of what must have been hours and hours of researching challenges to our republican form of government, of structuring their thoughts to persuade their audience, and of practicing how to speak most effectively. The finals were held in the Rotunda of the magnificently restored Minnesota State Capitol. As a state senator noted in her introduction of the finalists, we truly heard words that ‘let freedom ring.’
“More often than we care to admit, the two of us have groused and grumbled, given in to pessimism about the future of this great country. The students we heard in the Rotunda on Saturday renewed our confidence. Those girls have assured us that we are in good hands, that there are families raising youngsters with many of the same ideals that our Founders cherished, that we cherish. May God bless those young people, and may God continue to bless America!”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Prayer for this week: Yea, though we walk through the valley of What the Heck is Going On?, may we find the best possible future for the world.”
Could be verse!
Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Break Every Yoke.
“‘Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?’ — Isaiah 58:6
“I saw a man against a wall; he had no place to go.
“The wind was sharp; the darkness, damp; I did not stop or slow.
“Our eyes met not. He didn’t speak. He huddled in a heap
“that told of desperation and of things that made him weep.
“My errand was a pressing one; I had no cash on me.
“And so his yoke remained unbroke as I passed hurriedly.
“(Will fasting ever help me be less like the Pharisee?)”
Older Than Dirt
Or: Our times
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “You know you are Older Than Dirt if you worked your way through college.”
Ah, the smell of it!
Our Theater of Seasons Division
Al B of Hartland: “The smell of pumpkin spice is in every working nostril. Crop dusters find extra work by filling the air with it. It’s in the coffee and the desserts. It’s even in SPAM. It might be in the gasoline. It’s replaced the smell of burning leaves at this time of the year.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede: “Some neighbors have put effort to decorate for Halloween this year. Ten smiley pumpkins make for a cheery greeting.
“And having Snoopy pop out of one with a happy look on his face and birds in the pumpkin’s eyes is a fun variation.
“One neighbor’s yard now has a cemetery in it . . .
“. . . complete with skulls and bones here and there . . .
“. . . and a ghost rising out of the ground and what looks like a bird skeleton standing next to it.
“There is also a very large, mean-looking black cat. Hope the trick-or-treaters don’t have nightmares after this.
“More inflatables . . .
“. . . and a town sign where no one lives anymore, except ghosts. I guess it’s a ghost town now.
“At night this ghost is all red-looking.
“A lot more people are having fun playing with the scary Halloween idea than I have seen before. We don’t even have a pumpkin!”
And they’re off!
Big Eek of Southeast Minneapolis: “Growing up, my favorite summer activity was betting the horse races with my dad. The races were on in the afternoons during Fair week.
“The oldest son and I went back for a visit to his newly widowed grandmother. The races were now on evenings, under the lights. Grandma gave the oldest son $2 to bet. They would split the winnings.
“The oldest son studied the Daily Racing Form the night before. He wanted to bet on the Daily Double, in which you picked the winners of the first two races. The bet cost $2. He picked Patchy Beaver in the first race. I bought the ticket for him. We sat in the grandstand and watched the post parade.
“An outrider had a firm hold on Patchy Beaver’s head strap while the other horses cantered back and forth, warming up. The program said the Beaver’s rider was F. Kroger. I began to wonder. I turned to a lady in the row behind us and asked if that was a girl on Patchy Beaver. The lady checked her program and said: ‘Yes, that’s little Faith Kroger. She took riding lessons with my daughter.’
“The track was a half-miler, with sharp turns. The race started to our left and finished in front of the grandstand. Faith had the Beaver in fourth going around the first turn. She moved up to a neck behind the leader in the backstretch — and coming around the last turn, Faith went to the whip, and Patchy Beaver easily finished first by two lengths. So much for the rule that never was.
“A track photographer took a shot of Faith and the Beaver in the winner’s circle. I slipped him a five, and he said I could pick up a print in his studio the next day. It was for the middle daughter back home, who was nuts about horses.
“On to the second race. The oldest son had Village Clown, a California horse making his first start of the summer. My rule was not to bet on a horse late in the season without some warmup races. Rules were made to be broken. Village Clown went wire-to-wire. The oldest son had won the double and was 28 dollars ahead.
“The rest of the evening was up and down, mostly down, and the oldest son lost his whole wad on the last race. Grandma asked him how they had done. The oldest son said: ‘I lost the two dollars.’ Isn’t that the punch line of an old joke?
“The middle daughter visits me on Sundays. I asked her if she still had the photo of Faith and Patchy Beaver. She did. She said she’d bring it with her next Sunday.
“I wonder what ever happened to Faith Kroger.”
The Permanent Fatherly/Sonly Record
Or: Know thyself! (Great Comebacks Division)
Helena Handbasket: “From Alan Etherington [of Billingham, U.K.], in the Wordsmith.org AWAD newsletter: ‘Our granddaughter is in her 4th year at Medical School, rapidly approaching 22, and is often given half fare on buses even recently when on her way to a Beer Festival. I point out to her that this is the Family Curse, we all look young (we like to think). When I arrived, half a lifetime ago, at the grand old age of 50 our son said that I didn’t look 50. But, he said, he remembered when I did. Had he not been a very fit 6’ 6” rugby player I’d have stopped his pocket money.'”
In the bucket
Babe of Burnsville: “I don’t think this is a bucket-list item, as it isn’t exactly in my power to make it happen, but I have this hope, which often has felt pretty futile, that before I die, I will be in Pasadena on a January 1st watching the Rose Parade and then watching the Golden Gophers playing in the Rose Bowl.”
Dennis from Eagan: “Myself and a few friends went on a trip October 16-23, with the highlight being the Gopher football game at Rutgers on October 19.
“We have now visited all 14 of the Big Ten stadiums since we started our annual tours back in 1989. But our odyssey may have satisfied some other folks’ bucket-list items.
“We flew a Sun Country airplane to and from Philadelphia and rented a car for an 1,100-mile drive to five cities. Besides New Brunswick, New Jersey, we also visited Williamsport, Pennsylvania (Little League headquarters), Buffalo, New York (and nearby Niagara Falls), Cooperstown, New York (Baseball Hall of Fame), and downtown Philadelphia (with its Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and bus tour). We also photographed the Bills’, Eagles’, Yankees’ and Giants’/Jets’ stadiums.”
Keeping your ears open
Elvis reports: “Elvis was getting his six-month cleaning today and could easily overhear the conversation from the adjacent cubicle and chair. The hygienist was talking to her patient about using safe pumpkin-carving tools, rather than letting her children use sharp knives. The patient replied that she preferred to use power tools and a pistol to carve her pumpkin.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: A trio of thoughts.
“The most recent messages on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview read:
“‘WE LOVE OUR
“‘WE ARE A
“‘MEET THE HOLY SPIRIT & A
“‘FEW COOL PEOPLE'”
The vision thing
KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Youth is Wasted on the Young.
“I think my sawhorses were glad to see the end of summer. They aren’t young anymore, and the weight they easily carried in their youth seems more like a burden now. They never complained, but their faces speak of aches and pains and fatigue.
“I believe they were happy to serve, and now they are grateful for some rest.”
They’re out there!
Stinky Bananalips of Empire: “We have a new law in Minnesota that says no phones in your hands while driving.
“My friend J recently was pulled over by a cop, because someone called the cops on this blond woman talking on her phone while driving.
“The cop said: ‘Where’s your phone?’
“‘In one of my bags.’ She pointed to the two bags on her passenger seat.
“‘I got a call you were on your phone while driving.’
“Holding up the food in her hand: ‘This is a Pop-Tart. I’m running late for work and grabbed it for breakfast.’
“I have Bluetooth tech in my car, but when I got a new phone, I decided to leave that auto setting where if I get a call in the car, the caller gets a message saying I’m driving and I’ll call you later. This also means I can’t make calls while driving. But I know myself, and I am a stare-off-into-space-while-on-the-phone person, so even with hands-free options, I should not be on the phone while driving.
“Yesterday, in Northfield, I saw a woman leaving the Culver’s parking lot holding her phone up to her ear and talking away. I yelled: ‘That ain’t no Pop-Tart, lady!’ Because of J, that’s my new go-to insult, since I can’t call and tell on people. That, and I will curse bad drivers with two flat tires, because people have only one spare. Sometimes, you gotta help Karma out with an idea or two.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: This is all reminiscent of the original Bulletin Board shout-out to bad drivers: Merlyn of St. Paul’s “Get a hat!”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A new concept: co-managers? [Bulletin Board notes: That’s not a new concept in Wrigleyville!]
“From ‘’LEAGUE NOTES’ on Page C3 of the Sports section in Tuesday’s edition of the Minneapolis paper: ‘The Chicago Cubs introduced David Ross as their 55th manager on Monday with their sights set on getting back to the playoffs after missing out for the first time in five years . . . .
“‘‘The 42-year-old Ross, who has never managed or coached, takes over for Joe Maddon, one of the most successful managers in franchise history. The Cubs gave him a three-year deal last week with a club option through the 2023 season.’
“That’s going to be a crowded dugout.”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Maybe . . . but not so crowded as the Cubs’ dugout was, back in the early 1960s — the era of the North Side Nine’s “College of Coaches.”
Donald reports: “Subject: Quotes from the sports calendar.
“’After resigning as coach of the Denver Broncos in 1976, John Ralston said: “I left because of illness and fatigue. The fans were sick and tired of me.”’
“‘As head football coach at USC, John McKay won national championships in 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1974, but posted a lackluster 44-88-1 pro coaching record. He once said, “A genius in the NFL is a guy who won last week.”’
“‘Duffy Daugherty coached Michigan State’s football team to back-to-back national championships in 1965 and 1966. “When you’re playing for the national championship,” said Daugherty, “it’s not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.”’
“‘Sportswriter Jim Murray once said: “Show me a man who is a good loser and I’ll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss.”‘”
Band Name of the Day: The Village Clowns
Law Firm of the Day: Sick & Tired
Website of the Day, recommended by The Monkey Lover’s Wife of Northfield: A peek inside a turtle embryo wins the Nikon Small World photography contest