E.B. White: ‘It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet.’

Life as we know it
Including: Unfamiliar quotations

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: I needed to read this today:

“‘Dear Mr. Nadeau, who has lost his faith in humanity:

“‘As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

“‘Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly.

“‘It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right.

“‘Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

“‘Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


“‘E.B. White


Eos: “Subject: The Ice Ball King.

“When I was a kid, our neighborhood was a happy place. All of the kids in the neighborhood got along with each other, and we had fun.

“But I remember one day that was not fun at all. It was winter, and the new snow was perfect for snowballs. The kids across the street had a visitor: their cousin Paul. Paul was older than all of us, and he was mean. He always looked like he was angry, except when someone else was hurting. Then he smiled — a snarling, ugly smile.

“Our plan had been to have a snowball fight — all good fun. But Paul joined in the game, and the fight went from fun to frightening. Paul didn’t make snowballs; he was the ice ball king. He picked on everyone. Even his cousins were targets for him. They hated him as much as the rest of us did that day. We hid behind the big rock at the bottom of the hill, and behind trees.

“I’d like to say we all worked together to dethrone the king, but I don’t think we did. That was the only time I had anything to do with the brute.”

Gee, our old La Salle ran great!

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: Cheerio to our friendly neighborhood grocer!

“My father seemed oblivious to the fact that he was a cusser. Coming back from a hospital visit to my Uncle Tom — who swore almost as much as Daddy — he said: ‘Jeezus, that damned Tom swears so much it’s terrible. Every other blankety-blank word he says is a swear word.’

“When Dad’s pals came over, he preferred that we make ourselves scarce because some of them (gasp) swore! Just when one of them would be in the middle of a funny story, you could see Dad start to twitch and motion to them that there were children in the room. The poor fellows had to have been confused, but they soon figured a way to get us out of earshot: bribery. They would give us each a penny or two, and Edith and I would bolt out of the door, down the back steps to the sidewalk, across the alley and into the little grocery store behind us. They sold a 2-inch square of chocolate called a Grade A Bar for a penny. Nora would go upstairs and put her penny in her bank. Edith and I would come home and go up into our room, savoring our candy, trying in vain to make Nora jealous while Nora would empty out her bank and count her pennies. (It was no surprise to us when Nora earned her living as a bookkeeper when she grew up.)

“Now, some of those guys were big spenders and would give us each a nickel, and we could afford a Cheerio ice-cream bar.


“Those ice-cream bars were a temptation for Nora because every so often you would find FREE stamped on the empty stick — doubling your investment. I used to wonder if the grocer knew which were the free ones, because so often he would reach into the other side of the cooler to give you your ice-cream bar and then not seem the least bit surprised when you came right back in with your FREE stick asking for another, We were a scrawny bunch of girls, and I think he might have been doing his part to fatten us up.”

See world

Another close encounter of the natural kind, reported by The Grand Duchess of Grand Avenue: “Subject: Let’s play possum!


“The Duke and I enjoy spotting our new friend in the yard eating some of the same things the squirrels eat that we’ve thrown in the compost pile!

“Possums in town? You bet!”

Our theater of seasons
Photography Division

Three recent dispatches from Mounds View Swede: (1) “Subject: Fresh cold, new ice.

“Once the warm weather passed, new icicles formed, but not very many so far. The biggest one was very smooth.


“The thickest part at the top picked up interesting patterns I had not seen before.


“And when the sun got high enough, the deck snow reflected lots of very small spots of light from the melted crystals.


And then the few icicles showed off their sparkles, too.


“The variations of these scenes have been interesting to notice.”

(2) “A warm wind took care of all my icicles. Just two new ones formed when it got cold enough again — very smooth ones. No bumps, but lots of patterns showing in the big one.


The warm-colored sunlight transformed some of the green spruce branches into orange. As the sun moved, they became all green again.


“A red oak leaf is melting its way into the snow, and the sunlight was providing sparkles again. What a difference the sun makes in showing such things.


The full moon on a clear night shown brightly through the branches. The dark line was formed by an oak branch.


“I really enjoyed having a clear night to let me see this moon. One of the newspapers referred to it as a ‘snow moon’ — very appropriate with the coming snow.”

(3) “Sunday’s fresh snow nicely flocked my spruce and fir trees. I always enjoy seeing them decorated this way. And all the deciduous trees look better to me, too, with all their white coated branches. We had just enough snow to beautify everything without causing a lot of difficulties clearing the roads and driveways, unlike some of parts of Minnesota.


“My neighbor’s tree seemed to catch a lot more snow than my trees did.

And when that bright, full moon came out on a clear night, we had moon shadows to contemplate. This doesn’t seem to happen very often, so I smile to myself when it does and go get my camera. This first one is the back yard.


And this one is the front yard. A little light from the living room lamp is warming the snow in the lower right corner.”


Our theater of seasons
Photography Division (responsorial)

Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “I just wanted to thank Mounds View Swede for sending in the photos of icicles, snow, animal tracks and shadows. They remind me to take time to see my world.

“I think of the colors I’d use to paint a picture of shadows on snow, and the shadows would actually be blue, not gray.

“It’s a sunny day (hurray!), and the morning shadows of the big Norway pines reach all the way across the pond. Because the snowpack went down during last weekend’s warm weather, the local critters have now ventured out to cross the ice and snow. Before that, the pond was trackless because the snow was too deep.

“This photo is the view from my window.


“When my aging uncle visited our place, he said: ‘If I could look out at this every day, I’d be a happy man.’

“I do indeed feel lucky to live here. Even during the long winter.”

The vision thing

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Lucky look.

“I looked out on the river this morning and at first thought that strange little clouds of steam were rising from the surface. Then I realized that they were clouds being perfectly reflected on the mirror-smooth water surface.



“Not very artistic photos, but they do describe an event that I never would be able to describe to anyone and could have easily missed.”

This ‘n’ that

From Al B of Hartland: (1) “The river was open, but wrinkled in the wind. I watched a hawk perched in a cottonwood. The hawk had quite a slice, and it wasn’t anywhere near a golf course. In falconry, a slice is when a hawk propels its droppings out and away from a nest or perch. A bigger bird, like a bald eagle, can add serious velocity to that action. Falconers refer to hawk droppings as mutes. For some reason, I thought of a line from a book I’d read: ‘The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.’ I’m guessing Helen Macdonald wasn’t thinking about slicing when she wrote that part of her delightful book, ‘H Is for Hawk.'”

(2) “There were 1,100 people at the basketball game. The $5 entrance fee allowed each to become the world’s greatest referee.”

The verbing of America

The REF in White Bear Lake: “The verbing of America — or maybe Not Exactly What They Had In Mind?

“A double-groaner from the ‘Nation & World briefing’ in Wednesday’s Pioneer Press, describing the behavior of a victim testifying in the Harvey Weinstein trial: ‘Weinstein’s lawyers contend that evidence points to a consensual relationship and shows that the 34-year-old former actress was a manipulator who grin-and-bared her way through sexual encounters with Weinstein because she enjoyed the perks of knowing him.'”

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “In a Time interview, Norah O’Donnell explains how her early life prepared her to take an unbiased approach to the news: ‘”My parents are scientists. We’re fact-based people,” she says. “I was never someone who was siloed into a certain group, ideologically or just growing up.”'”

Lost . . . and found!
Or: The highfalutin pleasures — including: Could be verse!

Again, The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: A needle in a snow stack.

“This weekend brought 5.5 inches of snow to the Wisconsin Riviera and left in its wake a tale of terrible loss and miraculous recovery.

“It was a cold and stormy night.

“After dinner out, at one of the many fine establishments in Prescott, my neighbor Tom awoke the next morning incommunicado.

“The phone was missing from his pants.
“He searched both near and far.
“It wasn’t in his jacket,
“and it wasn’t in the car.

“Checking the ‘Find My Phone’ app, he discovered that its power was at 15 percent or less and thus unable to ping information as to its whereabouts.

“It was then that Mrs. Tom opined that it might have fallen out of his pocket when he pulled the car keys out to drive home. Aha! They set off with renewed hope. That is, until they revisited the parking place, only to find it plowed as clean as their puppy’s plate.
Mrs. Tom persisted:

“Look to the snow bank at the end of the street,
“Piled up, up, up,
“piled up several feet.
“It’s the perfect place
“For a lost phone to shiver
“Until the spring thaw,
“And it washes downriver.

“He takes her phone now and walks a block to the gigantic pile and calls his number. There is a faint response, a muffled cry for help from within the frozen tomb, that sends him scurrying back home for a shovel, boots and gloves.

“He begins to dig, guided by a ringtone and a prayer.

“After only a foot or so of shoveling, the phone appears as shown in the attached photo (the little black rectangle to the left of the shovel).


“Its battery was at 1 percent, with 10 minutes remaining.

“It all ended well,
“As well as can be.
“And made a fine story
“For Tom, you and me.”

Could be verse!

From Grandpa Jack: “Subject: The Screaming Fan.

“I went to the Minnesota basketball game.
“We lost; a debacle, with everyone to blame.
“But what hurt most of all were my ears
“From the idiot behind me, screaming cheers.
“Petite, but with hands that held two beers,
“She could have well starred in TV’s ‘Cheers.’
“Her incessant applause burst my calm,
“Like the shuddering echo of a cherry bomb.
“She screamed like a drill sergeant of WWII,
“As if every mistake would be our Waterloo.
“Howling every time we got the ball,
“Every foul, every shot — she had real gall.
“What to do with such a pain in the butt?
“‘Shut up!’ would just get a punch in the gut
“From her dullard boyfriend who was with her —
“Not knowing her social defects, that’s for sure.
“When all options are poor, about all one can do,
“Instead of staying home and moaning boo-hoo:
“Attend the next game with earplugs and a grin,
“Giving her a pair — as compromise is no sin!”

CAUTION! Words at Play!
Headline Division

Donald: “Subject: Clever headlines on ice.

“The Pioneer Press had two headlines on the front pages of recent Sports sections that caught my eye:

“Wednesday: The reference is to Matt Dumba’s first goal in 34 games. It turned out to be the winning goal in the Wild’s victory (3-2) over the Blackhawks in two overtimes: ‘WELCOME MATT.’

“Monday: The reference is to the Wild’s loss to the Avalanche (3-2): ‘HOME GROAN.’”

Or: Everyone’s a copy editor

Two from Donald: (1) “Subject: A subtle revelation.

“Page E3 of Monday’s STrib carried a summary of the Oscar awards. The section at the top of the page had pictures of the winners in these categories:


“Below the photos were the films in which they appeared, and their next projects.

“’SUPPORTING ACTRESS’ Laura Dern had this information beneath her picture:

“‘His film: “Marriage Story”‘

“‘Upcoming: “Jurassic World 3″‘

“Now, that’s what I call acting!”

(2) “Subject: Here a million, there a billion. . .

“The ‘Nation & World briefing’ section on Page 9A of Wednesday’s (2-5) edition of the Pioneer Press included a piece with this headline and first paragraph:

“‘Mexican ex-pats remit $36 million in 2019’

“‘MEXICO CITY — Mexican migrants working abroad sent home a record $36 billion in remittances in 2019, the country’s central bank reported Tuesday.’

“No big deal — it’s only a one-letter difference.”

Ask Bulletin Board

Dennis from Eagan reports: “Subject: Spice up your life.

“I found these weirdly named, spicy products at Burnsville’s Von Hanson meat market near Highways 13 and 11.



“Have any BB readers out there tried them yet?”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We nominate you, Dennis!

The Permanent Family Record


From Liz of Roseville (“on behalf of herself, sister Leslie, brother Dave, sister-in-law Jennine, and grandchildren Justyn and Nathyn”): “Our Dad (Jerry) and Mom’s (Janet) 64th wedding anniversary was Tuesday, February 4! We are thrilled to be celebrating their anniversary! They are gems in our lives, have always been there to raise us and guide us with their wisdom. We have a lot of fun as a family!

“This is an especially significant anniversary, as our Mom has been in and out of the hospital and transition care this past year. Currently she is resting comfortably at home. We said our prayers and are very thankful and relieved.

“Our Dad’s love, devotion and dedication for caring for our Mom is inspirational and a role model to all of us.

“God bless you both, always.

“We love you, and we look forward to many more anniversary celebrations!”

Then & Now

In the wake of the Iowa caucus, we heard from Deuce of Eagan: “Subject: A timely line.

“Recent developments brought this to mind: Will Rogers seemed to have a timely political quip always ready. He may have been ahead of his time with this one: ‘I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.'”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Joy of Juxtaposition!

Within 90 seconds after copy/pasting Will Rogers’s famous jibe from email into bbonward.com, we heard a candidate for the Minnesota Senate say it, word for word the same, on AM 950.

Our times


Email: “Elvis had seen a couple variations on this sign floating around cyberspace, but he saw one for real at a breakfast restaurant in Oregon last weekend.”

Know thyself!

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Just sayin’ . . .

“The only difference between making art and making mischief is you get paid more for making mischief.”

Two roads diverged . . . 

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Roads Not Taken.

“A recent TPT show talked about the growth of I.T. firms like Sperry and Univac in the Twin Cities. — which reminded me that I could have ended up working in one of them.

“Circa 1978, I was an unemployed librarian in an overcrowded field. I thought of going into technical writing, and I interviewed with (Univac?) for a job as a technical writer. I would have created manuals explaining equipment and controls on a submarine being sold to Iran.

“I enjoyed the interview, and I think I would have enjoyed that job. Then the Shah of Iran was deposed, and the job evaporated.

“Some years later, I again looked into work as a technical writer, but the field had become harder to enter. There was required training, and experience using computer programs I hadn’t studied.

“My life would have gone in a very different direction, in another kind of technology. I might have been richer, but I probably would not have become an engineer.

“Truly a road not taken.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We would be happy to hear of others’ roads not taken.

Ours would have taken us, at its beginning, to law school. We would almost certainly have ended up richer, in money terms — but the riches of the career we made instead have more than compensated us.

Band Name of the Day: A Queer Mess

Website of the Day: For 40 Years, Crashing Trains Was One of America’s Favorite Pastimes



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