Out of the mouths of babes
A short story from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Our 3-year-old Australian great-grandson, Henry, has been going to day care two days a week for quite some time. He has enjoyed the companionship of the other kids, and each day he has arrived home with a detailed report of the daily activities.
“Evidently the novelty has worn off, because the other day when his parents asked him what he did in day care that day, Henry succinctly replied: ‘Played and cried.'”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: That’s an admirably economical description of Life Itself!
The little treasures (responsorial)
Joan Daniels: “Thanks for posting a picture of my mother’s family from 1930. They are all deceased now, but such a sturdy bunch of fightin’ Johnsons! So named by the youngest daughter, my Aunt Edyth.”
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Bulletin Board just showed a nice family photograph taken at a funeral in 1930.
“Circa the 1980s, Mom’s only sister died. I photographed her three grandchildren in the lobby of the place where the wake was held — which shocked some people, but we rarely saw our cousins together. I’m glad I got that picture.
“Brian, my genealogy pen pal in England, commented at the time that he would have dearly loved to photograph his cousins at wakes or funerals. But it Was Not Done.
“Do folks with phones take pictures at wakes nowadays?”
Cousin Gregg: “‘The little treasures (Volume 1)‘ reminded me of these photos:
“Here’s the Gray family from Marine on St. Croix. Possibly taken around 1916. Their descendants today can see in their faces the genes that make us resemble them more than 100 years later.
“The tanned, leathered face of Great-Grandfather John Wesley Gray evidences a life of toil outside. The strong hands of Great-Grandmother Mary Belle Welshons Gray evidences a life of toil in the household. Some of her baking recipes survive over a century later.
“Here’s another one that I always liked.
“He put on his best hat and coat for a portrait with his prize cow.”
Two roads diverged . . .
DebK of Rosemount: “Dad was a fellow who should perhaps have left more roads ‘not traveled.’ His habit was to set off down each road that presented itself, traveling it until it got bumpy, at which point he would suddenly switch course, bringing the rest of the family along for the ride.
“It was a problem, frankly — one that worsened after Dad harvested his last Iowa corn crop, midway through my first semester of college. Dad had wearied of life as Leopold Brown’s tenant farmer. Before Mom and the four younger kids could muster a protest, Dad hauled them all off to the Iron Range of Minnesota, where he debuted as a bar-owner, an occupation for which he was superbly qualified — apart from his tendency to imbibe any and all profits. It was an expeditious descent into pennilessness. At that point, operating under the delusion that he would enjoy milking Minnesota cows better than he’d liked milking Iowa cows, he relocated the family to a down-on-its-luck dairy farm on Highway 12 between Cokato and Howard Lake. The moving boxes hadn’t yet been hauled to the burn pile before the family was off again — this time to a rented farmhouse, which rewarded occupants of the north-facing upstairs bedrooms a glimpse of Collinwood Lake on clear days. I caught up with them there, during Christmas break of 1971.
“Everybody in the family was in a funk of some sort. Mom felt hopeless about the prospects of turning the ramshackle house into a home. The youngest kids were struggling to adjust to another new school. I felt the loss of my Iowa home and the pressure of deciding whether or not to audition for graduate programs in voice performance. (I could’ve been spared that angst had some responsible adult pointed out that life in New York or Boston might not be a congenial choice for a modestly talented farm girl with a tall-buildings-and-bright-lights aversion.) The most morose of all was Tubby, the older of my two brothers, who had just broken up with his longtime girlfriend.
“Somehow, we managed to put a little Merry in our Christmas and forge toward 1972. It must’ve been midafternoon on December 31 when my brother first offered the modest proposal that I accompany him to the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted for the New Year’s Eve polka dance. His object was to determine the accuracy of a rumor that his ex-girlfriend would be attending the dance with a new beau. His plan was that I would pretend to be his date. The idea was repellent — not only because Tubby wasn’t really my type, but also because I thought of myself as an opera singer, a person far too refined to sit through an evening of cigarette smoke and concertina music.
“It was Christmastime, however, and the message of the season pierced my inflated ego, inducing me to agree to accompany Tubby to the Blue Note. There, just before midnight, a ducktail-coiffed fellow in a coral shirt with capacious sleeves and a plunging neckline (the better to reveal his gold chain) asked me to dance.
“The rest, as they say, is history. If I hadn’t taken pity on my heartsore brother — if I hadn’t yielded to the beer-fueled eloquence of that Elvis wannabe — I wouldn’t be spending my days examining the back ends of pregnant ewes in search of tell-tale udder enlargement. No, I’d likely be working on a world record: a half-century of wandering, lost, in the subways of New York.”
Dragonslayer of Oakdale: “Subject: Roads not taken.
“I can’t say I was given an opportunity to go down a road and refused, although I did turn down a promotion to a supervision position. I most often have turned down a road not knowing where it was going — except that an income was the turn signal, employment its only direction.
“Fortunately employers saw a useful component in my résumé, until they didn’t. This forced me into self-employment.
“My career covered many diverse disciplines. I began as an auto mechanic, a heavy-equipment assembler, mechanic and operator. A shop supervisor, production engineer and supervisor. On to self-employment, in tool sales, equipment repair, and home remodeling.
“These experiences have given me a world wisdom that has surprised even me. I often wonder ‘Where did that come from?’ as I vocalize some opportunistic thought.
Not all of these vocational juggernauts were pleasant experiences, but a positive outcome was always derived from them.
“I now find myself, after nearly 60 years of marriage, in a new vocation, honoring the vow I took nearly 60 years ago. I am the primary caregiver for my spouse. I learned a new appreciation for my wife’s efforts in raising our children. This one road: not recommended.”
Two roads diverged . . . (responsorial)
In reply to the category-launching post from Kathy S. of St. Paul, here’s Lawyergirl of St. Paul: “At one point, Sperry and Univac became one. I don’t know at which point; Dad had several employers over the years, most of which were the same company by another name. He started at UNIVAC; at one point it was Sperry Remington Rand; another point, Sperry Univac. He had an anniversary there and wore his ring with pride. I no longer remember the name of the last incarnation. [Bulletin Board says: You will find a lot of interesting history here — including the fact, new to us, that UNIVAC was an acronym for Universal Automatic Computer.]
“When I was a kid, UNIVAC held an open house in the summer for employees. I remember UNIVAC Plant One, with the big computer taking up a huge room, with handouts of the ‘Peanuts’ gang, printed on the back of the green-and-white-striped paper, all in numbers and symbols. State of the art, ca. 1970.
“As an adult, I had an interview at U.S. Bank’s Shepard Road facility. I had looked it up on a map, so had directions and simply was uncertain where I was going. As I drove up, I wondered why they hadn’t just told me it was UNIVAC Plant One. It was very strange to see it all those years later, sans giant computer, with employee cubicles taking up the space that had formerly housed the computer. My dad got a kick out of hearing that story.”
There & Here
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Subject: California.
“I recently returned from my daughter Nancy’s 60th-birthday celebration in Santa Barbara. Five family members joined me there. We enjoyed the warm sunshine, the ocean, the lovely trees and gardens.
“While there I had a very unusual experience. My son-in-law was driving my sister and me back to our hotel on a very dark and windy night. All of a sudden, unseen objects began pummeling the car. ‘What is happening, Robert?’ I asked. He answered: ‘It’s palm fronds being blown about by the wind.’
“Never before in my life have I been pummeled by palm fronds. It’s just not a thing in my neighborhood.”
Joy of Juxtaposition (responsorial II)
Including: Fifteen nanoseconds of fame?
D. Ziner: “Semi-Legend‘s juxtaposition (Bulletin Board, Nov. 5, 2019) and my response (Bulletin Board, Nov. 12, 2019) concerned songs and poems written about — and my memories of — the legendary Vincent motorcycles. The written words and notes are recorded and all part of the legend — but those memories are malleable, as I have found out.
“I recalled a mysterious Vincent in the deep recesses of a garage down the street from where I lived as a young teen in L.A. It was where Jim Trimble and his older brother, Raleigh, lived, and it was Jim who sold me a motorcycle, so I had seen his name on the Motor Vehicle Department pink slip. Raleigh was more of an enigma and was thought to have something to do with that Vincent, but at 14 and always the youngest in those biker groups, I was not in the loop of knowledge.
“I shared these postings of Bulletin Board with my cousins in Milwaukee — one of whom still dabbles with vintage Nortons — which prompted emails between us for a couple of months in which individual and shared motorcycle memories were relived. Then my cousin mailed me a DVD of the documentary film ‘Black Lightning: The Rollie Free Story.’ I survived watching it only because I held my breath and hyperventilated in equal portions. It told the story of Roland Free, who had what it took to tune a machine and risk everything for speed — plus an obsession to best any record set by a Harley-Davidson. The film’s climax was his 1948 Bonneville Salt Flats speed record of 150.313 mph while riding prone on a special-order Vincent. (Some accounts indicate it was a Black Shadow that became a Black Lightning; other accounts leave out the Black Shadow reference.) In any case, it all made me reconsider the workings of my then-undeveloped teenage brain.
“Suppose Jim and Raleigh were not really brothers. Possibly they were often seen together because they were just next-door neighbors with a common interest in motorcycles. Even more intriguing, suppose I did not quite hear things right and transcribed ‘Rah-lay’ into Raleigh and it was actually ‘Roll-ee’ — as in Rollie Free. And the reason we never saw that motorcycle on the street is that it was tuned and geared for the salt flats and could get to 80 mph in first gear. My hypotheses were sent to my cousin, who pointed out an email link in one of the still-active Vincent websites. It led me to the son of the original owner of the record-setting Vincent. He replied that Rollie’s name was often mispronounced in that manner and he did live on
“‘Beechwood.’ Close enough; we lived on ‘Beachwood.’ The former spelling makes sense to the arborists, but the USPS prefers the latter. We used it both ways in those days.
“So the guy in what is probably the most famous photo in motorcycle history was very likely my neighbor.
“No great accomplishment on my part, but an interesting footnote to my motorcycle memories. Juxtapositions can not only bring joy, but also intrigue.”
In the bucket
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Cranberry Scones, Herbed Gruyere Cheese and Queen’s Chocolate Biscuit Cakes.
“This past Sunday, I had the good fortune of joining the Good Wife while she and her business partner, Bea, played hostesses to a Valentine High Tea in Prescott, Wisconsin. The sun was casting well-defined shadows, and it was a lovely day. The High Tea made it, if that were possible, even lovelier.
“Not having participated in too many teas, I learned that Low or just plain Teas are served at low tables like a coffee table. (I always thought coffee should be served thereon.) High Teas are served at higher tables, like normal sit-down-to-eat tables such as a dining-room table. I may engage my time in solving nonlinear equations of dynamical systems, but this fact, intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, had gone completely over my head. It was as simple as that.
“The Tea was attended by many women, and men, from the Prescott area. Being from Nininger, we had traveled the farthest.
“I was also impressed by the garb worn by many of the women. Spring cannot be too far away, because they wore their finest: jewelry, fur coats and oh, such lovely hats. It has been a long time since I’ve seen hats like these worn in public. This was like Easter Sunday. It actually did my heart good. Neither I nor any of the other men in attendance were dressed to the nines like the women.
“The Church Basement Ladies would love this. No hotdishes or stick-to-your-ribs kinds of fare. Instead, there were incredibly ornate and calorie-laden delicacies carefully prepared with the highest of care. We started with Seafood Bisque and Cranberry Scones accompanied by freshly prepared Lemon Curd, Raspberry Jam and Devonshire Cream. For Savories, we had Cucumber Radish Tea Sandwiches, Herbed Gruyere Quiche, and of course Tea Sandwiches of Roast Beef and Horseradish. This is, of course, Prescott, Wisconsin, not the big city. The Pink Champagne Sorbet was followed by Elderflower Fruit Tartlets. And, if you had any room left, you could have a White Chocolate Thumbprint Cookie. And the teas were especially brewed and blended with love and oh so carefully poured.
“There are some things that you owe to yourself to do at least once in your life. I know some thoughts come to mind, but add a High Tea like this to that list. Call it your ‘bucket list’ or whatever. But definitely, go to a High Tea someday.”
The vision thing (responsorial)
Doris G. of Randolph reports: “The pictures I took were similar to the ones from The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin.
“Very interesting how much the snow-covered field looks like the sky.”
Life as we know it
Tim Torkildson: “Subject: Just sayin’ . . .
“February is the shortest month, with the longest days.”
Our birds, ourselves
Including: Till death us . . . don’t part!
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake writes: “Every winter at Swan Park in Monticello, Minnesota, the swans are fed corn by a resident who promised his now-passed wife that he would carry on her love for the swans and feed them every day, as she would.
“He can be seen in these two pictures feeding them corn every day around 10:30 to 11 a.m. There can be as many as 2,000 swans on some good days. It gets pretty noisy when there are many of them around for the feeding.
“Click on this link for a live streaming to see all of the swans.”
Joy of Juxtaposition
From Babe of Burnsville: “On February 12, I was talking to my husband about the homing pigeons he had as a youngster. About an hour later, I read the Pioneer Press funnies, and in ‘Bizarro’ the topic was . . . ta da . . . a homing pigeon. Ah, the J of J!”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: A slight numerical discrepancy.
“From the ‘RANDBALL’ column on Page C2 of Saturday’s STrib:
“‘5 but not 21:
“‘In a surprise announcement Thursday, we learned that NBA legend Kevin Garnett is going to have his number retired.
“‘But no, it wasn’t his No. 21. And no, the announcement didn’t come from the Timberwolves — the franchise for which he played about two-thirds of his career games, including the first 12 of his career.’
“An 18-game career? No wonder the Wolves didn’t retire his number.”
And: The great comebacks
Al B of Hartland: (1) “Dorothy said: ‘How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?’ The Scarecrow replied: ‘I don’t know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?’
“I’m one of those people they were talking about in the ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I was in a barbershop waiting to be clipped. The guy seated in the chair had a cast on his foot. He’d been pheasant hunting in North Dakota when he stepped into a hole and tore his Achilles’ tendon. I wished him a speedy recovery and added that I often saw pheasants carrying shovels.”
(2) “A friend experienced being an owner of cows calving in January during a storm. It wasn’t epic, but it was a storm nonetheless. He ventured out into the great outdoors to be of help where he could. There was a problem, and he needed to carry a calf to the warmth and safety of a barn. The world holds countless people who have never had that experience. I’m not one of those. I recall similar happenings from my cattle-filled past with a smile and a shudder. I now limit my calving adventures to watching glaciers perform in Alaska.
“My friend didn’t need to summon a veterinarian, but told me a story about a guy we both used to know, named Irving. Irving had a sick cow. He called the veterinarian. who came to the farm and treated the cow. The cow died. Not long after that, Irving received the vet’s bill in the mail. Irving paid it, but sent a note along with his check reading: ‘If I call you again, don’t come.'”
Band Name of the Day: The Inflated Egos
Website of the Day: Working High Atop the Chrysler Building, 1929