Now & Then
And: The Permanent Grandmotherly/Granddaughterly Record
DebK of Rosemount: “Cousin Linda has just been consoling me on the death of one of my favorite e-tailers, another victim of the COVID shutdown. By way of commiserating, she mentioned her own grief at the passing of mail-order catalogs — especially the Spiegel catalog, which introduced to the farmsteads of Northwest Iowa the cosmopolitan possibilities of Chicago and other faraway places with bright lights and tall buildings.
“I don’t think Grandma Bobzien ever made it onto Spiegel’s mailing list, but her vast dining-room table was the off-season repository of an astonishing array of other mail-order catalogs. The behemoths sent by Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney dominated slimmer (but more numerous) offerings by Fingerhut, Lillian Vernon, Vermont Country Store, and a very exotic-sounding outfit called Hammacher Schlemmer. Interspersed were stacks of seed catalogs: Burpee’s (Grandma’s go-to seed vendor), Earl May, J.W. Jung, Gurney’s, Ferry-Morse, Livingston, and (curiously, given that Grandma never grew a rose) Jackson & Perkins — all of which competed for space with an equally impressive assortment of farm magazines and newspapers, including Wallaces’ Farmer, which Aunt Neva (Grandpa’s older sister) disapproved of inasmuch as she believed its publisher was a ‘card-carrying Communist.’
“A week or so before the family gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving, the pile would be removed to the burn pile behind the machine shed. Fortunately, the annual conflagration never included the Christmas catalogs, much-loved and deeply considered by Bobzien grandchildren, for Grandma unfailingly rescued those, saving them for us kids and storing them in the walk-in closet that adjoined the bedroom where she and Grandpa slept.
“I thumbed through and salivated over those Christmas ‘wish books’ as frequently as the rest of the Bobzien progeny, but my infatuation with Grandma’s catalogs was year-round. Any time I visited, I made it a point to entertain Grandma for hours by paging through a catalog — usually Sears, I think — having each of us vote for our favorite item on each page.
“It never occurred to me that Grandma might not have been as interested in pedal-pushers, box-pleated skirts, and Peter Pan collars as I was — or as she pretended to be. I should’ve known. For every time I was allowed to enter her closet — usually to fetch one of those Christmas catalogs or Grandpa’s home-barbering kit — I pushed aside the entirety of her wardrobe: five calico housedresses, a half-dozen cobbler-style aprons, and a single ‘good’ dress that appeared each Sunday morning at Hartley’s Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, occasionally at a family wedding, and eventually at her own funeral.”
Our birds, ourselves
Leading to: Know thyself!
Wilor Bluege of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Pogo, the One-Legged Robin.
“For several weeks now. I’ve been observing a one-legged male robin around the yard. There’s no sign of his other leg. Don’t know how he lost it or if he was born that way. He came again today. It’s astonishing to watch him hop along on his one leg! He does quite well on the sidewalk, but the uneven grass gives him more of a problem. But I have to say, that robin has somehow learned to cope — and thrive — even with his disability. He has to flutter his wings to keep his balance when going after a worm in the soil, but he has managed!
“Since I first saw him, I’d been deeply concerned for him, wondering how he would be able to mate, defend himself, and help raise a brood. Then at about 9:10 the other night, as I was just turning in, I heard a sharp retort from a robin just outside my bedroom window. I looked out, and there he was! There was a fledgling with him, whom he had been feeding! That bird is absolutely amazing! He’s a miracle on one leg! He is my inspiration as I navigate life on ‘one leg’ (so to speak) without my other ‘good leg’ (my husband).
“On 7/5/2020: My one-legged robin, whom I’ve decided to call Pogo, just showed up at the ground-level birdbath. It’s no doubt overstepping my authority and just the teensiest-weensiest bit arrogant to call him ‘my’ one-legged robin, let alone the effrontery of naming him Pogo. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking of the cartoon character; I was thinking of the toy.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t grab, focus and click the camera fast enough before he hopped nearly out of the frame. Anyway, there he is, my ‘hero bird’ and spiritus rector.
Update July 10, 2020: A teenage male robin was under the tree in the back yard this morning. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing it was Son-of-Pogo, because all of a sudden when a squirrel appeared in the tree, Pogo attacked, dive-bombing repeatedly, machine guns blazing (i.e., barking and squawking) and drove the squirrel away. He was relentless in his pursuit of that squirrel and drove it out of his territory! Maybe Pogo’s last name is Maxwell? (Or full-name, George ‘Pogo’ Maxwell, after my Uncle George who was a fighter pilot?) I got better pics of Pogo today!
News Update July 12, 2020: “Pogo Defends House from Psychosciuridae!”
“It’s Sunday, 9:45 a.m., and I’m opening the shades on the west side of the house. I see Pogo on the next-door neighbor’s roof. I know it is Pogo because he’s only about 10 feet from me in full sunlight!
“Suddenly, Pogo dive-bombs at something on our house which I can’t see. He flies back to the neighbor’s gutter, still keeping an eye on whatever it is on our roof. It’s then that I see the shadow of — you guessed it — a Psychosciuridae projected onto the neighbor’s east wall! The squirrel’s body is still, but the interloper’s tail flicks angrily. (It all happened so fast, I couldn’t get a photo!)
“I went out to the garage to retrieve my homemade gutter cleaner — a telescoping pole handle to which I have affixed a bent-out-of-shape toilet brush which looks sort of like a periscope. I hoped to exorcize the phantom squirrel from the roof, but apparently I’m less effective than Pogo. The squirrel didn’t budge. I put the periscopic gutter cleaner away. When I got back to the house, the shadow of the Psychosciuridae had evaporated. I suspect that Pogo, seeing my ineptitude, had come to my assistance and dispatched him.
“News Update, July 21, 2020: “My impulse this morning was to try to save Wee Pogo from the depths of the window well of the abandoned house next door. I hadn’t seen the wee nestling since he somehow made his way to the front terrace from the back yard, where he’d spent the morning in the shadow of a large rock near the ground-level birdbath.
“It was not yet able to fly or scamper, so it must have fallen out of the nest and somehow fluttered and flopped its way into the shadow of the rock.
“I’d seen Pogo only once yesterday, high up in the tree in the back yard. (At least I thought it was Pogo.) Mrs. Pogo seemed to be doing all the heavy lifting yesterday, feeding the youngster and carrying fecal sacs away. Each time food went in one end, a fecal sac popped out the other, and Mrs. Pogo dutifully removed it.
“I went out to run some errands, and when I got back, the nestling was gone! Oh dear, I thought, had a cat gotten it? Yet Mrs. Pogo was still around, clucking for her baby, but apparently to no avail. I searched all around, because the baby was way too small to fly. Then, shortly after 1 p.m. I looked out the front window, and there he was at the base of some Pampas grass at the top of the front steps. All was well, it would seem, although I was concerned that compared to where he had been, he was a bit too exposed there on the bank. A half-hour later, Wee Pogo had moved closer to the house (probably under the hedge), and Mrs. Pogo was clucking contentedly on the front lawn.
“Around 9 a.m. this morning, I heard Mrs. Pogo chirping. I looked out to the east and saw her with a mouthful of food perched on the rim of the neighbor’s window well, which is 4 feet deep! She dropped down into the window well! Wee Pogo had to have fallen into the depths of the window well from which he would be unable to fly out!
“It should have occurred to me that a window well might just be the safest place for the little guy — but, no. I went out in the pouring rain, climbed down into the 4-foot-deep well, lifted the wee birdie out and let him go. All the while, of course, Mrs. Pogo was having a fit. She darned near took my head off! She was well within her rights to be in a froth!
“It was only then that it dawned on me and I was overcome with remorse, guilt, and self-doubt. Who was I to presume to know what was best for Wee Pogo and Mrs. Pogo? Now Wee Pogo would again be exposed to far more precarious things than being tucked inside a window well — even if it meant staying in there for weeks while he developed the ability to fly. But how was he going to be able to learn to fly upwards when he couldn’t practice! Nevertheless, I asked myself: Why do I always have to ‘fix’ things — as if I always know what is best? Why do I think it’s my duty to ‘save’ things that may not need me to save them?
“Mrs. Pogo carried on, squawking hysterically for 15 minutes, but then (thankfully) I think she must have relocated Wee Pogo, who had disappeared god-knows-where in the gardens and shrubbery. All is quiet now, except for Mrs. Pogo’s calm clucking voice. (Trust me, hereafter I’m going to stay out of her way!) I have learned my lesson not to be so arrogant as to attempt saving a creature that quite possibly does not need to be saved.”
Till death us do part
An item in the Permanent Spousal Record maintained by Rusty of St. Paul: “Subject: OMG! Let’s make the bed.
“Anne suggested I wash my sheets today, as it had been 10 to 12 days of me sleeping and heavily perspiring in them.
“I dutifully washed them.
“I did ask her help in making the bed tonight; it goes much more quickly with two. Anne? She makes her own bed. (Note: We no longer sleep in the same bed, as I snore all night and she gets up 67 times to pee).
“She agrees to help.
“With the fitted sheet, she asks if we have the right side in the right place. We do.
“With the top sheet, it looks 180 degrees wrong to me, as the pattern on the sheet is pointing to where my feet go and not where my face is. I bring this up, and she assures me I am an idiot and the pattern is facing correctly.
“But . . . she asked, do we have an equal length of the top sheet on either side of the bed?She thinks she has more on her side than on my side. ‘I sleep towards the side you are at, so it is fine to have more on that side,’ I said. She didn’t think so, so I pulled the sheet over towards me to make her equally happy.
“The fine quilt her sister made for this bed was all bunched up at the end of the bed, so I told her we should remove it, as I am not using it, and being all bunched up might be stressing an eventual heirloom. ‘What, you don’t want the quilt?’ The dewpoints up here have been in the 70s . . . and TMI, but I have been lying totally naked at night, atop the bed sheets, to keep cool. I don’t need a quilt.
“We’re putting the pillowcases on the pillows. ‘I really should iron these pillowcases,’ she says. No, you should really just help me make the bed and then leave.
“‘You’re not getting it,’ I said. ‘This is a guy’s bed. I need a bottom sheet and top sheet, and if I’m covered up that is OK, and if I am not that is even better.’
“My thought bubbles had me with a forked stick with a large bandana attached to it, with my belongings in it, and I am walking along the railroad tracks. I am about to cook a can of beans and franks. I cut holes into the top of the can with my church key, and will cook it over an open fire.
“Pretty much all a guy needs. Belongings on a stick. Railroad tracks. Beans and franks. And some sort of sleeping outfit.
“And if he has a terrific wife who helps him make his bed? All the better.”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff has returned, as promised, with more Neat Stuff from Brown & Bigelow: “As everyone must know by now, cigarettes are dirty, stinky, deadly things that should never have been invented. That being said, however, they were indirectly responsible for all sorts of interesting collectibles and, of course, Neat Stuff in the form of cigarette lighters and ashtrays.
“B & B’s Remembrance Advertising group cranked out an unbelievable number of cigarette lighters. Many of them were pocket lighters — useful, but not all that neat. It was a different matter when it came to desktop lighters. They came in all sorts of shapes — 8-balls, shotgun shells, leather-bound thingies, chrome-plated geegaws, etc. — but only one falls into my category of Neat Stuff.
“At first I didn’t realize it was a cigarette lighter. It looks like a model of a classic 1950s science-fiction rocketship. It stands 7 inches tall and is simplicity itself: a shiny silver rocket body sitting in a red tail assembly, mounted on a black base. Printed on the base is: ‘A SATEL-LIGHT FOR A DOWN-TO-EARTH FRIEND.’ That probably sounded cleverer at the time. So where is the lighter hidden? The rocket body can be lifted out of the tail section and, when turned over, reveals the thumb wheel and flint. It still sparks. The lighter fluid is stored in the body itself. All things considered, I would feel safer being in a real rocket than using this thing as a lighter.
“B & B’s desktop ashtrays also came in an array of designs. One of my favorites uses the company’s popular golden-world-map motif.
“It has an overall diameter of 7 inches. The actual bowl where the ashes and cigarettes go is 3 inches in diameter and is surrounded by a black ring with room for 16 cigarettes. But wait! There’s more! The bottom of the silver bowl is actually divided into two pieces. Pressing the gold lever in front causes the bowl to open up, dropping the messy, smelly stuff down inside. Releasing the lever lets the bowl snap shut with quite a bit of force. If the edges of the bowl were sharpened, they could probably slice off a finger.
“It occurred to me that this lighter and ashtray would look great on the desk of a Bond villain. I’ll have to rewatch some old James Bond movies and look for them.”
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “More Neat Stuff from my bulging curio cabinet.
“My husband and I both worked at a radio station in downtown Minneapolis in the early ’50s. It operated with a small staff, 22 employees in all, and its budget was equally small. So were the giveaways. ‘Chintzy’ might be a more accurate description.
“Most memorable of the freebies were the thermometers.
“Not to be confused with Brown & Bigelow’s classy thermometers, there are no markings of origin anywhere on them. The manufacturer wisely stayed incognito.
“The management bought a substantial amount of these cheap plastic 6-inch thermometers to present to would-be clients, and there were a lot of them left over. (Heck, if we had handed them out to our meager number of listeners, there probably would still have been some left over.)
“After we were married and moved into our little lake cottage, we had one hanging from each room. They were quite accurate, and if your eyesight was good enough, you could actually read the temperature. One was hanging fairly high in the kids’ bedroom — out of reach, we thought. Our 3-year-old must have been spying the red shiny thing for quite some time, and one day he discovered that if he piled enough pillows and stuffed toys, he could climb up to reach it. Reach it he did, and he took a big bite out of it. With tears streaming out of his eyes and blood dripping from his lips, he sobbed: ‘I thought it was candy!’”
Dept. of Neat Stuff
Plus: Ask Bulletin Board
Vertically Challenged: “Loved seeing all the Neat Stuff in the last BB. Besides the thermometer shown, I have accumulated a lot of other Neat Stuff. There are certain people that would probably debate that category when it was displayed in my kitchen; however, it’s all been packed away since a kitchen remodel.
“The Gram With a Thousand Rules reminded me that I also had something from Mount St. Helens, but it was just a small square decorated bottle with Mount St. Helens ash in it.
“These are pics of just a couple of things:
“This small pitcher has a picture of Shirley Temple on it, which has faded quite a bit, but these used to come inside Wheaties boxes. In later years, there were a lot of remakes of these, but I know this is an original, as it is one my mom had when I was small.
“This Magic Window was sand you could shift around to make designs; we used to play with it in the late ’50s. I still have the one I got back then, but this is a pic of another, in the original box, that I found at a garage sale.
“Finally, I have a question for any Bulletin Boarders: I picked these up at a garage sale. Can anyone tell me what these are supposed to be?
“Each piece appears to be a cookie cutter, as each has a side like the one at the top, and they aIso appear to be something to be put together, as they have notches that are numbered. It is stamped with ‘Brownie Mfg. NYC’ on it. They came in a box that has a label from Proctor & Gamble and a date from the ’50s.”
Then & Now
A pair from Kathy S. of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: What goes around, interest-wise.
“Tonight I heard that interest rates for home loans were at 3 percent and below. Which startled me.
“When Mom and Dad bought their house in 1949, they paid interest of about 4.75 or 5 percent on their loan. Mom’s parents, who built their home during the Great Depression, wanted them to wait until rates fell below 3 percent — which never happened during their lifetimes. By the time Mom and Dad paid off the house, their lender was paying more for passbook accounts than they were charging for their home loan. The lender generously offered to let them pay off their home loan early. And they did pay it off one or two months early, just to get rid of it.
“By the mid-1970s, when my generation started buying homes, one family got a loan under 8 percent — which sounded great, as interest rates soared above that for those who bought later. The story about waiting for interest rates below 3 percent became a joke.
“So now interest rates have finally come down below 3 percent, as my grandparents figured they would. But it is good that my parents didn’t wait 71 years for them!”
(2) “Grandpa kept meticulous records of household expenses. And here is proof of what my grandparents paid in 1932 for their dining-room set from a local department store. For a large oblong table, chairs and a buffet.
“It was poorly designed, with a stretcher connecting the legs that got in the way of chairs. But it was made of gorgeous thick walnut. Because Grandpa was a salesman for a lumber job, he demanded the best wood in their house, where the doors swung true in their frames for over 50 years.
“Due to the Great Recession, and the current trend against dark wood, the set ended up in a Dumpster in 2013. I hope that someone pulled at least some of it out, if only to salvage thick pieces of prime walnut for projects.”
The verbing of America
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “A political pundit on a cable talk show began his comment with this: ‘First, we need to foreground a crucial fact.’”
There’s nothin’ like a simile!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A twofer.
“From an opinion piece by George Will on Page 14A of Thursday’s Pioneer Press: ‘Because the pandemic prevents both presidential candidates from bouncing around the continent like popcorn in a skillet, the electorate can concentrate on other things . . . .’
“From an opinion piece by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Page 7A of Tuesday’s Pioneer Press: ‘The cry for civil rights is like a rubber band: Intermittent passionate public support stretches it forward, despite those anchored in the past pulling it backward. It stretches and stretches until that support starts to drift away to something shinier and newer — then it snaps back. The stretching has made it slightly longer, so there’s some progress — three steps forward, two back is still a step forward — but it’s nowhere near what was promised. And we await another horrific act to bring the unaffected back to help us pull forward again.’”
Our theater of seasons
Gregory of the North: “Below are some photos taken within the space of less than two minutes Saturday evening during the height of our stormy weather. The first two are only seconds apart, whereas the third was a bit over a minute later.
“I think this is a funnel cloud attempting to form and then dissipating. Perhaps there is a meteorologist in our BB family who can say whether this was a wannabe tornado, or it is illusory.
“My apologies for the distraction of the screen, but it didn’t seem like the time to be outside.
“Thank you! And have a good fair-weather day!”
Our theater of seasons
Including: The highfalutin pleasures (responsorial)
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Not a tornado?
“GramB of Nisswa described ‘stunning sunsets’ in photos taken by her daughter. I was struck by the second one.
“Izzat a quiet funnel cloud?”
The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Comics Page Corollary
From the very same Semi-Legend: “J of J (Comix Corollary [Jimi Jam])
“The July 16 Other Paper had stacked strips of ‘Beetle Bailey’ and ‘WuMo’ that featured electric guitarists who, in one case, got a mixed reception.”
The light bulb goes on
Blondie from Blaine (a.k.a. The Farmer’s Daughter): “I was involved in a very minor traffic problem last winter, but the police asked for my proof of insurance, so I gave him the piece of paper from the insurance company. When he came back, he said: ‘I should give you a ticket for not having your proof of insurance.’ I thought: That’s a little strange. But I didn’t say anything.
“Fast-forward to July, when the tabs are due on my car. I dug out the piece of paper, again, out of my purse, and then I noticed that it was the insurance number for my house, which is with the same company as for the car. Then I pieced together the comment the officer had made.”
Floral Photography Division (responsorial)
Gma Tom: “Subject: Flower show.
“A Big ‘Thank you’ to Mounds View Swede for the spectacular flower shows he provides to BB readers. Look forward to them; keep them coming.”
Floral Photography Division
Mounds View Swede: “My own garden had this nice ring of red blossoms in the front garden . . .
“. . . andd the first mushrooms I had seen in a long time. I don’t remember seeing one with such lines and pointy rim.
“My neighbor’s cottonwood trees have been sending their seeds out to the sky to blow where they may go, but they also dropped dense clumps of seeds, which I had not seen happen before.
“They looked like they would make good pillow stuffing or jacket insulation.
“There were no such clumps in my yard, but the seeds gathered along the edge of the lawn.
“The monarch butterflies have been very elusive this year, flying here and there all around the garden, especially at a distance from me. I finally was able to get a photograph of one, but not on the milkweed I had planted for them.
“This butterfly is a Nokomis fritillary, perched on a coneflower.
“And this is a Red Admiral butterfly, also on a coneflower.
“And the last visitor I was able to capture was a bumblebee on a coneflower.
“These plants seem to be very valuable to the insect world, so I am glad I got them going. They just keep coming up every spring and seem to need no special care.
“This sure looks like another lily . . .
“. . . as does this pair in my neighbor’s garden.
“The last few days have been bearable in terms of heat, though I still seem to get sweaty just picking raspberries — which is hardly strenuous work. This year I have two raspberry gardens I watch over and can spend five hours picking raspberries. We freeze my neighbor’s raspberries so they can have them when they return home. But the raspberries are almost done for the season, so that kind of time won’t be necessary soon.”
Hindsight: “Just to let you know how we are productively spending our COVID incarceration:
“We are rarely puzzled [Bulletin Board interjects: No pun intended?] as to what to do. We have been informed that this is National Moth Week, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Moth devotees all over the country will be going wild, dining, dancing, drinking! Or . . . maybe not!
“We just spent the last 24 days completing a 1,500-piece puzzle, called ‘Magna Carta.’ An amazingly weird puzzle. How can a puzzle be weird?
“1. All of the geographic terms were in Latin.
“2. It had many pictures within the puzzle, including the 12 months of the year. with seasonal themes of what would happen that month; e.g., harvesting apples.
“3. The four seasons have humans greeting that season with appropriate backgrounds, like the old man warming his hands by the fire.
“4. East meets West along the whole top, with kings and queens, Africans and Indians — and the Plague, with dead bodies being hauled away or strewn on the ground. There even was a scene of cannibalism in one corner.
“5. The entire world is in two global halves, as they knew it then, with every island, sea, etc., in Latin.
“6. Two smaller constellation maps.
“7. Seven etchings of sins of the world.
“8. Depictions of the forces of fire, water, wind.
“It was a Bosch sort of depiction, a Dark Ages festival of sin and gore. Every single piece was a puzzle in itself. It was incredibly challenging.
“See? There are all kinds of things to do if you search them out. Who wants it next?”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Donald reports: “Minnesota plate on a Mitsubishi SUV: ‘IAMSHE.”
BULLETIN BOARD NOTES: Proper grammar! Our kind of gal.
Life as we know it
Tim Torkildson writes: “Subject: Sunday Musings.
“When God created the world, He noticed some small cracks where things did not fit exactly together.
“He filled those little cracks with an abiding sense of silliness and tomfoolery; He filled them, in other words, with clowns.
“The world still needs clowns to keep those seemingly inconsequential breaks from growing and tearing things apart. Clowns give us the indulgent laughter that acts as an adhesive and as a defense against the petty darkness that might otherwise strangle our hopes and dreams.
“Please God there are more simple fools on the way to stave off the encroaching terminal seriousness . . .”
Band Name of the Day: Psycho Squirrels — or: Wannabe Tornados