What is the true magic of the Minnesota State Fair? Misery loves company? (Just joking, folks!)

The best State Fair in our state! (cont.)

Grammi With No Rules: “Subject: My Fair share.

“I am another one of the daughters of a frequent contributor to the Bulletin Board whose moniker is The Gram With a Thousand Rules. I enjoy reading Mom’s renditions of our family’s stories.

“First of all, I would like to confirm that my mother did indeed have at least a thousand rules for the grandkids. But rest assured, she was actually cutting the grandkids some slack, considering the 10,000 rules we six kids could potentially run afoul of growing up. To be fair, the rules generally were created for very valid reasons.

“I have decided my moniker will be Grammi With No Rules. The reality of our grandparenting approach lies somewhere in the middle.

“After Gram read her State Fair story to me via international phone call to Australia and the moments of reminiscing that followed, she encouraged me to write a little piece about the State Fair from my perspective. My younger sister submitted one, too, so the challenge had to be accepted. So here we go — the first post from Grammi With
No Rules.

“My five siblings and I always enjoyed the Minnesota State Fair. From a surprisingly young age, Mom and Dad allowed us four oldest kids to walk from our house about four miles away and spend the entire day wandering unsupervised at the Fair. We made ourselves sick at the all-you-can-drink-for-10-cents milk truck. We rode the Giant Slide a dozen times and looked at all the farm stock. We scoped out the crowd to see which free promotional bag might hold the most loot and headed to that booth. Then we proceeded to collect all the free stuff we could carry. By the time we were expected to head home, we usually had no money left for real food or a drink, we were tired and cranky with each other, we were hot, our feet hurt and we still had to walk the four miles back home.

“What the Dolls by Marmi booth in Heritage Square did for us was provide a base for the entire 12 days of the Fair. With so many of us to spell each other, we had plenty of freedom to wander at will and still have a place to sit down and rest. Some of us kids now had part-time jobs. However, being a family with a culture of supporting each other’s endeavors, the booth in Heritage Square had become a family affair. We all spent as much time helping in the booth as we could.

“As Gram describes in her story, manning a booth in Heritage Square meant many stifling hours in a hot, airless booth, wearing a long dress and bonnet, as doll lovers crammed into the small stall to try to negotiate a discount and the rest of the uninterested Fair-goers trudged on by in a heat-induced trance as their ice-cream cones dripped down their wrists. The main building where we had our booth in Heritage Square sat directly behind the racetrack, and when the cars were racing, a deafening roar competed with the 5,000 electric fans whirling endlessly inside our collective sweatbox. When we took a break, we would inhale a big breath of fresh air as we stepped out the building. Once outside, we would wander among the booths of our fellow vendors and stop to have a chat or share a joke. My equally scrawny youngest sister and I were dubbed ‘the stick sisters’ and were greeted that way when we strolled along together. These people were our people for 12 days every year. Perhaps it was the spirit of entrepreneurship or a shared love of replicating historic treasures, but most likely it was a misery-loves-company thing.

“Mom and Dad had a lot of kettles in the fire when we were growing up, and the doll-booth stage lasted about 16 years. I finished university, moved away, had my own adventures, married, had kids and eventually ended up living in the University of Minnesota student housing while my husband and I both pursued graduate degrees.

“Guess what? The U of M student housing is adjacent to the State Fairgrounds. So, the next generation was introduced to the Fair. We hauled our four young children in nearly every day. We made ourselves sick at the all-you-can-drink-for-25-cents milk truck. We rode the Giant Slide a dozen times and looked at all the farm stock. Then we stopped by the doll booth to see Mom and Dad and get the merchandise sticky with ice-cream fingers. By the time we headed home, we usually had no money left for real food or a drink, we were tired and cranky with each other, we were hot, our feet hurt BUT we only had to walk about 200 yards up the road to go home.”

Our theater of seasons
Floral Divison

Mounds View Swede writes: “Subject: Today’s visit to the compost site.

“When I visited the compost site this afternoon with our food scraps, I noticeD the morning glories were blooming. But because it was midafternoon, they were starting to putz out.

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“I did not know they had a variety of colors in their blossoms, so that was a treat to discover.

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“Among the now-spent hollyhocks, there was one new plant gamely blooming, and keeping the bees busy.

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“And in the other garden area, there was another freshly blooming hollyhock. I was happy to see an encore blossom show.”

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A bridge to the future
Or: Their theater of seasons

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: The Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“After swiftly flowing through fertile farm fields of cotton and other crops and winding through forests of cypress trees and fast-growing hardwoods in the humid heat, the Alabama River widens into a dish-like amphitheater at Selma. There the Edmund Pettus Bridge crosses the river and without a doubt has so many stories to tell.

“It has been there only since 1940, but it has been witness to changes not just to the state of Alabama, but to all of the United States. It was the site of a peaceful march led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis. As a pilot stationed at Craig Air Force Base in Selma from 1965 to 1970, there are so many stories I could relate to you — but so as not to imply support for, or condemnation of, varied viewpoints, I select only a few non-political tidbits that I’ve remembered.

“I earned my wings in Oklahoma and was assigned to be an instructor pilot at Craig AFB in advanced jet flying. I had the opportunity to meet all kinds of young men from across this great country — some from the Deep South, some from New England, a good cross-section of America. We worked hard, we flew hard, and we partied hard. My first students included Fran D. and Mike M. The Good Wife reminds me of a time Fran was sitting atop our refrigerator singing some bawdy barroom ballad. He was a good ‘stick,’ but was killed in Vietnam when his parachute failed to deploy after his F-4 was shot down. Mike flew with Robin Olds and shot down a MiG. One comment from our commander was that he wanted every pilot to desire and champ at the bit to fly under the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but he would hang the first one who tried it. It spoke of courage that we want in all of our officers and discipline that we must have.

“The Good Wife worked in Selma at a medical clinic, so she crossed the bridge almost every day. One of her fondest stories is about the first time it snowed. Now, in L.A. (Lower Alabama), it doesn’t snow much or often. It snowed twice that I recall in nearly five years. But as the wet little flakes came down, people became quite excited. They rattled out: ‘They will probably close the bridge.’ Closing the bridge was major excitement, but it also meant that to reach our home, just a couple miles from the bridge right along U.S. Highway 80 going to Montgomery, it would take several hours of going around to the next bridge. Truthfully, the Good Wife admits that she had no idea of how to get across the river other than that bridge. Neither did I.

“Total accumulation was about one inch. False alarm!”

Our birds, ourselves
Ask Al B Division (responsorial)

The most recent Bulletin Board included this note from Gma Tom: “Question for Al B [of Hartland], our Official Ornithologist:

“The second or third time in the raspberry patch this season, I spotted a bird’s nest hidden amongst the bushes along the fence. In it were two robin’s-egg-blue little eggs, so I surmised a mother robin had again found an inconvenient spot to build her nest. My fear at that time was it maybe was abandoned. But next day there were three eggs in the nest, so not abandoned after all.

“Of course, many days the mother bird was hunkered down in the nest so far that I could see only the beady little eyes and head. Sort of wondered if that is what a robin’s head looked like up close, but ignored the thought.

“Shortly thereafter, about a week, three little hatchlings were spotted in the nest, with mama bird just outside. Aha, not a robin after all, but a catbird. That might explain the three eggs instead of four.

“Alas, next day only one hatchling in nest, who in about a week has feathered out and nearly fills the entire nest.

“My question is: Do catbirds eliminate excess offspring to allow survival of the fittest? Otherwise, who/what would have attacked the nest, but left one to survive?”

We presently heard from the aforementioned Al B of Hartland: “Dear Gma Tom,

“I love raspberries! That has nothing to do with your question, but I’m telling the world.

“Great question, by the way. Thanks for caring about the birds.

“Snakes, foxes, rats, cats, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, blue jays, crows and common grackles prey upon catbird chicks. Gray catbirds are wonderful parents, so I think it unlikely they would harm their babies. Avian siblicide isn’t uncommon among eagles, cranes, herons, pelicans, owls and hawks, but I’m unaware of its occurring often in catbirds.

“Catbird nests are frequently parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds, and that can lead to the disappearance of catbird babies. The result is a cowbird being raised by catbirds.

“A predator could have been driven away from the nest before it had killed all the nestlings, or perhaps it had eaten its fill.

“Life is full of mysteries, and this is yet another one. I’m envisioning a bird mystery-book series penned by Gma Tom achieving wide acclaim.

“Keep watching the birds.”

Today’s helpful hints

Kathy S. of St. Paul has (1) “a thought on happiness”:

“Happiness is turning irritation into humor that drives the source of your annoyance nuts.

“You may quote me.”

And (2): “Subject: Hearing Geeks Bearing Ifs.

“People in Beirut seem to have been warned of the potential for a huge explosion, such as the one that leveled part of the city this week. It reminds me of the importance of listening to geeks trying to improve safety.

“At least 20 years ago, I attended the annual art show on the grounds of St. Kate’s college. It was set up in the large, uneven grassy area on the west side of campus, on a very warm day.

“Someone had leaned an unsecured helium tank against a round card table, so kids could climb on a chair to fill balloons from the tank. For fun. On a hot day that raised the pressure of the compressed gas inside the tank.

“As a trained lab worker, I knew the danger the tank presented. If the nozzle broke off it, the high pressure of the compressed gas escaping the tank would make it a rocket. I’ve heard of loose tanks punching through multiple concrete walls and killing people.

“Immediately I sought out those in charge, and told them how dangerous it was to have this loose tank on wobbly ground in the heat and accessed by kids. I wanted it clamped in place, out of the sun, and accessible only by trained adults.

“The women I addressed did not get it, though I told them I worked in labs — until I told them that they would be sued out of their minds if there were an accident. That got their attention.

“The next day, I went back. The tank was roped to a large tree, which both stabilized and shaded it. The organizers still allowed little kids to climb on a chair to fill their balloons, which is very not smart. But I didn’t think I could change that, so I left.

“Meanwhile, a thought for folks who never picked up much science: Please please please listen and investigate, when you’re warned of dangers by knowledgeable techies.

“The child we save could be your own.”

Fun facts to know and tell

LeoJEOSP writes (true story . . . though some of the details might or might be exactly correct!): “Subject: Lawn chair Larry.

“Back in 1982, Californian Larry was planning an adventure. He worked in the special-effects department of a small advertising firm. Larry went to the vendor the advertising firm used. He forged his boss’s name and picked up 50 weather balloons and 10 large tubes filled with helium. Back at home, Larry attached all the balloons to a lawn chair. The balloons were filled with helium. Larry also brought a gun to shoot some of the balloons and have a gentle landing. He expected to rise 50 feet, and he could do some sightseeing. Larry even brought a couple sandwiches. The balloons were more than he computed, and soon he was at 16,000 feet and in the flight path of Long Beach airport.

“At first, he was afraid to shoot any balloons. He thought he might change the way the chair pointed and fall out. He could not control which way he moved. He slowly passed over Long Beach and moved into the space where airplanes came into Long Beach.

“After 45 minutes in the sky, he shot several balloons. Then he accidentally dropped his pellet gun. He went down slowly until cables hanging from the balloon got caught in an electrical power line.

“This caused a blackout in a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes. Larry Walters was able to climb to the ground.

“The Long Beach Police Department was waiting for him. They arrested him immediately. A reporter asked Larry why he had done it. Walters said,: ‘A guy can’t just sit around.'”

The vision thing
Cake Division

Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: More Cub cakes.

“Here are the shark, frog and ladybug cake creations at Eagan’s Cub Foods bakery.’

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Life as we know it
Pandemic Division

Tim Torkildson: “Subject: My turkey pasta salad is a thing of beauty . . .

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“I live in a Senior high-rise. Many residents aren’t getting out for shopping much, and don’t always eat well as a result. So today I made four quarts of roast turkey pasta salad from leftover turkey and macaroni and put a notice on the lobby bulletin board inviting anyone and everyone to bring a bowl to my door for a free helping at noon.

“I wonder how many will show up.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Did you post the picture?

(How many showed up?)

Our times
Pandemic Division

Jimbo of Inver Grove Heights: “A lady posted this on Facebook: ‘I am so bored, I think I will call up Jake from State Farm and see what he’s wearing.'”

Band Name of the Day: The Stick Sisters

Website of the Day: Lawnchair Larry Flight