Our livestock, our pets, our gardening pants, our invasive species, ourselves
Or: Life (and death) as we know it
DebK of Rosemount: “Early in the week, as we laid to rest one of Taxman’s favorite clients, I got to regretting my failure to report on this year’s lambing season. The deceased, a longtime BB enthusiast, had a particular fondness for stories about our ram, Clarence, and his exuberant efforts to see to the continuation of his line.
“Truth to tell, I’ve avoided writing about lambing because so much of the news has been bad.
“After an arduous and costly effort to determine the cause of a heartbreaking number of stillborn lambs, Taxman and I were out last week preparing ‘clean’ pasture for the survivors. It was miserable work, frankly — made more so because we were laboring without the assistance of old Spike, who threw up his breakfast one morning, then crept apologetically to his doggy bed where he left us a half-hour later, drawing as little attention to himself in death as he had in life. Anyway, we were cutting buckthorn out of an area Taxman fancifully refers to as ‘Pasture Six.’ As we were nearing the end of the second full day’s work, I sent Taxman off to do evening chores while I attacked the last half-dozen buckthorns. [Bulletin Board speaks from too-extensive experience: the last half-dozen buckthorns . . . for now!] They were tall, hefty specimens, but I took them down with practiced ease. Then, as I was hauling the beefiest victim to the burn pile, I tripped on one stump and was impaled by another. The Northfield Hospital was able to patch me up pretty efficiently and convince me that things could’ve been far, far worse. Still, you’d have to give this particular round to the buckthorn.
“We have now arrived, dear BB friends — having traveled, as Cousin Linda would say, ‘the scenic route’ — at the point of this tale: to praise polyester.
“My brown gardening pants date to the early ’90s and are made of the same generation of polyester used in that era by Donald’s Uniform Store to construct school attire for Catholic students all over the archdiocese. Our daughters wore solid navy, box-pleated jumpers that were indestructible. We know this to be true because our girls took part in several secret, unsuccessful attempts by students to set fire to the fabric, behavior that would’ve disappointed but not surprised the good Sisters who ran the school. Our daughters were not fashionistas, but they looked down on polyester-wearers, as did our son, who once opined that, yes, it was ‘bad to have a mom who sings opera, but at least she doesn’t wear polyester pants in public.’
“I still don’t, usually. But I wore those brown polyester gardening pants to the Northfield Hospital on the occasion of my treatment for the aforementioned accident. And, it turns out, they saved me. The stump that pierced my leg tore a 7-inch gash (deep, too) in me, but it did not pierce those pants. The young ER doc marveled that the fabric he pulled from the wound was entirely intact and had done me the double service of keeping dirty buckthorn debris from entering the wound and vast quantities of blood from exiting.
“Yes, that ER doc was deeply impressed. Not by my wound, not by my ability to tolerate pain, but by my gardening pants, and by the fact that when he pulled Taxman’s old crew socks off my feet, he found painted toenails — on a patient who had not otherwise come dressed for the occasion.”
Our birds, ourselves — plus!
Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “Subject: Scarlet Tanager.
“We were very fortunate to have a scarlet tanager stop at our feeders today.
“He did sample the birdfeed, the suet, grape jelly and the orange.
“I hope he stays around here for a while. Once, one stayed for about a week and kind of made himself the boss of the feeders and would chase other birds away.”
And now a series of photos by our Official Ornithologist, Al B of Hartland: “The trumpeter swan’s head and neck are stained a rusty color from feeding in ferrous waters.
“The eastern towhee used to be called the rufous-sided towhee. I named a family dog Towhee because of this exquisite bird.
“A yellow-crowned night heron seen in Freeborn County.
“Red fox kits/pups/cubs are cuter than a bug’s ear.”
Now & Then
Grandma Pat, formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin: “Subject: Trips to Mercy Hospital.
“One thing about living a long time is that you accumulate lots of stories, and at times they float through your mind unbidden. For some reason, I have been thinking about the year when my husband took three women to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines within a few months. All three were in labor.
“One of them was myself, pregnant with our fifth child, and the other two were ‘unwed mothers.’ It was the mid-’60s, and young unmarried women who were pregnant were badly ostracized and humiliated in their home towns.
“These young ones were often advised to leave their homes and go to stay with host families until their babies were born. Catholic Charities social workers interviewed the host families and explained the rules.
“The young mothers-to-be would need a private bedroom and bathroom. They must be taken to their prenatal checkups, and to the hospital when it was time. They must have nutritious food, fresh air, rest, and moral support. In turn, they would be expected to help with babysitting and light housekeeping. Over about three years, we sheltered several young women.
“One of the girls had her 16th birthday with us. This one had such a difficult home life that she asked if she could please stay on with us and finish high school. We talked to her parents and the social worker and made that happen.
“It was a very difficult situation for these girls. There was no loving support from family or friends, no proud fathers to be found, no celebrations or flowers, only tears as they said goodbye to their babies. That’s just the way it was back then.”
The Happy Medium reports: “The day before we siblings were to celebrate my brother’s birthday, my sister and I were in his kitchen talking about the preparations for the next day. All of a sudden, as the saying goes, the light bulb flared in my head. I had forgotten the beautiful beef roast in my home freezer. How’s that for a senior moment?
“My brother was visiting his neighbor when I called him to let him know of my goof-up. I told him my sister and I were going to the town to get a roast. Touring the store, I was lucky to find the best roast for the occasion. Problem solved.
“The next day, after breakfast, I set the table and began preparing the food for lunch. My other brother and his wife were coming and bringing the salad. My eldest sister would just come and be a part of the happy occasion.
“At the appropriate time, I placed the roast in the oven and readied the potatoes and green beans.
“Our guests arrived, and I sliced the meat. I scooped the potatoes into the bowl, but the beans were still heating. We sat in our places, said the Table Prayer and passed the food around for each to take a share. The conversation included topics other than politics and religion. All went well.
“Then came time to do the dishes and put away the leftovers. I encouraged the guys to visit in the living room while we put the dishes in the dishwasher. When I went to the stove to put away the meat, what do you suppose I found? The green beans were still on the stove. I said: ‘Goodness sakes. I forgot the beans.’ To which my brother responded: ‘You’re losing it.’ We all laughed. Yes, two senior moments in one day.
“Would you believe we had the green beans for dessert? No? Well, we didn’t. We had a delicious chocolate cake with ice cream. And, we did wish my brother a Happy Birthday with an off-key song.”
This ’n’ that
LeoJEOSP: (1) “Subject: All redheads.
“I saw this photograph on a Facebook page.
“The family lived in the Leeds neighborhood of Sioux City. I grew up in Leeds and left a few years after finishing tech college in 1981. I think that dad resembles late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien. Seventeen kids!”
(2) “Subject: Copied off a Facebook page.
“Ad for open-toed wedgies. May 8, 1945. This date is a significant one. World War II was half over, as Germany surrendered.”
Life as we know it
Cubs Fan Division
Waldo Windmill: “I am a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and have been for about 80 years. Growing up in Southeastern Wisconsin, I basically had to choose the Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox to root for, because those were the only two teams whose radio broadcasts permeated our airwaves. Two older brothers pulled passionately for the North Siders, so I, too, became a Cubs fan early in life.
“Various Windy City radio stations aired Cub games during the pre-television era, including WBBM, WJJD, and WIND. Play-by-play announcers of the distant past included such legends as Bob Elson and Bert Wilson. I especially enjoyed the seasons when one station would broadcast only home games of the Cubs and Sox. Money was saved because the broadcasting personnel didn’t have to travel to the out-of-town venue. However, if the home team suffered a rainout, the road team’s game would be re-created — or, as we said at the time, aired by means of ticker tape. Happenings at the far-away game would be transmitted in ‘bare-bones’ fashion by a telegraph machine to a teletype receiver located in a studio of the local home radio station. On-air announcers would then re-create the game with the help of prerecorded crowd noise, trying to make the broadcast sound as much like a live game as possible. I quickly found myself pulling, if not praying, for rain when the Sox were at home in Chicago, so the Cubs’ road game would be aired instead.
“I lived for the game broadcasts, but actually was unable to hear much of them. First of all, we only had one radio, which was hooked up to a car battery and never left the living room. In addition, my father considered sports a complete waste of time and expressed the same feelings about sitting in the house during daylight hours, so I never heard more than an inning or two here and there. That occasional inning was very important, however, because my older brothers demanded a score update whenever they arrived from the field atop a wagon-load of hay and I had to communicate that information using hand signals.
“I was never able to listen to evening games. The Cubs, of course, played only day games at their home field until 1988. Other teams played occasional night games, following the lead of the Cincinnati Reds in 1935, but the living-room radio after evening chores were finished was restricted to ‘Fibber McGee and Molly,’ Bob Hope, Jack Benny, the WLS Barn Dance, and similar programming. Unfortunately, therefore, even had the opportunity for a ticker-tape re-creation of a Cubs night road game occurred, it had no chance of being heard in our farmhouse.
“I continued to live and die with the Cubs through the latter half of the 20th century and came to a better understanding of why they were popularly known as the ‘lovable losers.’ They were loved for their beautiful ballpark and for the fact that only the Yankees, Giants, and Cardinals have had more players inducted into the Hall of Fame. Moreover, all Cub games have been nationally televised for years and have featured entertaining top-of-the-line play-by-play announcers including Jack Brickhouse and the inimitable Harry Caray. But the team’s composite won/lost record over the years can only be described as abysmal.
“For one example: Hall of Fame inductees Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams, despite their stellar careers playing for the Cubs, never participated in a World Series game. Cub teams, moreover, although making it to the World Series 11 times, were victorious on only three occasions (1907, 1908, and 2016). After winning all the marbles in 1908, 108 years passed before they won again, and 71 years elapsed between their most recent appearances in the Fall Classic, 1945 and 2016. Cub fans of my generation clearly had little incentive for watching baseball in October.
“One last indicator of their futility deserves mention. My favorite team played in and lost the World Series in both 1918 and 1945, years in which bloody fighting ceased in World War I and World War II, respectively. If there’s cause and effect involved here, even a die-hard Cub fan like me would be willing to sacrifice another Cubs World Series attempt if it helped end world conflict. Let’s all hope that sacrifice is never needed.”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede reports: “This week’s visit to Lake Owasso yielded these sights.
“The first photo has no blossoming trees for impact, but I found the scene very satisfying just to have leaves on the cottonwood tree, a blue sky and wild grasses along the shore and in the water. It makes me feel good just to look at it — very relaxing, somehow.
“The flowering trees were doing a wonderful display, too.
“There were just a few along the shore that provided a nice lake background.
“I like this stage where a blossom is opening and other buds suggest a promise of more.
“A clear, blue sky as a background for these blossoms makes me feel good, too. I hope other readers feel some of what I do when capturing this.
“Spring can be really amazing!”
The Permanent Fatherly/Motherly/Daughterly Record
The Middle Daughter writes again: “Subject: Derby Season.
“In 1974, I was a horse-crazy city kid. One hot August day, my father brought home a present: the 50th-anniversary edition of Turf and Sport Digest.
“I paged through the magazine, looking at pictures of horses — and spotted a contest.
“I loved contests!
“This one required a rigorous knowledge of 50 years of American horse racing. I didn’t have that, but I did have a library card and a father who loved the quest for knowledge. Together we set out to find the answers to 10 questions.
“The test had been cleverly composed to weed out most entrants. How many Derby winners did Calumet Farm own? The answer depended on whether or not you counted a horse that had been bred at Calumet Farm but won the Derby for another owner. Patiently we tracked the information through decades-old issues of The New York Times.
“My father and I might have guessed which answers to submit, but my mother was a big-picture thinker. She constructed an annotated entry sheet that supplied the full information for every question.
“I put our entry in the mail and began to learn the hard lesson of waiting for Magazine Time to catch up with 9-Year-Old Time. I waited through the end of summer and the start of fourth grade. I turned 10 years old, still waiting.
“By the time the results were announced, I’d almost forgotten about those summer days in the library.
“Everyone who submitted the correct answers won the same prize: a free year’s subscription to the magazine. My parents thought it was funny to read the list of winners. Canterbury Downs was a decade away, and each of the winners came from a real racing city: Baltimore, Louisville, NYC.
“The exception was the winner from Minnesota.”
Talent on loan from God
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: The Master.
“It seems that every place you look, there is construction going on. They say it is due to the pandemic, luring people to improve their residences, making them more livable. There are, too, a lot more carpenters and craftsmen (and women) engaged in the trade. But, no matter how skilled they are at their craft, few will ever rise to the ranks of ‘Master.’
“There is something inspiring in the application of their work, something which grips the heart and holds it fast. It may be their pioneering spirit, their sane, almost holiness of life in the ply of each step of work, moving towards completion. But when you come to a neighbor, someone you see in other aspects of his life, you stop. You find yourself essentially riveted to the ground, for here is someone you see is normal in most other ways but is exceptional in one: He [Bulletin Board interjects: or, of course, she] is the Master.
“I don’t know that K went through any formal training. He had been working in construction for many years when I met him, so he had time to build the skills and techniques that make him a Master. One does not start out that way. One is not born able to envision the end product and what happens each step of the way. When people look at the work he and his son have done for the Good Wife and me, they always ask: ‘Who did this?’ They are impressed with the overall look of the end product and quality of the work. ‘How did he do that?’
“I can sleep comfortably knowing he is on the job. He takes his time, and that is OK. You cannot rush a Master just to ‘get ’er done.’ He has done a lot of work for us at three different homes. At our last home, he constructed an addition for us that was totally amazing. I cannot get over how he literally formed two oak columns out of 1 X 2s gracing the entryway to our new family room. He hand-laid an oak floor that I’ve never seen anywhere else, and the ceiling was recessed like no other. He was with us every step of the way, creatively allowing us to build in electronics, sound and video.
“Like Raphael painting Saint George and the Dragon or Michelangelo on his back in the Sistine Chapel, K patiently and meticulously applies his craft. Like Michelangelo, he is not limited to just one medium. In between, he makes multiple trips to Menards or Lowes. He says: ‘It’s where America Shops.’
“At our current home, he redid our kitchen and modified our bathroom. I like the remote-controlled winch on the second-story chandelier. We can easily dust all 36 bulbs. Currently he is working on restoring our decks. There is literally a twinkle in his eye when he can be creative and do something that is unusual and needs a special twist. The outdoor kitchen he forged is incredible and makes our home more livable. K says that will be his last job and that his son will continue the business alone. I’ve heard that before. But if it is his last job, then we are blessed to have had him help us out. If not, others will be blessed to have their home worked on by the Master.”
Not exactly what he had in mind
Or: Measure twice, repair once?
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Two wrongs made a BB write.
“I was having a bad day in the woodworking shop, and a router mishap only added to my woes. I was on the last of many steps (rounding-over the edges) of a complex drawer front when I got off track and gouged a deep pothole in the piece. Given that it was my third attempt to get it just right, I decided to repair instead of repeat the lengthy process. After a couple of hours of applying makeup, it looked invisible after a lot of shaping and staining. So now, after its plastic-surgery recovery, I placed it in position prior to fastening, only to discover it was a half-inch too wide, because of yet another error of mismeasurement. My best-ever repair job was soon cut off, and all the ends that ended well that day were . . . well, thankfully ended.”
Band Name of the Day: Horse Crazy — or: Green Beans for Dessert
Websites of the Day: Saint George and the Dragon and