Come along for a pleasant dinner cruise, aboard a pontoon, on Ol’ Man River!

Life as we know it

The Astronomer of Nininger: “The air was still and the water as smooth as glass — unusual for the Upper Mississippi. It had risen maybe six or more inches from last week, but Saturday’s rain likely added to the level. Typically, with the current moving and the slightest of breeze blowing, the surface is almost always somewhat rippled if not chopped.

“The Good Wife and I planned an afternoon escape where we could have a pleasant dinner aboard our old pontoon boat. We drove down to the dock with Harper, our ever-loyal Weimaraner, squeezed between us. It is downhill to get to the water, and Harper placed her paws against the dash of our Ranger, bracing herself against a sudden stop. Her eyeballs got big as we went down that last steep hill.

“When we got down to the water, it was the stillness that we noticed. You could look out across the water and see a ‘raft’ of pelicans and their reflection as well. Here on Pool Two of the Upper Mississippi, white pelicans visit us annually to raise new broods of youngsters and enjoy the amenities of the river, especially the varieties of fish available. They leave in October, but all summer long it is not unusual to see flights of 20 or more cruise overhead in tight formation. The Good Wife wondered what so many were doing bunched up like that. Like us, they were enjoying the wonderful afternoon.

“In a few minutes, we got the cover off the pontoon. Because the river had risen so much, we had no need to lower the lift. The pontoon was already floating. I touched the key, and in a moment that old Evinrude was running smoothly — back away from the lift and slowly out of our natural harbor. We don’t go fast in the bay, where we might unnecessarily disturb wildlife. Two eagles eased themselves away from their limbs and glided outward as if leading us to the river channel.

“We would see literally dozens of eagles that afternoon. They just seemed to be everywhere. I think that every time one sees an eagle fly overhead, your heart skips a beat and you appreciate our liberty and these grand United States.

“We have a small Weber grill that fits right in between the seats, so the Good Wife and I grilled lamb chops. I do not have the necessary domestic skills to plan a feast aboard a pontoon boat, but the Good Wife (fortunately) does. We found a shady spot, and after a short while could sit back and enjoy a beverage of choice. I think the Good Wife called them ‘Jamaican Smiles.’ Harper had a bowl of water, but she would rather of Jove’s nectar (Coors Light) sup.

“Once I raised the anchor, we continued following one of the secondary channels. The river is full of them, and if you know where they are, you can get around the river quite well. If you don’t, good luck. I think a lot of lower units have been totaled in this pool. It pays to be a river rat.

“We got back to our quiet inlet, and now the surface was rippled. Pretty normal. We had a most enjoyable dinner cruise. Harper liked looking out the bow of the pontoon, and we just relaxed. I think that maybe we need to do this more often.”

A night to remember

JoAnn Anderson of Shoreview: “Back in 2017, my sister Joyce and I were able to get to Boston for the Fourth of July. We went to the park where the Boston Pops were to perform and ended up standing at the other end of the bridge from the Hatch Memorial Shell where the orchestra was seated. America’s Orchestra was joined by Andy Grammer, Melissa Etheridge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Brian Stokes Mitchell, the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums and the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus, along with a military flyover.

“It was a beautiful night and so fun to sing along with the patriotic songs we learned as children: ‘America,’ ‘America the Beautiful,’ ‘Yankee Doodle,’ ‘The Yankee Doodle Boy,’ ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ and ‘God Bless America’ — all of the songs that we learned in elementary school that are unfortunately no longer taught.

“It was when Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was getting ready to be performed that we realized why no one was standing nearby. The covers came off the cannons, and we were about 10 feet away for the finale!

“What a wonderful memory!”

Our trees, ourselves
Independence Day Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “As Independence Day approaches, what better way to celebrate than by decorating a tree of the wrought-iron variety. I think this is covered in the ‘pursuit of happiness’ phrase in the Declaration of Independence. Or, if not, it may have slipped the minds of our Founding Fathers, who had slightly more important topics to consider at the time.

“My first attempt at creating a Fourth of July tree, last year, was only partially successful, owing to a lack of red, white and particularly blue ornaments. But I had a year to rectify the situation, and thanks to last year’s Christmas season, eBay and Hallmark’s incredible collection of Snoopy ornaments covering every existing holiday and few that have probably yet to be created, I had almost enough ornaments this year.”

Come again?

Another episode of creative hearing, reported by Waldo Windmill: “A number of years ago, my wife and I belonged to an investment/social club which met bimonthly at members’ homes. One such get-together is ingrained in my memory.

“Don and Ed were alone in the attached garage, enjoying pre-dinner snacks which were set up there for our enjoyment. The rest of us were scattered throughout the house and yard, involved in other activities. Ed suddenly appeared to choke on whatever he was eating and was in obvious discomfort. Don immediately grabbed him and started applying the Heimlich Maneuver in an attempt to dislodge whatever was causing Ed’s distress. Ed, meanwhile, tried yelling ‘Hardin, Hardin,’ hoping Don would go find the club member by that name who was an M.D. Don, who unfortunately suffered hearing loss as a consequence of his military service, thought that Ed was pleading for him to squeeze ‘harder, harder,’ so he amped up his efforts significantly. Soon the food particle was ejected, and the crisis ended.

“A few days later, we were all informed that on the day following the get-together, Ed had sought medical treatment for two cracked ribs and that Don was still suffering from painful pulled muscles in his chest! But as we’ve been assured many, many times, ‘All’s well that ends reasonably well.'”

Today’s “helpful” hint

Tim Torkildson offers some “sound investment advice”:

“Sell the china,
“hock the clocks,
“and put your dough
“in liquor stocks.
“Men may starve
“and romance throttle
“but they won’t go
“without their bottle.”

Everyone’s a critic!
Headline Division (CAUTION! Words At Play Subdivision)

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Clever headline.

“Tampa Bay defeated Montreal 5-1 in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night. Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist for Tampa Bay. This was the headline on Page 3B of the Sports section in Tuesday’s Pioneer Press: ‘Kucherov strikes for Lightning.’”

There’s nothin’ like a simile!

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “This is the last sentence from a movie review in Time: ‘”Summer of 85” flirts with murder-mystery elements, but mostly it’s a moody and meditative reflection on the nature of first love — as cruel and beautiful as the tide receding from the shore.’”

See world
Or: Our birds, ourselves

First, Twitty of Como: “Subject: The world around us?

“The wrens in my back yard are out there singing up a storm this morning! They’ve been nesting in one or another of my bird houses there for more than a dozen years, but not without difficulty some of those years. One year they fought with my bluebirds over custody of a house. (The bluebirds won.) Wrens — and bluebirds too, for that matter — are late migrators to my area, so conflict over the better residences would sometimes arise. They’ve also fought house finches. They are small but feisty, those wrens.

“But yesterday I witnessed something new. The wrens have been in residence for two to three weeks now, so I imagine their eggs have hatched. Yesterday I heard a great commotion out there and investigated. I witnessed a red-headed woodpecker attacking the nest. The wrens were screaming angrily and even flew at him from behind as he clung to the house siding, his head repeatedly bobbing into the hole (the door) until finally he was successful and flew away with what I presume was a chick in his beak.

“Unfortunate as it was, it was also a wake-up call to this landlord. That particular house is nearly 20 years old, and the opening has been eroded noticeably larger by usage over the years. I should have fixed it long ago. After this nesting season, I will.”

And now Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake reports: “This morning we had a mama turkey, with 11 of her babies, out for a morning food hunt.

“This is the first time this year that I saw them here, and I’m sure that they will now be returning again for some more bird food on the ground.

Keeping your eyes open

Horntoad of White Bear Lake: “We had a much-needed and welcome downpour today (Sunday, 6/27). Afterward, this rainbow appeared behind our house.

“I’ve never experienced seeing a rainbow this close up. And there was the end, right in our own back yard! But will I be able to find the elusive ‘pot of gold’?”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede writes: “I try to remember to bring my camera with in the spring and summer when I visit the Ramsey County Compost site in Mounds View, because of the gardens the site manager has. There were a lot of hollyhocks blooming this week to capture.


“And a couple of other flowers, too.

“There were milkweed plants blooming — good for the Monarch butterflies.”

Now & Then
Or: Life as we knew it

Stories from Southern MN Farm Boy: “The letter last week from Waldo Windmill reminded me of my days growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota. I, too, trapped pocket gophers and saved the hind feet in an empty metal Band-Aid box in the freezer section of our refrigerator. I saved them up all summer, and around mid-August my Dad would take me to Blue Earth, where the county extension agent paid me a nickel a foot — and this was my spending money for the Faribault County Fair each summer.

“Speaking of ‘gophers’ (or, more appropriately, striped ground squirrels): Each Sunday afternoon, after dinner at noon (supper came later, at 6), my dad and I would take the single-shot .22 and a handful of shells, put an old cardboard box in the trunk, and ‘road hunt’ gophers. I would shoot the ones who stuck their heads up out of the passenger side, and my dad would shoot the ones on the driver side. My job would then be to pop the trunk and add them to the box. When we got home, the farm cats would come running and have a feast.

“Ah, farm cats: My Mom was full Norwegian, and my Dad was full German; he did allow her one meal of lutefisk at Christmas. And no cats in the house. So the cats all survived on what they could catch or any garbage scraps tossed in the garbage pile out back. One thing we learned: Even a starving farm cat in the middle of winter would not eat leftover lutefisk.

“During WWII, many farmers (including my dad) grew hemp and provided it to the German POW camp in Wells, where the POWs would turn the hemp into rope for our U.S. Navy. At some point hemp became a banned crop — but it lived on in fence rows, abandoned farm lots, etc.

“When I was in college in the early ’70s, one of my summer jobs was to be a ‘gopher’ on a State of Minnesota survey crew, surveying I-90 across southern Minnesota. There were two State of Minnesota civil engineers, and myself and another college student. Pre-cellphone and even pre-calculator, the civil engineers would do all their calculations by paper and pencil and transmit elevation calculations to the two of us college students via hand signals. We’d trudge across anything in the direction we were told to go, carrying huge bundles of laths and black marking pens, take the numbers transmitted by the engineers, copy them on the laths and pound the laths in — to be used later by the graders, dozers, etc. to build the highway.

“One of the things we two college students did to keep ourselves humored was to see who could find the tallest hemp plant and sneak it into the orange state crew truck. Once we got back to Mankato (our HQ location), we’d see who won that day’s tallest-hemp contest. The two state engineers were never too happy with us and our little daily contest.

“For anyone interested: The final section of I-90 was completed in 1978 and dedicated on September 23 of that year. There is a historical marker just outside Blue Earth noting the achievement of the completion of the longest interstate in the U.S. Gold paint was laid down over the last section to commemorate the occasion — just as the golden spike in Promontory Point, Utah, noted the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

“Fun memories from the ’60s and ’70s!”

Our times
Pandemic Division (responsorial)

Semi-Legend: “One correction to The Happy Medium‘s COVID-induced reading list.

“‘The Education of Hyman Kaplan,’ by Leonard Q. Ross (1937), should be rendered: ‘The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N.’

“Mr. Kaplan, a stubborn ESL student, usually signs his name in colored crayon with green stars between red letters outlined in blue.”

The verbing of America

Donald: “‘PUZZLES’ is the name of the ‘Premium Section Summer 2021’ booklet included with the Pioneer Press. This appears on its cover:

“‘Ah, summertime.

“‘Take a deep breath . . .

“‘ . . . relax …

“‘ . . . and puzzle!’”

BULLETIN BOARD MUSES: There’s one thing to be said for that new sense of “to puzzle.” At least in this context, it’s not . . . puzzling.

This ’n’ that
Know Thyself! Division

A pair from Al B of Hartland: (1) “There was a meeting that I had to go to because there was free food. It was about wind energy. I was told the area around my home was the windiest part of the county. I was assured that it wasn’t just because of me. The weather is windy, too.”

(2) “I counted contrails in the sky over my flyover yard. The number of airplanes in the sky has increased. I looked up, and the bright sky caused me to sneeze. I remember a day last year when I was masked up (which prevented contagious yawning) in a grocery store and felt the need to sneeze. When I sneeze, I usually sneeze three times. The pandemic had changed the world. I wrestled the sneeze into a stifle, but not before I’d considered running outside to make a sudden violent spasmodic audible expiration of breath, going to the restroom to sneeze, or sneezing into my mask three times. If I’d sneezed in the busy store, I doubt anyone would have said ‘God bless you.’”

The Permanent Granddaughterly/Grandfatherly Record

Lucky Buck: “Subject: Grandkids.

“Been awhile, but Father’s Day prompted me to write about Evie, number 11 of 12 grandchildren — another reason to call me Lucky Buck. She and her two sisters called to wish me a happy Father’s Day, and she excitedly added ‘and I lost a tooth.’ Big news for a little girl.”

Band Name of the Day: Leftover Lutefisk

Website of the Day, recommended by Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Jigsaw Explorer just posted a picture of the ‘Infinite Bridge’ in Aahus, Denmark. It is a circular bridge that extends over the Bay of Aarhus. Way cool, but no guard rails.
Oh, and it appears to be set up only from about May through October.”

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