“Art” imitates “life”
Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “Subject: The Best Birthday Present Ever.
“Imagine you are an intelligent, well-mannered young man in a popular late- ’50s/early-’60s sitcom (hint: It’s not Eddie Haskell) who is celebrating his 17th birthday. Now, what present from your younger brother would make you flip, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry like Professor Marvel in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and say ‘Neat!’?
“You’ve probably guessed the young man is Wally Cleaver, and the sitcom is ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ This episode, titled ‘Wally’s License,’ which aired Oct. 11, 1962, opens with Wally holding up some handkerchiefs while brother Beaver punches him in the arm (we used to call it ‘flinch’) to celebrate each year of Wally’s life.
“‘Boy, thanks for the handkerchiefs, Beav!’ Wally exclaims. ‘They’re neat!’
“When Beaver asks if he really likes them, Wally says in all seriousness: ‘Sure. Every guy likes handkerchiefs.’
“Evidently, the creators of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ had a rather archaic notion of the kind of gift a typical teenager would gush over. Forget money, a wallet, a watch, or even a car. In 1962, handkerchiefs were definitely the ‘in thing.’ If Beaver had given Wally underwear, the script might have called for Wally to do a somersault!
“Later, Wally gets a sweater from his folks and once again exclaims: ‘Boy, this is neat! Thanks, Mom and Dad. This has been a neat birthday.’
“To me, Wally acted more like a 7-year-old who got a G.I. Joe action figure and a Slinky. The sweater is OK, but think of how Eddie Haskell and Lumpy Rutherford would have given Wally the business over his ‘neat’ handkerchiefs.
“I readily admit to being overly critical and sarcastic about certain things. And every time I watch ‘Leave It to Beaver’ (and, I might add, ‘Gomer Pyle, USMC’), I have to remind myself: ‘It’s only a TV show, it’s only a TV show, it’s only. . .’ “
“P.S. When it comes to describing something, I hate the word ‘neat.'”
The simple pleasures
The Mendota Heights Missus (formerly) reports: “On a beautiful fall day overlooking the Mississippi River, we launched the Dragon kite from my 18th-floor balcony. It was quite a challenge, but the Dragon finally took flight! What a thrilling sight to see it fly over our beautiful river!”
Our birds, ourselves
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “My wife couldn’t figure out why the suet was always going down so fast. I think that I figured it out for her. There are two of these pileated woodpeckers that keep coming here all day long just for the suet. The suet is hanging right next to the back-porch window, which made for some good closeup pictures.”
Life (and death) as we know it
Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin,” writes: “Subject: Sunrise, Sunset.
“It is 3 a.m. Tears dampen my pillow. Sleep does not come. Tevye’s haunting song plays in my mind. ‘Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days.’ Two of my beautiful children are gone now. And I am still here, at 91. How can that be? It isn’t right; it just isn’t.
“My beautiful daughter Anna passed away almost five years ago, in her 40s. She was found in her Wisconsin home.
“Two months ago, my strong, kind, funny son John was found dead in his Iowa home. He had been misdiagnosed for many months, then received radiation, and had gone back to work for three days. He was 60, which to me is way too young.
“I know, I know, in this world many others have lost their children. Still, it isn’t right; it just isn’t.
“‘Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years,’ and often come the tears.”
Lost . . . and found
B. Dazzled of South St. Paul writes: “A couple of weeks ago, I heard some chirping and fluttering in my garage. I thought it might have been a trapped bird, so I climbed up to investigate. It turned out the bird sounds were coming from outside, but I found this treasure up in the woodwork.
“It must have been secreted away by the original owner. Maybe his wife was a Republican, and he was trying to hide it from her (or vice versa?). As far as I can tell, it is a 1964 lenticular printed campaign button for Lyndon B. Johnson and Minnesota’s own Hubert H. Humphrey! When you tilt it left, it shows LBJ with ‘Vote Johnson,’ and when you tilt it right, it shows HHH with ‘Vote Humphrey.’
“Now, these buttons are very hard to photograph, but when you tilt it in between just right, it shows the first known instance of apparent Russian interference and something that looks like ‘Wote Humphrisov’!”
Life as we know it
A pre-Election Day email from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “From 2002 through 2019, I was an Election Judge for every single election. I was impressed with most people I worked with or for — partly because Minnesotans take their elections and votes seriously.
“One exception was in 2004, when a law required all Judges to label themselves with a political party. The idea was that you would have people of different political parties counting ballots or helping voters together. Which was a cool concept, but it caused problems when too many Judges in a precinct were from the same party. Plus, the Judges didn’t have to prove that they actually belonged to a particular party — so when I had to list my political party as I signed up, I asked the election official which party affiliations they were short on. Voila! I now belonged to the Independence Party. Even though I didn’t.
“In 2004, my precinct’s Head Judge was a college student, working her first election with much checking of the rules. She tried to send half of us home early to save money, until I pointed out that most of us had to be there until the end: When the ballot machine printed out the results of the election in our precinct, we had to physically sign off on them. I was not assigned to that precinct again.
“But the hardest part of the 2004 election was a fellow Judge. He was a retired guy who really did belong to his stated party — as did male retiree Judge #2, who retired guy #1 said was not allowed to count anything like forms. For cause, I assume.
“In any case, retired guy #1 was loudly irritated by my supposed membership in the Independence Party. He announced to my face that I was a bleeding-heart liberal. It was hard to be harassed in the polling place by a fellow Judge — especially when we had a Head Judge who thought I was just causing her trouble. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen now. I figure my precinct’s current Head Judge would have found retired guy #1 a job that vitally needed him, in outer Siberia.
“By the end of that 14- or 15-hour day, I was beyond exhausted. Luckily I had taken the next day off, so I slept a very long time.
“There were other challenges over the years to being an Election Judge, such as a primary election for which I worked a precinct that averaged one voter per hour. One Per Hour. Argh! But in other elections, there were often interesting people to watch.
“Then came the pandemic in 2020, and I dared not work as a judge — though I missed it horribly.
“I studied the modifications that were made to things like booths and traffic flow, to make it safer. This year I signed up as a Judge and got every vaccine available. But a neighbor got COVID, and I got tested — with inconclusive results. I am now waiting for the results from my test #2. Which must clear me before 5 p.m. tomorrow, or I can’t be a judge. My email inbox has never moved so slowly.
“Regardless, I can’t wait to vote. As usual, I am hoping for the best of all possible outcomes from this election. And a chance to see some neighbors.”
Fun facts to know and tell
John in Highland writes: “Subject: Soft as a Baby’s Bottom.
“Recently I submitted a note mentioning the song ‘Schoolday’s Over.’ One of the lines is: ‘On with your sark and moleskin trousers.’ Then last week I saw a magazine advertisement for ‘finest British moleskin pants. Soft as a baby’s bottom!’
“So what is a sark, and what is moleskin? thought I.
“It turns out that moleskin is a thick-matted cotton fabric, highly popular in the British Isles. There are no animal-derived materials of any kind in its production. Rather, the name has come down due to its comparison to the soft feel of the fur of a mole.
“Sark is just another word for a shirt.”
Could be verse!
A pair of “timericks” from Tim Torkildson: “When it snows I wish to be / as far away as I can be / at a tropic beach or float / on a catered pirate boat / Snatching maidens right and left / and of wind chill quite bereft / With a mai tai I’ll repose / wearing hardly any clothes . . .”
“Peeling apples I have found / leaves too much apple on the ground / Although my knife is sharp, my skill / at peeling fruit is pretty nil / When making apple pie, what’s more / my filling’s mostly apple core / To cause my feelings less distress / I guess I’ll buy a cider press!”
The frontiers of graphic art (II)
Elvis writes: “Subject: More Modern Signs.
“Elvis visited another art museum in Wisconsin. This time it was the new Art Preserve of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. (Highly recommended if you like interesting Midwestern folk art.)
“At the entrance, the person taking our tickets recommended we make sure to visit the bathrooms on the first and third floors, which were ‘artist-designed.’ The second-floor bathrooms, he said, were just ‘normal.’
“Elvis and his sister headed to the first-floor facilities. But Elvis‘s sister stopped as she came to the door of what was identified as a washroom. She was not sure which one was for women, and which was for men. The signs didn’t help.
“Elvis decided the second one looked right, but he pushed open the door with a moment of apprehension anyways. Thankfully, there was a urinal in there.
“When Elvis and the entourage arrived on the third floor, there was a staff person sitting outside the hallway to the washrooms. When asked, he proactively said that the second one was for men, and there was a urinal on the sign. Sure enough, there is. Good to know what to look for. They must get asked this a lot.
“Bonus points. Elvis saw this symbol sign, too! What is it?
“Answer: it is the sign for the elevator! But it left Elvis wondering where the one for the women was located.
“Days like this make Elvis‘s brain hurt.”
Not exactly what they had in mind
Jimbo of Inver Grove Heights: “I sure am glad the Twins got rid of Eddie Rosario. Now maybe we can hire a couple more analytics experts — that should get us into first place!”
Outdoor Adventure Division
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: The Golden Trout of Bear Lake.
“When you say ‘trout,’ most people immediately think of rainbow trout — and rightly so, for they are reasonably plentiful anywhere the water is clean and cool. Next in line seems to be the brown trout. They are, on the average, bigger and huskier and a real target of trout fishermen. I have caught some really nice ones a short drive from the Twin Cities. Of course, there is also the brook trout, smaller but arguably better eating than any of those others. But the one that usually brings up all kinds of questions is the golden trout.
“The golden trout is the state fish of California, but if I understand properly, it is considered endangered — or is at least a somewhat rare fish. They are found at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet where the water is clear and cold. But they had been successfully transplanted to some waters of Wyoming and Montana.
“Although the Good Wife and I had moved to Minnesota, we still had indissolvable bonds to Wyoming. Our son, Chuck, and I made a hunting and fishing trip to Wyoming, staying with an old friend, Bob, in Laramie. We filled our big-game tags surprisingly early and had plenty of time for a day of fishing in the high lakes of the Snowy Range. We had several possibilities. I knew some places where I had always caught fish, but there was a lingering call to pursue those golden trout which supposedly were to be found in Bear Lake.
“Bear Lake was inaccessible by motor vehicle, but we could drive to within three miles of it. At its altitude, it was an arduous trek around massive boulders, streams of water rushing down across the trail that led upward and to the lake. There were trees which had fallen across the trail, but not too many, since Bear Lake was right at the timberline, an altitude above which trees stopped growing. I had never heard of anyone who ever caught or even saw a golden trout, and their presence in Bear Lake was questionable. No matter, the challenge still lured us on. We were like fish hooked on a lure being reeled in.
“Having lived down at Minnesota’s altitude for several years, we were not acclimated to the higher elevation, and it was slower getting in than we had planned. But the possibility of golden trout kept us going. Eventually we got there. One could see that the lake was mostly surrounded by granite walls, protecting it from any wind that day. We brought our ultra-light spinning rods and spinners. Most people were loyal proponents of using Mepps spinners, but I liked the slow-spinning blade of the Rooster Tail. Back home in Minnesota, it works well on crappies, often outfishing live minnows.
“It was a deep lake. We couldn’t see the bottom. We walked around the lake, casting outward from left to right in a clockwise rotation, letting the lure sink to some unknown depth. We found that a count of three was eventually successful. It was late in the season — one of the last good fishing days before the snows would start falling.
“The lake had already started turning over. Water is densest at 4 degrees Celsius, so it sinks to the bottom. This process continues, cooling and thinning the surface water, until the lake does, in fact, turn over. I think it was the second or third cast when Chuck cried out that he had one on. He carefully reeled it in, and yes, it was clearly a golden trout. The golden sides with bands of red were unmistakable. In all, the fishing was great. We both each caught, and released, our limit. Wow, we were pleased! We had actually seen and caught golden trout, and it seemed so easy. Getting there was the hardest part of the trip.
“We look forward to returning someday and hope that access to the lake is still difficult, so that this beautiful wilderness remains as it was when we went there. Maybe my grandchildren will be able to see and experience it, too. And then they will feel and know why we need to preserve places like this.”
Several close encounters of the natural kind, reported by Grammashan of Hudson, Wisconsin: “Subject: My nature walks.
“On my daily walk a few weeks ago, I discovered a part of nature I was enthralled by. It looked like crickets had babies, lots of babies. They were practicing their walking and jumping skills. There is much grassland next to the road I walk, and the little things were trying to get back up to the grass by jumping up the curb. It is a huge task for them.
“The first one I saw, I decided to help it with the tip of my shoe. It worked really well. There were so many, however, that I dropped that mission and watched instead with a smile. They would jump up and fall back. I was cheering them on. Finally, one of them turned to climbing up the curb. It worked. I was hoping the rest would catch on, but they didn’t while I was there watching. A few made the jump up after many tries. It was getting dark by then, so I left feeling a little sad.
“The next evening, I walked that site again. I watched in delight to see the babies there. Most of them had figured out how to climb up and some had mastered the jump. I could hear the happy mamas chirping with encouragement and joy in the distant grass. I was inclined to say out loud (and I did) ‘Good job,’ with a little clapping, too. It reminded me of the joy I felt for each of my children when they learned to walk and climb. I reacted to them the same way I did for the baby crickets. I hope I can see it again next year.
“This morning I was eating my breakfast and I kept hearing horns honking. I was intrigued by what could be causing the cacophony. I looked out the window toward the street, and there were about 30 geese walking across (and blocking) the street. Of course I giggled. Then I saw what the honking was doing. The cars would honk on one side of the street, and the geese would turn around and go back to the other side of the street. I felt bad for the geese because they had no idea what to do. They just kept walking back and forth, blocking both lanes. Finally a couple cars came to a stop until all the geese got to land on one side of the road. It sure made my morning.
“Now tonight I went for another late walk (close to dark) and I saw two deer, mama and fawn, grazing on a hill behind my place. The fawn just kept moving around, grazing on whatever it could find. However, the mama was standing dead still, staring at me. I kept walking but stared right back. I was thinking: ‘Hey, I’m a mama, too, and would be doing the same thing.’ She never called the fawn into the woods, so I figure she either heard my thoughts or just thought there was no fear of the gramma on her walk. Smart deer.”
Our ‘trees,’ ourselves
All Hallows’ Eve Division
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “The nice thing about putting together a Halloween tree is that almost any sort of ornament would be acceptable. However, for this particular tree, I’ve decided to stick with mostly the classics: pumpkins, witches, ghosts, owls and skeletons.
“However, thanks to Archie McPhee, a company best known for its rubber chickens, I’ve been able to supplement my decorations with some unique glass ornaments, including a Yeti, Bigfoot, a couple of pyramids, classic monster heads and, of course, a glass rubber chicken. Archee McPhee also supplied me with eyeballs, a mustache and punctuation marks.
“There isn’t much else to say about the tree. Enjoy.”
“P.S. In case you are stumped for gifts or just want to waste some time, check out mcphee.com/.”
Our theater of seasons
Several recent photo sets from Mounds View Swede: (1) “Subject: Halloween decoration photos.
“While out taking photos of fall leaf scenes, I came across this front yard all set up for Halloween.
“The graveyard included these ‘graves.’
“And it included a pet skeleton of some sort, too.
“I liked some of the humor included.
“And I wondered just how the owners managed to create all these grave stones and skeletons. A lot of work went into this, and I hope they get a good response.
“And we don’t even carve a pumpkin anymore!
“I thought this was a nice happy pumpkin scene, even with a happy tree.
“This ‘fellow’ looked a lot more menacing. I hope the trick-or-treaters don’t have nightmares.
“A happy ghost doesn’t seem so scary.
“This cat looks pretty menacing. Be careful!
“The large spider web was a creative idea. I wonder if a scary spider will be added.”
(2) “Subject: Fall blossoms.
“With the mild fall we have had, many of the summer flowers are still with us, much to my delight. I visited my gardens, but also the flowers at the Arden Hills compost site, and found these to photograph.
“This one is a seed dahlia which does most of its blooming in August and after. I always plant at least two of these each spring, never knowing how them blossoms will look when they come. This one I really like a lot!
(3) “I continue to enjoy this year’s fall color. It’s hanging on a long time so far. And I especially enjoy noticing the ways different trees do the change. Combined, some tree groups show the full range of colors at a single time.
“And other trees seem to do it branch by branch. I wonder what is involved in which branch gets to change and which ones take longer. . .
“. . . and which branch gets to have red leaves when all the others are orange.
“And I have been noticing how the red trees really catch and hold my attention.
I enjoy the yellow and bronze leaves, too, but a red tree will stand out and grab
my attention every time.”
The vision thing
Our Theater of Seasons Division
C. from Maplewood: “Subject: A Frosty memory.
“The recent talk of all the snow we had at this time last year brought to mind this photo that our son shared with us a couple of weeks after that early snowfall.
“Our grandsons had had fun making this guy, and while most of the snow had melted by that time, he was still hanging around.
“Our son wasn’t too excited about the yard work that still needed to be done, so he decided to give this guy a name and put him to work. Unfortunately, the magic hat was nowhere to be found.
“Oh yes, his name? Frosty the Mowman.”
Everyone’s a (headline) critic!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Clever headlines.
“Both from the front pages of the Sports sections of the Pioneer Press:
“(1) October 20:
“In their first home game of the season, the Wild scored a 6-5 overtime victory over the Jets, and Joel Erickson Ek scored the winner to complete a hat trick. The headline read: ‘EK OF A HOMECOMING.’
“I was wondering, if there’s a similar occurrence later in the season, can we look forward to this headline: ‘WILD EKS OUT A VICTORY’?
“The second headline required a little more thought.
“(2) October 24:
“The Gophers had defeated Maryland 34-16 in football. The headline read: ‘U defense turns over Terrapins.’
“I was puzzling over that one until the light dawned: Terrapins = Turtles. Turtles on their backs.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Yes, and we’re guessing the Gophers won the turnover battle, too.
The great comebacks
Or: CAUTION! Words at Play!
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Low-hanging vegetable.
“My friendly, neighborhood, homemade-horseradish provider just messaged me that the season was on! To which I shamelessly replied: Grate.”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other
Al B of Hartland Division
Al B of Hartland: (1) “Red Schoendienst was a great second baseman for the Cardinals, Braves and Giants. I spelled Schoendienst correctly (once) in grade school. It wasn’t during a spelling bee. My teacher wasn’t impressed.”
(2) “I watched a kettle of turkey vultures surfing on the wind over New Ulm. They performed an aerial ballet. Earlier, I’d seen a HAZMAT team (called a wake) of vultures working on removing a dead raccoon from the road. It’s a job that pays them all they can eat.”
(3) “As happens in cartoons, the creators used artistic license to develop Woody Woodpecker. For years, I thought he was based on a pileated, but some reports claim he was inspired by a noisy acorn woodpecker that disrupted the honeymoon of his creator, animator Walter Lantz, by persistently calling and drumming on the couple’s cabin. I’ve heard the collective noun for acorn woodpeckers is a bushel. That might have been said in jest. One of the acorn woodpecker’s commonly heard calls is a loud, repeated waka-waka, but a case could be made that Woody sounds more like a pileated woodpecker. Woody once said he was a ‘Campephilus principalis.’ That’s an ivory-billed woodpecker. One episode showed a picture of an ivory-billed, and it looked like Woody. It’s safe to say Woody is a generic woodpecker and not an exact representation of any one species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct. Woody is doing OK.”
(4) “Great-tailed grackles are found in Minnesota, but most examples of this rare (in Minnesota) species have been documented in southwestern Minnesota counties. Breeding has been confirmed in Jackson County, where the species has been found repeatedly over the years. The long-legged birds are extending their range northward. I see and hear them everywhere in Texas. They sound like everything from a squeaky door hinge to radio static to rusty machinery to laughing whistles. Food trucks in Austin attract them, and an acquaintance calls them tacoraptors.”
Out of the mouths of babes
Vertically Challenged reports: “Adriana, 6, went to visit her other grandma the other day, with mom and sister.
“Nana: ‘Would you like an ice-cream sandwich, Adriana?’
“Mom: ‘Yes what?’ (Yes, please.)
“Nana: ‘What’s the magic word!?’
“Adriana: ‘Hocus Pocus!'”
And now Bill of the river lake: “Subject: Preschool rules.
“Once again, our local elementary preschoolers have come up with their own classroom rules which are prominently displayed for all to see on their classroom wall.
“This year there are eight rules. The most interesting is:
“(5) Save our kisses for our family.
“Two years ago, these rules were established by the tiny tykes:
“(2) No spitting or biting.
“(10) Keep your pants on.
“Then last school year . . .
“(2) Keep spit in our mouth.
“Literally out of the mouths of babes.”
Band Name of the Day: The Cricket Babies
Website of the Day: Art Preserve