Who is that out there in the Minnesota cold, “snow swirling and blowing”? Voyageur sans canoe?

The (self-) vision thing

Eos writes: “Subject: The Voyageur.

“Minnesota cold, snow swirling and blowing,

“I venture out to carve a path. 

“My stocking cap is pulled down close to my eyes,

“at a jaunty slant.  As I work, I become a voyageur,

“breaking a trail from one lake to another, unbothered by the cold. 

“My imagination carries me through the story.

“When I’m finally through, I catch a glimpse of myself.

“Not a voyageur . . . just an old lady with a sense of adventure

“and a great imagination.”

The bumper crop

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “This is the funniest one I’ve ever seen:

“‘SOMETIMES I WRESTLE WITH MY DEMONS

“‘SOMETIMES WE JUST CUDDLE’”

The Permanent Family Record
Including: Then & Now

Reads the Funnies First: “Since so many Bulletin Boarders seem to enjoy reminiscing, I thought that it might be fun to remember time spent with my dad when I was a kid. He was the master of low-budget pastimes.

“We would sit on the front steps with my sisters, taking turns ‘owning’ each car that drove by. One of us would claim a hot sports car; then the next kid might get an old wreck. Then we’d laugh and laugh at getting the old rust bucket on our turn. There were no winners or losers, just simple fun, waiting to see what type of vehicle would come along next.

“We would rent a large cabin Up North for a week or two every summer. No indoor plumbing. There were eventually nine of us kids, me being No. 3. Dad would run contests to see who could find the biggest pine cone, or the prettiest rock, etc. I still have a rock that won me ‘The Most Unusual Rock’ first prize. I lost my dad when I was 19, and this silly rock still reminds me of him 60 years after I won it. In the evening, we’d sit in the big cabin porch playing cards.

“The only times that I remember being in a restaurant with Mom and Dad were a Bridgeman’s once, and a cafe after I received my First Communion. Many families now eat out every week.

“We were so blessed to have a dad who enjoyed spending time with us. And to give Mom a little break.

“I apologize for my truancy these last few years. Thank you to all of the faithful contributors.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: No apologies necessary. Welcome back!

Our theater of seasons

From Mounds View Swede: “On December 11th, I saw this squirrel still mining for acorns through the shallow snow.

“On January 4th, I noticed this strange pattern of footprints in the front yard and wondered what made them.

“With the heavier snow we got, followed by some serious cold, I noticed both the front and back yards were track-free. The smooth, white snow made a palette for abstract shadow patterns.

“They would change as the sun moved towards the west.

“I enjoyed noticing these patterns and how the undisturbed snow made such a nice background for the tree shadows.

“I’m wondering now when the squirrels will come down looking for more food.”

Yellowed journalism
Fiction Division

Semi-Legend: “I just finished Tony Hillerman’s ‘The Fly on the Wall’ (copyright 1971), his second novel, about John Cotton, statehouse reporter for a P.M. daily in an unnamed snowy Midwest capital city where Cotton reads, among other papers, one from the ‘Twin City.’

“Pretty impressive beat. Two or three times, Cotton staves off death by hired assassins as he probes corruption at the Highway Commission.  

“A few reviews from Library Thing: ‘Excellent political thriller revealing how journalists can dig through apparently trivial data to reveal corruption in high places. I particularly appreciated the philosophical discussions about what constitutes ethical journalism and reporting all the facts versus what should be kept confidential for the greater good in politics: can we trust the electorate to be wise enough to judge? . . . It is set in an era that is hard to believe now, once existed: late night rifling of file cabinets, afternoon dailies competing against morning dailies and traveling incognito . . . . There is also a great sub plot of journalistic ethics. . . . Teletype machines and direct-dial long distance were the high tech of the day; even though photocopiers existed, Cotton still uses carbon paper throughout the story to make duplicates of his stories written on a manual typewriter.’

“In 1971, I worked for United Press International. UPI and its predecessor, UP, pop up throughout the narrative. The governor’s nervous press secretary used to work for UPI. Cotton remembers great stories he filed to UPI’s Dallas bureau. And UP is introduced at the top of Chapter Four: ‘The clock on the walnut-paneled wall was old and ornate. Its small hand stood almost exactly on 10. The large hand clicked two marks past 12. Governor Paul Roark was two minutes late for his Thursday morning press conference. In approximately 180 seconds, John Cotton — senior man among the P.M. reporters — would get down from the windowsill where he was slouching and walk out of the Executive Conference Room, and the six other reporters waiting there would follow him. Tradition gave the Governor five minutes of grace. The rule had been proclaimed a dozen administrations back by a United Press reporter long since transferred and forgotten. He had argued that the Governor was — after all — still a public servant. To wait for him longer than five minutes would be to undermine the relationship between newsmen as watchdog-auditor-guardian-of-the-public-trust and the Chief Executive as politician and feeder-at-the-public-trough. And while the rule had been born in philosophy, it had lived in practicality. P.M. reporters, with edition deadlines looming, could ill afford to waste more than five of the crucial sixty minutes between 10 and 11 a.m.’

“The book is a fine primer on how to take a massive number of facts and weave them into a compelling narrative of corruption, on deadline. Cotton writes his story in Chapter 21. He wants to know ‘Who’s getting screwed?’ (the public, usually). His friend in state government worries about the ‘rabbits,’ the lesser state employees who get caught up in the larger story, their lives ruined. He has a cute nod to the last line of ‘The Front Page’: ‘The old son-of-a-bitch stole my gun.’ (It comes toward the end, as Cotton becomes a bystander to a spectacular crime designed to rob his story of major play.)

“One more nugget from Hillerman’s novel:

“Reporters playing poker, trading remembered ledes: ‘”I once wrote that the Southern Methodist passing attack, like sweet corn, traveled poorly, losing flavor with each mile from the Cotton Bowl corn patch. And it got past the desk.” Kendall’s expression changed from morose to merely grim with the remembered triumph. “Stole that one from A.J. Liebling,” he said. “Deal the cards. It’s like playing with a bunch of Brownies.”‘

“Here’s the original, from the opening sentences of Liebling’s ‘The Earl of Louisiana’ (1960): ‘Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas — stale and unprofitable. The consumer forgets that the corn tastes different where it grows.'”

Everyone’s a copy editor

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Sharing is one thing, but . . .

“An article on Page E5 in the January 2 edition of the STrib focuses on a man from Massachusetts who won a million-dollar lottery, on a ticket he received from a friend. This is an excerpt from the article: ‘Other than paying off some bills, he (Alexander McLeish) said he hasn’t made many other plans with his new riches. He said he intends to give the friend who bought the ticket “a little bit” of the prize money, in addition to his two adult sons.’

“I wonder how the sons feel about that.”

Fellow travelers

The Astronomer of Nininger: “It was the summer of 1994 or 1995, when the Bosnian genocide was taking place under Slobodan Milošević. NATO forces attempted to impose  stability on the region. The Good Wife and I joined her brother, sister and their spouses on a sailing flotilla in the Ionian Sea off of western Greece. It was exciting to sail there that summer. We had gone on a number of sailing adventures in the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands, but Greece was (for us) a quantum level above the others. We joined a flotilla, sailing on our own but arriving at some specified mooring places on most of the days. We were the only American (Yankee) sailors; the others were Brits — good sailing mates and fun, too.

“We flew into Athens and drove a rental van to the western coast of Greece. Before we could sail, we had to take on provisions for the extended sailing trip. Stopping at a roadside general store, we filled a couple of grocery carts with a week’s supply of food for six Yankee sailors. The people were friendly enough, and it was there that the Good Wife was introduced, unknowingly, to the intoxicating powers and strong taste of Ouzo. She was thirsty, and the store operators offered her a drinking glass full of Ouzo. Since Ouzo is a clear liquid, she thought the glass contained water. With a smile on her face, she gulped down the glassful of that Greek, anise-flavored beverage. Then her eyeballs, getting as big as silver dollars, showed surprise, and the rest of her face said: ‘What did I just do?’ The rest of us just laughed, knowing full well what had happened. To this day, she is a little more careful about what she drinks.

“The rest of us had sampled Ouzo the night before, when we had gotten involved in Sirtaki, a Greek dance where you fold your arms and dance from a squatting position. We could not do it as well as the locals, but we certainly had as much fun as they did. Watching us fall over was certainly entertaining for them. Everyone had a good time. We found out, too, what a few Greek words meant. I was familiar with the Greek alphabet and actually could read combinations of Greek letters that formed words. When we were looking for a restaurant, we figured all we had to do was follow whatever street we were on back to our hotel. Omicron, Delta, Omicron, Sigma. That was simple enough. It formed a word ‘Odos.’ It turned out that word meant ‘street,’ so every street sign said ‘Odos.’ Oh my! It didn’t take long to get lost.

“We left the harbor on a westerly course. I am known for always bringing along my fishing gear, and it didn’t take long before I brought in a mackerel. After cleaning it and storing it with our refrigerated provisions, I let my line out again. Because we were a crew of three couples, our sailboat was larger (45 feet) and was equipped with a bigger engine. So we motored at a faster speed as well. As we passed Pilaros, one of the other sailboats in our flotilla, my line suddenly pulled out, and it felt like I had hooked a really big fish. Indeed, it was big: a 32-foot sailboat! It was going nowhere.

“My brother-in-laws Bill and John and I swam to the boat with crude tools, but were unable to free the prop from the fishing line. I did manage to cut my fishing lure from the tangled mess of nylon line twisted around the prop. That made sure it could not turn. Eventually Nereus, the ship of the lead crew, came to the rescue. We sailed on, and Pilaros was sailing strong within the hour. We gave them a bottle of fine wine as a token of our sincere apologies for the problems we had caused.

“We were cruising out the harbor, doing two and seven four

“We just caught a mackerel and were looking out for more.

“My reel started humming, I went to set the hook.

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday — we just caught Pilaros.

“Why, come and take a look!

“Our flotilla was staffed by a crew of college-age sailors who had sailed these seas dozens of times before. They suggested where we should end up each evening, except for two nights when we were totally on our own. They were there not to babysit us but to provide assistance if needed. We were in radio contact, so we were never really alone.

“Their sailboat was named Nereus. In Greek mythology, Nereus was known as the ‘old man of the sea.’

“Ben was most experienced; he knew his way around. He was a mature young man, and we all had confidence in him. He was the skipper of the entire flotilla.

“Bella was our hostess. She provided guidance as needed, planned out our week, led games and sing-alongs, and knew just about everyone in the flotilla. She was a seaworthy woman, salty, and usually had a bonfire on the beach ready for us when we got there. I suspect she could match anyone with hardy nautical language and drink us all under the table.

“Andy was a capable mechanic. He knew the nautical equipment systems in and out. He could fix mechanical and electronic problems as well. We had confidence knowing he was just a radio call away.

“Circumstances made it possible for us to interact with other crews of the flotilla when we would meet on the beach after a day of sailing, swimming, snorkeling, touring, shopping and tasting Greek food. We really got hooked on Greek salads and still love them, infused with all of those vine-fresh tomatoes.

“One independent night, we moored in a small cove off of Ithaca. We were somewhat isolated, but suddenly a small boat motored nearby, cast its anchor and rowed a dinghy to the beach. I noticed that two men went up a trail on the mountainside until they were out of sight. A little later they came back, lugging a jug with them. They returned to their boat and motored away. Now, why would someone do that? My brother-in-law John, who owned his own 45-foot sailboat back on Great Bahama Island, and I decided to check this out. I had kept eye on where that trail zig-zagged up the hill, starting from the beach. Bill and our wives stayed on board. It was an arduous trek, but John and I took it in stride, since we wanted to see what was up there. We continued upward for about 20 minutes and saw a small sign that said ‘Arethusa’s Krini.’ Obviously none of us knew anything about Arethusa or her ‘Krini.’ We got to a rocky ledge, and a cave entrance was just visible. Once we arrived, another sign identified it as ‘Arethusa’s Krini.’ Researching this on return home, I found that Arethusa was supposedly a nymph, the daughter of Nereus. The actual spring is located below the plateau of Marathias. Locals call it ‘Pera Pigadi,’ but the Homeric name is ‘Arethusa’s Krini.’ The rock where the well is found is called the ‘Stone of Korakas.’ I could tell that this water was special. I don’t know what it is supposed to do for you, but I had a hearty drink of it. John declined.

“Going downhill was much easier than our ascent to the well. As we hit the beach, a flight of what looked to be F-16s flew nearby, reminding us that while people are reveling on their vacations, what was going on in Kosovo was really happening. They were likely U.S. fighter jets, as part of a NATO effort to restore peace and justice to this part of the world.

“Our lead crew was outstanding; you could tell by what they knew.

“First was Ben, the Skipper, the leader of the crew.

“Bella was our Hostess. She really was the ‘mostess.’

“Andy, he was handy —

“Why, he fixed Pilarosscrew!

“This was an exciting sailing adventure with our family: the Good Wife and her brother and sister and their spouses. I don’t know if I ever was on a trip with better weather. We were indeed blessed.

“One of the neatest towns along the beaches was Nydri on the island of Nefkada. It was extremely quaint. Jackie Onassis is said to have loved shopping there. One thing we typically did was to moor by small towns and have lunch; sometimes dinner in town, instead of cooking in the galley. Oh, did we learn to like lamb chops? They were terrific, of course, served with a Greek salad and either Ouzo or wine with dinner. One can acquire a taste for Ouzo.

“Just east of Nefkada was Skorpios, the private island of Aristotle Onassis. Without much ado, the Good Wife and her sister, Idamae, swam to the beach of that island just because they wanted to say that they did. Well, they did. When I saw several Utes, most likely with armed guards, heading towards them, they did rather quickly depart the beach — but mission accomplished. It was a very secure, private island.

“We did see one nudist beach. Besides fighting over the binoculars, there was not much to report. Things are just a little different there than they are back home.

“We had a great time swimming, snorkeling, fishing and just enjoying each other’s company. The Greek people were really nice, friendly and always willing to help out. I did not catch a lot of fish, but we ate a lot of seafood and Greek food.

“You can have a good time almost anywhere, if you relax and enjoy the other people and their culture. We have more in common with our global neighbors than we have differences. If we respect others for who they are, then maybe the political problems would not develop as they do.

“We sailed the Grecian Islands, we went most Everywhere:

“Nydri, Vathi, Xanthi, most anywhere you’d care.

“Our flotilla was just super; we had a real good time.

“That is why we made up

“this silly-sounding rhyme!”

Vanity, thy name is . . .

Donald: “A Minnesota plate on a Forester: ‘B4IDIE.'”

Now & Then

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Young-Old.

“Tonight in a grocery store, I struck up a conversation with a boy and his dad. Then the boy announced that he had a question: Am I young-old, or old-old. I told him I am young-old, because I am in my early 70s. I’m not sure I satisfied his quest for knowledge; he seemed to be a deep thinker.

“But I have to add that I used to be too helpful sometimes toward older people. Now that I am on the receiving end of unneeded assistance, I am more careful about offering it.”

Live and learn (responsorial)

A.J. of West St. Paul: “Linden is not only synonymous to Basswood; it is also German in origin. In our country school, Geography was considered an important subject because it exposed us to all of that human activity and those earth features that were foreign to us. Among a myriad of other things, we learned of Unter den Linden street in Berlin. And on one of our trips over there, we walked under those Lindens. But then, I guess there isn’t much in the English language that is ‘English.’ Most of it came from somewhere else.”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’n’ the other

Al B of Hartland: (1) “I sat at a table with friends. As we ate breakfast, I noticed I had an elbow on the table, one man wore a hat and another looked at his cellphone. I wondered what my mother would have said. ‘No elbows on the table.’ ‘Take off that hat!’ ‘What in the world is that thing you’re looking at?’”

(2) “The feeders were bustling. ‘You eat like a bird,’ an aunt was fond of telling me when I picked at my food when I was a boy. I was trying to locate and disarm anything that might have been good for me. But I didn’t eat like a bird. A chickadee may eat 35 percent of its weight in food each day, and a blue jay might eat 10 percent of its weight. Generally, the smaller the bird, the greater percentage of its body weight is its daily food intake. They need more calories in cold weather.”

(3) “A fox squirrel found its way to the roof of our house. It began running laps and sounded like something between an immense buffalo herd and wingtip shoes in the dryer.”

(4) “I watched through my binoculars as a crow flew down to a rural road and picked up a McDonald’s bag and flew away with it. I hoped it was a gift-wrapped French fry.”

(5) “I was on stage at a storytelling festival far from home when an audience member asked how I’d become a storyteller. I told her the story of a neighbor’s barn fire that occurred during my boyhood. The frightened cattle scattered. One male calf was found 30 miles away. I learned a little bull goes a long way.”

Band Name of the Day: Deal the Cards — or: The Old-Olds

Website of the Day, recommended by Rutabaga55: One amazing insect

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