How much will you give for these United States of America?

Then & Now
Finders/Keepers Division

KH of White Bear Lake reports: “Subject: Those Were The Days (These Are The Days).

“You never know what you’ll come across when you start going through old things in the basement. Most of it turns out to be overdue for tossing, but occasionally you come across something that catches your eye.

“Recently I came across this essay written by a Wisconsin farm girl in the late ’60s. There is enough evidence to indicate it was written for her ninth-grade English class. In the interest of full disclosure, this beautiful girl became my wife, and I’ve had the absolute privilege of being witness to, and object of, her humble generosity for more than 40 years. Following is her essay:

“‘”So let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing, knowing that here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”

“‘This statement, that was given by President John F. Kennedy at the time of his inaugural address, is probably an answer to the problems of the United States today.

“‘Some day soon we may see a sign like this in your paper: For Sale — One United States of America. Going out of business; I am tired.

“‘Will someone give me one thousand dollars for America? Oh yes, I see a hand. It is the greatest land of all. With this price, you get fifty states to do with whatever you like. You get all the beauty of the mountains to look on whenever you want. You can have all the fish in the ocean, birds in the sky, and animals on the earth. Will someone give me one million dollars? Oh yes, I see a hand.

“‘If you buy this land, you can have all the freedom which the United States has, all the heritage of its past and hopes of the future. You get all the industries, wealth, and minerals. Everything the United States has, you can have. Will someone give me one billion dollars? Oh yes, I see a hand.

“‘With this United States comes all the people of various ancestry from many lands. You get the poor and the rich, educated and illiterate, skilled and unskilled, black and white. You get all the problems of this troubled land. You get the problems of feeding, clothing, and educating its people. Once you buy this land you have the problem of governing and guiding everyone on the right path. Will someone give me two billion dollars? One billion? One half-billion? Oh yes, I see a hand.

“‘With this land, you get the problem of riots, and black power against white power. You get the broken cities and all its poverty. Will someone give me one million dollars? One thousand dollars? One hundred dollars? Oh yes, I see a hand.

“‘With this land you can have the burden of the growing and unpopular war which the youth fear. So now make up your mind; Do you want to buy the USA? Look at all you get. You can have the greatest, richest, freest, nation in the world facing a broken, upset, and shaky future. Will someone give me one billion dollars? One thousand dollars? Fifty dollars? Five dollars? Does anyone have two cents?'”

Life (and death) as we know it

Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: A little girl muttering ‘Nightmare nightmare.’

“Video recently emerged of Amelia Anisovych, a beautiful 7-year-old girl, singing in an underground bunker in war-torn Ukraine, to cheer people up. Later she appeared in a theater in Poland to sing the Ukrainian national anthem for her people. As she walked out onstage, she muttered ‘Nightmare nightmare’ to steel herself for the performance.

“There is a saying that courage is not created through adversity; it is revealed. May we all face life with even a fraction of her spirit.”

What’s in a (combination) name?

Zoo Lou of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Unholy Marriage.

“What do you get when you cross a vile, manipulative ‘mad monk’ who held sway with the court of Tsar Nicholas II, and a modern, cold-blooded warmonger currently wreaking death and destruction on a neighbor? RasPutin! That name, which means ‘debauched one’ or ‘ill-mannered child’ in Russian, is a perfect description of this unholy marriage.

“To paraphrase an old adage: Vultures of a feather flock together.”

What’s in a (town) name?

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills writes: “Subject: Calling Robert Browning!

“Today’s mail included a request for a donation from a charity located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. An interesting choice for a town in Appalachia.”

What’s in a name?
Come Again? Division

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Loved this post on Twitter:

“‘My 8 yo daughter met a girl at summer camp last year named “Internet.” I said no way, that can’t be her name but my daughter has been adamant. For almost a year we’ve been having this discussion.

“‘ANTOINETTE. I just found out her name is Antoinette.’

“I shared my story of the F-Bomb, now 15.

“My son came home from kindergarten and said he had a new friend named ‘Alenxander.’ My son had some trouble with speech, so I corrected him all fall: ‘Look at Mummy’s lips: It’s ALEX-ANDER.’

“He just kept saying ‘Alenxander.’

“When he brought the class list home in preparation for Valentine’s Day, I discovered he was right all along.”

Till death us do part

An entry in the Permanent Spousal Record at the home of Rusty of St. Paul: “My wife has many admirable skills, but cooking is not one of them. She is from a family of 10, so the cooking she learned was quantity over quality. Plus: There were four boys, so it was a sprint to finish firsts to get seconds — if there were any.

“My mother was an adventurous cook, a gourmet before that was common. I enjoy cooking, watching cooking shows, reading recipes and trying them.

“When the chef does get a night off, we eat the wife’s glop casserole, gloppy Joes, or takeout (!). My utensil of choice is a large soup spoon, so when I get served a plop of glop from a can and heat-n-eat glop from a box, I mix them together on the plate in hopes that the sum will taste better than its parts. If not, then I keep stirring them around in a circle in hopes that somehow they will go away.

“I like to cook, but I don’t like doing dishes very well. The other day I took a turn, was washing rapidly and stabbed my finger with a steak knife. The skin break was minimal, but as I am on blood thinners, a wee squeeze of my wet finger made it look like it was hanging from a tendon at the last joint.

“I rushed into her sewing room and showed her the dangle. ‘Good Lord!’ she said. ‘Do you need help!?’

“‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘I think it will be OK with some direct pressure, but I don’t think I’ll be able to finish the dishes or do them for the next week.’

“P.S.: Today I cut myself shaving and bled enough where it looked like I might need a face transplant. I thought I had it stopped, but later my wife noticed my face was still bleeding. I told her I couldn’t possibly do any dishes for a week.”

Could be verse!

Writes Tim Torkildson:

“Marriage is a blissful state.

“It never can grow stale

“when the husband knows he’s got

“a tiger by the tail!”

Plus: Hmmmmmmmm

Grandma Paula reports: “Subject: First puzzle of 2022.

“I did not get around to starting this colorful puzzle of tropical fish until the end of February. It was only a 550-piece puzzle, so I was able to finish it last night, March 15th. I couldn’t sleep, so I worked on it until the wee hours of the night.

“There was an almost-full moon last night, so that explains my being wide awake until after 1 a.m. I have a hard time falling asleep for a couple of nights when the moon reaches this stage— full or almost full. I don’t know why. Maybe somebody out there in BB land can explain how the moon affects us humans.”

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (Scrabble Corollary)

Bob Woolley, checking in: “I refer you to this excellent story in Slate, in which a Scrabble player learns an obscure new word — BUSHVELD — one evening, then the next day happens to get the exact combination of tiles needed to use it in a tournament.”

Mixed messages
Emoji Division

Jim Fitzsimons of St. Paul: “There’s a parking ramp in downtown Minneapolis that gives me a message after I feed my paid ticket into the device that allows me to exit.

“The screen on the device tells me to drive safely, but I’m not sure it means it.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “Subject: Five end-of-season snow photos. [Bulletin Board interjects: From your keyboard to God’s inbox!]

“As March progresses, I’ve been watching the snow-melt process — and some things made me wonder. On our rear deck, there were these five clumps of snow
all in a row and so isolated. I wondered how this came to be. I assume the railing to the right blocked the sun to help cause this, but what happened to the rest of the snow then?

“And I noticed how the area near the spruce and fir trees was so free of snow already. It’s an area pretty protected from the sun.

“Things were cracking up on the west edge of the back yard.

“And I noticed how there was a nice icy patch running diagonally across the yard. I assume it was caused by the cold ground underneath. This is part of the ‘heat field’ where we take the heat out of the ground with a circulating fluid and then remove the heat from the fluid to warm the house with our geothermal heating and cooling system.

“There was one small ‘pond’ that caught sky and tree reflections to notice. Seeing up by looking down.”

Next, The Bicycle Babe of the Midway: “Subject: It’s official! Spring is Here!

“For many folks, spring’s arrival is marked by the sighting of the first American robin, or the first day when the thermometer reading is above 50 degrees.

“For us, spring officially arrived at 11 a.m.on Saturday, March 12. That’s when Conny’s Creamy Cone opened for the season. As is our custom, we arrived around 90 minutes in advance to be sure to be first in line. We have managed to be the first customers of the season for 10 years in a row, and the crew at Conny’s is always happy to see us.”

The Grand Duchess of Grand Avenue: “Subject: Spring signs!

“While some may view their first sightings of robins (some of whom we know winter over) as a sure sign of spring, I spotted a couple others that I see as also hopeful spring has finally sprung: Yesterday I spotted (1) a walker wearing flip-flops and white shorts and (2) a convertible with top down driving down Grand ahead of me!

“Yah for spring!”

Hmmmmmmmm (responsorial)

In the most recent post at, we heard from Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Subject: Where in the World was Aunt Hazel?

“One hundred years ago, in the southern Minnesota town of Blue Earth, my Aunt Hazel made a choice. She had finished Normal School and could have taught in a country school like her sister Helen. Instead, she chose to go to Chicago and work in a bank. She was in her 20s during those Roaring Twenties, after all.

“Some years later she moved to St. Paul, where other members of the family lived. When I was young, I loved to listen to her stories. She told me about her childhood, about famous horses, and about her apartment in Chicago.

“Now, as I go through her old photo albums, it occurs to me that perhaps, just perhaps, I did not hear all of her stories. For instance: Why were many of the photos labeled Florida, California, and Colorado? What kind of a car was she driving, and where was the glamour portrait taken?”

We presently heard from The Old Dad: “Hazel’s car is a Packard, I’m pretty sure. It was the luxury car of the 1920s. The company’s motto was: ‘Ask the man who owns one.'”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other

First, Gramma Shan: “Three random recollections I have tonight after watching a movie about World War II:

“My father-in-law would never go camping, after World War II in the Pacific. His words: ‘I had enough sleeping in the open in tents in the war.’

“My dad came home from the Pacific war and would wake up in the night with my mom and walk on furniture to get to the bathroom. In the Pacific war, there were always critters on the floor of their tent and it took him some time to get past that.

“My husband, Jimmy, hated being in the rain after Vietnam. The monsoons there were so awful that they ruined the rains for him back home.

“War has so many repercussions that we can’t imagine. I love these men, and it makes me sad how the war changed them.”

And now Smilin’ Sue: “Subject: Miscellaneous fun.

“Sign outside a small-town Wisconsin gas station reads: ‘Beer is cheaper than gas.’

“Granddaughter LL was prompted by Grandma to enter a local radio-station contest called Cabin Fever. Top prize is a leather recliner, which we both think would be super-cool. So she called in and screamed loud enough that I’m sure the people in the next county heard it, and she topped it off with a sigh of relief, saying: ‘That felt so good!’

“Another radio story with LL: One morning the radio guys were chit-chatting about what people have in their junk drawers. Miss LL seemed quite interested, as she has been a perpetual ‘digger’ since toddler days. Recently I came home to find my junk-drawer contents neatly displayed on the kitchen counter. (Where was her babysitter?) Anyways, when I asked what was going on, she said she was looking for the birthday candles that had been mentioned on the radio.
When my sister heard this story, she mentioned that the junk drawer in her church kitchen is labeled neatly: ‘Anybody’s guess!!'”

Penny foolish
Or: A nickel here and a nickel there, and pretty soon you’re talking about a dime!

Jimbo of Inver Grove Heights reports: “I had a large financial gain today.

“I was due to take the ’55 Alive’ senior refresher driving class. The cost of the class was $24, but I took it online, and the price was only $23.95!

“That should help me pay for the large increase in the price of gasoline.”

Radio Days (cont.)

Another mini-memoir from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “In addition to the music we played all day, our radio station was heavy into religious programming, so our Program Director had to schmooze a lot of preachers for accounts.

“One memorable day, he had some time on his hands while he was waiting for a 2 o’clock appointment with a Man of the Cloth. He and another announcer, my brother-in-law, were both victims of stage mothers and had spent their childhood performing on stage, so with our smiling receptionist as an appreciative audience, they were entertaining her with some old vaudeville tap routines. With their hats slouched down over their ears and pants legs rolled up to show their hairy legs, they were hoofing away when the realization dawned on them that the receptionist was no longer laughing. She was rolling her eyes — gesturing frantically for them to take a quick exit. Show-biz performers always, they judiciously kept their backs to the windowed entry and ‘Shuffled Off to Buffalo’ stage left as they heard her say: ‘Good afternoon, Reverend! My, you are nice and EARLY for your appointment, aren’t you? I will page the Program Director for you.'”

In memoriam (cont.)

Twitty of Como: “Subject: Wait-wait-wait!

“First of all: Thank you for printing the memoriam for my friend Marcus Dierson. He deserved to have something written about him, even if against his spoken wish. However, the missive was unfinished.

“Thanks to my clumsy big fingers and my general computer-skill ineptness, I sent it in error that day. I hadn’t intended to hit ‘send.’ I apologize to Marc and to all who read it and thought it oddly abbreviated. It was.

“To continue:

“Marcus suffered health issues in recent years and resignedly took all his nourishment through a tube. I’m not sure he’d appreciate my ‘spilling the beans’ this way, but them’s the facts. He used a walker until weakness overtook him and he couldn’t anymore. But through those last years, his faithful life partner, Toni, drove him to all of our weekly cribbage games and anywhere else they needed to go, and took care of his needs at home as well — until she couldn’t anymore.

“In 2018 he went to live in a nursing home. I had health issues of my own about that time and couldn’t immediately visit. Living in a nursing home wasn’t the way he’d planned to ‘go out’ — a conversation he and I had had numerous times. What is it they say about the best-laid plans? In January of 2019, I visited him there just once before the pandemic hit, then nothing for two years.

“No visitors allowed.

“Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I was able to email him regularly, and did. In our frequent (often daily and sometimes multiple daily) email exchanges, we discussed economics, politics of the day, Twins and Vikings teams and games, and general life issues. He followed it all avidly — even the Wild and the Wolves — and held strong opinions about players and coaches!

“That’s how we made it through the pandemic. That’s also, near the end, how I knew something was wrong. His emails grew more and more brief, then stopped coming in late February. Nothing. I gave it a week, thinking another glitch in his Internet service may have occurred. But I worried. I made phone calls. Found out through the nursing-home staff that he’d been taken to a hospital — but no further information. I called and texted his life partner and called mutual friends as well. Finally his life partner got back to me; he’d gotten an infection. The hospital put him on antibiotics for a week or so, and he was showing improvement. She thought he’d be discharged in a day or so, back to the nursing home. But he wasn’t. They kept him for another week. He finally got back to the nursing home, only to die that evening.

“It was a sad and stunning end to a life that had more than its share of turmoil, but a life led in a way that looked for and often found hope and joy in surprising places.

“I still want to send him email, just to get his responses. Marcus, you are missed dearly.”

The Permanent Family Record

DeAnne Cherry of Woodbury: “As a family historian, I have written many stories about the past. I also frame some of the pictures, from our stories, to hang in my house.

“In 1937, five years before ‘Casablanca’ and the gin joints, I have a story of my parents’ meeting in a beer joint.

“My mother, Melvina Sobkowiak, worked in the sandpaper division at the Mining, later named 3M. On a hot July day in 1937, Melvina and her friend stopped at Heinie’s bar at Arcade and Case, in St. Paul, for a nickel beer. The first time my dad, Gene Borndale, saw her, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Gene is standing behind the bar on the left in the picture. When she stopped in a week later, Gene asked Melvina for a date. The rest is a beautiful story of romance long ago. They were married on November 26, 1937.”

Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?

Bill of the river lake: “Subject: What she said?

“The other day I was talking by phone with a relative about a recent death of a mutual acquaintance. We were discussing the various legalities and challenges that survivors may have regarding the wide variety of economic details that would have to be attended to.

“My relative stated that the survivor had to be a good ‘executioner’ to perform
their duties thoroughly.

“‘What?’ I responded. ‘Don’t you mean “executor”?’

“‘Oh, yes!’

“Words really do have meaning.”

Life as we know it
Al B Division

All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “I’ve learned:

“Halitosis is better than no breath at all.

“I don’t like all kinds of music, but I like people who like all kinds of music.

“If I get up earlier, I can take a longer nap.”

(2) “The red veins of spring are evident, particularly on south-facing slopes where the red colors of shrubs brighten and become more vibrant this time of the year. Deer find the twigs of red-osier dogwood fine eating. The plants (also known as red-twig dogwood and redbrush) are eye-catching.”

(3) “‘Whatever’ would make a great name for a restaurant if it’s not already the name of a restaurant. What couple hasn’t had a conversation including the following collection of words? Where do you want to eat? I don’t care. Pick a place. Whatever.”

(4) “Crows relish their positions as prime annoyers. They were bothering something in the yard. The blue jays assumed the position of assistant annoyers. Crows are omnivores and will eat anything I’d eat plus most things I wouldn’t eat.”

Our horses, ourselves (cont.)

The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Saga of Big River — IV.

“A number of horses made lasting impressions on me. ‘Cosmo’ came to me when his owner, Amy, could not keep him anymore. She was an extremely nice horse owner, but because of her growing family she and her husband thought it would be better for Cosmo to let him go. I knew he was blind in one eye, but truthfully, he followed pressure cues from my legs and was a very comfortable riding horse. Most people might not even notice his vision problems.

“He eventually went to Michelle and Chris, who gave him all the love he needed. Chris was an expert carpenter who helped me build stairs, 114 of them, down to the river. He knew what he was doing and made it look simple.

“Chris actually introduced Cosmo into being a ‘cow horse,’ and he enjoyed rounding up cattle, even if they were just milking cows. Amy was glad to hear that Cosmo was not neglected.

“Pat and Ashleigh came to Big River when their previous boarding stable closed. Pat said she wanted to come to our barn because I reminded her of her father. I am glad they came because they were always willing to help out.

“Pat’s horse was named Chance. Her husband had a classic Corvette, and they had agreed that when their children were old enough, it would be time for Pat’s dream. Chance was that dream, and she lives it well.

“Ashleigh was a more experienced horse rider, and Pat went with her to South Dakota with their horses. Pat’s husband, Dave, had a Chevy pickup that they used to tow Ashleigh’s trailer. Just before they left, I slipped in a bottle of a sweetened bourbon liquor, and they had a good time. Weather prevented them from riding as much as they had hoped, but it proved that two determined women can do anything.

“There were a lot of other horses and their owners through the years. They brought interesting horses, mostly quarter-horses and a few paints. All of them made friends with me pretty quick because they knew who fed them. We never had more than 10 horses, but every one of them could know me by my scent. They would feel my breath, and I could detect theirs, which were warm and gentle. They would not blow on me, just exhale softly, more like they thought I could smell them. Three or four would come up to me, heads over the top rail of the gate. Then Knight and Nate would come and push their way between the others. After all, since they were our horses, they owned the place.”

Band Name of the Day: Glop Casserole — or: The Assistant Annoyers

Website of the Day:

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