The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Rusty of St. Paul: “My daughter’s friend’s mother-in-law died recently. There was an open-casket wake for her.
“This was her friend’s 8-year-old son’s first encounter with a deceased person. He viewed his grandmother’s body in the casket, turned to his mother and said: ‘Mom! You said Grandma was GONE! She’s right here!’
“Of course there were surrounding snickers.”
It happens every Fall!
Rusty of St. Paul also reports: “Every year in November, I need to run the gas out of my lawn mower for winter storage. And every year, I subscribe to Murphy’s Law for how long it will take for the machine to shut off. I’m thinking ‘A short time,’ and Murphy just chuckles.
“This year, and I’m sure most past years in October when cutting the grass, I gassed up the mower with a minimal amount of fuel, so in November I wouldn’t have so much gas to burn off for winter storage.
“Today is November 4th. I wish to winterize the mower, and I need to cut my grass to the low winter length to ward off snow mold — plus, I want to mulch some leaves still falling from my maple to amend the lawn. I lower the blade to the B setting. I look into the tank to see how much October gas is left. I can see the bottom of the tank through a thin layer of gas, so it appears to be just enough for one pass of the lawn before the machine craps out.
“I push the mower and run, hurry, run to get the lawn cut, but once I’m done . . . the mower is still going. And going. And going. Just like the last 30 end-of-seasons. I tie a piece of twine to the baler to keep the machine running while I excuse myself and engage early in my end-of-work-cycle martini.
“I alert the wife that I will need her help to spot the mower, once the tank is dry, when I tip it to drain the oil.
“She is watching the ‘News Hour’ and periodically asks: ‘Are you ready?’ I am not. And not. And not.
“It’s like the Loaves and Fishes gas.”
Our theater of seasons
Grandma Paula: “Subject: Fall colors.
“I went on a short drive around Osceola, Wisconsin, on October 3. The colors were stunning.”
Keeping your eyes open
Mounds View Swede: “During a random drive down a street in Mounds View I had never driven on before, I came across the most elaborate Halloween displays I have ever seen.
“I was amazed at the creativity that went into making such a scene and all the things that must be saved and stored if used from year to year
“The play on words was fun!
“This scene is more my speed as I age.
“There were two pieces of Halloween ‘art’ on display, too.
“I found this variation the most amusing. My congratulations to the creators of this scene!”
October 25 email from Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Remembering Will and Paul.
“Today we’re reminded of the crash, 20 years ago, of the plane carrying eight souls, including Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. I was unemployed and crying as I watched the news, so I joined the mourners at the State Capitol. I described it for the Bulletin Board at the time, but what I remember most is the total silence, in a crowd full of politicians, and watching one spiritual leader after another say prayers — starting with the Orthodox Jewish rabbi who had to be home by sunset if he did not want to walk there, and including an indigenous man who prayed to the four points of the compass as a man in the crowd joined in, plus, a Methodist minister who made us laugh when he said Paul would have hated to see us all so sad.
“Days later I stood in line for hours to get into the public memorial service. Once inside we waited some more; I had made sure to bring books. There was expensive food available from a small food stand, but I skipped it. When I mentioned this later, a relative was shocked that food was sold. I pointed out that some folks raced straight from work to get there. Food wasn’t so easy and portable, back then.
“Finally, the memorial started and speakers addressed individuals who were lost. My favorite was about Will McLaughlin, the young man who drove Paul around — and encouraged Paul to wave to supporters through windows so dark that the supporters could not see Paul inside. (Will was once so frustrated with Paul that Paul threatened to build a cardboard wall between the two of them, so this might have been revenge.) I wish I had met Will.
“Unfortunately, one talk turned to politics. Before the memorial started, the woman next to me gasped when some people booed Republican Trent Lott. I hadn’t noticed the booing, and I wasn’t sure who Lott was, so I ignored it. In the end, a close supporter made his words about Paul political and encouraged us to vote for Walter Mondale to replace Paul as senator. I had come for stories rather than a political rally, so I hated this. Ultimately the memorial service had a huge, lasting effect on national politics, and Walter Mondale was not elected as our senator.
“An article in the St. Paul paper critiqued the memorial, saying that the talk about Will McLaughlin epitomized what such an event calls for — and the other talk did not. I agree. When we suffer a loss, stories help us treasure what we once had, and remember to keep on keeping on.”
The Permanent Sisterly Record
Including: Live and learn (responsorial)
Dragonslayer of Oakdale: “Subject: BB-inspired memories.
“Zoo Lou‘s story of squirt guns and St. Pascal’s grade school brought back memories.
‘I, too, attended St. Pascal’s grade school, starting in 1950. I entered the fifth grade, in the newly opened grade school.
“The fifth and sixth grades shared the same nun, Sister Alice Gertrude. I was fortunate to have her as my teacher for the four years I attended, until my graduation from eighth grade. Sister Alice Gertrude was one of the most influential people in my life. She seemed to like the boys, as they could get away with more than the girls could.
“Raasch’s store played a role in my time at St. Pascal’s. I think of the Yo-Yo salesman demonstrating Yo-Yos outside the store. A youthful fad at the time. I do not remember how it was accomplished, but I got one; being the good boy I was, it was acquired honestly. Later in life, my woodworking hobby brought me to making Yo-Yos for my grandkids.
“Sister Alice Gertrude’s influence spanned a wide array of memories. Occasionally she’d have to leave the room. On her way out, her comment to us, to ensure decorum while she was gone, was: ‘Empty cans make the most noise.’ She would regale us with stories of her family — namely her sister, who once told Sister Alice Gertrude: ‘My vocabulary is too copious for your diminutive comprehension.’ She also had music-appreciation time in class, fostering my interest in classical music — namely chamber music and Baroque music.
“Funny how memories are triggered by casual encounters. I sometimes have things come out of my mouth that haven’t seen use in decades. As for Yo-Yos: I still have one, but it has been relegated to a dusty shelf.”
Dept. of Neat Stuff . . . St. Paul Tchotchkes Division
Dept. of Neat Stuff specialist Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “I’m not a big fan of knickknacks, doodads, gewgaws, baubles and other similar items that serve no useful purpose. They just sit around on shelves and collect dust. However, I do make an exception for such items that are somehow related to St. Paul and fit into my totally random definition of Neat Stuff. I call them tchotchkes, which is just another name for the same sort of items, because I like the sound of the word.
“This particular tchotchke appears to be Atlas, or maybe some other random strong guy, carrying the world on his back. It looks impressive in photos, but looks are deceiving. It is actually only 3 inches tall and weighs 1.5 ounces, so it wouldn’t even make a decent paperweight. As usual, I found it on eBay, where it proved to be slightly less than priceless, costing me only $6.50 after waiting seven days for the end of an auction where there were no other bidders. As is often true for the treasures I purchase online, shipping cost more than the item itself.
“Of course what makes it Neat Stuff is that printed on the globe are the words ‘St. Paul Book & Stationery Co., St. Paul, Minn,’ a company which had a long history in St. Paul dating back to 1851. I assume this was a promotional item, because the globe was probably never a good educational tool even when it was current. The base of the tchotchke is made of metal, and the thin metal globe is glued onto the poor guy’s back. It was made in Germany. That’s all I know about it.
“However, I can take a guess at when it was made by looking at the globe and noting some of the countries it includes, such as: the British Dominion of Canada, the Turkish Empire, Persia, Arabia, Siberia and the separate Russian Empire. My guess is that it was manufactured prior to World War I, when America was still doing business with Germany.
“Here is a bonus J of J: I have a postal scale that I bought decades ago. When I got it out to weigh this tchotchke, I noticed the box had a price sticker from, you guessed it, St. Paul Book & Stationery. Not surprisingly, the scale cost more than the tchotchke being weighed.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: The high cost of aggravation!
“Are you getting upset about the tons of junk mail you’re getting at election time?
“It helps me (a little) to think about all the income it generates and how many people it employs. For a glossy, four-color brochure of that smiling office-seeking prospect and their darling family to get in your hand (even momentarily) requires an enormous purchase of people, products and service. Research fees for targeting prospective recipients. Hiring PR firms, along with their copywriters. Add in the cost of paper, ink, photographers and printing. Now they must hire mass-mailing contractors and add in the cost of direct-delivery postage and handlers. Then, even after we throw it away without reading, it is picked up by waste haulers (who are constantly buying and maintaining expensive new trucks) and processed by recyclers into new paper to start the economic merry-go-round all over again.
“I still get a little upset about it, though — at election time, especially. LOL.”
The vision thing
Including: CAUTION! Words at Play!
Dennis from Eagan writes: “Subject: God is my co-PILOT.
“Is my local church advertising for HONDA now?”
Where we live
The Happy Medium: “Subject: Only in Fly-Over Country.
“A few weeks ago, I stopped at the Tin Shed restaurant in Frederic, Wisconsin, to have lunch with my college roommate. The tables were all occupied except for one long table next to a window. I took a place at the end of it and waited for my friend to arrive.
“I always have a book with me, so I took it out and began to read. When I looked up, two gentlemen sat down at the end of my table. One said: ‘Is it OK if we join you?’ I smiled and said: ‘Of course. The chairs were saved especially for you.’ (I think my white hair told them I would do them no harm, so they felt safe.) One fellow did say that there were five others who would be joining them. I assured them that by then I could find another table. They said I didn’t have to move. So I stayed and continued reading.
“Then came the other five. One fellow came and sat right next to me, and we began a fun, friendly conversation as if we had known each other for years. I learned these seven were from Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota, and each year they came to the Frederic area to go fishing for an entire week.
“We were laughing and visiting when my friend walked in. I introduced her to these new friends. Long story short: The waitress took our orders, and when our food came we all continued visiting. There was much laughter and good fish stories told, as well as stories of travel, health and family.
“Time came for them to continue their day’s adventure. They were heading to the Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Alpha, Wisconsin, to buy the best cheese in the U.S.A. Then they asked about a good place for supper. I mentioned the Cozy in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, a restaurant noted for its broiled chicken. They thanked me for that information and went to pay their tabs.
“As they were leaving, my friend asked me who these fellows were. From the way we were laughing and talking when she came into the restaurant, she thought they were long-lost friends. I laughed and told her that I had just met them a few minutes before she arrived.
“She and I visited a while longer, when the waitress came and told us that the fellow at the end of the table had paid our bill because I had let them stay at the table. I was stunned. She said those seven fishermen had sat at that table each day for the entire week. So I was the interloper, not those seven vacationing fishermen.
“After enjoying time with these fellows, I realized I had no idea about their political or religious affiliations. I only knew we enjoyed our brief time together and appreciated what the day had to offer.
“Dear reader: I’m going to refer to my calendar and find the weekend when I met those fellows, and I will visit the Tin Shed a year later, hoping to see them and start over from where we left off.
“Only in Fly-Over Country.”
Band Name of the Day: The Random Strong Guys
Website of the Day: The Best Snack in Every State