Local Stories by David Hanson of Gheen

David & Gwen live near the Gheen Corners. They are the parents of five children.

David taught school in Cook for many years, he has constructed many rock fireplaces. 

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Past stories from David Hanson 

 

 

 

PARADISE

Iím not sure what my grandkids dream about.  Are they bombarded with gratification and material things from the time they are born, to the point of what is there to look forward to in adult life?

To my generation, it was to invent a new mousetrap or getting rich on some invention.  Some dreamed of becoming a movie star and becoming famous.

The thing I miss the most in my old age is my senses.  As a youth I would look up at the stars while dad explained the constellations and showed us the red planet, Mars.  I didnít need my glasses as nothing was blurred.  We, as most kids, could hear the slightest sound and yet shut out most any sound as we daydreamed.  I only remember some of the things of youth, as my sense of smell has diminished the most because of allergies.

I suppose the most perfect places on earth are the warm areas where just about anything will grow, are the origins of paradise.  The trouble is that most people thrive there and they become overpopulated like India, Japan, China, and then the man made environments of the large cities.

To me, I find paradise no matter where I travel.  Here at home, I walk fifty feet out of the yard and Iím in areas not altered by man in most ways.

I remember the perfume of the balm leaf buds opening as the trees leafed out each spring.  That weed tree to the loggers smells the nicest of all the trees of the world.  I remember the woodsy smell of the damp leaf litter on the ground and the humid aroma of the fungus and mold and wet wood every dewy morning or after a rain.  Then there were the smells of a blooming clover field in the days of my youth, when nearly everyone out in the country had a few cows and a hay field.  The smell of newly mown hay would drift in the car windows as we drove by.  Even digging in wet clay has a smell.

While the smell of baking bismarks or cookies drift out over the sidewalk in town, or the smells of a restaurant   make people hungry.  The smells of nature are all around the world. 

No matter where people live, the natives love their homes.  The name native to me is someone who moved into an area and liked it so much they stayed put.  My ancestors moved out of Africa and some relatives dropped off around the Mediterranean, others traveled north into Asia and Europe.  Some moved into Siberia and settled there but others moved into the  Americas.  Some of those same people moved into northern Scandinavia.   Others in central Asia moved west into Europe and moved north into northern Europe.

When the mountain people look out at the peaks, itís a beautiful scene.  So is the vista from a lake cabin in Canada.  The big sky is something to marvel at on the prairie or stepps of Asia.

The ocean view is marvelous to the Irish, and the English looking over the white cliffs of Dover or the Polynesia of the South Pacific.

You canít tell me the Aborigines of Australia donít love the arid landscape when the rains come.

To me, paradise is wherever I go.  Itís just a few steps away from the car.  There itís just the way a person perceives it.

Life is beautiful, but paradise will always be here after we are gone. 

 

 

IRON PRODUCTION IN THE VIKING AGE

Most iron in the Viking era came from bog iron which was found in the peat bogs.  There are numerous short movies about bog iron and ancient methods of smelting the ore on the computer U-Tube.

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 Sydvaranger

Tellef Dahll discovered iron ore at Bjornevatn, in northern Norway in 1868.  It became commercially viable to mine in the early 1900ís.  The town of Kirkenes was built to house the personnel for the mine in 1906, by 1908 there were 31 houses for workers.

In 1907 a separation plant and briquetting plant to produce 600,000 tons, but later reduced to 300,000 tons.

To insure all year access, an ice breaker, SS Sydvaranger, was delivered in 1907.

There were problems of getting sand that could be used for concrete, and suitable lumber for construction.

The use of ball and rod mills and briquette technology was already in use in Norway 40 years earlier than in Minnesota and must have been the model for the University of Minnesota men who worked on pilot projects here.

MADE UP

 

We were in Austria when a 747 went down in the Atlantic. It wasnít the most pleasant feeling when we traveled in the same size and kind of airplane. Did it stop us, and have us make the choice to walk home? The sme thing happens when there is a car wreck on Highway #53. Just because dirt hits the fan, it doesnít mean it will happen again. We just get in our car and drive on the same road.

 

We get angry at the modern mass media for skewing news stories. I suppose there has been bias in reporting as long as there has been writing.

 

Some stories are extremely exaggerated such as the exploits of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and I know the stories of the Bible, some which were written hundreds of years after the facts. In modern times, some of the important facts are left out and the story is downplayed.

 

I donít pay much attention to the tabloids or the French model, TV ad, met on the internet. But I did read a letter in the ďMesabiĒ today about who was co-author of ďS.150í GUN BAN OF 2013.

 

The media is a major influence on our lives. It has different effects on peopleís lives. Iíve seen where people with telephoto lenses took pictures of Jacky Onassis bathing. Isnít that an invasion of privacy? I think it was criminal the way they harassed her. The same is done with other celebrities.

 

Will the cruise liner story in the Caribbean cause the death of the cruise industry? I suppose not. Did the New Orleans flood stop the people from building below river level, kill the town? No. Will the stabbing of someone, place a ban on knives? If someone kills someone with a baseball bat, will that cause a ban on bats?

 

We have two newspapers in the area that each has interest in the school controversy. These papers are both biased in their view and the comical duels go on and on. Itís OK if the readers keep it in perspective. It makes news articles.

 

I worked with a lady, Mrs. Manninen, in Arnold School before I worked in Cook School. She told about her brother that was the mayor of Virginia years ago. One thing she taught me was that there isnít much news on Sunday. She had relatives in the paper business. So, for the Sunday editions, ďA lot of stories are made up.Ē

 

 

SHADE

Twenty feet out from the picket fence, the folks had always had the ďLittle WoodsĒ, the ďWild flower gardenĒ, or just one acre of popal and a few balsam trees that were left to grow naturally. This was the only rocky ground on the 40 acres, so it was of little use except for a wind break on the north side of the house.

Mom and dad probably started moving plants into the woods before they were married. The first were trilliums and later, moccasin flowers. There, a few feet from the yard, dad showed Marion and me how to build a lean-to shelter from popal poles and balsam boughs. We peeled moss from the bottom of trees and carpeted it.

Itís nice to remember stuff like this from the eyes of 8 and 9 year old kids.

Probably the same year we were about a quarter of a mile west of home with mom. She always picked wild raspberries. While she was filling the 12 quart milk pail, which was her quota each day, we built another hut the same way, but only with popal branches and leaves for shelter from the relentless sun. We were babysitting our sister, Karen. On that same day Karen was stung by a yellow jacket so we had to go home early.

I remember we seldom used umbrellas here. The folks in town had a few of them, but never used them like they do in rainy England.

Iíve always thought it neat to see those patio tables and umbrellas where people eat outside at the restaurants. But here, in our mosquito country, eating outside is an ordeal most evenings.

Mary Poppins knows about umbrellas and the gusty wind. We have a patio table on the deck, but the umbrella is still rolled up in the shed.

Most people my age remember the awnings over the big windows on nearly every business on main streets of towns. The coop stores sometimes had them, too. Those awnings had a rod and a crank to roll them up at night or on rainy days.

Itís interesting to realize that there were few air conditioned buildings fifty years ago. So shade was important on south facing windows. The newer windows have tinted glass so that helps reflect the sun.

We modern people donít have to plan where we build our homes. Did they want the morning sun from the east shining in the bedroom or kitchen window in the summer and not the hot western afternoon sun shining in the house in the summer. Or just the opposite in the winter? Trees were planted on the north side of the yard for a windbreak and leaf trees on the south to shade in the summer and let the sun in when the leaves fell in the fall.

 

LUCKY ME
lpwood truck I heard or was it the wind on a dark winter night?
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As I lay there, I think of other people tucked away in bed in their warm homes. It brings to mind all the places we drove through on our day trips. I told Gwen, ďThink of those people tucked away in Kelly Lake or in one of the many places weíve seen.Ē
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There were a few rummage sales in some of the old towns that made me think how lucky we are. When those people are trying to sell those old scratched up plastic glasses or chipped plates, you come to realize some people donít live the way we do. I canít see anyone buying any of that stuff when you can go to one of the dollar stores and spend twenty dollars and fill the back of your car.
But then the Depression took itís toll on the old folks. When those people had just about fulfilled their duty of raising a family and building up a little farm, the poor times dashed their hopes of any fun retirement. No kid had the money to buy the home place, which was the only security the folks had.
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I remember grandmaís mismatched china. Some were dishes out of oatmeal boxes. Some were from coupons and cereal box top ads that could be bought one at a time when a person had a little extra change to buy it.
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There were some old knives that had been sharpened so many times that the shape was wrong, or then, the old tablespoons that had the silver plate worn off and the edges worn from stirring the cooking pot for so long.
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As long as they had any use they were not going to be thrown away.
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I have a lot of fond memories of my grandparents. Iíve heard stories from my folks about the ďhard times.Ē
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Itís just vague memories to my kids of their great grandparents and a complete void to my grandkids of their great-great grandparents.
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Oh, how lucky we are to not be burdened with depression, lack of food, or alcoholism . There still are people out there that canít feed their kids. They canít afford to fix their teeth or own their own property. Maybe there will be a time in the future when the government wonít be able to take care of everyone. The burden will fall back on the grandparents to raise abandoned or orphaned relatives.

 

 
YOUTH
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Here, it is, Christmas. Birthdays were never important to me. But if there is one day of the year that is the most cherished, it has to be Christmas. I donít especially like the hustle and bustle or the frenzied Christmas rush and shopping. I donít even get excited about the swapping of gifts.
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The memories of a few burning Christmas candles on a balsam tree at Grandpa Hansonís in 1945 or so is dimmed, but little by little, decorations got more elaborate over the years. To some people it seems to be a contest to see who can get more lights put up than the neighbor.
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To us grownups it is a special time just knowing what we are celebrating, but to little kids it is magic. Those were the days of nearly holding our breath in anticipation of what was to come.
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The birth of a babe, and the birth of all little babies is the greatest gift God gave the world. I wish we, as a society, wouldnít waste a gift like that.
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One of the most pleasant feelings I get is when weíre in a restaurant and I hear little kids jabbering. I can tell by the sound of their voices that they are just learning to talk. It brings a smile to my face, they are practicing. They arenít always quiet either.
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When they are at home, they ask questions. And sometimes they are hard to answer, but those little minds are going a mile a minute and you know they are thinking.
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Little kids that age get into trouble sometimes. The folks told about me getting my finger stuck in the kitchen faucet in Oklahoma City when dad was bossing that airplane factory job. I was fainting, but I must have survived. Another story from there and then, was when mom investigated our loud playing and my sister, Marion, and I were covered with ripe peaches we were throwing at each other from the trees in the yard.
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Some old people get critical of those little snotty nosed brats. Maybe theyíre sick and irritable and are bored with life and everyday tedium. If they would try to go back in time and remember how they acted when they were young there would be a lot of stories just as interesting and fun.
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Iíve always said that kids and teenagers are no different now than when we were young. For that matter, the kids were getting into mischief back in the days of Ancient Greece. I bet some of the naughty jokes we hear today were told by the Greeks who learned them from the Egyptians. They were so funny they just kept getting repeated over the years.
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We see people limping around at the school games who come to see the young people play. There are those kids who could care less about the game and score. They have their own football game going on off to the side of the field. There are no pads or helmets and no teachers to yell at them. They never seem to get hurt bad even if they are tackling and slipping on the wet grass. When they are alone in the countryside in the summer, there arenít that many kids to get a team together, but boy, when itís school time and no one is watching, there is a lot of fun to be had monkeying around with the gang at school.
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Youth is a time of comparing notes with other novices that donít have any experience, but are just getting the messages. I know we learned from the kids a year or two older than we were.
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The kids older than that wouldnít have anything to do with us. I suppose they had perfected the things we only dreamed about.
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I suppose the girls did the same, but they were always about three years ahead of us boys in maturity.
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Once youth starts to fad and adulthood creeps in, there are a lot of heartaches and disappointment, when kids learn what is really going on.
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Life isnít always a bunch of roses, but letís not forget what youth is or always was
 
Recipe from the past
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Lifeís memories are kind of a mix of tattered bits and pieces. Not all are perfect, but somehow, we seem to hang on to those bits and pieces and canít let go of them.
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Itís kind of like looking through boxes and drawers of momís stuff after she died. Her sewing room was full of old pattern books. There were many tattered patterns for Raggedy Ann dolls, kids stuffed toys, and for cloth mittens she sewed from old wool cloth and fleece lined jackets. Even stuff she made from sheepskin fur that was too good to throw away.
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The same bits and tattered paper addresses that keep falling out of the address book, some are just corners of envelopes with the names. Some of people who are no longer here, but somehow they are still in our memories.
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Betty Crocker cookbooks are filled with those bits and pieces of paper with recipes that were stuffed in Gwenís cookbooks. A lot are Christmas stuff. Some are written on real recipe cards and are filed away in a tin box. but most of the ones that were real tasty are in the front or back of most ladies favorite cookbooks.
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Maybe twenty cookbooks were sold or given away at her rummage sales but the best tattered ones are still in the kitchen cabinet and close at hand.
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Did your mom make jelly rolls, spritz, or sugar cookies? Did your aunt and grandma share her recipes with you? Do the young girls bake and cook like years ago? Iím sure some do and they will accumulate a few bits and pieces of tattered paper that are too precious to just throw away, because they are written in grandmaís, or Aunt Doraís handwriting.
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Have a merry Christmas and use some old recipe from the past.

 

STRENGTH IN OUR WEAKNESS

We ponder a lot of ideas in our lives. Some may call it daydreaming, some thinking, and some may fear dwelling on things too much. Maybe that is a survival skill animals learn.

Dad talked about monomaniacs a few times. There are people that think that way and have only one goal in life and stick to it forever. There are movie stars who strived to be the best any way possible. They had to be smart people. In those early years the actors had no cue cards or monitors in the floor to look at. They had to memorize the role they played and couldnít make a mistake in the middle of the act on a stage in front of a large crowd. If they got rattled and forgot a part they would be jeered and laughed at.

Some people are labeled as attention deficit. They have a hard time concentrating on things for a long time and lose interest. Maybe thatís an extreme of a good thing.

What if a wolf picked up the smell of a deer and kept following it. The deer could be miles away and moving on. The wolf that couldnít forget it, would follow it for days and weeks and never catch up.

So there must be a fine line in being able to pay attention and give up on a subject and start over on something else.

We as thinking people sometimes find fun hobbies and interests that are fun, but change interests from time to time. As long as what we are doing is working in our favor, we use that as an advantage. When it doesnít work out we try something else.

I remember people saying ďIím a lousy fisherman,Ē or ďI donít have a green thumb, I canít grow anything.Ē I canít bake bread at all.Ē

They say patience is a virtue. If someone had a bad day and got eaten alive by mosquitoes the first time they went fishing, thatís one thing. If the fish werenít biting the second time, thatís another. And if they didnít have the right bait the next time, I can see why they got discouraged. The same thing could happen when trying to grow poor seeds, or baking without having someone to encourage you and show you how they do it.

Who would waste time doing something that doesnít work out? Who are those determined people that keep trying? Who are those people that didnít learn to read as kids and found other things they could succeed in right away?

I try not to be judgmental. Our strength is an recognizing our weaknesses. Our weakness is in our thinking we are strong. Or, in that we know all the answers and are not tolerant.

Thatís why some of the religious who think they know they have the only answers and kill to enforce them are weak.

 

THE PRETTIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

Whatís your chance to make a good choice? Is life really a bowl of cherries like the old song says?

Iíve monkeyed around with plants all my life. I suppose Iím a whimp by doing so, but Iíve never worried about what other men think of my hobbies.

Every time we do anything in this life we make choices and take chances. If a person worries about a car accident we would stay holed up in our safe house and worry about it burning down when we are asleep. I did worry when younger about coming home to see the house on fire, but when you are away at work, you have to completely forget about personal things and concentrate on your job. If you canít do that you may as well quit your job and stay home.

Iíve just cross pollinated a yellow orchid with a purple spotted white one. On U tube they say orchids can have 1500 to 3 million seed in one pod. Iíve got two pods on different plants.

Several people said ďYou canít plant those seeds, theyíre hybrids.Ē Iím going to plant those seeds anyway. I just donít know what color the new plants will be. That U tube has a lot of information. Orchid seeds are so small they donít have a food reserve, so few, if any sprout. But that good old computer let me in on a secret recipe.

In nature a fungus breaks down plant matter and produces sugar that the orchid seed needs. When a person grows them, they make a medium just like a biology lab by using Ĺ banana, 2 tomatoes, 10 grams sugar, 10 grams agar, 12-one hundred mg B1 tablets and 900 ml. boiling water.

This gel has to be poured into sterilized bottles or mold will pollute everything.

In nature, everything is by chance. Nothing is created equally. Even God doesnít do it. That was some man who wrote that years ago. I love the idea that everything is different. Otherwise, every man or woman in the world would look alike, sound alike, act alike, and make life boring.

Why can a blond man marry a woman with brown hair and have red headed kids? There must be something special about red heads.

We are all hybrids. No such thing as a pure bred Swede, Finn, or Italian. The same thing with being an Indian. India had about 300 languages in that country before World War II. They even look different in every city and region of India.

I got sweet corn seed every year from New London Seed House in Virginia. But this year Iíve saved some corn cobs and Iím going to plant some of the hybrid sweet corn seed and see what kind of hybrid plants I get. I bet Iíll get corn plants that have corn cobs on them. Some will probably be sweet.

One old timer told me he never saved a heifer if it was the first calf, because it may not turn out good because the mother cow was only two years old. I told him,, ďIf my first kid was a girl, Iíd keep her anyway.Ē She may turn out to be the best looking girl in the world and the smartest one in her class at school.

 

NORTH KOREA

I never was a very good student. As the teachers assigned us the pages to read, I often just brushed over the material and never comprehended too much of it.

Art LeTourneau grew up in Duluth. He was a cross country skier before I ever heard of the term. When he was our Business Law teacher in Orr, he was living in the teacherage above the Gheen School. He developed a ski trail from old Gheen up to the Gheen Hill and back down to the school. I remember John Matson being the best skier. Art coached him and he had those long narrow skies. He could sure travel that trail. Mr. LeTourneau told me he had developed some trails on those steep hills of Duluth and made them as challenging as possible.

Getting back to our Business Law class, Art told me years later that our class was the most challenging he ever had. And I didnít know about why until one of our class reunions years later, that the girls had cooked up a scheme by asking very difficult questions, to have him spend most of our class time explaining in detail how businesses dealt with problems. That way, we didnít have time to get very much schoolwork or homework. Art told me he had to study hard every night just to keep ahead of the kids.

I often think of what the world would be like without corporations. In the old days, a wealthy tycoon would rule like a king. That was dictating and owning everything. They didnít have slaves, and they didnít want any. You have to feed slaves. The way John D. Rockefeller or J.P. Morgan worked things, they set up shop to just benefit themselves.

J.P. Morgan was the son of Junius S. Morgan, who was a successful banker. J.P. became the head of his fatherís banking partnership. In 1895 J.P. Morgan Co. was formed, and became one of the most powerful banking firms in the world. It formed United States Steel Corporation, General Electric, International Harvester, and entered the coal and railroads including Chesapeake and Ohio, the Northern Pacific and the Baltimore and Ohio. He used the tactics of eliminating competition.

I suppose the steel mill in Duluth and Morgan Park were his, too. He did build a town for the workers in West Duluth. I suppose he felt that by doing that he could get better workers and have fewer labor problems than other businesses. I donít know how nice he was, but he did give greatly to charity.

A corporation that is made up of stock holders has to be aggressive and earn money. If not, people will dump their shares and take the money and invest in some other profitable company.

Some families try to keep over 50 percent of the stock to keep controlling interest in decision making.

Who could have enough money to set up a steel mill, the railroads, the iron mines, and the railroads and ore boats with their personal money. What one person could set up an oil refinery, drill the wells, build pipelines, buy sea going tankers to import oil and to ship refined gasoline to other countries? The distribution of gas and fuel oil across America would make a person insane trying to run it.

I suppose a few individuals did run huge businesses, and were they the only ones who made our country great? The working men who did the manual labor did a share, too. The unions did organize labor. They did a good job getting benefits and pensions.

What is the alternative to big business and also corporations? Some want them dissolved. Some want to shut down Wall Street.

Where is the money our pensions pay out coming from? It canít be from banks. They arenít returning anything on savings. The unions must have invested it in corporations that are making money and paying out a good return on investments.

I would guess the only other solution these anarchists want is a Soviet Union type of communist or socialist government.

Just like politicians who want to stay in power, the union bosses want to stay where they are, too. And the top dogs in a communistic organization want to stay on top and not on the bottom. Look at North Korea.

THE SUCCESSFUL SALESMAN

You probably have figured out by now that a successful business person sells what people want to buy. Likewise, a person pays for services that they want.

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When the Westward Movement was taking place, there were very few salesmen selling caviar and silk scarves. Those traveling salesmen were selling pots and pans and cotton cloth to the ladies and workboots and tools to the men.

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Those lumber barons who were cutting the timber off the northern tier of states were selling lumber from the sawmills, and to the prairie states where there were no trees. The railroad businessmen were transporting it and expanding the rails out west.

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The people who were buying goods and building material were grateful to be able to get whatever they could. Anything else they had to go without.

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Today people are not hungry. Do you know any fat person that canít get enough food? Do you know of anyone who canít get foodstamps and is starving because they havenít got any money? Do the unemployed starve? Or is it that they spend their money on alcohol and drugs and neglect their kids. Thatís why there are kids that donít eat well.

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You must have gone to a flea market or craft show where people are trying to sell stuff they like and no one else is interested in buying it. They display their wares at some booth that they had to rent and then pack it all up again at the end of the day. The same stuff is displayed at the next sale.

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When we had our greenhouse business we tried to sell plants that we liked, and no other greenhouse sold. I soon found out that you have to be careful when you water some plants not to get them too wet. The moss roses rotted off. You could water petunias and marigolds three times a day when it was hot and the fans came on, otherwise they wilt. We ended up the last few years just selling what other greenhouses sell. Thatís what people want and thatís what people buy. The morning glories were a good seller, but the plants had to have a tall stake to vine on. What a pain to keep them upright. I told people the thunbergia vines grabbed every woman that walked by them. Those few dozen vines took more work to untangle than the rest of the plants in the greenhouse.

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Sometimes it just isnít worth the work or time it takes to produce some things. People just arenít going to buy something like that if you raise the price too much.

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What business makes the most money? I think entertainment. What? Who makes more, a popular singer like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, or Elvis, or a farmer? Jay Leno, or 20 years ago, Bill Cosby was making $60 million a year and maybe $20 million more on advertisements. I see in the paper Oprah is worth 2.5+ billion.

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When it comes to food, the buyers are looking for the cheaper goods on sale. They figure the guy on the road corner selling sweet corn has a better product so they pay more than they do in the clean grocery store.

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A successful politician is a salesman, too. They promise to deliver more services to people than the other guy. They have everything on sale. More government services delivered to the public for less and less. Itís like a fishing lure in front of a fish. You know the fish will bite at the bait that takes the least effort to get. So the public takes as much from the politicians as they can get without paying for it. Itís sort of like a selfish child. Some kids do expect the parents to give them everything. They end up not knowing how to think for themselves or how to support themselves. And they have no desire to do any physical work. Playing games is OK, but doing chores is a no-no. They do learn from their parents who donít have any chores for them to do, and donít want them to do that kind of work.

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I suppose when the majority of a country or society doesnít want to work anymore, and expect someone else to pay the bill, itís hard to get them to have pride in working or doing something useful.

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It seems the doctors these days are like salesmen and prescribe pills to everyone for everything. A lot of those people stop trying to be healthy and want the doctors to cure all the ills acquired by bad habits.

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Some medical people are in the business to do abortions, while others are doing their best to save hundreds of thousands of people who overdose on drugs and nearly die. I suppose if the public saw the little dead ones, they wouldnít allow it anymore. Likewise, if they didnít treat drug abusers and thousands would die, drugs wouldnít be so popular.

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Everyone seems to get paid a fee for doing service or selling what people want. I was glad to pay for a readjustment to my spine when it popped out of place many times.

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Not many people would pay someone to hurt them. I wouldnít buy something that tasted terrible to eat. I wouldnít go to a restaurant that just sold boiled rutabagas. I wouldnít pay to watch someone catch fish all day.

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What is success? Is it spending money? Is it making money? Is it selling drugs? Is it making other people happy? I suppose itís when you live your life with more positive things happening than negative things. Or maybe, to some people, just a balance is good enough.

 

 

 

THE GOOD SAMARITAN

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The first time I heard about this concept was from the missionaries in Old Gheen when we walked downtown, from our one roomed school, to the mission at release time. Once a week we listened and watched as the ladies talked about their missions to other countries years earlier, and then using felt boards and paper dolls, they taught us small kids who couldnít read yet, Bible stories.

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When something emotional hits you, itís spontaneous. Most of the time a person doesnít think much about the situation. When a person waves at a driver of a car that drives by, itís not that you know them, itís just a reaction of the time. Most of the time people never wave at a car. The same reaction is a sudden swerve to avoid hitting a squirrel on the road. Iíve shot a lot of squirrels off the bird feeders, but Iíve never ran over one with the car on purpose.

I think the same thing happens many times as we ignore people in a crowded town. There must be hundreds of lonely people in trouble. But subconsciously, we canít help everyone.

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We took a ride up to Buyck and over to Ely, on the Echo Trail, Sunday afternoon. The leaves were beautiful. At Janette Lake a couple of hunters had stopped a pickup truck that stopped ahead of us. Then stopped and told us there were some people who needed jumper cables on Sioux Hustler Trail. When we got there, there were four young guys from Minneapolis who were stalled. They were holding paper signs asking for jumper cables. They told us we were the first car that stopped. One looked Oriental and the others looked Mexican. They said ďWe must intimidate people.Ē I never even thought of them as trouble makers. They looked like the tree planters the DNR hires. No one plants trees this time of the year.

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We told them we would see what we could do when we got to Ely.

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The police station was locked and so we called 911 for a non emergency call. The dispatcher told me he wasnít going to call the police to go out 40 miles from town, and he wasnít going to call a wrecker for someone who may not be there. He would have to pay for it if no one was there. His tone of voice didnít sit well with me. I told him ďIsnít this a wonderful country we live in? We spend billions of dollars in Iraq and canít even help someone in this country.Ē I left the parking lot and went all over town looking for battery cables. Everything was closed up at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Gwen said lets get some bread and lunchmeat. I stopped and got some sweet and sour pork and chicken at the Chinese place and got bread and some pop at the gas station and off we went back up the Echo Trail.

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We reminisced about the time we broke down in Southern Wisconsin. We taped up newspapers on the windows of the old 1959 Ford station wagon and hunkered down with the small kids for the night. The next day got a used starter and crawled under the car and changed it with tools I always carried with on a trip. Another time, a few years earlier, the water pump went out on the 1953 Buick at Independence. It was 20 below and a man in dirty work clothes stopped and picked us up and drove about 20 miles to his home. He had an old bone yard out back and got a pump and we drove out to Hwy. 53 and he put it in and we drove back to his house to pick up the kids and head home. I meant to bring him a turkey sometime to pay him back, but never did. I often think of all the people who helped us over the years.

.

I never think of myself as a do gooder or good Samaritan, but Gwen and I have picked up people in trouble many times in hot weather and cold. We know how it feels to be away from home and in trouble.

.

Thatís the first time we traveled the Echo Trail twice the same day. I told Gwen on one stretch of the road where the maple and popple were green and red and gold under the canapy of pines, ďThis is worth the whole day trip to see this one mile.Ē

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A lady sheriff drove by. I stopped and backed up and she did the same. She couldnít find anyone. She asked if I called 9``. I had. We told her they had been up here since Thursday and probably had to be back at work Monday morning.

.

About midnight I asked Gwen, ďDo you think they record the 911 messages?Ē

 

PULLING NAILS

Labor Day began as I woke up at 4:00 in anticipation of Rollag Steam Tractor Parade. A lot of times in the past I woke up and couldnít get back to sleep so we took off in the middle of the night on some road trip.

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We arrived near Rollag, and for a mile or two, I saw smoke in the distance. Years ago people in the farm country would burn windrows of hay that was ruined by rain. Near Roseau weíve seen them burning flax straw every fall. Years ago, they grew a lot of flax seed there. Those varieties were not the three foot tall varieties they grew in Europe for linen, but now it is short stemmed so it wonít blow over and lodge in the wind storms. Grandpa Dahlgren said they had to have extremely sharp mowers to cut it because the flax is so tough.

.

The smoke at Rollag was coal smoke rising from the huge steam engines on the museum grounds.

.

We got a ride on a shuttle bus from the parking field, and then were dropped off and rode one of about a dozen tractor pulled trailers up to the parade bleachers. We didnít realize that the parades started Thursday and ran every day. We managed to get seated for the 10:00 a.m. parade. Another followed at 2:00 every day.

In the late 1800ís and early 1900ís there were a lot of steam equipment being brought out to the farm country and prairies to work the grain harvest.

.

At the start of the parade, a couple of steam tractors led the parade and stopped near where we were. There the announcer gave a brief history of the grain harvest and the steam tractors blew the whistles. It reminded me of my childhood when we had short and long rings on our party-line telephones. The blasts from the steam whistles could be heard for a few miles around the country. The tractor had to have the fire started two hours in advance to get the coal burning and built up steam pressure before work started. Tank wagons were hauling water all day long.

.

The first farmer to get started blasted a long whistle to let all the other people in surrounding area, know they were thrashing. There were signals even for run-away teams. The horses gathered up grain that was shocked and carried it to the stalks that were being thrashed.

.

Today a few self propelled combines do the work of thousands of men who were needed in the Red River Valley and the prairie country of the mid west.

..

Gwenís grandpa, Axel Dahlgren, and his brother rode bicycles out to the Dakotas to work in the grain fields around the turn of the century.

.

I recall the stories my dad told. His brothers jumped trains and worked in the Dakotas before World War II.

.

Rollag has a steam locomotive that circles the reunion expo grounds. The ride is free and a person can ride as many times as they wish. We loaded and got off the train at the replica town street. Every building is as far as possible, filled with antiques of the period.

After the parade we spent about five hours roaming into the buildings housing steam engines and early gas engines. Some buildings housed only one large engine.

.

We stopped at one that was the electric generator from Roseau where Gwenís Grandpa Lundquist worked years ago.

.

Some of those engines that are running were municipal generators, power for mills, and for pumping water from the mines. There are numerous parts on the grounds waiting to be worked on and rejuvenated.

.

We watched as the sawmill came to a standstill. They found nails in a Norway pine log. About 8 men were idled as they pried the nails out. I told our companions when a sawmill broke down years ago the men went home. No one wanted to pay an idle crew when they got paid by the hour. The mill owner may have worked until midnight to get it fixed.

.

That sure brings back memories. Dad went to Melvin Johnsonís homemade mill in Greaney, and talked to Haven Stageberg in Orr about his mill. Dad went home and built his own sawmill out of truck and car parts. He only bought a second hand solid tooth circular saw and an arbor. The rest he made himself. That mill probably sawed a hundred thousand board feet. I learned to saw on his mill. About 20 years ago I bought a Woodmizer. The bandsaw has a fine cut and doesnít make as much sawdust as the old mills that made a quarter inch cut each pass.

.

I told our companion the sawyer was slow. He pondered every cut. I donít want to be a know-it-all, but after youíve been away from it for a year or two, it takes about 4 hours to get back in the swing of things.

.

The first cut on a log is easy, so is the second and third pass as the three sides are squared after turning the log. The sawyer now eyeballs the log and sizes it up. The trick, that anyone who has ever had a sawmill knows, is that each cut is one fourth of an inch. So a 2 inch plank is 8 quarters of an inch, but if the log will make 4 two inch planks you figure in the quarter inch waste of each cut. Otherwise you end up with a 2 and a fourth inch board.

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I told the guys at Rollag there was a deer stand in that tree and there would be a couple of 20 penny spikes for every step going up the tree. I said if it was me, Iíd turn the log, saw it in half and throw that half with all the nails in it away.

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They were still pulling nails when we left. They were mostly Norwegians out there and they werenít going to take my advice. They werenít going to waste any lumber, and they sure werenít going to give up even if it took all day. Every nationality wants to be known as the most stubborn. Itís a toss up between Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns. But how am I to know. I never lived in a German or Irish community.

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TRACKS ON THE DRIVEWAY

Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2012

As the years roll by, I often think back to those old people I tape recorded about their lifetime. It all started when a group of people wanted to write a book about Cusson, Minnesota. I know some people interviewed some of the old timers back then, and they kept asking leading questions and only got a yes or no answer. I was supposed to interview John Swanson, who had many stories of the old days and much information about the town of Cusson, which was the hub for the railroad of the Virginia Rainy Lake Logging Company, where he lived as a boy. He died before I could tape his stories.

When I did get rolling and taped the old folks, I made a list of information they could think about and later when I interviewed them, they could ramble on as much as they wanted to. I grew up in the country and had heard a lot of old stories from my folks too, so it was easy to interject a tidbit now and then to get them to go off on a tangent again if things started to peter out and die down.

Think of kids, walking home from school years ago before there were school busses. Maybe a single small girl by herself walking a mile or two alone on a long driveway after spending a long day in a one room schoolhouse, and what it would be like coming home to her mom and fresh baked bread. It may seem like a page out of the ďLittle House on the PrairieĒ, but it had to have happened thousands of times in a thousand places.

I remember a lady telling me her mom lost her wedding ring. She thought she threw it out in the dishwater and maybe it was lost in a crack in the dirt. I related this story to a friend of mine and he said he remembered his grandmother doing the same thing years ago.

Not many people in the country went to a town dump. Back in the woods somewhere there was a tin can pile for old trash, cans, and broken glass and on the edge of the yard not far from the kitchen door was a slop pile. Remember before there was rural electricity there was no running water. Everyone had a well and a hand pump. In the house was a pail of water with a tin dipper hanging on it that everyone drank out of. That same dipper was used to fill the tea kettle or the coffeepot that was set on the wood kitchen range to boil. Those tea kettles held a gallon of water. We never used it for tea, only to boil water to wash dishes with. With that, and more cool water added to the dishpan, the dishes were scrubbed and then rinsed in another dish pan. I remember grandmaís slop pail under the table where she worked. It accumulated the table scraps, the egg shells, and the dirty dishwater in the winter time. When it was nearly full, she would carry it outside and dump it on the slop pile. In the summertime the dish water was taken out in the dish pan and tossed over there. That same pile had all the ashes from the heater stove in the living room and the ashes from the kitchen range tossed on, too. There was a huge lilac bush on each side of the ash pile.

When Gwen and I moved back here 45 years ago, I wheeled many wheelbarrow loads of those leached out ashes on our garden. As the lye was gone, only lime was left after getting rained on all those years.

How many little girls picked wild strawberries on the sides of those long driveways years before there were cars? How many kids picked hazelnuts on the edge of those long driveways a week before school started? If you didnít pick them, right now, the squirrels would get them.

You can tell if a buck walked down the driveway by the size of the tracks, and you can tell when a doe walks there, too, because of the tiny fawn tracks alongside. There are worm tracks in the mud, too, after a rainy night.

 

 

Sent: Sunday, May 27, 2012
 

FLOWERS

Dave Hanson

 

Flowers mean different things to different people.  When Clara Gustafson , from Cook, and Vi Hall, from Greaney, start to sell those small red paper poppies, there is a symbol of wounded and dying soldiers and crippled heros who fought for our country and other oppressed countries.  I looked up ďIn Flanders Fields the Poppies GrowĒ on the internet.  A Canadian, Dr. John McCrae, wrote the poem in 1915 during a battle.  Iím insinuating that there must have been millions of those blood red flowers that reminded him of the spattered blood on the ground in western Europe.

 

 

In Flanders fields the poppies grow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place, and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are dead; short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high:

If ye break faith with us to die,

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

 

 

My folks got married during the depression, and to them, it seemed it would never end.  No one bought flowers with money being so scarce in the 1930ís, but it seemed everyone had some growing next to the house.

 

Dad hewed cedar into 6 inch thick squares and stood them upright to build the walls of the house he and mom built on weekends before they got married.  They didnít even tell Grandpa Miller what they were doing.  I know Grandpa Hanson knew because he lived a half mile north of home.  Iíll bet everyone in Willow Valley knew, too.  Grandpa Miller was kind of crabby, so it was probably fun to work on a project like that, when he thought they were on a picnic or out at Pelican Lake with the other Gorences and Parsons.

 

Dad sawed cedar shingles and sided the house with them.  They had some kind of shingle dye they dipped them in.  The old house was brown.

 

Dad and the boys had planted lilac bushes and cedar trees in the yard up on the home place and like all the neighbors, planted flower beds.  House plants were the tough kind because the houses were not insulated, and cold.  I remember Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus being the most popular.  Some were planted in old coffee cans with holes punched in the bottom or a small tin pail.

 

After we got back from California at the end of the war, I remember the four foot rock with a six foot hole dad dug beside it for his lily pond, which was his dream.  It never got a concrete bottom but always had a little water in it.  The folks always said that was the reason they built there.  Dad and mom moved some large white Trilliums from Wisconsin and had them growing by the pond all my life.  They may still be there.  Also, they had transplanted the large yellow moccasin flowers there, too.  Later, they started filling the little woods north of the house with all kinds of wildflowers.  They had Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Bloodroot, Turksí cap Lilies, and later in the late 40ís, moved in a clump of showy Lady Slippers which multiplied over the years. 

 

When I was 8 or 10, I moved a bunch of small purple fringed orchids up to the yard from the ditch by our field.  Dad showed me a patch of swamp grass and thought that would be a good place for them to survive.  They didnít make it.  It might have been the wrong time of the year.

 

The first time I saw Jack-in-the-Pulpits was on an island in the middle of Elbow Rapids.  We used to go out there as a family to get suckers in the spring when they spawned.  We never bothered to go until the Bloodroot bloomed.  It always seemed thatís when the water temperature was right for the fish to spawn.

 

Dad had brought Creeping Charley from Soudan and planted that in the yard.  It has small purple flowers, but itís a weed.  In those days they mowed the yard with a scythe once or twice a year.  Those push mowers they had plugged up if you didnít mow once a week.  No one had time to putter around in those days.  When the power mower came out, people started mowing nice yards all over the country.

 

When the folks got back from California, all the flower beds had holes where the Delphiniums had been.  I suppose no one thought we would move back.  Dad had moved in some yellow violets from Tower when he was a kid and they spread all over Willow Valley in the clay here.

 

There were the usual Blue Bells in the popal woods and all the small violets.  The road sides had all the different flowers that grow there now.  Wild Roses sure smell nice in the house, but they only last a day in a vase.

 

The old Swedes shared perennials with each other.  Nearly everyone had the old yellow irises.  The Silverdale people had the same red, pink, or white peonies that we had here in Willow Valley.  They came up from St. Paul when the first people moved up here.  Most had the common lilacs that were given away.  I never remember anyone buying flowers or shrubs until the mid 1950ís, and then people mostly started stuff from seeds.  Most of the bought plants were food or fruit from the seed catalogs.

 

I donít remember anyone using anything but wood ashes and rotted manure for fertilizer until about 1950.  Again, why spend money unless you were making your living farming, then it would be justifiable to do that.

 

We never saved garden seeds.

 

I remember mom starting Pacific Giant Delphiniums and Russell Hybrid Lupine from seed.  When I was about 15, I took the garden tiller and made myself a flower bed down by the road along side the old strawberry patch.  I put in surplus flowers from momís beds and saved seed off her four lupine plants.  I had iris, daylily, lupine, and some bulbs.  A few years later, I abandoned the bed when I left home.  The lupine seed pods popped and spread seed all over.  After 55 years their descendents are still there.  About 10 years ago I took about a quart of seed and scattered them on the edge of the county gravel pit in Willow Valley and now the hill side is covered with different colored lupine.

 

Minnesota has 43 species of orchids.  The most famous is our state flower.

 

Gwenís folks moved to Mesa, Arizona, and one time a few years ago, her mom remarked about the endless wildflowers along the interstate.  The desert blooms, but only a few days a year.  Here itís endless until the snow flies.

 

Even dandelions are pretty.  If they were hard to grow we would be babying them in our flower gardens

 

 

From: Dave and Gwen Hanson
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2012
 

TIME TO PLANT

 

Mom always started the tomato plants in the house and repotted them when they went into the cold frame on the side of the house.  Dad made that out of storm windows with hinges on, so they could be propped open on warm days.  The basement windows were opened and that kept it from freezing.  Just in case of frost, dad had four 100 watt light bulbs hooked up to a thermostat.  That always did the trick keeping it warm.

 

Dad tilled the garden with the old joker pulling a disc when I was small.  Later we got a garden tiller which could get into tighter spaces than the tractor.  As long as I can remember, mom planted the garden.

 

They did have a wild flower collection in the ďlittle woodsĒ on the north side of the house.  There amongst the poppal and balsam trees were transplanted trilliums, lady slippers, jack in the pulpits, and yellow moccasin flowers.

 

Mom made paths with shavings and sawdust from dadís sawmill to keep the weeds down and to cover the wet ground.

 

I remember the seed catalogs coming each spring.  Mom always considered it cheating to buy plants from some greenhouse.  She felt it was really your plants and flowers if you did all the babying and growing them from the start.

 

When I got big enough, I hauled rotted manure in a wheelbarrow from the barnyard to shovel into the holes dug in the garden for cukes, pumpkins, cabbage, and tomatoes.

 

With a handful of wood ashes sprinkled around each plant and the manure, the folks always had a good garden and never bought any fertilizer.  We were living on organic food before we ever heard of that term.

 

When you think about it, we ate our own beef, butter, and drank our own milk.  So we didnít have to buy much of that.  We knew maybe half the people in the community didnít have cows or a garden, but the other half lived the same way we did.

 

Before the days of the big 4 wheeled drive skidders, the trees were limbed where they fell.  This left a deep thatch in the woods and in the spruce swamps.  The highland produced raspberries which mom always picked in a lard pail on her belt that she dumped into a milk pail, and when the 12 quart pail was full, she and us kids and the dogs would head for home to get supper ready for dad when he got home from work.  The windrows of spruce boughs in the swamp produced blueberries the same way.

 

I still get the seed catalogs and still start most of our vegetables.  Gwen is the flower girl and starts the hundreds of flowers for our yard.

 

When I drive by a patch of small cedar, spruce or pine, I think ďwhy buy trees when the native trees grow so nice?Ē  They will sooner or later come and clear the right of the way and destroy them anyway.

 

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SAND AND CLAY

 

Any time of the year is a good time to travel.  A person gets different perspectives of ideas they may have had about each place.  Some idealic pictures that have been rolling around in a personís mind are changed, by really seeing things in real life and not in photos, which are always taken of the best scenes.

 

Go west, young man, go west, was heard in the past, but we have gone east, and west, and now we went on a bus tour to Washington DC.

 

Itís nice to not have to continuously keep your mind and eyes on the road.  In a bus a person is up higher and can watch the countryside go by.

 

As weíve traveled over the years, Iíve come to the conclusion that everyone isnít Mr. Clean.  It may be neater in some places than others, and things may be all in order, but when people leave their garage doors open, most have stuff packed in there and some are cluttered just as bad as mine.  When we traveled out west, I noticed there are no trees and vegetation to hide old cars and junk.  Now, with no leaves on the trees, the neat yards are not as nice as when it greens up.  And the stuff way back behind the houses shows up.  The homes nestled in the rolling land of Appalachia are no different.  And plastic shopping bags blow out onto plowed farm fields and into the trees.

 

We saw a lot of beautiful country and I was surprised to see some of the small fields in Pennsylvania and Ohio on our return trip.  In hilly country, creeks and ridges divide up the land.

 

When you see pictures of rock fences like at Gettysburg or in New England, you know that the land is rocky.  The more fences, the worse the rocks are.  Every time they plow they pick rocks and they have to put them somewhere.

 

The farm fields are not as large as I expected.  I donít know what I was expecting but when I remember history, I know few ventured over the mountains before Daniel Boone discovered the Cumberland Gap.  That was one of the first covered wagon roads going west through the Appalachians into Kentucky.  When they dug the Erie Canal, that gave a barge route from the east to Lake Erie and down to the Ohio River.  So transportation was a little better than fighting those mountains on horseback.

 

When our grandparents and great grandparents came bumping along to Minnesota, some came even before the railroads were completed.  It sure wasnít as comfortable traveling as it is today.

 

We stopped every couple of hours at some mall or truck stop, for a pit stop and to buy candy, coffee, and souvenirs.  When I was a little kid there wasnít a freeway system like today and we had a choice of a greasy, dirty gas station toilet or a stop to pee beside the road.  Before that it was dusty gravel or dirt roads and mud in the horse and buggy days.

 

Row upon row of corn stubble in mile after mile of small irregular fields going out east.  Sometimes it was sunflower stubble or maybe some crop like soybeans that had been cut last fall.  But the land had the same appearance of sand.  I didnít realize that is was a lot of clay that had the same tan color.

 

I had a chat with one of the two blacksmiths at Mt. Vernon.  Washington was a business man.  He only had two blacksmiths on the plantation.  He didnít monkey with making nails.  He bought small stuff like that, and the smiths only made things that were needed right away or were making and repairing farm implements.  They werenít using charcoal because they were already mining coal in Virginia and a few wagons of coal would last for a year or two.

 

None of the work horses on Mt. Vernon were shod.  It was nearly all clay ground.  The carriage and riding horses were shod because of the brick or cobblestone streets in Alexandria and later in Washington DC, would tear the hooves up.

 

The tour guide mentioned that Washington turned to growing wheat because of taxes on tobacco.  No one ever mentions Washingtonís alcohol in the history books or on the Mt. Vernon tour, but I asked Mr. Blacksmith and he told me Washington had the largest distillery in the colonies.  George, being a businessman, I knew why he grew wheat.  It wasnít all used for bread like the guide said.  They donít grow radishes or onions in Holland, when a tulip bulb will bring in one or two dollars each.  People pay more for whiskey than for a loaf of bread.

 

The return trip west had a different perspective than on the trip out there.  Row upon row of corn stubble kept flashing into my mind, the memory of the row upon row of white marble grave stones at Arlington Cemetery.  Over six hundred acres of rolling countryside with trees and monuments.  The roads circle in and out of the trees and the nearly perfectly kept grounds seem to hypnotize me until the sunlight shocked me as tens of thousands of sparkling white stones appeared again as we crested the next hills.

 

The ideal beauty of the Alleghany Mountains of song has a dark side.  Millions of dead, down, and dying trees scatter the countryside.  I talked to a lady from Connecticut at the new memorial for the 9-11 plane crash site in Pennsylvania, and she told me some blight has killed a lot of hardwoods.

 

Itís nice to go, but itís nice to get back home.  A person will never see everything in Washington or everything in the world.  Iím satisfied.  I saw mostly of what I wanted to see.  I donít even know if I want to go back there again.

 

I get a kick out of watching the wild roses start to bloom, or stumbling on pink moccasin flowers in my swamp, or a pitcher plant in the swamps east of Cook.  We did miss the botanical gardens near the capitol, which isnít on many tourists list, but we did see most of the big memorials.

 

Gwen baked a batch of bread, and we cooked up some spaghetti sauce and had a good supper at home.  Itís nice to be home.

 

 

Sent: Friday, April 06, 2012

THE THREE PIGS

 

The first time I tapped maple trees was when I was teaching 7th grade at Arnold School.  We rented a house on the Howard Gneisen Road in Rice Lake Township from Mrs. Laitinen.  I had taught her daughter a couple of years before.  She had moved down to Duluth and the rent was reasonable.

 

The house was heated with a coal stoker furnace.  One day I asked her if I could cut some black ash trees on her land for firewood.  She said it was OK, so I heated the house with wood the rest of the winter.

 

In the spring I tapped about 14 maple trees and being low tech, I got 1 gallon cans from the hot lunch cooks and used a pop can opener to cut a small triangular hole at the top edge of each can.  That way I could hang the cans on a roofing tack.  I made small folded tin spouts from tin can strips folded lengthwise and cut the end to a point so I could pound them in at a slant just under the tap hole.  I bought a brand new garbage can and dumped the sap in there each evening.  The only way we (Gwen) could boil it was on the kitchen range.  She cooked the four or more gallons a day.  That made a pint of syrup each day.  It sure steamed up the house.

 

There was a barn on the property that was being used for storage, but I got a bright idea to get some pigs.  Jutenís had a real nice pig farm a few miles north of where we lived.  They had a modern farrowing barn about a hundred feet long with pens along each side and a wide alley in the middle for a tractor to run the length of the barn.  Each pen had a heated floor, a heat lamp, and a watering cup.  So it was a nice set up.  The Jutens had more than a thousand hogs.

 

I called them and asked what they were asking for the feeder pigs.  The price was low that year and they were not selling fast.  I got three sixty pound pigs for $20. each.  Even in those days that was a very good price.

 

I built a pen behind the barn and it being March, was still cold with snow on the ground.  I got six bales of straw and the pigs made a nest and burrowed right in.  I got my feed from a dairy farmer, who sold pigs, poultry, and dairy ration feed as a side line business on his farm.

 

The seventh and eighth grade kids helped the cooks each noon and I know they separated the garbage from the trays.  That way the napkins were tossed in the paper can to be burned by the janitors and the spoons and forks didnít go into the garbage.

 

The two janitors were also the bus drivers.  They came back after the bus run and cleaned the school.  I told them there would be a clean garbage can at the school when they got back each night.  They never said a thing.  It wasnít legal at that time in 1966 to sell pigs that were fed on garbage.  But I wasnít intending to sell my pigs.  One day the cooks had made oven baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, whole kernel corn, and cake for dessert.  And, as always, bread and butter.  There was nothing wrong with the meal, believe me, but the first and second graders got the same size serving as the seventh and eighth graders.  When I picked up that garbage can there must have been 15 gallons of slop.  Those pigs ate it all in two days.

 

Some days the maple trees didnít produce much sap, but some days it just ran.  Gwen couldnít boil it fast enough, so from day one those pigs never drank water, but just good old fashioned maple sap.

 

When school was out that spring, I borrowed dadís 2 wheel trailer and put the rack on it and hauled our three pigs up to Gheen.

 

Mortrud had an egg farm on Highway #4 and had 1 year old white leghorn chickens for sale.  They always got new hens each year.  I got a dozen hens for a dollar each and put three hens each in a gunny sack and they were in the back of the station wagon with the pigs in tow behind.  When we got to Gheen and unloaded the animals, there were three eggs in the sacks.  Itís been like a three ringed circus many times in my life.

 

Nick Shermer came over to see those pigs, which had grown a lot, and got Jutenís address.  He and Dick Skraba went down and bought sows.

 

We were craving meat so I butchered one pig right away. It dressed out at 165 pounds.  The other two got fed well and I butchered them in the fall.

 

The next year I hauled an old Gypo shack home from Roy Tupyís to use for a barn, and so we got cows and the rest is history.

 

The six years we lived in Duluth, we rented and moved back to Gheen each summer.  I could always get work here.  It wasnít that easy in Duluth.  Every fall we found a place to rent and packed up and headed back to town.

 

I knew I had the teaching job in Cook, so the pig adventure was the last hurrah in the Duluth area.

 

When Harold Eldien was done farming, he offered me his whiteface cows.  Farming looked like a good future in the late 1960ís.  I could have bought his 20 cows for $10,000, but I figured I could start small and build up my herd without borrowing any money.  By the time I had 16 head, the price of gas shot up from 32 cents a gallon to $1.32 in about 2 or 3 days.  I told Gwen ďIím not making hay with that price of gas.Ē  I sold most of the cows that fall.

 

 

 

Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012

A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR

Well, the maple trees havenít produced much sap this spring.  Those in the southern part of Minnesota havenít had any freezing nights, so they are having a problem.  We read on Facebook that one man who has made maple syrup for 40 years has never seen a spring like this in his life.  It takes 32 to 40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of syrup.  So far Iíve only got 8 gallons so that will make 3 cups.  I made 7 gallons last year.

I know the Native Americans that had pottery boiled sap, and when the Ojibwa moved here they had iron kettles and boiled sap, too.  That had to carry sap to the fires, so they may not have made as much maple sugar as people who have modern equipment and pickup trucks.  They may have consumed most of the sugar right away.  It sure tastes good on smoked fish.

I grew up in a house that probably consumed more sugar than most.  Dad always believed sugar was a good food for energy.  The Scandinavians drank a lot of coffee too, so I suppose that had something to do with the high work production of the Nordic people.  Remember nearly all work was done with hand labor.  Even the other nationalities that moved into the cold climates ate sugar and drank coffee, too.  They all worked the same way, and had the reputation for being workers.  Down south they always wanted to hire northerners because they knew how to work.  Most farm labor down south was done by the blacks.  The whites were the businessmen and didnít do manual labor.

The folks told about some of the old Swedes around here that wouldnít give their kids sweets.  But when company came over, the coffee pot was put on the stoves and down came the cookie jars and out came the lunch meat, bread, butter, and of course, sugar lumps.

Mom always baked cakes, cookies, and bread, and we had cows, so we always had a lot of milk, cream, and butter.  We never sold any and used all of it at home.  Any left over milk went to the calves.

One thing mom wouldnít let us do was eat sugar with a spoon.

We liked to go over to Grandma Millerís because she would give us a sharp knife to cut rhubarb, and each kid a half a cup of sugar to dip it in.  If we ran out of sugar, she would give us a little more.  Mom wouldnít let us do that.

Some things that make poor food taste better is hot spices, cream and butter, alcohol, and sugar.

When you think about it, the people in hot climates mask bad food, especially meat, with hot pepper and chilies.

Potatoes donít have much flavor, but cream and butter can make them eatable.

If you put enough sugar on something you can eat them.  Rhubarb, lemons, chocolate, and cranberries by themselves taste like you know what, but can be consumed if you use enough sugar.

Most things like fruit spoil fast, so they have been preserved by using sugar to make jam, jelly or preserves.

Even surplus grain can be made into alcohol by adding sugar and yeast.

I think any plant material, if boiled, and by adding enough sugar, can be made into drinkable alcohol.  Even cardboard would probably work.  Bad food could be consumed if a person were drunk.

Raw molasses is ugly, icky stuff, but they do make rum out of it, and that can be sold for money.  The same with moonshine

*

Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2012
 

TWEAKED

What makes a person different in the way they think?  There must be a thousand reasons.  Most people do make a judgment after listening or watching a person for a few minutes.

 

I was listening to ďGarage LogicĒ in the car the other day and they were talking and joking about a book about some people who didnít bathe and went nuts on a trek out west years ago.  It made me think of people I remembered as a small kid.

 

I had dreamt about the cowboys and the gold prospectors.  We had comic books and had watched the movies before the days of television, so the cops and robbers and cowboys were the games we played as kids.  Bang, bang, youíre dead.  We fell to the ground and jerked and rolled around and died, all the while we hollered and explained to the other kids what was, and had happened, and where the bullet went in, and came out, and where the brains and blood splattered.  Up we would jump and get back on our make believe horse and ride off to die another death.

 

We would stand there with our head to one side, and our tongue hanging out and our eyes crossed, pretending we were hung.  In a few seconds it was skipping along again pretending we were galloping on our horse.

 

I never remember playing that we were fighting much on a rainy day or when it was wet, but we did have grass stains on our pants nearly every day, and we did throw each other around a lot when there was snow on the ground.  No one got hurt, but we did spit out snow and got soaked on those warm winter days.

 

Now that we grew up, few people would want to live the lonely life of a cowboy or be a crook with the police chasing you all the time.

 

They say for every doctor there was a demanding mother.  That canít be true.  Some abandoned and orphaned kids grew to love study and the gathering of knowledge.  And some of the nagging mothers turned their kids off.

 

No one thinks in a certain way because of environment or genetics.

 

Think of the kids who grew up in the slums or in the alleys of some war torn towns.  They grew up to be normal people, and some people who were doted upon never had to work for anything and grew up expecting a handout and never appreciated what they got from home, the government, or their country.

 

We had our tweaked band of gypos here when I was a kid.  These were the piece cutters who cut pulpwood for the loggers.  They didnít live in a bunkhouse with a hundred other men like in the hay days of the saw log timber.  The gypos lived in an 8x12 foot shack.   He cut wood by himself, cooked his own meals, and basically was a hermit.

 

Like the prospectors, the cowboy out west, the explorer who trudged the Amazon Valley of Brazil, they were kind of tweaked for some reason and left home to live their lives the way they wanted.

 

I donít think the way of life they lived made them go crazy.  Some were crazy before they left home.

 

Remember, a pack of wolves or puppies, tear into each other and fight all the time.  With people, there were to rules about bullies until it became politically wrong a few years ago.

 

If a kid acted bad, or had turrets syndrome, the older boys would beat him up and he wouldnít swear or he would get pounded.  If someone insulted your wife, mother, or girlfriend, he would get beat up or at least get into a fight.  I knew a couple of girls that beat the tar out of a couple of kids that were picking on their little brothers.

 

Sometimes those people who were tweaked a little did break the mold and became the inventors, the adventurers, the explorer and the world champion boxers.  With little thought of disappointing their parents, they headed out into the great unknown and did great things.

 

Some of the tweaked never succeeded and didnít survive.

 

Itís easier sometimes to just go with the flow, never amount to much, take advantage of anything that is free, and try to please most everyone.

 

I suppose, because I write stuff like this, donít think many people care one way or another, and do some of the things I do, Iím tweaked and a little ďnutsĒ myself.

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2012
 

INVASIVE SPECIES

 

Invasive species are invading all the lakes in the United States.  It is obvious that those that are harmful have a great impact on game fish and the food that they rely on.  Invasive species have popped up in nearly every place on earth that man has traveled.

 

Iíll let you do the research on a few species that Iíve known about.

 

The Polynesians took dogs with them to nearly every island in the Pacific Ocean.  Iíve never studied this.  Did they eat eggs of some birds?  Those people were invasive, too.  They brought with them some beneficial food plants and animals that must have impacted the native vegetation of each island.

 

Deserts and mountains and oceans kept plants and animals in check but people on caravans and ships carried exotic pets with them.  Rats are a species that crossed every ocean on sailing ships and invaded all the continents except Antarctica.  They not only carried disease born insects like flies and lice, but multiplied and devoured a lot of other species of invertebrates and birds on many islands and isolated diversified biologic landscapes.  The world will never be the same and in the warmer regions of the world the rats will never die out.

 

As man changes his way of living some areas that are sparsely populated and farming stops, those rats wonít have a constant source of food so they will diminish in those regions.  Our house cats were probably native to the African desert and were kept for rodent control.  They have accompanied man where ever they were needed to control mice and rats.  Ferrell cats on abandoned farms out east are twice the size of most house cats.  They do take a toll on songbirds and cottontail rabbits.  In the oak forests of the US there is no shortage of acorns and no shortage of grey squirrels so the cats have no shortage of rodents to eat.

When the pilgrims came to New England they took cattle, sheep, and pigs along with their horses to America.  They had enough hay and grain to feel their poultry and farm stock.  With the grain came the weed seed of Europe, too.  The grain is not evasive since it has to be planted by man.  Not so with the hay seed.  This spreads when the animals drop their manure.  Clover and other seed go right through the animal body and sprout when conditions are right.  The same pasture grasses that are native to Europe grow here.  So do the clover that came with the logging horses grow in the opening and along roads today in our forests.

So some of the plants we take for granted are invasive species.  Someone please check, is the dandelion an invasive species related to lettuce that was introduced by the pioneers?

 

When people dug ditches to drain farmland they did change the environment.  When Jesse Ventura was governor he had three people from St. Paul come up to Grand Rapids for a meeting to discuss a plan to establish wild life corridors across northern Minnesota.  Some of you have seen the map in the past.  The land immediately along the state highways would stay the same.  Towns like the range cities and Cook, Orr, Crain Lake would stay.  But the plan would be to eventually move most other scattered people out of the area.  This would be nearly like the wilderness area of the Boundary Waters National Park.  They figured by doing this the animals could find each other to mate, and revert back to the natural numbers before the land was settled.  When the people gave their spiel and a number of people from the floor spoke, I felt the meeting was about to break up.  So I asked them if the state was trying to bring the land back to its natural state.  They smiled and said yes.  Then I asked them if they would remove all the roads, ditches, culverts, and bridges.  They didnít say anything but glanced at each other.  Then I asked them if they were going to eradicate all the white dutch clover, the red clover, and the alsike clover (which are all European) from the woods.  They didnít look me in the eye by this time.  I think the clincher was when I asked them if the state forestry sprayed young pine plantations to control the deciduous growth.  We all know this is done.  One looked at the other and asked the third if they did this, and he said yes.  The meeting ended.

 

There are a lot of evasive species in this country that are not that harmful.  Think of all the sheep, goats, and pigs, different breeds of horses and cattle that have displaced the hard to handle bison.  It was said there were 60 million on the Great Plains.  The pronghorn are one of the fastest mammals on the planet and they are hard to fence, just like the bison and the elk.  Our livestock is invasive.  Only the turkey, which was domesticated by the natives of Central American, is the same species as the wild turkey.  Sometimes wild toms take off with domestic hens and do go wild.  Wild pigs are not native to the Americas.

 

The list goes on and on.  The rivers of the south are covered with water hyacinths that were introduced years ago.  Other vines down south are smothering native plants.

 

The things that donít grow well are not too much of a problem.  Think of the flowers and plants from other countries that we grow.  Some ornamental bushes and trees are foreign, too.

 

American native food plants are sunflowers, squash, pumpkins, corn, beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

 

Columbus was Italian, but never tasted tomato paste.  The Norwegians and Irish never saw a potato until after they arrived in Europe from the Andes Mountains in South America.

 

Did the Nordics boil maple sap or did they get that idea from the American Natives?

 

Finland even has a herd of whitetail deer that came from here.

 

Our ring neck pheasant came from China.  Some fish like the graylings, and smelt and salmon in Lake Superior are not native.  Itís against the law to use goldfish for bait because they revert back to carp if they get into the lakes.

 

We call the native fly, horsefly, but they should be the buffalo fly, because they were here when the Spanish brought horses over.

 

When we enjoy our apples, oranges, pears, and watermelons, we are eating fruit from the old country.  Old country barley makes our beer, and old country wheat makes our vodka.

 

They use American corn to make moonshine.

*

 

 

Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012

CZECH DREAM

 I watched a documentary on Link  TV last night titled ďCzech Dream.Ē 

Czech film students filmed an elaborate hoax involving the opening of an enormous market.

 

Thousands of people came to a grassy field for the Grand Opening because of television and poster campaigns to buy items at a low cost.

 

It was to show how people believe campaign promises, and how they can be persuaded to buy things they really donít need by mass advertising.

 

Think of how people voted to join the European Union, and what did the small countries gain?  What kind of advertising got you interested in getting a tattoo or to have your one year old daughter get her ears pierced, and later in life getting her tongue or nipples pierced?

 

Who talked you into taking drugs?  Or, who got you interested in smoking even when some relatives died of lung cancer.

 

Some people are so greedy that they want something for nothing.  Maybe some politicians will give you false promises.  Do some thinking before you vote.

 

I wasnít a very good reader as a kid.  I wasnít a good reader at all.  I did more learning by listening than anything else.  After I did learn to read to a certain degree, I learned it was more important to read between the lines.

 

In every message, whether written or spoken, there are truths and untruths that a person understands.

 

I know the difference between teasing and lies.  I did put my foot in my mouth when learning how to joke.  It didnít always come out of my mouth the way it was intended.  Iíve said before that Iíve gotten into trouble by trying to be funny.

 

You can google Czech Dream on the internet.

 

COUNTER PRODUCTIVE

One benefit of writing these stories is that Iím not as nostalgic as I was about fifteen years ago when I got a little depressed when we took our rides around the country and saw the old buildings falling in and those fields that were cleared with hand tools that grew up in brush.

As a person grows old you learn to accept change and realize nothing will ever be like it was in the past.  A lot of young people are trying to learn those old time crafts of using hand tools and preserving food.

I often think of all the counter productive activity that goes on.  War would be one activity that never achieves its intended outcome.  After those people who believe only their idea is the right way to do something, fights with another group who think their way is the only right way, get done destroying tremendous resources, they compromise.  If not, the war goes on and on.  Remember every gun and weapon ever invented was to kill people.  When they become obsolete they are used for target practice or hunting. 

Sports never accomplished anything.  If we think of doing things wisely, wasting energy is a waste of food.  If we exercise a lot, it increases our hunger so we eat more.  Then we think we are smart by burning off calories so we donít get fat.  Our society seems to judge people on how much effort, or little effort goes into our activities.  To be rich is to have so much money we never have to do any labor.  We can hire some less intelligent person than ourselves to do that kind of work.  Anyone who perspires is not a person you get very close to.  Think of the millions of dollars a month is spent on deodorant in America.  Yet itís stylish to take a sauna because of the health benefits.

Sometimes religion becomes counter productive when a specific idea is drummed into people in a community or country.  Sometimes a kid is turned away from it because the parents breathe and sleep and hound the kid to death.  Thatís called rebellion.  They canít wait to get away from home.  Some move to a far off city where no one knows them.

When we try to feed the hungry by handing them food, they never try to grow a garden.  Why should they when people are bending over backwards to look good with their donations to the food bank.  If Americans are so obese, why are they feeding so much food at school lunch programs?  Why shouldnít it just be a snack to tide them over until they get home?  Donít tell me they wouldnít get fed.  Those poor people with food stamps push those overloaded grocery carts with a lot of items I donít buy.  Donít think people donít know who or donít notice whatís being bought in the store.

Anyone who knows me knows I donít really care what they think about my activities or beliefs.  Only one man ever told me I was lazy to my face.  He had just been bragging about doing some trapping when he was young and told me I was lazy because I wouldnít trap beaver under the ice on a creek that ran into Black Bay.  I may be stupid to be out trapping, but Iím not when it comes to tramping back miles in the deep snow and chopping through ice on a beaver dam to check a trap that may be empty most of the time.  I may be lazy when it comes to mental work but I like physical work.  At my age itís more painful, but I take pride in still being able to do some things for myself without becoming completely dependent on young people to do my tasks for me.

Why should anyone in America pick berries that just fall on the ground and rot?  Why should anyone cut up dead trees for firewood, when we can get propane or fuel oil or buy electricity to hear our homes?  Why should any American feed chickens in his backyard when we can buy sunflower seeds to feel the wild birds that can pick cones apart in the woods?  It would be stupid to feed a couple of Angus cows when we can feed horses we never ride.  A few do ride their horses and very few raise a cow or two to butcher each year.

Why should any fat person walk for exercise when they can ride on a lawnmower to cut grass?  The same with driving a car all the time even to mail a letter on the end of the driveway?

In most countries of the world they use most animal waste and sewage for fertilizer, but here we dump it in the nearest river.  Sometimes I think some of those chemicals we eat go into the river in the sewage and do some harm.  There is so much estrogen from birth control pills that it is affecting the reproduction of some fish in the rivers near large cities.

It seems that even the government is counter productive by doing everything for the American people to the point that they donít even think anymore.

 

 

*

Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2011
 

PLAYING FOR KEEPS

The play of words is a neat thing.  So many different meanings are worked into our language.  Meanings change over the years and not all people keep up with new ideas. 

Think of what people do for a living.  Some people work at jobs that keep things in order.  The principal at a school keeps order by instilling a little fear into the teachers to keep them on task.  When that person walks down the hall past the janitor, they both take an unconscious look at the floor of the hall to see if itís clean.  The teacher, who is the hall monitor, glances around to see if some student is running or monkeying around. The cooks in the lunchroom glance up to see if everything is near and clean. The principal gets a little nervous when the superintendent visits the school.  They keep the school going.  The teacherís worst fear is getting criticized not keeping the kids quiet, or not staying on schedule or not getting the report cards done on time.  There is pressure to keep the kids learning their lessons and passing their tests.

 

The car dealership people keep the cars coming into the lot and keep them neat.  The back of the building is busy repairing the used cars that are traded in and the bookkeepers are taking care of the financial business.

 

The banker is keeping track of everyoneís money and making sure it is safe.  Along with trying to keep up with government regulations and audits and still trying to pay peopleís salaries who work there.  Itís a business so the bank tries to keep making some money to make all the trouble and headaches worthwhile.

 

My son works on the high lines in the U.P. of Michigan and keeps the electrical power reliable.  My son-in-law keeps the paper mill running in International Falls.  I have a son who is a peace keeper on the range.

 

Another son-in-law is a forest ranger and keeps track of state land.  For sure, most people are honest.  What would keep people from cutting trees on so much state land?  Some could get away with it, but you donít hear much about theft of trees.

 

Just like our country, where everyone pays their own taxes.  You donít hear about tax collectors who have to extort money from common people.  People just pay sales taxes,  real estate taxes, and income taxes without too much protest.  We do have the Internal Revenue auditors checking to keep everyone (most everyone) honest.

 

The farmers keep producing a surplus of food and the truck drivers keep delivering it to all the stores.  The grain farmers keep producing a surplus of barley so they can make beer so cheap.  They also produce a surplus of corn so we can make alcohol to burn in our cars.  The dairy farmers keep making surplus milk.  There is no way we can drink it all, so they keep making cheese so cheaply we can us it on pizza.

 

The loggers keep cutting trees so we can keep making cheap paper and cardboard.  The trees keep falling down from old age and the acts of God.  Itís either use it for lumber or paper or it keeps piling up and falling down and burning up when lightning strikes.  Everything keeps going on an even keep until a ďrevolutionĒ hits.

 

Thatís when there is a sudden change.  A turn around.  It seems young people like change.  Old people are conservative and seem to not like things changing.  They understand the rhythm of life.  Some have seen what sudden change can do to society.

 

When you study history, revolutions really can cause a lot of unexpected, unintentional, and unrewarding results.  The Russian people were exploited by the Tsars and change was needed, but a lot of the people who led the fight lost their lives in the struggle for new power.  The people who were downtrodden in France needed change but the people who brought down the French monarchy were themselves guillotined in a short time.  When the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia took over power, they killed off the college professors and intellects and terrorized the land for years.  Youíve heard of the ďKilling Fields.Ē

 

When Castro threw out the capitalists of Cuba, he took over the American owned sugar plantation and refineries.  The people werenít getting paid a lot, but they arenít much better off today.  Russia still buys their sugar, but they donít seem to be prospering.

 

It seems anyone who is receiving tax money for their services are the first ones whoís heads roll in a revolution.

 

I was a teacher and received tax money for my services.  The people who work in all the public buildings are paid by tax money.  In our town we have a state forestry office, a federal forestry building, and a county forestry office north of town.  The post office is just about defunct because of UPS deliveries, and Email on computers.  They are protesting to keep the small post offices open.

 

It seems about half of the people who work in our county, and in fact, the country, are paid by taxes.

 

State and county road crews, the welfare systems, the workers who keep government Medicare running, old pensions like social security, and veteransí benefits are government funded.  The police and sheriff dept. as well as the game wardens are paid with tax money.  So, too, the armed services and the space and nuculear energy department, as well as the United Nations business.

 

When there is a revolution there is a blow up in the engine that keeps things running smoothly.  When the corporations who keep the financial business of the mining, paper mills, food processors, oil refineries and gas companies, electric power companies and manufacturers of cars and parts, tractors, solar panels, windmills and other vital industries are interrupted, disaster can result.

 

Where will you be when some stupid person blows up our power stations and airports and highway bridges?  I hope these kids in town know how to grow a garden and protect it from armed thieves.  They donít own guns, but the crooks always do.

 

Donít hope for sudden change or revolution.  Get involved and work for gradual change and stability. 

 

 
Sent: Saturday, September 24, 2011 9:37 AM
 

THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER

 

I suppose the reason the ďLittle House on the PrairieĒ and ďThe Waltons Ē were so popular is that a lot of people grew up in rural areas and could relate to all those different situations.  The same could be true of the kids who went off to work at the Peace Corp. When the present crop of old people die off, the memory of growing up in the country will be gone.  No more will there be memories of chopping off chickens heads and plucking those wet, stinky feathers.  Few boys will remember peeling the membranes out of a gizzard.

 

TV has urbanized even most rural kids.  So, too, have the computers and hand held games.  A lot of times they stay inside homes and are seldom seen playing in sandboxes or riding their bikes anymore.

 

There are few, if any, perfect homes.  I know some seem to be, but when thinking back at a few I know, things have changed over the years.  I remember a man who blew a tire out on his Model A Ford when he hit the blade of a grader while he was passing.  He swore pretty bad for a long time.  He became religious and was devout the rest of his life.  Some of his family were religious, too.  But there was heart ache off and on, too.

 

Another family had memories of their father drinking so bad the mom and kids hid in the woods because they were so scared.  Just like Alex Haleyís ďRootsĒ, those stories were told and retold for years.

 

Others, especially those who came from the Old Country, beat their wives and kids.  I knew a man who said he was beaten with his dadís leather belt every day whether he needed it or not.

 

In the 1950ís we saw shows like ďFather Knows BestĒ or the ďNelsonsĒ.  I remember the dads never going to work.  Some wore suits and neckties to the table for every meal.

 

We saw out dads with dirt under their fingernails and sawdust in their hair eat and rush off to what seemed like a job that was never done.

 

One thing about farming is that it never ends.  You get up and get dressed and go out and feed the cows and milk them and come in and wash up and eat breakfast and go out and clean the barn and go off to the woods to make some extra money to pay the taxes and get back home and wash up and eat a bit and go back out to the barn to clean and feed and milk the cows again and come in and clean up and snack and go to bed and get up in the middle of the night to see if the cow had a calf or if it had died.  The same thing happened the next day.  Even on Sundays the cows had to be milked.  It had to be timed to be able to go to church.

 

Those who didnít go to church had to time it so they could drink at some party or tavern on Saturday night.  But they still had to do chores even with a hangover.

 

The same cycle of life went on with plowing the fields, disking, planting and harvesting.  The same cycle of mowing the hay, raking the hay and getting it into the barn had to be done every year.  Over and over and it had to be repeated every year in and every year out.  It never ended.  No end in sight.

 

The same with the trudge to the mine and eat out of the same lunch box day after day, year after year.

 

The same with the lumberjack.  Or getting done with one car and then another is driven in to be fixed by the mechanic.

 

Moms had to get up early and get breakfast made, wash clothes, clean the house, prepare food for winter and keep the fire going until old age crept up and put a final stop to it.

 

Modern life with its non stop frenzy has changed with something different all the time.  Where will we eat out tonight?  We have to get the kids to this game or that practice.  We have to buy new clothes for this or that event.  What kind of new hair style will I get or a new purse or pair of shoes?  Some like to be going somewhere to see or be seen.  Some stay home always and never venture out.  The remote is worn out clicking channel after channel for something more exciting.

 

We went to a football game in International Falls last night and in front of us sat a group of Special Olympic people from the area.  They were having a wonderful time not watching the game.  They were visiting with people and wandering around.  Even as adults they were not interested in the game and were doing the same antics as the kids having their own game on the grass on the far side of the field.  Some were smiling and teasing just like the little children in the crowd.  I remember the same child like people sitting down in the front row of the crowd at the Shrine Circus in Hibbing each year.  They seemed ageless and were still there in the front the last time I went.

 

The same thing sometimes happens to old people when they get to the nursing home.  They get a certain innocence, and what we call a second childhood.  Memories are gone and worries disappear.  They forget family and friends and have no more fear of anything.  Just like the lady who looked after the group, and made sure all got on the large van when the game was over, and had a few hugs and smiles, those old people get tucked into bed at night in the nursing home by someone.

 

When the lights go out, the same old, same old routine stops.

 
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2011
 

WILL MINING ON THE RANGE DIE?

 

I was visiting with some people in Virginia the other day and a man told me the man who owns Inland Steel also owns 50% interest in Hibbing Tac.  I think he is from India.  Iíve heard he is trying to control all the iron production of the world.  Will taxing the rich and the corporations cause him to pull in his horns and close up shop?

 

How will the people on the range vote in our next election?  Iíd like to hear from our politicians on their take of the situation.  Our state representatives must have the same information as you and I do.

 

When I was a kid the Willow Valley Farmers Club here in Gheen had the politicians come and give their speal at our hall.  The place was packed with spectators.  We got a good turnout with county and state people giving their talks.  Some of those old time men didnít need loudspeakers or a megaphone.

 

Just like the olden days when Teddy Roosevelt bellowed from the caboose of a train, Widstrand and Hulstrand roared from the front of our hall to the crowd.  The county sheriff and even the county school superintendent was elected in those days.

 

According to the information Iíve seen on the computer, the largest deposit of iron ore is in Canada.  This high grade ore is estimated to be 4 billion tons and worth $180 a ton.

 

The largest steel making company in the world is Arcelo Mittal acquired a 70% controlling interest in Baffinland Iron Mines.  Mittal, the largest steelmaker in the world, now controls the largest iron deposit in the world.  Once they get going they say they can produce ore for $50 to $60 a ton.

 

London based Rio Tinto claims that Simandor deposit in West Africa is the largest deposit in the world. This deposit is only 2.24 billion tons.

 

The African deposit is in the tropics and the Canadian is above the Arctic circle and is a lot colder location.

 

Australia is predicted to over supply mining of iron ore by 2016-2017.  They are expanding existing mines and will over produce major markets like China by that time.

 

Along with Australia, Brazil is the largest exporter and producer of iron ore in the world.  These two countries contribute 64% followed by Canada.

 

Venezuela, Chili, and Peru produce iron ore, too.  Russia is ranked 4th in iron ore production behind Brazil, Australia, and China.  Russia has been expanding mining.  Russia has 25% of the worldís ore deposits, but much is in remote areas.


BLESSING IN DISGUISE

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2011

 

As everyone thinks in their own way, no one agrees one hundred percent on anything.  The same goes with every personís personal religion.

 

Iíve been telling people for years that I count my blessings everyday.  In just a short time we will have a Thanksgiving holiday.  A lot of people carve a bird or ham and have a great big feast and probably get into a big argument about politics or sports or religion over a couple of beers after they eat.  This is probably their family tradition which happens at every family gathering.  I remember a teacher who told me one of her students came back to school and told her she had a really bad vacation because her dad and uncles were drinking and punching each other.  Even relatives have different opinions on subjects.

 

I donít wait for only one day a year to be grateful for my existence.  Iíve told a lot of people like me that I never thought weíd be this well off when we were kids.  A lot of us started out with not much knowledge or money when young, but somehow, we managed to accumulate a lot of junk and have enough money to spend on foolish things.

 

Even those people who have no religion and have no solid idea on how to live must feel there is some kind of power out there that holds all the atoms together.  Something makes gravity from letting loose and we go floating away with all the dust and rocks dispersing.  The sun and stars would evaporate at the same time.  They must feel that even if they have no children of their own, their relatives give some of related genes to their offspring.  That way after they die, some of that life and genetic material does live on and on.

 

Iíve had my bumps and bruises just like most people.  Toe and fingernails grow back.  Scabs heal over wounds and some power tells them to stop healing when it finally replaces the wound.

 

Sometimes we pray and pray for the smallest things.  I suppose those things would or would not happen even if we didnít pray or wish for them.  It has to be a human thing.  I donít think other intelligent mammals pray.

 

God, or whatever people in all religions call their superior being or power, works in mysterious ways.

 

I see there is a 60,000 acre forest fire burning in the wilderness of northern Minnesota.  Thatís a little less than 3 townships of 36 square mile each.

 

We pray that God will send rain and stop the wind so the fire will go out.  Why?  Who sent the lightning and dried up the land?  It may be a blessing in disguise to burn up a bunch of worthless dead brush and timber and put an end to the ugly condition that looks like much of the grey, dead and down trees around Lake Vermilion and other areas near here.  Those spruce bud worms have had their fun.  The leaf borers that have killed the birch all the way up the North Shore of Lake Superior did a job.  The fungus that eats up the balsam trees doesnít look good, either.  So the power has sent fire to clean up the mess when nature gets out of control.

 

I told a friend a fear years ago, ďGod really tests us sometimes.Ē  That may make some people really think deep and long.  We all get sick and we will all die some day.  We may pray to our God, but not realize there may be another slant to the condition we are in.

 

God created everything.  It may even have evolved slowly into something a little different.  Itís all in the grand plan of life.  No one person ever created something different.  Some greater power creates.  Even every kind of life and disease.  Germs are alive; viruses are not, but use the hostís body material to replicate itself.  We pray to be cured, we pray to live longer.  We pray for someone to save us from stupid danger we have put ourselves in, but there may be a bigger plan that we canít see, so those prayers are not answered.

 

Iím not preaching, but this is how I think so I still count my blessings everyday.  When Iím so sick and old that I canít enjoy my life maybe Iíll have an accident or a heart attack.  And, just like a forest fire, it may be a blessing in disguise.

 

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Subject: IVORY TOWER.doc
 

IVORY TOWER

Who could be blamed for attitudes of individuals or groups of American people?  Iíve seen a turn in this in my lifetime.  There has always been an idea that it is more wise to use your mind instead of your back.

 

I was teasing my neighbor the other day about being a country gentleman.  Riding on a large white horse with a straw hat and a big cigar was the symbol of a man who had hired hands to do his work.  The country gentleman had a life of leisure and just had to oversee and manage his estate.

 

The memories of my childhood was the same as the life my neighbor lives.  The northern farmers didnít have slaves.  They did everything with their families, by themselves.  Most were immigrant peasants from Europe.  A lot were from landless tenant farmer stock.

 

Most of the people I knew years ago took pride in what they did.  Most never admitted mistakes.  When a calf died, they didnít tell all the world of their loss.  Even the lowest class gypos who owned nothing but the clothes on their back were proud of how much pulpwood they could cut with their bow saw and axe.

 

Not many people complained in public about their wife or husband.  They didnít want to admit they made a poor choice in who they married.

 

There were few law suits.  If a man insulted a manís wife and got punched in the mouth, he became the laughing stock of the community.  When someone committed a moral mistake while being drunk, became the topic of discussion of the surrounding communities.  Nearly every man who got a girl pregnant married her.  If not, he left the country.  One man I knew who moved up here made the statement, ďIf you make a mistake up here, everyone knows about it.Ē  He was smart and could talk his way to get a bank loan, but had a very hard time paying his loan back.  He did leave the country.

 

What would you rather weather a storm in a cold stone house or a paper tower?  I keep thinking about the retirement funds of the old people.  Are those accounts being replenished as fast as they are being depleted? 

 

If youíre old enough to read this you think of the same thing.  Are you on Social Security?  Are you on some disability program?  Are you paying into these funds?

 

Do you own a chain saw?  Can you heat your own house?  Do you get some kind of fuel assistance?

 

I remember when there were no nursing homes.  Oh yes, there was one in Virginia, but not in all the smaller villages.  Most old people lived out their life in a relatives extra bedroom.

 

Today, the attitude is that being American is a right to entitlements without paying.  Probably half the people working get a return on their income tax.  Those who donít work donít pay income taxes.  There is no differential in a lot of peopleís minds that rich people and companies are the same thing.

 

Corporations are owned by many, many people.  They do pay a lot, if not most, of the taxes.

 

A flat tax could solve a lot of problems.  Everyone pays a percentage of what they earn.  I know some poor working people would only pay $17. a year, but a billionaire would pay the same percent with no loopholes would pay millions.  No deductions of any kind for anyone.  Reform the income tax forms.

 

What is really essential and what is truly needed.  Start at home.  Does every town need an airport?  Should they be funded by taxpayers or by the users?

 

Is it fair to give grants and not loans to just a few?  The cost of tuition at Virginia Community College was $29 a semester when I went there in 1959.  It was $115 a quarter at UMD in Duluth in 1961.

 

Who pays for the scholarships for the sports players in the colleges?  Some get a free ride as long as they play.  Is college for scholars or players of games?  Does the government need to give scholarships to scholars?  My friend in Virginia told me his grandfather was a janitor and helped his son become a surgeon.  An old man in Duluth made a deal with him that he would help him get through college, if he would take care of him.  Doc made a trip to Duluth every week to check on him until he died.  I know a lot of people have benefited from scholarships since that time.  But a lot of kids that needed help dropped out because of the modern cost and they got no help.

 

Because the government personnel have bankrupt the country, the federal government is broke, they will have a hard time financing the states.  When a state is broke they will not have money to give city and township governments.

 

Cook school got a 1.3 million dollar swimming pool.  Did Orr, Cherry, Cotton and other schools that size get one, too?  Where did that gift come from?

 

With the money drying up, who will pay for the low cost housing in all the villages of America?  Should tax money from everyone repair sewers and water systems in every small town?  Should people in rural areas get a free well and septic system, too?

 

Do people on disability play basketball and go fishing have enough energy to plant a garden, pick berries, and cut some firewood?

 

We went to the rodeo at Effie and met Jim Shermer.  You know, the guy the veterinarian said ďHave you ever met such a ďCan DoĒ, person in your life?Ē  We watched a man being pushed in a wheelchair, and Jim said ďThere is a disabled.  Thereís where the money should go.Ē

 

We do feel sorry for those who canít take care of themselves.  We do feel sorry for people who canít possibly feed themselves.  We donít feel sorry for those who squander their money and resources and make excuses when it was their own fault.

 

We shouldnít feel sorry for those politicians, either.

 

*

Sent: Thursday, November 25, 2010

WHATíS IN THAT BOX

Just like a few specks of gold sparkle in a prospectorís pan, a box full of folders and newspaper clippings tweak my curiosity. 

Iím probably more of a story teller than historian.  But what intrigues me is more in those boxes than the displays at a museum.  History is a list of events that have been recorded.  A story only needs a few facts to be woven into some kind of fabric.

 

With only three newspaper clippings from the Virginia Museum, I gathered more information than most history books reveal.

 

July 29, 1958, a clipping states that uprooted tree roots revealed iron ore to the Merritts, who were surveying a line for a railroad from Duluth to Winnipeg via Rat Portage.  That was Kenora in those days.

 

The Mountain Iron Mine caused the Virginia district to erupt into activity.  A.E. Humphreys, a promoter from the state of Virginia, secured a lease on lands, belonging to C.N. Nelson Lumber Company of Cloquet.  These included the Commodore, Franklin, Moose and Iron King mines.

 

The Commadore Mine was the first property in the Virginia group to be explored in 1891-02.  It made its first shipment of 65,137 tons in 1893.

 

It was predicted in 1907 that all the mines would be one mine in the future.  The prediction of 400,000,000 tons were estimated and new bodies of ore were constantly being revealed.

 

In 1870, mineral promoter, Peter Mitchell and surveyor, Christian Wieland explored some taconite deposits around Birch Lake near Babbitt.  At that time, no one knew how to separate the ore from silica rock.  Those deposits were not developed.

 

In the next decades, the hard hematite of the Vermilion and the even richer soft ores of the Mesabi were uncovered, so taconite was ignored.

 

In 1913, John Williams started publicly talking about the future of taconite.  Edward Wilson Davis was skeptical.

 

In 1913, Daniel Jackling, a copper mine owner from Utah, used a crushed ore improvement process.  Jackling had a mining engineer from Duluth, Dwight Woodbridge, report on a taconite experiment.  Woodbridge reported about the vast taconite deposits and with money and the right men, it was well worth the effort to develop taconite.

 

Edward Davis was a graduate of Perdue University and in 1912 joined the faculty of the Minnesota School of Mines.  Here, he met John Williams and began his life with taconite.

 

In 1916, Swart, Davis, and Fred Jordan, with Jacklingís money, started an experimental plant in West Duluth.  An experimental mine was opened and an old logging railroad and existing iron railroad shipped taconite to Duluth.  For two years the mill operated on a random test basis and processed as much as 100 tons of ore some days.  The hard taconite had to be crushed.  Some was mixed with coal and sintered to melt it.  In 1918, the Duluth plant sent 1,840 tons to eastern steel mills.  It was 62 percent iron.

 

In 1920 Jackling set up a mill near Babbitt.  By 1922, Mesabi Iron shipped 150,000 tons of 60 percent iron.  Most went to the Ford Motor Co.

 

By 1924, Mesabi Iron proved that taconite refining was feasible, but the iron mines of the Mesabi were producing cheaper natural ore.  So the plant closed for many years.  Davis and his university staff kept working on refining the process.

 

By the mid 1940ís, Davis was confident and pestered the steel industry.  World War II had depleted a lot of the natural ore and the steel industry was looking at ore from other countries so the time had come to start the taconite plants.

 

In 1951, Davis took a leave of absence from the university to join Reserve Mining Co.  That same year, Reserve began work on a mine, plant, and a new townsite at Babbitt.  That same year $185 million was spent to build the Silver Bay facilities on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  In 1956, the first taconite left Silver Bay for eastern steel mills.

 

I canít possibly write a short history of the mines and lives of these people who worked and established the iron mines of the Mesabi.  There were good times and bad for the companies as well as the workers.

 

There were depressions and slowdowns and extremely good years.  There was the heat of the summer and lay off in the winter months.  This affected the store owners, and renters, too.

 

The tax from the iron was used to improve the town and schools.  My folks talked about the town of Virginia that had paved alleys and very few chimneys in the houses.

 

The taconite industry sprung up all over the Iron Range and an investment of $300,000,000 was used by United States Steel to build the Mountain Iron Plant in 1954.  This one giant company produced 35,700.000 ingot tons of steel in 1953.

 

In 1954 they developed Cerro Bolivar, Venezuela Iron Mines.  It was explained to me in a geography class at UMD in 1963, that the iron ore could be blasted and sent down a conveyer into the ore ships in Venezuela and shipped directly to the steel mills in eastern United States.  Also, the railroad between the range and Duluth was costly as far as labor was concerned.  The ocean needs no maintenance, so ocean travel is cheap.

 

I was always looking for ways to make a few extra dollars, so in the summer of 1976, I was a carpenter working on the Mintac expansion.  That June, I helped build the base of a silo.  Plywood forms were built and filled with re-bar and stood up 50 feet high for the legs of the silo.  I helped set up the pipe scaffolding supports in between the legs and a platform was built for the floor of the silo.  The Ready-mix trucks arrived from Virginia and buckets of cement  were hoisted up with a crane.  Once we took the form off and the cement cured, a special crew came on site and used slip forms and built up the cylinder of the silo.

 

We next worked on the forms for the fine crusher.  The work wasnít exactly like making cabinets, but it had to be sturdy enough to hold the many tons of cement that went into the walls of the building and the supports for the next floor where huge machines would be used for years to pulverize the ore.

 

Iíve often meant to take my wife and kids back to tour the facility.

 

 

*

Sent: Thursday, November 11, 2010
 

BEFORE I WAS BORN

 

The Spanish American War was a conflict in 1898 between

Spain and the U.S.  After the sinking of the battleship, Maine,

in Havana Harbor, the Democratic party put pressure on

Republican President William McKinley into a war he

wished to avoid.  The war lasted 10 weeks in the Pacific

and Caribbean.  Cuba became independent from Spain.

 

A treaty was signed in Paris.  The U.S. had temporary control

of Cuba and indefinite colonial authority of the Philippines,

Guam, and Puerto Rico.

 

It seems the thinking of the Cubans and the Spanish differed

in that Cuba was a province of Spain and the Cubans wanted

independence like the other Latin American countries who

had revolutions and were independent already.

 

McKinley sent the battleship, Maine, to Havana for the safety

           of American citizens and American businesses in that

           country.  This was justified by the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

           Europe was not to interfere with countries in North and

           South America, under the protection of the United States.

 

           Teddy Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of Navy under

            McKinley, wanted war against Spain over Cuba.  Other    

            Presidents had offered to buy Cuba from Spain over the years,

            just like Jeffersonís Louisiana Purchase.

 

            On February 15, an explosion sunk the Main and 266

            Sailors died.  No one knew for sure what caused the explosion.

 

            Just like today, the American popular media exploited the

            situation.  Newspaper publishers, William Randolph Hearst

            and Joseph Pulitzer declared it was a Spanish mine

            that caused the sinking.

 

            I tried sighting in my scope on my 30-06 yesterday, and

            something must be wrong with the scope.  I was hitting an

            inch off at 50 yards and it was all over at a hundred yards.

            I donít like chasing wounded deer anymore than the next

            guy.  So I took the old 30-40 Krag down and was staring

            at it in my stand this afternoon.  It doesnít have a scope on it, but

            itís right on.

 

            The old gun was given to me by my grandpa about 1960

             or so.  I never knew where he got it.  Itís the original with

             that  long military barrel.  It has a box magazine on the

             side with a trap door.

 

             I was holding my old gun that I shot so many deer with

             before I bought my -06.  It was made in Springfield Armory in 1896. 

             I knew Teddy Roosevelt had a 30-40 Krag on San Juan Hill in

             Puerto Rico.  That was 43 years before I was born.

 

 

Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HOW DO YOU DO

 

Gwen and I went to a community concert in Virginia the other night.  Today we went to the Sonsí of Norway meatball fundraiser meal.  I suppose 90% of all those people are senior citizens.  Most have smiles whether they know you or not.

 

After we got done eating at the Miners Memorial Building, we sat drinking coffee and visiting.  Our topic was the Superintendent of Schools, Floyd B. Moe.  I had gone to Virginia Junior College and was out of there before our conversation partners moved up to Virginia to teach.  When Moe found out Mrs. Got married, he called her into his office.  This was in the middle 1960ís and women teachers were supposed to be single.  When she got pregnant she couldnít teach after her 5th month.  She didnít get fired and went back to teaching.  She stated that most of the rest of the state had married women teachers by that time, but Moe wasnít challenged at all in those days.

 

Our next topic was how old our houses were.  Ours was built by my grandpa in 1918.  Some of theirs were 110 or 113 years old.  They got them for $20,000 in those days and figured that was a steal.  Most needed a lot of work to get them for that price.

 

When I started teaching in Cook, the trend we see today had already started.  Mrs. Wilkinson knew we were tearing out the old plaster and lathe and remodeling the house.  She said most young people wanted instant gratification.

 

A new house full of new furniture and concrete sidewalks takes a lot of money.  Maybe a 40 year session of monthly payments is passed on to the new buyer if people sell before the bank is paid off.  To some that started working right out of college and kept their job, that was a good deal.  A payment of $100 a month was a lot in 1960, but by the year 2000, that was the cost of a couple of tanks of gasoline.

 

We know some hardship like a sudden health problem can louse up peopleís dreams and those payments cannot be made.  But most senior citizens started out buying things they could afford.  Some bought and sold several homes before they finally were financially secure and bought the nice big home they live in now.

 

People who lose their homes by foreclosure seem to want people to feel sorry for them.  The media plays on peopleís emotions and makes it sound like the banks are taking their homes away.

 

It was easy for some young people to be talked into taking a huge loan on a home.  Remember, most small banks were very careful with loans.  The credit unions were also careful and very few were hurt by our current problem of foreclosures.  Some people used the system to buy many homes to cash in on otherís defaults.  That scheme backfired and they lost a lot of money.

 

If you sold your house to someone and they refused to pay you after a year or two, you would sue them to get your unpaid for property back.  Most banks wanted some collateral, or someone else to co-sign the contract, to take over payments if trouble developed.

 

Itís hard for some people to realize that a credit card is a form of an unsecured loan.  Thatís why the percent is so high.  A lot of people buy stuff with the credit card and default.  The bank has to charge others using the system a high rate of interest to stay in business.  How did you get to be a senior citizen and not lose your shirt or pants?

 

Dad said you canít save money as long as you have kids at home.  He was right.  We did spend a lot on gas going to school functions and driving the kids around.  But we didnít do it to the extent people do today.

 

We started out saving $15 every two weeks.  That tax sheltered annuity grew pretty slowly.  Toward the last few years I worked we could put more in and the interest was better than it is now so it snowballed.  We didnít buy new cars, four wheel drive pick-ups, boats, trips to Disneyland, cabins on the lake, or eat out much.

 

Some people who had good jobs, households who had two people working, or inherited a bundle, spent money like it grew on trees.  Some of those people are pinching pennies in their ďGolden Years.Ē  They wonder how to buy the drugs they need to keep going.

 

I canít feel sorry for the banks who figured it was a good deal to borrow money to people who could never possibly pay for a huge new home.  They would collect as many payments as possible and then get it back and sell it again.  Thatís OK when the value jumped leaps and bounds, but itís not like that anymore.

 

A lot of us live in our modest homes.  Theyíre not that hard to heat.  They are not so valuable that the taxes are high.  They are comfortable in a cozy way.

 

Weíve put in thermal pane windows and doors over the years.  Weíve torn up the old tile or linoleum floors and replaced them.  Some wall to wall carpeting has been replaced.  A lot of paint covered other paint.  A lot of folks did their own sheetrock finishing and plumbing and carpenter work.  We didnít always use the best material, and sometimes it was what was on sale and the cheapest we could get by with, but one way or another, we made out.

 

Some that got a little better educated, got a better job, and could afford some of the finer things in life.  Some were lucky and got a good start from some relative, and more rarely a good friend.

 

It seems that those who win the lottery spend it all in a few years.

 

How did you do it?

 

 

Sent: Thursday, October 14, 2010

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS

Eddy Rickenbacker became the president of Eastern Air Lines.  He was the top air ace in World War I.  He was asked to serve in World War II as a consultant to the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson.  In October of 1942, a flying fortress he was on ran out of fuel and went down on a trip from Hawaii to an air base in the South Pacific.  The survivors set out in rubber rafts.  The only food was four oranges and seven chocolate bars.  The bars turned to mush and were discarded.  They had a first aid kit, eighteen flares and a pistol to shoot them.  Two pumps for the rafts, two service knives, a pair of pliers, a small compass, two revolvers, two bailing buckets, rubber patches for the rafts and two fish lines.

Rickenbacker was chosen to take care of the oranges.  They were divided to last eight days.  That way each got 1/8 of an orange half. 

Most were poorly dressed and burned in the sun.  Two men developed a tan, but most peeled and burned again.  They fished for hours, but the only bait, orange peel, got no results. 

On the second night one man woke and saw a young man gulping salt water.  He had swallowed some when getting out of the sinking airplane, and couldnít help himself from the thirst. 

One man had a New Testament.  None were very religious but Rickenbacker and the men used it every morning and evening for their prayers.  They thumbed through the book and found passages for their needs.  Their favorite was Matthew 6:31-34. 

The revolvers rusted.  They tried to save them by rubbing oil off their noses, but they became useless.  They used the pliers to try to make a spear from an aluminum oar, but it just bounced off the sharks back.  The oranges were eaten faster than planned. 

On the eighth day, in nearly a coma stupor, a gull landed on Rickenbackerís torn hat.  Eddy remembered the nearly insane eyes of the others, as he ever so slowly reached up and finally closed his fingers hard around the gull.  He wrung its neck and plucked and divided it for the men.  The intestines were saved for fish bait. 

They had watched thousands of fish under their boats.  Now they baited their hooks and caught a mackerel and a sea bass.  They ate everything raw and even chewed the bones. 

Seven of the eight men were rescued 21 days later when Navy planes spotted them. 

The tedium resulted in people having doubts about their futures.  People reveal feelings to others that would never be told otherwise. 

When I sat here today watching the miners being rescued from the mine in Chili, I thought about those people and what they talked about down there.

 I was born when Germany invaded Poland in 1939.  As a kid I heard about Dachau Prison Camp.  My Uncle Harold Hanson had gone from North Africa, and was wounded in the rump while crawling through grape stubble in Italy.  He said, ďI guess my ass was sticking up too high.Ē  He was wounded in the neck by shrapnel in Germany.  After being patched up, he wasnít sent home, but was a scout in the infantry.  The most terrible story was the smell of Dachau Prison Camp.  They smelled it 10 miles away.  When he and the boys liberated it that seems to be the last story I remembered.  Mom said when he came back to Gheen, he would take his gun with him, and sit out in the state land every day, that summer. 

People do have to get back their senses after all the trauma.   

I went and visited Ernie Seppala in Sturgeon the other day, and we visited at the kitchen table.  As we talked about the US Air Force, I said we may not agree with the politicians on war, but we have to support the troops. 

Remember how the Viet Nam boys were treated when they came back home.  If you were one of those who spit on them and taunted them, you have some thinking to do before you meet your maker.  They were the boys who put their life on the line for us.

 

 
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 2010
Subject: THANKFUL.doc

THANKFUL

Who was my favorite teacher?  Who was my best teacher?  Who did I learn the most from?  Which teacher did I dislike most?  Why do people think about them?

I was with a man the other day who at first seemed to be a jolly, fun person.  But after knowing him a few years, I donít really like to be around him.  He seems to thrive on negative emotions.  It seems he wants to argue about politics and starts to tell about peopleís faults.  His grandchildrenís teachers donít care.  His doctors donít do their job, and politicians donít agree with his agenda.  No wonder his health is bad, he probably brooded about past events and revenge to the point of losing sleep a lot.

 

I know my dad taught me the most things over the years.  Some things he had trouble with, and that was because of the time in history he lived.  Childhood in the early 1900ís had an effect on his life, and being a young man in the depression also left a mark on his thinking.  I have to thank him for teaching me my work ethic.  He said, ďItís no shame to fail, itís only in not trying.Ē  Me, being not the smartest person in the world, could at least try to do something worthwhile.  Thatís my downfall.  I like to dream and putter around, too.  So I feel guilty when I lay around.  Cutting firewood or planting and digging a couple of hundred pounds of spuds seems like a waste of time to nearly everyone.  If a person spent that amount of time on another job, they could make a lot more money.  But money never was important to me.  Itís just something thatís convenient, but not to be worshipped.

 

Who was the worst teacher I had in school?  I canít really say.  Iíve always thought a person could learn something from anyone.  So, it doesnít have to be a school teacher for everything a person learns.  It should be listening and thinking about your own mistakes.  Iíve kicked myself many, many times.  Iíve said things many times I shouldnít have muttered.

 

When I think back in time, the teacher who was the most fun taught me the least.  The teacher in school I disliked the most, I canít remember much about.  Maybe the teacher that didnít let us kids get away with everything and pointed out our faults, and wouldnít let us forget them, may have been the most effective in the long run.

 

Why do some people blame everything that went wrong on someone else?  The world is terrible because of one politician.

That one teacher years ago ruined a childís life.  One event that happened as a child at home ruined his morals.  That life in the slums ruined his life.  Someone elseís moral mistake ruined a childís life.

 

I think none of the above changes a personís life much.  Most kids who grow up in the slums, see drunks, crowded living conditions, drugs, arguments, property damage, and a lot of crowded, crabby people, and most of those people grow up to be good citizens.  Some kids who have everything handed to them turn to drugs and drink, too.

 

I would hate to live my life if I had to blame everything that went wrong on someone else.  Iíd hate to have that tight feeling in my gut at being angry at every little thing that went wrong.

 

I suppose I taught myself to be self sufficient.  I taught myself how to read.  I taught myself to be respectful.  I taught myself to recognize my mistakes and correct them, if possible.

 

Dad always said his wife, Mom, ďIs the most sane person Iíve ever known.Ē

 

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me life and as good a childhood as you could.

 

We often sat looking at the photo albums and talked about things.  We ate together at meal time.  We rode together in the car.  We worked together in the country.  We even ate fudge together hundreds of times.

 

We older kids spent more time with our folks than those ďlittle kids,Ē who were 15 years younger than we were, so I heard more stories from the folks.

 

I taught myself to be thankful.  The folks helped me to do that.  Iím happy.

 

 

Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2010

HOME SWEET HOME

 

I suppose someone who grew up in a big city has a feeling sometimes that something isnít just right.  Walking alone in the dark at night, with shadows and a well lit street, gives a little nervous feeling and then some relief.  Then walking past a dark alley casts a doubt again, as all the doors are locked.

 

The same feelings must be felt in all foreign countries, as well.

 

I grew up in the country here in northern Minnesota.  Itís not wide open country like the prairie where a person can see for miles.  The trees block the view unless youíre on top of a hill or across a clearing.  On my own land, Iíve never had those creepy feelings.  If I were walking across another personís land in the dark, Iíd feel that way, but I would have no business being there.

 

Everyone has uneasy feelings.  From a manís point of view, think what a young girl or woman must feel like when she is alone.  Walking in town at night, or coming home from studying at the library at college.  There has to be a feeling of vulnerability.  The same when going out on a date with a stranger for the first time.  Does panic hit the mind, when she realizes sheís had too much to drink at a party and she is a little helpless?

 

When I was a kid, I was scared of the dark.  Checking my weasel traps in the dark with a flashlight cured me of that.  On those cold November evenings, walking a half mile in the dark woods and then returning home again was something I remember.  The shadows from the brush and small trees flicker in the distance and gets a personís imagination going.  If a mouse snaps a twig or rustles some dry leaves, the hair would stand up on my neck.

 

As a grown man walking out to the barn at night was usually a pleasant event.  As I opened the barn door, the cloud of vapor from the damp barn air curled out into the below zero blackness.  There is something comforting walking into the barn at night.  The cattle are all lying down in their stalls, and the lowing, pleasant sound of the animals quietly breathing and chewing their cuds, gives a man a feeling of contentment.  All their lives depend on you to feed them, and make sure they have water.  You are directly responsible for their very existence.  When the calves are taken from the mothers, itís your responsibility to feed them and keep them comfortable and healthy.

 

Shining the flashlight around the barn casts shadows but doesnít bother the cowsí rhythm of chewing and regurgitating their cud with a little burp.  The chewing continues.  With a flip of the switch, the whole barn lights up and some of the cows start to stand up.  I suppose they think itís the sun coming up and they may anticipate a large scoop of dairy ration feed and morning milking time.  Some of the old wise cows just look at you with those large brown eyes and donít bother to make a move.  Those that get up unload in the gutter in a little while.

 

Off go the lights.  Out the door, with the cloud of steam.  Close the door behind you.

 

Itís a good feeling as you walk back to the warm house.  In the dark night, it seems so warming to see the orange glow of the windows.

 

I suppose when a man lays his head down on a pillow and drift off to sleep in the country, is no different than a man from town who has a contented satisfaction of his daily life.

 

Moms always wake up often as the babies stir and turn in their crib, or cry out in the night from a bad dream.  Moms always get up early to fix breakfast and get the kids fed and off to school.  They, too, must feel contented when things are going good.  They are the ones who make the plain old house a wonderful home.

 

Itís comforting for the kids to fall asleep.  Whether in town or the country, home is ďHome Sweet Home.Ē

 

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

THE HAT

Things sure change in a span of a personís lifetime.  I never saw my Grandpa Hanson wear a hat like those which were popular in Errol Flynnís movie heyday.

 

Grandpa Hanson had one of those soft cloth caps with a small brim much like the golfers wore in the 1950ís.  That seemed to be the popular style of caps men wore in the 1910 era.

 

Grandpa Miller had a grey hat, but the folds in the felt hat were more like that of the cowboy 10 gallon hat.  It wasnít that sombrero size of the western cowboy, or the Smoky the Bear hat.  It was a regular sized hat.

 

One of the Lindsey boys near Cook wore his felt hat with the top folded flat.  That was neat.  Most people had the traditional Dick Tracy fold and dents in their hats.

 

Those stove pipe hats of the 1860ís, like Lincoln wore, and the gentlemen of the high class in England, still lingered as some style in the inauguration ritual of presidents up until John Kennedy.  If someone wore a hat like that now, people would think you were an actor or else a nut.

 

The last hats I remember a few men wearing were those Porky Pig hats.  They were neat.  I liked the little colored feather bundle tucked into the hat band.  That was probably fading in the late 1960ís.  Those were popular in Bavaria in Germany and in Tyrol of Austria.

 

When I was a kid, working men around here wore the baseball type cap with the brim sticking out in front.  That protected peopleís eyes when working in the woods.  But to dress up, men wore felt hats.

 

That idea of checking in your hat and coat to a girl as you entered some high society or entertainment event is alien today.  Men never wore their hats inside a building in those days.  They did in the barn or a shed while working, but never in any public building or theater.  The reason for checking in a hat was so it wouldnít be crushed while watching a movie or at some dance.

 

In our community, there were clothes hooks in rows on the walls of the halls where people hung their coats in the winter and their hat on the longer top prong of those coat hooks.

 

Even when I started teaching in the mid 1960ís, men wore suits and ties to school.  I only owned one suit that I bought for my picture for the year book.  Dad took me down to Virginia and helped me pick out a suit at Ben Waltís menís store.  The softer flannel suits were cheaper, but dad advised me to spend $20 more for the better quality cloth.  The flannel pants got shiny after being worn a few times.  I wore that suit when I got married and to a few weddings.  By the time I graduated from high school in 1957, no kids wore the hats of our fathers.

 

I do remember dad wearing his hat in the 1940ís whenever we went to town or to meetings.  In those days, and even 10 years before in the depression, men wore hats.  Iíve seen pictures of hobos wearing tattered, sweat soaked dress hats.  Most felt naked without a hat on their head.  The business world men in every country wear suits and ties when on display.

 

I have to admit Iím not too radical, but I was one of the first of the county school teachers to dress casually.  I wore suit coats and ties for the first few years I taught, and then went to just a sweater or a shirt.  In those days most teachers were older women who were cold all the time.  Those schools were about 80 degrees and all the kids were sweating in those hot rooms.  Even at Cook School, we had our windows cracked open during January.  I never did wear blue jeans or work pants to school.

 

One time about 1972, or so, I went to the feed house in Cook while Gwen and the kids waited in the station wagon, and a guy with cowboy boots and hat went in.  The kids got all excited.  The ďcowboyĒ to them was the first real live one they had ever seen.  Even little kids ignore TV cowboys, but this was a real one.

 

When did the cap thing become the style?  Those were work caps that kept a manís head from getting sunburned or sawdust off the scalp.  Now some men never feel obliged to take their cap off in a building.  Some never remove it as the flag goes by at or parade or when the National Anthem is played.  But they donít feel ashamed about being grubby in public.  Some must feel dressed up with their caps on backwards and their pants falling down revealing the cleavage of their butt.  But what do you expect when their dads grew up with parents that never knew how to act in public or even how to, or what to teach their children.  They couldnít even take care of themselves, much less their kids.

 

Hats off to those neat teenagers who make us proud to know them.

 

 

 

Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

COOK SCHOOL

I went to visit my ďBuddy,Ē Willard Pearson and inquired about the first school in Cook.

 

John Olsonís home was just north of the Little Fork River.  This was where the first classes were held for the settlers.

 

Then a school was built on the south side of Old #1 which is Highway 115, now, near Mel Bakk.  There was a historical marker on that spot dedicating the Indian portage from Little Fork River that went to Wak-Em-Up Indian Village.  That monument was vandalized, so it was taken down.

 

As the town of Cook grew, more and more kids had to walk north to that school.  Someone burned the school.  The home of George Francis was located on the corner where the school lawn is today.  Classes were held in that house until a new school was built.

 

Willard Pearson went to that school when he was in the first grade.  He didnít know when it was built, but it had been in use before that time.  Willard remembered electricity and the light plant running.  That first school in town was where the school library is today.

 

In 1931, the schools didnít open up until after the new brick school was finished.  The high school kids went to their classes in the Baptist Church.  Willard was in the 3rd grade and went to the Lutheran Church.  His sister, Emily, was in the 6th grade.  Those kids went to the Congregational Church.

 

In the winter, maybe, the Christmas vacation? Of 1932, the high school was dedicated.  Willard said they got pins, oval badges.

 

Kids from Gheen and Orr areas boarded in peoplesí homes in Cook to go to high school.  Pearsons housed Evelyn Holmer and Myrtle Fields.  In 1933, Reinhold Holmer stayed at the Pearsons.  He went to art school at night, three nights a week.

 

Later, the Orr and Gheen area kids went to Cook School by bus,  so  my mom had gone to Cook School.  Her best friend was Elsie Kantola.  In 1936 the Orr School was built.  In 1937, mom was in the first graduating class in Orr.

 

In 1958, the new addition was built on the Cook School.  I know the main entry and the big gym and the locker rooms and the north-south elementary rooms were in that project.  The old gym became the lunch room.

 

All you kids that were in high school when I started teaching, remember the construction of the library and band room being added on.

 

Little by little, new rooms and a gym and swimming pool were built.

 

Iím not into exact dates of these events, so youíll have to search for that information.

 

*

 

Sent: Monday, September 13, 2010
Subject: THE BREEZE.doc

THE BREEZE

 

I was sitting on the deck and the clouds were blowing from the South East.  That direction usually brings rain.  The next day the clouds were blowing from the North West.  In a few hours the sky was blue.  Watching which way the wind blows is interesting.

 

I donít discuss politics very much but try to stay independent.  I know people are passionate about what they know is the right belief.

 

We attended a whitefish boil in Rainier Saturday.  On the way up to the Falls, I said there must be Norwegians in Canada.  We arrived at the Sonsí of Norway meeting and watched a couple of videos about Norway.  Sure enough, a couple arrived from Fort Francis.

 

I think the political set up in Canada is much the same as here in the states.  They have a federal system modeled after that in England much like ours.  The judicial system is much like ours, and their laws are nearly the same as ours.  Truly, they are our sister country.  How much of Canadian history was taught to us in school?  Maybe a couple of hours.

 

Is there a parallel of the government and the Aborigines?   Do people protest taxes?  Do people dislike laws that are made in a far off city, regulate them?  Provincial government must depend on the federal government much like they do in the USA.

 

We resent the planning and zoning people from the cities regulating our rural area.  I suppose someone in Northern British Columbia resents someone from Ottawa, telling them how not to pollute their neighborís property which is 5 miles away.

The wind doesnít always blow in the same direction, and not always in the exact opposite direction.  In the continual swirl the wind changes directions.

 

So does the interest and passions of political parties.  I think most people are independent when it comes time to vote.  There are die hard democrats and republicans, but deep down do they doubt some of the doctrines of each party.  I think few follow the party rules all the time.

 

Do we need or want dictatorial control of the government?  No, and if someone is thinking about issues, they vote for something that will benefit them at the time of the election.

 

What side of the boat are you on?  We donít want everyone on one side.  It will tip over.

 

People wait for winter for snow.  Then they can ski, snowmobile, dog sled, ice fish, and shovel snow, and go south.  Some wait for summer so they can come back home to Minnesota to fight mosquitoes, catch muskies, mow grass.  I know some like summer so they can complain if itís too dry, or too wet to mow the grass.  It maybe too hot to be comfortable so the air conditioner has to be turned on.  If itís a cold summer, the furnace kicks in often.

 

Iím the guy that told the complainers that the rainy days kept Minnesota green otherwise it would be like living in a gravel pit like Arizona.  I say, ďFlies and mosquitoes must taste good because fish love them, birds eat them, toads, frogs, and dragonflies eat them, bats eat them, even cats eat grasshoppers in the cut over hay fields.Ē  If a person gets a bug in their throat, they gag.

 

Even though Iím an independent thinker, I have stated something controversial to get people arguing about a subject.  I did that a few times in the teachersí lounge, usually leaving for awhile.  On my return, 10 or 15 minutes later, the argument raged on.

.

Do politicians really believe everything they promise?  Do political parties get people excited about one subject, just so the public forgets the other problem that the politicians are having trouble solving?  Iím sure each side has some ploy.  They must have a plan.  I donít think they are trying to deceive the public.

 

The wind blows from many directions.

 

 

 

Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Subject: THE MANURE PILE.doc

THE MANURE PILE

 

With a title like that, people will be attracted to this story like flies to a dead animal.  I know itís not the most romantic subject, but it has been a part of human life since people started settling and living in one spot.

 

When people domesticated animals for food, animals had to be confined.  Not so with the Laplanders and our ancestors from the Steppes of Asia.  These people just herded the animals and all traces were washed away by the snow melt and the rain.  They left no footprints on the geological face of our earth.

 

The wind was blowing the six foot nettles around behind the barns in the towns of Tyrol in Austria.  Nettle?  Did it come from Europe in the bottom of the Mayflower along with the cattle?  Was the bedding thrown out into the ocean or was it carried to the new garden patches for fertilizer?  Was it native to the Americas, or was its seeds transported back to Europe?  I guess someone will have to test its DNA to settle that argument.  They say the American Aborigines used the stems for cord and fiber.

 

When I till the garden, I find half melted marbles and a penny now and then.  Up come bent nails once in awhile.  I know the nails come from the splintered lumber I used for kindling in the furnace when we remodeled our house.  When the kids were small, Gwen told them everyday to pick up their toys.  After sweeping, the dust pan was emptied in the furnace during the winter.  All the ashes from the furnace were emptied on the snow over the garden every winter.  Archaeologists are digging for artifacts of ancient people.  The trash piles are sought after.  There, clues of life are concentrated.

 

On small family farms, a lot of people didnít exactly keep the barn yards tidy.  Some never took the time to spread the manure on the fields.  This wasnít because of being lazy.  If you study those people, they were busy all the time.  They made their living at some other job and just gardened or had a couple of cows.  If the cow died or ate the garden, it didnít really matter much because they earned money, just like city folks.  It was a little extra food from their spare time.  It paid out a lot better than going fishing.

 

From the wheelbarrows of manure for my garden Iíve dug up, Iíve found a lot of stuff Iíd forgotten about.  Twine.  How many farmers have found twine tangled in manure that was being spread on the fields?  That old twine would rot as time went by, but if the manure was spread each spring, it was still intact.  The new plastic twine doesnít rot.

 

I havenít had cows since the middle 70ís, but the last of the manure pile was spread out this spring.  Itís gone.  What treasures were in there?  Plastic ice cream pails, busted, of course.  Wire ice cream pails handles.  Ice cream pail covers.  They havenít deteriorated from the sunlight because they were buried.  Old tin cans, some were small tuna fish cans.  Those were the water dishes in each of the rabbit hutches.  Old aluminum cake pans were feed dishes for the chickens.  A chunk of chain.  We had neck chains to tie our cows.  These slid up and down on pipes in the stanchions.  An old metal milk stool that had collapsed.

 

Every day in the winter, the wheelbarrow ran out into the cold weather.  At first on a plank runway, but day after day, the manure froze and the pile was extended farther and farther away from the barn door.  That path was like a narrow cement sidewalk.  Clean the gutter.  With two cows, two yearlings, a steer to butcher, and a calf pen that wasnít cleaned every day, the volume was many wheelbarrows.  Every few weeks the calf pen got wet from the constant milk the calves drank.  This had to be cleaned out, or by spring, the calves would be bumping their heads on the ceiling.  Out the barn door all this went.

 

As with everything else, a chicken would die now and then.  Into the wheel barrow.  A dead bunny, away with you.  We had a few goats for a couple of years.  A pen of pigs and their sow.  I did find goat bones in the pile.  Dad always told me never feed a dead chicken or animal to pigs.  They chew them up just like a dog.  One day my son came in the house and told us he had to finish off a little goat that had gotten dragged into the pig pen and was bitten up.  If he had been there an hour later, there would have been no trace of the kid.

 

I found a leg bone of a rooster in rotted manure.  It had a two inch spur on the bone.  Broken glass from some pint jar, rabbit bones, chicken bones, a few soggy boards from some pen or cage.  Chunks of old galvanized chicken wire.  Old galvanized telephone wire.  Even unrelated to farming items showed up.  Some old black plastic temporary telephone wire.  I suppose I used it to tie up a pen gate in the barn.  Old plastic bags.  They must have had table scraps for the chickens in them and were carried to the barn.

 

 A couple of 5 gallon pails of trash turned up.  Nothing of any value.  Not even the memories it brought back.

 

 

Sent: Saturday, September 04, 2010

NO NEED FOR AN INVITATION

 

My grandson put U-Tube into our computer a couple of years ago.  He said, ďYouíll have fun with this.Ē

 

I turned it on and all I saw were short films about popular movies and TV shows.  I didnít bother with it for about a year.  My son, Brad, started making charcoal for his blacksmith hobby the old fashioned way.  I asked where he got all those ideas, and he said, U-Tube.  I didnít even know you could type in nearly any subject and someone has put in a short movie about it.

 

Donít take everything for granted, though.  I looked up cutting trees down with hand tools.  I know about that as I did it in the 1950ís, so I got into that, just as chainsaws were perfected.  A couple of ďconvincingĒ teenagers were talking up how to cut a tree down with an axe.  After a lot of wasted energy, the thing fell backwards.

 

By the way he swung his axe, I knew he didnít know what he was doing.  On those films, people are chopping firewood to length with an axe.  Someone should make a show about sawing wood with a handsaw.  That doesnít waste as much energy and wood in the form of a bushel of chips for each stick.

 

I got on U-Tube today and watched some people in Czechoslovakia cutting hay with scythes.  Dad and grandpa did that by hand, even to about 1920 or later.  Mom and Grandpa Miller did it, too.

 

Iíve heard stories of folks from Willow Valley and Greaney cutting wild hay along the Willow River here, in the blue joint meadows.  There were stumps and brush to cut around, but it was all raked with wood rakes and stacked.  These stacks were hauled home on sleighs in the winter when the land froze up and snow covered the ground.  I did swing a scythe a few times cutting weeds and thistle before it bloomed, but never for cutting hay.  I picked up a scythe stone this summer at a rummage sale for a quarter.  I can sharpen them, too.

 

Dad and grandpa would work together, one following the other, swinging from the hip, shuffling along with arms straight and straight legs.  ďOnly cut a swathe a couple of inches at a time.  Get a rhythm.Ē  If you use your arms to swing with, you will tire out in a few minutes.  Donít laugh at this idea.  Our ancestors cut hay for a few thousand years before the mechanical hay mowers were invented.

 

I checked on a film about harvesting oats with a binder.  I got paid for doing that when I was 15 years old.  Sanfrid Carlson had an old grain binder he pulled with a tractor.  I sat on the binder and after the machine gathered, tied with binder twine, and kicked six bundles out in a cradle, it was my job to push a pedal and dump the load.  A large iron bull wheel under the machine, powered the mechanism.  After the whole field was cut, dad came over after work.  Sanfrid, dad, and I shocked the grain.  That was standing up four bundles of oats.  The other two bundles were fanned out to thatch the shock so rain would run off.  In a week or two, the oats were dry and were pitched up on a hay rack and taken home.  That stack was thrashed with a thrashing machine when enough neighbors could be gotten together for a crew.

 

One thing Iíll remember to my dying day is the dry thistle thorns in my thighs when the bundles were pulled against my legs to shock the oats.  They didnít have sprays to kill certain weeds fifty years ago.

 

There are people alive yet that are ten or twenty years older than I, that remember using horses instead of tractors to do woods work or farming.

 

It was a slower pace.  It was more physical work.  But peoplesí list of wants was a lot shorter than ours.  People always seemed to have time to drop in to visit and share a cup of coffee.

 

Nearly no one needed an invitation to visit.

 

*

 

Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2010

 

GAS

 

As a six year old kid in 1945, I donít remember what the price of gasoline was.  But all of us knew gas was a necessity.  Nearly everybody had a tin five gallon gas can.  And, also, a one gallon can for kerosene.  It seemed every time the car was filled with gas, a can was filled to take home for the joker.  Those home made tractors were used a lot in the summer time making hay.

 

The kerosene was used in lamps and lanterns for the late night trips to the barns to check on cows that might be tied up in stalls for the winter.  If a cow was going to calf, nearly everyone got up in the middle of the night to check on the progress.  Sometimes, night after night, nothing happened.  It seemed sometimes someone with the intention of just resting a few more minutes after turning off the alarm clock fell asleep and didnít make the trip to the barn.  Sometimes after a week of treks to the barn in the winter, a calf was born.  Usually nothing bad happened, but once in awhile a calf was dead in the barn gutter. 

 

Those farmers who had big herds, had a calving pen in the barn so the cow could turn around and have freedom to move.  Even so, if the cow had trouble calving, people had to help pull the calf.  Dairy cows seemed to have more trouble with large calves than beef cows.

 

We always had flashlights, but years earlier, people had lanterns.  No one went to the toilet in the house.  The little kids had a potty chair, but not many older kids stayed in.  A trip in the dark to the outhouse was when the old lantern was used.  People got sick and had to make many runs when the urge struck, even when it was 30 below zero.

 

I remember people using a little kerosene to start the wood fires in stoves.  That was fairly safe because kerosene doesnít explode like gasoline.  One bad thing that happened once in awhile was the house getting cold when the fire went out.  Thinking the fire was completely dead; people crumpled up some old newspaper and placed kindling wood on top and tossed in some kerosene.  When an unknown ember evaporated the kerosene, fumes filled the stove.  When the lit match was tossed into the kindling and the door closed, the fumes exploded, blowing the lids off the kitchen range, or knocking the stove pipes apart.  That filled the house with smoke and everything had to be put back together before the household could get back to sleep.

 

A few people were burned when they mistakenly tried to start a fire with gasoline.  Some house burned down that way.

 

I remember Grandma Miller having a 32 gallon oil barrel with a spigot in the woodshed.  She filled her small gallon kerosene can from that.

 

The lumberjacks had a flat half pint whiskey bottle of kerosene in their back pocket to lubricate the handsaws.  It cut the pitch so the blade wouldnít stick in the saw cut.  A small nail hole was punched in the metal cap, and a drop or two could be sprinkled on the blade.  Those old wool pants stunk kerosene, too.

 

The gas pumps I remember when small, had a 10 gallon glass tank up about 6 feet off the ground.  There were black paint lines indicating the gallons.  A long handle on the side of the pump was pushed back and forth to fill the glass.  Gravity emptied the pump with a hose just like we do today.  Those were the days before electricity.  The store clerk would run outside and pump your gas for you.  In the towns, there were electric companies and more modern equipment.  Just about every tavern in the countryside was also a small grocery store and even sold shoes and some hardware.  Nearly all of them had a gas pump, too.

 

Even when cars started becoming popular in the 1920ís, it would be nearly 1950 before most rural electric lines were built. Some people had 32 volt light plants (generators) that charged up those glass acid-lead batteries.  Some had electric lights and a water pump running off that set up.

 

Dirty gas was a problem.  Those old jokers were built out of old car and truck parts.  Some were nearly worn out and had to be tinkered with a lot to keep going.  Rust got in some of those old gas cans.  Rust formed from condensation in the gas tanks of those rigs, too.  That filled the glass sediment bowls and had to be emptied.  A person could see the water in them.  If not caught in time, they could plug up a gas line or plug up the carburetor.  I know some had a rag in the gas tank or a tin can over the spout when the gas cap was lost.

 

When a motor sounds like its running out of gas and dies, it may be a plugged gas line.  We used the crank to measure the gas in our joker.  If it wasnít out of gas, I blew out the gas line.  If that didnít work, I had to take the carburetor apart.  If that didnít work, everything stopped until dad got home.

 

The same joker was used to cut hay, rake hay, pull the hay wagon, and in winter, skid firewood home.  Dad mounted his saw rig on it, too.  It was a worn 1928 Chevy motor with a car transmission and a six inch drive shaft going into a Dodge truck transmission.  That big transmission had a power take off.  That was connected to a Model A Ford truck rear end.  We had Cub tractor tires mounted on truck wheels for traction.

 

Hardly anyone had pickup trucks before 1950, so those gas cans were hauled in the car trunks.  On those old, bumpy gravel roads, itís a miracle cars didnít blow up.

 

 

 

Sent: Sunday, August 15, 2010

 

  CEMETERIES

 

Iíve always been a daydreamer of sorts.  Is it only me whose mind wanders and thoughts and memories intertwine?  I think about the old wells that were dug by hand and dotted the landscape around here when I was a kid.

 

There were lumberjacks that werenít very ambitious.  There were farmers who didnít do any more than was necessary.  We got the picture in our minds, as small kids, that all the pioneers were ambitious and built this great land of ours.  Some of those people were sick, some were drunks, and some just didnít give a damn about much of anything.  A few even abandoned their families.

 

Iíve heard recently about a man who had a family and immigrated to the USA and got married and raised a family here.  His family in the old country never knew what happened to him.  In later years, the descendents got interested in genealogy and discovered relatives in the Old Country that no one ever knew about.

 

We were warned in the 1950ís to be careful when we poked around on old abandoned farms not to fall in some old well.

 

The wells dug in clay held up as you dug down, but when water was hit and started to rise in the well, people had to get out of there in a hurry.  Water is sometimes in a layer of sand and that can cave in.  The clay above may slab off the side of the well and crush someone down there.  If the well got too deep, it was cased up with cribbing for safety reasons.  The wood was laid up like a log cabin with interlocking joints, so as soil pushed against it, it tightened up.  Some were made of heavy plank.  Those hand dug wells in gravel or sand were cribbed as they dug down.  Those old stone lines wells in the old country were lined with wedge shaped stone.

 

Modern people donít spend much time thinking about those survival skills of our ancestors.  In a rural area people prided themselves in being able to be self sufficient.  Those people who lived in towns and cities probably couldnít dig wells.  They were there for a generation already.

 

We went to the Heritage Day gathering in Silverdale today and when we finally got away from visiting with our friends, we headed out to Bramble to see the Russian Orthodox Church that had been recently repaired and painted.  Iíve known about the church and had driven past it on our many trips around the loop over the years.  It looked beautiful with its new coat of paint.  As we left we visited the old cemetery.  Just as we were getting out of the car, we met a man named Diachok.  His parents and relatives were buried there.  It was a nice tour and I saw names on the gravestones of people I had never heard of before.

 

He explained to me that a man had moved into the country to work as a lumberjack, but was tiny and too frail to do that, so he lived with their family and helped on the farm.  His grave was there.

 

Oh how sweet to see a mowed cemetery.  A few old Orthodox crosses were moss covered, but one lady who moved to International Falls, Minnesota, worked for a monument company and had put stones on a lot of those graves.  A few were unmarked.  As my new acquaintance and I walked across the grass, he said, ďThey worked so hard years ago, you know about that, your people did the same.Ē  I said, ďIíve told a lot of people we are all survivors.  Our people all came from the same stock years ago.  Our ancestors survived the Black Death and all other catastrophes; we arenít exactly from weak stock.Ē

 

Iíve heard the cemetery in Ely, Minnesota is gravel, so the graves all have to be cribbed as they dig.  Otherwise there would be a huge crater as the dirt crumbled down. 

 

In most townships of 36 square miles, there is somewhere with a suitable sandy loam soil that is easy to dig.  Most have a few pine trees and ferns growing around the edges.

 

Today, even people with heart trouble or health problems can mow grass, sitting on a riding lawn mower.  Years ago, the cemeteries werenít kept up so nice.  They may have been cut with a scythe once a year, or maybe thatís why they had them in sand so grass grew sparse in the pine needles.  In the cemeteries in Europe they look like a park.  In a lot of those crowded countries the sheep would eat the grass down like a lawn.

 

A hundred miles north of Duluth is the Gheen Corner.  That wasnít there when my mom and dad were kids.  The road into old Gheen was a quarter of a mile north and crossed the gravel highway going north at the Johnson farm that George Lueken owns today.  An eighth of a mile east of there stands a large old White Spruce tree with graves under it where people were buried next to the road.  There were thousands of those scattered grave sites around rural St. Louis County in the years before townships were organized.

 

I knew a lot of people who are now in the Orr cemetery.  Some of my friends are buried in Buyck.  Some in Cook.  Some in Field Township.  I knew people who are in the hillside in Alango.  There is a small cemetery in Silverdale and a larger one in back of the Catholic Church in Greaney.  A lot of my friendsí families are buried in the Cook Cemetery.  Iíve been to funerals at Nett Lake.  As we drive around the country there are signs leading to those small graveyards in Ericsburg, and Embarrass, and Idington, and Celina.  Iíve never been to the one near the Leander Road.

 

My great grandparents on dadís side of the family are buried in Tower, Minnesota.

 

I had the privilege to dig the graves for three of my grandparents in Willow Valley Cemetery.

My motto is to treat people well when they are alive.  Then I wonít have a guilty feeling when they die.  Digging a grave is the last thing you can do for someone you love.  They use back hoes now.

 

 

 
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