Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Buzz on Snowmobiles

Snowmobiles are great little machines: motorcycles with skis, whose engines sound like something taken out of a model airplane and given too many steroids.

Snowmobilers took advantage of last week's snowfall, whining across lawns, lakes, and fields like deranged hornets.

Until the street department came along.

They're on the streets now, at least in town. There's enough snow left on the pavement for the snowmobiles, but not enough to stop police cars: and Loonfoot Falls has ordinances against using other people's shrubbery as an obstacle course.

It must be exhilarating, careening over the snow with a 90 horsepower engine making sure that everyone around knows you're there.

I did a little checking, and found out that snowmobiles aren't loud at all. In fact, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations assures us that "snowmobiles are barely audible from inside a home." That's assuming that the engine and exhaust system haven't been, ah, enhanced, by a fun-loving owner.

Quite a few of the snowmobiles around here would be "barely audible from inside a home" only if you were playing your favorite Metallica album at full volume.

Then, there's the safety issue. Most of the nine people who got killed, snowmobiling last year, hit an unexpected rock, dock, or tree. Considering how many people ride the things each winter, Minnesotans must be doing pretty well.

I'm not knocking snowmobiling, though. People have driven them for decades without blasting bark off trees or decimating the deer. I think the key is ‘enjoy in moderation.'

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Loonfoot Gets a White Christmas - a Little Early

That's more like it! Loonfoot Falls got it's first winter storm of the season last weekend, trimming the town's Christmas decorations. Also putting off the opening time for school by two hours. Quite a few kids in town used the extra time for old traditions like making snowballs, or newer ones like riding a snowmobile.

My guess is that quite a few of the kids living in the country were like those of some friends of mine. They spent the extra time helping their folks get the lane clear and plow snow away from the barn doors.

Loonfoot Falls got about a half-foot of snow, a respectable amount, but nothing I can't handle. Having a snow-blower helps.

Up on the North Dakota side of the Red River Valley snow depths ranged from zero to I-can't-find-the-car. It isn't that the snow was spotty: They had a blizzard there: it covered most of the state. But, between the wind and land so flat that a rise of five feet is called a "ridge," there's a lot of drifting.

Particularly around anything that sticks above the terrain. Like cars; buildings; and, if they don't move fast enough, people.

Back to snowmobiles: they're not just for fun. One of the plow drivers gets to the garage on a snowmobile in weather like this. Which reminds me: there's another winter storm headed this way, complete with a "Only travel in an emergency. If you must travel... carry a winter survival kit in your vehicle" notice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

One of Those Christmas Letters

Most Christmas letters are inoffensive updates from one family to another, giving friends and relatives an annual update.

One of the other sort arrived at my house this year. If you've never gotten one like this, count your blessings. Now, so you can see that there are worse things than root canal surgery, here's that letter (the editor made me change the names).

"Well, another year has gone by, Rudolph has gotten another promotion, and we've moved into a new house. We don't really need five bedrooms and a guest house, but the pool had such a lovely view of Avalon that I simply had to have it.

"We went to Cortina d'Ampezzo as usual this year: I think Aspen is so over-rated. We had a very nice time with Leonardo there: such a charming man, and so dedicated to the environment. Of course, we've long since stopped using those old-fashioned plastic water bottles. I just wish more people would follow Mr. diCaprio's example.

"Ursula has already won the regional high school debate tournament, and is considering whether to accept offers from Yale, Harvard, or La Sorbonne. She has such a difficult decision: whether to pursue her interests in applying quantum principles to molar physics; or continue a promising career in the arts and dance.

"Back home, besides organizing the community food shelf, and chairing the historic preservation committee, I've opened another online business: selling hand-sculpted onyx trivets. Two thousand orders in the first month have certainly kept me busy."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Elementary Christmas Program

Loonfoot Falls' elementary school put on their annual Christmas program last Thursday. The parking lots were full, twenty minutes before the show started. Well, almost full. I found a place within a hundred yards of the nearest door.

It might have been closer than that. Distances expand when it's dark, cold, and windy.

I sat next to a family with two pre-schoolers. Since the audience was mostly the immediate families of the elementary-school kids, the crowd was about evenly divided between adults, teenagers, and kids from a few weeks to about six years.

My hat's off to the parents: there were only a couple of babies who had to be carried out. That's not to say that the kids stayed still through all one hour and fifteen minutes of the program.

A large gap between the main auditorium and two sets of built-in bleacher seating makes a dandy playground. One family, sitting next to the open floor, had two kids, one a bit over three feet tall, the other a little shorter.

About a half-hour into the performance, the shorter one toddled about two-thirds of the way across the open floor, and stopped when he had a good view down an aisle. The taller one followed, but started running in circles when the kids on stage started singing something lively.

Both of them were enjoying the music, I think. And their parents, apart from intercepting them when they got more than about twenty feet away, let the kids be kids.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Computers: Tireless, Dedicated, and Utterly Unimaginative

My apologies. I can't blame this on the Chronicle-Gazette's network.

The thing has been working fine lately.

What happened this week is something that's always been a problem with computers and robots: They do exactly what you tell them to, and nothing that you don't.

Imaginative, they're not.

So, when I didn't set my computer at the office to load this week's column: it didn't. I discovered my error a few minutes ago. Tomorrow, I'll get this week's column posted.

At least, I plan to. We'll see what happens.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner: Turkey; Dressing; and Lefse

I'd always assumed that the "turkey coma" after Thanksgiving dinner was caused by the turkey. Someone told me that it was the tryptophan in the turkey that did it, which sounded very scientific.

Then, I poked around a little on the Web, and read that L-tryptophan has to be taken on an empty stomach to make someone drowsy. Whatever else you can call the typical Loonfoot Falls stomach after Thanksgiving dinner, “empty” isn't even close.

The same place that wrote about L-tryptophan claimed that something other than turkey might explain that relaxed, if bloated, feeling we get. They could be right.

I did some checking around, and this would be a fairly typical main meal on Thanksgiving day:
  • Turkey
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Stuffing
    • Gravy
  • Lefse
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Baked potatoes
  • Dumplings
  • More Gravy
  • Buttered lefse
  • Corn on the cob
  • Peas and carrots
  • More turkey
    • And stuffing
    • And cranberry sauce
  • Gravy, again
  • Another helping of
    • Mashed potatoes
    • gravy
    • and dumplings
  • Buttered lefse with sugar and cinnamon
  • Another helping of turkey
    • Can't let the dressing go to waste
    • Cranberry sauce: you have to have cranberry sauce with turkey
  • More corn on the cob
  • And apple, pumpkin, or pecan pie
    • More likely, all three
Come to think of it, maybe it is all the food we eat.

Finally: in praise of lefse. It's the Norwegian version of potato flatbread: thin, flexible, pale with brown spots, and delicious by itself. Buttered, even better. Add sugar and cinnamon, it's a desert.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Porta Potty Maintenance: It's a Dirty Job, But Somebody's Gotta Do it

You've seen them at construction sites and outdoor events. You may even have used one. This week, it's time for a tip of the hat to porta potties, and the people who provide them. Particularly Patrick Tucker, the "Pat" in "Porta Potty Pat."

Mr. Tucker has been setting up porta potties in much of Grimm and Reynard Counties for the last ten years. He hadn't planned on going into porta potties when he was in high school. "I sort of fell into it," he told me.

Owning a porta potty service isn't exactly glamorous. "You say ‘hi, I set up porta potties,' and they pull their hand back," Pat recalled.

His product isn't most people's idea of a pleasant spot, either. "You know how it is," Pat told me. "People see a porta potty and think ‘I can wait.'"

"It's the smell, mostly," Pat said. "One of my units can go about a week before needing service. Say I put set it up Monday. By Friday, with about ten guys tramping in and out, it's going to have a real personality."

A lot of what Pat told me was pretty technical: like licensing requirements, having to be sure that 5% of porta potties on a site have to be wheelchair-accessible, and what's involved in that weekly servicing. And, I did some reading at an industry website.

I think I'm developing a sort of respect for the porta potty. And, more to the point, for the people who keep them running.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moe Skeeto: Four-Foot Mosquito of Loonfoot Falls

Minnesotans sometimes brag about the size of this state's mosquitoes. Some even claim that the mosquito is, or should be, the Minnesota state bird. One town, Effie, has a six-foot metal mosquito on display.

Moe Skeeto isn't the biggest mosquito sculpture in Minnesota, but he's incredibly lifelike. Except for the size. Moe's wingspan is roughly four feet. That's a little big, even for Minnesota mosquitoes.

Moe took up residence last week in the building formerly occupied by Haskell's Corner Drug. He's the creation of Andrea Nelson, who mounted him on the store's ceiling last week. A native of Loonfoot Falls, she now owns an art studio in the metro.

Haskell's Corner Drug closed just over a year ago when Andrew Haskell decided that he'd rather be fishing, and sold the property to one of the Baum cousins, I figured that he'd tear the place down and put up something more contemporary.

Instead, waves of electricians, plumbers, glaziers and building inspectors washed over the place. Elton Baum had plans for that building: and for the store's original ice cream counter and pharmacy desk. They had been collecting dust in the basement since the 1950s.

Mr. Baum plans to open an 'old fashioned drug store' next spring. Complete with the corner drug's original ice cream counter. He thinks that vacationers will enjoy sitting down for a few minutes, having a malt, or ice cream, or coffee and a sandwich.

Some may come in just to see Moe Skeeto. Loonfoot Falls' four-foot mosquito.

The Gremlin in the Machine

One thing that separates Stan Parks from your run-of-the-mill IT expert and computer consultant is that he doesn't know everything.

And, admits it.

I know enough about information technology to strongly suspect that some 'experts' are either clueless, or assume that the rest of us are. Years ago, at one of my first jobs, I overheard a technician tell my boss (this was before I worked at the Chronicle-Gazette) that data had gotten "stuck in the cable."

That sounded like a good explanation for why data sent to the printer would drop out of sight, only to re-emerge later. Often, when special paper had been loaded.

Problem is, the cable was an inert piece of metal wire and plastic insulation, with a plug at each end. How data could get "stuck" in there - and come out undamaged - is beyond me. I think the tech was pulling my bosses leg. Or, covering his own lack of knowledge.

Anyway, Stan still doesn't know what caused the latest problem with our network. It's working now, after Stan did a cold boot, using a backed-up copy of the system from a couple weeks ago. That's not what Stan said: I'm translating it into English.

Why it went nuts, Stan doesn't know: and told us. He's taking data he pulled out when it was a little psycho, and says he'll see what he can learn from it.

At this point, I'm almost ready to believe that there really were gremlins in the building.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Technical Difficulties and the IT Guy

I still like Stan Parks. He's the one who installed the Chronicle-Gazette's network.

I'm beginning to think he should get more sleep, though.

There's a good reason why you haven't seen last Friday's column online. I still can't log in. Even if I could, it probably wouldn't do much good. Candace Kane let me use her computer, after logging in, to get some work done: including that column.

Everything else went fine. In fact, I uploaded the column without any trouble.

Then, it disappeared.

The column, I mean. Candace's computer is fine.

Stan has been working since very early Saturday morning, trying to find out why the Chronicle-Gazette's new Frisco-Shamrock Envirowarp computers, and the Vacnet Local Area Network that connects them, had a psychotic break late Friday. And, fix it.

Someone here in the office suggested a crudely mechanical means of dealing with the issue. I sympathize, but Mr. Johnson's old pedestal fan might have been damaged in the process, so we dissuaded him.

Back to Stan.

I'd say that he hasn't slept since he arrived at the Chronicle-Gazette offices, early Saturday morning: but when I came in, early, Monday, to pick up some equipment, I heard snoring in Mr. Johnson's office.

It was Stan Parks, sitting at the Vacnet console. The monitor was displaying a 'progress' bar.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Technical Difficulties and This Columnist

I like Stan Parks. He's a great guy: smart, diligent, and all that.

I'm beginning to wonder if he ever sleeps.

My telephone rang at about 2:15 Saturday morning. It was Stan. He was in the Chronicle-Gazette offices, getting up close and personal with our network. Seems it had decided to replace the current online version of the paper with articles that had no headlines, were datelined November 17, 2006, and were blank after that.

One more thing: my column was gone. Stan wanted me to know, so that I could re-post it. Good idea, actually.

Only one problem: I couldn't log in. I call Stan, let him know, and try to get back to sleep. About 9:00 Saturday morning, the phone rang again. It was Stan, asking me to try again.

Same result. Or, rather, lack of a result.

That went on all weekend. I've gotten on the network now, obviously, but the system won't let me upload anything.

That's it. I'm done for now. I've got an assignment tomorrow morning, and I have got to get some sleep.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Please Stand By

Thank you for your patience, while normal service is restored on the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette website.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Remarkable Vision of Dillon Johnson, Interior Designer

The internationally-known interior designer, Dillon Johnson (no relation to the Mr. Johnson who signs my paycheck) was born in Eagle Bay, then lived and worked for several years in Loonfoot Falls before starting his colorful career.

He told me that he was about to quite trying to break into interior design, back in 1974. "Krantz Paint and Supply was a good place to work, but they weren't ready for someone with my sort of vision," Dillon Johnson explained. "I'm grateful, though, to old Mr. Krantz. He's the one who introduced me to Leopold."

After touring a house that Dillon Johnson had worked on, Leopold of New York insisted that this "creative genius" join Chez Leopold's Villa de Supercherie in New York's Soho district.

Loonfoot Falls and Eagle Bay didn't see much of Dillon after that, but we saw his name quite a bit in magazines: long articles about his "indescribable juxtaposition of tonalities," and photos of his work in celebrity lifestyle magazines.

For over three decades, Dillon Johnson commanded top dollar for his talents. From New York City, to Europe and the Orient, Dillon Johnson left his mark around the world: including the mauve and mustard Vandermark salon in Long Island; his rose, cyan, and chartreuse makeover of England's Bedford Parva Abbey; and his famous mural in Tokyo's Ginza, with its yellow cherry blossoms.

Dillon Johnson retired last year. He gave the Loonfoot Chronicle-Gazette the honor of revealing to the world the secret of his unforgettable style.

He's color blind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Halloween Story, Conclusion

In the late fifties, in a town near Chicago, five college boys heard about the old Seely place.

One of the college boys was an accomplished amateur actor, and the one they called "Ghost Boy" believed in ghosts. The sensible ones decided to spend Halloween night in the Seely place.

I wrote about Amos Seely last week, and the story that he haunted his old house, looking for someone to release him.

At the last minute, the actor said that he had to go to Chicago for the night. He would drive back before midnight, dress up as Amos Seely, and put on a performance.

An autumn storm roared into town minutes after they arrived. Lightning, thunder and howling wind set a eerie mood. Then the power went out.

Ghost Boy had brought a flashlight, which was almost enough to light the room.

Down the hall, they heard a faint thump-clank-drag coming closer. A pale figure, bound in chains, entered the room. "Release me!" he cried, holding a huge, old iron lock, with a key stuck in it.

"Release me!" he cried again.

Ghost Boy, shaking, walked up to the apparition, and turned the key. The lock snapped open. Chains fell from the figure's arms and legs.

"Thank you!" he intoned, slowly striding back down the hall.

The lights came back on. The telephone rang. It was the young actor. His car had broken down. He was quite apologetic: there was no way that he could make it in time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Halloween Story

Most days this week were damply gray, with headlights shimmering on rain-polished pavement in mid-afternoon.

A week of watching rain run like cold sweat down the window might have inspired me to write about room 313 of the Belvedere Union Grand Hotel downtown. Instead, I found myself remembering a story my father told, about a college prank.

It happened in the late fifties, in a town near Chicago. One of the local points of interest was the old Seely place. Old Amos Seely had inherited the place, along with a small fortune, back in the twenties, and had managed to hold ownership of the massive collection of Victorian towers and brickwork through the Depression.

Amos Seely led a solitary and frugal life in the huge old place, and died a year after Eisenhower was elected. He had never married, and had no close relatives. The house wound up in the hands of some distant cousins, who found it impossible to sell and difficult to rent.

The old Seely place sat empty for almost five years by the time this particular Halloween rolled around.

By then, a story had grown that old Amos Seely was haunting the place. Hanging on to his wealth and house had, the story said, become so much of a habit that he couldn't let go: even in death.

Like a new-world Jacob Marley, he walked the halls in chains, crying for someone to release him.

Whoops. I've run out of room. I'll finish this next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Becoming One With Nature, Using a Unicycle and a Tree

Stan Parks, owner-operator of S. Parks Computers on Center Avenue, is an active member of the Taurus Association. Their goal is to save the world through unicycling.

The Taurus Association motto, One World: One Wheel, sums up their vision. This non-profit wants to replace the automobile with the unicycle.

I've heard people talk about using bicycles instead of cars, but unicycles was something new to me. As Stan Parks explained it, since the unicycle has only one wheel, it has only half the environmental impact of a bicycle.

This summer, Stan Parks showed me how unicycles could replace recreational vehicles like ATVs. At least, that was the idea.

Driving out to Raspberry Lake Trail, he explained how much better it was to ride a unicycle, than drive an ATV through the woods. With no motor, he said, it was a lot easier to ‘become one with nature.'

I'll admit that I was impressed, when Stan Parks showed how he could cycle up the trail, hop over small branches, and maneuver around larger obstacles.

His return was even more spectacular. Becoming airborne after jumping a branch, he kept his balance: but shot southeast as the trail turned south. He slowed down enough so that, when he hit a tree, the unicycle came through with only a bent seat. Stan was okay, and the tree is fine, apart from some scuffing.

I like to get out for a walk in the woods sometimes, but if that's becoming ‘one with nature,' I pass.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

About Leaf Blowers, Wild Flowers, and Raking

I've never minded leaf blowers myself. That whining roar is as much a part of what I grew up with, as the sound of lawnmowers. But, some people don't like the sound. At all.

Howard Leland, who converted his back yard into a butterfly preserve back in 2005, met with the city council to ban leaf blowers twice: Once, in 2003, because they were too loud; again in 2006, because exhaust fumes from the leaf blowers were making his milkweeds and wild flowers sick. He put it a little more scientifically than that, but that's the gist of it.

A week after that 2006 meeting, Glenn Severtson, a neighbor of Mr. Leland's, invited Howard and the other homeowners on that block to the Whistle Stop Cafe. They spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon there, talking about Mr. Leland's yard-full of milkweed, fireweed, columbine, goldenrod, and so forth; and their leaf blowers.

When it was over, they'd agreed that Mr. Leland wouldn't try to get leaf blowers banned in Loonfoot Falls, if they'd stop using leaf blowers. Mr. Leland said that he'd make sure their yards got raked.

In the autumn of 2007, Howard Leland was out daily for well over a week, getting one yard after another raked. He told me that it was great exercise: better than jogging.

He also told me that he was getting a leaf blower for the job this year. He's not giving up his principles, he explained. The blower's motor is electric.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Cleaned Up Taft Campaign, 100 Years Ago Today

William Howard Taft's said his presidential campaign was "one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life."

I think his campaign train's stop in Loonfoot Falls may have been part of the reason.

On a Saturday morning, a century ago, Taft's campaign train, the Presidential Special, arrived in Loonfoot Falls. A large crowd, Loonfoot Falls' mayor, the town band, and a driving rain were there to greet him.

While Mr. Taft was addressing the people of Loonfoot Falls from the limited shelter of his observation car's overhang, the fireman was filling the locomotive tender's water tank from the water plug: a tank and spout contraption near the coaling tower.

The Loonfoot Chronicle, as the town's paper was called then, records that the rain was coming down even harder when Mr. Taft wound up his speech. As the Presidential Special began pulling out of the station, the band struck up "Anchors Aweigh." As the crowd cheered, Mr. Taft waved his hat in farewell. Ironically, he was wearing a straw boater.

As the observation car, with Mr. Taft inside, was passing the water plug, the plug swung free from it's mooring and struck the car's roof. At that point, hundreds of gallons of water from in the water plug's tank began pouring onto the observation car roof.

The Loonfoot Chronicle records that, after assuring everyone from the mayor to the band director that no one had been hurt, Mr. Taft thanked Loonfoot Falls for giving his car such a thorough washing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our new Server and Working From Home

For everyone who looked for my column over the weekend, and today, my apologies. I had it ready for the paper, but hadn't gotten the online version done by quitting time on Friday.

No problem! We're experimenting with working from home, here at the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette, and this was a good way to see how well it worked.

I went home, ate supper, and then logged on through our new Vacnet server. No problems. I uploaded the column, checked to make sure that it looked right, logged off, and had a pleasant weekend.

Back at the offices, I checked again, and the column was right where it should be.

Then, about 2:00, someone handed me the phone.

I've been asked not to use the name, but a regular reader let me know that the my most recent online column was still that "Feverish Server" one.

That's not good. I got the website up, went to my column, and the one you're seeing now (I hope) was there.

I did not tell the caller 'it must be a problem with your connection.' That's a technical support tradition I don't mind abandoning.

I thanked the caller, and called Stan Parks, the computer guy.

We still don't know why, but when I logged in from a remote location and uploaded that column, it was put in a secure location. Anyone could see it: as long as they had an employee account on the server, and had logged in.

Putting the column where it was supposed to be took about a minute. My guess is that it'll take Stan quite a while to sort this little glitch out.

And, no: I didn't hit the wrong key. That was the first thing I thought of. Stan and I went to my place, where I uploaded a dummy column, and so did Stan. We tried it a couple of ways, and got the same frustrating results each time.

So, until and unless this glitch is fixed, I'm not working from home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Case of the Maligned Mallard

My neighbor, Lena Odegaard, is quite fond of her sunflower patch. I rather like the splash of color myself. She explained once that she lets the stalks stand through winter, as a sort of reminder of the summer that was, and the spring that will be.

That's why I was surprised to see her at my door Tuesday evening, brandishing a sunflower. Not just that dinner-plate-size seed head: the whole sunflower, stalk and all.

All she wanted to know was, "have you seen that duck?" That's Jake Nordstrom's duck, Bill. The bird has earned a reputation as a nuisance in the neighborhood. Still, Jake is at least as fond of his pet duck as Lena is of her sunflowers.

Bill may have fine inner qualities, but what most people notice about him is his foul look. Most ducks have all the expressiveness of a paperweight, but Bill manages to project a look of suspicious antagonism.

Be honest: Would you trust this duck?

Circumstantial evidence weighed against Bill. Quite a few of the seeds were missing, and Bill likes sunflower seed.

After calming down a bit, Lena asked me if I could keep an eye on her sunflower patch on Wednesday. It's not as crazy as it seems. She knew I was taking that day off to caulk my windows.

Okay. So, I spent Wednesday morning caulking on that side of the house, ate on the back steps, and went back to caulking.

About an hour later, I saw the sunflower vandal. Not Bill, thank goodness. Lena's got gophers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Mystery of the Feverish Server

The new Vacnet Local Area Network server we'd gotten last month is in the owner's office. Mr. Johnson's closet, actually. It's the best location in the building: close to a sort of shaft where a chimney had been, a few renovations back.

Stan Parks, who has the computer store in town, ran cables through that shaft, down to the basement, then over to all the ground-floor offices, and up to the second floor, without making more than a few new holes in the floors, walls, and ceilings.

That meant that Mr. Johnson had Stan in and out of his office for a couple of days. Make that a couple weeks. It wasn't until just before Labor Day weekend that Stan had the network running almost to everyone's satisfaction.

The Thursday before Labor Day weekend, Mr. Johnson closed the doors in his office, told us that he'd call Tuesday to see how things were going, and left town.

Most of the staff took off around noon Friday. There wasn't much to do, except receive a half-dozen cartons of coated paper and get them stacked in the hallway.

I stayed late, trying to learn more about how the new network worked. Around 7:00, I called it a day, turned out the lights, and locked up.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008. 8:00 a.m. Heather Fisk discovered that her computer worked, but that she couldn't get anything on the network. The rest of us were in the same boat, except some of our computers had gotten twitchy over the weekend.

Mr. Johnson called. I had the honor of telling him that the network was dead. He said, "you deal with it." It's nice to be trusted, but I was in no mood to enjoy the vote of confidence.

Stan Parks came in and traced the problem to a bad card in the Vacnet server. To my relief, he also told everyone that there was no way I could have ‘done something' to the network Friday evening. By 4:00, he'd contacted a supplier in the Twin Cities, and was told that a replacement would be here the next morning.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008. Noon went by, but no card arrived. This time I called the supplier. Their shipping clerk told me that we'd received the card that morning. Somebody had signed for it, so we had it.

Except we didn't. After talking to someone else, I was assured that they'd send another card, and that we'd get it Thursday morning.

Thursday, September 4, 2008. Noon went by, but no card arrived. I was punching in the vendor's number, to have an earnest discussion about Vacnet cards, when Mr. Johnson told me that he'd make the call. About fifteen minutes later, Mr. Johnson told me that he'd been assured that a replacement card would arrive Friday morning.

Friday, September 5, 2008. Just after 8:15 Friday morning, a gray-haired man in a business suit left a package at the front desk. It was the card we'd been waiting for. We rejoiced and, more practically, called Stan Parks.

Stan swapped cards, tested the network, and everything worked.

A good afternoon was had by all, and we went home for the weekend. I came back on Saturday, to see if the network was still working. It was.

Monday, September 8, 2008. 8:00 a.m. Heather Fisk reports that she has access to the network. The problem seems to have been solved.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008. Mr. Johnson returns, catches up on what's been going on, goes through correspondence that's collected on his desk, closes up his office and goes home. As do the rest of us.

Thursday, September 11, 2008. 8:00 a.m. Heather Fisk says, "not again." This was pretty much a replay of September 2, except this time two cards were burned out. Stan Parks orders replacements for both, and spends the rest of the day inspecting the server's power source, heat sinks, fans: everything.

Friday, September 12, 2008. The cards arrive. In the morning. They're the right cards. Stan installs them, tests the network. It works. Mr. Johnson gives the okay for him to stay for the afternoon, so he can check out every part of the network. I help out in this task, since I'm the most computer-savvy member of the staff. Which means that I can understand almost half of what Stan says.

5:15 p.m. Stan hasn't found any reason why the Vacnet server should have burned out three cards in a week. He and I are outside Mr. Johnson's office as he gets ready to leave: locking his desk and closing the closet door before turning out the lights.

Closing the closet door.

The closet door had been open almost all the time since the Vacnet server came. Stan had been back and forth so much, it didn't make sense to swing it shut each time.

Stan had cut a small vent in the wall of the closet, with a blower that pulled air in from the back hallway. That would have kept the closet cool enough, even with the door closed.

Except that the last of those half-dozen paper cartons was still stored in the hallway. Right in front of the vent.

20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's obvious, now: The server had its hall vent running and the closet door open until Mr. Johnson left that Thursday. It worked find with the closet door closed, until cartons stored in the hallway blocked its air vent.

It took hours for the heat to build up, Friday afternoon and evening. But finally it got to hot, and one of the server's cards failed.

The closet door was opened again, when Stan started working on the server. He probably didn't notice any warmth, since the Vacnet server system shuts itself down if there's a failure.

We didn't have a problem again, until Mr. Johnson came back and closed the closet door.

Stan's replaced the vent blower with something a bit more robust, we've marked the hallway as a 'no storage' area, and Mr. Johnson made his own contribution toward keeping the server healthy.

Somewhere up on the second floor, he found an old pedestal fan and took it down to his office.

I don't think that server is likely to overheat again, any time soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008. Just to be sure, I stayed up most of Friday night, babysitting that server.

Monday, September 15, 2008. 8:00 a.m. Heather Fisk's computer works: and is connected to the network.

It works. What a relief. It works.

I started a short vacation.

(A special thank-you to Mr. Johnson and the editorial staff, for allowing me to take up four times the usual space for this week's column. They told me that at 'epic' experience like that warranted a longer column.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Been an Interesting Two Weeks

When I'm not writing this column, taking pictures, or filling in for Heather Fisk, the Chronicle-Gazette's feature writer, I'm the Chronicle-Gazette's 'computer guy.' Usually, that means that I get a break from routine a couple times a week.

Not that I'm any kind of expert: it's just that I'm more comfortable with, and know more about, information technology than anyone else here. As a rule, it's good for my self-esteem.

Then, there's the last two weeks.

I'll get back to you, with details.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day, the Landfill, and Bearclaw Pond

About a dozen kids petitioned City Hall to leave the landfill open over the Labor Day weekend. Or at least unlocked.

I sympathize with them. I used to go fishing in Bearclaw Pond myself.

That was before people built houses on the track between Bearclaw Pond and Durbin's Pond, and re-named it Waterview Lane. Then one of the Baums built a place on west 9th, overlooking Hinkley Creek. Within a few years they had neighbors, all the way to Center Avenue.

That left Bearclaw Pond blocked in by lawns, Fisk Implement, and the landfill.

Fisk Implement has a sturdy fence, and a touchy alarm system, ever since someone towed a harrow away, back in 1996.

The people living around Bearclaw Pond don't particularly like kids trooping across their lawns.

Last year, Loonfoot Falls put a fence around the landfill, and started enforcing the rule about staying out unless you worked there, or were dumping something.

The kids didn't like that. As young fisherman Alex Johnson said, "it's like they don't want anybody in there." Alex doesn't see why the landfill should be off limits. "We don't mess around, much," he explained.

City Hall says that they don't have a choice. The city's insurance company has rules about access to places like landfills.

Alex says he understands City Hall's position, but won't give up.

"Maybe we can make a path along the side of the landfill, or get one of those people to let us cross their yard," he told me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loonfoot Falls' Backyard Butterfly Preserves

There's very little grass in some Loonfoot Falls back yards. Colorful splatters of wildflowers and milkweed have replaced the neatly-trimmed lawns of over a dozen houses.

And that's just the way the owners want it.

They're members of the Asclepias Society, an organization dedicated to giving monarch butterflies a place to stay and raise a family at the summer end of their migration. The Asclepias Society was founded in 2000 by Samuel H. Robins, chief entomologist at the Minnesota Institute for Scientific Studies.

That was the year when the monarch butterfly became Minnesota's state butterfly.

The Asclepias Society gets its name from the scientific name for milkweed, a plant that young monarchs munch before turning into the orange-and-black adults.

A member of the Loonfoot Falls chapter, Howard Leland, said, "I thought it sounded crazy at first. You know: making your back yard into a butterfly preserve?" He decided to try planting wild flowers and milkweed in his back yard in 2005. After four summers with the Asclepias Society, the only part of his back yard not covered with flowers and milkweed is a path to the garage.

"It's great," Mr. Leland said. "Those wildflowers pretty much take care of themselves, and watching the butterflies beats most of what's on television."

This year's monarchs are either already on their way south, or soon will be. Mr. Leland and his fellow-Asclepiasans want to make sure that when another generation returns next year, they'll find plenty of butterfly-friendly back yards in Loonfoot Falls.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Protecting the Squirrely Way of Life in Loonfoot Falls

Once, squirrels in Loonfoot Falls were able to run from Mosquito Flats to the fairgrounds, from the Belvedere-Union-Grand Hotel to Oak Grove Park, without setting foot on the ground, or in a tree.

Those days are gone.

Like so many towns, Loonfoot Falls has been burying its utilities. Overhead telephone and power lines have, over the years, been replaced by underground cables. Loonfoot Falls' Utilities Department has pointed out the advantages: greater reliability and safety.

Safety for the human population, perhaps: but not for the squirrels. These furry citizens are now forced, in many neighborhoods, to cross streets by leaping from one tree's outermost branches to another, or risk life and pelt in a mad dash across the pavement.

Concerned citizens have banded together to form the Society for the Preservation of Overhead Squirrel Highways. Members of SPOSH are gathering petitions, in an effort to prevent Loonfoot Falls' remaining power and telephone poles, and the lines connecting them, from going the way of the steam railroad.

Anastasia Anderson, founder and president of SPOSH, hopes to have enough signatures to put a 'save the poles' referendum on the local election ballots, later this year.

"We aren't against underground cables: We just want to make sure that our squirrely neighbors have a safe way to cross the street," Anderson explained. "Under the SPOSH proposal, as overhead lines are replaced with underground cable, squirrel-friendly lines will be strung between poles, providing safe transit over the streets, and preserving a tradition of inter-species cooperation."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette Announces New Green Computers

The Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette has gone green. Last Friday, this newspaper replaced its old computers with new Frisco-Shamrock Envirowarp low-emission/high-efficiency units.

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette energy-saving new computers are now connected through a Vacnet Local Area Network. The staff is looking forward to easier sharing of information, after a short learning curve.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette Back Online

Thank you for you patience. The Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette has been unable to get updates posted for the last few days.

The LFCG apologizes, and hopes that you will enjoy timely updates from now on.

-Stan Parks, IT Consultant

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Love This Place: I Really Do

That's me, as sketched at my desk by one of my co-workers yesterday afternoon.

My office at the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette is part of the upstairs coffee room.

In the summer, it's a little on the warm side. Air conditioning is a luxury which wasn't extended past the editorial room, at the front of the second floor.

Yesterday, though, was one of those days when it's about ninety in the shade. No clouds. No wind to disturb the serene contemplations of a fly which sat on the coffee room windowsill. The room was warm: a soft, enfolding warmth which gently discouraged, rather than forbade, strenuous activity.

The offices were quiet, except for the sonorous droning of the fan behind my chair.

I sat, gazing now at my computer's screen, then at the contemplative fly, and beyond,: to the azure abyss in which, perhaps, I would find inspiration for this week's column. And, throughout this journey of the mind from a blank screen toward infinity, the fan droned.

I fell asleep.

Candace Kane, the advertising assistant, drew that sketch during coffee break. I have to admit that she caught the moment quite well. My boss, Mr. Johnson, agreed.

Then he and I had a serious talk. I get to keep my job, and my office. Mr. Johnson says he'll see about getting air conditioning into the rest of the second floor. I believe him. We had our talk in the coffee room, after the break, and it hadn't gotten any cooler.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Grimm County Fair 2008

I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Grimm County Fair. Each year, visitors to Loonfoot Falls immerse themselves in a cultural tradition that spans more than a century. Then, at the end of the day, some discover that it's not a good idea to park next to a "NO PARKING" sign.

The county fair is a place for healthy competition: Judges hand out blue ribbons for jams and preserves, quilts, and digital art, like "Kenningward," one of this year's Honorable Mentions; People see who's best at handling a team of draft horses, raising llamas, or driving in a demolition derby.

"Kenningward," Honorable Mention, Grimm County Fair Digital Art 2008

It's an educational experience, too. This year, the Grimm County Reptile and Amphibian Restoration Effort (RARE) booth let fairgoers get up close and personal with salamanders, lizards, and grass snakes. RARE's spokesperson, Mindy Kleinsdorp, explained that her assemblage of things that wriggle, slither, and hiss should "show people how important it is to keep our woods and wetlands safe for wildlife."

She made me give back a grass snake that had found its way into my pocket.

It sounds corny, but the Grimm County Fair is a family event. Between a demolition derby, art show, farm implement displays and the midway, there's something for just about everyone.

Minnesota's summer heat, together with the spinning, whirling, bouncing rides on the midway, make a person really appreciate the varieties of fresh-squeezed lemonade. And, of course, standards like corn dogs, cheese curds, and Otto's unforgettable Deep Fried Chocolate Pork Rinds.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Burger, Fries, and Frustration

Small town America is supposed to be a bucolic abode of bliss: a sort of Brigadoon, far removed from the frantic pace of the outside world.

Don't believe it.

With a deadline today, and an editor (hi, boss!), breathing down my neck, I needed a break, and a meal. I had about fifteen minutes for both. The solution was obvious: go out, get a burger and fries, and eat at my desk.

There was a line at the drive-through, which I'd expected.

Then, whoever was in the car ahead of me opened a meaningful dialog with the checkout guy. It must have been complicated. The driver grabbed several different pieces of air, apparently showing how much coffee or pop she wanted.

Then menus started changing hands. I counted three different sheets that the guy at the window handed out, and two booklets. I'm pretty sure one of the sheets was the children's menu.

I was checked the clock. I had another five minutes before I had to be back at my desk.

Some sort of decision seemed to have been reached. Two menus and a booklet went back inside. The checkout guy's profile disappeared from the window.

Time passed.

I now had three minutes left.

Finally, her order got handed out. From the size of the package, I think she got a burger and a small coffee.

I made it back to my desk, only two minutes late.

With stress like this, I might as well be living in Manhattan.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Robin Hood: Ninja of Sherwood"

The Loonfoot Falls Community Theater's production last week of "Robin Hood: Ninja of Sherwood" wasn't the usual Sherwood Forest story. Instead of Lincoln Green, Robin Hood's merry men were garbed in what we're told is Sherwood black.

The curtain opened with Sir Guy of Gisbourne proposes marriage to Maid Marian, clearly to get control of her considerable wealth. When she refuses, he inexplicably grabs a ball from a table and runs from the room.

Maid Marian ends the scene with, "You have dishonored my family! You will pay!"

We meet Robin Hood in the second act. He's a shepherd who went with one of Marian's knight's to a Crusade. The knight also brought back Tuk, a refugee of some sort, who's getting as far west as he can.

Maid Marian recruits Robin Hood and Tuk to harass Sir Guy. They prove to be quite good at it. Tuk has been teaching Robin Hood some very un-English things to do with his quarterstaff and feet.

When Robin Hood isn't redistributing Sir Guy's wealth, he and Maid Marian are driving Sir Guy to distraction with the idea that she prefers a shepherd's attentions to his.

A spectacular moment in the play was unrehearsed. Robin Hood's quarterstaff got away from him in the third act. It flew straight and true toward Maid Marian, played by Sonja Branstetter, whose Soo Bahk Do training let her catch it with a flourish.

"Robin Hood: Ninja of Sherwood" won't be forgotten by Loonfoot Falls any time soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Community Theater Prepares Unique Robin Hood

Turnabout is fair play: at least, it is at Loonfoot Falls Community Theater. Last year's production, "Little Women," didn't have many roles for men in the community.

Finding a suitable play to even the score wasn't as easy as you might think. Van Epps' adaptation of "Moby Dick" was suggested, and considered, until the LFCT board noted that this "Moby Dick" was a musical, set in an academy for young ladies.

"Mutiny on the Bounty" was rejected because there weren't enough funny lines in any of the available stage adaptations. "I think we could have re-written some of the scenes as comedy relief," said Flora Ellert, LFCT Dramatics Director.

They finally settled on an adaptation of "Robin Hood" that had quite a few male roles, with a range of ages from pre-teens to men in their fifties.

"It'll be a lot of fun: comedy, drama, cunning, and derring-do," said Ellert. "It's sort of like the Errol Flynn 'Robin Hood,' except the guys won't be wearing tights."

Possibly the most unusual aspect of the Loonfoot Falls "Robin Hood" will be that this Outlaw of Sherwood Forest won't use a bow and arrow. "That was understood from the start. We don't want a repeat of that William Tell thing," Ellert said, recalling a near-miss on stage, back in 1997.

"So, we decided that our Robin Hood had been in the Crusades," Ellert continued, "where he met a fugitive from Japan, and became a ninja. I don't think anyone's thought of that before."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Where's the Town Square?

I was up by the magazines in Broadway Drug and Photo, when somebody from out of town came in. He’d pulled up across the street, with a boat in tow and one of those streamlined boxes on top of his car.

"Hi," he said, walking up and getting about a pace closer than I’d have preferred. "Where’s the Town Square?" The way he said it, you knew that Town Square was capitalized.

Loonfoot Falls doesn’t have a Town Square, capitalized or otherwise. I told him so.

He wasn’t having any excuses. "Look, I just want to know where the Town Square is."

"You parked by Railroad Park. That’s the closest we have to a town square."

"No. You don’t understand. I'm looking for the Town. Square." He said the last two words nice and slowly, so I'd be sure to understand.

"Well, like I said," I started. Then I saw the way his nose was getting redder. He might have been on the road all day, and just about ready to pop. "'s right there." I pointed to the other end of Railroad Park, down by Center Avenue. "Town Square. There it is."

I'm going to assume that the grunt he made was supposed to be "Thank you," but it sounded more like "finally."

I still haven't decided whether I did the right thing, letting him think the Center Avenue end of Railroad Park is Town Square. It's a lie, but I think right then he needed his Town Square.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Loonfoot Falls Ready for River Revel

Loonfoot Falls' annual summer festival has been called a lot of things over the years, but the idea's always been the same: having fun, lionizing Loonfoot Falls, and getting together with others who love their town.

"A lot of families get together at River Revel," said event organizer and Chamber of Commerce head Sonia Johnson. "Folks come home for the celebration. for them, it's a family reunion and city-wide block party rolled into one."

Loonfoot Falls' River Revel started yesterday with the Miss Loonfoot Pageant, in which Jill Nygaard became this year's Loon Princess.

The big event tonight will be a karaoke contest at the fairgrounds.

The River Revel's Saturday night activities have followed pop culture through the years. "We used to have pie-eating contests," Johnson said. One year there was even a contest to see who could say 'River Revel' the most times without tripping. These days, it's karaoke."

One of the high points this weekend will be tomorrow's River Revel Parade down Main Street. This year's theme for the 100-unit parade is "Weekend on the Lake."

"We've usually tied the parade's theme in with the Loonfoot River," Johnson recalled. "This year, with the town growing out toward Loonfoot Lake, we decided to break new ground. It looks like we'll be seeing folks in beach gear and floats rigged out with beach lounges."

Tomorrow the River Revel wraps up with music by Høy Musikk and The Starlings, then a fireworks show will light up the fairgrounds at dusk.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Elton Baum and His "Green" Golf Cart

Elton Baum and his high-performance golf cart.

When gas went over three dollars a gallon in late 2006, Elton Baum decided to do something about it.

"I couldn't keep the price down," he said with a grin, "but I could do something about how much I used. Now, I don't go into town with the truck, unless it's for something really big."

Even a small car uses some gasoline, so Mr. Baum looked around for an alternative.

"About a year ago, I found a golf cart. Trouble was, I couldn't drive it on the roads except in daylight, and in good weather. Makes sense, but I wanted something where I wouldn't be stuck in town, or out here, if it started raining."

Elton Baum's golf cart looks about the same as it did when he got it, except for an extra bar across the back and license plates.

It's what you don't see that makes it special.

Under the seats, ten golf cart batteries take five or six hours to recharge. "Four, if I'm lucky," Elton said. He doesn't use a pedal generator to recharge his cart. "I thought about it," he said, "but … life is too short to spend that much time cycling."

A beefed-up suspension and high-performance motors boosted the golf cart's top speed to about 40 miles an hour, so Elton doesn't need a slow-moving vehicle sign. He does, though, generally wear a motorcycle helmet when he drives. It's safer, but that's not the main reason.

"It gets breezy, driving with no windshield."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Arne’s Beachfront Café

Arne's famous coffee urn

Finishing an entire cup of his World-Famous Coffee is something of an initiation ritual for newcomers to Arne’s Beachfront Café.

Arne’s coffee has been the subject of magazine articles in “Lake Country Vacationer,” “Midwest Attractions & Destinations,” and “Cardiologist’s Quarterly.” Justifiably so, because not only is Loonfoot Falls’ famous coffee remarkable for its strength and unique – even unforgettable – taste, Arne’s World-Famous Coffee is the result of happy chance followed by careful conservation.

Times were tough back in the seventies. After his Coffee Counter closed, Loonfoot Falls had only one coffee shop: a serious situation for a town that so many Norwegians called home.

Arne purchased the building that had formerly been home to Lakeview Diner, polished it up, and opened Arne’s Beachfront Café in 1975.

Somehow, between working double shifts and training a small staff, Arne didn’t get around to cleaning the coffee urn for over a month. “That was the best mistake I’ve ever made,” Arne recalls. “I knew the coffee was tasting different, but I didn’t pay any attention.”

Not until he noticed people coming in from neighboring towns, asking about his coffee.

Down in the murky depths of that urn, some Scandinavian alchemy had transformed coffee grounds into the foundation of a unique brew of coffee.

Over the years, Arne has carefully preserved the sediment in that urn. He modestly says that the only difference between his “World Famous Coffee” and what everyone else makes is that he puts twice as many grounds in as most people.

Finally, careful research at Arne’s has dispelled one local legend. Contrary to popular belief, Arne does not have a tiny crowbar under the counter, to pry customers’ fingers off the coffee cups.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sven's Bait and Sushi Suffers Setback

The only sushi bar in western Grimm County, Sven's Bait Shop and Scandinavian Sushi, closed this week, victim of street work on north 5th Avenue. "I never thought this would happen," said owner Sven Sievertsen, surveying sodden debris in his business's basement.

A backhoe clipped Sven's shop's water line late Monday afternoon, but the leak wasn't noticed until the next morning. By the time Sven went to the basement, a half-foot of water covered the floor. "I guess it’s a sort of indoor pool," Sven joked, re-stocking a display rack of lures. He pointed to where one of the bait tanks had stood.

"It could have been worse," Sven said. "I'd been hauling crates up from the basement, stacking them behind the tanks. Thought I’d get a few up, out of the water, before putting them out back to dry. The stack shifted, leaned against the 12 gallon tank, then the tank started rolling.”

The bait tank, on casters, carrying a 12-gallon load of leeches, rolled across the bait shop, through a doorway, and into the sushi bar. Then it tipped over.

There weren’t any customers there, but the health inspector came while Sven, his wife, and their oldest son were picking fifteen pounds of leeches out of the carpet.

"He closed me down, didn’t have any choice really," Sven said philosophically. "It was a new guy, and I don't think the smell helped."

Good news for anglers: The bait shop is in good shape, with a new leech tank.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Congratulations, Class of 2008: We'll Never Forget You

Congratulations to the Loonfoot Falls seniors who form the graduating class of 2008. After the graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. tonight in the High School gym, this class will make their mark in the world, as they have already made their mark in Loonfoot High School.

This class is outstanding in academics, art, and athletics. But, more importantly, they are good people and fine citizens. Thanks to their efforts, the back wall of Loonfoot High’s auto shop has been completely repaired. The leaders, movers, and doers of the Class of 2008 made the 2007-2008 school year a memorable and exciting year for everyone who knew and worked with them.

The Loonfoot Falls School District has a long tradition of naming its buildings and sites after presidents: from the old Arthur Athletic Field, to Polk Middle School. This tradition continues, as Loonfoot Falls prepares to open an expanded high school building next fall.

After appealing to the public for a name, the Loonfoot Falls School Board asked elementary students who had participated in History Week for ideas. There were two rules: the president had to be deceased, and the name could not have been used before in the Loonfoot School District.

Loonfoot Falls’ young scholars provided four names: James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, John F. Kennedy, and Herbert Hoover. Students in grades five through 12 voted, and selected John F. Kennedy.

Shop instructor Einar Johnson expects to make a full recovery, and plans to return to teaching next year.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Annual Duck Races Expected to Draw Hundreds

The 23rd Annual Memorial Day Loonfoot Falls Duck Race is a colorful tradition in this small Minnesota town. Dapper ducks, hand-picked from the banks of the Loonfoot River, will compete for nothing but the glory of their handlers, the love of sport, and a sincere desire to leave Railroad Park, near downtown Loonfoot Falls.

Why would anyone go to the trouble of catching a duck, just to release it in the middle of a chalk circle in Railroad Park? That's the question that people asked Arne Aagaard, whose brainchild the Duck Race is.

Aside from the honor of having one’s name put in the Duck Race Book of Fame, the handler of the fastest duck wins gift certificates worth a total of over $100, redeemable for valuable merchandise at Loonfoot Falls merchants for items including: Bag Balm®, collapsible tree stands; levamisole phosphate; snowmobile skid plates; Bert’s Best Buffalo Jerky; and hand-polished decoys from Dewey's Duck Deck.

For the more intellectually inclined, Loonfoot Falls Memorial Day celebrations include a Name That Loon contest. Identifying individual recorded loon calls is harder than it seems, as novice loon listeners soon learn.

"It's a hoot," said Arne Aagaard, asked what he thought of the race he started nearly a quarter-century ago. "The great thing is, everyone wins. The ducks get a free meal or two, and go back to Mosquito Flats. Anyone who enters a duck gets a certificate, someone gets that bunch of certificates, and stores in town get a little extra business."

- Jon Wolner, Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette
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