Saturday, November 13, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Good news: the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette is for sale at the Mighty Minn Mart and other places in Loonfoot Falls. No problems with our production.

The servers, on the other hand - that's another matter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Plastic Deer, Yes: Gated Communities, No

For the most part, I like living in Loonfoot Falls. The air is clean, the people are friendly, and mosquitoes aren't a problem after the first few killing frosts.

I suppose this exposes my rural naïveté, but it hadn't occurred to me until this week that Loonfoot Falls lacks one vital facet of contemporary culture.

We have not one single gated community.

Unless you count places like Fisk Implement. They've had a sturdy fence and a mildly paranoid alarm system ever since someone stole a harrow, back in 1996. Nobody lives there, apart from the occasional gopher: so it's not really a "community."

We don't have all that many fences of any sort in town. Much less walled-off neighborhoods where everybody inside is glad that they're not outside. I'm not sure if that says more for our values: or our desire to avoid having to mow near a fence.

It's not like we're some homogenized classless utopia. Houses around West 9th and Waterview Lane, or around Milldam Park, tend to be bigger than the ones on Siding Street. More expensive, anyway.

Some of the Waterview Lane places put on a nice show around Christmas time. The rest of the year, though, their yards are pretty plain. Nicely mowed, of course. Very trim.

Some of the folks who live on Siding Street don't wait for some holiday to embellish their lawns. Artificial deer are fairly popular. So is that sort of wind sculpture that looks like a duck flapping its wings.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Impossible! But That's What I Saw

I haven't been to a Halloween party since I was a kid, but I still enjoy the holiday. Partly because of the decorations some folks in town put up, like inflatable spiders.

This week's wind storm left Loonfoot Falls alone, apart from a few downed trees: and radically rearranged inflatable Halloween displays.

The spider that had graced a neighborhood roof is missing: it may be in another county by now. A sort of pint-size pirate ship with a skeleton (literally) crew from the 'spider house' yard found anchorage at their mailbox.

I shouldn't joke, I suppose. Quite a few folks in this part of the state didn't have power for hours: a definitely unfunny situation with temperatures below freezing.

Then there was my experience Tuesday afternoon, on my way home from work. There was a brisk west wind: around 45 miles an hour, the radio said, with gusts to 60.

The neighborhood roof spider had already disappeared when I turned down the street where I live, the inflated skeleton crew were moshing at the mailbox, and somebody's garbage can sprinted past my car on the passenger side.

Just then somebody shot past me on the left and jumped onto the windshield. I was hitting the brakes when the lunatic jumped off, disappeared, and slapped the roof.

Sure: people can't do that. But that's what my eyes and ears were telling me.

I'd stopped the car by then: just in time for somebody's inflatable Dracula to whip back over the windshield.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Small Town Charm: With Internet

I read a warm, glowing account of life in small town America this week. It started with something like "Take a step back in time, to a simpler world without the cares and worries of today."

I don't know where that place is: but it's not like any small town I know. Sure, the buildings downtown are mostly around a hundred years old. That's partly because the town's grown out more than up. In our case, mostly toward the Interstate. Those old fashioned storefronts reappeared a few years ago, after City Hall realized that folks passing through liked the olde towne look.

What you see today is 'authentic:' but it's what we got after tearing off paneling set up in the fifties and sixties. It took a lot of sandblasting, paint, and elbow grease to get something like fifty years of cobwebs, bat droppings, and, in one case, smoke, removed.

Are we isolated? Some folks in Loonfoot Falls don't have a full telephone/cable/Internet hookup in their homes: but it's a matter of choice or economic necessity. The technology's there, ready to be connected.

Our Internet services use the newish cable that's been laid alongside the Interstate. Cable television comes in mostly from satellites. The lot behind Vidiconnections is covered with dish antennas, and so is the ground around another cable service's mast a few miles outside town.

It's good that folks think nice thoughts about small towns in America. I sort of like it here, myself. But let's get real.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The School, a Skunk, the Woodpile, and Dynamite

Loonfoot Falls schools, like the small town they live in, are quite up-to-date. They've got motivational posters on the walls, and the ‘no guns allowed’ sign at the doors.

It wasn't always that way.

A few generations back, it wasn't unusual to see a hunting rifle or three sitting in the corner of classrooms. This is a rural area, and bringing a rifle in the morning saved time if they planned to hunt after school.

There wasn't any trouble with the guns.

Dynamite, though: That was a problem, once.

This was back when the school was heated with wood stoves, which meant having a wood pile outside, against the back wall.

A skunk had wandered into the grounds behind the school. Trying to shoo it away, they chased the skunk into the wood pile.

The kids weren't able to dislodge the critter.

One of the youngsters had an idea. His family had been removing stumps: So he ran home, returning with dynamite, blasting cap, and a fuse.

He alerted the other students, who withdrew to a sensible distance, set the charge, lit the fuse, and backed off.

Less than a minute later, the skunk was gone. As well as the wood pile and the paint from that side of the school. The student had slightly over-estimated the size of the charge needed.

Nobody was hurt, but the young demolitions expert and several other students were put to work, painting the back of the school. Which might violate today's child-labor laws.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Brothers, Family Business, and Change

Like many small towns, quite a few of the businesses in Loonfoot Falls are family-owned. Which means, obviously, working with members of your own family.

Like the Englebrechts, with their plumbing (and related) businesses, or Stan and Xul Parks.

Assuming that the Parks brothers get their enterprise off the ground.

Stan Parks runs S. Parks Computers: but he's also done work for Baum Media Productions. Which is a sort of family businesses, too: and the Parks are related to the Baums.

Stan and Xul Parks got the rights to Baum Media Productions' character, Galaxy Cadet, to make a comic book. Okay: this isn't your typical small-town family business, but I told Stan that I'd write about their project.

Stan worked on the two most recent Galaxy Cadet films, so he's familiar with the character. As an animator. Stan's a pretty good programmer, as well as a computer technician.

His brother, Xul, is an artist of the Salvador Dali variety. Sort of.

So, how is this collaboration of programmer and artist going? So far, Stan tells me, they've discussed several stories. Some of which had plots which Stan could follow. And none of which had, they thought, were worth developing.

I sort of liked the one about mutant squirrels, though.

The Engelbrechts went through something like this, too, when one brother took over the family plumbing business the other branched off into welding equipment. Then the other brother's wife started an 'everything but catering' wedding and event supply business: plus propane.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Central Minnesota's Uncooperative Trees

Autumn is a season of clear blue skies and brightly colored leaves. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot, and the hiss of tires on drizzle-soaked streets.

I'd write about the smell of leaves burning and haze rising from a hundred back yards: but Loonfoot Falls banned leaf and trash burning a few decades ago. Which is probably just as well.

This season is also when folks in the country - and a few in town - start stacking hay bales around their houses. That, and sealing windows with plastic sheeting, helps with heating bills in winter. All of which is about as colorful and charming as taking out the garbage or doing the laundry: but they're important routines.

The New England states advertise fall foliage tours: and I understand they've got some spectacular displays of autumn leaves there.

Central Minnesota doesn't do too badly, when it comes to producing anything from bright yellow all the way to intensely dark red foliage, around this time of year.

The problem is, the trees and shrubs turn color at different times. I've seen some trees in town with bare branches on top, bands of color below that, and green leaves on one side of the bottom.

I'm not sure if I should be proud of their rugged individualism; or frustrated that they don't cooperate with the Minnesota tourism industry.

I think I'll opt for taking a walk around town this weekend, see which trees are turning color this week, and enjoy the show.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Drying the House: Thanks, Everyone!

A week ago I heard my washing machine's rinse cycle in the small hours of the morning.

And later realized that I hadn't turned the washing machine on.

It's an old house, with uneven floors. That kept the water mostly in the kitchen and laundry room.

And the wall between them.

And the basement on that side of the house.

By the time I'd closed the main valve and was watching the fountain subside into a mere leak, it was about two in the morning. I called a plumber I've worked with before.

I didn't expect Jim Engelbrecht to answer the phone. I was leaving a message on his machine when he cut in. He was at my place about 20 minutes later.

Good news: the pipes were in generally good shape. But I should have replaced the flexible bit that connects to the washing machine a few years ago.

Live an learn.

Jim Engelbrecht told me about a place in Foggton that does cleanup work. They had a crew out here before dawn, pumped about an inch of water out of the basement and set up heavy-duty fans and dehumidifiers that sucked water out of the air. And, over several roaring days and nights, out of the floors and walls.

This could have been a lot worse.

I'd rather not have the bills for the cleanup: But that's better than having mold and rotting wood. And my hat's off to everybody who showed up that night, to help out.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Water Splashing Merrily: So, Why am I Not Smiling?

One of the nice things about owning your own house is that you don't have to depend on the landlord to get things fixed.

One of the drawbacks about owning your own house is that you can't depend on the landlord to get things fixed.

I own the house I live in, and generally like getting things done without having to go through a landlord. Last night, I'd have cheerfully called maintenance and walked away.

Actually, it was 'early this morning.' I'd been up later than usual, getting a 'due Friday morning' piece done. Around midnight I was diligently working at that piece, and heard the washing machine go into its rinse cycle. Nothing odd about that. I generally set it so that it starts using water after I've washed up.

Somewhat later I remembered that I didn't have laundry to do.

And I was still hearing the washing machine going through its rinse cycle.

Or, more accurately, I was still hearing water rushing through the pipes toward the washing machine.

Not "to:" "toward." About a foot short of the machine, the water was splashing merrily out the end of a broken pipe.

The washer and dryer are on the ground floor, off the kitchen. The water there was almost an inch deep. It's an old house, so most of the water stayed at one end of the kitchen before wending its way through the wall and into the basement.

I'll let you know how this turns out, next week.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to School: Waking and Sleeping

I wasn't one of those students who seem to live for exams and who react to pop quizzes like most of us react to snow days. On the other hand, by and large I enjoyed being a student.

By and large.

I went to college right after high school. It seemed like a good idea at the time: Maybe it was, maybe not.

The biggest change for me was the new set of routines. Or, rather, lack of routines. Like having huge blocks of time between classes - and being able to plan how I'd fit a job, classroom sessions, and homework around my free time. Or maybe it was the other way around. Learning about priorities took me a while.

I still get dreams about being in college. Generally, it's a day after the deadline for changing or dropping classes. I realize that I've forgotten about one of the classes I signed up for; it's too late to drop the class; I can't even remember which building it was in.

Or I can't find the instructor's office. That actually happened to me once.

Yes, there are worse fates than forgetting your locker combination.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pheasant Hunting on Pontoons

It's not official, but for most folks Labor Day is the end of summer. Then school will be in session, days will be getting shorter, and the next vacation probably won't be planned until Thanksgiving, at least.

Some of the lake country resorts stay open year-round here in Minnesota, particularly if they have a decent ski slope or trails for cross-country skiing. Then there's Paul Cox's Misty Inlet resort, on Loonfoot Lake. He's been known to keep his place open until mid-September: but that was to accommodate a business group, back in the nineties.

After the first week of September, Paul Cox plans to give the cabins a top-to-bottom cleaning, 'mothball' the outboard motors, and pull the pontoon boat up to the picnic area. The other boats go into a big shed at one end of the property, but the pontoon rig's too big to fit inside.

Besides, Paul Cox has another use for it.

"I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't like being with people," he told me. "But it's nice to have peace and quiet, too." On weekends, anyway. Paul Cox works at Fisk Implement and, during the Christmas season, the Coalworth store when he's not running Misty Inlet.

Most weekends, though, he'll be back at Misty Inlet. "Puttering around" he told me. Also, after the middle of October, hunting pheasant. From a chair on the pontoon boat's platform. He bags a few pheasants each year: but I suspect he likes the view of Loonfoot Lake.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mysteries of the High School Senior School Supply List

Classes start the day after Labor Day here in Sauk Centre. That gives families with seniors one week to stock up on everything from a dozen #2 pencils to one package of mechanical pencil leads.

The pencil leads I understand, since mechanical pencils are on the list. Why three mechanical pencils, I've no idea.

Maybe, in principle, a student could take twice as many notes by holding one pencil in each hand. But three?!

Another minor mystery on the list is item 15: one package of pencil crayons. I checked in Valderrama: and they've got three sorts of packages in stock: with 12; 16; and another with a different set of 12 colors. A little more research, and I discovered that the first 12-count package was the one for school use.

Maybe which sort of pencils the school wanted is obvious to shoppers: it wasn't to me.

One thing that even a bachelor like me understands is part of the sixth item on the list: one package of washable felt markers.

I may be the reason they added the word 'washable' to that item. During my senior year, I had a second-period class at one end of the school, with my third-period class at the other end. One day, I stuck the markers in my pocket without capping one.

Which of the four available sorts of washable felt markers the school wants seniors to get? I suggest asking someone at the store: They'll probably have figured that out by now.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Silly Season, LFTV, and Howard Leland

Ever notice how, in August, you're more likely to see news about, say, off street parking or prize beagles on the front page? It's called the silly season. I read a post on about this phenomenon: what Miriam Webster online says is "a period (as late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories."

Which reminds me of what happened when I went to Vidiconnections, to get pictures of their antenna farm. Howard Leland was there, too: at their public access
television center, LFTV, taping a sort of infomercial.

I thought he'd be plugging his Loonfoot Falls Museum of Lint and Gum Wrappers. He explained that plans weren't far enough along to make a public appeal. His goal that day was to raise awareness and funds for the SPCD, or Society for the Prevention of Continental Drift.

I'll say this for Howard Leland: his sense of civic duty is quite well developed. He has, for a time, set aside his dream of a museum celebrating undervalued cultural treasures: in a quest to stop North America's reckless march westward.

He was quite disappointed that LFTV wouldn't air a program by SPCD's candidate in the midterm election, and even more disappointed when I wouldn't sign SPCD's latest petition to Congress.

He perked up considerably when I agreed to let everyone reading this column know that he'd be on LFTV, warning of the dangers of continental drift, next Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rambling on About Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is supposed to be unlucky. Many skyscrapers have no 13th floor: and none of the buildings in downtown Loonfoot Falls have a 13th floor.

It's not that we're particularly superstitious. There aren't any buildings downtown with more than four floors.

There's even a 13th Avenue South on some old maps, south of the Grimm County Fairground. It doesn't actually exist: although there's still a stub at the end of Fairside Road, going about fifteen feet toward where South 13th would have been.

The street was part of the proposed Southside Addition: a residential zone between the fairground and the Interstate, along the Loonfoot River. Plans for the addition were going smoothly until the 1965 flood.

The Loonfoot River rose almost to the deck of the 12th Street bridge: and entirely covered what would have been the Southside Addition. The Southside Addition was on the council's agenda a week after the food's peak, rejected, and never brought up again.

I don't know that flood was "unlucky," though: if it had happened a couple years later, a lot of people would have lost their homes.

Then there's the Belvedere Union Grand's room 313. Haunted, maybe: unlucky? I'd say not.

There was that fateful Friday the 13th in 1908, when the Bijou Opera House burned down. Indirectly as a result of an anti-superstition club meeting. I've written about that before.

What's the point of all this? I'm obliged to provide 250 words for this column each week. Now I have.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dust Bunnies are Not Lint!

Howard Leland found me in the Whistle Stop Cafe this week, and informed me that dust bunnies are not lint. And that this distinction is very important.

He also discussed his plans for the Loonfoot Falls Museum of Lint and Gum Wrappers. As I reported in April, his dream was to open a lint museum here in Loonfoot Falls. On consideration, he told me, he realized that as fascinating as lint is, it might prove challenging to provide a sufficiently varied array of displays on the subject.

Gum wrappers was an obvious choice, he explained, since those are often found mingled with lint when one empties one's pockets. Besides, there's a remarkable variety of gum wrappers.

The inner wrappings around individual sticks come in two basic varieties: single layers of paper or similar material; and double layers with paper inside and foil outside. The paper wrappers, of course, often are printed with the brand name: and occasionally are unmarked.


Outer wrappings, enclosing several sticks, are what Howard Leland finds most interesting, though. He showed me a scrapbook he happened to have with him, where he has cataloged and categorized gum wrappers by brand, type, color, and historical period.

Inside the back cover of the scrapbook he had an envelope full of sketches of displays. His favorite was the interactive lint table. That was a large tray holding lint and lint cards: things that look like horse brushes. He figures folks will love playing with lint.

He may be right.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Action, Adventure, and Logarithmic Curve of Cauliflower

The owner of S. Parks Computers, Stan, and his brother Xul think they've got a really good idea this time. Stan told me that they'd learned from their attempt to interest Baum Media Productions in "Dino Side Story." First, he told me, musicals probably wouldn't enjoy a revival any time soon. Second, he thinks they have a better chance, working with an existing series of stories.

They've gotten the comic book rights to Galaxy Cadet, heroine of Baum's animated films.

They're taking Galaxy Cadet out of the academy, and promoting her to ensign: a logical choice, considering the remarkably long time that she's been a cadet. How, or whether, they'll call their comics "Galaxy Cadet," when the central character has moved on wasn't clear to me.

What I'm even less certain of is how Xul Parks will fare as a cartoonist. There's no question that he's talented: a gifted artist. But an action-adventure comic is: well, it's not even close to anything I've seen him do.

Stan explained that he and Xul would be collaborating on the artwork, since Stan has worked on the two most recent Galaxy Cadet films. They plan, I'm told, to have Xul provide much of the inspiration for story lines and new characters.

That should be quite interesting. Xul says he developed his style partly by studying the Mike Wallace interview of the late Salvador Dali. And Dali's artwork, like "The Persistence of Memory."

I think Stan and Xul's Galaxy Cadet comic will be memorable.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crime Wave! Well, It Could be Worse

Several computers, television sets, and a video game set were stolen from three homes on the north side of Loonfoot Lake this week. You've probably read about it already, on the front page.

It's cold comfort to the folks whose property was stolen: but that sort of thing isn't all that common around here.

Loonfoot Falls isn't a crime-free zone. Each week the "Police Blotter" column records some number of traffic stops, loud parties, or other disturbances of the peace. But the theft of property totaling well into four figures is unusual.

What's really embarrassing is that the victims were folks who live in Loonfoot Falls on weekends, but have places in the Cities for weekday living. Which helps explains why it took a while for someone to notice the thefts. The weekend retreats being secluded didn't help either, I think. Still, I feel like we let neighbors down.

That crime cluster reminded me of something I ran across, about five years ago, about crime in rural America. The article made it sound like folks who took vacations in rural America were visiting a hotbed of crime. After a little checking, it turns out that the (comparatively) high-crime areas were around ski resorts.

A little more digging, and I found out that rural areas have less crime because we've got fewer people. No surprise there. Then, there's the per capita crime rate. Back in the mid-nineties, it was lower out here: less than half what it was in metropolitan areas.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time

Clearing brush from that boggy patch behind my friend's place seemed like a good idea at the time. He isn't one of those fussy property owners, who won't rest until their place looks like it came from a cover of one of those 'House Wonderful' magazines.

On the other hand, he figured that he'd mind the smell less, when the wind was from that direction, if the dark, dank, green growths started a bit farther back from the house.

So, last Friday I pulled in the driveway of a place that's between the Twin Cities and Duluth, more or less. This column will be a bit vague about names and locations, by request.

I figured I'd lend a hand until one or the other of us figured we'd done a day's work. The idea was that I'd spend Saturday and Sunday fishing around a lake about an hour's drive from there.

We made good progress, hacking our way through everything from some kind of low-growing vine to a stand of smallish trees or shrubs. Most of them were a bit taller than I am, with smooth gray bark. The leaves were pretty, with red stems.

I was ready to quit by sunset, but we kept going until we had a hard time seeing the trees.

Then, around midnight, my hands and arms started itching.

Those trees were poison sumac.

I'm okay, and so is my friend: but I'm still typing with very thick, soft gloves on.

More about poison sumac.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gone Fishing

Thanks for stopping by.

Ed Brunsvold is on vacation, but he'll be back with another column next Friday.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pair-A-Dice Lost

There's more to Fourth of July celebrations here in Minnesota than just fireworks.

There are flags displayed in front yards, grills set up for traditional cookouts, and mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes. The little bloodsuckers aren't good fliers, so the windy weather we had this week keeps them grounded. Except in sheltered spots.

I spent a Fourth of July weekend with friends at a place like that once, a few years back. It was a little patch of water and weeds that might be called a lake in dryer states.

We were staying at a secluded place someone had called "Pair-A-Dice." The owner had set a couple of concrete cubes at the end of the drive. One had five indentations on all five of its visible faces, the other had two on each.

We'd have had more fun, I think, if there had been some wind. Any wind. A light breeze would have helped.

It wasn't particularly hot, maybe 85, but it was humid. Thick. Near-ideal flying conditions for mosquitoes. By late afternoon we'd gone through our supply of insect repellant, and the mosquitoes were closing in.

Someone - we couldn't decide, later, whose bright idea it was - said that mosquitoes don't like smoke. So we should build a fire, and put wet wood on it. The smoke discouraged the mosquitoes: but it wasn't doing us any good, either. With a couple hours left before sunset, eyes bloodshot and skin itching, we conceded defeat and surrendered Pair-A-Dice to the mosquitoes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What If There's a Fire During the Parade?

Ever worry about fire breaking out in a small town, while the Fire Department was in a parade?

Probably not.

It's happened, though: during the 2007 Loonfoot Falls' River Revel Parade.

I was watching the parade from a spot between Birch and Alder Streets, on Center Avenue. Fire engines at the head of the parade were about two blocks away when one of Loonfoot Falls' finest loped to his car, talking earnestly into that box they keep on their shoulders. And took off, lights flashing and siren on.

I heard more sirens going by, northwards: probably running along Park Avenue.

Then I noticed smoke coming up, somewhere to the east. I headed for the fire. My motivation was more than idle curiosity, or a journalist's instinct. I'd left my car parked in that direction. Right where most of the Loonfoot Falls Fire Department and one of our police cars were double- and triple-parked.

My car was okay. The one two spaces closer to downtown had to be towed. The engine fire was out by the time I got there, and the firefighters were discussing how to get re-inserted in the parade.

They got back in, near the back of the procession. That interruption may have thrown the rest of the parade off: by the time they reached the fairgrounds, there was almost a block between some of the units.

It's good to know that the Fire Department can respond, even if they're tied up in a parade when they're needed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

River Revel Parade Next Week

You've probably seen the Rose Bowl and Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades on television. Maybe you've been there in person.

Loonfoot Falls' River Revel parade isn't quite like those. With about 100 units each year, it's not quite as big. We also don't have titanic balloons wafting over the crowd, or a rule that the floats have to be covered in flowers.

Back in the seventies, Dave Eskridge urged the Chamber of Commerce to have at least one float covered by duck feathers, as a reminder of the traditional Duck Races. Then someone calculated how many ducks would have to be plucked and Mr. Erskin's idea was dropped.

After experimenting with themes like "Weekend on the Lake" and "Camping Trip," the Chamber decided to get back to their roots, or maybe anchorage, in the Loonfoot River, with "River of Fun."

The public library is tying their summer reading program into that general idea, with a "Reading is Fun" float. I've heard that they're having people sit in inner tubes, reading.

Sonia Johnson, the event organizer, told me that it's a challenge, coming up with a fresh "River of Something" theme: but is counting on "River of Fun" being, well, fun.

There will be the usual marching, polka and rock bands in the parade, plus horses and tractors. I suppose it's a cliché, but the Loonfoot Falls' River Revel Parade really is "fun for the whole family." Plus, it's a good way for area businesses to remind folks that they're still around.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I had Stan P. edit/correct your online column. We caught it before it hit the press.

Another time, if you're feeling this way: let me know. You've got sick days coming.

I'll see that you're covered for Monday, if you want to take the day off.


Friday, June 11, 2010

At Raith's Lake: Alone?

I've heard that what folks call rivers and creeks, lakes and ponds, mountains and hills, depends on where they are.

If the "hills" east of San Francisco Bay were in Minnesota, we'd probably call them "mountains." Someone claimed that Minnesotans call any watercourse that doesn't dry up in August a "river." There's something to that: Some of Minnesota's "rivers" are pretty small. But a body of standing water has to be pretty big before we'll call it a "lake." Generally.

Then, there's Raith's Lake. It's within an hour's drive of Loonfoot Falls: provided you know how to get there. It's a little easier to find than Lake 13. The nearest road is over a mile away, but If you know exactly what you're looking for, you can make out the cabin - it's more of a shed - by the dock.

Angus Raith built that cabin when he owned the land it's on, almost a hundred years ago. Like other owners since then, he used it as a source of water for his cattle and a place to cool off on hot summer days.

Some places are secluded. Raith's Lake is isolated.

Standing on the old dock, I've felt, well, exposed. Like everybody, or maybe everything, for miles around can see me. The pond is surrounded by hills, with a scattering of trees nearby: so there's something to that impression.

Oddly, the evening fogs around Raith's Lake increase the feeling that someone's watching. Or maybe something.

Next week: River Revel.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zucchini: More Than You Probably Want to Know

Here are some of the more interesting online discussions of zucchini:

Zucchini, the Kitchen Garden's Overachiever

Zucchini: the vegetable kingdom's answer to bratwurst.

There's a reason why you don't see much zucchini in the grocery's produce section. Those green sausages don't keep very well: and one gardening enthusiast can keep an entire neighborhood supplied for the summer.

I found out more than I planned to, about zucchini, doing research for Heather Fisk. Most of us know zucchini as something that the neighbor brings in a basket. Along with an apologetic 'could you take some of these?'

Zucchini started out in Central and South America, was brought as an exotic food to Europe, and took root in Italy. Our zucchini is a descendant of those transplanted Italian plants.

Zucchini is called courgette in French: and so is some yellow thing that's sort of like zucchini. They're now part of French cuisine. Which is like food, only more expensive.

Perhaps mercifully, zucchini is a relatively delicate plant. Frost can kill it, although the survivors generally produce more of those long green things. A zucchini can be two feet long and six inches across. The smaller ones taste better, though.

Don't misunderstand me: I like zucchini. And, thanks to the generosity of my neighbors, I've had opportunities to try most of the hundreds of zucchini recipes. Like blueberry zucchini bread, zucchini relish and zucchini pumpkin bread.

Which reminds me. Zucchinis can be crossed with pumpkins. Stan Parks is growing what he assures me is a small crop of the things. I'll probably see the first in a couple months.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Loonfoot Falls Graduation Day: 2010 - and an Informal Poll

It's graduation day: Families of the graduating seniors have been stocking up on helium-filled Mylar balloons and plastic plates at the Valderrama, down by the Interstate; Graduates are renting or borrowing graduation gowns - and, in some cases, learning the school song; the school's custodial staff is lining up rows and columns of folding chairs; and everybody has Memorial Day weekend on their minds.

Last week I wrote about the unique method Loonfoot Falls High School has for determining the day of its graduation ceremony. I've wondered if part of the idea was to give the graduating seniors a three-day weekend to celebrate in.

But that's speculation.

Folks who aren't involved in the High School's graduation are getting their fishing tackle ready, making sure their boat is seaworthy (or, in our case lakeworthy), or getting a rummage sale ready.

Rummage sales are a fairly important part of the Loonfoot Falls cultural scene. I haven't read any serious study of them, but I've seen the social and economic value of the institution. Which is a fancy way of saying that Loonfoot Fallers enjoy getting together on someone's driveway, or in the garage, to talk and get a little shopping done.

By the way, there's been some debate over what people who live in Loonfoot Falls should be called. I've used "Loonfoot Fallers" most of my life: but we're called everything from Loonies to Loonfeet. The Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette is conducting an informal, unscientific, poll to determine which names are most popular.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Graduation Ceremonies, History, Ducks, and a Rock

For generations, Loonfoot Falls High School has had its commencement exercise on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, or the next Wednesday. Each year the day is determined by an equation that fills two pages of the superintendent's manual.

The real mystery, though, is why the LFHS graduation ceremony is so late: long after classes are over and paperwork filed for the school year.

One story is that the ceremony was tied to the Memorial Day Weekend during the Great Depression, as a way to give people with strapped finances an excuse for not taking a trip. It's a good story, but there's no evidence to back it up.

Another account, first published in the 1920s when this paper was the Gazette, tells that the school principle, Mr. Herschel Thornton, lost his wife to pneumonia in May of 1919, and accompanied her body to Boston for burial.

As a mark of respect, the Class of 1919 delayed their graduation ceremony until Mr. Thornton returned. I checked: there was a Mr. Herschel Thornton serving as principal in 1919, and school records show that the spring 1919 graduation ceremony was delayed to late May.

But that doesn't explain why, generations later, Loonfoot Falls High School graduates wait to receive their diplomas until late May or early June: or why the date of the ceremony depends on such things as how many ducks are seen on Mosquito Flats and the date on which a five-pound rock breaks through the ice on Loonfoot Lake.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Minnesota Fishing Opener - or - No Column This Week

No column this week. Fishing season starts tomorrow, and space for this column was needed for a special report. I don't mind: legwork for that special report was a nice change of pace.

I'll be back next week.

Ed Brunsvold

(Actually, Minnesota has quite a few overlapping fishing seasons. The ones that start tomorrow are for lake trout, and stream trout in lakes.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Frost Advisory, Followed by Fire Weather: What, No Burning Hail?

There's an old gag: 'Minnesota doesn't have a climate, it has weather.'

There's something to that.

Recently, Loonfoot Falls had a frost advisory, and the next day the counties north of us dealt with a fire weather advisory.

That "fire weather advisory" didn't involve burning hail with occasional frog showers. Northern Minnesota had warm weather, and no rain to speak of. The snow cover had melted, and run off; and vegetation hadn't started sprouting yet: so quite a few counties were covered by kindling.

Then we started getting rain. Day-long drizzles a few degrees above freezing don't encourage outdoor activities, but it's put a stop to that “fire weather.”

Then it snowed. In May, just before Mother's Day Weekend. And the forecast says we should expect more. It doesn't stay on the ground: but our April showers brought May snow.

Oh. No. Mother's Day weekend. I'll be right back.

A brisk walk to Broadway Drug and Photo, punctuated by three distinct and separate sneezes, confirmed my worst fear: I've got a cold.

Mom, you were right. I should wear a jacket when I go out this time of year, even if I don't feel like it. I've been out several times over the last few weeks, convinced that it's 'shirtsleeve weather.' And now I've got a cold.

Friday's nearly over now. I've decided to take care of Mrs. Brunsvold's boy by staying in and living largely on chicken soup. Don't worry, Mom: I've got enough to last me a week.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Howard Leland and the Deliberate Bear

I don't like to contradict the Loonfoot Falls Chronicle-Gazette's news. But that bear was not "wandering." Not as far as I could tell, anyway.

You've read about it, probably: "Police Chase Bear" was on the bottom half of the front page this week. The article starts out by saying that police were told that a bear was "wandering around town," near south 10th Avenue and Cherry Street. The next location given for the bear was Broadway and south 10th Avenue: just a block west of where the bruin was first spotted.

The only other location given in the article was the corner of Jefferson Road and Jefferson Loop, near Jefferson Drive, in the Industrial Park. That's not due west of Broadway and south 10th, but it's more west than north of the other locations.

I did a little checking around the office: and sure enough, there was no evidence at all of the bear being sited anywhere else. Loonfoot Falls police had followed the bear after spotting it in the Industrial Park, all the way out of town. Where it was still headed in a westerly direction!

This bear: wandering? I ask you, since when could a steady movement in a single direction reasonably be called "wandering?"

We haven't heard the last of that bear: or, rather, Loonfoot Falls' policy regarding visiting bears. Howard Leland called me: he’s started another petition. This one demands that a provision against the harassment of bears be added to Loonfoot Falls' city charter.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Neglecting Hospitality

Moreau Centre was the first town in what's now Fox County. Pierre Moreau founded the town in 1838, when the Iowa Territory was organized. All that's left of it now is a small cemetery and a few foundations.

I asked a historian or two: and nobody seems to know a great deal about Pierre Moreau, the town's founder, and only a little more about Moreau Center. On the other hand, there are a few stories.

Moreau Centre was on one of the Red River Cart trails and grew. Slowly. Then, in 1858, Minnesota became a state, By 1860, it had a post office, a church, and a school. A few years later, the town almost became a center of trade and industry in the region.

One of those historians, David Schmidt, says this is one of those stories that everyone apparently heard from someone else. Still, I think it makes a good story:

It was well after sunset when a dapper clerk at the Moreau Centre Hotel heard dogs barking outside. Then a snow-caked man strode in the door and up to the desk. The aroma accompanying him identified him as the dogsled driver.

This disreputable-looking person wanted a night's lodging.

The clerk sniffed and informed this man that he might find accommodations in the stable, down the street.

Next year surveyors came through, marking the railroad's route. Well away from Moreau Centre.

That disreputable-looking person was James J. Hill, making a personal inspection of possible routes for his enterprise.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Under-Appreciated Lint

If you were one of the folks who signed that petition from the Society for the Prevention of Continental Drift, Howard Leland has another great cause you may want to support.

I ran into Howard this week, at the Whistle Stop Café. While I finished my coffee, he educated me on the subject of lint. You know? That stuff you find in your pocket and the clothes dryer filter.

Seems that many people think lint is useless: a nuisance at best, and sometimes a fire hazard.

That view, Howard told me, was very short-sighted and ill-informed. Then he generously shared his accumulated store of lint lore.

Take lint as a fire hazard, for example. Lint building up in your dryer filter can ignite and burn down your home. But lint makes good kindling when you want to start fires.

Need modeling clay? Take lint, flour and water: and you've got a sort of substitute for modeling clay. Lint, by itself, or stuck to construction paper, is a fair substitute for cotton balls: so a person could sculpt clouds and snowmen from the stuff. Families with school-age kids: take note.

Stuff lint in tube socks, and you've got a draft-stopper for the bottom of doors.

Lint makes decent compost: or you can use it to make homemade paper.

And, if you've got any lint left over after that, leave outside. Birds can use lint for nesting material.

Howard Leland's dream is to open a Museum of Lint here in Loonfoot Falls.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Color T.V. Motel

Elton Baum told me that U Betcha's Fountain, his old-fashioned drug store and soda fountain, minus the pharmacy, is off to a good start. So he's got a new project: re-opening the Color T.V. Motel, out on the old highway.

The Color T.V. Motel was going to be "Johnson's Motel" back in the early fifties. Then Melvin Johnson's custom-made sign arrived. The words "COLOR T.V." and "MOTEL" were there, as specified.

"JOHNSON'S," though, wasn't on the sign. At all. The only place his name appeared in the shipment was on the invoice – and the bill.

He couldn't afford another sign, since the outfit he'd worked with wouldn't fix the problem, or refund what he'd already paid them. Then the company went out of business: leaving Mr. Johnson with a brand-new sign that wasn't what he'd ordered.

We have a saying in Minnesota: "It could be worse." Mr. Johnson applied this grim wisdom, re-named his motel to match the sign and opened in time for the tourist season.

Years later the Interstate came. Folks seldom used the old highway, except for local traffic. The Color T.V. Motel closed its doors.

The buildings have gone through several hands since then, being used mostly as rental housing. The property went up for sale again this year. Elton Baum bought the land and buildings, but says he doesn't plan to restore the motel right away.

"It'll be a huge job. Besides, I'd like to give the folks living there time to find new homes."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Loonfoot Lake, Walker Mill, and Loonfoot Fall's Demented Ducks

New York City's Battery Park has Zelda the Turkey, Capistrano has swallows, and Loonfoot Falls has ducks. Lots of ducks.

"When the swallows come back to Capistrano" sounds more lyric and romantic than "When the ducks waddle back to Loonfoot Falls," so I don't think anybody's going to write a famous song about us. Still, seeing daft drakes waddling after distracted ducks is one of the signs of spring around here.

They'll have settled in by the time we celebrate the Annual Memorial Day Loonfoot Falls Duck Race. This one will be the silver anniversary of that event. Plans haven't been announced, but the Chamber of Commerce says they've got something special planned.

Visitors sometimes ask why we've got ducks by the bushel here in Loonfoot Falls: but no loons. You'd think that a town named for the Minnesota state bird, or at least part of the bird, would have a few around.

It isn't that we've driven the loons away. As far as I can tell, there never were many loons in this area. You're more likely to see them in the lakes north of here.

The city of Loonfoot Falls was named after the waterfall where the Walker Mill was built: and that got its name from Loonfoot Lake, not far upstream. There weren't any loons near the lake, either: but it's shaped a little like a loon's foot.

From Battery Park to Loonfoot Lake, by way of demented ducks. That's a long enough trip for this day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daring Derik Dragon Returns?

You've probably already read about the statue that's been proposed for the school. Or maybe Railroad Park. Or the fairgrounds. Or someplace else.

Or Loonfoot Falls may not get its dragon at all. The City Council will talk about it, again, next week.

I hope it's built.

Loonfoot Falls is a bit remarkable for being a Minnesota town without its own oversize sculpture of a crow, otter, prairie chicken, walleye, lumberjack, bear, pike, or muskie. There's even one showing a grasshopper the size of a terrier, shishkabobbed on somebody's pitchfork. And yes: I know. Muskies are a kind of pike.

That punctured grasshopper, I understand, dates back to a gag made up in the fifties: and doesn't have much to do with the nineteenth century grasshopper plague. Which was no joke at all.

I've gotten off track. Back to that dragon statue.

Folks in town have been talking about building another Loonfoot Dragon, ever since Daring Derik Dragon burned down, back in 1986. Derik was made of fiberglass, steel, and cardboard. Quite a lot of cardboard, apparently.

It's been a sore point with some folks here that Frazee rebuilt their turkey statue: but we're still dragonless.

The statue Albert Graff showed the council this week is small enough to fit on a trailer: a design requirement since be on the road from time to time as a high school mascot, or appear in parades.

Mr. Graff assured the council that his Derik wouldn't have a shred of cardboard in him.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Loonfoot Falls' Inland Beach Pavilion

I found the drawing between file folders in a cabinet near Candace Kane's desk. The picture wasn't her style, quite, and she didn't know who had drawn it..

I'm guessing it was someone who worked here before either Candace or I came.

Who made it may remain a mystery, but it's pretty obvious what it's a picture of: the beach pavilion in Railroad Park. Or maybe it's a summer house. "Summer house" makes a little more sense, since the closest water is Mosquito Flats, over a mile away.

Halversen Builders called it a "Beautiful, Picturesque Beach Pavilion." They're the ones who built it for the 1927 Grimm County Fair. Not at the fairgrounds. Downtown.

Loonfoot Falls' newspaper was the Gazette back then. It merged with the Chronicle later. Or the Chronicle acquired it. There's a bit of a story there.

Back to Loonfoot Falls' inland beach pavilion.

According to the Gazette, Halversen Builders wanted to showcase their work by finishing construction of the pavilion during the fair. It was a good idea, but there was already a sort of pavilion at the fair. Besides, what Halversen had in mind was a permanent building.

The fair board wouldn't permit a new building on the fair grounds. By then, Halversen had been talking with the city council. They had no problem with somebody putting up a place to rest in the shade. Particularly since all the city had to do was give the okay for construction and take possession after the fair.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Springtime in Minnesota: Melting Snow, Rain, and Gloom at Noon

Part of my job is to provide 250 witty, bright, cheerful words each Friday. Or, failing that, somewhat interesting words.

It's been overcast all week. It's above freezing during the day, below at night. We've had rain off and on. Tuesday, it was on: all day.

Particularly around noon, when Loonfoot Falls' light-sensitive street lights turned themselves on, Tuesday was damp, depressing, depressive, dim, dingy, dismal, dispiriting, doleful, downcast, drab, dreary and dull.

Still, it could be worse. The Loonfoot River isn't threatening to flood. Not yet.

That song that goes "The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la, breathe promise of merry sunshine"? From the Mikado? I'm pretty sure that Gilbert didn't have Minnesota's version of spring in mind when he wrote that.

We get blooming flowers here in Minnesota: along with mosquitoes, horse flies and leeches. But by then it's more 'early summer' than spring.

Despite their name, horse flies are only about an inch long. Then there are deer flies, stable flies and biting midges.

The Minnesota tourism folks may write me another letter about this, but the fact is that we share the state with an impressive roster of invertebrate blood suckers. Although technically, black flies lap up their meal.

If you're visiting here and someone talks about no-see-ums, that person may not be pulling your leg. That's another name around here for biting midges. They're about a tenth of an inch long, and can walk right through a window screen. And some tent material.

Friday, March 5, 2010

George "Bubble Gum in My Hair" Johanson Returns to Loonfoot Falls

George Johanson denies that he's a country music legend: "more like a tall tale," is the way he put it. His name is pronounced "Yohanson" around here. Just about everywhere else, the "J" is pronounced like it is in "judge" or "jury."

More to the point, he's moving back to Loonfoot Falls, where he graduated with the class of 1968.

Most people who break into country music seem to do it in places like Nashville. George Johanson got his break in Fort Worth, Texas. "The place I was working closed their doors, and I still had rent to pay," he explained. "That was January of 1974, so there weren't a whole lot of jobs. My neighbor told me to go sing in a club. I think he wanted me and my guitar out of the building, so he could get to sleep."

His neighbor may not have appreciated his voice, but other people did. George Johanson stopped checking the job postings, and started singing in clubs, working on cruise ships, and living out of an old van.

Then, in 1987, his "Bubble Gum in My Hair" got reviewed in Country Music Magazine. "Besides the headline and the reviewer's name, it was just two words: 'It's okay,' " George told me.

Those two words made a big difference, he told me. For the next ten years he lived and performed in and near Nashville, made three albums, and "spent a little less than I made each week, so I could retire."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today It Warmed Up

With bright sun and temperatures in the high 20s today, I decided to give my car a long-overdue wash during my lunch break.

Quite a few other people had the same idea. I was third in line at the Mighty Minn Mart's drive-through wash. No problem: I'd budgeted time for a delay like this.

My turn came, I drove up and punched my code into the keypad, and drove forward.

No: I planned to drive forward. What actually happened was that after going about six inches forward, I heard the tires spin and felt my car slide to the left.

There was a sort of reverse rut where dozens, maybe hundreds, of people had driven into the wash. Mighty Minn Mart's plowed and shoveled, but compacted snow and ice are as stubborn as some of our older Norwegians.

So, my front-wheel-drive car started rolling up a narrow ridge that had been periodically washed with warm, moist air from the car wash all morning. And lost traction, sliding off the ridge.

Good news: I didn't damage the keypad's box, and my car wasn't more than dented.

Bad news: I wasn't going anywhere until I got my car and that box away from each other.

More good news: Jake Nordstrom and Stan Parks were there, and the three of us were able to shove my car over to where I could drive forward. Around here, meeting people you know at a convenience store isn't much of a coincidence. Thanks, guys!

Friday, February 19, 2010

'When Does it Warm Up Around Here?'

Central Minnesota isn't for everyone. It's the weather, I think. Dr. Glenn DeLoach, at Foggton State University, told me about a new faculty member he'd been sent to meet at the airport. It was one of those beautiful late-fall days: cloudless sky; and temperature around 60. Fahrenheit, that is. It was so warm, Dr. DeLoach left his jacket in the car.

The first words the newcomer said to Dr. Deloach were, "when does it warm up around here?!"

He lasted, I'm told, about three months.

Life in a small town isn't for everyone, either. Particularly for folks who think of Foggton, home to around 50,000 people, as a "small town." I'll grant that it's not like Los Angeles, which can be a good thing or a bad one: depending on what you're looking at.

Then there are places with a bar, two or three churches, a grain elevator and a hundred people or so. Now that's a small town!

One thing I've heard about small towns is that they're cliquish. I suppose it's true: but then we're supposed to be too interested in each other's lives, too. I grew up here, so I'm used to living in a place where I know my neighbors, and am related one way or another to a good-sized fraction of the town.

Like I said, it's not like Los Angeles.

It's not like those "small town museums" you see, either. Those generally show the way small towns were like: maybe a hundred years ago.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comments, Spam, and Having to Wait

I'm moderating comments on this blog from here on.

Sorry about that. I like to see the comments I make show up right away, and figure that you probably do, too.

On the other hand, I've been getting too much obscene spam: which I don't like to see, and figure you may not, either. Particularly if you understand the language it's written in.

I rambled on about this more, in another blog:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow, Neighbors, and Jake's Snow Blower

You've heard the joke: 'It's a town so small, they don't have a town drunk, so they take turns.' Sometimes it's 'town idiot.'

We don't take turns being the town idiot, here in Loonfoot Falls. We have full-time colorful characters. But there's a little truth to the story: we do help each other out.

Along with everybody else in this part of the country, we got hit by a winter storm over the weekend. I dug through about two feet of snow Tuesday morning, just getting the garage door open. Jake Nordstrom, my neighbor up the street, had his sidewalk cleared by then and was working his way toward my place.

There's an ordinance about keeping you sidewalk clear, and some folks in the neighborhood aren't as young as Jake and I are. Besides, I think Jake likes using his snow blower.

I've read about the trouble folks in eastern cities, like Washington, are having with their snow. That's one reason I like living here in central Minnesota. With weather swinging back and forth between tropical and arctic, we expect to have trouble with snow, floods, drought, and the occasional tornado.

And have the equipment, crews, and budget to deal with what passes for “normal” in our part of the world.

Jake called me this afternoon: The plows were by again, leaving a rampart at the end of my driveway. He left his snow blower where I can get it: He'd do the job himself, except he's going ice fishing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Minnesota Doesn't have a Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil has a good job. For a groundhog. All he has to do is come out every February 2, and either see his shadow: or not. The job must agree with him. According to the Groundhog Day website, Phil's over 120 years old.

I'm not sure I believe that.

It's a good thing Punxsutawney Phil lives in Pennsylvania. If his home was in Minnesota, he'd never have gotten that reputation as a long-range weather forecaster: The climate here isn't boring.

There's quite a lot of truth in the old saying: that if you don't like the weather in Minnesota, wait a few minutes. It'll change. Here in central Minnesota, for every month of the year there's been a time when the temperature has been above freezing, and one when it's been below freezing.

There's some regularity, of course. January's generally the coldest month, and July the hottest: with August running a close second. And you can count on no snow falling from May through September. As a rule. Most years.

Rain? That's come in every month of the year. When it rains in winter, driving gets: interesting. If it hasn't frozen on the streets by sunset, it will soon after. And at night, patches of road with the traction of a skating rink look just like the rest of the pavement.

Then there was the time my father told me about, when National Guard arctic maneuvers were canceled, due to inclement weather.

Like I said, Minnesota's climate isn't boring.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowmobiling Trails: Groomed and Otherwise

A page on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website says "Minnesota offers over 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Over 18,000 miles are maintained by local snowmobile club volunteers."

We've got one of those groomed trails here, where the railroad used to be. In summer, the Blueberry Walleye Trail is a 10-foot-wide strip of asphalt used by walkers and cyclists. This time of year, it's snowmobile country.

Some trails are groomed. Others: well, you won't find them on the DNR maps, but we've got what I suppose you'd call ungroomed trails, too. Some of them are downright unkempt.

This winter's lavish snowfall made most ditches in central Minnesota snowmobile-ready. The more snowmobiles buzzed over the ditches, the harder the snow was packed. Sort of self-grooming?

Somebody's been putting little tiny "Stop" signs where roads and streets cut across the ditches: facing into the ditch.

They're a sort of reminder to snowmobilers that cars and trucks, besides being a whole lot bigger, have the right of way.

By the way: It's a really bad idea to see if your snowmobile can jump the road. It probably can, but people have died trying. Like I said: it's a bad idea.

Besides, there's enough excitement in racing across a frozen lake: wondering if that dark patch ahead is the shadow of a cloud, or open water.

Happily, folks who enjoy ice fishing and snowmobilers get along. Maybe snowmobilers have the good sense to steer clear of those little villages of fishing huts.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Dark Story of This Week's Column

Power failures always come at an inconvenient time. Think about it: when would it be convenient, for the lights to go out, the furnace to stop working, and your computer monitor to go black?

Okay: maybe you're one of those folks whose livelihood doesn't depend on whether or not the network and your computer are on speaking terms.

Speaking of which: hats off to Stan Parks, who came out to work on our Vacnet servers this evening. They were a bit temperamental, after the power outage.

There are all sorts of winter storms. Some are howling blizzards. Others involve serene descents of lovely drifting snowflakes whose accumulated weight collapses the roof.

Today's storm specialized in ice. Lots of ice. Layers of ice. Sheets of ice.

Ice on power lines. And cars.

When I let him in, Stan Parks told me that my car, had about a quarter-inch of ice on it. I'm seriously considering staying here in the office overnight.

By now, you may be wondering why there's so much "me" and "I" in this column. Aren't I supposed to be writing about something or someone in Loonfoot Falls? You're quite right: and I had a perfectly nice column written, when the lights went out.

Stan tells me it may still be somewhere in the digital depths of the network's memory. He may even be able to get it out, eventually.

But deadlines are deadlines. So this week's column will be an explanation of why there's no column this week.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Loonfoot Falls' Lutherans and Eagles

Not everyone in Loonfoot Falls is a Norwegian Lutheran.

Some are German-Lutheran. Or Swedish-Lutheran.

Not that everybody in town goes to a Lutheran church. I checked in the yellow pages: under "Churches" there's Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Jehovah's Witness, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist. Then, after the church listings, the Cigar, Cigarette and Tobacco retailer in town. But that's another topic.

That leaves out some of the non-denominational groups. I'm not naming any, because I might leave out one.

And some folks don't go to any church.

It's a small selection, but remember: only about 4,000 people live in town. When enough folks with other beliefs and affiliations decide to move here, we'll have new houses of worship. But, seriously now: can you imagine the fuss there'd be, if someone was forced to move to a town in outer Minnesota?

The reason I brought this up was that each of the churches in town I checked with is doing some sort of second collection for the folks in Haiti this Sunday. And, so far, the Chamber of Commerce, Eagles, Knights of Columbus, Moose, Rotary, and VFW are passing the hat, too.

So, if you live in town, odds are that you'll have at least one opportunity to give.

Sure, Loonfoot Falls is feeling the economic troubles as much as anywhere else: but besides that, all we've got to worry about are blizzards, tornados, mosquitoes, leeches and other invertebrate blood-suckers.

Those folks in Haiti have real problems.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ice Fishing and a Norwegian Joke

The recent cold weather stiffened water on lakes around Loonfoot Falls, so villages of ice houses are out on the ice. Complete with tracks where the anglers drive out. Folks around here are fairly sensible. It's been quite a few years since someone broke through the ice.

You've probably heard this joke before. Probably featuring a blond or a drunk.. I happen to like Norwegian jokes, so here's my version.

Sven decided that he'd like to go ice fishing, so he packed up his gear and drove around until he found a big patch of clear ice near the road. He'd heard about trucks breaking through the ice, so he parked by the road and walked out to the middle of the ice.

Just as he began to cut a hole in the ice, a voice boomed out of the sky.

"There are no fish under that ice. Stop digging!"

Sven looked all around, but couldn't see anyone. He started sawing again. And again the voice boomed out.

"There are no fish under that ice!"

It took Sven a while to start cutting again. He looked ahead, to the right and left, and behind him. As far as he could tell, he was alone. Sven shrugged his shoulders and started cutting.

"Stop!" Thundered the voice. "There are no fish under that ice. I have told you that three times!"

Sven fell to his knees, looked up and asked, "is that you, God?"

"No, I'm the manager of the hockey rink."

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve Crowds and the Stand-Up Comedian

New Year's Eve is over, confetti's been cleaned up, and some folks are recovering from hangovers.

There's a sort of tradition that says people should get as lit up as the ball in New York City's Times Square at New Year's Eve. That may be changing. Folks at New York's New Year's Eve street party weren't allowed to bring drinks out on the street: and they seemed to be having a good time. Of course, they could have gotten tanked up beforehand.

A fellow I know is a stand-up comedian. He travels a lot, but came from this area and likes to play supper clubs like Thunder Haven, north of town. He asked me not to use his name - you'll see why - so I'll call him George.

George told me he doesn't like playing New Year's Eve events. It isn't that he'd rather be out having a good time. It's the people who show up.

Most nights, folks in the audience go out often enough so they generally know their limits. New Year's Eve, George said, brings out people who: It'll be easier if I tell you about a middle-aged couple.

Their table was right next to the stage. Each time George was on, they didn't look at him. They didn't look at each other. She glared at a saltshaker. He glared at George's microphone stand. They didn't say anything.

The third time George came out, she stood up, poured her drink over her partner's head, and left.
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