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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