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."
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