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.
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