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.
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