Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Thanksgiving was a little tense this year because some relative I won’t identify saw fit to “leak” a large number of confidential text messages that I had written regarding certain specific personalities and delicate situations inside the family circle.

Dr. Babooner, I’m appalled at this betrayal of trust!

When I called Aunt Julia as “fat as a beer swilling Sasquatch” and said that my sweet little nephew Mikey will probably wind up on death row someday and observed that cousin Oswald “has sex appeal, but not to members of our species,” I was not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings! Rather, I was attempting to paint an accurate picture of our real-life family dynamic. And why? To make getting along with others a simpler task for others who are, frankly, inept when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

I should have known that these unnamed people (OK, person) were (was), in fact, so totally clueless about relationships that they (Uncle Louie) would not see the harm in releasing these very sensitive, intensely private communiqués as “interesting reading”. But even in my most cynical dreams I could not have imagined that he would print my words on tiny Post-It notes and stick these notes to the backs of the name cards I propped up against each plate at the Thanksgiving table.

That’s reverse diplomacy – targeting destructive messages for certain audiences with intent to destabilize the balance of power. And I thought my Uncle Louie understood that! I’m not saying Uncle Louie did it. Only that Uncle Louie is exactly the sort who would try to explain it all away with a stupidly earnest cliché like “the truth will set you free.”

That’s false. Now that the truth is out, I do not feel liberated. In my opinion, real freedom happens when everyone can stick to the same comfortable lies that make it possible for us to all get along.

Now just about everyone in the family wants an apology from me before we can get together for the next holiday. I will make the necessary gesture, Dr. Babooner, by putting a personal note inside a select group of Christmas cards. But can I also take advantage of this opportunity to defend myself by placing some of the blame where it so clearly belongs?

People already know I’m a loose cannon. What could it hurt?

Sincerely,

Honest 2 A Fault

I told H2aF that she (he) would be wise to treat every apology as a stand-alone event, and not to clutter it up with extra accusations. Putting your note of remorse inside a Christmas card is bad enough, but weighing it down with snarky comments about Uncle Louie is unforgiveable, even if he is a dirty, thieving leaker.

Diplomacy demands restraint on the public side of the curtain, and frankness on the other. Earnestness on the surface, and dark humor on the backside. Take your lumps, you whiney coward!

I mean, be brave.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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Snakes Are A Plane

You may have enjoyed a peaceful holiday, but for trend watcher and idea man Spin Williams, the work never stops. He is firmly focused on a future too far off for most of us to see clearly. His brain has been churning since before Thanksgiving with the news that military minds are hard at work on the next leap forward. Spin’s New Investment Techno Weekly Internet Transcript (NITWIT) arrived on schedule, early this morning.
I pass it along as a public service:

Here at The Meeting That Never Ends we were thrilled to see that our own Department of Defense is studying the Flying Snakes of Asia. Never mind why! All Defense Department research is Top Secret, or ought to be. Let our military leaders issue their usual bland denials about what they’re up to. They’ll never tell us what it’s really about, and they shouldn’t. Besides, it’s more fun to make something up!

Here’s a video of the snakes in question, just to show you what we’re talking about. I have no idea what is being said. It might be a foreign language or just people muttering nonsense syllables sparked by tongue paralyzing fear, but if you look at the images it’s obvious the snakes aren’t flying, they’re just falling in a very, very creepy way.

Simply terrifying. But a simple thing can be more than enough to change the world. Or if it doesn’t change the world, it can be enough to send the world running for its life into the underbrush, screaming and blubbering with panic and astonishment. I know that’s how I’d respond to a flying snake!

You may say “Why, Spin, would our Department of Defense want to be involved with such a mortifying creature?” I say “Why not?” It’s the Defense Department, after all. Horrible stuff is their business.

And next you might say, “But Spin, why are you sharing this grotesque news with me?”

Because, dear reader, we at The Meeting That Never Ends believe this is the first step in the eventual design and construction of military Slithercraft. I say this because I know scientists are already studying all the different ways nature has shaped animals to create the most efficient systems possible. In fact, some researchers are now convinced the most economical kind of flying machine will be rounder and stubbier than our current air fleet – something shaped more like a fluffy robin than a sleek missile. But when it comes to building a potentially pants-wetting fighter that would be hard to shoot down, the Slithercraft is (or will be) man’s most unbeatable rip-off of nature ever.

Ultimately, Defense related technical advances lead to commercial uses (Velcro, anyone?) At T.M.T.N.E. we think Slithercraft technology will find its way into our commercial air fleet, and within 30 years we’ll all be wiggling our way across the sky in large, very flexible vehicles. In fact, within 100 years I predict that our atmosphere will be crowded with writhing, speeding air carriers – so much so that from a distance of several thousand light years, it will appear that our planet is nothing more than a spinning ball of serpents.

What does our Department of Defense know that would lead them to try to create such an image for distant observers? Let your imagination run wild.

The question of the moment is this: What does the Slithercraft mean for today’s investor? Plastics, of course, and Dramamine. Any company specializing in one (or both) of those areas is one you should look at very closely.

Your Insightful Pal,
Spin

Although Spin has lots of experience and a great imagination, I’m not ready to put all the family savings into motion sickness stocks. But would I bet against Spin’s vision?
No I would not.

Other than man, what is the most terrifying natural creature?

Heading Off “Facegate”

On my list of things I wish I had done twenty years ago, getting a trademark on the word “awesome” ranks first as the most awesomely awesome thing I could have done, but somehow didn’t. I still hold out hope that there is at least one brilliant no-real-work-required idea that will magically funnel billions into the family bank account, but for that to happen, the legal mechanism to strike word-gold needs to remain in place. That’s why I’m thrilled at the news that Facebook has received preliminary approval from the U.S. Patent Office to trademark the word “Face”.

This should slow the momentum of shameless online mojo-stealers like Faceplace, Facesite, Faceweb, Faceworld, Facedepot, Faceforum, Facespot, Facepamphlet, Facemeet, Facechat, Facedate, Facebin, Facefriend, Facetalk, Facegab and Faceplant.

I don’t know if any of these online places actually exist, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all name ideas I had just after I read the article that told me it’s too late to successfully establish website names like this. So yes, this is a necessary move. Without big government intervention to require creativity, we would soon find ourselves trapped in a fanciful, faceful future when it comes to naming websites. In the virtual world, few letter combinations are more powerful and evocative than F-A-C-E. And people would not be shy to use it because we are, as a species, inclined to take the shortcut.

If only the Republican National Committee had shown the foresight to trademark “gate” as a suffix to describe any embarrassing, unlawful political activity. “Face” has the same discouraging potential.

But what are the long-term implications?

With online use of the word “face” primarily reserved for one commercial entity, a handy, everyday substitute word is needed to describe the forward side of your skull. Something already in use, perhaps?

I nominate “Mug”.

Mug is short and memorable, and it sounds down-to-Earth in an approachable, friendly way. Mug is a great equalizer. While it is possible to have a beautiful and even a gorgeous face, neither of those descriptors will sit comfortably alongside “mug”. Loveable, yes. Lovely, not so much. And an added bonus – for those with delicate features, “porcelain” works either way.

“Mug” already has some common face-related uses, as in “mug shot” and “mugging for the camera”. And “mug” could easily be dropped into existing song lyrics to replace the newly protected F-word. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Mug”, for example, is a perfectly suitable fix. Although “Let’s Mug The Music and Dance” takes on clumsy new meanings, perhaps as an apt reference to Bristol Palin’s performance on Dancing With The Stars.

There are other difficult wrinkles to be worked out. Surgeons who make a living performing face lifts would have to come up with a good alternative to “Mug Lift”, which sounds less like a surgical procedure and more like a beer drinking competition.

If you could “own” one word in the English language, which one would you choose?

Deeds, Good and Otherwise

The day after the day of thanks, the thanks continue to roll.

I have extra servings of gratitude for the guest bloggers who gave me a respite from the day-to-day task of posting. Joanne, Sherrilee, Renee, tim, Jim and Madislandgirl created a peaceful open space so I could take the time to visit my geographically distant, much loved, well aged parents.

Online work is famously portable, but my folks live in a backwater section of the Internet, near the intersection of Windows 95 Street and Dial-Up Avenue. I could have continued the blog from there but it would have been a slow, brutal chore. Also, one of the things you should not have to endure in your ‘80s is to wonder why your 55-year-old kid still shuts himself away in a room for hours at a time, working on God Knows What. Instead, I got to hang out with them, completing Autumn chores around the house (gathering leaves, cleaning bird baths, etc.), having meals together and watching several different flavors of CSI on TV. No wonder our senior citizens are so worried. The world is full of brutal murderers and crazed serial killers!

And now comes Black Friday, the day when Common Sense gets a knife in the back from yet another variety of CSI, a miserable little wretch everybody known as the Consumer Spending Index. This CSI used to put up impressive numbers every Day After Turkey Day, but following a string of disappointing years he’s got the cold desperate look of a guy down to his last screaming headline. Door Buster Deals! Low Price Shockers! Nothing is too outrageous. The plan is audacity itself – to compel hard working people who already have the day off and could remain in bed until noon to get up in the middle of the night instead, to swarm over department stores for unbelievable bargains. Even Discount Tires has a Black Friday special, which has got me wondering if my wife would prefer her packages under the tree to have a directional or asymmetrical tread pattern.

And it works! This morning just after 2 am I gave my son a ride to his retail sales job at the mall. Long lines of shivering people had formed outside Best Buy and Kohl’s. Parking lots at the major outlets were populated with idling cars. Sound the alarm! Just like Macbeth, Macy’s murders sleep!

MACBETH 

Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more! 
 Macys does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep, sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of Ladies Charter Club Cashmere Crew-Neck Sweaters, only $39.99 before 10 am on Friday alone!

LADY MACBETH 

What do you mean? Who was it that thus cried?

MACBETH
It was the owl that shriek’d, or some Tribune. The Star, perhaps, or the News of Duluth, formerly the Herald. It was a sorry sight.

LADY MACBETH
A foolish thought to say a sorry sight. Such sales will make us mad! Summon again the page!

MACBETH
All great Neptune’s ocean will not wash this ink clean from my hand. I am afraid to think what I have seen. Look on’t again I dare not.

LADY MACBETH 

Infirm of purpose! 
 Methinks the doors are already open and the surfeited clerks do mock their charge with snores. Give me the plastic daggers. I’ll gild the aisles of Macy’s withal; 
 That which hath made them drowsy hath made be bold; what hath pinched them hath given me fire. Hark!

What would Shakespeare write about today?

tim says grace

Guest blog by tim

its harder sometimes than others to give thanks.

this year the dems took a serious hit and the economy is in the tank and the global warming has us living in san diego mn through mid november (not everyone is with me on feeling this is a bad thing) …but the world just keeps on a turning for the better or the worse and all we ever get is older and around (kris kristoferson)

the blog is a thing i inherited from my dads tendencies i guess. my mom tells me he was just like his dad. they would both be at their happiest just wandering into a group of friends and chewing the fat. my dad would shut off the radio in the car on car trips calling it the conversation killer. my grandfathers wife died in a car accident 15 years before he did so he had 15 years in retirement in a house by himself and his response was to go out visiting. he would go have coffee at people’s houses, he was a teetotaler (son of an alcoholic) so the elks club and the corner bar held little interest but instead he developed a route where he would pop in and stay for 45 minutes and be gone, visit and move on.

my dad joined all the local community organizations not so much to make the world a better place but because the camaraderie was so special to him. the laughter and conversation at these events was wonderful to behold as a kid and thereafter it felt like the way life was supposed to be. i worked with my dad for 30 years and the biggest deal in his day was lunch. he would search out people who like to have lunch and discuss the world and business and the state of the state and after a couple of years i asked why we always went out. we could save 10 dollars a day by bringing a sandwich. He made it clear that some things in life have a value that a dollar amount could not be plugged into the equation on. we formed great friendships with many people exclusively because we had lunch with them 20 times a year for 5 years or more. the conversations always ranged from the state of the world to the state of the business, politics, family, life’s challenges. i was a bystander in many of these conversations but i learned the tricks of the trade.

Conversation… giving a bit of yourself and getting the same back in return. when my dad retired up to leech lake he was a lost soul for the first year looking for a coffee group in the morning and lunch group in the afternoon and a golf group during those summer months we all live for here in minnesota. as his health deteriorated and his brain went off to lala land he hated most of all the loss of his drivers license and his ability to get to those coffee groups. my mom would take him but my mom runs late and has errands to run that mean when she drops you the return may be in 40 minutes or 3 hours and 40 minutes. not the same as controlling your own destiny. he was put in two different nursing homes before he passed and his only comment about either was how nice the people were. you would always find him in the lunch room having coffee or in the tv room chatting.

so I come by my social blogging honestly. this group seems stronger today than when it was when it was tied to the morning show. the conversations go on into the day and night regularly instead of being done at 9am. i have great new friends and i keep learning more from and about everyone as we go along.

so on this thanksgiving day/week i want to give thanks for the people of the world that make you look forward to getting out of bed, our friends here and gone, and the ones yet to come. there are pluses and minuses to a blog. i can get up in midsentence and handle something that needs to be taken care of right now and i can also check in at night before the end of the day.

i laugh and cry and get to feel the pain of the season changes with clyde and jacque and the pain of having your husband laid off before the joy of the new job comes around (long wait joanne we are all elated) and bens trials with the sets and barb and Barbara, mig and jim and krista and elinor and kays return, tgith chitrader alanna and sudbury are always special to see on the good lol blog when they stop in, mike from albert lea, , joanne, and all. steve gives us a deep reaction tounge in cheek or heartfelt, dale keeps messing with us, i am amazed at how clyde keeps it all sorted out he remembers the little details of everyones lives.

and the world just keeps on turning for the better and the worst and all I ever get is older and around. words to live by. happy thanksgiving,

Iron Chef or Iron Stomach?

Guest Blog by Joanne in Big Lake

Growing up in a large family comprised of 6 girls and 1 boy, each of us has a dish that qualifies as a catastrophe for our initial forays into cooking for the family. My specialty started innocently enough. As I was the only child in public middle school while my siblings were still in the Catholic school system, I was home first. It seemed like a reasonable and grown up thing to start supper since Mom had started working fulltime by now.

My mother’s cooking consisted mainly of bland meat, overcooked frozen vegetables and plain boiled potatoes every supper, which just seemed sooo blah, I wanted to try something different. She was a wonderful, gracious, loving mother in so many ways, but the woman could not cook.

Pork chops came in big packages and they seemed fairly easy to prepare. Searching through all the exotic spices in the cupboard, I would read “good on pork” and slather that spice on the chops. Well, if a little is good, more is better, right? After exhausting all the spices that were “good on pork,” I proceeded to cook the chops as my mother had done.

After serving this inspired, savory dish to my family on several occasions, I was dismayed to learn that I was banned from the kitchen, much to my shame and dishonor. I still like to think of my special pork chops as a precursor to Cajun blackened meats cuisine – but whom am I kidding?

My other sisters’ flops included Apple Boilover, Bird a la Grease, Cake Catastrophe and others. Not to mention some of my mother’s signature bad items. Pie Crust. She made the worst piecrusts ever, but she continued to make them by hand. The extra dough she would give to us kids to play with, so we made extra special “cookie” treats for our dear father. We rolled them up with our dirty hands, decorated them heavily with Christmas toppings and presented these treasures to our father (because we wouldn’t eat them). My father, God bless him, had a stomach of iron and ate anything put in front of him. He would eat those horrible pie dough cookies (with lots of coffee as I recall), as well as anything else Mom or us girls served up. The man was a saint in that regard.

Nowadays, I can cook a decent, simple meal following a recipe. My siblings are all quite good cooks now. The oldest sister is a truly outstanding cook and does occasional catering. Cathy jokingly says that she learned to cook out of self-defense. My mother evolved into a much better cook without having to feed 7 kids on a shoestring budget everyday, but she was still a high heat cook. I never knew what eggs sunny side up was like until I met my husband (whose mother was a great cook). I guess I never recovered from my first flop and am still not confident in the kitchen.

Share your first memorable cooking catastrophe or culinary masterpiece.

About The Barn

Guest Blog by Madislandgirl

I love digital cameras, because you can just shoot and shoot and not worry about wasting rolls of film that when developed show a nice out-of-focus art shot of the back of someone’s head. My son prefers taking shots of interesting images as opposed to the documentary shots I grew up with (“here we are at Mount Rushmore!”).

A little while back, discussion on the Trail was about wabi sabi. There had also been a bit of talk about old barns and how they are disappearing from the landscape. This got me thinking persistently about what once was my grandfather’s farm.

Grandpa's Barn

And so it was that one weekend, the son and heir and I headed out to Scott County with the express purpose of taking pictures of my grandpa’s old barn. I figured this might be our last chance, as the family who currently own the place will be selling in a year, and I feel certain the barn will be coming down at that point. An electrical fire destroyed the farmhouse about 5 years ago, so this abandoned barn is what remains of “the farm” as I remember it.

A Tree Grows Through the Fence

The teenage son of the current owners was in the yard when we got to the farm, which solved my quandary about asking for permission to roam around the barn. He acquiesced to our request to take pictures in a way that made it clear that he thought we were nuts, but probably harmless.

I was seldom allowed near the barn as a child, I’m sure it was considered too dirty and dangerous for a “town girl”. My son wanted to go inside. It looked pretty stable, so I let him. We both managed to resist the siren song of the ladder into the hayloft, barely.

The Beckoning Hayloft

We had a great time shooting that barn, trying to figure out how some of the old equipment must have functioned when this was a working farm. My nostalgia for a past I could never recover lifted. This was An Adventure!

We were on a roll, so I decided I would try and find an old family cemetery on the other side of town. It is a corner of a cornfield and completely unmarked. I had been there exactly once before, 10 years ago with a toddler and I was not driving. Still, I was feeling cocky.

We headed out-of-town on what I thought was the right highway. I kept scanning the landscape for something that “felt right”. We came to a little town that I remember hearing of as part of the family lore and took it as a good sign, but had we gone too far? Kept driving. As we were driving, I thought I saw a little gravel track at an odd angle to the road-maybe? I decided to turn back and give it a try. The track was pretty well washed out. I parked near the highway and decided to hike in. If I got stuck out there on a fool’s errand, I would never hear the end of it.

My son elected to stay in the car with the cell phone to call the authorities if the farmer who had posted all those No Trespassing signs decided to mistake me for a pheasant-I had 20 minutes to get there and back or he was calling 911!

I hiked around the bend, thinking this was nuts, when I saw up ahead a small grove with something in it.

I had found what I was searching for.

Sellnow Cemetery

Where are the places that hold your family’s history?

The Magnolia Steakhouse

Guest Blog from Renee Boomgaarden

I was quite dismayed recently to read about the potential decline in the quality in US beef. Beef producers are concerned they won’t be able to maintain beef quality in the face of low prices and skullduggery on the part of the big meat packing companies. I have a fond place in my heart for beef producers-my grandfathers and several of my uncles raised cattle, and my best friend grew up on a pretty big cow-calf operation. It was always a grand day on her farm when they moved the cattle from the pasture to the home place for their final feeding before going to market. I remember watching those steers jiggle with all the marbling and fat they had put on.

I also have very fond memories of the many steak houses I was taken to as a child. A good steak house, when I was growing up, meant a place that served the biggest, most tender steak at the lowest price. We went out to eat about once every other month and it was a big treat to go to these dim, beery places and be grown up and order my medium ribeye and baked potato (butter, no sour cream please), with an iceberg lettuce salad with French dressing. My parents would seek out the steak house that had the best reputation for that month, and I remember going to Ihlen, Adrian, and Tea, SD, but the queen of the steak houses was always the Magnolia Bar and Steak House in Magnolia, MN.

Magnolia MN is a small town on Highway 16 between Luverne and Adrian. My dad grew up on a farm nearby, and graduated from high school there (Go Bulldogs!) A sign on the outskirts proudly proclaimed it as the home town of Cedric Adams, a popular radio broadcaster for WCCO who died in 1961 and who at one time had seven secretaries to open his fan mail. The town folk were proud of their little community and seemed united in their pride of place and in their disdain for anything having to do with the bigger towns around them, particularly Luverne. Magnolia had a grain elevator, a pool hall, and the Magnolia Steak House and Bar, once touted as the finest steak house in the region.

The bar was founded in 1938 by A C (Claire) Dispanet, a pretty colorful character who began life in Estherville, IA, and who once drove a beer truck in the North Shore for the Capone organization. He left that job to start his own bootlegging business after somebody stole the beer truck and he had to phone Chicago to report what had happened. Like many bootleggers he was caught, convicted, stripped of his citizenship, and imprisoned briefly in Leavenworth Penitentiary. Due to his lack of citizenship he had to put the bar in his mother’s name, and he didn’t get his citizenship restored until the 1950’s with the help of Hubert Humphrey. The bar was on the east side of Magnolia’s main commercial street in an unassuming white clapboard building. The actual bar was long and made of shiny dark wood. Whenever we went there it was always crowded and noisy. Claire had a special temperature and humidity controlled room to age his beef. The steaks were huge and tender.

My dad knew Claire pretty well and worked for him for a while as a bar tender when he was between jobs. I think I had my first drink in that bar when I was 13 or so. I always liked the taste of my dad’s Tom Collins and he used to order two for himself, both of us knowing that I would drink one of them with my dinner when no one else was looking. I was never allowed to drink anywhere else, not even at home, and it made going out to eat in Magnolia even more special.

Claire died of a heart attack in 1972. His wife buried him in Luverne in the Catholic cemetery as close as possible to the grave of a beloved priest, maybe hoping that proximity to holiness would help Claire at judgment time. By the time Claire died the building was getting pretty run down. I remember looking up and seeing a wiggling mouse leg poking through a hole in the ceiling as the mouse struggled to get out of the hole and back up into the attic. The waitress just put a piece of tape over the hole. Not long after that the bar relocated across the street to a newer building.

While the only thing that changed was the location, it just seemed that the steaks never tasted quite as good as they did in the old building. In 1983 my husband and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner there, and in 1989, that building burned down and the family relocated the bar to Luverne. Magnolia soon lost its school, and now I don’t think there’s much there except for the 200 residents who do most of their shopping and eating out in Worthington and Sioux Falls. I-90 bypasses Magnolia by about two miles, so the amount of traffic through town was starting to decline even in the 1970’s.

Although the bar is only a minute ride from their house, my parents don’t go there very often saying it’s just too expensive. I don’t think they like to see the changes and yearn for it to be back the way it was in the old days. I rarely go out to eat steak as I am married to a compulsive griller and he does a nice ribeye. I don’t think I’ve had a Tom Collins in 25 years. I never even briefly considered buying my underage children drinks. Looking back I can scarcely believe my dad actually did that. I guess things were different then. I just hope I can still buy good beef.

How would you like your steak done?

Seed Saver Extraordinaire

Guest Blog by Jim in Clarks Grove

The Seed Saver’s Exchange was started by Kent and Diane Whealy with some seeds that
came from Diane’s grandfather. Kent and Diane realized these seeds would be lost if they didn’t save them and pass them on to other people. The first meeting was held in the Whealy’s home. SSE now has more than 13,000 members with a core group of about 800 who collect, produce and distribute rare seeds to other SSE members. I have been part of SSE for many years and I think makes gardeners more aware of issues related to the breeding and conservation of cultivated plants.

Several years ago I volunteered to write an article about Mary Shultz for an SSE newsletter. Mary was an SSE member with an unusually high dedication to seed saving. I was aware of her efforts from seeing her listings in the SSE Year Book, which is an annual summary of the all the seeds that members are willing to send to other members. Lettuce was her specialty. I have the seed of a few very nice kinds of lettuce that Mary sent to me at my request.

I wanted to interview Mary, but her health had been failing for several years and she wasn’t able to speak on the phone. Fortunately I was able to contact her husband, Arthur, and her daughter, Laurie. They sent me some articles written by and about Mary. The SSE office also shared some of her correspondence. I learned that Mary did all the garden planning. Arthur provided most of the labor. One year they grew 153 kinds of lettuce. They also sold to restaurants where the chefs altered their menus to include these high quality vegetables from Mary and Arthur. One of my favorite kinds of lettuce is a variety called Becker, which I grow using seed sent to me by Mary. A note was included with this seed indicating that Mary thought I should have it because it came from a Minnesota family. I told Laurie that this lettuce seed was an unexpected gift from her mother, and she said Mary was known for doing things like that.

Mary also wrote newspaper articles about gardening, and in one of them she stated that it was her hope that she had been able to encourage others to grow more of their own vegetables and become less dependent on getting them from large scale, highly industrialized farms. In a letter Mary said that she found comfort in her contacts with members of SSE because her great dedication to gardening and seed saving was not understood by most of the people she knew. When I talked to Arthur he said that Mary was still making gardening plans and she had given him a list of things she wanted him to plant.

Mary was in hospice care toward the end of her life and passed away a short time after my article was published. She had a very large and generous personality that matched the large size of her seed collection. I think we can learn a lot from people like Mary who make big efforts to conserve valuable resources and to pass on important information and ideas. Although I don’t expect that I will be able to follow directly in Mary’s footsteps, the example she set has inspired me to continue to add to my seed saving efforts and to expand other work that I value.

How will you pass along what you know?

Elk!

Guest Blog by Sherrilee

Most of my growing up years were spent in a big city in the Midwest, where the wildlife consisted mostly of squirrels and sparrows. So it was a big deal when we vacationed every summer in the northern part of Wisconsin at the family homestead. We saw deer from the car windows and even the occasional black bear at the town dump. When I was seven, an animal park opened up in St. Croix Falls, which was along the route my family always drove to get to Wisconsin.

Fawn Doe Rosa was (and still is) a place where you can feed and pet a variety of animals, from deer to ponies to geese and ducks. Always looking for a way to break up the long drive to and from up north, I’m sure my parents were delighted to find anything to get us girls out of the car and out of their hair for awhile.

That first year, when I was seven, my sister and I wandered all over the park. Except for dogs and cats, I had never had any interaction with an animal before and was a little leery of the deer, some of whom were bigger than I was. So I opted for the smaller and safer geese and ducks that abounded at the park. At one point, as I was feeding some geese along the little pond, a young elk spotted me.

A Stealthy Approach

Clearly understanding that I was the repository of food, he headed right for me, although I didn’t notice him, so intent was I on my task. My father, who was capturing our day with the camera, snapped a shot as the elk approached me, but didn’t feel the need to warn me. Of course, even though the elk was quite small (as elk go), he did scare me out of my wits and I stepped into the pond and got my feet wet.

It took my mother several minutes to get me to approach the poor elk, who was probably as scared by my antics as I was by his, but was willing to forgive me for my outburst, since I still had food. Within a little bit, I was petting him and feeding him, like he was no more different than the family dog.

Friends for Life

I think about this day often, as the teenager and I still visit Fawn Doe Rosa at least once a summer. What would have been a scarring experience that scared me off animals for a lifetime, turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong love of creatures great and small. We trek out to our two zoos here several times a year, love the Wolf Center in Ely, visit any animal park we find along the way and I believe my love of animals may have rubbed off; the teenager has expressed an interest for a career with animals, although it’s still a little too early to tell.

Has being afraid of anything ever led to something good for you?