Category Archives: History


It’s fairly well documented that William Shakespeare coined a lot of  words (sources go as high as 2000) that we use commonly today:

    • Auspicious
    • Bloody
    • Dwindle
    • Frugal
    • Gnarled
    • Majestic
    • Multitudinous
    • Premeditated
    • Sanctimonious

There are also scads of phrases that he was the first to use and that we still use today:

    • Seen better days
    • Too much of a good thing
    • Love is blind
    • Set your teeth on edge
    • The game is up

Unfortunately, having seemingly absorbed the rules of language and grammar in my youth, I am often (read “always”) torn when I come across a new word.  Part of me wants to send these new words to the trash can and part of me wants to embrace new words wholeheartedly.  After all, think how unimaginative English would be if we hadn’t embraced “gentlefolk” or “jaded” or “pendantical”?

This week, I heard the word “bleisure” (combination of business and leisure travel) and I was a little appalled.  If there is business, can there truly be leisure?  Even my trip to Kenya and Tanzania, which was devoid of clients and official business, still felt like a business trip to me as I was surrounded by travel professionals from other companies.  But I suppose there are plenty of people out there who can combine business and pleasure, making the word “bleisure” useful.  I just can’t see myself ever using it.

Anything new bugging you this week?


The following link will take you to a fascinating photography event that happened just 90 miles east of us, in Bismarck. It involves a collaboration of many people to recreate, with some twists, a painting by Peter Breughel the Elder, and is influenced by the pandemic. A friend of ours, a costumer and retired drama coach and choir director, sewed a costume for the collaboration, and participated in the event. It involved using wet plate photography, something I don’t quite understand, but seems to be an old technique.

What painting would you like to recreate in real life? What would you like to set out to photograph? What are your favorite paintings?

Red Cross Day

My phone pings me every day with a “this day in history” note.  Yesterday’s was about the founding of the American Red Cross in 1881.  I already knew that Clara Barton was instrumental in the beginnings of the Red Cross, but didn’t realize that she had worked with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian war and that she began lobbying for an American organization when she came home after that.  She headed up the Red Cross well into her 80s. 

This tidbit of history caught my eye because the very first charitable work that I headed up was for the Red Cross.  I don’t remember what was going on in the world and I also don’t remember how I got interested, but when I was in the sixth grade, I started a drive to make care packages that were sent to the Red Cross.  My school let me mimeograph some flyers and kids brought items that we used for our kits:  soap, washcloths, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste.  We had two or three meetings to put the packages together using paper lunch bags.  I don’t remember how many we made, but it seemed impressive to me at the time.  I felt very proud when my mom drove me to the Red Cross center to turn them in.

Like I said, this was my first organized good work but not the last of my support of the Red Cross.  The following summer a friend and I went all over the neighborhood (repeatedly) with a wagon, collecting pop bottles from people.  Then we carted them up to the Kelloggs store and collected the refund, which we donated to the Red Cross.  It wasn’t very much, but it felt like we were doing something important.

Do you have a cause that you’ve been passionate about?

RIP Johnny Crawford

Johnny Crawford was one of my idols when I was a kid.  Although he is best known for his role as Mark McCain on The Rifleman, he was a very busy young man, appearing in not just Mickey Mouse Clubhouse but a myriad of other movies and tv shows.

He also had a musical career with several of his songs making it to the top ten on the charts.  His most famous was Cindy’s Birthday.

He appeared on the rodeo circuit for a time; apparently he was a master at rope tricks, which he had learned during his years on western/cowboy pictures.  He served in the armed forces for a few years as well, but kept returning to acting.  His last picture was a piece with Chuck Conners in which the roles from The Rifleman were reprised.  Apparently Johnny and Chuck had remained close in all the years since their television show.

Crawford’s career was cut off when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2019.  Sadly he passed away from complications of Covid last week.  He was apparently a really nice person and had a beautiful smile right up until the end.

Who did you have a crush on when you were younger?  (Or now for that matter!)

Fun times

I ran across this article in the Rock County Star Herald the other day, found in the newspaper archives from 1892 by the president of the Rock County Historical Society:

“It gives the Herald much pleasure to announce that the committee in charge of the Fourth of July celebration to be held at this place have been fortunate enough to secure for that occasion Prof. A. L. Ward, of Sioux City, IA . , one of the most celebrated and daring aeronauts in the country, who is now under contract to be at Luverne at the time stated and make one of his famous balloon ascensions and parachute jumps. The balloon to be used on this occasion is in the neighborhood of thirty feet in height and is equipped for the performance of the most daring feats ever witnessed in the country.

On the way up Prof. Ward gives a thrilling performance on the trapeze and takes with him a trained dog which creates much amusement and interest in making a parachute descent of his own. After going as high as his balloon will carry him, Prof. Ward discharges a number of explosives and then jumps from his balloon with a parachute. The exhibition will be one of the thrilling interest and no one should fail to witness it.

By the direction of the committee the president was requested to extend an invitation to the fire department. Half rates will be given on all the railroads and efforts are being made to secure special trains.”

I wish Betty, the Historical Society President, had also included a follow-up review of Prof. Ward’s jump. I also wanted more information on the dog. We are seriously planning to move to Luverne in a couple of years. There still is an element of fun in town. This appears to be a long standing, historical trend.

What are some fun times you remember in the community in which you grew up or where you live now. What kind of celebration would you like to see in your community? Under what circumstances would you do a parachute jump?

Family Favorites

We had a lovely visit on Monday from my cousin, Wes. He lives in Columbus, OH, and is a retired librarian at Ohio State. He was a librarian at Macalester for several years, and then moved to to the big time in Ohio. ( I always think of him when Wesew comments on the blog).

Wes was on a return trip from Seattle and stopped by before heading to Minnesota to see other family there. We had a great time reminiscing and telling stories. We share similar political and social beliefs. I hadn’t seen him for six years. Growing up as an only child, my cousins were like my brothers. I spent a lot of time with them. I had very few female cousins and I wasn’t very close to them. I think perhaps that is why I have always been more comfortable around men than I am around women.

We have had very few visits from any family except my parents since we moved here 33 years ago. This visit was a real treat. I wish that more of our immediate and extended family had the sense that a visit to other family is more important than the appeal of the area in which they live. I suppose that our family could just consider us real pills, and that is why they don’t visit, but I they seem to like it when we visit them, so I don’t think we are that putting off.

What family visits have you dreaded or enjoyed over the years? Who are your favorite cousins? Who are your favorite relatives? 

Farming Day 1 Part 2

Todays post comes from Ben.

Things from the farm; Continuing that first day of fieldwork.

I Put the tires back on the drill and the four-wheeler. I put the pallet forks on the tractor loader to unload the pallet of oat seed (54 bags at 1.5 bushels / bag = 81 bushels x 32lbs / bushel = 2592lbs. This is way easier than unloading by hand. Working smarter, not harder!). I checked the tires and greased a few things on the tractor and soil finisher, and then out in the field. First thing I had to do was level out a couple cornfields that were chisel plowed last fall. Oats is the first crop that I plant in the spring and some will be on fields that were soybeans last year and some will be on corn ground. The bean ground doesn’t get worked up in the fall so that only needs to get dug up once before planting. First field, first pass, stop at the end to check things and found my first “field treasure”.

Not sure what this is. Still thinking about it. I also smoothed a field that came out of the conservation reserve program last fall; it had been planted to wildflowers for 10 years, but this particular field just never took off. Never had as many flowers and was getting some shrubs and saplings growing in one part. Trying to plow up a field of grass is tough; too much root structure. Have you heard the story about John Deere and his steel plow and that’s what made him famous? The root structure and grass would never survive a wooden plow. I have an old John Deere 4 bottom moldboard plow just for this purpose and I only use it every few years. 150 years after Mr. Deere himself. It worked out pretty good. It’s nice black soil over there.

Across the fence, in the neighbors pasture, next to the creek, I saw the two sandhill cranes that we’ve been hearing.

I called to order oat fertilizer and they said there was a waiting list on the spreaders so I really didn’t expect it for a few days. I was surprised when they deliver that about 5 o’clock. And that means I better get it spread right away so the next person can get it. Think of a really big version of your plain old lawn spreader.

The pattern with broadcasting fertilizer is about the same width as the headlights. I’ve been putting better lights on the tractors the last few years.

As long as I can keep the tire tracks from the previous pass at the edge of the field of light, I am doing pretty good. I got two fields done and stopped just to walk around for a minute. While standing outside I looked at the power take off shaft that drives the fertilizer spreader and I thought, “that angle doesn’t look right”. And it wasn’t. The shaft is severed and the only thing holding it together is a tiny little bit of the plastic shield. Shoot. Guess I’m done for the night. I still can’t understand though, if it was still running when I finished the field and I turned everything off and drove over to here, when did it break and how did it keep working? I don’t know if I did something wrong: did I turn too sharp, is the hitch the wrong height, did the three point hitch bracket on the back of the tractor get in the way? Or maybe it just broke. I’ll call the co-op in the morning and somebody will come and replace the shaft. Even if I have done something stupid, they won’t give me too much grief about it. Parked it all in the shed and close the doors. If it’s raining in the morning there’s no hurry on calling to get it fixed.

9:00 PM. Supper time.

What do you find digging in your gardens? Ever found a buried treasure?


Lisa, our Senior Pastor, is taking a three month sabbatical this summer to spend time with her young family, to finish the editing of a book about women’s struggles as clergy, and to begin another book on the same topic. Our congregation is paying her salary during this time. We appreciate our pastors and we want to nurture them. Local pastors and members of the congregation are going to give sermons and help out.

I always thought the concept of a sabbatical was wonderful. To spend time studying, resting, and getting ready for the next phase of life seems so positive. Husband says if he could have had a year sabbatical, he would gone to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study psychology at Dalhousie University, live in residence, and hang out with colleagues. I would spend time in Germany to learn the language in my maternal grandfather’s village in northern Germany, and study my family history. (I could justify that as a study of the intergenerational transmission of family mental health issues as influenced by economics, politics, and immigration.)

If you could have a paid for sabbatical year, where would you go and what would you study? How would you rest and rejuvenate? 

I Just Slew a Dragon

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

A friend and I used to discuss troublesome issues in our lives. We called them our “dragons.” Dragons are problems can only be dispatched with exceptional effort and resolve.

Few problems qualify as dragons, which is good. Most of us handle routine problems with routine efficiency.  Alas, some problems are a lot nastier or complicated than others.  Some of us have anxieties that prevent us from addressing certain issues forthrightly. Sometimes problems become entangled with side issues. Throw some procrastination into the mix, and what could have been a baby problem might grow up and begin belching enough fire to qualify as a dragon.

Examples? You don’t gain street cred as a dragon killer for beating a head cold, but beating cancer will earn you respect with anyone. Overcoming any addiction would surely count. The friend referenced in my opening paragraph slew a dangerous dragon when she escaped a marriage that was destroying her soul. From what I’ve read, the nastiest dragon Barack Obama faced down in his two terms as president might have been nicotine.

My most recent dragon should have been no big deal. Last September my computer emitted an electronic scream, seized and died. I had expected that. Computers typically remain healthy and functional for five to ten years. My fifteen-year-old computer was clearly living on borrowed time. I had prepared by backing my data files, although I could not back my applications.

I bought a replacement computer loaded with Microsoft’s Office, a choice forced on me because that is the only way I could get Word, the word processing app I’ve used for thirty-four years. Office costs $70. That is probably reasonable, although it irked me to pay for a suite of ten programs just to get the one program I use. But Microsoft enjoys something like a total monopoly on basic Windows business software.

Microsoft inserts a feature in the Office software that causes it to shut down unless users can prove that they have paid for it. To validate my purchase, I peeled back a piece of tape that covered the confirmation code. The tape ripped the cardboard beneath it, destroying the middle six numbers of a code of about twenty numbers. As it was designed to do, my software soon froze rock solid. I could not create new documents nor could I edit the many files already on my hard drive. Every time I turned on my computer, a niggling message from Microsoft reminded me I had not validated the purchase. As if I could forget!

Worse, there was no way I could contact Microsoft. The company recently eliminated its customer service office. Microsoft now directs customers with problems to some internet data banks that supposedly answer all questions. Of course, the data banks say nothing about what to do when the company’s own security tape destroys a validation number. I learned there are many businesses claiming they can help customers struggling with Microsoft apps. Those businesses didn’t want to talk to me until I shared my contact information or subscribed to their services. Then I’d learn again that my particular problem could not be resolved by anyone outside Microsoft. And nobody inside Microsoft would speak to me.

Over a span of seven months I spent many wretched hours dialing numbers and writing email pleas for help. The shop that sold the computer to me clucked sympathetically but told me to take my complaints to Microsoft. Members of a group called “the Microsoft community” kept telling me it would be easy to fix this issue, but none of them could provide a phone number that worked. While I could have purchased the software again for another $70, the rank injustice of that was more than I could bear.

I finally learned about a set of business applications called LibreOffice, the top-rated free alternative to Office. It is open source software, free to everyone. But people who put their faith in free software often get burned, for “free” often just means that the true price is hidden. I worried that this software would not allow me to edit all the documents I’ve created over thirty-four years of writing with Word. And—silly, silly me—I kept hoping I could find one friendly person in Microsoft who would thaw my frozen software. So I dithered for weeks.

Last week I took a deep breath and downloaded LibreOffice. It loaded like a dream. LibreOffice’s word processor, “Writer,” is friendly and intuitive. Ironically, I like it quite a bit better than Word. With it I can edit all my old Word documents, and I used the new software to write this post.

That particular dragon is dead, kaput and forever out of my life. Other dragons await my attention, malodorous tendrils of smoke curling up out their nostrils. I did not triumph over Microsoft, as that smug firm never even knew it had a conflict with me. Still, I celebrate the way this all ended. When we slay a dragon, the most significant accomplishment might be that we, however briefly, have triumphed over our personal limitations.

Any dragons in your past that you wouldn’t mind mentioning?


I have been frustrated the past several months over the unavailability of Italian Parmesan cheese in our town. Wisconsin Parmesan is readily available, but the authentic stuff from Italy is nowhere to be found. (Isn’t that the most pathetic and self-absorbed sentence you have read lately?) I confess a sort of snobbery about cheese, but I blame it on living with someone from Wisconsin. Even he admits true Italian Parmesan is the best.

I got sort of impulsive a week ago and found this fancy-shmancy source for real Parmesan, and I ordered a 10 lb. slab. It arrived last week. I was surprised at just how much cheese this was. I warned our children and our daughter’s best friend that they would be receiving large chunks of Parmesan. It is truly wonderful, and nothing like the stuff from Wisconsin. I cut the slab into wedges, sealed them in our food sealer, and figured out the most expedient way to ship it. I have freezer packs and insulated wrappers for it, and will send it off on Friday.

I am an only child, and I always resented it when people said I must be spoiled. Well, I suppose that getting this cheese is pretty self-indulgent, but at least I am sharing it.

When have you been spoiled? How do you spoil yourself?  Who do you like to spoil?  What is your favorite cheese?