Category Archives: News

My Favorite Insects

Having a lot of flowers and vegetable plants to care for has been a relief in some ways lately, since it has kept me outside the house and off my phone looking at news feeds and becoming more and more despondent. Between drought, excessive heat, the pandemic and all the associated idiocy, Afghanistan, and US politics, it has been a heart-heavy summer.

The other morning I was turning the sprinkler on the dahlias when I saw a perfect dragonfly perched on the fence. I like dragonflies. We only see them here when it is sufficiently humid. It is sometimes humid here in the early morning. I love the way they tear around. I also like hummingbird moths and their imitation of hummingbirds. They are a rare sight here, too. I saw a Tiger Swallow tail last weekend, and that always cheers me up. On the rare nights it has been cool enough to have the windows open and the AC off, I even have enjoyed hearing the crickets, unless they are frogs, but I think they are crickets.

What are your favorite insects? How to you cope with bad news? How can you tell a frog call from a cricket chirp?

Their Just Desserts

When I was growing up, families in my town who had a lot of money were often looked upon with distain if they demonstrated any public flaws or hoity-toityness.

In the current town in which I live, there are many quite well to do families who face similar scrutiny, none more than the following head of a local family who was recently discussed the media:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tommy-fisher-rio-grande-texas-private-wall-for-sale_n_60fb856be4b0733516268d21

I know there is a certain satisfaction to see such folks as the Fishers show themselves for fools. I know that one of my personal struggles is to not rejoice when this happens, but gosh, it is hard not to do so. Pride and greed are sure downfalls for many.

Who were the folks in your communities when you were growing up who were judged for their wealth? What are your favorite desserts?

Tableau

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.

https://www.inforum.com/entertainment/art/7116663-Bismarcks-Shane-Balkowitsch-makes-photographic-history-with-wet-plate-collaboration

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

Mayhem at Chuck E. Cheese

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Several years ago Dale Connelly rejected a story I offered him about a school outing to a Chuck E. Cheese mall store. Perhaps recent tweaks to that story will make it usable now.

When Molly’s fourth grade class asked me to volunteer as a chaperon for this field trip, I agreed. As a freelance journalist working from my home, I had extra time. And, heck, I enjoy ice cream as much as any kid. This outing could be interesting.

I didn’t expect to like the venue, and did not. Chuck E. Cheese is a chain of family event centers catering to kids. Loud, garish and built to be “fun,” these places are not subtle. The one my daughter’s class visited in Rosedale featured an animatronic band of figures that pretended to play instruments. Chuck E. Cheese was an oversized rat blowing a flute, backed by a gorilla on drums and a bear flailing at a banjo. The music, while dreadful, promoted a frenetic atmosphere where kids could be themselves with no limits. The business area itself was divided between a stage, some dining tables and a large room in which kids could play arcade games like the then-popular Ms. Pac-Man.

I began noticing one kid in particular, a red haired boy who dominated the room. He was over a head taller than the others and was easily the loudest and most aggressive kid in the room. Jealousy triggered him. He didn’t enjoy whatever game he dominated but was sparked by envy when he saw another kid having fun with a different machine. I tried to tune him out, and yet this kid was was getting on my nerves.

Then it was time to go back home. We queued up to get back on the bus that would return us to school. The red haired bully was pushing to be first on the bus, but then spotted a little girl doing a last bit of play with Ms. Pac-Man. That tripped his trigger. He screamed and rushed the machine. By coincidence, his path to that machine would take him right by me.

I am not decisive, athletic or aggressive, and yet in that split second I became all three. As the bully swept past me, I shot my left ankle out to hook his left ankle. With a full head of speed already in hand, the bully launched into the air with arms outstretched in the famous flying Superman pose. He flew and flew. Then, lacking a functional cape, he crashed on the waxy tile floor and slid on for some more distance, arms still outstretched.

His face contorted with rage, the kid pointed at me and roared, “He TRIPPED me!” Of course, I was by then bent at the waist, deep in fatherly conversation with my daughter. Only two people in the room knew what had just happened, and only one of them had credibility.

The return trip to school would have presented few problems for the bully. He lived in chaos and strife, so he probably smoldered with a sense of injustice that quickly burned out. That was his life.

Things were more complicated for the man who had just assaulted a kid he didn’t know. That man had never thrown a punch in anger and had, in fact, never raised his voice in a dispute. A sweet, people-pleasing man, he was suddenly haunted by visions of The Lord of the Flies. Who in hell was that man who suddenly tripped a kid he had just met? Would he ever suddenly come again?

Have you ever been shocked by the sudden appearance of emotions you didn’t know you held? Have you ever thought about what it would take to make you take a public stand? Have you ever suspected that the veneer of civilization that protects us most of the time is actually quite thin? How have you dealt with bullies?

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?

Scandal-No Place to Hide

We live in a predominantly Roman Catholic community. We are a town of only 23,000 people, yet we have four Catholic churches, two Catholic elementary schools, a Catholic Middle School, and a Catholic High School.

You can imagine the gasps when, last week, the Catholic School Board announced that Father H, the principal of the Middle School and High School had been permanently relieved of his duties, along with an unmarried, female Elementary Principal and athletic director. They had apparently been consuming alcohol in a school vehicle on their way to a basketball tournament in Minot in March, and then tried to hide what they had done. There is also much scuttlebutt about other misbehavior, but that didn’t make the newspaper. Oh, the scandal!

This is no place to misbehave, because everyone knows everybody else, people notice things, and there really is nowhere to hide. The two Principals should just have worn shirts that said “Shoot me now” instead of trying to be sneaky. Moreover, if you get drunk and disorderly in Minot, 230 miles away, even that news will make it back here. This is a small State despite the vast distances between towns.

What are some scandals you remember from your home town or where you live now? 

Hometown Fame

I was never so proud to be from Luverne, MN when it was chosen to be featured in The War documentary.  Luverne wasn’t famous for much of anything before that, except for being where Fred Manfred lived, and for its marching band festival.  It really boosted the town and seemed to make the residents more cohesive somehow

Recently,  two North Dakota towns have been highlighted in the media-Minot in a Feb. 15-22 New Yorker article by Atul Gawande , and Williston in the book The Good Hand (2021) by Michael Patrick F. Smith. Gawande is a surgeon and public health researcher who was part of  the Biden Transition Advisory Board for COVID 19.  He wrote about the struggle in Minot city council over a mask mandate, and all the the antimask rhetoric and hysteria that swept through the community, a community that was severely impacted by the virus.

Smith’s book highlights what it was like to work in Williston during the oil boom, and what he writes about is pretty awful.  He is a a folksinger, actor, and playwright who left Brooklyn  to experience life on the rigs. Much of the book is about his own self discovery, but I don’t think many people would want to move to Williston after reading the book. I wonder what folks in Williston and Minot are thinking about all the publicity.

What is your hometown famous for? What would you write about in a book or article about your hometown or places you have called home?

Intangible Treasures

I read with interest this weekend that French bakers want the baguette declared an intangible treasure by UNESCO. It seems the small bakeries in France are being driven out of business by large, commercial bakeries that mass produce a product the traditional bakers  dismissively call “bread sticks”.  They hope the designation will help protect the baguette and the art that goes into making them,  and draw attention to what is truly a national treasure.  They are in competition  with a wine festival and the zinc roofs of Paris. The French Minister of Culture will decide which she will recommend to UNESCO this year.

Intangible treasures are oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, traditional craft methods, and rituals.  https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists has a list of them.  They are absolutely fascinating.  I didn’t see a list from the US. I suppose many of our traditions and cultural practices were brought here by immigrants and aren’t exclusive to our country. I would have thought Jazz music would be on the list, but perhaps it isn’t considered fragile or endangered.

Check out the intangible treasures on the UNESCO list. What ones catch your eye?  What would you nominate for the US list?  How is your baguette technique?

 

Good Gifts

Our daughter’s best friend since childhood currently lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where she  attends  North Texas State University for graduate study in vocal performance.  She has a beautiful soprano voice and we are very proud of her.  She is like a second daughter to us. She has sent frequent updates on the storm.  As a North Dakota native, she is probably better accustomed to managing the cold and the bad roads than most folks in Texas right now.  She lost electricity/heat  off and on the past several days, and Wednesday night her apartment complex lost all water due to a busted water main. She got to the grocery store for provisions yesterday.

I was gratified to learn that she kept warm when the heat was off  by wrapping up in a down comforter we gave her for a high school graduation present nine years ago. It was a real good one with a high fill power. I was happy to know she still had it and that it came in handy. How clever of her to take it with her to a place where you never imagine needing that kind of warmth. I hope all the things I give as gifts are so useful.

What have been some of the most useful gifts you have given or received? Any advice for Texans right now?