Category Archives: Stories

Lost and found

Steve’s lost skillet put in mind the losing and finding of things. Husband and I often wonder where our cat has got to inside the house. She never goes outside, and we are always careful about not leaving the doors open, but we both have this irrational fear of her being lost outside when she isn’t immediately visible. All I have to do to get her to come is to roll up a piece of paper into a ball. The minute she hears that crinkle of paper, no matter where she is, she comes running, expecting me to toss it for an exciting game of fetch and chase.

I don’t remember much of this, but when I was about four, I left my security blanket draped on a post on the side of the road on Minnesota’s North Shore. I must have been ready to give it up, as I reportedly shrugged off its loss. Prior to this, my mother could only wash it when I was asleep, because I wouldn’t be parted with it.

These days, the things we lose are most often things that are right in front of us as we look for them. We also have so many accumulated recipes compiled in cook books and ring binders that it is hard to find the exact ones we want at times.

What is your strategy for finding lost objects? What have you lost lately? Did you find it?

Contain Yourself!

Photo Credit:  Bored Panda

After a request for photos yesterday, I thought I’d expand a bit on the wild dog story.

My first trip to South Africa was with a client who wasn’t crazy about working with my company.  Her previous company had just gone through a merger and she inherited the job of overseeing the travel programs.  We were already contracted for two programs when she came onboard so even though she had contacts in another incentive house, she couldn’t change suppliers at that point.  She was professional about this but she never seemed happy or excited.  Now it’s completely plausible that she just wasn’t a person who like to emote but we’ll never know.

We had a large group, bigger than any one safari camp could hold, so we needed to check out three different camps and decide which winners would go in each.  That meant that we had to stay in each of the three camps, one camp each night.  Boo hoo. These were luxury camps with incredibly nice rooms (all three camps had gorgeous indoor bathrooms and great outdoor showers), amazing food and, of course, the safari runs.  You got up very early for the first safari run of the day (think 4 a.m. early) – heavy “snacks” before you left then a massive breakfast when you got back 3 hours later.  Then a late afternoon safari, getting back in the dark for a huge “boma” dinner.  And you’re in Africa all this time.  Amazing.

It was all I could do to contain myself during the trip.  (Actually I can hardly contain myself on any of my trips.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve gone on a site inspection that hasn’t been wonderful.) My client was the opposite; she was doing her job by being there but she couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.  It wasn’t surprising when she bailed on the last safari run of the trip.  When the driver and guide came to pick up the Account Exec and me, they told us that they’d heard from other guides on the radio that there might be wild dogs up near “the cut line” (this is the edge of each camp’s territory.  Guides are not allowed to take their charges into another camp’s territory).  They said if we wanted to try to find the wild dogs, it would take a bit and we’d have to head straight there.  The Account Exec and I immediately agreed.  As we were driving up, we both acknowledged that if the client had been with us, she would not have wanted to do this.

Well thank goodness she didn’t come.  The wild dog pack was indeed on our side of the cut line and it was amazing.  They weren’t too worried about us so we were able to observe them for almost 2 hours.  There were a lot of puppies and they were very cute.  It was a defining moment during the trip, a trip with many unbelievable moments.  The photo above is not mine (long story about where those photos are currently stored) but it is very similar to some of the photos I took that day, especially when the dogs and pups came a little closer to the jeep. The puppies are much cuter than you would think, with huge ears and puppy faces.

Even now, after almost 20 years, I feel sorry for that client.  I hope she enjoyed South Africa, even if she didn’t show it.

What makes it hard for you to contain YOUR enthusiasm?

The Pacifier

With the nice weather over the weekend, my nextdoor neighbors got their chalk out and went to work creating a village on their driveway (designed by Margot, who is 6).  When I stepped outside to appreciate it, Matilda (the almost 2-year old) informed me that she had a new bed.  Turns out it is just her crib but with the side down and a bed rail attached, but she was happy about it.  There was more big news… last night was her first night without her pacifier.  It was apparently a trade – the pacifier for the big girl bed.  I laughed and thought about my experience with pacifiers when YA was little.

When I went to China to pick up YA, there was a big list of “suggested” items that I take with me; a pacifier was on the list so I dutifully packed it.  YA, even as Tiny Baby, was not interested.  After a couple of futile attempts, I stuck it back in the duffel bag.  Nonny was at the airport when we got back to Minneapolis and she stayed for a week or so while I got my feet underneath me.  Nonny was absolutely sure that if she presented the pacifier enough times, Tiny Baby would accept it and all would be right with the world.  (It’s funny looking back because Tiny Baby was not fussy, there really wasn’t a great need.)  But Nonny kept trying and every time TB rejected a nook, it would end up on the side table or a chair or someplace where it became irresistible to someone else:  Baron. 

Baron was an 85-pound ball of fluffy, sweet, calm Samoyed.  He wasn’t the brightest bulb but he was sure that these pacifiers that Nonny kept leaving around were meant for him.  Of course as soon as he absconded with one, it became off-limits for the baby; slowly but surely over that week, we went from having a collection of 10 baby pacifiers to a collection of 10 dog pacifiers.  If ever there was a dog that didn’t need a pacifier, it was Baron.  He had self-soothing down to an art.  Eventually he chewed them all enough that I had to throw them away and we never had any more, since Tiny Baby didn’t need or like them.  Nonny wasn’t amused but I thought it was hilarious.

Do you have any self-soothing practices?  Are they working well for you?

A Watery Surprise

For many years, I was a Marvel / DC movie fan.  Not a rapid fan, mind you, but enough of a fan to watch the movies.  And not enough of a fan to pay money for those movies…. that’s another story.  The last few years have soured me however.  I never could keep the X-Men timeline straight and the movies became darker and darker.  When I started to see spoilers about who would die in the last big Avenger extravaganza, I decided it was time to take a pass. 

Over the weekend, I was surfing around the on-demand movies and saw the Aquaman had once again jumped to the top of the list.  I turned it on with a little trepidation, telling myself that I could always just turn it off – not like I had and expensive ticket stub in my pocket or a full tub of popcorn on my lap.

It was a classic underdog good guy against bad guys who just seem to be bad because they can. Aquaman’s human name is Arthur, which was a bit endearing, and I managed to suspend all sense of reality.

But the big surprise was the lead female character, Mera.  She was intelligent, strong, driven and a magnificent warrior.  In every fight scene (and there were many) she held her own and in fact, saved Aquaman at one point.  Never did she scream, faint, shrink back behind the hero or need to be rescued by him.  Towards the end of the final battle, she is the one who plants a whopper kiss on him, not the other way around.   The only other female character (Arthur’s mother) was also fabulous – a warrior queen who made the ultimate sacrifice for her family.

It’s too bad that there were only two of these splendid characters.  The rest of the movie was fairly predictable, although it had a few minutes of wry humor here and there.  It was entirely because of the two women that I can say I enjoyed the overall film. 

Tell me about your favorite women movie characters!

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?

Radio In My Life

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.


I often think about the impact radio has had on my life. We all are shaped by different influences, but radio has been a major presence in my life.

When I was a kid, we had just one radio in our home. It was a gorgeous cherrywood console that graced our living room. Listening to it was often a family activity.

Then radios became less expensive and smaller, enough so that I had a radio of my own. That meant I could choose the music I heard, a major step in my personal growth. I’ll never forget that winter night in 1956 when I first heard Elvis sing Heartbreak Hotel. I was blown away by the angst it expressed, and from that moment on my taste in music diverged from the taste of my parents. I became a great fan of Top Forty pop music, something I listened to on a small Bakelite AM radio in my bedroom. Later the popular life was revolutionized by the availability of inexpensive, portable transistor radios.

When I began grad school, there was a radio station called WLOL broadcasting classical music. I planned my whole day around that station’s schedule. When Bill Kling launched KSJN as a classical music station in the Twin Cities, I became a listener on the first day it hit the air. That classical station had a weird eclectic show in the morning, weird because the host, Garrison Keillor, played an idiosyncratic hodgepodge of country, folk and world music. I was hooked. Keillor later began chatting with his studio engineer, Tom Keith, and I became fanatical about the show. It was the way I started my day, and that remained true when Dale Connelly became the host and whimsical voice of The Morning Show.

The only firm, fixed point in our family’s week was listening to Prairie Home Companion on Saturday nights. We made no plans that conflicted with that broadcast. My daughter grew up thinking of Garrison as something like a family member, a windy storyteller like her dad. She expected her birthday to be hailed by Dale and Tom.

When I joined an online dating service following my divorce I had to define myself so women could judge whether they were interested in talking to me. My personal description mentioned books and outdoor recreation and other activities, but I always felt the most concise and useful identifier was the three words identifying me as a “public radio guy.”

What memories do you have of radio? What has radio meant in your life?

2020 Annual Report

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa

With the COVID shutdown since March, not much happening, so looking back at my past while anticipating a year closer to 80…

Photos from the ‘60s

From a letter to my friend, Barbara, I wrote from Cape Cod, fall of 1969.

Moratorium Day March, Washington, DC

“It was an experience to experience our government afraid and aloof and militarized. The White House stood unseen behind blinding spot lights while police and MPs stood guard (yet cheerfully/politely asking people to “move” and “don’t let a crowd gather”). Eerie kind of spotlights that say “I’ll get you if you make a wrong move!” The next day for the march it was the tops of buildings that gave the spooky feeling. Atop cornices and behind embellishments were soldiers – with rifles and binoculars. (They were also sandbagged in at the Capitol building.) There were people spread from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and past, besides the curb-to-curb, end-to-beginning people who marched. I would guess that less than half of the crowd actually marched on Pennsylvania Avenue – the parade permit ran out before they could get them on the street. There were many more than the modest estimate of 250,000.

“We also followed the excitement of the Yippies, Mad Dogs, and Crazies as they carried their Viet Cong flags and Agnew effigies through the rally crowd and down the field and street to the Justice Department. The minute they began their march the atmosphere changed from peaceful companionship and cold feet to electrically charged excitement. It made me want to jump and scream, laugh and run. Expectation chills. So we followed. And got close enough to see flying objects and get a face full of tear gas. (Neato stuff!)

“The police were good, but it really was quite frightening to see the numbers of them, the sight of the helmets, shields, gas masks, belly clubs, mace, shot guns in America.”

*Photo is of me on my then boyfriend Roland’s shoulders. The guy facing Roland is Jerry L. Thompson who has become a well-known photographer. The three of us were living with Roland’s mother and sisters at her Cape Cod home. Roland and I remained friends until his death in 2011.

“On Sunday, Roland’s aunt who works for the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations took us on a fun insider’s tour of the capital and offices and treated me to a middleclass tourist souvenir treat – including a photograph* of me in Fulbright’s chair in the Senate committee room with gavels in hand. We also got to read some of Fulbright’s mail (over 2-1 against/some for Nixon) What fun!”

*photographs by Roland’s mother, Dinanda“Didi” Nooney

https://www.brownstoner.com/brooklyn-life/dinanda-nooneys-brooklyn-photos-jill-nooney-interview/

Now to the present…

New bathroom floor, rug, and toilet

 

New French Alpine milk goat, “Fiji”.  Spent the summer making “chevre” and “Cinder Ella” cheeses.

 

 

New Arabian mare, “Antoinette” aka “Toni”(Derby, a friend’s POA gelding who lived here for a year, went to live with a grandfather who wanted to teach his grandchildren to ride.) Also taking riding lessons again! What fun!

 

 

 

New hens: two “Buffy” Orpingtons, one “Heidi” Hybrid & three “Little (Rhode Island) Red Hens.” Plus New (Buff Orpington) rooster, “Neil,” who has already fathered two Buffy young ones. Lovely brown eggs.

Decided to draw again – pen & ink coyote skull sketches to accompany our book club’s Zoom meeting discussing Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores.  Also bought water color brushes when I couldn’t find my old ones.  First “commission”: a Scottish Highlander cow

Hope you all are safe and well.  And here’s to a safe and healthy New Year!

What were you doing in 1969?  What are your hopes and dreams for the New Year?

 

Family Secrets

Today’s post comes to us from Bill.

Lately, I’ve been going through the boxes of genealogical and inherited material, some of it originally collected by my grandparents and even more accumulated by my parents. It’s the sort of thing I never found the time or will to do prior to Covid. My general aim is to separate the detritus from the meaningful and to secure the meaningful—I use the term generously—archivally in mylar sleeves in 3-ring binders so that they can all fit in a compact space.

The detritus includes photos even I can’t identify, duplicate and triplicate copies of images, a lot of printed dot-matrix family trees from the days before the internet, albums of really bad Instamatic photos my parents took on vacations long after I had left home and just generally stuff that is no longer meaningful. So far so good.

Among the items in the boxes my Mother left behind was a packet of letters from a life-long friend of hers. I knew this friend and her family when I was young, no more than twelve or thirteen, but I have a distinct impression of her. She was smart and witty, outspoken and, I think, unhappy—probably stifled by her circumstances. The letters were written at a time when she was in the process of getting a divorce and still had two dependent children. She wrote to my mother as a trusted confidant.

I considered discarding the letters, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Her letters are funny and frank and expressive. At the time she wrote them, she was still in her early forties, which seems quite young to me now. They offer a perspective into her thoughts that she would have been unlikely to share with her children at the time—comparable to a diary. I can’t say I’ve ever had a similar glimpse into my parents’ unguarded thoughts.

Using my Ancestry account, I was able to ascertain that this person’s daughter also has an account and has posted a family tree. I wrote her a message, telling her about the letters and asking if she would like them. I told her I wasn’t sure if it would seem intrusive or inappropriate (and I apologized if it seemed that way), but I just couldn’t throw away the letters without asking her first. The letters were written over fifty years ago and the letter writer has been dead for thirty, so it seems safe to let those private thoughts out. I haven’t heard from the daughter yet.

Would you have discarded the letters and let their sentiments stay private? Have you ever been in possession of family secrets? What did you do with them?

Grandma’s diaries

Today’s post comes to us from Ben

My grandmother, Lillie (Betz) Eggler, kept a daily diary from the mid 1950’s – about 1987. The small 3×5 book that allowed 1 page per day.   I didn’t know about these until this past summer when my oldest sister mentioned that she had them all. Grandma died in 1990.

It’s been really fun to read about ourselves or the cousins. Seems like every time a grandchild was sick, they went to Grandma’s house. The weather might be terrible but that didn’t stop them from going somewhere; she’d write how bad the roads were, yet she still went to Mothers and Daughters club. Or drove 60 miles to visit her brother. It’s given my siblings and I a lot of things to talk about.

Grandma wrote that she went to a 4H softball game where my brother pitched. He won. The Siblings talked about a club that was our club’s nemesis and their coach. I talked about knowing the coach in later years through farming activities. Part of what is so interesting is that she was still in this area; I know many of the people or places she’s talking about.

Grandma wrote about changes at the farms: Joe and June (my parents) are having a silo built. Who is combining corn or who is planting. She writes about the weather and going over to stay with a friend who had surgery.

On October 27th, 1970 She wrote about June and Joe driving to Menominee to celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary. My oldest sister, Ellen, was at Stout University Menominee for college. That sort of blew my mind. Twenty-two years! Five Kids! One in College!! Grandma and Grandpa (Victor) were also married on October 27th, 1920. 1920!!  Grandma writes it would have been 50 years for them. Grandpa died in 1963. (My brother and his wife also married on October 27th, 1979.) But, I just can’t get over mom and dad at 22 years! So Young!  

There’s a lot about taking off or putting on the storm windows.  There’s a lot about car repairs, washing clothes, or going to the doctor. I learned that bad lower front teeth were a family trait. That explains a lot; Her, mom, me; those lower front ones have always been a problem. A lot about the weather and things in the national news: Earthquakes. Vietnam, Apollo missions. 

Sometimes Grandma wrote about things she was canning, freezing, or cooking. She made a lot of jams, buns, watermelon rind pickles, or fried mini dragons. My mom doesn’t remember a lot of this stuff. And it was 50+ years ago so I don’t blame her.  I had to look up watermelon rind pickles; never heard of them before. Fried mini dragons? Anybody? No one in my family knows what they are. Anyone still making watermelon rind pickles? I was a good baby. My brother was “busy”.

I wrote about Grandma and her car in a post back in July of 2011.

https://trailbaboon.com/2011/07/19/handing-down-a-decent-car/

I also have a 5-year diary from 1926-1930 from Kelly’s Uncles mother. It’s just a sentence per day. Lots of household chores, car repairs, and what they did for entertainment that day. She saw Louie Armstrong in concert one night. Pretty cool.

Do you keep a diary? Have you ever?

Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-Generation

Last week, the Day After the Madness in DC, my daughter and I had a conversation. We packed a lot into a few minutes, she and I – and that conversation has stuck with me, because of what she asked and how she asked it.

On the Day After the Madness in DC, she said that each of her classes took some time to let everyone talk about the events of the prior day. What were their thoughts, what were they feeling, what might they do (if anything) about it? The sort of questions you might expect, especially in a high school history class (one of her classes that day).

This is what stuck with my daughter: her teachers reminded her and her fellow students that they are the future and they can make things better. And she wanted to know, appealed to me to know if I am honest, if I was told the same thing when I was her age. It was clear she felt the message was that the onus was on her and her peers to figure out how to fix what we did not. She wanted to know if the same demand was placed on me, because her eyes and her person was telling me it felt like too much in that moment – too much for her and her peers to take on alone, unfair that my generation was asking them to repair and change what we could or would not, and not right that we should deny responsibility for the mess that we made or allowed to happen.

I assured her that yes, we were told the same thing – that we could and should make things better. That yes, with each generation some of the responsibility to make change is passed on. We tried our best, we got some things right and some things we clearly did not. There is work that takes more than a generation to get right, change that was started before I was born that still needs our voices and labor to bring to fruition. I did my best to assure her that it wasn’t all on her and her peers’ shoulders, I and my peers would be standing with them.

In that moment I saw her fear that change wasn’t possible, that hatred and bigotry are more powerful than inclusion and justice. All I could do was assure her that we can still aspire to be better, we have been working for and will continue to work for change. That while we have made progress for equity in some places, in others there is still a lot to do and I will be there along side her as the generation before me stood with me in the work of justice and change. I’m not sure it was enough because I couldn’t tell her that there will be an end to when each new generation is asked to pick up the mantle, that maybe, just maybe, she will see real change in her lifetime. Because in that moment, I wasn’t sure that I had seen it yet in mine. (Yes, with distance, I can see that there has been good change, real change, but in that moment it was hard to see.) The kids have picked up the mantle, of that I am sure, but don’t let them carry it alone. We still have time. We don’t have to take our hand off the baton in this relay just yet. We can still make change.

Have you ever felt like too much was being asked of you? What did the prior generation pass on to you that you weren’t ready for just yet?