Tag Archives: Featured

The Joy of Adventure

Today’s guest post comes from Crystalbay.

Finding adventures in the suburb was my third child’s greatest joy. It’s often said that kids these days have little desire to actually go outside and find something active to do. TV, video games, computers, and social media consume them.

The art and respect for actual conversations seems lost on this generation. I’ve told my teenaged grand kids that they’re welcome to the lake, but not if they bring their Iphones.

I haven’t seen them since.

Steve, now 44, was by far the most precocious kid I’ve even known. I think that rather than try to capture the activities he dreamt up as a story, I’ll just bullet point them:

  • built a zip line in a public preserve
  • made a straw into a dart gun that would send sewing pins through the air. (Unfortunately, his first dart ended up in the school bus driver’s cheek.)
  • went skateboarding in the city’s underground storm sewer system wearing a minor’s flashlight hat
  • took girls to the top of a water tower and swam in the tank
  • built a 3-story A frame from a large hole he dug
  • when confined to a downstairs bedroom as punishment for sneaking out of his upstairs bedroom, put hinges on the storm windows to make them into doors
  • made a large dummy called “Fleed”, complete with a wig and clothing, then would toss him onto the road just as a car neared. I guess that he just wanted to see the driver’s reaction thinking he’d run over a person
  • learned the months of the year by using a dozen Playboy Magazine covers he found in a dumpster
  • dug a hole in a very thick book into which these pictures fit so that he could show them to his school friends (he got caught for this one)
  • almost blew his thumb off seeing what would happen if he hit a nail gun bullet with a hammer
  • hid a couple of girls behind the knee wall which he outfitted with sleeping bags, strobe lights, and music
  • put his sister’s goldfish under her covers because he thought they were cold
  • created a giant Johnny Jump Up out of two garage door springs and a seat. Jumping from a tall tree branch, this thing went 20’ feet up and down (this one ended badly when a spring broke and gashed a kid’s scalp)
  • collected lunch money from other kids by selling a hidden stash of candy

This is just the partial list of Steve’s adventures. It’s amazing that he lived through his capers and that his parents were more amused than angry. He also went on to teach himself the 12-string acoustic guitar and learned all of Leo Kottke’s music.

His wife threw a “Man Shower” just before their baby was born. My contribution to this event was a booklet, complete with illustrations drawn by his nephew,  sharing Steve stories.

I entitled it; “Things Your Daddy May Not Want You to Know”.

What adventures did you create during childhood?

The Magic Carpet

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms

n 1950 my family bought a console radio. Our Magnavox was a big cherrywood box. The vacuum tube radio had a backlit tuning dial. Also included was a record player and an empty box. The salesman pointed to the hole and said, “This is for television. One day you will buy a television to put here, and then you will never turn the radio on again.” Our family sometimes gathered in a circle around the radio to listen to the classics: Fibber McGee, Gunsmoke, the Great Gildersleeve, Burns and Allen and many others.

I was especially fond of radio dramas. Wearing my cowboy hat, I would sit cross-legged in front of the speakers, my cap gun at the ready. When my heroes–Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon—got in a tight spot, I was ready to add my gunfire to help them.


Later my parents bought a cream bakelite AM radio from the downtown “Monkey Wards” store. The Airline became my personal radio. I listened to it in bed when I was supposed to be asleep. One dark winter night when I was about fourteen I was shocked to hear Elvis Presley sing “Heartbreak Hotel.” That was a lonely, confused period of my life. The anguish in Elvis’s voice, amplified with all that reverb, proved that at least one other person on earth understood my turmoil.

The Airline became my magic carpet, taking me to strange and distant places. At night the world accessible by AM radio was thrilling, for then the “clear channel” radio stations could send signals to lands far away. I liked a jive-talking DJ in Louisiana who called himself Gatemouth. He was a Cajun version of Wolfman Jack, and he played an earthy type of r & b, artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. This was my only escape from white bread Ames, Iowa. I later learned that a kid in northern Minnesota, Bobby Zimmerman, also lay in his bed at night listening to the same music.

Radio entered my life again in graduate school, once again at a desperately lonely moment. One station in Minneapolis played classical music in 1965. They published a monthly playlist. I pored over that schedule with a highlighter, marking the pieces I most badly wanted to hear. Sometimes I’d run home after classes to click on my radio and relax with great music.

Years later, early in my marriage, I read that a new station would broadcast classical music. When the first KSJN broadcast aired I was in my living room, fingers on the tuning dial, waiting for it. It could be tricky to find KSJN in the morning because the host, Garrison Keillor, was often silent for long spans of time. I later decided those long pauses were to let the host smoke.

Sometime in the early 1980s Garrison began talking to Tom Keith, the Morning Show’s

engineer. The banter between them was so witty and interesting that I concluded that “Jim Ed Poole was just a voice Garrison could do (the way Steve Cannon voiced the characters of Ma Linger and Morgan Mundane).

In 1983 Dale Connelly joined Tom Keith to do the Morning Show. We would have several radios tuned to it so we could listen to the show while moving from room to room, showering, brushing teeth, and drinking coffee. The LGMS tunes and Dale’s witty skits were the soundtrack of our mornings. Birthdays and anniversaries were marked by requests that Dale and Tom never failed to honor.

By that time, the only set moment in our week was the broadcast of The Prairie Home Companion. Our lives were chaotic and unpredictable with the single exception of Saturday evening. I realized that our fidelity to the show brought us full circle back to the time when radio broadcasts were enjoyed by a family sitting around a living room radio. Molly used to fall asleep listening to Lake Wobegon monologues. In a real sense, Garrison, Dale and Tom were honorary members of our family, often present and always welcome.

Radio was central to life in our weird cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. We could hear five public radio stations there. My favorite was the student station at the U of M at Duluth. They played a superb mix of folk music Saturdays after PHC. I listened for hours while swinging in a hammock in the dark. Folk music would blend with the rhythmic sloshing of waves and the occasional bark of a fox calling from the bush.

Radio played a crucial role when my wife left. I processed the emotions of divorce by walking my dog with a Sony headset radio clamped on my ears. Spook and I walked two to five miles a day. We were an odd figure in the neighborhood. Spook pulled 30 pounds of logging chain, a way of giving him a good workout at low speeds. I followed him holding the leash and listening to KNOW while trying to make sense of my life.

When Katie, my sweet setter, entered my life, she and I walked once or twice a day. We almost always walked a long loop in the Minnehaha Off-Leash Park. Our path took us past the great spring that is the origin of Coldwater Creek, a spot the Sioux regarded the center of the universe. At the far end of our loop Katie was usually hot enough to want to wade into the Mississippi. I was usually alone for these walks, but I had Catherine Lanpher, Robert Siegel or the Car Guys for company.

Looking back over a lifetime with radio, I am impressed with how intimate and reassuring it has been. My life would surely have been far less rich if not for radio. Nobody ever made a sillier prediction than the salesman who told us, “One day you will put a television here, and then you’ll never turn on the radio again.”

What has radio meant in your life?

Naming Planets

Today’s guest post comes from tim.

I am feeling like the true corner on the trail is turned when we all have to go through space news heebie heebie a with the news of Pluto on the radio, on the network news and no one to tell us the baboon side of the equation

We baboons have our odd little niches. Goats, baboons, space, Ethel merman, state fair, books, gardening, cooking, haiku… Seemingly disconnected but a common uncommonality we share and are left flapping in the breeze while we go through our next phase.

I heard a person talking about how the mo on Pluto was poppycock today and that the dweebs who proclaimed it no longer a planet were the mall cops of the universe flexing their proclaimed expert status muscles to change the rules on what we can celebrate as an official planet.

It used to be Pluto was a newly found wonder and the dudes who ran the mega telescopes in the 1920’s welcomed as the unveiling of the new dawn of space brotherhood in the planetary oneness. Then it was proclaimed that with our new telescopes we could see more dwarf planets and the more and before you know it in addition to Pluto we could add Huey Dewey and Louie, sleepy dopey sneezy happy doc grumpy and bashful

Hey you’re the new planet in the universe! What are you going to do? I’m going to DIsneyworld !!!

What else do you think would be good planet naming criteria?

J.B.’s Expectations

Today’s guest post comes from Verily Sherrilee

Living with other people’s expectations stinks.

My dad was a terrible student. He was brilliant but never could buckle down to teachers’ expectations. He ended up flunking a few grades, but then skipping grades in between; he just barely made it through law school, graduating in the bottom quarter of his class. He was always disappointed that he hadn’t achieved higher grades or a better standing

And as often happens, his expectations for himself fell directly onto his children and manifested themselves in what my middle sister and I always called the “What Next Syndrome”. Every achievement was met with “That’s nice, what next?” What grade will you get next semester, what level class will you take next, what goal are you setting for yourself next? It made it seem as if no achievement was ever good enough in itself – only as a stepping stone to whatever was “next”. My sister got out from under this weight by blowing off school, blowing off grades and blowing off my dad whenever he got blustery. I went the other direction, excelling at school and working hard on all my next steps.

By the time I began to look at colleges, my dad’s expectations were starting to wear me down. He came home with a big fat reference book of all the colleges and universities that listed all their SAT and Achievement Test scores; he announced that I could only go to a place that had really high scores as their norm.   JBExpectationsVennAs a lover of Minnesota and Wisconsin, I promptly announced that I would only go to a school in one of those two states. If you love Venn diagrams, you can guess that the intersection of our two announcements wasn’t too large!

We both got our way. I ended up at Carleton; it was in his book and it was in Minnesota. Of course, as these things usually go, it wasn’t a fairy-tale ending. I didn’t like it all that much and ended up dropping out, not getting my degree until I was 39! I’ve always wondered if I had gone to a different school (read “with more social life than just studying”), I would have been happier and stuck with it. I guess I’ll never know. I do know that I’ve worked really hard over the years to not settle MY expectations about school and grades onto my child. And it’s been hard.

When have expectations tripped you up?

Hidden History

Today’s guest post is by Cynthia in Mahtowa, and was inspired  by Reneeinnd’s July 12th blog “Overlooked Overlook” and Happy Valley Steve’s comment about “not noticing history.”

At our little long-time book club we recently read Prudence by David Treuer. The story takes place midst WWII somewhere in northwest or north central Minnesota with characters from Chicago who own a resort on a lake near an Indian reservation and a German POW camp.


A German POW camp? In Minnesota?

None of the group had heard of such a thing. Did Treuer make it up? As it turns out, a Google search confirmed that there were indeed German POW camps in Minnesota – at least 15 of them.

Many other states also had them. Some 400,000 POWs were brought to the US to farm, work in factories, log or do whatever wasn’t getting done with American men fighting in the war. Most of the Germans were prisoners from North Africa, sent to the US by the British who no longer had room to house the number of prisoners they were capturing.

Two relatively recent MPR stories documented the camps: In March Tracy Mumford interviewed David Treuer about his novel. He grew up on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bemidji and had heard stories of a nearby camp. One of the stories told was of two prisoners trying to escape south via the Mississippi River in a row boat .

A second MPR story reported that in October, 2002 some of the former POWs and their families came from Germany to camps “to remember, learn and reconcile.”

Why had I never before heard of the camps in any of my (Minnesota or American) history classes?

Along this same line of “overlooked history,” our club also read The Assassination of Chief Hole-in-the-Day by David’s brother Anton.


Bagone-giizhig, known in English as Hole-in-the-Day the Younger, was a charismatic and influential chief who played a key role in relations between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government in Minnesota. Yet he won as many enemies as friends due to his actions during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and his claim to be the leader of all Ojibwe. In 1868, Bagone-giizhig was assassinated by a group of other Ojibwe from Leech Lake. For many years the real reason for this killing remained a mystery.“

I have lived most of my life near the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. I have had Ojibwe classmates and friends. We had Minnesota history in sixth grade.

Were we taught about this famous chief and I just don’t remember? Or, was it never included in our textbooks?

Other history I learned as an older adult are the hangings of the Sioux warriors in Mankato and the black men in Duluth. Not to mention the Dakota Conflict itself.

What history has been overlooked in your education that you wish you had known earlier?

Adrift in the Driftless

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

When Sandy and I moved from the North Shore, we were glad to have a new area to explore. We had run out of places to go, sights to see, roads to drive in the Arrowhead.

We quickly latched onto the southeast corner of the state, the Driftless Country. The drive along the Mississippi is wonderful, but the back roads provide more adventure: drives across the ridges or through the valleys or from ridge to valley to ridge to valley. Winding roads, abandoned churches, thriving churches, abandoned farms, thriving farms, hole-in-the-wall villages, along the Root River by bike or car, Lanesboro, and and the other villages.  Lanesboro



Along the Mississippi two favorites are the village of Old Frontenac and a delightful little cafe, sometimes tea room, in Lake City called the Chickadee Cafe.Bunnell House

I will share with you two quiet gems which you can tour.

The historic Bunnell House, operated by the Winona County Historic Society, which I see now has performances. It sits in Homer, near Winona along the highway 61, The Great River Road.

Pickwick Mill

The Pickwick Mill, which sits in a small village on a winding drive up a valley from highway 61. It is near Winona but is operated by a private non-profit. When we were last there, it was still a low-priced, do-it-yourself tour, which made it peaceful to wander through the several dusty floors of the building and along its bubbling river and still mill pond. The tiny elderly volunteer on duty that day was pure charm. It was near closing time, but she told us to take our time. Her husband kept calling and asking when she would be home. She kept telling him to be patient. We felt pressured to leave. She told us with a smile, “He’s a useless old lump who needs to learn to take care of himself.”

The mill takes its name from The Pickwick Papers, just as a whim.

Are you a wanderer through space and time or are you driven by an itinerary?

The Family Vegetable

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque.  

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously.  I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.Family Crest 1

When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers.   We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?