I just read Kelly Stone’s new blog, "Stone Soup" and it is great to hear from Kelly again. I have missed her so much after she was not on the morning news on WDAY. But she is back as a blogger and her last blog spoke of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books that are part of her favorite book- list. I loved her telling about how she gets out her old, yellow-paged, taped-up set of LIW books in the depth of winter and re-reads them. I have been getting out the LONG WINTER every winter and re-reading it for the…..30th time? Truly good books that have had a very good effect on your life can be read and re-read many times. Other books that I have re-read many times (or at least parts of them) are THOSE DAYS by Richard Critchfield, a North Dakota native, raised in Fessenden and Fargo in the 1930′s and 1940′s. His family remembrance is based on interviews with family members, preserved letters, and diaries plus his own memories and those of his siblings. It is a fantastic book for me because I identify with the life in a small town. His portral of his parents and other family members are so well done; the characters become like people you really know or have known. Eric Severeid’s biography published just after WW2 is another book that has been a favorite to re-read…I cannot remember the title and unfortuately, I loaned it to someone and have not gotten it back. It is probably out of print now too..it was first ublished in 1946 but is an unforgettable autobiography. Books by Farley Mowat are also some of my favorites—NEVER CRY WOLF, THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE are two of the best for me. I first read "THE DOG.." aloud with my father in about 1956. We took turns reading to each other and I have never laughed as well or as much as when we did those readings together. It is not only a wonderful book but a great remembrance for me of my precious "Daddy". (Before I could read to myself, he always read to me…. "the funnies" from the Sunday paper) Another deeply moving book is James Michener’s HAWAII….I loved the whole book which is very long and very thick…but I re-read the "Missionary" section over and over. The characters of Jerusha and her missionary husband are endlessly fascinating. Two of Minnesota writer John Hassler’s books are also favorites….STAGGERFORD and THE GREEN JOURNEY….the scene in "Green Journey" where the Bishop and the visiting Priest from Minnesota think they have been poisoned by mushrooms is unforgettably hilarious….the character of Agatha McGee…the long time Parochial school teacher who takes the Green Journey…must surely have been patterned on a teacher that Jon Hassler had..she is wonderful and so real that you can scarcely believe that she is not a real woman. I can go on and on but I better end it for now. Maybe we shall have another book discussion if readers are interested in more of this.
On our recent bright and sunny Monday morning, I had a reason to drive to Cormorant Village and visit their wonderful Community Center,located in the former one-room schoolhouse that educated many a youngster in the days prior to the mid-1950′s or thereafter. One of my cousins is a "graduate" of that little town- schoolhouse. After paying my call there, I continued on and decided to drive to Detroit Lakes and then I decided I was going to go by way of Shoreham—something I have not done for some time. There is a nice little two lane road that leads from Cormorant Lake’s southermost end and crosses the country to Lake Maud and Lake Eunice which lie right next to each other. Continuing eastward on small county roads, you eventually come to a T-crossroad that is "the Shoreham road" and that runs between two other "sister lakes"—-Melissa and Sallie. Again it is a small two lane road and in the summer season it is not possible to drive slowly and admire the true "cottages" that still stand along that particular part of the two lakes. The cottages are true summer homes only…all of them closed and shuttered for the winter now. I drove very slowly because I could—there was no other traffic that beautiful blue-sky morning. A lot of pleasant memories came back to me….driving by old Shoreham Village, the sign still says "Shoreham Hotel" which was the hot spot of the earlier part of the 20th century. My mother used to recount the gala parties and dances held at that hotel….it was THE place to be!! The stone bridge that covers the river that joins Melissa and Sallie is still there. We tried to go under it a few years ago ( in a boat) but the water was too high in those lakes then. We had to back out of the bridge passage. The old Shoreham chapel still stands and as far as I know, is used for worship during the summer. I recognized a few of the old cottages…remembered who used to live in them…reminisced about one of them where a Great-Aunt served as a housekeeper for a well- to- do- family from Moorhead; I enjoyed the old cottage architecture that includes porches all around the central cottage with a small second floor, housing one or two bedrooms. Many of these cottages have the same windows they had when they were built…very quaint but very nice. I drove out of the village and between two golf courses…the venerable Detroit Lakes Country Club course and a newer one open to the public. My journey took me across Highway 59 to an old two lane road that passes the west side of the old Soo Pass Dude Ranch..now the site of the riotous "WE Fest" each August. I remembered the herd of horses that used to live there and all the people who enjoyed riding the old trails through the oak and maple woods surrounding the "ranch". I drove through to the beginnings of West Lake Drive by Detroit Lake and saw the Breezy Shore resort—another "golden oldie" now turned to condos but I remember the little cottages of yore. The stone work gates still stand just as they did , way back a long time ago. Finally driving by "the Lakeside" in Detroit Lakes, the original lake store where you could buy most anything…I remembered Clem’s Big Dock, where you could take speedboat rides on Big Detroit Lake for 50 cents a ticket. It was a thrill to go for a ride from Clem’s Dock in the 1940′s…nobody had a speedboat of their own in those day unless it was some extremely wealthy people. The Pavillion still stands and has been remodeled and is used for what it originally was—a lovely lakeshore dance hall with hardwood floors and the remaining echos of many, many dances from decades past. There are still summer dances there. The park looks the same; again there are venerable stone-work structures there probably built by WPA in the Depression Years. It was a pleasant side trip, totally unplanned until I turned onto that old "Shoreham Road" by Big Cormorant. I am glad I did the unexpected that morning. It was "serendipitous"….a nice surprise that is totally not foreseen til it happens.
We are having another "Tempest In A Teapot"….over wearing pajama bottoms to school! Now I know this is the most crucial issue that has ever entered the lives of the West Fargo students who are wearing pajamas to school….but…..let me get on my soapbox for just a moment. When I read and heard what some of the parents of these embattled students said about "taking a stand" for "what they believe in", I really wondered, where is a brick wall when you really need to bang your head in frustration and incredulity??? Take a stand over wearing pajama bottoms to school? Give me a break. I also heard that these students feel "it’s not fair" to single out pajama bottom wearers since kids wear a lot of bizarre outfits to school already. "It’s not fair" is the eternal cry rising from the kindergarten playgrounds of the world. I confronted "it’s not fair" uncountable times in my career in an elementary school and my reply was always to this effect: Life is not fair…get used to it….and you are not in charge of this classroom but I am….so get back to work and quit your whining….this was standard unless there really WAS evidence of something truly unfair. No student every suffered from this response but rather learned something good from it. Thank goodness for the stand taken by the West Fargo High School administrators after numerous classroom teachers raised the issue of classroom disruption from the wearing of the pajama bottoms–some of them getting more and more suggestive and sleazy as time went on. To the emotionally immature parents of the students who complained as loudly as their kids….stop acting like you are in high school or junior high yourselves…..grow up before your kids pass you by, emotionally and mentally. Stop being such feeble enablers to ridiculous whining and the sense of entitlement that pervades too many youngsters’ lives presently. Stop adding to the already-burdened high school teachers and administrators who must deal with this permissively-raised, anything-goes, "the inmates-are-running-the-asylum" generation of teenagers who have obviously run the show in their homes from the time they could take action to do so. Education is the most important part of schooling…not wearing pajamas to show some sort of team spirit on the day of a wrestling match…..spend your energy and your money on some nice creative T-shirts that can be worn to school without creating a ruckus in hallways and classrooms. This Tempest In A Teapot is the creation of a bunch of immature parents supporting their immature kids and the sad thing is this: kids ARE immature when they are in high school but parents should not be!!!! This particular bunch of parents and students would not know a "cause to stand up for" if a REAL hit them in the face like a wet mackerel. Just grow up…………….please.
Yes, that is what I said…"cooking with POPCORN". Every few years, recipes make the rounds and all of them are highly unusual and somewhat bizarre. The first I remember is the cottage cheese in the lime jello which nearly gagged me. What a way to ruin good lime jello which is suposed to have canned pears or crushed pineapple in it. Then there was "puppy chow" which was supposed to be served from a clean dog dish or poured from an empty (clean, I hope) bag of Purina puppy chow (the real deal). That was the way I first saw it and many others not "in on" the gag recipe would not eat the stuff. Within the past 3 years, I tasted "cornbread salad" and was amazed that it tasted really good but who would have thunk it? Cornbread in a salad? Now I have gotten a recipe from an on-line friend for "Popcorn Salad". I haven’t tried it yet but I have the recipe. It has celery, grated cheese, crisp-fried bacon pieces, onions and water chestnuts and the ever-present Mayo in it, so the first part sounds pretty edible. But at the end you add a 6.5 oz. bag of popped corn to it and serve it fast—before the popcorn "sogs" up, I suppose. I have decided that this is definitely a recipe for womens’ gatherings….I cannot picture too many men going wild over popcorn salad. I remember Popcorn Cakes full of huge, grossly- flavored gumdrops.(grape and licorice) I remember some bizarre popcorn balls made with dry jello, but popcorn salad takes the "popcorn cake award" for me. My favorite popcorn recipe is in the form of a "stuffing" for a turkey that is to be roasted—a very large turkey. The recipe starts out pretty normally for turkey stuffing: bread cubes, chopped onions and celery, melted butter, sage, poultry seasoning, boiling water…. but then you are thrown by the last ingredient: 2 cups of unpopped popcorn. Then the final instructions include this: roast the stuffed turkey at 350 degrees in the oven; when the popcorn pops and blows the rear end out of the turkey, you are ready to serve the meal….only in the original recipe, the last instructions did not include the more delicately-put, "rear end" of the turkey"…it was a cruder word of 3 letters and it started with the letter "a". Everyone who read the popcorn stuffing recipe card had the same reaction—loud guffaws…. and often times, if the person was eating or drinking at the time…..snorts of liquid or bits of food thru the nose. Which reminds me of a question I read recently…..if a cow laughs really hard, does milk come out of her nose???? I do not know the answer, but I wonder about it, even when pondering the recipe for popcorn salad.
I have spent many hours this morning cooking potato dumplings "from scratch". I now have over 3 dozen strange, gray, boiled lumps of potatoes resting in 3 cakepans…each with a bit of ground ham mixed into them. My kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it….the whole house smells like bacon grease (I just went out with a lot of garbage and when I cameback inside—pure bacon grease odor! I hope it goes away. I love the smell of bacon but I do not like having to smell it for days and days. When I do these gigantic cooking jobs, my mind is always like a tumbling tumbleweed, rolling over and over, collecting things as it goes, and in the end, I need to get things "off my chest" just to get rid of them. We got a New Year’s greeting today, from a cousin in Iowa , his wife and their two growing kids. The 2 kids are adopted, born in Korea, and brought to this country by our cousin and his wife, who were unable to have children of their own, even after heroic efforts and corrective surgeries, but still no babies of their own. They are such wonderful parents for their adopted children and my thoughts have been centered on how wonderful it has been for both parents and children to be brought together as a family of 4 through the adoption process. I thought also of another family we know so well…also unable to have their own children…with two wonderful adopted kids who are now approaching adulthood themselves. I thought of the similarities of these two families….how blessed they all are to have such a family that was formed by the adoption processes that brought them together. I thought of one of my good friends who has five adopted kids, all now adults and I remember the delight in meeting them many years ago and thinking the same thoughts—what a blessing for all of them—parents and children. I also had some dark thoughts about the trend in the U.S. since Roe v Wade became a "law". I thought of the millions of babies who have never seen the light of day due to Roe v Wade and I thought of all the couples who would have loved to adopt so many of these lost babies. We are truly living in an turned-upside-down society when it is legal to kill an unborn child by abortion, even when it is almost full term… but if a newly born baby who gets thrown in a trash dumpster, the person who does this is prosecuted for murder. It is pure nonsense to me. Scott Peterson was convicted of TWO murders..his wife’s and his unborn son’s but if Lacey would have gone to an Abortion Facility, she would have been legally able to kill the unborn son at the very time she and he were murdered by the man who was both the husband and father. It is an unsolve-able mystery to my churning tumble-weed mind processes today as I boil those dumplings for our White Food Feast later today. I now have to now face the monumental mess I have made in the kitchen….every frying pan, every cooking pot, many mixing bowls, the cutting board are all covered with potato starch or bacon grease and I have to clean it up in spite of my physical tiredness and my mental exertions brought on by having my mind become a tumbling tumbleweed for a few hours this morning. Oh darn—-I have to make the "milk gravy" for the first round of dumplings too…I promised my sister I would, since that was the way we had potato dumplings in our childhood home. (Sigh) Maybe another cup of the delicious flavored coffee (blueberry buckle) I have been sipping all morning will help me make that gravy. Then I have to clean myself up and get ready to roll to Sister’s home with the dumplings and all the other "stuff" I need to bring along for our Ending The Twelve Days Of Christmas celebration tonight. I will sleep like a heavy potato dumpling tonight….nearly the weight of the proberbial sleeping "log"!!! But my tumbling mind is lighter thanks to blogging. It is all worth it….the cooking, the thinking, the celebrating with family. I count my own many blessings today.
Tomorrow is January 6…Epiphany Day…which officially ends the "Twelve Days of Christmas" which was celebrated by my father’s family for many years when he was a young man. Tomorrow, in honor of our paternal ancestors, my sister and I will celebrate the ending of the Twelve Days with an orgy of "White Food" beloved by descendants of Norwegians. The menu consist of potato "klub" (dumplings) which I will make tomorrow; rommegrot…the much loved "pudding" that is so rich it can gag you; (my Sister’s domain); sugar cookies (the Christmas ones are gone so I have to bake some today). There will be no lefse—that is eaten up also. I might surprise my sister with one colorful food….a fruitcake which I know she will NOT use as a doorstop. I might have to wrap it in plain white paper to preserve the white food theme. (She can eat it in a dark room so she does not have to be assaulted by the bright colors of the cake). Some of our children and grandchildren will be there—all of them cannot come but we will have fun with whomever is there. We will exchange gifts and enjoy each others’ company, immensely. There are only two of us left in our family….she and me! But we do our part to stay close as what remains of our family and this celebration will be special. I think I sense a new tradition being established!! It is getting hard to get together on Dec 24-25 because of our expanding extended famiies of adult children and grandchildren. January 6 is a good day to celebrate the last of the festive season. Then winter can set in–be it Brown or White…. if it turns out to be a White Winter, we will know that "the weather" is smiling on our White Food Orgy for the Twelve Days of Christmas. I hope nobody has to go to the Energency Room from eating too much white food, all on one festive day!!!! We may all be like pythons who have swallowed a very large mammal, come Sunday morning. I hope not, but only time will tell. It takes a good long time to digest potato dumplings which lie, inert, in your stomach for more hours than most other foods.
The past two days have been quiet and reflective. I have stayed home and watched as much of the coverage of President Gerald Ford’s final rites and ceremonies from the nation’s capitol as well as from his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Because I am a "news and current events junkie" I have done this before….watched national events like presidential funerals, inaugurations, election coverage, et.al. I truly feel like I am part of the processes when I do this and I am sure others feel the same way. The first time I did this was in the dark days of November 1963 when President John Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. I think that event was transformational for thousands and thousands of Americans. Some national events have become passe….like space launches…which, in the distant past…were watched breathlessly by millions. I still remember the day that the Challenger exploded before the eyes of the watching millions. It was almost unbelievable since all the space launches previous to that had been so successful—-we expected everything to "go right" all the time and then that day in 1986 changed all that. But back to the past days of Gerald Fords final journey. I well remember the days leading up to his unexpected presidency. I can remember the exact spot on Highway 10 where we were driving with the radio on when we heard Richard Nixon resign from the office of president….it had been a tumultuous two years leading up to that day and I had followed almost every minute of the Watergate hearings. When Mr. Ford was sworn in, the nation seemed to heave a collective sigh of relief. For many Midwesterners, we knew that things would be better because we knew that Jerry Ford was an honorable man—-a man like many of the fathers we had grown up with. It was interesting to see a very short presidency unfold with a truly honorable man in office…he did not aspire to be president, thus he had no trail left by the burning ambitious-seeking of many of our presidents. His only desire was to do good for the nation….not to seek a legacy for himself. His pardon of Richard Nixon lost him the election but he did what was merciful for a man and the best thing for the nation, although many did not think so at the time. History has proven Mr. Ford right. We
have not had a president like him since and probably won’t see one like him for a very long time. Now we see the presidential seekers lining up for 2008, saying things they probably do not mean, doing things they probably hate doing…..but it is for a most selfish motive—-their own desire to have the power and the glory of it all. I don’t think Jerry Ford ever thought in those terms when he was the president and I felt sad to see the loss of one who was probably a great president, even though he did not act like he was a great man. I didn’t know how much I would miss his presence til he died on December 26 and a flood of memories returned me to that time when he was president. Another good man from what Tom Brokaw has called "the greatest generaton" has passed from our national scene. Many others of that generation are dying daily…they are not well-known, except to their friends and their families, but this nation will miss them all dearly when all of them are gone. There are very few like them anymore.
I did it again on the first day of 2007. It has become an annual challenge and nearly a ritual….to see if I can ride a big black inflated innertube down our steep west hill…..I succeeded again yesterday (New Year’s Day) so I feel like I am off to a great start. As I near the final years of my sixth decade of life, it has become a true matter of personal pride as in, "Look kids, I can still do it!!" This is for the benefit of the grandkids who were also sliding yesterday in the crisp cold air. The weekend’s slight snowfall west of the Red River Valley was just enough to make the hill slide-able. We need a few more inches to lay down a good base for snowboarding, but it is enough for plastic toboggans , saucers, and inner tubes. Other adults besides me got into the act also and in one daring downhill plunge, my middle son (in his mid 40′s) rode "turtleback" with me on the innertube. I even kept my eyes open although it felt like were traveling over 50 mph at the bottom of the hill!!! It is invigorating and it certainly makes you think you are about 10 years old again. Back in about 1986, my cousin from California visited me in January and we got the idea to go sliding then also. Both of us were in our mid-fifties and my Dad was in his later 70′s but still able to ride his old snowmobile and pull us back uphill after we had ridden our sliders to the bottom of the hill. I remember him teasing us and saying he was not accustomed to pulling "Old Ladies" uphill with his sno-cat! Dad has been gone from us since 1991 but if he is able to smile on us from Heaven, I think he would have highly approved of the wild sliding of yesterday!!
Here it is…a bright, blue-skied clear, clean looking January 1, 2007. It seems symbolic of a New Year when all of us can start on a "new page" and make a "clean start" if we so choose. I am inspired by having just read Prairie Woman’s post for New Year and her recollection of what 2006 meant to her. I appreciate her honest sharing. 2006 marked the beginning of my third year of being retired….a situation I have grown to love and appreciate more as the months march forward. I dreaded it at the beginning and even went through a time of "grief" immediately after May 2004 when I finally "hung it up" after being involved in the lives of elementary age students for many, many years in a small school where I loved my students, my colleagues, the small-town people who supported our school. It was hard to leave and I felt unsure about what the days ahead would bring…I actually thought I could not live without my work. I knew I would miss my colleagues, who were like a big family of brothers and sisters. I did not think I could bear not sharing books and reading with the young people who seemed to depend on me for guidance. But as every retired person learns, the work is capably carried on by another who is just as dedicated as you thought you were! It has been fun to go back and visit….I even got a small opportunity to do some useful work at my former school in the fall of 2005. It was a job that allowed me to see all the books again, handle them, record them in a database, see my friends every day for awhile, and chat with the students I dearly missed; it proved to be a good lesson….I realized then that I had a useful life as a retired person. That little time period of returning to work for a few hours a day, taught me to enjoy my retirement and go on to other useful things….volunteering to help others, pursuing interests that I had put on the shelf for many years due to being fully occupied, visiting interesting places and meeting new friends.
I am grateful that 2006 provided me with more opportunities as a retired person and I look forward, joyfully, to 2007, because I know that there are many more opportunities ahead. For today…January 1 2007—-three of my grandkids and one of my sons are coming out to the farm to slide, snowboard (if we have enough snow on the good hills) or to ride on a 4-wheeler, hike on the frozen "dead" river….maybe we will make a little fire down by the river and roast hot dogs and some marshmallows. We absolutely love out winter picnics (no mosquitoes!!) It will be a good begining to 2007….what is more important than family? I cannot think of any job that surpasses the times spent with those you love and cherish. I already am confident that come what may….2007 will be another good year. I am so thankful for 2006 and the promises that 2007 will bring.