10 Feb 19
Could be vairse!
The Astronomer of Nininger: “The end of January marks the time of year that Scotch drinkers around the world unite and celebrate Rabbie (Robert) Burns’s birthday — born January 25, 1759. He lived only 37 years, but in that short time gave the world well over 500 poems and songs that we know so well, including ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘Sweet Afton,’ ‘To a Louse’ and ‘To a Mouse.’
“They were sublime philosophical statements about the human condition and the Scottish culture. He was a busy man in his short life to compose so many rhymes. His time and efforts also resulted in some 15 children by five different women.
“I was privileged to lead the toast to the Lassies at this past weekend’s celebration of his birth. Bonnie Lassies means pretty girls, with whom we find life worth living. Burns respected marriage and romance itself. He pointed out on one occasion that being a bachelor is perhaps not the worst thing a man can be. Being the son of a bachelor is worse.”
Where we live
Cheesehead By Proxy [“back in Northern Minnesota”]: “Our weather app today (1-30-19) says it was 36 below about 15 minutes ago (sunrise) with a ‘feels like’ factor of -59.
“Those are my bragging rights from rural Crosslake. I checked the app and got excited when it showed our temperature to be colder than International Falls!
“In this cold weather, my husband and I are apt to talk about scenes from the Jack London story ‘To Build a Fire,’ or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘The Long Winter.’
“But then we have our own recollections from our 1970s hippie ‘Back to the Land’ days north of Park Rapids. In 1975, our actual mercury thermometer once read 50-below.
“We were ill-prepared for this, as stupid former city kids who thought we knew what we were doing. We huddled around a fire in a homemade barrel stove, and the water in our dog’s bowl froze. Also freezing were lots of proudly home-canned goods on the shelf in the corner. A friend came up to visit and dryly pointed out that it was almost as cold as the surface of Mars.
“My parents sent us a much-appreciated gift of down-filled booties; and the following year our Christmas gift was money with which to purchase a decent woodstove.
“We picked out a Fisher woodstove made in Bemidji, Minnesota, that we still have — but it’s out in our sauna now. That stove was so heavy, it took at least four strong young men to lift it, and we’ve moved it along on our ‘geographicals’ from place to place over the years. I just could never let it go. I think we’re in one place now, until we can no longer maintain our house. God willing, that will be a few years at least.
“P.S. My daughter sent us this wonderful photo of our grandson yesterday!”
Old friends (responsorial)
Inspired by KH of White Bear Lake’s picture of his now-retired boots, here’s John in Highland: “I still have one of the two pairs of boots that I was issued in Army basic training many years ago. We were instructed by the drill sergeants that in order to ‘break in’ both pairs, we were to wear the two pairs on alternate days. In order to make sure that we ‘followed instructions,’ we had to paint a white mark on the back of one pair of boots so that the cadre could verify that we were truly changing pairs each day.”
The mysteries of English
DEUCE of Eagan: “What a strange language we speak:
“Often Midwest winters seem to contribute to feelings of being down in the dumps, and somehow things are not going according to Hoyle. Well, feel free to jump on the bandwagon with the rest of us.
“It could be due to a hodgepodge of reasons, making it difficult to hit the nail on the head as to its cause.
“It’s often having trouble making ends meet, or recently you missed the boat on an opportunity, someone has you over a barrel, or possibly your vehicle is on the Fritz.
“Often arriving pell-mell and out of left field are things that seem to hurl us way out of kilter. Many of these are merely a flash in the pan and best considered just par for the course. Don’t hit the panic button; you probably have bigger fish to fry. Some good advice: Take it cool and try to find some time away from the madding crowd.
“Now, I have to see a man about a horse!”
Gee, our old La Salle ran great!
Or: Then & Now (responsorial)
KMarie: “Happy Medium remembered party lines in BB and explained how each home had its own ring code, such as three short and one long. Anyone on the party line could pick up the phone.
“Sometimes it was to listen in on gossip, but sometimes picking up the phone was serious. One day in December 1941, my parents’ phone kept ringing ringing ringing for the neighbors on the party line. Knowing the neighbors were not expected home anytime soon, one of my parents finally answered the phone to tell the caller the neighbors were not home. The caller was a reporter for a large newspaper in the state, who was calling about a report they had that the neighbors’ son had just been killed in action in the Philippines by Japanese fighter bombers. What a shock! The tragic news of the neighbors’ son — but also the alarming news that a U.S. base had been attacked by the Japanese! The news of the attack on the Philippines and Pearl Harbor had not hit the airwaves yet.
“I wasn’t around at that time, so do not know firsthand what happened next, but I recall my parents said they and other neighbors made sure someone was at the neighbors’ house when they arrived home, to provide support to the family.
“I find it hard to imagine what all went through my parents’ minds when they received such earth-shattering news — news that affected their neighbors and the whole country — when they simply answered a party line in a rural farmhouse in 1941.”
The Pro from Dover: “Happy Medium failed to mention that the phone numbers back then were only four digits (at least ours was in rural South Dakota). I use that long gone but still remembered phone number (one long, one short ring) as the unlock code on my smartphone.”
Life as we know it
Or: Then & Now
Al B of Hartland: “I put the final touches of peanut butter on a slice of toast as I brewed tea and listened to the radio. I was multitasking. The news on the radio was a series of verbal punches to the stomach.
“The news gave way to music. I listened to John Prine sing. He is one of my favorites. ‘Bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down . . . and won,’ he sang. Coincidentally, I was staring at a bowl of oatmeal as I added a bit of honey to it.
“I talked to several friends via telephone. It was already up to the day’s predicted low: 29 degrees below zero. We needed to face the cold facts, so we said the required things: ‘Cold enough for you?,’ ‘At least the sun is shining,’ and concluding with ‘Stay warm.’
“One caller talked of doing livestock chores early that cold morning. I miss that, but only in my memories. I loved getting into the barn on a cold day and experiencing the welcome warmth and that pleasant smell of cows and fodder. The worst part for me was when there were water problems. Pumps and pipes would freeze, and there were many things more fun than playing in water at 29 below.
“We talked of plugging cars in to heat the block or fluids and setting an alarm clock to remind us to start a vehicle every couple of hours if we’d intended to use it the next day after a gelid night.
“I was reminded once again that these are the good old days.”
Life as we know it
Or: Now & Then
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “They want to be the boss of me now. They tell me how to dress for the weather and what to do for amusement when the day is pleasant and sunny: ‘Mow the lawn, go on a picnic, get that raking done now before the wind picks up.’ When a cold front moves in, they suggest that I just ‘bundle up and stay by the fire.’ Oh, they just are overflowing with advice on how I should spend my time. I didn’t expect to be the recipient of all these instructions once I was an adult — a retired adult.
“When my kids were small, it was expected that I would advise them. How else would they know? In the wintertime during a snowstorm, I told them to slip bread bags over their shoes before putting their overshoes on. ‘They will keep your shoes dry,’ I said. On nice summer days I told them to ‘Put the darned Monopoly game away and get outside and soak up some of that sunshine. It will be winter before you know it.’ Just the usual advice every parent gives to their kids. (Well, maybe not the bread-bag part. All six of them still give me a hard time about that rule.)
“This winter, the unasked-for advice has seemed all-encompassing and more annoying than ever before. Last week when it was subzero for several days, they told me not to go outside or I would freeze my eyeballs; and back during the mild early-January days, they told me how nice it was outside and ‘Maybe it would be a good day to walk the dog.’ What the? I haven’t had a dog for the past two decades!
“I am fed up with advice from these blankety-blank weather forecasters. Tell us the temperature, and if your Doppler radar machine is showing a front moving in. We will take it from there.”
The kindness of strangers
Papa Whiskey reports: “Subject: Minnesota Nice beats nasty ice!
“Sunday night’s freezing drizzle combined with a drop in temperatures to cover the city with ice. I had to leave my car running for a while, to loosen it up, so I could scrape it off and see.
“On my way home from buying a new Gullah album from the Electric Fetus, I was heading up a hill near the Fairgrounds when I saw someone crawling on all fours in front of some steps to a house. She had a dog with her, and I wondered if she was just picking up some poop, but I turned around to check anyway.
“When I got there, she was just lying on her back, and I got out to see if she was OK. She was conscious, but had slipped on the treacherous ice and couldn’t get up! Her poor dog was shivering like crazy and trying to lift her up with his muzzle.
“I tried to help her up, but didn’t succeed very well — she was around 60, but obese, and that ice was everywhere.
“But soon a couple in an SUV stopped to help out, and the three of us managed to get her over to snowy ground and on her feet. We bundled her and her dog into the vehicle, and they drove her home. She lived just three houses away.
“The paper says several dozen people visited emergency rooms today after falls on that ice. I’m glad I didn’t just leave her and that shivering doggie there; it was only around 10 above, which isn’t conducive to survival if you’re out there long.
“If you see someone lying on the ground, best check!”
Our theater of seasons
Including: Our pets, ourselves
Dolly Dimples: “You know the saying ‘from the frying pan into the fire.’ It wasn’t bad enough that we had the coldest winter in 20 years. We topped it off with having an ice storm. On top of that, we’ve had a dusting of snow today. Broken bones and car accidents to follow . . .
“It warmed up enough last night for mist and rain to coat our driveway and sidewalk, now slick with ice. Nonetheless, dogs need to be walked. My son-in-law, who was the designated dog walker early this morning, slid backwards when he tried to walk on the driveway. He has fallen twice walking Percy earlier this winter. Both times he hit his head. Once he got a lump on his forehead; the other time, he suffered a bruise on the back of his head. I’m concerned that if he falls and can’t get back up, he would lie there and freeze to death. He said that isn’t likely to happen, as other dog walkers would be able to help him. Also, since our street is fairly busy (there is an entrance to the branch post office across street from us), cars are coming and going, so someone would stop if they noticed a person needed help. Those dog walkers are a hardy bunch.
“The fun part of dog-walking is meeting other dog walkers. Our little dog is not the least bit aggressive, so he greets one and all with a happy little prance and a wagging tail. For the most part, the dogs we meet are friendly, too, so while the dogs have a sniffing session, the dog walkers engage in a bit of small talk. It’s a neighborly and pleasant encounter.
“However, one young woman with a large dog, whom I met occasionally, made a point of leaving the sidewalk and walking in the street in a wide path around us. She doesn’t acknowledge us with a smile or greeting; nor does she loosen the tight grip she has on her dog’s leash. I give her the benefit of the doubt that she isn’t unfriendly. Maybe her dog is aggressive, and she doesn’t want to initiate an incident. After all, her dog IS big, and he could topple little Percy with one swipe of his paw. I’m not able to walk with Percy anymore, but I truly enjoyed my daily walks with him.”
Band Name of the Day: Little Percy’s Wagging Tail
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