Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Back At It

It is way too early for Farmers Market goodies, but this week my local grocery yielded some decent sales.   My grocery order was delivered this afternoon, so I have been busy putting groceries away and working on preserving the bounty.

Those plastic bags of fresh cole slaw mix, containing shredded green and red cabbage and carrots, were on sale for 10/$10.  Seven bags were enough to fill 14 dehydrator trays, with another 3 bags full left over for tomorrow.  A handful of the dried mix tossed into simmering soup adds such good flavor.   Or sometimes I will soak to rehydrate enough to add to casseroles.

Onions were on sale.  I just love the guy who calls me to take my order.  Sometimes a sale is not much of a sale.  He found onions for me that were less expensive than the sale price.  I ordered 10 lbs. of onions and they will be peeled, chopped and in the dehydrators when the cabbage mix is finished.

Hamburger was on sale, but there was a limit of 6 lbs. per order.  I hate when they do that.  But I ordered 6 lbs. anyway.  They will be made into meatballs, browned in the oven, packed into pint jars, covered with broth and canned.  I use them for spaghetti and meatballs, heated with potatoes and gravy or I have even made meatball sub sandwiches with them.  It's all good.

The last thing I ordered for preservation was cream cheese.  I had seen a video about canning cream cheese so I thought I would give it a try.  I don't use a lot of cream cheese, but I do like having some on hand.  Seems to me that canning, if it turns out good, would be a better option for me than freezing it.  This is another experiment, so I will wait and see how it turns out before recommending the process.  The same video discussed canning cheddar cheese, but I have to say I wasn't enamoured with the results.  The finished product looked sort of rubbery and although they said the taste was just fine, I think the texture would make it something I would not really want to use.

Spring hasn't decided if it is ready to stay.  Temps have been in the mid to high 40s during the day and dipping down toward freezing at night.  I had to turn the heat back on and close the windows, as a stiff breeze and rain have accompanied the low temps.  My way of contending with the cooler weather is to bake something.  An apple crisp and a double batch of chocolate chip cookies are penciled in for tomorrow.  You just can't go wrong with something chocolate.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Beef in Jars

Oldest Son brought me between 13 and 14 pounds of boneless chuck roast.  I lost maybe half a pound in fat trimmings.  I cut the meat into pieces large enough to fill pint jars and wound up with 13 pints of beef roast for the shelves.  I would like to have canned more, but there are other places my money needs to go, so I will wait until the beef goes on sale again.

The last dance competition of the season for my granddaughters is held this weekend.  Youngest Son called me to let me know the website I can use to watch the girls in real time.  There I found a list of all the dance numbers for the weekend, and I get to watch them dance 9 times!  Each granddaughter has a solo and I watched Boston do her tap solo Thursday evening.  She did a really good job.  I don't know how she does it.  If my feet were flying that fast I would be tripping over them.  Maddie May has a duet late this afternoon and the rest are spread out over Saturday and Sunday.  I have gotten so I can pick them out of a group so it is even more fun for me.

The bananas I bought are finally ripe enough for banana bread, so I will make a couple of loaves later today.  I am guessing that after Oldest Son reads this, he will be knocking on my door, looking for some banana bread to take in his lunch.  Fine with me.  Half the fun of baking it is the sharing of it.

And that is pretty much as exciting as my life gets this week.  In between watching the girls dance, I think I will do some sewing.  I have another quilt top all cut out and ready to put together.  And maybe a nap.  Yep, definitely a nap.  :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dear Target Store...

I have shopped at your store for close to 20 years.  The store is convenient to my home and your personnel have always been courteous and helpful.  On the few occasions when there was a problem with merchandise, you always took care of it to my satisfaction.  Your prescription department has answered my questions and has had my medications ready for me in a timely manner.  So it is with some sadness that I tell you I will be spending my money elsewhere.  Here's why...

(From the website for CBS News, WCCO, Minneapolis, Minnesota.)

"MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Target Corporation says it is “continuing to stand for inclusivity” and will welcome workers and guests to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The company made the announcement on its website Tuesday, saying Target supports the federal Equality Act that provides protections to LGBT individuals.

“In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,” the company wrote."

I have nothing against people who believe differently than me.  If a person wants to spend their days in a bunny suit or a matador suit of lights, have at it.  If they want to take on the persona of Mother Goose or Batman, I don't care.  But when you tell me that it is alright for a grown man to share a bathroom with my eleven year old granddaughter or share a fitting room area with my teen-aged granddaughter, I must disagree.

I realize that the disease of political correctness has spread far and wide.  I understand that companies will trade common sense for compliance with demands of groups who stomp their feet, scream and shout and file lawsuits when their demands are not met.   I get the part where protection of LGBT individuals or any group of law abiding folks is a good thing.

But please, please tell me why the protection of my grandchildren isn't just as important.  Tell me that you can guarantee their safety from the predators and pedophiles who will most assuredly take advantage of your policy decision in order to satisfy their lust for children.

I don't suppose that it will do any good to remind you that if a six foot tall man wears a wig, lipstick and a skirt, that does not make him a woman.  That is not any different than if a person stands in a garage and proclaims himself to be a car.

I am not foolish enough to believe that the loss of my dollars will have any effect on your financial status. But unlike companies who pander to special interest groups, I have a conscience.  And that conscience will not allow me to fund in any way a company that has so little regard for the safety of my grandchildren.

So, Target, unless you find your lost common sense, we are through.

Vicki Miller

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring has finally sprung...

here in the land of lakes and loons.  The temperature got up to nearly 80 degrees today and now, in the middle of the night, is still at 68.  I turned off the heat for my apartment a couple of days ago.  It is so nice to be able to have the windows open again.  Early this morning about the time the dark of night gave way to the first gray of morning, I could hear the chorus of sparrows and chickadees that live in the trees outside my windows.  They are so incredibly cheerful sounding in the morning.  Takes me at least a half pot of coffee to even become civil.

It has been a quiet week here.  Aside from a few bags of cranberries waiting in the freezer to be turned into juice, I am pretty well caught up in the food storage department.  I have been using about half of my every-other-week grocery order to get fresh fruit, vegetables, etc. and the other half to stock up on whatever is on sale.  The canning shelves are full.  The closet pantry is full.  The shelf holding the dehydrated food is full.  I think I could go for at least year without having to go to the store, if necessary.   It is real easy to become complacent when the shelves are full and I don't want to do that.  This week my local grocery has boneless chuck roast on sale for $2.99 a pound, which is a good price here.  I may have to ask Oldest Son to do a grocery run for me on his next day off, and get me at least 40 lbs of beef roast.  I have lots of jars of beef cubes canned, but it would be nice to have some bigger pieces for roast beef dinners.

A couple of weeks ago my granddaughter, Maddie Mae, called to tell me that she had been named "Student of the Month" at her school.  The honor has to do with good grades and good citizenship and I'm not sure what all else.  It makes me glad when one of the grands calls to let me know what is going on in their lives.  Good going, Maddie.  You make me proud.

A week ago on the weekend I was sort of glued to my computer.  The two youngest granddaughters had a dance competition and I could watch it being live streamed.  Each of them had a couple of dances with the whole age group, plus each had a solo dance and Maddie had a duet.  It was so much fun to watch.  The live stream was a bit dicey during the awards ceremony so I missed learning how they did.  But when I talked to Boston later, she said both of them had high marks including some first place trophies.

It is always a bit jarring to see them in full costume and stage makeup.  When I think of them, this is what I see.

Other than that, it has been just the usual hum drum life of a contented retiree.  A little quality time with a good murder mystery, an apple pie shared with Oldest Son (He is really good to help me eat baked goodies!), and naps.  Naps are a good thing.  I have about six bananas that are nearly over ripe so I expect there are a couple of loaves of banana bread in my future, probably tomorrow.

I know there are all sorts of crazy things going on in the world around me.  Thing is, there is precious little I can do about any of it.  So I keep one eye on the news and the other on Home Sweet Apartment.  I'm going to be 70 years old in a couple of months.  So I have decided to enjoy the time I have left as much as possible.  That includes doing the things I like to do, such as sewing and quilting and scrapbooking and reading.  And spending time with my family.  And keeping on with the preps, for even if I never use all of it, there are those who will.  Some find joy in world travel and others in the whirl of social activity.  Me...  I'm perfectly content right here.  Can't ask for much more than that.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Firemen Who Aren't

This past week I got a phone call.  The gentleman on the other end of the line told me he represented our local fire fighters.  Said he was raising funds for the benefit of the fire department.

I asked him if he thought $5000 would be of some help.

He allowed as how it would be very much appreciated.

I inquired as to how the money would be used.  He sort of fumbled  around a bit and then told me it was for new hoses on the firetrucks "and stuff."

So I asked him for his name, mailing address and phone number, seeing how the number was blocked from my Caller ID.

He inquired as to the reason I needed that information.

I told him that my local fire station was just three blocks away from my house.  I said that when I went to the station to give my friends there my personal check, they would want to know who should get credit for getting that donation.

The gentleman then told me that the fire department preferred credit card funds over personal checks.

To which I replied that I was sure my friend, the fire chief, wouldn't mind getting my check.  I would go to the station right away as long as the department needed new hoses and stuff.  And as long as I was at it, I would call the police station to see if they needed new tires for their patrol cars.  Maybe I could help them, too.

At this point the nice gentleman hung up on me.  I don't know why.

I have been receiving these phone calls several times a year for the past ten years.  The first time it happened I asked a couple of the firemen I knew if this was one of the ways funds were raised.  They replied that the fire department never, ever solicited funds via the phone.

One would think that after ten years of having an old lady mess with them, these scammers would have removed my name from their call list by now.  And they should really stop trying to scam us old folks.  We aren't happy about being old in the first place.  And we are retired with lots of time on our hands to think up ways to ruin their day.

That part makes me smile.  :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

School Days

Things are quiet here in my little corner of the world, so I thought I might give you one more offering from Great Uncle Walter.

That's Walter on the right, his wife Maud on the left and two of their children in between.  I believe this picture was taken in the early 1950's, about the time he was putting his memories on paper.

Yesterday I was wandering through some of the news sites, reading about all of the foolishness going on.  Much of it had to do with school kids.  Things like out of control kids and teachers afraid to discipline them.  Things like college kids needing safe spaces, and trigger warnings and requiring counseling because someone chalked a presidential candidates name on the sidewalk.  And best of all, the demands that children of either sex should be able to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice, depending on whether they identify as male or female.  Really?  I always thought God figured that all out right in the beginning, seeing to it that boys were born with outdoor plumbing and girls had indoor plumbing.  Problem solved.

Anyway, all of this stupidity reminded me of the following piece Uncle Walter wrote about his own education.  It would likely give those today a case of the vapors.  But Uncle Walter went on to work for a railroad as a telegrapher along with other supervisory duties as well as becoming a first rate photographer.  He raised his family, took care of business and lived a good life.  There are a couple of passages that contain words that would make the social justice warriors break out in a cold sweat, but I won't change a word of what he wrote, for that's just the way it was then.  Enjoy.

School Days
by Walter E. Paul

My schooling, such as it was, commenced in 1894 when my folks were renters on the Andrew Anderson farm two and a half miles south of Barnum, Minn.  
My sisters Grace and Clara and brother Andrew had attended school back in New York State but here in our new Minnesota home there was no school within walking distance of short childish legs. Something had to be done to take its place. After a family discussion of the matter Father and Mother appointed Grace to be our teacher, she being the eldest of us children.
Upstairs in a spare room of this Anderson house we had found a hodge podge of cast off school books no two of them alike, readers, spellers, arithmetics  including a “mental arithmetic,” and a ragged geography, These with the few old school books our parents had brought west were the only ones we had. The room was furnished with an old slope top desk, a few discarded chairs and a makeshift blackboard.
I started with a little red covered Swinton’s First reader. Each day Grace coached me on its simple words and how they were grouped together to form little sentences. A much battered arithmetic and a torn speller were later added to my curriculum.
On the first day I thought our little school was somewhat of a joke and began to act up accordingly until Grace set me right by jerking me out of my seat by my shirt collar and promising to report my misconduct to Father and Mother if I didn’t stop my monkey shines and concentrate on my book. Her timely action I afterward realized was one of the best lessons I learned. Owing to my tender years I was required to attend our little school in the forenoons only, leaving the afternoons to spend as I saw fit.
In the early winter of 1895 we moved to an abandoned lumber camp cabin five miles east of Barnum where we lived the remainder of the winter. This was wild country and game was often seen. The cabin stood on the edge of a tamarack swamp where snow-shoe rabbits wore cris-crossing trails through the deep snow. On the other side of the cabin heavy spruce, balsam and birch timber sheltered partridges and an occasional deer. When we needed meat and no venison was on hand brother Arthur on a sunny day would take the .44 Winchester and walk slowly along a tote road through the tamarack swamp. Catching unwary rabbits off guard as they dozed on snow hummocks in the bright sunshine he would surprise them by shooting their heads off. Returning with all the rabbits he cared to lug he would dress them, give Mother one to cook for our next meal and pack the others in a box full of snow to put away in a corner of the log barn for future use.
With the first warm days of Spring we moved our few belongings into a new but very rough log cabin Father and Arthur had built two miles further east on wild land recently purchased from the St Paul and Duluth Railway for five dollars per acre.
In the new cabin our tutelage continued under Mother and Grace until a year later when Grace left home to teach in a district near Barnum. This left Mother to continue teaching us as best she could along with the burden of keeping house and caring for her family in somewhat primitive conditions. I don’t remember that father took any hand in our schooling other than an occasional encouraging remark or inquiry about our progress. Anyway I sensed some of its importance and in spite of much squirming, biting my pencil, and lamenting over the difficulties encountered I really did work at it and felt a degree of satisfaction as I passed from addition to subtraction, the multiplication table, division and so on. Numbers were difficult for me. Spelling was easier  and in  time I became a fair speller. Geography I loved as it gave me opportunity to study maps and to day dream about parts of the world I would visit when I became a man with plenty of money and unlimited time.
Cost of writing paper being all of five cents for one large rough tablet we often used sheets of wrapping paper cut to suitable size. Slates were useful too. You could write on them with a slate pencil, then with a wet sponge, or, lacking that a little spit rubbed on with fingers or elbow would erase everything and prepare a clear space for more writing or ciphering.  Sometimes the slate pencil would develop a little grain of grit on the point which caused spine chilling schreeches as it slid over the slate surface. We would grind out the offending grain on some rough hard surface which restored the pencil to more quiet operation, save for its tapping on the slate as we wrote or did our numbers. Most every Christmas we could expect some relative to give us a few slate pencils and some of the cheapest lead pencils. These lasted us through the year.
Early in September 1897 Grace went to teach school in the Polish community of Split Rock eleven miles west of Moose Lake. A Polish family by the name of Kwapack had built a small frame addition onto one end of their log cabin. In this the teacher lived and boarded herself.
When Grace took the position she arranged for Andrew to go with her and attend her school. He stayed with her through the winter until school closed in the spring. The following year I went with Grace and attended school until Christmas then Clara went from New Years until spring.
When Grace and I went out to Split Rock just before school commenced, George Watson who later became her husband, drove us out from Moose Lake in a two horse livery rig. The horses were good steppers and the buggy was large enough to carry our personal belongings with us. We three sat in the front seat with the baggage piled behind. The horses were trotting along the dusty gravel road when we came to a log bridge spanning a small stream about a mile from the Kwapack house. As the horses trotted onto the bridge we heard a loud crash as the supporting logs broke in the middle and the bridge collapsed under us. Mr. Watson hollered “Whoa!” as he was pitched out headlong over the dash board landing in a heap against the horses hooves. Instantly the horses stopped, their front feet up high, their hind feet low and the buggy with its front wheels
low and hind wheels high. The break in the bridge was directly under the whiffletrees. Mr. Watson fearing the horses would kick his brains out in the position in which he lay had presence of mind enough to talk to them quietly while he painfully extricated himself, untangled the reins and stepped out onto firm ground groaning in misery because of a bruised knee. Taking the horses by their bits he slowly led them up the incline of the collapsed bridge the buggy with Grace and I still in it following onto firm road ahead.
I missed Father and Mother and the home surroundings sorely. This was my first experience away from home. How I wished I could have my dog Carlo near me to pet or to go hunting partridges and rabbits with. I still have one of Mother’s letters to me in which she told how the first few days after I left Carlo wandered about the place, looking here and there, watching the road, and occasionally whining disconsolately. However my time and attention was soon taken up with the new surroundings and experiences, and evidently in time Carlo also became reconciled.
Mrs. Kwapack had three or four small children whom she frequently whipped severely for small childish sins. Aside from her severity with her children she was a good neighbor, occasionally rapping on our door when she wished to come in, sit awhile and talk to “Miss Paul.”

From our place a road ran across an open field into a maple and birch forest, down across the Split Rock River and up the opposite slope to the school house set back among the trees a little way from the main road. Heat for the school was furnished by a large cast iron heater burning big chunks of birch and maple wood a good supply of which the School Board kept piled close behind the building.
Most of the school children spoke broken English. On the playground their conversation was mostly in Polish which of course left me in the dark as to what they were talking about. I did soon learn some Polish words for “teacher’s brother” so knew when they were talking about me. Grace was careful not to show me any partiality on account of our relationship. She would correct me as sharply as any of the other children and on cold winter days she saw to it that I did not shirk my part when the kids had to bring in the days supply of wood from the pile behind the building.
There was no social and very little other kind of entertainment outside of school hours. Sometimes I amused myself by wandering off into the woods, sliding on the river ice or helping Grace with household duties. Sometimes I went to spend a little time with Joe Burlik or with Ignace Skruilock, schoolmates of mine, but most of the Polish children had farm work to do at home with little time left for play. Part of the long winter evenings were spent with my lessons for the next day. On Sundays, there being no Protestant church closer than Moose Lake, Grace and I would read the International Sunday School Lesson together and discuss it a little in sort of a Sunday School formality. For special Sunday treats we had a supply of Brazil nuts, or nigger toes as we called them. These were carefully counted, divided by the number of Sundays until Christmas and that number we cracked and ate each Sunday.
After Christmas Clara went to the Split Rock School to take her turn until spring. The following summer Grace and Mr. Watson were married so for a time that ended our formal schooling.
Two miles east of us in our community which had come to be known as Deer Park, lived the Dye family.  Mr. and Mrs. their boy William about my age and his half brother Clyde a few years younger. Mrs. Dye’s maiden sister lived with them as did also her mother Mrs. Munger, an elderly retired school teacher and a graduate of the Winona Normal School.
In the summer of 1900 Mrs. Munger sent out word to the parents of Deer Park that she would undertake teaching their children that fall and winter in her home providing each child would bring his or her own books, some kind of a seat, and of course any paper or pencils they might need. I hope we children appreciated what Mrs. Munger proposed doing for us as we did in later years when with more maturity we looked back to that time. I don’t think she ever suggested payment of any kind for teaching us, at least I never heard our parents mention it. Of course in our circumstances any payment would have to be very meager. The same thing was true with the other families.  
On the morning of the opening day five or six children gathered at the Dye home besides William and Clyde. There was Clara and I, the three Lind girls and possibly one or two more whom I have since forgotten.  Mrs. Munger proved to be a very capable and likeable teacher. First, she examined each of our books no two of which were alike, and inquired how far we had studied in them. She assigned lessons for each pupil, admonished us to study the pictures accompanying the lessons and to think about them. She would then leave us in the bed room school room for a time while she busied herself with household duties. After awhile she would quietly return and ask one of us to stand up and tell her what we had learned, or do some of the arithmetic problems on our slate or rough writing paper. She would prompt us with questions as we went along, or, when applicable relate some little event out of her past to illustrate what she was trying to teach us. About 1030AM and again at 230PM she would send us out of doors for fifteen minutes of exercise and fresh air which we sorely needed after being cooped up in that small room. At noon we had an hour to eat our lunch either inside or, if weather permitted, outside under the nearby balsams. This makeshift school lasted through the winter and spring.
The spring and summer of 1901 a one room school building was erected a mile east of us on the main road running north from Woodbury’s place to Cain’s Corner. With the opening of this school that fall we of course had a regularly employed teacher, standard modern books, a large case of roll up charts and maps hanging from the wall, a globe, blackboards and a huge dictionary perched on a tall wobbly metal stand. Heat was furnished by a large wood burning heater in the back of the school room surrounded by a sheet of galvanized iron supported a foot from the floor the function of which was to help circulate heat on a cold day. Between the stove and this sheet of galvanized iron there was just room for a person to squeeze in and get the first heat of a slow starting fire before the rest of the room was warmed up.
There was unlimited play room around the building, room for baseball, tag, anty over, and fox and geese. The nearby forest afforded opportunity for Indian fighting, bear hunting and other Daniel Boone exploits. There was no well so we had to carry drinking water from Woodbury’s well a half mile away. On cold winter. days we ate our lunches in the hallway or huddled around the heater. Severe cold or deep and drifted snow did not deter us from plenty of outdoor exercise during the noon hour or at recess time. When the bell rang there would be a great scurrying into the hall to take off our snow laden overshoes, mitts and caps. Our wet garments were draped over the sheet iron encircling the stove, our overshoes placed under, then with much puffing and giggling we would slide into our seats keeping a wary eye on the teacher who was watching the commotion and patiently waiting for it to subside.
With the first warm days of spring what zest we ever had for education slowly oozed out of us as we often sat idling away a few minutes, gazing out the windows at screaming bluejays and whispering chickadees flitting about in the nearby balsams and spruces. Chattering red squirrels running up and down the tree trunks and leaping across from one tree top to another were noted with languid interest. As spring crept in and the winter snow disappeared frogs began singing in every swamp puddle. Most any day now we could hear the distant muffled drumming of partridges. In fact the whole creation now seemed to be coming into a new and stirring life while we kids were like galley slaves still chained to our desks, compelled to continue our tedious progress over the seas of more learning.
We liked our teachers, perhaps a little too well. Some of them were not much older than we and were always ready to join in any of our fun. The first one was Jeannette Hall. She started the school off from the very first day. She had good discipline and knew when to be firm but she could also get out and play with us, go on picnic excursions and be as much of a kid as any. Unbenownst to us kids the time came when she carried a clinical thermometer in her lunch bucket and each day took her temperature wondering what made it climb slowly higher and higher. Dr. Inez Legg who had an office in Barnum was finally consulted and found Jeanette had typhoid fever. We were dumfounded and could hardly believe the news. We talked about her in subdued whispers. Would she die? Would she recover? Would we ever have her for a teacher again? The substitute teacher was all right but still we could not get the face of Jeannette out of the school room entirely. After long weeks Dr. Legg announced that she was out of danger and would recover. How happy we were now. It seemed as though the only way we could express our feelings was to whoop it up a little louder on the playground, and perhaps work a little harder on our lessons.
Our next teacher was Alberta Pineo who also came to be much beloved of us kids. She also played with us and taught us much that cannot be found between book covers. When some of us older boys indulged in coarse  or unfair play her gentle, steady gaze was a more effective rebuke than words.

Then came a Miss Poupores for a brief period. She had a boy friend and because of her devotion to him lost her job. Her term was filled out by Mrs. Woodbury the saw mill owners wife. She had once been a school teacher and was very popular with us because of the welcome we always found in her immaculate home.
Arthur Simpson taught us two years. He was older than the others and had very poor discipline but we did get a great deal of good from his instruction. He was deeply religious and read to us from the Scriptures each morning.
Friday afternoons were the high spots of the week. It was then after lunch that books and lessons were forgotten, Our teacher would devise some kind of diversion, a spell down, a guessing game, problems in mental arithmetic or a talk on some subject not found in our books. Arthur Simpson especially gave us talks on  
astronomy, geology, exploration, foreign lands, or scientific experiments and discoveries. These talks were interesting for the older pupils but younger ones with a bad case of the wiggles were often excused and sent home. For awhile we even published a quarterly school paper called the Pine Knot, hand written on large sheets of fools-cap and illustrated with pen sketches by the most artistically gifted pupil. One of these issues I still have in my possession.
My schoolmates were a varied lot both in age and personalities They ranged from the second to the eighth grade. During much of the school session some one would be on the long bench up front reciting. Little jealousies and rivalries developed and were soon forgotten. Puppy love budded, blossomed and faded on the stem. In games and at school parties some of the older boys and girls often showed an attraction for each other which called forth derisive remarks from the younger ones who might themselves be secretly trying to conceal similar budding feelings toward their favorites.
Christmas programs given the last day of school before the Christmas vacation were looked forward to with mounting enthusiasm. We older boys went into the woods to cut a well shaped spruce or balsam tree six or seven feet tall. This we dragged to the school yard where we sawed the butt off square, nailed a short piece of wide board to it then set the tree up beside the teacher’s desk. Necessary guy wires from the tree to hooks high up on a window frame or on top of a blackboard prevented an unlucky upset. As was customary in those days the tree was lit by small wax candles of various colors set in small tin holders with clamps which held them firmly on the branches. Luckily these candles when lit never set our tree afire owing to the care exercised in placing them to see that the flame did not ignite some branch directly above it. The girls made strings of popcorn, chains of brightly colored paper, and with store bought spangles, glass balls and other glittering decorations borrowed from our various homes the tree became a thing of beauty adding much to our program of Christmas songs and spoken pieces.
I was given the job of janitor in this school. My duty it was to stay after school to sweep the floor and rearrange any misplaced books, paper or furniture. I arrived early in the morning to start the wood fire in plenty of time for the room to warm up before the teacher and first pupils arrived. I dusted the furniture and saw to it that the blackboards were clean and ready for the days work. The first of every month was pay day and brought me a school warrant for two dollars. This with what little trapping money I made through the winter kept me in  spending money, some of it spent for necessities such as sox, mittens, a cap, 22 shorts or school writing material.
In our home and in all the other homes in Deer Park there was a dearth of books or magazines suitable for growing children. Father had an oak book case handed down from his father which was filled with books. There were also four or five open shelves nailed to our log walls all of which were full of books but very few of interest to children. There were two leather bound volumes of Wesley’s Sermons, a leather bound volume of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs with many grisly wood cuts depicting various ways in which the martyrs died. There was Milton’s Paradise Lost, Young’s Night Thoughts Emerson Watt’s Improvement of the Mind, a set of six ponderous volumes of Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, and a History of the Jews by Josephus. At Christmas   time we usually received a few children’s books from distant relatives which we read and re-read until they commenced to fall apart. When we came from New York State we brought two large home bound volumes of Youth’s Companions which were handled so much that they broke in the middle. Some of the half leaves were lost making it difficult to read an entire story but by guessing at what was lost in the missing half sheet we still enjoyed the stories. Finally after a few years we subscribed to the Youth’s Companion which I believe came weekly and was always awaited with much impatience.
In time some one in Deer Park heard about the Minnesota Traveling Library Service which could be had free on written request of a certain number of adult residents. On person was to be responsible for the books and to collect funds to cover carrying charges both ways. The proper application was made by the required number of people and Mrs. Young, whose cabin was centrally located was named librarian.
In due time the first consignment of books arrived packed in a sturdy book case holding perhaps forty or fifty volumes. Mrs. Young set the case on a bureau in their cabin and passed word to callers, and to folks she met at religious services held around the neighborhood each Sunday, that the library had arrived and was now in business. The books were mostly for grown-ups, but we children did find many gems fitting our ages; Alice in Wonderland, Jo’s Boys, Little Women, Little Men, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, and books of fairy tales fired our imaginations and introduced us to a life long enjoyment of good literature. After a few weeks when the first case full seemed to have served its purpose, it was returned and another one came in its place.
My formal education ended with the eighth grade. My parents were too poor to send any of their children away for further education, they did however instill in us an insatiable curiosity to find out just what lay beyond our immediate horizon. Grubbing stumps, raising potatoes and rutabagas, keeping a few scrub cows, and in the winter time cutting a little pulpwood or making a few ties, did not appeal to me at all. Soon after my final day at school I found a job, said good bye to Father and Mother, patted my aging Carlo on his glossy head and stepped out to see what lay beyond the distant horizon.

Copyright © 2001 Kenneth E. Paul and Frances W. Prussner

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Trip to Town

While reading the comments on my last post, I got to thinking about how different our lives are from those of my Great Grandparents.   Going to the grocery store for many of us is just a matter of driving a few blocks, purchasing whatever we want and driving back home again.  Not so for my ancestors.

In front, my Great Grandfather, Hollis Brayton Paul.  Behind, left to right, his youngest son Walter, my Great Grandmother Adella, the oldest daughter Grace, my Grandfather Andrew Jackson  and the youngest daughter Clara.   The two older boys, Arthur and Melvin at this time had secured homesteads of their own in the same area of Minnesota.  This photo was taken in front of their cabin in about 1897, right about the time of the following story.

My Great Uncle Walter had a gift for writing and to his everlasting credit he wrote much about the lives of his family.  The story of "The Trip to Town" is rather long, but I found it fun and interesting, especially when compared to today.  It is my hope that someone else may enjoy this true story as much as I did.

The Trip to Town

by Walter E. Paul

It was early spring. In the spruce thickets the winter’s frost still lay under the deep blanket of moss. Leaf buds were swelling on the tag alders in the swamps. Willows were taking on a brighter shade of gold standing out in sharp contrast to the grays and russets of last year’s swamp grass in the lowlands and the darker pines and balsams of the ridges.
We were moving. With our big Round Oak heater slung between them on two tamarack poles, Pa and brother Arthur picked their way carefully over an abandoned tote road winding through the woods from the vacated logging camp in which we had spent the winter to a small clearing surrounding the newly constructed rough log cabin two miles away which was to be our future home. Every hundred yards or so the heavy heater was eased to the ground while they rested their arms, straightened their spines, wiped the sweat from their faces and selected some distant object beside the trail which they would try to reach before again stopping for a breather. Ma and we four smaller children followed, scrambling over roots and stones on the high ground, slipping and sloshing on the low ground meanwhile struggling with chairs, kitchen utensils, personal belongings, anything suited to our sizes and ability, tucked under our arms, hung from our shoulders or gripped in our hands.
For two years this old tote road was to be our only link with the outside world. After we had acquired a team of illy matched horses and a sled we could make this trip in winter clear through to Barnum and haul in the heavier supplies, flour, salt, feed, tools, needed for the following summer. When a wagon road to town was completed two years later we and other settlers in our area felt that indeed a door to the outside world had been opened even though the wagon road was several miles longer than the tote road route. Now we could hitch Jerry and Tom to the heavy lumber wagon and in spite of the bumps, “thank you moms”, violent shocks and hub deep mud with the resulting occasional showers of mud, actually drive the seven miles to Barnum and home again all in one day, sustaining no broken bones, loosened molars or other mishaps causing later discomfort in sitting at table or lying in our straw tick beds.
To me as a backwoods boy of seven and for several years thereafter, trips to town were events of major importance, a welcome break in what seemed to be a dull and uneventful life, something to be looked forward to, something to be long remembered. They were red letter days for all of us kids and, I more than suspect that they were not without glamour and a degree of excitement for Pa and Ma as well.
Such a trip did not call for my very best Sunday Clothes, not the nine dollar suit purchased not so long ago from T. M. Roberts Mail Order House and already revealing too much wrist and ankle and a corpulent appearance in front when the coat was buttoned. No, a pair of freshly washed overalls and a rough cotton shirt would do. Clean the mud off the work shoes and perhaps apply a little polish if we had any, otherwise just plain spit mixed with elbow grease and applied with an old rag would do. If it was summer and my straw hat was so ragged that little more than the crown remained it could be hid under the wagon seat just before entering town and a brand new hat purchased for five or ten cents at Goodell’s Store, that being the first store available after arrival.
Some trips could prove to be real exciting like the time Pa crated up our three bear cubs and took them to the Carlton County Fair. For once we kids felt vastly superior to ordinary kids as we rode on top of the bear crate, pretending to be solicitous for the welfare of our yowling charges while riding slowly down Main Street, hoping that we were making a proper impression on the crowd of children of all ages as they ran shouting beside our wagon, peering between the slats of the crate, the bolder ones climbing on top to have a better look. At the Fair grounds older people joined the younger until we were surrounded by a boisterous excited crowd as we took the bears to their allotted place of exhibition.
Then there was the day we returned home in what haste we could make hoping to escape a gathering thunderstorm. The sky grew black with ominous wind clouds piling up from the south-west. Tall swaying Norway pines whistled and moaned in protest of the buffeting gusts. Frequent stabs of lightning sliced the dark canopy overhead. As the advancing thunder began to crash in unison with every lightning flash Jerry and Tom volunteered their top speed, a shuffling gate a little faster than a spry walk. As we came in sight of our cabin the storm broke on us with violent fury. Big trees writhing in agony bent low then snapped and crashed to the ground sometimes taking other trees with them. Close behind our wagon one of the larger trees waving its limbs wildly as if trying to grasp us, swayed and staggered then broke and slammed down across the narrow road. A few minutes later we were in our barnyard stripping the harnesses from the horses. As they plunged into the shelter of their little log barn Pa and I bent low against the driving rain and scurried to the cabin. As we stomped inside where Ma had a cheery fire crackling in the kitchen range I overheard Pa say, “Well, Ma, the Good Lord surely held that tree up for us to get past!”
A proposed trip to town was usually announced at the breakfast table after Pa and Ma had duly discussed the shortages developing in our larder, the small amount of cash on hand  if any, what butter, eggs, or other mediums of exchange were available, and the probable state of the weather for the day. Ma always put up a lunch for us, sandwiches with cold partridge, venison or snow-shoe rabbit. On rare occasions there might even be cold roast pork or beef if we had recently butchered. A two quart fruit jar of fresh milk and some hard boiled eggs with a little salt wrapped in paper completed the lunch. Pa brought the horses up from the pasture, harnessed and hitched them to the lumber wagon. If they had recently been rolling on muddy ground he took a  gunny sack and a pail of water and gave them a rough grooming which might not bring much of a luster to their tawny coats but would at least give them a less sloppy appearance. We had no spring seats for the wagon, but used plain boards a little longer than the width of the wagon box, with cleats underneath to keep them from sliding off and precipitating the passengers by the wayside. A horse blanket doubled twice was to sit upon. If this arrangement became too hard before the end of the trip one could always get out and walk for a rest.
Sometimes we all would go, sometimes only two or three but for us children who went, home and all its surroundings now looked drab and commonplace compared to our childish anticipation of the sights awaiting us in town.
Last thing before starting Pa looked around to see if anything had been forgotten. There should be hay in the back of the wagon box for the horses at noon, an axe, a chain, halters, and of course our lunch. Ma would invariably run back  into the cabin at the last minute to satisfy herself that the fire in the stove was dead out, all the windows shut, and the eatables out of reach of mice and flies. Pa would then gather up the reins and with a shout of “Git up there!” away we would go, the horses at a walk, the big wheels turning slowly, the excitement of the day just ahead. Once in awhile Pa would slide the little sapling out from under the wagon seat, speak sharply to Jerry and Tom and give each of them a smart whack across the rump resulting in a startled leap or two as they suddenly came out of their lethargy, then a moderate trot for a few yards gradually diminishing to a rapid walk, then a slow walk, heads drooping again, ears flapping, tails lazily switching flies.
These two horses had different temperaments  and in a tough pull acted differently. Jerry the larger one would pull hard and fairly steady but he had one lame hind foot and was easily bewildered in an emergency. Tom, could not pull so much but had more spirit by far. Sometimes if the load would not move he would show signs of panic, snort, toss his head and roll his eyes although he never ran away or really balked. A short rest, some patting on his belly, a little scratching of his ears and a few quiet words would calm him so he would make another try with everything he had.
So, we took our leisurely way to town, over a bumpy, rutty, stony road through a mile  of woods to Clarence Reeves’ place where we came out on a graded road leading straight north to Cain’s Corner three miles away. This road through the woods sometimes was really a rugged stretch. Just after the frost went out of the ground in the spring or after a heavy rain it was next to impassible in spots. Once Pa invited a Reverend Brandt and his family to come to visit us for a few days. Having some difficulty in making the reverend gentleman understand where he was to turn off the graded road to reach our cabin, Pa promised to have a large sign nailed to a tree at the proper place to guide him. Sure enough, under Pa’s supervision brother Andrew made and painted a sign wonderful to behold and long to be remembered in our community. It was eight feet long by three feet wide. A hand with index finger extended pointed at the first mudhole nearby. Heavy black lettering bore the information for Rev. Brandt’s guidance,- “TO PAULS’ ONE MILE. DRIVE EASY AND ABSTAIN FROM PROFANITY.”
Cain’s Corner was considered the half way point. Here the road turned west toward Barnum. The hills we encountered were not bad ones except after a heavy rain or in early spring when the sticky clay and deep ruts sometimes made it necessary for the men folks to get out and walk beside the wagon going uphill. Going down, a chain always carried in the wagon box might be used, one end fastened to a box bolster and the other hooked around a wheel spoke so that the drag of one motionless wheel would slow our descent to the bottom. On Polar hill the chain was often necessary even in dry weather if we had a load of potatoes or wood going to market. From the top of Polar Hill two miles from town the scene changed. Here were several hills and valleys to cross, streams running under rough wooden bridges, the first glimpse of Barnum with Bear Lake off to the left shimmering in the summer sun with a little wooded island like an emerald near one shore. In the autumns this view was especially attractive with the maples, birches and oaks in a blaze of brilliant color spotted with the dark green of white pines while the dusty road ahead lay like a white ribbon edged in scarlet and yellow of the sumac and goldenrod spilling over into the ditches on either side.
Descending the long hill leading into Main Street we passed the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church and the High School then came Goodell’s Store stocked with treasures dear to the heart of every boy, candy, toys, traps, 22 rifles, fishing tackle and all the rest we had so often pored over in the mail order catalogues. All we lacked to possess these treasures was the price, but at least looking and wishing was something we could afford.
Slowly we rattled down the gravelly street, across the bridge, its loose planks banging and slapping together under the wagon wheels as we headed for the wagon shed in the rear of the Sauntry and Cain General Store. This was the most convenient place to leave our team where we unhitched them and tied them to the tail gate where they could reach the hay in the wagon box. From here we started out to do the town.
First place to visit was the post-office to collect our two or three weeks accumulation of mail. After exchanging a few friendly remarks with Mr. Barstow the genial post-master Pa and Ma would busy themselves reading letters or scanning the headlines of the weekly Barnum Gazette. This gave me a chance to watch traffic on the street or look timidly through the door into another room where stood the press on which the Gazette was printed as well as any job printing the town might offer. I never ceased to wonder how the printer, after inserting a sheet of paper into the rumbling press always managed to flip his hand out from between its chomping jaws just a wink before they came together. I figured that with sufficient time and patience to watch, I could some day see what would happen if he was just a teeny, weeny bit too slow.
From the post-office we went back to Sauntry Cain’s or to Goodell’s store to “trade” as Pa and Ma termed it. Later in life I learned that that trading could be just exchanging cash for merchandise. We, however usually swapped two or three jars of home made butter, a few dozen white or brown, speckled or plain eggs or some potatoes along with what cash we had in payment for what we took away. How well I do remember the day I took my first mink skin to the store receiving therefor the magnificent sum of ninety cents in spot cash, all my own to spend as I pleased.
With our trading done it was time to go out the back door of the store to the wagon yard, climb into the wagon and eat our lunch in company with the horses still munching their hay. They always appreciated an apple core if we had one or even a crust of bread to flavor their ground up mixture of clover hay and oats. When lunch was finished there might be a few more things to attend to, go to see some acquaintance, go to the bank, or make some nearly forgotten purchases,- a spool of thread, a can of baking powder, or a box of BB caps or 22 shorts for the old Flobert rifle at home.
When it finally came about hitching up time, Pa would usually say, “Well Walter, how would you like to go down to the depot to watch the Limited go through?” He knew as well as I that there was only one answer to that question. The Limited was considered a very fast train running from St. Paul to Duluth and stopping at the more important towns only. It must have made all of 45 or 50 miles per hour and at small towns like Barnum it never slackened its pace, snatching the mail pouch from the crane on the fly. As we walked over the rickety wooden sidewalk to the depot which was some distance from the business section,  would watch eagerly to see if there were any engines in sight. I dearly loved to watch them puff and wheeze and belch black smoke as they clattered back and forth about their business. Arrived at the depot Pa would ask Mr. Addington, the agent, if the Limited was on time. The answer would usually be “yes.” While we waited I  read all the lettering on nearby box cars,wondering what such wording as “capy” “gro.Wt.” “air brake” and other equally strange markings might mean. I stared in wonder at the shiny, chattering telegraph instruments on Mr.Addington’s desk, and when Pa explained that all the noise they were making was really messages passing over the wires to and from distant places, I tried to imagine what it would be like to understand it and do it myself for others to hear.
Bye and bye the far off whistle of an approaching train hurried us out on the depot platform. Looking down the track toward the water tank we could see a ribbon of smoke lying low over the tree tops and rapidly approaching, then past the water tank and leaning gracefully into the curve came the Limited, a white plume from the whistle, side rods dancing on the drivers, and a string of shiny varnished coaches clattering behind, Quickly we stepped around the far end of the depot and, holding our hats peered around the corner. Here she came, dust flying, bell ringing, rails singing, and with a final burst of noise as the whistle screamed its warning for the road crossing just beyond. the Limited thundered by.

One day Mr. Addington said the Limited was two hours late. How my spirits slumped! Pa, undemonstrative as always, slowly and thoughtfully drew his big silver watch from his vest pocket and studied it a minute, rubbing its thick crystal with a calloused thumb. Turning soberly to me he said, “Well son.” I, sensing in a childish way that he was really disappointed the same as I, swallowed hard and filled in his unspoken thoughts. “Guess it’s too late for us Pa, some other day we can see it.” Looking at me with a strange light in his eyes I noted a slight shifting of his eyebrows, a little straightening of his sagging shoulders as he slowly led the way through the door and back uptown to our team and wagon, two chums sharing a mutual disappointment.
Soon we would be on our way home. With the horses hitched to the wagon and ourselves aboard we drove out of the wagon yard behind the store into Main Street heading for the hill. But now instead of crossing the bridge Pa would drive down into the river beside the bridge, stop in the middle of the current, step over the dash board and walk out on the tongue to loosen the bridles on the horses so they could plunge their lips down into the clear cold stream swirling about their knees and drink their fill. I would crane my neck and watch the horses’ lips suck in and out and note the little lump that ran up the outside of their throats as the gulp of water hurried to their stomachs. They would pause a few moments to catch up on their breathing, then plunge their lips in and pump some more. Soon as they finished Pa would fasten their bridles again, walk back on the tongue balancing himself with a hand on either horse, climb into the seat and we would continue our way up the gently sloping river bank, back onto the street again.
By the time we reached home and turned the horses out to pasture it would be time to do the chores, milk the cows, feed the pigs and chickens, get in wood for morning, then set down to supper where we recounted to each other the events of the day.  

Trips to town in winter had much the same excitement for us. Instead of the lumber wagon we used the sled, sometimes removing the cross chains underneath and using only the front bob with a short box on it filled with hay to keep our feet warm as well as to furnish feed for the horses. If the cold was severe we would not use a seat, but spread a blanket on which we sat, with another blanket over our laps and wrapped around our backs, sometimes with a lighted lantern tucked in at our feet. Instead of taking the long road by Cain’s Corner and Polar Hill we would take a short cut through the woods, following an abandoned logging road coming out on Bear Lake and enter town from the south-east. Usually under the blankets we tucked away our 1873 Model 44 Winchester just in case there was an opportunity to pick up fresh meat enroute.
The virgin pine in our old neighborhood has long since disappeared giving place to a new stand of poplar, balsam and spruce which furnishes shade and proper growing conditions for a new generation of white and Norway pine now getting a healthy start. No one living there now can tell you the difference between a cross-haul and a bean hole. Road monkeys have not been seen in those parts for many, many years.

Some summer day I shall go back to a bridge I know of over a small stream where my playmates and I went swimming and caught minnows. I shall sit down on the grassy bank, remove my shoes and sox, roll up my pant legs and dabble my feet in the cool stream again. The warm sun, the breezes in the willows, the chuckle of the stream and all the pleasant memories might do strange things to me. Could be, I might dimly see in the distance a team of poorly matched scrubby horses hitched to a rickety lumber wagon, coming slowly down the road. If the driver is a middle aged man with side-burns and wearing a straw hat, and the small, slightly stooped woman beside him is wearing a sun bonnet, I shall hail them and ask politely if I may go along on another trip to town.

Copyright © 2001 Kenneth E. Paul and Frances W. Prussner

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sometimes someone else's photos...

will serve to remind us of other things.  BWBandy over at "Everybody Has To Be Somewhere" posted some pictures today.  (He posts some really nice photos that are fun and interesting.)  They were of a small abandoned house out on the prairie.  The last one was of a door with an old wooden sign on the ground that said "West View."  That door and sign brought to mind this photo I have of my Great Grandmother, Adella Caroline (Curtis) Paul.

About 1893, my Great Grandparents moved their family from Chenango County, New York to Minnesota.  They stayed with relatives in Duluth for a time and then settled on land outside Barnum.  There was a log cabin on the property where they lived before moving to a larger house.  I learned from reading old letters and stories written by some of her children that she was fond of standing in that doorway of an evening to watch the sun go down.  She loved a beautiful sunset.

She died twenty years before I was born, so I never had the privilege of knowing her.  Even so, this is my favorite photo of her and it makes me feel like I know just a little bit of who she was.

Friday, April 1, 2016

There was a loud, crashing sound...

that came from the direction of the basement stairs.  This was followed by a scream.  I rushed down the stairs to find one of my elementary school aged children laying sprawled on the floor, covered in.....


The rest of them, laughing uproariously, shouted,

"April Fool, Mom!"

Never a dull moment.  :)