SKID MARKS

The Old Hand: On days when it is so hot there are warning to stay inside, it helps to remember, not too many months ago, when there were winter warnings to stay inside. This story, that our friend Paula told us, happened on one of those days several years ago.

Paula had to drive her elderly mother to the doctor. The snow was almost causing whiteout, and sane drivers were taking it slow and careful. But there’s always some!!!

First, the black SUV came up fast, and just a few yards before it would ram her car, it pulled out opposite lane. And naturally, pulled back right, cutting her off. She braked and her car turned into a toboggan, sliding and refusing to respond to her steering. Luckily, as it began to spin, the front wheels hit the curb, and the car stopped.

She said she gripped the steering wheel and tried not to cry, and tried harder not to say anything. She knew any words that came from her mouth would be words that a person should not utter in front of one’s mother.

‘Paula, honey,’ her mother said and placed her hand on Paula’s, ‘Don’t let them bother you like that. Now I don’t know how it helps but try this.’ She held her fist up and then extended her middle finger in the direction the SUV took. ‘This is what they use to do to me when I was driving.’

So enjoy the summer even with the heat and mosquitoes. State Fair and going back to school is coming fast. Next will come raking leaves and prepping the snow-blower.

Bulletin Board 9/2/13

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I was driving my usual five miles over the limit when a car behind swung out, horn honking, got even with me, and I could make out the driver leaning across the passenger and flicking her hand about something. Naturally I had to keep my eyes on the road, so I just flashed the middle finger salute.

My daughter-in-law called later to tell me she spotted my car and tried to wave hi to me. She said she was excited and told her friend that she thought that was her father-in-law ahead.

When she pulled even and I flashed the middle finger salute, she laughed and said to her friend, ‘Yup. That’s my father- in- law alright.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

When my father-in-law’s wife died, my son Dirk asked if my wife and I wanted to ride up to Bemidji with him, his wife, and kids. I didn’t have time to accept because my wife told Dirk we would love to.

‘You know how crabby your dad gets when he drives a long way?’

I was about to say it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a relief driver. (It had been years since my wife decided not to worrying about getting a driver’s license.) But since it was almost time for her to start making dinner, I didn’t say anything more then to tell Dirk we would welcome the ride.

After the church service we all went to a hall and talked, and laughed, and ate. Another son, Danny, couldn’t make the service but made it to the hall. After he gave condolences to his grandfather, he joined us at our table. He mentioned that he ran into a lot of traffic and asked Dirk how the drive was for us. We came the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel.

‘Well,’ Dirk said, ‘It went pretty good.. The kids behaved themselves… pretty good. We took a lot of back roads and stayed of the freeways. Prettier scenery. A lot of horses and cows. We saw a lot of deer.

‘And you know, I never had to swear at a bad driver. Not even once!

Dad did it for me.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

If it sounds like I’ve reached the old age of ‘Darn you kids! Stay off my lawn! But I like nothing better than to watch kids playing ball on our couple acres of lawn. Just like my sons did when they were growing up. Memories.

My wife likes the kids playing on the grass also. The geese stay away when the kids are at play.

Now as far as my attitude about bad drivers, I’ve had that since the days when I would be riding my horse on the side of the road and some wise guy would honk the horn trying to scare the horse. And my attitude got worse when I began to drive. And it multiplies in this age of headphones and cellphones.

The wife of a co-worker told me how her husband finally entered the modern age. He now texts on his cellphone. Their daughter texted him to find out the time to meet him for dinner.

He texted her back ‘I can’t really talk right now because I am driving home. And I do not want to get into an accident while I am driving and texting. I could even get a ticket. When I get home I will call you on the phone.’

Since I know that he can’t type, I wonder how long it took him to text this epistle about the dangers of texting while driving.

When my dad taught me how to drive the Model A, he told me to keep an eye on the rear view mirror as well as to the front. And be leery if there’s a car stopped on a cross road. Bad drivers can get you from the back and side as well as the front. And even in those days, road rage was a part of driving. A lot of fist waving. Some mild swearing and never, ever using a dirty gesture’

But road rage has escalated beyond fist waving, swearing and finger saluting.

Today you could get shot.

I have learned keep my one fingered salutes below the dash

and hide my swearing with a fake smile.

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Stay Safe;

Be it behind a windshield or COVIC mask

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NO HOLIDAY FOR BLIZZARDS

November 11th 2021 – The 81st Anniversary of the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.

October 31st 2021 – The 30th Anniversary of the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.

The Armistice Day Blizzard lives in infamy because of the lose of lives attributed to it. There was 49 deaths in Minnesota

13 in Wisconsin

4 in Michigan

Conditions over the 3 days also were responsible for

A freight train colliding with a passenger train killing 2.

The sinking of 3 freighters and two smaller boats on Lake Michigan killing 66.

The Halloween Blizzard dumped a record amount of snow in Minnesota

27 inches in the Twin Cities, 37 inches in Duluth

Twenty two deaths in out-state Minnesota.

None in the Twin Cities area. Thank goodness! Although our 4th son, Darren had a harrowing experience of almost an hour, trapped and having to dig himself out of his snow-buried car, in late afternoon in, of all places, downtown Minneapolis.

Eleven counties in Minnesota and fifty two in Iowa were declared Disaster Areas.

For days the low pressure conditions racked havoc all over the United States. Snow followed by ice, followed by record low temperatures for Autumn. Schools closed, highways closed. Power lines down for over a week. Nobody, including the Weather Bureau was prepared and countless lives were lost in the nation.

And the storm hit the Atlantic Coast with such a fury that it not only caused destruction on the Eastern Seaboard, it moved to the ocean and developed into a hurricane.

It is known as The Perfect Storm.

The death of six fishermen who lost their lives at sea during it, is depicted in the movie The Perfect Storm.

In addition to having started on a holiday, both blizzards were preceded by very unseasonable warm days. The beauty of rare Autumns. When the wind changed and the snow began people were sucker punched, not ready for cold weather, let alone snow and sleet, and ice.

Armistice Day in 1940 was during duck hunting season in Minnesota. Duck hunting in summer clothes. Temps of 65 F. The Mississippi River Bottoms was strung out with hunters from the Twin Cities. They left their cars at the end of the Gun Club road and walked along the river bank to a place where they could be some distance from other hunters. The hunting was good and when the wind changed, it was excellent.

‘There were thousands of duck flying over,’ one of the hunters related. ‘We were so excited we didn’t pay attention to the dropping temperature and the rain that turned to snow.’ By the time they did realize the danger, the snow covered the ground and stopped them from getting back to their vehicles…covered the fuel sources that could provide fires to warm them or cook the ducks that were buried in the drifts. Soon they were left with digging out shelters in the snow. Solo hunters had nobody to cuddle to for shared body heat and walking to others was an impossibility. One of the survivors credited his life to nestling with his two Lab Retrievers. Most of the 49 deaths in Minnesota were duck hunters.

There would have been more deaths if it were not for Max Conrad, a pioneer aviator and Bob Bean, a flight instructor, who flew dangerous missions up and down the river, looking for survivors and dropping life- saving food and supplies.

A great many Minnesotans had much to be thankful for that Thanksgiving, but a turkey dinner was not one of the blessings. The blizzard killed a million and a half turkeys in the state.

The tag line for the Armistice Day Blizzard was ‘if you were living at that time, you would never forget it’. I was only two at the time so that’s my excuse for knowing about it only from the words and writings of older folks.

Not so with the Halloween Blizzard of 91.

That one is etched in my mind.

What a week leading up to it! The Minnesota Twins beat the St. Louis Cards in what was the closest and most exciting World Series on record. Two days later the victory parade followed, and thousands watched in the warm weather. And two more days later the Blizzard hit.

The Minneapolis stagehands were in the process of reopening the State Theater of Minneapolis with the Minnesota Opera production of Carousel. The State was built in 1921 as a vaudeville house, later became a movie theater and then a church for the Jesus People. In 1989 the City of Minneapolis bought the, the Orpheum, the State, and the Pantages theaters and refurbished them into venues for live entertainment. We opened them up in a course of several years in that order.

We had already put in several 12 to 14 hour days mounting the production and we intended to put in another that Thursday. There was a lot of grousing by the hands for having to work indoors when it was so nice outside. After all the nice weather wouldn’t last much longer. But we had no idea of how quick that the weather would change.

There was word of heavy snow south in Iowa, but the Weather Bureau, stationed in Chicago, assured us our nice weather would continue. By mid afternoon the blizzard had made it into the Twin Cities. We called it day and left while we still could drive on the road.

Out son, Darren, had moved his car at lunch and parked it at a meter near the theater. When he got to it the snow from the storm and the sidewalk snowblowers had covered the passenger side right to the roof. He had to walk down the sidewalk and then up the street to get to the driver’s side. He managed to unlock and pull open the door when he saw the warning lights of a snowplow in the next block barreling toward him, blasting the snow on the same side of the one-way street as his car.

He dove inside his car and closed the door just in time. His car was buried. He had to roll down the window little by little and push the snow away. It was slowed by snow sliding down from the roof of the car and new snow from the blizzard. And the temperature tumbled lower. Finally he got the window open all the way and crawled out. There was a janitor in front of the theater clearing the sidewalk with a snowblower. He took his machine and freed the car.

I had parked in an underground garage and even though the going was slow I made it home without incident. Our street was plowed because a neighbor was a volunteer fireman and the city kept the street clear in case he was needed. I got out my snowblower and go the car in the garage.

One by one our boys called, checking in and asking if we were okay. Darren was the last. My wife and I said a silent prayer of thanks.

All the hands were back at work the next morning and this time Darren parked in the underground garage. The snow continued, albeit at a lesser rate, for two more days. Then the weather changed. The warm autumn returned. The snow melted and the grass was greener than before the store. We opened Carousel on time. It got rave reviews.

Thanksgiving would have been a joyous holiday with a plentiful supply of turkeys; except we got another blizzard, albeit, it was just an ordinary blizzard. Not too memorable. Even if it did fall on a holiday.

A word to the wise from one who lived through both of those blizzards: If the autumn is unseasonably nice and a holiday is coming, keep your snow shovel handy and snowblower full of gas; because you never can tell.

November 11the 1940 Blizzard is a seldom remember event in our history books.

November 11th of 1918

Armistice Day/ Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day/ The 11th Day of the 11th Month

Is a day that must live forever in our hearts.

And to all my fellow Vets

Vaya Con Dios

Stay Safe

Get those life saving shots

For your good and the good of your loved ones.

JOAN OF ARTS @ THE G

mondale family

On 4/19/2021 we lost a much admired man, Walter Mondale. He spent many of his 93 years working in public service. He epitomized what a politician should be, honest, hard working, dedicated not only to his views, but mindful of the views of others. He held many public offices including U.S. Senator and Vice President.

The son of a preacher man, he was religious in the true sense. Rather than preaching his religion to others, he practiced his religion in deeds. He cared. He was a role model for many and admired even by those who did not share his political agenda. He was a devoted family man

He stuck by his views both in talk and deeds. For instance, he was a strong advocate for the ERA rights Amendment, equal rights fort women. He was the first U.S. presidential candidate to select a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate.

I never had the pleasure of working Walter Monday, but I did have a delightful time with his wife, Joan, and two of his children, Eleanor and William. This is the blog post I wrote shortly after Joan Mondale died on 2/3/2014.

Because Walter Mondale had been out of the national limelight for a while, the death of his wife, Joan, received only a slight notice in the press outside of Minnesota. Mostly tied in with the fact she was the wife of Walter, ‘Fritz’, Mondale.   She deserved more than that just on the basis of her own life.

She was an artist, author, and patron and defender the Arts. She was dubbed Joan of Art, by the national press. Many of the her projects, such as establishing a gallery of American Artists, in the Vice Presidential Mansion are still monuments to her work in the Arts.

My encounter with Joan Mondale took place when her husband was campaigning for the Vice Presidency under Jimmy Carter, and I was working at the Guthrie Theater.

 She was attending a gala at the Walker Art Center, which was attached to the Guthrie. Her two youngest children, Eleanor and William, teenagers at the time, wanted to see the play at the Guthrie instead going to the hoopla.

Jon, the Guthrie Production Stage Manager, brought them up to the booth and told us the two kids would be watching the play from the booth. He showed some chairs to the left of the stage manager. Eleanor, noticing the chair to the right of my lighting board, announced she was going to sit there. Jon managed to crack a smile and as he went to leave, he commented that if they had any questions, ‘Just ask Don. He’s our resident babysitter.’ He was referring to the fact that I often brought children to watch the shows from the chair Eleanor had taken, something he really didn’t approve of.

‘What’s he? The resident clown?,’ Eleanor asked me, loud enough for Jon to hear as he walked to the door.

At intermission, William had many questions. When I explained how the lighting board worked and he said he thought I had a ‘cool’ job. Eleanor said she was going to be an actress; and after she made it big in the movies, she would come back and act at the Guthrie. William rolled his eyes. I certainly couldn’t disagree with her. She seemed to be a young lady who would work hard for what she wanted.

When the play finished I had some work to do in the attic, to prepare for a different play the next evening. William asked if he could go along and I said come on

He and Eleanor followed me up the ladder to the catwalks where I changed some gel colors and replugged some lighting instruments. I brought them down into some lighting coves and showed how the lights were pointed to a specific area on the stage. We could see Joey B. and the shifting crew working below, changing one set for the other. William thought that was ‘cool’ also.

Jon walked on stage with Mrs. Mondale. He hollered at me, telling me Mrs. Mondale was here for the children and wanted to know where they were. At the mention of ‘the children’, Eleanor muttered, ‘The clown in residence!’ I hollered down that they were with me in the attic and we’d be down in a few minutes.

At the mention of the two being up top with me, Jon began to bellow. How could I be so crazy as to place the children of the next Vice President of the United States in danger? The two kids both shouted to tell their mother that it wasn’t dangerous. Jon kept it up. I bellowed back that if it was so dangerous, maybe I should be drawing hazardous duty pay along with my wages. I could hear Joey B. and the shifting crew laugh.

When the three of us made it down to the stage, Jon kept up his harangue. How could I make Mrs. Mondale wait? She’s got important things to do. She was too important to have to wait on me. I should apologize to her for making her wait and for placing her children in danger. And if he had known that I was going to screw up so bad, he would have babysat the children himself. Both Eleanor and William came to my defense, and Mrs. Mondale said she didn’t mind waiting.

   Jon didn’t seem to hear them. He was having too much fun showing off. He knew I wouldn’t give him an argument in front of the Mondales. Joey B. and the shifters weren’t too sure though, and they stopped working and waited for me to order Jon off the stage. He was crossing too many lines, including the fact he was acting like he was my boss, which he wasn’t.

He was also upsetting Eleanor; and she began to walk toward him, when her mother stopped her. Then, Mrs. Mondale shook my hand and thanked me for giving her children an experience in theater that they would never forget. And she added, ‘If I didn’t have high-heels on, I would ask you to take me up and show me the catwalks.’

Then she turned to Jon, the silent one, and she commented, ‘Do you have any teenagers, Jon?’

‘Ah, no. I don’t have any children.’

I thought as much,’ she said, and went off stage, followed by the children, into the center aisle that led to the lobby. She turned and waved goodbye to Joey B. and the shifting crew. So did Eleanor and William, who both hollered out thanks to me. Jon followed.

‘Hey, Jon,’ I shouted, ‘When you can, come on back. You and me have to talk.’ Joey B. and the  shifters laughed; but Jon didn’t acknowledge my request. In fact, he stayed out of my way for several days.

Joan Mondale was a ‘dutiful’ political wife. She did everything right as her husband, Walter, rose from Minnesota Attorney General, to U.S. Senator, U.S Vice President, Democratic nominee for President, Ambassador to Japan.

Well, she did have one glitch. In an interview, she requested that she not be asked, like most politicians’ wives, what her favorite recipe was. To atone for this supposed slam at American homemakers, she quickly released a book containing ‘all her favorite recipes’, her PR people thought would go well with the Mrs. Cleavers of America.

And she suffered when Walter was trounced by Ronald Reagan in election of 1984. And years later when he was nosed out by Norm Coleman in the race for the U.S Senate vacated by the death of Paul Wellstone, just eleven days prior to the election.

Joan Mondale, the mother, saw her three children become successful. Both Ted and William went into the political and private sectors. Eleanor, as she promised, tried Hollywood, and then into talk radio in Chicago and later Minneapolis. She was a tabloid celeb, dubbed the ‘wild child’. Then at the age of 40, Eleanor was diagnosed with brain cancer. She fought it for 11 years and died at the age of 51. Every time I think of Eleanor, I remember her comment, ‘Who is he? The resident clown?’

And now reading about the death of Joan Mondale, I remember a kind and intelligent woman, a politician in her own right, and a good mother. And often wished she had changed her shoes and came back to the Guthrie so I could have given her a tour of the Guthrie catwalks.

COFFEE WITH ALI

This is a reblog of a post I did June/8/2014, right after Muhammad Ali died.

It recalls an isle of calm for me in the sea of fire. Civil Rights Protests. Anti-Vietnam Protests. Looting, destruction, and shouts of blame from both side of the political aisle.

When this incident took place, we had Hope. We knew that once things calmed down the Civil Rights would take hold in fact not just word. And we knew that we would never go to a War again unless it was really needed, and we would never allow the War to last very long.

But like the song says: ‘We were young and foolish.’

I need an isle of calm today so I brought it out and read it. So topical! Topical in that it follows my Dalton Trumbo posts regarding a man standing up for his beliefs, only to be persecuted by politicians whose only belief is pandering to the lowest common denominator. So topical! I wish today’s violent ‘protesters’ could hear the words of Muhammad Ali, a man known for his violent art, speak with the wisdom of Martin Luther King, a man known for his non-violent speech.

There was this old bulll standing in the middle of the railroad track and far away the train was comng fast. But that old bull just stood there and the people all admired the old brave bull. And the train blew a warning…anotherand another as it came full steam head on. And the people oohed and aahed because that old bull never flinched. Just stood his ground…And…

And all those people that oohed and aahed when the brave bull was standing tall in the center of the tracks, just looked around at what was left of him scattered in little pieces for a good miles, yup, all those people who called that bull brave a short time before changed their tune.

Boy, was that bull ever stupid,” they said, and walked away.’

Thus spoke Muhammad Ali talking about Violent Protesting.

Today I have Hope. I believe that when the stupidity of the politicians is removed from the equation, the genius of our medical scientists will find a cure and a vaccine for the Virus. As far as the Civil Rights issue is concerned…Hatred and genocide are embedded deep in the history of this country.

ali rip            The Champ and I spent the better part of an hour, just the two of us, talking and drinking coffee in the stagehands’ room, my office, at Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

I called him Champ, even though he no longer had the belt, lost it, not in the boxing arena, but in the political area.He was on a lecture tour, Pro  Civil Rights, Anti  Viet Nam Involvement. Although the latter was the stated reason for taking away his right to be called World Champion, the former had earned him powerful enemies, just as it did for Martin Luther King. Overlooked by the main stream press, the Champ had a third point he stressed, namely Anti Violence. After his speech at Northrop, there was to be  an interview and a Q&A with reporters from TIME. Finally what he was actually saying was  more important than his celebrity status.

Today Americans accept his views; but in the late 60’s, these views were tinder for the fires that were spreading out across the land. But the Champ spoke his piece and stood his ground even though it was highly controversial and had cost him greatly. It wasn’t that he was wrong, it was just that he was ahead of his time. I had always felt strong about Civil Rights; but it really wasn’t until our status in Nam changed from advisory to full scale combative, that I took a better look and decided against us being there.

When the Champ and his welcoming committee walked backstage, he commented on the aroma of coffee coming from the open door of my room. One of the committee said he would run to Dinky Town and get him some coffee. I told the Champ that I would be glad to bring him a cup in his dressing room. He nixed both offers and instead said he wanted to go in the room, drink coffee and relax. When some of committee tried to follow us in, he held up hand. He told them to stay out, close the door, and see to it that nobody bothered him until he came out.

He commented that he realized they meant well, but he was getting tired of the constant ‘meaning well’ pressure of people. He said he was tired of the tour, tired of being away from home, his wife, and especially his little baby girl, Maryum, his first child. He slumped down in the chair, and when I handed him a cup of the fresh coffee, he raised the cup in thanks. I respected his need for silence.

In those days, boxing was followed much more than today. Early TV had free major matches weekly. And sitting across from me was a boxer I had followed since his Olympic days. I remembered listening to a radio as he did something nobody thought he would, take the title away from Sonny Liston. Oh, there was no way I would have called him the ‘Greatest’ at that time. His best was yet to come.

But, that day, I was more in awe of him as a great human being than a great athlete. It takes a brave person to stand up for one’s beliefs the way he did and at what cost.

When he finally did break his silence in the room, he spoke of being afraid his little girl, Maryum, wouldn’t even know her daddy, because he was away so much. She wasn’t even a year old yet, and he heard that the first year of a baby’s life was so important in their life. And she wouldn’t even know her daddy.

I assured him she would know her daddy, even though she wasn’t seeing much of him at this time. I told how I had worked two jobs for years, and now at Northrop, I was averaging over eighty hours a week, and my sons, only four at that time, always knew their daddy. He had nothing to worry about. He smiled and said he hoped so.

He opened his wallet and took out several pictures of his little Maryum and asked if I had any pictures of my sons. He looked at my pictures and wasn’t satisfied until he remembered their names and could match the name with the right boy.

We didn’t talk about his boxing career, about civil rights, and about his refusal to be drafted. We just talked. There was no chucking or jiving, no boasting and poetry on his part. His public image was set aside and he presented his personal side. Just two men, two fathers, talking, taking the time to know a little about each other.

He was interested in what went on at Northrop. I told him about the various attractions: lectures, music, dance, even a week each May of seven different Metropolitan operas on tour and how much work and how many stagehands it took to put them on. The Metropolitan Opera was familiar to him because of where the building was in relation to Madison Square Garden.

We did touch on boxing when I mentioned that recently Paul Newman had been at Northrop talking against our involvement in Viet Nam, the Champ told how much he liked Newman playing Rocky Graziano in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME.

I related how I got so excited watching Sugar Ray Robinson defending his crown against Graziano on TV, that I knocked over and broke a lamp. He laughed and asked who I was rooting for, and I told him Sugar Ray, my favorite boxer. He said Sugar Ray was his favorite too.

The time flew by. He finished off his second cup of coffee, thanked me, and followed as I led him to his dressing room. Naturally, his committee followed also, ready at his beck and call for anything he might want, or anything they think he might want. As much as I admired the man that day, I wouldn’t have traded places with him. I could see one of the reasons he was tired and just wanted to go home and play with his baby.

My coffee with Ali took place almost a half century ago. I remember seeing his arm raised in victory many times. I remember seeing his arm raised as he lit the Olympic torch. And I remember he raised his cup in thanks for my coffee. I was so fortunate to have sat and had a quiet talk with the man now referred to as ‘The Greatest’.

R.I.P. CHAMP

There were event entering into this story and after; but I will save them for another time. Right now I am too sad because he is no longer with us.

OLDE TYME MEDICINE

Another Back-In-The-Day…When medicines were not advertised, just prescribed by doctors…When doctors could safely spend more time on house calls than in their offices…And people were more accustomed to home remedies than using OTC and proscribed medicines.

The Old Hand

Mom’s medicines were fairly normal for the times, Vicks, aspirin, iodine, and lots of TLC. She forced us to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil as a preventive medicine. Dad, though, had two items that he believed were the most important first-aid items ever made, namely a tin of carbolic salve and a bottle of horse liniment. These products were delivered to the house by the Watkin’s Man, a contemporary of the Fuller Brush Man, and precursor of the Avon Lady. Dad made sure we always had a supply of both medicines in the house and in the barn.

The carbolic salve came in a tin that resembled an oversized hockey puck. It was hard to get the cover off the first time; but you just rubbed a little of the salve on the inside rim of the cover, and it came off like a breeze afterwards. It was a Swiss Army knife of medicines. A cut on a fetlock, a festering harness sore, just slather a glob of carbolic salve on. A skinned knee, a boil on the butt, slather a glob of carbolic salve on.

A family down the road used axle grease for the same purpose. Both products had the same origins, dinosaurs, dead for eons. But the carbolic salve had a strong medicinal odor that lent assurance that it was working.

But it’s odor didn’t compare with the pungent perfume of the horse liniment. That had the potency to mask even the everyday fragrances of the barn. Whew! If man or beast had aching muscles, just rub in the liniment. Not only did it ease the ache, it gave you plenty of elbow room at school. It also worked to cure a horse of a croupy cough, although getting it down it’s throat was a real chore.

And then there was the times that us kids had a croupy cough… Dad made a horse liniment toddy: hot water, a dose of liniment, and lots of spoonfuls of sugar. Mom always pointed out that the label said it was not for human consumption. Dad always countered with, it’ll cure what ails ’em, and put a little hair on their chests. My brothers and I always protested because it had a terrible taste. My sister always cried because she didn’t want hair on her chest. Now I don’t know if it was because of it’s medical value, or because of the threat of having to drink another toddy if the cough persisted; but it worked.

Pub 1/20/12, St.Paul Pioneer Press

ADDENDUM;

Just checked the Watkins web site. Both products are there for the buying if interested.

The old timers around the village had other favorite remedies. The women favored reciting the rosary with the sick person…’Wake up, we only got two more decades to go’… The men favored a pint of blackberry brandy from Judge Shanno’s liquor store. ‘After chores you kill the jug, climb in bed under a couple quilts, and sweat it out overnight. Might not always cure you but you’ll have good dreams.’

WARNING: These friendly tips are for use only in those olde tyme illnesses and should not replace the words to live by today, hunker down, wash your hands, and keep a Social Distance from everyone.

KEEP HEALTHY

SHARI LEWIS &

If I grouped by audiences the thousands of live shows I worked over the years, my favorites would be the ones filled with children, hands down. Be it a grand production like the Guthrie’s CHRISTMAS CAROL or SESAME STREET LIVE or a bare-stage act like Raffi, or the early days of The Wiggles, the infectious honesty and outright joy of the little ones, their honest laughter, their voluntary sing-alongs, their spontaneous dancing in front of their seats always bright a special happiness to my labor, indeed labor of love.

And Shari Lewis at the Orpheum ranks at the top for an additional type of audience participation.

Shari, her quick-witted sock puppet, Lamb Chop, her slow talking puppet, Charley Horse, and her other ‘friends’, had a popular kids’ show on PBS TV. Shari was at the peak of her career.

Born into a show biz family, her father was proclaimed the official magician of NYC, Sheri was doing magic tricks and studying piano at the age of two. She went to NY’s School for the Arts, studied ballet at ABT, acting with Stanford Miesner, music theory, violin, piano and at the age of 13, her father arraigned for her to study with John Cooper. In her adult years she often conducted symphony orchestras and co-authored, with her husband, Jeremy Tarcher, an episode of the original STAR TREK. And of course, TV, live shows, albums, books, and she even managed to raise a daughter, Mallory.

And once she shared the stage with Poppa Donald.

I knew that Lamp Chop’s Play-Along was a favorite show of my oldest grandchild, Erik, and I managed to score four tickets, down center, when Shari Lewis &Co played the Orpheum…Erik, his friend, Ethan, and their mothers.

Prior to the show, Shari gave me a cue sheet telling me what to take off the prop table and bring to her at her setup on stage.

‘Be sure and wear your hat,’ Lamb Chop told me.

I had just brought my first prop to Shari when I heard a small voice shout out, ‘There’s Poppa Donald.’ I recognized the voice, it was my grandson Eric. And right after another shout, ‘There’s Poppa Donald.’ That I recognized as Ethan’s. Shari looked at me but didn’t say anything and I hurried off stage.

I had no more than stepped past the leg in doing my second cue when the chant began, ‘Poppa Donald. There’s Poppa Donald.’ Only this time it was not confined to Erik and Ethan. Several other small voices had joined in.

I set the prop down and Lamb Chop observed, ‘You must be Poppa Donald.’ I pleaded guilty.

‘Do you have a local TV show?’ Charlie Horse, who had joined Shari and Lamb Chop, asked.

“No,’ I answered, ‘Just a grandson in the audience. ‘I’m sorry,’ I added.

‘Don’t be,’ said Shari. ‘You should be proud.’ I didn’t say anything, but I was proud.

And each time I stepped on stage the shouts grew more and more. Even youngsters in the balcony were joining in.

When the show ended, I heard later, Shari had wanted to call me on stage to take a bow; but I had gone out in the stage alley as quick as possible, to see Erik and Ethan and the moms, before they left. They came out the side door and the boys ran up to me and gave me a thank you hug. They announced that their next stop was going to be the ice cream parlor. Thet invited me to go along. I wished that I could have.

And I was bending over to my two little fans, I was recognized by all the kids that exited that door. ‘Poppa Donald! Poppa Donald!’ And they ran up me smiling and stood and looked at me. A few of the mothers handed me programs and pens and asked me to sign my autograph.

‘Got to go, kids,’ I explained. ‘Got work inside to do.’

Shari was just about to put the two puppets away when I got back.

‘Ask him. Ask him, Shari,’ Charlie Horse said. ‘Oh, I will then,’ he said slowly. ‘Why don’t you join our neighborhood and you could be our own Mr. Greenjeans?’

I laughed and said, ‘But you’d have to hire my grandson Erik too…To shill for me. And I don’t think his folks would let him go.’

‘See,’ Lamb Chop piped in, ‘Told you so. Besides we’re doing fine without a Mr. Greenjeans – even with a cowboy hat.’

‘Lamb Chop,’ Shari said to the sock  puppet on her hand, ‘Don’t be rude.

When Shari left, not only did she say thanks to us but so did Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse even though they were packed away in the travel case. ‘And we all look forward to seeing you again soon,’ she said as she walked out the stage door.

But they never made it back. Shari Lewis passed away a few years after.

And her TV show that had humans interacting with puppets was replaced with yet another cartoon, just as was the shows of Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers.

But she left behind a legacy of musical albums and children’s books and a lot of fond memories to a generation of children.

R.I.P. Miss Shari, from Poppa Donald and all your fans.

And in this time of our darkness remember the words of Lamb Chop

It’s bad to be sad and cool to be happy

MISS FEE;THE DIAL SWITCHER

Another back-in-the-day post:  before we had streaming TV, heck before we ever heard of TV, we had radio, and before we had schools with basketball courts and buses to transport us to these wonderful buildings, we had one-room schoolhouses. One room, one teacher, grades One thru Eight. The enrollment went from 8 pupils one year to a high of 14 another year.

memory07_donaldostertag

The Original Story

Growing up on a small farm, our one radio was the only source of outside entertainment available to me. I hurried with my chores so I could listen to “my programs” – Tom MixLone Ranger, etc.. After supper, Mom controlled the dial (Dad worked nights in the packinghouse), and we listened to comedies like Fibber McGee, dramas like The First Nighter, and music like Your Hit Parade. Sometimes, when she was busy, I would lower the volume and find a crime show like Sam Spade, or a thriller like Suspense. A second radio would have been wonderful but was out of the question.

I went to the one-room schoolhouse across the field. Miss Fee, who lived on a farm with her four bachelor brothers, taught all eight grades as she had for years. She ruled with a stern scowl and a wood ruler.

One very cold early evening, she walked into our kitchen and announced she could not get her DeSoto started and was going to spend the night with us. And she added, that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Mom, who also had Miss Fee as a teacher, would never had dared to offer any alternatives, and did everything that Miss Fee ordered, even letting her control the radio dial.

After that first night, the DeSoto seemed to fail every time the mercury dropped below zero, and we would have our very demanding guest. Mom told Dad that she didn’t believe the “car won’t start” story. “Those Fees are so tight with a buck,” Mom explained, “It’s her way of getting a good meal and a warm bed, having somebody else do the work.” Dad just smiled. “And,” Mom added, “She even has to listen to her radio programs! I go to listen to Kraft Music Hall. She turns on Sunset Valley Barn Dance!”

I saw an opening, “Well, if we had another radio…” Mom cut me off with her “Think-we’re-made-of-money” look. Dad shook his head.

Then one night, a Monday night, Miss Fee walked in. Everything went as usual except when eight o’clock came, time for Mom’s one must-listen-to program, Lux Radio Theater. She had hurried with her work and was sitting in her favorite chair, her crochet materials in her lap, listening to the words, “Lux Presents Hollywood,” her favorite hour of the week, when…Miss Fee turned the dial to Doctor I.Q.!…”I have a woman in the balcony, Doctor. And for three silver dollars…”

Mom stood up, and without a word, went to bed.

The very next payday we got our second radio. From then on, Mom could listen to Jack Benny and Bing Crosby, and I could solve crimes with Johnny Dollar and get goose bumps from the squeaking door of Inner Sanctum except when Miss Fee’s DeSoto wouldn’t start.

    Technically this is not an OLD HAND published newspaper story. It was published in the OLD TIME RADIO CATALOG. They asked for stories concerning old time radio. This was the first they ever published and I received ten CD’s of old time radio for it. Their web site is excellent. If you want to know what old timers like me listened to instead of TV, go to their web site. Not only is it informative, there is free old time radio programs you can listen to. http://www.otrcat.com/

ADDENDUM to the published story.

This was only part of the story. That first night Miss Fee declared she was spending the night, there were three choices, Mom and Dad’s bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the living room couch. Naturally, Mom put her in her and Dad’s bedroom. Mom would sleep with my sister and Dad would sleep on the couch.

There would be no problem. Every night when Dad came home from work, Mom always woke up. She knew she could intercept Dad when he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. She would explain the problem.

But there was a problem! Mom never woke up that night when Dad came home; but boy did she wake up when Dad started screaming and swearing. We all woke up.

Poor Dad. He was clad only in his jockey shorts and was standing facing the corner of the hall by his bedroom, trying to protect his head with his hands.

God damn it, woman,’ he kept yelling over and over, ‘You lost your mind or something? I’m your husband, not a god damn burglar.’

And Miss Fee, wearing long johns and her gray wool sweater was working him over with a broom, this pervert who had tried to climb in bed with her.

Mom jumped to the rescue and grabbed the broom away from Miss Fee at the same time trying to explain to both participants what had happened.

And the three of us older kids just couldn’t stop from laughing at the sight caused by the misunderstanding. The baby of the family slept through it all.

Miss Fee quickly retreated to the bedroom and we could hear her praying the rosary behind the closed door. Dad stomped into the living room and Mom followed, apologizing all the way after yelling for us kids to go back to bed. We did but it took a long time for us three kids to stop laughing and finally go to sleep; and by that time, we woke the baby and it took a long time for Mom to get him back to sleep.

The next day at school, Miss Fee brought me into the back room and begged me not to tell any of the other pupils what happened the night before. I said I wouldn’t, mainly because I had told some of them before school had even started and by then they all knew.

And Mom and Dad arranged for a signal that Miss Fee was spending the night, just in case Mom ever overslept, which she never did again.

SATURDAY’S BATH

The Old Hand

Back in the day when things we now accept as run-of-the-mill were considered a luxury..like a bath..

I had undergone a long period with a medicinal wrapping on my leg. A bath was impossible, and a partial shower was laborious, and unsatisfying. When the wrapping was removed for good, I took the longest and most luxurious bath in years. And I thought back when every common-place bath was a once a week chore and, when Saturday was Bath Night.

Growing up, we didn’t have a hot water heater. Six nights a week, cleanliness was obtained with a tea-kettle of hot water in the sink, or, weather permitting, a soaking down outside with the garden hose. But Saturday night was bath night, with a soup pot of water heated on the stove and carried very carefully to the tub. Cold water, from either tap, tempered the bath water, which was shared by all four of us kids.

My younger sister was first. She was always warned not to dawdle, (which she always did), and let the water turn too cold, or next time, she would be last in the tub, (which never happened). When she finally finished, a tea-kettle of hot water was added and it was my turn. Then next up were the two young brothers, together. They got a tea-kettle of hot water added, but temperature didn’t mean anything to them. They would have preferred a wash-up with the garden hose, weather permitting. But they still managed to make the tub a playground and a big mess for mom.

By the time I got to high school, we had a water heater, albeit with a small capacity. Now we could take baths when we wanted to. Of course, if hot water had been used before for a bath, or washing clothes, or even washing dishes, you had to wait a while for the heater to produce hot water again. The younger brothers still preferred the garden hose, weather permitting.

I didn’t get my first leave from the Army for four months. I surprised the family in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Naturally, as soon as I walked in the door, Mom wanted to make me something to eat. I begged off, saying what I wanted first was a good soak in a hot bath, since I had not had a bath all the while I was in the Army.

She lost it. “Haven’t taken bath since you went in the Army! I didn’t raise my kids to be pigs! I can’t believe that is the kind of thing the Army…”

I finally calmed her down and explained that there were no bath tubs in army barracks, just showers. And I took one, often two showers, every day.

“Showers,” she said, giving me the mom’s look. “Humph! Like washing off with the garden hose, weather permitting.” She shook her head. “Well, that be the case, you better take a good long soak. Church will be crowded at Midnight Mass, and I want my children to be seen, not smelt. “

Sometimes, a bath/shower is a lot more than just good hygiene.

 Pub 4/14/11, St. Paul Pioneer Press – Bulletin Board

THE ART OF RAYMOND (II)

…Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker!

There was a collective silence in the room broken when the sound of a very young voice stated, ‘That guy ain’t even got underpants on.’ The ice broke. The grandkids hooted and laughed. The adults tried to muffle their laughs.

Dad shook his head and told Raymond, ‘Take that damn thing off the table. Put it someplace where we can eat without having to look at it.’

Some of us began to clear the wrappings. Some began to take the plates from the pile and hand them out to be set in place. The little ones, declaring how hungry they were, moved to their chairs at the card table.

Mom hadn’t moved or uttered a sound since she had finally unwrapped her gift, and then she said, ‘Raymond’. Slow, dragging out the name softly at first and building into a shout, followed by sounds of angry crying. Everything stopped. The grandkids stopped laughing. The adults stopped getting the table. Raymond set the statue back on the table.

‘Six months! Six months,’ she said when she manged to speak. ‘Oh, I know you’ll love it, Mom. Six months he left me guess what it was. Six months waiting for that, that… I don’t even know what to call that damn thing

‘The guy in the store said it’s called The Thinker, Mom. It’s great art. A Frenchman made the original,’ Raymond told her.

‘Great art?’ she repeated. ‘Great art?

Now Mom was a small town farm girl who never went further than fifty miles from where she was born until she crossed the river into Wisconsin to watch me play in a high school football game. She had her own idea of what great art was. It was something that you would find in a church, or in a parochial school, or reproduced on a funeral home calendar. The only time she went in a museum was a high school field trip to the Natural Museum, a spooky building by the state capital, that had a real mummy in it. She never forgot the mummy. She never went into a museum again. Great art, humph.

‘A man without a stitch of clothing on…And he’s sitting on the pot.’

That observation got the grandkids laughing again. And some of the adults also.

Mom continued and everyone fell back into silence. ‘Two years,’ she sobbed, ‘Two years Raymond was gone. And, oh, how I missed him. Two years every night, on my knees praying he would be safe. Praying he wouldn’t get attacked by a polar bear or that the Commies wouldn’t bomb that radar place. Two years.’

‘Attacked by a polar bear,’ said the same young voice that mentioned the absence of underpants. ‘That’s scary.’

‘Two years and boy was I happy when he made it home from the service in one piece. And I was so happy even when he bought me a Christmas present way back in June. I figured it might be one of his tricks but I didn’t care. Then I thought maybe it wasn’t a trick. But I never thought it would be something like this. A naked guy…’

‘Sitting on the pot,’ the little voice helped his grandmother finish. ‘I’m hungry, Mommy. When can we eat?’

‘Oh, and another thing’, she said pointing her finger at her youngest, ‘You told me you bought it in a store on Seven Corners. There ain’t a store there. There’s only antique shops. Used things. Old used things. Couldn’t even buy me something new. Bought me something used.’

Raymond took the used statue into the living room and brought back another present, which he set down in front of Mom and asked her to open this present. He promised it was not a trick and it wasn’t used..

She unwrapped it down to the box it came in. It was a home-made ice cream maker. She didn’t cry but she pushed it away.

‘Now why would I ever want to turn a crank for a couple hours just to get a couple ice cube trays of flaky ice cream, when I can go to Huber’s store and buy any kind of ice cream I want. And probably cost less too. Home- made ice cream maker,’ she flicked her wrist to signal Raymond to take it away.’

Today the easiest way to give a present to a hard to please person is to give a them a gift card. Let them get their own gift. Not so in the 60’s. The idea of a piece of plastic with strange markings on it could be a substitute for cash or check was as far fetched as thinking there would ever be a contraption you could sit on the kitchen table and order anything from around the world. And the darn thing wouldn’t be connected to anything, not even a wall socket.

And Raymond had done the 60’s version of cash card. You give the hard- to- please a gift you know they won’t want, or even bother to open the box. You place the reciept in a sealed envelope with the name of the gift and the store where it was bought on top of the box. The recipient just takes it back to the store and redeems it for something they want. Oh, you could give cash or write a check but the money would just get mixed up with monies used for everyday expenses, not something special. Mom knew what Raymond had done. The sealed envelope was in plain sight on the top of the box. She just wanted another shot at him.

‘Mom,’ Raymond said, ‘Tomorrow I’ll bring you to Monkey Wards to exchange it for something cool. Okay?’

He did. She did and bought a blue flannel robe home. It cost more than what she returned and Raymond made up the difference. The robe became the mainstay of her everyday wardrobe.

The Thinker sat by the tree and we all believed that come the 6th of January, Epiphany, when the Christmas decorations were taken down, the statue would be thrown out with the tree. But not so. It sat there afterwards, a few feet away from the rocking chair where Mom fell asleep each night watching TV. Come summer when Mom wanted a cool breeze while she ironed clothes in the living room, she used the statue as a door stop for the front door.

And then one day it disappeared. Since the movie, The Christmas Story, was years from being made, Mom could not be accused of staging a variation of the accident used to get rid of the unwanted leg-lap.

‘I set up the ironing board and I must have not locked the legs because as soon as I put the iron on it, it took a nose dive and the iron flew off and smashed The Thinker’s head. Couldn’t glue it. Just small chunks and dust. Had Raymond throw it in the trash barrel when he came home.’

‘Did he feel bad about his gift being broken.’

‘Heck no,’ she said, ‘He couldn’t care less about it. The statue wasn’t the real gift. The trick he played was the gift he wanted to give me. Proof he’s still the same old Raymond we remembered. ’

And to paraphrase a show biz declaration:

And that’s an un-wrap, folks

 

THE ART OF RAYMOND (I)

           

 

The Art of Raymond (I)

The gag-present in Elmer’s Goat was probably thought over for a year and came to being in about an hour. The gag-present in The Art of Raymond was a glance in a store window, a spur-of- the-moment purchase and then it steeped for six months, finally boiling over at Christmas. The recipient of the first enjoyed the joke. The recipient of the second, well…

No one would fault Mom for suspecting that Raymond was playing one of his tricks on her when he came in the house on a Thursday afternoon, carrying a large something-or- other wrapped in shiny paper, with a big ribbon encircling it from top to bottom.

‘Mom, guess what? I was going to Seven Corners Hardware to buy some tools and when I walked past a shop I saw this in the window, and I knew you’d love it,’ he said, as he set the package on the kitchen table.

One of his tricks, she knew it; but she didn’t care. He was back home after two years in the Army. As the three older kids moved out one by one the house grew larger, emptier, and quieter each time one of them left. And when the baby of the family left, it really sucked the excitement of raising a family out of her life. Some parents can’t wait for the nest to empty, but not Mom.

Now at least he was back. She knew he would bring back some of the old excitement in the house. The youngest of four, but always the leader in laughing and tricks and stirring things up. Grandpa use to say that you could just see the wheels turning in his eyes when he cooking up his next mischievous thing to do. The little ‘angel’. Maybe bringing home that present was a sign he was breaking out of the quiet mood he had been in since he came back.

When she had mentioned to Dad how Raymond seemed different, older, Dad pointed out that the Army brags that they make men out of boys. Plus with the three older ones gone, there was no one around to tease or to encourage him. Or maybe he is just resting up. He’s had two years of dreaming up some new tricks.

Raymond had been a guard at a secret radar post in the woods up in Alaska. Thirty miles from the nearest town, he told her. Pretty boring. Both the post and the town. He said to break the monotony in camp he would volunteer to dress up in a protective padded suit and let the dog trainer sic the guard dogs on him. In town the main attraction was the small bar that served bad beer and Tombstone pizza. The beer and pizza were more dangerous than the attack dogs. Whenever she tried to find out more about his time in the Army he would just tell her it was secret. Loose lips sink ships, what ever that meant. He was a soldier, not a sailor.

She made a move to unwrap the gift but stopped. ‘I suppose you want me to wait until you have a bigger crowd to laugh at your trick,’she said.

‘Mom, it’s your Christmas present. You have to wait until Christmas to unwrap it. I’m going to put it in the living room right by where the tree always goes. Be handy come Christmas.’

‘It’s six months ‘til Christmas. Go hide it in the barn.’

‘It is going in the living room,’he said. ‘You’re a big girl now and I know you won’t peek at it. Besides, I had the man wrap it with all kinds of newspapers and cardboard so you can’t feel what is inside.’ Then he took it in the living room.

The first few months Mom tried to guess what it was. She came up with some possible guesses and a few improbable ones. It became a game between the two of them. One time she guessed it was a statue and she caught a quick smile on Raymond. She continued with other guesses, but every now and then she would go back to statue, and finally she declared that it was a statue.

From then on she tried to guess what kind of stature. She narrowed it down to a statue of the Madonna. She went further and declared it was Our Lady of Fatima or maybe Our Lady of Lourdes. Satisfied that she had nailed it, she backed off thinking about it, except when she had to move it to dust mop.

But it took over her thoughts again as Christmas grew closer. Christmas Eve was the time for the kids and their families to spend in their own homes. For Mom and Dad, it meant putting up the tree, preparing for the big dinner the next day, and Midnight Mass. Early afternoon saw the children and grandchildren arrive bringing food for the big meal and presents to be opened after the meal.

Except this year Mom insisted that she get to open Raymond’s gift because she wanted to use it for a center piece on the table. Everybody agreed because they were all anxious to see what had been sitting in the living room for all those months.

Raymond had the last say though, and he had no objection just as long as Mom stuck by her promised to keep it on the table throughout dinner. He also had a big grin on his face. I, for one, suspected a trap; but Raymond moved fast and set the package in front of Mom, who had scissors in hand to make short work of the ribbon, shiny paper, newspapers, cardboard Scotch-taped together.

And as she peeled each layer off, she kept repeating that she was right, it was a statue, it was a statue. She kept vacillating between Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima.

And as the last covering fell away, the statue was revealed. Only it wasn’t Fatima or Lourdes or even a Madonna. It was a replica of

For now, as they use to sign off back in the day:

Stay tuned, same place tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of the story.

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene tried to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about the goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, so Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack of dogs as trainers. It became actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

 

Published BB and Word Press 2/13/17

BUSH & THE BEACH BOYS

Bush

During the Memorial events for President H.W. Bush, the TV picture always had a banner running across the screen proclaiming him to have been a President and a Patriot. Both titles are embedded in history below his name.

But the themes of the eulogies were memories of the man. His kindness, his warmth, his friendship. The following is a story of these attributes of this man told to me by a friend and union brother, Steve.

At this time, Steve was the head rigger for the Beach Boys. He was responsible to see that the sound and lights were hung safely in the best positions possible in the venues, and for setting up the portable stage for outdoor events.

In the early 80’s, the Beach Boys played the July 4th concerts on the National Mall in Washington D.C. A few days prior to one of those concerts, the band was invited to give a mini-concert for the Bushs and some friends at the Naval Observatory House where the Vice President lived in D.C..

Steve drove the rental truck with a small set up to the front of the house. He went to the front door knowing full well that it would be opened by a butler telling him to go around the back to unload. He was surprised when Vice President Bush, himself opened the door, introduced himself to Steve and the other hands, as if that was needed, and told Steve to bring the equipment through the front door. Closer to the ballroom, he explained.

When the crew went into the ballroom, Bush introduced them to the house electrician Steve had requested. Best the house electrician do the electrical hook-up. The last thing Steve wanted was to have an electrical outage in the V.P.’s residence.

Then Barbara came into the room and once again George made the introductions. Barbara told the men that there was a buffet with a chef standing by down the hall for whenever they wanted a meal or just a snack.

‘Catering, Honey,’ her husband teased. ‘Catering is show business talk for food. And there’s also a full bar and a bartender in that room too, guys.’

‘Thanks, Mrs Bush,’ Steve said, ‘But we have to setup first. The band will be wanting to do sound check in a couple hours.’

When they did go into the catering room for a meal, the first thing the chef asked was how do you want your steak? And the bartender looked a little disappointed when the hands that drank just wanted beer. Sure beat what the rock promoters considered catering.

Steve said it was less like working a gig and more like being invited to a friend’s house. Everybody was so friendly, especially the Vice President. Even the Secret Service men in their customary dark suits, had occasional smiles as they handed out the stickpins with the head painted the color of the day. These ID’s had to be pinned where they could be seen.

 

Vice President Bush was in the ballroom almost all the time. He watched the crew setting up everything and had a million questions. ‘If I learn how to be a roadie, will you hire me?’ he kidded. ‘You know, this being a Vice President really stinks. Worse job I ever had.’

‘You’re hired,’ Steve said. ‘How’s your golf game? We play a lot to golf on our days off.’

‘My kind of men,’ the Vice President said. And naturally the talk turned to golf.

Steve asked if Mr. Bush had ever played Willie Nelson’s golf course outside Austin. When the Vice President said no, Steve proceeded to tell him about it. ‘Only course where it is all rough. Strict rules: Like no more than 12 to a foursome. No bikinis or see through dresses – unless they’re worn by women. Drinking and smoking is not allowed – unless it is shared.

‘Next time I go to Austin, I will have to play that course,’ George said. ‘I’ll tell Willie that I am a friend of the Beach Boys crew. I miss my Texas. This job wouldn’t be half bad if I could do it down in Texas.’

When the Beach Boys arrived they were greeted by the Vice President and Barbara and where showed the room where they could tune their instruments. And also told about the catering and the bar.

“Now where’s Dennis? George asked. ‘They told me I could always tell who Dennis was because he always wore a Texas hat.’

‘Sick. Something he ate didn’t agree with him,’ was the excuse that was given. Dennis Wilson had a grave alcohol problem and the band didn’t want him to embarrass himself in front of the Vice President. Dennis died a few years later. He was was drunk and went scuba diving alone.

‘Oh! Oh! Guys, I got something to tell you. I got talking with your crew about golf. They said they got Monday off so I gave my country club a ring. All you have to do is tell them you’re the Beach Boys and crew and you can play a round on me. They said they would work in you in throughout the day. And the nineteenth hole is on me.’

It was evident that as the actual concert approached, Vice President Bush was feeling mellow. He met each guest, about 50 all toll, encouraging each on to ‘have a drink’. When the concert started he sat in the front row tapping his feet to the music and mouthing the words of the songs he knew or thought he knew.

After about six songs he stood up and went up to the band. ‘In honor of my wonderful wife, Barbara,’ he said pointing to her in the chair next to the one he just got out of, ‘Play my favorite of the Beach Boys. BARBARA ANN.’

Almost as if on cue, Mike Love, and Al Jardine quickly joined Carl Wilson at the front mic.

‘Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann. Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann.’

By now, Vice President George Bush had got to the mic and grabbed the mic off the stand.

‘Bah, Bah, Bah, Bah Barbara Ann,’ he sang, drowning out the startled entertainers. His voice left a lot to be desired but not his energy. The only words he knew where the chorus which he kept repeating over and over until one of the singers started a verse. Then George stopped. Only to jump right in with the chorus when the verse ended.

It was probably the longest rendition of the song ever. The audience and the band and the crew were all smiles. The only one in the room that wasn’t smiling was Barbara Bush, who sat still with her hands folded on her lap. At last George stopped singing to his lovely wife; not because he thought he reached the end of the song, but rather because he was out of breath and wanted a drink. As he sat down Barbara slapped his knee and shook her head.

The concert went on and when it ended they played BARBARA ANN as their encore. They signaled to have the Vice President join them and the audience applauded. George Bush got up, went to the mic, and sang his favorite line several times.

‘You know, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘That is the best song you ever wrote. On behalf of myself, Barbara, and all our guests, I want to thank you all for a great time.’

The Boys, the band, and the crew applauded their thanks. Nobody told him that they didn’t write BARBARA ANN. It was a do-wop song by the Regents.

The next Monday the band and crew played golf courtesy of Vice President George Bush.

In April of 83 the Beach Boys were forbidden to play July 4th on the National Mall. The least popular member of the Reagan Cabinet, James Watt, Interior Secretary, declared that rock and roll bands were not welcome anymore on the Mall because of the element they attracted. Drunken rowdies and smokers of illegal substances. He wanted somebody more patriotic like Wayne Newton, who was a big Republican donor.

Vice President George Bush led the outrage against Watt’s decree, declaring, ‘These men are my friends!’ First Lady Nancy Reagan declared herself to be a mega-fan of the Beach Boys. Mike Love argued on behalf of the band by saying they played a lot of patriotic songs…like SURFING U.S.A.. Watt lost.

There was an attempt made to get the Beach Boys back to play the Mall but it was too late. The publicity made the band the hottest item in the country and they were booked at Atlantic City on the 4th to the largest crowd in the history of the event. And the Beach Boys began to be called America’s Band.

As for James Watt, a few weeks later he made what he thought was funny, racist terms about a committee that opposed his Interior agenda. Watt lost his Cabinet position and went to teach in a university out west. Both he and the band give credit for starting the uproar to Vice President Bush declaration that ‘These men are my friends.

And whenever the Boys were in the D.C. area, George Bush made it a point to see they could play a round of golf at his country club.

Like the banners proclaimed ‘President and Patriot’, and as the eulogies said, ‘friend and a wonderful human being’.

R.I.P. George Bush

True and fearless Patriot

Sully the service dog of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in his final months lays in front of Bush's casket at the funeral home in Houston

His Friend

EPILOGUE – THE FALL

rainbow and roses

Just a few days before my fall, we had celebrated our 57th Wedding Anniversary. I was a few months from turning 80. But, you know, I never really felt old.

I had subjected my body to a lot of things over the years: bucked off horses, bruised up in sports, battered around jumping out of airplanes. A lot of hard work before I found my life’s occupation, stagehanding, and then when I settled on it, it was 24/7. long hours, little sleep, working part of it outside in the heat and the freezing cold.

I was fortunate to work as a stagehand, work that had great diversity, getting paid to work things that people paid big bucks to attend. Working big time names, acts, events. And while I missed so much of my sons growing up, I made up for my loss when they got old enough to work next to me. Sons, nephews, daughter-in-law all worked beside me. What a thrill! Something most people never experience. As the years went by I became one of the old-timers in the business, but I never really thought of myself as old.

Because of all that ‘fun’when I was younger I ended up with knees that creak and hurt, among other aches and pains. Heck, if I raced a tortoise it would be the damn turtle that would have to fall asleep in order for me to win. But you know I really never thought of myself as old.

I saw my our sons grow into adulthood and raise families. I saw our grandkids graduate from high schools and colleges. So proud of the family that my wife and I were blessed with. And even at our family get togethers and found myself looking up to talk to many of the family, I still really never thought of myself as old.

I saw the gray strands of hair that my wife tried to hide with black touch-ups. I looked in the mirror and for several years the face that stared back at me from the looking glass was not mine; but rather the face of my father in his later years. But still I never really thought of myself as old.

And then one night I fell, and from that night on I felt old, realized my dancing days were behind me. I must be content to watch baseball on TV, rather than climb stadium steps to watch in person or heaven forbid, actually play softball at a family picnic. I’m old…but happy.

As the grandkids grew older they saw less of their grandma and their poppa. What really hurt was the fact I had no more children to sit on my lap, to read to, to tell my stories to. The prospect of great grandkids are far in the future. And then we were blessed again.

Our youngest son, Dirk, married late and now we have three little girls to watch grow into young ladies, which they are doing much too fast. Already they are too big for Poppa’s lap; but not too old to overlook their grandparents’s need to be a part of their lives.

Dirk brought the three darlings to the hospital to see me, to help me recuperate faster, to cheer me up in a way no cards or flowers ever could.

I sat up in bed anticipating hugs and kisses. But the three of them stayed back from the bed.

The youngest, Jaycee, age 8, explained that ‘Daddy said we can’t hug or kiss you, Poppa, or even get close to you because we might give you some germs and get you infected.’

‘But don’t mean we don’t love you, Grandpa’, interjected Jenna, age 10.

‘Right!’ said Jayda, age 11.

What a wonderful get-well gift. A gift an old man can enjoy long after flowers fade and cards are thrown in a drawer.

FAMILY…mi familia…the family that raised me…the family that raised my wife…the family my wife and I raised and now their families.

I beg your forgiveness in my writing this account of my medical experiences due to the fall. I know that old people converse a great deal about their aches and pains and medical experiences like I have been doing. It can grow boring fast. In this case, I wrote it more as a catharsis for myself than for the entertainment of the reader. It is a shock to admit that you too have grown old, and a joy to be given a chance to grow older.

In THE FALL I used music as a prop. Laying flat on my face, hearing in my mind, Sinatra’s THAT’S LIFE, that song clearly was the Present.

The Past was represented by a song, C’EST LA VIE, bringing to mind my growing up in the French/Dakotah town of Mendota and a saying the old- timers said with a shrug of their shoulders.

And the fear of the unknown after brain surgery, QUE SERA, SERA, the Future.

And while all three are some of my favorites, the one song I start out my day is Louis Armstrong singing:

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people goin’ by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’
“How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’,
“I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know

And I think to myself

WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLDAll Star Night 14

MLB All Star Game 2014

Minnesota Twins Field

THE CIRCLE EXPANDS

ERIK AT WORK

 

Published 12/2/00 – SP PP, Bulletin Board

The story about the little guy who knew the difference between imaginary monsters and real lions reminded me of taking my oldest grandson, Erik, to the movie, LION KING, when it first opened. He was more than happy to go with me even though he had just seen it a few days before with his parents.

It seemed like we had no more than settled down, when he made a bee-line for the lobby. I quickly followed and asked what was wrong. He told me there was a real scary part coming up that he didn’t want to watch, and he would go back when it was over.

Naturally, I got down on one knee and spouted some silly grown-up logic about it being only a movie, nothing to be afraid of, just images on the screen, etc..

“I know all that, Poppa,” he said, “But what if the glass breaks?”

Made perfect sense to me. We watched the movie in bits and pieces. When he took off for the lobby, I quickly followed without argument.

This is one of the first Old Hand stories. Today, Erik is on the other side of ‘the glass’. After graduating with a degree  from Gustavus,  he got a plum internship in EPCOT Center’s Living Seas Aquarium, the second largest aquarium in the world. His prime job is putting on a wet suit and taking care of the manta rays, although he swims with other varieties of sea life, including sharks.

This in turn led to his present job at Sea World where he performs similar duties.

And on Cinco de Mayo he will be marrying lovely Erin O’Neill in Tulsa, OK. Almost all of our immediate family will be there. With a very sad heart I will be there only in spirit due to some recent health problems. But Erik will know I am standing beside him on this, his special day.

Erik is our oldest grandchild, our only grandchild for several years, our first day-care grandchild, and he and I have a special bond.

I look out the window and I can still see him getting off the school bus, running across the field, and coming directly to my ‘office’ so ‘Poppa Donald’ could read him another chapter of HARRY POTTER.

I bought him a pair of goldfish and he learned how to take care of them. He did such a good job the two fish lived for years beyond what pet goldfish usually survive. His two favorite stuffed animals were Sebastian and Flounder from THE LITTLE MERMAID. When he began to read for himself he studied whales and sharks.

The two us once went to the Science Museum to see a documentary on whales. We leaned way back and watched the movie almost directly over our heads. Not content with the narration of the film, Erik, about five or six at the time, supplied a more complete study of the mammals. Finally an usher came and told me that if my little companion didn’t keep quiet, we would have to leave. Erik stopped talking but would whisper to me some important facts that weren’t mentioned.

He loves all animals but has a special love for marine animals.

He and Erin got together because she had gotten an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. Erik was working as an instructor at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Erik’s mother had a relative living in Tulsa who was a friend to Erin’s mother. Naturally this led to long distance introduction between the two animal lovers. And, well as they say, nature took it’s course.

It is wonderful that they both got work in the field they both studied for in college. And eve more wonderful that they found a partner they have so much in common with

They live outside Orlando. Erik works at Sea World. Erin at Disney World.

Erin at work

Erin at work feeding one of her pets

 

May the sun shine bright for the rest of these two wonderful members of our family.

OUR CIRCLE OF LIFE EXPANDS

   

AN AROMA OF COOKIES

holiday                  A TALE OF THE SEASON 

 

She told me of this incident that occured prior to her first Christmas as a single parent.

To date, the two children, her son who had just turned seven, her daughter not quite four, hadn’t noticed how she had been pinching pennies, cutting corners, living from paycheck to paycheck; but with Christmas coming…

The tree would have to be smaller. A lot smaller. Presents would have be fewer. More emphasis on clothes. Less on toys. The usual Christmas feast would be more like an everyday dinner. Dessert, usually a Lazy Susan array of puddings and pies, candies and cookies, would be only her traditional oatmeal cookies. A lot of oatmeal cookies. And to sweeten them, the two children would help her with the baking.

The additional heat from the oven made the kitchen extra toasty. The sounds of Christmas from the radio made the event more festive. And the aroma of oatmeal cookies filling the house gave a promise of a happy Christmas, in spite of…

The sight of her two elves, clad in their pajamas, working happily away, gave her joy and pushed her fears aside. She’d work again on finding a better paying job after the holidays. But for the moment…

The boy’s hand was perfect to form the right size mounds of dough; and after he placed each clump on the cookie sheet, he twisted a little curl on top.

It wasn’t that easy for the little girl. She had to take two handfuls and crush them together. Then tried to plump it into the correct shape. She didn’t bother with a curl, but pinched off a little nibble as a reward.

It was almost time to take some of the cookies out of the oven when there was a knock at the front door. The young man of the house went to see about it. When he came back, he told his mother that it was two men from church. They had two bags of Christmas food, Care Packages they called them, for the poor people.

He said he told them that they must have the wrong address ‘cuz we’re not poor’.

She told me how she panicked. Weren’t poor!!!  She hoped she would have time to catch them and get the offered food. But first, she couldn’t let those cookies burn. She quickly pulled out the sheets and put them on top of the stove; but in her haste, she burned her thumb on the last one.

She gave a little yelp and sat down, blowing on her thumb. Her little doctor quickly pressed her thumb in the butter stick, and her little nurse offered some TLC by volunteering to kiss her owie.

It was too late to chase down the two men. And she was glad that it was. Had she ran after the them and taken the food parcels, she would have embarrassed her son. And she would have acknowledged to the two children that there was money problems.

Besides, looking at her two most favorite people in the world, made her realize the boy was right when he said they weren’t poor. They were very rich in what counts, family.

The little lady finished off the after-work cookie and milk and hurried to bed. She said she wanted to go to sleep real quick. The house smells so good, she explained, she knew she was going to have lots of sweet dreams.

The man of the family hung back. Finally, with a knowing smile, he asked if he could change what he had asked Santa to bring for his mother.

She said it depends. If he told her what the change is, she would write Santa a letter the next day at work and mail it and wait and see if he got the request in time.

He smiled and said he wanted Santa to bring his mother an Oven Mitt so she wouldn’t burn her thumb anymore. He gave her a kiss and went off to bed.

 

And now, years later, she’s carrying on a tradition she began just before her second Christmas as a single parent. Her elves, this year, are three of the grandkids. It’s a sleep over at Grandma’s, but the special sleep over. It’s the cooking- baking sleep over.

Like always at the cookie-baking party, the oven makes the kitchen extra toasty. The Christmas sounds from the radio has been replaced by Christmas sounds from the MP3 player; but nothing has, nor nothing can, replace the aroma of the oatmeal cookies, that fills the house.

The three children have their own way of making the shapes, but the twist of a curl on top has been lost over the years. But not so, the little pinch for a nibble of the dough.

There’s much more baking to be done each year, and the cookies have to be packaged, thirteen to each plastic bag that has a zip lock to hold in the aroma. The next day, the four of them will bring the cookies to the parish school gym to be placed in the Christmas food bags for the parish poor.

When the baking is finished for the evening, she gives the children a small glass of milk and a fresh cookie. Then with a kiss, she sends them off to bed, with the admonition to have sweet dreams. She knows she will have sweet dreams, and sometime in the night, she will imagine hearing a long ago voice reminding her that ‘we’re not poor’.

Over the years she often been asked her secret why her oatmeal cookies taste so good. ‘Real vanilla,’ she replies, ‘Real, not imitation! And,’ she adds, ‘A dash of faith. A dob of hope. And a dollop of love.’

Here’s wishing all of you that the holidays of your choice be filled with the love of your  family and the aroma of cookies.

AH TWO

lawrence-welk

AH ONE, AH TWO

I never saw Bubbles again, but I did get to work her father years later. He brought his show to the Twin Cities out at the Met Sports Center. He had neglected the area since he had made it big; but it was very important to him in his early years. He had gone to music school in Minneapolis, led a house band for a local radio station, over the years played regular gigs at the Marigold Ballroom, which he considered Big Time compared to his roots in the rural dance halls of the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The Met was a big arena, but every seat was filled in spite of the snow storm the night before. His old fans, who had loved his band in person, and his new fans, who discovered him from TV, came to enjoy the show, even if there wasn’t room to dance to his music.

The show was coming up from Des Moines and the snow had hit the south of us hard; so although us local hands were there on time, we weren’t surprised that none of the road crew was. We went up to the catering room, had some coffee and doughnuts and waited.

About a half hour later, the orchestra truck showed up. Dutch, the driver asked if Mac, the road manager, had showed up and was disappointed when we told him no. After Dutch had a couple cups of coffee, he decided to back the truck in and get it unloaded at least. Mac was the one who set up the orchestra. Dutch told us that Mac was the road stage manager, tour manager, trouble shooter, Welk’s right hand and whipping boy, and drummer. ‘Oh yeah,’ Dutch laughed, ‘He’s also the Old Man’s son-in-law.’

I thought about asking him if Mac’s wife went to Marquette and was called Bubbles. But I didn’t.

We off-loaded the truck in no time. Everything was marked. We sent the wardrobe to the dressing room hallway to wait for the road wardrobe mistress and the local wardrobe crew. Then we unlocked the boxes for the stage, and waited for Mac.

Dutch got nervous. He said he didn’t know how to set up the orchestra. Mac always did it. He said how the soundman and the lighting man needed it set up so they could do their thing. They were in a bobtail truck about an hour out. If they got backed up everything would get backed up, and the Old Man would take it out on Mac.

‘I’ve known Lawrence all my life,’ Dutch explained. ‘He and my dad grew up on neighboring homestead farms. Best friends. Both stubborn Germans. Lawrence is my godfather. The only employer I ever had. Keeps me busy all year long. As much as I respect him, I learned the best way to stay on his good side is to stay away from him. Mac is a good guy, but he takes a lot of guff from the Old Man. And no matter what excuse Mac might have for being late the Old Man will still jump all over him. I’d hate to have him for a father-in-law.’

I told Dutch if we had the orchestra plot and we’d set it up. I suggested looking in Mac’s road box. Sure enough, it was in a drawer. We set up the orchestra in no time and then took coffee while we waited for the lights and sound.

Mac finally showed up. He was about my age so I figured he probably married the younger of the two Welk daughters. He apologized for being late. The plane departure was delayed. Then when he got the Old Man to the hotel, there were a lot of messages that he had to answer. Some fires from upcoming gigs had to be put out. He was thrilled that the orchestra was set up. Dutch gave the credit to me and my crew. ‘Oh,’ Mac added, ‘I had to also call home. The wife said the car died and had to be towed to the garage. I told her we should just get a new one. I told her that a year ago. But no- go! She’s as tight with a buck as her father.’

I thought about asking Mac if his wife had gone to Marquette and was called Bubbles. But I didn’t.

‘You wear too many hats, Mac. Too many hats.’ Dutch waved his hand at Mac and went to get some sleep in his sleeper-cab.

The audience loved the show. Wonnerful! Wonnerful! You could tell that the show was exactly the same as it was when the tour started and would be the same at the end. The band would make the same movements, the performers the same presentations, Lawrence would say the same words, even the ‘ad libs’ would be the same. Tight show! I would bet each show timed about just minutes apart.

As soon as the audience left, Dutch backed the truck in while Mac supervised packing the cases. Then he left the loading of the truck to Dutch and he got Welk to come with him to the office and square away the money end.

They took a slight detour and came over to me. Mac introduced me to Lawrence as the steward responsible for getting the orchestra set up because he was late getting to the arena.

‘Tank you! Tank you!’ Lawrence said, and he shook my hand.

I thought about mentioning to Lawrence that I might have met his daughter way back when at Marquette. But I didn’t.

As the two disappeared down the hall, Dutch came over to me laughing. ‘Wow! He came to you! Two tank you’s and even a hand shake. You ought to feel honored. That’s the biggest tip I ever seen old Mr. Penny-Pincher give anyone. And you being a union stagehand on top of it. Never thought he would ever talk to a union stagehand again, let alone shake one’s hand.

‘Last year we were doing our usual gig at the Avalon Ballroom on Catalina Island and during the out, the Old Man decided to come on stage and order the hands around. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, the union steward asked him politely to get off the stage. He had narrowly missed getting hit by a road box already. If he got hurt, the insurance wouldn’t cover it.

‘So Lawrence puffs up and gets right in the steward’s face. “I’m Lawrence Welk! You can’t order off this stage.”

‘Wrong thing to say. No more Mr. Nice Guy Steward. “I don’t care if you’re Richard frigging Nixon,” says the steward, and he points his finger in Lawrence’s chest. “Now, I asked you nicely to get off the frigging stage, now I’m telling you, get your frigging ass off the ‘frigging stage, now!”

‘The old man took the hint and stormed off, muttering words in German that he would never say in English.

‘Ever since, he has gone out of his way to avoid any union stagehand. And he hasn’t come on a stage while the hands are working since, except for just now.It took a lot for him to shake your hand and give you two “Tank You’s”.’

Driving home that night I thought about how easy the day had been. Music, not exactly my style, but easier to listen to than usual heavy metal. A couple nice people to work with. Just one semi and one bobtail. In at 8 A.M. Out before 11 P.M. Sure beat the usual arena rocker with a dozen or more semis. In at 5 or 6 A.M. one day. Walk away at 3 or 4 P.M the next.

Granted I didn’t get the customary tee shirt, but I did get two Tank You’s and a handshake from a real icon of Americana.

Oh sure, he was known to be fiscally conservative. A true son of the Depression. And he had a stubborn streak and Old World values like religion, hard work, and family. A true son of an immigrant father.

His German parents immigrated from Odessa in the Ukraine. They settled on a homestead in North Dakota. First winter lived in an upturned sod-covered wagon. Raised 8 children, Lawrence was the 6th, on a hard-scramble farm. The kind of people that were the foundation of America.

Lawrence became a very rich man, not because somebody left him money, and not because he screwed over people; but because he got paid for his talent, his use of his Arts, music and dance, to entertain, to create memories, rays of sunshine on cloudy day.

And I would be willing to bet, that even if Lawrence never got paid to perform, he would have played his music for free.

Roll out the barrel, and we’ll have a barrel of fun

Roll out the barrel, we’ll have the Blues on the run

WUNNERFUL! WUNNERFUL!

AH TWO is a continuation of the previous post;

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene paid to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about his goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack as trainers. It got so was actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

Published BB 2/13/17

MARCEAU / HAMILTON BOOED

After the first performance of his sold- out week at the Minneapolis Pantages, the great mime, Marcel Marceau stepped to the apron of the stage, and breaking out of his character, Bip the Clown, SPOKE.

And the Audience BOOED!

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hamilton

Shortly after the election VP-To-Be Pence attended a performance of the hit musical HAMILTON on Broadway, and as he walked down the aisle to his seat, the audience booed! The ­­audience, not the cast, booed.

I can’t believe Pence attended a hip hop/rap musical/opera, based on the life of an immigrant bastard, whose mother was reported to have been part Black, for his own entertainment. More of an ego trip, a test of his newly granted status to be able to jump in line ahead of others.

Mr. Pence was a good choice to ride shotgun on Mr. Trump’s Hatemobile. He has a record of attacking Human Rights and the laws that protect them, first as a right wing radio talk show host, and later in his political career. Unlike Trump’s Twitter approach, Pence uses the evangelical-tunnel-vision-Tea Party-judgmental method. Thump the Bible, or what you think should be in the Bible, to support your stance against fellow human, and be sure to avoid any reference to the second part of what Christ said was the most important commandment: To love your neighbor as yourself.

As Pence was walking out after curtain call, Brandon Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, stepped foreword from the cast and spoke to Pence, who turned and listened. The words were courteous, well thought out, short and to the point. It was a thank you for attending, followed by an expression of fear that the new regime will not defend the planet, the children, their parents and uphold the inalienable rights of every American. The closing was, ‘We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation.’

Pence was silent about the affair but not the Head Hater, Mr. Trump. Trump got on Twitter, declaring Pence was harassed by the cast of HAMILTON. He demanded an apology from the cast and producers of the show, which Trump said he heard was very overrated. Trump also said the theater should be a ‘safe’ place.

To say the theater should be a ‘safe’ place is proof he knows about as much about theater as he does about Human Rights and the Constitution. From the time of the ancients Greeks the theater has been a place to shake up the audience and their hard fast ideals, whether the performance is tragedy, comedy, or a musical.

Nothing is more topical in our current atmosphere of hate than the play that premiered in London during the worse persecution of English Jews. The popular actor, director, theater owner and playwright, William Shakespeare, risked his career, his theater, his life, alone with the specter of causing riots with his new ‘comic’ offering, The Merchant of Venice. Going along with the hatred of Jews, he created a villain, Shylock, in the stereotypical role as a Jewish money lender. And then addresses the hatred and prejudice against the Jews  by giving Shylock one of the most poignant speech in literature against prejudice and hatred. ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’.

            As Mr. Dixon argued against an apology, he pointed out, ‘Art is meant to bring people together; it’s meant to raise conscientiousness.’

To say that it was not the time or place to issue such a statement goes against the history of theater. To step forward and speak to the audience directly, to break the 4th wall, is a time honored tradition. No playwright was more adept at it than Shakespeare, in the play itself, like Hamlet’s many monologues: at the end of the play, like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which starts: ‘If we shadows have offended…’  While the type of breaking the 4th wall as Mr. Dixon did, is not that common in America, it is quite common in other countries.

Personally I have seen this speaking directly to the audience used many times.

From the serious: On 9/11, we were setting up for a run of RIVERDANCE. Prior to the performance that evening, the multi national cast assembled in full on the stage. A spokesman spoke of the sorrow and offered condolences and prayers. At the end of the curtain call a dancer stepped forward and requested the audience join the cast in silent prayer.

To the silliest: During a performance of a play by the Stratford Theater at the Guthrie, Bill Hutt, a veteran Canadian actor made his entrance in a scene; but before he spoke his lines, he informed the American audience that the Canadian National Hockey Team had just beaten the Russians.

Trump’s Tweets accomplished what he wanted, keeping his Cesspool of Hate aboiling, giving his Brown Shirts something to rail against.

They called for a boycott against HAMILTON, a record breaking Broadway show with tickets sold out for months and waiting lists for more tickets both in NY and other cities where the touring companies are or will be playing. Frankly, I don’t think many Trump hard core supporters would go to HAMILTON with or without a boycott.

Of course there is a good possibility that the new regime will declare the musical to be VERBOTTEN and shut it down. But even then it will continue to be played around the globe as a symbol of American art and a remembrance of American freedom.

The Brown Shirts also called for a boycott of a small theater which has nothing to do with HAMILTON the musical. It has had the name Hamilton for decades because it is located in – wait for it – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada!

Then there was incident during a performance of the road company in Chicago, where upon hearing the word ‘immigrant’, a drunken Follower went ape. Screaming, swearing, threatening to kill the ‘Democratic assholes’and women and Blacks. threw wine on his own son. His wife was in tears pleading for him to stop. And even as he was being expelled from the theater by three security guards, he kept screaming, ‘We won! Get over it. This is Trump’s America now!’ PS: He is the CEO of a national company.

(That kind of behavior hits close to home for me. My nephew, Rick Dalglish, is Head Props for that touring company of HAMILTON.)

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marcel  

          The Marcel Marceau incident took place at the first performance of his farewell to America run at the Pantages in Minneapolis. And in spite of the boos, this brave man repeated his breaking the fourth wall after every performance.

            It was that terrible time in our history. Using the never proven pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Bush the Younger was about to loosen the dogs of war against Saddam Hussein. It was a time of bad intel, half truths, and outright lies.

            Unlike the 1st Gulf War, where Bush the Elder had a large coalition of nations and U.N. approval, the only backing Bush the Younger had was Tony Blair of the U.K., who later admitted he had been wrong in his backing of Bush.  Neither Bush nor Blair had approval of the majority of their advisors. And even though the terrorists of 9/11 were Egyptians and Saudis, and had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, much of the backing for this invasion of Iraq was wanting revenge for 9/11.

            France, who backed the 1st Gulf War, was outspoken in its disapproval of invading Iraq this time. France was hated by the American hawks. A Congressman sensing a chance to pick up future votes, actually submitted a bill to change the term French Fries to Freedom Fries.

            It was in this time of rupture in America and in the Western World, that Marcel Marceau spoke to the audience and was booed. This French Jewish gentle man of peace did not preach, did not take sides. This man who had known the horror of war first hand, simply asked the audience to pray the whole affair could be worked out without violence, without war.

            I doubt if many in the audience feaared they would have to fight in Iraq. Let the kids in the service take the risks. I doubt if many in the audience had ever served in the military, let along fought in a war. Yet these chickenhawks booed Marceau’s request for prayers for a peaceful resolve.

            Marceau was just a teenager when Germany breached the Maginot Line, the ‘Wall’ that France had built to stop any German invasion and took over France.  The Nazis took his father to Auschwitz where he was ‘exterminated’. Marcel and his brother joined the French Resistance.

            (This also strikes home to me. My wife’s birth father, a French Jew, left his Mexican wife and new baby girl, my wife, and to back to his homeland and fight in the Resistance. He was never heard of again.)

            Marcel was personally responsible for smuggling 500 or so children to Switzerland. It was during this time, he got into mime, silent entertainment to keep the children quiet.

            With the Liberation of France he joined the Free French and was a translator for General George Patton.

            He knew the horrors of war.

            I was standing in the wing with a flashlight waiting to help him offstage. I clapped as loud as I could after his prayer for peace, but the boos won out. As I led him off I commented, ‘Dumb, damn, chickenhawk S.O.B.s!’

            He put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘C’est La Vie, Don. So many fought and died so people can speak their mind, or even boo. This great freedom  is not allowed in a Fascist government . Let us hope it will always be that way in America and France and all over the world. ’

            When Marcel Marceau went to leave the Pantages for the last time, he paused and hugged me. ‘Merci, Don, for joining me in the hope for peace. And, when things happen that you disagree with, just remember, C’est La Vie. That’s Life, mon ami.’ When his farewell tour was over he went back to his home in France where he died a few years later.

            To Mime aficionados Bip the Clown will always be the King of Mime. And we who knew him also as Marcel Marceau, we  are twice blest. We admired his deft artistry of silence and also the deep humanity in his speech. To us he was both an artist and a hero.

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This was written in the time between Trump was elected by the outdated procedure  of the Electoral College, 

which overruled the fact that he did not win the Popular Vote, 

and the time he took the Oath of Office.       

Sorry, Mr. Trump, if you can’t stand the booing you chose the wrong road to travel down. I suggest you have the First Amendment of our Constitution explained to you. And maybe even go to a performance of HAMILTON. Learn how that immigrant from Nevis and the other Founding Fathers created the foundation that makes America great.

Soon Mr. Trump, barring a successful revolt by the Electorial College voters, you will have to take an oath to protect and obey this Constitution for ‘the diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation’ that make up our great country, America.

Oh! Oh! Little did we know or even imagine!

And now we must do what we can do

Vote!  Wear a mask! Abolish the hate!

C’EST LA VIE

 

 

COFFEE WITH ALI

ali rip            The Champ and I spent the better part of an hour, just the two of us, talking and drinking coffee in the stagehands’ room, my office, at Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

I called him Champ, even though he no longer had the belt, lost it, not in the boxing arena, but in the political area.He was on a lecture tour, Pro  Civil Rights, Anti  Viet Nam Involvement. Although the latter was the stated reason for taking away his right to be called World Champion, the former had earned him powerful enemies, just as it did for Martin Luther King. Overlooked by the main stream press, the Champ had a third point he stressed, namely Anti Violence. After his speech at Northrop, there was to be  an interview and a Q&A with reporters from TIME. Finally what he was actually saying was  more important than his celebrity status.

Today Americans accept his views; but in the late 60’s, these views were tinder for the fires that were spreading out across the land. But the Champ spoke his piece and stood his ground even though it was highly controversial and had cost him greatly. It wasn’t that he was wrong, it was just that he was ahead of his time. I had always felt strong about Civil Rights; but it really wasn’t until our status in Nam changed from advisory to full scale combative, that I took a better look and decided against us being there.

When the Champ and his welcoming committee walked backstage, he commented on the aroma of coffee coming from the open door of my room. One of the committee said he would run to Dinky Town and get him some coffee. I told the Champ that I would be glad to bring him a cup in his dressing room. He nixed both offers and instead said he wanted to go in the room, drink coffee and relax. When some of committee tried to follow us in, he held up hand. He told them to stay out, close the door, and see to it that nobody bothered him until he came out.

He commented that he realized they meant well, but he was getting tired of the constant ‘meaning well’ pressure of people. He said he was tired of the tour, tired of being away from home, his wife, and especially his little baby girl, Maryum, his first child. He slumped down in the chair, and when I handed him a cup of the fresh coffee, he raised the cup in thanks. I respected his need for silence.

In those days, boxing was followed much more than today. Early TV had free major matches weekly. And sitting across from me was a boxer I had followed since his Olympic days. I remembered listening to a radio as he did something nobody thought he would, take the title away from Sonny Liston. Oh, there was no way I would have called him the ‘Greatest’ at that time. His best was yet to come.

But, that day, I was more in awe of him as a great human being than a great athlete. It takes a brave person to stand up for one’s beliefs the way he did and at what cost.

When he finally did break his silence in the room, he spoke of being afraid his little girl, Maryum, wouldn’t even know her daddy, because he was away so much. She wasn’t even a year old yet, and he heard that the first year of a baby’s life was so important in their life. And she wouldn’t even know her daddy.

I assured him she would know her daddy, even though she wasn’t seeing much of him at this time. I told how I had worked two jobs for years, and now at Northrop, I was averaging over eighty hours a week, and my sons, only four at that time, always knew their daddy. He had nothing to worry about. He smiled and said he hoped so.

He opened his wallet and took out several pictures of his little Maryum and asked if I had any pictures of my sons. He looked at my pictures and wasn’t satisfied until he remembered their names and could match the name with the right boy.

We didn’t talk about his boxing career, about civil rights, and about his refusal to be drafted. We just talked. There was no chucking or jiving, no boasting and poetry on his part. His public image was set aside and he presented his personal side. Just two men, two fathers, talking, taking the time to know a little about each other.

He was interested in what went on at Northrop. I told him about the various attractions: lectures, music, dance, even a week each May of seven different Metropolitan operas on tour and how much work and how many stagehands it took to put them on. The Metropolitan Opera was familiar to him because of where the building was in relation to Madison Square Garden.

We did touch on boxing when I mentioned that recently Paul Newman had been at Northrop talking against our involvement in Viet Nam, the Champ told how much he liked Newman playing Rocky Graziano in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME.

I related how I got so excited watching Sugar Ray Robinson defending his crown against Graziano on TV, that I knocked over and broke a lamp. He laughed and asked who I was rooting for, and I told him Sugar Ray, my favorite boxer. He said Sugar Ray was his favorite too.

The time flew by. He finished off his second cup of coffee, thanked me, and followed as I led him to his dressing room. Naturally, his committee followed also, ready at his beck and call for anything he might want, or anything they think he might want. As much as I admired the man that day, I wouldn’t have traded places with him. I could see one of the reasons he was tired and just wanted to go home and play with his baby.

My coffee with Ali took place almost a half century ago. I remember seeing his arm raised in victory many times. I remember seeing his arm raised as he lit the Olympic torch. And I remember he raised his cup in thanks for my coffee. I was so fortunate to have sat and had a quiet talk with the man now referred to as ‘The Greatest’.

R.I.P. CHAMP

There were event entering into this story and after; but I will save them for another time. Right now I am too sad because he is no longer with us.

ONLY IN IRISH AMERICA

American-Shamrock-MI

Before the term March Madness was used to describe bouncing basketballs and broken brackets, or even before it was used to describe collegiate binge drinking on Florida beaches, it was used to describe St. Patrick’s Day, a welcome break from Lent.

Lent was SERIOUS! Fasting! Abstaining! Praying the family rosary before supper, which was more often a tuna salad or sardines and crackers than a hamburger or hot dog. No candy for kids during Lent. No liquor for adults during Lent. Sunday wasn’t really considered Lent; but in some of the more conservative homes, it was.

And yet, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Lent was set aside in almost all households, Irish or not. This is true in America but not in Ireland, where the day is more of a holy day than a holiday. Just as Christmas seems to help survive the cruel winter, the St. Patrick’s holiday seemed to relieve the ashes and sackcloth mentality of Lent.

Our town was mostly French-Indian descendents of fur trappers and voyagers that came down from French Canada. Growing up, I can remember only two ‘Irishmen’, both of whom married into our tight knit locale. And yet, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was honored by all and even sanctioned by the priests of the church on the hill.

Most holidays celebrating a person are held on the day of the person’s birth. The day to honor St. Patrick is held on the day of his death. Even if his birthday was known for sure, the day of his death helped with getting through the Lenten period. Most holidays celebrating a person honor a native son, not a natural enemy. Patrick has about as much Irish in him as I do. He was an Englishman, brought to Ireland as a slave. He escaped and went back to England, where he became a priest. And then he returned to convert his captors.

It seemed like the stricter Lent was observed, the wilder St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated. But that was in the past. The strictness that once was Lent has all but disappeared, and the celebration that calls for green beer, and buttons that proclaim, ‘Kiss me. I’m Irish’, grows bigger and bawdier every year.

I have never really caught the ‘Irish Fever’; but don’t tell my father-in-law, John O’Boyle that. In his mind, my last name, Ostertag, is spelled O’Stertag. He is a true Irish-American.

For instance, while Ireland remained ‘neutral’ during WWII, not so with Irish America. John, for instance, ran away from home just after high school. He joined the Merchant Marine. His ship was torpedoed just off the coast of Argentina. John was rescued and he returned home just before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army, fought in Europe, was at the Liberation of Paris, and was wounded severely just as his outfit was about to march into the Battle of the Bulge. A true Irish American.

 

The Old Hand:

John, my 94 year old father-in-law, has marched in yet another Bemidji’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. As one of the original instigators of the parade, he has marched in almost every one since its inception.

While other cities argue over who has the most participants, the most spectators, the most celebrants that have at least some Irish in their background, Bemidji has the uncontested claim to having the shortest route of any of the parades.

It starts off in one of the two Irish pubs in the city. The marchers congregate during the late morning, and, then at a predetermined time, or maybe a little after, someone starts to sing DANNY BOY.  They all join in singing, stand up, and parade across the street to the other pub.

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, a good time is had by all, young or old.

Erin go braugh!

Published Bulletin Board, St. Paul Dispatch 3/18/16

 

And then there is the song DANNY BOY, the anthem of Irish Americans and Canadians. The melody has Irish roots, but the lyrics were written by an Englishman!

 

Again with my Irish-American father-in-law:

The Old Hand:

John’s second wife was a beautiful, world-traveled lady, imported from Sweden. When she died the service was held in a Bemidji, in a Lutheran church with a large congregation of people of Swedish descent.

My father-in-law left most of the music up to the minister, but requested one song to be sung. True to his Irish heritage, he requested Danny Boy.

The resident singer was a somber older gentleman with a nice voice. He sang all the hymns without resorting to a hymnal – but when it came time for Danny Boy, both he and the organist brought out the sheet music. He handled it nicely, singing it straight forward without any attempt to imitate an Irish tenor. But, by his deep frown and his body language, the singer left no doubt he thought this song to be highly inappropriate to be sung in this church for the service of a nice Swedish Lutheran Lady.

And he did make one small change in the lyrics that say: and kneel and say an Ave there for me. Instead he sang: and kneel and say a prayer there for me. I can just imagine him putting his foot down on any singing about Aves in his church.

Irish! Humph!

Published Bulletin Board, St Paul Dispatch  5/2/13

 

The dichotomy of the Irish in the New World reminds me of an old story:

Robert Driscoll was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin. When he came to the U.S. to visit, there was a ticker tape parade for him in New York City.

Among the spectators were two elderly Irish women. One turned to the other and said, ‘Can you imagine! He’s Lord Mayor of London and he’s Jewish!’

The second shook her head and said, ‘Lord Mayor of London, and he’s Jewish! Only in America. Only in America.’