Monthly Archives: March 2012

“WELCOME TRAVELERS. WE HAVE FRESH CURD!”

That was one of my favorite signs viewed along the highways of Minnesota, that one in front of a dairy store near Pine Island.  This next one startled me too, but I’m not sure why, “WE HAVE BOX ELDER BUG KILLER.”  Maybe it was just seeing the word “killer” in such big print.  I wondered, what the heck is a box elder bug, and are they really something one has to worry about up here?  Those questions were answered a few days later when my god mother, Laverne’s, husband took me too see the Grey Cloud Island Town Hall.  He went to open the door, and he said, “Watch out for that sprayer, the box elder bugs are everywhere, and I’m trying to keep them out.”  And sure enough there were  half-inch long black and orange bugs crawling all over the door frame trying to get inside.  Probably trying to get in on “early voting.”

Being March and all, you could probably say my trip was a migration back to the ancestral, Boehmke breeding area.  Migration of the Idiotica Authora, a breed of mammal that migrates once every 40 years…provided it lives that long.  I rented a car while up there, and I did a lot of driving.  My intake of Minnesota came at such a rapid pace, whether in the car or not, that I felt like a dog that’s hanging its head out the window of a moving car.  You know, tongue hanging out, saliva dripping, nose wet, and the eyes of a pot smoker, kind of glazed and vacant.  That was me, overwhelmed by the Minnesotaness of it all.  Honestly, it made me happy just to hear the long O’s of the Minnesota accent.  I’ve got so much Minnesota in me after 5 days up there that I fear it will all just come flying out in as a blizzard of nonsense.  I’ve got to get hold of myself and make some sense out of this.  Luckily, the trip did have a beginning, a middle and an end, so I’m going to try to restrain myself and go at it that way.

So, the beginning, the first day, was Young America day, and that was the first issue too.  Since I’d been out there last, the towns of Norwood and Young America had merged into one town.  Even the combined town only consists of 3000+ souls.  But when I got to the exit off Hwy 212 for Norwood Young America, which town was I entering?  I still wasn’t sure after having lunch at The Mill House, on Third Street, but when I left there, stopped to take a picture of the water tower (I’ll spare you that one) and got to Second Street, I knew I was home.  There was big old St. Johns Lutheran Church to the right


and down to the left would be my grand parents old home. 
I parked in front of the now remodeled home and spent about  half an hour walking around taking video and photos.  The character of old home has been ruined by the remodel, but it was a kick to see that the old hatchery and garage remained remarkably unchanged.
  

Seeing the big open grassy spot where Gramma’s garden used to be, jeez, it was as if the heart had been taken out of the place.

I drove a few blocks to Main Street where I was to meet my hosts for the afternoon, first Lavonne Kroells, who was doing double duty by working for the Red Cross and at the same time getting me acclimated, and then Sharilyn and Wayne who helped me at the Heritage Center as I searched through thousands of old photos and around town as tour guides.

Coincidently, Sharilyn and Wayne bought property across the street from my grand parents, the property that formerly contained the old beauty parlor and horse stable.  Sharilyn as a child rode on Romeo, the horse I used to see there.  And Sharilyn herself became a hair stylist.  Sharilyn and I are the same age, with birthdays just a month apart.

My arrival in NYA did not go unnoticed by the local media.  It doesn’t take much to cause a “stir” in a small town.  Here’s a link to the article that came out in the Norwood Young America Times a few days after I left:  Article.  There was a lovely photo of “yours truly” with the original article, but they didn’t include it with the online version (something about the glare off the forehead), go figure…. 

Through Sharilyn I found out that Peggy Barlau, wife of “Whimpy” Barlau still lived in town.  Whimpy was a friend of my dad’s.  She was happy to come over to the center and sit and chat for a while.  How wonderful to hear her talk about the old days.  You know, when Peggy was in third grade she first saw her husband-to-be as he and my dad walked out of the YA baseball park together in their uniforms. 

That’s LaVonne and me in the Museum. 

The photo above is of Wayne and Sharilyn Feltman with Peggy Barlau in the middle.  They also shared memories.  Peggy said that after my grand parents died she was asked if there was some remembrance she would like from the house.  She says that she chose a small, beat-up, old metal bowl that Grandma used when she made egg coffee.  The making of egg coffee was a daily practice, and as I’ve found by speaking with others, not uncommon, at least back in small-town Minnesota.  To make egg coffee, one brings a large pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for that, mix the grounds with one egg (in Peggy’s bowl).  Put the contents of the bowl into the pot and return to boiling.  Then add a small amount of cold water to make the grounds/egg mixture sink to the bottom of the pot.  Peggy’s eyes gleamed as she described the wonderful, clear, aromatic coffee that this process produced.

Peggy also described the big chicken butchering they would hold each fall at my grand parents place.  Heads were rolling (yes, literally), then gutting, followed by the big wash tub of boiling water, then feathers flying, butchering and finally the tub of cold water.  The dressed meat was then packaged, frozen and used for school lunches at the Lutheran school.

After we finished up at the museum, Wayne, Sharilyn and I drove out to St. John’s cemetery to visit Grandpa and Grandma’s grave.  Rain was spitting as the three of us walked among the tombstones.  We finally found it, they took my picture and we raced back to the car in the raindrops.

My brother, Jim, had asked before I left on the trip if I’d check on whether the long-time-established “Bouncer’s” local bar still existed.  Well, our last stop of the day was just for you, Jim.

As a kid I never entered Bouncer’s, but the adults often spoke of it, alluding to the sometimes rowdy things that took place in and around there.  Of course, Bouncer himself is long gone to that big bar stool in the sky.  As the three of us enjoyed a beer, a huge rain storm raged outside, which went largely unnoticed by the patrons inside.  But as you can see, I finally made it inside the mythic Bouncer’s.  The beer’s still cold and tasted pretty good too.

I absolutely used up my half-day in Young America.  Even on the way to my hotel there was one last stop, in the dark, at Bongards 104-year old creamery.

That’s the big Holstein cow outside the retail store at Bongards.  I’m thinking she’s the one at the front end of the fresh curd production.

Here are a couple of my favorite photos found in the Heritage Centers collection.

The first photo is Eric Perschon, the photographer who donated his collection to the Heritage Center.  My brothers and I visited him and his foxes, Foxy and Loxy, back in the 1950’s. 

The second shot is actually a photo of a photo, so not real clear.  You can click on it, and it will get a little bigger.  You’ll see my dad, Merlin Boehmke, and Whimpy (Wilmer Barlau) in the front row.  As it says, that’s the 1939 YA Cardinals team photo.  I thought it was interesting that there are at least 3 different uniform styles, indicating that these guys played on the team over a number of years, keeping their old uniforms as the years went along.

So, that was the first half-day of my five-day trip.  If nothing else were to happen I would have called the trip a success.  But there was more, more “blog fodder” for another day.  Oh, by the way,

You CAN go back.
First find the remnants of things.
Then listen to all who will talk.
And fill in the missing pieces
With memories.

The poor Pony.  Gene tells me he’s been cryin his eyes out wanting some attention.  Don’t worry Pony; I’ll be back out soon.
Thanks for reading.

The WABAC Machine

Do you remember Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced “way back”) machine on the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon shows from the 1950’s and 60’s?  Mr. Peabody, a dog, always gave “his boy,” Sherman, history lessons by going back in time using the WABAC machine.  I never did well in history classes later, probably because of this initial exposure to Mr. Peabody’s warped views.

I’m about to climb into the WABAC machine myself (without Mr. Peabody and his bad puns)  and visit the hometown of my parents and grandparents, Young America, Minnesota.  I’ve done a few posts about Young America:  Getting There; An Angel in the Attic.  You can click on either of those links if you haven’t read them before.  Then just click your browser’s back button to return to this post.  I honestly don’t remember how long it’s been since I was last back in YA, but a good guess would be 40 years.  Might it be fun to go back?  I’ll find out the answer to that question next week when I’ll be back up in my home state of Minnesota.  Every time I hear one of Garrison Keillor’s monologues about Lake Wobegon, MN, it reminds me of Young America.  If you think a lake named Wobegon is sad sounding, how about the lake in YA, Mud Lake?  Now that’s sad, but hey, the muskrats really like it.

As I recall, from the road that led into my Grandparents property, you could see Mud Lake way off in the distance.  First you’d see the old horse that the proprietor of a beauty salon kept in a small pasture.  Down from there were the railroad tracks where we spent hours walking, looking for wild strawberries and trouble.  Any then well beyond all that, the lake…and that’s how it looked best, from a distance.

I’ve made arrangements to view a collection of photos donated to the Norwood-Young America Heritage Center by a childhood friend of my dad’s.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but I’m treating it like a treasure hunt, and even the hunt should be fun.  I’ll be walking the town too, hoping to catch a glimpse of the 1950’s, when as kids my brothers and I visited there, roamed all over and had such fun. 

Our Grandparents were the greatest.  I suppose they had their flaws, but we didn’t see them.  Grampa was a bit gruff at times, and there was always his old barber’s strap hanging from a peg in the kitchen…a constant threat to unruly kids.   But how many kids got to watch their Grampa or Grandma chop a chicken’s head off?  How many got to see how chicken soup was made?  I don’t mean dumping Campbell’s from the can into a pot and turning on the burner.  I’m talking about killing the chicken, gutting it, and plucking the feathers.  I’m talking egg noodles from scratch.  Finally, I’m not talking, I’m smelling and then eating soup, wow!  The aroma in the big, eat-in kitchen, wonderful; I haven’t smelled anything like it since.  The broth actually tasted like chicken, not like salty water.  I tried for years to make chicken soup like hers, but never even came close.

Just to do a 360 look around that old kitchen in my memory is fun.  There was a dry sink and hand pump (used to pump water from a cistern), a door out onto the screened porch, a big tall sideboard on which the old, chiming clock sat.  Then one of the old wooden phones hanging on the wall.  In the early years they still had a party line and their own ring.  Next the door to the pantry, a real walk-in pantry with big glass jars full of home-made cookies.  From the window in the pantry you could see the “out house.”  Then the big old iron stove and next to it, the fridge.  Funny, the thing that comes to mind about the stove was watching Grampa boil his glass syringe in a small pot, so that he could give himself an insulin shot, something that terrified me.  Moving on past the fridge, a window through which you could see out to the hatchery, then the door out to the back porch, really the front porch, followed by the coat hooks, the barber’s strap and a door to a narrow side room.  In that side room, old toys used by my dad and his siblings were stored, so after the pantry it was one of our favorite rooms.  Finally the opening to the short hall that led past the cellar door to the living room.

Of course I won’t see any of that on my trip next week, but having the memory is better.  The picture of the week:

That’s Gramma and Grampa Boehmke in the garden in Young America. 

It’s said that “you can’t go back.”  I’ll let you know about that in the next post.
Thanks for reading.

Hog Trap!

The Princess and I were discussing something recently.  I don’t remember the exact subject, but so much these days is a mess, and you can count on The Princess to know a lot about just about everything.  She has her sources.  Her problem is though that when she hears troubling things she does not do what I do.  I just shove my head so far down in the sand that I can’t see, can’t hear, hell the only reason I ever come up is that I can’t breathe.  She instead ponders these problems, frets over them and in general lets them ruin her day.  In fact, The Princess’s brain functions something like a black hole, sucking in all the “dark matter” that comes near it.  You should thank her; she’s sparing you a lot of grief.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that during some of her soul-searching, with the weight of the universe on her royal shoulders, it just came out of her, “It’s a pain in the ass to be me.”  Isn’t that precious?

Another great thing about the Princess is her ability to innovate.  Discussing an issue recently she might have said it was “Clap Trap,” or “Hog Wash,” but instead out popped “Hog Trap.”  If this one enters the American Lexicon in the near future you’ve got The Princess to thank for it.  I’ve really gotta agree with her on that one though.  You hear a lot of stuff lately that could and should only trap a hog! 

Like  the QVC announcer we heard this week that said that a certain cosmetic product “…literally turned the world upside down!”  Really?  Literally?  That must of been that day last week when I heard the strange whooshing sound.  Now you’re probably saying how would the idiotic author know what’s going on at QVC.  Listen folks, in my efforts to bring you entertainment I’ll stop at nothing.  Actually, both The Princess and I are strangely mesmerized by QVC.  We often will switch over to that channel during commercials.  When they start going on about how the Dimonique ring (that’s so sparkly it could attract aliens from outer space) is in short in supply and that there are only 567,000 left, my trigger finger gets itchy and I’m tempted to pick up the phone.  Of course, my being mesmerized has a lot to do with hot lookin’ Lisa who sells junk during prime time most evenings.  Wow, I could watch her sell waffle irons; actually I do!  I refer to her affectionately as “the babe.” 

Best thing we ever bought from QVC:  a goofy thing that looks like a pen and runs on two AA batteries.  It clips hair from hard to get at places.  I’ll bet you old guys out there know the answer to the next question.  What hairs you got that grow the fastest?  That’s right, ear hair!  Well that little pen-sized marvel works like a dream on that stuff.  I’ll bet Lisa would love to see me using it.

Hey what’s up with the Pony this week?  I’ve got to admit I’ve been side-tracked, but I’ll be getting out to see the old boy (I’m talkin’ about the Pony, not Gene) in the next few days.  Gene and I were doing a sustained run about a week ago to see if just letting it run for an hour or so would help valves and rings seat and give us improved compression.  It started to get kind of messy though, because oil was leaking from the hydraulic pump, which is up at the front of the engine, and the fan was throwing the leaking oil all over the place.  Then at the half hour mark, oil started flying out the top of the oil filter canister, and we had to cut the test short.  Now I’ve got to go in and find the source of the leaks.  I’ve already drained and pulled the radiator (again!), and next I’m going to pull the hydraulic pump and try to get to the bottom of the leaking.  On the oil filter, I’m hoping that just inserting a better gasket and retightening the oil canister top will take care of that leak.  You can understand my lack of enthusiasm for this “one step forward, two steps back” baloney.

Also Pony-related is some shameless advertising, cloaked as a good deed.  I made a donation to WCPE, The Classical Station, at a level that earned me the right to make an on air dedication.  This radio station plays all classical music, 24/7.  It’s perfect for my “head in the sand” way of life, because when I say all classical music I mean ALL CLASSICAL MUSIC!  They don’t even bother you with all that nasty news.  This great little station is not connected with NPR, takes no government funds and survives solely on funds from listeners and a few local underwriters.  Well, and now they’ve taken some funds from ThatIdioticTractor.com.  They broadcast here locally out of Wake Forest, but can be heard worldwide from your computer.  So, in addition to generally checking them out and enjoying their great programming, try to catch some of it on March 26.  That’s the day that they will be playing a dedication to the Pony at roughly 9:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:oo pm and 9:00 pm in celebration of his first engine start.  I can’t wait to see what the WCPE bump will do for visits to the Pony’s blog.  Gene and I always play WCPE in the garage when working on the Pony; he (the Pony) finds it soothing.  Here’s the link:  The Classical Station.org.

Oh, let’s see, we need a picture.  How about showing-off the Princess’s latest creations.

These are the first motorcycles she’s done.  They’re “Duckaties” and were a gift for friends Art and Joy.
Thanks for reading!