A not-so old settler

Last Sunday I did services at Wolf Creek and Taylors Falls. Then, I trekked up to Cushing for the Settlers Picnic, an event that began in the 1930’s by people who’d lived out in the Barrens and up in around the Cushing-Wolf Creek area but who’d left the area, mostly because of finances. In the Barrens the soil is poor and farmers who were promised good soil and great crops simply starved out. At any rate, the former residents wanted to reunite and had their first picnics out in what now is State land and unavailable for things like picnics. I was at the first indoor event that has been held ever since in what was Cushing Elementary School and now is the Cushing Community Center. The event is put on now by the Historical Society. Marcie Marquardt moderated the event and I think she is president of the Historical Society.

The audience had enjoyed a lavish potluck so long-windedness was a guarantee of putting 3/4 of the crowd to sleep. These people are the third generation to enjoy the Picnic and many of them–most of them–are getting along in years themselves, so brevity, I thought, would be a virtue. And so I talked about being a “Recovering City Slicker”, about growing up in Hollywood and in the Hollywood Hills, where a boy could take his dog and bow and arrows and have to worry about not much more than poison oak, rattlesnakes and an occasional skunk. I wish I’d mentioned people more, people like Harry Jolson, Al’s brother, and how he could be heard on summer mornings in his bathroom doing vocal scales in that brittle, metallic Jolson voice. I did talk about the Sears Foundation and its semi-trailer that came to Valley View Elementary School to let city kids see a real cow (“That’s where your milk comes from.”) and a chicken (“That’s where we get your eggs.”), (“Feel the wool on the sheep.”) and (“Smell the _____.”) I also talked about being a city kid that was taught in elementary school about contour plowing and windbreaks. I told about the farm on Highway 48 that I’d pass enroute to Birchwood and Exeland where the farmer had plowed up and down the hill, rather than across. Sure enough, within a few years he had a gully there instead of productive land. I observed that windbreaks are disappearing, partly because some trees have died of old age and partly because today’s big machinery demands being able to go edge to edge and trees get in the way and so get cut down. I asked why we seem to learn nothing from history.

I also talked a bit about famous people–and I’ve met many over the years–if they have feet they put on their socks the same way you and I do. I learned early that there is great value in treating every person as–simply–a person, a human being worthy of dignity and respect until we find out otherwise. I talked about the power of money and greed and how I saw the San Fernando Valley go quickly, so quickly that when I left California 50 years ago they were buying up vacant lots to create neighborhood parks. Development had happened so quickly that the idea of a park was not considered or even thought about. I said that we have the luxury here of planning, of thinking about what we want our place on earth to be like. I quoted John Borchert, a retired urban geography professor at the University of Minnesota who told me that if we want to preserve our downtowns, we have to work at it because our society is geared to the automobile and strip malls are a natural result of that. And I observed that the local Historical Society was very important; in much of southern California the old timers and history have gone; development and growth happened so quickly that what was is something few people know.

I had a good time, I ate well and sold a book. There was no time to read a story. Speaking of story, Peter Kwong, who spoke with us in Amery a couple of weeks ago, wrote in this week’s column that my reading of “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs” was “hilarious” and “the highlight of the evening”. What a nice comment! Kwong also thinks I’m famous; little does he know. One thing I have learned is that it’s one thing to write, another to get published and yet another to get published and get paid for it. Another thing I’ve learned is that people may know you’ve got stories out there but it’s a large leap from knowing about them to reading them, much less paying for the privilege. And that’s true of even my own family, which is disappointing.

Enough for today. We had heavy rain and wind. Blown by the wind, the pontoon managed to shove the dock about two inches to the south. I’ll try to re-align it later this week. It’s 4th of July week and a combination of daily living stuff and an electrician coming, as well as the 51st anniversary of Marina and my first date. Someday I’ll write about that date.

Festival and Amery Classic

A week ago I had the pleasure of reading a short story (“Snow Job and the Four Dwarfs”) as a fundraiser for the Amery Arts Alliance to help its quest to purchase Amery’s Classic Theatre and fix its roof. I was joined by poet LaMoine MacLaughlin, adventurer Lois Joy Hofmann, celebrity chef and columnist Peter Kwong, pastor Randy Dean and educator-historian Dan Girtz. The turnout was disappointingly small, at least in terms of the money raised by the ticket purchases of the people attending (there may have been unknown contributions) but the readings were mostly good. Just about every writer spent time describing his/her background, which I found a bit odd.

Last night I read three stories as a fund raiser for St.Croix Festival Theatre. I was joined by poet LaMoine MacLaughlin, who did his usual good job of making poetry understandable and entertaining. This was a return event; we read for Festival last year. Turnout was a bit less than last year, perhaps half full, and I knew many of those attending. I wish there were more time to visit with each person who comes to those events. I enjoy doing readings (Marina calls them my one man shows) and why not? I can put drama into my own words. The trick it to read stories that are not too long and I barely succeed at that.

Next up is next weekend speaking in Cushing, Wisconsin at the Old Settlers picnic. I’ll talk about growing up in Hollywood and what this City Slicker learned by living in our rural area for 30+ years.

Reunion!

Daughter Alice is in town briefly on her way to International Falls/Rainy Lake/Camp Koochiking where she will spend most of the summer teaching songwriting. (Yes, I misspelled the camp’s name and the county it’s in. Ah, well.) It’s upset time as the family dog was injured by an encounter with a large truck at the camp and is in Duluth for emergency care. Duluth is a three hour jaunt from the camp. Alice has a new recording out and I listened earlier this evening. Two of the cuts made me cry–hard.

Marina and I spent a delightful afternoon with three of my former foreign student advisees, one from China via Austria, an Ethiopian-Italian entrepreneurial dynamo, and a delightful guy from Palau who was a pioneer in computers and their applications. The latter two became residents here and Jane married an Austrian and has a business not far from the Italian border. I’m not doing them justice in my descriptions; they are highly successful people, three among a remarkable group of people I was privileged to “advise” almost half a century ago. They credit me with much of their success, which is untrue. I tell them that we at Macalester College had scholarship money and selected people we felt had the potential to make the world a better place. And as much as I can tell, they have done just that! We met at Cafe Latte, which is a noisy venue, but their food (especially the desserts like strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake) makes up for it. We’ve had a dry spell lately and so we drove through welcome periodic rain showers. Adding another 45 minutes to our drives to The Cities makes the travel seem much longer than it did when we were 20 years younger but coming home is nice.

And things are shaping up at home. Tomorrow carpenters come to finish off a bit of outside work, some electric and a heat duct to be cut into the bedroom. I hope to get the dock in on Tuesday and Wednesday I pick up an electric stove and range hood. We are switching out the stove because it’s dangerous for Marina to be putting her hand over flame and it’s hard for her to see whether a burner is lit or not. Thursday sees an electrician for powering up the new stove, a dryer line to be run, electric for future a/c, some floodlights for what will become a gallery downstairs and putting power to the wiring in my office.

The Amery Arts Alliance reading went well, although the audience was small. Writers generally don’t draw big crowds, or at least those of us who are not well known don’t draw big crowds. The Alliance has a matching grant of $20,000 and if Friday’s event is any indication they have a good ways to go to meet that challenge. The effort is to save the classic downtown theatre, a throwback to the 1930’s that has been restored but has a leaking roof that needs repair. The Alliance would love to do that and own the place, too. I’m hoping for a larger turnout this Friday when LaMoine MacGlaughlin and I read (it’s a return engagement) as a fund raiser for St.Croix Festival Theatre. If you’re looking for a cheap date, tickets are $10 with all proceeds going to Festival. We’d love to see you there!

Ta Da!

So we’re in (mostly) our new home above Bone Lake. It’s across the lake from where we were for 20 years and just a bit north. We don’t have the beach in our yard anymore, but we don’t have the taxes either that go with waterfront. We share a beach with 7 other property owners and it’s just down the hill from us.

We managed to exit Osceola just in time; we closed last Tuesday and had to be out, of course. This has been the most demanding move I’ve done and I intend to exit this life from out here. Much of the challenge has been that we are combining three places: our long-time Duluth apartment, our Osceola townhome, and Marina’s fully furnished office (mine, too!). In addition, there was stuff in the cabin that was left when we bought the place five years ago. Marina’s vision means that things go more slowly than with most people; she needs to be able to know where things are so she can find them in the future. (Right now we’re looking for tick protection for the animals that’s in a bag somewhere and for bird seed for the finches.) People Loving People in Dresser has been the recipient of many donations from us and there will be more. We have triplicates of some things and duplicates of others.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Unplanned last week was a pacemaker replacement for Marina, so that meant time in hospitals and clinics. Son John sat with me at Regions and that was a great assist. Daughter Hannah put some elbow grease into cleaning as we left Osceola and that was a great help. This week I have a truck brake repair and front axle to fix and Friday night I’m also reading a short story (“Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”) to benefit the Amery Arts Alliance’s efforts to buy the Classic Theatre and fix its roof. There will be six writers reading; we’ll see if we get an audience. Meanwhile, I’m locating and putting in place more stuff!


Updating

Still lugging stuff to the new location; that’s the report. Moving is such fun! On the other hand I drop a good ten pounds per move so it’s not all bad. I still have some sheetrock work to do and some electric in my office-to-be but we are making good progress and should be out of here and in the new place by the end of the month.

The “possible” event I mentioned in my last post–the one in Amery–now is firm for Friday, June 7th at 7 p.m. at the Classic Theatre. It’s a fund raiser for Amery’s Arts Alliance to help them purchase the theatre and fix the leaking roof. I will be joined by some fine writers: Peter “Wok & Roll” Wong, renowned chef and columnist; Lois Joy Hoffman, author, adventurer, photographer, and circumnavigator; LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate and executive director of Amery’s Northern Lakes Center for the Arts; Dan Girtz, educator and writer of history; and Randy Dean, pastor and author.

Movin’ on

Our Osceola place is sold and we are on our way to rural Luck, WI. Actually, our Osceola townhouse sold twice. The first sale lasted 24 hours. The buyer decided she couldn’t afford owning a home and preferred to continue renting. So we had a showing the next day and the place sold. Both buyers paid our asking price.

And so Marina and I have been hefting stuff out to what was our Bone Lake cabin. We did the 7 foot overstuffed sofa ourselves and I was amazed at what a woman in her 80’s still can lift. Aside from hauling and boxing stuff, I’ve been doing electrical wiring and sheet rocking in what will be my new office space. It’s a race with time: we close here on May 28th and our favorite movers come the 20th. I’m still trying to find a storage garage to keep stuff we will be selling–no luck so far; everything is full. What an amazing society: so much stuff we have that we have no place to put it.

My latest “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, got plenty of laughs at the Amery writers’ group so I think I’ll read it at the Festival Theatre fundraiser. There is a tentative authors reading evening set in Amery at the restored theatre there. It will be the week before the Festival Theatre reading (that’s June 14th) on June 7th. Some of the Osceola writers group may be interested in reading at the Amery evening.

Gotta go now and start dismantling this office. Oh, joy!

it’s “official”!

We’ve set the date now for story reading at St.Croix Festival Theatre. I’ve asked LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery’s first poet laureate, to join me again for an evening of story and poetry readings with ticket proceeds going to help Festival Theatre.

The date? Friday, June 14th. The time? Probably 7:30 p.m. The tariff? Last year tickets were $10. C’mon out and enjoy an evening of good stories, good poetry and know that you are supporting a worthy theatre group at the same time!

I’m happy to have this reading set, especially since for the past two days I’ve been under the weather–something uncommon for me; I rarely crash. You know how it is: things that are important to get done just don’t get done and, somehow, life manages to on and what needs to happen does happen “in the fulness of time”, as the Bible says.

possible Festival Theatre fund raiser repeat

I’m in early discussions with the people at St.Croix Festival Theatre about donating another evening of story reading with all proceeds going to Festival. LaMoine MacLaughlin and I did this last year and there were calls then for a repeat this year. It’s easy money for the theatre; all we need is a dead night for the theatre, some lights, ticket takers and Peter, who’ll scrounge up a chair, side table and a lamp to suggest a comfortable reading room.

If this happens, I’ll limit the reading this year to just two stories. Last year I did three and I felt it went too long.

A New Chapter

As of Valentine’s Day, the day of the official end to 50 years of ministry in our area by Good Samaritan Society-St.Croix Valley that was brought about by the purchase of the nursing home by Plainview Health Partners, I was out of a job. Chaplains were cut from the employee roster.

I didn’t hear that from the new owner, who has not connected with me yet, but by phone from my colleague, fellow chaplain Chuck Arndt. He had a face-to-face with the new owner.

Fortunately, the Lord has been preparing Marina and me for this possibility. I serve Wolf Creek United Methodist Church quarter time and have fairly frequent fill-in opportunities at other churches. I still do a quarterly series of national ads for a client of more than 30 years standing. On top of those things, our downtown Osceola office building is supposed to close for its sale on March 1st and the bedroom and additional downstairs room we’ve added to our Bone Lake cabin is close to being finished. In the event that finances force a consolidation and a move, we have a place to go that we enjoy already.

So the plot thickens. What I would like to see is a gigantic uptick in sales for my short stories, both the Kindle versions and the paperbacks. I am grateful for the two days of unstructured time I now have and I’m praying that I will use that time wisely. One thing that may happen is that I may be able to produce more fiction; much creative energy lately seems to have gone into sermons, rather than into stories.

So we shall see. I, for one, will be staying tuned!

The Second Gathering is in print!

I’ve just published my second paperback, “The Second Gathering of The Break Time Stories”. It’s available through Amazon.com for $10 and includes the two most recent Kindle books, “Four More Break Time Stories” and “Yes, More Break Time Stories!”

In the meantime I’ve done two more short stories, “I Loved That Bike!” and At Midnight’s Stroke”. I’m mid-way through another “mangled” fairy tale, “Snow Job and The Four Dwarfs”, so just you wait!