In 1885, Gen. U. S. Grant was dying of throat cancer. The former president was broke. Absent Social Security, which didn't yet exist, he knew that his wife Julia would be left destitute when he died. Gen. Grant's friend Mark Twain was aware of the great man's financial troubles. He also knew from reading Grant's letters that the former general had a gift with the pen. Twain offered to publish Grant's memoirs of the Civil War if the General could write them. Fighting constant pain and a feeling of being choked, Grant wrote at a prodigious rate of 50 pages per day.
The Saturday before Father's Day, Dad and I shared pall bearer duties for the funeral of Bernice, one of the last of the old neighbors. She died at age 95. Bernice spent most of her life in a farmhouse a mile north of our farm. It had no electricity. She cared for her parents until they passed away in the 1950s. Then she lived alone, keeping an immaculate yard and making her famous crescent rolls loaded with bacon fat. Her rolls were as sinful as Bernice was saintly. For fifty years Bernice was Sunday school superintendent at St.
In a resigned response to last week's continued wet weather, I sat at the old upright piano at our place of business and played some somber hymns. The piano sits in the same room where my grandfather played hymns on another old upright when the ups and downs of business got to him sixty years ago. The piano I now play then sat in Grandma and Grandpa's living room.
This cruel, late spring moved swiftly from drab grays and browns of late winter to bright greens of aspen leaves and fresh grass, as well as the blooms of the fruit trees and tulips. Spring colors couple with spring scents: Fresh cut lawn, plum and apple blossoms, lilacs and, out in the woods, the heady, bitter, hop-like smell of aspen sap. And sounds: How is it that the frogs survived last August, September and October without water, only to return to sing their wall-penetrating songs this spring? Only a few weeks ago, the log in the middle of the swamp sat on dry ground.
During the aftermath of the recent tornado in Oklahoma, at least two reporters made fools of themselves as they worked to turn tragedy into entertainment for the masses. Wolf Blitzer of CNN interviewed a young woman holding a baby amidst the rubble of her home. Blitzer apparently thought the way for an educated eastern snob like himself to relate to a hick from the Bible Belt would be to condescendingly ask her if she "thanked the Lord" for her survival. "Actually, I'm an athiest," the young woman replied, as she struggled to hang on to her wiggly toddler. An atheist in Oklahoma?
After the desolate roar of those last spring blizzards, what fun it was last week to curl up in bed and hear the comforting crackle of the first thunder! Last Saturday evening, a storm cell formed just overhead. The billowing cumuli sent out strobes which made the swamp out front flash in stop-action like a nightclub dance floor on Hennepin. The house shook as if a coal train was rumbling by. Unlike some storms, this one didn't blow off the side of oak down the drive with one violent crack.
A message from the old fogies to the younger generation: Don't mess with our settings! Just when you get on friendly terms with your computer, some kid sits down at it and starts tapping furiously.
Last week, I spoke to a women's gathering at an area Lutheran church. I arrived good and hungry because those Lutherans can really put on a spread. But when I read the program at my place setting, my heart sank. After the welcome, the devotional and the special music, it said there would be a "salad luncheon." Salad? For supper? Isn't there some verse in Leviticus which declares salad for supper an abomination, a crime against nature? I needed some protein! Would they have blue cheese dressing for the salad so I could get my protein there?
Last month, I met for the first time a 23-year-old shirt-tail relative in Los Angeles named Sarah. Fully-employed in a well-paying job she loves, Sarah is the face of our new economy. Sarah has a college degree, but it wasn't the degree that qualified her for the job of her dreams.
Spring is arriving slower than the last day of school in sixth grade. If delayed gratification develops adulthood, most of us in the northland will be grown up and a little gray before the apple trees bloom. Despite our foul mood, we know in our heads that the slow snow melt is good. Perhaps the threat of yet another spring flood will fizzle.