Who are we? We are our stories.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Steve Earle-Ellis Unit One

The Green Monster

A week or two ago ago I posted a review of a turkey Honda Hybrid. In his responding comment Abe alluded to a green monster he had just resurrected, which he felt was the antithesis of the modern hybrid. This is a post about the machine. It brought back memories of a dangerously fast blue bomb that I drove for a while.  RPMs are okay, but in the long  run it's tough to beat torque.  Enjoy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Live Forever

Killdeer (for Lorna)

Elmore Leonard

Last night I watched a Charlie Rose interview with Elmore Leonard. Frankly, I am not a fan of western nor detective novels. I may have to change my ways for one or two books, simply because the 83 year old Elmore is such a charming man. During the interview he expounded on some of his aids to wannabe writers, which has been put in his short book on writing. Apparently he feels the world should be seen through his character's eyes, not his: 

  •  Never open a book with weather.
  •  Avoid prologues.
  •  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  •  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  •  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  •  Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  •  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  •  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  •  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  •  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
  • Thursday, May 28, 2009

    Gunnar Buys Pastrami

    Yesterday, as I entered the vestibule of the Hy-Vee Grocery, there was an old man laying face down, flat on the floor. I knelt down and asked him what the problem was. He said he was alright, he'd just fallen and couldn't get up. He was a big old boy, but I am too.  I crouched down over him, grabbed him under the arms and tried to pick him up. After a couple of failed attempts someone from the gathering crowd took one arm and together we hoisted him upright. I was shocked by my ineptitude. A few years ago I would have just picked him up off the floor and set him down on his feet. I asked if he was alright; he rested his hand on my shoulder and said he just needed to sit down a while. The two of us sat down on a bench while I caught my breath and he waited for his wife. Both of us felt sad,  he because he had fallen, and I because I couldn't help an old man get back on his feet.  We were just two old farts sitting on a bench.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Depressed Old Guys Rule!

    From BikeRadar.com:

    Former world hour record holder Graeme Obree is seriously considering another attempt at the record.

    In an interview in Cycling Plus 224 (on sale 5 June), 43-year-old Obree says he has been training hard, built a bike that conforms with UCI regulations (you can see him and it at BikeRadar Live),  and set a date of late 2009 to make the attempt.

    "I'm not saying that I will break the hour record, but I am aspiring to do it," said Obree. "You know, last year was the first year since I was 16 that I didn't win a bike race.

    "I don't think that you're physically hampered from winning at the highest level just because of age. To diminish yourself just in terms of age isn't justified. I don't think you can use it as an excuse, not if you've kept it going."

    The current record, using 'modern' UCI rules, is 49.7km, held by Czech Ondrej Sosenka. In the past, when the rules allowed for more aerodynamic bikes, Obree twice broke the record: 51.596km in 1993 and 52.713km in 1994.

    The bar was eventually raised to 56.375km by Chris Boardman in 1996, before the UCI banned the types of bikes and 'superman' riding style that allowed such speeds to be reached. Now, only traditional round-tubed diamond frames with spoked wheels and drop handlebars are allowed. Luckily, Obree knows how to build bikes:

    A close up of obree's hand built hour record machine. uci legal too.: a close up of obree's hand built hour record machine. uci legal too.

    Graeme Obree's hour record attempt machine, which he'll be bringing to BikeRadar Live(Photo: Andy McAndlish)

    As he did with his previous hour records, Obree has built his own bike for this attempt. It's made out of Reynolds 653 tubing and weighs over the UCI limit of 6.8 kilos. "I've built it within the limiting factors of the regulations," he said. "It's deliberately long so my arms are stretched onto the drops for the best aero position. It's also longer at the rear as this puts weight towards the front of the bike."

    The bike also features another Obree trademark, a huge gear: 138 inches (67x13) to be exact. He's been pedaling this on his evening training sessions, which typically last between two and two-and-a-half hours.

    Obree was at his peak in the early to mid '90s, when he twice broke the hour record and twice won the world individual pursuit championships. He has had a well documented battle with depression, highlighted in his autobiography, The Flying Scotsman, which was made into a movie.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    The Church Bell Tells the Tale

    In this photo either Fausto is passing water to Gino, or Gino to Fausto depending on which story one believes. Personally, I'd believe Bartali.

    You may not be aware, but we are in the middle of the Giro d'Italia, maybe the best Grand Tour race of the year (Denis Menchov is leading). This is from Cycling News. If you interested in bicycle racing from a historical perspective it is a good source. The following is about maybe the greatest rivalry in cycling history. In the contest of Fausto Coppi versus Gino Bartali, I come down as a Coppi man.

    "One defining aspect of both Coppi and Bartali's legacy is their great rivalry. The pair is inextricably linked thanks to battles in Italy and France, where the two Italians were successful over two decades - first Bartali, then as he came of age in the professional ranks, Coppi.

    The two men were polar opposites; Bartali, the Tuscan with a powerful build, square face and broad nose while Coppi was the lean, elegant and long-limbed Ligurian. Their personal philosophies differed significantly - Bartali held strongly to the aforementioned Catholic faith, whereas Coppi made no mention of any religious persuasion. The traditional, conservative element of Italian society made the most of this fact when throwing its support behind one of the country's cycling stars. Bartali was seen as the 'moral choice' whereas Coppi was the representation of a slowly-emerging social freedom.

    There's one day in the many that these two riders were pitted against each other on the road that garners particular attention in the annals of cycling history, however: June 10, 1949. Coppi's stage win in Pinerolo came after conquering five tough mountain passes, most of which were ridden solo, and at the finish he held an advantage of 11 minutes 52 seconds over Bartali. He climbed the Passo di Rolle, Pordoi and Gardena solo in an attack that encapsulated the spirit of Italian cycling. That mystique was continued by countrymen such as Felice Gimondi and Marco Pantani. On that day in 1949 Coppi's panache had a 'victim': Bartali. Whilst it was Adolfo Leoni who wore the maglia rosa when riders set off from Cuneo, Bartali was Coppi's main rival.

    The older of the two rivals couldn't match the younger man's audacious move and eventually finished runner up when the race finished in Milan two days later. Almost half the final deficit of 23 minutes and 47 seconds was accumulated on that one stage - an incredible feat achievable only by a rider of Coppi's flair. 

    According to Raphaël Géminiani, "When Fausto won and you wanted to check the time gap to the man in second place, you didn't need a Swiss stopwatch. The bell of the church clock tower would do the job just as well." The Frenchman's statement was particularly pertinent on June 10, 1949.

    Dave's Thought for the Day

    Clipped from a longer piece posted today on Dave Molton's Bike Blog:

    "What is life but a succession of moments one after another? If the moment you are in is a pleasant and happy one, then you have a pleasant and happy life.

    If at this moment you have a problem, the great thing about living in the moment is, if one moment is not particularly pleasant, there will be another along right after it.

    Dwelling on the past is a pointless exercise; no matter how hard you try your past will never get any better or worse for that matter. What is the point of reliving unpleasant experiences and feeling the pain all over again? Or longing for happier times you may have previously experienced. It is not real; it is in your head.

    Worrying is another futile pursuit; often the problem is only imagined in the first place. I heard worry described as "Praying for something we don't want."

    Even if a problem is inevitable, time enough to deal with it, if and when it arrives. Why torment yourself in the days or weeks leading up to the event? Remember with any problem; before the problem you were, after the problem you still are. The problem is transient, you are not.

    How do you get to live in the moment? Ride your bike is one way, or practice meditation, but often we can slip out of the moment once we stop bike riding or meditating.

    What worked for me was to become an observer of my mind; I become aware of my thoughts and recognized when I was slipping out of the moment and into the past or future. Just by being aware of these thoughts is enough to stop it."

    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Ain't These Beautiful?

    I'm not much of a cook, but sometimes my hand is forced. Lorna was occupied, so I made an omelet for our late Sunday breakfast. It was really an excuse to eat morels, so I just put in what we had, some cheese, spinach, broccoli, sweet onion, garlic, and of course fresh morels. Damn  can I cook!

    The golden age of Midwest morels is waning. Locally they grow on the roots of dead American Elms. When Dutch Elm swept through, they were all over - some years more than you could pick.  The morels fruit for up to 30 years after the tree dies. There are a handful of Elms here and there, so there will always be a few mushrooms around, but our glory time is running out.

    Honda Insight 1.3 IMA SE Hybrid

    I try to live small, to impact the planet as little as is feasible...for me.  I'm interested in hybrid cars, so this review from the London Sunday Times caught my eye:

    "Much has been written about the Insight, Honda’s new low-priced hybrid. We’ve been told how much carbon dioxide it produces, how its dashboard encourages frugal driving by glowing green when you’re easy on the throttle and how it is the dawn of all things. The beginning of days.

    So far, though, you have not been told what it’s like as a car; as a tool for moving you, your friends and your things from place to place.

    So here goes. It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more."

    And it goes on.

    1949 Giro - Part One

    Clipped from Part One of the 1949 Giro D'Italia:

    "He dreams, this little soldier who has never heard the crowd roar his name, nor been lifted victoriously onto the shoulders of the delirious throng. He dreams of what all men have an absolute need to imagine, at one time or another, for otherwise life would be too difficult to bear.

    He is dreaming of HIS Giro d'Italia, an awe-inspiring revenge, and right from the very start of course!

    One hundred six kilometers from Palermo, where the road begins the difficult climb toward the Colle del Contrasto, more than 3000 feet above sea level, out of the thundering pack of racers, still as compact as a herd of buffalo, who leaps out? None other than he, the gregario, the unknown one, whose name children have never chalked on suburban walls, as encouragement or as scorn.

    Alone, he hurls himself like a madman up the steep climb, while the others ignore him."What an idiot," says one know-it-all, "That's the best way to do yourself in! In five minutes at most he'll explode."

    But he continues to fly, as if carried by a supernatural force. He devours switchback after switchback as if, instead of climbing, he was hurtling down the Stelvio, or some other mountain pass."

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Quality of Life Movin' On

    I gotta say, we had a great meal and great wines.  John spent a lot of time studying corks and labels, swirling wine, and scribbling his tiny, tiny notes.  Our meal was built around fresh morels collected that afternoon (exciting!), washed down with some nice reds, ( Tempranillo and Zin) and finished off with Port. We discussed the different types of morels with Jon Pieper. He had 300 pounds on hand, so we ended up coming home with brown paper bags of morels. We have about a pound, Sal and John have about 5 pounds. Later in the evening Sally recited the lyrics to When I'm 64. Until then, it didn't dawn on me that 64 was milemarker. God, life just doesn't get better than that.

    When I'm 64!

    When I get older, losing my hair, 
    Many years from now, 
    Will you still be sending me a Valentine 
    Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? 

    If I'd been out till quarter to three 
    Would you lock the door? 
    Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
    When I'm sixty-four? 

    oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo 
    You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah) 
    And if you say the word, 
    I could stay with you. 

    I could be handy, mending a fuse 
    When your lights have gone 
    You can knit a sweater by the fireside 
    Sunday mornings, go for a ride. 

    Doing the garden, digging the weeds, 
    Who could ask for more? 
    Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
    When I'm sixty-four? 

    Every summer we can rent a cottage 
    In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear 
    We shall scrimp and save 
    Grandchildren on your knee: 
    Vera, Chuck, and Dave 

    Send me a postcard, drop me a line, 
    Stating point of view 
    Indicate precisely what you mean to say 
    Yours sincerely, Wasting Away. 

    Give me your answer, fill in a form 
    Mine for evermore 
    Will you still need me, will you still feed me, 
    When I'm sixty-four? 


    B' Day from Toad

    Fourteen-ten Oakwood
    Celebrates Gunnar today,
    Happy Birthday Man


    Ol'Gunnar is three score and four today.  So far I've celebrated by cleaning the house, installing a new version of MS Office, and doing three loads of wash.  Things are hopefully going to pick up shortly, as we going out this evening with Sally and The Judge.  As a present, Sal volunteered to do designated driver duty.  She's taking a birthday bullet for me.    

    1949 Giro d'Italia

    I lifted this in it's entirety from Aldo Ross.  Starting today he's posting day by day coverage of the 1949 Giro d'Italia. This was one of the great classic races of all time.  Aldo has put in a lot of work on this. If you want to follow his coverage, click the link. 

    (Above: Dino Buzzati at work.)
    For it's daily coverage of the 1949 Giro d'Italia bicycle race, the Italian evening newspaper "Corriere della Sera" sent, not a sports writer as one might have expected, but Dino Buzzati; journalist, author, poet, painter, and playwright. Though not an expert on the strategies, tactics or history of Italy's most popular sporting event, Buzzati quickly grasped the significance of the Giro's traditions and legends, and the important place it held in the hearts and minds of the Italian people.
    Luckily for Buzzati (and us) the 32nd running of the Giro would prove to be an important moment in cycling history, as the two greatest champions of the time battled for fame and victory. One of these riders would go on to become the greatest cyclist the world had ever known, a super-champion or "campionissimo", performing feats of strength and endurance unimaginable by the cognoscenti, aficionados and medical experts of his time.The other would go on to achieve marvelous results of his own, though often he would find himself one step below the campionissimo on the world's victory podiums, and in doing so would display stubborn conviction and self-sacrifice no one could have expected.

    But that all happens later - for the moment Dino Buzzati is just beginning his trip around the Italian boot, accompanied by the most famous and popular athletes in Italy, their anonymous support riders and team personnel, and a small army of sports journalists - as varied and interesting as the racers themselves.
    And as a background for this voyage into the unknown there is the entire country of Italy, worn-torn and impoverished, scarred and ruined by the Second World War. It is a nation of poor peasants, wealthy aristocrats, Catholic bureaucracy and deep religious convictions. It is a land of olive groves, steep vineyards, industrial cities, and the art and culture of an ancient society. Within this rich tapestry Buzzati will find stories of triumph and failure, joy and pain, celebration and human folly.
    Buzzati's articles, written in such rich prose, give us a wonderful look at special moments from sixty years ago. Some are accounts of events which are well documented in the literature of bicycle racing history, but some are subtle and obscure - not cycling-related at all, but glimpses of life in a place and moment we can never see for ourselves, lost as they are in the passage of time. Empty, dusty roads, nearly devoid of automobiles. Bomb-damaged cities without electricity or plumping. Aging survivors of the war who once-again pedal their bikes across the rude terrain. Fresh young riders raised in a world of depravation and danger, free now to race across the mountains toward the horizon.

    A few years ago VeloPress publish an English-language version of Buzzati's articles, "Bartali vs. Coppi at the 1949 Giro d'Italia". Some sections are rather poorly translated, some are carelessly written, and the book gives only the slightest hint of the beauty, rhythm and emotion of Buzzati's Italian prose. Thus, I decided to translate the articles myself, using what ever means available to obtain copies of the original Italian text from friends, books, and the Internet (thank you to everyone who has contributed to the collection of paper stacked high on my office desk).

    Please keep in mind that this is still (after nearly seven years) a work in progress, and each year brings new pictures or articles or other reference materials. I think this is the third edition... please feel free to send corrections or suggestions as much of the story is still guesswork and I feel I still don't have the entire picture. For instance, did you know Buzzati's articles about the Giro continued even after the finish? But try finding copies of those! And I'm STILL trying to find a picture of the Edelweiss team jersey (I have pictures of all the others, and even color drawings).

    Well, that's the story of how this all got started. Now let's get into the spirit of the thing.
    Imagine what it must have been like. The jerseys are simple, one or two colors, with only the bike maker's names embroidered on the tough wool, front and back pockets stuffed full of supplies for the day's racing.

    The riders wear thin cotton cycling caps or go bareheaded. Thus you can see the color of their hair, the shape of their heads, the set of their brows. Their eyes aren't hidden behind sunglasses - they wear goggles when the road is dusty, but at the finish you can look at them and see the face of Man Victorious, or Man Defeated, of Man Devastated and in Pain.

    Imagine the bikes - a flowing garden of colors, distinctive and instantly recognizable, but look at that dingy cloth tape, polished by hands and dust and sweat, worn thin by thousands of kilometers on the road. See the dazzling chrome details and components - in a land where everything is worn and gray only the churches have more colors, more sparkles.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Thoreau Buys a Farm

    When I wrote of farmers unwitting destruction of the Redheaded Woodpeckers habitat, it brought to mind Thoreau and the Hollowell Place.  It was a rundown, overgrown farm and ol' Hank was moved to buy it before anybody had a chance to "improve" it. That was probably 150 years ago, so I guess this grubbing out and cutting down has been going on for a while now.  He seemed to be describing my Mother's parents farm. The house was uninsulated, without indoor plumbing or central heat,...and Mart Cassel was in no hurry to fix it up.  To improve it.  He lived and farmed at his own pace, with a pretty team of Belgians to pull his old machinery.  Grandpa was a terrible farmer, but the result of his sloth was a wonderful place for us kids to play.  He hung in there, scratching away a meager living from a poor farm, until arthritis took the reins from his hands. If Thoreau had seen the Cassel place he would of bought it in a heartbeat. 

    Redheaded Woodpecker

    pensive woodpecker
    remembering a fallen tree
    food and shelter past

    We normally have three varieties of woodpeckers at our feeders; Downy, Hairy, and Redbellied. Today we have vistor, a Redheaded Woodpecker.  Neat and trim with crisp markings.  He'll move on in a day or two; he's a creature of dead snags and open fields, not oak woods.  They were common when I was a boy, but when farmers got more free time they began to neaten things up - mowing ditches, cutting down dead trees, generally grubbing things out, all under the guise of "improvement". I think one Redheaded Woodpecker is worth a lot of dead trees in the fencerows.  

    Wounded Knee - READ THIS!

    A great number of years ago I was a guest at Gary Thomas' rural South Dakota ranch(?) for the Buffalo County Bar Association Bean Feed and Beer Bust. This was a bit of a joke as the only lawyers in Buffalo County were a couple of young legal aid lawyers - Thomas and my friend Jim Margadant. The party was a mix of activist law types and a two or three young Indians. A good party - good food, interesting people, too much to drink and a good fist fight to cap it off. Years later I asked Jim what had become of one of the guys I had been talking to that day. He said, "He was killed. A lot of Indians just disappeared back then." Last night I watched a PBS special on the Wounded Knee Occupation. After it was over I emailed Jim and asked what stuck out in his memory of that awful time. This is his response:

    Yes, I watched the PBS program too. It brought back many memories about those times and life on South Dakota's reservations during AIM days. It started with the Custer County Courthouse riots and ratcheted up with various actions and events through the Wounded Knee occupation. I think that the Native Americans that produced the PBS piece got it right, at least from my perspective and sympathies at the time.

    I was a bit closer to some of the events because Gary Thomas, the legal services lawyer in the Pine Ridge office, was moved to my Ft. Thompson office after the Pine Ridge office was "closed." Turns out ol' Rowe knew a good bit about the caravan that formed to go out to Wounded Knee that night, what kind of ordinance was in the car trunks, names and particulars. It wasn't safe for him to stay on in Pine Ridge, so he got pulled out and sent off to my way-station. That's probably why the Wilson goons broke into the Pine Ridge office and trashed it after he hauled ass.

    There's lots of stories, but only two strike me as worth retelling right now. The first involves the trashed Pine Ridge office. Along about late April/early May, Thomas and I decided (in good legal aid tradition) that our office would benefit from a good chunk of the library and office equipment that the legal aid program had been purchased for the Pine Ridge office. So on a bright sunny day we jumped in my old blue Chevy pickup and hit the trail for the big res.

    We hit surveillance shortly after crossing Pine Ridge's east boundary on the road in from Martin -- can't think of the highway number and I'm too lazy to look at a map. The surveillance came in the form of a very obvious tail by an unmarked law enforcement car. It followed us along a ways, then suddenly accelerated around us and whipped on down the road to the Wounded Knee junction, where it turned off north. We were pleased. Obviously there was still enough going on in Wounded Knee that we were too inconsequential to deal with.

    We pulled into Pine Ridge, went down the alley to the legal aid office, parked and let ourselves in. That's when we discovered the place had been trashed, or tossed might be more descriptive. There wasn't a thing on a shelf, or in a drawer. Books were every where. Thomas and I looked at each other and rapidly revised the shopping list. Piss on the better desk and copier; which legal treatises could we find and get carried out to the truck?

    As I was stacking some law books to go, I heard a noise, looked up and saw two of the biggest tribal cops I'd ever laid eyes on standing just inside the doorway. I was not comforted by the way they were caressing and playing with their riot batons. I called Brother Thomas' attention to our visitors -- it was his office after all; shit, hopefully he knew them and hadn't pissed them off in tribal court.

    Upshot was there was a quick conversation during which the cop with the stripes did most of the talking. Turns out it was not our program's office anymore; it was the property of the Tribe (i.e., Dickie Wilson and company); we were trespassing; and if we picked up another fucking book they were going to thump us. Thomas and I saw the impeccable logic of it all, said our good days and headed for the truck. We hit the highway and headed for the nearest reservation line. We also got a nice police escort off the reservation which ended with a one-finger salute as we crossed into state jurisdiction.

    My other memory is of the Reign of Terror days that followed Wounded Knee. As you recall from the program, 60 some Indians were murdered on Pine Ridge after the occupation ended. I knew one of the victims, Byron DeSersa. He was a young, thin, iron muscled fellow from Pine Ridge. His dad had run a underground newsletter opposing the Wilson administration, and Byron was continuing the business. He was involved as a lay-advocate and a community organizer actively opposing the Wilson gang. The kid was sharp, fun to party with, and he was fearless.

    One night in January 1976 (this is how his family members passed it along to us legal aids), Byron and his wife and kid were driving down around Wamblee were he was meeting some folks and checking some stuff out. Outside town a carload of Wilson Goons picked them up and then passed Byron's car shooting it full of holes. They also got Byron full of holes. He pulled his car off into the ditch and hurried his wife and kid off into the night on foot, but he was too shot up to get away. We were told the Goon car turned around and came back and there was more shooting.

    I was gobsmacked when I heard this. We'd been at a house party three weeks earlier with Byron and his wife, everyone was pushing Byron to get back into school, get a law degree, all that altruistic bullshit. Now the Goons had got him.

    The investigation was low priority, but the feds finally did arrest some of Wilson's boys for it. Two of them walked, two of the others were given a sweetheart deal and did 2 years of a 5 year sentence for manslaughter. As we had so often said in jest, and now in sorrow, "That's life on the res."

    The PBS program could have been longer, but maybe a new generation just hearing this story would have been lost in too many details. This was bare boned and moved well. Lots of stuff happened during that year so long ago, so many names and places associated with what was going on -- seeing old Fools Crow again was neat, but there was only one reference to Crow Dog. There was a place back then on the Rosebud called "Crow Dog's Paradise" where no FBIs went. But that stuff all ramped up big time following Wounded Knee and led up to the shootings of the federal agents and the charges against Leonard Peltier. For tonight it was just better to remember the guys like poor Buddy LaMont and Byron DeSersa.

    These events are still playing themselves out in real time in South Dakota. Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash was killed following Wounded Knee. Depending on the story-teller, she was either an AIM activist or a federal informant. At any rate, after all these years the feds finally made some cases, got the Canadians to extradite a fellow, and they've got two fellows in the local jail waiting to go on trial for her murder sometime this summer. Its a tough case for the Indian community because it looks like its going to play out that the AIM boys ordered her execution as a snitch -- which may, or may not have been the case.

    And the Leonard Peltier case keeps popping to the top every 5 years or so. I predict that I will not live to see the definitive history of 1972 - 1977 in Indian County written.

    -- Margadant

    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Fox Hunting

    A year ago I posted a couple of stories on fishing and deer hunting. A number of people said I HAD to write about foxing hunting. I guess the reason I haven't is that the other postings were triggered by finding old photographs in a dusty old shoe box. I didn't find any pictures of fox hunting. Recently this rare photo showed up and it renewed my memories again. Fox hunting, as it is normally depicted, is a genteel sport involving horses and hounds -"Release the hoounds! Tally Ho!". Well, that ain't the way we did it back in the Grove.

    Most mornings, the men of the Grove ate a hearty breakfast at the Town Talk Cafe. On mornings after a new snow they brought their cased hunting rifles with them and stacked them by the door as they came in. There were no phone calls or prearranging, it was assumed there would be a hunt. My Old Man had a Piper Cub fitted with skis at the strip on the south edge of town. If it was a school snow day or Saturday I would get to go with him and we'd fly out, mostly north and west of town, looking for red foxes resting on the hillsides catching the first warming rays of morning sunshine. After we had spotted two or three we landed and went back to the cafe, where the guys were on cup three or four of Iv's strong coffee. Plans were made, the quarry selected and driver-passenger arrangements set up. Then we'd climb into the cars and take off in a high speed caravan over the narrow, rough gravel back roads.

    The general idea of the hunt was not to kill the fox; it was to get the fox running, which they are inclined to do if they are shot at with high power rifles. Then other hunters were set up on roads to intercept them. I should interject that this wasn't done on foot, it was done leaning across car hoods or from inside vehicles - all terribly dangerous and illegal. There were local vehicles that had patched holes in their roofs from guns discharging from a whump on the washboard gravel roads. In a scene from a typical hunt...the fox is running in terror from the sound of a barrage of gun fire, he scrambles over the hill and follows the overgrown fencerow to get to safety in the willows of Klunder's slough. But...but there are three or four cars flying down the gravel road to intercept and hopefully greet him with a hail of hot lead. The drivers hit the brakes, everyone jumps out, lean across the car hoods and lay down a barrage of gunfire at the poor fox that would make Ulysses S. Grant proud . In the excitement of gunsmoke and laughter there was very little aiming. It tended to be controlled spraying. I've seen cars lined up with half a dozen "hunters" firing, the fox run between the cars, and never lose a a nick of fur.

    For me, "The Kid", a kind of a tagalong, the dream team was Ivan Paulson at the wheel of his '57 Dodge Ram (not a pickup - a tail-finned sedan with a hemi-head and two 4-barrel carburetors), "King" Thompson, and Don Wayne, who kind of took me under his wing when the Old Man was away or up in the Cub. This was a kid's dream - loud noises, fast cars and guns, laughing, spitting and swearing. With the men! It just didn't get any better than that. Iv was a crazy driver with a car that was stupid fast, King was kind of jumpy nervous, and Big Don was an instigator. He usually didn't even take a gun. His job was to give dual, to give advice and training, or rather to aid and abet. Bob (King) had never shot a fox in his life and it was Donald's mission to "help" him. I recall one time Don loaned King his gun, a big semi-automatic. I don't recall the model - the gun guys would remember. Anyway, Don tells King that, "You can never have too much firepower!". When we had the fox intercepted, Don gives me that now watch this look, and helped King get set up for the kill. "Now don't shoot yet. Hold your fire. Hold it. Hold it. Okay now, FIRE! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT, YOU FOOL!" King unloaded the gun like it was an Uzi, never coming within ten yards of the poor critter. Don was slapping his leg and laughing so hard he could hardly stand up. Then back into the car to go up the road and do it all over again. And again. I believe the King died without ever shooting a fox.

    I just proofed the above and it's all over the place. Tough. It's probably not accurate, but it is the truth as I remember it. And as W.D. Jensen, one of the last of his generation, said the other day, "It's hard to believe we could have that much fun without having alcohol involved." It was probably cruel, certainly unsporting, and even illegal at times... but it was like living in a sitcom and I've never had so much fun in my life.
    (And then there was shooting foxes from an airplane. All I'll say about that is that it ended with an airplane crumpled in a pile with both wings broke off. Another story entirely.)

    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Good Morning Albert Lea

    Tim Engstrom got up before I did this morning, and took this shot of joggers running the five mile loop around the lake. Me? I got up later and did it on a bicycle. It was still beautiful.

    Some Brewer has to be the Smallest

    I live in Minnesota, but damned near in Iowa. The first Iowa town, 15 miles down the road from here, is Northwood. What's Northwood famous for? Nothing. It's a bump in the road. It's a bump with one neat thing - a micro brewery. A mini micro brewery. Peter Ausenhus runs Worth Brewing, a brewery/bar out of an old bank building. He trys to offer some interesting brews, with always a handful of his own beers on tap so customers can sample a variety. Sorry, no bottles, no growlers. Important update!!! Peter does, in fact have growlers!

    What sets this operation apart from most others is its scale. He brews two batches every Monday and two batches every Tuesday, and more during the week as needed. He's forced to brew a lot of batches because of his capacity. “This is tiny. This is only a 10 gallon system, so it’s almost like a home brewery size,” Ausenhus said. “Generally a professional brewery, at the minimum, is about ten times this size. So I think I’m the smallest licensed brewery in the country, actually.” (info from the A.L.Trib)

    Brompton Races

    There are a handful of folding bicycle brands worldwide. The British seem to be particularly smitten with them with the Moultons and Bromptons. The Brompton is rather like the Mini Cooper of the bicycle world. I've seen photos of Bromptons with Brooks Pro saddles and drop handlebars.
    The Brompton races are not just a bunch of goofy guys getting together to drink beer and do something silly (re: cyclocross racing). These are sanctioned races, albeit with a couple of typical eccentric British quirks - attire must be street shoes, collared shirt and tie, and dress jacket. The young men in shorts may be in legal attire, but they are certainly sitting astride a folding loop hole. And they are trailing the banker who by my guess has at least three last names.

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Beer and Pots

    A beautiful day today. Lorna spent the afternoon on the deck reading a book, cramming for her upcoming book club meeting. The migratory birds are starting to arrive the last few days. Last year Lorna made a power-point on all the birds we I D 'd here in the yard last year. J and S wanted a copy, so I biked a "stick" over to them. I ended up killing a chunk of the afternoon in their gazebo, talking smart and drinking J's Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale - hoppy and bitter. It went well with my cigar (tolerant people). The conversation went from food to children, from politics to beer and wine, to J's passion, pre-columbian pottery. Pre-Columbian pottery and beer? Life doesn't get much better than this.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    On Sautering, Moseying and Meandering

    It is Saturday... so this morning L.P. picked me up to make a breakfast run. A "run" probably isn't an accurate description. He tends to drive around a while, apparently aimlessly, and eventually as if by mistake, ends up at his destination. For while he tried to see how many different routes he could take driving across town from home to work. It took a couple of months before he found himself repeating. Getting to breakfast he'll take a short cut, only because of hunger, going just a few blocks out of the way. After we eat, it's anybodys guess. On our way from The Elbow Room to my house we've meandered on gravel roads as far as Beaver Lake, which is 30 miles out of the way. If he sees a house or something that interests him, he'll pull over and spend time looking, just taking it in. This morning as we looped around the back way we passed a brick house painted bright red with dark blue accents. As we slowed to a crawl to take it in, I noticed a BEWARE OF THE DOG sign in the window. One of my rules for survival is if I see a dog warning sign on a house that has a sofa as lawn furniture, I take it seriously.