St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cold Weather

My own birthday is in December too. I am much tougher because of it! My story: It was December 17th. In a snowstorm, after milking the cows in the evening, Dad started the old 31 Chev and headed down Hwy 87 to St. Croix to J. A. Riegel's hospital in the Baker Mansion to pick up Mom and me, her new baby, so she would be home for her birthday on the 18th. Just south of La Vern Larson's farm, the fuse for the headlamps burned out leaving him to negotiate MacIntosh curve in the dark snowy night on the slippery hill. Standing on the running board to see, door open, throttle slightly pulled back and grabbing the steering wheel he figured to get to Eureka and get some new fuses there. But he slipped into the steep ditch, car tipping gently but only partially on its side against the bank, spilling the baby clothes and diapers into the snow. A walk to the neighbors, phone call to Harold Jensen at the garage in Cushing got the wrecker out with fuses and Dad back on his way and soon he arrived at the hospital. He shook out some of the snow from my diapers and clothes, but plenty remained as I was diapered, dressed and brought home, adjusting to the cold cold world with nary a whimper! The last two weeks I have been huddled over my computer working on Cushing History book trying to keep warm at the cabin when it is 20 below outside. My brother Everett says "Tighten it up! Take a candle and look for air leaks by watching the flame bend to the side." Well, the candle blew out anywhere in the cabin, but I have since tightened it up enough so my blowtorch stays lit unless I am near the doors or windows. Since Mom (who will be 86 in a week) is probably reading this and getting ready to mount a rescue, I have to admit that with our good wood stove and plenty of wood that Margo cut and split, the cabin is pretty comfortable. Margo left for Pine Island before the cold spell. She seems to think that with the water system turned off, trips to the outhouse at 20 below are an inconvenience. I say it just increases efficiency, especially for someone who started life with snow in their diapers. I have to join her soon, as she is having trouble with the WD Allis tractor and snowbucket down there. She forgets which wires to cross off for the ignition, thinks it is a bother to air up the tires each time, has a hard time cranking to start it and doesn't like the taste of gas when you need to blow to clear the line every 10 minutes. Oh well, she probably started life with warm diapers.

Rambing into Summer

Rambling into Summer--Russ Hanson
Midsummer Day has come and following the tradition of our Swedish cousins we have had our first fresh strawberries from the garden. Our new potatoes are late this year. Cousin Arne, in Skee, Sweden, grows them a 5 gallon pail he brings in the house at night in early spring just to have new potatoes on the longest day of the year. Farther to the north than us, the Swedes appreciate the long summer days after the long dark winter. If you visit Scandinavia, Midsummer is the best time to go and enjoy their celebrations.
Margo has been at her parents in West Bend for the past two weeks. She takes her mom, Myrtle, out from the Alzheimer’s home for afternoon drives and coffee or ice cream. Myrtle does not know her as a daughter, but seems to accept her as a sister or friend. She still asks about Russ and Scott—even though she doesn’t know us when we visit. Myrtle sees us and her son and husband as strangers—people who make her nervous as we claim to be relatives.
While Margo is away at her parents, I am a little more laid back at the cabin on the lake in housekeeping and meals. While she is here, we have orderly routines, balanced meals, laundry day and dishes are washed and floors vacuumed whether they need it or not. We are a Better Homes and Garden family.
Within a few days of being on my own, my own schedule takes over. Wash the dishes when you need some; do the laundry when you need something to wear; eat when you are hungry and what you are hungry for; shop for food when everything in the refrigerator and in the cupboard is gone, the popcorn is running low and you have had the last condiment salad (you mix mustard, ketchup, relish, pickles and French dressing in a cereal bowl).
My favorite quick supper is a big bowel of popcorn with lots of real butter, lots of salt and lots of melted cheese. I alternate this with a big bowel of caramel popcorn covered with my own recipe of maple syrup boiled with butter—it is only right when it is sticky enough that you feel you should take a bath after you are eat it.
I like a late breakfast that doubles for a farm dinner. My favorite is duo of sourdough toast slices slathered in butter and jelly(my fruit portion); a couplet of butter fried brown eggs fresh from the pampered chickens at Quiet Meadows Ranch; a gathering of morels fresh or frozen from mosquito and tick ridden searches in the old cow pasture; a rasher of double thick old style bacon with the rind; a pan of fresh cinnamon rolls drizzled with sugar frosting and a beaker of double-caff coffee with a well ripened banana for good health. Of course, that is too much work for most days.
Margo worries about the three C’s; Calories Cholesterol, and Caffeine so she thinks of breakfast as decaf coffee, skim milk on bran cereal with 12 raisins and a half of banana each, and maybe half a piece of 386-grain bread skimmed with low sugar jelly.
My breakfast most mornings meets my frugality, taste and ambition; a large glass of diet pop, the kind that is 67 cents for a huge bottle at chain stores, and a mixture of frosted oatmeal and chocolate sided cookies, the kind that are 98 cents a package at the same store. For an afternoon snack, I like left over popcorn re-heated in the microwave. I always eat on the porch overlooking the lake so I can watch all the wildlife.
Margo’s birthday arrived while she was still away so I am surprising her with a tremendous gift; one she has wanted for several years. I can’t wait until she gets back next week to see it! I splurged and bought us a different camper for going south this winter.
Last year we tried two weeks in our tiny pop-up tent camper. Margo whined because there was no furnace and it got down to the 20’s inside a few nights in TX. Even though she had on five layers of clothes and many blankets she still got cold. As an old Scouter, used to winter camping, and having a liberal layer of personal insulation built in, I don’t notice the cold weather much.
Because of my claustrophobia, I have to have sleep on the inside of the camper bunk, away from the low overhead canvas wall and ceiling. It does probably gets a little bit colder for her against the thin canvas wall. Her fingers turn white, but that is just her Reynauds disease—an over reaction to cold and not to be taken seriously. In the National Forest campgrounds, she gets nervous about being separated from the bears by only a canvas wall.
A good husband listens to his wife and responds to her whims and imaginary concerns, no matter how frivolous he thinks they are. I was driving through Luck a couple weeks ago and saw this nice little hard shell camper along the road for sale. It was a 1971 Aristocrat Lo-Liner 15 foot (13 feet living space) that had been remodeled into a ice fishing house. It had real walls and was insulated and had a small gas furnace! Just the ticket to please Margo!
I figured the large ice fishing hole in the floor might be useful. The inside was already gutted so it would give us more space for our own stuff. I negotiated the price down to $75—an excellent price for a camper ready to roll; a match for my retirement budget; yet expensive enough as a birthday gift so Margo will know I really appreciate her!
I hooked on to it with the truck and pulled it home without problem. Of course, it didn’t have a title nor license plate so I had to take the back roads. The seller said he got it from his godfather a few year ago who had gotten it from his son a few years earlier who got it from his friend a few years earlier who got it from an old man who had already passed on a few years earlier and none of them had licensed it—just used it for a lakeside bedroom or fishing shack. The Motor Vehicle department didn’t have any info about the trailer ID number and told me to fill out some paper work, show a picture ID, pay $58, have it road inspected and all past omissions will be forgiven.
It does have a working gas furnace. The three burner stove works but a wooden door replaces the original oven door. The previous owner said the oven didn’t work, so he used it for bait storage. The wood door should work if I will wrap it in aluminum foil before we start baking bread.
I think the large ice-fishing hole in the floor can be made into a toilet (there wasn’t any in the camper) with one of those porta-potties or five gallon pail toilets they have for hunters with a flat RV tank strapped below the camper. Because it is in the middle of the kitchen area, I will disguise it as a table with a tabletop attached to the fold up toilet lid.
Two lawn chairs should make up for the missing bench seats. The setup in the rear for the narrow bunk bed is still there. I think Margo can get used to the top bunk with the ceiling close over her face—I am far too claustrophobic to be up there. A plus is that warm air rises so it will be the warmer bunk and bears can’t reach up that high either.
I have the windows and door opened up now, airing it out. By the time Margo gets back the mildewed fishy smell should be gone—especially if I tear out the moldy old carpet, patch the corner where the roof leaks, and air out the foam cushions. Sometimes I am so happy my Dad taught me to be a handy person!
There is no spare tire or wheel and the wheel bolt pattern is quite odd sized, so I will carry a spare tire, tube and jack in case the 36-year-old tires might be a little less than prime. I have spared no effort in getting Margo good at changing tires so that won’t be a big deal. I can’t wait for her to come home to see her new birthday camper! I have named her “Winnabelle.” When you see Margo next time, I bet she will be smiling! Take my advice guys, spare no effort to please your wife.