St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures from the West

Ranch in Western OR

Grain Elevator showing construction

Video at the Richardson Ranch NE Oregon
Digging for Thunderbird Eggs

Cushing History Research -- Doc Squirt in Seattle

In Seattle, I continued my local history research by spending a few afternoons in the University of Washington microfilm library reading 1936-43 issues of the Duwamish Valley News. Roy Hennings (Doc Squirt) of Cushing, WI., moved to Seattle in the mid 1930s and continued his newspaper writing out here for the News. He wrote extensively for all of the local papers in Polk and Burnett County from 1904 until his death in 1943. I was curious what he wrote about while he was in Seattle. Out here, he began billing himself as Doc Squirt, Paul Bunyan’s Doctor after he had spent some time in a local hospital and dreamed about talking to Paul and seeing Babe the blue ox. Paul asked him to be his personal doctor in the dream.

I have been researching Doc Squirt through his writings and from people who have known him for 4 years now. I have a booklet I put out two years ago, but continue to be interested in his life and writings. He was a very outspoken Republican in the 1930s and referred to President Roosevelt as Franklin Deficit. His position on health care became increasingly clear as he had to have an operation (hernia?) at age 57 (1940) before dieing from a brain tumor in 1943. His opinion from his columns is interesting today as Health Care is on the national agenda.

From the Pen of Doc Squirt, Paul Bunyan’s Personal Doctor,
Duwamish Valley News, Seattle WA
11/29/41 Well folks, we are out of the hospital and feel pretty lucky at pulling thru a very tough situation as well as we did. One thing certain is that in Dr. Ralph Dalton and the medical staff of the Virgina Mason Hospital in Seattle, we had the best talent available in this big northwest to take care of us. Folks, that’s just what turned the trick with our operation.

“’Just got out out of the hospital,’ is a remark that we hear pretty often and that usually calls for a sympathetic comment from those around about, and just how long this bunch sticks around depends a lot on just what symptoms the ‘ex-patient’ shows of getting ready to give a longwinded account of just what happened to him in minute detail, or whether he just gives them a brief review of his experience and then gets set to discuss the issues of the day with them as he always used to do.

The hospital is the last place that most any of us want to go to, and the fact that it quite often is the ‘Last Place’ a feller goes, is often accounted for by the fact that one’s call then was put off a heap too long and when one finally showed up for a work over it was a little to late in the season for the Medico’s to do very much about it. One often goes thru a lot of misseries doping oneself up to postpone a trip to the hospital. We have all done that more or less, but one can hardly be blamed for that as a stop over at one of these places of healing and solace wrecks one’s bank roll something scandalous and a feller is very liable to figure that one might as well be “on the shelf” as broke and take a gambling chance on ones health that in the end lays up an awful accumulation of acute trouble for him or her. Hospitals are wonder­ful institutions, folks, we have never realized that as fully as we do right now as we were never in one as a patient before and had this realization forcibly brought home to us.

The service one gets there is worth a lot and that’s just what it costs. The tragic part of it is that the facilities of a great hospital like the Virginia Mason and other hospitals are not thru some humane legislation made available to every suffering member of the human race regardless of their ability or inability to pay the fee that these Institutions have to collect in order to keep on functioning. A small national hospitalization tax would take care of this super neces­sary detail and people would then be able to have their minor troubles tak­en care of at the right time which would greatly reduce the number of major troubles and getting this ser­vice wouldn’t mean that they would be turned out to convalesce plumb broke at the most helpless moment of their existence.

The present system at times brings on worries that often lead to mental troubles. National hospitalization would give the public a real break and at the same time assure the hospital of the payment of our bills for services rendered and in cases of office calls or home calls, one’s local physician would receive the compensation that they cannot always gamble on under the setup of today.

We have heard doctors and nurses in the hospital claim that National Hospitalization making this service so easily obtainable, would bring on an epidemic of ‘Hospital Addicts’, people who would abuse this fine service, but we know a way to stop that. An infallible way. There is a hospital orderly at large in this U. S. of ours who puts so much ‘zing’ into his enema work outs that we hung the name of ‘Niagara Johnson’ on him and ‘Hospital Addicts’ would become plumb migratory fast if ‘Niagara’ was called to do his stuff in their case. Personally tho, we feel pretty kindly towards ‘Niagara Johnson’ as in the cassitary period of our trouble, his skillful care was a source of a lot of comfort to us.

Our trouble was the result of years spent in hard motorcycling racing cross count runs etc., as a professional. Thousands of miles of skally hooting over the U. S. on jolting freight trains that at times seem to kind of disintegrate a feller and we kind of marvel at what they were able to do for us at Virginia Mason Hospital.”

Dec 27 1940. “The little story we ran some time back about our session in Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle has brought us quite a few comments by mail, over the phone and in street conversations. Most of these people seem to be very much interested in National Hospitalization and cannot understand why the idea is being take up so slowly by the people at the head of the government. There is another little angle in the hospital setup.

The Farmer’s Union Publication from Walla Walla, Washington, “Pacific Northwest Cooperator” is a real live wire paper devoted to the interests of cooperation—a very worthy cause, and one that meets with a lot of resistance on every front.

There is an item in this month’s paper about the students at Washington State College being favored with cooperative hospitalization. Let us hope that this idea spreads fast, as no one who has not spent some time in a regular commercial hospital can visualize the mental agony gone thru by patients driven frantic by worrying about the hospital bill that they are running up every day of their stay there; in fact, some of this mental agony overshadows the physical and retards recovery.

Some of the best ideas in the business world today have come direct from the farm. The Farmers’ Auto Insurance setup has saved the public a lot of money, not only in its own operation, but it has forced old line insurance companies to cut down on their exorbitant rates that used to make up the big dividends which were all out of proportion to the profits that they were justly entitled to and have met a lot of the officials of the Farmers Union, and we believe that this group can work out a cooperative hospitalization plan that will go over big and bring the farmers and their city cousins a to closer together than they are now. These things cannot be planned outright in the bigger cities as the grafting element is sure to get into the picture and in order to get a good “drag” out of it themselves they will run the rates up into too much money. “

1942 Folks, how does the idea of making… National Hospitalization a reality strike you? Right now a number of the people, and a very limited number, have hospitalization, but they have to be in a group to get it. The rest of the public is at the mercy of ruinous hospital bills in even of an accident of an illness. At the end of this war, which we hope comes soon, the bigger groups which can qualify for hospitalization will become smaller groups that cannot qualify and what is more these smaller groups under war conditions might be shy of all the requirements to get medical attention. The present set up is plumb coo coo and the time to correct it is now.

Doc Squirt passed away at a hospital in Seattle, two years later at age 60, on September 20, 1943 from a brain tumor. Two years later, a Lebanese born doctor, who had been forming health co-ops in Oklahoma, came to Seattle and gave speeches about forming them. Out of that came at least one co-op, Group Health of WA, that continues to this day and is mentioned as an example of what a health co-operative would be like in current efforts to figure out a health care system that solves Doc’s complaints 68 years ago, that ring just as true now as they did in 1941.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In Seattle!

Hwy 2 came to end with a whimper turning into Hwy 5 north or south. After all the traveling, it seemed that there should have been a sign telling us that we had come to the western most edge of Hwy 2 in Everett Washington.

It is mild here. The black berries are just getting ripe and absolutely loaded and wonderful to eat. Plums, pears, cherries and other fruits are in season.

I went to the U of Washington to do some history research on the columns that Cushing native Roy Hennings (Doc Squirt) wrote in the Duwamish Valley News (found he wrote them every week 1940,41) and copied a bunch.

Margo and Cousin Sally went to Pikes fish market and saw all the pretty flowers, fruits and fish.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 6

It was raining yesterday in Glacier Park. It was "open house" weekend--free entry instead of $25. However the park was very busy, raining, cold and full so we drove through and then went to Troy to stay in a motel. Today we drove across Washington on Hwy 2 through acres and acres of winter wheat -- some harvested and some to go yet.

The east edge of the mountains are filled with orchards. Apples, pears, peaches etc. They are getting ready to pick some of them now. Sunday we plan to be in Seattle and visit Cousin Sally for a few days. Everything is going fine with the car.

We stopped at an abandoned old grain elevator and examined it. I always wondered how they were built so they could hold grain in such tall structures. I looked at this one very carefully. Inside the tall building were six individual bins going to the top. Each was built of 2x6s stacked on their sides all the way up and nailed together. This makes a very strong set of bins. Three were on each side with a drive through between them with a dump chute under the drive through.
I will put the pictures on when I get a chance.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Past Havre ND we met John, a 61 year old bicycler from Groton, CT. He has been on the road about 2 months in a full circuit of the lower 48 States. He plans to be in Seattle for his 62nd birthday, then to CA and across to FL and then back to CT in about a year. He retired from work this spring, sold his house, put a few items in storage and took off. He aims for 50 miles a day. “The people I meet are the best part of the trip! I camp in cemeteries, school yards, city parks, and back yards as much as possible. I spend about $10 per day.” He has met a lot of bikers coming east headed to CT.

We are doing some rockhounding on our trip. This is the first place we saw rocks for sale. We just didn’t have room for any of these.

We went into Glacier Park in the afternoon. It rained and was foggy part of the time but beautiful. Driving was a little hectic as the road is under construction and Mon-Thurs are 4 hour delays. Friday we had only short delays. Temps in the 50s with snow expected tonight! A little video of the driving is included.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lots of Sunflowers in ND
Margo with a fistfull of winnings at an Indian Casino in Western MN (came out $4.25 ahead!)

Had some wind last night at Lewis and Clark state park on the Missouri-- Garrison dam. Margo saw two falling stars in a brief clear time between lightning and clouds

Having breakfast in Williston, 20 miles from the border of Montana. Plan to get to Glacier on Friday morning and see if we can get a camp site.

Ran into two young men biking from Star Prairie (near Osceola) to Seattle and then to San Diego. They stayed at the campgrounds last night. Their blog is

Almost ran out of gas this morning. Filled it with 15.37 gallons and the tank holds 15.7 by the manual. The mileage was 27.1 mpg. After the vacuum hose repair yesterday, it idles smoothly, but still kills at low idle when it is cold. Not serious, probably a sensor. In the old days I would have just made a turn on the idle speed control on the carb. Now-a-days I imagine I would find a cam sensor that was bad and lift the motor 1 foot up and replace it for big bucks.

North Dakota has a bumper wheat crop according to the radio. It hasn't been harvested yet, but a few farmers are starting with the winter wheat. The spring wheat is still green. Sunflowers, alfalfa, grass hay, and endless wheat fields.

Near Williston are lots of new oil wells; some pumping and some waiting for better oil prices. They still have fresh paint and freshly leveled gravel pads. Halliburton is big here. My friend George G.'s son works at the oil fields here and says they are using techniques to get lots more oil out of the old wells by pumping in sand and hot water under huge pressures.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the Road to Seattle Days 1-3

Margo's Butter Grand Championship at the Polk Co fair
The Pumpkin/Squash Patch for this September 26 River Road Ramble Garden Market

Beaver Dam at Orr Lake

Margo packs the trunk of the 91 Olds

We are headed out to visit some cousins in Seattle on Hwy 2 across the Northern US. We are taking our time--aiming for about 300 miles per day and camping with a tent.

Day 1 August 10, 2009Miles 61,285.0 1991 Olds Cutlass Sierra Left Cabin at 8:45. Checked and 6 swans on Orr Lake. We are uncertain if they are the parents and 5 young hatched this spring who left 6 weeks ago or just a group immature adults who stop by once in a while. All were white and large--but way across the lake.
Stopped at Burnett Dairy and bought some Wisconsin cheese for gifts to take west. Then at the bank in Siren to transfer some money into checking and pick up some cash. Drove North on 35 all the way until the drop over that lets you see Superior and Duluth in the distance.
Stopped for breakfast at 10:45 at the Manitou Inn. We had the breakfast special of ham, eggs, toast and hash browns, $5.25. The coffee was weak. The ham was a huge thick delicious slice. Hash browns a little weak. A family came in with Extreme Makeover Home Edition and talked about the family nearby that was just seeing their brand new home.
Stopped at a touristcenter at Floodwood and got two cookies $1.25 each. Not too bad.
2:44 Deer River. Evergreen Industries Christmas Wreaths -- Byron Boy Scouts (I was Scoutmaster and our son Scott sold 70 each year) got wreaths for sale each winter.
3:00pm White Oak Casino. Went in to get free pop and ice. Each spent $2 at video poker in 10 minutes. Margo lost hers and I won $8.25, leaving us a profit of $4.25.
Stopped at a historic general store to buy a loaf of bread and package of hot dogs--$5.00. Started looking for camp sites. Drove into Cass Lake National Forest campground-- $21 and no water or electricity. Decided to go to Itasca State Park about 35 miles off of Hwy 2 to the south of Bemidji.
After Bemidji, started seeing more open farmland. Before it was almost all woods and spruce swamps.
Itasca state park-- nearly full where there were electrical hookups. Found one and set tent and air mattress up and unpacked in 30 minutes. Had boiled hot dogs, cookies
Day 2
Up at 7:30 and out of camp at 8:30. Stopped at the headwaters of the Mississippi and saw it come out of the Itasca lake. In the 1930s the CCC boys decided that the Mississippi deserved a better start than oozing out of a swamp, so built a rock dam to get a nice little waterfall effect for the river start. It does look nice!
Drove across a warm MN into North Dakota, through Grand Forks where the boys in our Scout Troup from Byron, MN, helped with the cleanup after the big flood some 10 years ago.
In Western MN and ND we saw some new crops; sugar beets; potatoes and sun flowers. We were watching for Monarch butterflies, but saw only each of the first two days.
We pulled into Graham Island State Park in ND, on Devils Lake about 4 pm. It was about 90 degrees. After a quick homemade supper, we took a shower. We noticed the camp grounds host sign "Loren and Caroline Hain, Byron MN." Loren and Caroline's two boys were in my Boy Scout troup from Byron and we used to know the Hains quite well. They were away from camp for the day--and had not shown up in the evening.
We left a bottle of syrup on their doorstep and a note that we were in camp site 21, as their neighbors in the campgrounds said they were out fishing until late each night. At about 10:30 pm, they came back, found our note and then found us and invited us over for a late campfire and some freshly fried walleye fillets. Very delicious. They were hosting the campgrounds for the month before heading back to Byron. John and Tom (their sons) are married and have a couple of children each. Both Hains are retired and are within a couple of months of the same age as we are.
Day 3 Out of the park at 8:45 am and headed back north to Hwy 2. The car was idling rough, and began killing this morning at low idle. We stopped at a garage in Leeds where we also had breakfast at the Farmers Cafe (not too bad). The single garage mechanic in Leeds said he didn't have time to work on it, but stop ahead 28 miles at Rugby at D and S (GM dealer) in Rugby ND. They quickly found a vacuum hose leak and replaced the hose and were going to charge me $20. I thought they were so honest that I then ask them about the rattling noise--it was a belt tensioner pulley with weak bearings. I had him replace it and the somewhat cracked original (1991) belt and got out for just under $200. It now runs smoothly and quietly--so we are ready for the mountains. We are getting about 28 -29 miles per gallon so far. We are very heavily loaded, so that it pretty good.
Was hot yesterday, but cooled down some. We saw a satellite in the night skies, but didn't have it dark enough at the campgrounds to see meteors from the Perseids Shower last night. Maybe tonight.
Hoping to get pretty much through ND today and then into Montana tomorrow. Supposed to be very hot!