St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Margo update

Frost has killed the cattails down to the warm water zone
 Margo had her 11th chemo treatment Tuesday.  She has finished the research trial of amg386, the drug to stop blood vessel growth to the tumor.  She has one more chemo 1, then a few tests including an MRI scan too see the results from the research trial drug in combination with taxol, the normal treatment.

She starts a series of 4 new chemo treatments after that -- every 2 weeks through the end of the year.  This is a two day treatment, but short time each day.    Following that is another evaluation, surgery and recovery and then radiation daily for a month.

The nurse said she can no longer feel the tumor--it seems to have shrunk smaller and softer--almost disappearing--great news!  The scan will show more information in two weeks.
Trees are bare and the greens are rare

Looking through my frosty windshield
With voting coming up next Tuesday, I will be headed to Pine Island for the winter to join Margo. We do plan to be back and forth in nice weather and for Christmas parties!  As members of several history societies, a genealogy society or two, the local rock club, the writers group and more, we have many parties coming up that are fun to go to and watch everyone else have too much to eat and drink while we modestly nibble and sip.

It has been beautiful with these late fall days where the frost burns off with the sun and the temperatures get into the 40s -- could stand the whole winter like this (almost was last year).

Normally we had south for January and February to find a place that feels just like this weather -- 30s to 60s all winter.  This year looks like we will be staying close to Mayo Rochester for health treatment.

I am OK with my myasthenia gravis -- not great, but much better than a few months ago.  I am trying to get used to lower functionality.  That means more activities that are not hard work.

Scott was up for the weekend to help me cut some wood.  I did some chainsawing, but not a lot--just can't do things that require stamina.  Anyway as Garrison Keillor says, "it could be worse."

Spent Tuesday afternoon at Wild Mountain in Taylor's Falls at the St Croix Valley National Heritage update meeting.  The input of 11 previous meetings was distilled down to 4 themes for our evaluation.  The Festival Theatre had a group of school kids to dramatize each.  It was an interesting and entertaining meeting.  I helped a little as a table facilitator for some discussions.

The four tentative themes  are"  The Relationship with the Land, Our People, Natural Environment and Up North.  They are quite general and attempt to include the ideas presented earlier.   Other National Heritage areas are Detroit's Motor City, River's of Steel in the Pittsburgh area, and Civil War in northern TN.  You can read up on this at  and attend one of the upcoming sessions at Hudson (Sunday), Hinckley, and Shell Lake in the next two weeks.

Had a few hundred trick or treaters come through the Luck Museum on Saturday and one great nephew to the cabin earlier this evening.  Very quiet out here in the woods except for the coyotes howling, the geese honking, the trumpeters trumpeting and the owls hooting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Margo passes half-way mark on chemo!

Tamarck color at the big spring

Margo had her 9th chemotherapy treatment today.  She is doing well overall, and did find out some good news today.  There are 3 more of the current chemo sessions, and that will be followed by only 4 treatments in round 2—so there are only 7 more sessions!   We had originally been told that there were 12 round one and the same for round 2—however today Margo found out round 2 is much shorter and these treatments are every 2 weeks instead of every week.  Her last chemo is the day after Christmas with surgery likely in January and radiation probably in February.  She has to be ready to carry those heavy 5 gallon maple sap pails by March.

Margo is shedding her hair somewhat, so is getting it cut a little shorter this week.  I went to the Mayo Cancer store and picked out a Marilyn Monroe wig for her – provided free from funds raised in the cancer fund raisers!   She isn’t sure if she will use it, and so far hasn’t needed it.  Although I rather think having a blonde as a wife might be an interesting change, I worry a little that it might lower her IQ. 

She continues to have some adventures that are not directly related to the cancer.  She is still wearing an elastic glove that goes past the elbow to squeeze some fluid out of her arm—accidentally got injected into the arm instead of the blood vessel when she had a scan.  The hand and arm are mostly back to normal, but she still has to wear it for a while longer.

The chemo raises her blood pressure and lowers her sodium and potassium so she has been taking a blood pressure medicine. The doctors decided to try a different one, but that made her quite sick and retained fluid—so that messed up several days before she went back on the old medicine. Right now she plans to be up to the cabin for the weekend.  Last week her father came to visit from West Bend, WI.  He is 88 and doing pretty good.  He drove up and back. 

Huge maple has a Halloween look 
I have been withdrawing prednisone to a lower level trying to balance the myasthenia gravis symptoms with those from prednisone.  I think I am probably too low right now, as I am back to breathing hard just walking around.  The doctor says I have to work on the right amount and will be doing it the rest of my life.  I am much better than I was in June and July, but not as good as I was in September, so more adjusting ahead.  Mostly I am fine—just not much stamina to do anything vigorous.  That is OK as I really don’t have to do anything vigorous if I don’t want to. 

Hepatica leaves are prepared for early spring blooming
I didn’t do very well at the family 22 rifle target shoot on Saturday.  I had a shot in the center and then a series that kept going up the target until the last one was out from the center.  I figured it must be something to do with the barrel being held to the stock with a rubber band that is getting weak, but maybe my excuse is Myasthenia Gravis!   Anyway, I think it is time to do a little work on the 53 year old Western Field single shot 22 I bought from Wards at age 12.  Maybe spend another $14 on it (that is what it cost). 

The maidenhair fern is gradually freezing brown
As I was not up to cutting wood today, I took a long stroll around the woods by the cabin and took some photos that remind me fall colors are going fast. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hanson family 22 rifle competition

Since the 1980s our family has had an annual 22 rifle competition--5 shots at a target.  It was started by my youngest brother, Byron, who thought it was a good way to getting his children and his brother's children to learn about guns, safety, shooting and to have a good time.
  This year about 35 folks competed including some kids who are getting their first lesson in how to use a rifle.  Byron, who died in a motorcycle accident after he hit a deer in 2002, would have been proud of what the event has become.
   Brother Marvin, makes trophies for all of the under 16 year olds, making them more elaborate each year!  We end the day with a hay ride that has gotten so big that we need to hay wagons now and then a campfire, hot dogs and smores and this year adjourned in the evening to watch the Packers win spectacularly!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cabin Wildlife

From the cabin on the lake in the woods, there is a continual wildlife show.  From otters, beavers, ducks, geese, loons, swans and fish jumping in the lake, to birds of all kinds nesting and feeding on the berries and apples I have planted, to deer bear, turkeys, squirrels eating the acorns and gleaning the harvested fields, and at the top of the food chain, coyotes, foxes, hawks, eagles and bow hunters preying on the plant eaters.
Ruffed grouse in the flowering crab apple tree next to the cabin
a few tiny apples are left after a large flock of blue birds and another
of robins came through this week an stripped the tree bare.  I took it through the window which
needs washing, but it looks pretty good anyway!
   I am getting a computer digitizing station setup for the Luck museum that includes a Nikon L810 digital camera with a 26 power optical zoom--and took the camera home to figure out how to use it for copying old books.  I have tried it with a few wildlife photos too--and am thrilled at what you can see with the zoom.  Of course, I couldn't afford the $230 Walmart price for it, but I do have a birthday coming up on December 10th and as it is close to Christmas, I suppose a good wife and good son might think it would be a nice gift for me.....

  In the meantime, the L810 will be mounted on a tripod and aimed at the old church records and govt records to photograph them at 16 megapixel resolution and store them for folks interested in learning about family heritage at the Luck Museum.  The equipment is part of the Ravenholt grant to the Luck Museum expressly for this purpose.  I have started with the old Luck HS yearbooks--copying them page by page with the intention of making them available online through our museum or genealogical society website.  The camera seems to do that quite well too!

Turkeys stroll on the lake shore

Friday morning 20 degrees, frosty and leaves mostly gone.  I have taken the photos here from
the cabin--this one without zooming in.  The rest are at very high zoom -- probably close to the 26
power optical zoom.  The camera probably should be on a tripod at that high of a zoom,
as I have a hard time holding it still when each little hand jitter is magnified too!

Parents and one of the two trumpeter swan cygnets on the lake with full 26 power optical zoom
and some additional digital zoom.  The young swan appears to be full grown, but still darker
colored.  I think these swans don't start nesting for a few years -- get some time off to be teenagers before starting a family.  If you look at the picture preceding this one--you see the normal view I have from my porch.  The swans are in that photo too--along the shore, but really barely visible.  I then zoomed in and took this picture from the porch too.  Quite amazing!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Colors

 The colors on the lake are leafing the trees and settling on the forest floor as fall progresses inexorably to winter bareness.

  A few trees, some of the oaks, have a different strategy of holding their green, to burgundy to brown all winter long and drop them in the spring.  Most things that happen in nature have a purpose and I have often wondered why these trees choose to hold onto their leaves throughout the winter--probably some advantage to their survival -- maybe related to fires or attracting wildlife (turkeys roost in them and fertilize the ground below?)
Saturday was interesting!  11-3 Stanley Selin, Carolyn Wedin and I were at the Frederic Museum to sell books.  We sold a few, however that was only a minor part of the day.  Another local author, Sam Jones wasn't able to make it as he was in the hospital.
    We visited intensively with many folks dropping in including Eddie Melquist and his daughter from Grantsburg (Eddie is in his mid-90s), a Wedin who was back visiting Wood River, where he was born, who came with his sister.  He works in Riad Saudi Arabia, hosts Leif Erickson and William Johnson, Ray and Myrna Lundquist of Rochester MN (who was in town to visit his sister who just found out she has inoperable cancer) and many more folks.  Stanley is recovering from a bout of shingles that pushed him into 30 lbs weight loss of a few months with the discomfort and pain.  The pain still comes back at times, but he did say he was back to his HS weight again.  Several bikers on the Gandy Dancer trail stopped by to use the restroom and to warm up from the cold wind and scattered snowflakces outside as they looked through the museum.
   I think we need a sign in Luck to route the bikers into the museum and library too--I think along with a group of Boy Scouts maybe a dozen trail folks stopped by at Frederic.  We might get them to stop by at Luck too.

   Saturday evening Buz Swerkstrom, Edward Emerson and I had a 2 hour program of reading at the Frederic Arts Center down by the lake.  A dozen or so local folks stopped by to listen.
   An old Atlas friend I got to know in college, Scott, came--hadn't seen him for 40 years or so.  Gov. Walker encouraged him to retire from his teaching/guidance counselor job and he moved into Frederic after having lived in SE WI for most of his career.  He looked just about the same, maybe a little more serious than I remember, but time has been good to him.

    The Saturday  program was each of us reading excerpts from our writing.  Ed was the most polished--he recited poetry and essays in a measured and dramatic voice--practiced and quite effective I would say. Buz read excerpts and had a few two person dialogues where he and Ed read parts --including Masterpiece Wrestling where a PBS like announcer interviewed a literate wrestler -- whimsical, erudite satire, I would say.
    I read some of my humorous fluff including "Sex Education on the Farm."   I think we knew most of the audience, and they seemed to enjoy our attempt to raise the cultural level of Frederic for a short time.  I sold a book and gave a couple to the Arts Center for their library.
   I parked my truck and trailer load of pumpkins and squash along hwy 87 up the hill from the cabin and sold $50 of stuff over the weekend.  I would have had more, but it appears someone is checking the cash jar more often than I am as even my $5 in ones I left for change was gone.  A neighbor told me that there was $30 in cash in it in the afternoon when they stopped by and bought some, but when I went to pick it up in the evening it was empty.  Hopefully the person who is redistributing my wealth is using it for rent or gas to to go work payments rather than drugs.  I choose not to let this bother me other than to reflect on it--if you do sweat these things then you would have to make steel money lockboxes and your mental health would suffer.  Luckily my own next gas tank fill does not depend on whether I sell enough pumpkins or not!
    The lake has been home to swans, geese and ducks nearly every day.  Evenings large flocks of geese come in, to leave again and spread over the local farm fields freshly harvested.  I walked over the corn fields at Mom's with brother Ev yesterday. Kernels of corn and an occasional ear missed leave a lot of food for wildlife to eat before it becomes buried in the winter snows.  Every day the geese, turkeys, sandhill cranes, deer and other wildlife is out on the fields -- some in the day, some in the evening and some at night adding to their winter fat supply.

   My own winter fat supply has been increasing too.  I had done quite well on a diet up to May when I got myasthenia gravis and started on high doses of prednisone.  Prednisone has side effects of increasing your appetite, decreasing your mental control, and allowing your body to more efficiently store fat.  Between that and being almost fully unable to do any excercise of anykind including walking for a few months, I have almost gained back all of the 12 lbs I worked so hard to get rid of since last December.  However, I am on a much lower dose of prednisone now, I can get out and walk around an do some things physical again, and my motivation is strong--my new pair of pants bought in May won't quite fit now in October--so I am getting back at it again.
 When I got the myasthenia gravis and was told it was an incurable disease and I was so limited in what I could do and even see, for a time I was pretty much of the attitude that life was probably not worth continuing--however between getting used to lowered functionality and improving quite a bit, I guess it is worthwhile hanging around a while longer so I have to get back to my diet!  I did have to alter it to drop most sugar things as the prednisone pushes one into diabetes otherwise, but I substituted fat (cheese, bacon, etc)--when I should have moved to fruits and veggies.  Oh well, as of today I probably will do better.

   With Margo getting cancer and having a year of treatments to go through (and she is doing very good so far), it will change our winter plans to go south--we will be in SE MN instead at our home there.  Margo and Scott are there already, and I will be there from Nov - March or something like that.  I prefer being up here as I have a lot of things I volunteer for or participate in, but with the internet a person can connect even at a distance.
    I have had many folks tell me they miss my River Road Ramblings column in the Inter-County Leader.   I usually tell them I retired having run out of things to write about. I had a weekly column there for 7 years and retired it as of the end of December 2011.

  The retirement was because the Leader changed polices for me; I was to quit pushing commercial events/books etc as part of the column; I could no longer have a local sponsor ad in the column either.  Both policies were to get more money for the Leader by having anything that looked like an ad be paid for.  When I did the column I asked for money, but the Leader told me the only way I could get money was to get my own sponsor --sell and ad that went with the column and I could get the money for that.

 I hadn't done it only sporadically over the 7 years, but as of 2012, I managed to get one for 6 months.  I made a deal--for running a small ad in the column, he would make a donation to the Luck Museum.  I liked it because I was a "paid" writer; I liked it because it brought in some money to the museum; and so I planned to do the 2012 year of columns quite happily.  However, the Leader changed it's mind and policy--no ad, no pushing commercial events (i.e. the River Road Ramble), and so I wrote a column explaining that and retired.  The Leader didn't print the retirement column.

The Leader believes that it can get enough writers who will write for free that they don't want to set a precedent of having non-staff writers get paid.  Of course, as they are a co-op with a board of directors, and membership in the co-op costs you $5 with an active subscription and they have an annual meeting coming soon, the shareholders could push changes to the policies.   I actually prefer the blog route as I can do photos, videos, unlimited posts and so on without having editors changing, chopping and turning "hell" to "heck." However, many of my most faithful readers don't do the internet and tell me they liked the mixture of history and BS I brought to them each week.
  For a detailed look at why the Leader and I parted see:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

King of the Wild Frontier

A friend from my early days passed away in 2010.    I first met him December 15th, 1954 when another friend, Uncle Walt Disney, introduced him to me. His name was Fess Elisha Parker (1924-2010), but I knew him better as “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”  He died last March. I found myself very moved by the death of my old friend.   

 I was 5 days into being eight years old, a young man ready for a hero when Uncle Walt promised us a great adventure for his next week’s program.  We would see “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.”   We had no idea who Davy Crockett was, but we figured “Great, a cowboy show!”

We were ready, tuned to WTCN, Channel 11, ABC, broadcasting from its powerful transmitter high above the Twin Cities in the Foshay Tower at 7 pm.  The show opened with Jiminy Cricket singing “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are..” in his beautiful high voice, while Tinker Bell sprinkled stardust over the screen and the Disneyland introduction scenes.      

We learned about Davy “I'm half-horse, half-alligator and a little attached with snapping turtle. I've got the fastest horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle and the ugliest dog in Texas. My father can lick any man in Kentucky... and I can lick my father. I can hug a bear too close for comfort and eat any man alive opposed to Andy Jackson.”

The show introduced us to Davy and the “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
The greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so's he knew ev'ry tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

We didn’t even consider asking our parents to order us a real coon-skin cap like Davy’s; the $1.99 Disney wanted for his genuine (rabbit) coon-skin cap was way too much.  Luckily, our winter caps were fur lined, so turning them inside out and hanging on a gray squirrel tail, adding a stick for Old Betsey, and a wood lathe knife got us ready for meet’n any b’ar that might come along. 

The next day, Davy Crockett was the main topic in school amongst those of us who had TV (not everyone by a long shot).  I had the Ballad of Davy song in my head, and was singing it over and over.  I came home and went to our big old piano, and sat down seriously for the first time, and picked out the tune after a little effort.  Mom came in and listened as I played it with one finger—and by summer, Marvin and I were sent off to piano lessons, because I had shown such talent!

Walt had been showing us previews on his TV show about his new project, Disneyland that was to open in July of 1955 in California.  I didn’t get out there to see it until 30 years later, but even then, it was even more wonderful than Walt had promised.  Yep, feels like I lost a real pardner when Fess Parker passed away this past year. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Update on Margo

Margo had her 8th chemo of the first series of 12 this Tuesday.  She is getting along pretty good--tired more of the time, but in good spirits and feeling reasonably good.

The main tumor in her left breast that measured 5 x 8 cm at the beginning of the treatment is now shrunk down to 2.5 x. 2.5  -- so the chemo is working very quickly.  The researcher thinks that the special research drug that prevents new blood vessels from growing and feeding the tumor is helping along with the taxol that stops cell division.  Both are to stop new growth, but they are making it shrink too.

About December, Margo will have some scans and measurements to see how things are going then.  The current schedule is to start another 12 sessions of chemo at that time with a different drug, however, the results of the first round may change the treatment drug or schedule for round 2.

One complication Margo is having is that her left hand is swollen.  It appears that when she got an IV into her left arm for a scan, the injection of fluid missed the vein and instead went into the arm itself, causing the swelling.  She has been wearing a set elastic wraps from shoulder to fingers to squeeze the fluid out of the hand and arm.  It has been working, although it is a nuisance to put on.  Tomorrow, she thinks they will give her an elastic glove and arm tube that will be easier to put on and off.  Most of the swelling is gone--just some in the hand itself.

Margo is staying in Pine Island now with our son Scott, who takes her to chemo.  I plan to join her at the end of October when I close the cabin for the winter this year.  With phones, email, facebook, etc., we keep in touch every day.

I am still not normal from myasthenia gravis, the auto immune disease where my immune system makes antibodies that block and attack the muscle receptors and make my muscles weak and tired.  I am tapering down the amount of prednisone I take to slow the immune system trying to figure out the minimum I need to block most of the MG symptoms, yet not have so many side effects of prednisone.  I was at 60 mg per day and now am down to 20 per day.  I have to start doing 20 one day and 15 the next with the goal of getting to 20 one day and 0 the next on my way to 10/0 in a month or two.  I may have dropped down a little too fast as some of my MG symptoms are returning, but it is hard to know if the problems are from prednisone tapering, from prednisone itself or from prednisone itself!

I have been trying to get a project at the Luck museum going--to digitize some of the records we have there and make them available on the web.  I am using a scanner and have been testing a camera to see if it can make the job faster--taking a snapshot of the document or record book is fast if the quaility is good enough.  It is something that keeps me occupied when I can't do much physical.  My first project is scanning/photographing the old Luck HS yearbooks.

Saturday I am out in the public--in Frederic, WI.  11-2 at the Frederic Depot museum with Stanley Selin to sell our history books and Saturday evening at the Frederic Arts Center 7:30-? to read selections from my books.  The evening session I share with Buz Swerkstrom from Atlas and Edward Emerson from Four Corners.  What we have in common besides writing books is that we all dropped out of the workforce while in our 50s and started alternative lives that include living economically and trying to have a few quality years of doing our own thing.  Should be interesting to hear from three dropouts!