St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spreading the Profits--On the Farm

Spreading the Profits by Russ Hanson

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” yelled my brother Everett across the barn as I jabbed my flat blade shovel into the gutter, trying to break off a foot of the pungent, steaming, fresh, green manure, stuck together with bright yellow straw, to push down to him at the end of the gutter where was waiting to pitch it into the manure spreader. “The bigger they are the harder they fall,” was my reply. Our attempts at wit were part of the camaraderie we brothers shared whenever we worked together.

In the Fifties, we did everything by hand on our farm behind Bass Lake, including cleaning the barns. We boys estimated that if we fed the cows a ton of hay and grain, by the time it had gone through their four stomachs and had been mixed with water, it came out as 2 tons of manure. The more common name for manure was considered a four-letter word in our home—and used at the pain of a soap-washed mouth.

In the wintertime, our cows stayed in the barn, stanchioned in two rows facing each other across a 5-foot wide manger. Directly behind each row, was a 16-inch wide 8 inch deep gutter to hold the cows waste. The huge Holstein cows filled it to overflowing each day and it had to be shoveled and forked out by hand. In summer, the cows stayed in the pasture and only came in twice a day to be milked—allowing a weekly cleaning of the gutters. All winter, the daily routine was to let the cows outside for a little exercise while we cleaned the barn and then bring them back in to the warm comfortable barn.

On nice days, Dad backed the tractor and manure spreader up to the barn doors and pitched the manure into the spreader and hauled it out to the field to be spread as fertilizer for the next year’s crop. Deep snow and frigid weather stopped the tractor hauling and forced us to wheel it out in the barnyard to an ever increasingly large manure pile. Temperatures below 15 were too cold to get the Super C Farmall tractor started easily, and froze the manure quickly enough to risk breaking the spreader.

Dad was philosophical when it came to manure. “The Farmer Magazine says that manure is part of the profits from the farm. It saves me from having to buy fertilizer at the Co-op, and according to a guy from the University, should be treated as a valuable part of farming produce” After that he no longer hauled manure, he “spread the profits.”
Before the 1950s, dairy farmers rotated their crops between hay, corn and oats. The manure spread back on the fields was a necessary part of making this sustainable version of agriculture work.

Dad did the barn cleaning work by himself during the week, but on weekends when we four boys were home from school, we helped as much as we could. It was not that we had to; it was because it was fun to be in the barn with Dad and helping out. We boys worked hard on the farm, but not nearly as hard as Mom and Dad did.

“I was a little to independent to work for other people,” Dad told me when I asked why he chose to be a farmer. “I could be my own boss as a farmer. It was a lot of work, but I liked doing it.” He milked cows, cleaned barns, and raised all of the crops on his own farm from 1941 until he retired forty years later when Parkinson’s disease forced him to sell the cows.

There were two parts to the actual gutter cleaning. One of us pitched the manure from gutter to spreader or wheelbarrow. The other pushed it down the gutter to the person pitching it.

The gutter was filled with a mixture of straw and manure. It was the consistency of pumpkin pie filling with a straw binder. The pusher “bit off” a section of manure/straw by breaking it loose from the rest with the flat shovel turned backward—cutting off the portion. Then you flipped the shovel right side up and shoved your bite down the cement gutter picking up speed as you came to the end. A five tined manure fork worked if the manure had lot of straw.

Dad had put cement floors and gutters in the 1915 barn when he first bought it. Years of sliding manure down the gutter had worn the bottom smooth and shiny. It looked like green variegated marble—colorful rocks mixed in the cement giving it a lovely polished look, stained the color of green manure. It looked so colorful and bright, it would have made a beautiful kitchen countertop.

Dad bought a new barn shovel each fall. They were steel, with a long handle carefully selected for straight grain, the pan just narrower than the gutter. By spring, the shovel blade would have worn down nearly half from sliding on the cement. One year the shovel was the Armstrong brand. After that, when people asked Dad what kind of barn cleaner he had, “I have an Armstrong barn cleaner” he would reply, chuckling as he enjoyed the double meaning.

“Watch Byron,” Mom told Marvin as he helped his 4 year old “baby brother” get his barn boots on. Byron was the youngest and liked to be where the action was, even if he couldn’t help yet. In the winter, he kept his trike in the barn and raced Lucky, our dog, up and down the white limed walkways behind the cows.

“I’m a hawn dog cryin o’er da bool” sang Byron that day as he raced his trike up the walk, wheeled it around and headed back while we were grunting over our manure evacuation jobs. He was a big fan of Elvis’s new “Hound Dog” song. Suddenly the song was replaced by a real howl. We rushed to him on the other side of the barn. Taking a corner too fast for conditions, he had hit a cow pie slick and rolled into the gutter. The trike was on top of him; his arms and legs were waving wildly while he yowled.

“Be quiet—the cows will kick you,” yelled Marvin as we pulled off the trike.
“Yuk, he’s all covered with manure,” said Everett,
“You pull him out! I’m not gonna touch him,” Marvin commanded me.
“You do it, you’re the oldest” I replied.

By then, Dad came over and pulled Byron, still sounding like a siren, out of the gutter. “Byron, hush up, you’re OK. You just need to get cleaned up. A little manure never hurt anyone,” said Dad who remained remarkably calm through most situations. “Marvin, you take him to the house, but first take him out in the snow bank and rub off the manure with snow and hay so Mom won’t have such a mess.” Marvin was soon back but Byron was out of action for the rest of the morning.

In the winter, we let the cows out while we cleaned the barn. They got thirty minutes to walk around and visit with each other before spending the rest of the day in their stalls. As soon as the cows left their stalls, they stopped to poop on the walkway that we had to keep white with lime. We tried to fool them by rattling their stanchions, or rushing them, but they always waited to go until it they could make the worst mess.

We spread the stalls thick with fresh yellow straw each day, laboriously forked from the huge strawstack in the barnyard and brought into the barn each day. The old straw from the stalls went into the freshly cleaned gutter to soak up the urine and minimize splashing. With stalls bedded and gutters clean, the cows came back into the barn. Each cow knew which order to come into the barn, with the boss cow first, and each knew which stall was home. On the rare occasion that Dad wanted to move a cow from one stall to a new one, it took a lot of chasing and several weeks for the cow to learn its new home. The cows with big appetites walked along the stalls ducking their head in to grab a mouthful of hay from the manger where a picky eater might have left a wisp or two.

We checked the manger to make sure the water drinking cups were working and clean; pitched the manger full of hay from the huge haymow above, and then swept and limed the floors behind the cows and adjusted the different doors in the barn to provide enough ventilation for the temperature outside. Cows produce a lot of body heat, so even at 20 below, a little ventilation was needed in Dad’s barn, insulated with 30 feet of hay above and foot thick cinder blocks for walls.

With the main barn done, Dad moved to the calf barn where we shoveled and forked out the pens each week. With the manure spreader heaped high, Dad headed towards the field he planned to plant a second year of corn and needed extra fertility. With aggressive field tractor chains, the Super C could haul the spreader through snow up to a foot deep or more, but most winters the time came when it was too deep.

Then we built the manure pile. The manure froze solid from one day to the next, so Dad built smooth trails to the top that let him pile it higher and higher. After a few dives into the wheelbarrow, we boys learned how to push it ourselves and held competitions to reach Pike’s Peak with a full load. In the spring after it melted, it all had to be pitched onto the spreader and hauled to the fields. We bought a Jubilee Ford with a loader to help us out in later years.

Grandpa had cows and a barn and the same problems. His barn was equipped with a manure carrier. A long metal track ran from one end of the barn to the other and out the door to a tall post down the hillside. Instead of pitching the manure into the wheelbarrow or spreader, Grandpa pitched it into a metal carrier that lowered to the floor. When it was full, you pulled a chain that raised it to the track; pushed it off and by gravity it went out the door and down the track and automatically tripped at the end, dumping on the spreader or pile. You pulled it back in and refilled it again. It was exciting to help Grandpa and zoom the carrier down the track. We never quite got courage enough to ride the rails ourselves.

By the 1960s, even small farmers were getting automatic barn cleaners. You turned on an electric motor and chains with paddles moved the manure along the gutters and out the door, up a chute and into the manure spreader. The romance of cleaning the barn by hand had disappeared; it is but a fond memory of a few of us old timers

This week with our story down in the gutter and full of manure, we probably have reached a new low. However, we are hopeful that however deep we shovel it out, there are those of you who continue to read the blog and with that hope we will continue to fork it out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In the Heat of the Night

It is a summer night in long ago. Forty members of the High School band have traveled to Duluth to march at the Port-A-Rama parade, coming a day early to prepare. Two young men are standing on the long open balcony outside their hotel room door on the 3rd floor overlooking the city streets, the lights of the big city extending down to the waterfront.

They are country boys who are in wonder at the brightness of city lights, thrilled at staying in a hotel, excited at being away from home. It is curfew time; soon they will have to go into the room and try to sleep, but right now that is the last thing they want to do.

Above them, the murmurs of many girls drop gently on them in the hush of the night. The boys are on 3rd floor, the girls on 4th floor directly above with parents and teachers carefully guarding the connecting stairs. A school field trip is successful if no one gets hurt, no property is damaged and no one gets pregnant or arrested.

Chatter from both floors permeate the lazy warm summer evening as everyone takes a last look around from the balconies. The two young men recognize the musical voices of two pretty classmates right overhead. They stop and listen to the girls who are excited about what they bought downtown that day; then yawn and decide to go to bed.

The last thing they hear: from the girls:

“What are you wearing?”
“Just this”
“I mean underneath?”
“It is just me, see.”
“Me too.”

The two young men look at each other with wide eyes. Their night is restless; their dreams better left unspoken; they are left with a permanent memory of a hot July night in 1964.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dreams of Blue Velvet

He looks at the picture from the HS reunion. She looks much the same as the girl in freshman biology, his first memories of her. His role in class is the observer in the back of the room. She argues with the teacher for more points on the test, often winning. He is in awe of a person who challenges the teacher successfully.

He knows she is another farm kid. Town kids are sophisticated and greatly different from the country kids. Town kids feel sorry for country kids and vice versa. She is slim and deceptively frail looking for a country kid; with cats eye glasses, a sweater and skirt; earnest in everything she does, yet quick with a smile that lights up everyone around her.

He only knows only about brothers and other boys. Girls are wonderful, strange, scary and have lately seem unapproachable. Over the year he observes her and sees someone driven to excel in everything. His initial irritation at her single-minded drive for “more points” develops into a grudging admiration for her persistence and success.

She is lost in the mass of clarinets but rises to first chair . Occasional “hi’s” and smiles make her seem safe to talk to even though she has started on the Cheerleader path. She is accepted by the town girls into the “popular group” and works tirelessly to become A team in all that she does. She goes steady with the popular athlete, a year older.

Mr. Z gives the Algebra II assignment. The rustle of turned pages is gradually replaced by the murmurs of neighbors helping each other solve problems. He has stationed himself directly behind her intentionally although he is not sure why. She often turns to him for help. He likes that. She is his friend now.

It is his first dance even though he is 17. His religion is no dance, and he doesn’t understand that anymore. He stands on the sidelines watching Glenn put on 45 after 45, rock and roll, the Bunny Hop and slow dances where couples glide around the floor. He has never danced but wishes he could, too shy to try.

She comes over and asks him why he isn’t dancing. He doesn’t know how, he says. “Come on,” she says, putting her soft warm hand into his, leading him onto the floor as Bobby Vinton fills the room with his new hit, “Blue Velvet.”

He puts his hand on the small of her back and feels the warmth beneath her dark blue sweater as she guides him through some steps. There is the faint odor of her perfume and of a woman. Hands clasped, separated modestly, yet feeling her willowy body, she opens a new world for the shy young man. Too soon, Bobby is finished, he thanks her and returns to observing, forever changed by her kindness.

The memory will be just as strong a lifetime later as he puts his worn 45 on the turntable and Bobby brings it all back.

Close your eyes and let your mind sway to the music and remember the thrill of your first dance.
Click hear for Bobby Vinton singing "Blue Velvet"

Are you curious who the girl was? Ritchie Havens song will give you a clue

Swans near Luck, WI Thursday February 23, 2012

Wolf Creek School Memories

Some memories from a rural school along the St. Croix River River Road (north of St. Croix Falls about 7 miles) at
Click Here to see Wolf Creek School Memories

The whole book is readable online under the book preview selection.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Driver's Ed

1967 Rambler Rogue $2400

I was really nervous. The driving inspector sat beside me with his clipboard giving me instructions. “Go two blocks ahead and then take a left turn.” “Parallel park between those two cars.” Pass this and I would be a MAN! I already had my ’37 Chev Pickup ready to roll. Driving would open the door to dating, to a job to real freedom! At 16, having your mother haul you to and from everything just didn’t make it anymore.

I had studied the Wisconsin driving manual for months. I talked to older brother Marvin and older friends at school and church about their tests. “Oh, they always fail you the first time if you are a guy. They make it hard on purpose to impress you,” said my older friend Butch, already licensed and on his first try.

I had been driving for a long time. When I was 8 years old, I started driving Grandpa’s Farmall B tractor loading hay. I couldn’t reach the clutch or brake pedal, but just steered the tractor around a level field pulling the hay wagon and behind that the big old hay loader.

By the time I was 10 and could reach the pedals, I drove the Super C, hay wagon and loader up and down the big hills. Marvin (12) and I planted 30 acres of Grandpa’s big river road sand field, plowing, disking, dragging it all on our own. Driving a tractor was only a problem on the hills.

Hauling a big hay load up a very steep hill, the front end might come up a little off the ground. You had to steer with the brakes then. I remember one time just about at the top, the hay loader came unhooked from behind the wagon and coasted all the way down the hill, making a graceful swoop at the bottom. “Drive down and we will hook it on again,” said Dad. And we just went on working.

I got my learner’s permit when I was 15. Dad let me drive whenever we went anywhere, giving me advice – “drive slower and you won’t have problems.” The 62 Rambler Classic had a clutch and column shift. My own 37 Chev Truck had a clutch and floor shift. The Rambler was strange, I think they called it a synchromesh, you had a choice of using the clutch or not to shift under 30 miles per hour. It was fire engine red. Dad liked buying a car made in Wisconsin, even if he had to go to MN to buy it.

The two parts of the drivers test that everyone was worried about were parallel parking and stopping, parking and starting on the way up a hill. Having backed up the tractor with trailers and four wheel wagons, parallel parking was pretty easy—just learning to gauge where the corners of my car and the nearby car were located. I parked between the manure spreader and the hay wagon thirty times at least. “I can do it with my eyes shut” I boasted to younger brother Everett. Sure enough I put the car in the starting location, shut my eyes and parked perfectly!

Starting on a hill was more of a problem. The Rambler’s emergency brake worked, so it starting from a parked position was easy. It was a little harder to come to a stop sign stop, then let up the brake and clutch will giving it the gas. “Same thing as on the tractor stopping on a hill,” something I had lots of practice with already, so I wasn’t too bothered.

So, just a few days after turning 16, Dad and I were on our way to Balsam Lake for the test. “Luck is the best place—no hills, but it isn’t for three more weeks,” I told Dad when I talked him into taking the test in Balsam Lake. “It is pretty much flat there too.” St. Croix Falls was the worst with hardly a level place to drive.

Well, two things were against me. It had snowed the night before and left a slippery icy surface, and I had never driven in Balsam Lake before. There were only a couple of others taking the test. I did the written test first, took about 20 minutes. “Passed it with only one wrong,” said the inspector. I was guilty of crossing two lanes on a left turn on paper.

I knew cars. I could change the spark plugs, change the oil and filter, sharpen the points, change and patch a tube or tire, change the air filter and had put a clutch in my truck. Cars didn’t scare me, but the driving inspector with his pen and clipboard did! “Let’s do it,” the nicely dressed middle aged man said.

It was cold and snowing lightly as we walked to the Rambler. “Quiet day, “ he said, probably trying to put me at ease. I brushed off the snow from all of the windows and then he had us check the lights, brakes and emergency cable. We got in and although it wasn’t required, I buckled up as did he. “I am going to tell you where to drive, where to turn, and the rest. You just do what I say.”

Everything was going fine for the first few blocks. Then I came up a small hill. A crossroads ahead! A stop sign half hidden behind a tree branch. I hit the brakes and was able to slide all the way through the intersection before coming to a stop. “That’s enough, lets go back. Going though a stop sign is an automatic fail,” said the inspector putting a couple of checks on his clipboard. “Have you driven in this town before?” he asked. “No.” “Well next time, drive around the town awhile and get used to the stop signs, then you do better,” he said kindly.

Three weeks later, and after a few hours of driving around Luck, I again tried the test again and sailed through perfectly. I got my temporary license at the end of December. Mom and Dad let me drive from then on. That With my ’37 Chev pickup and borrowing the Rambler I was never been without wheels again. Driving was truly all that I had anticipated, although the 25 cents for a gallon of gas was sometimes hard to come by.

The car insurance man raised Dad’s insurance rate when I started driving. “Tell Russ to take Driver’s Ed and I will drop it down some.” At St Croix Falls HS, Drivers Ed was in the summer. I signed up for it and in June started my week of half day sessions with Jerry Kennealy, a physical ed teacher I knew from school. Mr. Kennealy sat in the passenger side with his own personal brake pedal. Three students were in the car, one driving and the other two learning by listening and watching. Dale Andrewson and Brian Jackson were my partners. We got a drivers training manual to study for a practice test on the last day.

I had physical education class only 1 quarter of one year in the whole four years I was I high school. I took as many subjects as I could, and so mostly couldn’t fit the class in. If you took a sport, you could skip the class too. So, by filling my schedule and signing up for a sport and dropping it almost immediately, I managed to get through school without having to do any exercise. The one quarter I did have was pretty much just run around the gym and then take a shower.

Kennealy knew me already from my little bit of phy ed. Walking out one day after showers, I saw a blue pocket comb with a silver clip on it lying on the bench. Kennealy always checked the showers for stuff and came out a couple minutes later as we waited on the steps for the bell and asked,” Did anyone lose a comb?” “Was it blue with a silver clip?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied holding it out to me. “Nope, mine is all black,” I replied. The other kids broke into a laugh. “We’ve got a wiseguy, huh” said Mr. Kennealy. Of course, after that, I had a reputation to live up to!

Mr. Kennealy’s strategy to keep us at full attention in the car was slamming on his brake. Sitting in the backseat, daydreaming we would be thrown forward every five minutes as the driver made what was surely a critical mistake. “Make a full stop at the stop sign!” yelled Kennealy to me as I almost stopped at the sign. “Use your blinker!” “Watch out for the car!” “Don’t let it go in the river.”

The last day we took our practice written test and went over the questions. I got 100%. Then we went for our last drive. Things went smoothly and soon even Mr. Kennealy relaxed. At the end of our last lesson, we got a pep talk. “You guys have learned everything pretty much. You need to remember to go slow and pay attention, but I think you will get your license. Not on the first try, and maybe not on the second, but you will get it by the third for sure. You have a start to being good drivers. Now just practice for a month on your own and then try the test.”

Then I pulled out my wallet and took out my driver’s license dated 6 months early and handed it to him. He looked at it and sputtered, “what.., when…what’s the deal here?” “I got my license last December, but Dad wanted me to take Driver’s Ed to get cheaper insurance,” I replied smugly, “I’ve been driving down here every day bringing Dale along.”

“Well, you sure didn’t know how to drive when we started,” he mumbled, “those inspectors must be getting senile. Well, you sure fooled me.” After that, for some reason, Mr. Kennealy, just didn’t seem to trust me anymore.

In the fall of 1967 I bought a brand new car, a Rambler Rogue. It had a hard top, bucket seats, four on the floor, a 290 V-8 typhoon engine, all for $2400. It was pretty sporty for a Rambler. “Buy a Wisconsin car and I will help you with the payments,” said Dad concerned when I told him I was thinking of one of those new hatchback Volkswagens.

It was a hot car; as they said in those days, “rubber in three gears and the glove compartment!” But, that is a different story.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Back in Wisconsin

Back for a few days in WI getting everything ready for maple syrup season. Two inches of wet snow fell last night, giving turning the brown back to white--but it is melting fast today. Took the old Ford 2N back into the woods for a drive and chased up a herd of deer, a rafter of turkeys, and a gaggle of geese--on an open pond. Margo saw a robin last week while visiting her Dad in West Bend WI (north of Milwaukee). The early morning was filled with bird songs as the chickadees and others have decided spring is here.

At Nevers Dam site on the St. Croix Sunday

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday Night Lights 2 Responses

I collected responses to the Friday game day memories from emails and Facebook and added them here. Ir is a fun conversation!

Woody: Going to Montagne's Drive Inn for a root beer and corn dog... or we'd go out to Wayne's Cafe for a 7-Up and Strawberry pie... then it was off to park somewhere in a field generally south of Sand Lake... there'd be several of us out there parking with our gals.. one time someone got stuck in the snow. Knock. Knock. on the car window, we'd stop what we were doing and push our classmate and his girl out. Dad and his two brothers owned the Ford garage in SCF. If I had a special date or wanted to impress a girl, I got to drive a brand new car... usually with less than 10 miles on it. It had quite a few more when the night was over!

Richyne: I remember going to the Chatterbox cafe for a burger fries and malt. Then dipping the fries in the malt. So good!!!

Jennifer: The Chatterbox was a stop I always envied the bus kids for going to. We lived in town and my mom insisted we eat at home, even on game days. She even encouraged us to invite friends from Cushing or Dresser to have supper with us on those days. Now make your choice, meat loaf or the best cheeseburger and fries in town! She didn't have a clue.. I could hang out downtown after school but dinner was always on the table at 5:30. My first stop after coming down the hill was stopping in at the jewelry store and beg my dad for a quarter out of the till. Then it was Tangen's and a coke. Remember Shirley Smith getting upset when we would invade the place?

Susan: Loved those Friday nights! The cheer was "Progress, Progress, Emulate on the Turf." I know these things. I was a cheerleader! Thought it was some "football" word, but it just meant "excel." Found my blue and white striped cheerleading blazer the other day -- it was made for a midget! Fond memories of Ricky fixing my hair before the games, hanging out at the school, dinner at the Chatterbox which cost the equivilent of 4 hours of babysitting. Russ, thanks for the memories!

Richyne: I can relate. I recently gave my drill team outfit to goodwill - it too was made for a size 00 or a midget. I do remember fixing your hair. You still have such nice thick hair that is fun to work with. The good old days - game days!!

Richyne: Jennifer, I am sure you realize today that you had a great mom! That just doesn't happen anymore - everyone sitting down for dinner.

Jennifer: I hope it was realized that I meant it fondly, with a little humor thrown in! Thanks for the comment. I hope more of the Saints join in!

Richyne: Oh for sure!! Yes, hope lots of Saints chime in!

Woody: After school Shirley Smith used to serve us malts from the fountain at Tangen Drug store.

Russ: Shirley grumbled at my lemon-lime-cherry-coke phosphate which I dropped an aspirin in to get a buzz..

Rodger: Those nights were not great for us teachers. We had to sell tickets or collect tickets or police the joint. The big shots, Supt's of both schools plus coaches, sat on chairs below the stage. The pep band sat on the north side of the upper deck. After the Friday night game we always met at a teacher's house or apt. for coffee, cake and ice cream-that was the Nels Sorensen, Don Dean, Bill McDougal era.

Anonymous: Hey Russ, How about those cute gals on the Drill Team. We performed at half time events too.

Russ: I sure do remember the Drill Team. I think I lusted after the girls there just as much as after the cheer leaders! So, remind me of some details; uniforms, routines, when and where they performed, who were the members, and such. Do you have any photos? I think Shirley L from Cushing was a member, and maybe some of her friends from up my way--but I don't remember and seem to have packed away my Sentinels
I just remembered Cheri Vezina and her twirling flaming batons! What a show she put on and what a skill she had. Of course, as she was an "older woman" and so talented, I am sure I never even dared say "Hi" to her at school.

Larry: What a great article Russ. Most everything you wrote could pertain to "1950-1954" mine and my wife's year's at St. Croix Falls High School as well. Our dollar would buy a hamburger, fries and a malt with 25 cents left over for the ticket to the game. We would go to Ma Longneckers Cafe in Taylors Falls. Probably was gone by 1961.

Anonymous: Did not realize the St. Croix stadium was WPA-built! I went to school in the cities during the early 80s. Different time and place, but many of your Friday afternoon memories match mine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Friday Night Lights

From 1961-1965 I rarely missed a Friday night football or basketball game with my team, the St Croix Falls Highs School Saints. I didn't play sports, except for a brief spell as a would be tackle in my senior year, but I liked the excitement of being associated with the glamour of the players and cheerleaders and the thrill of Fridays as I gained a little independence from my parents, often getting home no earlier than midnight.

A Friday game day was exciting from start to finish. For me, the first part was making sure I had brought along a dollar. Just the idea of being left to be my own boss and go to a restaurant after school for supper was a thrill. I would have to make the big decision if I would go to the homelike Chatterbox or the edgy and smoke filled Fort Café.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We knew it was game day when we saw the cheerleaders bubbling down the halls wearing their blue and white sweaters and knee length pleated skirts. The uniforms changed them. No longer were they irritating, scrawny girls you had know since first grade. Roaring rivers of testosterone turned the cheerleaders into goddesses. Suddenly guys turned into a cavemen capable of only ughs and grunts when faced with the glamour of cheer leader uniforms!

Friday afternoon was the pep rally. The pep club aided by the pep band gathered in the old balconied gym and put on a pre-battle fest. The band played rousing numbers. The cheerleaders whipped up the crowd with cheers, jumps, twirls and a shaky pyramid.

"We have got a new cheer for tonight. We will do it for you once, and then try it a couple times together." Pompoms waving, voices strained, they danced their way though the routine for a oddly literate cheer "Perambulate on the turf, .."

Coach Harris or Kennealy (football and basketball) gave a pep talk. "The guys have been practicing hard all week. They are ready to give their best against a much bigger Frederic team. If we remember the fundamentals, and our guys give it 110%, we can beat them. While the team is out there trying their hardest, we need your support in the stands, so let's hear those cheers even if we are down."

Then the players came on the floor to the roars of the crowd and the captain of the team gave a talk that echoed the coach. The cheerleaders whipped us up some more; the pep band played a last number and everyone left to clear out for the day, excited for the battle against the invading barbaric hordes from Frederic.

It was still too early to eat, so I hung around the gym, shoes off, shooting baskets with some of my friends. Many times Principal McDougal came down and joined us, seeming almost like a regular guy, friendly and kidding with us. We had a bunch of basketballs and sometimes scrimmaged. Bryan Jackson, another farm kid and I often paired off for a game of horse.

Bryan, when I first bumped into him at HS, was a fractious kid, always getting into a fight or scrape of somekind. In gym class, when we played shirts and skins basketball, he went out of his way to bang into me. Finally, being about a foot taller and 50 lbs heavier than Bryan, with muscles from tossing hay bales all summer and pitching manure (hidden underneath my soft exterior) I grabbed him, pinned him tightly against the cement wall, and said calmly "Bryan, you keep banging into me like today and I'm gonna get mad and toss you into the balcony." For whatever reason, he and I became good friends almost immediately.

Bryan was mostly a wrestler, being too small for other sports. Farm boys, like Bryan and me, didn’t get much time off from the farm work, so sports were hard to accommodate with the after school extra hours, but Bryan managed to make it and excelled in wrestling. Bryan always was watching his weight to stay in his 118 lb weight class.

After an hour in the gym, we headed down the big hill to main street and headed to the Chatterbox Cafe to spend our dollar. A burger, fries and a coke took 75 cents, leaving enough for a pop and candy bar at the game. We might have gone to the Fort Cafe, but it was a little scary, smoke filled with James Dean type "outlaw" kids who preferred the combed back look of Johnny Cash to the neatly trimmed Beach Boys style I tried to get Dad, my barber, to do (why waste a buck on a haircut when I can do it myself, was Dad's view, pleased that he saved $50 a year with his four boys).

"I've been hearing about this new pop, TAB," said Bryan, "It hasn't got any calories so I can drink it and keep my weight." So with our burger and fries, we each got a TAB. "Tastes terrible," said Bryan. "It needs sugar," I replied taking a heaping teaspoon full dumping it in the filled glass.

The drink started bubbling, foaming up and over the glass, emptying more than half of it on the table running onto the floor bringing Marge, our frowning waitress over with a rag to clean it up.

"Better give her a tip or you might be banned," cautioned Bryan. We never tipped as our dollar was too precious to share with anyone. Well, I felt guilty and left a nickel tip, so I would be welcomed next time.

My freshman year was my growth spurt. It left me unable to coordinate my feet to the marching band rhythm, so Mr. Builderback allowed me and Tim Nagler to march in the practices, but not on the football field. At half time the band in their royal blue uniforms with the tall blue stovepipe caps and white chicken feather plumes and heavily braided coats and white shoes, played and stepped in rhythm into all sorts of wonderful formations that, after the announcer told you what they were, you could see them just as clear as the big dipper overhead. So, banned from marching band, parents not allowing me to get out of farm work to be the football star I would surely have been, that year I joined Chuck Twiet filming the games, getting Friday nights off from farm chores for good behavior and good grades during the week.

Chuck Twiet, a boy of many odd talents, and I were the film crew in my freshman year. We had the old spring windup 8 mm black and white movie camera on a tripod in the announcer's booth high above the 1939 elegant WPA built football stadium; probably the best field in the whole conference with its back nestled into the giant esker left by the glacier a dozen millennium earlier.

For basketball, we setup on the back of the balcony looking down on the crowd and floor. I don't remember an announcer's booth there, and I can't remember if the pep band sat up on the stage or elsewhere. The inside gym with its roll out seats tucked under the balcony doubled as our auditorium, the site of our extravagantly staged musicals and plays, our prom dances, convocations, lyceums, graduations, and more.

Chuck and I loaded the 8 mm camera with a roll of 16 millimeter film; stuck it on the tripod and filmed the action on the field or floor. We were far away, without zoom lenses so mostly picked up the overall field action, the blimp view. If there was any film left at halftime, we burned it on the cheerleaders and marching band. Halftime was when we removed the film spools, swapped them and ran it all through again backwards. The camera used 16 mm film exposing the right half the first time through the camera, then the left half after the swap. It was developed and then the whole role split and spliced into a single movie with track holes on one side only, twice the footage for half the cost.

Tuesday noon the players and coaches gathered in Mr. Gipson's room to watch the game, and to learn from their mistakes and glory in their successes. My first few efforts had me intensely following the football as it was run, thrown or kicked across the field. Rod commented kindly "pretty good, but gives some of the guys sea sickness!" a hint I took to let the camera alone. I always wondered what happened to the old movies stored away in odd closets in the old school, and heard later that in the move from old to new school, they were tossed.

With the game ready to start, we will pause here for station identification and commercials with the game to come next episode. We still have the game itself, the marching band, the sock hop and the bus ride home to explore.

What I would like you to do, is to help me with these memories. I know I have details wrong, probably have missed a lot; have seen it only from one point of view (a nerdy farm boy from the country thrilled being on the side lines of the action), and in general, as my mind has gone flabby to join my body, I have forgotten great chunks of Friday, game day and night. So, in the comment sections (just click on the word comment). It would be wonderful if you added your own memories and made this a discussion. If you are shy, just email them to me at

Nevers Dam

Click here to Read all about Nevers Dam on the St. Croix river

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My First Newspaper Article 2003

Dear Editor of the Inter-County Leader,
Would you be willing to publish our happenings for our local history society? If so, these are for immediate publishing.

Thanks Russ Hanson

Sterling, Laketown and Eureka Historical Society

The Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical society (SELHS) has been meeting officially for nearly one year now after 2 years of meeting informally. We affiliated as a branch of the Polk County Historical Society last year. Meetings are held on the third Thursday evening of each month at 7:00 pm at the former Cushing School in Cushing. The meetings are normally working and sharing meetings with occasional guest speakers. Everyone is welcome to attend and to bring along information or historical objects for our show and tell period.

Last month we moved into one of the former Cushing elementary school classrooms as our new home. The school now serves as a town hall for Sterling and Laketown as well as a local community center. The townboard graciously allowed us use of a classroom as long as we behave. The room is in excellent condition as if it were waiting for a new class. The current class has many members that remember rural schools with Red Wing water bubblers, outdoor toilets, outdoor gyms,and outdoor lunchrooms. It was inevitable that the discussion turned to the then upcoming referendum on a new elementary school at St Croix Falls. I wonder if some of us who went to the old rural schools are right in thinking we were better off then our children and grandchildren are now?

During the past year two of our founding members, Alice Lagoo Swanson and Allen Swenson passed away. Their interest and help in getting our group going was inspirational and their knowledge of the local area from 80+ years of living here is irreplaceable. Both had granparents who homesteaded here in the 1800s. Allen was an avid photographer from the 1940s on and his collection of local pictures is excellent. We will miss both of them very much!

We have several project underway. Mark Johnson is collecting and organizing information on the drainage of the marshland area to the south of Cushing. People have brought pictures and donated records of the process. A huge steam dredge was brought in from Iowa to dig the ditches nearly 90 years ago. Until that time South Cushing was much like Venice, although the Scandinavians preferred row boats to Gondolas. If you have information or remembrances of this era please talk to Mark.

Another project is copying old records and pictures by scanning the originals into digital format on a computer. This makes very high quality copies quickly and inexpensively that can be shared by computer, cd-rom, on the internet or by printing. If you have local information please bring it along to a meeting. We have already copied much of the excellent collection of Cushing history collected by Pat Goetz, the Cushing postmaster.

We decided to participate in the 150th anniversary of the founding of Polk County by having a booth at the fairgrounds in August. The special item from SELHS will be a set of 300 numbered "beater Jars" from the Red Wing Pottery with a Polk County Map, 150th year text and the three townships distinctly outlined. The price will be $30.00 each with ordering of the jars when 150 are pre-sold. The count last week was in the 140+. We are expecting the rest to sell quickly at the celebration. If they don't we may re-organize so that we are under chapter 11 rules rather than Wisconsin State Historical Society rules.

The next big project will be preparing for the 150th anniversary of the founding of Sterling township in 1855 with a book on Sterling history and a series of 150th anniverary celebrations. If you have Sterling history information, pictures etc. please come to a meeting and share them. We would like stories, pictures, family histories, documents etc. This is your chance to become famous or maybe infamous if you are connected with Sterling.

Sterling started out encompassing everything in northern Polk County and all of Burnett county. Later as people settled in the Sterling suburbs, Burnett County and the many northern Polk County townships and cities formed from within our early boundaries. At one time the swamps that are now Luck, the pine woods and gravel piles that are now Frederic, the sand dunes that became Grantsburg were all listed in the Sterling tax roles.

The May 15th meeting will feature a slide presentation by Russ Hanson(1969 UWRF high degree of BS), a 6th generation pine logger, on how the logging era influenced our area from the 1830s to the present. Sterling, Eureka and Laketown had few white pines, but quickly became a support area for the logging camps further north. Wolf Creek will be used as an example. It evolved from a fur trading post, to stopping place for the loggers and supplies headed north, a boom town when Nevers Dam was built to almost disappearing after the logging era. It started as a small post trading and providing liquor to the natives and evolved into what it is today over 170 years. Not on the top, but climbing, as Polk County's slogan says.

Monday, February 13, 2012

St Croix River Valley National Heritage Area

Some pictures from Saturday's meeting of local Polk folks thinking about the heritage of the St Croix River Valley

Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writers MTG

Once a month a group of hard core writers get together to share their writings. Last week's topic was remembering Bernice Abrahamzon who co-founded the group in 1966.

Remembering Edwin Pedersen -- Luck Area Historical Society Newsletter

Click here to see the February 2012 Luck History Society Newslette

Weekend at the Cabin

Spent the last 4 days in WI at the cabin near Cushing. Of course, the nice weather went away and it got cold pretty much just as soon as I got up here! Spent some time getting all the maple syruping equipment out and ready for next month; some time at the Luck Winter Carnival volunteering at the museum; went to the Polk meeting for the St Croix National Heritage effort and the NW Wisconsin Regional Writers group.

The hardest part is that I have DSL turned off for the winter so had to go through internet withdrawal while up here! I am posting this from the Luck Museum where I am working today before heading back to Pine Island.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

At Cushing

St Croix is opening at Nevers Dam

I drove up from Pine Island to Cushing and opened the cabin for a few days to catch up on some stuff here while I can still get around. I took the old river road north of Cushing. From Spangler's bay north, the river was open on both sides -- just ice in the middle. At Never's Dam it was partially open too--where Wolf Creek comes in. Looks about like it would in mid March in a normal year. Not much snow up here either.

Darrell Kittleson of Amery passes away

Darrel Kittleson, of rural Amery passed away. He was very active in the Polk County Historical Society for many years. I enjoyed working with him on history projects, especially the Polk County School house at the fair grounds.
Click link to see his obituary is at Darrell Kittleson

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Maple Tapping in Pine Island

My neighbor here in Pine Island tapped his maples Sunday. They have been running good. He normally taps at the end of February--the earliest ever this year he tells me.

Minnesota Caucus

Roscoe Township, Goodhue County, MN Democratic Caucus 2012

Local Republicans and Democrats met in nearby rooms at the Wanamingo school for the 2012 caucuses last night. Republicans outnumbered Democrats about 2 to 1. Republicans had several choices while Democrat ballots listed Obama or uncommitted, with a unanimous vote for Obama. MN Republicans voted overall for Santorm, Paul, Romney, followed by Gingrich. Minnesota caucus goers tend to be the most liberal and most conservative folks in their parties.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Edwin Pedersen, Luck, WI passed away

My friend and fellow local historian Ed Pedersen, of Luck, WI passed away this morning. Memorial services are pending for Friday afternoon.
Click to see Edwin's Obituary

Warm Winter Record?

The Cabin 2011 Spring

Dr. Squirt, the Cushing columnist commented in a 1930s column:

“One winter Grandpa Gullickson planted oats on the Cushing hill in late February. Sheldon Armstrong was able to clear and break land all winter without frost in the ground.”

I did a little Internet research and found that the winter of 1877-78 is considered the warmest winter on record for our area with a very warm December, January and February. Newspaper accounts tell of the spring grass starting to grow by late February, muddy roads all winter, and farmers tilling land through the whole season.
You can read more about the 1877-78 winter at U of MN Winter Records

The Knee Speaks

Russ has kindly let me speak for myself today. I am Russ’ right knee. He has been complaining about me since he was in High School. It is not my fault that he has so many problems with me—it is from his own carelessness over the years. I want you to hear my side of it all.

Back in 1964, during that summer, Russ and his brothers built a dam across Wolf Creek at his grandfather’s farm west of Cushing. The creek was too low to fill the swimming hole, so the four brothers worked like beavers shoveling and piling brush, dirt, logs and such coming from each side of the creek to dam it up. The middle of the dam kept washing out, so they took an old stock tank, filled the bottom with sand and made it the center of the dam.

The stock tank had a bar across the middle. To cross the creek, Russ would walk the earthen part, jump to the middle of the tank where a narrow bar spanned it, and then onto the other earthen end. He slipped one day and came down hard on me—cutting a 2 inch gash deeply into the knee. I bleed profusely until Dr. Riegel sewed me shut and things seemed to be going well.

That fall in HS football practice, my cut opened up again twice and Russ blamed me for quitting football—just because the coach wouldn’t let him even practice until I was fully healed up.

In 1988, he tried to ski down the steepest hill at Welch Village ski hill near Redwing. He didn’t have his bindings adjusted right, and tumbled badly tearing out my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Well, the doctor said he should repair me totally by having a replacement ACL grafted in, but no, he chose to do some leg weight lifting to strengthen my other parts instead of fixing me right. Now I was a little loose in my main joint, so I twinged him often to remind him of his poor choice. But, we got along pretty good for the next 22 years.

Then in Nov of 2010, he was up on a ladder, working on a roof and tumbled down, landing first on me. Without my ACL, my upper bone shifted and turned a little, acting like a wedge to split my lower bone and leaving a big dent. They rushed him and me down to Mayo where they repaired all the leg bone damage, but said “We will have to wait for the leg to heal completely before fixing the knee.”

So again I was ignored! I wasn’t happy at all. Instead of an occasional twinge to let him know, I gave him a real jolt often enough he finally went in to Mayo again last Deember to start getting me fixed right! But it is too late to fix me—instead he is getting rid of me and replacing me with a metal knee. Good bye cruel world.

Publishing and Printing Your Own Book for $25

Not too long ago, to get your book in print was very hard. Very few books are accepted by publishers for printing. Most of us aspiring authors ended up printing a few hundred of our own books at our own expense to get them on the market. Even if you had a book all written and the pictures ready, you still had to use expensive professional services to get each page laid out, and each picture processed. It was expensive, a lot of work, and took a year or more to get it ready. Three hundred copies of you own book might cost you $2500 up front and take you a year!, the huge online bookstore, has changed that dramatically. You can get your own paperback book into print for $15 or less! Amazon has rapidly become one of the largest publishers and printers of new books in the whole world by taking on the support folks who want to self-publish their own books. There are alternatives to Amazon, including, however, I believe Amazon is by far the best deal for a new author., Amazon’s print-on-demand book publishing and printing service makes getting your book into print quick, inexpensive, easy as well as having it available world wide through the Amazon online bookstore, where they will print, sell, ship all for you and pay you a royalty per book.

For several years, I have been gathering material for my latest book, “Making Maple Syrup in the USA since 1650: A Brief History.” This January I decided I had enough material and began the process of putting it together. I will take you through the steps, which if they sound difficult, it is because I haven’t explained it very well, as it is quite easy!

My book consists of several of the newspaper articles I wrote about making maple syrup over the past seven years in the Leader, a collection of 100+ year-old recipes collected from various very old cookbooks, and many articles from very old books, magazines, agricultural handbooks, etc. The recipes and articles cover the practice of making and using maple sugar and syrup from Native American times up to modern days. My own family traces syruping from the 1650s in CT., and I collected this information on my own quest to understand how my own ancestors may have incorporated this into their lives.

I had scanned in many photos, scanned some of the recipes and old articles, preferring to use them in the original look found in the very old source documents where it was usable, otherwise typing up the parts that were of interest along with some interpretation of old terminology

Of course, these sources are long out of print and out of copyright, so I am free to use them. Some I found from the Google library of scanned books from the past. Those are free to use, however, one should explain that did the work in making them available for my use. Some are from my own collection of old books and magazines and some from museum and library collections I have found over the years.

To put the book together, I opened up a blank Microsoft Word 2002 (my older version) document. Almost any word processor that will let you insert pictures will work including the free program, Open Office.

I created a free account on, so I could read their requirements. Essentially, you have to pick a book size from many choices. I chose 8x10 as I had many pictures that I wanted in large format. The cost per book is based on the book size and number of pages. To get real value, I chose to have small margins and most of each page devoted to print. I also chose a font of Times Roman and size 12 – a combination I consider very readable.

In my new Word document, I set pagesize, margins, and page numbering, and chose a bold font for the title of each article according the createspace recommendations. The headings are very easily turned into an automatic table of contents in Word.

One at a time, I inserted my articles and scanned items into the new Word document. I added some picture captions in text box format. I put exactly what I wanted on each page, positioning text and pictures. It ended having 125 pages all in a single document.

I chose to have the text wrap tightly around each picture so as not to have any wasted white space around them—again to make less pages total.

After getting it all nicely laid out, I printed each page on my laser printer (very cheap to do as I refill my toner cartridges many times at home). I then carefully proof read everything and passed it to Margo and Scott for more proofing, and when happy with it, declared the editing and layout done!

With a free downloaded program (Dopdf), I created a file from the Word document in the pdf format that book printers want. I checked the pdf to make sure it looked the same—it always has been perfect, but you need to check. Newer word processors have the pdf creation built in.

Next I needed a wrap-around cover. The 8x10 book cover is a double page size with a little extra for the spine. Createspace helped me calculate that with 125 pages, I needed a cover 16.25 x 10 (two 8 inch pages plus .25 inches spine).

With that information, I created a new blank Word document with page size exactly that measurement and then built the back, spine and front of the cover in that single page just like I had put together pictures and text in the book insides. I converted it to pdf.

With contents and cover complete and both in pdf format, I followed through on createspace filling in their blanks online for title, author, and a half dozen other descriptive items, found the price per book for me to buy one or more copies was $2.36 each plus postage for delivery. I set my selling price at $10 to reflect what I thought was a reasonable return for my work.

I entered my credit card and ordered a proof—the first time I had to pay any money. The proof was the $2.36 plus $3.59 shipping with delivery of my first book in one week. The postage did seem outrageous. I got it, found it was perfect, and then completed the book process having it put for sale on and My royalty on those sites is about 4.00 per book. Books I sell myself, I can make more money.

I ordered 25 books, delivery in one week, for $59 for the books and $15.50 for UPS shipping, costing me $2.98 each. I got them in 6 days and took them along

to the Wisconsin Maple Syrup producer’s meeting in Neillsville, WI., where I sold ten, making a profit of $7.02 each or $70.20. I have ten left. In the first week, two books sold on Amazon giving me $7.28 royalty there.

In summary, I had the book information ready after a few years of collecting and digitizing it ahead of time. I spent a week assembling it – probably about 10 hours total in layout of the book and cover. It took about 30 minutes on createspace to get the book ready there. I waited a week for a proof, and okayed immediately and ordered 25. A week later I was on the road selling them as well as having them for sale online. My upfront investment was just the cost of a single proof copy mailed to me. I didn’t have to order 300 books to get a decent price.

Most of the work is in getting your words into the computer, your pictures into the computer and doing the layout of the book. You do have to learn how to use a computer, however if you are resistant to that, it is almost a sure thing that either your kids or grandchildren can do that part for you with ease—as it is taught in schools nowadays!

Some of my books are also in electronic book format for a book reader. To do that on Amazon, you use their Kindle Direct program. It is also free, and is actually even easier, as you don’t worry at all about your page layout. You just take your word processor big file of everything and it gets processed directly to e-book reader form. No cost at all!

For more info, you can contact me at Go online to and search on “Russell B Hanson book” and you will see what it all looks like. This can be your way to get that book into print without mortgaging the house!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sterling Old Settlers book

2013 is the 75th year of the Sterling Old Settlers Picnic. It started as a get together for the folks who lived along the St. Croix River in West Sterling. The Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society and the Settlers Picnic Committee are putting together a book on the picnic. I am gathering pictures and stories. I hope to have a first draft of the book this June for the 74th picnic and have the book ready for the 75th. The Picnic now is in Cushing at the community center on the Sunday after Father's day at 11 AM, pot luck lunch at noon.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sterling Eureka and Laketown HS

I have been working on setting up a Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society Web site. You can check it out at SELHS Website

The latest newsletter is there at Jan 2012 newsletter

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bum Knee Bums Bums Out

Had a knee checkup today at Mayo. The doc says we wait until the last week of Feb at the earliest, and more likely the scheduled date, March 12. The hardware removal surgery is healing fine, but the knee is still swollen and warm to the touch, indicating healing he says.

I had a nose hair swab to check for staph germs lurking there ready to pounce if I have surgery. Luckily, I have my Ronco pocket nose hair rotary clipper (also excellent for trimming mustaches, sideburns and getting ready for Speedo season) so I can trim down the staph hideouts.

He says 2-3 days in the hospital after surgery, a few weeks of phys therapy after that. He also said the knee surgery would be complicated with a good outcome not assured, but it could turn out OK. I told him that I couldn't see how it could be any worse, and he shook his head and said that he could see many ways it could be worse. He was lowering my expectations of having a perfect result.

The knee is pretty much not working for walking anymore. I found that by putting a brace to lock the knee totally and then putting on one roller skate (or ice skate) as the weather dictates, lets me bring the bum leg along pretty well.

I am stalling around at Mayo, sitting at one of their many free computers for patients to play on, waiting for my 1:00 pm class on what happens during knee surgery. It is so nice outside I went out and sat on a bench in the downtown Peace Plaza.

A bag lady was sitting near by with her possesions in her push cart, sharing swigs of cough syrup with a middle aged man, both kind of tumbled down looking. They spotted me, with my grizzled beard, old jacket and cane, and offered me a swig too. "I only drink cough syrup after 2 pm," I replied, obviously a little too haughtily, as the lady turned away mumbling something about "a one percenter."

Another man, who was dressed much nicer than we were, was at the bus stop shelter. When the bus came, everyone dropped their cigarettes to get on the bus, and when it cleared out he picked them up, pocketed a few and started in smoking an almost new one. It looks like you have to wait for about 30 minutes to get a whole pack of slightly used ones!

I am headed back to the plaza to pick up a few more survival tips in case Gov Romney gets elected. He is right, the poor don't need any help.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RRR -- Dreams of Maple Season

It has been a quiet week here in Pine Island, MN. The snow is melting fast, with our yard now open except where the snow had drifted in from our constant west winds here on the edge of the big prairie. I have tapped a yard maple here to see if the sap will run early!

I ordered an old book “The Maple Sugar Book” by Scott and Helen Nearing from and got it a few weeks ago. It has a lot about the history of sugaring and syruping! It was written in 1950 by the two and has a lot of the history of maple sugar and syrup as well as their experiences moving from the city to the country in the 1930s and setup a sugarbush, describing the process in their book. They lived an interesting life.

Learn about Scott and Helen Nearing

Until the 1950s or so, much of maple production went into maple sugar rather than syrup. Many folks used it in place of white sugar. President Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of maple sugar as a replacement for slave-made white cane sugar. During WWII, maple sugar was available for the making while white sugar was rationed. To make maple sugar, check out

Learn to make Maple Candy

When I am desperate for something sweet, I do this: Pour a quarter cup of maple syrup into a microwaveable bowl, smear a thin rim of butter (margarine) around the inside top of the bowl, zap in the microwave for 3 minutes (more if you have a lower powered one), remove, cool for a while and then stir as it thickens and pour onto a buttered plate or maple leaf candy molds. One piece satiates your sugar craving!

Bernice Abrahamzon Obituary

Bernice Abrahamzon obituary

Cushing's Most Famous Son -- Roy J. Hennings (Doc Squirt)

You can read all about Cushing's most famous son at this link

Doc Squirt

There are other free books from our local history society on Google too.

Stories of the Trade River Valley I

Stories of the Trade River Valley 2