St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Beware of Falling Silage

   Hans (his Swedish parents pronounced it “Hons”) was a strapping farm boy of 16 years old.  Like most farm boys, he was big, strong, and as dense as a dry oak board.  He began helping on the farm as early as he could remember, and gradually he stumbled his way into greater and greater responsibility, primarily by way of learning from his mistakes.  

   Each day, it was Hans’ chore to throw down silage for the 20 cows in the barn.  Hans fed them hay each morning from the big haymow above.  In the late afternoon, he pitched corn silage from the silo down the chute and carried it to each cow, topping it with grain (ground corn and oats to add extra protein).  Then, after the evening milking, more hay.  Cows spent most of their lives eating, first packing it down as fast as they could swallow it, then leisurely lying in their stalls chewing their cuds.  

   Lars’ silo was12 feet in diameter, starting with a pit 6 feet in the ground rising 14 feet above the ground for a total of 20 feet of storage space.  
A silage fork, a short-handled fork of some dozen closely spaced tines that was prone to get the corn silage cob disks stuck on the many tines requiring constant cleaning. 
 Silage was not terribly heavy and in mild weather, could be pitched down quickly.  

The 12-foot diameter, 12-foot tall silo with metal chute in byegone days. Note the tree inside!

The cows got hay 2x each day, breakfast and the late evening snack.  Winters added corn silage in the pre-evening milking period.  The cows got silage, the farmer ate supper and then milked and fed hay.  
By February throwing down silage was much more work.  The frigid weather froze the silage from the concrete wall inward nearly a foot and a half.  Further in the natural fermentation and insulation kept it loose and easy to pitch out.  Hans knew he was expected to use the grubhoe each day to keep the frozen edges even with the rest of the silage, but that was a lot of work.  “I’ll just wait, and soon there will be a thaw and it will come down easy.”

All through January he let it build and now it was 9 feet higher than the center--and tapering inward as he went down leaving him less and less room to swing the pick and pitch with the fork.  
Feeding grain after hay.    Water cups are shared every 2 cows.  Stanchions are homemade  of 2x4 wood.  The door at the end is to the silo room.  Opposite end was the haymow chute.  Early fall it appears by the fly ribbon over the cows head.   Water gravity fed down from a big tank overhead the cows, but still in the main barn where it wouldn’t freeze in winter.
Realizing that he was soon going to be squeezed in the doughnut hole, he planned Saturday to catch up.  But how to do it?  Not enough ledge of frozen silage to stand on; too high to attack with the pick from the top, he decided to begin at the bottom and hollow it out, working his way up.  

Three hours into the job, and with the south side cleared back nearly to the concrete, at the bottom, Hans took a break.  “Another 20 hours like this, and I still won’t be done,” he moaned to himself, beginning to understand why Lars told him to keep it level each day.  
It was a warm day sunny day--one of those February days that promise spring is not far off.  Although no sunlight reached into the silo, it penetrated the concrete warming the outer edge of the silage.  
 Hans sat down to rest, and leaned back in his hollowed out cave and promptly fell asleep.  He awoke briefly to complete darkness with a crushing weight on his chest--breathing was impossible.  As consciousness left, he saw Lars may have been right this time.  

Moral:    Learning from your mistakes is not always the best way.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas 2013 Newsletter

Last year at this time, Margo was in the middle of breast cancer treatment.  This year that is all over and she is done with cancer and doing very well getting back to normal.  Thank you for all of your cards, letters and support!

Last year at this time, I was trying to get Myasthenia Gravis under control.  This year that is in the past and I am also doing well and back to normal—in remission.  Although the two of us didn’t get everything we would like to have done accomplished last year, we are looking forward to a good 2014!

Spring was one of the best maple syrup seasons in many years—good quality and good yield.  We had not planned to tap the maples for health reasons, but some relatives and neighbors tapped the maples and  Russ went to the cabin to help out with Scott joining me when the ski hill closed and Margo finished treatment.  With all the help we did well making 60 gallons of excellent syrup shared with all the helpers.   

Scott worked at the ski hill nearby again last winter and flexed his work time to help out with his ailing parents.  He was very helpful in keeping things going smoothly.  He lives in the Pine Island home and keeps it up while we spend time at the lake in Wisconsin.  The last week of November he fell off a ladder and cracked some ribs and so has a month of taking it easy.  

Margo’s mother, Myrtle, passed away early in 2013 after 11 years in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.  She was 86 years old.  It was sad, but we had said good bye to her many years earlier before she no longer knew who we were.  It is a hard way to end with no memory; hard on the relatives and friends too.  Merlin, her husband, helped to feed her and watched over her until the end. 

 Once in a while she would seem a little better, but mostly she was lost in the emptiness of having no memory of friends, family or even her own life. It is a hard way to go.

October 25th, Russ’ mother, Alberta Hanson, passed away 2 months short of her 92nd birthday.  She still lived at home on the farm and was still active and doing reasonably well when she just didn’t wake up in the morning.  The day before she was still active, making some grape juice from the abundant garden crop and visiting with her sons.  We were shocked, as she always claimed she would make 100, but at the same time we know that it was a good time and good way to go.  We wrote about Mom’s life and you can read it at our internet blog –  where you can follow our lives in photos and words. 

 As Margo and I own the farm, we are busy with the help of my brothers and families sorting items from the 72 years since Mom and Dad bought the farm.  We are going to try out living in the house this winter to give us an idea if we want to live there or rent or sell it.  It is a large 2-story house, built 100 years ago and somewhat in need of interior reworking—especially the bedrooms upstairs that were used for storage and never fully finished.  Lots of work if we decide to stay there.   It is hard to decide, as we like living on the lake at the cottage, but it is not really a place for winter living and too small to be a permanent residence.  Right now with 3 houses, we are house poor!  Sometimes it is harder to make a decision than not to make it.  
In October, Merlin, a very young 88 years old, remarried.  He and Kathy are both widowers and prefer the company of each other to living alone.  Love can come at any time and we are happy for the couple.  Both grew up in the small Newburg. WI community and have much in common. It is encouraging to see people still active and vital in their mature years.   

Our gardening was limited this year, and we didn’t go to the farmer’s market.  We did grow pumpkins, squash, apples and some melons that turned out OK.  Next year we will try it again with more time to take care of things.  Lots of wild and tame grapes to make jelly. 

We didn’t travel at all this year.  Although we don’t plan going south this winter, it may be too hard to resist when January rolls around.  Maybe we will put an ice fishing house out on the lake and set it up to double as a sauna!

Trade River Church Russ attended as a youngster decorated for Christmas

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Piano Blues

Mom's old Hobart M Cable Piano
Russ is using it to stack things as he works on painting, sorting and working in the house. He hasn't looked in the bench yet--probably full of music from 3 generations of Hanson's lessons.  He is thinking about removing the core and turning it into an entertainment center or else a roll-top type desk unless it is rescued by one of Grandma's grandchildren. 

Mom accumulated many things among them an upright Hobart M Cable piano taking up a lot of room in the living room that could be better used by putting a few of my old computers and printers.   She didn't play the piano, but kept it in case one of the grandchildren or great grandchildren wanted a piano for learning. She used it as a place to put the really important photos-- the 8x10 hand colored HS graduation photos of Marvin, Russell, Everett and Byron (our hair slicked back with the Brylcreem sheen), and smaller photos of the next generation, as well as many nicknacks.

My brothers and spouses are helping sort the items Mom had that need a new home.  The piano is one of those, as Margo and I don't play at all.  Marvin and Everett wouldn't take it either (Ev has Grandma's piano in the garage providing a refuge for mice).  Connie already has one too.  

In the olden days (pre-1960), having a piano or organ in the parlor was a status symbol.  In the 1890s, the assessor had a column to check off if the home had an organ as it was a sign the family had become prosperous (the pump organ is upstairs --and its disposition is still pending).  In the pre-radio and TV days, people actually did gather around the piano for entertainment and enjoyment.  

That Marv, Ev and I have no need for a piano is not altogether Mom's fault.  We each had piano lessons for varying periods of time --a year or two for Marv and me and several years for Ev.  Marv claims he stopped after a disaster at his annual piano recital, when he flubbed his complicated two-handed memorized piece in front of the St Croix Falls parent crowd, ruthless critics.  I did my two-finger piece (The Snake Dance) wonderfully well, and was well on the way to becoming a piano prodigy, but with Marv balking, it wasn't worth hauling just me to lessons each week.  

Brother Everett, started a few years later and moved along quite well.  He rather liked the piano, and at age 12, had visions of being the life of the party strolling over to the piano and breaking into catchy boogie-woogie number with the crowd all jitter-bugging around the room. 

Trouble was, that when his piano teacher offered him the choice of the boogie-woogie book or the classical music book, Mom overruled his BW choice. His interest dwindled immediately when faced with Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms vs Jerry Lee Lewis.  Mom worried that boogie-woogie would lead her quiet and serious son directly to smoke-filled taverns and dens of iniquity.  Sadly, he revolted and thus another piano virtuoso in the family was thwarted.    I think by the time that Byron came along, Mom had given up.  I really can't remember if he had lessons or not, as I was too busy with my tenor sax playing on the Gambling River Boats plying the upper St Croix running on moonshine. 

When our son, Scott's arm was twisted to take piano lessons, the piano moved to Rochester, MN for a couple of years until his mother forced him into church music vs jazz.  Mothers are too often the bane of musicians.  I wonder what Mrs Zimmerman said to Bobby up there in northern MN? 

A trip back to Mom's and then the piano went to brother Marv's place where his daughter Sarah used it for lessons at Cushing.  Something must have happened with her too, as she doesn't sweep in and sit down at the piano and impress us all.   

Brother Byron and wife Connie's oldest daughter, Amanda, took many years of piano lessons--they had their own piano at Byron's home.   Amanda probably advanced the most of any of the family with lessons and playing, but has been neglecting her practice for many years now.  Connie tells me that Eddie and Libby (Amanda's kids and Connie's grandchildren) sit down and plunk away at grandma Connie's piano when they visit.   With this desperate need for a piano, I have Marv and Ev lined up in early January to push the piano (on its own casters) out the door, down the ramp onto the trailer and leave it on Amanda's deck some time when we are sure they are all at work.  Sort of a gift in memory of Grandma and to encourage her musical talents as well as to give Edward and Elizabeth their chance to see if they are prodigies too.  

I looked on E-bay and Craigslist and found upright antique pianos in decent shape going for prices ranging for $0 up to $500.  This one looks pretty good; plays fine except for a need of tuning and comes with 300 nicknacks and 35 photos and two Christmas presents. 

Back in the days when we four boys were still at home and expecting Santa to bring Christmas gifts, Mom had a real problem in hiding the presents well enough so we didn't discover them.  She didn't just put them under the Christmas tree, as then we would have known that Santa Claus hadn't come down the chimney, and out of the wood stove door to deliver our presents (of course by the time we were old enough to leave home, we realized that Santa just told our parents what we wanted, and didn't actually bring gifts himself most of the time unless we were very very good).  

I always borrowed one of grandpa's old knee high wool socks that had been stretched out hugely--the kind with the red toes and heels made of Itchy Sheep Wool  by Grandma herself and darned by great grandma with red and green yarn so heavily the sock was hard to find under the darning.  I was optimistic that my presents were going to be huge!  

Well, one year in March, our prissy neighbor girl S____ came to visit.  She was everything we boys were not--well behaved at home and away from home, a polite and orderly student, and always said please and thankyou and if she was tempted to wave just one finger at us, it was a clean one with the cuticle showing a full half-moon.  She sat down at the piano to show off her 6 years of dedicated practice and began a real Christian song, but the piano just thudded and clunked.  

Marv cleaned off the 37 photos and trinkets and tilted up the hinged top, expecting to see a cat had moved in or something worse.  He reached in and brought out 4 gaily wrapped Christmas presents, one with each of our names on it.   Mom, it turned out, had hidden some presents down in the bowels of the piano, knowing that we would never sit and play the piano and discover them, and had forgotten them at Christmas.   It was hard for her to explain why Santa had been so strange in his delivery method, but what the heck, a guy can never have too many socks and underwear. 

Although we hope to pass along the piano to someone who values it, I have been soft-pedaling the efforts so far.  However, when it comes to the fancy old pump-organ, we will pull out all the stops.   

There are times when I still dream about sitting on the bench and amazing strangers with my piano skills--maybe at the public piano in the basement of the Mayo Building.  It is a shame that things like playing the piano take so much work.  Maybe Professor Harold Hill's think system could work...  

And for those of you who want to hear The Snake Dance almost as good as I rattled it off in front of the huge audience in SCF back in 1954, check out this link:  Snake Dance  

Brother Marv had troubles with "Riding on a Mule" which you can see done successfully at Riding on a Mule  

And here is what Brother Everett would have played like if his mother had not pushed him into classical songs:  
Piano Boogie Woogie

Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter in the North

Margo and I have decided to try out living at the big farmhouse for a few months this winter--a test of whether we want to move here or not, as well as a chance to do some cleaning, repairing and updating things that Mom had let slide (she lived here 71 years).  

The house is almost 100 years old--built by John Nelson as the third house on the farm.   I have included some old photos that show the house in the background (including the overhead water pipes from the old days).    Although it has been insulated and the porches built in, and many bigger windows added, at the core it is the same house that Mr. Nelson built.  One of his neighbors told Dad that it was paid for by $500 from a nearby farmer who got a Nelson daughter pregnant and because he was already married, made a settlement to the Nelsons--of course that is just a rumor, and not to be relied upon.  

   John Nelson's sister was Mrs. Thomas Hansen, early storekeeper in Cushing, WI.  Another brother, Axel, built the second house on the property--a big two story frame house that John said was not really well built.  The first house was from logs as was the first barn.  You can see the logs from those buildings as floor joists in the new barn (1915?) and this house.  

  A renter, Ole Olsen, added his mark when he charred the floor joist in the basement of the house when his moonshine still blew up.  Dad bought it in 1941 and married mom in 1942.  

  A fuel-oil furnace heats the house, but with oil quite expensive, one tries to keep the thermostat down while keeping somewhat comfortable.  Most of its life, the house has been heated by wood cut on the farm and so the fuel cost was just our labor--and throwing in a few extra chunks to keep it warm at 20 below was not a problem.  

   I tell Margo--just wear your long-johns, wool socks and take off the mittens when you do dishes and it is pretty comfortable!  She has a different view of comfort than I do, it appears. 

Ev and his Jeep  Don't recognize the Shadow

My 1967 Rambler Rogue--Typhoon V-8 with four-on-the floor could get rubber in 3 gears and the glove compartment!
Behind it is the 1962 Rambler Dad drove and the 1968 Rambler Everett had.  A family of Ramblers. 

My 1937 Chev truck -- got it when I was 14

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ice Fishing has Started!

Mr Moore from Centuria caught a few small northern on the Lake yesterday.  He tells me the ice is 4 inches thick already and that there were signs a person had been out a day or two earlier.  The wind was raw, the ice very slick, and he retreated to his car to watch the tip-ups.  He says he has been fishing here since his childhood with his father--just the very early season before the big lakes freeze over where the fishing is better.  

You can read about my early fishing on this lake too at this link:  The Rambler's Ice Fishing

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Robert Anderson of Trade Lake WI

An old friend of mine, Robert Anderson of Trade Lake, WI passed away today after a battle with liver cancer.

I met Robert when he came with Lester Bergstrom's portable sawmill to cut the logs Dad and Grandpa had cut during the winter.  I got to know him better when we both worked at Stokely's, he driving a bean truck, and I running a bean picker--the field crew folks.

In the past 10 years I got re-acquainted with Robert as we both shared an interest in local history.  Robert and Stanley Selin have done a great deal of research on the Trade Lake area, much of which we used in the books, Stories of the Trade River Valley I and II

Robert took on a project to restore and maintain the Trade Lake Mission Church.  Thanks to him and his friends, the church was re-roofed, repaired, heated, and continues to have a few services each year.

From the facebook site of the Mission Church:

   We are deeply saddened today to learn of the death of Robert W. Anderson. He passed away peacefully , early this morning, his family at his side. Services will be held on Sunday, December 1, 2013 at the Swedish Mission Church with visitation starting at 1:00 and services at 2:30.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chinese Scroll 1910 Uncle Eddie Paulson

Update:  Translation of scroll from Chinese friend:

  I am not sure about the small black characters either.   Guess that your Great Uncle's Chinese name be Bao Der-Jiao.   In Chinese, the name was written respectfully as Bao (Mr.)  Der-Jiao.  Also, wonder that there are more characters that were torn out at the bottom.   The large characters " “Believe and be joined together with Jesus” might not be a complete phrase.   It could be  “Believing and joining together with Jesus (gains eternal life)” - just my speculation. 

 I’m not sure about the small characters on the right, but it has something to do with Mr. Bao and either “moral lessons” or “German lessons.”  

In cleaning at Mom's house, we came across a small suitcase labeled E. M. Paulson.  Edwin Marion Paulson was grandma Hannah Paulson Hanson's brother.   He was known to us as the missionary to China who visited once a year from his home in Wesley IA.  

Uncle Eddie was the educated person in the family.  He went to college in the late 1800s, and became a school teacher.  In 1902, feeling the need for adventure and the wish to act on his Christian beliefs, he volunteered to be a teacher in China for missionary children--to teach an 8-grade school in Ping Ling.  

He went to China in 1903, stayed for 7 years returning in 1910 and took some more college classes and became a college professor in a religious college.  When it folded in the Great Depression, he and his wife, Grace Skow, moved to her family's farm in Wesley, Iowa, where lived and passed away in their late 80s (about 1970).  

The suitcase holds some items he brought back with him from China in 1910.  Some silk clothes, some photos, some nick-knacks including an opium pipe and a few assorted items including a pair of shoes for a woman with bound feet. 

The first item I am trying to decipher is a torn scroll.  Photos included for my friends to help me translate. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Alberta C Hanson-- Memorial

Mom's quilts were utilitarian rather than fancywork and her boys were the work crew. 
Alberta Hanson's funeral is Thursday, Nov 7th, at the Trade River Evangelical Free Church on Hwy 87 about 8 miles south of Grantsburg.  Visitation begins at 4 pm, services at 5 and lunch following.  

We put together a booklet on Mom with some photo and a little history.  You can read it at the link below.  Transferring it to the internet seems to have lost a little of the resolution for some photos. 

Alberta C Hanson booklet link     

We spent the days since October 25, when she died, cleaning, organizing and distributing things from the farm house.  It was a good way to reminisce and keep busy with my brothers and wives and some nieces and nephews.  Much more is set aside to distribute including a great deal of handwork from great aunts, grandmothers and others that came to Mom over the years.  

It seems that if you know how to knit, crochet or  embroider there is nothing safe--no toilet paper or soap bar uncovered, no cup or saucer without a fancy setting, no pillow or towel without a fringe and some artwork.  No idle hands in the Hanson family women of a certain age.  

Mom never had the interest or patience for this kind of handwork, preferring painting, growing things, and writing.  Brother Marv is collecting dozens of handwritten stories.  Son, Scott plans to put 7 years of a newspaper Kitchen Column together for a family book.  I made the brief summary booklet to handout at the funeral. 

First Snow

The first snowfall is lovely and exciting.  The first plowable snowfall is a challenge.  After that it becomes just a nuisance. 

6:30 am

7:30 am 

8:30 am 

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Alberta Christina Lyste was born in Maple Grove Township, Barron County, WI, the first child of Thomas Lyste and Clarice Nelson. Clarice was only 16 years old.  They were second generation Norwegians, both from farm families.  

For the first 9 years of her life, things were good.  Lawrence, Archie, Delbert and Donna  were added to the family and Alberta remembers school and home being good.  

Then in April of 1930, Thomas came down with a cold that turned to pneumonia, and in just a few days he died.   These were the days before good medicines were available, and pneumonia was often fatal.   

The economy had turned bad in 1929 with the start of the Great Depression—jobs were hard to find, farm products sold for very little and times were hard.  When Tom died, Clarice, then 25 years old had to move the family from the big house on the rented farm to the old house, now a small granary.  

With a new baby and 4 other children, Clarice wasn’t able have a job, and so the family had to go on County Assistance of $30 per month.  After paying the rent for the granary, there was not enough money to live on.  Although they got a little help from relatives and neighbors, by November they were almost always short of food.  

The relatives and neighbors did not seem to like Clarice and took it out on the whole family.  Clarice had been 25 years younger than her husband.

Then at the beginning of December, after a meal of soup made from potato peelings off of the neighbors scrap pile, according to Archie, 

Clarice was at the end of her wits.  She told the children, to take care of each other and she would try to find something to help them do better.  She left, walking away, never to return.  

As the oldest, Alberta, age 9, had to take charge.  She was used to taking care of her younger brothers and the new baby, so she knew what to do—but what could they eat?

She sent Lawrence to the neighbors with a pail to get some milk for the baby.  He came back crying because he spilled the milk. Alberta insisted he go and try again or the baby would die (Mom and Lawrence knew what this meant, as one of Tom and Clarice’s babies had died and they remembered her being buried on the farm next to Dorrity Creek).  This time he was successful.  

She went to the neighbors and begged for food, but didn’t tell them her mother had left them alone.  Her mother had told her if people found out, the family would be broken up and the kids given to other people. 

For two weeks, Alberta managed to keep the secret and keep the family together, and somehow got enough food to keep them from starving, expecting her mother to return anytime. But she didn't come back. 

Finally, the school teacher worried why Alberta was not  coming to school.  Alberta loved school and had awards for perfect attendance, so something must be wrong. 

“My mother hasn’t been home for 2 weeks,” sobbed Alberta as the Barron County Sheriff interviewed her and checked out the living conditions, baby and small children with Alberta responsible for all of them.  

Although they made it through the ordeal, Alberta decided never again would she ever go through lack of food, and it showed up in her later life as she insisted that anyone stopping by had to sit down and have something to eat!  “You Look Hungry” was what Amanda labeled the cookbook with Alberta’s recipes many years later. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Alberta C Hanson 1921 - 2013

Mom, Alberta C Hanson, passed away last night in her sleep.  She was 91 years old.  I had visited her yesterday as had my brother Marvin, and she was fine.  

I will update this more later--but she died as we all would like to, active up to the end, mentally alert and in her sleep.  Although it is a shock right now, we are grateful that she went peacefully and while still independent.  

The funeral will be November 7th, at the Trade River Evangelical Free church north of Cushing, WI with visitation at 4 pm , service at 5 pm and lunch immediately after the service. 

Alberta Christina Hanson passed away during her sleep October 25, 2013 at her rural home near Cushing, WI.  Alberta was 91 years old.  She was born December 18, 1921 in Maple Grove Township, Barron County, WI, to Thomas and Clarice (Nelson) Lyste, the oldest of 5 children.  Her father died in 1930 and the family was split up with Alberta being adopted by Eugene and Nettie Hanson.  She grew up in  Sterling Township, Polk County, WI.  She attended the Evergreen School, riding a horse 3 miles each day.

In 1942, while running the Wolf Creek Store with her parents, she married Vivian R. Hanson and moved to the Evergreen Av Farm where she lived the next 72 years, active in many local groups, raising 4 boys, and taking care of several elderly relatives in her home, including her mother and aunt who both lived to be 100 years old. 

Alberta was an avid gardener, enjoyed painting, liked to travel, and especially enjoyed cooking, winning many recipe/cooking competitions.  For nearly 30 years she wrote the Sterling News in several local newspapers as well as a cooking column.  Alberta enjoyed trying new things; bright colors and especially liked writing letters.  Her 100 Christmas cards for 2013 are ready to send, each with a personal note inside.   

Alberta was  preceded in death by a son, Byron and her husband VR.  She is survived by a brother, Archie Lyste of Madison, sons, Marvin, Russell. and Everett, 8 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. 

A celebration of Alberta’s life will be held at the Trade River Evangelical Free Church, Thursday, Nov 7, with visitation at 4 pm, service at 5 pm, and as she would have insisted, with a substantial lunch following.  Rowe  Funeral Home of Luck WI is handling the cremation.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Medical Alert -- Help I have fallen...

Medical Alert Link
Mom, 91, listens to TV a lot. Her TV friends are more real than most others as when one lives to be that old, most of your friends have passed on and your relatives have spread far and wide and have lives of their own. 

 One of the high pressure ads is the medical alert systems where an old person has fallen and presses a button and gets help. Just call an 800 number and sign up.  Many ads come directly through the mail too, likely from mailing lists sold by charities that prey on the elderly.  

   Mom sent in a card, got a high pressure pitch to sign up for $35 per month system located in Pennsylvania and did with the bill to come in the mail.      

  After talking to Jennie, her neighbor who is 96, her only regular visitor other than her 3 sons,  she changed her mind and tried to call back and cancel.  The high pressure salesman, Chris Corsant (?) talked her into giving her bank account number and signing up for more months instead of cancelling. 

Jennie scolded mom for giving out her bank account, and that is where Mom brought brother Marv into the process (who brought in Ev and me).  We were unable to reach a person with the phone number.  Messages left were ignored.  Oh Oh, one of those scams to get your bank account number and run it dry. 

The device (rented by the monthly fee of $35) came in the mail by UPS.   We told mom to not accept it.  It was just dropped off without her knowledge on the porch.   I took it to UPS and "refused delivery."  

That happened 2 times.  Marv had the $99.25 initial charge stopped at the bank (cost $35 to do this).  

Then Mom got a letter in the mail with the bill, $99.35 and a phone number of the actual company -- not just the salesman. 

 Marv called them and explained the cancellation and refusal and they appeared to be OK with that--saying when they got the device back would take mom off the signup.  In the meantime, we are debating getting rid of the bank account number--switching to a new account that the company doesn't have.   The new charge if submitted, was 10 cents higher, would again cost $35 to have the local bank stop it if indeed we could catch it ahead of time. 

The company appears to be legitimate, just employs charlatans as phone sales people--likely independent people. They did send a real package from a drop shipping point in PA of a real medical alert system (at least according the labeling on the un-opened package).  

  While this is going on we have been working with Mom on not giving her bank account number over the phone and not ordering things without some advice--things that are services rather than just an item.  She has been sending a few $2 checks each day to all sorts of the charities that send you a dime, some labels, Christmas stickers, and of course a few dozen fundamentalist TV preachers.  

She believes the $2 each means she is paying for the gifts.  I reminded her that her mother (also in her 90s) got into the same set of scams and that mom ended up stopping her writing checks when that happened.   

Mom is lonely.  Her daily mail is her lifeline to the world.  Maybe the $2 to get some mail is enough.  She has a few dozen grandchildren and great grandchildren.  She always sends them birthday cards with money; Christmas cards with money, however they don't all have time enough to reply with a thank you card or an occasional letter, whereas Boys Town thanks her and sends more stuff with each contribution.  Maybe we are recommending she cut off the wrong contributions. 
   To meet her perceived need for a medical alert (she does go to the mailbox in the yard and to the garden and is wobbly on her feet and of course won't use a walker or even a cane), I started looking for local support.  

   The St Croix Medical Center has a misleading statement on their website  SCRMC Alert System    It seems to say they have this service

Patient Services: Medic Alert System/ Medi-Mate

Medi-Mate is a 24-hour emergency response system that easily connects to a subscriber's telephone and automatically calls the hospital for help should an emergency arise. The unit can also be activated by remote control.
Friends and neighbors are trained as responders, and emergency medical personnel are always available to respond to calls. This system is designed for those who live alone or have limited mobility, and it is available through the hospital, at moderate cost, on a monthly lease basis.
For more information or home medical equipment, call Diana Gall 715-483-0267.
I called the number and found that SCRMC doesn't do anything like this itself--just referred me to a local security service that sells the service.  CWS Link   
They setup a system and provide an operator to call for about $30 per month with rental of the phone system or half that if you buy the under $300 device.  They take the call (Austin MN operators) and call a list of neighbor's numbers or 911 as they determine the need for help.  It seemed to be a reasonable service with local contacts. 
In thinking about having an Austin MN operator call neighbors (or sons in our case), I thought maybe just buying the device without the operator service would work, and so after a days of internet research decided the best device would be the Logicmark Freedom Alert which has 3 choices:
   -- 911 only   
   -- or 1 to 4 calls first and then 911 
   -- or just up to 4 numbers (with 9 retries through the 4 numbers). 
  Reviews were good; list price and most places charged $279.   In wondering if there was a cheaper alternative, checked on Walmart who offers their own $14 per month medical alert call service and found they also sold this device through their online store at $219. 
After some discussion with Mom and the brothers, I ordered the device with a 3 year Walmart warranty (about $260 total with warranty and tax).  Got it and programmed it with 4 numbers. 
Programming is not too bad-- I hooked it to the phone (the phone line goes into this device and then a wire out to your normal touch tone phone).  Call a number (my cell) to get it online and then follow some instructions to enter the password (1234#) and then each number ending with #.  The unit talks to you and lets you know what you are doing and repeats back each number as you enter it. 
The base unit has 4 rechargeable NIMH batteries that will run it without being plugged in for 24 hours.  The hand held unit is really a roving phone good for the home and yard --500 feet or so (works in the garden and at mailbox).  It has a single rechargeable lithium AAA battery that is good for a month with a recharging slot in the base unit. Tells you in voice when the battery needs changing. 
The setup was easy.  The testing was easy.  The phone calls each number in turn looking for a live person by asking each number "this is an emergency call.  Press 5 to take it..."  If you press 5, it means you are real, not just the answering machine. If you don't, it hangs up and dials the next number (up to 4 different ones).  If you don't make 911 the end number, it will cycle through the 4 numbers 9 times trying to get a real person). 
We have had some trouble getting the process through with Mom.  It would have been very easy to just set it to 911 only, however in contacting the local 911 people, they prefer the local numbers first option--for sure during the testing/learning period.  
Mom can't hear very well, so the answering machines each of us have and the Press 5 command (which she hears and thinks she should press something -- no numbers on the device to press however), and the slow process through number after number getting answering machines is frustrating and mom has always been an impatient person. But we have hope, and Mom has an emergency device that will call her sons.  She has, while we were there, tried it several times.  We plan to keep testing it with her for a few more weeks.

The handheld device can be held up to her ear and is loud enough to hear the other person.  Held at the ear, she can talk and it goes through fine to the other person --sort of a very simplified wireless roving phone connected to a base that has no buttons to press.    
Been thinking that we probably should have the device first call a person with a cell phone that is always on so the very first call always goes through and the complication of a chain of calls doesn't happen. 

 Not so good for Marv and me as our houses are down the hill west of Hwy 87 with poor cell service; brother Ev rarely turns his on as he thinks of it as his call button for when a tree falls on him next time; and we don't want to impose on the next generation for whom Mom has already passed on.  Possibly with enough brother pressure, Ev might try carrying his cell regularly ;-)
We are in the learning stages, and it is unlikely that Mom will really ever need to use this, but as it comforts her and us, we will persist and figure it out!  Of course, getting her to wear it on the cord around her neck will be an interesting effort too.  It has a belt/walker clamp too, but the neck cord works best for Mom, we think.   It is water proof to a level--can take it in the shower or maybe into the dish water, but really don't want to test that!
Wish us luck. 

First Killing Frost

The lastest date for the first killing frost up here in the northwoods that I can ever remember.  The earliest was in the 60s when the corn got froze hard in late August forcing the silo filling a month early.  
A hard frost brings change--not as much as the first snow, but it signals, for me, another push in cutting fire wood.  

Maple leaves are mostly down with the oaks beginning their spectacular show on the Sterling Barrens. 

Aspens are late in turning this year--maybe they need a frost to trigger the color change.  This is on what is left of the old Orr gravel pit ridge. 

If you are an ant, this hill represents building the Empire State Building over the summer!

This used to be a big hill--a pile of gravel that was all used in the rebuild of Hwy 87 many years ago, leaving a pothole.  My neighbor Jim Falk, (who passed away last winter) planted some tamaracks and popples along the north edge.  Whenever I see them it will remind me of Jim.   He retired and built a home along the river road and bought some of the old Orr Farm.  He loved hunting and his deer stand nearby sported a TV antenna!  Jim started having memory problems (seemed to be triggered by a head injury in an accident), and gradually lost his identity.  He was a good neighbor -- so as long as I walk down the road and see these trees, I will remember him and his memorial planting. 
   Margo has been feeling tired and worn down from the year of cancer treatment and is taking it easy and doing some catchup with other medical problems that were caused by or delayed by the cancer treatment.  We are looking forward to a quiet winter -- maybe January and February in the south again.  I remain in remission from Myasthenia Gravis, and just old age is my excuse nowadays for what I don't get done!