Sunday, August 14, 2022

Policing My Brothers and Me

I was fortunate to grow up in a household with 2 older brothers. One is about 5 or 6 years older than me and one is about 3 years older than me. Both were great brothers growing up and to this day I look up to them. They always looked out for me and for the most part they kept me safe from the everyday things a kid could get into back then. I’ll probably never know if it was genuine concern for their little sister or the thought of our dad finding out they weren’t watching over me. You see our dad was a St. Paul Police Officer back in the days when rather than arresting a kid and bringing them to the juvenile detention center, the officers would bring them home to face their parents. Sometimes that would be way worse. And our dad lived by that principle…when we heard “Wait til your Father gets home”, it was the longest time spent waiting for whatever the consequence was he would deliver. Our Dad was a great Dad but we knew to behave…just because he could give us “the look””…or a good swat across the behind. Never abusive, but always effective.



Being the only girl and the youngest, I am sure I got away with way more than my brothers did. Being my brothers were older, they seemed to get into more trouble and shenanigans than I did. Or at least it seems they got caught more often.


One of the most memorable times I have of my oldest brother was one St Patrick’s Day. He was a junior or senior in high school and decided to skip school and go to the big parade downtown celebrating being Irish and St Patrick’s Day. St Paul always had a huge festive parade with lots of green beer and many people out marching and celebrating St Patrick’s Day. My oldest brother decided it would be fun to march in the parade. Mind you, we are not a single bit Irish.


The day started like any other school day, my brother got to drive the newer Chevy Caprice we had to school. Me and my other brother went our ways off to school. I was in grade school and my two brothers were at different high schools. Our Dad always allowed us to choose what high school we wanted to go to…as long as it was Catholic. 


The school day came to an end for me and I walked the mile home and came into the house to find my oldest brother sitting on the footstool holding his white T-shirt up to his bloody nose and our Dad sitting in the chair facing him. My brother was apologizing and crying and our Dad, sitting there in his police uniform, was trying to find out what had happened. 


Well seeing the sight and how upset my brother was and how calm my dad was, I knew it was best if I just went to my room and holed up there until the coast was clear to come back downstairs. It would be a long time until I found out what happened that day. 


My brother made it to the parade and was marching in it along with many others who were drinking and drunk. He and his friends got into an all out fist fight with another group of guys. All had been drinking and my brother got his nose punched and broken. This was just one of the many times he got his nose broken in his youth. Hockey and other sports took its toll on my oldest brother’s nose. And back then we didn’t run to the doctor every time he got a pop to the nose. My oldest brother has a nose that looks like the boxers you see pictures of on tv…pretty flat.


Not only did he get in a fight, but he also had been drinking the green beer and somehow managed to wreck the car that day. It was a time when our dad’s quietness was way more scary than if he would have blown his cork and yelled at my brother. We were all more used to getting a firm yelling or even a belt to the behind. Well at least my brothers were. I can honestly say I never got many spankings as a kid, my dad would just use a tone of voice that scared me straight into behaving.


A few years later my other brother managed to get the wrath of our dad at a wedding up North. We were at a family wedding and it was the traditional My Big Fat Hungarian Wedding. There were many relatives, lots of drinking and polka music, just like all the weddings on my mom’s side of the family. It was a time for us kids to hang out with all of our cousins while the adults ate and drank and would Polka and Waltz and Schottische. It was always a great day of celebrating when my mom and her family got out on the dance floor.


Meanwhile while the adults were celebrating, my 16 year old brother and another cousin were sneaking drinks and feeling the effects. They were out on the church steps when our dad found him sloshed. My brother was hauled into the back seat of the car with our dad’s face beat red. We were ready to make the 120 mile trip home with my brother full of whatever he had been drinking and our dad fuming mad at my brother’s choices.


The drive home consisted of my brother saying he didn’t feel too good and our dad having to stop the car often so my brother could throw up. Somewhere between our dad setting his jaw and being silent and about the 2nd or 3rd stop for my brother to puke his guys out, our dad lost it. He looked at my brother and threatened to make him stand there and drink a quart of whiskey. That caused my brother to puke some more. It was a long drive home but we made it and my brother lived to see another day… hungover. 


My most memorable story of me in getting trouble with our dad was when I was about 10 and my mom found matches in my pocket. When she asked what I was doing with them, I froze. She asked if I had been playing with matches and I shook my head yes. I got the “Wait til your Father gets home” comment and trembling went to my room to wait out my fate. It would be hours before he got home.


When he finally got home I came downstairs and found him holding the match book from my pocket. I started crying and told him I had tried starting a campfire between the garages. He stood me in front of him holding my arms both firmly and gently at the same time and told me never to play with matches again, I could have burned down the garages. I was sobbing at this point. I think he figured he had gotten his point across and that was the end of me and matches and fire until I was older. 


My second oldest brother turned 68 this week. I find that so incredible to think that me and my brothers are getting old. My brothers and I have outlived our parents and the ages they left us by many years. We have been so fortunate  to see our kids get married and start families, something our parents lost out on for the most part way back when. 


My brothers and I now have grown kids of our own and they are raising their kids to be the best they can be. And they all are turning out to be caring and decent human beings as they are entering into adulthood. Is it because our kids are doing a great job with their kids? You betcha. Is it also a result of them being raised by us,their parents? Of course. But that only happened because we had St Paul Police Officer Dad to make us who we are today. If you’re listening and watching Dad, you did alright by all of us including your great grandkids. 


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Summer Critters Come to Visit



The other day as we were sitting at the kitchen table, my Best Half pointed out the window and yelled “look!”. As I looked up from my morning peanut butter toast, I saw the biggest black bear I have ever seen around here! It was right out in the backyard, jaunting across towards the river that is just across the next field.
We have bears in the area and will see a mother bear and a couple cubs, or the cubs from one or two years ago. It is not super often, but it is becoming more regular this Summer. Our backyard has become the path to the river.

There is a reason for the increased bear population near us. It seems that if any bears wander too far South towards the Twin Cities suburbs and become a nuisance, they trap them and release them near us at the back entrance of the state park. That is about 5 miles away and if they follow the river (which they do) they will eventually wind up in the field and woods by us. I read once that bears have about a 50 mile radius they wander around in.

Bears can be quite the nuisance at times. Our neighbors have replaced many bird feeders as a result of the bears smashing them to the ground. Our neighbors now wind up gathering their feeders every evening and storing them in the garage until morning. We are a bit more lazy when it comes to summer bird feeding. We don’t fill the feeders until late Fall or early Winter when the bears are going into hibernation. It’s just quite a hassle to do every evening.  And bears also love to rummage through the garbage cans when they are set out the night before the pickup.

Along with the bears ambling through our yard, there are also a field fullof sand cranes and wild turkeys, many deer grazing each morning and evening, a multitude of rabbits, yipping coyotes nearby at night and the little red fox that wants my chickens badly.

A few nights ago I was having trouble falling asleep, which is not an unusual thing. I tried reading, listening to music and yet I was tossing and turning just getting more agitated at myself for not being able to fall asleep. But finally around 1 am I dozed off.

Just as I was getting into the good sleep, you know the REM sleep, I heard loud yipping. I now was lying there wide awake once again. I figured it was a coyote out behind the barn, in the field of soybeans, and would soon scamper off to the river. It was a cool night and the windows were open so I could hear stuff out there quite well. I soon realized it wasn’t a coyote as usually there is a pack of them being very vocal. 

As I was lying there listening, I realized it wasn’t the yipping sound that I was used to from the coyotes around here. It was a lone critter with a kind of sassy yip combined with a high pitched bark. But not a dog. As it kept barking, I could tell it was getting closer than behind the barn. It was sounding like it was about 10 feet from the chicken coop. 

I turned on the video camera I had hooked up to check on the coop, and all of the chickens I could see were very content. They were perched on their roosts and not looking like they were in any distress. Meanwhile the barking and yipping was getting closer to the coop. I got up and looked outside to see if I could see anything roaming in the yard. I couldn’t, but I did continue to hear the ruckus it was creating for a few more minutes. 

Just as I was getting ready to go out and see what the trouble was, all yipping and barking stopped. I crawled back in bed and listened intently to see if there was any more noise. All was quiet and I dozed off and got a few hours of sleep. With the help of the electric fence, the fox couldn’t get near the chickens. At one point I think it tried and got zapped. I had heard a more injured type of yelp and then nothing but silence.

The next morning I went out to the coop to make sure all was well. And it was. The hens and our rooster, Top Hat, greeted me at the gate for their morning Fruit Loops to peck at. I obliged and flung them a handful of Fruit Loops and a bonus handful of mini shredded wheat squares. 

I went back into the house and sat at the kitchen table once again and watched as the critters started coming out from the woods to graze on the grass and soybeans in the field. There were a few short of a dozen turkeys, several squirrels, and rabbits hopping around by the old swing set left from when the grandkids and their parents lived here. It was a regular peaceful Saint Francis of Assisi moment.

As I sat there intently watching all the wildlife bounding carefree back and forth in the yard, I looked up and saw an eagle flying above and circling the buffet of critters on the ground. All of a sudden there were rabbits and squirrels and even the turkeys running for cover. The yard and field was emptied in a matter of seconds. It kind of reminded me of in the movie Toy Story when Sid the not so nice neighbor kid would show up and all the toys would disappear and tremble. Yep, that eagle is now referred to as Sid. Sid, the eagle, circled  a little longer and then flew on down to the next field looking for breakfast. 

From rambling bears, to tiny creatures like the toad that comes into the garage to cool down on the concrete, the wildlife is a sight to behold each day. Well…until I see the enormous bull snake stretched end to end across the driveway… or worse yet, lying in the garage cooling down. That has happened and yes I am not ashamed to admit it…I screamed like a girl when the Beatles came to America…but not in a good way. I don’t do snakes ever…never…nope, I don’t like snakes.

Each morning as I sit at the kitchen table or out on the deck and look out on the field, it is such a reminder of my surroundings. I look around, I listen, and at times I even get a wiff of fresh cut hay. And it never ceases to amaze me of all the beauty that surrounds me every day if I just will take that moment to stop and become aware of where I am in the greater scheme of things. Here’s hoping we always take the time in our busy lives to just stop for a moment and become in tune with the moment. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Visit With The Tootsie Sister



Not too long ago I finally had a good visit with my friend, my Tootsie Sister. We are friends from our high school days and had the opportunity to work together as the first women ticket takers at the Minnesota State Fair way back when we were 18. It is then when the guys on the all male crew we worked with gave us the name “The Tootsie Sisters”. 

The beautiful part of our friendship is that it is pretty low maintenance. We can go months without having contact with each other and just pick up where we left off when we do finally get together. There aren’t many friendships in my life where there is that comfort knowing that even if we don’t have contact often all is still well. 

I got a text not too long ago from her saying we needed to get together soon. It had been about 6 months since we last saw each other. Wow, 6 months. Time just keeps traveling so fast and dragging me along in a whirlwind. But after figuring in graduation open house for grandson and babysitting so her kids could go to a wedding, we finally got a date set a month away. And this time we would include our spouses. A BBQ at our house. 

There’s always a chance, when including the spouses, that they may get left in the dust by us when we start visiting. But luckily our spouses like each other and can carry on a conversation together apart from us. 

The day came and my Best Half started the smoker to put a pork loin in it and guard it for the hours it would take to finish it. I had all the other food ready and got a text from them that they were on the way. Figuring about an hour out and they’d be at the house. 

Well we didn’t figure in Minnesota road crews and construction on a weekend. They always say Minnesota has two seasons…winter and road construction. And road construction is in full blown annoyance these days. It took them 2 hours to get up the freeway and over to our house. But they finally arrived just as the meat was taken off the grill. 


So we finished getting the rest of the food on the table and we ate as we all were pretty hungry having delayed our lunch by an hour or more. We sat around the table for a while after we finished eating and while our husbands talked about smoking and barbecuing, we had a chance to catch up on the kids and grandkids and our siblings. We have been friends so long that the rest of our families have also become important to each of us.

We cleaned up the kitchen quick and then left the guys to hang out on the deck while we went to the garage. We have Ebikes and my Tootsie Sister was wanting to look at them and see if she could give it a try with her two total knee replacements. Getting old and acquiring new body parts seems to be the norm these days with family and friends. 

After showing her how to operate the bike and how to go slow until she felt comfortable, we donned some helmets and walked the bikes out to the driveway. I hopped on my bike and she hopped on the other bike after adjusting her bike seat to “tall giant( she is 6 feet+ tall). And off we went down the driveway and out on the dirt road.

Riding alongside her and coaching her for a few minutes on how to change gears and speeds, she got the hang of it. We went up and down the road a few times until we both were getting too hot. Off came the helmets, bikes put away and we were back inside grabbing some ice water. We joined the guys for about 2 minutes on the deck and gave in to the humidity and were back inside at the kitchen table.

The four of us continued to chat about many things… and then it happened. My friend, the Tootsie Sister, started telling stories about our high school days.You know those stories you don’t tell your spouse or your kids or anyone who knows you present day. She told about how I was always in trouble with the nuns for one thing or another. But the one story that got my Best Half giving me “the look” and then laughing loudly was the story of me and a few other girls climbing a ladder attached to the wall and sneaking up into the attic/roof of the school building. We made it up there and the area was pitch black so we stumbled around and realized it was a storage area for many things no longer in use. Like the huge marching band bass drum I fell into. It made quite the ruckus. Figuring we probably had been heard, one by one we started groping our way to the ladder. I was last coming down and the other 2 or 3 girls had managed to get down and hide in a closet in the empty classroom. 

I got down and could hear someone coming down the hall. All of a sudden I looked at the floor and saw that the ones before me had tracked chalky dust from the ladder to the closet. The closet door whipped open and one of them threw a towel at me. So as fast as I could I was on my hands and knees mopping the tracks with the towel.

I was wiping the dusty footprints madly and had started at the closet and heading towards the ladder when there in front of me stood two legs. It was Sister Lois, the chemistry and physics teacher. I just remained on my hands and knees motionless and started to stare up at her towering over me. I don’t remember the total conversation, but it went something like me saying “Hi Sister Lois” and her staring down at me with her arms folded saying, “clean up the mess and get to class right now or you will be in permanent study hall until you graduate.” I was only a freshman at that time. As she was walking out, she looked over her shoulder and said “And that goes for the rest of you in the closet”. I learned to appreciate Sister Lois during the three years I took Basic Chemistry 101. My junior year I finally passed it never to take another class in science until I went to Nursing school. Sister Lois intimidated the heck out of me and most other students, but I'll have to admit on graduation night that kind lady gave me a card full of kind words and hopes for my future. She told me she was one of the many nuns in my life praying for me and my future. 

I can only say that after a few more stories from my Tootsie Sister about the escapades of our youth, I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard at her take on growing up Catholic in all girls’ schools. There was a lot of laughter from our spouses too. I don’t remember laughing that hard and at myself for a long long time. The saying that laughter is the best medicine for what ails a person, well it holds true in my life. As our visit came to an end, I was refreshed with happiness and the joy of having gotten together with my friend, the Tootsie Sister, once again. Here’s to more times to come when we can get together and laugh at ourselves. And here’s to Sister Lois and the other nuns in our lives who prayed for us. I’m not sure I turned out exactly how you were praying, but I have to say I have a life that is good.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

I'll be Your Pinky and You Be My Thumb


The other day I was in the kitchen and trying my hardest to open a jar of some Mayo. I was grunting and groaning and it came to a few choice words about how my thumb and wrist just don’t have any strength or power anymore. Just as I was about to take a hammer and screwdriver to the jar, my Best Half came into the room and just stared at me for a minute. He stood there trying to figure out why my face was beet red, and I was out of breath and holding a jar of Mayo in one hand and searching for a hammer and screwdriver with my other hand. 


Then he realized what was happening. The same thing he often walks into when I’m in the kitchen…the WWF championship jar opening challenge. The battle of the air tight sealed jar and my thumb with arthritis that no longer works or has much strength. It has been an ongoing battle for about the past 5 years and each day it appears the jars may win hands down (no pun intended). As I get older, the strength in my thumb and wrist decrease, while the pain increases. It is just a fact of life and I am learning to adapt. This aging stuff is not for wimps, to be sure.


There are many things I no longer can do without some pain or needing strength in the hand. For instance, opening jars, lifting heavy objects, raking the yard, and even kitchen things like grating cheese or slicing a melon. But the one thing that has left me in turmoil is using Scotch tape. You know the ones that have the little hole in the middle where you put your thumb and use the other hand to peel away the tape? That has almost found me in urgent care more than once. The knuckle on my thumb has developed a “knob” at the joint and once my thumb is thru the tape dispenser all bets are off if it will be able to dislodge from it with the dispenser in one piece. 


The first time it happened, I was alone in the house and my Best Half was outside down by the barn. I was taping something to send off to one of the kids out of state. When all taping was done and I went to set the dispenser down it would not separate from my thumb which was tucked way down past the knobby joint. I twisted it, pulled it, and tugged at it to try to get it to release from my thumb. No luck whatsoever. I started to slightly panic and then started yanking at it…I have a little claustrophobia it seems. Nothing happened except my thumb started to swell a bit and was really starting to hurt. Just as I was going for the hammer to smash it off my Best Half walked in. 


He surveyed the site of me with my trapped hand on the counter and the hammer above it ready to smash the dispenser, when he took the hammer from my hand. After many stifled chuckles and him shaking his head, and a few comments like “You beat all, you know it”, he started pulling and twisting and tugging at the dispenser. I finally stopped him as my thumb was going right along with him as he pulled. It was no use, it was not coming off. So after many attempts we finally resolved the problem with hiim separating the dispenser by pulling it in half and breaking the dispenser. Just what I had planned to do with the hammer and my one working hand. I thanked him and he walked away still shaking his head. 


I stopped him as he was walking away to remind him of his pinky that he broke a few years ago. He was doing something at work and somehow his pinky stayed in a trapped spot behind a refrigerator while the rest of his hand pulled away. Needless to say he had a major break in the bone and had surgery to have it pinned. And now he has minimal use of hi pinky. While it may not be as important as a person’s thumb, it is still a vital part of the body. And his pinky is sticking out away from his hand and crooked and knobby too. There are times when he needs my help because my pinkies both work and are close to the rest of my hand. And I can reach into small areas he no longer can. 


The other day we were working around the house and yard and there were a few times we needed to lend a working hand to each other. It made me pause for a moment as he was opening something for me and I was putting a nut and washer tucked in a small place for him. We have been married almost 43 years and we have definitely had the ups and downs that go with a long term relationship. But I started thinking how over time we have learned to just be there and compensate and adapt for each other’s aging.


 As we were driving in the car one day and I was rubbing my thumb and wrist and he was showing me how is pinky is a little more knobby and crooked these days, I just reached out my arthritic hand to his knobby hand and held it and said, “I’ll be your pinky and you be my thumb forever and ever”. He just chuckled and squeezed my hand. And I let out a yelp and went back to my side of the car. Here’s to all of us Boomers that are aging and adapting as best we can.




Sunday, July 17, 2022

Even if We Disagree (Monday Morning Music solo style)




Over the past several weeks there has been so much in the news about so many things that people have taken a stand for or against. There have been protests and all out violence and fighting over the many laws and decisions being made in the higher courts. Our state capitals all over the country have been flooded with people from both sides yelling and chanting their views at the opposite side of the issues. 


Right now many people are at odds with some of their family members and friends because they disagree on the issues in today’s news. It has resulted in severing ties with friends and shunning family. It is a sad state of affairs.


Over the past few weeks I have talked with family and friends and realized that for some we are miles apart on our opinions, And for many more we are differing with some things but actually closer than I originally was feeling before talking together. It is amazing how when we can speak one on one to each other, from the heart, and share honest thoughts, we aren’t miles apart as it may seem. We are just people trekking through life trying to make some sense of all that bombards us every day.


This is a one take song I wrote that came from the many conversations about things that we may disagree on. Whether I’m right or wrong in my thoughts and opinions I only ask that we hear each other out and continue to talk with one another. Peace everyone.

You can hear the song on the podcast ( https://anchor.fm/susan-engstr-mcauliffe/episodes/Even-if-We-Disagree-Monday-Morning-Music-solo-style-e1l0t36) or over on the website: www.solidrockminnesota.com )



Even if We Disagree

Susan Engstrom McAuliffe


I’m standing right beside you not knowing what to do

Should I think my thoughts or pretend to think like you.

We’ve always got along even when we disagree.

But now it seems so hard there is no guarantee  

Will we stay together even when these times are tough

This world has all gone crazy and its getting mighty rough

                  

Can't you see we can be all we claim to be

We can be together even when we fall apart

It is not for me to judge you or for you to say I’m wrong

We need our hearts together if we’re to get along


So I’ll let you speak your mind any time that you feel the need

But you let me have my words even if you don’t take heed

This world right now’s crazy and we need to make some change

Let’s hear each other out even when the words seem strange

There’ll always be something that lies within our heart

We may disagree but don’t let it keep us apart.

                  

Can't you see we can be all we claim to be

We can be together even when we fall apart

It is not for me to judge you or for you to say I’m wrong

We need our hearts together if we’re to get along

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Breakfast at Keyes 50 Years Later




A few months ago I got a friend request on Facebook from a name I didn’t recognize. I of course deleted the request and went about looking at all the posts on Facebook. A little bit later I got a message from this person once again requesting that I friend them. This time she sent a message with her full name, maiden and married. It was a friend that I had gone to freshman year at high school with, 50 years ago! Imagine my surprise after half of a century actually hearing from someone from so long ago. Our story goes back to one year we spent together, 1972. 

When I was ready to leave grade school and enter high school my parents told me I could pick any high school I wanted to go to…just as long as it was a Catholic High School. So not doing much research at all I decided I didn’t want to go where my brothers had gone. They had too many stories of the hard discipline that followed them where they were at. Of course, looking back now, I’m thinking my brothers maybe exaggerated a bit on the disciplinary measures they endured. But nevertheless, I wanted to go somewhere different. 

I chose an all girls Catholic school, Our Lady of Peace. It was a city bus trip a few miles away. It was operated by the Sisters of Charity of the  Blessed Virgin Mary order of nuns. They were the “cool” nuns. Most of them were no longer in the nun habits and wore regular people clothes for the most part. They were well educated and were awesome at their profession. 

So Fall came and I hopped the city bus and headed to my Freshman Year of high school and new beginnings. And that is where I met Sandy. I’m still not sure how we came to be friends being we were night and day opposites on the outside. I was into sports and athletics and tomboy stuff. And she was, how do I say this kindly…kind of wimpy and girly; the last one picked for intramural softball. She was very happy to just sit on the bench and cheer her team on. She was the least likely person to get in trouble and I was the first one the nuns looked at when something was awry. Not that I was a troublemaker, but I guess I just had the look of guilt on my face whenever the nuns came around.

Our Lady of Peace, or OLP, as it was fondly called, was one of many Catholic High Schools in the Twin Cities. Up until about that time the schools were filled, but as time went on, tuition prices went up and there were less kids enrolling, some of the schools had come on hard times and financially weren't making it. 

One day, before Christmas vacation,there was an all school general assembly and the principal, Sister Michelene (Big Mike as she was fondly referred to) announced that OLP would be closing forever at the end of the school year. At that moment, there stood hundreds of high school girls in silence trying to grasp what was being said and what their future would hold. Moments later you could hear crying, low mumbling and then some all out sobbing. It was a day I will always remember as being life-changing, not knowing what the next 3 years would bring. 

During that year, my friend Sandy and I became really good friends in spite of us being polar opposites from the viewpoint of the rest of the world. We would meet up during free time at school, and take the bus to each other’s houses. To be honest, 50 years ago, I don’t remember what the heck we even did. But I know for a fact it wasn’t anything bad…because Sandy was just that good and kind of kept me out of trouble often times. She was kind of like that little Angel sitting on your right shoulder whispering to be good while on the left shoulder would sit the little devil trying to get you do stuff not as angelic and just don’t get caught. 

High school ended that Spring with the two of us being enrolled in different schools miles and miles away from one another. Never really saying goodbye and figuring we’d still see each other we just drifted into our new surroundings and friends and life went on for each of us.  

Fast forward to this past week and  my friend Sandy and I found time to get together for the first time in 50 years. After a few texts and dates we narrowed it down to breakfast at Keyes restaurant which was halfway between our houses. 

On the drive down to the Cities my thoughts wandered to what awaited me that morning when we would meet. After all, it had been half a century since we last saw each other or really had heard from each other. Would we just chit chat uncomfortably and rattle off to each other our past 5 decades of what we have done in life? I have to admit as I got closer I wondered how this meeting was going to pan out. I mean how can you, after 50 years, possibly reconnect on more than a superficial level?

I pulled into the parking lot of Keyes and got out of the Jeep to find an older version of the friend I had remembered from my high school days. There stood Sandy still with the same  bright smile and bubbly attitude from years gone by, coming across the parking lot towards me.

After some hearty hugs and a few comments of “wow I can’t believe we finally got together” we went in and got a booth tucked away in a corner of a very busy restaurant.

We sat and talked that morning for over 3 hours. We talked about our families, about the different twists and turns we each had taken in life and where our lives had led us the past 50 years. Conversation came easy and we realized how much our lives had run parallel to each other’s all these years only to intersect again the other morning. It truly was being heart to heart with a good friend, we laughed plenty and teared up a few times over where life had taken us through the years. 

We left each other that morning smiling and laughing as we remembered the days when we were young and made so many scratch their heads wondering about how the two of us could possibly be friends being such complete opposites. I guess the only conclusion we came to was…on the inside, where it really counts, we are kindred spirits just trucking through life with many of the same goals and values we both hold close to our hearts. That morning we both got to experience that part of life we all so desperately need to make it in this world…life, family and friends…people who truly know us. Here’s to those times happening more often than once every 50 years!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Fishing with Grandpa Louie




I finally had a day last week where the wind wasn’t blowing hard like in the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. I had a chance to get out in the kayak and do some fishing. This year it seems that we have had so many days with such strong winds blowing. Like steady 20-30 mph winds. It’s been really hard to get out on the lake. 

But the other morning I woke up early to a gentle breeze for a change and decided to hit the lake before the winds picked up. I loaded up the kayak and threw in the trolling motor I have designed to mount on it and off I went to one of the 10,000 plus Minnesota lakes that is nearby. It was a beautiful morning and since it was a weekday, I pretty much had the lake to myself except for a few boats spread out down a mile or so from where I wound up.

With the kayak I was able to scoot into shallow bays and weedy areas that the boats were unable to go. We have had a cold Spring and it seems the water is finally warming up enough that fish are in the shallow water spawning. The sun was shining and the morning was starting to warm up nicely. I found my spot tucked out of sight from others and out of the breeze so I didn’t even have to anchor down.

As I sat there casting my line and catching fish after fish, I was reminded of fishing up at the cabin with Grandpa Louie. He and his wife Grandma Clara had a cabin down the road from ours when I was a kid. They were the in-laws to my dad’s partner on the police force, Doug. Doug and his family and Grandpa Louie’s cabin sat next to each other just down the dirt road. Grandpa Louie and Grandma Clara were some of the best people to go fishing with if you wanted to catch fish. Grandpa Louie knew the lake like the back of his hands. He knew every crick (creek) feeding into the lake, every inlet, every depth and best of all…where the fish were biting.

My brothers and I got to go fishing with Grandpa Louie often and it was always an experience. He had an old blue wooden flat bottom boat with a small motor. Nothing fancy by today’s standards, but that little blue boat took us everywhere where there were fish. We could always hear Grandpa Louie heading down our way in his boat to pick us up for fishing. 

Grandpa Louie was quite hard of hearing and never did wear hearing aids that I can remember. They were always sitting on an end table in the cabin. So I guess he assumed if he couldn’t hear, the rest of us probably couldn’t either. He spoke very loudly and could be heard quite a ways down the lake if he was talking over the outboard motor. If Grandma Clara was with in the boat…let’s just say you could hear them chatting from a good ½ mile away. 

One of the last times I went fishing with Grandpa Louie was an early Summer evening. One of my brother’s and I hopped in the blue boat and off we went to catch some fish. We had launched out from Grandpa Louie’s cabin and he went about 40 feet away and put the anchor down. It was an odd spot for fishing I thought. No weeds nearby, Kind of deep, and in the middle of nowhere basically. We looked at him and he told us to start fishing. So we baited up our lines and cast out. We sat there getting not even a bite. We knew there was no fish at this spot.

Grandpa Louie cast out his line and sat there for a bit watching the lake. And one by one in a manner of about 20 minutes there were 3 or 4 boats encroaching near where we were fishing. They stayed about 20 feet away but still were mighty close for a lake as big as we were anchored on. There is kind of an unwritten rule of fishing to not go so close to another boat that you can cast your line right into their boat.

After all the boats around us were anchored and situated, Grandpa Louie had us pull up the anchor and bring in our lines. He didn’t really say much of anything, but you could see he had this planned all along. He had the reputation on the lake of knowing where the fish were always biting any season of the year, so people would watch where he would fish. So his plan worked like a charm. 

He started out fishing in an unlikely spot to draw attention to himself so others would start fishing near him. Then when everyone was anchored and really couldn’t leave so soon because it would be pretty obvious they were following him, he would pull up his anchor and leave them all there wondering how to save face so it wouldn’t look like they were following Grandpa Louie. Alll they could do was stay there for a bit longer.

Meanwhile our boat was heading off to the real fishing spot that Grandpa Louie was taking us. We went way back in a channel off the lake in the bullrushes where no one could see us and put down the anchor. The water was crystal clear and the crappies abundant and huge. We actually would put our line next to the crappie we had picked out down in that clear water. One of the best moments ever was fishing that day.

As I sat there in my kayak this past week, I watched as boats started going by out in the deeper water. As they approached, they would slow down and gawk as I was reeling in fish after fish. But as Grandpa Louie had taught me, I had my fish basket on the other side where no one could see my catch. I just took off the enormous sunnies and crappies and pretended to throw them back in the lake on the other side, making it look like they were too small to keep.

I was out for a few hours that morning and caught my limit and had a relaxing time on the lake. Grandpa Louie, if you’re watching, you taught me well!