I’m not referring to the time we give up on the Twins for the season and start talking about next year, or the time hope springs eternal for the Vikings season. I’m not even talking about taking a week off to spend at the cabin. I’m talking about a Minnesota tradition that has taken on the trappings of ritual. The growing, preparing and eating of sweet corn.
And like the fate of the Twins and the Vikes, this culinary tradition is rife with controversy. Where to get it, how to cook it, how to eat it and where the best comes from are subjects of heated debate throughout the state and beyond. There are even those that claim the best sweet corn comes from, gasp, Iowa. Any time people sit down to eat sweet corn, it’s obligatory for each person to testify as to when and where they had the best corn ever. Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago I had a disturbing realization. I can no longer ride a bike. I know, it’s something you’re never supposed to forget, and I’m sure I remember how to spin the twin gyroscopes and keep the contraption upright and moving forward, it’s just that I can’t. My right knee doesn’t bend far enough to push the pedals all the way around, I get stalled at the top of the stroke on that side. Well, I could if I raised the seat high enough, but that would put me in such and awkward position that if I tried to put a foot down when I stopped I’d be in danger of going over.
I’m a child of the sixties. Or more accurately, that’s the decade of my adolescence. Curse or blessing, my generation grew up in interesting times. We went from Beaver Cleaver to Easy Rider and Sputnik to the Moon in a little more than a decade. The Times They Are a Changin’ was a fitting anthem for the era. And when Buffalo Springfield sang, “There’s somethin’ happenin’ here, what it is ain’t exactly clear,” they were expressing what was on the minds of most Americans.
Popular music was riding the crest of that wave of change. We were already all shook up coming out of the fifties and were headed to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. One of the best parts of this long strange trip was the mainstreaming of Black music. The radio stations in my little Western Minnesota town exposed my to the joy of soul music, and that shaped my musical taste for life.
I recently watched the documentary Muscle Shoals, the story of the Muscle Shoals Sound and the tiny Northwestern Alabama town on the Tennessee River where some of the best of that Black music was recorded. Percy Sledge,Wilson Pickett, Aretha, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter and the list goes on all recorded there. And I drove around Moorhead in our Chevy wagon with the windows down and fell in love with Soul. Black Music.
Now for the story of the actual firnado encounter. As I mentioned, we’d spent the summer digging line around clearcuts with the intent of doing controlled burns in August. The time had come, and we were preparing for our first burn of the season.
In a controlled burn your crew is taken to the top of the clearcut and spread out along a logging road with propane torches, kind of like flame throwers, big tanks strapped to your backs. Researching control burn images, I see that these days they use something called drip torches, little cans of flammable material (kerosene?) with long necked spouts. They really don’t know how to have fun anymore. Anyway the crew, about 20 strong, spreads out across the top of the cut and starts moving down the slope, lighting the slash piles as they go. Since file burns uphill, everyone tries to move together and stay on the downhill side of the burn. If you’ve every had a pyromaniacal urge, this is the job for you. Continue reading →
I’ve seen a couple of examples of “firenados” posted around the web lately. That brought me back to my youthful days in the Forest Service, when I had the opportunity to see some firenados up close and personal. I worked for the US Forest Service in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest back in the summer of 1972. I was just out of college and my pal Bill Benson and I had driven out to Wallace, Idaho to look for work. He was a writer and I was an artist and our plan was to find seasonal work that would allow us chunks of time to follow our creative dreams. Or maybe it was to play basketball all the time, which is more like what we did.
Our initial plan was to work on the only remaining incomplete section of I-90 between Boston and Seattle. The valley that Wallace was in was so steep and narrow that it made the construction of an interstate challenging. At that time if you wanted to drive coast to coast on 90, you would have to drive through downtown Wallace and negotiate the only stop light on the route. Wallace had other claims to fame, at that time the population was about 2,000 and there were 5 brothels operating quite openly, in fact they had neon signs. Mining was the main industry and the ratio of single men to single women in the Silver Valley was way out of proportion. Let’s just say that prostitution was tolerated. The summer I spent in Wallace probably generated more stories than the rest of my life combined. Continue reading →
This post was originally going to be about WordCamp Minneapolis, a meeting of WordPress enthusiasts that took place over the weekend at the downtown St. Thomas campus. People come from all over the world to these events, to learn about WordPress and to rub elbows with other true believers. It’s a great community and I love being a part of it. I was going to start out with a brief history of how I got into WordPress, and I started thinking about how and when I got into blogging.
And that brought me back to Xanga.I ran across the concept of blogging and I’ve always kept journals and kind of fancied myself as a writer so I dug in to find a blogging platform. Not sure how I landed on Xanga, but I think when I did, my kids immediately abandoned it.