Come along for a pleasant dinner cruise, aboard a pontoon, on Ol’ Man River! – Twin Cities

Come along for a pleasant dinner cruise, aboard a pontoon, on Ol’ Man River! – Twin Cities



Life as we know it

THE ASTRONOMER of Nininger: “The air was still and the water as smooth as glass — unusual for the Upper Mississippi. It had risen maybe six or more inches from last week, but Saturday’s rain likely added to the level. Typically, with the current moving and the slightest of breeze blowing, the surface is almost always somewhat rippled if not chopped.

“The Good Wife and I planned an afternoon escape where we could have a pleasant dinner aboard our old pontoon boat. We drove down to the dock with Harper, our ever-loyal Weimaraner, squeezed between us. It is downhill to get to the water, and Harper placed her paws against the dash of our Ranger, bracing herself against a sudden stop. Her eyeballs got big as we went down that last steep hill.

“When we got down to the water, it was the stillness that we noticed. You could look out across the water and see a ‘raft’ of pelicans and their reflection as well. Here on Pool Two of the Upper Mississippi, white pelicans visit us annually to raise new broods of youngsters and enjoy the amenities of the river, especially the varieties of fish available. They leave in October, but all summer long it is not unusual to see flights of 20 or more cruise overhead in tight formation. The Good Wife wondered what so many were doing bunched up like that. Like us, they were enjoying the wonderful afternoon.

“In a few minutes, we got the cover off the pontoon. Because the river had risen so much, we had no need to lower the lift. The pontoon was already floating. I touched the key, and in a moment that old Evinrude was running smoothly — back away from the lift and slowly out of our natural harbor. We don’t go fast in the bay, where we might unnecessarily disturb wildlife. Two eagles eased themselves away from their limbs and glided outward as if leading us to the river channel.

“We would see literally dozens of eagles that afternoon. They just seemed to be everywhere. I think that every time one sees an eagle fly overhead, your heart skips a beat and you appreciate our liberty and these grand United States.

“We have a small Weber grill that fits right in between the seats, so the Good Wife and I grilled lamb chops. I do not have the necessary domestic skills to plan a feast aboard a pontoon boat, but the Good Wife (fortunately) does. We found a shady spot, and after a short while could sit back and enjoy a beverage of choice. I think the Good Wife called them ‘Jamaican Smiles.’ Harper had a bowl of water, but she would rather of Jove’s nectar (Coors Light) sup.

“Once I raised the anchor, we continued following one of the secondary channels. The river is full of them, and if you know where they are, you can get around the river quite well. If you don’t, good luck. I think a lot of lower units have been totaled in this pool. It pays to be a river rat.

“We got back to our quiet inlet, and now the surface was rippled. Pretty normal. We had a most enjoyable dinner cruise. Harper liked looking out the bow of the pontoon, and we just relaxed. I think that maybe we need to do this more often.”

Our trees, ourselves

Independence Day Division

Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “As Independence Day approaches, what better way to celebrate than by decorating a tree of the wrought-iron variety. I think this is covered in the ‘pursuit of happiness’ phrase in the Declaration of Independence. Or, if not, it may have slipped the minds of our Founding Fathers, who had slightly more important topics to consider at the time.

“My first attempt at creating a Fourth of July tree, last year, was only partially successful, owing to a lack of red, white and particularly blue ornaments. But I had a year to rectify the situation, and thanks to last year’s Christmas season, eBay and Hallmark’s incredible collection of Snoopy ornaments covering every existing holiday and few that have probably yet to be created, I had almost enough ornaments this year.”

A night to remember

JOANN ANDERSON of Shoreview: “Back in 2017, my sister Joyce and I were able to get to Boston for the Fourth of July. We went to the park where the Boston Pops were to perform and ended up standing at the other end of the bridge from the Hatch Memorial Shell where the orchestra was seated. America’s Orchestra was joined by Andy Grammer, Melissa Etheridge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Brian Stokes Mitchell, the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums and the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus, along with a military flyover.

“It was a beautiful night and so fun to sing along with the patriotic songs we learned as children: ‘America,’ ‘America the Beautiful,’ ‘Yankee Doodle,’ ‘The Yankee Doodle Boy,’ ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ and ‘God Bless America’ — all of the songs that we learned in elementary school that are unfortunately no longer taught.

“It was when Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was getting ready to be performed that we realized why no one was standing nearby. The covers came off the cannons, and we were about 10 feet away for the finale!

“What a wonderful memory!”

Come again?

Another episode of creative hearing, reported by WALDO WINDMILL: “A number of years ago, my wife and I belonged to an investment/social club which met bimonthly at members’ homes. One such get-together is ingrained in my memory.

“Don and Ed were alone in the attached garage, enjoying pre-dinner snacks which were set up there for our enjoyment. The rest of us were scattered throughout the house and yard, involved in other activities. Ed suddenly appeared to choke on whatever he was eating and was in obvious discomfort. Don immediately grabbed him and started applying the Heimlich Maneuver in an attempt to dislodge whatever was causing Ed’s distress. Ed, meanwhile, tried yelling ‘Hardin, Hardin,’ hoping Don would go find the club member by that name who was an M.D. Don, who unfortunately suffered hearing loss as a consequence of his military service, thought that Ed was pleading for him to squeeze ‘harder, harder,’ so he amped up his efforts significantly. Soon the food particle was ejected, and the crisis ended.

“A few days later, we were all informed that on the day following the get-together, Ed had sought medical treatment for two cracked ribs and that Don was still suffering from painful pulled muscles in his chest! But as we’ve been assured many, many times, ‘All’s well that ends reasonably well.’”

Today’s ‘helpful’ hint

TIM TORKILDSON offers some “sound investment advice”:

“Sell the china,
“hock the clocks,
“and put your dough
“in liquor stocks.
“Men may starve
“and romance throttle
“but they won’t go
“without their bottle.”

Our times

Pandemic Division

THE HAPPY MEDIUM writes: “Subject: Surviving the COVID-19 Shutdown.

“Thank goodness the world is opening up from the pandemic after a too-long shutdown.

“The 2020 year presented an unimaginable halt to family, state, country and world events. Our outlook on life, as we knew it, changed considerably. Many lives were lost, and all of us were shut off from those elements that make us human — namely, togetherness through face-to-face conversations, luncheons, church services, family gatherings. Those activities came to a screeching halt in March 2020, because of the covid-19 virus. The world shutdown had begun.

“Each of us had to find a way to deal with this situation. I increased communicating by telephone, letters and cards. I’m sure others did the same. But what would be another way for me to cope with this time away from friends and family? Television wasn’t the best distraction, that’s for sure. I did do some sewing and writing. But reading took a high priority.

“While the pandemic held too many uncertainties for me, I certainly didn’t need to start reading a book without knowing how it ended. I decided the safest thing to do was to reread books I had enjoyed before, because I knew how each ended. And, no, I didn’t read ‘Moby-Dick’ or ‘War and Peace’ five times each. I have collected a small library of books I liked reading the first time. When the pandemic began, I decided it was time to read some of them again. A few of those titles are listed here:

“‘A Lantern in Her Hand,’ by Bess Streeter Aldrich (1928).

“‘The Ladies of Missalonghi,’ by Colleen McCullough (1987).

“‘The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N,’ by Leonard Q. Ross (1937).

“‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,’ by Winifred Watson (1938).

“‘The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind,’ by Katharine Hepburn (1987).

“Rereading these oldies, which had passed the test of time, helped me relax while coping with the dire daily reports of the pandemic. I hope others were able to find ways to successfully deal with the awful pandemic and move on when the world opened up. Best wishes for better days ahead.”

See world

Or: Our birds, ourselves

TWITTY of Como: “Subject: The world around us?

“The wrens in my back yard are out there singing up a storm this morning! They’ve been nesting in one or another of my bird houses there for more than a dozen years, but not without difficulty some of those years. One year they fought with my bluebirds over custody of a house. (The bluebirds won.) Wrens — and bluebirds too, for that matter — are late migrators to my area, so conflict over the better residences would sometimes arise. They’ve also fought house finches. They are small but feisty, those wrens.

“But yesterday I witnessed something new. The wrens have been in residence for two to three weeks now, so I imagine their eggs have hatched. Yesterday I heard a great commotion out there and investigated. I witnessed a red-headed woodpecker attacking the nest. The wrens were screaming angrily and even flew at him from behind as he clung to the house siding, his head repeatedly bobbing into the hole (the door) until finally he was successful and flew away with what I presume was a chick in his beak.

“Unfortunate as it was, it was also a wake-up call to this landlord. That particular house is nearly 20 years old, and the opening has been eroded noticeably larger by usage over the years. I should have fixed it long ago. After this nesting season, I will.”

Our pets, ourselves

THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: We had a snake . . . his name was Slick . . .

“Who would keep a snake as a pet? Maybe just a regular guy searching for common interest with a 9-year-old stepson, struggling a little at the time, with issues relating to the double-daddy situation. While getting big brother settled in at Mankato State, we all stopped by a shopping center that had a pet shop, and therein begins this long tale. I made two promises that day to my new family and kept them both.

“(1) You can get one if your mother agrees.

“(2) I will make an escape-proof cage.

“The cage was a rookie reptile owner’s mistake . . . but a wonder to behold. If smart phones would have been invented 40 years ago, I would include a photo and you would agree. It was a Garden of Eden landscape, I believed, that any python would feel right at home in. A branch, a pond, a little cave, an out-of-reach ceiling trap door, a padlock, a warming light and a waterproof jungle floor. It even had a small room hidden in the back for mice-in-waiting, if you catch my drift. Not the healthiest or most practical habitat for a reptile, but definitely the cherished focal point of any 9-year-old boy’s room.

“The great day arrived, and I hurried off to Apache Plaza and collected ‘Slick’ in a plastic Cool Whip tub from a nice young man I had reserved the snake from two weeks earlier, who then, and only then, informed me that he (or of course she) would need to be force-fed baby mice (50 cents a dozen, frozen for your convenience) until I trained him (or of course her) to eat on his (or of course her) own. Well, at this point I was in too deep, and I had promises to keep, and thus I smiled and uttered not a peep. He demonstrated the feeding technique, which was similar to loading a wriggling, black-powder musket with baby mice instead of lead ball and using a blunted pencil instead of a ramrod. Beyond the capabilities of a young child, but thankfully only three shots every three weeks. Oh, and don’t forget to bathe him in a bowl of tepid water with a drop or two of Vitamin B in it as well. Hmmm. So much for the pond. Every present has a price.

“Slick was a big attraction for kids at our house for quite a few months. I caught a glimpse of what adult-neighbor sentiment was when on Halloween of that year I greeted trick-or-treaters holding him. One of the mother chaperones (known to be a nudist) remarked to me with a scowl: ‘You are sooo weird!’

“It was a unique experience, although one I wouldn’t want to do again, and unfortunately for him the feeding schedule was wrong in both quantity and frequency for a growing boy. We didn’t have a clue, as snakes are normally notoriously skinny and don’t bark when they’re hungry. About five months into the endeavor, Slick seemed to move even less than his normal vegetative state, and, when lifted gently from his cage, instead of hugging my wrist in a warm embrace, he retained his final resting shape.

“This ancient memory was stirred as I came across the Post-it Note with the rhyming start of an illustrated children’s book I began to write back then. It never advanced beyond Page 4 and still begs a happy ending.”

Band Name of the Day: The Old Evinrudes

Your stories and photographs are welcome here: [email protected]


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