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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
As a little boy I listened to my grandfather tell stories about the time the great Ringling Bros. Circus visited Superior. One of the first movies, I remember attending told the story about a train wreck involving the Ringling Circus.
In recent weeks, I have read stories about the Ringling Circus playing at Concordia and drawing 12,000 or more people for a single performance. A special train brought the circus to town and special trains from nearby communities brought thousands of people to see the show presented under a circus big top.
As a youngster I didn't want to be a fireman, I wanted to be a circus star.
When I was a youngster, the Ringling Circus was no longer playing in small towns like Superior and Concordia but I got to watch the Ringling Bros. Circus on television and got to attend the smaller circuses which played in Superior.
I didn't get to attend all the shows that stopped in Superior but I was there when the circus trucks were mired in mud and the elephants were used to both pull and push the trucks around on the circus grounds.
Most years the country school I attended planned a field trip to Hastings when the Shrine Circus was playing at the city auditorium.
Some towns had dedicated circus grounds where the visiting shows always set up. That wasn't the case for Superior. I remember circus shows that set up on what is now the Matt Sullivan farm near the north edge of Superior, east of the present VFW Club, at the airport and where the Catholic church is now located. The shows were okay but the best part of the circus was watching the elephants help with the set up, especially setting up the big tents.
As a youngster I dreamed of being a circus star. I didn't just swing, pretended to be riding a trapeze. If I tried to walk a log, I pretended I was high above an enormous crowd walking a tight rope without a safety net, though the log or pole I tired to walk was only inches off the ground.
If I jumped on a trampoline, I was practice landing after jumping from a circus high wire.
I wanted a whip like the ring master had so my father made me a whip out of a broom handle and leather strap taken from a harness once used with a team of mules. I practiced until I could make the whip snap.
I gathered cardboard boxes and old clothes which became circus props and tried to incorporate my pony, dog and cat into my own version of the "Greatest Show on Earth." I was a busy boy for in my production I played many parts. Somehow my mother and grandmother endured their roles pretending to be thousands of people watch "Billy's Fabulous Circus."
In later years one of my favorite television programs was "The Circus of the Stars."
Some people long to see a major league baseball game or a championship football game. I wanted to see the Ringling Brothers Circus. I wanted to be present to watch the parade moving the circus people, animals and equipment from the train yard to the circus grounds and the erection of the big tent.
But my dream of seeing the big circus has been slowly fading away. First it was news the Ringling circus was no longer going to play under the canvas "big top." Then the elephants were retired. This week it was announced the circus will be closed later this spring.
The stories speculated why the circus no longer drew big crowds but I know why my dream of seeing the circus has faded. It wasn't caused by computer games, or televised shows. It was because the circus no longer plays under a canvas tent and doesn't have elephants.
The Shrine circus of my childhood was okay but it wasn't spectacular. After going once or twice I didn't care if I went again for it was held inside a building and the elephants did useless tricks in the show ring. The excitement of the circus came from the tent flapping in the wind and seeing the elephants helping the human circus hands with the heavy work.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Winter Storm Jupiter came and went as forecast, and, thank goodness, was not quite as severe as anticipated. At least in this area. Side note: I was not aware we as a society were naming winter storms now, but whatever.
We only received about half of the forecast ice coverage, which resulted in a lot less damage to power lines and utility poles than in some previous ice storms. I talked to many friends from across the region on social networks during the storm. Some reported short-term power outages and some reported loss of internet. At our house, we didn't suffer any power outages and our internet was a little sketchy and slow Monday afternoon, but never went out completely. Several of our neighbors lost tree limbs, but we've removed our dead trees so we didn't have anything to pick up. Aside from hazardous driving conditions, it wasn't that bad, and most everyone I know stayed in until it was over.
Being home with few distractions for a couple of days afforded me the opportunity to continue work on pre-production for "Eskimo Kisses," a short I wrote and plan to direct soon. The shoot is scheduled for Feb. 10-11 in Omaha. We finished casting during the weekend and our internet connection remained good enough to conduct a meeting via Skype with our production crew.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

We realized this weekend how much an ice storm can affect our lives. The country roads were covered with ice that made driving a hazard. Even a walk into the farm yard to do chores was a slippery ordeal that could lead to a fall. As ice covered electrical wires and tree limbs some power outages were experienced as wires drooped and limbs fell on power lines. If you didn't have to get out and about, it was a good idea to remain indoors.
As I remained in the house because of the ice storm, I looked out the windows admiring the look of the ice that covered everything. I wondered how anything so beautiful could cause such concern and sometimes havoc. The sight of the ice drops as they remained still upon the shrubs. The grass looked like it was covered with glass and the tree limbs drooped, covered with a white crystal glow. Some brave farmers drove their pickups by carefully on the slick roads as they made their way to do cattle chores.
News reports told of power outages and vehicle accidents on major highways. I was thankful to be comfortable and safe in my cozy home, but within a half hour everything became quiet and still as the electricity shut off suddenly. We hoped within a few minutes the power would snap back on as it usually does, but it didn't. Minutes turned into hours and I began to think about how we have become dependent upon electricity. With the snap of a finger we can turn on a lamp in order to read a book. With a click we can turn on a coffee pot. With a push of a button we instantly have music and entertainment with a television or radio. No meal could be fixed because we have an electric stove and the refrigerator door needed to be kept closed so the food inside remained cold.
I felt a chill when I realized the furnace would not operate. The Monday morning wash duties could not be done. Flashlights and an oil lamp were gathered to use if needed as the sun remained under the clouds. A second layer of clothing was added to remain warm. The wood pellet stove in the basement was lit and a generator was started so that the stove's fan could operate.
Computers remained unusable and if cell phones were used too much their batteries went down. As long as there was light through the window near my chair, I could read my book. Lunch was cold sandwiches. Maybe the radio could be used, but upon inspection, no batteries were in stock that would fit, so that was ruled out. Messages were received from others without electrical power.
As daylight began to dim, we plotted how to have a warm supper. The waffle iron was plugged into the cord from the generator and as batter was mixed, the table was set by the oil lamp light. The waffles tasted so good! As my husband and I settled into the basement next to the pellet stove for an evening of conversation, it was a reminder of how our grandparents often passed their evenings before electricity arrived in their homes. I guess we are spoiled with the offerings of the electrical conveniences.
As we wrapped up in our blankets, making plans to pull out the hideaway bed in the basement to sleep warm, there was a flicker of electrical light. Then the lights all came on and the furnace fired up once again.
Hallelujah, let there be light! The electricity had returned and all was well.