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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
When a beautiful snow began falling last Saturday afternoon, a friend suggested the people of this area should get together on Sunday afternoon for a party. Ideas suggested included a sledding party or a snowman building contest. Sounded like a good idea but if the party was held, I wasn't invited.
The thoughts of the party got me to thinking about a similar Sunday afternoon many years ago.
My father had rigged a ski on the front of a small motorcycle and we tested it for the first time that Sunday afternoon. I remember taking pictures of Dad riding the motorcyle-snowmobile and went looking for the picture. Thus far that search has been unsuccessful.
I remember taking my camera and riding the cycle in search of people enjoying the snow. I had to stay in the west quadrant of the town as the state highway department's snow removal efforts had been so successful there wasn't sufficient snow for the rig to cross a state highway. The highway routes divided the community into south, east and west sections.
That day I had many opportunities to take pictures of people playing in the snow.
I don't know what I did with the negatives from that picture taking expedition. Apparently they were filed incorrectly as I can't find them.
While searching for the motorcycle -snowmobile picture, I found a picture my father took of me scooping snow under the watchful eye of my mother.
I don't remember the occasion but unlike this year, I remember we had several feet of snow that winter.
From the picture, I have concluded Mother was coming home from work and waiting for me to clear the walk and steps from where Dad let her out of his truck to the house.
Dad never had a four-wheel-drive pickup so on snowy days he put chains on his pickup truck. I suspect he had taken mother to and from her work that day at the Farmers Union Creamery office. She appears to have been dressed for work and was carrying a gallon bucket of milk.
As part of their pay, creamery employees were entitled to a gallon of unhomongnized milk each day. Mother took advantage of the offer. We drank milk at every meal and cooked with milk and cream.
I posted the picture on my social media page and have since been surprised with the number of people who have commented on the milk can she was carrying.
Several of those commenting said they still had their parents' milk can. Some have adapted the cans for decorative uses and some, like me, just have the cans.
I haven't used the old milk can (Mother always called it the milk bucket) but it is a bit of nostalgia I've kept.
Back in the day, the metal buckets with bales and lids would have been available at Superior hardware stores. I doubt that is true today.
While most families had only one of the cans, we had two. When we milked a cow and used milk that was neither homogenized nor pasteurized, one of the cans was reserved for taking cream to town.
Cows of the Jersey breed were our preferred milkers. The milk was brought into the kitchen and allowed to cool on the counter top before refrigerating. After sitting for a while, the cream rose to the top, was skimmed off and transferred to the can. When we had a gallon of cream, it was taken to the Farmers Union Cream Station located between Ideal Market and Yohn Dairy.
Parking wasn't allowed in front of the cream station and the operator provided car hop service. Unlike the Polar Corner ice cream store where the car hops came out to take orders and deliver the orders back to the automobile, the cream station car hop ran out to get the cream can and took it into the station to be tested. After testing, a check was written based upon the butterfat test and the weight of the cream delivered. In the process the can was emptied and washed. Later in the day a customer returned to the cream station to claim their check and cream can and their wooden egg case if they had also sold eggs that day.
From an early age, it was my job to go inside while mother waited in the family automobile. I remember standing at the desk soaking in the smell of soured cream and waiting for someone to bring me the can, case and check.
Cream was transported from the cream station to the creamery in 10 gallon cans.
In addition to having cream stations in three states, the creamery also ran route trucks that brought cans of cream in from the farms. Cream from the stations was shipped to Superior by truck and train.
Not often but occasionally a can of milk or cream was spilled while being transported. My parents preferred their automobile not have a carpeted interior for it was nearly impossible to get the smell of soured milk or cream out of a vehicle's carpet.
If I was hitching a ride home from town with my mother, she would often ask that I go to the creamery cooler and retrieve the milk bucket before we started for home. I think she had a shorter route through the plant to the cooler but I'm not sure. After going upstairs to the office and telling her I was waiting, I always went back downstairs, out the north door and around the corner and entered the churn room through the west doors. I then turned southeast toward the cooler. I marveled and how the creamery was kept painted and clean. The gray paint was never chipped on the long flight of stairs that led to the office. Sometimes I rested on the landing by the time clock before going the rest of the way up to the office.
Sometimes one of the guys working in the plant would spot me and offer to fetch her pail.
I had several ways to get to town. If my schedule was not flexible, I might ride my bicycle. My pony was another alternative as I could tie the horse in my grandparents yard and then go about my business. But some of my horses didn't like the road to town. The highway route across the river bottom was narrow and the ditch was hard to ride in plus there were four bridges to cross. All were two lanes wide and two southern ones which still remain were longer than they are now. If I took the old highway route which ran west of the current highway, there were water holes to wade through. Some of the horses I rode were reluctant to get their feet wet. Regardless of the route across the bottom there was the challenge of crossing the river bridge. The river bridge was even narrower than the others. If the horse stepped in the right spot it was like striking a drum and a hollow sound would echo above the water. Once I was two-thirds of the way across and begining to think I had made it, when the horse struck the drum, turned and ran off the bridge in the direction we had just come from..
If I didn't have a fixed schedule, the best alternative was to hitch a ride to town with a gasoline station customer or with one of the station guys making a run to the auto parts store. Once in town I could swim or visit the library until about 5 o'clock when I went to the creamery and caught a ride home with my mother.
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Would be interesting to know how many of the gallon milk buckets still survive.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

With all the filmmaking and screenwriting stuff I talk about here, I don't often mention the only hobby I still make time for at home ­­ keeping aquariums. I typically have anywhere between one and 10 fish tanks set up with fish. I like to keep all kinds, big and small, freshwater and marine, exotic and ordinary.
When I was a young aquarist of 10 years or so, I bred all kinds of livebearers ­­ guppies, mollies, swordtails. Later, as a young adult, I branched out into the more difficult egglayers. Reaching success (breeding, raising and selling them to a tropical fish retailer) with the easier egglayers, I sort of stopped, like I was satisfied and had nothing else to prove. Even though I hadn't yet bred my favorite freshwater fish ­­ angelfish and discus. Right now, I don't have a discus tank, but I have eight adult angels in a 55-gallon tank and I'm preparing to breed them.
Several months ago, I noticed several natural pairs occurring. Behavior to watch for includes the males doing little dances and trying to keep other males away from their female. I moved one pair into a 29-gallon breeding tank I set up in the laundry room, where right now I also have a 30-gallon tank full of baby koi. Unfortunately, that attempt coincided with a bitter cold snap and I was unable to keep the tank warm enough for them to breed. So, I moved them back in the angelfish tank ­­ and almost immediately they spawned, covering the heater with eggs, which were immediately consumed by the plecostomus whose job it is to keep the tank clean. Good job.
So now I'm waiting for it to warm up for good this spring, then I plan to try again with the same pair, only this time I'm going to set up the breeding tank in my office, the warmest room in the house. Most angelfish breeders leave the eggs with the parents until they hatch, then move the baby fish (fry) to a special tank with a sponge filter, gentle current and special chemicals to ward off disease and promote good health. Newborn angelfish eat newly-hatched brine shrimp, which most fish breeders breed themselves, because it's the only way to get them. There are several other ready-to-feed products available, but live, baby brine shrimp are the best.
If I have any success this spring, I'll try to share pictures, or at least tell you about it.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

The country roads my farmer husband and I are now traveling are unlike those back home. They are mostly hard surfaced with views of sage brush, mesquite, large cattle ranches with grand entrances and palm trees. We are trying out the life of short term snow birds. The temperatures are in the 60s and 70s and I'm wearing my flip-flops with pride.
My farmer husband is relaxed, knowing the chores are being done and someone is checking regularly on the farmstead. We are experiencing RV park life with hundreds of short and long term snow birds ­­ all seeking warmth, sunshine and good fellowship. Vehicle and trailer tags show their various homes include Ontario, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, just to name a few; and quite familiar ones like Nebraska and Kansas.
Some come in large RVs or with trailers, or they have purchased their own "stay put" winter homes. Dress is casual, smiles and waves are given freely and generously. Help is always available. All you have to do is ask.
So far, I've been called Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz," also a Kansas farm girl. Almost any interest a person may have is available at the park ­­ rock collecting, genealogy, music, golf, ham radio, billiards, swimming, dancing, gardening, Bible studies, all the games and sports you can imagine. Free ice cream socials, pancake breakfasts and bags of pop corn are all popular offerings.
I remember when Granddad and Granny came down years ago to stay the winters here in their 18-foot trailer. They would return reporting on all the happenings. All I knew was they were missed while they wintered down south.
Because it is our first try at this winter lifestyle, we don't know yet whether or not it is for us, but it's wonderful to experience a summer happening in the middle of winter!