Troutbirder II - Click pic below to view

Troutbirder II - Click pic below to view
Book reviews plus miscellaneous

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lily Leads The Way

The first snowfall of the winter had already melted some when Miss Lily and I headed down to Forestville State Park for a hike. We parked by the closed 1898 bridge and walked across the Root River to the small town of Forestville and its post Civil War buildings. Maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society  it comes to life with re-enactors most the year except winter as an adjunct to the State Park.
Looking across the Root we can see the deserted picnic shelter. With miles of trails in the park we're probably alone today as we hike into the woods. There will be several feeder streams along the way. All good trout water.  As a matter of fact this is where I first learned how to cast a fly many years ago now. 
After hiking some I find a bench to sit down and rest a minute. Lily hops up along side of me. There are no dangerous critters in these woods but after having this "rescue" dog for less than a year one thing is for sure....... Miss Lily "has my back."
A couple of miles later we easily cross a low Forestville Creek on some concrete slabs. It wouldn't have been a good day to get wet...
"Lets go home Lil. Your Mistress promised us both some treats...:) "

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Plain Truth

As most of the readers of this blog know I’m pretty much into non-fiction these days tending toward history, biography and the occasional survival story.  This was not always so as I read the classics and many novels as a youth.  The recent death of the great English mystery writer P.D. James reminded me of all her wonderful books that I had so thoroughly enjoyed.  I decided it was time to find a good mystery.  Finishing up my semi-annual haircut I wandered next door into the Goodwill  store and found shelves of bargain books.  There I ran across  several by Jodi Picoult a name I was familiar with but had never read.  It was time to branch out….

Published in 2000 I started with Plain Truth.           Ellie Hathaway, a top notch defense attorney,  starts to question her work and relationships and returns to visit her Aunt Leda in the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania.  She ends pulled into the case of Katie, an Amish girl, accused of murdering her newborn and she must find a way of working within a culture that is not her own. This plot got my attention right away as the area where I live has a number of Old Order Amish and the opportunity to learn more about their way of life seemed well worth the time.

Let’s be clear here, based on this sample of one Picoult is one heck of a story teller.  She draws you into the plot and you really want to know how it all turns out. Still by the time I finished I wondered if I’d been bamboozled.  Picoults clues that mislead are normal in a good mystery but here they are
 often factually contradictory. No thanks.  Then we toss in paranormal ringers about ghosts. Huh? The corker was a sideline of romance with gothic novel like choices like one love is bad but the other is good but she doesn’t know which is which. Spare me. Then  there is the lawyer protagonist who ends up living with the suspects Amish family because of a bail issue. Apparently believability doesn’t deter this author from jazzing things up to make a good story.  This book needed some serious editing on what should have been a good plot.  This brings me back to P.D. James.  When Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, (3 August 1920 – 27 November 2014), known as P. D. James,  rose to fame for her series of detective novels starring police commander and poet Adam Dalgliesh the facts and description were accurate and believable.  I had read her
first book in the early sixties while still in college. Her last novel was published in 2011. I think I'll go back and read it....


Saturday, December 13, 2014

In Remembrance: Ted & The Class of 89

This summer we were privileged to be invited to attend the 25th class reunion of Spring Valley High Schools Class of 89.  It was a special occasion for me as I was their 12 grade social studies teacher and our eldest son Ted was a member of the class. The poignancy of being asked to say a few words after the dinner was reflected in my memories of what a fine and talented class they were and their universal friendship with our son. Ted had fallen due to the effects of bi-polar disease in December 1997 a short time before Christmas and his 28th birthday.  Our beloved daughter-in-law Deanne was the organizer of the class reunion that night. With love we remember always…..
Ted third from left
The trombone section relaxes at Winnipeg Band Festival in 1986.  Ted center.
 Punk day 1988.
Senior Beach Day 1989.
The Senior Ensemble at graduation

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Limestone Cliffs

Mrs T. and I had taken our GSD Lily for a hike along a small trout stream and below one of the many limestone cliffs here in Bluff Country.

The spot was very familiar to me as I had often accompanied my friend Mr. Sciences 8th grade Earth Science classes on field trips to this area.  Perhaps you can picture two orange busloads of kids piling out, notebooks in hand and then being  told to
estimate the height of the cliff, the rate of the water flow and to look for fossils.  Although as the American History and Geography teacher this geology stuff wasn't my area of expertise I'd been along on these outings enough with Mr. Science to know the answer to some of the questions. Such as "you people don't imagine this little  dinky creek carved out this huge cliff do you?"  I had to make sure I wasn't nodding my head and thereby giving away the answer.

The same question was often posed as we stood  on the bluffs more than three hundred feet above the Mississippi River and gazed across the great valley towards Wisconsin several miles to the east.   "You think that little river way down there carved out this huge valley" Mr. Science asked again.   Of course not common sense would say.   But after hearing him explain the melting of the great ice sheets to the north at the end of the last ice age and the mighty flood that followed it seemed very possible indeed. 
On Barn Bluff near Red Wing, Minnesota
Far below is Lake Pepin  a widening of the Mississippi River.  Photo taken from Frontenac State Park with Wisconsin in the distance.

Gary (Mr. Science) studying rocks......

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Strange and then stranger

It all began rather strangely and ended even more so….  It was early in the morning and Mrs. T was sleeping in while I was at the computer in the basement den.   It was then that Miss Lily came bounding down the steps and immediately tried to climb up on my lap.  Now Lily is a sweet, gentle and well behaved dog but having an eighty pound female German Shepherd sitting on your lap is not acceptable. I pushed her back and yelled NO!  She laid down whimpering quietly watching me closely. This was not normal behavior so I ventured upstairs signaling for her to follow me.  Then I heard the high pitched beep.  It took me a while to locate the source as one of our several fire alarms was signaling every few minutes a dead backup battery.  These batteries provide a backup in case the electrical power fails to the house. Getting a ladder to climb up and remove the culprit I dropped it in my pants pocket and headed into town for a replacement.

Focused on driving as I went into town, I absentmindedly scratched my leg a few times. A bit later the spot seemed more painful like a spider bite or something and I speeded up into the Dollar Store parking lot. As by then the pain verged  on excruciating, I knew I had to pull my pants down to take a look and not wanting to park by the other cars and risk potential charges of indecent exposure, I pulled over to an empty area on the edge of the lot. Ouch. And there it was a large red area on the inner thigh of my left leg with an even uglier blistered spot in the middle.  Then reaching into my pants pocket I was not EVERREADY for the very hot 9 volt battery I managed to pull out and drop quickly on the floor.  The battery hadn’t leaked and lacking much in the way of electrical engineering expertise, I returned home dumbfounded to consult Mrs. T. who was quite skeptical of my story till she saw the burn. As I said strange and then stranger…..

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stout Hearted Men


Give me some men who are stout-hearted men

 Who will fight for the right they adore.

 Start me with ten, who are stout-hearted men

 And I'll soon give you ten thousand more.

Actually I was alone as my brother Greg had headed downstream but the idea of “ten thousand more” seemed good at that moment.

I couldn’t sing a lick. So why was I loudly singing “Stout Hearted Men” while slowly moving up a small trout stream in southwestern Montana?  This is why!  And it looked wet and fresh to my fairly untrained eye.

I had tagged along with my brother who was scouting elk for the bow hunting season later that fall many years ago. It was my first trip to Montana and naturally I brought my flyrod along. I wasn’t familiar with the notion of pepper bear spray. Perhaps it hadn’t even been invented then. Someone had given me the advice that when it comes to grizzly bears an important principle is “don’t surprise them.”  My off key singing seemed to fit the bill….:)


The test of an adventure is that when you are in the middle of it, you say to yourself, "Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home." And the sign that something is wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure. -Thornton Wilder

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Friday at the Guthrie

 Mrs. T.  and I are not the “shop till you drop” types so on that infamous exhibition of mass American consumerism known as “Black Friday” we chose to join some Spring Valley friends for a bus trip to the famous Guthrie theater in Minneapolis.

Called "a 21st century dream factory" by Time Magazine, the new Guthrie boasts three stages, a full-service restaurant, pre-show dining, numerous bars and some of the best views of Minneapolis to be found in the city. Moved and rebuilt ten years ago from its original location to a new site along the Mississippi  the design of the new Guthrie was influenced by three key factors. 

First, Joe Dowling had a vision for a new three-theater center that would allow the institution an expanded ability to perform a wider range of plays and to engage the public and educational organizations in a stronger way. In addition, the theater would have the ability to host regional, national and international productions. 

Second, the design of the building was influenced by the size, scale and history of the historic mills adjacent to the site. 

Finally, the site overlooking the Mississippi River offers incredible dramatic views of St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge. Connecting Guthrie audiences to these amazing views became a key design goal. And I was amazed as surprisingly though having been born and raised in St. Paul I have never seen the Falls of St. Anthony before and what a view it was…..

We stopped for wonderful lunch at the St. Paul Hotel and then “crossed the river” to downtown Minneapolis to see an expanded and somewhat more light hearted version of Dickens A Christmas Carol. We are all blown away at the set, the staging, the acting.... the whole production. 

 Upon leaving the theater for the ride home we all decided,  though it was  Black Friday, it had been a wonderful beginning  to the joys of the Christmas season.