Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Spring Prairie flowers in Bluff Country

On Saturday Mrs. T's nephew Ray Junior came down from the cities to visit her at memory care  in Rochester. Later that afternoon because he had indicated an interest in Prairie wildflowers I took him South for a ride along the Iowa Minnesota border. It was a very special place. We saw some rare and very rare wildflowers. This year the flowers were relatively late because of the two long and too cold spring weather this year. The first pictures are some scenes from my point-and-shoot camera and the second batch is from my photography mentor Mr. Science who quite simply is a world class photographer and Prairie expert. I hope you enjoy.
Among the prairie wildflower connoisseurs native orchids  are often the top prize to photograph. In this case two cars and six people were cautiously checking the ditches   for a  very rare orchid specimen  in Minnesota and Iowa. It was the white lady slipper as luck would have it Barb's nephew Ray, a complete novice, spotted them. The other group, keeping an eye on us and looking for the same thing, quickly caught up. These orchids are protected by law but there is a certain secretiveness involved here  as occasional  lawbreakers are known to exist. These are people who dig orchids up and usually kill them off as they are very difficult to transplant successfully
. Thus some become endangered or even extinct.

White lady slippers and the somewhat larger and less rare yellow lady slippers
From the same area taken by Mr. Science (Gary)
Prairie Phlox
Prairie smoke
White lady slippers
Shooting stars
Cream Indigo
The following pictures were taken several years earlier of Baron and a very large patch of shooting stars. If you compared to the first pictures taken this year you'll note that the area is much more wide open  meaning there on lots of shrubs and little trees sprouting up all over. This is because the local conservation agency had not deliberately burned this area to defeat the shrubs and allow the wildflowers to thrive in nature this process would have been continued by lightning storms. For the photographer it's also much more difficult as you have to scrounge through the thickets to find the wildflowers.
Baron among the shooting stars. My big guy  fondly remembered

Friday, June 7, 2019

Lily Waiting For Lunch

So Spring Valley has seven places to eat out. That includes one truckstop, several breakfast lunch caf├ęs, a pizza place  and a couple of franchise fast food operations. That's all okay on occasion but on a permanent basis, I don't think so!.  Thus I've been learning how to cook. On that subject not totally without some experience and skills. There is always old standbys like cooking over campfire in the wilderness or on picnic outing's. Then there is the old standby grill located on our deck. Back in the day in our first home we had a Ben Franklin fireplace/stove. It was like cooking over a campfire in the Minnesota winter. Then there  is the kitchen. In that area I am almost a complete novice. I have a lot to learn.
As you can see in the above photograph where this Lily is watching me work in the kitchen, She does not look very optimistic. My frequent supper disasters have fairly frequently led  to some unplanned addition's being added and mixed in with her dog kibble. What's a good dog got to complain about? :)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Woodland Wildflowers

The year was 1970 and that summer Barb and I, after several years of renting, purchased our first home. It was in a small wooded subdivision with about 10 homes, approximately 1 mile East of Spring Valley, Minnesota. To close the deal I persuaded the seller to include an extra several acres to meet his price. In the year 2000, Mrs. T noted that a tuck under garage and a very long driveway to the state highway might be too much for a soon to retire couple. That summer we split our 3 acre property in half sold the old and build new house our woods. That house  sits comfortably amongst some very large oak trees   with very little lawn to the mow and  lots of woodland wildflowers and hostas mixed in…. Spring was very late this year and I haven’t had much time for any tending. Still that was the idea to begin with reduced lawn upkeep and  letting the wildflowers  go wild. Come on along then, let’s just go take a look.:)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Troutbirders Heroes From The Past

I recently attended a book talk at our local library presented by New York Times best-selling author William Kent Krueger. It was wonderful and I even got to talk to him personally. His theme was how  our very early childhood experiences with books often touched and changed our lives. Particularly so when our parents read books from authors like Dr. Seuss to us. If you'd like to read more details on this subject click on the picture above of myself and my good friend Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirder II my book review blog. Perhaps the following post about some of my early heroes relates to Krueger's theme.
From birth to five years of age during World War II my parents and I lived in an apartment on the east side of St. Paul. I have few memories of those years except for Connie Hansen who was my age and we played in the sandbox together on Earl Street. And on 4 July that year during the fireworks at Lake Phalen I wandered off in the night among the crowds and frightened both myself and my mother. The highlight though was several times a week when my grandpa Potthoff stopped at Basta’s bakery around the corner and brought me a Bismarck. At the University and in graduate school I chose Prince Otto von Bismarck to write one of my three plan B thesis for European history.


Prince Otto von Bismarck was a wealthy landowner from Germany’s most militaristic State. As a young officer he rose through the ranks of the Prussian military, eventually to a leadership position in the government. He served two  Kings of Prussia who were more interested in parties and womanizing rather than the stern business of governing. Bismarck rose in Parliament to become chancellor and lead Prussia to win a series of wars, which led to the unification of more than 30 German states into a new nation called Germany. With that accomplishment Bismarck became the peacemaker of Europe by promoting cooperation and friendship among the various nations of Europe. To his credit he created the first system of social security within the German Empire and anywhere in Europe. The his desire was to forestall the working people of Germany from turning to Marxist communism. It worked. It was 40 some years before FDR and the New deal brought a similar plan to America. Unfortunately, our social safety net is now at risk with the Republicans determined to trash it. And the Bismarck pastry which I still love, unfortunately, with the closing of our small town bakery will no longer be available. How sad.

My second hero’s name is Teddy. His face along with that of Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson can be seen on Mount Rushmore. My grandparents put Theodore’s name in the middle of my father’s names. My dad was born in 1909 and I have the same middle name and named our first son Theodore. His legendary story can be found in many good biographies and history books. Both he and Lincoln were Republicans and two of our greatest presidents. I parted ways with the an acquaintance  after he called my hero a R. H. I. N. O. (Republican In Name Only). Insult my heroes at your own peril.


Sir Lancelot of the lake. It is no accident that our son Ted’s middle name was Lance and so is my eldest grandson Ethan’s. As you may recall Barb’s mission was to raise our two sons in the Catholic faith. My mission was to do my best to mold them with strength of character, bravery and good morals. Sir Lancelot was King Arthur’s number one knight of the roundtable. He rescued fair damsels in distress from dragons and all danger. He was the bravest night of them all. So when our friend Stacy told me of the elderly lady staying in her home at night because of  a marauding pack of a rat-like opossums taking over her trailer home in Spring Valley’s slum district, what could I do but try solve the problem? Actually I did with the help of my large raccoon trap. Our eldest son Ted climbed out on a four story ledge to bring to safety a student  inside while a drunken crowd of college students below taunted the young man to jump into his death below.  Ted also, also pulled a   high school friend to safety from in the middle of the St. Croix River. And then her youngest son Tony and his wife brought 2 children to America from Africa and later from Haiti shortly after the earthquake where she was found after three days still alive but buried under the rubble of a collapsed orphanage. And B. T. W.   I still like to open and close car doors for ladies even though it doesn’t seem to be very fashionable anymore.
Last but not least is Julius Caesar. I read his book, though not in Latin, titled the Gallic wars. Veni, Vidi, Vici.  I came. I saw. I conquered. He was indeed the greatest Roman of them all. Future empires named their rulers after him. The German Kaiser. The Russians Czar. And others. My son named after Marc Anthony (Tony) , Whose eulogy of Julius Caesar Shakespeare began with the words “friends Romans, countrymen lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them;. The good is oft interred with ...” He was loved by his men, set goals and achieved them and changed a failing Republic into an empire that lasted for over 500 years. And of course my favorite summer month July is named after my hero.
Again I’m reminded of what William Kent Krueger said in his recent appearance at the Spring Valley library, that the stories and legends of our youth often sets for us as young children the goals and ideals that help to make us who we are. I believe that can be true for all children if they have good role models and heroes to worship. It is unfortunate that today many of our children’s role models as celebrities and politicians are worthy only of our disgust………

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Sulfur Springs by William Kent Kruger

Troutbirder talked to New York Times Best Selling Author William Kent Kruger to find out why he risked getting some cheap shot reviews from the fans of the White House con artist. Click on Mark Twain and Troutbirder above to read my review on my other blog Troutbirder II. I also bought a new red Leinenkugels hat which happen to be detective Cork O'Connors favorite beer....:)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The best and worst of it. Part II

The best: Cottagewood. According to several social workers from both Mayo Clinic and Olmsted County it was one of the very best memory care facilities in all of southern Minnesota. I believe that is correct.

The worst: based on experiences almost to frequent to keep track Cottagewood is not that good on occasion. They claim to have the most trained staff and appropriate facilities to keep your loved one safe and the residents family involved and informed. The problem is quite common to large bureaucracies of all kinds. Communication fails and lawyer written red tape designed to protect the bureaucracies bottom line or reputation sometimes defies common sense.

Barb had just arrived several days before from Mayo Clinic’s maximum-security psychiatric ward. Two days later I had received early in the morning a phone call from Cottagewood which indicated sometime in the night Barb had fallen and possibly had a broken arm. It was swollen and I needed to drive 30 miles to Rochester and take her to Mayo Clinic’s emergency room for an x-ray. I wasn’t sure as explained in my previous post if she would even be admitted. But more than that should I be the one to drive her there. I told them to call for an ambulance. They refused. I refused to take her myself, pointing out that because of her extreme agitation she well could possibly jump out of the car grabbed the steering wheel begin choking me and we would both be at risk for our very lives. I rushed up to Cottagewood and found that Barb’s arm was swollen but she was not in severe pain. Getting an aide to apply an ice pack, I then demanded to see the chief operating officer. And after much ado an ambulance was finally called and at St. Mary’s emergency room they found that Barb had a fractured arm.

Several weeks later another phone call informed me that my wife had been “assaulted”upon arrival that word was changed to “molested” this was followed some days later when she assaulted a knocked to floor a male resident who was giving her a neck message while she was eating lunch. Apparently she had previsouly be calling hime “Ray” (my name} . The last report was that she hoped in bed with the culprit who nude and presumably assaulted him. All this led to a promise that each one would have a separate aid watching them and keeping them apart. Numerous efforts on that behalf all failed due to lack of communication of the various pertinent protocols among the aides. Then he disappeared for three weeks after I was chastised for threatening him if he ever got within 10 feet of my wife again. Not good the poor fellow has dementia. Then he finally disappeared and reappeared three weeks later now looking and acting somewhat zombie like. More recently when Lily was with me visiting dementia land I still had the unfortunate reaction on my part as he approached me and Barb to inform him that if he approached any closer to my wife my dog “killer”the highly trained German police dog would rip his arm off. My bad again but I have further stories about Cottagewood to add to my future New York times best-selling book Adventures in Dementialand

Friday, May 17, 2019

The best and the worst of it!

The best:

W. F. M. C.   The world famous Mayo Clinic. Their motto is the patient comes first.
Not always. Though they saved Mrs. T's life twice and rescued me from a very near to death experience once. I could write a book on that subject.
The worst:  Chapter 1. Like the time after Barb had been in the psychiatric lock up for three weeks. Came home for 2 1/2 days while she was freaking out. And they wouldn't admit her to the emergency room to send her back to  what she called" prison" because she said "I won't go in to that f**&*place because the doctors will send me to the nursing home!" Whereupon the two nurse/aides told me I would have to call the Rochester police dept. to get her in. I refused to do that until they decided to get there supervisor. When suit and tie guy arrived on the scene and repeated the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo I began yelling at him for a bit, in front of a large audience were listening to this dramatic scene, when I lowered my tone of voice and said " sir I have a solution to your problem. Have your worker bees bring out a wheelchair and set it in front of Barb and me. I'll sit in it. And if they happen to mention that I might possibly be having a heart attack. It might all be good." It was. As my beloved Barb grabbed the wheelchair and push me ahead into the emergency room. Within a half hour the head doctor from Mayos psychiatric lock up arrived on the scene where or three weeks a tinkered with her meds and she was on her way to MEMORY CARE at Cottagewood. That's another story which I will relate on another morning when I wake up a little less cranky from thinking about my dealings with large bureaucracies, who don't always live up to their missions or even worse their promises.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A very good man and a good politician.......

Sen. Duane Benson
 In this day and age when public opinion the polls indicate that respect for congresses, presidents, lawyers and others involved in government regardless of party are at an all-time low it might be difficult to find any politician who might be considered a good man. Our small town newspaper editor recently wrote an editorial in the Spring Valley Tribune about a man who recently died who defied all of those stereotypes. The editor and owner of the aforementioned small town weekly newspaper is David Phillips. He is a man who I highly respect and is a former tennis player who I played with and against many times. His editorial I quote now word for word.
Radiant thoughts of lost ‘friend' cut through loom of rainy day.
 "After work one rainy day last week, I decided to take a run on the Root River trail from Lanesboro, l despite the weather conditions. Although the trees were still bare, offering little protection, I thought the valleys surrounded by bluffs would offer a little buffer from the wind, softening the blow of the light rain.
     As I made my way, west of Lanesboro, I spotted the Duane Benson farm. In the gray monotone atmosphere, it looked so different than I recalled because I had always pictured it is a radiant place with the sunshine acting as a spotlight highlighting this heavenly paradise on earth.
   Part of that cheerful upbeat image is probably because of the man who lived there. Benson was such a radiant person who made a name for himself in so many do ways. He played in the NFL, operating as team captain of the Oakland Raiders in 1971 and playing in a Super Bowl. Then he served in the Minnesota legislature for more than a decade helping craft  bi-partisan bills, Minnesota Care being one which still addresses key issues today.
   After he left politics, he became Executive Director of the Minnesota business partnership, a group of CEOs from Minnesota businesses, was a charter member of the Minnesota sports facilities Authority, which oversaw construction of the states professional football stadium and served in many other capacities including initiatives to further early learning as well as college education. Yet it wasn’t his accomplishments that touched me.
  My memories aren’t of his time in the NFL, the state Legislature or State Boards. Instead, I recall brief moments we connected-on a school bus riding to the start of the trout trot race in a nearby small town, or when we sat across from each other during lunch when he was a guest speaker at the service club or at a foundation banquet when he brought me a drink before dinner where again he was a guest speaker.
  Those encounters probably happened about a decade apart it it always seemed as if we had talked just the day before. We weren’t close enough to be considered friends but he treated me like a best friend every time I saw him. Those memories flooded my mind as I ran past his farm that didn’t have the Radiance on that wet day last week. The gloomy appearance wasn’t just from the gray skies above. My perception was colored by the fact that I also knew Benson would never be returning to the farm a place he enjoyed even preferred while he was out in the world making a name for himself, because he died earlier this year after a battle with cancer. He was 73 years old at his death shorter than the average lifetime of Americans today. Yet his life was far above in what he brought to the world.
   Sometimes we focus on the length of our lives rather than the quality of our lives. However the key is what we do with our years rather than how many years we exist Benson packed a lot of living into his years on earth. His life is also a good reminder that the important things aren’t necessarily what we accomplish. What counts is how we treat people something many of us forget in the daily rush to keep up with all our worldly commitments.
   I’ll never see Duane's smiling face in the physical world again but I’m sure memories of his thoughtfulness humor and warmth will pop back into my mind at times even if I may be in a gloomy rainy funk. Those images of Benson in my mind, will always exhibit the Radiance as if the sun is shining down from heaven on him.
As I, Troutbirder/teacher Ray, reflect on this man, I knew him pretty much as Dave describes him in his editorial. He came to my high school 12th grade classroom as a guest to talk about the legislature and politics and citizenship. He talked to those students as to what a duty as citizens we should all take seriously. He described politics as something that someday they might aspire to which could help their communities their state and their nation. He described politics as the honor and privilege of his life to serve. Nothing about football and his other famous accomplishments and yet I can only describe  his talk as inspirational. Someday  participate, he urged. I could’ve invited other political figures to my classrooms. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to invite men or women who might raise their finger’s in the air to see which way the wind was blowing so they could be reelected, or were were unwilling to compromise and work together with people of other  political principles to get things done.
Duane Benson was a very good man and a politician more of whom we could use today to  help make America less divided and even greater than it already is. Remember Winston Churchill’s great insight. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest”
An Oakland Raider for all seasons....:)