Troutbirder II

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

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....:)

Friday, May 10, 2019


Dear fellow bloggers and friends, I am writing tonight about yesterday’s visit to Barb's memory care facility at Cottagewood. It’s actually a story I’ve titled  “Starry Starry Night”after French artist Vincent van Goghs painting of the same name. The song itself is named Vincent by Don Mclean.
I and Barb were discussing with the head nurse Chris, Barb’s numerous recent falls. The issue was simply what to do to keep her safe and if possible avoid permanently assigning her to a wheelchair. During this lengthy semi successful discussion I finally heard some music from the commons room around the fireplace. Taking Barb’s hand we chose to follow the music.
Finding a seat in a large circle involving most of the residents and their aides and caretakers we focused on a large boned blonde woman beautifully singing as she played her guitar. Her companion, also in his 50s was quite short with thick glasses and looked to me like a retired hippy the from an earlier decade. He also was playing his guitar while occasionally pounding on it for rhythm. He also sang quite well. She asked the audience for any further suggestions on what they could play. No response. So I raise my hand and volunteered the notion of some “golden oldies”. That’s the phrase I had used and when previously writing about the Valentine’s day luncheon where we got early rock ‘n roll from the pianist and later waltzes for the Dementia land residents and their spouses. 
This time though, I’m not exactly sure how to describe the music, let’s just call it old time hip big city folk music from decades ago. Some of the audience was sleeping, some watching and listening and a very few tapping, smiling and singing along. It was all good. And then….
And then I heard the phrase which they were both singing, “Starry Starry Night.” And I put my face in my hands, listened and then began to cry. I don’t believe anyone except the female guitarist noticed my reaction at first but in any case she kept on going and so did I. As the song concluded I stood up and approached her to thank her and she nodded and pointed to her husband. As I approached him he held out his hand and said”I know”and I said bipolar. And the name? Artist Vincent van Gogh had committed suicide at age as had my son Ted. Then she approached and gave me a hug and said”I’m so sorry, we will play it again for you at the end. Later, when she looked at her watch, I waved my finger and shook my head no and she nodded and I then suggested a more upbeat note to finish with it was  American pie. The audience smiled and Barb and I stood up to dance as we had when Don McLean sang it some years ago in the Rochester Civic Auditorium.  Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
Everyone has been guessing the meaning of all these words since forever. That song is  now is legend.
Oh, could that man could sing and composed the songs  he sang and for others as well. Often to be their greatest hits. Roberta Flack   sang her greatest hit “ killing me softly with his song, ” with these words 
Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song

It was about McLean.  Ending this story with one of Barb and my favorite songs composed and sung by Don Mclean. AND I LOVE YOU SO.    I played our piano back in the day and we both sang this song.. Often together

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Current Events

Back in the day is a callow young social studies teacher we were expected to teach something called current events. Considering the low standard of that subject today in Washington DC and elsewhere I'm not sure I would even do it for fear of teaching low morals to my students. Then however I made assignments on the subject that included something called Junior Scholastic. Those were the days my friends....... today however current events for me is a much more personal issue. Here is one of mine.

     Now, for me, a new adventure. It seems some months ago x-rays showed I needed a new right knee. I’ve been delaying it on the grounds that hospitalization and rehab might keep me from other duties involving Mrs. T. Early last week the pain in my damaged  right knee began increasing, so I made an appointment with  my primary care guy to discuss new options for proposed surgery. It seems, the  night before for that appointment I’d had a very painful  time with my knee and in the morning I had to lift my right leg over the side of the bed to stand up. And I couldn’t. I ended up crawling to the kitchen or perhaps shuffling on my back to get to the phone and call friends to take me to see my doctor that morning. With some help and Barb’s old walker from her knee surgery I made it to the clinic. There Dr. B. and I discussed options for immediate knee replacement. During that discussion I said I thought my leg was bent to the right at an angle. So he looked and found it very swollen and I rated it as the 9.7 on the  10 point pain scale. 6 ounces of fluid were then  withdrawn from the knee and he talked about a likely infection. Blood samples were sent to Olmsted in Rochester and an interminable wait began. The next morning there was no sign of an infection it was something else. More tests more results and finally a conclusion. Something Dr. B had only seen twice before as a Dr. and he told me mine was by far the worst case he’d ever seen. The name, unknown to most people, is simply pseudo gout. I can explain how it’s different from regular gout but apparently the symptoms of extreme pain in arthritic joints, and swelling particularly the knee are the the same. So so he sent me home with a shot,
 a simple cortisone shot and I went to bed hoping for the best. A good nights sleep I got up painless and did a jig all the way to the kitchen with a big smile on my face. The prognosis is that its not likely to come back but it could and on those thoughts and not at all worried. The end.

be well friends, after a two week hiatus I’m back on the Internet Troutbirder with my friend Dragon.

Catch you later, Ray

Friday, May 3, 2019

Too Somber lately but Still KICKING

Dear Friends, A hunt &pecl message on my awful laptop. Mss T is ok . I ok n0w after 4days of hell.   PSUEDO gout. able finally to stand  up with cortison maybe go  to Barb Roch.
also my best friend the dragon died last week . he will be resurrected next WEEK B   a   former stundent & techy guru.   " I SHALL RETURN"  ray