Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Wednesday, November 11, 2020



Sara Paretsky    Fallout

I do read most genres but of late especially thriller/detective stories. As to authors it's particularly English ones like Conan Doyle and P. D. James and most recently Steve N. Lee. For American authors  the list would be very long but for me at the top you would find Minnesota guys, especially Jack Sanford and William Kent Krueger.  

Recently browsing for bargains in our local Goodwill store I ran across best-selling author Sara Paretsky whom I had never heard of before  bought her A. V. Warshawsky novel. Fallout What an eye-opener it was.

I dislike novels that introduce an avalanche of characters in the first chapter.  Then when you start reading chapter 4 you have to go back to chapter 1 to figure out who is who. Sure enough that's what I found in the first couple of chapters Annoying! I continued on however the being  of stubborn German ancestry. :-) Not knowing nor remembering who did what and why chapter after chapter I was quite confused. However as feisty in your face Chicago detective Ms.V. I.  Warshawsky stirred up the natives  of Lawrence Kansas I was learning to identify some of the characters and  actually becoming hooked. On top of all that being a retired history teacher myself it was evident to me that  the author  knew that subject very well. It seemed as the plot began circle around people possibly dying, or  murdered by viruses much reference was made to the Spanish flu which killed many in the pandemic during and after World War I. Keep in mind this book was published  three years ago before our present pandemic catastrophe. It was all too familiar at this point and I was hooked. My conclusion and recommendation simple. Warshawsky private detective is a woman the author Paretsky is a feminist. And so for that matter am I. If you’re not bothered by too many characters read it . If you are bothered read it anyway. It’s really good because the author is really smart. A steadily deepening historical nightmare that ends up implicating pretty much everyone in sight in a multilayered coverup. Whodunit purists may be frustrated at the absence of a single villain to blame, I read this book  a few weeks ago .Paretsky set  a complex who dun it in the middle  of  multiple disasters. Based on the characterization of the books protagonist I will conclude the author like me is a feminist' The multilayered disaster of deaths surounded by the spanish flue pandemic was adroitly resolved in Fallout . I hope to do the same by voting in  4 days next Tuesday along with millions of other Americans.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Beautiful Tundra Swans

It's that time of the year again, mid to late November when Mrs. T and I  head down to the "Big River". The Mississippi River that is where we witness one of those true wonders of nature.  There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We, however, always have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.

Here, on a backwater  we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.

With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!

On November 15th the official estimate was ten thousand swan in the immediate vicinity. Some years we have seen upward of thirty thousand. The only thing I have ever seen to compare to it is the annual migration of sandhill cranes into the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Harvest Time

The  corn harvest is nearing completion now. From here, on Oak Hill in southeastern Minnesota, all the way west to the Missouri river in South Dakota, the precious golden grain finds its way from the fields to its ultimate destinations. That is into the nations food supply or via ethanol to try and help slake our seemingly inexhaustible need for liquid power. I was bringing in the last of the squash from the garden that afternoon when the phone call came. A neighborly invitation to ride along during the harvest.Golden waves of grain lie peacefully in all directions to the horizon.
But giant monsters roam free here
Devouring and spitting out all that lies before them. I get to ride with along. The sense from the inside is akin, perhaps, to piloting a jumbo jet down a runway or guiding a string of barges downriver. It is almost other worldly.
The machine steers itself using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology, although pilot Greg must make the turns at the end of the rows himself. He also must be carefully watching ahead for errant rocks and holes in our path. There is also the occasional crackling of the radio intercom asking for the latest on- the- go test results for "moisture content."
A tractor with hopper pulls along side and corn is transfered from the combine into its bins while we are moving. Not a second can be wasted as as there is still much to do. Everyone keeps an eye on the weather though today is especially gorgeous.
Greg stops to check out something which is plugging up. He quickly resolves the problem. Greatgrandpa Bob drives the Cat with hopper
Corn is transferred from hopper to semi for the trip to the elevator.

Grandpa Dick makes those runs. I ask where son Rick is and find out he is working on getting things ready to fertilize the fields when the harvest is complete. The GPS technology will also guide fertilizing this fall and next springs planting. A narrow band of fertilizer will be laid down and next spring the seeds will be planted within an inch of the target row. Amazing !

Rising above the surrounding countryside the elevators.
The corn is weighed and transferred into the elevator. Each step is carefully calibrated and measurements taken.
With all the fire and fury of this fall's political campaigns, it was remarkable how little discussion was heard during the debates of the issues connected to American agriculture. The survival of America's family farms. Corporate takeover. The promise or folly of converting food into fuel. Pollution and floods. But for this day, I was happy to have been invited along, watching these hard working people help to feed the nation and the world. Your comments are always welcome if you can find the spot...... way down below. Grrrrr.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Prairie Flowers

I live in Bluff Country. An unglaciated disected portion of southeastern Minnesota filled with valleys, hills, farms, small towns and most importantly beautiful spring fed trout streams. Only a short distance to our west, the prairie begins sweeping  across southcentral and southwestern Minnesota, all the way to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mostly cornfields and soybeans now, here and there lie a few vestiges of the original prairie.....

Monday, September 28, 2020

Trout Fishing Newbie

I am occasionally asked how I got started tying trout flies. When I first came to teach in the only county in The Land of 10,000 Lakes without a lake, I wasn’t ready to give up fishing. Going after stream trout was the only solution. I did, however, have a bamboo fly rod, which I inherited from my father. I had previously used it strictly for bass and pan fishing. The lure of choice on those northern lily-pad lakes was the little cork poppers with the wiggly rubber legs.

I quickly set off to teach myself how to become a trout-fisherman. It didn’t take long to learn that I would need some real trout flies. I bought a nice selection at the local Kmart. They were gorgeous. Bright reds, yellows and greens and even purples, mixed delicately with shiny silver tinsels and golds. How could any self-respecting fish turn down such an offering? Although I rarely caught my limit of ten, I usually managed to catch a least a couple.

It might take all day but my young bride was so proud of my ability to bring home a couple for the frying pan. This, of course, was in the days before "catch and release" became the proper approach to preserve the species.

It was a beautiful June morning, when about noon, I had decided to give it up. The fishing had been especially tough that morning and I had only one ten inch brown to show for my efforts. As I came around the bend I saw another fisherman landing a very nice trout which he quickly released. He saw me approach and waved.

"Nice brown," I ventured.

"Ephermellia," was the reply.

"Say what?"

"You know. Nymphs. They’ve been hot all morning," he explained as I approached.

"How you doing?" he added.

"Well,  I lost a couple and caught a brown, but it’s been tough going."

"Whatcha been using?" he queried.

I showed him my fly box.

"Those sure are purty. Got em at Kmart didn’t you?

"I sure did. How’d you know?

"I work there. Actually, I’m the manager. I have to admit though those flies are more intended to catch fisherman than trout."

And with that he showed me several boxes of the most drab and ugly collection of brown and/or gray flies you could imagine.

"I caught maybe 50 to 75 this morning on these. Turned them all loose though. It’s just for fun. You’ll have to learn how to tie your own." He then gave me about a dozen of his sure fire flies and sent me on my way.

I later bought a "How To," book and a fly tying kit. I still shop occasionally at my long gone mentors’ store, fondly remembering his lesson. As in life, perhaps,  the most gaudy isn’t always the best.
On the Lamar River, Yellowstone National Park, 1979. And a cutthroat trout.

Yes, I had a lot to learn judging by those hip waders a volunteer fireman gave me. The rocks in the western streams were covered with algae which made them as slippery as greased bowling balls.  Eventually,  I even learned about proper chest waders with felt on the bottoms of the boots for better traction.  Today, with achy knees and less balance that I should have, I don’t fly fish as much as I used to, still the memories are all  strong as ever from those glorious days of yore…..:)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Craigs List

It was time to downsize, I thought.  Simplify really.  At a certain stage of life those thoughts cross ones mind.  Mrs. T wasn’t sold on the idea but with a garage and shed full of unused stuff, my time, at least had come. She suggested a “guys” garage sale. I wasn’t convinced there’d be a lot of interest plus I never went to garage sales myself. I already had too much junk…..

It was then that a friend suggested I try something called “craigslist.”  I didn't know Craig but the fact that it was free easily swung me over.  Now several months  and some six hundred dollars later,  in pure profit,  I’m minus  among other things, two electric trolling motors, a balky chain saw, a wall safe, a kerosene lantern, a hundred canning jars,  a Zeiss Ikon 35mm camera, a giant Christmas cactus, a set of golf clubs, Mr. Coffee Espresso etc….  And one item withdrawn from the market at the express wish of my son.  Therein lies the tale.

It was Christmas Eve 1949. My cousin Prudy and I stood proudly in front of the Christmas tree, in my grandma’s house in St. Paul, holding up our presents for all to see. Mine was a 027 gauge Lionel electric train. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thus began a lifelong interest in trains.  
When my sons were young I built a fancy layout on an old ping pong table with switches, train stations, a mountain and tunnel made out of Styrofoam, in other words it had everything. Neither son seemed  to impressed. They were too busy with the outdoor life and school activities.  I played with it myself except when a friend, the high school physics teacher, brought out his American Flyer 07 train.  More recently I mentioned my new found success and interest in Craigs List.  “You can’t sell that train Dad. It’s a family heirloom. I love playing with it….”   This all came as news to me. Needless to say the train and all the trimmings is on it's way by mail to Arizona.  Well maybe the grandchildren  will play with it....:) Some years later know from the original post and with Mrs. T gone to her final reward, I continue with the downsizing project. At the rate its going another 50 years or so the job should be complete!

Sunday, September 20, 2020


In 1960 as I graduated from high school in St. Paul  the first trees were identified with the Dutch elm disease. The  trees over arched most of the city streets& sheltered all.  Ten years later Minneapolis  and St. Paul lost virtually all of their street trees. Crews had removed tens of thousands of diseased elms to slow the spread . All to no avail .Eventually elms throughout the state were under attack & only a scattered few in the woods here and there survived.  I live on Oak Hill Drive in SpringValley, Minnesota and a large tree died in our woods this summer, so without looking close I assumed that it was an oak tree. Wrong. It was an ELM. Age &comon sense mean I don' cut down huge trees any more . A local tree service did the job that elm tree must've been around the hundred feet tall. Take a look.

The last of the iconic Giant elms fell in my woods
and on the same day another giant fell. Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her landmark decisions opened up a new world of   opportunity for those previously excluded. 

Towards a more perfect union with equal justice for all. My son & family

Saturday, September 12, 2020

River Boat Captain

Fifty Five and Alive teaches one should be at least one car length behind the car in front of you for each ten miles per hour your going.   This is safety planning ahead for an unexpected stops or evasive maneuvers.  It’s the same way on the Mississippi when your piloting one of those long river barges.  Or as I explained to granddaughter Miss. Tensae  who was operating a giant screen simulator at the River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa, “it takes a mile to stop this puppy so you need to plan ahead.  Let’s not hit any bridges.”
She was a natural,  with her Dad and older brother watching in the pilot house, we breezed all the way downriver to St. Louis quite safely.....