Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Civil War: Wasioja, Minnesota Part I

We had been out for a ride that afternoon. Visited a few state parks. Then we headed for Rochester for some "essential" shopping, according to Mrs. T. Rather than hurry there on the four lane highway, I took some back country roads. Your never know what you might come across. That's where I saw it. The sign pointed ahead to Wasioja. I remembered that name but for what?
It wasn't really a town. Just a few scattered homes from the 1950's. A few nearby farms. And a nondescript business. Then, I began to notice a some limestone buildings obviously from the 19th century.This home, for example built in 1858.
Then as we drove around a bit, I saw a sign in front of another small limestone building. When the Civil War began in 1861, Minnesota was the first state to offer and send troops to aid the Union cause. In April 1861, this building, which had been built as a law office and community meeting center in 1855 for the village, became a recruiting station. Recruits from the Wasioja station numbering over 200 formed the nucleus of Company C of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The building was Colonel James George's, a Mexican war veteran, law office who later led the volunteers at the Battle of Chickamauga.That was it. The Civil War. But what was it about this town and the Civil War that was buried someplace in my memory? Our next stop, on a wooded hillside told the story. As we approached, I was reminded of a famous photograph of the ruins of Richmond, Virginia at the end of the Civil War.
This was the Wasioja Seminary. And no, it hadn't been blasted to ruins by Confederate artillery. Some time after the Civil War it had been destroyed in a fire.

It does speak, however, to a time when Wasioja was a live and vital village. Anxious to promote the growth of the new town it citizens agreed to provide the Free Will Baptists a seminary. A structure of native limestone was completed in 1860. The seminary opened in that year with an enrollment of over 300 students. By 1862 Wasioja had more than a dozen stores, a hotel, a flour mill and was surrounded by farms and quarries that promised a great future.
Then the course of history was changed. The Civil War had begun and men from Minnesota were on the battlefields. Colonel George asked for volunteers. Led by Professor Gilley, many young students and others marched down to the law office and enlisted. Just over a year later, on Snodgrass Hill, near Chickamauga, they stopped the Rebels advance at a very high cost. Of the eighty young men who left Wasioja only twenty-five returned with life and limb intact. The town never recovered from the loss
Wasioja and its people paid in the coin of their future, by standing for Union and against the immorality of slavery.

A few years after that visit, I read in the Rochester, Mn newspaper that the "Friends of Wasioja" were holding the first Civil War Days in the little crossroads town. Thousands of visitors were expected for the three day event. Their would be speeches, recreated battles with cannons and reenactors, dress up balls and lots more. Mrs T and I decided to attend and I'll tell you all about it....... In Part II next.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Montana Flyfishing & The Big Hole River

I first visited "Big Sky Country" in the mid 50's camping with my parents. We visited Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. I was particularly enthralled by Yellowstone’s thermal activities and wild creatures. Later my wife and I revisited these places on camping trips into the Rockies. We often returned there with our young sons.
Living as we did in a small town in Minnesota without any fishing lakes, I took up the art of Fly-fishing in our many limestone spring creeks. This new hobby was to cause a big turn in my perception of Montana. It became not just a camping tourist venue but the "Mecca" of my trout fishing dreams.
It all began with an invitation from one of my brothers to join him on a mid-summer scouting expedition for fall elk hunting with his bow. Being occupied with teaching during the fall, I had no interest in that particular sport. I did realize, however, that this would be a golden opportunity to check out Montana’s fabled "blue ribbon" trout streams. What a two week adventure we had! I was hooked every bit as much as the trout we caught and the back country we visited.
As my sons grew into manhood, we began to make regular summer fishing trips to southwester Montana as well a canoe trips into Minnesota’s Boundary Water Wilderness.
Some of our favorite Montana places were The Boulder River south of Big Timber, Hyalite Creek, the Gallatin River and Swan Creek all south of Bozeman, the West Fork of the Madison River, Sam Billings campground on Boulder Creek a small tributary of the Bitterroot River, and the Missouri River below Holter Dam.

There was one river we always returned to fish no matter our time schedule. It was the Big Hole.
College professor, environmental activist, author and blogger Pat Munday writes about the Big Hole in his book Montana’s Last Best River: The Big Hole and its People. Here he tells the story of a beautiful valley and stream through the eyes and experiences of the people who lived there. Among others were the Indians, miners, homesteaders and ranchers. The breathtaking beauty of the place is superbly illustrated with a series of great photographs. The book is much more than a pretty "coffee table" book of pretty pictures. The conflicts of culture change and land usage are not glossed over from past to present. The author emphasizes an emerging consensus towards cooperation that would reflect Aldo Leopolds vision of a land ethic. If that proves to be true there is hope indeed that this treasure of a river will survive to enchant future fathers, sons and daughters with a love of the great outdoors.
I can still see my eldest son Ted leaning forward midstream in the Big Hole, casting with a beautiful rhythmic motion to trout rising to the fly. Memories like that were brought to mind when author/blogger Pat Munday gifted me with his book about The Big Hole. Ted is in a better place now but I’m sure he is still smiling as he catches those big ones.
I met Pat through his blog Ecorover. There you can see southwestern Montana in all its splendor. Here is the link: - check it out and say hello.....

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Twins

We headed up to the Mall of America a few days ago.

To go shopping? Me? Are you kidding? To go for a ride on the Light Rail to downtown Minneapolis.

To go shopping? No! We’ve been over that point. To go to Target Field to watch the Twins take on the Pale Hose.

I thought you gave up on them ye of little faith. I did. Face it after 7 of their starting players were out on the disabled list and they were 16 ½ games behind Cleveland near the end of May, it looked hopeless.
So you gave up and..... And they’ve won 12 of the last fourteen games and are now only 8 behind Tigers for the lead. Plus our big boppers are coming back. Things are looking up..So how was the game? Blackburn bested Buehrle 1-zip for the win.
"We gonna win Twins. We’re gonna score. Watch that baseball soar....."

Ok. I confess. Mrs. T. is correct. I'm a "fair weather fan." When things are going good or looking up I'm 100% on the band wagon. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Housing

The current economic doldrums were, in part, initially caused by ancollapse of the housing market. This, in turn, was caused by an unsecured home mortgage scam. Baron and I went for a hike yesterday to see if there were any signs of recovery. A trip through a fine wooded area did show some definite signs of new housing.

Mr. and Mrs. Pileated T Woodpecker are the proud new residents.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spring Biking

With the crummy weather this spring the biking got a late start. The first two outings were lots of fun though and quite the contrast. An offer to join John & Joanne’s eldest daughter Janelle and family was too good to pass up. Getting ready for "all aboard" the gang is getting ready for Carl to tow baby downhill 10 miles to Lanesboro. Starting at Fountain all you have to do is push off and coast about halfway there. Thats why I like this kind of run for starting out in the spring. The people passing you in the opposite direction are mostly young, some bearded, wearing tight spandex outfits and all with a very determined look on their faces. Oh and the fact is they are all going faster up the steep hill than I feel safe coasting down it.

My next ride, a week later, was a whole different ball game. Mrs. T dropped me off at the burgeoning town of Tiopi (population under 50). Here I would head 12 miles east to LeRoy State Park against a 25 mile an hour headwind. It felt like I was pedaling uphill all the way. The trail was basically flat and open to the wind. My strategy was basically "slow and steady wins the race." In other words, I just hoped to meet my spouse at the park without having to call her on the cell phone to come and rescue me from total exhaustion. It worked.......
Follow the shadow and he'll show you the route.

The trail basically was an old railroad bed. Thus some brush and trees on either side sheltered me slightly from the wind. The track was mostly straight as an arrow. It seemed a long way to my destination.
In the distance, on either side of the trail, I could see farmsteads and the emerging corn trailing off into the distance.

This trail is known as the Shooting Star Trail. In the late summer and fall, it is a surrounded by an amazing variety of native prairie plants, all abloom. In late spring, I didn't expect to see much but kept my eyes open nevertheless. Sure enough some dames rockets appeared around a bend beneath a small grove of oak trees. Later I spied the brilliant orange of some pucoons.

I was also keeping watch for birds but here I expected the high winds to keep them hunkered down. I did manage though to spot some dickcissels along the way. Somehow they always seem to look like miniature meadowlarks. But can they sing!

I also spotted a flooded field and took a careful look for some shore birds. They are rarely seen in the glaciated areas of southeastern Minnesota because lakes and untiled fields are few and far between. Then I spotted a few on the far side. Can you see them???? Just kidding I couldn't tell what they were even with my binoculars. Inching carefully up the trail I did get a few shots. Some kind of very small sandpipers methinks. Jeepers Creepers just little Peepers.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the ride. There's lot of different trails in this area. Maybe we can go again sometime.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Toilet Crises

As everyone knows the early years of marriage usually require some adjustments and compromises. Facing and fixing a mechanical crises for first time homeowners can be one of them.

A clogged toilet is a case in point. In the days before equal rights for women had clearly taken hold it was definitely a "mans job." Mrs. T was "volunteered" as assitant and gopher. After much ado, she consented grudgingly. Further frustration and poor results followed the inexpert use of the plunger. The toilet plunger that is.... Loud voices were heard. Finally an ultimatum. "I'm going to call a plumber," she cried. I was humiliated.
The plumber arrived several days later (they are an independent lot). He was brandishing a "snake."
"That does the trick," he reported and left behind a large bill. Things were fine for a couple of days and then the problem reappeared. Although not recommended for septic systems, I resorted to extreme chemical measures.It had no effect whatsoever.
Mr Plumber was again called to the rescue. "My hero," seemed to be Mrs T's response. Yuk!!! Three days later.... again failure. This whole scenario was really starting to bug me. Fortunately, I took it out on the toilet. I called on a teaching comrade, who happened to be the handyman type as well as the physics teacher. He explained the mechanics of the thing and advised taking it apart.
I removed the toilet and set it in the bathtub. Yes.... the bathtub. Then I picked it up and turned it upside down. Some water came out and I also heard a "clink." Harking back to my childhood I remembered shaking my piggybank. "Aha... I've got a giant piggybank here," I thought. Much turning, twisting and shaking followed, until finally out came a toothbrush.

Dumbfounded, I then made a serious mistake. I yelled, in a not too friendly manner at my bride, lurking skeptically in the background. "HAVE YOU BEEN BRUSHING YOUR TEETH IN THE TOILET?" We obviously survived that misadventure. It wasn't until years later though I learned that a bucket of soapy water and toothbrush had been used to clean some tile in the kitchen. Toothbrush forgotten and water poured in the toilet.
Marital cooperation is always best but sometimes it can be a struggle......

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring Lifers

A cold, wet, & windy spring didn't improve my attitude till the following "lifers" showed up in May. Big surprises all, they included a white winged scoter, a glossy ibis, a black billed cuckoo, several warblers and while having diner at Steve and Jewels, a Harris sparrow on the lawn. Entering my fourth year of "serious" birding, new ones are getting harder and harder to come across.
Photo by Steve G.