Troutbirder II

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


This book is a fascinating true crime story with many diverse topics and connections. The reason I originally picked that up was that I thought it was about fly tying and trout/salmon fishing. Actually just for examples it includes information about the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the competition between Darwin and a rivalry over who developed the theory of evolution and the Rothschild families errant son who used his vast fortune to privately build a complementary Museum to the British Museum of Natural History etc………….

Edwin Rist is the feather thief. Was he a young man, too easily indulged by parents, and full of obsession? Was Edwin a detached manipulator? Was he autistic? Or did he fake autism to get out of prison? What we know of Edwin Rist is that he is a talented flautist. He is an expert fly tier. And, he’s a convicted thief, having ripped off the Tring Natural History Museum of 299 rare and valuable specimens. Edwin is also pretty remorseless about his crime.

Actually, a little of this and some of that adds up to a really fascinating story. I like that!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Tongue In Cheek

R.E previous post titled "Troutbirder's Favorite Recipes." I think I need to go back and reread the chapter in the manual "How To Write Blog Posts" titled "Tongue In Cheek Satire." Obviously, judging by the majority of kind and generous posts I'd received so far.... I missed the mark. Lets start with the facts. I do have that cookbook. The titles of the recipes are real. I did hunt deer, pheasants, ruffed grouse, ducks and geese. I do not hunt/fish nor eat carp, coots(mudhens), muskrats, crayfish, opposum, skunk, racoon, woodchuck, beaver, snipe, or anything akin. For certain, in the golden age of my youth, I had killed and brought home some squirrels. Skinned and proudly presented to my city raised bride, (who had already demonstrated a certain degree of skepticism toward any meat not approved by the Department of Agriculture and wrapped in plastic), Mrs. T asked "what are they?" After explaning to her the conclusion was "they look like rats and I refuse to cook them." Thus ended my career of bring home for table use anything exotic found in my South Dakota cookbook......

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Troutbirder's favorite recipes- a December 2015 retrospective

Faced with my own poor record in learning how to cook for myself and today being Christmas day   I decided to  attend the free community dinner at the Methodist Church. It was great. Later perusing the word recipes I found the following link to some of my favorites that were on my book review blog. You can take a look at them by double-clicking on Mark Twain and myself in the picture at the top of this page

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas now and then


They say the first major holiday without your spouse is the most difficult. I wanted to be ready. Yesterday the last Saturday before this Christmas I drove down to small town Cherry Grove for a 7 o’clock church service at the Methodist Church. The service had a title it was called blue Christmas. This was for anyone who felt sad  during the season of joy to the world. The ministerial couple from

Faith Methodist in Spring Valley conducted the service. The two serve several outlying churches in their parish. The service was intended for anyone suffered a loss be it a job a job, their health, their faith and so on, but it was evident that most of the people there grieving the loss of a family member. That was me also. The church wasn’t packed perhaps about 30 people  of whom I initially recognized only two. Two….  The Bible readings and poems were all appropriate to the theme of the service. But for me as, you might expect it, was the music which touched my heart and brought tears. A young woman played an instrument which I had never seen before. It sounded like a guitar but it was plastic, large and she he held it in her lap and tucked under her chin while she sang the voice of an angel. And then there was the pianist who played both the organ and an old clunky looking piano which was perfectly tuned to a deep throbbing sound. She played wonderfully and though she was on the opposite side of the church eyes were drawn to to her as she played. Again she wasn’t at all familiar. As the service came to its conclusion there was an invitation for all to join together to socialize with coffee and treats as Methodists are wont to do. The pianist kept on playing and I decided to approach her and thank her for the beautiful Christmas music. As I approached her she gave me a quick glance and a smile inviting me to sit down next to her on the adjacent chair. Shortly thereafter as she concluded there was a winsome smile and she said “thanks for coming Ray” and  finally waking up and looking more closely I was able to reply”and thank you for playing so beautifully Luanne” a former student of mine who had graduated in 1974. After a few hugs we adjourned to socialize and catch up on decades of times past. It was a good start for the holidays.

Still this year for the first time in many years I will be spending much of the holiday season alone at home in Minnesota. It is a time of many wonderful family memories, particularly of our two sons Ted and Tony growing up.

 It is also fraught with sadness as well, for during this special time of the year,  our eldest son Ted departed this earth from the pernicious effects of bi-polar disease. This fall,  as many of you know my dear wife Barb ended her ten year long struggle against  dementia.  

Our widowed daughter in law Deanne was a steadfast pillar of love and support in our son Teds life.  And now  as well.  Standing with grace and courage in spite of the travails life has cast upon her, she brings hope and joy to all                                                                                                                                                                                And so to all our friends out there in blog land:  I wish you  the joys of the season to each and every one.  May there be peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.....




Monday, December 16, 2019

Those Were The Days

You can tell by the vintage of the school bus that the people in this picture must be pretty old by now. This is second grade, Mounds Park Elementary school, St. Paul, Minnesota. That's Troutbirder in the front row, right hand corner, with the little beanie cap on.... jeez mom how could you? My cousin Terry had sent me a notice of an Elementary School reunion and I guess it sent my brain cells off on a jog through memory lane....

Next picture below is Miss Amblers Kindergarten class down by the old wishing rock. My 1st cousin Prudy is front row far left and I'm back row center with the the suspenders. Obviously my mother was a fashion maven. Of course, I was first born so according to the psychologists got all the good stuff. Miss Ambler had been my fathers kindergarten teacher. Other names I remember were Miss Heim, Miss Susan Holmen, Miss Searle, Miss Ahlstrom, and  Mrs. Dahlquist. Plainly female teachers were not allowed to marry in those days. Yes, I walked six blocks to school, uphill both ways.. Those were the days my friends, we thought they'd never end....

Here's a few more fashionista pictures from the "40's."               

Below right with first cousin Prudence Mary

Monday, December 9, 2019

Trout fishing in the desert

One might think that Arizona noted for its desert land might not be the best place to expect to go trout fishing.  Well not exactly. My son and grandson do it quite often. They just have to had north of the Phoenix area into the mountain ranges where melting snow can provide water. It's often tough hiking as the  terrain becomes steeper and more rugged but there are trout to be found. Take a look.
Son Tony and grandson Leonard camping in the Arizona mountains.
The Valley of the sun. Phoenix Desert and South to the Mexican border. North to Flagstaff and skiing Grand Canyon, mountains and Colorado.
 Ray with the Minnesota trout. A. K. A.
Pike trout. No mountains here though.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

At the Guthrie

As the Christmas season grew ever closer my beautiful daughter-in-law Deanne and I chose to join Historic Adventure and Travels tours  for a holiday bus trip to the Twin Cities..

The trip from Rochester  began with a stop at the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul for their annual holiday flower show. Every section adjacent to the great dome had a different set of flowers highlighted. Deannes smiles showed we were enjoying them all. After that it was on to a very nice  restaurant whose name and location I can't repeat. Truth to tell the city a of my birth and youth is mostly a puzzle to me now. Then it was on across the Mississippi to the Guthrie theater for a "Christmas Carol ."

Called "a 21st century dream factory" by Time Magazine,  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.



  We saw an expanded and somewhat more light hearted version of Dickens A Christmas Carol. Then the one you might have seen on TV We are all blown away at the set, the staging, the acting.... the whole production. Actually Barb and I had seen another version at the Guthrie when it first opened some years ago now. It was all good

Upon leaving the theater for the bus ride home, we all decided, it had been a wonderful beginning  to the joys of the Christmas season. What fun!

Friday, November 29, 2019

The pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story—the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio etc. etc. river

McCullough chose a small number of people who provided the leadership in this vast settlement of the Northwest Territories. They might not be so well known in the broader scope of American history but as he wrote the communities that evolved were based on the ideals that would come to define our country. For example those who lobbied the Congress of the United States then based at the very beginning in New York City that slavery not be allowed in the new territories and states. Or that public education schools and universities following the New England model would be nurtured and supported by land grants based on federal. As people flooded by the thousands into the Ohio River Valley and also came from overseas a new world was being created for settlement and trade. Trade up and down the river and even worldwide with new technologies changing transportation dramatically like steam engines and so on. It was mostly all new to me and as McCullough often does he made it personal and very interesting I definitely recommend it.






Thursday, November 28, 2019

Pilgrim Grandchildren on Thanksgiving

She, Tensae, had arrived from Ethiopia only a couple of years before. Her older brother Ethan was explaining about the Pilgrims here is part of the lesson. Today all five of my grandchildren live far away in the desert of Arizona.Tensae is a sophomore in high school. Ethan is a Freshman in college. She is an honors student and he is on a full ride scholarship. How time flies........

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Thanksgiving Tradition remembered again

It was only a few years after our marriage that my young bride, ever the bold one, decided to invite my parents and siblings from the Twin Cities to our rural home in the hinterland for Thanksgiving dinner. Her holiday culinary experience was quite lacking at the time. I must add that back in the day turkeys arrived at the supermarket with their necks still attached and the key organs still to be found inside to add to the stuffing.  While busily peeling potatoes I was asked by the lady in charge "which end do I stuff?" Dumfounded, I discovered there was an opening next to the neck. "Call your best friend Mary Ann" I suggested. And she did. Even standing some distance away I could hear gales of laughter over the telephone.  Thus, a Thanksgiving tradition was born. For decades thereafter the phone  would ring early on Thanksgiving morning with a reminder from Mary Ann as to which end to stuff the Turkey....
                                                Mrs. T on our honeymoon to the Maritimes

Monday, November 18, 2019


Over the years as a upland game hunter and waterfowl as well I had some great retrievers, there was Max the wonder dog, part golden retriever and part German shorthair. He could do it all including teach me how to hunt.
Next came Ben. He was a gentle giant who I could've easily saddled up. Of unknown origin he was very good  at flushing pheasants. He  could locate a scent and then  track the birds down. Which meant he was usually about a quarter of a mile ahead of me and well out of range.
Then came Chessie. She was a Chesapeake Bay retriever. Of course that meant I had added duck and goose hunting to my repertoire. She never missed returning a duck or goose to me out of the water. Pheasants were another thing though she could locate them flush or find them in a cornfield. Bringing them back though apparently wasn't in her contract. She would locate and then guard them till I arrived to pick  the bird up. All I can say on that point is it was easier to locate a dog than a dead bird in a corn field.
Her successor was Muffy, who was excellent in all phases of the hunting dogs duties. She was also a purebred Chesapeake Bay retriever. Why she was named after a cat I have no idea because Barb and our two boys assigned that job to themselves. And last but not least when I gave up hunting due to a bad knee we settled for a house dog. His name was Baron and the big guy was followed by our rescue dog Lily. They were both German shepherds a. K. A. Also known by Barb as German shedding dog's. They both were multi-purpose......................

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tundra Swans

A small relapse found me once again using a cane after my knee surgery. Taking pity on me my good friend Mr. science, Gary, a former teaching colleague offered to take me down to Mississippi River to see the annual migration of the tundra Swan's. It was really cold that morning and dressing for arctic conditions I forgot my camera so some of the pictures here will reflect past visits on the same occasion.
At an overlook  in Minnesota, near the Iowa border, south of Brownsville we see some tundras and a late-season barge on the river. Across the Father Of Waters, clouded in mist, lay Wisconsin.
As   we parked along the highway,  we heard a rather loud and strange sound emanating from the river.  It was a kind of  of excited yet friendly conversation among some visitors from the tundra far to the north.
Here, we were to witness a world class event in the world of natural  wonders. Coming from the arctic , in  their thousands, tundra swans had stopped to refuel and rest, before continuing their journey to Chesapeake Bay, far to the southeast.

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 also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds, by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. The artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. It’s not entirely safe for the ducks and swans who gather here though as hundreds of bald eagles cruise overhead  along the river as well.  They are always on the lookout for an easy lunch.

The  overlook provides a safe place for people to turn out to see and photograph the swans.   Previously people would park along the shoulder endangering themselves and passing vehicles. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. We make an annual trip along the river to see this amazing sight. It never grows old.  Thanks Mother Nature!

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Flying Swans from Mr. Sciences "Nature Notes."

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The British are coming - the war for America by Rick Atkinson

The British are coming war for America, Lexington to Princeton,1775-1777
Abraham Lincoln said "a house divided against itself cannot stand" he was correct though it stood just barely, leaving a trail of divided families, many dead or wounded along with mass destruction and the heritage of racism. Today, we may be facing the potential of something  similar in a  more modern world of sophisticated media and other technologies, as well as unsophisticated so-called "alternate facts."
None of the above has solely been created by the con artist, liar and dictator lover in the White House but he has enhanced, used and personally benefited from many of them. For many of us this has posed a real dilemma. It began  from the start of Trump's administration. I remember thinking his words and claims were untrue, even un presidential and couldn't get worse. It has of course, even to the point of abuse of office and selling out his countries safety, security and the Constitution of the United States for his personal and political benefit. Back in the day he would be identified as  a traitor.
What to do? I'd heard enough from the so-called panel experts on cable TV. It was time to go back to the first house divided. That is to say the American Revolution and the founding fathers, many of whom survived that colonial/Civil War for independence to write the blueprint for a new nation. It's    called the Constitution of the United States of America. As the impeachment process continues in the days ahead will be hearing much of the words and meaning of that document.
As luck would have it I had just noted one of my favorite American historians Rick Atkinson had just  published the first book in  a trilogy on the American Revolution. His writing is right up there at the very top of his profession. Think of authors like Stephen Ambrose, David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin and. Bruce Catton ......

.......... Rick Atkinson is an American historian who began his writing career as a highly successful newspaper reporter who later turned to writing mostly military history. . For those of you that slept through those boring history textbooks and lectures in high school the British Are Coming will bring it all to life as s only Atkinson can. For those of you that know the story because you liked history to begin with   this will not be the story that you thought you knew. I doesn't have the romantic of all those paintings and legends. For those of you that love historical fiction please be careful because this book feels like historical fiction but it isn't. It's based on  well documented research which you can check in the back of the book. All your senses will come alive as you read what really happened. The smell, sound  and scenes will come alive as you read and yes the emotions's as well.

Many historians guess that the American colonists were divided into about three equal groups You'll meet those who just wanted no part of this awful Civil War, and the Patriots will put everything on the line to create their own Republic, and the Tories who remained loyal to the king and Empire
This was indeed our first house divided. More people as a percentage of the total population died in this war than any other with the exception of the one Pres. Lincoln feared.
In summing up the this wonderful book I'm having a hard time choosing   appropriate  descriptions.  Perhaps masterpiece, classic, poetic, cinematic and God forbid prophetic. This divided people long ago in spite of almost impossible odds created a new nation based upon their acceptance of common goals and  a structure of government which divided power into three equal branches, to make sure that no single group or person  could be all powerful nor subservient to foreign interference and bribery. From The very beginning that Atkinson wrote so poignantly about, generations  kept the promise. Now it's our turn. To disagree without being disagreeable nor demeaning each other. Focus on our common goals which should allow us to do something we seem to have forgotten. Compromise. King George III might had tried that with better results.....

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@Barrie Summy

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Minnesota In The Fall (updated)

This time of the year I'm reminded every day how Bluff Country in particular and Minnesota in general can be spectacular. Bluff Country is the name we attach to the unglaciated portion of southeastern Minnesota. Having been missed by the glaciers, that flattened and scoured out the many lakes of our state, the topography has been bisected, by its many streams, into deep valleys. Southwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa have a similar landscape. For the fisherman, it's trout stream country with very few lakes. In the fall it comes alive with color. Take a look,,,,, With thanks to my all time favorite.... John Denver
Almost Heaven, Minnesota
Golden Prairies

Blue Green Forests
Father Of Waters
Life is Great here
Older than the valleys
Younger than
Gitche Gumee
Fresher than a breeze.

And may your "Country Roads" be just as beautiful as we enjoy our fall season here in Bluff Country