Tag Archives: autobiography

1984, age 41-42

Themes and Events:
*  This is the year of the “yuppie” (Young Urban Professional). The “minivan” is introduced and quickly becomes a popular vehicle. Those of us old enough to know, see it as a reinvention of the station wagon.
*  Visa is the first to begin using holographic 3D images on its credit cards for security reasons. McDonald’s sold its 50 billionth hamburger.
*  Bell Laboratories announced the development of the 1 megabyte computer memory chip.
*  TheU.S.economy is having the best year since 1951, expanding at 6.8% while consumer prices (CPI) rise only 4%.
*  A crisis in the Savings and Loan and Banking industry looms on the horizon when the government rescues Continental Bank in Chicago from collapse with a $4.5 billion loan.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  I’m not fat I’m just short for my weight.
*  Are we having fun yet?
*  The computer is down.
*  El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam.

A year’s supply in the pantry
For about ten years, Donna and I had been concerned with the possibility of a thermonuclear war and with the real increases in energy prices. As the years passed, we found that the world just puttered along with occasional ‘saber rattling’ and ‘brush fire wars’ on the periphery of the industrialized countries. During this time, we bought rural property, a home,  installed a huge garden, were raising livestock and finally reached the point we’d only dreamed of a decade earlier.

By January 1984, our Rear Addition’s  ‘food room’ reached its peak as a storage pantry.

Two years earlier, in 1982, our food storage program consisted of previously listed canned and dry goods, cases of freeze-dried foods, garden produce, and frozen goods in our freezer. Between that time and the beginning of 1984 we’d increased storage to include a years supply of various new items [1]. As we used items from the food room they were replaced with new similar goods, so that the quantity of supply remained static.

List of products bought and maintained in a year supply quantity:

Item Quantity Value Item Quantity Value
automotive oil 24 quarts $23.58 lye 4 pounds $4.00
Baggies 2 box, 600 Baggies $3.20 plastic wrap 7 box, 1400 ft sq. $9.10
canning salt 60 pounds ? razor blades (for shaving) 6 pkg. / 5 blades ea. $3.54
Colgate shaving cream 5 cans $4.85 scratcher pads 10 each $2.30
Comet cleanser 6 canisters $4.74 sponge mop heads 2 each $4.34
cooking oil 4 gal, 6 mo. supply $21.96 tin foil 3 box, 600 ft sq. $11.79
D & C cell batteries $22.50 tooth paste 4 large tubes $7.16
dish soap 4 lg. bottles, 8 mo. $9.48 tractor oil 5 gallons $17.30
floor wax $5.54 vitamin C 3 large bottles $11.16
light bulbs, various $9.00 wax paper 12 box, 1200 ft sq. $10.56
liquid bleach 6 gallons $4.74

A new pickup truck
It had been ten years since we first bought our GMC pickup truck in Los Angeles.
In the summer of 1974, the truck pulled a small California One-Way moving trailer with all of our household belongings over the Rocky Mountains to Minnesota. We’d used the pick-up to haul firewood to our home in Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park; we packed our canoe around central Minnesota; and pulled our Starcraft Tent Camper all over the state. We’d used the pick up truck to carry our tools out to our rural property when we were first taming the driveway and homesite; we’d driven it to work for years.

This last winter the truck developed a variety of problems: the clutch and transmission were going out, the brakes were worn, the heater no longer worked so we were on the verge of freezing while driving to work, the tires were worn and almost bald, and the body was badly rusted. We were having a difficult time starting the vehicle on cold mornings and it was only driving about ten miles per gallon gas.

This February we began pricing new trucks and found that Foley Ford had the best price on pickup trucks in the vicinity. We took a look at what they had on the sales lot and picked out a new 1984 tan-colored F100 Ford pickup, with a heavy-duty heater. The vehicle cost $5,400, less the trade in we received on our old GMC. We financed the truck with an automatic First American Auto loan installment plan and drove home that afternoon  in our new vehicle.

[Photograph: Our new F100 Ford pickup truck. Jessie dog laying in driveway. My ‘antenna system’ creation, consisting of: 1 Citizen Band antenna, 3 TV antennas, a wind gauge, bird houses, thermometer and rain gauge. The antennas were eventually removed and mounted on the rear addition roof.]

A couple of weeks after buying the Ford truck, we bought a light weight, tan colored camper shell to cover the bed of the truck and provide security for things we bought and were carrying about town on shopping days.

Our work schedule at Landy’s
Since Donna and I both worked at Landy Packing, we could have continued to get by owning one automobile;  however, our schedules were never the same. I started work at 6:30 AM and got off any time between 2:30 PM and 3:00 PM, occasionally having to stay until 4:00 PM – or later. Donna often started at 7:00 AM, but occasionally had to start at 8:00 AM; her shift’s end time varied correspondingly. One year she was required to take an hour lunch, another year she took a half hour lunch. When there were custom shipments of meat to Canada, she stayed at work until 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM to make sure the International Transit papers were complete. Generally, we could count on getting off at a certain time, but these times changed erratically, having two vehicles was somewhat a matter of convenience, but almost a necessity.

Employee grumbling and my wage increase
After the Meatpacker Union’s new wage contract took effect in December, many of the older employees lost their former pay brackets, some jobs were eliminated, others took severe pay cuts. Quite a few knowledgeable, long-term employees quit during January and February, which caused concern amongst management. Not only were the meat cutters quitting, but several key office personnel, including the computer programmer and credit manager sought employment elsewhere.

When “Quit Fever” reached a high pitch, I used management’s fear to my advantage.

I was earning a dollar per hour less than the City of St. Cloud employees who worked at the Public Utility’s waste water treatment plant. Knowing that I would be harder to replace than practically anyone at the company, because of my specialized job, I requested a raise in pay.

The request shocked my boss, Jim Landy, never-the-less, I had both logic and management’s fear of losing key personnel on my side. I maintained a humble, ‘good employee’ attitude while talking with him. He had to confer with his uncle, Max Landy, the company’s owner, and would get back with me. By the end of the day I had the full raise, a whopping $1.01 per hour.

Books read during the year
During the year, I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain © 1979 by Betty Edwards – How to visualize and draw using the right side of your brain. 207 pages.
An Experiment With Time © 1927 by J.W. Dunne – An investigation into the nature of time and perception. 254 pg.
Awakening Intuition © 1979 by Frances E. Vaughan – The dreams. imagery, practicality and wisdom of intuition. 228 pg.
Mind Games: The Guide To Inner Space © Robert Masters and Jean Houston – A”how to” book of mental exercises for achieving altered states of consciousness without the use of drugs. 246 pg.
Teach Your Baby to Read © by Glenn Doman – Technique for teaching a baby to become familiar with and begin to read words.

Jane begins traveling with the family
Donna was pressured to return to work at Landy’s in the middle of January, when Jane was about one and a half months old. We didn’t like the idea of someone else looking after our baby in either a daycare or babysitting environment, never-the-less, Donna interviewed several women and found a conscientious woman babysitter in St. Cloud, only a couple of miles from our work.

As the weeks passed, we took Jane with us grocery shopping, to the movies, out to dinner, where ever we went Jane went, tucked safely in her car seat carrier. We beamed with pride when people in the various stores would stop to talk to her and comment on how pretty she was.

Some babies are ugly as sin, and most are homely, but Jane had fine and cute features, she was a good-looking person as a baby and all through her childhood years. Nor was Jane a fussy baby, she slept well at night, her babyhood was a pleasure to both Donna and myself. (Xoxo to Jane)

The Castle Wall
The Castle Wall, a poem I wrote on March 26, to preface my Journal 2: The Realm: Of Dark Places and Castle Walls, Of A Looking Glass and A Crystal Ball, follows below:

Out of the past, on a castle wall, I see their names written, great and small.
Each name is a life and a work of love,
whence I am a descendant of.
I hold my child and she holds hers,
And time itself begins to blur.
Out of the future they come to look,
And wonder at the life each ancestor took.
I too am here on this castle wall,
And beneath me is my child so small.
At the pace you read this print,
Past our lives seem to sprint.
The days, weeks, months and years,
The joy, tranquility and many tears.
They lie with us now, we are but names,
Though time and the world haven’t really changed.
Love your child Give that youth your all,
Though this child be big or small
And we’ll cheer you on from the castle wall. lfp

Of books and guides
Writ preceding, Family Genealogy, from Journal 2, page 220. (see below)

“I stand gazing at the sun as it rises over the horizon.
Before me grows a forest, the trunks of the trees cut dark lines across this great orange rising orb.
And I feel joy at being part of this process of life.
The awesome sense of ‘Being’ I feel extends into the abyss of time on either side of me, and there I see fleeting images that come and go. For I am a living man, the son of a man, and we, the sons of men, are sons of MAN.
And from the earliest times, I have walked the Earth in my fathers and now they leave footprints through me.
 We have filled every niche between commoner and knight, to princes of the material and priests of the mind and soul; we are adventurers in time and sometimes, guides.
And you who are to come, the children of my children, and those beyond, know then that it has become my lot to be a scribe of the common.
From  these journals you will develop an understanding that will allow you to see fleeting images through time.
These journals will provide a historical backdrop and a guide, for herein lies human life: with its attending problems, choices, solutions and outcomes, all specific for me in these given moments, but whose general concepts are human and scalable for all, for you, in your own time.
And now, look back, across the form shaping field of which you and I are part, and understand the collectively similar memory style of our descent…for you now stand in the ‘life light’.”

Music [midi: Speed]

A terrible spring thunderstorm [4]
The most frightening thunderstorm we ever had, occurred on a Thursday night, April 26th.
Our skies remained dark and cloudy all day, the local weather forecast was predicting the possibility of severe weather in the evening.

About 4:30PM, when I arrived home from work, I connected our 5KW emergency electric generator in case there was a power failure while supper was being prepared. A while later, when feeding the ducks and geese, I noted that the southern sky had become quite dark and lightning flashes could be seen. Looking at the approaching dark line growing on the horizon, it was apparent that before long we would certainly have storm conditions.

About an hour later, Griz, who is afraid of thunder and lightning, began barking at the front door, wanting to come inside. I let both Griz and Jessie into the rear addition then hurried through the house closing all the windows as it was beginning to rain. As the dark and rolling clouds approached looking ever more ominous, I turned on the radio and found that there was both a Tornado and a “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” in effect for central Minnesota.

Donna arrived home from work a few moments after it had begun raining and exclaimed,” I encountered walnut size hail on the way home.’

Looking south toward Foley, we could see an amorphous, fuzzy gray, dark mass low in the sky moving our way. We then became frightened that some very dangerous weather was approaching and we were in a relatively fragile mobile home. We immediately phoned our neighbor’s Bobby and Arlene in regards to spending some time in their cellar. We quickly changed clothes, stuffed our small stash of five each one ounce gold coins in our pockets, covered Jane (now five months old) and ran to the pickup truck. Our dogs, sensing the weather and our behavior, wanted to go with us; Griz even went so far as to try to get in the front seat ahead of us.

Just as we drove out from the end of our property onto the county road, the storms squall line hit.
Immediately to our south, the clouds were low and churning. Within moments visibility reached nearly zero. I sped into our neighbor’s yard and parked near their back door. We scooted out one side of the truck and fairly ran down the stairs into the cellar. Donna was carrying Jane in the car seat carrier. Bobby and Arlene were still in the barn finishing up their evening milking chores. They waved at us out a window, then returned to their work.

Donna and I looked about at our unfamiliar surroundings in the cellar- storm shelter.
The room had low head clearance, dim electric lighting and a somewhat muddy, earthen floor. On the positive side, it had concrete walls, a very solid heavy-duty roof and a brick house built above. For the next few minutes we had pea size hail, then a terrible wind accompanied by hard rain.

When the wind and rain subsided, we hurried over to the barn to visit with Bobby and Arlene. After cleaning the milk house, Arlene took Donna and Jane back to the house. I stayed behind to chat with Bobby, who was feeding the cows. Just as he finished his chores, the rain suddenly increased and a second squall line hit us.

Our first warning that the storm was intensifying came with the rush and roar of a mighty wind. Seeing the severity of the wind, Bobby ran through the barn to turn off the lights in the  silo room which was attached to the southeast, back-end of the building. Meanwhile, I stepped just outside a partially opened sliding door on the north side of the building.

As I stepped through the doorway, my cap lifted straight up off my head. I looked up to see the cap spinning and moving in lazy circles as it gently floated straight up along the three-story high building. Nearing the roof, it instantly took off toward the northeast and disappeared into the darkness…as I stood there transfixed in a moment of awe, something else flew past over the top of the barn. Standing by the building I was protected from the roaring wind and driven rain which were coming out of the south-southwest.

At this time, I began seeing events occur in slow motion. I turned to my left and looked into the farmyard which was illuminated by a security lamp. There, I saw a heavy electric cable standing out horizontally as it extended between the out buildings. Sheets of rain ran past the side of the barn, they were moving laterally in staccato pulses, without any apparent downward motion.

I stepped backwards inside the barn and spun around looking for Bobby, he was still in the silo room. All of a sudden the barn gave two or three rapid, deep creaks and I realized the dangerous force that the wind must be exerting on the structure. Although the hayloft was still half full of bailed hay, I was sure that any stronger gale might collapse the barn. I yelled through the din of the storm, “Bobby? Bobby! Let’s get the hell out of here!”

I backed into the barn door turned and stepped into the aperture to look outside. Nothing had changed in those few moments, I was still seeing in slow motion. I tried to gauge the safety of walking over to the cellar in such a strong wind. As if in answer, the family’s wooden dog house, came sort of rolly-bouncing out of the dark and into the illuminated area. A few shingles were ripped from the roof of a shed next to the barn and flopped through the air across the yard.

I called for Bobby again, then continued peering apprehensively from the barn door. The dog house, which had momentarily stopped rolling, laid upside down fluttering in the yard. Suddenly, it came alive again and like a tumbleweed began rolly-bouncing toward the road. A few moments later Bobby and I briskly walked, through the momentarily subsiding wind and rain, to the house.

Once we were in the cellar with the women folk, we four adults each had a can of beer on our empty, nervous stomachs, all the while complaining about the “Shittin’ weather.” While listening to the local radio news and found that a tornado had hit Minneapolis, destroying a shopping center and a six block residential area. Wind gusts in St. Cloud had been clocked at sixty mph. A little later we found that the dome-shaped metal silo cover on top Bobby’s silo had ruptured at the seam, the elevator door on his grain room roof had blown away and flying roof shingles had broken several barn window panes. We had a nervous, late supper with the Bob and Arlene before returning home.

Coming up the driveway we were stopped by a fallen tree that forced us to leave the pickup truck down the driveway, about five hundred feet away from our mobile home. Donna covered Jane to protect her from the diminishing rain, while we made a dash for the house. We climbed over the tree trunk and hurried up the muddy driveway.

While Donna took Jane inside, I walked around the yard to see if we’d suffered any damage. Two dead trees had blown over. One blew harmlessly against another tree just behind our mobile home. A large dead tree east of the homesite had fallen across the yard fence, it’s upper limbs forming a “V” on either side of and just missing the dog house.

Laid off and ‘plugged up’ at the water plant [5]
In May, almost immediately after I received a ten percent (!) pay increase, Landy’s began closing the plant on Monday’s in what was apparently becoming an annual practice.

During the previous winter, Landy’s had begun buying offal from Robel’s Meat Packing (an equal sized packing house practically next door to Landy’s) and process it in their Rendering Plant. That provided full-time work for the Rendering Crew to retain their Monday employment, however, everyone else except the office personnel were laid off.

From late February through April, I sat home on Monday’s writing in my journal and working about the property.
Meanwhile,  the Rendering Plant was running full-bore and dumping its normal amount of effluent down the company drain. All those little pieces of organic material: blood, fat and grease went down the sewage line and accumulated in the waste water plant’s large underground sump, floating in a 3-4 foot thick layer on top the water,and 6″ to 10″ deep on the surface of the primary clarifier tanks.
Since neither I was nor the other operators were there to process the material, bottlenecks occurred which caused a breakdown in the plants automated functions. When the breakdowns became serious enough to holdup production on Tuesday morning’s, I was asked to begin working a half day (which amounted to 5-6 hours) on Monday’s.

(Chuckle) I knew from the beginning of the ‘lay-offs’ that the company would develop problems if they thought they could count on the so called, ‘automated systems’, to handle even a fraction of a days work load. I also knew that when Landy’s had it in their mind to do something, it was best to go along with them, anything less than absolutely full compliance would signal possible hostility, while ‘making excuses’ was seen as, ‘dragging your feet’.
So, like ol’ Brer Rabbit, I jus’ stayed home while dey throwed punches at da Tar Baby.

During this period, my chemical laboratory technician, Tom, left our employment. It took a month to find a decent replacement and another month to teach him the fundamentals of the job.

Anomalies at work:
When a Waste Water Plant position was being filled, I would run an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times newspaper, which typically resulted in my giving five or six job interviews.

One of the applicants for the position was a an attractive and lithe young woman of about 30 years old. While I don’t recall her resume or specific qualifications, I certainly remember the events of her interview.

I looked at the young woman’s resume and seeing that she did qualify for the job, decided to show her around the plant and discuss the type of jobs she would be expected to do, in addition to the lab work. Returning to the lab she asked if there had been other applicants, I replied that there had been. She emphasized that she was really interested in the job, and said, “I’ll do anything to get it.” She stared into my eyes, in an attempt to make a personal connection. Then she said, “If you have any other questions about my qualifications, you can come over to my apartment one evening and we can discuss them”. I gasped quietly to myself, thinking, what an offer. There were a lot of things wrong with the situation: I would never cheat on my wife,  what kind of person with what kind of problems would make such an offer, I would never jeopardize my livelihood for over a risky proposition, it all sounded unreal, like maybe she was a private detective, put up to the proposition by the Landy family to check my integrity. At the conclusion of our interview I thanked the young lady for her application and said there were several other scheduled interviews before a hiring determination would be made.

That story brings to mind another odd social interaction: The Waste Water Plant didn’t use a lot of different types of chemicals to treat the water, but what we did use, we used a lot of. Every couple of months I ordered a semi truck load (the big 16 wheelers) of Ferri Floc, and  three or four 55 gallon drums of polymer.

One day I received a call from a salesman. I think we’d tried his polymer once and were looking into a couple other polymers with slightly different chemical compositions and reactivity’s. The salesman wanted my home address so he could send me a gift. Immediately, I became suspicious. There was no reason to send me a gift and certainly not to my home address. Everything I did at work was professional, there were no private entanglements, just business. I wondered if the salesman was perhaps disgruntled that we weren’t using his product and was checking to see if I would accept private gratuities or again, maybe the Landy family was checking my loyalty and integrity. Anyway, I accepted the gift, but asked him to mail it to the attention of Max Landy at the company address. After the conversation, I told my boss, Jim Landy, about the call and that Max should be receiving a gift. I checked several times over the next few weeks, the gift did not come.

These two events occurred over a matter of several years. It’s just good personal policy to remain ‘above board’ in your professional dealings. People will, for whatever reason, occasionally appeal to you with petty offers enticing lust or greed.

Peaks, troughs and averages
During the period of extended layoffs, my net- taking home pay was $232. Once I returned to working  those ‘half day’ Monday’s, then had to put in a lot of overtime during the remainder of the week, my net weekly pay went over $300, which was a very good wage for the time and area. Actually, I was earning more money by working a half day Monday and putting in the required over time  than working my normal five day week with no overtime ($290), so I ended getting ‘paid back’ for several of the lost Mondays where my weekly pay had been reduced  to $232.

In late May, Landy’s brought in an ‘efficiency expert’ to help return the company to a healthy level of profitability. The expert didn’t walk around studying worker performance, but spent his time in the Conference room talking with the Landy’s and studying the company account books. I’d seen efficiency experts at work before, when I worked for Gregg Iron Foundry in El Monte,California. From what I heard and saw, an efficiency experts presence didn’t bode well for’ jobs’. I also recalled hearing from Donna several months earlier that the company had conferences with a ‘union busting’ lawyer.

The bottom line: Something was wrong with Landy Packing Company’s financial operations.

Water, water every where
June 1984 was the rainiest, wettest month I remember ever experiencing [6]. While June’s normal rainfall in central Minnesota is four and half inches, this month we measured a little over eighteen inches precipitation in our rain gauge. The two heaviest rains, separated by four days, each brought five and a half inches of moisture. Most of the rain occurred in the first half of the month.

During the middle of the month, while driving through the countryside to work, I noted a decidedly different environment than what I was use to seeing. Most elevated, bare, red clay fields looked so water-logged and muddy that the soil surface appeared shiny. More than a few forty acre fields were fifteen percent covered with standing water.  In the lower areas, there were several locations where runoff had completely filled the roadside ditch and part of the highway was submerged. In one place a shallow, inches deep, stream of water was flowing across a forty-foot wide section of road. All that could be seen of one field were the top three inches of the fence posts. A lone house above the banks of one small river was surrounded on three sides by a foot of water.

What also seemed unusual was to see flocks of ducks flying north at this late time of year, usually the migrating birds come through our area from late March through April. Adding to the odd weather was that Tower, Minnesota, located only one hundred seventy-eight miles northeast of Gilman, had a hard frost of 29ºF– on June 11th!

Emperor Weather, a poem
After a very wet spring and early summer, I was prompted by weather conditions seen about our community, and from news reports in locations around the USA, and world to write the  ‘tongue in cheek’ poem, that follows:

                        “Emperor Weather
We beseech thee, oh ‘Weather That Changeth Most Rapidly’.
Mercy onto those from whom thou hidest the continence of the sun.
Thou who destroyest our tenderest crops with an early hard freeze
And who buriest our fields with snow so early in the season.
Whose snow pack reaches above our humble door step, to our window sill.

And yea, thee Weather, wherest thy late winter be so warm that floods develop and mud becometh deep.
It is thy cloud that bringest moisture in such great quantity.
All hail to the thundercloud
Rain without beginning
Rain without end

Thy flood washeth away the roads, gardens and crops of the people and leaveth them poor.
Thy wet grass keepeth the home owner from his yard
where the grass overcometh his cutting blade.
Yea, and each part of thy yielding land has too much of a good thing.

I am buried in mud. My neighbor afar has a heat wave.
And another, violent storm after violent storm, after violent storm.
And yet another sees no drop of rain as the months pass by.
Another has a very late Spring hard frost.
Each area after it’s own nature
So receives he, more and more.

And the continence of the sun was hidden from the face of man by the angry weather.
And man learned to fear the rain, to fear the drought,
to fear storms and to fear the weather.
And a cry arose from MAN…and he cried
All hail to the thundercloud
Rain without beginning
Rain without end…Amen

And somewhere deep beneath a mountain, a great subterranean cavern filled with lava. Surface moisture began seeping into the caldera and turning to steam. Pressures built within the bowels of the Earth as the volcano prepared to offer yet a greater insult to the beautiful skies and turbulent weather and the lives of MAN”  lfp

The final layoff at Landy Packing [7]
Friday,  June 29, rumors were quick to spread, everyone knew something was wrong when the Swing shift workers were not given their paychecks at noon on Friday, as was customary.
Early that afternoon, when the earliest dayshift employees got off work, they were handed their paychecks, with a ‘layoff notice’ attached. During the next two hours, there was a lot of talk amongst employees, not even the salaried, supervisory employees were given their pay until their the end of their shift.  As each department finished work for the day, they were handed their pay with an attached layoff notice.

That afternoon, I received my notice too, which simply stated:


I was apprehensive and concerned over the manner in which we were being laid off this time. In the past, we saw the company tighten its economic reins on expenditures and maybe a few new employees were laid off, before there was announced a general layoff.

This time was different, the lay off came as a surprise.

I phoned Jim Landy from the laboratory to find out to what extent I should close down the Waste Water Treatment plant. His answer exposed the fact that we’d be off work at one or two weeks, and maybe longer.

Besides my concern over our family’s cash flow, I felt a little betrayed, like I’d been treated like dirt. After working for the company for nine years they would get rid of me without so much as a “Good Bye”?! I wasn’t just a faceless rank and file union employee, but a supervisor who was in the main office discussing this and that with the Landy family at least twice a week. The thought that they might be closing down permanently, giving less than two hours notice, hurt.

When Donna arrived home, I found that the only people still working, included several office girls, of which Donna was one, the central computer operator, office manager, accountant,  and the Landy extended family.

The Crystal Ball, a poem
On July 1, I wrote the a poem (below) for the prefix page of Journal 2, The Realm: Of Dark Places and Castle Walls, Of A Looking Glass and A Crystal Ball.

Out of dark places forms a crystal ball,
Suddenly I’m drawn down a darkened hall.
Then I become part of a scene,
The vision with wide eyes I am seeing.

Barely a second does elapse
And the warp in time begins to collapse,
But in that instant that the warp did exist,
To another time I was whisked.

Clocks have no meaning in hyperspace,
And distance is a pointless place.
From inside the crystal ball I did gaze,
And outside pass seconds, hours and days.

In that timeless moment I look,
What I see would fill a book.
Now for some tales as happened to me.
Some are recent, some are past,
Soon we’ll search for the Looking Glass. lfp

Jane takes swimming classes
On July 11, Donna and Jane began a ten session swimming class, for mothers and their babies. The half hour long classes were designed to provide a pleasurable water experience for babies and toddlers and prepare them for swimming later in their childhood years. Jane did not have any bad experiences in the class.  By the end of the course, Donna carefully holding her up, Jane would tolerate water up around her ears while she splashed about happily blowing water bubbles.

Unemployment Compensation Benefits
Monday morning, following my ‘lay off’, I went to the Minnesota State Unemployment Office in St. CLoud and registered for Unemployment Compensation Benefits. While waiting my turn to do the claim’s paperwork, I spoke with two other Landy Packing Company supervisors, who were also waiting. I was advised that, members of the Landy family had told them to, ‘look for other jobs’. Now it was starting to look like the plant would to be closed for a while; however,  I remained optimistic that it would reopen, in a couple of months.

Upon filing my unemployment claim, I found that I would receive $198 per week compensation for six months. Considering I’d been laid off work most Monday’s during the spring and still earned $232 net per week, my $198 per week compensation (a 15% reduction), for staying home, was more than adequate.

In a hurry to get my vacation pay
During the middle of July, Donna advised me to apply for my vacation pay, as it looked like the company was rapidly going broke. I immediately applied for the three weeks vacation pay that I had coming – a tidy sum of $982. Donna put my ‘vacation request form’ in with a few other vacation requests that she thought the company might still honor, and indeed, I was paid in full.

Actually, I was fairly certain that whether the company opened again or not, at some point they would want me to come back in long enough to ‘mothball’ the Waste Water Treatment facility. If they failed to pay the money owed on my vacation, I would not return to close the plant down. It would cost considerably more to hire several other people to figure out how to do that job.

Landy’s file for Chapter 11, Bankruptcy
On August 29th, Donna was instructed to type out a memo to Landy creditors and ex-employees, informing them that Landy Packing Company would reopen when market conditions improved. Landy’s immediately filed for protection from their creditors under the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy laws.
The next day, August 30th,  Donna telephoned home with a tinge of excitement in her voice, the company office was filled with angry creditors demanding pay for their products and services.
On August 31st, Donna was laid off work. On the way home, she stopped at the Unemployment Office and filled out the necessary forms to receive her weekly unemployment compensation. 

Music [midi: Lawrence of Arabia]

The Chronolog [8]
During the early days of September, I dug into the file cabinet and pulled out my old, Fingers Of The Future study. Although it had been almost ten years since the study was done (when we first moved to Minnesota), I found it a fascinating research project and read it every few years. With each rereading, I’d update  the predictions that had been made, in order to see what milestones of change America and the World were supposedly approaching.

During the late 1970s, I programmed the Fingers Of The Future text files into our first computer, P.A.M.E.L.A.
At the time, I dressed up the low resolutions visual presentation, wrote an introduction to each ‘time segment’ of predictions, and continued research into the topic’s of housing, land, population, war, economics, and how to prepare for the predicted future.

In early December 1984, I entered Fingers Of The Future into my journal, renaming it, The Chronolog. The following  paragraphs are the prefix statements for  each section in, The Chronolog (by lfp):

I am a collection of facts, ideas and projections regarding your ecology.
My purpose is to assist you in developing ‘thought and action’ processes that are on time in a world of rapidly changing international power, energy problems, cyclic economic factors and a diminishing resource base.”

“Yesterday was a good time, things were simple.
Machines were really helpful and the world was peaceful, except for an occasional war.
Since you were born, things have gotten progressively worse.
Man’s appetite has run rampant in a diminishing world.
Man planted the seed of change — you are the instrument of this change.
Choose the time you wish to enter and see the tree grow and your world’s problems become aggravated.”

“The seeds we plant now are to change our world tomorrow.
For what we plant, is what we reap and as we husband today, so will we care for tomorrow.
Economy, ecology and energy become national rallying cries.
A scramble for the new wealth is occurring.
Secure your resources now.
For ‘they’ of the world have started to gain control of their resources, and the degree of control they have over your resources, will be their profit — and the lowering of your way of life.
Maintain a strong, but flexible position.”

“I look from the past, through the present and into the future.
The imperceptible forms out there in time seem to mix and swirl in apparent disorder.
Yet they are not disordered, only my dim vision and narrow-sightedness make them appear so.
Choose the time you wish to enter. May your tomorrow be happy and your children well fed.”

“As each technical generation ages, it finds the world
much different than it was in their youth. Each
generation the changes come quicker
testing the fabric of man and his
institutions. Survival in the 21st &
22nd century will depend on
your ability to change
rapidly. Come and

“Come visit me again. Many such trips into the past and future are possible.
Let me be your guide as you choose a path between what was and what is to be.
Chronolog”  lfp

Donna takes Human Relations at SCSU
On Tuesday, September 4, just four days after Donna was laid off from Landy’s: We were at the kitchen table eating a light lunch of tomato soup, saltine crackers and milk, meanwhile talking about Donna’s chances of finding a job teaching. Donna reminded me that all she needed to receive her Minnesota Teaching Credentials was to take a specific six unit Human Relations course. As we continued eating our lunch and chatting, I recommended she phone St. Cloud State University to find out when the class was offered next.

A few minutes later, after several telephone calls, Donna told me that the class had just begun and that it was not too late to register for it. We agreed the Human Relations course should taken and the opportunity did exist to do so. Donna telephoned the University again and asked to be placed in enrollment.

The next day, Wednesday, Donna attended the Human Relations class from 4:00PM until 9:00PM.

During the next two weeks, we applied for jobs around the St. Cloud area. I applied for laboratory technician, supervisory, boiler operator, chemist and maintenance jobs. Donna concentrated on part-time substitute teaching, so she could attend her Wednesday night class and complete the required homework.

The scramble to cash Donna’s last paycheck
About a week after Donna was laid off from Landy’s, we received a note from our bank stating that her last paycheck had bounced due to insufficient funds in the company’s account. Donna phoned Landy’s and spoke with the office manager who said money was being wired from a bank in Texas, where it arrived she could cash her check. Donna kept checking Landy’s bank account in St. Cloud to find when the money arrived. A small amount of money was put in the account just before closing time one night. The  first thing the next morning, Donna and I drove to Landy’s bank in St. Cloud where she took her pay as cash.

Inventory and closing the Waste Water Plant
On October 1, I was called into Landy’s and asked to make a complete inventory of everything in the Water Plant laboratory and all items in the main waste water treatment plant, everything loose that was not considered operationally important equipment. At the same time, they wanted the water drained from the pumps and instructed that all the pumps and gear boxes were to be oiled, greased and cleaned up.
I spent the better part of three days doing the work.
[Image at right: The WWT plant Electric room with disconnects and VFD (variable frequency drive controls) in blue cabinet, an early industrial “computer control’]

It was very quiet and  eerie to be ‘at work’ when it was so still.
As I moved about doing my inventory, changing oil, etc., there were no sounds other than the scraping and patter of my boots  and the slight echoing ‘clunk’ and ‘tink’ of my tools; there were no trucks or other equipment passing, no telephone’s ringing or calls on the intercom. The familiar deep hum of motors and roar of my boiler, the occasional distant sounds of men shouting to one another, the indistinguishable sounds of various machines operating about the company had provided a continuous low-level background din, now there was dead silence.

Somewhere outside the waste water plant’s back door, a few birds chirped amongst themselves in the bushes.
[Photograph at left: Sludge removal: Large white tank on left and smaller white tank on right referred to as ‘grease tanks’ . The screw conveyor on extreme right was used to remove sand and other smaller particles to a dump truck.]

[Image at right: My sump pumps. Just inside the employee door, 20 HP pumps used alternately to pump water from the large subsurface sump, over the Hydrosieve screen and into the 80,000 gallon clarifiers for treatment.]

Genealogy and Journal 4: The Passage
During the previous several years, my Dad, Uncle Bill and I had been working together on our family genealogy.
Genealogy is such a broad topic of research that we were never looking for the same information on any one ancestor at the same time. We each followed what ever ancestors trail that we fancied, until we ran out of leads, then veered off to track another ancestor. When ever we found a new batch of data, it was shared amongst the others. As a result, each of our monthly letters (actually, 8-1/2″ x 12″ manila envelopes) contained varying amounts of information, photocopies, etc.

As the months passed, I noticed that the types of data we were finding consisted primarily of hard facts, i.e.: birth  dates, marriage records, death dates, burial location, other children’s spouses, etc. These facts are the bare bones of genealogical research, but they tell little about the people themselves.
I realized that, what a descendant, like myself, really would like to have, would be stories written by those ancestors. Just the thought of having a letter, journal or other written communication penned by ones long past ancestors would provide immense personal value and contact through those documents.

Since no journals or historical family writings ever have surfaced in the family, I thought the only way to remedy the situation would be for someone to begin the endeavor.  I’d had a modicum of experience completing three journals and began entertaining the idea of assembling the writings of many living relatives into one book, which would act as a base for future family members.

The hardest part is starting, because journeys into uncharted territory are largely explorations; it’s hard to start or tools to take  when you don’t know where your going.

I began Journal 4, The Passage, in early October, a book dedicated to the writings of other family members. I wrote a prologue and a couple pages of topical and formatting suggestions hopefully providing future writers a frame of mind and a broad idea of what to write about.

Over the years that followed, relatives who wrote into Journal 4: The Passage were:
•  Donna’s mother, Eulah Clara __ wrote about the ‘Early 1900s in Arizona’
•  Donna’s father  Donald Ray__  discussed ‘Living on the family farm as a child – 1920s through 1930s’
•  My uncle, William Glen Pierce wrote ‘Memories of my Parents’, about Elsie Grubb and Glen Kenyon Pierce, a story which has been included in the ‘Glen Pierce & Elsie Grubb’ genealogy post in this blog.
•  My elder cousin, Doris Irene (Grubb) Hughes wrote ‘Memories of Our Grandparents‘ about Anna Flora (Anderson) and George Grubb (the parents of Elsie Grubb)
•  Don, Donna & myself  wrote parts of ‘An Account of the Death of Eulah Clara (Roberts)_’, also, ‘Mother’s Farewell Gift’.

I sent the journal to my parents, in which to write some story of significance from their lives. Although I pointed out in a letter that there was no hurry to return the journal and to write at their convenience, Mom and Dad sent the book back with a note stating they were’ too busy to write’.

Jane exposed to the printed word
In October, according to the instructions that I read in the book, Teach Your Baby to Read, Donna and I began showing Jane printed words . I cut stiff white tagboard into five-inch high by twenty-two inch wide strips and printed one common word on each card, using a bright red ink marking pen. I then divided the words into sets of five. At each session, over the course of the day, we both showed and pronounced the words from a different set to Jane.

Each day one word was taken out of each set and a new word was added. Our times together looking at and saying the words were fun, for all of us.

Even though Jane couldn’t say the word, she’d laid there wiggling, smiling, cooing and paying attention as she heard and saw the bright red markings. All the while she was learning that the symbols had importance, which at that time in her development, was the only purpose of the exercise. :-)

Some of the words we showed to Jane during these sessions, were:

bottle ears hat mouth pan stove
bread eyes hot night pants table
cold fingers kiss no Porky talk
come floor legs nose radio wall
duck hand milk pajamas see yes

Discovering Afterlife in a dream
During the early morning hours, on Sunday, October 14, I awoke and went to the bathroom. Returning to bed, I had difficulty going back to sleep. As I laid there both, comfortable and quiet in the darkness, I recalled something I’d recently read in a book entitled, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
The book described a method for changing the mode of consciousness from one’s right brain hemisphere to the left brain hemisphere. The author claimed that if you attempt to draw a picture which had been turned upside down, that your eye-left hemisphere’s normal cues are bypassed and the complexity would be too great for the left hemisphere to handle. Because of the complexity, the job of drawing the unrecognizable picture, would be transferred to the brain’s right hemisphere, which normally deals with global, and holistic concepts. The right hemisphere’s mode of thought doesn’t deal with data, time, symbols and visuals, in the same manner as our left hemisphere’s mode.

As I attempted to return to sleep, I visualized a photograph of an imaginary person, turned upside down. I couldn’t make much sense of the reversed photograph, but that’s as it should have been. In my mind’s eye, I began to draw the photograph very carefully, by first making its silhouette.

I didn’t finish the silhouette, but awoke from a very unusual dream an hour or so later.

My dream had many of the common elements reported by people who’ve had a ‘near death experience’. In such an experience, people report looking down on their body from above, seeing the room or setting about themselves; they report going into a white light, down long white corridors, wearing white garments; of being met by other people, or guides; there are reports of floating; of being aware of one’s timeless condition; such experiences are also reported to have led to an increase in one’s holistic thinking after the person was brought back from the brink of death.

The dream
During the early morning of Sunday, October 14, I had a very unusual and realistic dream, which unfolded like this:
“In my bed, I closed my eyes to dream and in my dream I died, but I would not leave.
I knew my body was gone, but that did not matter. In a reflective moment, I noted how unimportant the body was after it had been left.
I turned to look at Donna and thought to myself, “Just because I’m existing in something other than life, doesn’t mean that I’m going to anywhere else. I’m staying here with Donna.”
But there was an unknown power or force at work cloaked all about me, which I could neither feel or see. Yet, I understood it’s purpose was to dissolve my view of the world and -or to erase my memory thereof so that I would move on to some specific other place — a place where the newly returned all gathered. The force of life had been strong in me so I was not immediately drawn away by the power at work about me.
In a peculiar form of sight, I still saw Donna, but the memory of living was beginning to fade. As I felt myself slowly slipping or being removed from the sight and place of my loved ones, I came to the realization of my Will.
Mind you, the place where I found myself, was in no way harmful or frightening, it was sensationless. I was either standing or floating in a dimensionless void and existed only as my self-awareness. There were no other life forms present. Exterior to myself, but associated with my self-awareness was a mind’s eye view of Donna as she moved about. The mind’s eye view provided scenes equivalent to views seen with our biological eyes, except that my new eyes did not focus, they did not look about, nor were they distracted.
Again, I sensed some invisible power at work about myself. I could not determine if it was the force that I felt before, but I knew that I was either submersed in it and it was attempting to carry me away, or it was growing inside of my mind at the same time erasing my self-awareness.
What ever the nature of the force, it was growing stronger. However, I had rediscovered my Will and tried using it to escape. Like a trapped animal, I instantly offered resistance, closing my mind’s eye to fight the force whose bonds grew about me. The nature of my resistance had the feeling like when a you tighten all the muscles in your body making it become rigid. I clenched my fists very tightly and tearfully exclaimed over and over, in a voice that was half scream and half growl, “I will not go! I will not go! I will not go!”
Moments later, I opened my mind’s eye to see, and could feel that the force had withdrawn, I was entirely free of it.
 And there below and before me was Donna. She was wearing a nightie and was propped up on the bed, on her left elbow. I floated down toward her from a position near the ceiling. As I approached her, I became aware that time had passed and continued to pass for the living, this was a bit of a surprise revelation, because I’d forgotten about time.
You should understand, it had been just a few moments since the unknown power had attempted to carry me away and only a few moments before that, since I realized how unimportant my body had been. In those brief moments, hours or even days had elapsed for the living.
Now beside Donna, I touched her shoulder and her naked leg and realized my touch was not corporeal as with fingers. What Donna felt was more like a localized warm draft or warm feeling. Looking into her eyes I could see her thoughts were far away from her immediate surroundings. I sensed her feelings. In a strange sort of way, she felt that I was there with her. She seemed to sense my touch, but there was that awareness one has in life which created an impenetrable barrier, that neither of us could cross.
I was a happy now, because I was with the person I wanted to be with.
Time passed for the living and I saw Donna seated at a restaurant. I could only see Donna and the table which she’d just sat down at. The table was well illuminated by scattered sunlight, which lead me to believe that this was a luncheon. Upon seeing the frilly lace tablecloth, napkins and the crystal glasses, I surmised that this was a fancy and expensive restaurant. From about the room I could hear chatter of people in conversation, the “tink” of silverware on plates and an occasional  muted “thunk” as a glass was set down.
Suddenly, as if in a blink of my mind’s eye, I was no longer observing Donna at the restaurant – they had caught me!
I found myself being escorted down a white hallway along with several other children.  The three or four tall, slim creatures that guided us were all dressed in white, tight-fitting suits that made them almost blend in with the glowing white color of the corridor. The guides stopped us before an open doorway. Inside the room were many more children.
I immediately realized that in this new place, where I had been whisked away to, that I was no longer a man, but had become a child of perhaps seven years old.
Although I have placed symbolic forms on the human like entities that guided us, making them adult like and myself childlike and short, I realized that this was a living system of thought and sight. I knew that I was not a little boy, but in relation to my guides, I was in effect a child. I initially thought the guides would be upset, because I’d refused to come to this place a few moments earlier, but they were not, they paid me no special heed.
After pausing for a moment at the doorway, the guides ushered us into the room. Inside the room were other guides or adults and more children. I looked about, but the room was so very white I could see no corners or determine its size. The guides were all dressed in white suits of uncommon design, we children were all dressed in silvery white suits.
Here and there I saw an adult having a serious discussion with a child and I realized the adults were counselors.
Near me, a counselor was discussing something with a child and the child began to sadly nod in agreement. I looked over the counselors shoulder and saw him holding a small hand-held instrument with a meter window on its face.
The meter had a scale which read “-” negative at the top, “0” in the center and “+” positive at the bottom. During their discussion, the counselor touched the child with the meter and I saw a needle on the scale waver back and forth over the “0”. With this the counselor turned and said, “She’s OK now.” I looked about trying to determine the significance  of what I’d just witnessed.
Then a counselor began talking to me. He was saying that by now I surely recognized that this was not life, but something very different. He touched me with the meter and the needle wavered above the “0” on the “-” side. The counselor went on talking to me in a soothing tone, but I did not hear him. For in a flash of insight, I recalled life and I knew what they were attempting to do here. This was a sort of debriefing room, the counselors were attempting to calm the souls of those who had left life. They were explaining a new reality to us, in preparation for our sojourn within this new plain of awareness and existence.
Again I closed my mind’s eye and stubbornly clung to my Will and recalled life. Clenching my fists, I became rigid and yelled that I wanted to go and be with Donna. The counselor touched me again with the meter and the needle jumped to the top of the scale, to the “-“.
Evidently they decided to leave me alone for a while. I became aware of again being in the long white corridor, where I first found myself after being whisked away from the restaurant. When I opened my mind’s eye, I was alone and floating along in the corridor. Here and there I saw other adults, but they were neither guides or counselors. After aimlessly floating about for some period, I came to a much wider hall, which reminded me of a lobby. There was a lot of activity in this place, adults were going this way and that, all preoccupied with what ever they were doing. I saw a baby wrapped in white laying on an elevated cart. The baby looked very tiny, which led to the realization that this baby had not yet been born. This was not a living baby, but was a soul baby. Once again, things were not as they seemed here. My symbol system made the soul look like a baby, but then I was a child too. This was not actually how things were, but how I understood them using life’s structured thought.
I asked a nurse, “How long until the baby will be born?”
“Pretty soon,” she replied.
Not satisfied, because something in my memory was beginning to stir, I asked, “How many minutes until the baby will be born?”
The nurse looked at me in a rather odd way, went across the hall and looked at a clip board that was hanging on a wall column. She turned back toward me and politely said, “The baby will be born in ten minutes.”
The memory I sought deep in my mind, came to consciousness. And that was, ever since I’d been in this great white place, I’d not thought about time. I had not considered how much time had passed for those who lived. While the nurse was still there with the clipboard in her hand, I asked her, “What is the date– for those who are alive?”
She replied, “August the fourth, twenty eighty-one.”
I repeated the date to myself with wonder and surprise,
“A u g u s t   4 ,  2 0 8 1?!”
I held up a hand and began to count the decades on my fingers. Donna had been born in the 1940s, the exact year was unimportant. I became sidetracked and had to begin counting again. As the count progressed, I began moving toward a door which I knew separated this place from infinity.
I never finished the count, because I knew that 140 years had passed since Donna was born into life and I knew she was somewhere beyond the door waiting for me.
I plunged out into the darkness, sobbing with an excited glee and cried out,

I awoke and opened my eyes in the darkness of our bedroom, I felt the warmth of tears running down either side of my face and about my ears. A noise from nearby made me raise my head a little and look down our mobile home’s hallway. There I saw Donna carrying Jane, coming toward the bedroom. Donna laid Jane on the bed next to me, then climbed into bed herself and pulled the covers back over us. While tears from the dream dried on my face, we laid in bed making small talk and kissing Jane. I said nothing about the dream for several days as I needed time to think about what had occurred.

Analysis and conclusion
The morning after my dream, I had a converging insight regarding our brain’s left and right hemisphere’s, their differing modes of thought, public reports of ‘near death experiences’ and how this one dream could have accessed such symbolism.

I thought about the book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards,  knowing that recent exposure to its concepts and my experiment the night before had triggered ‘a right mode shift’ at the time I was falling sleep.

It seemed to me that our self-realization and primary mode of interaction with the world existed as relatively greater activity in our trained, left brain hemisphere. We typically go to sleep with our consciousness still attached to the symbolic forms of the left hemisphere. On the morning of the dream, I’d returned to sleep just after transferring my mode of thought into my brain’s right hemisphere. As such, I had locked my self-realization into what was an alternate mode of ‘sleep thought’; a mode of ‘sleep thought’ which I and almost all adults are grossly unaccustomed to.

Upon reviewing my dream, it became apparent that my holistic right mode did consult with my left mode for specifics: Firstly, for description and operation of the hand-held meter used by the counselors, and secondly, the realization and meaning of time’s passage. This was interesting, because it showed that whatever mode one is in when they go to sleep, that problem solving awareness does temporarily cross over into the other hemisphere for the specific kinds of information generated there. It also shows, that the mode you go to sleep in, will provide its over-riding method of definition for symbols and events that occur during any subsequent dreams.

I came to believe that our self-awareness was more comfortable in associating with the left hemisphere’s mode of thought, particularly when we went to sleep. It’s like, that little spark of our self-awareness is happy bounding about through our mind during wakefulness, when ‘all the lights are on’. But, when we reduce physical and sensory activity and drift off to sleep, our self awareness prefers sitting quietly in it’s dimly illuminated, comfortable and homey little shack  in the left hemisphere’s mode of thought, where conditions-pathways are familiar; where we can sort through the previous days activities in a direct and simply understandable manner.

I came to believe that we are in essence, feral children of the left hemisphere. The more we individually come to rely on our left hemispheric mode of thought for ordering the immediate world, the more difficult it becomes to access those holistic and timeless conceptualizations provided by our right hemispheric mode of thought.

Cash assets at the time of the layoff
At the time of our layoff from Landy Packing, we had $3,770 in cash assets, of which $3,200 was invested in gold and silver bullion coins and bars. If no jobs were found after our unemployment compensation benefits were exhausted, the liquid assets provided about fifteen weeks living expenses.

At the end of October, four months after my layoff,  we’d increased our liquid assets an additional $1,700 to $5,470, of which $4,500 was invested in gold and silver bullion coins and bars. During that period, we had a respectable, if not outstanding, $90 per week savings from our Unemployment Compensation checks! By then, our liquid assets could provide us with a full twenty-one weeks, a half a years total living expenses!

Don and Eulah visit/ Jane’s first steps [9]
October 19 was a big day at home for two very good reasons: Donna’s parents arrived for a visit and Jane took her first steps.

Don and Eulah flew out from Redding, California for a several day visit with us. During the early afternoon, when they arrived at the Minneapolis International Airport, Donna was waiting to bring them home in our pickup truck. She would have taken the Toyota, but the back seat  is so compact that Don wouldn’t have fit in comfortably and Eulah would have been likewise cramped. At the time, Don was sixty years and Eulah eighty-three years of age.
During the previous few weeks, Jane has been struggling to her feet while holding onto items of furniture. Usually, she would pull herself to her feet and just stand there wobbling, looking at us and smiling as we praised her new-found dexterity. We’d try and coax her to walk to one of us, but after a few minutes she’d sit back down with a ‘kerplunk’.
[Photograph at left: Jane with her maternal  Grandma Eulah and Grandpa Don. They greatly loved, Jane.  This was our last visit with Eulah.]

On the day while Donna was gone to the airport to pick up her parents, Jane took her first three step walk, with this turn of events she became, ‘a big girl.’

That day was Jane’s first meeting with her maternal Grandparents. At their first meeting,Jane cried from the uncertainty of being around strangers; however, after a few minutes, the  ‘Grandparent-Grandchild bond’ kicked in and Jane became right at home with them.

During Don and Eulah’s visit Jane continued to practice walking, and was of course, the continual center of attention — as it should be. Eulah mentioned on several occasions, proudly stating, “Jane is even prettier than her pictures.” Several times, Eulah said “I can’t believe how strong and active my Granddaughter is.”

As is usual, when ever we had relatives or close friends visit, we gave our bedroom over to our guests; Donna and I slept on cots in the rear addition. My relationship with the in-laws was interesting. Don was never particularly happy about Donna’s and my marriage. When we first met I wasn’t earning enough money, then we moved far away so visiting was infrequent. Even though I had made good money at Landy Packing, had been a high responsibility employee and a  supervisor, Don still had his reasons to feel I wasn’t up to par as a son-in-law.

Eulah acted differently toward me. Although she would periodically scold me for this or that, her complaints were never taken seriously. In fact, I often said and did things just to get a ‘rise’ from her. So, while I would pester her by word or deed, she’d scold me verbally or with facial or body language. We didn’t really talk to each other about anything important, but had a friendly, almost affectionate relationship based somewhat on teasing one another.

While Don and Eulah visited, we took them out to breakfast once and they took us out to dinner. We didn’t go anywhere special, everyone just wanted to spend our few days together visiting, in particular Grandma and Grandpa wanted to play with and getting to know Jane.

Exchanging ‘Good-byes’ with Eulah
Don and Eulah were scheduled to leave on October 23d, which was also Don’s sixtieth birthday[10]. It was a sad morning when they left, we enjoyed their company, and  soon they would be missing their daughter and grand-daughter.
Even though everyone had the ‘Goodbye Blue’s’ there was a momentary incident that burned into my mind.
As they prepared to leave, I walked out the front screen door. Eulah came outside right behind me, cautiously making her way down the front steps and walked over to where I’d stopped along beside our concrete pad walkway. Eulah looked up into my eyes. I saw a tearful glaze in each of her eyes. Very earnestly and warmly she quietly said, “Good Bye, Larry”. Eulah stood there for a moment looking into my face, then turned and slowly began walking away down the walkway. Eulah wasn’t just saying goodbye until the next time that we happened to get together, she knew this was the last time we would ever see one another.
A moment later, chatting gaily amongst themselves, Donna, who was carrying Jane, then Don with a suitcase,  came out of the mobile home and down the stairs. Both were oblivious to the brief conversation Eulah and I had, and its import.  I looked back toward Eulah as she slowly and carefully continued walking away, her body slightly bent over from advanced age. Small tears stung my eyes. I liked Eulah.

Beginning Journal 5: The Numina-Janus
On October 31, almost immediately after setting up a preface to Journal 4, The Passage for my relatives and descendants to write in, I began a massive undertaking for the next journal. The title of Journal 5, The Numina Janus refers to the two faces of one entity. I used the conceptualizing differences of the brains left and right mode of thought to write two major articles that filled ninety seven pages of the journal. [See following picture and associated poem].

The first article, exposing the brain’s left hemispheric mode of thought, is entitled, A Naive View Of Nuclear Conflict: A Twentieth Century Nightmare. It is a hard and analytic study of the concepts of international conflict escalation, nuclear war targeting objectives, the home fallout shelter, a variety of civil defense measures and post war reorganization. The article is almost inhumane in it’s omission of the real life, personal consequences and suffering that would ensue following a nuclear war, never-the-less this is the manner in which the concept was widely viewed.

The second article, Looking Glass, explored the brain’s right hemispheric mode of thought . Looking Glass started  with an essay concerning the idea that our minds are composed of a Primary and a Secondary Observer and discusses the different modes of observation each use. It continues with a description of the method I occasionally use to call up the Secondary Observer and elicit a rapt experience. Finally, the third essay compares our left and right modes of thought with a silhouette or ground view and an overhead view of a distant city. [See the Looking Glass section title page image, earlier in this post.]

The Eyes of Janus
by lfp (The text below refers to the image above. Inverting the picture shows a group of ancient humans sitting around a  small fire, just before sunrise; overhead, a flock of geese cross the face of the moon.)

And there beside me were windows, into which I looked, dimly seeing.
Now, on my right, I saw processes unfurl at a rapid pace. I saw continents cover the Earth’s polar regions, I saw the onset of a great era of cold. I saw people in caves, then in huts, then in cities. I saw their beliefs transformed, I saw their tools transformed. I saw and understood the nature of change. I touched infinity, then looked back into a dream world of little or no consequence. And there on my left, I saw the reflections of urgent space, with earth and stars, all things in place. A world of faces and machines and of clocks that run slow, where existed left, right, above and below.
Over my shoulder I saw my shadow disappear behind me into a past, where sunrise and sunset mingled over an evolving, changing landscape.
Turning, I was transfixed by a beautiful  sunrise, which I gazed at ever so long, until I became aware of activity under my feet.
How strange was this hard surface upon which I stood. For it was composed of particles which were continuously popping in and out of existence. I felt their transformations occur, as they came and went in their unusual way.
Eventually, I looked up and saw a beam of unknown energy issuing forth from a glowing chamber. The beam curled around and about, then ran back into a void before me. And the beam was a unifying force, for it was of a nature related to all things which existed beyond that window to my left.
Right before me was a great and long hall. Although I could see door behind door extending down this hall, I could see no other thing beyond any door, except the next door.
Beyond the window to my right there stood a long procession of lives ready to open the first door, but I knew it was my office to do so, and now it is yours.
Reading Journal 5: The Numina Janus, you now stand on this plane, before the doors, with windows to your left and right.
As you read the ensuing two major articles, you must create in your mind’s eye, pictures, to envision those things of which we shall speak. You must remain aware of the different kinds of feelings evoked by these articles. You must try and place yourself in a context where by you understand the thoughts and times which created such a horrendous state of organization amongst men that they deemed nuclear warfare a social, economic and political tool.
In a moment we shall see nuclear conflict as the epitome of those sights that we see beyond the left window. Then we will turn, look into and step through the right window, which is the “Looking Glass”. What we seek is a twofold understanding. And this understanding, is of the nature and the manner of presentation of what exists beyond the windows — which are your left and right brains higher functions.
Now, turn and look, then see.

Reading to Jane
From Jane’s earliest months, Donna and I both read to her from library books and from other children’s books in her small, but growing personal library. I read to her about thirty minutes daily, in two each fifteen minute sessions. Donna read to her on weekends and occasionally in the evenings.
When Jane was about a year old, we began to teach her to read. Donna brought several colorful, nearly completely illustrated pre-reading books home from the St. Cloud Public Library. Reading the books consisted of identifying objects in the pictures and carefully pronouncing their names and talking about them.  Jane was a fast learner and before long was pointing to previously identified objects in the pictures and trying to pronounce their names as well. (Das ist ein FränkenJane)

Disaster at Bhopal, India
On the morning of December 3, a cloud of toxic fumes (methyl isocyanate) escaped from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India and drifted through part of the city. Some 2,500 people were killed immediately, another 3,329 eventually died from inhaling the fumes and 20,000 people were injured, many of these permanently blinded, in what was the world’s worst industrial disaster.
American lawyers [11]  rushed to Bhopal in what accounted to over a $1 billion in claims against Union Carbide.
The disaster at Bhopal became the measure of a modern world run amok.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1984.
•  Local Evening   News
•  National   Evening News
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Movies that Donna and I attended during the year included:
2010 with Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob   Balaban
Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher
Children of   the Corn with Peter Horton, Linda  Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong
Dune with Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Jose Ferrer, Freddie Jones
Ghost Busters with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver,  Harold Ramis
Iceman with Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse , John Lone
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan
Police   Academy with Stever Guttenburg,  G.W. Bailey, George Gaynes
Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Ron O’Neal, William Smith
Revenge of the Nerds with Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Ted McGinley
Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito
Splash with Tom Hanks, Dary Hannah, John Candy, Eugene Levy
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock with William Shatner, Leonard Nemoy
Starman with Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith
Supergirl with Faye Dunaway, Helen Slater, Peter O’Toole,   Peter Cook
The Karate   Kid with Ralph Macchio, “Pat” Morita, Elizabeth Shue
The Last Star Fighter with Lance Guest, Dan O’Herilhy, Robert Preston

[Photocopy: The Hydra, preface to Journal 3.  An early drawing.]

[1]  The purchase and storage of the type items listed in the ensuing chart were prompted by the book, The Alpha Strategy, read in 1981.
[2] edited
[3] edited
[4]  See  Journal 2: The Realm “A Spring Storm System”, page 156.
[5]  While Landy’s had a management problem, there were other factors at work in the market place that exacerbated the company’s problems. According to the April 30, 1984 issue US News and World reports, “Big Shift in American Diets” an Agricultural report showed that the per capita consumption of red meat was rapidly declining, the food being replaced by plant products. Per capita consumption of meat was expected to show a 3 pound decline between 1983 and 1984, while food from plants was expected to increase 5 pounds per capita during the same period. Between 1970 and 1984, US beef consumption had declined 8.1%, poultry increased 28.6%, while cereals and baked goods increased 5.6%.
[6]  See Journal 2: The Realm “Wet June: A Climatological Observation”, page 281. [Not a WordPress post]
[7]  See Journal 3, The Hydra, “Layoff at Landy’s”, page 330.  [Not a WordPress post]
[8]  See Journal 3, The Hydra, ‘The Chronolog’, page 365.  [Not a WordPress post]
[9]  See Journal 5, The Numina – Janus, page 724.  [Not a WordPress post]
[10] It’s incredibly hard to believe, but when I took this photograph, Don, at 60 years old, was considered an old man to me…now as I prepare this text for posting on during January 2012, I am 69 years old,nine years older than Don was. Alas, Don recently passed away…all our petty grievances are gone. What I would give to have Don and Eulah back with us, amongst the living. They remain here in the background, alive somewhere in a quasi environment of people and places that I haven’t seen or communicated with  in a long time, but for whom I have fond  personal memories.  Reading and recalling Eulah’s and  my last ‘good-bye’, caused a small  tear to form in my eyes. We are prisoners of our bodies and social fixations, but when all is said and done, the final thoughts and memories that remain between us are bonds of love.
[11]  There are now 490,000 lawyers in America — about the same as the population of Vermont.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

1983, age 40-41

Themes and Events:
The game Trivial Pursuit is introduced into the United States and becomes an instant success. Two of the most popular movies of the year are Return of the Jedi (sequel to Star Wars) and Never Say Never Again (a James Bond action thriller). The “Cabbage Patch” doll becomes popular this Christmas.
*  The VCR (video cassette recorder) is becoming popular; old movies are being copied unto video cassettes for re-release. CDs (compact disks) and their digital players become widely available and begin cutting into the sale of 33 1/3 RPM records and stereo record players.
*  During this year, Sally Ride becomes the first woman in space, later Guion Bluford becomes the first Negro astronaut. Both ride the shuttle Challenger on different missions.
*  33% of the babies born in New York City are born out-of-wedlock. The government announces that as many as 23 million Americans are functionally illiterate.
*  In the first attack by computer ‘hackers’, a group of young computer experts electronically invaded some 20 major computer systems across the country, including the one at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

 Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Bag your face.
*  We’re spending our children’s inheritance.
*  Get revenge — Live long enough to be a burden to your children.
[The homesite as seen facing west from our ‘east pasture’. This fairly  open ‘pasture’ became quite brush filled as the years passed.]

Somewhere In Time: Prelude to my journal
On Saturday, 5 February, Donna and I went to the movies and saw the sci-fi time travel movie, Somewhere In Time. There was something provocative about the movie’s concept, it was a dramatic time travel love story, still there was something more… We enjoyed the movie so much that we sat through it a second time before leaving the theater.
Sunday afternoon, we drove back into St. Cloud and saw the movie a third time. Donna rented the videocassette and we watched the movie again several times on weekday evenings. We bought the film’s musical soundtrack and borrowed the book from the library…

On Monday, 21 February 1983, I sat down and wrote a letter to my friend Mike. In the letter I described what happened in my life, in relation to the movie, over the previous few days, particularly on Friday, 18 February.

I began keeping a journal as a direct result of seeing the movie, Somewhere in Time, and the events that followed.[1]

The story (printed below) was so unusual in its effect on me, that I made a photocopy of my letter to Mike; and several months later the correspondence was entered into my first journal, Journal 1, The Gordian Knot. That story, with some minor wording changes, is as follows:

Music [Album; Somewhere in Time, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini]

Monday, 21 February: The prelude
“Donna has just left for work. I have taken today off as a vacation day, I’m feeling terribly run down.

I have been pacing back and forth in the kitchen, thinking about how to write this letter to you [2]. Filling my senses are the background music from the soundtrack to the movie, Somewhere In Time.

Without any foreknowledge, I began an odyssey two weeks ago tonight. It began when Donna brought home the videocassette movie, Somewhere In Time. Monday and Tuesday we watched and agonized our way through it three times. That Saturday we borrowed the book, Bid Time Return, from the library and bought the soundtrack on audio cassette. (The movie, Somewhere In Time was based on the book, Bid Time Return.)

Saturday afternoon and into the evening I read the books two hundred seventy-six pages. Sunday, I reread the book, while the soundtrack played over and over in the background. Again on Monday and Tuesday, February 14 and 15, we watched the movie. Tuesday was the 8th and last time we’ve seen it so far. Donna’s currently reading the book.

Wednesday and Thursday of this last week, I was like a madman, bristling with some unknown energy inside myself. I whistled the theme song, Somewhere In Time and Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini until my mouth was tired. I read and reread portions of the book. I was becoming haggard to the point that Donna commented on how I looked.

I went to bed Wednesday night, my mind racing in an unknown and uncharted direction, sleep came slowly and fitfully. Thursday morning on the way to work, I still felt haggard, rundown and washed out. As I drove to work, through a light fog, I listened to the soundtrack on audio tape while wondering why I was so moved by the movie and the book. What in my experience was causing this? Was it a longing to have known my Great Grandmother, Anna Flora Anderson-Grubb, whose pictures are in the family photograph album? Years ago, my father gave me Anna’s wedding ring to keep as an heirloom, just as he had once been given this very ring. Was it from seeing the many photographs of our ancestors at various ages?

Thursday night when I returned home from work, I got into the drawer on the bottom of my dresser, a dresser made before my time. I rummaged through the drawer past an envelope containing the last half-dozen letters my Grandmother, Elsie Grubb-Pierce wrote to me. Then deeper past my baby brush and comb, down to the “Bluebook” (The Anderson family line back to Charlemagne.)

I reread a note written back in the 1800s, The family had moved west to Iowa. I remembered that in my youth, Grandmother Elsie (Grubb) Pierce told me the story of the Anderson brothers and their families, moving west with covered wagons and horses. This was the same story her mother Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb told her when she was a child. There was a bad year for crops and one branch of the family had been forced to grind flowers to make a flour filler for bread.

After looking through the family heirlooms, my troubled mind felt more at ease. Thursday night after supper, we watched the videocassette rental, Saturday Night Fever — seeing it was a waste of time. Then, Donna went to bed, I sat up listening to the soundtrack from Somewhere In Time. This was the first time I just sat enjoying the music and was not wrapped up in the story imagery. Whatever it was that haunted me, was pacified, that night I slept well.

Friday, 18 February 1983: Transposition
This morning at 5:15 AM, I was again driving to work while listening to the morning news on the car radio. For about fifteen miles the fog was horrendous. In those early morning hours, with such fog as is seldom seen, I could not see off either side of the road, nor behind me in the mirror. Visibility was so poor that I accidentally strayed into the left lane and had to swerve sharply to keep from running off the shoulder, on the wrong side of the road. As the miles slowly ticked by, sounds from the radio faded from my consciousness. I became aware of only the fog which seemed to distort the world. I rode through the fog, warm and comfortable while sipping a cup of coffee. The white lines painted in the center of the road came out of the fog and disappeared, passing behind me into the fog. All around me was a cosmic void, a whitish gray substance that obliterated the present.

…5:45AM Friday
I approached St. Cloud and the fog slowly dissipated. Just as gradually the sound of the radio returned announcing the Farm Commodity report. Headlights from other cars were seen passing at the intersection ahead.

…5:55AM Friday
I punched in at the time clock at Landy Packing Company. The next hour and a half were very busy, the only thoughts on my mind were the immediacy of my job: Meter readings came first, then the ‘grease tanks’ and ‘sludge tank’ needed pumping to the tanker truck. I chatted briefly with the tanker driver. I oiled two pumps and made up two batches of chemicals to clean the waste water. Then, I poured some deodorant on the floor to freshen the smell of the waste water plant. Some sludge had spilled out of its holding tank over night so I squeegeed it up. Unsatisfied with the job, I hosed that section of floor and squeegeed it again. Time passed rapidly and before I knew it, it was break time.

…8:55AM Friday
I went into the water plant laboratory five minutes before break began and poured a cup of coffee. Absent-mindedly, I tore a piece of scratch paper off a pad beside me, pulled a pencil from my breast pocket and began writing.

Music [Album: Somewhere in Time, Somewhere in Time]

…8:56AM to 9:20AM, Date unknown
The room faded from my senses, while the roar of my twenty horse power pumps and the din of the boiler vanished beyond some distant past horizon. There was only that piece of paper and the blur of my pencil. I did not see it write, but never-the-less it wrote. There was light all around me, though now I realize it was only the fluorescent ceiling fixtures. But at 8:56 AM there was light, there was a piece of paper of indistinguishable size…

I was unaware of the fleeting moments as they passed…

Out of the piece of paper a vague human form evolved.

Instantly, I knew it was me, yet paradoxically, it was not me. For an increment of time too small to measure, I felt a gentle tug from the present, then the room flickered. I felt huge tears in my eyes, I felt their salty sting and…I was gone.

In that instant of transposition, with tears in my eyes and wearing greasy coveralls, I opened myself to what was occurring and began to understand. I was joyous and sorrowful at the same time. Tears stung my eyes. The vague human form again evolved, but now out a light that was everywhere in front of me. It was neither male nor female, it was both. The baffled and confused me. It was a child, then it rapidly aged. I wondered if it was beautiful, ugly or handsome. A suggestion came to me, more as a statement than a question, and it whispered in my mind, “Does that matter here?”

The form was directly in front of me, being perhaps only fifteen inches away. We looked into each other’s face. It was not changing so rapidly now and I could see it was for a short time a young woman, but with each blink of my eye (so to speak) she aged. The form morphed into a young man and he aged. Once again the form lost definite facial features, if indeed they had ever been definite, but we remained in very close proximity.

I looked down into the eyes of the creature and a second great transposition took place. I was evolving out of a piece of paper and the creature, a DESCENDANT OF MINE, was looking down at me. He became real in time and space. At first I was an amorphous form, then I evolved into a living being. We looked into each other’s eyes, then merged in some mental plane of understanding.

Another surge of tears stung my eyes and I felt a pain in the creature who looked down at me and tears were in its eyes. This was more felt than seen. Once again, the form lost its static features and began to rapidly age. There passed one, and another, and yet another person before my silent gaze. The rapidity of times passage made the people blur like multiple overlay images or as though a continual morphing process were under way, only I remained static.

Again and again, I felt the tears well up as I saw and felt the presences before me. Through their eyes I saw that I was a book or manuscript. A thought crossed my mind, stating, “So, that’s what became of me.” For a moment now and again, the forms were as moved by me as I was by them. At these times I felt overpowering surges of love for the form and we shared wonderment and awe for each other. In this way we communicated, touching each other’s lives as creatures sharing the same time, giving to each other the pure energy of love and undemanding understanding.

…9:20AM Friday
I became aware of the paper in my hand. The lab was again around me. I looked up at the wall clock, it was 9:20 AM. I was at work and coffee break had been over for five minutes. I put away my lunch box and thermos, opened the laboratory door and listened to the overall din of the boiler and motors. I know the sound made by the wastewater treatment plant when everything is running properly, nothing sounded amiss. After standing in the doorway looking and listening to the plant for a few moments, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the paper I’d just written on.

 Words written during transposition
“Here we sit, staring at each other across time and space. I am a flesh and blood being, so are you. Currently, I am embodied. My words give you but a ghostly shimmer of my world. I know in my heart that you are there in front of me. You are here with me now…

To you, I have been arrested in time, an entity in time’s cage. This entity has a variety of faces: youthful, teenage, young man and middle aged. All are one, for I am encapsulated in these words. A point in times past.

To me you are ageless. I can consider you and love you no less, for you are a kindred creature of my flesh and spirit. You are youthful, a teenager, a young adult, middle aged, older, an old bodied person with the spirit of a child. Though you come back to me a thousand times in your life, there is a part of you that never changes. Your body blossoms to maturity and wilts, but the You inside, You are as I am Me. You are a child in time.

We, You and I, have so much in common, we are ever so close now. We are like the upper branches and lower limbs of a tree. You are like an upper branch, nodding in the winds of time to come, while I am a lower branch, swaying in the breeze of times past. I looked below me on the tree and old dead limbs fell, crashing to the ground. As I watched they became topsoil. When I looked back up the tree, you had sprouted, your leaves uncurled and you became a twig.

How strangely to speak. Yet our being united like THIS has caused tears to well up in my eyes. You sit and read, wondering with a hint of anticipation at the words I shall speak with you. As your years pass these words will change. Like a kaleidoscope, meaning will shift and vary, but it is you who are the kaleidoscope. Your interpretations and attached values and interests will shift again and again, as you look back through these pages and into my eyes…”

I began writing into Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, on 19 May 1983, see the Journal’s introduction graphic at the end of this chapter.
Porky the parakeet finds a home
It had been a couple of years since our parakeet, Alexander R. Little flew away and died in the forest. A few days after he left, we cleaned up his cage, and stored it away in our garden shed. This spring, when we began thinking about raising another parakeet, we pulled out the old cage and recleaned it. Making a trip into St. Cloud, we visited all the stores where we’d seen parakeets for sale in the past. While we looked, for a large supply of healthy birds, we bought new seed, seed bells, mirror, perches, ladder and other toys.

On the first really warm day of spring, we went to Woolworth’s and bought a young fellow. After he’d been at home for a few days, and began to settle in, his character seemed to indicate his name should be, Porky.

In the months that followed, Porky became a member of the family.

Very often, when I was working on a journal at the kitchen table, Porky would fly over to the table and walk up and into the opening between my left wrist and my long-sleeved shirt cuff. He wasn’t taught to do this, but liked the warmth and dark. I was writing with my right hand, so seldom needed to move my left wrist when he was ‘at work’. He’d stay with me about ten minutes, snuggling in my shirt cuff, then  would back out, climb on my left arm and walk up my shirt sleeve to my shoulder.

Porky, like Alexander, and Icabod before him, were spoiled at the dining table. Each bird, in his own time, was given little piece’s of snack chips, fried egg white, tiny pieces of lettuce, an occasional vegetable. Once in a while when particularly inquisitive, one of the little fellows would fly to the table and walk amongst the dishes looking onto each plate and occasionally making a lunge for something that looked good. Such behavior was met with instant, loud scolding and shooing from Donna and myself. The hapless bird would usually fly straight up, then circle in the kitchen or front room while loudly squawking his displeasure at being chased away.

Books read during the year
During the year I read several books, including:
Lucifer’s  Hammer © 1977 by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – A terrifying novel that answers the question of what would happen if a large meteor hit Earth. 640 pages.
Bid  Time Return © 1975 – by Richard Matheson – A novel of time travel and love. 278 pages.

More layoffs at Landy Packing
At Landy Packing Company, the period from Spring through early Summer remained a slow period for business. After closing the plant for a week and a half during 1979, Landy’s tried a new tact by laying off production employees every Monday over a period of several months.

During 1982, the United States entered a recession. Seeing the relatively poor times and the numbers of people losing their job, plus hearing the government’s promise to reduce inflation, Landy Packing forced a one year wage freeze on its employees.

On top of the wage freeze, our Monday layoffs started earlier than usual. Everybody was unhappy, not only were we not getting a raise to make up for inflationary losses, but we were taking a twenty percent reduction in our income by missing work on Monday’s.

As a result of tightening economic conditions at work, Donna and I began saving money in earnest, while planning to fully stock our pantry with as much food as was possible.

The solar cold frame
In an attempt to extend the growing season for a limited number of cold hearty vegetables, we constructed a small, insulated solar cold frame. The value of a cold frame lies in its ability to convert short wave solar radiation into storable heat. On a sunny or partially sunny spring or fall day, sunlight heats the soil on the interior of the cold frame. At night, when the outside temperatures drop, the soil becomes a thermal flywheel, slowly giving up its heat and moderating the interior temperatures.

We made a four-foot by eight foot wide base of two-inch by six-inch pressure treated wood and set it in a two foot hole next to the garden. The base of the frame was faced with one inch thick ‘below grade foam insulation’, then refilled with topsoil and compost. A four-foot high insulated, sloped structure was built on top of the base. The structure was vertically on the north side and angled to face the low spring and fall sun, on the south side. Hinged, double thick clear, plastic doors were made and installed on the front for access to the growing area.
[Image at left: Our solar cold frame in the  garden, with the strawberry pyramid to its left and asparagus patch at extreme right. Our red raspberries, grapes and fruit trees are out of the picture to the right. The garden is    immediately behind and to the left of  the camera.]

In the spring we started pepper, tomato, eggplant seedlings and lettuce in the cold frame. During the fall we again planted lettuce, Chinese cabbage, chives and Swiss chard amongst a few old tomato and eggplant vines.  As temperatures turned colder we began closing the cold frame’s hinged doors at night. In the fall the tomato and eggplant both still had flowers.

We were able to harvest several tomatoes, a full month after hard frosts had killed their kind in the garden.

Our records showed that, lettuce in the cold frame continued to grow nearly two months after the firs, frost, in late September, killed off most of the garden, and about a month after lettuce growth in the garden stopped growing, during mid October.

Hardy produce raised in the cold frame, easily survived the first snow in early November, which stayed on the ground for some time. In mid November, when overnight exterior temperatures dropped to 24ºF, the cold frames interior air temperature only declined to 30ºF, while the soil temperature held overnight at 42ºF.

Life inside the cold frame continued, at a considerably reduced rate, up until Thanksgiving, when we usually had to brush snow off the cold frames glazing to gain entry.

Overall, our soil and air temperature records and observations indicated that the insulated, solar cold frame was capable of sustaining the viable growth of vegetables approximately a month longer than their unprotected counterparts in the garden.

In synopsis, it would have been nice to have later built a large solar cold frame (sixteen feet wide by eight feet deep) with water and rock heat storage surrounding small beds and potted vegetables. The key: large sloping surfaces for thermal storage, small pockets of embedded plants, housed in a well insulated, clear glazed structure.

Another precognition, the earthquake
During April, Donna and I took a one week vacation, and decided to stay  home and work on projects around the property. On this particular day, we’d been shopping inSt. Cloud and purchased a goose feather down sleeping bag and two air mattresses. That evening, in order to test the comfort of our new equipment, we blew up the air mattresses and laid out our sleeping bags. My air mattress was set on the front room floor right next to our fifty gallon tropical fish tank. At our normal bedtime, we undressed and climbed into our sleeping bags. We chatted for a while and Donna drifted off to sleep. I fell into a nexus between wakefulness and sleep, where with a start, I suddenly became worried that an earthquake would knock the fish tank over on me. The irrational thought made me restless and left me tossing and turning unable to go to sleep. The worry finally prompted me to awaken Donna and take her into our bedroom to sleep on the bed.

[Above right: A rustic flower bed we had in the early years, located beside our stepping stone walkway, made with sawn logs set into ground, a simple wire fence. It lasted about 5 years before a 4×6 inch pressure treated     plank border was installed. Garage in background.]

While browsing through the next evenings newspaper, I was shocked to see an article about an earthquake. The previous night there had been an earthquake in the north central Midwest. The article stated this region of the country was an unusual area for earthquake activity and that the earthquake had been stronger than the norm.

A shadow in the sandstorm
One afternoon during the summer, as I hurried absentmindedly about some mundane chores in the Waste Water Treatment Plant, there suddenly grew within my mind a sense of impending urgency. The feeling washed through me with such uncalled for suddenness that I stopped my work and stood motionless for a few moments, my head tilted off to the side, my mind receptive, as I attempted to fathom what was happening.  The feeling of urgency was like an ocean wave approaching land, when it broke on the shores of my consciousness, the message gave me a chill of fear, for in the future beyond my time there lurked a dizzying pall of doom. I immediately understood that mankind’s greatest battle for survival would be fought in the future, although I had no idea what form the battle would take.

As I stood there in the middle of the water plant, between my two 80,000 gallon, water clarifiers, I wished there were something I could personally do to contribute my assistance to that future. As the sense of urgency faded and I came out of my trance-like state, shook off the odd occurrence and went about my job. A few minutes later all about me faded and I looked out onto a strange environment…

 Dust and grit hurled toward and past me.

 As I began to look about, sheets of sand were lifted from irregularities on the ground and from a knoll to my left. I found myself standing on a large, nearly flat plain. The vast area before me was sandy, there were rocks laying about on the surface. My first thought was that a nuclear weapon had exploded, but I realized this was no target area, there were no other life forms or manmade objects visible.

 I felt that this area had once been alive and fertile, not always the desert that now existed [3]. There was nothing available for me to determine how long the area had been arid and desertified.

Looking up, I could not see the disk of the sun, but variations in the density of the blowing dust, allowed me to see a brightness that suggested the sun was high in the sky.

  I then became aware that I could neither hear or feel the wind or the driven sand particles that were being whisked through the air. I realized I was not in the scene, bodily. It was as though the flesh and blood observer were my kin in that future day. I saw through his or her eyes and for a moment we both saw through one pair of eyes.
[Image above left: The sandstorm in my vision was similar to this photo.]

In the months and years that followed, I occasionally thought about the vision. The environment I saw was not hospitable to Man. It was a desert of the worst kind, composed of fine material, sand, and a scattering of partially buried rocks of all sizes. I saw an area where the top layers of soil were unstable. There was no soil bed, sand and dust were freely carried on the wind.

Whether the desertification was initially brought about by global cooling or warming, multiple nuclear explosions, bio-engineered organics, a meteor impact, or changes in the atmosphere’s constituents was immaterial in the vision. The result was a grossly altered climate that existed in the future. I realized that Man’s greatest battle would not be a war of immediate violence, not the release of great explosives, but something more subtle. The planet’s ecology had been both greatly reduced in diversity and poisoned. One species, Man, had expanded out of control and had rendered the environment less capable of recovering from worldwide change brought on by natural, possibly even cyclical, global effects. It was a process that began as a whimper, then grew and spread relentlessly across the generations as a poison to the planet’s circulatory system.

Goodbye, Pioneer 10
By June 13, The Pioneer space probe, launched in March 1972, became the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. [Image at right: Pioneer 10, an artists conception]

Attempting to make wine
Since moving to our rural property, Donna and I had experimented with a variety of ‘hobby farm’ technologies. When we put in our garden and orchard, we planted two rows, or a total of ten grapes vines. Half of our vineyard was composed of the very hearty, but tart, Beta grape, while the other half was Concord. Unfortunately, our climate was inhospitable to the Concord variety, so their production was much less than the Betas. It took two years of vine growth before grape production was large enough for us to attempt wine making.

Anticipating a good overall harvest this fall, we bought the required primary and secondary fermentation tanks (several each five gallon plastic buckets and narrow mouth glass jars), fermentation locks, wine yeast, etc. We dutifully followed the printed instructions to make our own wine and ended up bottling ten gallons of tart red wine.

We waited six months for the wine to age before opening the first bottle. The batch was still quite tart so we let  the remainder age another six months. By the end of 1984 we found the wine still tart and barely tolerable, so it was dumped. We decided not to make any further batches. The unused wine making equipment was sold to an employee at Landy’s.
While I don’t remember mentioning it earlier, over the years we also made a batch of Ginger beer and a batch on Dandelion wine, both remained tart and almost undrinkable even after aging for two years. The batch of grape wine we made in 1983 was the last of our ‘fermentation’ experiments.

Other improvements
1) The outhouse (for potential emergencies) A few years earlier, when Butch Chemielewski dug our ‘trash can pit,’ we also had him dig a 5-6 foot deep shaft for an ‘out house’.  Immediately, we built a pressure treated wood, lath framework and set it in the hole, then back filled around the exterior with rocks, straw and dirt.

[Various  additions and improvements made in the back yard: 1) our  emergency outhouse, 2) a 1000 gallon underground gasoline storage tank with electric pump,  3) compost bins (center left), 4) rock pile (center-rocks from the yard and fence line), 5) part of garden are seen at left in this picture, 6) while the young vineyard and orchard in the left center background. Griz (next to the outhouse, is watching my activities.]

During our first couple years on the property we were installing the garden, yard fencing, and building the Rear Addition,  so it wasn’t until 1983 that we built a classic, one seater outhouse. [see photograph above] We mounted a regular toilet seat with lid on the wooden potty bench, had a roll of toilet paper stored in a sealed coffee can, a candle in holder was mounted on the wall, matches were available, I even made the door with a moon shaped ‘window’ (covered with screen) to help illuminated the interior. Although we only used the outhouse a few time, and never in an emergency, it was pleasant to ‘sit on the throne’ with the door wide open and look out onto the woods while doing business. The small structure had tongue and groove lumber siding which was painted light green and covered with a green shingled roof.
2)  In order to lock in low prices and ensure a large supply of gasoline, we bought a 1000 gallon steel gasoline storage tank. When delivered, I painted the tank exterior with coal-tar epoxy. Next, we had Butch Chemielewski out with his back hoe, to dig the hole and help set the tank in, with its fill and pump bungs oriented vertically. I installed the piping and the hole was back filled. We bought a pump and had our electrician do the wiring between it and an electrical outlet at the back of the garage, about 30 feet away. Finally, we had Kackley’s Gas and Fuel, from Foley, deliver 1000 gallons of Regular gasoline, and with, that another piece of system was completed.
3)  In the photograph above, you can see the back side of our twelve-foot long by four-foot wide compost bins.
4)  To the right of the compost bin, is the large rock pile created by removal of rocks from the yard and garden. Many of these rocks were too large for Donna and I to move and required our tractor.
5) Looking to the background, between the compost bin and the rock pile, is the homesite’s north fence line gate. The trash can pit (photographed and described in a previous year) is about 30 feet to the right of the gate.

Garden Produce comparison: 1982 – 1983

Garden   Crop 1982Production 1983Production Notes ’83 Crop   Value ($)
Asparagus 0 9 lb.. Bed old enough to start harvest, 1983 $13.41
Beans, green snap 12 lb.. 14 lb.. Same planting both years. $7.46
Beets 23 lb.. 6 Same crop size, less   produce. $3.60
Broccoli 1 lb. 0 Cabbage family developed bug $0
Brussels sprouts 1.5 lb.. 0 problems in 1982, treated crops with $0
Cabbage 6 lb.. 0 insecticide in 1983, but lost the crops $0
Cauliflower 4 lb.. 0 anyway. $0
Carrots 11 lb.. 21 lb.. Same crop size, greater production. $7.35
Chinese cabbage 0 not available Tried out in solar cold frame $0
Cucumber 61 lb.. 35 lb.. Reduced crop size for 1983 $14.50
Egg plant 32 lb.. 11 lb.. Reduced crop size for 1983 $8.69
Garlic not available not available $8.97
Grapes: Beta,Concord not available not available First year of heavy   production. $55.73
Jerusalem artichoke 18 lb.. ~18 lb.. Winter in ground, harvest in Spring. $14.22
Kohlrabi 2 lb.. 0 Pestinfestation. See cabbage family. $0
Lettuce, various Equiv. to 26 heads iceberg lettuce Raised in garden and cold frame. $13.00
Onions, Yellow Globe 18 lb.. 56 lb.. Increased crop size for 1983. $18.92
Peas 7 lb.. 0 Eliminated. Shelling took too long. $3.50
Peppers,Bell 25 peppers 46 peppers Same crop size, greater production. $24.15
Peppers, Jalapeño 0 190 peppers Will reduce crop size in 1984. $3.16
Peppers, Wax 7 lb.. 154 peppers Same crop size, greater production. $28.23
Potatoes, Russet 120 lb.. 160 lb.. Same crop size, greater production. $23.84
Salsify 4 lb.. 0 Eliminated, roots too skinny. $0
Squash, Acorn 28 lb.. 44 lb.. Increased crop size. Good   storage. $19.36
Squash, Buttercup 32 lb.. 0 Eliminated, poor winter storage. $0
Squash, Patty Pan 0 20 lb.. Tasty summer squash. $7.00
Squash, Spaghetti 41 lb.. 20 lb.. Reduced crop size. $8.80
Squash, Yellow neck 11 lb.. 4 lb.. Reduced crop size. $1.40
Squash, Zucchini 29 lb.. 30 lb.. Reduced crop size, greater production. $10.50
Strawberries Pyramid: 6’x6′, 4’x4′ and   2’x2′ tiers. $6.00
Swiss chard 0 not available Raised in solar cold frame. $1.00
Tomatoes none ripened 51 lb.. Same planting. $26.32
Turnips 1 lb. 0 Eliminated. Root maggots,   1982. $0
Other Production:
Honey     Cool spring 1983, several new hives. $50.00
Sheep, 4 Suffolk-Colombian crosses 140 lb. Dressed weight   30-40 lb.. each. $80.00
Eggs: 61 goose, 266 duck.   Equivalent to 474 large chicken eggs. $33.00
VALUE OF 1983 PRODUCE $492.11

Notes: 1) The goose eggs weighed the same as 2.33 large chicken eggs, while each duck egg equaled the weight of 1.25 large chicken eggs.

Household expenses, strategies and cash flow
As the years passed, in an attempt to maximize the reduction of our overhead expenses, we made several economic maneuvers.
1)  When we purchased our mobile home in the spring of 1977, we paid cash for it thereby reducing our rent expense. The apartment rental fee in SE St.Cloud had cost us  approximately $184 per month.
2)  By moving into the mobile home at Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park, we reduced the space rental fee to $45 per month. The $135 monthly savings was funneled into our Savings program which was in turn earmarked to buy rural acreage.
In 1980, when our thirty-nine acre Contract for Deed was paid in full and we’d moved the mobile home onto the property, that eliminated the Rockwood Estates space rental fee, which  had risen to $65 per month during our three-year residence. The rental savings went toward paying off a bank loan for the work we had done installing the well and drain field.
3)  Installation of the wood burning stove and use of firewood cut on our property reduced our heating bill by about $200 per year (keep in mind that the raw acreage cost us $225 per acre).
4)  Food production from the garden, bees and livestock during 1983 yielded $492, equivalent to ten weeks food expenses.
We were slowly, but surely, converting our dollars from funds paid to someone else for services, into real wealth, which we owned. The mobile home, land, well, drain field, wood burning stove and various homesteading tools had the effect of increasing our cash flow, our wealth and to a degree our economic freedom. At the same time, we had a quiet, beautiful, park-like environment to live in and a pleasant lifestyle.

Household expenses, a multiyear chart (actual costs, effects of inflation seen in the numbers)

Expenses 1971 1974 Dec 1977 July 1980 July 1983 July
Rent, monthly $140 a $160 a $50 b $65 b 0 c
Food, monthly (see   inflation) $121 $121 $130 $195 $216
Electric, monthly $10 n/a $56 $108 $108
Telephone, monthly $20 $10 $10 $43 $43
Automobile loan payments,   monthly $50 d $62 e 0 $110 f $155 g
Automobile gasoline, monthly $4 $5 $10 $15 $35
Insurance, prorated as monthly n/a $12 $21 $65 h $83 i
Miscellaneous #1, monthly n/a n/a $35 $91 $130 j
Miscellaneous #2, monthly $21 $86 $43 $86 n/a
Clothing, prorated as monthly $21 n/a n/a $30 n/a
Doctor/ Dentist, prorated monthly $1 $11 $13 $13 $13
Christmas, monthly n/a $17 $17 0 0
Baby expenses, monthly 0 0 0 0 $43
General Monthly Expenses $388 $484 $385 $821 $826

Codes used in the table above:

a = Living in apartment; b = Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park; c = Living on rural acreage.
d =Toyota  Corolla; e = GMC Pickup Truck; f = Toyota Corolla; g = Ford Pickup Truck.
h = Insurance costs increased from coverage of 2 automobiles to include the mobile home and personal effects.
i = Insurance costs increased with addition of land, outbuildings, liability and increased personal effects.
j = $84 of the $130 was a monthly installment payment made for the purchase of a heat pump.
Note: Gasoline expenses increased with inflation and the farther we moved from St. Cloud.
n/a = data not available;

Weekly family income, 1983

Income information Larry Donna Total
Hourly wage $9.17 $7.45 $16.62
Hours worked 40 hours 40 hours 80 hours
Gross income $366.80 $298.00 $664.80
Federal withholding tax $62.38 $45.87 $108.25
State withholding tax $26.01 $18.75 $44.76
Social Security tax $22.48 $18.27 $40.75
Total payroll deductions $110.88 $82.89 $193.77
Net Pay $255.92 $215.11 $471.03

The US Marine barracks in Beirut
On October 23, a Terrorist drove a truck load of explosives up to a hotel housing a Marine headquarters and barracks in Beirut,Lebanon and committed suicide. More than 200 Marines were killed in the attack promptly causing the U.S.to withdraw from its peacekeeping role in that country.

On October 25, US troops invade the tiny Caribbean Island after the government experienced a bloody coup, to restore order and protect eleven hundred Americans on the island.

[Photo at right: Early morning on the road fronting our property’s east side. Looking SSE along County Road 14 (125th  Ave NE) from our mail box. The population density of our rural neighborhood in  1984 was about sixteen people per square mile.]

Prelude to the birth of Jane Elizabeth Pierce
On Monday, November 28, Donna and I awoke around 4:30AM. Looking outdoors, we could see a lot of snow had fallen during the night and that heavy snow was continuing to fall. After dressing and starting a fire in the wood burning fireplace, I shoveled snow off the rear addition steps then handed wood in to Donna from the outdoor woodpile to refill our indoor firewood storage ring.

The morning weather reports were advising, ‘absolutely no travel in central Minnesota’. Snow plows and sanding trucks had already been pulled off the roads due to the severe early winter storm. So far we’d received about six inches of fresh snow, bringing the snow cover to thirteen inches.

At 5:30AM, I telephoned Landy Packing Company and told them we’d be late to work, if we could get out at all. Meanwhile, the news was reporting that another four to six inches of snow was expected to fall. Already, our snowfall for November was breaking records going back 35-40 years, to the mid 1940s.

At 11:00AM, I brought the tractor out of the machine shed – garage and began clearing the driveway. While working, I wondered if I was going about a fool’s errand, since there was drifting snow and more snowfall forecast. Donna sat on the tractor bucket to scoop snow away from the leading edge of the  yard gate. She then climbed on the back of the tractor and rode with me as I plowed down to the county road. The only vehicle seen driving was a four-wheel drive pickup truck. We watched as it braved its way slowly, in zig zag fashion up the road, through the eight inches of fresh snow.  About noon, just after I finished plowing, the county snow plow made a single pass down the road, opening one lane.

Donna called our neighbors, Bobby and Arlene and invited them over for lunch. Everyone was home from work and all outdoor activities had stopped due to the weather. Bob and Arlene were happy for the distraction and came right over in their four-wheel drive pickup truck. We chatted about the weather and told jokes while the girls made a large lunch consisting of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. After lunch, while Donna and Arlene chatted in the kitchen, Bobby and I sat in the living room playing two new video games: Swords and Serpents and The Dreadnought.
Over the years, we came to see Arlene as a cheerful, outgoing, energetic, happy type of person. Bobby was fun to be with, if you could get him to actually arrive at the function, he had a way of being cursedly late to everything. Many a supper meal was held up an hour to an hour and a half waiting for him to finish a chore “Ya just can’t walk away from somethin’ like that.”

That evening, after our company returned home, we were still full from lunch so Donna made a light meal around hamburger patties. We ate little and put the rest in the refrigerator for ‘leftovers.’

[Left: The driveway on a fall morning. Taken about 150-200 feet up the driveway from the county road. The homesite is about 300 feet beyond the curve.]

Donna’s ‘water’ breaks
The next morning at 4:05AM, five minutes after Donna got up, she hurried back into the bedroom and awoke me, exclaiming, “Larry wake up! Larry get up! My water’s broke. We’ve got to go to the hospital.”  So, I awoke out of a peaceful sleep into an emergency situation, sat up rubbing my eyes, then climbed out of bed. Donna was across the bedroom moving about in a nervous, agitated state. She took a wet towel from between her legs and pointed to a wet spot on her side of the bed while talking. Still groggy, I began to ascertain Donna’s condition and decide what to wear for the day. A stream of thoughts passed through my mind: “Donna is not hysterical or in pain, so we don’t have an imminent emergency. Should I wear my work clothes? No. Maybe I won’t go to work today? Should I wear my home clothes? Yes. Should I take my work clothes in a paper bag and change into them if I go to work?”

By now approximately 10 seconds had passed since I had awakened, my mental fog was clearing and the situation becoming better understood. Donna was scampering around gathering things for her upcoming hospital stay. Meanwhile, I went into high gear, dressed in my home clothes, then telephoned Landy Packing to tell them the situation and say that I wouldn’t be to work that day.

As I grabbed my winter coat and turned on the outdoor security light, I wondered: “Had we’d received the other 6 inches of snow that was forecast? With an expectant mother waiting, it would not be a good time to have to plow the drive way! Would there be an impenetrable pile of snow out by the county road that I’d have to dig through to get out? What about breakfast or at least a cup of coffee?”

Fortunately, we had not received additional snow and there was no drifting. We drove down the driveway and out onto the county road without problems. I stayed on the main road, driving down Highway 25 then west to St. Cloud on Highway 23. We stopped at Perkin’s downtown restaurant for a cup of coffee “to go,” then drove up 9th Street to the St. Cloud Hospital, on Northway Drive.

Admission to the hospital
At the hospital, the Admissions nurse had Donna sit in a wheelchair and took her to Room 315. While Donna was getting situated in her room, I signed several admissions forms. The hospital’s floor plan must have been designed by a ‘video game freak’, because it was a maze of corridors. If it weren’t for the elevators which at least take you to the floor you want, a person could wander for hours trying to locate such treasured spots as a bathroom or food service. Still in a daze from the mornings rapid events, I exited the elevator on the Third floor. A student nurse gave me directions, a few moments later, another nurse gave me directions, finally I found Donna in Room 315. The thought crossed my mind that I might never find my way out of the hospital, but I’d found where they’d placed Donna.

Room 315 was a ‘Two Occupant’ room, in the hospital’s Maternity Wing.  Just inside the door, in the first bed, was a groaning, expectant mother. Leaning close beside her was her husband who, for some reason was making wolf like, howling noises, in her ear.

Donna was in the second bed, which was separated from the first by a room dividing curtain. As we chatted, we also stopped on occasion to listen to the menagerie of sounds drifting through the curtain from the other couple. I couldn’t help but think that the nurse’s ought to drag off the father and operate on him. While the wife was keeping her head and undergoing periodic labor contractions, the husband was issuing breathing instructions, “Breathe in…. not too hard…” With each instruction, he would try to breathe in an exaggerated, empathetic way with her, as though he too were in labor. We chuckled at the ‘frantic father to be’ and his heavy breathing punctuated with gasping instructions.

Donna laid on her bed chatting with me, she seemed so out-of-place there in the hospital. Since she was in no pain and had no apparent medical problem, it was as though she were just a healthy person laying on a hospital bed.

Around 9:30 AM, I went in search of, and found, the hospital cafeteria. The menu listed two eggs and toast, cake, etc., but there was no meat offered. The waitress said they normally didn’t serve meat, but she could have the cook fry up some thin strips of ham for salads. I ordered the “cakes” and asked for lots of syrup. A strange look came over the waitresses face and it dawned on me that “cake” did not mean ‘pancakes’; she affirmed my realization.  My breakfast consisted of two eggs and toast, a small pile of odd-looking ham strips, coffee and a ‘Long John donut’. While eating I noticed that I’d developed some mental disorientation and a nervous twitch in my right eye lid from the mornings nerve-wracking events.

After breakfast, I returned to Room 315, to find Donna in good spirits and wondering when she’d begin having contractions. I stayed with her until 1:00 PM. During the preceding eight hours, Donna had only been checked once by one doctor. This seemed to indicate that her situation was currently not nearing term and that nothing would be happening for a while. I left the hospital at 1:00 PM and drove across town to the Crossroads Mall, where I bought Donna a new winter coat and the video game Microsurgeon, as welcome home presents.

Music [Album: Somewhere in Time, The Old Woman]

30 November: “Jane, I presume?”
I awoke early Wednesday morning and made a quick breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. After feeding Griz and Jesse, and packing my work clothes in a paper bag, I hurried to the hospital to see Donna. There had been no change in Donna’s condition during the night; she was still waiting for ‘something’ to happen. Having been in the hospital for twenty-four hours without food, Donna was about to ‘climb the wall’ for a steak. During this time and for the next few days, Donna’s nourishment consisted of a five percent glucose solution, fed intravenously.

Since Donna hadn’t begun labor contractions, there was some talk of attempting to ‘force labor’ later in the day. Evidently, once an expectant mother’s water breaks, it’s best to achieve birth as soon as possible, before any potential infection develops that might affect the baby. Since our baby was arriving one month early and there were still no contractions, Donna was given steroid injections to help finish the development of the babies lungs. About 9:45AM, I left the hospital and drove across town to Landy Packing Company.

Donna telephone me at work a t12:30 PM to say the nurses had just hooked her up to an ‘IV’ to induce labor. At this point in time, Donna was still in good spirits, but sounded a little apprehensive. I made arrangements for my swing shift relief operator to come to work early, he arrived at 1:30PM, whereupon, I changed clothes and went back to the hospital.

During the morning, Donna was moved to Room 317, a Single Occupancy room. By the time I arrived, the ‘forced labor chemicals’ had begun to cause contractions, leaving Donna in considerable pain. I was a little frightened seeing her wither in agony, almost to the point of not recognizing me. There was a nurse in the room with Donna, monitoring her condition.

Around 3:40PM, Dr. Olinger came in and checked Donna’s chart. He turned and said to a nurse, “There’s no use messin’. Have ’em prep O.R. for immediate use. We’ll take the baby right away.” I followed Dr. Olinger out of Donna’s room and into the hall to find out what prompted his brisk instruction to the nurse. He briefly said (paraphrased), “By 4:00 o’clock she’ll be in the operating room. By 4:15 PM she’d be under anesthetics and five to ten minutes later you’ll have your baby girl.”

As the doctor walked away, I stood alone in the corridor digesting what he said. When he’d said ‘right away’, he meant, ‘right away’, I glanced at my watch and realized that in a half hour, we’d have our baby. I turned and started back into Donna’s room, but the attending nurse shooed me away. Others were already washing and shaving Donna for a Cesarean operation.

My mind went into a fog again. I felt like an useless appendage walking aimlessly down the hall.

Then, seeing Dr. Olinger talking on the telephone, and he being the only recognizable point of authority, I walked over to him. In a moment he hung up, turned and said. “Follow me.” I obediently followed him down the hall. Rounding a corner in the corridor, he pointed to a room with a sign above the door stating, ‘FATHERS ROOM’. He told me to wait there until a nurse came for me. I started to walk towards the Father’s Room, but he called me back. I was then taken down another corridor, through a pair of doors, and down another corridor to a window in the Baby Ward. Dr. Olinger said that I would be called right after the baby was delivered. At that time, I should leave the Father’s Room and come here to the Baby Ward where I could see the infant.

I made my way back to the Father’s Room and watched TV for a couple of minutes. Unable to concentrate on the television program, I walked down to the main floor Gift Shop for a candy bar. I recognized the Gift Shop’s lady volunteer worker, as a friend of our neighbor’s Bobby and Arlene, a lady whom we’d met at a polka club Halloween party a year earlier.

As we chatted. I suddenly jerked my head up and to the left. For an instant, I felt as though something had gone ‘ping’ in the deepest recess of my soul. This happened while we talked there in the gift shop. I doubt anyone noticed my being startled. I continued with the conversation for a moment longer and excused myself saying, ‘I should go now, because the baby will be here any minute.’

Even as I excused myself, I already knew that just a few moments earlier, Jane was born.

Looking back on this event, I felt a combination of things, described as: When you’re in the lobby of a tall building waiting for the elevator, they sometimes announce their arrival with a ‘ping’ like sound as though from a muted bell. Since you don’t know exactly when the elevator will stop, you’re usually lost in some thought when the little ‘ping’ sounds. The muted little musical note startles you and you jerk a glance toward its source.

In my case the ‘ping’ was not heard, it was felt and yet it was not felt by the bodies sensors, it was known from another level. I had no subsequent rush of adrenaline. I was immediately aware of what had happened, for the ‘ping’ told me, that the essence of continuity of my soul had arrived.

I made a beeline back to the Father’s Room.

Two or three minutes after my arrival, a nurse came for me and I followed her down the hall and into the Baby Ward.

I looked about, standing around me in the room were five or six nurses and a doctor. Across the room, laying on the counter on a small blanket, was Jane.

The nurses had wiped the birth fluids off Jane’s body, except around her scalp. She was beautiful! A nurse approached me and asked if I wanted to hold her (Was she kidding?)  of course I wanted to hold her! I was a very happy and proud Daddy! And here was that little girl…

A nurse asked me, “Well, what do you think? Do you want to take her home with you?” I answered, “Yes, “ while thinking, “These people are regular comedians! All I want to do is wrap Jane up, dash out of the Baby Ward, rescue Donna and all three of us hurry back home.” Alas, they took Jane from me, gave her a vaccination, put silver nitrate in her eyes (which were still closed), then placed her in an incubator.

Later I learned, they rate babies at ‘one minute’ and ‘five minutes’ after birth to see how their metabolic systems are working. The Normal gradient is between seven and ten. Jane’s one minute evaluation was an eight, her five-minute evaluation was nine. A nurse told me that it was rare for a baby to receive perfect ten rating. I was relieved, thinking to myself, “So far, so good.”

Visiting and cleaning up
Thursday, after my regular 6:30 AM to 3:00 PM shift at Landy’s, I  changed my clothes and hurried back to the hospital to visit with Donna and Jane. Jane was visiting with her Mom when I arrived, in fact Jane was attempting to get the hang of nursing. She was so small that Donna needed to use a nipple extension so the nipple would fit in Jane’s mouth.

Jane was a pretty baby. She was born with a lot of auburn hair and pretty blue eyes. When I pressed my right index finger into her hand, she closed her fingers on me, but they didn’t reach all the way around my little finger.

Later in the evening, when I returned home, I found that between my working all day, shopping and visiting at the hospital, chores at home were not being done. Jane’s month early arrival had caught us unprepared. In the kitchen, soiled pots and pans were stacked precariously on the kitchen counter, the dishes on the bottom had hard, dried food on them.

Down the hall, the bed wasn’t made,  there was a load of dry clothes in the wash basket that need putting away, the hamper was full of soiled work clothing so I didn’t have anything to wear to work. Griz and Jessie were outdoors barking in complaint, because it was well past their supper time.

I threw a load of soiled clothes in the wash machine and went to make supper. Supper consisted of two leftover hamburger patties from the previous Monday night, a large serving of instant mashed potatoes, a half can of corn and a piece of bread. While my supper cooked on the stove, Donna and I spoke together on the telephone, simultaneously, I made a sack lunch for my next day at work. After supper, I fed the dogs their chunky food mixed with all my leftover mashed potatoes. When I ran water in the sink to do dishes, I found the wash machine had used up all the hot water. The pile of dirty pans and dishes grew a little higher.

Cleaning up around the house, Part II
After work on Friday, I went to the bank and did some grocery shopping then went straight home.

I needed to work on a rapidly accumulating batch of chores about the house, amongst which were: the dishes, laundry, and general house cleaning. Before starting on household chores, I had to begin shoveling a layer of deep snow off our mobile home’s roof; on the kitchen table there lay a four-inch high stack of unopened mail; outdoors the dogs were barking, wanting to be fed their supper.

While a batch of clothes dried in the clothes dryer, I went through two batches of water in the kitchen sink washing dishes and silverware. Even with a scratcher pad , it was difficult removing some of the old and unforgiving, dried egg from those bottom dishes. The pots and pans, which literally covered the top of the stove, had to wait another day before being washed.

Big day, bad pizza
Saturday morning, I had to go in to Landy Packing and work six hours, from 6:00AM until noon. At noon, I changed clothes and drove across town to the hospital for a visit with Donna and baby Jane. We visited throughout the afternoon. We sure are happy with our tiny tot. Donna is complaining about being fed a liquid diet at the hospital and ‘wants to be released so she can go home for a decent meal’.

At dusk, I left Mother and Daughter with intentions of stopping at a restaurant for a balanced meal myself. Just as I pulled into country Kitchen’s parking lot, a sudden craving for pizza swept over me, I turned the car around and went to a pizza parlor. Back at hom,e I finished cooking my pizza, popped open a bottle of beer and sat down to eat while watching a rented video cassette entitled, The Beast Master (a terrible movie).
During the previous week, my homemade meals had been quite bland, so as if in making up for the lack of spice, I added too much hot pepper to the pizza, then ate the entire greasy thing.
I awoke several times during the night with an upset stomach and terrible gas pains.

Videotaping in the hospital
I awoke Sunday morning feeling na. Before long, diarrhea drove me to the toilet, where the hot peppers from the previous night pizza, burned a second time…

Around 11:00 AM, I began a videotape entitled, ‘Jane Elizabeth Pierce’, while walking about on the driveway,filming the environment and home that Jane was born into. Having begun the tape’s introduction, I drove into St. Cloud to visit with the girls. Just as I stepped into the hospital elevator with my video camera, an armed police officer stopped me and asked what I was doing with the camera. I answered saying I was there to see my wife and baby and not just wandering through the hospital taking pictures. A nurse subsequently told me it was OK to film, but that it should be restricted to our room only.

Donna had her first solid food in six days for lunch, a meal consisting of small portions of: turkey,  dressing, peas,a  dinner roll, some custard and a cup of coffee. Jane spends most of her time sleeping in a bassinet and nursing at her mother’s breast.

5 December, Monday
I went home after work to finish washing clothes and dishes.

Donna and Jane come home
[Photo at right: Jane, 1 month old. Precious Jane, asleep on the couch, early afternoon, Christmas day 1983. Am I just prejudiced, or is she one nice looking baby girl?! ]

Since Tuesday, December 6, was the day that Donna and Jane were scheduled to come home, I left work several hours early, at noon. When I arrived at the hospital, Donna’s nurse, Marie Olson (about forty-five years old) and I carried our personal belongings from Room 341 to our pickup truck. Jane was wrapped up in baby blanket and ready to go home. We left the St. Cloud  Hospital and drove out-of-town, headed for our home at Nightstar*, two proud parents and one baby, Jane.

Jane moves in
A few days after the girls came home, Donna set up a cot and began sleeping in Jane’s bedroom. The two-some were up and down two, three, even four times a night, feeding, going to the bathroom and all that mother’s and the ‘little people’ do.

Initially, Jane spent most of her day sleeping, but as the weeks passed into months, she spent more and more time awake. Every evening when I came home, I’d give Jane a big kiss then change out of my work clothes. At every meal, even if she was asleep, we brought Jane to the kitchen table in her car seat carrier and set her on a chair seat where we could look at her and talk to her.

Even before Jane was able to see, she was a ‘regular’ at the table.

Regarding the layoffs at Landy Packing
Our ‘one day a week’ layoff’s at Landy Packing, began earlier this Spring and lasted  a whopping twenty-two weeks, making it equivalent to missing an entire months income for the year. Fortunate for our family resources, Donna and the other office personnel continued to work Monday’s. Since I was the supervisor in the Waste  Water Treatment plant, I did put in a few Monday’s working on various projects and was able to get some overtime hours during the rest of the workweek. Unfortunate for the rank and file production people, their families simply had to scrimp between paydays.

In the fall, when ‘full time’ work resumed, it became apparent from rumors and gossip that there was going to be a real row between management and the Meat Packers Union during the upcoming Union Contract negotiations. Donna and I had already started an economic ‘war chest and were saving as much money as we could, without pinching ourselves too tightly.

I was in a peculiar position at Landy’s, I was a supervisor, but was neither in management or in the union. I was told that at the October and November union meetings, the workers demanded a wage hike while management demanded a pay cut. The infighting continued with each side asking for the impossible. Finally, the Union Representative, from the Meat Packers Union Regional office in Minneapolis told the employees to go along with the wage cut. The employees were mad as hell. You see, as long as they were in the union, each worker had to contribute $20 per month in union fees. Everyone thought they’d been sold out by the union, whether the workers got a pay raise or pay cut, the union still got its $20 per member.

The Landy family kept banging away at their approximately one hundred forty meat-packing workers, chipping away at their resolve by threatening to move the business to South Dakota or ‘just close the doors’ if things didn’t go their way.

During mid December, the union voted on a last-minute proposal which included: A three-year wage freeze; newly hired employees would start at greatly reduced wages; when new employees reached full pay scale for a given production job, their labor would be paid at $1.50 per hour less than current the employees earned [4].

What the wage cut meant
With the three-year wage freeze at the going rate of inflation, each of Landy’s two hundred union and non-union workers would lose about $1.00 or purchasing power (approximately a 13% decline in purchasing power) over the period. The idea was that the savings from wages would be used by the company to buy cattle and keep the business open and more workers employed. I thought about the sensible logic the company was using then did a little arithmetic:

($1.00 loss /hr purchasing power / employee. )  x.. (8 hr/  day)  x.. (220 work  days / yr)  x.. (200 Landy employees )        = $352,000 / yr savings from the wage freeze.

The $352,000 savings seemed a sizable sum until it was put in perspective, the company paid $600 to $800 per beef cow.

$352,000 / year savings/ $800 / beef cow = 440 head of cattle

At a cost of $800 per cow, the company would only be able to buy 440 head from their savings. That may also sound like a lot, until it’s realized that we typically processed 600 to 1000 head of cattle per day! The saving from wages only represented one half days work out of approximately 220 work days per year, or about 0.23%– one-fourth of 1 percent.

This was definitely not much of a gain for the company, yet it would become a burden for the families of the employees. That $1.00 an hour lost in purchasing power would probably eliminate any saving the families had. At the same time, the wage freeze would press families into an economic spiral that changes  the shopper’s purchasing ability, slowly forcing them down the food chain at the grocery store, from steak, to chicken and eventually to beans.

Immediately after the Amalgamated Meat Packers accepted the austere, three-year wage freeze and other wage busting measures, the company spent $20,000 to $25,000 to remodel the office.

What’s on TV tonight?

My favorite programs in 1983.
•  Local Evening News
•  National   Evening News
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Movies that Donna and I attended during the year include;
Cujo with Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, Christopher   Stone
Doctor Detroit with Dan Aykroyd, Howard   Hesseman, Donna Dixon
High Road To China with Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston,   Wilford Brimley
National Lampoons Vacation withChevy Chase,   Beverly D’angelo, Dana Barron
Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher   Plummer
Sudden Impact with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle,   Bradford Dillman
The Grey Fox with Richard Farnsworth, Wayne   Robson, Jackie Burrought
Trading Places with Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis,   Ralph Bellamy
Wargames with Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Ally   Sheedy, John Wood

——————   ♦   ——————-

The Introduction to Journal 1:
[In retrospect, the preface seen below sounds corny and the drawings aren’t very good, that’s how personal endeavors start. Journeys begin with the first step, which are sometimes awkward, crude and tentative.  Its the process of travel, internal growth and the expansion of one’s abilities that bring personal enrichment in time, that too is, Nature’s Way.]



Long time

ago in a galaxy

far far away, there

upon a planet called

Terra, a child was born;

a distant descendent of kings and


And it came to pass that the world chaffed

under the power of a great force,

Economic Empire.

The force of life upon the land was rocked by the

Empires great power, which sought to enslave all.


Fate & Destiny

the twin powers of

non linear time and space

caused a ripple to emanate

across the ethos, it whispered…

A still, nearly silent voice

spoke through the void,

it came from the clouds and from the soil,

it carried on the wind and whispered through the  leaves,

it carried from the wave crests like spraylets of driven water

and rose in the swamp like the morning fog,

it danced across the sands of the desert…

A young child living on the

great desert looked into

the night sky, he felt more

than heard a still murmuring

voice, a intelligible whisper

that spoke to him. He  had a vision.

The years passes and clouds

began to form within the Empire.

Out of the turmoil arose a man.

Life can be as great and glorious, as full of adventure and

mysterious forces as any tales of the heroic past or future. Real heroes

to a degree, may overcome the constrains of an empires, though ‘overcoming’ is

a relative term. In real life, there are few absolutes and many shades

of possibility in between. The scales of our battles and the spoils of

our victories, over time, may be few or many, large or small.

If our lives were compressed into a few moments and only our life

theme studied, our deeds would appear great and fierce, our bravery,

piety, or sacrifice would  be legendary, our love and passion would inspire awe

across time, our humble wisdom, eternal.

But, I who write and you who read, we for the most part, have lived

many uninspiring moments. We do things that we don’t really care to

do, we dream of things desired, we wash our armpits and care for our

mammal bodies, we catch colds, our shoe strings break, clothes need

washing, we need a home, warmth, safety, bills must be paid. There  are

simply many many  moments in life that simply—not inspired!


Waiting inside,

Is that spark of

transcendent vitality that

creates and nurtures the seed of

our sojourn in life. When this spark is

   fanned into a flame, a man or woman can rise

  to become a prince or princess.

This journal is the story of a child, of family

 and Man’s eternal struggle with

the forces of the economic empire into

which he was born. It is an autobiography and

the map of a conscious and unconscious mind,

it is both a process of growth and an end product,

it is a ‘how to book’ and a glimpse of the Twentieth

Century, it is the mental matrix of Larry Francis Pierce:

                                                                      A Traveler in Time.”

[1]Important events cast their shadow before.”, by Thomas Cambell, 18th Century poet.
[2]  The text within these quotation marks was initially written as part of a letter to my friend Mike. Several months later it was recopied into what became my first journal, Journal 1, The Gordian Knot.
[3] [How such things begin. lfp]
__a) December 5, 2005, Drought Causing Record Forest Destruction in U.S. Southwest, by Hope Hamashige, for National Geographic News, “Soil-scorching droughts are nothing new to the U.S. Southwest. But the one that hit the region in 1999—and still persists—has been different from past droughts: It has been hotter. It has also caused what is arguably the most extensive die-off of trees ever documented by modern science. Upward of 45 million piñon pine trees have died in New Mexico in the last three years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. New Mexico, which claims the short, nut-bearing piñon as its state tree, has been hardest hit by the drought. New research suggests that it was higher-than-normal temperatures and not just the lack of water that produced the large-scale die-off…
__b)  26 Jul 2006, Scientists: Warming Triggers ‘Dead Zone’, By JEFF BARNARD, Grants Pass, OR (AP) – “Bottom fish and crabs washing up dead on Oregon beaches are being killed by a recurring “dead zone” of low-oxygen water that appears to be triggered by global warming, scientists say.
The area is larger and more deadly than in past years, and there are signs it is spreading north to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Scientists studying a 70-mile-long zone of oxygen-depleted water along the Continental Shelf between Florence and Lincoln City have concluded it is being caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom.
The phytoplankton are eaten by bacteria, which use up the oxygen in the water. The recurring phytoplankton blooms are triggered by north winds generating a rollover of the water column in a process known as upwelling.
We are seeing wild swings from year to year in the timing and duration of the winds that are favorable for upwelling,” Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine ecology at Oregon State and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, said from Corvallis. “This increased variability in the winds is consistent with what we would expect under climate change.”
Scientists first noticed a dead zone off Newport in 2002. That one was traced back to a rare influx of cold water rich in nutrients and low in oxygen that had migrated from the Arctic, said Jack Barth, professor of oceanography at Oregon State and with Lubchenco a principal investigator for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans.
Each year since then, dead zones have returned in the summer. But these have been caused by intense bursts of upwelling followed by calm periods. During the calm periods, when the water contains fewer nutrients, phytoplankton die for lack of food and fall to the ocean bottom, Barth added.
This year, the upwelling started strongly in April, stalled in May and picked up again in late June. Following the upwelling’s, scientists found the oxygen levels lower.
The off-and-on action of the upwelling builds up a thick layer of organic material that robs the water of oxygen as it rots. When a new upwelling occurs, it draws the deadly water toward shore, killing fish and crabs that cannot get out of its way, Barth said.
“We know it’s not pollution. It’s not a toxic algal bloom. The simple fact is there’s not enough oxygen,” said Francis Chan, a research professor of zoology at Oregon State who has been measuring the oxygen levels.
Oxygen levels are generally lower in deeper water, where fish evolve to deal with it, said Lubchenco. What is unusual about this condition is that it is moving into relatively shallow water, about 50 feet deep, and moving toward shore, where the richest marine ecosystems are.
Monitoring of oxygen levels in the ocean has documented the dead zone in varying intensities along 70 miles of coast from Florence to Lincoln City, but the ribbon of dead phytoplankton on the ocean bottom that creates it could extend to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where dead crabs and fish have been showing up, Barth said.
“If we continue like we are now, we could see some ecological shifts,” Barth said. “It all depends on what happens with the warming and the greenhouse gases.”Dead zones in other places around the country, such as Hood Canal in Washington and the Mississippi River Delta off Louisiana are caused by agricultural runoff fueling blooms of algae that rot and deplete the oxygen, said Lubchenco. But dead zones like the one off Oregon also occur off Namibia and South Africa in the Atlantic and off Peru in the Pacific.
“We’re not really sure what is down the road. If it’s just for a short period of time, it will not be as devastating as if it starts lasting a significant fraction of summer,” she said.
Crab fishermen in Oregon and Washington are finding dead crabs in their pots, and deeper water fish, such as ling cod, wolf eels and rockfish, are showing up in Oregon tide pools, apparently chased to shore by the dead zone advancing across the Continental Shelf, said Lubchenco.
In Washington, dead fish and crabs are also being spotted on the beach along the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the Quinault Indian Reservation, Liam Antrim, resource protection specialist for the marine reserve, said from Port Angeles, Wash.
“Last year we did some routine monitoring along six transects every other week. We never documented low oxygen conditions low enough to kill things,” Antrim said. “This year we have.”
__c)   February 13, 2008, Lake Mead Could Be Within a Few Years of Going Dry, By FELICITY BARRINGER, “Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Lake Mead, which serves as a reservoir for the Colorado River and sustains fast-growing cities in the Southwest, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, researchers say. The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows. Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable. “We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.”…
[4]  Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression © 1970, by Studs Terkel, “When a company stresses how poor business is, then forces a wage freeze or wage cut on employees, it probably is only a matter of time until the company fails.”

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1982, age 39-40

Themes and Events:
 By the end of the year the economy is climbing out of a recession. During the recession: unemployment hit 10.8%, a post WW II high, while the nation’s factories were operating at only 67.8% of capacity, the lowest since records were collected in 1948. The poverty rate reached 14%, the highest since 1967 and the federal budget deficit for the year climbed to a record $110 billion. On the bright side, however, the CPI declined to 3.9%, the smallest inflation rate since 1972.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn’t.
*  Hungry? Eat your foreign car.
*  I may have my Ph.D., but I’m not stupid.

[Sunrise pouring through the trees near the east property line, taken from about 200 feet east of  the mobile home’s kitchen window.]

Jessie dog comes to live with us
he year after our move onto the property: With Donna and I at work in St Cloud for most of the week, our dog Griz seemed to become unhappy about being alone. Upon seeing his forlorn look every morning as we drove off to work, we decided to get him a companion. From spring 1981 to the spring 1982 Griz had a young Blue Heeler, named, Blue, with whom to pal around with. Blue was however, an adventurous fellow who just wouldn’t stay in the yard. He liked to walk six hundred feet down the driveway, cross the county road to a corn field and an occassionally bring a chopped corn stalk back to the yard. After living with us for a year, Blue was hit and killed by a car one night directly in front of our property. We buried Blue near our east property line and covered his grave with rocks.

A couple of weeks later, in April, Donna and I found a newspaper advertisement stating:
Puppies, ½ German Shepherd, ½ Black Lab, $25…”

We drove into St. Cloud to look at the litter and happily brought home a six-week old, black female pup. A few days later we named our new dog, Jessie.
In the months that followed, Griz and his little floppy eared friend, Jessie, became the best of friends. When ever one was seen sniffing about, or napping in the shade, the other was not far away.

As Jessie grew, her jet black fur coat was seen composed of short, coarse bristles and she had floppy ears both common to a Black Lab, however, she had the build and stance of a German Shepherd. Jessie grew to have adult weight of sixty-seven pounds and weighing eighteen pounds more than Griz.

Books read during the year
During the year, I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time, or of general topical interest to myself, including:

Einstein’s   Universe © 1979 by Nigel Calder – A   study and extrapolation of Einstein’s concepts of energy, mass and time.
Life   After Nuclear War © 1982 by Arthur   Katz – Expansion of a study by Katz presented to a Congressional Joint   Committee on Defense Production, studies the economic and social impacts of   nuclear attacks on the USA. 422 pages.
The   Day After Midnight: The Effects of Nuclear War © 1982 Edited by Michael Riordan – Based on a   report by the Office of Technology Assessment, effects and Civil Defense. 143   pages.
The   Self Sufficient Gardner © 1980 by   John Seymour – A guide to growing and preserving all your own food. 256   pages.
The   Solar Greenhouse Book © 1978 by   James C. McCullough – Construction and operating principles of a solar   greenhouse. 328 pages.
Hard   Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression © 1970 by Studs Terkel – Eyewitness accounts of all   phases of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

During the spring we began beekeeping. Actually, this was more Donna’s interest than mine.  The procedure where one had to take the frames out of the hives for the honey, and in doing so deal with jillions of angry bees, was not my kind of thing. True, they were ‘smoked’ first which pacified most, but it seems Donna always got a sting for her valiant efforts. I just didn’t like bees. I stood at a respectful distance watching, while she worked. Several times I was apparently marked as the culprit for a hives aggression and was chased up across the yard and into the house by two to four angry bees.

We bought the necessary paraphernalia including a quality, two frame, stainless steel, centrifugal extractor and an electric comb knife.
I painted the six hives, assembled the frames, helped extract the honey and did clean up afterwards, but Donna wore the net bee bonnet, went into the hives and removed the honey frames.
That fall, we extracted one hundred eighty pounds of honey (!), besides leaving a considerable amount for the bees to feed on over the winter. Donna sold one hundred sixty-five pounds of honey at 90¢ per pound and kept fifteen pounds (twelve pounds per gallon) for ourselves. We made $162 from the sale which helped offset the cost of the hives and extractor.

The herb bed
One of our Spring projects was to make a permanent herb bed, at one side of the garden. Our procedure was to set a rectangular, pressure treated wooden frame around one of the four-foot wide by twenty-five foot long raised garden beds. The frame was held in place by wooden stakes driven into the ground and spaced about the perimeter. The herb bed was almost completely filled with a mix of top soil, rotted manure, partially decayed leaf mulch, straw then repeatedly rototilled. When soil temperatures were warm enough to begin planting, we planted Jerusalem artichokes, basil, garlic, chives and thyme in the bed.

Although Jerusalem artichokes were not herbs, they were planted in this bed for two reasons: 1) So we could more easily control its prolific tuber growth. 2) Jerusalem  artichokes are left in the ground over the winter and harvested in the Spring, but if they’d been left in the general garden, their presence would have interfered with the Fall and Spring rototilling and bed maintenance process.

The garden expands
[Photo at right, late summer. Our Bio-organic,     French Intensive, raised bed garden.]

When the 1982 garden was planted, we increased the crop variety and brought our food production facilities to a peak. We had several years experience with gardens and that summer, handled the largest, most varied garden to date.
Since  we were both working full-time, maintaining a household, and very large yard, we realized our expansion was going to take all the time we had available, particularly during Fall harvest. The vegetable crops we raised included:

Asparagus Egg plant Salsify
Basil, herb Garlic Squash, Acorn
Beans, green snap Grapes: Beta & Concord Squash, Buttercup
Beets Jerusalem artichoke Squash, Spaghetti
Broccoli Kohlrabi Squash, Yellowneck
Brussels sprouts Lettuce, various Squash, Zucchini
Cabbage Onions, Yellow Globe Strawberries
Cauliflower Peas Thyme, herb
Carrots Peppers,Bell Tomatoes
Chives, herb Peppers, Wax Turnips
Cucumber Potatoes, Russet

Our gaggle of geese, ducks and sheep
I building an 8 ft deep x 10 ft wide x 7 ft sloping to 6 ft shed, with dirt floor, two windows and French (split doors) in the lower yard about 125 ft from the bee hives.
We stocked the shed with:
•  Twenty six White Peking ducklings,  that had been ordered from Sears Home and Farm Catalog for $39. The ducklings arrived on 25 June 1982, while my cousin Bob was visiting.
•  A few days later, on July 1, we ordered eight Goose goslings through Sears.
•  Donna found an advertisement stating a local farmer was selling Suffolk-Colombian cross lambs,  we bought four.

As time passed, we found that the geese had a tendency to pick on the smaller ducks when all were kept in confinement. After their first  winter together, we divided the shed with fence wire to keep the ducks and geese separate at night. During the cold months, the shed’s dirt floor was covered with a thick mat of straw so the birds could make sleeping nests.

With the purchase of ducks, geese and lambs, we became, ‘hobby farmers’.   :-)

The big ‘fly in the porridge’ became evident on the day it was time to slaughter our first duck. It was my job to chop off the ducks head with a hatchet, it was not a pleasant chore (!), never-the-less the deed was done. I plucked his feathers, turned the carcass over to Donna who roasted our duck.

Our ducks and geese were not raised in cages, nor exclusively fed corn; they grew up wiry, muscular, running around the homesite chasing young frogs and bugs. Frequently, we’d watch as the ducks or geese walked in a rough side by side formation across the yard, scaring up ‘things’ in the grass, then making a mad dash to catch and eat the unfortunate insect before it could hop or fly away.

When it came to cooking the duck, yes, the meat tasted alright, but it didn’t have the same texture or benign taste as a restaurant’s “Pekin duck’ (a $16 per plate of corn-fed, cage raised duck). Ours birds had a tough, sinuous, wild taste.

What made matter worse, was that when I took a second duck to the wood pile, the entire flock followed me then stood about twenty feet away watching me through the yard fence—yes, watching and quacking amongst themselves. I felt terrible and knew that they understood that I killed their sibling. That second duck was the last duck slaughtered, er, murdered.

Likewise, we only ate one goose. Our ‘feathered friends’ did however help pay for their keep, every spring and summer we collected duck and goose eggs, which due to their size practically over whelmed our ability to keep up (our gathered egg statistics are given in ‘Produce comparisons’, Chapter 1983).

The remaining ducks and geese lived a life of country luxury, being fed kernel corn in the morning, then browsing around in the upper and wilder lower yard, swimming in the pond. They roamed about the  acre plus sized yard as miniature predators, hunting bugs, eating an occasional weed, involved with their social lives while always watching out for hawks, owls and anything furry sneaking through the weeds.
Over the years, about half were killed by wildlife or dogs, there were a couple unfortunate accidents, but the rest died, one at a time, of old age.

[Livestock: Our ducks,     geese and sheep. ‘Yard  boss’, Griz     looks on. Camera pointed SE across the front yard. The Lower yard  is across the driveway. Pond  and SE corner yard fence posts are seen     in the distance.]

It wasn’t long after the ducks and geese came to live with us, that we grew use to seeing them they became pets, of sorts. In synopsis, one could live on duck and goose meat in an extended emergency situation. The meat would be tough so would need to be diced into small chewable portions and cooked in stews, otherwise, buy my advice is to buy the meat at a supermarket. Raising the sheep was successful, slightly profitable, fun and in the end, the lamb tasted good. The problems with larger livestock is ‘input’, you have to put a lot into the endeavor, take chances, and depend ofn services that may not exist when you need them. Also, sheep are quite small animals, under all that wool is a small creature without all that much meat. Think ‘tall thin dog’. By the time you pay to have the animal slaughtered, the meat cut and wrapped the value of raising the sheep is small.
I didn’t see ‘raising sheep’ as a profitable, sustainable, or time efficient endeavor for an extended emergency situation. It doesn’t sound romantic, and certainly flys in the face of ones desire to be self sufficient, but I  think unless you’ve been raised and worked around livestock, and have experience with farming-ranching, that you’re better off purchasing 2+ cases of  #12 (gallon size cans) of Mountain House freeze-dried meat. The alternative is: installing fence; depending on luck and the vagaries of animal disease; predators; inbred-genetic problems; maintaining a supply of feed and antibiotic supplements; working out the information and techniques to process the animal; then have freezer storage capacity to hold the meat. There is a lot of ‘know how’ and luck involved with raising large livestock, processing them into meal size parcels, and storing the butchered carcass. What do you do if the power is out?

Music [midi: Within You]

Donna has thyroid surgery
One day while sitting at her desk at Landy Packing, Donna noticed that her heart seemed to be beating quite hard for a person sitting and at rest. When she took her pulse she was surprised to find it one hundred twenty beats per minute. Being concerned, she telephoned our neighbor and friend, Arlene, who was a Licensed Practical Nurse  in a Sty Cloud doctor’s office. Donna asked Arlene if her pulse was normal, Arlene spoke with the doctor and made an appointment for Donna to immediately come to the office for an examination.

An hour later, the doctor found, that indeed, Donna did have an abnormally high pulse rate, her blood pressure was abnormal as well, being low on one end and high on the other; she also had an enlarged thyroid.

The doctor informed Donna, “You are a walking stroke case!”

The over riding diagnosis was, “Hyperthyroid”. Donna was given a prescription of liquid iodine which was to be taken as a mixture with water; she was also referred to Dr. Hans Engman, a Specialist in Internal Medicine. Over the course of the next few months, Donna had a series of blood tests and a thyroid scan at the St. Cloud Hospital. It was determined that her thyroid gland was growing into a butterfly goiter and that surgery would be required  to correct the situation and return her to normalized health. However, before the surgery could take place, Donna’s pulse and blood pressure had to be brought down into the normal range; he was put on a stabilizing regime of medications.

In early September, Donna was admitted to the St. Cloud Hospital for her thyroid operation. Late that same day, the surgery was performed which removed ninety-five percent of her swollen thyroid gland. Donna recovered nicely, without complications or problems. She remained in the hospital another five days recovering and for observation, before returning home. After about a week’s rest at home, Donna returned to work. The operation was so successful that no post operative medication was required.[1]

Although surgery is always a major event in one’s life, the thyroid problem didn’t cause any hardship or suffering. It was simply something that was discovered and needed attention. When the thyroid was ‘fixed’, the family went on as before.

Heat pump and cold frame
Ever since buying our mobile home, we were acutely aware of the rising heating costs each winter. Every hot and muggy summer afternoon, we sat in the mobile home with the windows open,a large circulating fan set blowing on us, while we continued suffering from the heat.

In early 1982 we became aware of the concept of a heat pump. Heat pumps were devices that during the Fall and Spring, could wring a little heat from the cold air outdoors and transfer that heat into the house.  During the summer, the heat pump acted like an ordinary air-conditioner, pulling heat from the inside of the house and transferring it outside. The heat pump was therefore either a space heater and an air-conditioner, depending on the outdoor air temperature.
[Photograph: The ‘cold     frame’ I built over the heat pump. The south-facing structure helped warm the spring and fall air, thus increasing the efficiency of our heat pump.]

As an economic tool, it cost 25% to 50% less to move heat from the outside, into the house in the spring and fall, than to generate the same amount of heat with our forced air electric heating system.

After shopping around, we purchased a high efficiency, General Electric ‘Weathertron’ heat pump.[2]

The heat pump was installed on May 21, at a cost of $2,430, for parts and labor. From that day on,  we enjoyed the luxury of air-conditioning throughout the summer, then had reduced heating bills during Fall and Spring months.

The heat pump was installed partially as a backup system to our mobile homes main electric heating coils, the whole system tied into a more complex thermostat located on the front room wall. We set the thermostat for the air-conditioner to come on when interior temperatures rose above 74ºF.

The thermostat was set to provide heat from the heat pump when interior temperatures dropped below 65ºF during the day and below 60ºF at night. During the Fall and Spring, when night temperatures could drop quite low, the “automatic” setting on the thermostat first called on the heat pumps heating coils. If the pump was unable to keep up with the heat demand, then a single bank of the electric furnace heating coils would automatically switch on in assistance.

According to its specifications, the heat pump was supposed to be able to draw heat from outside air as long as temperatures were above 10ºF. In practice though, the heat pumps coils spent so much time defrosting in the low teens, that we figured the efficiency was too poor for practical use. We found that the heat pump provided its more efficient heating down to about 20ºF. So, on nights when the temperature was to be in the teens we left the furnace set to “emergency” which bypassed the heat pump and only used the electric furnace.

Generally, from December through February, the heat pump was turned off and we heated the mobile home with the electric furnace’s forced air. From some time in MArch through late November we used either the heat pump to provide either cheap heat or air-conditioning.

Garbage disposal at the rural acreage [3]
When we first moved to our rural homestead, we had to restructure our thinking and make plans to dispose of all of our rubbish ourselves, there were no garbage trucks, no dumpsters, ‘waste’ became our problem.

The procedures we settled on included:
•  Paper and other combustibles were incinerated in a fifty-five gallon steel drum which I set up off the ground on concrete blocks.
•  Clear glass was stored in a fifty-five gallon drum. When the barrel was full the glass was transferred into cardboard boxes and sold at the St. Cloud Recycle Center for 1/2¢ per pound. Once we collected a “whopping” 50¢ for our labor (grin).
•  Colored glass (brown and green) was treated the same as clear glass, except that it was stored in a different barrel and delivered separately to the recycle center.
•  Aluminum cans were smashed flat (by foot) and stored in a fifty-five gallon drum. These were also delivered to the recycle center, where they brought 16¢ to 22¢ per pound. Once we received $5 for a three-quarter full drum of flattened cans.
•  Tin cans, wire and other small pieces of metal were thrown into the ‘trash can pit’ about one hundred fifty feet north of our trailer, or about forty feet beyond the back yard fence.
•  Table scraps and grease drippings that accumulated during the day, were temporarily kept in a small plastic container. Every morning these scraps were mixed in with our dogs commercial, pelletized dog food to improve palatability and fed to our happy, hungry pets.
•  Compost scraps which accumulated during the day were temporarily stored in a conveniently sized, open container. When the container was full, its contents were dumped into a tightly covered flexible plastic, five quart ice-cream pail. When the covered pail was full it was dumped into our compost bin and eventually returned as soil to the garden.

Memories of the telephone system 1982 [4]
In a process that started in the late 1960s and continued  into the 1980s, Long Distance telephone companies were switching from copper telephone wires to microwave receivers and transmitters set on towers. The tall microwave towers began showing up here and there on the horizon, along with television signal repeaters, AM-FM radio transmitters, TV transmitters, and other narrow beam and broadcast antennae.

The 1970s and 1980s were a time of rapid growth in various information systems. Cable television spread across America, through cities and into small towns, but not to the separate, isolated rural farm houses.

[The pond in the southeast  corner of the yard. Dogs, ducks and geese, and later the Girl Scouts–all  enjoyed  the pond.  Seen here, our  White Pekin ducks.]

When the US Government broke up the monopoly held by American Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (AT&T) in the early 1980s, it eliminated telephone company policies regarding the use of “other equipment” on their lines, this made it easier to buy a decorator phone take it home and plug it into the wall jack. After AT&T was dismantled into a half-dozen regional ‘Baby Bells’, these splinter companies developed a really voracious appetite for consumer money. Basic telephone rates rose dramatically across the country [5]. The public cry over rising phone rates were heard for about a year. When everyone, on all sides of the issue had their say, the rates stayed high and continued rising, meanwhile service quality slipped. So the gi=overnment, looking out for our interests broke up a monopoly, and pushed prices higher, just the opposite of what was supposed to happen.
(When dealing with government policy, things frequently go worse, do less, and-or cost more than originally proposed; this effect should be recognised as a law of nature.

In the latter half of the 1980s, telephone ‘Directory Assistance’ changed and was no longer a free service. Residential users were allotted two free Directory Assistance calls per month, beyond this we were charged 50¢ per ‘Assist’.

The ‘sound’ of Directory Assistance changed with the times as well. The service line which always had been answered by a woman was more frequently answered by men as well, however, the number you requested was given by a computer generated voice. Since a computer gave the information then disconnected the line, there was no further chance to request additional information, unless you redialed  the 411 Directory Assistance number again to ask the operator.

Meanwhile, the cost of a phone call made from a ‘public pay telephone’ rose rapidly from 10¢ to 25¢.

Meanwhile, a new kind of ‘pay telephone’ was starting to appear at the major airports. Sitting side by side along with the coin operated pay phones were telephones that collected their fee from special prepaid debit credit card. These cards were inserted into the machine, then extracted past the internal scanner and ‘read’. Plastic credit cards were already very widely used by the public for almost any retail and service transaction.

Over the decades, the perception that utility poles, with electric power or communication cables strung between them, had been a symbol of progress, that idea was being replaced by an attitude that saw them as “eye sores” and “blight.”

New plastic sheathing allowed the cables to be buried, which helped clean up the scenic view and resulted in lower maintenance costs. When I lived  at the Dixon Street apartment in Hayward in 1969-70, there was a thicket of telephone and electric wires running in all directions above my apartment’s outdoor patio, and through the entire apartment complex. Now some twenty-five years later, Donna, Jane and I live in rural Minnesota where the telephone wires are buried; even the electric line is buried as it comes six hundred feet in from the county road to a transformer behind our mobile home.

The rear addition and pantry [6]
Donna and I became concerned about the long-term availability of food after seeing the grocery store shelves empty in Arcata, California, due to a trucker’s strike, around Thanksgiving 1971, . Reinforcing our concern was another truckers strike in 1973. The strike only lasted three weeks, but once again resulted in the grocery store shelves being completely emptied of meat products. Meanwhile, there was the possibility of NATO’s ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Block breaking out into a nuclear war.

[Building the rear addition. With winter rapidly approaching, I was  rapidly working to enclose the rear  addition.]

In the first year after our marriage, all we were capable of doing was to maintain a kitchen cupboard full of canned food and dry goods. Our first attempt to increase food storage had been to build a six-foot high set of shelves, which were painted bright colors and stocked with canned food. These storage shelves were left in California when we moved to Minnesota.

Soon after arriving in Minnesota, we began raising vegetables in a small, rented garden at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in St. Cloud. The size of our garden’s expanded, and quadrupled when we moved into our mobile home at Rockwood Estates, then tripled again in size when we moved to our rural Gilman acreage. Overall we had a full order of magnitude increase in garden size, not counting the orchard.

Once we were living on our rural property, I built a 16 foot wide by 12 foot rear addition onto the mobile home. The room was divided into two each, eight foot by twelve-foot, rectangular rooms. One room found a variety of seasonal uses, including the storage of boxes of kindling and a three-foot high by eight foot long emergency wood pile during the winter.

The second room, became our pantry, We installed shelves against three walls, which were  then filled with a rather large supply of common everyday foods, and non perishable products, see the table below.

[The ‘rear addition’ finished and in the process of being stocked.]

We kept our 19 cubic foot freezer in the pantry. The freezer held about $320 worth of frozen meats and produce [7].
From Fall into mid Winter, the pantry was also used to store bushel baskets of garden produce.

Typical canned and dry goods stored in the rear addition, in 1982 prices:

Item Quantity Cost Item Quantity Cost
beans, lima, dry about 10 lb. $5 potatoes, dehydrated 80   servings $4
beans, navy, dry about 10 lb. $5 rice, bulk bag 25   pounds $8
beans,  pinto, dry about 10 lb. $5 soap,  laundry, 45 lb. box 90   pounds $36
coffee,  freeze dried 12  bottles $48 spaghetti, 2 lb. packages 10   pounds $3
Kleenex, large box 6  boxes $4 sugar, 10 lb. bags 60   pounds $17
macaroni,  5 lb. boxes 20  pounds $7 toilet paper 96   rolls $18
milk,  dehydrated, 8 boxes 160  quarts $43 tomato sauce 48   cans $22
oatmeal,  bulk 5 gallon pail $6 tomatoes,  canned, whole 24   cans $21
paper towels 8 rolls $5 tuna  fish, canned 96   cans $76
peaches,  canned, sliced 24 cans $16 vegetables, various, 48   cans $19
peanut  butter 6 large jars $15 wheat, grain, 50 lb. bag 100   pounds $24
peas,  split, dry about 10 lb. $5 whisky, McMasters 12   liters $79

Freeze dried food storage
Between November 1982 and January 1983, we developed a very long term food storage strategy, which included the purchase of eighteen cases of Mountain House freeze dried food.  Each case contained six each one gallon (# 10 size) tin cans of nitrogen packed, freeze dried food products, providing a total of one hundred eight cans, of forty-eight different freeze-dried foods. Donna and I put a lot of thought into exactly what we wanted to buy, comparing the reconstituted volumes with other canned foods that we had in storage, as well as considering our annual garden produce.

Before making the bulk freeze-dried food purchase,  we bought a two-day supply of Mountain House freeze-dried food in foil pouches, the type commonly used by back packers and mountain climbers. We rated each reconstituted food and compared it with comparable canned or home-made products. Our findings showed the freeze-dried variety to have about eighty-five percent as much flavor as the normally prepared variety. Some extra spices or shortening were required, otherwise the foods were good.

The freeze-dried foods were estimated to have a shelf life of 30 years under optimal conditions, however, probably would last more like twenty years in central Minnesota. When we placed the order, our cost for the eighteen cases of freeze-dried food was $1,000, delivered

Long term, freeze dried foods in storage[8]

Item # Cans Item # Cans Item # Cans
egg omelet w/ cheese 1 macaroni and cheese 2 milk, dehydrated 4
eggs, scrambled 1 potatoes and beef 3 cheddar cheese 1
eggs, scrambled w/ bacon 1 rice and chicken 5 banana pudding 1
beans w/ beef franks 1 spaghetti and meat 1 butterscotch pudding 1
beef  almandine 1 vegetable  stew w/ beef 3 chocolate pudding 1
beef and rice 3 beef patties raw 1 crackers 2
beef chop suey 1 beans, green 4 granola 2
beef flavored rice 2 carrots 3 L.U.R.P.S. 1
beef stew 2 corn 5 apple slices 5
beef   stroganoff 1 peas 5 applesauce 3
chicken  chop suey 1 potatoes, hash brown 9 banana chips 2
chicken stew 2 potatoes, mashed 3 blueberries 2
chicken w/ noodles 3 spinach 1 peaches 2
chicken w/ rice, carrots 1 cocoa 1 pears 1
chili and beans 3 lemon aid mix 2 pineapple 1
chili mac w/ beef 3 orange aid mix 3 strawberries 1

Most of the cans provided between 18 to 20, half cup servings of reconstituted food.

The cases were stacked on planks, several inches above the floor and away from the walls in the rear addition, where they remained year after year, insurance against a dire emergency.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1982.
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening   News
•  Private   Benjamin
•  Magnum P.I.
•  The Greatest American Hero
•  Simon and Simon
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies
**  Marco Polo, a miniseries

Among the movies that Donna and I attended this year were:
48 HRS. with Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Annette O’Toole, James Remar
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy with Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer
Blade Runner with Harrison Ford, Rutgar Hauer, Sean Young,   Edward J. Olmos
Conan The Barbarian with Arnold   Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial with Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore
Fire Fox with Clint Eastwood, Freddie Jones, David Huffman,   Warren Clarke
Porky’s with Dan Monahan, Mark Hettier, Wyatt Knight, Roger   Wilson
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo   Montauban
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas with Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Dom DeLuise
The World According To Garp with Robin Williams, Glenn Close, John Lithgow
Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston

[1] Many years later, Donna was required to begin taking medication.
[2] The heat pump had a cooling capacity of 24,000 BTUH and a heating capacity of 23,000 BTUH. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio for summer was 10.85, where a SEER of 10 was rated with excellent performance. The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor was 6.95, where a HSPF of 6.5 was rated excellent performance.
[3]  See also Journal 12, Point of View, page 2100, “Archeological Digs”
[4]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My Memories of the Telephone System”
[5]  Between Dec 1983 and Oct 1987, basic monthly telephone service rates rose from $7.00 to $11.35 in Los Angeles, $13.65 to $18.76 in Minneapolis and $8.83 to $18.38 in Washington D.C.
[6]  See also Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, “The Pantry” and “Long Term Emergency Food Storage”
[7] In 1982, the $320 worth of food  in our freezer represented a week’s gross income from  my job.
[8] Twenty five years later with the expiration of their estimated shelf life, the freeze-dried foods were disposed of. They had fulfilled their role as an insurance policy. Just as with auto insurance, you hope you’ll never have to collect, but you carry the insurance for the protection.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1981, age 38-39

 Themes and Events:
*  The Rubik’s Cube brain teaser toy becomes the rage.
*  The video game Pac Man shows up in arcades and living room all across the country.
*  The most popular movie of the year was Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
*  The government creates a “superfund” for environmental emergencies and to clean up toxic waste sites.
*  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in Atlanta publishes its first report on the AIDS epidemic.
*  An article in the New England Journal of Medicine links cholesterol with coronary heart occlusion, the debate over dietary cholesterol begins.
*  Researchers create the first transgenic animal, inserting viral DNA into the DNA of a mouse, such creatures, carrying human genes serve as models for studying human diseases.
*  The Space Shuttle Columbia makes its maiden voyage, becoming the first manned spacecraft to land as an aircraft on its wheels, rather than parachute in and “splash down” in the ocean.
Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Make somebody happy: Mind your own business.
*  Save an alligator, eat a Preppie.
*  Answer my prayers, steal this car.
*  The only way they’ll get my gun is to pry it from my cold dead hands.
Ronald Reagan becomes President
On January 20, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. George Bush Sr. becomes Vice President. Immediately after the swearing in process, news came out that Iran was releasing all fifty two of its American hostages. The coincidence was delightful, but alarming and everyone wondered what we secretly ‘gave away’ to ‘buy back’ the hostages.
The Society of Mayflower Descendants
After what seemed a long fall and winter of waiting, I finally received my certificate of  membership, from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants at Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was admitted to the society as a descendant of John Howland, on January 24, General Society Number #45302 and Minnesota State Number #547.

[Document photocopy: General Society of Mayflower Descendants certificate #45302, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley-Howland]

While waiting for the Society’s Historian General to validate the Howland genealogical line, I sent in  supplemental proofs of descent from Pilgrim Richard Warren, also a passenger aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

[Document photocopy: Mayflower Descendants, General Society of Mayflower Descendants supplemental certificate, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, Richard Warren.]

We found that John Howland’s wife, Elizabeth Tilley’s parents, John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs, came to the New World with their daughter on the Mayflower[1]. Meanwhile, Richard Warren had left his wife and daughters in England and traveled here looking for business opportunities.
So, counting John Howland, Richard Warren and the Tilley family, that meant my immediate paternal family descended from at least five passengers aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

Books read during the year
I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
Better Read Than Dead: The Complete Book of Nuclear Survival © 1981 by Thomas R. Nieman – Effects of a nuclear weapons attack on the USA, fallout shelters. 193 pages.
Cycles of War: The Next Six Years © by R.E. McMasters – Discussion of various economic, social and war cycles that seem to be converging.  217 pages.
Life After Doomsday: A Survivalists Guide to Nuclear War and Other Major Disasters © 1980 by Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D. – How to survive a nuclear war, home fallout shelters, food storage, medical equipment and home defense. 185 pages.
The Alpha Strategy © 1980 by John A. Pugsley – A book touting the purchase and storage of tangible wealth, items produced by man, to counter the effects of inflation.
Stalking the Wild Pendulum © by Itzhak Bentov – On the mechanics of consciousness and experimenting with time. 233 pg.

Music [midi: Dr Zhivago]

Our Bio-Organic French Intensive garden
In May, as soon as we could work with the soil, we began cleaning up the garden. It had been left a jumble of roots, rocks and clumps of top soil from the backhoe work we had done the previous Fall. We removed  wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of old root chunks, small sticks and rocks. There were so many rocks in the garden, and about the yard, that when they were accumulated in one spot, we ended up with a rounded pile about three feet high and eight feet in diameter!

Our neighbor, Bobby brought us two ‘manure spreader loads’ of cow manure, from a half year old, rotting pile beside his barn. One load was spread directly onto the garden before spring tilling, the other was used in the orchard and vineyard.

During the previous winter, Donna and I read a gardening book on the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method. This gardening technique used raised garden beds, deep cultivation, heavy compost additions, and close planting to provide up to three times the vegetable production from the same garden area as common row gardening.

The raised bed method was said to: increase the surface area planted, provide better drainage, while beds densely planted to one species created an environment more compatible with that species. The continuous leaf cover across a four foot to five foot wide bed was said to reduce weed problems and help maintain soil moisture content.

Our first Bio-Organic French  Intensive Method garden consisted of five beds, each four feet wide, and one bed ten feet wide. All the raised beds were twenty-six feet long, with a two foot path between them. Among the crops planted were: Corn, green snap beans on tripod trellises, beets, carrots, lettuce, onions, potatoes, various squash, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

[Photo ca 1982, taken from a ladder: A portion of our Bio-organic, French Intensive garden. We never were able to eat all the vegetables we raised, so frequently gave the extras away to co-workers.]

In our small orchard and vineyard, we planted: three dwarf apple trees, two cherry, two plum, two blueberry bushes, six currents, two Hazelnut, five each Beta and Concord grapes, hundreds of red raspberries and hundreds of Ever bearing and June bearing strawberries. When each tree and bush was planted we added a full wheelbarrow load of rotted cow manure and straw to the hole before refilling. We had spectacular crop success using the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method.

The asparagus bed
(See photo above: The tall wild looking greenery located across the  top, left to center, background is the asparagus bed)
Using shovels and expending a great deal of labor, we dug a five foot wide and twenty foot long by one foot deep hole for an asparagus bed. We shoveled a layer of cow manure into the hole and covered this with a layer of black dirt, added another layer of manure and the top layer of soil.
When the bed was ready to plant, we drove to St. Cloud and bought root stock for one hundred asparagus plants. The individual roots were carefully spaced and each covered with soil.
Over the next couple of years, as asparagus shoots came up in the spring, we added compost, manure from the duck shed and more top soil until the bed was brought up to the level of the surrounding ground.
We allowed the asparagus two years of growth to establish their roots, before we began harvesting shoots. The asparagus bed paid off, providing us with the best tasting fresh vegetables! Over the next few years,  as the early Spring weather warmed, either Donna or I went out to inspect the asparagus patch daily, looking for growth and licking our lips with anticipation.
Fresh asparagus was always cooked and eaten as soon as enough was accumulated for a meal; and those meals frequently included barbequed steak. Hmm Mmm, heavenly!

The Trash Can pit
During late Fall 1980, when we had Butch Chemielewski come out with his back hoe to dig up and turn the garden area soil, we also had him dig a ‘trash can pit’ for the household’s solid, non combustible
waste. The pit was dug in the woods, about thirty feet outside of the proposed  line for our back yard (north) fence. The pit was dug about six feet wide, nine feet long and five feet deep.

Early this spring, Donna and I put a fence up around the pit. When we tossed our first cans and bottles
away, they looked so small compared to the size of the hole, we chuckled and commented that it would take a long, long time to fill with rubbish…and the years passed.
[Photo: The new trash can pit. Used as a landfill for cans, bottles and other non biodegradable, non combustibles. See a picture of the pit in Chapter 2006 when it had become (full) filled with 26 years of family ‘history.’]

In time, the scars created by the backhoe became overgrown with grass, moss, saplings, and flowering wood anemones, everything was covered with leaves that fell every Fall, creating a thin layer of topsoil.

As the pit filled, the weight of the growing refuse column, plus rusting in the lower levels, caused the pile to collapse in upon its self, but slowly we saw the hole becoming more and more ‘shallow’. Eventually, several of the non pressure treated posts rotted away, the fence fell over, the refuse heaped up to become a circular mound contained by the base of the old fence….cans, bottles, tricycles, bicycles, microwave ovens, computers, the jetsam and flotsam of life gathered here in this time capsule of effluent.

The compost bin
During the summer, we built a compost bin to hold the homestead’s raw vegetable garbage, grass clippings, leaves, garden residue, weeds and straw. The composter was comprised of a twelve foot long above ground container made with pressure treated wood. At the corners and every four feet between, we vertically set four inch square pressure treated posts into the ground. The twelve foot long rectangular structure was subdivided into three each four foot square bins, standingthree feet high.

Pressure treated wood planks were nailed along the back and sides, and removable slats were slid into place along the front of each bin, to contain that decaying material.

We filled 2-3 bins per year. Decayed material from one bin was tilled into the garden each spring, another of straw was used for mulch. A third bin, composed of straw and grass clippings were tilled into the garden each fall.

The system worked quite well, by providing a place to get rid of a large quantity of raw organic material in an environment free of hazardous germs and being able to recycle the organics back onto the garden.

Mike and Kay visit
Mike and Kay and their children Joe, David and Laurie flew out from San Bernardino to visit with us between 10-19 July. We picked the family up at the Minneapolis International Airport using both the GMC pickup and Toyota to carry everyone and the luggage home.

Mike, had lived in suburban Los Angeles his entire life, except for four years military service in the US Air Force. Being out in the ‘deep woods’ he was immediately taken with the privacy and natural surroundings afforded our home. Every day during their visit, Mike and I would hike to some part of the property, or wander around the yard discussing in depth the various technologies of gardening, raising livestock, composting, the various types of wildlife, installing a well-drain field- building structures, putting up fencing. We had a great time, it was good visiting with my old friends.

[Photograph facing west: Mike & Kay, David and Joe cautiously inspecting one of Donna’s bee hive frames.
A few months later Donna and I had installed the yard fence that stretched along the edge of the woods in the background and came to the yard gate seen in the photo below.]

Practically every afternoon and into the evening we sat in the back yard chatting, while barbecuing dinner on our red, covered, Weber BBQ. Their son’s, Dave and Joe, explored the woods within view of the house and playing by the pond.
The Air Controllers strike
Between 3-6 August, the US Air Traffic Controllers went on a nationwide strike for higher wages; which they had coming because of the effects of inflation. President Reagan ordered the technicians back to work, but they refused to continue working without either a contract or pay hike. Reagan showed his true colors and sympathies toward the “working man” when a few days later, on Aug 6th, he fired everyone who did not show up for work on the 5th. Twelve thousand Air Traffic Controllers lost their job immediately and the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would hire replacements.

From that date on, the strength of organized unions in the U.S. declined, and Federal support continued to firmly back business at the expense of the worker.

Alexander’s run
Alexander R. Little was an ‘explorer of a bird’. Often, when we’d arise in the morning, we found him roosting on a curtain rod in the living room or above a window in the kitchen, or perhaps just scooting around on the floor. At times, when he was belligerent about going home to his cage at night, we had to close his cage door to keep him in until morning. Usually ‘he had the run of the house’

One afternoon, during the late summer, while we were grilling some meat on the barbecue for our supper, I walked outside with a bowl of barbecue sauce. Now as it so happened, over the last year and a half, I’d become so use to Alexander riding on my shoulder, that I completely forgot that a few minutes earlier, when I went in the house  he landed on my shoulder for a ride. Then going back outdoors to the barbeque, no sooner did I reached the bottom step when I realized Alexander was still riding on my shoulder. As I gasped and slowly turned my head to look at him, he flew off to circle above me.

Alexander had been spending a lot of time sitting on top the front door, just inside the screen looking at all the greenery outside. Now he was outside and free to go where ever he wanted. It didn’t look good from the moment he flew up and circled above the trailer. I called Donna, and we set out following him to a tree about two hundred feet northeast of the trailer. I shinnied up the tall thin oak and coaxed Alexander to hop on my shoulder, but since there were no limbs to hold on to, I was unable to relax my grip on the trunk and try to catch him. Climbing , back down, I called Alexander and offered my finger for him to land on, Alexander swooped down several times, acting like he wanted to land on me, but was in the last instant distracted by his surroundings and flew back to a higher limb. We kept trying to coax him to us until dusk, when he finally flew off into the woods and disappeared.

[Photgraph: An example of the woods on our property. This image take from the side of the driveway looking south, with the yellowish ‘lowland-fen bog’ in the distance.]

A couple nights later we had a light, chilly rain coupled with quite cool temperatures, I don’t suppose the little guy survived; alas, we ever saw Alexander R. Little again. For the next few days I spent some time wandering in a widening circle around where we last saw him, unsucessfully looking for his bright green plumage amongst the litter on the forest floor….

Installation of the homesite perimeter fence
Between 1979 and Fall of 1981, Donna and I frequently worked on the installation of our homesite perimeter fence. Because of the weather and the mosquito problem, we were limited to workingonly  in the early spring and fall.

Before moving the trailer onto the property, we cleared the brush from out proposed fence line and began installing posts. It wasn’t until after we’d actually moved that we were able to come home from work in the late afternoon or run outside right after breakfast in the morning and put in a wood post or two; with quick access to the tools, the fence went up relatively fast.

The nine hundred eighty foot perimeter fence was installed with a east-west width of about two hundred feet and an overall north-south length of three hundred feet. The trailer, garden, orchard were all located in the “upper yard”. Our pond, a shed (built later), and what came to be known as “Snake Flats Wilderness Camping Area” was located in the semi wild “lower yard”. The driveway came into the yard from the west, almost equally bisecting the upper and lower yard.

When we bought the property, we knew nothing about fencing. We borrowed books from the Public library to read, as well as observing how fencing was installed along the local farm fields.

We absorbed a lot of general agricultural technology from the various projects we became involved with around the property.

In order to make our fence line straight we ran a string from a main “corner post” toward the next main support post (separated by no more than one hundred feet) then installed smaller ‘runner posts’ along that line at approximately ten foot intervals.  Usually, I’d wield the post hole digger and pluck out  the top eighteen inches of the hole, then Donna took over to excavate the bottom half foot.

[Photograph: A length of finished fencing on the west side of the homesite, looking north from the driveway at yard entrance. Our Nightstar* sign and eagle are on the tall yard gate post at left.]

It seems that tens of thousands of years ago, a glacier moved across this area and left lots of small stones in passing. These rocks were in every post hole we dug. It was never a simple matter of just digging an easy two foot deep hole. We always hit a good size rock at a depth of about a foot or so and had to pry and dig around to remove it. Most holes also had several smaller rocks, ‘baby rocks’ if you will, accompanying a larger ‘adult rock’. The smaller rocks were simply thrown back in the hole as part of the back fill, the larger rocks were wheelbarrowed to the closest rock pile (down by the pond or next to the (future) compost bin in the back yard).

While Donna held the post upright and level in its hole, I’d carefully back fill soil around the post and begin compacting the soil with the handle end of the sledge hammer. We took turns digging, removing rocks, back filling and compacting. Although we always wore leather gloves, but still, our hands became rough and strong from the work.

When all of a ‘stretch’ fence posts had been installed, between let’s say, a corner of the yard and a gate, we’d lay out a roll of woven wire and secure one end to the corner post and its support. The running
end of the roll was pulled to the gate corner posts where it was secured with a “come-along” and ratcheted tight. The fencing was nailed to the end posts with U-nails then nailed to the runner posts at the proper distance above ground.
Next, we strung a strand of barbed wire at the bottom of the woven wire and three spaced, strands of barbed wire above.
When finished, the fence stood about four feet high. Each season we put in another length of fence and every season the job was closer to being done. Finally, in the fall of 1981 we finished installing the fence and put up the gates.

The fencing materials primarily consisted of:
1) Pressure treated wood: forty seven posts, each six inches diameter by six and a half feet long corner posts ($235.); seventy seven each five inch diameter by six feet long runner posts ($192.); thirty one each four inch diameter brace posts ($54.).

2) Hardware: 4000 feet barbed wire ($74.); 1000 feet of #12 gauge, thirty two inch high welded woven wire ($220.). These prices do not include the cost of our tools, post hole digger, steel U-fencing staples, the come-along, or our many, many hours of strenuous physical labor (love for what we were doing).

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1981.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  Bosom Buddies
•  Private Benjamin
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  The Greatest American Her
•  Simon and Simon
•  Magnum P.I.
  Masada, a miniseries.

Movies that Donna and I attended during the year include;
Continental Divide with John Belushi, Blair Brown, Allan Goodwitz, Caril Glynn
Escape From New York with Kurt Russel, Lee Van Cleef, Ernst Borgnine
For Your Eyes Only with Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson
Modern Problems with Chevy Chase, Patti D’Arbanville, Nell Carter
Neighbors with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Kathryn Walker, Cathy Moriarty
On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman
Outland with Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen
Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Wolf Kahler, Paul Freeman
Stripes with Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles
Superman II with Christopher Reeves, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp
Tarzan, The Ape Man with Bo Derek, Richard Harris, John Philip Law
The Road Warrior (Mad Max II) with Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence,Vernon Wells
Zorro, The Gay Blade with George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro

[1]  John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs perished of  the “general sickness” that swept through the small party of pilgrims during their first winter at Plimoth.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1980, age 37-38


Section 4:
Little House in the Woods

-=  Beginnings  =-


Themes and Events:
*  Small pox, one of mankind’s worst scourges is “totally eradicated” (Note 2010: It was eradicated from the ‘wild,’ the disease germs still live on in global biowarfare laboratories).
*  This year Tax Freedom Day falls on 1 May, in 1960 tax freedom was two weeks earlier, on 17 April. Tax Freedom Day is insidiously creeping further and further through the calendar, leaving less money for worker expenses; it fell on 13 February 1930, 8 March 1940 and 3 April 1950.
*  A boardless, role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons becomes a big hit to the consternation of preachers who see it as a work of Satan.
The Official Preppie Handbook hits bookstores, advising the class conscious how to be more  “preppie.”
*  Professional women wearing jogging shoes become a common sight.
*  3M introduces the “Post-it” note pad.
*  The world’s most powerful radio telescope is completed near Socorro, NM. Its huge, 27 dish antenna array (called a Very Large Array) forms a massive Y in the desert, each arm stretching 13 miles.
* Inflation declines  from 18% last year to 12.4% this year.
*  The Equal Opportunities Commission issues regulations making it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace.
*  The Census Bureau reports the U.S. population is 226,547,000.  The average age of the world population is very low as roughly 1/3 are children under the age of fourteen years.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Beam me up Scotty — There’s no intelligent life here.
*  Exxon suxx.
*  Jimmy Carter does the work of two men — Laurel and Hardy.

My resolution for the future
During the last three months of 1979 and into late January 1980, the spot price of gold and silver bullion went into a parabolic rise. Although gold and silver had been climbing during  the previous year, it was in this approximately four month period that precious metal prices simply ‘went to the moon! Gold doubled from about $375 to over $850,  while silver tripled from about $15 to $42 per ounce.

As the days and weeks passed, there were more and more news stories on television discussing the precious metals, there were occasional editorials in the newspaper, and once in a while, someone at work would wistfully mention how they wished they owned some gold or silver. The idea of making a ‘fast profit’, was spreading, it was a topic you could chat about with a coworker.

Donna and I had just paid off the property, had a well drilled and installed, and were presently saving all our extra weekly income to cover the upcoming cost of a sewage drain field, having a garage built– all the things associated with moving onto our property. We were locked into our plans with no cash for speculative investment.

In retrospect, I see that the rising prices ‘snuck up’ on everyone. Most non financial workers are busy with their job, family, friends and hobbies, mentally absorbed with the events of their daily lives. The economic specialists, the brokers and those who track the markets knew what was happening. But it was only in that last few months to a half year, when  the news media picked up on the story, and began reporting the price rise, did we in the general population begin to become aware of the explosive profit potential. The awareness came upon us like awakening from sleep… slowly and comfortably opening your eyes with understanding, conscious realization slowly filling the mind with awareness and implications from the environment.

By the time the we knew there was a quick profit to be made from running down to the coin dealer and buying a bag of silver change or a bullion bar, prices were already entering a parabolic ‘blow off’ phase.[6]

Although silver spiked to its long held record of $50, for a few minutes during one day, the market closed at only $42. The reality of the situation was that the ‘retail brokers’, being fearful of an imminent  price collapse were not paying $42 for bullion, closer to $32, while pre1965 silver coin only brought about $20 per oz silver content. So, the best price the ‘man on the street’ could get during maybe only a couple week period in the latter part of the rise, would have been about $32 per ounce. That $32 was only 60% of the reported, extreme interday blow off price, that historians are fond of reporting. The same situation existed in gold pricing. On 21 January 1980, gold spiked to a market close of $878 per ounce, but the lucky man who sold at the peak would probably have received no more than about $700 from his local coin dealer-broker.

I remember being in the Waste water treatment plant lab and doing arithmetic on how much profit I could have made over the last month or so, if I’d had $1000 invested in silver. A few minutes later, walking about the building, deep in thought, I realized: ‘If gold and silver prices exploded during the inflationary economic times we were  currently having, then at some time in the future, we would again see similar hard times, and there would be another popular rush on precious metal prices, hence another opportunity to profit’.

That morning, I made a mental note: 1) To keep my mind open to any developing ‘sea changes’ in the US economy, and in the years ahead, when there was again a growing concern over 2)  inflation or 3) other financial-military things were not going well, that I should, 4) begin buying gold and silver.

I never forget the object lesson provided by the bullion price rise of 1980, nor the mental note to my future self, meanwhile time and life passed in their normal seasons…

[The homesite on a frosty Saturday morning. Another season’s work is about to begin as we continued clearing the homesite after the 1979-80 winter break. Panoramic view extending from S (at left) to W (far right), taken from in front of our future garage location. See photo of the garage  at the end of this chapter.]

Buying a John Deere, model #70 tractor
Ever since the previous Fall, we’d been thinking of buying a used tractor to help us move brush, logs and level what would be our yard. This Spring, a supervisor at Landy’s mentioned to Donna that he was quitting his hobby farm and had a tractor for sale. We drove out to his place one weekend and looked the tractor over, listened to it run and watched the fellow drive it about and operate its hydraulic front bucket.

It was a John Deere model #70 with a four foot wide hydraulic bucket on the front, just what we were looking for. Actually it was more than we were looking for. It seemed like a great and powerful beast with its fifty horsepower engine that made a loud, deep  roaring sound with a continuous, sibilant, “chug-chug-pop-pop…” The model JD #70 is a large tractor with huge, thick, five and a half foot high back wheels that were half filled with liquid (to make them heavy and increase traction), the top of the engine compartment stood probably a little better than six feet high with a machine ‘dry weight’ of 6,035 pounds. While sitting in the driver’s seat, your eye level was nearly eight feet above the ground. (See picture toward the end of this chapter)

The owner was asking $1,800 for the machine. Later that the day, we conferred with our neighbor, Bobby, to see what he thought of the price, make and model, etc.

On March 29 we bought the tractor, then received maybe five minutes of instruction on how to drive and operate the beast. With Donna following in the pickup truck, I drove the machine slowly back to Rockwood Estates for further inspection, cleanup and storage, until we were ready to move onto our property. Needless to say, I was not comfortable about driving this large, heavy duty piece of equipment twenty miles through the cold March winds, and with only a couple minutes of instruction.

US attempts to rescue “the hostages”
On April 24, the US military launched a covert operation into Iran in an attempt to rescue the Embassy hostages. The effort failed when the US aircraft crashed into one another on their desert runway killing eight American servicemen and creating fires that could be seen for miles. It was a sad sight to see the photographic images that were shown on the evening news over the next few days: Gnarled and burned out aircraft and happy, dancing, gun waving Iranian soldiers. The Iranians had “gotten us again”, simply because we were not using our intelligence and performing properly.

Although this was a brave and daring mission,  the military was not prepared for this kind of exercise and fouled up. President Carter was blamed for the missions failure, which simply added to his growing reputation as a weak, indecisive, “do nothing” President.

We didn’t learn this fact for another ten years, but one of the great things President Carter did during his term was to signed a bill for secret appropriations to build “Stealth” technology into a new generation of jet fighters and bombers. Stealth technology helps aircraft fly undected through radar.

Alexander R. Little, parakeet extraordinaire
When our first parakeet, Icabod died, we immediately bought a second bird and set him up in Icabod’s cage. We bought new toys, perches, seed blocks and other removable items so Alexander would start out with all of his own things. During the long winter months we spoke to him, taught him to sit on our fingers and to ride on our shoulders.

Alexander became fascinated with “wrestling” with Donna’s hand. Ever so often, while sitting on the couch, reading or watching TV, Alexander would come flying into the front room, land on Donna’s knee and walk up to her hand. Donna would curl her fingers to touch her thumb thereby making a hollow spot, and Alexander would crawl inside. Donna would give him a little squeeze, turn him upside down
and tickle his belly feathers, making the bird wiggle in ecstasy. Alexander loved the attention, he was a ‘personable’ bird. Whenever one of us was at the kitchen table, writing a letter, reading, or chatting amongst ourselves, Alexander would fly over to sit on our shoulders.

Purchasing a new Toyota Corolla
Donna’s and my work schedule at Landy’s was becoming erratic, with each of us being required to arrive at different times of the morning. The length of our individual lunches varied and occasional overtime meant we were alternating waiting in the pickup for one another. As soon as we saw our schedules would remain erratic, we made plans to buy a second vehicle.

Visiting a St. Cloud’s Toyota Dealership, we test drove, then bought another Toyota Corolla. The auto was essentially the same as we owned in El Monte, California, before moving to Minnesota; and the same as I owned when living in Hayward, California.

Our new car was a 1980, Toyota Corolla, two door, with a gray body, costing approximately $3,200. As soon as we bought the vehicle, we took it to a commercial automotive radio store and had an AM-FM-cassette tape player and speakers installed. The car served us well, lasting seventeen years, until 1997.

A growing interest in our family genealogy
During the spring, my father and Uncle Bill, began coaxing me into their hobby of ‘family genealogical research’. I think my Dad and his brother, Bill, had been discussing family genealogy for some time amongst themselves, but figuring I wasn’t interested, hadn’t discussed their projects with me. Then when something about our family history was mentioned and I showed an interest, it wasn’t long before I was included in their research loop.

With growing interest, I checked out a couple “How To’ genealogy books from the St. Coud Public Library and read them in an effort to catch up with my elders and contribute some research information to the effort.

While I was still in the introductory stages of learning, both Dad and Uncle Bill announced they were filing their applications for admission to the National Society of Mayflower Descendants! I was incredulous. They hadn’t told me to what depth their research had taken them. They found that we descended from Pilgrim, John Howland, a passenger on the 1620 Mayflower.

The line of descent came down from:  1) John Howland and wife Elizabeth Tilley,  their daughter, 2) Hope Howland who married John Chipman,  their son, 3) John Chipman Jr. and wife Mary Skiff, their son, 4) Perez Chipman Sr. and his wife Judith Draper, their son, 5) Perez Chipman Jr. and Margaret Manlove, their daughter, 6) Harriet Chipman and husband William Horney, their son, 7) Jeffrey
Horney and wife Catherine Janes, their daughter, 8) Margaret Horney and husband Harmon Anderson, their daughter, 9) Anna Flora Anderson and husband George Grubb, their daughter, 10) Elsie Grubb and husband Glen K. Pierce,  their son, 11) Robert F. Pierce and wife Hazel M. Shafer, their son, 12) myself, Larry F. Pierce and wife Donna, and our daughter, 13) Jane E. Pierce.

The Society of Mayflower Descendants is a prestigious organization, the most exclusive genealogical society in the United States.
I had read somewhere in years past, that members of the Mayflower Society have come from all walks of life, from President to beggar, and that on ‘Society meeting days’ they were all one, cousins and, or, ancient friends whom had all worked together to survive as early settlers on this continent, and whose families have worked ever since to make America a opportune and desirable country to live.

God Bless them all…they would turn in their grave now, only a few hundred years later,  to see how those whom we welcomed behind us, gave our heritage away and squandered the future.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Purposes Of The Society Of Mayflower Descendants Section

1.  To perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of our Pilgrim Fathers. To maintain and defend the principle of civil and religious liberty as set forth in the Compact of the Mayflower, “For the glorie of God, and advancemente of the Christian faith and honor of our countrie.”
2.  To cherish and maintain the ideals and institutions of American freedom, and to oppose any theories or actions that threaten their continuity. To transmit the spirit, the purity of purpose and steadfastness of will of the Pilgrim Fathers to those who shall come after us, an undiminished heritage of liberty and law.
3.  To promote the interests that are common to all the State Societies of Mayflower Descendants which can best be served by a federal body, and to secure united effort to discover and publish original matter in regard to the Pilgrims, together with existing data known only to antiquarians, and to authenticate, preserve and mark historical spots made memorable by Pilgrim association.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Questions about installing a drain field
Since buying the property, we’d come to find that we had a ‘perched, high water table’.
We had two points of concern and both reflected on the type of sewage drain field we’d have to install:
1.  The elevation where our proposed drain field would set, was only a couple feet higher than the soggy, grassy transition zone on the edge of the lowland.
2.  There was a seasonal, horizontal, subsoil transport of water down the hill. In the spring when the soil was very moist, excess water which was initially absorbed by the soil and only penetrated about a foot before hitting a hard pan of clay. The moisture slowly seeped along above the hardpan, through the soil, down the slope toward the lowland.  We found that during the spring, holes dug in the yard, soon filled with water.

During May, we hired a Soil expert from the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud campus to help determine what kind of sewage system drain field we’d need. We met the Soil expert at the property and dug several holes about the yard with the post hole digger for him to inspect. He ran a percolation test and analyzed the soil strata. In other words: The expert timed how long it took for water to begin seeping into the holes I dug, then he took a couple soil samples back to his lab in a plastic bag. We received his written report and a bill for $99 a few days later. We were advised to install an elevated drain field. As such, the drainage pipes would lay on top of the ground and would be covered with a couple feet of soil. We didn’t like the expert’s idea at all, so decided to make a few telephone calls to area contractors and ask around for some other opinions and alternatives.

The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s
Mount St. Helen’s, a volcano in Washington, that was experiencing considerable earthquake activity, erupted violently on May 18. The entire top side of the mountain was blown away or dissolved in a huge explosion.
Part of one side of the mountain liquefied and ran down into surrounding rivers and lakes sending a surge of mud downstream. For miles in every direction, the forests were blown flat and destroyed, everything was covered with a varying thickness of ash. Initially, huge, billowing clouds of smoke and ash were raining down all around the area, creating eerie “thunderstorms” complete with lightning and mud rain. Residents in nearby towns wore masks over their faces while motor vehicles stalled with grit plugged air filters. Telephoto images of Mount St. Helen’s taken a few days later, showed an environment looking somewhat like the lunar surface.  Early estimates of damage caused by the eruption were pegged at $2.7 billion.

The drainfield is installed
Continuing our research into the type of drainfield we should install, we  phoned Butch[1], a local contractor from Gilman. Butch met us at the homesite to discuss our high water table. He had considerable experience around Gilman and Foley, installing septic systems and drain fields in low areas and in perched water tables. His experience said that we wouldn’t have trouble with a conventional underground system, particularly with the addition of one slightly illegal modification…

We pointed where we wanted the system installed: on the south side of our proposed trailer location, under the soil that would eventuallybecome our front yard. Butch was free to come out in a couple days and install the field, all that we needed to do was get a permit from the county.

On 19-20 May, Butch and his nephew, Russell, arrived with their backhoe and installed the drain field. Before covering the drain field, the Building Code Inspector from the county was called to inspect it and give it his official stamp of approval.

[1980 Photograph. Drain field installation. A 1250 gallon septic tank and 726 square foot drain field, covered with rock and straw, are being installed by Butch.]

The basic sewage system included: a round, 1,250 gallon concrete septic tank, a concrete distribution manifold, and four perforated PVC drainage lines.

The drainage pipes were laid out in parallel lines of fifty feet length, about ten feet apart and dug in about two feet deep. The PVC pipes were set in a bed of gravel and rock for drainage, then covered with a layer of straw, and finally backfilled with soil.

After the Building Code Inspector left, Butch installed a additional ‘French Drain’. The purpose of the French Drain was to carry away any potential overflow from the drain field, during the spring, when the water table was high. It was only a way to increase the area of the drain field cheaply. It consisted of a one hundred fifty foot long trench dug past the south end of the drain field. A “T” was made with the long center foot leading across our driveway and extending another one hundred feet. The trench was filled with sand and covered with soil, finally planted to grass.

Installation of the official septic system and drain field cost $900, while the French Drain and sand cost an additional $200.[2]

Our next job for Butch and his back hoe, was to install two yard hydrants. The hydrants were to be located in diagonal opposition across the yard in such a way that when a 100 foot garden hose was attached to each, they would reach almost every point in the upper yard. This would be significant for our future lawn and garden watering and for fire fighting and prevention.

Butch dug a eight foot deep trench about 200 feet diagonally across the yard, then working alone, ran the plastic water pipe, made the connections and brought up the risers. I was concerned that we were going to come back to the property after work one afternoon and find the excavation having caved in and Butch buried in the deep narrow trench, fortunately he got the work done without mishap.

Seeding the driveway ditch to grass
In the early Spring, as soon as temperatures had warmed, and the recently bulldozed soil along the driveway ditch was dry, we began seeding it to grass. The first step was to work our way along the driveway ditch removing the many jutting tree roots, broken limbs and rocks. The soil was then seeded to a mixture of both moisture tolerant and shade tolerant grasses. We raked over the seeds attempting to cover as many as possible and create the best possible environment for growth.

By the end of the summer the ditches were filled with knee high grass and looked ever so much like an overgrown lawn. In the years that followed the terrible scars left by the bulldozer faded. Oak and Maple seedling began taking root on the sides of the ditch, while Black Willow saplings took over in the wetter bottom.  Over the years, the ditch became filled with six foot high Reed Canary Grass, a mixture of other grasses, red raspberry, tree saplings and various other plant life. Squirrels, rabbits and grouse were occasionally seen scurrying though the grass and brush, running across the driveway or to hide in the forest cover.

Bulldozing tree stumps from the homesite
At about the same time we were seeding the driveway, we had the Erdman’s back out to do some work with their bulldozer. One weekend afternoon, Dale arrived with a lowboy truck transporting the bulldozer.
We showed him what we wanted done in the homesite:
•  There were over a dozen tree stumps, a jumble of large logs and several large diameter, eight foot high brush piles that we wanted pushed south out of the yard and back into the willowland.
•  Where the stumps were removed, refill the holes with soil and compact it.
•  Spend a few minutes by our small pond and if it wasn’t too mucky, dig it out a little longer and deeper.
•  Finally, the side of the hill, where our mobile home would be set, needed to be gently worked with the bulldozer blade so we’d have a relatively smooth yard surface.
A few days later when we came back out to inspect the finished work we were happy  to find everything done according to our request.

Music [midi: Working Girl, Let the River Run]

Living and working like nomads on the land
Having begun work on the final homesite, we became anxious to push ahead toward completion as rapidly as possible. At the time, it was our hope to move the mobile home onto the property by the end of the year.
In order to utilize our time most effectively, get the maximum enjoyment from being on the property and from camping, we decided to move the Starcraft fold down  camper out to the land and live there.

So, during June 1980, we took up residence on our property and began living like nomads.

Every night after working a full day at Landy Packing Company, we returned to the acreage to work on the homesite. During the weeks that followed we moved rocks, snipped willows out of the south end of the yard and raked debris from the entire acre size yard.

As soon as we had the camper set up, we drove the John Deere Model 70 tractor out to the property and immediately put it to work.  What a labor saving device!  Downed tree trunks that we couldn’t lift with the bucket were dragged out of the homesite with large chains. The tractor never stuttered performing its Herculean tasks.

[Photograph above: Working and living on the homesite. The ‘Starcraft Galaxy 6’ camper became our primary residence during the summer of 1980, as we rushed to prepare for ‘Moving Day’.]

When moving the largest tree trunks, I’d downshift into the lowest tractor gear and slowly edged forward until the doubled chain grew taught, then, the tractor seemed to growl as it’s treads dug into the soil and we steadily moved forward.

We moved several large wood piles of ready to split firewood, dozens of six foot long large limbs and smaller trunks (each requiring two people to roll onto the tractors bucket), at least a dozen large tree trunks and many hydraulic bucket loads of refuse from the homesite area.

We smoothed the areas that were to become the front and backyards, we stood in the elevated hydraulic bucket while trimming the lower branches of trees that were to remain in the yard, and started a rock pile in an out of the way location in the back yard.

Every other night after her job at Landy’s, Donna would go back the mobile home at Rockwood Estates to feed our tropical fish and Alexander R. Little (parakeet), also to pick up freshly frozen ice for our icebox. On Saturdays, she went shopping for groceries and washed work clothes for the following week.

Our time wasn’t all work. We enjoyed the evenings together in our seemingly wild and remote piece of the Earth. We prepared regular meals on the campers propane stove, washed dishes in the sink, slept in comfortable beds. After supper we either sat at the kitchenette table eating pop corn and petting Griz, or walked about in the nearly completed homesite talking, discussing future plans. The period we spent living in the camper was a happy  time, our days filled with labor from before sun up until almost sun down. You should all be so lucky.

[Donna and I worked on the property every night after our jobs at Landy Packing. Donna went ‘home’ occasionally to do laundry and up pick things we needed. The partially dug pond  is in foreground.  Wood piles at center left and right. Camper in center background.]

Electric and telephone utilities
Even though the entire western boarder of our property was a paved and a well maintained county road, there were no power lines passing, in fact, the electric utility line didn’t even come down the road to our property!

In July, Donna telephoned East Central Electric, the local utility, and requested they put us on the power grid. A few days later, East Central sent a line crew out to install two electric poles, thereby bringing the utility down to our property. A third pole, with a transformer, was set on our land near the front of the driveway.

We  had to pay $0.50 per linear foot to have an underground cable installed from the pole to a transformer set up about fifteen feet behind where the mobile home would eventually be located. This was optional, we could have had an over head power line put in for free, but would have had to knock down an additional twenty foot width of forest for ‘line clearance’. We didn’t even see that ‘free option’ as a choice, the forest was not going to be cut.

When the power line was dug in, we were required to pay an installation deposit of $288. The deposit was tacked onto our electric bill at the rate of $16 per month until we moved onto the property and began using the service. There never was an overhead line on the property, telephone and electric cables came in underground.

Making a power distribution panel
Allan Zimmer, a commercial electrician who worked part time at Landy Packing Company, advised us that we’d need an elevated power panel on which to mount our electric meter. Since the commercial panels cost $120, Donna and I decided to make our own. We used four inch pressure treated posts and for the uprights and redwood planking for the panel. The posts were dug into the ground about two and a half feet. The parts may have cost us $15.

One would think nailing a few boards to a couple blocks of wood would involve just swinging a hammer. No so, like everything else involved with organizing and bringing about the execution of jobs on the property, this was a slow and labor intensive learning experience.

Before Donna and I made the power panel we’d never even seen one. (Houses have panels on the exterior or in the basement, the mobile home park had enclosed connection boxes.)

First, we had to find out what all would be mounted on the panel and the size of each item, power/disconnect box, a distribution panel, local 110v outlet box and electric meter. We had to design the panel to hold all the boxes that would be installed, make sure it stood a certain distance above the ground and needed to be made from wood that would not require maintenance (redwood). We had to choose and buy the wood on Saturday, when there was time to shop in St. Cloud. Back at Rockwood Estates, when the tools were assembled, the was wood cut to length and nailed together. Sunday, the panel was taken out to the property where the post holes were dug, the panel installed, the holes backfilled and tamped in. Between the telephone calls, and questions to determine what was needed, the planning, shopping, construction, transport, and installation, the better part of a weekend went into this one small project.

Table: Weekly family income, 1980

Income information Larry Donna Total
Hourly wage $8.08 $6.76 $14.84
Hours worked 40 hours 40 hours 80 hours
Gross income $323.20 $270.40 $593.60
Federal withholding tax $51.92 $39.77 $91.69
State withholding tax $22.02 $16.28 $38.29
Social Security tax $19.81 $16.58 $36.39
Total payroll deductions $93.95 $72.63 $166.37
Net Pay $229.45 $197.77 $427.33

Finalizing preparations to move
During the first days of August we were  in a dither, everything was coming together as we prepared to move the mobile home. We were making phone calls to organize East Central Electric, Benton County Telephone, Allan Zimmer (our electrician),  Butch (sewage connect) , Traut Well Drilling Company (install and connect our forty two gallon holding and pressure tank) and the truck driver who would haul the mobile home out of Rockford Estates. The people all had to be coordinated to meet at a certain time so each could do his job in conjunction with and overlapping the next.

While organizing the mobile home’s connection at the property, we were also having utilities turned off at Rockwood Estates as well as preparing our personal effects for the move.
•  We phoned the Benton County Telephone and East Central Energy with instructions for our service in Rice to be disconnected first thing in the morning on August 11.
•  The mobile home’s skirting and wooden skirt supports were removed and stacked for transport.
•  After the end of the first week in August, we spent each night packing our belongings into cardboard boxes and distributing the weight about on the mobile home’s floor for safe transit. Everything was being either packed, laid down or secured. Fortunately we took a week’s vacation to coincide with the time of our move.

Moving day
August 11, around 8:00AM: The tow truck arrived as scheduled, where upon the driver began reattaching the mobile home’s towing tongue. When not in use the tongue was disconnected and slid back under the trailer, out of sight.

As soon as the utilities were disconnected, the mobile home was attached to the hitch on the towing truck. Donna and I began removing the concrete leveling blocks and stacking them in the bed of our pickup truck, a job that saved us $65 in labor fees. The mobile homes tires were reinflated to proper pressure for moving.

[Photograph, left: 10AM on moving day, the mobile home being hauled out of Rockwood Estates enroute to our property—about 15 miles due east. Phoro right: Our 1977 Marshfield mobile home entering the homesite. Griz is a happy dog, he, like us have been living on ‘the land’ during much of the summer and are now at home.]

As the tow truck was about to drive out of Rockwood Estates with our mobile home, I inquired about “In Transit Insurance”. The driver informed us there was no insurance; if the home met with an accident: if it were struck by another motor vehicle, if it rolled over in a ditch, if the underframe broke while bouncing over a bump or through a pothole, if anything happened, we would bear the burden. We stood listening, dumfounded, with mouths agape and small beads of nervous perspiration forming on our foreheads. Everything depended on the experience of the driver. We were in the same situation as a pioneer with his covered wagon being ferried across a river on a raft.

We drove to the property on a different route than that taken  the tow truck and our mobile home. There was no way we could follow along behind him while wincing and groaning with every bump and pothole in the road. [The Utility workers prepare: The electricians, telephone installer and plumbers stand about chatting, waiting for the mobile home to arrive. The nearly 5 foot tall electric panel between them is the one I discussed making in this post. The ‘post’ seen standing directly infront of the yellow truck is the back ayrd yard hydrant; barely visible in the shadows to its left, is our well casing with an emergency hand pump.]

Everything was approaching a climax. The trailer was enroute, but would all the utility workers arrive as scheduled? It was an emotionally long fifteen miles ride from Rice to our property, enroute a wave of nausea swept over us. We drove very slow with the heavy load of concrete blocks in the pickup’s bed, but still arrived at the property ahead of the mobile home.

We stopped on the driveway by the county road to wait and watch for the tow truck which arrived ten minutes later.

The tow truck driver required a guide to help move the fourteen foot wide by seventy foot long mobile home up the driveway. I’d previously removed trees along the south side of the driveway and measured distances making sure the trailer would fit, but at a slight turn just two hundred feet from the county road, it was a very close fit.

Once in the homesite, the mobile home was quickly maneuvered into the desired location; meanwhile, our electricians and plumbers readied their tools and parts.

The utility connections are made
While the mobile home was in transit to the property, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, and East Central Electric Company’s electricians had busied themselves installing the required and optional boxes on the power panel, including: electric meter, the main circuit breaker, a terminal box (for distributing cables to the mobile home, future garage, and leaving space for other additions), and a small weatherproof outdoors receptacle box.

Once the trailer was in place, the electricians began making their connections at the back end of the mobile home. I helped the tow truck driver block up and level the structure. Donna had to make a quick drive into Foley and buy a length of PVC pipe so Butch could attach the trailer’s sewage line to the septic tank. It was maddening. There was so much to do, so many last minute decisions, so much hurrying here and there to confer with this person and that…

End of day
Five and a half hours later: The mobile home was blocked up and leveled, we were connected to the power grid, the well and the septic system. When the last worker left, we stopped for a moment, to watch him drive down the driveway, his utility truck disappearing in the woods. To him it was the end of “just another day”, to us it was the first few moments of a new way of life.

Into the night, we unpacked boxes and reassembled our belongings into their familiar places. We put dishes, spices, canned goods and toiletries back on their shelves and in cupboards, we rehung clothes in the closet, dresser drawers were put in place, furniture was scooted back into position.

Yard hydrant #2 at extreme left of picture.

Every few minutes, where ever we found ourselves in the house, we’d pause to look out the window and marvel at the view of our forest, it was hard to believe we’d actually made the transition. Not only had all the work of the last few years been brought to completion, but we were well on the way to finding the relative independence that we had left California to achieve.

[Alone on ‘the land’ at the end of ‘moving day’. Our mobile home has been set up and utilities connected. The service workers have left. We are now alone on our own 39 acres of rural land…an eight year dream has come true.]

Music [midi: Deep Impact]

Return of the Visitor
“The development and growth of the homesite has not gone by unnoticed. We’ve had a very interested, special young person here to visit once or twice. As I write and rewrite [3] read and prepare to print these words on 7:04AM Sunday and 5 June 1983, my young friend is tucked into his bed on a cot some fifteen hundred miles from here, in Arizona.

He is camping out in the backyard. A few minutes ago he awoke and felt chilly, he burrowed down deeper under his covers and is drowsily looking at the stars, beginning to drift off to sleep. In the house where he lives with his mother, father and sister, there is a clock on the kitchen wall. The clock hands show through the deep shadows that it is between 1:00AM and 4:00AM.
On his father’s desk there sits a 1957 desk calendar.

Time is beginning to warp now and my young friend is coming for another visit, he’s tunneling through time. He’ll be here in the Spring, soon after the gardens planted; however I have never known what year.
Perhaps the time of his arrival isn’t important in terms of my daily affairs, because he made all of his visits some twenty five years ago.” [4]

Moving day was the busiest day to date in our lives, we were ‘run ragged’; we’d had to make a dozen important last minute decisions, drive to Foley for parts, do some digging, carry the concrete leveling blocks, it seemed we were everywhere at once–it was a nerve wracking day!

It cost $622 to have the electricians install the various electric boxes, do the wiring, parts costs, and labor for connecting the mobile home to the power grid.

[Photograph at left: ‘Daybreak on the land’. Approaching the homesite along the driveway. The picture was taken about a month after we moved onto the property, we were beginning to live the dream we had.]

The Society of Mayflower Descendants
As Summer came and passed into early Fall, both my Dad and Uncle Bill’s application and rigorous genealogical proofs for membership in the Society of Mayflower Descendants were accepted; by their particular  state chapters and finally at the National level. Once they were officially documented members,  both sent me copies of their worksheets, proofs and photocopies of related documents, to assist me in joining.

I contacted the National office in Plymouth, MA and was given the telephone number of the Minnesota chapter, located in the Twin Cities. The Society’s Historian sent me a set  of preliminary application papers and an interview form. I was instructed to fill out the application and have an interview with another member, whom happened to be, Mr. Southworth, ex-mayor of Painesville, Minnesota.

Donna typed the requested information in my application, including the line of descent and related documentation. I made an appointment to visit with Mr. Southworth and was invited a week later to his home for tea.

Mr. Southworth looked over my application papers to make sure they were in order and that none of the required information had been omitted. We had a short half hour chat about genealogy, mostly his genealogy, as he sized up my character: I was a property owner, had completed three years of college, was a supervisor at a local industry, not upper-class by any means, but a diligent, fruitful member of  society.

[Photograph at right: Early morning view from 200 feet east of the mobile home, looking northeast across our fog shrouded east ‘’pasture’.]

I  think he found it quite unusual for someone to qualify for admission to the Society without having first done years of genealogical research. Indeed, I knew very little about genealogical research. And knew very little about the names, people  and “proofs of relationship” that strung out behind me three hundred sixty years, and twelve generations, back to the landing of 1620 Mayflower Pilgrims.

Shortly after visiting with Mr. Southworth, I sent my application to the Society’s historian in Minnesota for verification of the pedigree. If the application passed the state level it would be sent to the Society’s National office for a final check and membership approval. Receiving membership in the Mayflower Society was a process that would require at least several long, apprehensive months of waiting.

The knowledge that I had ancestors whose names and vital records were proven to go so far back in American history, fanned the flames of genealogical interest in my mind. I wanted to know more about my ancestors, about their lives and times, and so began my research into family genealogy.

Nightstar* and the Eagle symbol
After moving to the property and putting our household back in order, we resumed work on the homesite perimeter fence. We fenced the west side (approach from the county road) first, using thirty two inch high welded woven wire fencing, with a strand of barbed wire on the bottom and three spaced strands of barbed wire above. On either side of our driveway we set a sixteen foot long post, which we dug into the ground four feet. The top of the upright posts were connected by  a plank run between the two, high above the driveway

For the last couple years we’d been thinking of a good name for our property.

About the time we moved onto the land, we’d settled on NIGHT STAR*, an acronym I came up with that meant:  Nodular, Independent, Geotropic Habitat with Techniques for Surviving Tornado’s, Anarchy and Reductions in the standard of living Nightstar*
We  had initially envisioned installing a combination, covered storm-fallout shelter, although the shelter was never built, the name NIGHTSTAR* stuck. We refer to our entire property, including: land, well, woods, low land, garage, fencing, etc., as ‘Nightstar*’.
The name was seldom used in social discussions about the property, it was primarily a private name, a name that was used in my journals and on occasion as reference to the really neat and private place we own and call ours. Amongst our family we simply call the house, “home”, the woods to our east,  “the east woods”, etc.

After the tall driveway ‘gate posts’ were installed, I began thinking about making a symbol for our home that could be attached to the overhead cross members. The symbol would have to be simple yet speak of our achievement on the land, it would have to represent Donna’s and my way of thinking. I mentally juggled some ideas, and drew them in bits and pieces as the finish product slowly emerged as an
interesting totem. The finished idea displayed the symbols:
•  A Bald Eagle with wings outstretched (about two foot high by five feet wide), standing on an ax. The eagle symbolized my early American ancestry, our belief in the American values and ideals, while the ax symbolized how much of our homesite and driveway were cleared– by muscle power and the sweat of our brow.

I drew the image of an eagle standing on an ax on large sheets of drawing paper which were stapled together end to end. The design was traced onto plywood then cut out with a saber saw. After sanding, I painted the eagle and ax in appropriate colors and bolted it to stand atop the cross members of our yard
•  The second item made was a sign, with the letters, NIGHT STAR* individually cut from plywood. The letters were painted white, drilled and nailed to a redwood plank (the plank: ten inches high by four feet long by one and a half inches thick).
[Photograph of the Nightstar* sign. It hung above the driveway’s entrance to the homesite for the next 27 years.]

The next two items made were the silhouette of a tree, symbolizing the forested portion of the property and the silhouettes of three cattails, symbolizing our wetland. The tree and cattails were painted green, drilled and nailed to the sign. The tree was attached to the left  (north side- as seen when driving into our
homesite) of the NIGHT STAR* letters, because the woods were located on the north side of the property. The cattails were attached to the right side (south) for the same reasons.

In regard to the star symbol following the name, NIGHTSTAR*. The star combines the acronym “night star” into a visual star, with added reference to our new home in the far northern part of the United States, nearer the North Star.

List of grocery store products used
Still trying to understand what we spent our allocated ‘grocery money’ on, I had Donna save the weekly grocery shopping receipts for an entire year. Every couple of weeks I went through the receipts an itemized the foodstuffs into nine categories. I then entered each item by category and cost into a small
spreadsheet program which I wrote for our Processor Technology SOL computer. As the months passed, it was interesting to note that we did not purchase many prepared or convenience foods.

A categorized list of the type grocery store products we purchased, is seen in the following table. The items in each category are listed alphabetically, not by preference or amount consumed.

General grocery store products used in our household, 1980

BAKERY peas powdered sugar steak tequila
bread plums rice triple sec
dinner rolls spinach rye flour PRODUCE whisky
donuts wax beans salt apples wine
hamburger buns split peas celery
DAIRY sugar corn OTHER
BEVERAGES 1% fat milk wheat flour eggplant 50# bags dog food
apple cider cheddar cheese white flour grapefruit charcoal
canned soda pop eggs lettuce cigarettes
frozen orange juice various chip dips MEAT onions Comet cleanser
grapefruit juice bacon oranges floor wax
DRY GOODS beef roast pears hand soap
CANNED GOODS baking soda chicken plums Kotex
chilies brown sugar ground lamb potatoes laundry soap
corn cornmeal ham strawberries paper towels
green beans instant potatoes hamburger tomatoes plastic bags
lemon juice lima beans lamb chops razor blades
mixed fruit navy beans leg of lamb ALCOHOL shaving cream
olives noodles pork chops beer Spic & Span
peaches oatmeal pork roast brandy toilet paper
pears pinto beans spare ribs rum wax paper

The sum of money spent monthly, in each food category, was entered on a spreadsheet, where a running total was likewise kept for the entire year. The amount spent on a given months category does not mean that was how much was consumed in that category during the month. We periodically stocked up our
freezer and cupboards with food when products were on sale. Hence, most of the January 1980, $75.00  meat products (seen below) were frozen for future consumption.

One thing that became apparent and which we already aware of, was the large amount of alcoholic beverages bought. We were getting together with our new friends Bobby and Arlene quite frequently, usually at their mobile home on Bobby’s family farm. We usually brought along or supplied the alcoholic beverages during our “get togethers,” while they  footed the expense of snacks and desserts. We had a grand time visiting, but the cost of partying was playing havoc with our food bill.

Itemized list of grocery costs by category and month, between December 1979 to November 1980




















Month Total





































































































































Yr. Totals






















Avg. Wkly Expense











We determined that produce from a large garden and fruit orchard, as well as some meat and eggs from livestock would considerably reduce our food bill. As an added benefit, the garden, orchard and livestock would to a degree make us more self sufficient. Every since early 1972, when Donna and I were first together in Arcata, California, it had become our dream to someday have a large garden, raise livestock and become less dependent on the consumer driven economy.

Garage built
During early November, we had a twenty seven foot wide by twenty six foot deep, green, Menard’s pole building- garage installed. We had the building constructed with a 16 foot wide overhead door facing south to the driveway and a standard entrance on the west. While the Menards crew was drilling the holes for their corner post, I had them dig an extra post hole and install a previously purchased twenty five foot tall pressure treated wood pole for our security lamp.

[Photograph, November 1980: Me on the John Deere, Model #70 tractor, filling in the electric cable trench between the main power board and garage, along  the (north) back side of the mobile home.]

As soon as the building was up, we called Butch to come out with his back hoe and dig a trench from the electric panel to the garage for an electric cable. When the trench was dug, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, came out to do a variety of jobs, including:
•  Lay underground cable from the main electric panel to the garage.
•  Set up a distribution panel and circuit breaker box inside the garage.
•  Connect the security lamps  and run a line to the mobile homes kitchen, so we could turn the outdoor lights on-off from within the house.
•  Install a welding outlet in the garage.
•  Run an electric line to the back of the garage and install an outlet for a proposed, future underground gasoline storage tank with pump.

Our ‘Supernova’ security-yard lamp
The security lamps that we installed were euphemistically referred to as a ‘Supernova,’ because of their brightness.

Photograph at right: [Late December 1980, the Menard’s garage and ‘supernova’ security lights. Six years after moving to Minnesota, and the Blizzard of the Century, we entered our first winter actually living on the land. This was a time of great happiness, comfort and well being. Donna and I were in our mid to late 30s, earned a good family income and lived in a beautiful rural setting. Our canoe carrier (Grummand 21ft) is seen on the back of the pickup truck, the Starcraft camper is parked at extreme right, behind garage. The tractor is inside garage on the left side of the overhead door.]

Twenty feet above ground, at the top of the lamp pole was a large bright sodium lamp, similar to a public street light, that was actuated by a solar sensor. Under normal conditions when it grew dark the lamp would come on for the night and turn off when the sun rose in the morning. It didn’t take long to realize we were wasting electricity with the sodium lamp. Donna and I closed the main gate, by the county road, when we came in and left the property, no one could just drive up the driveway. And no one would walk back in pitch dark of the woods during the night. We lived in a rural environment with low population density, the gate was closed and the road beyond was dark. Our home was invisible day and night, being situated between 600-800 feet back in through the woods, and camouflaged by the surrounding forest. We grew to feel that an overnight security lamp was more of an advertisement that ‘someone was living back in there’ than it was security against the improbable. Besides, Griz (German Shepherd cross) watched and patrolled the yard, nothing moved along the driveway or in the yard without his going to investigate.

The other part of the Supernova was a battery of four each 150 watt flood lamps. This bank of lamps was wired to a switch in the garage and another wall switch  in the home’s kitchen. The lamps looked down on the yard at about a 45 degree angle, in each of the cardinal compass directions. So, when we came home after dark or left early, we could turn the lights on or off and have a well lighted walk across the yard.
One lamp lighted the driveway and approach to the garage, another our walkway to the front and back doors, another looked over the back of the garage, while the fourth looked east towards a yard gate that opened to the woods.

Preparing for the garden and orchard
In the 40 foot wide by 90 foot long location where we planned to put our  garden and orchard, there had until recently stood a forest. Only a few years earlier we’d removed two large trees, considerable dense sapling undergrowth and stands of red raspberry canes with the chainsaw and our lopping shears. Only a few months earlier, when we moved our mobile home onto the property. There was still one large Maple tree standing in the area that would become the garden. We subsequently cut the tree down and reduced it to firewood size logs, all that remained was the stump. The entire ‘garden area’ was composed of an impenetrable thicket of  roots and many rocks.

During mid November, when the ground had frozen about four inches deep, we had Butch come back out to the property with his back hoe-front loader, and at $30 per hour labor, dig up the garden area.

We instructed him to remove the top six inches of topsoil from the large garden space. The topsoil was to be temporarily piled in a location out of the way. He was then to dig out the area to a depth of about two feet.
Each scoop of soil was simply raised and dropped back into the ground. The digging and dumping, loosened the compacted soil allowing for better aeration and root penetration; it broke up the sod roots and myriad of tree and sapling roots; and made it easier to remove rocks. When the subsoil had been dug, redumped and releveled, we had the frozen chunks of topsoil spread back over the top. We also had a large pile of black dirt moved from beside the driveway (from when Dale Erdman bulldozed the driveway) and spread on the garden [5].

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1980.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  WKRP inCincinnati
•  The Love Boat
•  M*A*S*H*
•  One Day at a Time
•  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  Galactica 1980
•  The Two Of Us
•  Bosom Buddies
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  Shogun, a miniseries.

Altered States with William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balabon
Any Which Way You Can  with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis
Blue Lagoon  with Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern
Bronco Billy with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Scatman Crothers, Geoffrey Lewis
Caddyshack with Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight
Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan, Robert Webber
Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Kietel
The Blues Brothers with John Belushi, Dan Aykroid, James Brown, Cab Calloway
The Empire Strikes Back  with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse
The Final Countdown with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katherine Ross
The Formula with George C. Scott, Martha Keller, Marlon Brando
The Mountain Men with Charlton Heston, Brian Keith, Victoria Racimo
Time Bandits with John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelly Duvall
Tom Horn with Steve  McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Billy Green Bush
Windwalker with Trevor Howard, Nick Ramus, James Remar

[1]  In addition to being a local contractor, Butch was at the time, also Mayor of Gilman and was sometimes referred to by the local farm population in a jealously disparaging way as, “His Highness”.
[2]  In the following 15 years we never had any problem with the drain field.
[3]  Written into Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, page 29.
[4]  See also “1957: Visions of things to come”
[5]  This pile of top soil was removed from our driveway several years earlier.  See, 1978: Early November: Mechanical work continues on the driveway.
[6] In retrospect, this is how it always works. These are once , maybe twice in a lifetime events at most. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to remain alert to the fledgeling development of an economic sea change. Of course, when you begin to buy protective investments, you will be thought of as an ‘odd ball’, but 10+ years later, you could have earned 500% or more on your investment.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1979, age 36-37

Themes and Events:
* OPEC raised world crude oil prices from $18 to $23.50, the biggest increase in five years. Dollar a gallon gasoline became a fact of life… Before the oil embargo of 1974, we were paying about $0.25 to $0.35 per gallon.
* The CPI (Consumer Price Index) rose 13.3%, the largest jump in 33 years. The bank Prime Rate rose to 14.5%. The price of gold and silver skyrocketed as the fear of runaway inflation droves investors to seek safety and others to speculate.
* In March, 3.4 million families (10.4 million individuals) were receiving AFDC (Aid To Families with
Dependent Children). About 40% of all black families with children under 18 years of age are involved, compared with only 6.8% of white families.
* The first Sony “Walkman” radio/tape player becomes available.
* A nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island and the prophetic movie, The China Syndrome, give strength to the anti-nuclear movement.
* The Susan B. Anthony metal dollar is introduced an promptly fails, it looks uninspiring and is too close to a quarter in size.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
* If you can read this, you’re too damn close.
* The best things in life are free, while supplies last.
* The Skylab is falling! The Skylab is falling!

Last payment on our property
We made our final $3000 Contract for Deed property payment to Bobby and Arlene on March 8 and received Full Title to our thirty-nine acre rural property.
Around this time, Bobby rather sheepishly disclosed that he purchase our acreage and an adjoining forty acres in 1969 for $3,000. Now, ten years later, he’d sold it to us for $8,000 (discounting Strout Realty’s fee). Neither Donna or I felt bad about the price we’d bought the land at, nor that he’d made a profit, that was simply good business.[1]

Books read during the year
During the year I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
1.  Living on a Few Acre: The 1978 Yearbook of Agriculture © 1978 by U.S. Department of Agriculture – Covers briefly all aspects of rural living. 432 pages.
2.  Back Yard Livestock © 1976 by S. Thomas. Rural technologies.
3.  Small Scale Grain Raising © 1977 by G. Logsdon. Rural technologies, and others…

A forest fire runs through our woods
On the afternoon of April 17, a grass fire got away from the young men living in ‘The Tin Palace’[2] and swept east-south-east across their field, our woods and into Bobby’s back forty acres. The worst damage done was that it burned three of our large wood piles–five or six cords of firewood.

First layoff at Landy Packing Company
Spring  was a slow time of the year in the beef meat-packing business. Cattle destined for slaughter are more frequently marketed during the fall and winter as native pastures dry up and feed grows more expensive. During the last several years, I didn’t miss any time from work due to the spring slow down. This year, in order to reduce overhead when beef prices were particularly low, the company closed its production line, rendering plant, hide’s processing house and the waste water treatment plant for a week.
A month after being called back to work, beef prices dropped again and the company closed for an additional three days. It was a little unnerving to find that when business was slow you became liable for lay off. When your livelihood dangles beneath a dark cloud, one can never really become comfortable with the security afforded by that job. Since Donna and I both worked for Landy Packing, we had in effect, double jeopardy.

Memories of the telephone system 1979 [3]
During the latter half of the 1970s and into the 1980s, there was a rapid growth in the number of “decorator,” or as they were also called, “personal” phones, that became available. Telephones began to show up on Department store shelves. In time they were to be found in a multitude of shapes and styles: there were replicas of early 20th century wall phones, Mickey Mouse phones and even sculptures of a duck – when the phone “quacked” you picked up the top half of the duck, the receiver. Telephones became cheap enough that you could buy the style and color that suited your sense of decor. At the same time decorator telephones began replacing the standard telephone offered by the telephone company, the ‘rotary dial’ telephones started to give way to the ‘touch tone’ telephone. The ‘touch tone’ phones were popular for rapid dialing and their ability to access computers; however, the touch tone phone and line was rented to the customer at a higher fee rate.

[Internet image, right: Same model Princess rotary decorator phone that we had for a couple of years. It ‘looked’ good (maybe pretentious), but was less functional than the newer touch tone phones;  we ended up sell in the ‘Princess; for a few dollars.]

Meanwhile, the telephone ‘wall jack’ rapidly spread, replacing the old, hard wiring between the telephone and the wall receptacle. With wall jacks located in multiple rooms throughout the house, one could simply unplug the telephone in one room and move it to another room. Wall jacks also allowed you to unplug the phone when you didn’t want to be disturbed by incoming calls.

As the 1970s passed, we found the telephone ringing more and more frequently. Husbands and wives called each other at and from work, friends called to plan a weekend or evening meal, there were more and more dialing errors, but the biggest increase came from business.  We began receiving calls from department stores stating that our catalog orders had arrived, pollsters were using the telephone lines to ask our opinions, and the volume of telephone sales advertising increased. Instead of listening to their spiel we learned to say, “What?… What?… I am not interested in giving you that information. Goodbye.” or “Hello…What do you want?…We’re not interested!”, then rudely hang up the phone.

The most disturbing penetration of our privacy came from employers who were becoming less and less inhibited about calling you at home. Landy Packing Company was particularly  villainous in this respect, we never felt safe from their irritating intrusions at night, on weekends or while on vacation at home. We were subject to receiving calls at any time (of the night) by employees looking for something or another, wanting instructions for a procedure, and needing help fixing equipment…

The driveway is finally installed properly
Being completely dissatisfied with the work previously done on our driveway, we telephoned around and located bulldozer operator with road building experience. It was a sad day in September, when Dale Erdman and his father met with us at the property to assess the situation and determine what must be done. We needed to have a drainage ditch dug along the north side of the driveway. The ditch
would intercept and collect water running off the small hill and channel the spring water. A galvanized steel drainage ditch would needs be installed at the lowest point in the drive way. The roadbed would have to be built up over the culvert and a another channel was needed to drain the water to the Fen Bog.
Soil from the ditches would be mounded up to create an elevated road across the entire length of the driveway, up to the proposed homesite. We would need to have Class 5 dumped and spread on top of the elevated bed to create a compacted road surface. Bulldozing out a drainage ditch beside the driveway, meant removal of a lot more trees.

The Erdman’s had a bulldozer that they described as being equivalent to a big D-8 Caterpillar. They charged $60 per hour labor, which was a little more than a day’s gross labor from my wages. It was estimated the job would take about a day, or eight hours labor. We OK’d the project and returned home feeling sick. Not only did we face a large expense, but the forest would be gouged out. We were use to walking and driving through the woods on the driveway, with trees rising immediately on either side of us. (See photograph, ‘Early driveway’ below)

[Photograph at right is of the early driveway in the summer of 1979, facing west. The  fen Bog is to the left a couple hundred feet. We’re standing at a point half way down driveway from homesite. The future homesite clearing begins is about 200 feet behind camera. The next photo was taken from 150 feet further down driveway looking back in this direction, across this same area, but from the far side.]

Dale Erdman started working in the afternoon, a few days later. We drove out to see his progress after work and were and absolutely amazed to find the driveway progressing well toward completion. I’d never seen a big bulldozer work before, but learned immediately that they are awesome machines. When Dale wanted to remove a tree he hit the tree and over it went, then he’d back up gouge it by the roots and push the entire tree back into the woods.

When the bulldozer’s blade was lowered into the soil, it rolled up a small hill in front. The machine possessed the power and the ability to create a kind of raw carnage as I’d never seen. We realized immediately, that the $60 per hour we were paying, was not too much for the job being done.

[Photograph at right is of early driveway during September 1979, facing east. Erdman Construction is building a proper driveway with their D10 Caterpillar, cost $440. We spent half as much money on ‘half way measures’ & learning. The home site is about 350 feet in front of camera, at the opening near center of picture.]

There wasn’t enough soil removed from the drainage ditches to create the required road bed so Dale dug out three additional areas just for soil. These dugout areas slowly filled with water and over the years became wildlife ponds, one  filled with cattail.
It cost us $440 for the approximately seven hours of bulldozer work.  When the work was done, we asked the Erdman’s to come back in the spring to do some clearing in the home site, prior to our mobile home being moved in.
Finally, we had eight to ten each ten cubic yard dump truck loads of Class 5 spread along the length of the driveway, and with that our driveway was completed.

 Music [midi: Labyrinth Melody]

Dowsing for water
In October, as soon as we had a functional driveway, our concern turned toward finding potable water in the homesite.  We visited the property owners around us to find out what their water situation was. The Bialke farm[4], a half mile to our northwest had water at forty feet. Bobby, about 3/8 mile to our south east also had water at about forty feet. We were just about in the middle between the two, but had no way of knowing if the aquifer was narrow or wide.
Bobby taught us how to dowse for water. He cut and bent a pair of wire coat hangers and showed us how they worked in the yard at his mobile home[5]. He said that, as one slowly walked over a subsoil water source (a good spot for a well), that the wires would cross forming an X over the spot. Donna and I were skeptical, but we each tried the homemade dousing rods. It was uncanny, but the rods did turn of their own volition, and came together over the same spot.
We brought the bent wire rods back to our homesite and began walking around. Near the tree line on the mid-northwest side of the upper yard the dousing rods began to swing together. I approached the location from a different direction and they moved together and rapidly crossed again. Donna walked about with the rods and they closed for her in the same spot. Every time we got within about six feet from that one spot, the rods began to swing together and within another couple of steps they crossed. All we could think of was that a pool of water near the surface must have a different electrical or magnetic effect on the wires than deeper soil. At the precise location where the dousing rods crossed, we drove a stake in the ground topped with a small red flag.

The well
We called Traut Well Drilling Company in St. Cloud and asked them to come out and install the well. Traut came out about a week later and hit water at the location we’d marked. They hit a pressurized aquifer at forty-three feet and sunk a four-inch casing into it. The pressure in the aquifer forced water up the casing to within eighteen feet of the surface. When the well was tested, they found an available flow rate of sixty gallons per minute. Unlike our neighbors, our water did not have a brownish-yellow tinge from dissolved iron. We had a small hand pump installed on top of the well casing to act as a backup water supply in case of emergency. A submersible, three-quarter H.P. stainless steel pump and screen was installed down inside the casing to provide water for our future home and yard hydrants.[October 1979. A panoramic view of the early home site, facing north. Our future driveway enters at center left, passes  just the other side of the two smaller trees at near left. At the cloth arrow (on tree stump at right), the driveway curves north  toward the future garage—where Donna is seen standing (barely visible standing at the right side of the center photograph). The future location of our mobile homes front door would be located just behind the large dead Elm tree  seen at the center of the middle photograph.]

We had Traut Well Drilling install: the well, casing, pump & screen, one hydrant in the back yard, the water pipe rising to the house riser, and a forty-two gallon holding and pressurization tank. The pressurization tank and internal connections were installed after we moved the trailer onto the property and while all the other utilities were being connected. Traut’s billing for the equipment and labor was $1,585.

Icabod P Tailfeathers dies
It was a sad Fall day when we found our little buddy, Icabod, had died. Ol’ Icabod lived with us for his entire life, from the time he was a little feather ball at the pet shop, until his old age. We taught the little guy to screech a few words, sit on our fingers, ride on our shoulder. He was a good little pet and brought tears to our eyes when we found him laying on the bottom of his cage one weekend morning.

Since we’d all been working so hard to buy our rural property and it was always in our mind that Icabod would live there with us, we found it appropriate to bury him there. We gathered our little green friend, his plastic toys and mirror, and placed them in a small box. Later that the day, we tearfully buried him in
a quiet location, about a hundred feet off our new driveway, near the lowland and not far from a large rock pile. I made a little cross with “Icabod” inscribed and put it on his grave. Donna seeded his resting place under the trees with shade bearing flowering plants.[6]

We felt really bad about Icabod’s death and missed our ‘birdie’, so within a few days went to the pet store and bought home another parakeet, who we aptly named, Alexander R. Little.[7]

Selling firewood
That Fall, with a functional road running back into the homesite, we were able to truck several loads of cut firewood out from the homesite. We ran an advertisement, “Firewood for Sale, $60 per pickup load” (three quarter cord) in the newspaper and on the bulletin board at Landy Packing Company. We busted our ‘behinds’ (!) loading cords of wood on the pickup, hauling them to customers homes, then unloading the wood into their garages.

Selling firewood for profit sounded good ‘in theory’, but in practice, it turned out to be too much physical labor for us to accomplish expediently on our weekends. As it was, we were working hard all week, had household work to do, besides get some rest. We could have made good money, since we still had plenty of wood to haul, but after a couple of loads it simply wasn’t worth the additional effort to continue.

A solution to employee theft at Landy’s
Landy packing had an ongoing problem with the employee theft of meat. This was not a situation where entire sides of beef were being stolen, but a continued pilfering of small packages ranging from maybe two to ten pounds at a time. The people with access to specific meat cuts and packaging materials worked in the company’s Boning Department where special orders were filled. The Boning Department frequently worked in two full shifts and occasionally with a small graveyard shift. Ever so often, particularly at night, the company security guards would catch an employee or several employees sneaking beef out to the trunk of their car or to a collaborating non employee who was waiting in the parking lot to receive the meat. Meat was a big item to steal, but employee theft also included tools, various equipment, truck and automotive parts, gasoline, you name it.

One day I happened to walk into the office conference room where there was a meeting going on between the Landy family officers and company’s top supervisors. They were trying to develop a security system to stop the thievery that apparently was running out of control. As I stood back, unobtrusively waiting to speak to my boss, Jim Landy, one of the  family members asked how I would solve the

This presented a challenge, into which I immersed all my spare time for the next two days. I noted the broken security fence, several open gates leading in and out of the property, location of, or absence of security lamps, and the location of the guard shack. I drew out a general map of the company grounds and added, moved or modified security features that would reduce theft. When I was satisfied with the proposal, I wrote up my recommendations, included a redrawn map of the grounds showing the security improvements and gave the plan to Jim Landy.

My plan included: 1) rebuilding the security fence around the employee parking lot, 2) closure of all but one gate onto the premises and funneling employees all through that gate, 3) moving the Security Guard shack to the one open gate, 4) installation of high intensity security lamps in various strategic locations
to illuminate movement anywhere near the perimeter fence and the parking lot.

The company accepted my recommendations in their entirety and implemented each one. I seldom heard any stories of employee theft after that and the security measures remained in effect thereafter.

Setting up the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s chemistry lab
When the waste water treatment plant first went into operation, the City of St. Cloud collected samples of the sewage discharge water from our automatic sampler and took it back to the their own Municipal Waste Water Treatment facility’s laboratory to test. Landy

Packing’s sewage bill was based on the amount of water purchased from the Water Department and the sewage load as tested from the discharge point. The Landy’s were distrustful of the City returning honest test results and perhaps ‘over billing’ for the sewage. It was only good business practice to run our own tests on the same sample and compare figures, in this way, everyone was kept honest.
So, it was no surprise when I was told to, “Do whatever is necessary to set up our own tests for BOD and Oil and Grease…. make a list of all the equipment that you’ll  need. Get my (Jim Landy) approval before placing any orders.” I was already running an hourly TSS test.

[Photograph A at right: The wastewater plant office and chemistry laboratory. Viewed from the  doorway.  Out of view to right: 1) immediate right, refrigerator which was an incubator for BOD, 2) analytical balance on stand, against right hand wall.]

A description of the tests I was to set up is as follows:
1)  Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD): is a chemical procedure for determining how fast biological organisms use up oxygen in a body of water. To ensure that all other conditions are equal, a very small amount of micro-organism seed is added to each sample being tested. This seed is typically generated by diluting activated sludge with de-ionized water. The BOD test is carried out by diluting the sample with de-ionized water saturated with
oxygen, inoculating it with a fixed aliquot of seed, measuring the dissolved oxygen and sealing
the sample (to prevent further oxygen dissolving in). The sample is kept at 20 °C in the dark, to prevent photosynthesis (and thereby the addition of oxygen) for five days, and the dissolved oxygen is
measured again. The difference between the final DO and initial DO is the BOD The apparent BOD for the control is subtracted from the control result to provide the corrected value.

[Photograph B above right. View of the lab, across the room from the door. I set up the quantitative chemistry lab and  procedures. We tested grease & oils, salt, moisture and protein from our rendered “cracks,” also tested the  wastewater plants effluent for BOD, O&G, TSS and pH.]

2)  Oil & Grease (O&G) This test provides am estimation of oil and grease in water and wastewater by a gravimetric determination of fluorocarbon extractable substances from an acidified sample.
3)  Total Suspended Solids (TSS): The TSS measurement we used was determined by pouring a carefully measured volume of influent and effluent water (typically one liter each) into graduated Imhoff cones, then reading the depth of the settled filtrate in the bottom of the cone. Laboratory determinations of suspended solids (SS) in the influent, primary effluent, and final effluent are standard measurements used to indicate treatment plant efficiency.
4)  Acidity (pH) – acidity of the plants wastewater. For chemical feed control purposes and to show the City that we didn’t have spikes that would interfere with their treatment program.

I phoned with the City of St. Cloud Wastewater treatment facility chemist to have the official test procedure mailed were using mailed to me at Landy’s, meanwhile I ordered several industrial chemical-apparatus catalogs.

When the water testing test procedures were scaled to our sewage load levels, I made a list of the
equipment and chemicals that would be needed for an ongoing operation. Shortly after the (price) list was given to Jim Landy thing began to happen. The Landy’s bought a set of very used and somewhat rusty lab cabinets with counter top. Over the next few weeks, I cleaned and painted the cabinets. A plumber was sent  to made the water connections and an electrician installed power outlets above the lab’s shelf top, for the various electric instruments we’d be connecting. Finally, the equipment and chemicals were ordered.

It took another month (hence, 4-5 weekly tests) to work out the procedural bugs and bring our test results close to those the City’s lab was getting. Thereafter, the City workers brought and installed their own sampler at the Second Clarifier’s weir, while our flow proportioned and refrigerated sampler took grab samples a few yards further on down the pipe.

It’s important to realize that the City used a non-flow proportioned, non-refrigerated sample while our was flow proportioned and refrigerated. The difference being, that in the very important BOD test, non refrigerated samples allow bacterial growth to explode, while refrigerated samples have retarded bacterial growth. Hence, non refrigerated samples have a larger ending population of bacteria, who use up more oxygen from the sample water…creating higher BOD test results and subsequent higher water billings. Also, since the City’s water was non flow proportioned, their sample took the same size and frequency of samples regardless of whether it was during the middle of production or between midnight and 6:30AM when the plant was essentially closed and there was no flow. So how could we compare samples—we couldn’t, not really. Actually, the City took half the content of our sample bucket and based their test on those results. I never verbally questioned this procedure. The City was happy to make me (and the Landy’s)  think they were cross testing between their sampler and ours, but in reality they weren’t, and I told the  Landy family so.

Setting up the Rendering Products lab
A little background: After a cow was killed, it was hung on a hook through a rear ‘hamstring’ to a rolling conveyors that went around within the plants ‘kill floor’. As soon as the animal was hung, it’s throat was cut and blood drained down a floor drain to the Rendering Plant. Moments later, when the animal was skinned, its hide went to the Hides plant for cleaning and salting prior to shipment to a leather processing plant.

The carcass was carried from butcher to butcher, pulled along by a chain driven overhead conveyor, where it underwent the  butchering process. At each work station, the butchers performed a specific series of cuts, so that by the end of the chain, the animal was sectioned into major parts. The major parts went into the company’s ‘boning room’ where they were refrigerated while being further reduced, then boxed in bulk or loaded into refrigerated trucks as ‘sides’ of beef.

What was left, that is, the hoofs, slices of fat, head, organs, stomach pouch, etc., were fed through stainless steel chutes to ‘Rendering’, in an adjacent large room.
These ‘byproducts’ were batch cooked and ground into a rather dry, somewhat boney and fibrous, pea sized and smaller, particulate called ‘Cracks’. One or two large truckloads of Cracks were shipped out to a local poultry feed plant daily, where the material was mixed, in several story high automated hoppers, with corn or other protein grains to make poultry feed.

The feed mills bought and paid for our Cracks product based on several criteria, specifically, the amount of protein, oils & grease, salt and moisture content. As with the City Waste Water Tests, Landy’s had been at the mercy of the Feed Mill testers to provide honest tests. It wasn’t long after the Landy family found that I could set up a quantitative chemistry laboratory and carry out a proficient testing
operation, that they wanted to expand the lab in order to test their Rendering Product  and compare results against the prices they were receiving. There had also been an issue of sodium (salt) in
the Cracks, above a given level and the product had to be shipping to one feed mill and below that number it went to another mill. Apparently their product was close to the pivot point and could swing one way to another between truck loads.

After receiving a few congratulations (‘warming me up’ for an additional assignment) on how good a job I had done with setting up and implementing the Waste Water chemical test procedures, I was given the job of increasing the labs testing capacity, to include protein, oils & grease, salt and moisture content.

Of course, they wanted the procedures and equipment set up immediately. Of course…

By this time, I’d been working at Landy Packing for several years and in the owners eyes had developed,  a history of no-nonsense productivity and responsibility. I was seen as thrifty, and known to shop for the best prices and quality when ordering for the company; further more, I  always showed positive results from my efforts. So, this time I didn’t need to provide a list of equipment, but began by ordering a few pieces of equipment right away—to show things were proceeding rapidly.

I took the company’s thick  ‘Rendering Operations’ text home several consecutive weekends and worked out test procedures, as well as a list of the specialized testing apparatus that would be needed for lab testing. Over the next month or so, as the equipment came in, I began running tests.

Right from the start the testing ran into a problem, there wasn’t enough time during my shift to run the tests, operate the waste water treatment plant, test the water, make black grease and keep the place smelly-nice, the floors clean, etc. The swing shift operator was basically ‘labor,’ with no training in chemistry[8].  So, Landy’s told me to hire someone with a chemistry degree to do the Product Chemistry and pump the water plant tanks on Graveyard Shift.

I  ran an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times, hired a chemist (with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry).  Shortly thereafter, I was ‘promoted to ‘Waste Water Treatment Plant Superintendent and Chief Chemist”, the Swing shift operator was Water Plant Operator, and the lab tech became Company Chemist. It was all very official sounding and as such, kept the three of us out on the Meat Cutters Union. When the laboratory began testing, and a data feed loop was developed (ie., daily log books) for owner, Max Landy and the Rendering Supervisor, Herb Johnson, the ‘stars were aligned’ for me to receive another pay raise. (Grin)

As I recall, this pay hike was similar to another I’d received a year or two earlier, 50¢ an hour broken into “35¢ now and 15¢  in three months”…the Landy’s thought process for holding onto that few extra cents just a while longer, was something that never changed.

Looking at Photograph A above: Seen on the counter across the room– the apparatus at right is the Cracks oil and grease extraction cooker, while the two apparatus at left are protein extraction cooker. Reagent storage bottle are seen on the shelf above the sink and a Imhoff cone is on the stainless steel
table center, with solids settling.

Looking at Photograph B above: My various log books are seen on the shelf above the work bench. A multitude of ‘sample test result forms’ and the ‘daily waste water treatment plant log’ are hung from wall hangers. Two long glass burettes used in titration are seen at center front, on the stainless steel table.
Our refrigerator/incubator and analytical the balance didn’t get into either of the photographs, the balance was crucial in weighing fraction of a gram quantities, while the refrigerator was needed to hold– BOD test samples at a set temperature for their five-day incubation.

Iran seizes the American Embassy
A tense situation developed on November 4, that eventually and unfortunately helped topple President Carter’s administration: Iranian (militant) “students” in seized the American embassy in Tehran, taking sixty-three Americans hostage. At first they demanded the return of the Shaw of Iran who fled to the U.S.A. and stayed to receive cancer treatment.
Some fifty two of the hostages were held more than a year. Daily TV new coverage showed the President’s administration unable to negotiate, bluff, or in any way affect the release of the hostages. The standoff made America look weak, it made Americans feel like we were hostage to an inept group of little more that tribal Bedouin hoodlums in a desert country. Iran used every opportunity to rub (The great Satan) America’s nose with their propaganda.

Buying a wood burning stove
Energy costs continued to gyrate and climb for several years after the end of the OPEC oil embargo. World oil companies, refineries and producers were seen making huge profits as everyone between the well head and the consumer tacked on an extra price increment for their own higher profits. Energy costs across the board rose: Gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane and electricity– regardless of its energy source. Our desire to buy a wood burning stove arose from three sources:
1)  The ever-present potential for an electric power outage during winter. We learned from the ‘Blizzard of the Century’ in January 1975, to have respect for the weather, particularly the life threatening severity of winter’s bitter cold.
2)  Since we bought partially wooded raw land, we owned renewable resources that could be burned. There were quite a few dead trees and plenty of annual wind fall amongst our woods. Chain sawing the wood into proper lengths and splitting the pieces for burning in a stove, was all that was required to reduce our electric heating bill.
3)  Finally, we wanted to enjoy winters cheeriness and the warmth of an indoor fireplace.

[Photo at left shows the same Goldilocks model with nickel highlights  as we bought.]

On November 12, we bought a Fisher Stove more accurately a radiant heater/fireplace stove. The “Goldilocks” model had a two-step combustion chamber which recirculated wood gases back into the flames for almost total combustion. It had a triple sealed door to keep air out and smoke in, firebrick lining, air tight construction, a bi level cooking surface on top, should we wish to heat water or cook an emergency stew. We paid a little extra and bought the model with attractive nickel-plated pine tree images on the stoves two cast iron doors. The stove was delivered to and installed at our  mobile home a couple days later.

Fisher Goldilocks, nickel stove (420 pounds) $805.
Chimney kit $159.
Hearth pad $129.
Kemstone wall insulator, 48 inch by 54 inch, red brick. $64.
Tax $46.
Labor $130.
Total cost $1,333.

Cost of the unit installed:
With the installation of the stove, Donna and I immediately made a trip to the property and brought back about a half cord of  dry firewood. We stacked the wood behind our garden shed and covered it with a tarp to protect it from the elements. As it was already mid November, we  promptly began heating the home with small test fires. Within a couple days, we’d learned to shovel out the ashes, to efficiently start a fire in the fireplace and began to enjoy the heat and the stove’s hominess[9].

A two month list of our supper entrees
By Thanksgiving, we knew that in about a half year, we’d be ready to move the mobile home onto the rural acreage and start a large garden. We wanted to raise crops and livestock that would best fit the region’s climate and our food preferences.  So in order to understand what we might raise, we decided to take a closer look at our food consumption, particularly suppers. For several months during the Fall and Winter, I kept track of the main course from each supper meal.

Table of main entrees for supper meals December 1979 through January 1980:

1  Sat. Pork chops, creamed corn 1 Barbequed lamb, fruit bulgur
2  Sun. Lamb, rice, fried eggplant 2 Enchiladas
3 Fried chicken, mashed potatoes 3 Left over ?
4 Enchiladas 4 Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread
5 Tacos 5  Sat. Cold cut meat, large bowl soup
6 Pork chops, broccoli, cheese sauce topping 6  Sun. Hamburgers, buns, fixings
7 Mexican Village: combination plate 7 Steak, baked potatoes with sour cream
8  Sat. Steak, baked potato with sour cream 8 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots
9  Sun. Patty melt sandwiches 9 Tacos
10 Spare ribs, zucchini, corn 10 Lamb chops, turnips, corn bread
11 Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread 11 Pirates Cove:
12 Ring sausage, spinach 12  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna
13 Tostadas 13  Sun. Lamb goulash
14 Christmas party dinner at friends 14 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots
15  Sat. Ham & cheese sandwiches 15 Hamburgers, buns,  chips, guacamole dip
16  Sun. Curried lamb, rice 16 Pork chops, broccoli, corn bread
17 Chili rellenos, beans, rice 17 Ham, boiled cabbage
18 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots 18 Pirates Cove:
19 Ring sausage, spinach 19  Sat. Pizza Hut: Pizza
20 Enchiladas 20  Sun. Barbecue chicken
21 Steak, baked potatoes with sour cream 21 Ring sausage, spinach
22  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna 22 Metalloid, potatoes, carrots
23  Sun. Kings Inn: Steak dinner 23 Pork chops, turnips, corn bread
24 Lamb, rice 24 Chili rellenos
25 Duck, rice 25 Pirates Cove:
26 Hamburger patties, mashed potatoes 26  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna
27 Mexican Village: combination plate 27  Sun. Lamb chops, wheat pilaf
28 Pork chops 28 Steak, corn on the cob, baked potato
29  Sat. Pirates Cove: 29 Tostadas
30  Sun. Ham, sweet potato 30 Cavatini
31 Pork chops, corn bread 31 Enchiladas

Note regarding meals from the table above: Our non Mexican supper meals were generally served with bread and either two vegetables or a vegetable and salad. The supper beverage was usually, either milk, beer or water.

Music [midi: Casablanca]

Restaurants we frequented
This was a good year for us economically, we were living in our mortgage free mobile home at Rockwood Estates and earlier, in March had finished paying for our rural  property. With both Donna and I working and earning good incomes, we were flush with ‘excess cash’. Some of that excess cash was used to enjoy meals served at local restaurants, including:
1.  The Pirates Cove was a grand and expensive restaurant, situated about thirteen miles north of St. Cloud and overlooking the Mississippi River. The Pirates Cove had a wonderful dining ambiance and great cosine, a perfect place to spend the evening in conversation, while enjoying a particularly good meal.
‘The Cove’ had several dining rooms in which there were  separate, small, four person tables situated next to large, floor to ceiling windows overlooking nature. There was always the low hum of voices in quiet conversation and the gentle sounds of orchestral music playing over hidden speakers in the ceiling. We particularly enjoyed eating dinner at this restaurant during the winter, when we could sit and talk, plan and reminisce, all the while looking out over the floodlit frozen expanses of the Mississippi River.
Dinner at ‘the Cove’ required reservations and appropriate attire. Meals included soup and a small loaf of fresh-baked bread, salad bar, two vegetables and the main course. For our main course, we frequently ordered either the filet mignon, Peking duck, steak and lobster combination, or sea food platter.  The meal cost about $25 for two, including one round of mixed drinks.
2.  Another favorite of ours was the Mexican Village which had a menu of tangy Mexican food combination plates. The restaurant did not require reservations, but without them there was often a half hour wait in line on weekend evenings. A meal at the Mexican Village often began with a pitcher of Margaritas, shared by everyone in our party, and a basket of tortilla chips served with a bowl of delicious salsa.
There was no expected dress code at the Mexican Village, you could eat there ‘dressed up’ or wearing blue denim jeans; however, most men wore slacks and women wore either dresses or slacks. Conversation tended to get loud, there was a lot of laughter and cheerfulness as people leaned over their table telling jokes, telling of interesting things that happened to them at work during the week, and gossiping.
The interior of the restaurant was designed and furnished to resemble eating outdoors in a Mexican courtyard. There were fresco paintings on some walls and photographs of Mexican bandits and revolutionaries on others. The waiters and waitresses dressed in predominately white clothes, somewhat imitating Mexican peons. In the background there was always lively Mexican music, filled with guitars and trumpets, complementing the party  atmosphere.
About half an hour after the Margaritas and tortilla chips were served, our individual meals were brought on very hot plates set in wicker plate holders. A typical meal consisted of an enchilada smothered with mild red sauce and topped with cheese, a taco filled with meat, crisp lettuce, tomato and cheese, a generous serving of refried beans, another of Mexican rice set amidst a bed of lettuce and tomatoes sprinkled with Cheddar cheese. On either a cold winter night or a hot summers eve, eating at ‘the Village’ was a meal that couldn’t be beat. A meal for two with Margaritas cost between $12 and $15.
3-5.  Sammy’s Pizza, Pizza Hut and Shakey’s Pizza, each provided a fast tangy supper meals that were good during either summer or winter. There was no expected dress code at these restaurants, except for the public law requiring restaurant patrons to wear a shirt and shoes. We generally wore blue denim jeans and a sports shirt. These restaurants all had jukeboxes loaded with the currently popular songs, which the teen and college age crowd  played continuously with their quarters.
We usually shared a large pizza with several extra meat and vegetable toppings, and a pitcher of beer. Occasionally, we had Cavatini Supreme at Pizza Hut, or  half order lasagna dinners at Sammy’s.
Donna and I made note of the ingredients in the Cavatini Supreme and began making it on occasion, for ourselves at home.
Frequently, when we ate at a ‘pizza parlor’ we were in a hurry, with intentions of going to the movies immediately after the meal. Dinner for two, at Sammy’s Pizza and Pizza Hut, cost between $12 and $15, including a pitcher of beer.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1979
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening News
•  Mork and Mindy
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies
•  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
•  Benson
•  Fantasy Island
•  The Love Boat
•  The Incredible Hulk
•  Battlestar Galactica

10 with Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, Robert Webber
1941 with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, Lorraine Gray
Alien with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton
Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando
Being There with Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
Hurricane with Jason Robards, Mia Farrow, Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard
Love at First Bite with George Hamilton, Susan St.James, Richard Benjamin
Meatballs with Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch
Moonraker with Roger Moore, Lois Chilles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel
Star Trek-The Motion Picture with William Shatner, Leonard Nemoy, De Forest Kelly
The Electric Horseman with Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, John Saxon
The Great Santini with Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O’Keefe
Time After Time with Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen

[1]  By the mid 1980s, 40 acres of semi wooded marginal land within commuting distance of St Cloud was selling for $18,000 or $450 per acre;  and by 2007, the property had an estimated  tax value of $120,000!
[2]  The ‘Tin Palace’ was a 50 foot long, very old mobile home set up on the adjoining property to our north, near County Road #14. The property owners son had several friends living in the place with him.
[3]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”
[4]  Norbert A. Bialke: October 6, 1927-April 25, 2002. Died at his home in Foley at age 74 years,  from a battle with cancer. Survived by his wife Dolores, 8 (?) children and 19 grandchildren.
[5]  In making the dousing rods, Bobby cut the hanger hook off the metal coat hanger. The remaining wire was straightened and a small approximately four inch length handle was bent at one end, 90 degrees to the rest  of the wire. The person dowsing held a dowsing  rod ,very loosely by its handle, in each  hand and about a foot apart. The handle wasn’t actually being held as much as the hand formed a small, half inch diameter, open hole into which the rods handle set and was allowed to move freely. The rods started pointed straight out from the dowser, as he moved  forward in a straight line. The dowser moved forward very slowly so as not to jiggle the rods; as he moved over electric?
gradients beneath the soil, the  rods would slowly move together or apart. At the spot where the rods crossed there is a subsurface water source . The rods could go from pointing straight ahead to having crossed at their ends in a matter of three or four small steps , so the indicators movement was quite pronounced over the distance of  7-10 feet.
[6]  We also replanted several chunks of moss at his grave. Over the decades that followed, ever once in a while I’d go off the driveway and down by Icabod’s  resting place to remove fallen branches. Slowly the rocks circling his small grave were covered with leaves, which in time became soil  and so returned to nature. During my last visit in the fall of 2006, I could no longer find the tiny grave. Icabod, now lives on only in my memory.
[7]  Named after Alexander, The Great.
[8]  Recall that I’d completed three years of college chemistry, including: Introductory College Chemistry,  Inorganic Chemistry A, B, and Bio-Organic Chemistry A, B.
[9]  Photograph, ‘The Living room’, in Chapter 1988, contains an  image of the stove.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1973, age 30-31

 Themes and Events:
* During the Vietnam War 59,000 American soldiers died, bringing about a massive public outcry; while at home, 330,000 women ‘quietly’ died of breast cancer.
* President Nixon announced that the war in Vietnam will end at the end of January and the last 23,700 soldiers will be removed within 60 days. A cease fire agreement was subsequently signed in Paris by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho of North Vietnam.
* When Senate hearings into the ‘Watergate break in’ began, White House officials testified, implicating one another and revealing  the use of “hush money” and the existence of an “enemies list”. When it was revealed that President Nixon has a secret tape recording of all his telephone conversations, they were subpoenaed. The tapes eventually became available, but there was found to be an inexplicable 18 1/2 minute gap. The gap (erasure) in Nixon’s, Watergate tape, worked against his defense.
* The Supreme Court recognizes the right to abortion in Roe vs Wade
* Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigns his elected job, in return for the Justice Department dropping tax evasion charges against him. Agnew had been a crooked Governor of Maryland, he was also a very sarcastic person. I think everyone was glad to see him get his comeuppance. Upon Agnew’s resignation, President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford to the position of Vice President.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
* Cancer cures smoking.
* Beautify America– Get a haircut.
* Save water — Shower with a friend.
* Don’t laugh — You don’t know if your daughter is in the back of this van.
* OPEC is a four letter word.
* Nixon has a staff infection.
* Out of Asia, Out of office. Impeach with honor.

Music [midi: Happy Together]

Refinishing the old rocking chair
In January 1973, Donna and I began to learn the process and appreciation of refinishing old furniture. As a wedding gift, cousin Bob gave us an antique rocking chair he came into ownership of while living with his schoolmate, Carl.

Some background on the rocker, a story which we learned several years later: Carl lived in a small, old guest house behind an equally old residence in South Pasadena. After Carl and his wife separated in 1972, Carl asked the eldrely owner of his rental property, if he could borrow a couple pieces of unused furniture that were stored in a locked storage garage. The owner approved the furniture loan, so Carl asked Bob help him move the pieces. While in the storage room, Bob saw the antique rocker and other antiques stacked, and covered with drop cloths, he aksed Carl if he could take the rocking chair to the rented bungalow as well. Carl, agreed.  Shortly thereafter, Bob moved in with Carl and the rocker came to  be recognized as ‘Bob’s.’
Months later, when Carl had finished his college cirriculum and was moving back to Norway, Bob brought the  rocking chair to our apartment. With the approach of Donna’s and my wedding date, Bob moved out of our apartment,  leaving the delapitated rocking chair as a wedding gift.

Donna and I had wanted the rocker, realizing that we could refinished it into a nice piece of furniture. In its ‘original’ condition, the chair looked more like a piece of junk than an antique,  it’s seat had largely disintegrated, it legs were wobbly, the old black finish was scabby and worn.

One weekend, Donna and I removed the rotted upholstery and seat springs. Using a chemical varnish stripper, steel wool and rubber gloves, we removed the old, badly worn varnish from the chair. A week later, the wooden frame was gently, but thoroughly sanded with fine grit sand paper and steel wool, then its age loosened joints were reglued. The rocker was given a coat of oak stain and finished with glossy polyurethane.
A month after the job began, we reupholstered the seat, using a quality fabric with a design similar to the material that was removed. We bought brass tacks  to replace the lost tacks and the subsequent generations of small nails that had been used to secure trim about the wood-upholstery seam.

We finished the project and had in our possession, a very attractive, fully functional antique rocking chair, circa 1900. The rocker has been in the family living room ever since.

Our apartment in El Monte

[Photograph: Our second story apartment  (open door) at 11633 Basye,  Apt. .#30, El Monte, CA. Living room window at left, kitchen  window at right.]

[Photograph, left:  View of the communal swimming pool from our apartment door. Photograph, right: My 350 cc Honda  motorcycle; used for transportation, driving about  two miles to Gregg Iron Foundry.]

Jim and ‘hippie sister’ Sue
After working for the Forest Service in northern California, for a few months, Jim, Sue and her son Van, moved to the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. Both were registered  in the University’s Biology Department, in separate areas of post graduate forest ecology. For the last year they’d been working on their education. Jim and I wrote  each other several times a year, but we were in different worlds now. Jim and Sue were attending classes, studying and writing papers, while working toward their Master’s Degrees.

I was recently married to a woman they’d only met once, was working full time and putting in a great deal of overtime. We were over a thousand miles apart and our lives had become wrapped up in personal pursuits.

Refinishing the desk
In March, Gregg Iron Foundry replaced several desks from its supervisors offices about the company. The half dozen or so old wooden, teachers type school desks, were piled  two high outside, awaitingthe company’s industrial trash collector. After work, with the plant superintendent’s permission, I borrowed a company pickup truck and with assistance, loaded the best desk of the lot into the bed. Back at the apartment, I unloaded the desk next to the parking lot and returned to Gregg for my motorcycle. That evening Donna and I carried the drawers, then the desk upstairs into our spare bedroom — which subsequently became the Study.

Over the next couple of weeks, we stripped the finish off the desk and used a power sander to grind away nicks and dents. The desk was stained walnut and finished with polyurethane. Our refinishing job was unable to fully convert the desk, visually, from its former occupation to a desirable piece of furniture; never the less, we used the desk for general office supplies, working on hobbies, and tracking investments.

Investing with silver dollars and Wyle Labs
With both Donna and I both working and living frugally, we continued to save a sizeable portion of our income. One of our first investments was in April, buying one hundred U.S. silver dollars for $300. Less than a year later, we sold the dollars back to the coin store for $400, making a 25% annual return on our money–a lesson I never forgot.

During mid April, we began purchasing stocks and ‘playing’ the stock market. We owned several hundred shares of Wyle Labs and some of Champion Mobile Homes during the period. Every night, I checked the newspaper and charted the price and volume movements for our stocks and the DJIA. It was a lot of fun reading about charting, then tracking and pondering the meanings of movements and patterns, but I didn’t know a thing about how other U.S. and world economic factors might affect prices. Over the next six months, as the economy continued to rise, we invested nearly $4,000 and turned an additional $2,000 in ‘paper profits’, a handsome fifty percent increase!

[Photocopy above:  My first stock chart, April to end of July 1973, tracked on a strip of white tag board measuring 6-1/2 inch by  3 feet in length (1 ft width shown above). Volume and price.]

Five and Dime stores, shopping centers, malls
During the 1940s, shoppers went to what would now be called specialty stores for everything. When you needed clothing you went to a clothing store, the clothing store sold essentially only clothing. If you needed shoes you might find them at a larger clothing store, but usually you went to a shoe store. Groceries were mostly bought at a small “mom and pop” grocery store, or maybe at one of those big, new ‘super’ markets. Woolworth’s the  “5¢ & 10¢” store (Five and Dime) was the place to buy your bobby pins, toys, clothes pins, pencils, school supplies, notions and assundry other small goods.[1]  Drugstores had a variety of wares, including, pharmacy drugs, cosmetics, personal care items, greeting cards, perhaps an ice-cream counter, and always a magazine and comic book section.

The individual stores were spread around town, so you visited one, two or more stores in one area near where you parked your car. Then you’d drive several blocks, park and walk to the stores where you had business in that locale. Shoppers always walked from one store to another along the sidewalk or cut crossed the street to get to their next store. The arrangement wasn’t bad except if it was raining, snowing or bitterly cold, then it was seen as more of an inconvenience.

If weather was inclement, one merely dressed accordingly and went about their business, however, far fewer people went shopping in bad weather. We wore rubber boots, raincoats and carried umbrellas if it was raining. In snowy, cold weather were merely wore our boots, coats, hats and mittens. People did not go window shopping or see shopping as a social outing as they came to during the latter decades of the 20th century.

By the early 1950s, the open “shopping center” had been developed and was spreading its influence on shopping habits across the country. Shopping centers were built L-shaped or U-shaped, on two or three sides of a large paved parking lot. By clustering the types of stores people visited most frequently into a single long storefront shoppers spent less time hurrying back and forth to their cars and driving across town. Shopping became faster and more convenient, while at the same time offering more product choices at a wider range of prices.

Shopping centers were composed of a variety of various sized businesses including a grocery supermarket which acted as an anchor at the center or one end of the building, and several of the following establishments: a hi-fi electronics store, record shop, drug store, pet store, travel agency, dry cleaners, beauty salon, fabric and sewing goods, barber shop, and a men or women’s clothing store. During the 1950s and 1960s, the professionals, i.e. doctors, dentists, optometrists and lawyers maintained offices strictly in “professional” buildings or similar settings and did not advertise commercially, all that began to change in the next decade.

By the mid 1970s, another shopping strategy, the enclosed “mall” began spreading across the country. The mall was equivalent to the shopping center, in that it conveniently congregated the most frequented stores under one roof, however, it carried the process further. Small malls were sprawling affairs that stood one story high, larger malls were two, three or more stories high.
Some, such as “The Mall of America” in suburban Minneapolis, is so large  that its security force is about the same size as the Bloomington police force, the city in which the mall is located.

Enclosed malls were beneficial from the view that shoppers no longer needed to walk out doors to the next store in inclement weather. Older customers were beginning to find a trade off had developed between convenience and speed of shopping on one hand and distance walked on the other. With the development of the mall, the distance you generally had to walk across the parking lot to a store front entry, was equivalent to visiting most of side by side shops in the shopping center or several small stores in earlier times. The distance you walked along the mall corridors to and from the various shops inside a mall grew to be further than you would have walked about town  during the 1940s.

Another could be seen in the quality and number of choices afforded shoppers. Mall department stores are very large and carry a bewildering variety of merchandise broken into departments. One must often walk through the length of the store to get to the department they’re interested in. The time spent hurrying along three hundred feet of crowded aisle to quickly check price or quality, becomes tiring and time consuming. Having to maneuver through all the merchandise you’re not interested in ia a waste of time.

Commensurate with the increase in the store’s square footage, has been an increase in the number of products and related products in each department. Although the huge department stores are filled with products, they frequently don’t carry the same brands or identical models of a given item as their local competitors.

One example of the complexity that a careful shopper is faced with can be seen as follows: A complete stereo system, with an amplifier, AM-FM radio tuner, CD player, tape player and speakers, commonly vary in cost between $130 and $1100.
Some companies produce only the low price models, while others produce only the high price models. Many companies produce an entire range, from cheap to the most expensive. Frequently, there are only slight variations between models made by same company. Now, to top it off, no one ‘general retail store’ carries more than perhaps a quarter of a manufactures product line for the given item.
Comparing let’s say stereo units at two stores Alpha-numeric numbers represent manufacturer and model. Note there is little overlap so comparative pricing is difficult).

Store A:  1a,  1c   1e   2a   3d  2f  4a  4c  4e  5d   5f
Store B:  1b   1d  1f    2a   2e  3a  3d  6b

In order to compare the models which are available, their quality and price, shoppers have to visit, several shopping centers, a mall and another huge specialty shop or two. Shopping has come full circle. In order to determine what is available and get the best price, you now have to drive to different stores about town and walk across large parking lots through traffic in inclement weather.

From the standpoint of the number of people shopping, there were seldom shoulder to shoulder crowds in the stores on any weekend in the 1940s and early 1950s. The 1960s and 1970s brought crowds to the large stores. During the 1970s and 1980s, malls helped bring about a change in the meaning and concept of “going shopping.” Malls are a concentrated shopping district that attract a relatively large portion of the community to one location, resulting in a very high population density. People did not use to go to town in order to be in close proximity with other people. Fifty years later, in the mid 1990s, shopping had become a pastime and a social event. Malls draw many people who have a minimal need to shop, but just want to be around other people and experience the happy spirited excitement of browsing about in well lit auditorium size hallways with pleasant music, seeing crisp and pretty displays all in a pleasing, nice smelling environment, meeting friends, etc.
Of course, after purchasing this or that little ‘what not’, the individual or family browse through the mall and often stop to buy a little something extra.

There are benches situated along the center and sides of corridor walls for shoppers to sit on and rest, or eat some delicacy they’ve purchased from an vendor along the mall corridor. Benches are frequently filled with shoppers whom are sitting, watching the sea of humanity stroll by. Occasionally a knot of teenage boys or boys and girls scurry past all dressed up in the latest fashions and parading themselves at the busy mall. For the mosty part, the mall corridors, store aisle, and parking lots are filled, filled with strangers who pass anonymously.

When I was a child, shoppers usually knew the store clerk, or owner, by his last name, and he either knew you or your parents name. Today, we are more isolated as individuals in a crowd than we had been as ‘the only shopper in a store,’ several decades earlier.

The facilities and the concept of shopping have changed enormously, yet, were I to choose between the old and the new, I’d select the new. After all, there are more interesting choices and browsing is a rather entertaining pastime that offers lots of fluff, but without any social or personal commitment.

In the 1940s and before, the prime deterrent to shopping was the lack of money. By  the 1990s, everyone had money, so shopping for a specific “hard to find” item, better quality and good bargains  became more of a mental exercise in timing, patience, remembering what items were available and their approximate cost at different stores. It took longer to shop and required more walking by the late 1990s that it had in those earlier decades. We have come full circle in a non joining spiral, having replaced convenience with choice and personal sociability with complexity.

Buying a .357 Magnum
Several factors converged that brought about our decision to buy two pistols:

1)  We both enjoyed backpacking and camping, yet being in remote locations left us uneasy about our safety should anything threaten. We were thinking about doing some more backpacking and wanted to have increased security.

[Photo at right, my Ruger 357 Magnum, Security 6 revolver]

2) The population of El Monte was primarily working poor, Mexican-American families. The social makeup of apartment complex where we lived, was rapidly changing, filling with quite poor people whom had odd customs. Donna and I had a new car, new Honda motorcycle, we were buying a few good quality personal and household items and developing an investment portfolio. Occasionally people we didn’t know would walk along the second story corridor outside and stop, and stand looking into our living room window. We felt the need for some security in the apartment in case anyone ever tried to break in.
One Saturday, we visited several hunting supply and gun stores to look at, price and decide what we might need. Firstly, we purchased a Ruger .357 caliber magnum, six shot revolver with a six inch barrel; a leather holster; cleaning supplies; and a box each of hollow point and armor piercing ammunition for about $200.
Our second purchase included a  .22 caliber, nine shot revolver, with six inch barrel; a leather holster; cleaning supplies; and several five hundred round boxes of “long rifle” ammunition costing about $120.

World economic situation report, 1973
Man has acquired the ability to literally change the face of the Earth. Even during the memory of living men the capacity to radically alter the environment has increased many fold. Scarcely a generation earlier, the laborer with a shovel and wheelbarrow was an essential part of every construction project and horses were called upon to pull and haul. In the matter of only a few years, or decades, before my birth in 1942, human and animal muscle were superseded by an array of giant machines for moving earth, drilling rock and lifting huge loads. With their aid, we gouged away hills, diverted streams, drained swamps, created lakes, laid down a network of superhighways across the continent and erected buildings a quarter mile high.

Seeing the growth and power of the West, the rest of the world embraced the Western ideology that material improvement was a worthy, desirable and attainable aim for all peoples. As the world scrambled to become Western, the disparity between rich and poor, between industrialized and underdeveloped and between North and South grew. The contrast in the standard of living of people in rich and poor countries in the modern world, is as great or greater than the diference between European lord and peasant in the Middle Ages; probably greater when considering the access to modern medicine, medical treatment, food variety and travel options.

Music [midi: Waltzing Matilda]

Visiting Mom and Dad, Anasazi artifacts [2]
After being forced out of the adobe, Cow Springs Mission building in 1968, Mom and Dad bought a Marlette mobile home. They were living in a small, mostly Navajo occupied, trailer court behind the Tuba City Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation, north of Flagstaff.

During the later part of July, I took Donna to Arizona to meet my parents.

It so happened that a couple days into our visit was July 25th, my 31st birthday. On the morning of my birthday Mom and Dad announced they would like to take us to one of their secret Anasazi treasure troves. I was always keen to visit Indian ruins and explore for artifacts, Donna and I thought it would be great fun, so after breakfast everyone climbed in the Carry-All and off we drove. I should point out that over the years of our family visiting Indian ruins and my parents living on the Navajo Reservation, they had accumulated an interesting, though not large, collection Anasazi artifacts.
[Photograph, left: July 1973. My  parents mobile home and Carry-All auto. They owned and lived in this Marlette Mobile home, behind  the Tuba City Trading Post, Tuba AZ for a number of  years.]
Note to readers of this blog: While on the reservation, my parents did not actively look for Anasazi ruins. They were on the reservation for professional  missionary services and God’s business. What antiquities they occassionally came across, were things the Navajo had found in the desert while tending their flocks of sheep. The curiosities were brought back to the family hogan and left laying around. My parents would occassionally see an old item and ask about it, if the owner had no apparent interest in the item, an offfer was made to purchase it. If it was sold, the name of the seller was written on a pierce of tape and stuck to the item, incase anyone would ever question its providence.
The Navajo had no interest in Anasazi artifacts. The Navajo were relatively new to the area, having  arrived in northeastern Arizona hundreds of years after the Anasazi (“The Ancient Ones”)  departed, abandoning their cliff dwellings and desert citadels circa 1200-1250 AD.)

Awhile later, we arrived at our desert destination, a small, several hundred foot in diameter sandy area surrounded by red sandstone.
The Cow Springs Mission, where Mom and Dad once lived was not far from this spot. Over the years, Mom and Dad had come to this particular sandy area following a  seasonal cloud burst or sand storm to see what artifacts might have been  uncovered by erosion.[3]

Everyone climbed from the Carry-All, spread out and began walking across the sandy area with our eyes scouring the ground. After about five minutes, Donna began clamoring that she’d found a pot. Mom and I ran to her side thinking she’d found a large chard. But sure enough, there, protruding about an inch from the soil was the entire unbroken lip of an Indian pot. I fell to my knees and began to carefully scrape away the sand, exposing more and more of the pot.
As I began to dig around the pot with my bare hands, Dad suddenly began urgently calling for us to come and see what he’d found. We shouted back at him to come and see our find. I kept digging. Mom, Donna and myself vocalizing, “Oohs” and “Ahhhs,” over the pot while periodically stopping to call for Dad. All the meanwhile, Dad kept waving his arms to get our attention and pointing frantically at the ground, still adamant about our coming to his location across the sandy area.  [1973 Photograph: The pot Donna found.]

As I gently removed the small red pot from the sand, it broke into seven or eight pieces, which were later glued back together. The little red round pot looked like a drinking cup or bowl with a small horizontal “D’ shaped handle. It stands about three and a half inches high from its rounded base and is five and a half inches in diameter. It was originally painted red inside and out, then the interior was painted over with black geometric designs.[4]

Dad finally came over to join us. When Donna and my Mom walked back to put the pot in the Carry-All, Dad and I hurriedly walked across the sandy area to see his ‘find’.

When we arrived, I stopped abruptly and gasped in awe, “Whoa!”
There, protruding from the ground and in the process of being uncovered by the shifting sand was the bleached skeleton of an adult human! There was no organic material left on the skeleton, the hair and flesh had long ago decomposed; neither were there any remaining fragments of clothing visible, no folds in the clothing, no leather,  no particles of metal. The skeleton was rather sprawled out face down, making it appear that the person had just fallen forward with arms somewhat outstretched and died. It did not appear that the body was laid out in a funeral ritual. The skeleton’s size made it appear that the person had been at least five feet tall.
Except for turning the skull over to look at the facial area (it had still been two-thirds buried), we did not excavate or disturb any part of the skeleton. We left it in the dignity of its quiet resting place and to posterity, as was apparently the fate intended by nature. We spent another half hour looking over the sandy area hoping we might find another pot. [Photograph, above: July 1973. Skeleton  uncovered by drifting sand about 150 feet from Donna’s ‘pot find’.]

[Drawing above: In search of ancient treasures: Part two of a two piece treasure map. Each at a different scale, showing the location of the places mentioned in this section.]

When we had scoured the area and were satisfied there were no other things uncovered by the sand, Dad said he knew of another nearby location we could check out. We climbed back in the Carry-All and drove a short distance to the old, burned out Cow Springs Trading Post-Mission.
Mom and Dad showed us around their previous home-mission site then pointed out across the desert to a mid distant hill, maybe ½ mile away, a site that was almost in their previous home’s back yard.

After a drink of water and some chatting, we began our trek across the desert, crossing a dry river bed and walking toward the base of a rather inconspicuous small hill. As we approached the hill, a jumble of rocks around the crest indicated what my parents already knew, that this was the previous site of a small Anasazi settlement.

As we climbed the low hill, it became apparent that the rock jumble had been part of the walls of the settlement. We could trace the outline of the small stone walled huts had had existed around the top of the hill. With the abandonment of the village, the buildings collapsed and their rock walls were, over the centuries, working their way back down the hill.  We found the village dump on the south facing slope. It was strewn with various size pottery chards (some of which we collected), but no full pots were found laying on the surface. We didn’t do any excavating at this  small, unnamed ancient village, nor did we see any evidence that there’d ever been any excavation.

Refurbishing an old radio

[Photograph above: The 40-60 year old, wood cabinet  radio I bought in 1973 (left) and subsequently refurbished (right)… is still operational in 2011…]

During the summer, one of the supervisors at Gregg Iron Foundry sold me, a non functioning, vacuum tube AM radio from about the early 1940s for $1. I stripped the very dirty original white paint off the cabinet, sanded, then stained the wood with walnut finish and gave it a final coat of satin polyurethane. Donna replaced the speaker cloth with a similar, blue green piece of textured speaker cloth. The faded ornamental red paper behind the station dial was replaced with red, flocked Contact Shelf Paper. Finally, we took all the vacuum tubes to the supermarket and tested them on a vacuum tube tester, two defective tubes were replaced.

We have [in 1973] the refinished radio in our kitchen and occasionally use it, however, generally listen to music or the news over the TV, on the wireless Weather Radio, the household stereo system, or from radio’s located in our bedroom.

Another ‘trucker’s strike’
For the second time in as many years, southern California grocers and shopers were hit by a ‘truckers strike’. This time, the strike nearly closed down the supermarket meat departments. For about three weeks, there were few cuts of meat to be found when we were grocery shopping. Shelf stocking volume was down to about ten percent of normal and only the very highest priced cuts of meat were seen
to have survived.

The grocery store employees did their best to fill in the refrigerated meat counter with packaged lunch meat: bologna, ham slices, canned hams and sausage rolls, etc. These items didn’t fill the coolers, but were simply spread out in an attempt to cover the bottom of the compartments.

Economically, times were good, so we were amazed that something as trivial as a truckers strike had decimated the market. We were concerned over the prospect of what might happen if there was a serious break in the nation’s food production or distribution infrastructure.

Music [midi: Amarillo by Morning]

Backpacking in the Santa Rosa Mountains
During the summer, Donna and I decided to renew our backpacking adventures. We found a few areas within a day’s driving distance of Los Angeles that wouldn’t be crowded. First, we decided to backpack onto a long table top mesa located the Santa Rosa Mountains. The mountain range is located about one hundred twenty miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the Anzio-Borrego Desert State

One weekend, we went on an exploratory trip to the area, simply driving, using binoculars and several maps to locate roads into the area and get a feeling for what special supplies might be needed.
We drove in from Salton City, on the east, then went through Borrego Springs looking back toward the table top mesa from the west.

Over the next couple weeks, we loaded our lightweight aluminum framed packs basedon our individual weights. Since there was no water in the wilderness area, we were required to carry our own. Our individual loads weighed about thirty five pounds each, plus we were taking a five gallon container of water, adding another forty pounds, which we would take turns carrying.

[Photograph: Donna with the packframes (leaning against our new 1973 Toyota, Corolla) prior to a backpacking trip into the Santa Rosa Mountains. Donna’s 22LR and  my 357 Magnum pistols are strapped to our packs.]

We left home an early Friday morning, in August, for our three day trip. As was usual, the drive through the desert, past Palm Springs and down to the Salton Sea, was hot. We stopped to buy a ‘take out’ lunch at a small Mexican restaurant just outside Salton City. We discovered the restaurant during our previous scouting trip and found they made the best ‘beef and bean burritos’ we ever ate! Although we subsequently experimented trying to duplicate the recipe, and have eaten at many Mexican restaurants over the years, no one has ever come close to the excellent taste of those Salton City burritos!

At the base of the table top mountain, we left the main road and turned onto a smaller dirt road that slowly wound up the dry, brushy side of the mountain’s slope. Finally, we turned onto a very poor, rutted dirt road, more like a jeep trail, which brought us up near the top.
After getting our gear out and locking the car, we climbed the rest of the way to the top of the crest—a difficult climb since we were carrying a 40 pound container of water!
Looking down across the table top mesa we noted that there was no hiking  trail for us to follow, just the map and our images of what the mesa looked like from a distance.

We took a break on the crest, removed our packs and sat down, looking about; enjoying the somewhat stark nature of the high desert environment. From our high position, we could see from one end of the tabletop across its entire length. The mesa was about one and a half miles long and a quarter mile wide. Although it looked flat from a distance, the top was intermittently covered with small hills and rills, an occasional jumble of boulders, and large ten foot in diameter isolated rocks. The mesa sides seemed to drop away very steeply. We could not see the mountain’s slope beyond the table top rim, but could see shimmering desert in the distance.
After a break, we shouldered our packs, picked up the five gallon water jug and proceeded down onto the table top.

[Photograph: View from the location where we took our break. Looking across the tabletop; beautiful and pristine scenery in  the hot, arid, Santa Rosa Mountains of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.]

Spread across the mesa, there grew uneven patches of conifer. Where one of the trees had died and fallen, its bleached, gray trunk and large limbs looked like the bones of a great, dead, beached whale. There were flat sandy areas spaced about, in which grew ten foot wide clumps of woody sage perennials with reddish purple flowers. A similar, small yellow flowered species grew in the same sandy areas, in clumps one to two feet in diameter.
These groups of flowering plants were all spread about giving each other several yards space between their individual clumping. Their colors lent an odd beauty to this otherwise high and very dry, sandy environment.

Carrying a thirty five pound backpack across rough terrain is difficult, but carrying an additional forty pounds of water in a unwieldy container was terrible. Every few hundred feet, Donna and I exchanged carrying the water container. Besides the weight of our loads, it was hot, even at the top of the mountain. Our pack belts were cutting into our sides, the high desert air and stress of carrying the water made our mouths feel cotton like and dry.

About half way across the length of the mesa, we found a scenic, bowl shaped area. There was a sandy area beneath the pines on which to set up the tube tent; firewood was readily available; we were only a couple hundred feet from the west rim of the mesa and had an unobstructed view of our surroundings. Dropping our packs, we sat for awhile, rebuilding our strength. The two mile hike from the car to where we finally set up camp was much more difficult than our trip into the Trinity Alps nearly two years earlier. Donna was so stressed from the effort of hiking back in, that she became nauseous and continued feeling ill into the evening

We strung up the bright
orange, polypropylene tube tent and piled brush around the back and front with hopes that it would give us some warning should a large wild animal try to come in the tent after our food or us. We brought our pistols on the trip, having them strapped to the exterior of our packs– just in case. For extra security, we wore the guns in camp and took them to bed with us at night. [Photograph above: ‘Bowl shaped’ area near our camp site in the Santa Rosa Mountains: Donna and I, backpacked down the slope, through this mountain area filled with wild flowers and camped a quarter mile further out on the mesa.]

Saturday morning’s tasty breakfast, consisted of: several cups of coffee, reconstituted Spanish egg omelet with peppers and bacon bits, and pan baked biscuits. After breakfast, we leisurely explored the mesa, carrying only our canteens and pistols. It was beautiful up amongst the rock outcroppings, gnarled pines, grasses, and flowering brush. Being on top of a mesa created an unusual visual effect, it looked as though we were on a flat plane suspended from the sky. In the distance where you would normally expect to see the familiar horizon line of land and sky, from our vantage point on the mesa, we could only see sky. Our small flat world was surrounded by a vast bluish white void.

We walked to the nearby side of the mesa, carefully climbed out on a large jutting rock to sit and enjoy the scenery. The mesa’s side wall fell away beneath us, as cliffs and extremely steep slopes.
Perhaps a thousand feet below, the mountain’s slope moderated and continued at a much more gradual decline to the desert far below. Scanning the mountain side below us with the binoculars, we saw a herd of mule deer picking their way along an ancient trail.

Even though the air temperature was relatively cool at our elevation, on the desert floor below and spread out to our west was the terrible Anza-Borrego Desert. We could see across two much shorter mountain ranges, into the low, whitish colored desert sand in the misty distance. Looking south, down through miles of shimmering heat waves, we could see a whispy plume of dust rising behind a tiny ‘speck sized’ vehicle traveling along a dirt road across the desert.

Lunch consisted of plain and simple – peanut butter sandwiches.

Our legs and stomach muscles were still tired from the previous days hiking, so we spent most of the day sitting and laying about, relaxing, while enjoying the solitude and the sights from our elevated position on the mesa.

During the late afternoon, as the midday heat gave way to cooler temperatures, we began supper. For the meal we made a stew, by reconstituting dehydrated vegetables and adding rice. The finished hearty stew was served in our  green plastic camp cookery cups and eaten along with sour dough bread.

After dark, we returned to sit on the large rock, at side of the mesa. The hour or so that we sat enjoying the sights that evening, made our backpacking trip worth the effort. We sat together in near darkness, all about was an unbroken silence.
Overhead, a crystal clear sky revealed myriad’s of stars, clearly seen from our mountain top perch. Looking down the side of the mountain the irregular features seemed to smooth into shades of gray before disappearing in the darkness. Lo! In the great distance, across an intervening mountain range and the desert, we could see widely scattered house lights.
Donna and I sat out on our rock abutment, chatting, sipping brandy, discussing memories and wondering about the distant lights that shown from both above and below.

The next morning after breakfast, we broke camp and repacked our pack frames. We filled our canteens then discarded the remaining water from the five gallon jug. Although we’d used or jettisoned that extra 40 pounds of water, and eaten the food we carried in, our packs seemed just as heavy as before. Our leg and stomach muscles were still strained from the hike in, so it didn’t take long before we were once again tired while making our way out.

It turned out to be a grievously hot day. We studied the topographical map an decided to cut a path around the high crest at the end of the mesa with hopes of picking up a jeep trail at the  same elevation. Although we didn’t get lost, we learned that following a topographical map, when you don’t really know exactly where you are, leaves one filled with uncertainty. As we hiked, and climbed around rock formations, we stopped more and more frequently for breaks and to take a drink of water. We both finished our canteens before hiking out. The last half mile was a very dry and difficult trek. I plodded along a few paces behind Donna, letting her choose our speed, we walked in silence, both of us suffering.
We had been to a place of solitude and great natural beauty. The table top mesa extracted its price from us in terms of a physical payment, for no such grandeur can be experienced free — it’s nature’s way.

Painting and a sculpture
As previously mentioned in my autobiography, when Donna and I were dating in Arcata, we frequently hiked along the Pacific beach. About half of our beach jaunts occurred right after a  storm, a time when we went to the more rugged beaches, looking for things washed ashore by wave and wind. The most unusual finds I made were two Japanese glass fish net buoy’s. Japanese buoy’s were periodically washed ashore by the Humboldt current that swept up from Japan and came near the shores of northern California. While I was living in Arcata and unemployed, I made a wooden sculpture on which to display the buoy’s.
I wove a short length of net from cord and dyed it yellow-brown in a tea bath. The ‘net’ encased buoy’s we set in place on the sculpture. On an upright board, behind the buoy’s, I painted a fishing boat with a fishing net seen trailing out across the sea to my buoy’s. It was a ‘three dimensional artwork’.

Earlier this year, Mom and Dad were traveling on vacation when they visited Dinosaur National Monument (?). After exploring in the park, they bought a few petrified clams from a local curio shop (?) and had sent me four. I pondered how to display the clams and came up with the idea of making a sculpture similar the one used for the Japanese glass buoy’s.

The petrified clam shells were set into a form fitting platform made from paper mache. The platform was glued to a plank. The entire base surface was coated with glue and covered with sand, simulating the now arid area in which the petrified clam shells were found. I painted a background image on an attached, rotting plank, showing a dinosaur watching a distant volcanic eruption. These two painting sculptures are still with me, in January 2011.

[Photograph, left: ‘Japanese glass buoy sculpture’ that  I made during late 1971, while living  in Arcata. The vertical upright is about 5.5 inches wide, 11 inches tall.
Photograph, right: The Petrified clam sculpture that I  made in 1973. The vertical upright is about 5 inches wide, 8.5 inches tall.]

Buying a safe
As the months passed, Donna and I began to accumulate a little cash, the 100 silver dollars and few other assets that were relatively valuable. By early Fall, concern with the decline seen about our neighborhood, we decided to buy a safe in which to store our valuables. One day, Mike DiGirolamo and I  got together and drove to the Major Safe Company in Los Angeles, where he’d recently bought a safe. I purchased a  fire resistant safe measuring 17″Wx24″Hx24″D with a crinkled tan finish. The safe had two large external hinges and weighed about 300 pounds. We put the safe in a closet and camouflaged it with a blanket and other items [6]. [Internet image left, similar to the safe we bought. Mine is tan, not the light gray shown in this picture.]


O.P.E.C. starts an oil embargo
In early October, The Yom Kipper War, broke out between Israel and her adversaries, Syria & Egypt. As usual, the U.S.A fully supported Israel.
On 17 October, the Arab nations, who were weak militarily, flexed their big “oil muscle” and began an oil embargo against the United States. They simply restricted oil production, honoring their other commitments, while eliminating American and European purchases. This was the first that we common citizens had heard the term ‘OPEC’ (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and it was our first exposure to the power of a cartel. The Arabs were attempting to raise the price of oil which was denominated in dollars. The dollar was undergoing inflation, hence being devalued, against other currencies, which resulted in the Arabs being paid less and less in terms of purchasing power, for their product. They also wanted the U.S. to alter its support for Israel.

When the embargo started, we were shocked that such a thing could happen, everyone had an uneasy feeling. We were surprised to learn that our great nation, and Europe, were so dependent on a few “camel jockey” countries for petroleum. Soon the big question arose, “Where will we get gasoline?

A week after the Oil Embargo began, the US stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) began to collapse. From its high of about 890, it fell through November hitting a low of about 785 in early December, giving up almost 12% of its gains. After my Wyle Labs stock climbed so nicely during October, I sold them at a profit. The profits were left in our brokerage account, awaiting the next opportune moment to buy back into the market.

Memories of the telephone system,1973 [7]
The Arab oil embargo had a dramatic effect on consumer psychology and shopping patterns. As gasoline prices surged, people began to use their telephones more and more. People who were use to window shopping for the best deal, began telephoning stores to inquire about prices. Not only did the phone system become busier, but harried retail clerks, who use to cheerfully run check prices and availability of stock began doing so grudgingly, if at all.

Wilton-Armetale dishes: A lifetime of wear
In early December, Donna and I found pewter alloy[8] dishes, by Wilton-Armetale, being sold at Bullock’s, an upscale department store in Pasadena. We’d never seen pewter/ alloy dishes and were immediately taken by their almost beautiful simplicity and functionality. We’d been eating off my old Melmac dishes since our marriage and were ready to upgrade to something nicer.

We read a brochure that accompanied the dishes which compared them with standard porcelain or crockery services. The pewter dishes would never crack or break, they could be put in the over to warm or keep foods warm until meal time, each piece was individually hand crafted at the Wilton foundry, and they had a timeless beauty that had been appreciated for centuries.

We went home that night after thoroughly inspecting the dishes, they were simply too expensive to buy without some time to think and discuss between ourselves. We like the Queen Anne Series style dinnerware, with their scalloped edges and antique look. The twelve inch diameter Charger plates cost $16 each, the seven inch Bread and Butter plates were $4.00 each and the small five ounce wine goblets
cost $7 apiece.

In order to put the potential cost in perspective, I was earning $4.00 per hour gross, working at Gregg Iron Foundry, so one Charger cost more than four hours of my labor. On positive side, the dishes would provide a lifetime of service.

During the week that followed we decided to buy the dishes.

Each payday during the next few weeks, we drove back up Pasadena, until we’d purchased: six each Chargers ($96), six each- seven inch bread and butter plates ($24) and six each  wine goblets ($42).

Over the decades that followed, our collection of Wilton-Armetale, Queen Anne style, sand cast dinnerware has been increased by the addition of two more Chargers ($50), a two quart serving bowl ($20)[9] bought for about $2.00 at a garage sale; another  bread and butter plate ($4) costing $1 at a garage sale, bread tray with scene and words “Give us this day” ($7); soup tureen with notched lid and ladle ($39.50), gift from Mike DiGirolamo and family. By the mid 1990s the dollar values of these items have tripled over their original cost—keeping up with inflation.

We continued using the pewter dishes ever since their purchase and during all these years they remained every bit as durable and pretty as they were the day we bought them. I’ve made few purchases in this life that have given as much continued happiness and service as these simple dishes.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1973.
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening News
•  Adam-12
•  Sanford and Son
•  All In The Family
•  M*A*S*H*
•  Kung Fu
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Among the movies Donna and I saw this year were:
American Graffiti with Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfus, Paul LeMat
BattleFor The Planet Of The Apes with Roddy McDowell, Claude Atkins
High Plains Drifter with Clint Eastwood
Live and Let Die with Roger Moore, Jane Seymour
Magnum Force with Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Felton Perry, Mitchell Ryan
Oklahoma Crude with George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway
Papillion with Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Sleeper with Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Soylent Green with Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young
The Exorcist with Ellen Burnstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller
The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing with Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn
West World with Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Alan Oppenheimer

[1] F.A Woolworth’s opened in 1879 in 1954 the company’s peak year Woolworth’s had expanded to 2850 stores around the world. In July 1997, unable to compete with the giant discounters like Wal-Mart, Woolworth’s filed for bankruptcy.
[2]  See also Journal 9, The People Book.  An encoded map to the Anasazi sites discussed in this autobiography are provided in the article, “In Search of Ancient Treasure,” page 1451.
[3] See the coded maps at the end of this chapter for direction to the sites mention. Symbol decoding instructions are given in my Journals.
[4]  The use of red and black paint, plus the nature of the stylized designs dated the pot to around 1200 AD, which was around the end of the Anasazi residence in this region.
[5] Anza Borrego State Park is the largest state park in the USA, covering 600,000 acres from the edge of the coastal mountains east to the Salton Sea and  south, almost to the US/Mexico border, and equals the more famous national parks further north for varied, unspoiled desert scenery. The elevation ranges from 6,200 feet to just 150 feet; the land beyond the east edge descends to below sea level, and the temperature can be appropriately extreme, with 120°F not uncommon – the average July maximum is 110°F – and a 30°F difference possible between the often cloud covered western peaks and the parched deserts far below. Such is the heat in summer that the visitor centre is open only at weekends, as far fewer people visit here than in the cooler seasons.
Hiking, backpacking and exploring are the main activities; unusually for a state park, camping is allowed without charge anywhere away from the main roads, and entrance to the park is also free.
[6] I still have the safe which is now used to protect important papers and old family photographs from fire and storm, and my digital file back up. Nowdays, the monetary valueables are kept in a safe deposit box at the bank.
[7]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”
[8]  Wilton Armetale pewter alloy is not made with lead, which historically leached into acidic foods.
[9]  All prices given for the dinnerware are taken from the  1973 Wilton- Armetale catalog.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979