Mom’s April 9, 1980, column. Appropriate quote for today, “Apparently, weather, rain, wind, and snow, is never divided equally.”

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

April 9, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                While going through some old things the other day, (and I have a lot of “old things!”) I came across a birthday book wherein my mother had recorded some of the profound happenings of my early years. She only made three or four entries in the book, so apparently not too much happened.

                When I was in the winter of my third year, she wrote “Elizabeth really talks a lot now. Mostly she says, ‘Shut the door, it’s cold in here!’” There is nothing so great about this remark except that I said it often, and that was in the winter of 1935-36, North Dakota’s coldest winter.

                I suppose I was playing on the floor most of the time near one of our three wood and coal burning stoves in our four room house. If I wasn’t playing on the floor, I was at least “short” enough to feel those close-to-the-floor drafts when the door was opened to the severe winter outside. I do not have official records at hand, but do recall from conversations of others in recent years, that the winter of ’35-36 broke all records with temperatures not climbing above the zero mark for several weeks in January and February. A low of 60 degrees below zero was recorded in more than one North Dakota hamlet that winter.

                Being only three years old, I probably was not too concerned about the weather…unless the door was open! However, I wonder now how difficult it must have been for my mother and father and other farmers and ranchers at that time with large families, little money, and poorly insulated homes. And without electricity, indoor plumbing, good roads and few automobiles in which to escape winter’s isolation of the farm!

                On the plus side, very few country dwellers had tractors. Consequently, you didn’t have to struggle with starting a tractor to feed the cattle and haul wood! You just harnessed and hooked up the team of horses and pitched the hay on the rack…after going to the meadow for it…and then came home and pitched it off for the cattle, saving some for the barn animals, milk cows, working team, and maybe some calves. Come to think of it, if we still fed cattle this way, there would be a lot less people keeping cattle.

                On the minus side, it must have been a real struggle to keep wood on hand for the hungry stoves, to cut down and haul in trees, to saw them on the buzz saw if you had a tractor to run it, or a buck-saw if you didn’t and then to split the chunks into stove size. Very few could afford any amount of coal, and the price was around $1.50 per ton! And there were those who did not have a good stand of trees to cut from, so they had to buy wood from others, or lease woodlots to cut from, or burn dried manure, corn cobs, twisted bundles of straw, or whatever they could find. I believe wood sold for $4 a cord and that made coal a better buy.

                I remember the friendly crackling sound of burning wood, the fascination of watching the red and yellow glow of the fire through the isinglass on the door of the parlor stove, and the homey smell of wood smoke as we approached the farm, walking across the pasture from school. Unfortunately, I also remember how cold the floors were and indeed, all of the house in the morning when the fires were almost out and we had to get up and get dressed for school. And how often the ash pans were full and the wood box was empty. There was also the ever present ash dust in the air when you “shook” down the stoves, or carried out the ashes.

                Weather has never been a laughing matter to country people in North Dakota. It seems that TV weathermen (and women) feel obligated to joke about the weather, or fill part of the time allotted for weather information with inane patter and opinions. For example, “Another nice weekend coming up folks, with no rain to dampen the spirits of you campers, fishermen, and golfers!” We’ve all heard this type of forecast during a drought, with crops burning up and pastures thirsting for a grass-saving shower.

                I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a farmer sincerely complain about getting too much rain. Maybe during a fall harvest when the weather settles in for a month long drizzle and fog, they feel pretty bad about not getting their crops off the field. Still they will try to find something good to say, that the rain will be good for fall grazing, or that it will be better next spring if we have adequate rain before freeze-up, and so on.

                The reason for this is that we seldom have too much rain in the Midwest. We sometimes have too much sun, or too much wind, and sometimes the rain falls at the wrong time, but too much rain is unusual.

                I found a clipping from the Mouse River Farmers Press giving the precipitation averages from 1896 to 1958, with the exception of the years 1901 and 1906, which were not available. These averages were compiled by the late August B. Rieder of Towner, who was the local weather observer for many years.

                In this record, 1899 and 1900 were the wettest years, with 28.65 and 28.35 inches respectively. The only other years there were more than 20 inches, were 1916, 1927, 1937, 1941, and 1954.

                To give you an idea of the fluctuations of moisture in our area, 1916 had a total precipitation of 21.25 inches, and the following year, 1917, only had 8.22 inches! No wonder farmers have such a gamble! Another similar variance was 18.6 inches in 1935, which was preceded by 1934 with 8.41 inches. This same clipping also stated that 1954 had the wettest June, with 9.37 inches recorded. Keep in mind that we had more moisture in that one month than in the entire year of 1917 and 1934.

                In 1954, my sister, Sigrid, and I started out for California on the morning of July 10 to attend the funeral of our Aunt Cora (Oium) Cushnaghan. We were driving, and I recall an incident somewhere in Wyoming when we stopped for gas. We had encountered a shower or two in North Dakota, and there was mud on our car. The filling station attendant said, “Gee, where did you get that mud?” We told him we had had over 9 inches of rain in June, still had occasional showers in July.

                Later, we drove into the yard of a rancher living near the highway to stop and rest and lunch for a time under the cottonwood tree in his driveway. It was the only shady spot we had seen for a long time and the temperature was 105 degrees above. The brown grass crackled underfoot when we got out of the car and we talked about the weather for a time with the rancher’s wife. She said, “Gosh but it’s been hot and dry! We haven’t had moisture in any form for seven months now!” We did not tell her how wet and green the Towner area was when we left. Apparently, weather, rain, wind, and snow, is never divided equally.

                Thought for the week, “By the time a man has money to burn, the fire is out!”

                Next week, “Potpourri.”



A little 1980 visit about politics with Liz

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

April 2, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                “Good heavens, you didn’t think I’d vote for that skirt chaser just because he’s a Democrat, did you? You must be out of your tree!” And that was my reply to a question about a political candidate recently, no names, please.

                So much for religion, politics, and sex, along with a dash of mental health!

                For some reason, folks think I should not take a stand on politics and so on, in this column. Well, it’s an opinion column and everyone who knows me, knows I have strong opinions on many subjects. However, I do not intend to expound on my views at this time, except in an abstract form, or perhaps on the national level. Apparently, it’s always safe to nip at the heels of the man on top, or so it would seem from listening to the national news.

                In the course of a recent conversation with a young man about the affairs of the state, and indeed, about world affairs, I asked, “Are you a Democrat or Republican?”

                He replied, “I am neither, I am an anarchist.”

                I liked his reply, and was not too surprised at hearing it from one less than half my age.

                An anarchist is one who favors anarchism (what else?) and for those of you who don’t want to look that up, although I did, anarchism is the theory that all forms of government are oppressive and undesirable, and should be abolished! Doesn’t that sound like some of the ideas expressed in recent speeches by would-be presidents during some of our state primaries? Or is constant criticism of our current president and his cabinet just criticism and nothing more? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

                All Americans seem to have one thing in common, we would like less government interference in our private affairs. We talk about it as we drive down our federal and state highways, in our cars with pollution control brought about by national law, and strapped in our seats with seat belts put there (again by federal law) to hopefully keep us safer if we have an accident.

                We stop at a café for lunch and enjoy relatively pure food because the café had to pass inspection for cleanliness. And as we enjoy a sumptuous meal, some of our friends and relatives are also enjoying a meal, perhaps not so grand, but adequate, through the benefits of money and food stamps provided for them by our state and national government to help them over the rough spots in life.

                I could go on and on about our less than perfect society, referring to our national parks so that you can all enjoy the outdoors even if you don’t live in the country, about our meat inspection programs, school aid, farm programs, and, of course, our military defense system. And much, much more. Perfect? No way.

                How much government is too much? We live in the most freedom oriented nation in the world. How many of you know an American citizen who has defected to Russia? There are a few, but how many do you know? Do we have a fence, barrier, or “iron curtain” forbidding you to leave our nation to seek a better life in another land? No, you are free to go if you so choose.

                Think about the advantages of being an American citizen before you criticize. And when you do complain, think about an alternative to the problem you complain about, and let our government representatives know what you think would be a solution, or even a partial one!

                What would you suggest for getting our hostages out of Iran? Let you president or congressman or senator know if you think you have a good idea.

                No, I’m not happy with the current state of affairs in America. I’m not satisfied with the high gas prices and low farm prices, high interest rates, and low farm prices and wages that don’t keep up to inflation. Maybe writing to our government officials with ideas is not the solution, but it’s the only one I have at the moment. So please don’t throw up your hands, take a pen in hand instead and “let the folks in Bismarck and Washington” know what you think! And tell your friends and neighbors what you think, and our city and county officials, and on down the line. Yes, I know I mentioned low farm prices twice in this paragraph, and I’ll mention them again. Hog prices the lowest in 6 years, cattle prices dropping so fast you wonder what’s happening, and grain prices no way keeping up with the cost of production and inflation.

The Farmers Home Administration closing the doors, or finances, to some of their borrowers in the spring of the year just before calving and grain seeding with no more justification than saying they are short of funds. When our government recently bailed out the Chrysler Corporation with enough money to keep our farmers and ranchers going for years, just to have one more make of car on the market. Not for competition with General Motors and Ford, because there is no more competition between them than there is with groceries bought at our grocery conglomerates and chains, and our appliance and implement monopolies.

Get mad, and write to your representative in government, and tell them it’s an election year, no matter who they are. And tell them to shape up or ship out and go make a living without a guaranteed wage and pension plan.

Speaking of writing, I receive letters about my column, and how welcome they are…whether they are for or against what I say. I did not realize so many people read this paper, or cared enough to comment. One of the more amusing ones I received recently was about the change in my picture at the head of this column.

“Is that a new picture of you and Bud?” This was in reference to the picture of me and the “bull” skull hanging on our corral fence!

No, it’s not Bud and I. Actually, I always thought he was at least as “bull-headed” as me, but that is not his head by me in the picture. It is the skull of a Hereford bull we bought about 15 years ago for $1,200 when $1,200 was quite a price to pay for a bull. Anyway, said bull had a bit of failing health one day, turned up lame, with a dislocated hip or knee, and I suggested butchering or selling him.

“No, he’ll get alright,” said Bud. Well, the bull didn’t get alright so all we have is the memory of a once good bull and a skull to hang on the fence. There was a time when I thought about hanging someone else’s head on the…oh, never mind!

Thought for the week: ‘God grant me patience, and pleas hurry!”

Next week: “Weather…or not.”


Surprise anniversary and an Alaskan fishing trip in 1980 for fun and food

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

March 26, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                Someone said they were surprised that I had taken off for an Alaskan visit in March. I replied that I was surprised at myself, but one of the reasons I decided to visit my sister and her husband on the happy occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary was because my mother had never been able to go to California to visit her two sisters there, except on one occasion. In the 1940’s she did go and spend some time with her sister, Anna, during the final stages of a terminal illness, and returned home after Anna’s funeral. What a sad occasion for a visit. How much better to go for a party and take flowers to the living.

                The day after I arrived in Petersburg was Sigrid’s birthday, March 8th. About two dozen women and a couple of men, showed up at her home at various times during the day bringing gifts and staying to drink coffee. Someone asked if we did this in Towner, and I said I could not speak for everyone, but if that many people showed up for my birthday, I would be sure it was my last, and that they knew it.

                On the night of March 8, Sigrid and Harold and I went to the home of Marlene and Dave Cushing for supper. They had been invited about 10 days before for a birthday dinner. When we arrived at the Cushing’s new home there were no strange cars in the driveway and we walked in. The first thing Sigrid and Harold within the house was a beautifully decorated anniversary cake made by their daughter, Karen, and in the darkened living room were their children, Karen, Harold, Michael, and Kirsten, and a number of friends. More friends arrived later to share in the food and hospitality.

                It was a lovely party and a surprise to Sigrid and Harold. Their children had worked hard and planned well. Besides doing a lot of cooking and baking with the help of friends to surprise and honor their parents on this day! Actually, their anniversary date was March 15, but they planned to be out of town on that date, so the party was held a week early.

                Petersburg is a very hospitable town, as are all the Alaska towns I have visited since my first trip north in 1957. Indeed, the hospitality of Alaskans reminds me of that of North Dakotans, open, friendly, and sincere. Of course, we have all met folks from other states who could easily pass as Alaskans or Dakotans because of their warm and friendly ways.

                Most of my week or so in Petersburg was spent visiting with family and new and old acquaintances. The highlight of my stay though, was a “cook fishing” trip with Harold, Sr., Kirsten, Mike, and a neighbor, Caspar Westre.

                We left Petersburg boat docks around 8 a.m. on a quiet morning on Harold’s 45 foot diesel powered halibut boat, “Provider II.” A light wet snow was falling but no wind. Indeed, wind is quite uncommon in this area. The upper slopes of the mountains on shore disappeared in clouds and mist as we moved out into Frederick Sound. We saw an occasional robin’s egg blue ice berg and a boat or two as we proceeded to where the cod fishing would take place.

                Preparations had been made in advance—netting herring for bait, preparing the lines and hooks. Mike and Caspar were busy playing out about 1,500 fathoms of baited ground line, perhaps 400 hooks on lines about 30 feet apart made up these lines and it took some time. A line anchor and colorful floats followed and then we moved on to anchor near Sukoi Islets off Kupreanoff Island. We sat in the galley and drank coffee and ate sandwiches; the boat motor was shut off and the oil fueled stove warmed us enough to remove our slickers, or oil skins as they call them.

                Actually, I was never cold on deck either. We dressed warmly in the morning and as the clouds lifted by afternoon, we were basking in sunshine and admiring the snowy reaches of Beacon Point and other mountains in this area. Usually, a fishing trip for halibut, etc., is much further out than the five miles we went out for cod, but we wanted to make a trip that would get us there and back the same day.

                Kirsten and I spent some time on deck watching several sea lions playing in the water and on the rocks nearby. We then decided to take the skiff and row ashore and cross the point for a better look on the other side. Sure enough, after rowing ashore and taking a fairly short walk through the alders, devils club, and huge spruce trees, we reached the other side and took in a private sea lion show! We walked into the water as far as we dared with our hip boots and clapped our hands, splashed the water, to get a better reaction from the sea lions for picture taking.

                From my observation and limited knowledge, I gathered that these were Steller’s, or northern, sea lions where the adults weight close to 2,000 pounds. Because of their size, and because Kirsten said they might follow us and overturn our skiff (all in fun, I assumed!) as we returned to the “Provider,” we left them playing near the rocks and walked through the trees back to our skiff. By the way, the water was very clear and a myriad species of shells covered the bottom, along with starfish, sea anemones and many beautiful rocks and plants.

                When returned to the boat we again moved on to pick up the lines and hopefully, fish. As we headed back, Harold pointed out Beacon Point and asked if I remembered climbing it one day 22 years ago to go deer hunting with him and take pictures. I remembered it well. The beautiful spring fed stream we climbed along, the dead falls, ferns, moss, and that common place breathtaking scenery, and how glad I was when we reached the top so I could literally collapse and rest while he went off some distance and shot a deer!

                He later carried the deer back down to the boat, while I carried the rifle, camera, and with some effort, my own feet. As a matter of fact, I had left Sigrid’s jacket where I had rested, and it was never found, in spite of small searches for it during ensuing hunts.

                I was a tourist on this fishing trip, so did little to help bring in the catch…except to lean over the side and watch the fish come up through the clear water, saying such profound things as “there comes another one!” or, later, as Mike identified them for me, “here’s a stick fish…a spiny dog-fish, Pollock, turbot, gray cod…” And the heartbreak of watching him immediately free the halibut because they were not legal at this time.

                We kept all of the cod, except those that had been partly eaten by other fish, and as they were dumped aboard Harold and Kirsten cleaned them with enviable speed. Cod is a versatile fish, delicious cooked, baked, smoked, and, as every good Scandinavian knows, made into “lutefisk.”

                When we returned to Petersburg late that afternoon we had two or three washtubs full of dressed fish, and two more containers with the roe and liver. That night we had a friend and family feast of cod, cod roe and liver, and various other delicacies.

                By the way, cod roe (fish eggs) are equally delicious cold. They are contained in a sac about the size and shape of a large cucumber, and when cold you just slice off a few pieces and eat. I had some for breakfast the next morning. As I had eaten some kind of seafood everyday while there, it seemed no more than right to have “fish eggs” for breakfast!

                Being a survivor and probably greedy by nature, I brought back somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds of seafood when I returned home. All of this was a gift from Harold and Sigrid, plus some gifts from friends and included a large salmon, tanner crab, king crab, salted herring, cod, homemade “lutefisk”, smoked dog fish, black cod, and salmon, and enough halibut frozen from last fall for a meal or two. Indeed, as I write this on March 23, my children announced they were tired of fish, so tomorrow I will serve venison, one of several packages also brought from Alaska so (as Harold and Sigrid said, I could taste their deer!) it will be still another treat.

                Thought for the day, “If you see someone without a smile, give him yours.”

                Next week…Sex, religion and politics…why not?


Mom writes about a 1980 trip to Alaska to surprise her sister for her birthday and silver wedding anniversary.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
By Liz Taylor
March 19, 1980
Mouse River Farmers Press

I did not have a column in the paper last week because I was on a trip to Alaska to surprise my sister, Sigrid, and her husband, Harold Medalen, on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary. They had not planned or expected a party and their children wanted to surprise them with a party a week before their actual anniversary.

When my nieces, Karen and Kirsten, first called from Alaska to see if I would come (I had ‘stood up’ for Sigrid and Harold when they were married on March 15, 1955), I said, “No, can’t make it. Impossible, can’t afford it. No time of year to visit Alaska,” and so on. After a couple of more telephone conversations in the next few days, I made my reservations for the trip!

I did not think I could actually surprise Sigrid as she works in the Health Center at Petersburg, Alaska, and that is similar to our County Nurses office in Towner. Her boss, Marlene Cushing, and several others were in on the surprise and I was sure someone would spill the beans.

I left Bismarck around 3 p.m. on March 6 (saving well over $100 it would have cost me if I had flown from Minot…another story) and arrived in Seattle, Washington, that evening where I had to stay overnight to catch the morning flight to Alaska. By making phone calls ahead of time, I was met at the Seattle airport by Mrs. Jean (Elliott) cox of Everett and her sister, Mrs. John (Donna) Koshak of Denver who was visiting Jean and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. (May) Howard Elliott, formerly of Towner and Denver. We spent a few hours visiting over coffee before they returned to Everett and I caught some sleep at my motel before the 7 a.m. flight to Alaska.

Alaska Airlines, and their pilots, are a little different from most of your regular flights, and are not for the faint hearted passengers. Although we flew in a jet, I am not really sure that the runways in southeastern Alaska are made with such planes in mind. For example, if the weather had been really bad we would not have landed in Wrangell or Petersburg following our stop in Ketchikan, but would have gone on to Juneau or wherever the weather was better, and stayed there until flying conditions were better before returning to Petersburg! Last year, in the month of February, Petersburg had no planes landing there for 10 days…something my nieces and nephews neglected to tell me until my arrival.

Between Seattle and Ketchikan we flew at 31,000 feet, at least that’s what the pilot said. I looked out the window at the clouds below and decided not to step out for a breath of fresh air at more than 5 miles up! Between Ketchikan and Wrangell we flew so low you could see the smoke curling from the chimneys of isolated cabins and fishing boats with the gulls flying behind to pick up the trash, or cleanings, from an occasional “cook fishing” trip.

The mountains in this area, all along the Inside Passage, are impossible to describe at this time of the year for their sheer beauty. Snowcapped mountains with their rocky crags descending to the lower reaches covered with varieties of evergreen just above the dark blue waters of the Inside Passage with its occasional iceberg of a light blue green color.

As we approached Petersburg, I noticed it was snowing more and I was sure we might have to go on to Juneau. If I couldn’t see the town, how could the pilot? And mountains on every side…
We did land, however, and as we did, I looked out the window and saw Sigrid and her two daughters and two grandchildren. Well, no surprise after all, thought I, but what the heck?

I got off the plane and noticed that Sigrid was walking toward the terminal rather than the plane. She stopped and looked my way (I later learned her daughters, Karen and Kirsten, has said, “Let’s wait and see if anyone we know gets off”). Anyway, she said she saw someone who looked like me, it had been 7 years since I had seen Sigrid, and 22 years since I had been to Alaska.

In any event, she realized it was me and hurried towards the plane where we hugged and kissed and laughed and cried in the softly falling snow! I later learned that she had come to the airport to pick up a package for her office. Karen and Kirsten had contrived other mythical reasons for being there.

A most happy occasion, and one that will live in my memory for years to come.

That night we had a mini-party and family dinner at the Beachcombers Inn in Petersburg. Sigrid’s husband, Harold, knew I was coming because the day before Karen and Kirsten had asked him if he could keep a secret, and he said yes, and they said, “Well, we can’t. Liz is coming tomorrow to surprise mom (Sigrid) on her birthday!” No mention of their Silver Wedding Anniversary…

Next week, a surprise anniversary and a fishing trip in Alaskan waters.

Trains, buses, fine music and old friends. Mom heads to Fargo for my brother’s Concordia College music recital.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

March 5, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                When I decided to go to Moorhead to take in son Justin’s sophomore flute recital, I felt the drive in a car would be tedious, so I decided to go by train or bus. I called the train depot in Rugby, nearest stop, to check on connections. I soon found they had all the connections, and I had none!

                Some major changes have occurred in our North Dakota passenger trains in the past several years. Major changes seem to hinge around the fact that the name has gone from “Great Northern” to “Burlington-Northern” to “Amtrak” with one less day of service per week for each name. Also, the name may have been changed with the hope that it would be lost in the phone book. Amtrak has a toll free number that is always busy.

                Since I wanted to go to Fargo on Saturday and come back on Monday, the gentleman at the depot rose to the occasion and advised me that the eastbound train only stopped on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, in the middle of the night.

                ‘Starline’ bus service offered a good deal, leave from Towner at 5:30 p.m., arrive in Fargo at about 11:30 p.m. after changing buses in Grand Forks. On the return trip, I could leave Fargo at about 7:30 a.m. and arrive in Towner at 2:30 p.m. with a one hour stop and change in Grand Forks.

                Since Winona Haman was going to meet me in Moorhead and take in the recital with me, I explored the possibility of going towards Bismarck with her on Monday and taking a bus from Jamestown to Drake. “Fine,” said the dispatcher, “We have three day service on that route, Monday, Wednesday and Friday…oh, wait, we don’t have service on holidays and Monday, February 18 is President’s Day. Which meant that I would have to return by way of Grand Forks, and I really didn’t mind the hour or so spent in the Grand Forks bus depot. They have three slot machines there; one for pop, one for cigarettes, and one for candy. I saw a kid hit the jackpot there and get a bar of candy!

                Actually, I enjoyed my trip by bus. It was still daylight for part of the trip from the Tastee Freez (local bus stop) in Towner on the Starline run, and I am a lover of North Dakota’s barren prairie landscape in the winter.

                We had about a half hour stop at a nice café in Devils Lake, and my two sisters from that area, Hjordis and Ruth, surprised me with a pleasant, though short, visit in the café. Ruth’s broken knee cap is healing nicely and she will be taking therapy to back in running shape.

                The Starline bus seemed to have the seats a little close together for my long legs, but it was not crowded with passengers. The Greyhound bus from Grand Forks to Fargo was roomier but it got so warm that I had to shed so many clothes to become comfortable that I feared arrest for indecent exposure.

                Justin met me at the Fargo bus depot at 11:30 p.m., where he had met Winona Haman at 4:30 p.m. She was waiting for me at the Ramada Inn in Moorhead, where she had passed the time reading a racy novel, and listening to people either partying or building cupboards in other rooms. The sounds were still going on after midnight.

                Justin’s recital wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, and we passed part of the time with a leisurely breakfast at the Village Inn Pancake House near the motel, with Bob and Beth Heintz of Fargo. Later, Mrs. Russell (Gwenith Kenny) Lee came to the motel and took me for a brief shopping excursion in Moorhead where the stores are open on Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Winona waited in the motel where Mrs. Vic (Phyllis) Senechal of Perham, Minnesota, was going to join us to attend the recital. Her son, Kim, was Justin’s accompanist for part of the recital.

                I had not seen Phyllis for a number of years, and she looked grand, with the same wonderful sense of humor I had always enjoyed. I noticed that her hair, like mine, was getting gray, but not falling out. When you pass 40, you appreciate little things like that.

                Besides about three dozen students from the college, Bob and Beth Heintz, Phyllis Senechal, Gwenith Lee, Winona Haman, and I attended the recital at 4 p.m.

                I was very impressed by it, not only by Justin’s flute playing, but Kim Senechal’s spirited piano accompaniment on the first selections, and Twila Schock’s (Ashley, N.D.) equally fine accompaniment on the second half.

                For interested musicians, the selections were Concerto in G Major by Mozart, followed by an unaccompanied flute selection, Syrinx by Debussy, and Duo for Flute and Piano by Aaron Copland.

                I am always moved by a really fine musical performance, and this feeling was enhanced by the usual maternal pride. Besides being touched by Justin’s fine performance, I felt that Kim Senechal’s piano accompaniment, played with such verve and enthusiasm, was a remarkable feat in light of the difficulties he has had in recent years.

                As many of you may recall, Kim had his right leg amputated several years ago while the Senechals lived in Washington, D.C., area. Since that time, he has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments and is currently doing well. He is a handsome young man and is majoring in music at Concordia.

                An interesting sidelight was that until about December, neither Justin nor Kim knew that their mothers knew each other from Towner. Vic and Phyllis now live in Perham, Minnesota, the Russell Lees live in Moorhead, Bob and Beth Heintz still live in Fargo, and Winona Haman lives in Bismarck. All send their greetings to Towner friends and relatives.

                I received a letter today from Sigrid in Petersburg, Alaska, today, along the pickled herring recipe. I will share this with you after I get a little more information. Her recipe was something like those I find now and then of my mothers, a lot is left to the imagination.

                She also sent me a poem, no doubt inspired by my references to my housekeeping.  “Ode to a Dirty House, by Louise Dillon. With so many lovely things to do, Why should I waste my life on you?”

                Next week, “A journey to the past.”



Some blizzard morning reading about blizzard kits in the days before cell phones and our newfound false sense of security.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

February 27, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                One thing about this business, you get interesting mail. I received a letter one recent day addressed to: “The Nice Lady Who Writes About Survival Kits, etc., Towner, North Dakota.” Apparently I’m the only lady (nice or otherwise) in Towner who writes about survival kits because the letter and booklet ended up in my mailbox!

                It was from a gentleman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who was apparently visiting the Rugby area when someone related to him what I had written about a Minot TV weatherman’s survival kit advertisement promoting something called a “Blizzard Beater.”

I had written what I thought was a light-hearted criticism of the ad, saying in part that you could make up the same kit (advertised for $14.95) for $5 and have a party on the change. I stand by this statement, but you’ll have to spend a little more if you want adequate protection from the cold if you’re in a stalled auto on any of our northern roads in winter for any length of time.

                The Canadian who wrote to me was Ken Kennedy of Winnipeg and he told of his ordeal while stranded in a car in January, 1978, from Tuesday evening until Tuesday noon in the Morris, Manitoba, area. Temperatures dropped to twenty two degrees below zero, and winds gusted as high as 50 miles per hour.

                As he said in his letter accompanying the brochure he had written, called “Survival or Death,” a car is nothing but a windbreak when the motor stops. His motor had become wet sometime during his experience and as a result he had to keep warm enough to survive with equipment he had with him, and he had far more than most people carry.

                Since that time he has been experimenting to determine just what should be carried in the car to survive a lengthy stay if stranded because of a sudden storm. The booklet he wrote was most interesting and I recommend it to any northern traveler, whether you’re planning  to be on the road for just a short journey or if traveling is your business.

                It is about 35 pages long and tells you all “you ever wanted to know about this type of survival” but thought you knew. After reading it, I put some more “stuff” in our car and then decided never to go any distance from home without a written and notarized guarantee from the weatherman that the weather would be excellent when I started my journey and even better when I planned to return!

                Because of his job as a salesman, Mr. Kennedy does a lot of traveling and consequently has experimented with more than one survival kit. He is trying to have high standards adopted for such kits, and legal penalties for those which produce a false sense of security for the traveler. I know of very few people who are truly prepared to spend much time in a stalled car in the bitter cold.

For example, Mr. Kennedy burned 31 candles in 35 hours (candles designed to last 6 hours each, but more than one was needed at a time to produce any worthwhile heat). He also burned several advertisements, three newspapers, two telephone books, and about 900 matches. The large number of matches was required because he only burned one small, folded piece of paper at a time to make it last and produce less smoke in the car. In spite of this he suffered great pain from leg cramps and cold because of restrained body movement.

Do you have more than 30 candles, 1,000 matches, newspapers or telephone books in your car? So what, you may ask, you have a snowmobile suit and a blanket in the trunk…and if you have your family with you, who is going to get the blanket, who is going to get the snowmobile suit…and who will die first?

As I said, a most enlightening booklet written by “someone who’s been there” and back.

By the way, he sent me one of the brochures and you may obtain a copy by sending $2 to: Mr. Ken Kennedy, 362 Melbourne, Winnipeg, Manitoba R2K 1A9.

He originally printed the booklets to give his customers and then printed some more because of the interest expressed by others. Anyone who knows anything about printing costs will realize that he didn’t do it to make money, nor does he sell a survival kit. However, he does tell you what he has learned about them and what he feels is necessary.

I said I did a lot of reading, and would read almost anything, and this habit has apparently been inherited by my children. The other day at the breakfast table Ryan was reading a cereal box, aloud, and this is what I heard: “Which has more sugar, an apple or a bowl of “Lucky Charms”? An apple!”

The ad on the box went on to say that Mother Nature sweetens apples for two good reasons, to make them taste good and to make them a source of energy, and that’s why she puts 15 grams of sugar in an apple. And a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal only contains 11 grams of sugar.

There was more but I don’t want to give General Mills any more free advertising. Since I am always skeptical of commercials I am sending the side of the box with that claim to the Consumer Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., or maybe to Ralph Nader, and ask that they investigate the claims and send me a copy of what they find out.

Of course, it’s hard telling what they will do about it, being located in Washington, D.C. This is the city where they decided to give us the Susan B. Anthony dollar to save us money! According to the press release this dollar coin would save the Mint $50 million per year in the future. WHEN in the future?

They have temporarily discontinued production after 785 million coins, with 285 million in circulation (I’ll bet they’re all in banks), and 500 million in inventory. This dollar coin was the latest and greatest mistake our government has made since the “non-war” in Vietnam.

It’s too bad they didn’t just ask folks on the street whether or not they would like to have a dollar the size of a quarter a couple of years ago and they could have really saved us money! Most folks feel that a standard sized dollar coin would have been readily accepted.

If you were looking for humor and hilarity in this column this week, “the laugh’s on you!”

Next week, “A weekend in Fargo-Moorhead, or, ‘you can’t get there from here’.”




Never Grow Old

Never Grow Old

I knew Mom liked this hymn, an old gospel tune that I remember her recording on a cassette when she heard it on a public radio broadcast once. So I picked it as the song we would sing at Mom’s family graveside service in May, held after the awful winter and the wonderful funeral service that celebrated her life in January, 2009. Then I found this in her house today, handwritten lyrics to the song, written in her own hand on one of her famous legal pads with a black Erasermate pen I’m certain. She only wrote down lyrics when she really liked something and wanted to remember the words as she chorded on the piano with family or guests. This little piece of paper is a treasure.

Mom’s Feb. 20, 1980, column–egg beaters, books and their new PBS channel

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

By Liz Taylor

February 20, 1980

Mouse River Farmers Press


                Some years ago when the children were small, I would have a neighbor girl hired for a couple of the summer months. They would help with the cooking and cleaning but would mostly keep an eye on the kids, especially if I worked in the hayfield, which was seldom.

                One day as I was preparing to go out to the field, the hired girl began mixing a cake. I had told her approximately where to find the basic ingredients. Indeed, finding things in my house makes any cooking task an adventure!

                The girl was rummaging through a kitchen drawer, and asked, “Where do you keep your egg beater?”

                I said, “It’s under the television set,” and went out the door.

                When I returned from the field she had a lovely cake ready but announced that it was no easy task without an egg beater, which she had not been able to find.

                “Did you look under the television set in the living room?” I asked.

                “Why, no, I thought you were kidding,” she answered.

                I went to the living room and under the TV, along with a myriad of toys was the egg beater. “Why would you think I was kidding? Where does your mother keep hers?” I joked, and told her that Tara had been playing with it and left it there the day before. And I had decided to leave it where both Tara and I could find it! Tara was about two years old at the time and had not been mixing a cake. She was just making noise in a pan with the beater and ignoring about $100 worth of toys.

                I’m sure there are no better toys for kids of that age than pots and pans and beaters.

                Of course, I can no longer blame small children for the way my house looks most of the time, perhaps it just got to be a habit with me.

                On another occasion, we were all sitting at the breakfast table discussing a movie we had seen the night before. The movie was “Sound of Music,” based on the book “Maria” by Maria Von Trapp.

                “I’m sure I bought that book one time, but now I can’t find it,” I said. “If I could find it, we could read it.”

                “Oh, it’s right here under the table,” Justin announced. “It’s holding up the broken pedestal of the table, along with…” and he ducked his head under the table, “along with ‘The World Almanac’ and the ‘Guinness Book of Records’.”

                Sure enough! Several weeks before someone had sat on the edge of the table and by so doing, caused a foot of the pedestal to break off. Grabbing a few books I had made adequate, if minor, repairs.

                “Gee, Bud, if you’ll fix the table leg, we can read the book,” I said, and he replied, “Well! If you’re going to nag about it…”

                Yes, a place for everything, and everything in its place!

                I remember when I was a teenager at home and we decided to improve our kitchen somewhat. With the aid of a crowbar and a hammer, a few boards were removed from a wall to make room for some cupboards. Inside the wall were a lot of magazines and newspapers nailed between the studdings for insulation some twenty years before.

                We immediately had a “work slow down” while we, a family crew, began to read and discuss news and happenings of bygone days.

                In my column two weeks ago I mentioned my fondness for mushrooms and through the “power of the press” I received a book of mushroom recipes in the mail. While the recipes made my mouth water, for the most part, there were some that would kill the appetite of a few people.

                One of my favorites began, “One boiled calf’s head,” and went on with such yummy ingredients as basil, tomato sauce, red pepper, beef essence, brown roux, gherkins, eggs, olives, sherry, two sheep’s kidneys, and, of course, mushrooms and truffles! A search through my pantry soon showed me I was out of most of the ingredients, with the exception of calf’s heads, which I expect to have plenty of when calving starts!

                Another recipe called for “Six fresh snipes” as the main ingredient, and while I never use anything but ‘fresh’ snipe, I could find none in the local grocery stores. This was for a snipe pudding, and really sounded quite delicious. Those of you who would like to read this book, ask for it at your book dealer. It’s called “Mushroom Recipes” and is written by Andre L. Simon. Good luck.

                The other day I decided to hand wash some sweaters and carefully read the label for washing instructions, as any smart homemaker would do. I got smart years ago by machine washing a wool sweater and putting it in the dryer…if anyone needs a size two, I still have the sweater!

                I said I would read anything, and clothing labels are hard to beat for improving your mind. One sweater boldly announced on the label that it was “100% Virgin Acrylic.” Now, there is something I had never known existed. How can a chemical compound be virginal? Indeed, I have never had an item of clothing that was part virgin acrylic, and part reprocessed acrylic.

                I wonder who come up with these labels in the clothing business? The instructions were simple enough, “machine wash, in warm or cool water and tumble dry, hang immediately.” I guess the latter means don’t dump it on the bed with damp towels and underwear until tomorrow.

                There is apparently not much you can do to harm 100% virgin acrylic. Some folks prefer to hang their sweaters on the mast of their sailboat in a hurricane until the storm is over.

                Something exciting here in the rural homes of this part of North Dakota this past month is a new TV station. We are actually being treated to PBS, or public broadcasting, and it gives us a “choice instead of an echo” when CBS, ABC and NBC have an evening of pure pabulum.

                Most of the daytime PBS is devoted to such children’s shows as The Electric Company, Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers, which is quite an improvement over what children would see on other stations. Some excellent shows in the evening have been The Voyage of Charles Darwin, A History of World War II, All Creatures Great and Small, and many excellent news shows and interviews.

                As I write this I am preparing to go to Moorhead, Minnesota, to take in son Justin’s personal music recital. I am looking forward to it and a fun weekend, and the only thing that bothers me is that I will be on the bus between Towner and Fargo when the PBS station is offering a Verdi opera, live from New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

                This three hour performance may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I would love to see it, and this from a gal who also enjoys “Hee Haw.” How wonderful to be offered this variety on television in this part of the country.

                “If you want to write something that lives forever, sign a mortgage…”

                Next Week, “More about survival kits.”