TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Living A Sheltied Life

It’s been a long, cold winter. I know. … After all these years of living in Minnesota and North Dakota, I should be used to it by now. In fact, I freely admit to having sneered with derision at those overmatched out-of-towners who complained all the way to the airport, upon spending a few moderately cool days here for Super Bowl weekend.

We’re supposed to be tough. But when you reach your mid-60s, the cold just seems colder and the snow a bit snowier. Maybe that’s why so many of us, while never acknowledging it to those shivering visitors, privately dream of warm weather destinations as we shovel our driveways for the 15th time.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of leaving. At least not permanently. There are reasons why my two states recently finished 1-2 in “Quality of Life,” based on a study from the U.S. News and World Report. But isn’t complaining also a rite of passage for loyal Midwesterners, particularly when March rolls around and it still looks and feels like January?

While it can often prove therapeutic, let’s face it. Nobody likes a whiner. Which brings me to my, if you’ll pardon the pun, “bone of contention.” When you’re down and out and you just need someone to be a good listener, seek satisfaction from your shetland sheep dog.

For me, it all started in the summer of 1987. Only married a couple of weeks and already short on cash after buying a new house, my wife’s birthday was coming up. Ever the romantic, I pondered my options. Jewelry was out…we were still paying for those engagement rings. Flowers seemed frivolous. So I chose to go high-tech instead, surprising Laurie with something new and exciting: a compact disc player with speakers included.

Maybe I had some visual of Friday nights in Fargo with wine, woman and song. So much for romance. Less than a month later, we were trading in that CD player for Laurie’s real desire … a new puppy.

Little did we know, but three dogs and 31 years later, we’d still be smitten by shelties. In fact, one is snuggled up next to me now as I compose this piece.

To this day, I have no idea why we chose this particular breed. Both of us grew up with poodles as house pets and had generally good experiences with those sometimes skittish, but intelligent and lovable animals. But after a bit of searching, we stumbled upon a sheltie breeder not far from home and the rest is history.

I’m sure other families have similar tales to tell about their pets. I can only speak for our three boys — Cole, Star and Chase. While each has had a uniquely different personality, the love and affection they’ve provided us is what helps get us through good times and bad.

Cole was there when our twins were born, a constant companion as they played in the backyard. While he only lived nine years, due to heart complications, he was famous for barking at airplanes and providing companionship after hard days at the pharmacy or television station. When he died, Ashley and Pat placed a paper airplane in his little box, which we had buried on a friend’s farm.

Star was the heart and soul of the family, giving us 15 wonderful years as our children became adults. He was the snuggler of the bunch, smart and so easy to train. Gentle, well-mannered and understanding but didn’t care much for the loud sounds of fireworks or motorcycles. As other pet owners will attest, the day we had to say goodbye to Star will always be remembered as a bittersweet moment. Filled with sadness, yet so grateful for the unconditional love he’d given us.

Now, it’s Chase’s turn to capture our hearts. Befitting his name, this guy is the most athletic and energetic of the three, adept at catching balls and Frisbees, while almost never barking. That is, unless he thinks you’re in the mood for playing, while shoveling some of that snow I’ve been complaining about. Chase will be seven years old this summer.

What we’ve learned about this breed is that it’s crucial to socialize them early in your training. All three of our dogs have been wonderful around children, but it means working a bit to make them comfortable around other dogs and other people.

Because they’re so smart, shelties savor “mental exercise,” such as advanced obedience and agility training, making them good candidates for competition. But their soft and sweet temperament is what has captured our attention.

In Chase’s case, we continue to marvel at his uncanny knack for knowing when something is wrong. He will stare directly at you, put his nose up close or find the most central location to observe family members in the midst of a serious discussion. He’s also capable of clearly distinguishing the meanings of various words and is quick to learn tricks that will earn him treats if performed correctly.

In short, our shelties have hopefully made us better people. No matter how long the winter nor how difficult the day, that wagging tail and enthusiastic squeal upon arrival home is the best medicine for occasional whiners like me.

I think our dogs remind us that people are generally about as happy as they want to be. In fact, they almost make you feel guilty about grousing over silly things like predictably cold and long winters in Minnesota. Almost.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Sometimes There Is No Spring

T. S. Elliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but I’d argue that. It comes in the winter.

Winter is more than a metaphor for the twilight of a life, the final whirl of child’s windup toy as the coiled spring inside releases the last of its energy and it freezes in suspended animation, a monument to a life lived.

No, winter is a dying season. Impersonal statistics will bear that out. From December to March, more of us march to the grave than any other time and, if you had to pick one, January would be the cruelest month. It creates more tears than the rest — enough tears to grow tulips in the spring. Maybe that’s what T. S. Elliot was talking about — the memory of winter.

In small, rural newspaper offices in which I’ve spent too much time out of the sun, we don’t need statistics to know these things. It’s all too real. We must face the survivors.

I remember the first one, the trembling hand of a mother handing me an obituary of a teenage son thrown from his prized white pickup and crushed in a rollover. Interesting I should remember the color. In a kinder dimension, he’d be a father now and his children would be graduating from college. So much died with him that night. I still remember his face.

Little of the history we write in small-town newspapers will be broadly shared, but in these moments, we are reminded of its importance and again each summer, when pilgrims return to sift through old issues, searching for remnants of lives long at rest. History can be a grand analysis of broad cause and effect, changing geographies. But always, in the end, in the minutia of it all, it’s personal.

We try to be perfect when the type is set, but few publications are without error. The rule seems to be typos are never visible to the proofreader until there are thousands of copies memorialized forever in print. Gutenberg’s Curse.

But these memorials? We try especially hard to get it right. Long after our own ink has dried up and faded, searchers will come for the past, and they must trust that our work was true.

This week it was a thank-you, handwritten three times before it said as much as could be said, the dust of a husband’s fresh grave not yet settled.

A few weeks ago, it was another mother, an unexplainable cruel confluence of events and an unexpected funeral. This lost son had been born into challenges, one of those children God decides must forever remain a child, one of those rare creatures we love so much it hurts because they smile through adversity, not recognizing much of the time that it’s even there. Is that the lesson they bring to us — that if we don’t acknowledge hardship, it ceases to exist?

His picture was all teeth.

No one knows why he went for a walk on that bitter winter day, only that he didn’t come back.

“I thought of my brother Mike,” I told her.

“I did, too,” she said.

Lame “I’m sorry’s” leaked from my mouth. When she described how they had found him … alone … frozen … gone … that was it for me.

Sometimes we sweep the survivors up in a hug and our chests rattle and wheeze from the hurt, reminding us how impossible it is for these condolences, like the words in the obituaries, to ever say enough. But we have to try.

I’m not sure if pain is something that can be shared, a yoke harnessed to anything at all. Or if it is like a dark cloud billowing until it chooses to stop of its own malevolent whim. I only know it is in our willingness to share the pain that we are most human.

I was reminded of something I scribbled out a year ago after another such a moment:

He walked in slowly, stoically, with checkbook in hand to place a thank-you in the paper. I looked over the neat handwriting. He’d thanked all the people who had expressed sympathies, the pastor, the church ladies who had served the meal. The funeral home.

“$14.30,” I said.

“Is that all?” Because death comes at such a high cost.

He handed me the checkbook, and I filled in everything but the signature.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”


“How long were you married?”

“Sixty-six years.”

I stopped and looked up at him. He had pale, gray eyes.

“That’s a long time. I’ll bet it’s pretty quiet around the house.”

His lip trembled. His eyes glistened.

I passed him the checkbook. He signed, struggled a bit to tear the check out cleanly. Her name was still on the check, too. Just a memory now. He neatly wrote the amount in the register.

Silence. He looked so thin.

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

A nod. He croaked out something. A lament. If tears have a sound then that is what they sound like. And then he walked out.

So thin.


© Tony Bender, 2018

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Oh, Say, Can You See? Not!

I wonder how many people are aware of the unseen heroics among our fellow neighbors. The extreme cold, accompanied by recent blizzard-like conditions often blocking visibility, placed too many of our fellow humans in unnecessary situations.

City, county and state police officers are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. When unsafe driving conditions develop but drivers throw caution to the wind and drive as if it was warm and sunny — and then hit the ditch or another vehicle — it is the law and emergency personnel who must face the elements to save their lives.

I can’t imagine how our firefighters and ambulance crews can do their jobs in the extreme wind and cold we’ve experienced lately. But they do, and do them very well.

I also watched during that period of extreme cold while the postal workers walked their mail routes. They delivered on time and without complaint. During most of the worst weather, they were not only out on deliveries … they got them out on time. So much work with so little public thanks and notice!

The people who walk or drive their paper routes get the job done regardless of weather, too, which always amazes me. When I was young, I had a weekend paper route of my own. I can’t say I ever adjusted to lousy weather.

City, county and state workers charged with keeping our roadways clear have done a wonderful job. If only those who use the roads in miserable conditions had the good sense to drive at safe intervals and at safe speeds, especially when approaching the plows.

And there are other unseen workers, too. City staffers are charged with dealing with the winter water main breaks. In spite of the weather, they give it all they have. Yet few of us recognize their hard work and dedication.

Consider how time-sensitive our broadcast meteorologists operate. When lousy weather approaches, they are at their best. They save lives in doing so without taking credit due them. It’s always easy to yowl like a castrated monkey when the weather predictors are wrong. But somehow it seems to be much more difficult to give them a heads-up when they are (usually) right.

Our local radio and TV stations also must be commended for keeping us abreast of dangerous conditions. Behind those voices on the radio or TV are real people. (Oh, there might be an exception or two.) They truly display dedication and concern for their communities

I do a fast boil when I read about auto accidents in which someone dies and they aren’t wearing their seat belts. Some say it should be a matter of choice. To that, I say, “It is my choice not to have you body-slam into my car and die because of it.” Once you die, I have to live with that, even though I had no legal fault. So don’t tell me it should be a matter of choice. Wearing seat belts should be the law. If you can’t see that, you shouldn’t have the privilege of driving.

Last but not least — since my subject is what I see around me — distracted driving should carry a primary and serious penalty. When you’re driving and turn around or look down or to the right or left to tap out your message, you place everyone around you at risk. The same applies to those hands-free phones. Some people keep their eyes on the road while their hands are free and they’re talking — the phone’s intended purpose. Far too many seem to actually look at the phone on their dash while they’re talking. That, my friends, is like driving blind.

To all of our outdoor workers of all types — I salute you! Keep up the good work. And to everyone who drives around with a loud muffler disturbing the peace: May you meet your friendly police officer, and soon, and be glad you’re not going to appear in my court. Amen.

MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery — Winter Wanderings

Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert has been braving the recent cold weather, venturing into the countryside in search of picturesque settings. Here is what he found.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — In My Day, Kids Were Daring

We all have memories of the good old days. The older one gets, the more unusual they seem.

When I was a young lad growing up in Grand Forks, N.D., the only inside rink in the city was the University of North Dakota arena. It was a glorified farm shed with no heating, and when it was cold outside, it was butt-busting freezing cold inside.

The seating was plain hard wooden benches, but when the Fighting Sioux played hockey, that place was always full. It didn’t have near the seating of the new arena, but it sure was a sociable place to be.

I learned even as a kid that when each period ended, there would be a stampede to the concessions counter for coffee, cocoa, hot dogs and anything that was hot and cheap. I learned early on that when you wanted to get through the crowd in the eatery fast, all you had to do was hold a cup over your head — full or empty — and yell “hot coffee.” The crowd would part like the Red Sea.

Grand Forks had outdoor skating rinks all over town, each with its own warming house. Back in the day, people had just one car if they were lucky. You walked to those rinks or took a bus.

It’s a good thing they didn’t have wind chill charts in those days, or there would have been no hockey games at all. But there would be games every weekend. We’d put on coats, hoods, scarves and big gloves over our Park Board hockey equipment. It was usually so cold that there were no spectators … only the teams playing and those waiting to play.

When we weren’t playing hockey, we’d just go down in the evening and speed skate, jump barrels, barrel into snowbanks and basically show off for the girls. If the wind was low, the temperature didn’t really make any difference because everyone was constantly moving.

The warming houses were always manned by Park Board employees. They kept the furnaces or stoves red hot so the houses were toasty warm. They had no gas-operated stoves back in the 1950s. Instead, they relied on good old hand-chopped logs.

We’d go after supper and not return until the warming house closed between 8 and 9 p.m. All of the ice was cleaned by a pickup truck with a plow, if it happened to be available. Otherwise, we had wide plow-like shovels. We’d push them from one end of the rink to the other until all was cleared. Sometimes by the time we finished cleaning, it was time to walk home. And no matter what the temperature was when we finally got to skate, that night walk home was always colder than a well driller’s behind (as my father liked to put it).

While I was in the first eight grades, my friends and I played hockey all winter on a daily basis. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was lucky enough to make the citywide all-star team that was selected to play the Winnipeg all-stars. The first game was in Grand Forks, the second in Manitoba (Canada). There was not much of a crowd in Grand Forks, but the game drew thousands in Winnipeg. It was both fun and exciting. I thought that hockey was definitely going to be my sport of choice.

Such was not to be. When I started high school at St. James Academy, they dropped hockey. It was restarted when I was in my junior year, but then we moved to Fargo. That year, Shanley dropped hockey. By the time I graduated, both schools had reinstated their programs. For me, though, the four years off denied me my hope of playing college hockey.

In my grade-school years, we liked to go for rides by hooking our sticks on a bumper. A real trick was to sling your hockey stick and skates over your back and then grab onto the bumper and slide to the rink … without killing your buddies who were doing the same thing on the same bumper at the same time.

We got a few nicks and bumps, but we did get there on time. Hitting the old streetcar tracks, though, could be a problem. If you got caught in a rut, your ankles would take a hit. Then you’d usually let go, sliding around with either your stick or the skates that swung from it creasing the heads or other parts of your buddies.

I’m still not sure if it was our parents going nuts trying to figure out why our boots were wearing out so fast or the bus company putting spotters on the back of the bus. Either way, by seventh grade, that had stopped.

Nowadays, if you did what we did, you’d be in juvenile court in a nanosecond. Back then, though, there were very few cop cars to cover a pretty large area. I wouldn’t give up my youthful memories for anything, but it’s probably best. Had I been born in this generation with the same playful tendencies, I’d be writing of my experiences not as a retired judge, but as a reformed juvenile.

I’m entering this year in good health and I wish everyone a happy — and, more importantly, a healthy — new year. Amen.

DAVE BRUNER: Photo Gallery — ‘Sun Dogs Of North Dakota’

Photographer Dave Bruner ventured out in the extreme cold (minus 25 degrees with a wind chill of minus 40) Saturday morning to try and capture some images of the sun dogs, as extreme cold is needed plus ice crystals in the air. It all came together as he was fortunate to capture this phenomenon in full detail. They formed the complete arc and halo with the two distinct sun dogs on each opposite side of the sun that also has this diamond shape. Dave has been trying for a number of winters to capture the complete image of the sun dogs, and although he froze his know what off, it was well worth it to him. He hopes you enjoy the images.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Winter Interlude

We went away over Christmas for a winter interlude with my sisters and their families and my mother, gathering in a large house in the woods of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Driving west across the Memorial Bridge, we could see chunks of ice in the Missouri River. We traversed familiar west Dakota roads, in the midst of the first true cold snap of the season, all of our cars loaded full of passengers, food and family.  As I drove, I counted 22 ruffed-legged hawks from Belfield, N.D., to Belle Fourche, S.D., and spotted a large herd of antelope south of Crow Butte, S.D. The prairie was mostly brown (the drought continues,) and we only experienced one near-whiteout south of Buffalo, S.D.

The rental house was in the aspen and pine forest near Lead, S.D. We work together as a well-oiled machine and in no time at all, we had transformed the house to our gathering space for the next four days, each of us taking turns cooking the meals and performing KP. A long folding table was heaped with cookies and other holiday treats and at the end of this table, we set up a bar.  Some of the famous Walby Tom & Jerrys were whipped up, too, and the wine was uncorked.

Jim and I attended Christmas morning Mass in Lead. For the next four days, everyone did what made them happy, a variety of activities that included card and board games, reading, movies, visiting, napping, downhill and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, sprinkled with a few visits to the nearby Deadwood, S.D., casinos.

We had given each other books for Christmas and taking turns, both read the new Louise Erdrich novel (too bleak for my taste). We caught up with the kids who live on the East Coast and played lots of pinochle and cribbage with my mother.

The first couple of days were bitter cold, but the youngest headed to Terry Peak right away for some skiing.

My mother is a stitching wizard, and she presented me with a beautiful new apron, with the words “Red Oak House” and some of the leaves of the plants in our yard. We were particularly happy to have been able to bring her on this trip as she has a deep love of the Black Hills and seldom is able to travel anymore.

My sisters and I bundled up and took a walk, stretching our legs and exploring the area. There was adequate snow and more in the forecast. Later on Christmas Day, our friend, Valerie Naylor, who lives nearby, came for a visit.

The two fireplaces were quite popular with everyone as was the hot tub. Relatives who live in the southern U.S. texted me that we were very hearty folks, having seen the news of the temperatures in the Dakotas.

On Day 2, Jim and I drove over to Spearfish Canyon and took a two-mile hike to Roughlock Falls, relishing the fresh air and quiet grandeur. There were a few other folks on the trail here and there, but we mostly had it to ourselves.

On Day 3, my sister, Beckie, and I took our cross-country skis to Eagle Cliffs trails and did a few loops in the lovely powder snow and burned off some of the cookie calories. It was very peaceful there and we saw no one else on the trail.

With the sunset, came the first flakes of an all-night snow. And in the dawn light, we could see that there were about 6 inches on all of our cars. Time to load up and head north to our homes!

The temperatures were a little on the upward trend Thursday, but the forecast of more frigid weather was on our minds.

My mother rode from Bowman, N.D. with us and as we passed through Slope and Stark counties, I enjoyed her stories of those old days so long ago. She has very interesting and funny memories.

Today has been unpacking and dealing with Chelsea’s dead car battery, greatly touched at the friends and family who had attempted to assist her in our absence. While Jim got her car going, I hauled in heaps of firewood in preparation for the upcoming cold snap.

The Missouri River is now frozen over and will be for the foreseeable future. My husband has ice fishing on his mind. Our gardening boots are replaced by winter boots. I’ve had my trusty black Sorels for 25 years now.

It is time to add another down comforter to the bed and settle in, reading books, writing manuscripts and fighting the proposed refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And maybe we will squeeze in the Bismarck Christmas Bird Count.

This poem by T.S. Eliot is on much my mind today as we anticipate the Epiphany. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.

And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

ERIC BERGESON: The Country Scribe — ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening’

Thursday was the first day of winter — and the shortest day of the year. Eric Bergeson, The Country Scribe, salutes our new season with Robert Frost’s “Stopping By The Woods On Snowy Evening.”

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Turning Up The Heat

At a time when there’s so much to worry about — global war, the long-range forecast, the coming shortage of citrus fruit — it seems almost silly to mention the one threat that causes us most to get hot under the collar.

But here is it: the thermostat.

As outdoor temperatures crashed this week, the Hansons’ silent battle for the perfect indoor climate heated up all over again. Not since the heat of last summer has control of our indoor environment caused such serious discord at our normally serene address. But, once again, modern technology and the surreptitious urge to dominate have now brought us to the edge of passive-aggressive Armageddon.

Ground Zero is the dimly lit hallway where the thermostat quietly resides. It’s out of sight from every other corner. Yet whenever Russ or I come near, the whole house begins to sizzle or shiver from guerilla attacks to enforce our very different notions of the ideal indoor habitat.

You could say the difference is just a matter of degree. Russ regards the great indoors as an extension of his body temp. When he comes inside, chilled after hours of fiddling with the timer on the porch lights, he’s no sooner taken off his gloves than he dials up the thermostat to warm his frigid bones.

Like many human males, he considers the furnace as a sort of full-body electric blanket. This differs just a tad from his wife’s position — that our indoor environment is a giant, energy-sucking black hole into which we pour our monthly tithe to Moorhead Public Service.

I attribute our differences to the way that we were raised. He grew up in urban Bismarck-Mandan, where MDU piped natural gas, sight unseen, straight into his childhood domicile. I, on the other hand, learned the ways of the world one floor above the family coal bin.

If you, too, grew up in a house heated by coal, you remember the roar of a ton of dusty black bituminous tumbling down the chute to the basement. There it waited, dark and sulfurous, for Dad’s periodic trips into the stone-walled cellar to feed the roaring beast — the coal furnace, where the flames of hell danced and leaped behind the little glass porthole in the door.

The mere notion of a wall-mounted dial to control the heat was as space-agey as the Jetsons. If December winds rattled the single-paned windows on the northwest side of the house, he trekked into the shadowy cellar to stoke the fire and feed it shovelfuls of black chunks, ranging from the size of your head to the dust in the bottom of your pockets. He’d fish out the burned-out clinkers, still aglow, with long-handled tongs. At bedtime, he’d make a last trip to bank the fire and throttle the oxygen that fed it … then stir it up at dawn.

More sophisticated systems employed the flames to heat water in a boiler, which then circulated through radiators strategically stationed throughout the house. Radiators were a wonder: a modern convenience on which both snowy mittens and dampened dishtowels would dry in a flash, and which warmed many a chilled young backside fresh from a frigid sledding expedition.

Our house wasn’t that ultramodern. Instead, our coal furnace relied on the most basic of scientific verities: Heat rises. The coal-fired warmth rose through a register on the main floor, then continued upward to where the chilly bedrooms waited. No sissy thermostats reined in the scorching heat of a freshly fed fire or spurred the furnace to accelerate all on its own. Nor did the firepit let us forget its contributions. A backdraft of smoke, a dusting of soot, the vague perfume of sulfur — all reminded us from time to time of just who, or what, kept the North Country’s fierce wolfish winds at bay.

Childhood taught me climate control was very much a manual art. Too hot? Sit farther from the register. Too cold? Put on a sweater. They were the same hardy lessons that Laura Ingalls Wilder had written about scores of years before, still prevailing in the 1950s in our own little house on the prairie.

Today’s environmental give-and-take relies more on psychology than on the conscious effort of days of yore. At our house, it usually takes the form of guerilla incursions on the thermostat. Rather than adding or subtracting a layer of clothing, personal comfort too often relies on sidling past the dial, all innocent, and giving it an unannounced tweak.

If I hear the fan lurch up to speed, I can calculate Russ’s whereabouts with some precision. He’d tell you that he knows who’s been afoot when he spots ice forming on the kitties’ water dish.

Our seasonal psychological warfare generally lasts until the annual spring armistice. But it’s to no one’s real surprise that incursions resume as the mercury rises in midsummer. Then, though, it’s the sweaty husband who twirls the frosty thermostat ever lower … and the cold-hearted, cost-conscious wife who’s guaranteed to get hot under the collar.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Settling In For The Winter

We are settling in here at Red Oak House for the winter, tweaking our list of indoor projects and savoring meals of turkey, pork roast and ham.

Outside my kitchen office window, the chickadees and woodpeckers on busy on the suet feeder. Specifically, ours in North Dakota are black-capped chickadees, parus atricapillus. Parus is Latin for “titmouse” and atricapillus for “black-capped, formed from ater, atris, “black,” and capillus, “hair of the head,” according to my copy of “Words for Birds.” “Titmouse is derived from the Old Icelandic titr, meaning, ‘something small,’ and mouse, a corruption of the Old English mase, ‘small bird.’ Chickadee is imitative of the bird’s call.” (page193)

Outside other windows, the newly fallen snow demonstrates how many rabbits and squirrels we have in our yard.

When we crossed the Missouri River last Sunday morning, a bald eagle flew over, this being the time of year we see more than usual.

I’m particularly anticipating the winter of 2017-18 with glee because it is a year of Winter Olympics, and I warn my husband to not schedule me for anything in February.  I’m sure when my father was in Korean for the Conflict in the 1950s that he never anticipated sitting in his warm living room decades later watching a sports competition being held in that faraway country.

Speaking for myself, I have many happy and vivid memories of past Winter Olympics, especially the one held in Norway. Watching the speed skaters from Wisconsin prevail was very inspiring, their powerful thighs pumping them over the line. Time to bone up on the current crop of athletes!