Concerned about your child or adolescent’s behavior? Is your child experiencing mood swings, hyperactivity, unexplained tantrums or bouts with anger, aggressive behaviors, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and severe anxiety? At the Mankato Clinic, we have providers who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric and child behavioral health disorders.
Call 507-387-3195 to make your appointment.
Mankato Clinic Child Psychiatry Providers
Learn more about our providers and services by visiting: www.mankatoclinic.com
Hospital Giving the Best Care to your Best Friend. Preventative Medicine Laser Surgery | Dentistry 501 Raintree Rd. (507) 388-4500 www.rhpch.com 2 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Travis Hansen, M.D. Child Psychiatry Madison East
Sreelatha Spieker, M.D. Child Psychiatry Madison East
MANKATO CLINIC 1-800-657-6944 • www.mankatoclinic.com
ANKATO M magazine
FEATURE S december 2013 Volume 8, Issue 12
14 Santa’s secrets
A glimpse behind the curtain of Christmas.
18 No kidding
Children are the cheer of the holidays.
24 Gift raps
Poetry from a selection of Mankato’s finest writers.
32 Day Trip
Destinations: Christmas tree farms Guggisberg and Hacker tree farms
About the Cover
Thanks to Santa Claus for allowing a visit to the offseason home he keeps in south-central Minnesota. Photo by The Free Press Media photographer John Cross MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 3
6 From the Editor Nutcracker soldiers and Black Friday 8 Odds ‘n’ Ends 10 Introductions MSO musicians 12 The Gallery ‘Partial Disclosure,’ GSR Festival,
20 Your Health Comfy shoes not always the right shoes 28 That’s Life The most wonderful time of the year 30 What’s Cooking Choosing your Christmas beast 32 Day Trip Destinations Christmas tree farms 34 Then and Now Sleigh rides 40 Coming Attractions Events to check out in December 44 From This Valley The annual Christmas letter
In the November issue of Mankato Magazine, a story about the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum incorrectly stated that admission is free. Admission is free for visitors of ages 12 and younger. Admission for visitors of ages 13 and older is $12.
Coming in January We offer a visual tour of the beauties of this land and its people. In the Mankato Magazine’s first-ever photo issue, we will share images that portray south-central Minnesota in a reverent, and sometimes surprising, light.
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Join us, and we’ll enjoy the scenery together.
Best of Mankato Best Auto Repair
Best Auto Mechanic Lynn Austin
Oil Change to Overhaul... We do it all! 1620 Commerce Drive, North Mankato www.AustinsAutoRepairCenter.com
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 5
From The Editor
december 2013 • VOLUME 8, ISSUE 12 PUBLISHER James P. Santori EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE Tanner Kent EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Nell Musolf Pete Steiner Leticia Gonzales Sarah Johnson Rachael Hanel Jacob Kuddes Jean Lundquist PHOTOGRAPHERS John Cross Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Ginny Bergerson MANAGER ADVERTISING Danny Creel Sales ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Sue Hammar DESIGNERS Christina Sankey
CIRCULATION Denise Zernechel DIRECTOR
Mankato Magazine is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $19.95 for 12 issues. For editorial inquiries, call Tanner Kent at 344-6354, or e-mail email@example.com. For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
By Joe Spear
Nutcracker soldiers and Black Friday
n interview with Santa, nostalgia of aluminum Christmas trees from the 1950s and tips on finding the perfect “Griswold” family tannenbaum round out our holiday issue of Mankato Magazine. You’re likely to be holding your copy of Mankato Magazine this month a few short hours after the end of Black Friday, the perennial day when retailers sell so much stuff they finally go in the “black” on the profit and loss statements. Of course, Black Friday has become a tradition for many families. It used to involve getting up in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving and hitting the stores by, say, 4 a.m. Then it became “Gray Thursday,” with many stories opening by midnight Friday. Now it has become Green Thursday evening, with many stores cranking up the sales and premiums while you’re still digesting that Thanksgiving meal. Competition is the American way when it comes to business, and what better day to compete than the one where people are parting with the most money in a single 24-48 hour period? There have been some mild complaints from those who long for the nostalgia of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. They say that things are getting started just too early. Many folks in retail now have to work Thanksgiving. And the public protest of the one Target worker last year who picketed their working conditions seems to have faded into the footnotes of holiday lore. But people in the news business shouldn’t complain too much. We benefit from Black Friday. Your Thanksgiving Day newspaper tied the record this year for the number of advertising inserts with 32, requiring five so-called “wraps” — those heavier newspaper wraparound covers that allow us to insert those advertising circulars mechanically into your newspaper. The demand for the Thanksgiving Day’s edition is so high, we print it early at 10 p.m. versus the usual
midnight press run. And for one day a year, we sell papers the oldfashioned way: from 11 p.m. to midnight, on the street in front of our building. There can be a 50-car lineup at times. Technology extends our Black Fridays into “Cyber Mondays” — that is, the Monday after Thanksgiving — which has reportedly become the biggest day for buying gifts online. Technology allows us to buy a tablet with our tablet, a smartphone with our smartphone. You get the idea. We don’t seem to have trouble making the holiday busier, more hectic and more commercial. The real challenge comes in making holidays less busy, hectic and commercial. I always like to take a few days off around the holidays to put up the lights on a less busy weekday versus a weekend. Shopping, I have found, is heavenly at the mall on Mondays at about 10 a.m., unless of course it’s Christmas Eve. The events planners and market concepters at the big stores and tourism bureaus are always trying to figure out ways to “enrich” our holiday experiences and “broaden” the market appeal of things like simple Christmas parades. That’s the strategy in Minneapolis this year as they wind down the famed Holidazzle Parade to just a few weekends, in lieu of every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The tourism folks say they plan its revitalization to be bigger and better. We’ll see. The Holidazzle wasn’t connected to buying anything. Parade marchers didn’t even hand out coupons. The Holidazzle was a Christmas gift you didn’t have to pay for. It created its own kind of pay-it-forward spirit. People smiled at each other as they watched the illuminated Nutcracker soldiers march by. I’ll take that over Black Friday any day. M Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at email@example.com
WRAP UP YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 7
Odds ‘n’ Ends
This Day in History By Tanner Kent Dec. 17, 1900: The state Board of Pardons granted a pardon to William Lenz, a man accused of murder in Blue Earth County more than a decade earlier. Lenz was convicted of the murder of William Schultz in 1890. Lenz was working as a farmhand on the Schultz family farm and was sharing a room with the deceased. One summer morning, Schultz ran from the house with his throat slashed. Though he tried, he was unable to tell his father who committed the murder. As Lenz was in the room with Schultz when his throat was cut, he was the only suspect. The prosection argued that Lenz killed Schultz because he was standing in the way of Lenz marrying his sister. The defense argued that Schultz committed suicide. After his release from Stillwater prison, Lenz returned to his own family’s farm in Wisconsin. Dec. 22, 1909: A wreck on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul line near Good Thunder caused more than 60 passengers to suffer injuries, many of them serious. The wreck occurred around 7:30 p.m. when a rail near the Maple River bridge “kicked up” at the joint. The locomotive jumped the break, but the remaining coach and baggage cars were thrown down a 12-foot embankment. The track was torn up for 400 feet. Brakeman Frank McNeal ran more than mile from the scene of the accident to Good Thunder to seek help with a badly gashed forehead and a broken arm. Dec. 11, 1894: The trial began in the breach of promise case between Victoria Stein and Clarence Saulpaugh, owner of the Mankato hotel of the same name. Seeking damages in the amount of $50,000, Stein claimed that between 1889 and 1893 — while working as a housekeeper at the Saulpaugh Hotel — Clarence repeatedly promised to marry her. Though she remained unmarried, he refused to fulfill the verbal contract. Clarence, who married Roma Allen in 1893, initially said he never made such a promise. Calling Stein an “unchasted, immoral and dissolute woman” and “a common prostitute,” Clarence said she was foul-mouthed and bad-tempered, and not marriage material. Over the course of the trial, however, dozens of letters tinged with sexual innuendo and promises of union were submitted as evidence. Testimony also showed that Clarence had borrowed $7,000 from Stein and they referred to each other as “Toots” and “Pops.” Clarence admitted the letters were authentic but claimed he was only joking: “There was lots of trash in those letters,” he testified. He also made a statement admitting he had “made a fool” of himself and apologized to the community. Though the jury utlimately sided with Stein, she was awarded only $1 in damages.
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The stately Saulpaugh Hotel as it appeared not long after its namesake, Clarence Saulpaugh, was sued for breech of promise by a hotel housekeeper. | Photo courtesy Blue Earth County Historical Society
Ask the Expert: Sugar Cookies
By Nell Musolf
Sweet treats that are perfect every time
ecember means holiday cookies — and a perennial favorite for many is the sugar cookie. Debbie Paulson has been baking Christmas cookies for 35-plus years and typically bakes up to 90 large trays of every year. Among the cookies she bakes are sugar cookies, spritz, chocolate pinwheels, chocolate chip, M&M,
raisin, date-filled and cereal wreaths (to name a few), but sugar cookies remain her top pick. “Sugar cookies are my favorite because everybody loves them,” Paulson said. To make a perfect batch of the traditional treat, Paulson lives by a few important tips: “I never use a mixer,” Paulson said. Instead she mixes by hand to ensure that the cookie dough doesn’t get over mixed “Watch them while they bake and when you see brown on any of the cookies, take them out.”
Debbie Paulson’s Sugar Cookies 2/3 cup shortening (Debbie uses a heaping 2/3, so you might want to use a whole cup). She recommends Butter Flavored Crisco. ¾ cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 egg 2 Tablespoons milk ¼ teaspoon salt 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (check the date on your can and if it has expired, buy a new one) 2 cups all-purpose flour Cream together Crisco and sugar. Then, cream together with vanilla, egg and milk. Then, add salt and baking powder into the mixture. Finally, add the flour.
Divide into two parts and roll them out. Be sure to use plenty of flour on your rolling pin. Cut into favorite shapes. Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. After removing the cookies from the oven, leave them on the sheet so they can continue to bake a little longer. Debbie also recommends using the middle rack in the oven and putting an extra cookie sheet on the bottom rack so there is no direct heat on the sheet with the cookies on it. For frosting, she mixes powdered sugar, melted butter, clear vanilla and milk until she gets a medium texture that is neither runny nor too thick. “I have no measurements for my frosting,” Debbie said. “For this I just dump. Use maybe ¼ stick of butter and a teaspoon of vanilla.”
News to use: Organizing attics and basements By Nicole Anzia | Special To The Washington Post
ttics and basements are the obvious places to store seasonal, overflow and keepsake items. But before you shove a bunch of cardboard boxes into the dark attic or damp basement, consider to how and where to store your items so they’ll be in good condition and easy to find. Think Vertically If there’s room, use shelving to maximize and organize the space. Shelving in storage rooms does not need to be beautiful, but it does need to be sturdy. There are many good shelving options out there, but I recommend using something adjustable so you’re able to move things around as necessary without wasting space. The Container Store’s InterMetro shelving is a popular choice for basements. Neatly organized shelves will also make it easier to see things and group like items together. Protection from the elements Using shelves for basement storage is also a good idea because it keeps valuables off the floor, safeguarding them against possible water damage. Even the most secure basements are susceptible to water, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Attics are obviously less vulnerable to water damage, assuming your roof is in good shape, but things stored up there need to be resistant to extreme temperature
changes. Artwork, photographs and records from the ‘80s will be damaged if they get too hot. You shouldn’t need a flashlight If you feel like you’re heading into a cave every time you go searching for your favorite holiday decorations or the hammer you’ll need to hang them, you’re not going to be happy. So make sure that your basement and attic storage spaces are well lighted. You don’t need pretty or expensive fixtures, but you do need adequate lighting to make the space feel at least a little welcoming and, more important, functional. Labeling is crucial Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember where you put last year’s winter boots or your favorite holiday serving platter. Take a f e w minutes to list the contents of each bin on the outside with a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker. You can also go beyond that and create an electronic map or list of the contents of your attic and basement. It’s a good way to remind you and your family where things are kept, but it can also be important for insurance purposes. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 9
Season’s soundtrack Mankato Symphony Orchestra musicians hit some favorite holiday high notes
Mankato Magazine What is your favorite holiday selection to play, and why? Hulda Niles (assistant concermaster): I really love playing the “Nutcracker”; not only because it is beautiful, but also because it is challenging musically. Plus, there is a certain magic in the music that Tchaikovsky creates that is unforgettable. I find myself unconsciously humming it all year long. There is nothing like having “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” going through your head when you’re supposed to be playing Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” on the Fourth of July. Mary Hakes (piccolo): I love “Sleigh Ride,” and I also really love playing the “Nutcracker Suite.” The parts are challenging but so much fun to play. Tchaikovsky wrote good piccolo parts! Helen Baumgartner (violin): My favorite holiday selection to play might be the four-hand arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” I play with my husband. We have been featured at the GSR Arts & Crafts Show for several years now and Tom Bliese has announced this as our “signature piece.” (We will be appearing at this show in the Civic Center Dec. 7 from 3-4 p.m.) Jill Mahr (flute): I think it must be “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson. Holidays are all about family and when I was little, my mother played a particular Christmas album that had this on it. It brings back all kinds of warm fuzzies. Plus, it’s always fun to hear the trumpet try to neigh like a horse. Mankato Magazine: What role has music played in your own holiday celebrations? Hakes: Can anyone even imagine Christmas without music? Music, especially at the holidays, forms the soundtrack to our season. And because we hear the same songs every year, it connects us with years past, and makes those memories come alive. Baumgartner: Music is a huge part of our Christmas. We sing in our church choir, sometimes play service music at Christmas time, and share Christmas music with community organizations Niles: I celebrate Christmas — and there is no way Christmas would ever be the same without music. I need the music to help me take Christmas to the next level, so I can appreciate the deeper spirituality behind it all. “Silent 10 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Night” and “What Child Is This?” really strike a chord with me (pun intended) that wakes me up and makes me realize that Christmas is about peace and quiet, too. Mahr: My husband and both our girls all are musicians, so music plays a big role at Christmas. From playing particular CDs while we trim the tree to performing every holiday at local retirement centers with extended family musicians, it wouldn’t seem like Christmas without music in the air. Mankato Magazine: Is there a memorable Candy Cane concert experience you can share? What makes this concert a favorite holiday tradition? Hakes: A highlight for me was playing the “Nutcracker” and having the young dancers join us. I love the Candy Cane concert because of the familiarity of the pieces, and the excitement of the children. There’s a great sense of anticipation in the air. Baumgartner: I think my favorite Candy Cane concert memory was the year MSO collaborated with the Mankato Ballet for the “Nutcracker.” I think audiences enjoy the sing-along aspect of the annual concert. Niles: My favorite Candy Cane concert memory involves the little ballerinas that used to dance while the orchestra played “Nutcracker.” We were all on stage together and the ballerinas’ huge tutus kept hitting the violins and cellos that sit on the outskirts of the orchestra. You could see a wave in the orchestra as musicians leaned out of the way whenever a dancer leaped past. I found it amusing, but I sit on the inside. Perspective is everything. I think the Candy Cane Concert is a favorite holiday tradition because it’s nice to be able to all get together outside of a church service and just feel the joy of community — whatever your personal religion may be. Mahr: I’m not sure of the particular concert, but it was when my oldest daughter was very little and Diane Pope was our director. She invited the youth to come forward and sit among the orchestra while we played. My daughter sat right next to me and she talked about that for a vey long time. I think what makes this a favorite holiday tradition is that word “tradition.” Holidays are made of traditions and what could be better than one that involves music! M
Candy Cane Concert The Mankato Symphony Orchestra hosts its annual Candy Cane Concert at 3 p.m. on Dec. 8 at Mankato West High School. Musician and actor Frank Babbitt of the Chicago Lyric Opera will read and perform portions of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” with musical accompaniment. Tenor Brad Benoit also returns with his “larger-than-life voice” and “unforgettable” sound. Visit mankatosymphony.com for additional information and to listen to samples from these performers. Tickets are $15-25 ($5 in any section for youth) and available at mankatosymphony.com, by calling the Twin Rivers Box Office at 507-387-1008, or at the door.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 11
What would Manning say? Area filmmaker, playwright explore the question in potential film By Tanner Kent
n the fictional interview between late journalist David Frost and the source of the largest-ever release of classified documents to the public, there are no gun battles, high-speed pursuits or nude scenes. That doesn’t mean, however, that it can’t be explosive. “Regardless of where you stand, it’s going to be interesting,” said Ryan Sturgis, the Mankato filmmaker who has launched a $75,000 Kickstarter campaign to finance a movie based on “Partial Disclosure.” The play was written by Eagle Lake playwright Tom Barna and imagines a conversation between Frost and Bradley Manning, the Army private (now known as Chelsea Manning) who provided classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. To supporters, Manning was a whistleblower and hero who exposed distasteful and sometimes deceitful policies and attitudes within American government. To critics, Manning was a traitor whose crimes deserved life imprisonment or worse. Even as pro- and anti-Manning rallies were held around the world, a military judge concluded Manning’s trial with a 35-year sentence in July. For Barna, ‘Partial Disclosure’ offers an opportunity to explore the innermost thoughts and motivations of the person at the center of the still-smoldering controversy. Sturgis, too, said he was motivated by the challenge of illuminating the psyche of someone who has yet to speak publicly about the incident while also infusing a textdriven script with a sense of visual drama. “I want to use the camera as a character as much as possible,” Sturgis said. “It’ll be a great challenge to try and
Ryan Sturgis is the owner of True Facade Pictures. | Free Press file photo take something without action and make it more compelling.” The film will take place entirely in a TV studio with the setting and its various technical accoutrements serving in dramatic roles themselves. Sturgis’ vision is to enhance the dialogue-driven narrative with metafilm techniques that make the film’s production an element of the narrative. Scene compositions that include portions of the TV set and sequences that illuminate how a particular camera operator or producer feels about Manning will be blended into the discourse of the interview. “I want the hubbub of the TV set,” he said. “I want the cameras telling the story.” For more information about Sturgis’ films, see www. truefacadepictures.com. For more information about the Kickstarter campaign for “Partial Disclosure,” visit http://goo.gl/WHcP3t.
Page Turners: Boat houses and philosophers
rom unlikely finds to cinematic discoveries, former Mankatoan Bob Matson takes readers on an aquatic pleasure-and-treasure cruise in his book, “What’s In Your Boat House?: Amazing Stories of Nautical Archaeology.” Published by North Star Press of St. Cloud, Matson’s book is filled with photographs, tales and anecdotes related to watercraft of fame and history. Matson details his own search for a classic Crestliner while another Minnesota family documents the heartwarming restoration of their grandfather’s 16-foot Noeske wooden speed boat. One essay explores the last boat designed by well-known car designer Virgil Exner while another tracks the history of Evinrude outboard motors. In an essay called “Holy Grail,” Matson introduces a series of stories about the search for, and identification of, the boat used in the award-winning 1981 film “On Golden Pond.” The result of Matson’s research and storytelling is an informative and idiosyncratic look at the hobby of antique boating and restoration. 12 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
• Former Mankato Pauline C. Lee has published “The Virtue of Desire” through the State University of New York Press. Lee, who is currently an assistant professor of Chinese Religions and Cultures at St. Louis University, wrote the book about 16th-century Chinese philosopher Li Zhi. According to promotional materials for the book: “Widely read through the present, (Zhi) has long been recognized by scholars as one of the most important iconoclastic figures in Chinese cultural history. Many scholars have recognized him as a brilliant and stinging social critic or crafty and impassioned writer — but dismissed his ideas as lacking a deeper and constructive vision. Lee shows us otherwise ... (bringing) this thinker’s insights into dialogue with contemporary debates about the role of feelings, an ethics of authenticity, and the virtue of desire.” M
Sisters catch their dreams By Nell Musolf
n 2009, Andrea Armendariz decided to start her own business with her sisters Regina Lowe and Teresa Armendariz. The trio wanted to open a store where they could sell handmade items of their own as well as made by other artisans. They decided to call their business Sitting Eagle, which was their grandfather’s Native American name. “At first, we were going to call ourselves Three Eagles because we’re Eagle clan — but someone was already using that name,” Andrea said. “Nobody was using Sitting Eagle, so now we’re officially Sitting Eagle Creations.” A chance visit by Andrea to Enchanted Forest on North Riverfront Drive led the group to the storefront they had been seeking. Andrea went into the Enchanted Forest one day and fell into conversation with the owner, Sandy Fitterer. The owner offered space to the sisters where they could display the dream catchers, jewelry, scarves and hats they make. In November of 2010, the sisters moved their crafts into the store and Andrea began working at the store as well. When the Fitterer family decided to sell the shop in 2010, they asked the sisters if they would be interested. “In July of 2010 we became the owners,” Andrea said. Among the Christmas ornaments that are sold at the Enchanted Forest of Minnesota are dream catchers crafted by Andrea. The ornaments are made in
Andrea Armendariz and Regina Lowe (right) at Enchanted Forest. | Photos by John Cross traditional Christmas colors of red and green and are approximately three inches in diameter. Andrea originally made the ornaments for the store’s first holiday open house. Her sister Regina makes felt snowmen and snowwomen that are also sold in the store. Additionally, the Enchanted Forest sells small silver and teal Christmas trees that Andrea tweaks to make a little fancier. “I was making the dream catchers and I decided to make smaller ones that could be used as ornaments. Christmas is my favorite time of year and I love to decorate,” Andrea said. The Enchanted Forest of Minnesota is located at 529 N. Riverfront Drive and is open Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..
Upcoming: GSR Fine Art Festival Between them, Bob Doering and Curt Dumdei have nearly 75 years of glass-blowing experience. Though the pair have distinct styles, they’ve worked and exhibited together for several years. Their skills and wares will be on display during the 11th annual GSR Fine Art Festival on Dec. 6-8 at the Verizon Wireless Center. This year’s GSR represents the eighth in which Doering and Dumdei have participated. The festival includes more than 45 artists in a variety of media as well as a full entertainment lineup and food/beverage vendors. Admission is free and open to the public. For a complete listing of artists and hours, visit www.gsrfineartfestival.com.
Bob Doering and Curt Dumdei in their glass-blowing studio. | Submitted photo MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 13
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Santa’s secrets A glimpse behind the curtain of Christmas Interview by Nell Musolf
t’s that time of year again when Santa Claus will be making his annual visit to homes around the world. Mankato Magazine recently had the opportunity to chat with Santa — who, surprisingly, maintains a home right here in southern Minnesota during the offseason — and ask him a few questions. Mankato Magazine: How is it that Santa lives in southern Minnesota? Isn’t the North Pole your home? Santa Claus: Santa has had to adapt to modern times. Much of the toy-making and record-keeping is still done at the North Pole and, of course, the sleigh flights all still originate from the North Pole – but Santa no longer lives full-time at the Pole. Santa has several offseason homes, most where it is warmer than at the North Pole. One of my favorite homes is right here in your neighborhood — but I prefer to keep the exact location private. Santa travels a lot during the year; I love to travel and meet people and see new places, so I travel on vacations, I travel to do research for new gifts, and working on the naughty and nice list requires a lot of travel. MM: Southern Minnesota isn’t that far from the North Pole. Do the two places have a lot in common? Santa: At the North Pole, the seasons do not change much. It is always very beautiful, but always winter. Minnesotans are blessed at being able to enjoy the beauty of winter plus three other spectacular seasons.
Previous page Even Santa has to make sure last year’s outfits still fit. | John Cross
MM: Do you really notice if someone is naughty or nice? Santa: Oh, absolutely! Santa is often asked what someone has to do to get on the nice list. The first thing to realize is that being nice is not an action, it is a personality characteristic. One of the surest ways to get on the nice list is to ask Santa for a gift for someone else. Caring for others is almost the definition of nice. Additionally, being honest, being helpful, being polite, being respectful of your parents and other grownups, being cheerful and happy, and sharing with others, are all excellent characteristics of nice kids. MM: When do you start making up your list of who will get toys for Christmas? Santa: The “naughty and nice list” is worked on all through the year; it is never really finalized until the sleigh is loaded. Selecting the right gift is usually done in early December (the “right gift” is not always what the child asked for, but Santa is pretty good at knowing what is “right”). Delivery planning requires a lot of help from my North Pole staff and parents, relatives, and friends of children. Most people do not realize how much help Santa receives from parents, relatives, and friends of the children of the world in actually delivering the gifts that Santa has selected. MM: What are some of the most popular toys children ask you for? Santa: The old standbys — dolls, toy trucks, and sports equipment — continue to be very popular. But in the last several seasons, there has been a big increase in requests for hand-held electronics equipment. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 15
MM: What are some of the hardest requests you’ve ever had? Santa: The hardest requests are not for gifts at all, but that I would somehow undo the loss of a loved one. Santa and the magic of the Christmas season can do many wonderful things — but there are some losses that simply cannot be undone. Santa can sometimes help those individuals to see the joy of their memories of the lost loved one. MM: What can you tell us about your helpers, such as Mrs. Claus? Santa: My goodness, there are so many helpers! I could never do without Mrs. Claus; she is constantly helping me in every possible way, but she is not the only one. There are also elves and reindeer, the toymakers around the world, the thousands of kind and loving people who put on Santa costumes and serve as Santa’s helpers, and o f
course the millions of parents, relatives and friends who deliver gifts in Santa’s name. There is a lot of magic involved in what Santa does, but a big part of the magic is in the millions of joyful, loving people who help make it all happen. MM: Do you ever get tired of wearing the same red suit every year? Santa: The red suit is not Santa’s only look. In other parts of my world tour, I wear white, green, and even blue. But no, I never get tired of it. It makes me feel good to put on the red suit. It signals to me, and anyone who sees me, that a special time of joy, of caring for others, and of giving has arrived. Although I am Santa all year long, I always get a special feeling when I put on the suit. MM: What do you do when you aren’t planning for the next Christmas? Santa: One of the things Santa does best is spread joy. To do that I have to be joyful, and I try very hard to see the good in everyone, the beauty in all things and the joy and pleasure in every day. Santa works all year planning the next Christmas, but I also work all year enjoying life. I love to travel; I love to read;I love to meet people and see new places; and I love to see the look on children’s faces when they see me in the supermarket and they know — they just absolutely know — they are seeing Santa Claus in disguise. MM: Does Santa like getting milk and cookies when he visits houses? Would you prefer something else? Santa: Oh my, Santa does so love his milk and cookies! Santa has never met a cookie he didn’t like, but I would have to say chocolate chip cookies are my favorite. It is nice when someone sets out carrot sticks for the reindeer. Mrs. Claus thinks I should be eating more of the carrot sticks and cutting down on the cookies. MM: How do you deliver toys all over the world in just one night? Santa: Well, there is a good deal of magic involved, plus the fact that the North Pole is actually located right where all of the world’s time zones come together helps a lot. I don’t want to disclose any secrets, but it happens through a combination of magic and science. Most people don’t know it
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Ah, to know what secrets are written in that notebook! | John Cross
Santa preparing toys in his workshop. | Photo courtesy of Santa Claus
— but the reindeer not only can fly, but also move through time. MM: How do you get into houses without waking up children and pets? Santa: Santa has to be real quiet. Sometimes a child wakes up and I can convince them they are having a dream, but more often it is a pet that sees me. Santa has a special love for all animals — dogs, cats and deer especially, and the animals seem to know that I am their friend. Santa has spent many a stolen minute sharing a lap, and sometimes a cookie or some milk, with a friendly dog or cat. MM: Does anyone ever ask you what you want for Christmas? Santa does get asked that question fairly often because there are a lot of caring people in this old world. What Santa would like for Christmas is for people to have that feeling of joy, of wonder, of love, of good things remembered, that sometimes comes to us at Christmas, or sometimes comes to people when they see Santa walk into the room, all year long. Santa: For myself, I would like to stay healthy, and to keep doing this work forever.
MM: Do you ever visit children before Christmas? Is that you at the mall? Santa: Yes, Santa visits a lot of children in their homes and at parties. I visit adults too, particularly senior citizens, in the months leading up to Christmas Eve (especially in the summer). A lot of folks wearing Santa costumes work as Santa’s helpers making appearances and posing for pictures in malls and at public events. My schedule at that time of the year won’t let me make as many in-person appearances as I might like, but you can rest assured that all the lists that Santa’s helpers collect are immediately sent to me. Santa has friends all over the world who know how to reach me if someone really needs for me to visit in-person. Some of those folks are right here in southern Minnesota. (For instance, the ones who asked me to come and be interviewed for this article can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.) M
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 17
say s E
No kidding Children are the cheer of Christmas By Rachael Hanel
“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” – Erma Bombeck, “I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression”
Illustration by Jacob Kuddes
18 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
an I borrow a kid for Christmas? Without children, my house is pretty quiet all the time, which generally is quite nice and relaxing. But around the holidays, I think a kid would help me to remember the wonder, promise and excitement that the season holds. From an adult perspective, each day looks more or less the same, no matter the season— only the backdrops change. During the holidays I still go to work, pay the bills, do household chores, but the drudgery is tempered a bit, I guess, by vacuuming around something as lovely as the Christmas tree. I find it easy to forget how special this time of year is. As a kid, Christmas was clearly special in so many ways. That long break from school meant sleeping in on cold winter days and hanging out at home, helping with Christmas preparations. In my case, helping my mom bake dozens of cookies (though I don’t know how helpful it was for me to eat them right out of the oven). To assist in my Christmas countdown, I had my Advent calendar with a little chocolate treat each day, and the Christmas construction paper chain where I tore off a loop every morning to visibly see how many days were left. And the anticipation! We were a Christmas Eve gift-giving family. I had fewer hours to wait than my friends who opened gifts on Christmas morning. For my family, Christmas Day itself was dedicated to the extended family— lunch and the afternoon with my mom’s side of the family, Christmas Day night at Grandma’s house with Dad’s side. Anyone who has seen a kid at Christmas can see the physical effects the season brings on — the j o y o u s screaming, the
trembling, the sleeplessness before the big day. That excitement has to rub off on the surrounding adults, doesn’t it? Frankly, being around only adults during the holidays can get a little dull. Raw emotion is lacking, and everything takes on the dull glow of a candle about to fade. Compare a kid opening a gift with an adult opening a gift. The kid tears into the present, wrapping and tissue paper flying, boxes literally torn open. Eyes widening, gift hugged to chest, perhaps an excited squeal or two. Adult gift exchanges become predictable. Adults are polite, even if they get a gift that’s not exactly for them. When adults open presents, there’s usually no whooping, hollering, jumping up and down, no wide eyes or dazzling smiles of shock and surprise. If adults look like this at your Christmas gathering, please invite me over. When I was a kid, I didn’t have any money, not even an allowance. My parents both worked and earned a decent living, but gifts were limited to birthdays and Christmas. If I wanted something, I had to wait. Christmas, therefore, was the reward for great anticipation that may have lasted for months. I’m fortunate to have a job as an adult, which means if I want something, I generally can buy it right away. And while joint banking accounts for married couples have a lot of benefits, one drawback is that you know gifts have been bought from your common pot of money; it’s like buying a gift for yourself. By the time the actual holiday is upon us, adults are frazzled and stressed. I remember Christmas fondly when I was a child because I had no responsibilities — my parents took care of everything. They bought the gifts, made the food, cleaned the house, got me home safely while I slept in the backseat on the way home from the fun holiday gatherings. But the season truly is awe-inspiring, which we as adults tend to forget. What’s it like to see the season through a child’s eyes? There’s magic and promise. The magic that is Santa Claus eventually wears off, but if we stop to really look, might we see other forms of magic in the season? And there’s the promise that no matter how bad things are, Christmas gives us the possibility that things will get better — for a brief moment of time, with gifts and family before us, everything is all right. If we’re lucky, a fresh coat of snow arrives off which Christmas lights can twinkle. Shortly after Christmas, life will return to its routine. But for this moment, it’s a new and different day. Kids seem to know this instinctively. Somewhere in the process of entering adulthood, that gets lost. I’m going to try to reclaim it, even if I don’t end up borrowing a child for the season. M
Rachael Hanel lives in Madison Lake and is the author of “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter.” MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 19
Your Health By
Jill U. Adams | Special To The Washington Post
Comfortable shoes not always the right shoes
’ll be honest: I have rolled my ankle more than once while wearing Dansko clogs. And yet, as soon as one pair wears out, I buy another. Putting aside the risk of injury for a minute, I do find my clogs comfortable. Indeed, they are marketed as foothealthy comfort shoes. These particular clogs are shoes of choice for many people whose jobs involve lots of standing, such as nurses and chefs. But are comfort shoes always more healthful? Not necessarily, according to some foot doctors. Buying shoes from a store specializing in comfort shoes doesn’t guarantee that they will be comfortable or good for you. What makes a shoe a “comfort shoe”? Generally speaking, it means cushioning under the foot and supportive features such as arch support. Birkenstock sandals, another comfort line, have a molded foot bed with an indented heel cup and a bump under the forefoot — the metatarsal pad, which deflects pressure away from the ball of the foot. “They’re a really comfortable choice for many people,” says Erika Schwartz, a podiatrist with DC Foot and Ankle in Washington. But for others, not so much. You know what they say about if the shoe fits — well, not all comfort shoes are comfortable or healthy for every foot. A small study of people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that walking in clogs and so-called stability shoes was harder on the knees than walking barefoot or in flipflops. This suggests that certain supportive shoes can alter your gait in a way that’s unhealthy for joints above the ankle, at least temporarily and in people with arthritis. “What are the best shoes to wear? I hear this question 20 times a day,” says Selene Parekh, an orthopedic surgeon at Duke University Health System. Parekh says to look for a shoe that’s supportive and comfortable — for you. That may not mean spending nearly $200 on a pair of loafers marketed to fit what one shoemaker calls the “anatomical footbed.” If you are having foot problems, the best thing to do is figure out the type of foot you have and how you walk. Do you pronate — rotate your foot so that the inner edge of the sole bears the bulk of your weight? How high or how flat are your arches? When a patient comes in with foot pain, Parekh looks at the wear pattern on her shoes. If the inner part of the sole is worn, he’ll look for flat feet overloading that area. Outersole wear may indicate high arches. More wear on the heel or under the ball of the foot can show whether a person is a heel-striker or a forefoot-striker when he walks. These wear patterns are not problems in and of themselves. “If you don’t have pain, your walking pattern is fine,” Parekh says. If you do have pain, a foot expert — either a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist — can help you understand shoe features to look for and to avoid. For example, if you have bunions, you want to look for a more 20 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
box-shaped toe, Parekh says, “to not compress that part of the foot.” What about minimalist shoes, designed to honor the form and function of the foot? They are the antithesis of the comfort shoe: Advocates say that cushioned supportive shoes encourage runners to land on their heels, which can lead to bad form and chronic injury. However, minimalist shoes are not right for everyone. “We’ve seen enough patients with Achilles tendon issues and stress fractures from running in these,” Schwartz says. And whether the purported benefits hold true for walking and standing has not been nearly as well studied. People with high arches — that is, people like me — are more likely than flat-foot types to roll an ankle in clogs, Schwartz says. That’s because arch height can affect which part of your foot bears the most weight as you walk. Properly aligned ankles sit directly over the heels. Feet are pronated when the heels tilt out from the body and the ankles roll in — picture young children on ice skates — a characteristic that is often linked to flat feet. When heels tilt in and the ankles roll out, the feet are supinated; this often occurs with very high arches. An orthotic insert that raise the outer edge of the foot can help stabilize a supinated foot within the clog, Schwartz says. (Pronated feet can benefit from arch supports.) Orthotic inserts, whether purchased at the drugstore or custom-made, are designed to correct the alignment of the foot and ankle, which helps maintain proper positioning of the knees and hips and even the lower back. Clinical studies of orthotics demonstrate their usefulness in many serious foot problems, such as diabetic neuropathy. For the rest of us, with more everyday aches and pains of life on our feet, there’s less applicable research. A 2008 review of research on easing foot pain found one small study in which custom orthotics helped people with high-arch, supinated feet. For other conditions, such as bunions and plantar fasciitis, the evidence was equivocal. Orthotics can be helpful, but “the vast majority of people don’t need custom orthotics,” Parekh says. “In my experience, cheap orthotics really work just as well as custom-made ones for the most common problems,” says Katherine Margo, a family physician at the University of Pennsylvania. Foot experts recommend shopping at shoe stores with experienced staff who take the time to do a good fitting. Schwartz sends her patients to high-end running shoe stores with a description of what to look for and what to avoid.
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Gift raps Doing Laundry Just Before Our Anniversary
New snow lies across the grass like fondant. December silence is the perfect foil for the thud of the washing machine, vibrating hard enough to lift right off the floor. It’s past time to replace it, I know, but this is hardly the season for practicality. Instead I click through dozens of web pages, hunting the perfect gifts: a trapper hat with scarlet faux fur, a Batman suit with a yellow utility belt. I search half-heartedly for copper cuff links or a clock to mark our anniversary, which always falls, like the Minnesota snow, just about a week before Christmas. I ponder the seven-year itch, the newness of love worn away like the date on a penny. I search for the socks. Having vowed to pursue a new life in our linen closet, they cling to the attractive towels in the dryer. Fickle socks! They reject the solid, steadfast life that the underwear drawer has always — so unselfishly — provided. Rebecca Fremo
24 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
America : A Halloween Story Coriander is called cilantro here, and since there is so much of electricity used to cook food, Indian friends email me sharing stories of cancer in this country, backed by no facts; but my mother isn’t worried about diseases, just the way she thinks that the snow would be lovely here, only if I stay warm, wear shades. She is curious how I’d eat roasted brinjals (sorry, eggplant), potatoes, and whether the taste of food would be the same as cooked on blue or red fire. At the end of November, they disembowel pumpkins like we do with small fishes; but not to colour it with molten limestone, give it expressionless faces, hang it in between fields to ward off evil eyes, sparrows, parrots; but to be the evil, act evil, wear everything evil including blood on lips. Aruni Kashyap
We Forgot What the Stars Meant Stars seem so far gone when city lights dim the night sky. Given the chance, I’d vacate into space and let the gravity of a red dwarf pull me in, one great experience before I experience nothing. But the stars are so lonely, so far apart than I could ever explain. Unlike me and you, they do not ask to be touched but take the opportunity, burning with beauty and radiation and the heat of something we can’t handle. Drive with me to the country, to those empty fall fields where the sky becomes a mosaic of light. Here, we can breathe and admire all the universe as it concerns us, dazzled by the brown earth holding the cosmos in place. Here, we might be happy and safe. Thomas Delano
At the Urgent Care He shepherds her to the desk, footsteps shuffling and small, her face pale as her powder blue sweatshirt. His right hand lights on the small of her back, hovering there like a hummingbird. All around me strangers usher each other in this way, tiptoe past the visibly ill, guiding, prodding, shouldering burdens. Heads bend together, as old and young conspire: keep your body’s secrets. My son’s freckles betray his truth and splatter his chalky face. His winter coat has lost a snap; his once sweet breath blows sour. We thumb wrestle to pass the time. Don’t touch the magazines, I warned before we left the house. You might get sick. To my left a boy soothes his sisters. Some mothers choose to leave their young in waiting rooms for hours on end. I always drag mine in with me--better to keep them close. But here at the Urgent Care mothers leave their children in chairs. I think of Elizabeth Bishop. I’m sure I hear drumbeats. Rebecca Fremo
One Afternoon One afternoon when I was thirty-nine my mother forgot my childhood. Then I knew why my father would shake his head when my grandmother talked. John Calvin Rezmerski MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 25
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Way Back Deer, December One of thirty nights I can’t sleep I awaken to motion in the last dark out the window, tight against the hillside. I put on my glasses to stop the glass in the old house from wavering. Three of them, maybe twenty feet away, they nuzzle new snow, leaves and twigs not yet frozen hard, a poor diet, winter just begun. Foraging, chewing, staring lines into space. Their necks bolt upright only to the slight shift in what I imagine is wind, to things I can’t hear, couldn’t, were I with them outside and not still warm on the edge of the bed Then a cardinal is winter red against the even gray of 6 am — cloudy, this time of year. I’ll stay watching until I’m late for another morning meeting, my alarm clock not gone off--that must be it. I can’t know how little I’ll be missed. Richard Terrill Reprinted with permission from “Almost Dark”
Christmas Eve, 1979 I watched out my window, hoping to spot him streaking east on his way back from the Blue Ridge. He wouldn’t stop for us, I knew. This night, like the extra traffic at the mall, was more nuisance than anything else: a chance for us to educate grocery baggers or postal workers who made the mistake of wishing us a Merry Christmas. At the annual holiday concert, I stood in the choral risers, rolling forbidden words over my tongue, sweeter than chocolate Chanukah gelt: holy infant, so tender and mild. I knew that Jesus wasn’t quite who they claimed. Still, I leaned against the glass, waiting for some kind of messiah. Rebecca Fremo 26 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Sitting in a magic chair composing my bible, I begin living backwards. Moving toward my birth, remembering less and less about death, forgetting how to forget, finally I am equal to anyone — a drop of slippery water in a velvet sack. If you remember reading this before, you have not been unlearning your lessons. You will not be saved. Turn around and come with me to the other end of our lives. John Calvin Rezmerski
Seasonal Greeting Now the pine boughs are bowed with the sad weight of winter’s children and the sun seems far from our homes and lives. This is the way we might begin a letter to or from Korea, the writer’s object to see how new a way he can describe the season--the weather as he looks out a window, or if it’s dark some internal weather that might be good written down. The sun lowers itself out my window and I’m afraid I haven’t written a word--it’s not indecision wound down to silence, just the enormity of things: darkness and other than darkness; gravity and the idea of light and air; the man bagging at the grocery store whom I talk to because he talks to me and I like it. There’s starting at the beginning of the story, in the middle of the threat of the ongoing, that is, a pine tree heavy with snow at the end of a short day, when kids go home from school. Richard Terrill Reprinted with permission from “Coming Late to Rachmaninoff”
Playing Hooky Alone
I used to seek the secret meadows where I was sure people carried their dreams into the pre-dawn grayness sometimes to spend a whole morning pretending some duty had called them to solitude. They could take along a book or a sketchpad, or just a broad-brimmed hat to conceal the flicker of their eyes seeking soft grass to stroke and examine. Carved initials in box-elder bark might betray their hope for companionship. Hoarding dreams for winter, wishing they could be asleep by a fire resting in pastel gardens by roads to unnamed destinations, along side someone whose warmth would welcome them here and now, somewhere someone might hold hands with, someone holy. John Calvin Rezmerski
America’s Africa By 2011, telling a brown guy not to marry a white girl was a passe, something boring to do : only old fashioned people who wore gaudy garish gold ornaments that pulled the ears so much that the lobes became longer said so. So they told me to stay away from beef women wine. Pally cousins whispered not to get the disease of sleeping with men, like those in the west. Said, some animals in the past had become extinct because they had started to sleep with their own sexes. Buy a car, not a gun; don’t refuse when we ask you for money because, when you wire dollars, they turn into lots of rupees. Though they hadn’t read that poem by Pranab Barman about ‘America’ being a loathsome word, they were worried about me —
Under Color of Battle, 1862 Ha! The beauty of the arrow’s path seen halfway to the target, and the lovely puff of white from the cannon’s muzzle! The gorgeous arc of the swung club, the exquisite crimson bloom where iron or lead has hit hard just above the heart! The blade’s trail of a slim gash that for a moment does not know it is time to bleed! The long flames curling like black and yellow hair blowing in the wind that helps the fire. The sheen of burnt flesh, the long lines of torn and charred shirts of the refugees! The muslin hoods, the ropes, the prayers sung, said, and read. Look what a spectacle we have made of our enemies! John Calvin Rezmerski
Programmable Ruby Slippers
is it in Africa?” — my friend’s Jewish landlord in Boston asked her the day she came to pick me up from the airport so that I could spend a few days there, before moving to America’s Africa.
Guaranteed to get you home, wherever your little heart determines home needs to be. Just write down the coordinates of home on a little slip of paper (the back of a fortune cookie fortune is ideal for the purpose), fold it up, and put it into the little heart. Or if you’re pressed for time when it’s time to go home, you just speak into the little heart and say, “Emergency override sequence O-Z: code words No, Place, Like.” That should do it. A wizard said so.
John Calvin Rezmerski
Some Americans hadn’t even heard of the place I was going to. “Mankato is a strange word,
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 27
That’s Life By Nell Musolf
The most wonderful time of the year
am always a fairly sentimental person. But come Christmastime, I become an incredibly sentimental person. Extremely sentimental. To the point that hearing the beginning notes of the theme from the “Charlie Brown Christmas Special” or seeing anyone wearing a Santa cap causes me to immediately tear up. I won’t even get into what candy canes do to me. Suffice it to say that in my book, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. One of the best parts of the whole Christmas season is getting a tree and decorating it, something that I look forward to every year. Our family always had a real tree but my father, well-known for getting the most bang for his buck under any circumstances, always opted for the cheaper long-needled pine trees instead of the (in my opinion) prettier (although more expensive) short-needled trees. Since the trees were sold by the foot, he also delighted in finding the fattest and shortest tree on the local Christmas tree lot, believing that a whole lot of width somehow made up for a lack of height. The result of his thrifty ways was often a Christmas tree standing in the corner of the living room that looked more like a green fire hydrant on steroids instead of something a little more Yuletidey in shape — but that never mattered. What mattered was the smell of pine needles slowly replacing the ordinary house smells and the feeling of anticipation that went along with hanging family ornaments on the trees stubby but fragrant branches. When Mark and I were first married and too poor to get both a real tree and ornaments, we decided to splurge on ornaments that would last forever and skip the tree. Instead we taped an outline of a
Christmas tree on a closet door and then taped lights and ornaments to the outline. It looked fairly nice until our cat decided that ornaments and lights taped to a closet door must have been some kind of hideous decorating faux pas and decided to methodically pull every last light and ornament down with a crash onto the wooden floor. The next Christmas we tried decorating a ficus tree with lights and whatever ornaments had survived the previous holiday season with a little more success until the cat got even with us for hanging the ornaments out of his reach by using the dirt at the bottom of the tree as his new kitty litter pan. In addition to short-needled Christmas trees, I also have a weakness for aluminum trees — the kind made famous during the 1950s when anything shiny and manufactured was considered better than anything that grew in a forest. While I’ve always pined (sorry) for an aluminum Christmas tree, I was never able to find one until a few years back when I spotted a beauty on eBay. I was especially excited because not only was this particular aluminum Christmas tree affordable, it was (according to its description) still in its original box and the person selling it lived in Owatonna. Just think what we’d be saving on postage alone! After several nerve-wracking evenings spent glued to eBay, I won the aluminum Christmas tree for the amazing price of $49.83. Even better, the seller agreed to meet us halfway between Mankato and Owatonna. We decided on the Walmart parking lot and drove over one cold Saturday morning. “This is going to be so great,” I happily informed Mark as I tried to decide what would be the perfect spot for our newest holiday acquisition. “I’m going to decorate it with all green balls this year and red balls next year.” “This seems a little weird to be meeting someone in a Walmart parking lot to get a Christmas tree from 1950,” Mark commented. “I hope he shows up.” “He will,” I said confidently. The seller showed up and the aluminum tree was even better than I’d imagined. After we got home, Mark removed it from its original packaging and set it up where it twinkled and shimmered. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one enchanted with the tree. Our cats loved it too, especially pulling out strands of aluminum one by one. By Christmas Eve we had to take the tree down before they destroyed it completely. It is now resting in its original packaging on a shelf in our front hall closet, waiting for the day when we no longer have cats and can finally celebrate Christmas like it’s 1950. M
Nell Musolf is a mom and a freelance writer from Mankato. 28 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 29
What’s Cooking By Sarah Johnson
Choosing your Christmas beast
ith an unlimited travel budget (thanks, Mankato Magazine!), I have recently returned from a whirlwind tour investigating what everyone the world over will be eating for Christmas dinner. After traveling from Tijuana to Timbuktu, I have come to the conclusion that this Christmas, folks will be eating: food. I can’t be more specific than that because nobody eats the same thing at Christmastime. Unlike Thanksgiving’s turkey, Christmas is a hodgepodge of entrees. The Norwegians want their oyster stew and lefse, the British demand plum pudding and roast beef, the Italians salivate over their complicated Feast of the Seven Fishes. It’s a democratic system, to be sure. But pinning down the Ultimate Christmas Feast is a slippery eel to squish. What to choose? For poultry, there’s Christmas goose, Cornish game hens and duck. Beef lovers pick standing rib roasts or prime rib. Pork roasts and hams proliferate. Large impressive fishes like whole salmon or smoked trout appear, as do expensive seafoods such as crab legs, shrimp and lobster. Special soups and stews and casseroles abound. (Don’t even get started on desserts and cookies.) Vegetarians and vegans can skip the meat entrée entirely and just roll around in all the delicious side dishes. There are far too many options to make an intelligent choice. Perhaps we should harken back to the very root of Christmasdom itself: Bethlehem. What’s a typical Christmas meal in Israel? I turn to reindeerland.org (purveyor of all things Christmas) and learn this: “As Israel is a Jewish state, the majority of people do not celebrate Christmas.” Well, that put a damper on things. But if they WERE to eat Christmas dinner, they would probably eat turkey or lamb, which is pretty much on every Israeli holiday menu. We Americans can cook a mean turkey but are probably a little
30 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
sketchy on cooking the lamb. But that’s what the Internet is for — to teach us how to cook things we do not recognize. Or, let us examine the Biblical clues: What are the farm animals depicted in the manager scene? Sheep and camels. Maybe an ox, which I think counts as beef. Possibly a donkey. Also, we know they had a ton of goats back then, although they apparently weren’t photogenic enough to make it into the manger scene. Therefore, the cook who is serious about eating authentically might decide that goat was on the menu, in which case a 10-pound goat leg from an online vendor will set you back 80 bucks, plus shipping. Locally, whole butchered goat is now available at the Meyer Beefalo Farm near Elysian. For real. And for all you camel fans, Australian camel stew meat goes for $40 a pound; but if you’re really hungry, or have a large family to feed, just get the whole tenderloin on sale for $300. You can freeze the leftovers and enjoy camel all year long. Donkey meat is a real deal, frozen in Qatar and going for $2-3 per kilogram. However, the minimum order is a 20-foot shipping container, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Perhaps there’s a local donkey sitting around idle that you could purchase instead. Try Craigslist, you never know. So my problem on what to serve for an authentic, Middle Easterninspired Christmas dinner is now solved. My plan? Chicken schawarmas catered from Massad’s in the River Hills Mall, with sides of hummus and tabouli. I’ll be too busy to cook, dang it, with a boatload of donkey meat to freezer wrap. M
Sarah Johnson is a cook, freelance writer and chocolate addict from North Mankato with three grown kids and a couple of mutts.
Herb-Roasted Whole Salmon with Dill Sauce You may prefer your roast beast to be the fishy kind. Herb-Roasted Whole Salmon is both easy to prepare and impressively elegant to serve. 2 cups loosely packed mixed fresh herbs, minced (for example, parsley, thyme, chives and mint) ½ cup light brown sugar ¼ cup Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon Kosher salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 2 whole sides of salmon with skin (about 3 pounds apiece and about 1 ½ inches thick at the thickest part) 2 lemons, thinly sliced Place salmon skin side down on a greased baking sheet. Combine the herbs, brown sugar, mustard, salt and pepper and rub over the salmon. Roast at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, checking for doneness. Salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
Creamy Dill Sauce 1/3 cup sour cream 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon horseradish ¾ teaspoon dill weed ¼ teaspoon garlic salt Pepper to taste Combine all ingredients until smooth.
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 31
Day Trip Destinations: Cut your own Christmas Tree
By Leticia Gonzales
If you go Guggisberg Tree Farm Located at 1770 Grandview Road, New Ulm Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, or by appointment. Santa will be visiting the tree farm on from noon to 2 p.m. on Dec. 8 507-354-4320, www.guggisbergtreefarm.com
Hacker’s Tree Farm & Nursery Located at 45372 190th Street, Sleepy Eye Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays 800-474-6777, www.hackerstreefarm.com
Visitors carry in their haul at Guggisberg Tree Farm. | Submitted photo
Fir the love of Christmas
Area farms preserve holiday tradition
hether it’s the tiny, shriveled tree picked out by Charlie and Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or the over-the-top Griswald tree that was illuminated in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” the quest for the perfect Christmas tree continues to be a time-honored holiday tradition. “I think people just like the idea of the real tree because they like that pine, that evergreen scent that they give off,” said Tony Guggisberg, owner of Guggisberg Tree Farm in New Ulm. With 18 years of experience growing and selling Christmas trees, Guggisberg spends most of the year making sure his trees are ready for the month-long selling season, which spans from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23. In this area, Guggisberg Tree Farm in New Ulm and Hacker’s Tree Farm & Nursery in Sleepy Eye are among those that offer customers the chance to head out into the elements for a chance to choose their own tree. Both businesses feature owners who not only know the ins and outs of every tree on their lot, but are also very passionate about what they do. Guggisberg, 46, went to school for horticulture and later went into the landscaping business before he started working for a Christmas tree grower. “I just enjoy trees,” he said. “I love seeing the trees, watching them grow.” When he first started selling trees, Guggisberg said he didn’t have enough, but as time went on, his selection grew. “It was kind of tricky, because you didn’t know if you would have 10 customers or 300,” he said. Timing is everything when it comes to planting trees, as it can take anywhere from eight to 12 years for a tree to grow.
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Guggisberg plants around 800-1,000 young seedlings each April. From then on, they must be watered, weeded, and trimmed. “The last two summers have been very difficult because we have had to do a lot of watering; it hasn’t rained a lot,” he said. “After they are about 3 years old, we have to start trimming them, so they take shape and become a nice full tree.” Close to 8,000 trees in various sizes and stages of growth cover Guggisberg’s eight acres of land, with close to 800 trees ready to be sold each holiday season. “The nice thing is that people can walk through the fields of trees,” he said. “I grow seven varieties of Christmas trees, which include pines, firs, and spruce.” But Guggisberg isn’t the only tree enthusiast in the area. Dan Hacker, who co-owns Hacker’s Tree Farm and Nursery with his wife Lynn in Sleepy Eye, has been in the tree-selling business as a way to keep himself busy after losing their 14-month-old son in 1981. Hacker, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease six years ago, said although he and his wife had a rocky start to their tree-selling business, their operations have grown over the past 33 years to include wreaths and garlands, as well as their popular trees. “We have seven acres of cut-your- own trees; about 7,000,” said 61-year-old Hacker. “Every year we plant new ones.” While going through the evergreen forest at Hacker’s Tree Farm, you will find Frasers, Canaan and Balsam pines, as well as exotic trees such as the Korean fir and Blue Douglas fir. “I like to experiment with different trees; we always re-plant every year,” said Hacker. “Next spring, we will plant a lot of Korean fir and Quebec balsam.” M
What to expect
f you’ve never been to a tree farm, there are a few suggestions to keep in mind: For both Guggisberg Tree Farm and Hacker’s Tree Farm and Nursery, you should bring your own hand saw, as well as a flash light if you are going when it’s dark out. Hacker’s does provide a hand saw if you don’t have access to one. Do to safety and environmental reasons, chain saws are not allowed. At Guggisberg Tree Farm, any trees that can be cut will have a tag on them that includes a price and the type of tree. Guggisberg said his staff will cut a tree for customers who don’t feel comfortable doing it themselves. They will also help shake off the old tree needles and help load the tree onto a vehicle. Hacker’s Tree Farm will also assist customers, and has pre-cut trees for sale as an alternative . While Guggisberg said that most people will buy a tree that ranges
from six to nine feet high, they do offer trees up to 14 feet for those who have open or vaulted ceilings. “Most trees are going to run $40-75 until we get to those big ones, which can be expensive,” he said. Above Hacker’s Tree Farm is located outside SleepyEye. Below Rows of Prices for Christmas trees Christmas-ready trees at Guggisberg’s near New Ulm. | Submitted photos at Hacker’s Tree through his evergreen forest, as well Farm vary by variety. For example, as a tractor pull to get customers a Norway Pine costs around $2.50 a through the Christmas Trees. Lynn foot, while a Canaan Fir can cost Hacker also teaches people how to about $5.50 a foot. make wreaths on site. “We have cut-your-own trees Hacker said, “Our main anywhere from 5 foot to 20 foot,” advertising theme is come to the Hacker said. country and cut your own tree, and Hacker’s also offers train rides have a good family experience.”
Choosing the right tree
rying to choose a tree variety can be difficult, especially when there are close to a dozen varieties at both Guggisberg and Hacker’s tree farms. Tony Guggisberg said the Balsam fir and the Fraser fir are his farm’s biggest sellers. “The Balsam fir has short needles that are soft, and they smell really nice,” he said. “They are very fragrant.” The Fraser, Guggisberg said, features short, small needles that tend to stay on the tree longer, which is a “big plus because people don’t want to pick up a lot of needles.” “If you want to find one that holds needles really well, you want to go with the Fraser fir,” he said. Dan Hacker agreed that firs are the most popular, especially Frasers, Canaan and Balsams. The Fraser Fir, he said, “is a good tree for holding needles and moisture.” Scotch pines are a traditional choice with stiff needles, strong branches and excellent needle retention. White pines, however, have softer needles. The stately and symmetrial blue spruce has sharp, stiff needles and strong branches that are good for decorating, but may be a poor choice for children.
Caring for your tree
hile picking out the perfect tree may have seemed like the toughest task, caring for it can prove to be even trickier if consumers aren’t educated. “Number one, don’t put them by a fire place,” Hacker said. “Number two, before you put it off, make a fresh cut. You need to cut off one inch and put it immediately in water. You can’t let it
dry out.” Hacker said if you don’t properly care for the tree, the bottom will seal up again. If that happens, he recommended the consumer drill holes in it or re-cut the base. Having a large enough water stand is also crucial, as the tree may consume up to a gallon of water a day. “The first two days they take in a great amount of water,” Guggisberg said. “They have to keep it watered and away from a heat source.” Guggisberg said he puts up his own tree a few weeks before Christmas, but the life of a cut tree can vary. “It all depends on how people take care of them,” he said. “We always hope they can get four weeks out of the tree.”
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 33
rides By Jean Lundquist
Oh, what fun it (still) is Sleigh ride tradition unites past, present in Sutherland family
t was at a wedding in Owatonna a few years ago that Jim Sutherland says he experienced something he calls, “awesome.” During something of a blizzard, Sutherland took a newlywed couple for a ride in his horse-drawn sleigh. There were large, fluffy snowflakes falling in the blue twilight. It was a still night, except for the sound of his horses breathing as they pulled the sleigh through the snow. Then, there were the sounds of the sleigh bells and rump bells jingling on the two horses pulling the sleigh, and the sound of the sleigh’s runners gliding through fresh snow. Another of Sutherland’s favorite sleigh-ride memories stems from a photo his mother took when he was at the soon-to-be-closed Applewood Restaurant in Mankato, giving rides to the restaurant’s customers: “It was a Sunday, Valentine’s Day. There were big,
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heavy flakes. Mom took a picture at the edge of the woods. You could see the smile on the person in the sleigh; you could see the breath of the horses, and I was driving.” Sutherland said the moment was “magical.” Applewood Restaurant owner Harry Musser agreed that Sutherland, his sleigh and his horse team provided some very special moments for his customers. “They would stand in line for a chance to get a sleigh ride,” Musser recalled. “From our perspective, it was something we added to provide a special experience for our customers. It was something that wasn’t real common in Mankato.” That awe-inspiring moment is something Sutherland hopes all of his riders experience, just as he so often does. Last year, Sutherland provided sleigh and carriage rides for visitors at Sibley Park during the Kiwanis Holiday Lights events.
Left Jim Sutherland proudly continues a tradition of offering sleigh rides that dates back more than a century in his family. Above Sutherland’s grandfather Herman Holtze and aunt Carol taking a sleigh ride.in 1946. | Photos courtesy of Jim Sutherland “I’d bring Santa in on a sleigh during the parade, and then return with the carriage to give horse-drawn carriage rides to people. They all loved it.” Sutherland’s background is rooted in the farm where he now lives. He has old family photos of grandparents with their horses, and his great-grandparents farmed there with horses before that, starting in 1869. “They all farmed with Percherons and, surprisingly, my team is Percherons, too,” Sutherland says with a chuckle. Percherons are large, muscular draft horses, bred to pull anything from a plow to a sleigh. They range in color from gray to dappled gray to black. “My current team is almost perfectly matched,” he says. “They are both black with white stars on their foreheads, and white feet.” But color doesn’t matter to Sutherland. Until recently, his team consisted of a black horse and a gray dapple. “Color doesn’t mean anything to me. For me, it’s all about brains. “When you’re doing things (like giving sleigh rides) with people around, you’ve got to be safe. You have to rely on their brains. Horses are like deer – they’re flight animals. When they are scared, they want to flee.” Sutherland said his horses have to have trust and knowledge to listen to his commands and don’t flee. “I’ve only ever had one incident when things got out of hand. It was in my own barnyard, and my chicken coop stopped it,” he said. Sutherland, however, didn’t grow up with sleigh rides and horse-drawn carriages. “When I was a kid, we were into snowmobiles,” he recalled. “We’d pull things behind the snowmobiles.” Things changed when his son was a toddler and a
friend gave the boy a miniature horse. It wasn’t long before Sutherland found tack, a sleigh and a buggy the mini horse could pull. As his son grew, so did the size of the ponies and horses, and it wasn’t long before Sutherland was hooked on the idea of having draft horses himself. There is a lot of history and even nostalgia involved for Sutherland. For example, he has two sets of sleigh bells that date back to his great, great grandparents, one set from each side of his family. His sleigh is more than 100 years old, but is well-kept with a solid coat of black paint and red seats. His bobsled belonged to his great, great grandfather, and at at least 120 years old, is used several times each winter. Each year, Sutherland and his Percherons attend sleigh and cutter parades in Waseca, Kenyon and in the Twin Cities. He provides sleigh and bobsled rides at wineries, church events and weddings. He looks forward to the first few snowfalls each winter, and enjoys every snowfall after those. As winter gets a bit long in the tooth, and ice forms beneath the snow come January and February, Sutherland and his team tend to decline invitations for giving sleigh rides. “When it’s below zero, or icy, I won’t take my team out,” he said. “If a horse slips, falls, and breaks a bone, it can be the end of the horse’s life. Always, safety comes first.” Sutherland also gives sleigh rides on a trail on his farm near Courtland. He rents out his barn for family Christmas parties and he provides the rides. “I turn on the heat in the barn, put up a tree, and people come with their families, plug in their crock pots and have a pretty good time.” M MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 35
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By John Cross
n every human endeavor, there is always someone who has to be first. It’s an annual event in Minnesota as the first brave souls carefully blaze trails across December’s new, untested ice, all to catch a fish. And as the old saying goes: Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. M
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 39
Coming Attractions: December 1-31 — Kiwanis Holiday Lights 5-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, and 5-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays -- Sibley Park, Mankato -- 507-385-9129 1 — Mankato Riverblenders and MN Valley Sweet Adelines present “Holiday Harmony” 3 p.m. -- Christ the King Lutheran Churchin Mankato and 7:30 p.m. at Catholic Church of St. Peter -- $10, free for students K-college with donation to food shelf -- 388-1995 1 — Holiday Harmony Christmas Show 7:30 p.m. -- Church of St. Peter, 1801 W. Broadway, St. Peter -- $10, free for students K-college with donation to food shelf -388-1995 1 — Noteables fall concert 4 p.m. -- Le Sueur/Henderson Middle/High School Auditorium, 901 East Ferry St., Le Sueur -- free -- 507-665-2098 4-8 — Christmas at Bethany Concert 4 p.m. -- Trinity Chapel, Bethany Lutheran College -- 507-344-7365 5-6 — Cabaret Le Ruse presents “Xmas Misfits” 7 p.m. on Dec. 5 at Mankato City Center Hotel, and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at Arts Center of St. Peter -- $10 -gravitone.wix.com/cabaret 6-8 — 11th annual GRS Fine Art Festival 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m.6 p.m., Saturday; 12-5 p.m., Sunday -Verizon Wireless Center -- free -www.GSRFineArtFestival.com -507-934-5655 6-8 — “Holy Wisdom, Holy Word” Christmas in Christ Chapel 3:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. -- Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College -- 507-933-70137 — Arli-Dazzle: Lighted Christmas Parade 5:30 p.m. -- Main Street, Arlington -- free -- 507964-2809 7-8 — Minnesota State University: Fall Dance Concert 7:30 p.m., Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday -- Ted Paul Theater, Earley Performing Arts Center, Minnesota State University -- 507-389-6661 7-8 — “Visions of Sugar Plums” Christmas Open House 11 a.m.-5 p.m. -- Waseca County History Center, 315 2nd Ave. N.E. -- donations appreciated -507-835-7700 40 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
8 — Mankato Symphony Orchestra: Candy Can Concert 3 p.m. -- Mankato West High School, 1351 S. Riverfront Drive -$25 Gold Section, $20 Silver Section, $15 Bronze Section, $5 Youth under 18 or with student ID -www.mankatosymphony.com -- 507-387-1008 10 — The Winds of Christmas 10 a.m. -- Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College -- free -- 507-933-7013 12 — Mannheim Steamroller 7:30 p.m. -- Verizon Wireless Center -www.ticketmaster.com 12 — Lorie Line & her Fab Five: Born in Bethlehem 7:30 p.m. -- Verizon Wireless Center -- $48 regular, $43 group -- 800-745-3000 13 — Michael Johnson in Concert 8 p.m. -- Bjorling Recital Hall, Gustavus Adolphus College -- $15 adults, $12 seniors/student/staff, free to Gustavus students -- 507-933-7590 13-15 — Merely Players: It’s a Wonderful Life - Live Radio Play 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday -- Lincoln Community Center, 110 Fulton St. -- $15 adults, $13 seniors, $9 youth -- www.merelyplayers.com -507-388-5483 13-15 — Physical Theatre Project 8 p.m., Friday & Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday -- Anderson Theatre, Gustavus Adolphus College -- $9 adults, $7 seniors/students, 1 free to Gustavus students and staff -507-933-7590 14-15 — The Nutcracker 1 p.m. & 5 p.m. -- Ted Paul Theater, Earley Performing Arts Center, Minnesota State University -- $17 adults, $14 students/seniors, $10 children 12 and under -- www.msutheatre.com -507-389-6661 15 — Mankato Children’s Chorus Winter Concert 3 p.m. -- Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College -- Tickets at door 20-22 — Merely Players: It’s a Wonderful Life - Live Radio Play 7:30 p.m., Friday & Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday -- Lincoln Community Center, 110 Fulton St. -- $15 adults, $13 seniors, $9 youth -www.merelyplayers.com -- 507-388-5483
Faces & Places
Photos By Sport Pix
Bier on Belgrade 1. Amber Ostoff, Jackie Ellis and Sara Winter promote Tow Distributing at Bier on Belgrade. 2. Gloomy skies didn’t keep locals from heading down to North Mankato to take over Belgrade for Oktoberfest. 3. Music was featured at the event, most of the musicians choosing to dress up and embrace the culture. 4. Polka music poured through Belgrade Avenue, as locals drank, danced and became merry. 5. Matt Nielson takes a swing at keg bowling while visiting North Mankato for Oktoberfest. 6. Amber Ostoff of Tow Distributing pours a sample of ShockTop. 7. Tony Roelofs (left) and Cody Larvick sample a glass of beer while at Bier on Belgrade.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 41
Faces & Places
Photos By Sport Pix
Mankato River Ramble
1. (L to R) Jim Vonderharr, the head coffee maker, Pat Kelly, Danielle Alinea, the head ride marshall, and Kathy Leggett, volunteer coordinator, pose for a photo at the ride start. 2. Justin Rinehart, Brady Larson, and Jenna and Tom Rinehart of the Nicollet Bike Shop pose at the start of the ride at Land of Memories Park. 3. Karen Fowler riding her bike after a slice of pie at the Rapidan Dam. 4. (L to R) Julie Larsen and Charlie Hurd took a moment to figure out the route for the 42-mile ride. 5. Jenny Barnes baked 140 pies in 14 hours for the event. 6. Scheel’s bike technician Ethan Jacobsma works on a wheel at the Rapidan Dam rest stop. 7. Steve Penkhus of Mankato volunteered by serving hot chocolate and coffee to the bikers.
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Faces & Places
Photos By Sport Pix
march of dimes signature chef’s auction 1. As they explore the food tables, Diane Seffensmeier and Gladys Barbeau ask questions about the samples provided. 2. The Snell Motors show room was converted from a sales shop into a glamerous ballroom in order to host the March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Auction. 3. Julie Steinke disguises herself behind a simple lace mask as she enjoys the auction with friends. 4. Taking place in the show room of Snell Motors, Mankato community members came together to raise money for the March of Dimes foundation. 5. Tables began to fill up after guests had sampled their share of Mankato dining options. 6. David and Nancy Drummer are welcomed ever-sokindly by the door greeter.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 43
By Pete Steiner
The annual Christmas letter F
irst of November dawned gray before yielding to oblique sunshine. Fast away the old year passes! Time once again to invoke the tradition, to compose the seasonal missive … Paging through the diary, jotting stuff down, it occurs: If I had to send this to all via standard mail, I’d spend my entire year’s allocation for lattes in postage. Writing for the magazine definitely brings benefits. On the other hand, I don’t get to use my 100-year supply of return-address labels sent as “a gift” from umpteen causes that heard I gave somebody $25 once. •••• Weather’s always a worthy topic for the Year-Ender … a long wet spring culminated with snow on the first of May! F o r
us, not as bad as – was it 1992? – when we got three inches on Memorial Day. Then, for a long stretch of July and August, one of the most pleasant periods of Minnesota weather I can recall, 75-degree days, 55 at night. San Diego without the ocean? •••• Back in January, some of us old guys were declared “celebrities” and paired with lovely young dance instructors for a Red Cross fundraiser dubbed, “Dancing with the Mankato Stars.” My partner, Dani, tried valiantly to get me to shake my hips more vigorously on the salsa. On Feb. 23, at The Kato Ballroom, the crowd applauded wildly and gave generously: Thirteen couples raised more than $50,000. Pretty satisfying gig. ••••
I spent 10 years as a country music DJ, during which time I tried to convince a lot of people that there were few artists in any genre who had better vocal control than George Jones. IMHO, his evocative power put him up there with fine opera singers. So when we lost him April 26, I was sad. Yet, as much as he had abused his body with alcohol and drugs, we were lucky to have him for 81 years. “The Grand Tour,” “These Days I Barely Get By” – he could rip your guts out. I’d tried to see him twice, but “No-Show Jones” was famous for not showing (guess why), including at a Country 44 • december 2013 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Time outdoor concert in Janesville in the 1980s. But in 1995, he finally did show, in fine voice, right here in Mankato at our civic center. I hope he’s serenading angels. •••• About a month ago, I visited Uncle Dave Boyce and his beloved wife, Doris. I’ve written about Dave occasionally, and people ask, is he really your uncle? No, but to a certain generation of young people, he was what we wanted an uncle to be: a little iconoclastic, accepting, understanding, encouraging. As the Vietnam War and the Culture Wars of the ‘70s tore at the fabric of our country, something labeled “the generation gap” began to widen. We didn’t trust our elders; they thought we had lost our minds. Whether we were protesting in the streets, shutting down the bridge, letting our hair grow long, joining communes, or listening to that awful rock music – the Rolling Stones sang, “Let’s spend the night together”! What was the world coming to?? Dave didn’t necessarily condone all that, but what counted was, he didn’t condemn it. He expected most of us would ultimately evolve into productive citizens. He was a businessman, proprietor of Backlund’s Music downtown. At a time when many business people, we thought, looked down their noses at us, maybe even considered hippies “un-American,” Dave welcomed us into his store, even offered us credit. “I was a freak,” he told me for an article I wrote seven years ago for the now-defunct Static Magazine. “We lost some business [because of it.]” He had a falling out with some others in his church over the war, and though he never joined another church, he said something that sounded like what Jesus might say: “We’ve lost the sense of neighborhood. Taking care of the neighbors, THAT
Dave Boyce in his home. | Photo courtesy of Pete Steiner
would cure half our problems.” I was back visiting with Dave and Doris because I had heard he had gotten a bad prognosis after struggling with multiple medical issues the past few years. I did not know if it would be the last time I would see him in this life. We each sipped on an Edmund Fitzgerald porter from Great Lakes Brewing. Dave and Doris loved Lake Superior, had bought a cabin on the North Shore shortly before the big ship went down in November of 1975. Now we reminisced about the music store, where I’d worked for a time alongside Jim McGuire, the great guitarist. Dave hoped Jim would play at his memorial gathering. The conversation was bittersweet, but as always, Dave chuckled often. He was strong and positive facing this next big journey: “It’s been a good life, a good run.” He talked of other friends who had “checked out,” said he’d been blessed with “so many friends.” He also noted, it had been the most glorious autumn he could remember, so many colorful leaves lingering so long. I asked him and Doris if it would be OK to write something for the magazine. I hope he gets to read it and be reminded again, how much he meant to a certain group of us. Yes, Dave, there are so many friends, so many good people here Thanks for reminding us. Cheers to all! M
Pete Steiner is host of “Talk of the Town” weekdays at 1:05 p.m. on KTOE. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2013 • 45