Sneak Preview: Some notes on Mexico

I plan to blog a few times in the coming days about Sherry and my visit to Cholula, Mexico to see Kylie.  For those of you who can’t wait, here’s a link to the official Semester in Mexico blog, where I guested a general overview (there’s also a link there to Kylie’s blog:


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When the last role of Charmin fell

I was mowing, probably for the last time this season, when I saw it. 

The whole reason for the mowing in the first place was to mulch all the leaves that were falling.  I explect things to fall.  Mulch, mulch, mulch. 

I wasn’t expecting this.  It could have hit me, for cryin’ out loud.

I remember that June morning just a few days before Kylie’s grad party.  We woke up, sipped our coffee.  One of us looked out the window.  One of us screamed.

Toilet paper.

I think of those adolescent boys now, acne faced in the moonlight, adrenaline pumping, rolling their cars up without headlights, tossing the roles high into the pine boughs, sneaking away, stifling laughter, spending their hard earned money on…

…toilet paper.

They could have done a better job.  I salvaged 21 rolls.  At the grad party I encouraged guests to use as many squares as they liked.

Now she’s in Mexico, and I’m dodging


I’m going to Mexico soon.  I’ll bring this for her.  She can squeeze it.



Posted in General Musings, Poems | 3 Comments

Fish on. I had the big one…

Ken with 42 inches of Little Fork muskieThis is Ken.  If you have a hairy mole in the middle of your forehead, Ken will ask, “You just ugly, or do you want me to remove that there hairy mole with my fillet knife?”  And he’ll pronounce the “t.”  At lunch time, he’s generous with his home grown “maters” – round, red, and plump on your BLT.  He can virtually channel Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin from the seat of his canoe.  If you’re fishing with Ken, he will catch 10 fish to your one and take every opportunity to rub it in.  When you snag your $8 Shad Rap #7 on a stump, he’ll gladly come to your rescue with his home made “lure dog.”  And if there are four Muskies sighted in a three day fishing trip, Ken will land one and make it look easy.  (Note: if you thought Ken was the fish up until now, that’s not surprising.)

Of the other three muskies, I had one on the line.  I’m sure it was 43 inches to Ken’s 42 shown here, but we’ll never know, now, will we, because I couldn’t land her.

It went like this.  It was the morning of our second day on the Little Fork.  Upon breaking camp, we’d fished a long, slow hole adjacent to our campsite, and this is where Ken landed Wilma.  It was a grand battle, and we all beached to assist.  Ned Dagler is shown here gingerly handling her in Ken’s home made “muskie cradle.”  She was released unharmed to attack again.  Say “muskie cradle” in hushed, reverent tones.

With renewed hope in out hearts, we drifted through some rapids into the next hole, a much smaller, cozier one.  i was casting with an ancient 3 treble crank bait that I’d inherited from the famed Illinois and New Mexico fisherman, Verlin Biggs (crappie king of Lake McFee, but that’s maybe another story).  Anyway, since it wasn’t the recommended #7 Shad Rap, I really wasn’t ‘spectin much in the way of muskage, but suddenly there she was.

There was no mistaking her, really.  It was like snagging a stump, only not like snagging a stump at all, and I didn’t want to believe it for the first two seconds, but as I cranked slowly, I watched her swim down stream at us, pass the canoe, then turn and head straight under.  Scott in the front of the canoe calmly announced, “Fish on.”

She didn’t seem to notice me for those first 30 seconds, and I knew my job was just to tire her out and give her line, but it just seemed like she was going to let me reel her in.  That changed in a hurry.

Suddenly she headed back upstream and was pulling line out of my real at an alarming rate.  I should have relaxed the drag to give her whatever she wanted, especially considering the light tackle I was using and the age of my line, but all I could do was hold on.  Too late.  My line went slack.  She’s down there somewhere, Verlin’s lure dangling from her jaw.  She’ll shake it off.

I can replay it, and I know what I’ll do next time, but that doesn’t take the edge off my disappointment; however, I have fond memories of that 60 seconds she and I were connected by a nearly invisible strand of monofilament.  If I’d landed her, I’d have let her go, anyway.  One could argue that the only real difference between Ken’s success and mine is that I elected to bypass the muskie cradle.  Err…I’m not buyin’ that either.

Carolina Chad had close encounters with two more.  One chomped a small mouth bass on his stringer in half, and later another followed his monster lure up to the boat.  It would have been nice for he or Wylie Bracie to land one, since they’d come all the say from Myrtle Beach.  Above is the whole crew.  Left to right:  Dagler, Ken, Scott, Chad, and Wylie.  You won’t see a better line up at the Koochaching county jail.

Of course, a true wilderness experience is never complete without wildlife (I’m sparing you the image of the bull simlutaneously drinking and urinating).

And hot pursuit.

And just general peacefulness.

There’s more to tell, mostly about expressing oneself, but in general, most things that happen on the Dagler Stretch stay on the Dagler Stretch.


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Holding Goats

I nearly forgot this one.  We passed a lot of livestock on the way to Hinkley – mostly aromatic hogs.  However, my favorite were the aromatic goats.  Here, Andy holds one in the palm of his hand.

Sing with me.  “And holds goats in the palm…of his hand…”

Note:  Done completely without Photoshop.

Posted in General Musings, Travel | 2 Comments

Sabbatical Straggler: a brief Minnesota bicycle tour

Yes, my sabbatical was over in May, but parts of it straggle on.

Included in my sabbatical plan was a poorly conceived goal of taking a bicycle tour of northern Minnesota. It was my dream to bike up the North Shore, circle west through International Falls to Warroad to visit my brother, head southwest to TRF to visit my parents and my other brother, and then head back home. I thought maybe I could do this in the late spring in about two weeks. What was I thinking?

Between the weather and Kylie’s graduation, there was just no way such a thing could ever happen. I did, however, put in 160 miles last Sunday and Monday taking the Willard Munger Trail from Duluth to Hinkley and back. It was my friend Andy’s idea.

Andy is a long time family friend, soon to be a junior at Denfeld High, and he’s caught the cycling craze. He scored a free room coupon at the Casino hotel in Hinkley somewhere and asked me if I’d bike along with he and four friends. I said, “Sure,” but called my friend Tanner for backup. Then, as things go, all of Andy’s posse dropped out one by one, leaving only Andy, Tanner, and I Sunday morning heading down the trail in the dust of some spandex clad bullet heads.

The Munger Trail is an old rail bed, one of many Minnesota bike trails developed over the last twenty years. I think I can safely say I now know every inch of it. Most of it looks like this.

I shot this from the hip on the fly. I like the Batmanesque tilt to the photo. Here’s the only picture of Tanner, for you Tanner groupies.

The sad news was that Tanner woke up Monday morning and puked his guts out. This, however, didn’t bother Andy and I. We abandoned T-Money at the Grand Northern Inn and headed north, taking an alternate route (six unexpected and character building miles of loose gravel) to Banning State Park.

Banning’s claim to fame is it’s rapids on the Kettle River. Our alternate route also revisited highway 61, which should please Andy’s dad, Big G, the biggest Dylan aficionado north of Antarctica (don’t worry, Greg, about any messages from God regarding your son).

Some other notable stops along the way were the Moose Lake City Park beach, where I won the cannon ball contest (Andy Silver, Tanner Bronze), Peggy Sue’s Cafe in Willow River…

…where Andy’s rear tire went flat and he fixed it in 15 minutes flat. Andy also handily devoured Peggy Sue’s double California Burger…

…TJ’s Country Store in Mahtowa (thanks for the strawberry rhubarb jam from the flea market, Mrs. Oberg)…

…some great bridges over the Kettle River, which kept reappearing…

…some woods (did I mention woods?)…

…and, naturally, The Ponderosa. Who knew?

Finally, this narrative wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Oregon Emergency Weather Radio I won at the Casino. To reserve our motel room, I had to become a Grand Rewards member, and my signing bonus was a chance at this lovely instrument. It’s still only partially out of the box, but I think it will easily make me the weather czar of my neighborhood.

Also, let the record reflect that we were buffeted by headwinds all the way to Hinkley and averaged 11.9 mph. In the night, the wind shifted, naturally, to buffet us all the way home; however, being it’s all down hill, we averaged 12.7 mph (thanks to our nifty odometers).

For those who doubt that I actually completed this journey, submit this final photo as exhibit A.

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Blues in church for Blues Fest

Earlier this summer, Doug “Fingers” Maguire of Gloria Dei Lutheran in Duluth conceived the idea of a Blues Service during the annual Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth. Sister Patti Maguire also thought it might be chance to also save the orphanage, whose taxes are long overdue, so Doug decided to get the band back together.

He found bass man Tom “What’s Next Pussy Cat” Jones photographing moss near the lake. Sax player Maia “Mad Reed” Dalager was fishing on Bone Lake. Singer Nancy “Power Serve” Norr was presenting to the board of directors. Drummer Andy “Phantom” Wold was trapped in the orchestra pit at the opera. Guitarist Steve “Blind Dog” Dalager was up to his hips in organic compost. And sound engineer Scott “Trespasser” Norr was trespassing near the West Fork of the Baptism River.

Long story short, Doug got the band together, and here are a few samples.

Stormy Monday. This was the service prelude. The recording is through the sound system here, and since sax and percussion weren’t miked, you aren’t quite hearing the real deal.


You got to move. This was the psalm.


Oh when the saints. This was the sending hymn.


She really really loved me. This was the postlude.


There was more, but that’s a decent sampling. Church blues are the next Corvair (unsafe at any speed), but the band had fun, and we made it to City Hall later, paid the taxes, and saved the orphanage.

Posted in Music | 4 Comments

New dirty internet pictures

That’s a pile of freshly screened compost. Sorry if you were expecting something else.

For about four years now, we’ve been composting yard and kitchen waste, and though you haven’t said it, I know you’ve been begging for a tour. Let’s start at Bin #1.

Bin #1 is where all the fresh stuff goes. You can see a lot of kitchen stuff right now. If the grass is heavy, then you’d see clippings. In the fall, you’d see leaves. In tea season, you’d tea leaves.

Bin #2 takes #1 stuff once or twice a summer. This summer I’ve been lazy, so this is the first time I’m rolling stuff over. It looks pretty much like Bin #3 – not as colorful as #1, and more earthy. Speaking of Bin #3…

bin 3

Bin #3 is where it finishes cooking. I’m currently moving matter from here through my screening process and into that pile you saw above.

screen and barrow

The stuff gets placed on the screen, and…


…I mash it around by hand. It’s a rather slow process, but it really creates some lovely stuff. Below are the leavings – wood, mostly, and a few rocks.


The screened mulch goes into our flower gardens, where if we’re lucky, the lilies survive the deer (that battle is another story)…


or our vegetable garden.


This is the west end in the morning. The fence is to keep the deer out, plus Sherry loves how it makes our house look like the Kettle’s. Right now, the beets are really coming. Got beets?


I’m reminded that I’ve got beets every time I use the facilities. Cucumber are also just starting.


The lettuce, spinach, and peas are done, and Sherry just cleaned out the last of the rhubarb (Hawaii can have its pineapples). Beans are in full force, with zucchinis and tomatoes (started from seed by Keith Brakke, thank you) right on their heels. Potatoes will come much later.

I can’t seem to grow onions, though. The plants grow, but the bulbs never amount to anything. Do I need more water? Advice, please.

Next year I’m getting crazy. Brussels Sprouts (it seems like one of those “S’s” in the middle of Brussels Sprouts is unnecessary waste; think I’ll petition my Senator; waste should be composted, not wasted).

Thanks for taking the tour. Stop by the gift shop in the way out.

Photographic Note: I bragged about our new CyberShot a few posts again, but these were all taken with our old Fuji Finepix. The display no longer works, and sometimes I have to press the power button three times to get it to come on, but it does tolerable. Why aren’t I using the CyberShot? Because my daughters have it, naturally. I’ll probably never see it again.

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Skunked at Bone Lake: Plan B was never so good

brook trout and meScott and I set out on our annual August trip up the West Fork of the Baptism to reel in a mess of beautiful brookies, only this time Maia was coming with us (here is me in 2006 with a 13″ beauty). It’s rough trip – dragging the canoe (and this time a small kayak, too) through a series of small rapids to fish a series of pools – but truly the highlight of my summer. This time Maia was going to get to see this country, that, in our minds anyway, had only been seen by bear, moose, eagles, and GoogleEarth since we saw it last. And yes, she was going to reel in that mess of brookies.

That was all before the rocky track that is our only access to this stretch was suddenly blocked by a 24″ diameter birch log and a “No Trespassing” sign that was clearly targeted at us. There was no way that Scott’s canoe topped Caravan – the symbol of our rugged, outdoor lifestyles – was going to traverse this titanic cork in the road. The birch leaves were still partly green; the land owner timed it just for our trip.

“C’mon,” I pleaded. “We’re responsible nature lovers. We pick up our trash. We don’t over fish. I brought my daughter, for cryin’ out loud!”

No response.

When the teeth gnashing subsided, we somehow overcame the disappointment, and after some wrangling, decided to head about 45 minutes further north to Bone Lake, a lake trout lake also stocked with rainbows.

Maia and pineLong story short, Bone Lake was a beautiful paddle, but the fish weren’t interested in our spinners and crawlers. They weren’t even interested in the chucks of cucumber Maia plucked off her sandwich and tossed in. As you can see, though, there are some beautiful white pine on the shore. These were nearly logged to extinction a century ago, and are still pretty rare.


me and paddleWild raspberries were also in season, so we spent some time picking them for our berry queen back home. We looked for blueberries extensively, but it just wasn’t the right country for them. We also had lots of time to watch a young loon learning to drive with its mother looking on.

On the way out, we stopped along the East Fork of the Baptism where it crosses the road west of Finland. It’s a likely brook trout pool, but because it’s so accessible, also over fished. Nevertheless, I landed one small brookie and a perch. Maia, asleep in the van, never saw them.

It’s back to our Gazetteers to plot our next assault on the West Fork. In the mean time, it’s muskies on the Little Fork in September. Stay tuned.

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Maia does Locks of Love

long hairMaia’s gorgeous head of blond hair was severely altered a few weeks ago when she decided to donate 8 inches to Locks of Love. Locks is an organization that makes wigs for cancer victims out of real hair. Her friends Ellie and Brittany were raising money for the American Cancer Society and organized a Locks of Love Root Beer Float event, which Maia couldn’t attend because of her acting career (her Theater Camp play was the same night). She, however, sought out Mary the Clipper and got her done anyway. Below is photo documentation of the event.

It starts withe a creation of a large braid.

Then it gets lopped off.


It’s a little creepy, isn’t it. Here she is now, lovelier even than before.

short hair

It’s probably something I’ll never do, but I’m glad she did it.

The whole project is part of a larger partnership between two churches – Gloria Dei and Trinity Lutheran – call Givin’. A number of young people have been given $100 each with which to make the world a better place (a la Oprah), and this is one of the projects. Maia’s own project is actually an awareness and fund raising campaign regarding the Darfur Genocide. She and her friends Chuck and Paul have joined a project called Tents of Hope, and they will be visiting various churches with a tent and a presentation about the genocide this fall to raise awareness.

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Vaya Con Dios, yes, but there’s still Slaloming and Double Skiing

Over the weekend, I sent my daughter off to Mexico for a semester. rappingWe were all at a family reunion near Bemidji, Celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary at Minnesota Nice Cafe. Here, Kylie and her boyfriend John rap for the happy couple.

“Yeah, it’s a 50”


“-ith Anniversary.” (repeat)

After all of that emotion, Kylie, John, Sherry and I set out Sunday for the Cities. Monday morning, we left her at the airport at 5:00 a.m. for her 6:50 a.m. flight.

Surprisingly few tears were shed.

Here, the night before, they look surprisingly calm and happy. Who’s to say they weren’t? We’ve heard from her twice via Skype since she arrived, and things are going well. Even her luggage arrived – an uncertainty given they had only a 40 minute layover in Houston.

The good news for us is that we still have two daughters at home, so we’re not going to mope. Maritha, who you see here with her cousin Annika, has already started her stealth conquest of Kylie’s room. m and aShe commandeered a box and moved in a bunch of pictures and knick knacks. The trick now will be to figure out what to do with Kylie’s knick knack wealth. Where does all the stuff come from? Maritha clearly sees the beginnings of the empty nest syndrome as the opportunity syndrome. No teary goodbyes there.

Meanwhile, life went on back at Bemidji, especially for Maia, who caught the water skiing bug (probably the one that crawled into her uncle Jon’s ear).

At Grace Lake every summer, we have the luxury of having two power boats. My brother Nate has one and my brother-in-law Jon has the other. With Jon driving the boat here, she’s going for pure speed.


Here she is dropping her ski.

And now she’s up on the slalom ski.

one ski

Her mom decided to get into the act. Ducks on the pond.


Here they are together.

Check out the spray!


And now, for the parting shot into the sunset.

It’s clear now why so many Mexicans are emigrating to Minnesota, even if Kylie has emigrated (temporarily) the other way.

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