Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘remembering

Aerial History

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With much appreciation to my son, Julian, for his pointer to a precious University of Minnesota online historical aerial photograph resource he stumbled onto yesterday, I dedicate today’s post to my siblings and cousins who will most likely enjoy this more than anyone else.

I immediately searched for images from my old Eden Prairie homes. I started looking at our house on Cedar Ridge Road, but the big fun was exploring views of Intervale Ranch on old County Road 18.

Check out the place in 1960:

I have cropped this to include Fullerton’s and McCartney’s houses for reference, and the gravel pit across from the driveway of our house.

You can clearly see the center circle of our driveway, the tennis court, the barns, and the house on the hill that was the Superintendent’s quarters where the family first lived while our grandparents were in the main house.

Just seven years later, it looked like this:

Look how much bigger the gravel pit is. You can see the divided highway that formed the barrier between us and Braemar Park. I’m pretty certain that the final excavation of the surroundings was already underway, based on the pathway cleared between the outer barn and the highway.

Here is a closer zoom focusing on Intervale:

Can you find the chestnut tree?

And finally, here is a wider pan to show more of the surroundings:

This gives the added reference of 494 in the bottom of the frame, much of the golf course, and –with the stark white roof– the Braemar hockey rink.

You can also see the rest of the expanded gravel pit.

Remember how hilly it was around there? From the satellite view, it is really hard to get a sense of those dramatic features. I believe we have photos of the construction of the north/south divided highway that was County 18 at the time that are dated 1962. I find it interesting to consider the changes that happened in the seven years between these images.

Cyndie and I have been at Wintervale for seven years now. In October it will reach eight. Luckily, I’ve already been collecting the overhead satellite views of this property.

Hopefully, there won’t be any divided highway installations coming into the pictures in our lifetimes.



Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

He’s Free

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In Loving Memory

Fred R. Friswold

21 Jan 1937 — 24 Jun 2020




Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

Music Memory

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As a latter-baby-boom fan of record albums, I have a number of milestone music memories from my coming-of-age years moving between middle school to high school in the 1970s. Admittedly, having four older siblings as in-home influencers contributed greatly to my exposure to music that was older than my years. The burgeoning rock scene of the Woodstock era was a little beyond my 10-year-old self, but the allure of the music was well-established by the time I reached my mid-teens.

Cyndie and I were recently gifted with access to Apple Music by our kids. The welcome message from Apple points out my song collection is now 60-million strong. This is a gift the kids will have a very difficult time surpassing in the future. Maybe a fiber-optic line of unlimited data access to our home in the rural countryside could top this, but that’s pretty far beyond the ability of individuals to achieve.

As it is, we are able to sip new downloads through a tiny straw on our current data plan.

However, my connection at work offers an alternate avenue for adding songs to the library on my phone. Yesterday, I downloaded the America album, “Holiday.” That record was released on my 15th birthday at a time when my interest in their acoustic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies was very strong.

It was to be my time. New music that was current to my adolescence. However, reality didn’t quite match my expectations. The band was evolving and I was disappointed.











I liked the way they looked on their first album. I am embarrassingly influenced by album cover art. (Duly noting the incredible insensitivity of the somber indigenous tribesmen behind the gleeful white trio under the dual-meaning “America.”) The old-timey photo on “Holiday” didn’t appeal to me one bit.

The new album had less strumming acoustic guitars and more theatrical clarinet.

I tried to like “Holiday.” There were a couple of songs that wowed me, but the majority didn’t, despite listening to it over and over again. When I moved from LPs to CDs, “Holiday” didn’t get replaced. I haven’t heard most of these songs in 40-some years. Now, with the convenience of digital access, I get to revisit my youth.

Listening to the album again triggered a lot of memories. Riding in the back of a station wagon packed with teens and someone turning up the radio for the song, “Tin Man” and shooshing everyone because “John’s song” was on.

But, I wanted “Horse with No Name” and “Riverside” not “Sister Golden Hair” and “Muskrat Love.”

Luckily, at the time, I also had “461 Ocean Boulevard,” the return of Eric Clapton to recording after recovering from a 3-year addiction to heroin.

I’m looking forward to mining more lost gems and their associated memories of my youth among the other 60-million songs that hopefully include a wide variety from the 70s.

Thank you, Elysa and Julian! This was a brilliant choice for a gift for us both.



Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Unidentified Obfuscation

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It starts to get hard when you reach the point of not being able to hear yourself think. The little boy in me who has never grown up occasionally shows up to ask me why I’m so quick to forget about the bliss of being four or five years old and getting lost in some harmless pursuit. The answer is always the same.

It’s not that I’m quick to forget. I’m just slow to remember. Present-day life tends to do that to a person.

An awful lot of years have passed since I sprawled on the floor making truck sounds with my mouth as I rolled Matchbox cars along the borders of our large Persian rug.

The recent stress of the day-job continues unabated amidst a boom of business that started at the same time as the global pandemic and its havoc on world economies. It is proving to be a brain-scrambler of significant magnitude.

Last night the ranch received an impressive sample of the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobol in the form of wave after wave of soaking rain. I think it might make the landscape pond overflow. [wry smile]

We are hoping that the deluge won’t drown any of the plants in Cyndie’s gardens.

She served up another delicious salad last night with all the greens coming from plants she is growing. This time I remembered to take a picture.

The asparagus isn’t ours. They’re store-bought. I can only hope someday our wisps of skinny stalks will someday reach such mammoth proportions.

Much to our surprise, rainstorms seem to improve our connection for Zoom meetings, and last night I was able to participate in conversations with an international collection of members of my beloved virtual community, Brainstorms. (Ward, it was a treat to see and hear you!). For almost an hour my connection flashed instability only three times, but never once dropped my connection entirely. That was a first.

The normal mode for Zoom gatherings by way of our cell connection out here in the countryside is to freeze up frequently and get dropped/reconnected multiple times until I give up and sign off.

The last time Cyndie was in a Zoom meeting during wild weather, she enjoyed similar success. The signal must like having all those raindrops in the air. Who’d uh guessed?

The little boy in me would have, probably.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Similar Theme

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My visit yesterday to the Previous Somethings archive fed an urge to explore my media library from the earliest days of this blog. I found some images from eleven years ago which interestingly correlate with our life in the present.

Back in May of 2009, we were still living in Eden Prairie, MN, on a fraction-of-an-acre corner lot. At that time, we had no inkling we might be selling that house and moving within a few years. Back then, we were…

…building the frames for a raised garden!

This week, while I have been occupied with the day-job, Cyndie has decided to go a little further than the initial terrace we worked on together in the last few weeks. She framed in a few more spots for select plantings she’s decided to add which will need more space.

Another old photo I found was taken up at the lake place in Hayward. The month of May brings out a carpet of trillium in the woods up there that we totally adore.

Last night, Cyndie brought me a picture she took of one that just showed up in our woods at Wintervale.

We have been trying to bring a few trillium back with us from annual visits to the lake in May and have been transplanting them into various locations in our woods. I don’t know if we’ll live long enough to see them flourish and spread like they do at Wildwood, but each time I spot one here brings me great joy.



Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2020 at 6:00 am

Completely Forgot

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My poor brain can’t keep up. I expect it must be dropping old information out the back each time I try to stash something new in the front. I was just blessed with an opportunity to discover that I had forgotten entirely about a very valuable lesson learned through experience. I even blogged about it at the time for good measure. Granted, this was from 5-and-a-half years ago, but still…

In a humorous message exchange yesterday with my friend, Rich Gordon, I thought he had me mistaken for someone else. He had asked “What’s the best stuff to use to lubricate my garage door springs? I saw you had a repairman over recently.”

No. No, I haven’t had anyone here recently. I guessed that he had me confused with someone else. My response was to answer with a smartass quip in jest, figuring he would notice he meant that for someone else.

When he came back to ask in all seriousness, we discovered the miscue. Rich questioned his sanity for thinking he had just read about this in my blog and that triggered my scouring the “Previous Somethings” archive for the time our door spring broke. I confirmed that I did write about it, just not recently.

I’m guessing the old post from November of 2014 probably showed up as an auto-generated link of similar post suggestions that Rich inadvertently clicked without realizing he was delving so far into the archives.

As I reread my old writing, I was embarrassed to see I had clearly pointed out the need to lubricate the garage door spring, but soon after, I completely forgot anything about it. Out of sight, out of mind, even though I use our garage doors almost every day.

The icing on the cake of this whole memory failure appeared in the comments under that original post. Way back then, Rich and I already had this same discussion about what to use for lubricating the spring.

Guess what just moved up near the top of my home maintenance “to-do” list?

Garage door springs are not something that should be included in the category of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” chores. Somehow, I spaced this one out entirely. It’s nice to have gotten a laugh out of it, but there’s an element of nervous laughter threaded through it. The power of those springs and the amount of weight they are counter-balancing is not something to be trifled with.

Now, if I could somehow figure out what important detail just dropped from my memory after bringing the door spring back to the front, that would be just great.



Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.



Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Waterton Lookout

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Continuing with the story I wrote back in 2002 after getting my mother to describe her memories of her and my dad’s time in Glacier National Park in 1947…

More about life on the lookout…

Glacier Park is actually part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. I see Porcupine Ridge showing up on current park maps, but not the Waterton tower. Waterton Lake is a long narrow lake that runs north-south, the approximate middle of which crosses the US-Canada border. The town of Waterton is in Canada. The Waterton Lookout Tower is not on the top of a mountain. It was situated on a small outcrop on the edge of the ridge with a view of three different valleys.

Waterton Tower Lookout on Porcupine Ridge as viewed from below and from above.

My folks both grew up in well-to-do households in Minneapolis, MN. As newlyweds, they were now living without running water. Betty said the outhouse wasn’t that big a deal because she had visited a good number of them back in those days. She said bathing was all of the sponge bath type. She only recalls washing her hair up there one time. Water was heated on the propane-powered stove.

In the photos you can see the countertop level was quite low, to stay below the windows. The springs for the bed are something Ralph had scrounged that could be rolled up and packed on a horse. He also acquired an old mattress and then built the frame out of spare lumber found on the sight.

Dad would walk daily to a spot where snowmelt flowed out of a pipe encased in concrete. He hauled the water in a pack on his back. Mom said she made the trip once, but it involved traversing a very narrow ledge and she would never try it again. Back at the lookout, he would fill a barrel located in the enclosed space beneath the floor of the tower. At the beginning of their stay up there, he made a conscious effort to keep the barrel full, because as the summer progressed there would be a point when the snow that served as the source would all melt away.

Mom had never really cooked meals. She tells of being told by Ralph that she needed to learn how to bake bread from the woman she was staying with after returning from Miami. With only a few chances to practice before finding herself on the mountain, she ended up having to hone her skills on the fly. Luckily, the people who were on the tower before [Mom and Dad] had left a lot of flour. She said her less successful loaves were edible while still hot out of the oven. They would eat their fill and then make something of a game of taking turns tossing the rest over the edge and listening to see how long they could hear it tumbling down the ravine. They would then guess what animal was going to find it first.

One day when she was having trouble with making a pie, she said Ralph stepped in and put his hands right into it and whipped it up and made a pretty good pie. The payoff from his days as a cook on the trains.

She didn’t go back down during the span of their six-week duty at the lookout. They were resupplied once during that time. However, there was a point when Ralph absolutely had to have some milk (and ice cream, she whispered) and plotted to go down on a weekend while she was on the payroll. She said he literally slid down the side, shortcutting the back and forth of the switchback trail. He needed to catch a scheduled launch to get him across the lake to the town of Waterton. Later, back across the lake again, at the ranger station, they let him load up one of the horses with items for the trip back up. Once on the ridge again, the stirrups were tied up to keep them from catching on anything and the horse was allowed to wander back down on its own.

Ralph on the trail with water on his back, Betty on the trip up to the lookout.

Mom described witnessing lightning dance down the wires that ran to the ground when the tower would take a hit. She said there weren’t many instances of major cracks of thunder, but there were almost daily storms and plenty of lightning. They were required to record the location of lightning strikes. Those spots would get special attention the following mornings to see if any fires were born.

At dusk, they would locate and count campfires and match them with the number of registered campers. The bed my dad had built was level with the windows, so they could prop up on their elbows over their pillows and see from there. They would report to the ranger station at least once a day via telephone. There was a single wire strung from tree to tree. During the time they were on the tower, there was only one instance when a lightning strike started a fire. Dad was prepared to set out to the location to fight it, she said, but it ended up being taken care of by a crew from below.

Their idle time allowed a chance to feed chipmunks that became regular visitors and watch deer that would wander close. When asked about other daily tasks, Mom mentioned that the windows needed washing almost every day. She said Ralph did that mostly. She had no experience washing windows and he ended up re-doing ones she cleaned anyway. He had worked in a filling station, she pointed out, so he was well practiced at it.



Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

Recalling Stories

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“Betty on way to Apgar Lookout. 6-18-47” [that was in ink, then there is this in pencil] “Pictures lie. In spite of how she looks she was so exhausted she could hardly breathe”.

Even I don’t recall all the details of stories I’ve gathered over the years, despite having actually written many of them out. Yesterday, I was hunting for a picture in my personal digital archives that I wanted to include in a record for my mother’s profile on WikiTree. I located it near a chronicle I’d written from stories my mom was telling me about their days in Glacier National Park in Montana in the 1940s.

I enjoyed re-reading the details of my parents’ story so much I decided to share it here. I was writing it back in the summer of 2002 and a cursory search through Previous Somethings didn’t reveal any indication I’ve already shared it on this blog before now.

This segment is served well by a little of their backstory of that time, prior to getting married…

Mom & Dad, late 1940s

In the later years of WWII my father, Ralph, was working in Detroit for Minnesota Mining as their Personnel Manager. He had been denied entry into the armed forces due to a combination of hayfever, allergies, and a paralyzed soft palate from polio that made it difficult for him to swallow. The Detroit position had opened up as a result of the employee exodus to the military.

During the summers of his college years, Ralph had worked for the Great Northern railroad as a 3rd cook. Mom points out that that is primarily a dishwasher, but that he did learn to cook some things, including making pies. He told her that when the trains went through Glacier Park in Montana he used to hang out the door to look at the mountains and experience the great relief of being able to breathe, enjoying air free of his allergens.

During the war, my mother, Betty, was serving under the Navy in the WAVES as a yeoman, 3rd class petty officer doing office work. She says she started at that rating because she had gone to business school and had worked for 3 years. Before long that advanced to 1st class, but she claims it happened faster than usual because of the activity of the war. She was stationed in Miami.

In September 1945 my parents both returned to Minneapolis to attend the funeral of her father who had died during a fire in the home. Her sister was in the hospital with a broken back and a broken arm. At that time they discussed plans for marriage. They looked around for places to live. Ralph had been looking some while in Detroit. There seemed to be nothing available. They looked at what was available in the seedier parts of Minneapolis but found nothing they considered livable. They were NOT going to live with my father’s parents, and my mother’s family was now confined to a small apartment.

When Betty returned to her post in Miami, she found it had been decommissioned. Her office was gone! They struggled with what to do with her. She had just two months left before the prescribed time for her discharge. She talked them into moving it up, and they gave her the two months.

Meanwhile, with all the personnel returning from overseas, my father saw that he was not long for his present position and headed home to Minneapolis. They were both back in Minneapolis before Christmas, 1945. Ralph found a position selling insurance, but never really settled into the role.

On a day when he was suffering from his hayfever in downtown St. Paul, he went past the Great Northern building and decided, “I oughtta go in and see if I can get a job in Glacier Park.”

The hotels out there were run by the railroad and they would hire kids for the seasonal summer work. There was one job open: Purser on a tourist launch. He did that all summer in ’46, staying in the main hotel. While he was out there he met all the park service people. At the end of the season, he stayed on, using the spare beds near one of the Glacier Park ranger stations, and he worked helping stock snowshoe cabins used by the rangers when they went out into the park to check things through the winter. Eventually, he ended up living with ranger Dave Stimson and his wife Kay. By the time I was born, over a decade later, they would be known to us as “uncle” Dave and “auntie” Kay.

During the next winter, he worked for their highway dept driving snowplow across the mountain passes. When the park department started talking about plans for the next summer, Dad learned they were thinking about hiring married couples to staff the fire watch lookout towers. This set the stage for my parents’ unique start as husband and wife.

Betty and Ralph were married in Minneapolis, Minnesota in April of 1947. They stayed overnight in St. Cloud at a family friend’s place (due to the friend’s insistence at the wedding) and then went on to Brainerd to a cottage owned by the Elliott family. Everything was done on a shoestring. After a couple of days, they came back and packed everything they owned, including wedding presents, and prepared to drive west.

Apgar Lookout Tower was the one at the headquarters of Glacier Park where the “lookouts” were taught what to do in case they spot fire. Waterton lookout, where Betty and Ralph would be stationed, was on Porcupine Ridge. Back then, the man was paid through the week, and over the weekend they paid the wife. That was how the plan devised to use married couples was able to get 2 pairs of eyes for the price of one.

Mom and Dad didn’t go up to their tower until after the 4th of July and they were only on the lookout for about 6 weeks, but this was how they kicked off life together. They lived day and night on this fire lookout tower on a mountain in Glacier National Park in Montana.



Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Other Places

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Some days I find solace in escaping within a visualization of a pleasant memory. It’s a version of filling this moment with a moment that I’ve borrowed from another moment.

Today, I am breathing deep and remembering when I stood high in the Himalayan mountains over ten years ago.

That place is a very long distance away from where I live, but it is as close as a thought that I am able to recall at will.

Focusing on such single visualizations tends to discount all the sundry details that came before and after that moment, in something of a selective memory. The effort involved in arriving to that place was significant and tends to repress the likelihood of my ever returning, despite a lingering urge to be able to stand there once again.

It makes the mental return visits all the more precious.

Here’s to enlightenment.

Om Mani Padme Hum…





Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2019 at 7:00 am