Tag Archives: Minnesota

What Is On My Mind Today? Demise of the Last Childhood Tooth Filling


dentist office

This household has started out the New Year with a bang!  My quarterly cancer tests showed a cancer marker had returned.  So, I will get re-tested in six weeks.  My husband was diagnosed with his first cataract.  And, the very next day while eating, of all things, meat loaf, I lost a tooth filling.

Now, for most people getting a filling replaced is not a big deal. But, for this gal, with all of the bone hardening drugs that I have to take for my cancer damaged bones, going to the dentist could end up with complications that could give the most stoic of souls nightmares.

After my tongue found and fell in love with the sharp hollow crater, I  immediately reported the loss to my dentist.  An appointment time was set for the next day.  It wasn’t too long before the dentist’s office called me back to ask if I could come in a half hour earlier.  No problem!

When I got to my dentist’s office there wasn’t even time to get my new insurance card back into my purse before I was called back.  My dentist of many years came in and informed me that the filling I had lost was a very old one. She acknowledged that it had done very good service, but it was now time for a crown.

It was show time.  Needles delivered pain, then numbness and sun glasses went on.  The high whine of the drill, the only sound more obnoxious than finger nails on a chalk board, resounded throughout the office and my brain.

As the drilling commenced in earnest, I tried to mentally focus on my favorite place, the Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National park.  I could see the the water falls cascading hundreds of feet straight down into the icy cold crystal clear glacier lake.  I could almost hear wind whistling through the craggy mountains peaks.  Almost, but not quite.

Dentist drills are hard to ignore.  I started thinking about that old tooth filling.  My last from childhood? Instantly, I slipped away from peaceful mountain meadows right into an over-sized antique dentist chair in Litchfield, Minnesota.


Dr. Farish was our family dentist.  He had curly grey hair, wore glasses and a white lab coat, and seemed to be always leaning over me with a drill bit the size of a car jack clutched in his fist of enormously fat fingers as he threatened, “If you don’t sit still, you will get Novocaine”.

dentist drill 2

Somehow trips to a medical doctor in those days always ended in shots….in your end.  A successful trip to the dentist was not the absence of cavities. It was avoiding a Novocaine shot to the head.

dentist drill

It was an experience sitting beneath the well-oiled cables and spinning pulleys that sprang into action when the drill began its work. The drill was so big and slow that your whole face shook as it came into contact with the offending cavity.  You knew the dentist was getting somewhere when you could smell the putrid smoke of your burning teeth.

There you sat with your tiny hands clutched to the arms of the dentist chair as if your life depended on it. Your focus centered on the prevention of wiggling, grimacing or groaning.  Wiggling, grimacing or groaning was to be avoided at all costs as it sent you straight to the head of the line for the dreaded Novocain shot.

Many a sin was repented in that chair.  Hoping a loving God would prevent your demise by drowning in your own spit or the perspiration dripping off of the dentist’s forehead.  As your mouth overflowed with juices, the good doctor shouted above the whine of the drill that if he stops for spitting, it is only going to take longer.

dentist sink

Prayers were said for courage so that you wouldn’t shame yourself by crying, as your siblings were usually watching in the doorway. Going to the dentist was an officially sanctioned farm family group activity and was considered a form of entertainment in the spectator sport category.

Visiting, a long lost communications art form where people politely talk to each other face to face, was widely practiced during my youth. Even, in a dentist chair.  With a mouth full of huge dentist fingers and equipment, a nod or well-timed grunt sufficed to keep the conversation going.

During each visit my dentist would retell the story of his heart attack while on the local golf course. More details were included with every appointment.

The basics of the story were that my dentist was golfing with his good friend who was a surgeon.  This surgeon not only practiced at our local clinic, but he had written a book about making a surgeon that had topped some list that impressed adults.  He was a local celebrity to be sure.

There my dentist was, golf club in hand when he was dropped right to the ground. Not by lightening, but by a heart attack. As he laid on the green drifting between life and death, his golfing buddy, the surgeon, began screaming, “Somebody get a doctor!”

Once the heart attack story was completed and after the last of the squeaky metal filling had be pushed into your tooth with the same tool grandma used to get walnuts out of their shells, the aqua blue paper drool bib held together with alligator clips was removed.

Your reward for “being a good little girl”  was picking a plastic gemstone ring out of the little square orange box, that would break before you got home. Or, a colored animal shaped pencil eraser that smeared more than it erased.

Off you’d go, happily skipping away with your hard earned prize and a new tooth brushing kit.

Of course you’d have to try out that tooth brushing kit as soon as you got home.  Into the bathroom you’d go excited to use the little kid’s sized tube of toothpaste on the new toothbrush.

Then, after you gave your pearly whites a rigorous going over.  After a quick inspection in the mirror of your glowing smile, it was time to put the pink pill that came with tooth brushing kit in your mouth and chew it.

dentist plaque-tablet-1

When you opened your mouth the red dye from the pill made it look like you’d bit your tongue off and were bleeding to death.  I am convinced that whoever invented that pink pill had no intention of ever having any child successfully pass the toothbrushing test.

The day’s adventures ended as an exhausted youngster said her bedtime prayers with pink teeth. Or in this case, with a new crown.





What Is On My Mind Today? Buying a Bomb at a Garage Sale


This story from Foxnews about a live World War II shell in an Oregon’s women’s shed  reminds me of when I bought the bomb at the garage sale.

Yup, I bought a 90 mm solid brass artillery shell at a garage sale in Shoreview for $3.25 to use as an umbrella holder in my entry way.

It looked like a huge solid brass 22 shell. The fellow had brought it home from WWII. The shell had been in his living room for over 60 years.

When I got it home, transported of course in my red Corolla with my daughter in the car, a neighbor boy looked in it and said, “Pat, there is shit in there!.”

So, we got a flash light and sure enough, the detonator was still in there and when I flipped it over the percussion cap was still intact on the bottom.

My neighbor, the one who has the brain tumor now who is a veteran, happened to be outside and hollered to keep that thing away from his house.

That was when I realized, I was $3.25 and a bang away from paradise.

I went indoors and called an army surplus store to see if it was dangerous. The nice fellow that answered the phone gently and calmly explained that explosives explode. Large explosives explode largely.

So I called the police, who called the bomb squad. It’s just how things go some days.

They told us it was safe as long as it was laying on its side. We all took a step back.

A discussion commenced. It was pointed out that I had no fear of the thing when I was driving all over with it in the trunk of my car.

Reality changes perspectives.

I tend not to lose arguments, if I decide to take one on. As former Secretary Mark Ritchie once complimented me after I learned that I was too short to be a Civil War soldier, without missing a beat and with a big smile on his face, he responded, “Oh, they’d take you, you’re a fighter.”

Recognizing when a cause is truly lost is a gift. The gifted officer, a true credit to his department, demonstrated an exemplary commitment to public service and bravely, and as soft as a feather, laid it on its side. He put it into the trunk of his car and hauled it away.

I arrived back in the house just in time to hear a television news station announce that a woman in Centerville had bought a bomb at a garage sale. My ever dignified and quiet husband said he was going to his room as the phone rang. It was his grandmother from Pine City who just said, “It was you, wasn’t it!”

The bomb squad had to blow it up and I never got back a single piece of brass. A shame! It was a nice piece of brass. It had 3-5 dynamite blasting caps worth of powder still in it.

After that I did see more bombs for sale at garage sales in Shoreview,. People had stolen them from the Arden Hills arsenal. I never purchased any more, not even the homemade dumb bells made with large live artillery shells, much like the one pictured below, duct taped to each end. A situation that clearly illustrated the difference between a dumb bell and a dumb ass.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but DAMN!



Grandma Pat Letter: Cat Warfare: Cats Predict Catastrophic Children’s Blizzard of January 12, 1888

Dear Kids:

I could not help but notice that at a school bus stop this morning there was a young person wearing shorts, with no jacket, hat or mittens.  It is a Minnesota January and it is cold!  Going outside in the winter not dressed for the weather demonstrates even less common sense than fashion sense.  Let me tell you, there can be very bad consequences for not dressing warm in the winter.

Did you hear on the news this morning about a meteorological phenomena called a “Bomb Cyclone.”   This type of weather event is not new, but it is still dangerous and deserving of respect.  Well over one hundred years ago there was another “Bomb Cyclone” a winter  blizzard or “White Hurricane” that hit Minnesota and its neighboring states on January 12, 1888.   It was named the “Children’s Blizzard.”

Scores Frozen 4

The day of the Children’s Blizzard began with an unusually beautiful coppery colored sky.  Folks who had been trapped for months by severe cold and snow inside of dark windowless sod houses or drafty wooden homes emerged into the bright daylight to be caressed by a soft warm “velvety” breeze from the south.  The morning only seemed to improve with each passing hour.  Soon, the temperature had risen above freezing and in some areas into the 40’s and 50’s.

“Carl Saltee, a 16-year-old Norwegian immigrant in Fortier, Minn., remembered that “on the 12th of January 1888 around noontime it was so warm it melted snow and ice from the window until after 1 p.m.”

This beautiful January morning energized everyone.  After being housebound for so long almost everyone found a reason to head outdoors.  Adults found work to do, and for the first time in weeks children went to school.

blizzard 4

Schools in those days were mostly one-room country schools.  I actually went to one of those when I was in first grade. It was a long walk across a field and neighbor’s cow pasture, filled with cows, to get there.  I remember being cold a lot.  My grandmother braided a rug for me to have under my desk to help keep my feet warm. Also, there were no indoor toilets we had to use outdoor outhouses which were back behind the school building.  Trudging through snow drifts with a full bladder and parking your little bare butt on a frosty cold splint-laden wooden toilet seat in sub-zero temperatures is an experience not soon  forgotten.

blizzard outhouse

The children in 1888 also had to walk to school.  Yes, they, too, used out houses to go poop at school and at home. No, there was not any toilet paper. Most of these people were so poor that they couldn’t afford paper for school lessons. They certainly would not throw the precious commodity down an outhouse hole.  Leaves, grass, hay or corn cobs roughly served the purpose.  Poison Ivy leaves were identified at a young age and were to be avoided at all costs.

Not knowing that a horrible storm was coming and with the weather so warm, many of the youngsters shed their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the freedom of traipsing across the prairies with no hats or mittens and sporting lighter attire and footwear.  Undeterred by the presence of a teacher and the prospect of actually learning something, the students arrived at school excited to see and play with their friends.  Soon they were all inside, at their desks and reciting lessons.

Today computers, radars and even satellites in outer space are used to help the National Weather Service predict weather. Weather forecasts, watches and warnings are communicated immediately to the public on cell phones, computers, television and radio. Even with all of the current state-of-the-art technology, weather reports are not always accurate, nor do people heed weather alerts.  But, imagine living in a time where the only mass communication was Morse Code, telegraphs and newspapers.

In 1870 the government assumed responsibility for weather data collection and forecasting.  That would be only five years after the Civil War ended and still six years before George Armstrong Custer was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Soldiers from the signal corps were in charge of weather predictions.

Weather data was collected by observers who measured air pressure, wind speed and temperatures several times a day, then telegraphed their data to district offices.  The district office would then decide whether or not to issue any weather warnings.  For some reason no Cold Front Warning was issued by a human for the Children’s blizzard.

Cats on the other hand did try to warn their humans about the impeding catastrophic change in the weather.  Cat owners reported that the morning of the storm their felines acted very strangely and began chasing their own tails or spinning.  Obviously mimicking the spin in the atmosphere.

What made this storm so dangerous?  The time of day it struck, its viciousness and the utter lack of a warning.  The blizzard raced across more than 780 miles in 17 hours as it slammed into Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Temperatures fell almost 100 degrees in 24 hours. The temperature dropped 18 degrees in just the first three minutes of the storm.  Snow drifts were quickly 20-25 feet deep.


One minute the sun was shining and then,

“About 3:30, we heard a hideous roar. … At first we thought that it was the Omaha train which had been blocked and was trying to open the track. My wife and I were near the barn when the storm came as if it had slid out of sack. A hurricane-like wind blew, so that the snow drifted high in the air, and it became terribly cold. Within a few minutes, it was as dark as a cellar, and one could not see one’s hand in front of one’s face.”

Wind speeds were measured at above sixty miles an hour in Minneapolis and gusted to over eighty miles an hour.  Roofs were blown off. Homes collapsed.  While there was still plenty of light fluffy snow left from an earlier storm to blow around,

“This was not a storm of drifting lace snowflakes, but of flash-frozen droplets firing sideways from the sky, an onslaught of speeding ice needles moving at more than 60 miles per hour. Even without the whiteout conditions — climate experts call this zero/zero visibility — many people couldn’t see because the microscopic bits of ice literally froze their eyes shut.”

To see, frozen eyelids had to be torn open or torn off.

There was no escaping the power of the storm,

As Newspaperman Charles Morse, founder of the Lake Benton News in Lake Benton, Minnesota reported,

“It was astonishing the manner in which this fine stuff would be driven through the smallest aperture. My sleeping quarters were on the second floor leading off a hallway at the head of the stairs. … On arriving home I found the wind had forced open the door and the stairway was packed with snow, and when I reached my room I found my bed covered with several inches of snow which had filtered over the threshold and through the keyhole.”

The great tragedy of the blizzard was that most of those who died were children who were caught in the storm walking home from school and farmers.   It is estimated that over 235 people died, 213 were children.  Seventy people lost their lives in Minnesota.

Many people, even those walking very short distances, became lost in the blinding snow and froze to death.  People were actually found frozen to death standing up.  The Minneapolis Tribune reported that recovered bodies were frozen so solid that they “give forth a metallic sound” when struck. Both humans and animals died from suffocation. There were so many fine ice crystals in the air that it was impossible to breathe.


Many of the dead were found right away. Some bodies were not discovered until spring when the snow melted.  Others were never found, because wolves ate them.

Teachers, parents and other brave souls did their best to save lives.

“By forming in parties of ten each, taking a long rope and marching across the prairie in line, the villagers today found all the lost school children except one”

“Schoolteacher Seymour Dopp in Pawnee City, Nebraska, kept his 17 students at school when the storm began at 2 p.m. They stayed overnight, burning stockpiled wood to keep warm. The next day, parents made their way over five-foot snow drifts to rescue their children.”

“In Great Plains, South Dakota, two men rescued the children in a schoolhouse by tying a rope from the school to the nearest shelter to lead them to safety.”

Minnie Freeman, heroine of the Blizzard of 1888, 12_BLIZZARD1888
Minnie Freeman

Minnie Freeman, a teacher in Nebraska, successfully led her students to shelter after the storm tore the roof off of her one-room sod schoolhouse.  Another teacher wanted the parents of her students to know that they were safe inside the school so she had the children continuously ring the school bell all through the night.

Others were not so lucky.

“Lois Royce found herself trapped with three of her students in her schoolhouse. By 3 p.m., they had run out of heating fuel. Her boarding house was only 82 yards away, so she attempted to lead the children there. However, visibility was so poor that they became lost and the children, two nine-year-old boys and a six-year-old girl, froze to death. The teacher survived, but her feet were frostbitten and had to be amputated.”

“Ten-year-old Johnny Walsh of Avoca, Minn., froze to death trying to find his house.”

“Six children of James Baker froze to death while trying to make it home from school near Chester township, Minnesota. They were found with their arms entwining each other in the snow.”

Many times the rescuers themselves perished in the blinding storm.

“Norwegian immigrant Seselia Knutson became frantic when her husband, Knut, was trapped out in the blizzard. She went out to look for him and became so confused she froze to death under a sled just 40 steps from her front door.”

There were animals that rescued people from the storm.

Bear Claws the Heroic Dog

“Omaha Indians Charley Stabler and Rough Clouds were hunting and trapping muskrat and beaver along Beaver Creek near Genoa, Neb., with Stabler’s dog, Bear Claws. The young men took shelter under a tree, and snow drifted over them.

Stabler awoke the next morning. Rough Clouds was dead. Bear Claws was missing. Stabler could not break out of the tomb of ice and snow.

About noon Jan. 15, Stabler heard his dog whining and digging over his head. They both dug frantically and broke through the crust of snow. Stabler, with the dog at his side, crawled toward a dim light in the distance and fell against a farmhouse door. The farm family took him in and cared for his frozen hands and feet.

Bear Claws went on to the Omaha camp where he whined and whimpered until some of the men followed him to the farmhouse. The dog later led the men to the place where Rough Cloud’s body lay. Tracks in the snow showed that the dog had made many trips back and forth, trying to bring help to his master and friend.”

Leader of the Herd.

“A girl named Mary was out with the family cows in an Antelope County, Neb., field of corn stubble.

One of the old cows led the herd, and when it was time to take the cattle in, Mary would hold the old cow’s tail to walk home and the others would follow. The old cow started for home when the blinding storm hit. Mary grabbed the tail and was safely guided home.”

Old Blind Horse

“Theodore Peterson of Oakland, Neb., had been to the mill at Lyons to grind wheat for flour when he was caught in the storm. He was driving a wagon hitched to an old blind mare and another horse. The blind horse had been over the road many times without seeing it, so Peterson loosened the reins and let her find the way home.”

The Children’s Blizzard left its mark on the hearts, minds and bodies of many of its victims.  Families forever mourned the loss of their loved ones.  Towns would toll their school and church bells each year on the anniversary of the storm. Many people bore physical scars from their tangle with the bomb cyclone of January 1888.  Wooden legs, finger-less hands and missing ears announced that they had won the war and survived the blizzard, but had lost the fight with frostbite.

It’s effects also were forever remembered by your great-great-grandparents who actually survived that storm.  As a child I remember being told about a blizzard so bad that people lost their way trying to get from their barn back to their house and died wandering around in their field.  That is why from then on whenever winter set in, a rope was strung between our farmhouse and barn.

So when your mom and dad ask you to wear a coat, and put a hat and mittens in your backpack do it.  It is always better to be prepared and safe than lost in a prairie and sorry.

Then, too, if I ever see you kids waiting for a school bus wearing shorts without even a coat on a Minnesota January morning, I will conclude you are issuing a dare to look ridiculous.  I will accept the challenge and carry it out during your very next school event.  It will involve Grandpa’s Elmer Fudd hat and his rubber boots…the ones with the buckles.


Stay warm and toasty,


Grandma Pat









A Family’s Farm Christmas: It’s the people, not the presents!

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

In 1997, I wrote this story for my young daughter.  After my thyroid cancer diagnosis when she was only 14 months old, I had adopted the tradition of writing her an original story, with a soft moral “mom” message each year as a gift.  I wanted her to have something special from me to remember me should  I have croaked from the cancer.

This story was created to introduce my children to their extended family and be a record of some of our family’s Christmas traditions.

This year is the second Christmas since my second cancer diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma.  I feel wonderful, am filled with joy and am looking forward to many more years of making holiday memories.

I hope you enjoy, “A Family’s Farm  Christmas.”

In your great-great grandfather Ole Larson’s house, which is more than 100 years old, many years ago our family gathered making Christmas memories untold. This story is…

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What is On My Mind Today? Leprechaun and Other Stories for Children

The largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns was 262 leprechauns who gathered at Canal Theatre, Dublin to celebrate Guinness World Records Day 2011
The largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns gather at Canal Theatre, Dublin to celebrate Guinness World Records Day 2011 on November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Maxwell Photography/Guinness World Records/Handout

Looking for a great St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun story? Waiting for your plane?  Not enough toys at Grandma’s?  Forgot the bedtime books at home?  When it comes to keeping children entertained, look no further than Grandma Pat.

There are nine original tales in this comical series of stories for children about the ingenuity and adventures of a boy named Thor. If you are looking for online fasted -paced stories to keep children entertained check them out!

I hope you and your children enjoy Thor’s Stories. I wish you all safe travels and a wonderful holiday season.

Below are links to all of Thor’s adventures and a brief description of the story line.

Thor Saves Christmas.  Thor and the leprechauns come to the rescue when Santa’s elves all come down with Blue Snot Flu.

Morton the Squirrel and the Great Chicken Race.  Thor and Morton begin their battle for supremacy of the backyard when the rascally squirrel goes after the boy’s chickens.

Morton the Squirrel and the Mighty Explosion.  Grandpa Walter saves Thor from an overwhelming squirrel attack.

Thor and Grandpa Walter Find Blueberries and Bigfoot.  Thor and Grandpa Walter find more than just blueberries in the woods on Minnesota’s North Shore.

Thor and the Rooster Pirate King. This story tells about how leprechauns came to own the magic feather they keep in their hats.

The Midnight Dinosaur Rhubarb Rampage. Do your children know how to write in secret leprechaun code?  Thor will show you how in this tale of ingenuity and backyard mayhem.

The Dog with Magical Eyes.  Leprechauns sometimes can be just plain handy, especially when your dog is suffering from magical eyes.

Thor and the Troll Toll.  The King of the Leprechauns has no tolerance for bullies, especially troll ones.

Thor’s Halloween Story: Ghost Cat Trapping  Learning Grandmother’s rules for good behavior and how lure, trap and set free nasty old ghost cats. 

Just Saying: An Open Letter to Senator Al Franken….Resign and Call Off Your Dogs!


Dear Senator Al Franken;

You have been very adamant that you want to be a strong leader on women’s rights. As a senator you have been very outspoken and uncompromising on the issue of sexual harassment. Excellent! However, being a leader means walking the walk, not just talking the talk. To send a loud and clear message that sexual harassment, such as the behavior demonstrated by you in a picture where you felt up a sleeping woman, is indefensible and intolerable you must resign.

Then, you need to call off your dogs.  I am sure that you and your best political strategists have been huddled together since this story broke.  Anyone that has ever worked in politics knows that just like in sports the best defense is a good offense. It is obvious that you have already deployed your defensive strategy.

I have always believed and taught that it is better to have character than to be one. If anyone could use a good character reference or two it is you. However, it appears to be a shameful fact that a sitting United States Senator from the State of Minnesota has orchestrated, at worst, and not stopped, at best, women, from his Senate staff and Saturday Night Live, from writing letters of reference on his behalf.  Seriously, I thought better of you, than to use other women to further humiliate your victim.

To the women who signed these letters reporting Senator Franken’s respectful behavior towards them.  All that can be said is lucky you!  How the Senator treated you has absolutely no bearing what-so-ever on how he treated other women.  So, instead of supporting a sister, who has the picture to prove that the Senator obviously has exceedingly poor boundary recognition skills, what did you do?  You joined the wrong side of history by circling the wagons to isolate and further humiliate the victim, another woman. Wonderful!

Since the allegations against you, Senator, became public, there has been a lot media play questioning the seriousness of the accusations and the woman’s integrity.  I have witnessed members of the media excusing your actions.  They have used the, “It’s not a big deal” defense. Or, your behavior should be overlooked, because you talk the talk.  Then,  yesterday, I saw a meme on Facebook floating around defending your actions while showing degrading pictures of the woman you victimized.

By all means, Al, really show this gal, who did the right thing by coming forward, that she should have just shut-up and quietly accepted that she should have been honored to have been noticed by as powerful and famous man as you.  I acknowledge that you did offer an apology for the picture.  The sincerity of your apology, is between you and God.  However, you did not in any way, shape or form apologize for the forced slobbery French kiss.

What you said about the actual unwanted physical groping was that you remembered things differently.  That’s not an apology or an admission of wrong doing. It is merely an exercise in semantics.

What did you do, Al?  Memorize the sexual harassers’ handbook.

1) Always question the woman’s perception.

2) Suggest that she’s just making a fuss over nothing and she’s exaggerating.

3)  Defend your indefensible behavior by having surrogates begin with character         references for you and a character assassination campaign against her.

Actions speak louder than words.  Senator, resign and call off your dogs.

Just saying…..



Grandma Pat Letters: Cat Warfare…. Armistice Day Blizzard, Big Cats, Fat Cats and a Cool Cat!


armistice day doorkick

Dear Kids,

Did you get a day off of school this week for Veteran’s Day  Well, I think you should.  November 11 was chosen as the day each year that we all take time to honor veterans.  In Europe it is called Armistice Day…we named it Veterans’ Day.

The ending of a World War is certainly an important date to remember, but Armistice Day here in Minnesota is also the anniversary of a very famous killer snow storm known forever as the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.

Let me tell you about this storm.

Weather reporting  was very different in 1940 than it is today.  There were no satellite images, radars, televisions or severe weather apps for smart phones.  There weren’t even cell phones at all. Weather reporting depended on the human observation, teletype, radio, newspapers, public postings and word of mouth.  Word of mouth, is God approved gossip.

While there were lots of weather records from the 1800’s, the information they contained was pretty much worthless for forecasting until computers. Prior to 1934 weather reports were generated twice a day (8 a.m and 8 p.m) by human observation and were telegraphed to regional offices.  The regional office responsible for Minnesota and its neighboring states was in Chicago.

Many people in towns and cities received weather reports on their radios, in daily newspapers, and public postings, but farm folks often did not have access to updated storm reports.  Telephone operators and mailmen did their best to help keep their rural neighbors informed, but it was a pretty imperfect system.

The national weather service improved its weather reporting with a major update in 1934.   A “breakfast” forecast was introduced in 1938, and weather reports were shared four times a day.  (4 a.m; 10 a.m; 4 p.m.; and 10 p.m.)  In 1940, five-day forecasting was introduced.  These twice a week reports were based on air pressure readings and climate history.

What is an air pressure reading? Air pressure is exactly what it sounds like. It is the weight of the air pressing down from above.  High pressure readings usually indicate good weather, while low readings warn that storms are on the way.

To find out what the air pressure is, you must use a barometer.  A barometer can look a  lot like an outdoor thermometer, the kind you hang on a wall, not like the one your mother sticks up your baby’s sisters butt.  However, what barometers and thermometers have in common is the use of mercury.  While a thermometer, measures temperature, the central column in the middle of a barometer’s pool of mercury rises or lowers depending air pressure.


Barometric pressure readings are best at short-term weather predictions of usually a day or two.  Typically, this is how a barometer works.  When the mercury in a barometer falls, it is time to look out for stormy weather.  The lower the air pressure, the worse the storm.  When the mercury rises, good weather is on the way.

This past summer you probably heard about several Hurricanes and how they use planes to punch through the storms devastating winds to get air pressure readings from the calm middle of the storm or the eye.  When a hurricane grows stronger, the air pressure drops.  A normal barometer reading at sea level on a nice calm sunny day would read about 29.53 inches.  One of the lowest recorded barometric pressures for a hurricane was for Gilbert in 1988 at just over 26 inches.

The Armistice Day Blizzard’s barometric pressure on November 10, as the storm approached Minnesota, was about 27.40 inches.  This storm was almost as strong as some of the worst hurricanes to hit our nation.  It is worth noting, and sad to report, that as this killer storm raced towards our state, on November 11, no one in the Chicago weather office was watching the storm’s rapid development. After the storm was over, a retired government weatherman reported that there was no overnight staffing, and, therefore very few, if any, warnings were issued.

The story of Minnesota’s killer blizzard actually begins on the western coast of the United States.  The pacific northwest to be exact.  When this storm came ashore some of its wind gusts were near hurricane-force.  In fact, the storm was so strong that it destroyed the world’s third longest expansion bridge, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge located in the state of Washington.  At that time, the bridge, nicknamed “Galloping Gertie”, was regarded as an engineering marvel.

The bridge gained its nickname because a four-mile an hour breeze would make it jump about like a cat on catnip.  Oddly, enough, though the bridge was always very stable in higher winds. Until the gale of November 7, 1940.  The 35 to 45 mile per hour winds caused the middle section of the bridge to buck up and down about 3 to 5 feet.  The bridge collapsed before the entire storm even reached the shore.

The storm moved on land on November 8. Where it lashed Washington state with gale force winds as the barometer readings continued to fall.

Most storms weaken when they cross a mountain range, but not this one. As the storm moved over the Rocky mountains on November 10, it rapidly intensified over Colorado.  Then, it swiftly moved east and swung north.  Within six hours the center of the storm  reached Iowa, almost 825 miles!   West of the storm’s center were ice storms and blizzards, in front of it to the east were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

The day the killer blizzard struck Minnesota began unseasonably warm and sunny.  By mid-afternoon the temperatures had climbed to a warm 60 degrees. People had left home that morning dressed lightly to enjoy the beautiful fall weather….especially duck hunters.

It was the perfect day to go duck hunting.  Not only was the weather beautiful, but there were so very many more ducks that usual. Hunters could not believe their eyes and luck as never-ending huge flocks of ducks were flying in low.  The ducks knew what the hunters did not, there was an awful storm coming and they were escaping to safety, unlike many of the poor hunters.

As the winds of the impending storm grew stronger, temperatures rapidly dropped.  Soon, it began to rain, rain turned to sleet and sleet to snow. Within a few short hours the beautiful day had turned into a nightmare of a monstrous killer blizzard.

Even after the storm began in earnest, cold wet hunters refused to leave their duck blinds and boats, because it was the most ducks and best hunting they had every seen, and there had been no warning of a major storm, so they thought it wouldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t long before people caught outside in the storm found themselves cold, wet and in trouble.  Especially the duck hunters.

The blizzard lasted well into the next day, November 12.  Temperatures dropped from about 60 degrees in the morning, to 55 degrees below zero during the night. The fury of the storm caused zero visibility and wind gusts between 50 to 80 miles per hour.  To get an idea of how powerful of a storm this was, it is important to note that a Category I hurricane has sustained winds of 74 miles per hour.

The blizzard blanketed the ground with well over two-feet of snow in some places. The wild winds whipped the snow into drifts up to 20 feet high.  Roads and highways closed.  People quickly became stranded and trapped. Especially the duck hunters.


Your great-great Uncle Vensel was out duck hunting that day when he got caught in the storm. Soaking wet and almost frozen he barely made it home. Even so, he became so sick that his family claimed his health never recovered. Still, Vensel was one of the lucky ones….he made it home.

Many duck hunters both young and old alike were caught unprepared. Some of the hunters, tried to take shelter on small Mississippi River islands. Under-dressed for winter weather, many froze to death in their duck blinds and boats. Others decided to try to reach shore. To do so they had to battle waves up to 15 feet high in the shallow river channels and marshy sloughs. Duck boats were swamped by the high waves and hunters drowned.

Of the 49 people from Minnesota who died in the storm, almost half were duck hunters. The City of Winona, turned its city garage into a morgue, where the frozen bodies of the doomed hunters were collected, thawed-out and identified.

Yes, this is a picture of real dead duck hunters bodies, but with all the violent crap you kids watch on television and in video games, I am not having any of it that this is….too scary. 

Rescuers had to use long poles to find missing cars in the over twenty-foot snow drifts. It took days and in some instances almost a month to reopen roads.  It wasn’t just the roads that were impassable. Passenger trains also were stuck in the snow.

For many people who lived in rural areas, communication with the outside world was completely cut off.  Newspapers and mail deliveries were impossible on snow blocked roads and telephone and power lines were down.  Many homes, barns, and outbuildings had been damaged by the ice, snow and high winds.

In total, the storm killed 149 people.  In addition to the hunters, people that were stranded in their cars also perished.  In the City of Watkins, Minnesota, two trains crashed together during the blinding blizzard killing two people.  Over 60 sailors lost their lives in Lake Michigan when the freighters SS Anna C. Minch, SS Novadoc and the SS William B. Davock, along with two smaller boats sank.  Wisconsin had 13 people die, Illinois another 13 and Michigan had four souls perish.  In addition to the loss of human life, thousands of cows died and over 1.5 million turkeys.

It seems that no matter how bad the crisis there always seem to be people who put the welfare of others before their own. Max Conrad and John R. “Bob” Bean, both pilots, from Winona are good examples.  As soon as the storm was over, these two guys flew up and down the Mississippi river valley locating hunters who had managed to survive the storm and dropping life-saving supplies to them. Both of these men were honored for the heroism.

For a few days after the storm ended, search parties recovered the dead hunters and other victims of the storm. Some of those stranded on islands did manage to survive the storm. One hunter spent the entire night walking in circles to prevent freezing to death.  Others, who were lucky enough to survive, lost their hands or feet from severe frost bite.

People in Minnesota are used to bad winter storms and this storm was not going to beat them. Big cats were used to help clear many of the roads…big Caterpillar bulldozers.

Not only do our people know how to survive bad weather, so do our cats!  Well, at least those who live by caves.  After the storm was over cats seemed to getting very fat.  Soon it was discovered that the felines were feasting on the thousands of frozen dead bats who had become lost in the storm and died before they could find the opening to their caves.

As the “winds of hell” raged the night of the storm, a young pianist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was performing in concert at the College of St. Teresa, in Winona. The winds howled so loudly outside the concert hall that the young man’s beautiful music became difficult to hear.  Eventually, the young musician realized that the storm was something extraordinary and began to leave the stage.  The audience pleaded with him to stay.  Which he did.  He dedicated his next song, titled “The Night Winds” to the storm.  The young musician survived the killer blizzard and became so famous that he would be known by just his last name…..Liberace.   A very cool cat!


I think, I might get you youngsters weather stations for Christmas.  I believe that every child should have a barometer, weather radio, very warm coat, dry boots, thick hat and mittens.  And, that every mother should have a butt thermometer!!

Lots of love, hugs and kisses!

Grandma Pat