Tag Archives: Tucson Arizona

What is On My Mind Today: Pintos, “The Magnificent Seven” and Marching Band

The horse I had as a teenager looked much like this one.  Beauty was an Arabian-Pinto. 

Since I am now officially sick of hearing about politics, especially Russian hacking, instead of watching the morning news, I explore YouTube for videos of really beautiful horses.

This morning as I was watching YouTube videos about pinto horses, one video had music playing in the background.  At first the tune did not catch my attention, then, a memory from long, long ago came back.  I knew that tune and I knew it well!

While I was growing up, my parents would farm in Minnesota in the spring, summer and fall months. Then, in the winter they would move our whole family to Arizona. Minnesota winter’s were hard on my dad’s chronic rheumatoid arthritis. So from the time I was in 4th grade until I graduated from high school, I was the new kid in school… twice a year.

My class in Grove City, MN was just over 30 Scandinavian kids. My class at Cholla, High School in Tucson, Arizona was in the hundreds and Scandinavian students were an endangered species.

Now, transferring in and out of schools twice a year was sometimes a challenge, especially in the areas of math, band and choir.  It never failed that whatever math I was learning in Minnesota was never even close to what was being taught in Arizona.  Then, if I wanted to get my music credits, every year the music instructors in Arizona, made me try out to first just make the team, then, I had to perform a solo…vocal and with my clarinet….to determine chair placement.

As a very pale-skinned young white girl who literally just came off the farm, I stuck out like a sore thumb from among my Arizona peers.  I will never forget my first time in the Arizona Junior High School locker room, standing there buck naked waiting to shower after a physical education class, only to hear one of my African-American friends yell, “Girl, you is white, you is white all over!.”

After a confidence boosting experience like that,  imagine having to stand in front of your AAA class talented peers, whose choir performances more often than not brought home the state championship, and sing a solo your first week in a new school.   At least the clarinet playing was only in front of the band instructor.

My first solo for my choir instructor was the, Carol King song, “It’s Too Late.” When I finished, and before I had the chance to start to cry, my teacher hugged me, and asked if I planned to be the next Linda Ronstadt. He then made me a first chair alto.

The band tryout was easier, I usually practiced the song that I was given the night before and sailed through.  I didn’t like playing the high notes, so I generally aimed low….for third chair.  Eventually, the band instructor figured out my game, and switched me to the bass clarinet.  I loved playing bass clarinet.

The band in Grove City was probably no larger than my class, just over 30 students.  My band at Cholla was over one hundred students.  Every year we would march in the largest non-mechanized parade in the United States, the Tuscon Rodeo parade.

Each year we’d have to learn a new marching song with a western theme and go out onto the football field to practice our marching moves. Marching in rows and doing perfect pinwheel turns while in step with a hundred other young people came quite naturally to me.  I should have gone to West Point.

band 1

Our band was  huge.  We had rows and rows of clarinets, flutes, trumpets, trombones, french horns and a whole row of just tubas.  Our drum section was amazing, the head drummer was named Abel Hernandez.  He was in charge of the other drummers and was the best looking.  When those guys pounded all of their drums, it felt like the turf beneath your feet moved.

Our marching uniforms were always the same…blue jeans and a white shirt, tennis shoes and cowboy hat.  I loved this outfit, due to the fact that my mother felt that girls should never wear blue jeans.  So, this pair of blue jeans were the only ones I got all year.

Since, wearing blue jeans was the “in” style in those days, I wore them constantly.   Of course, going bra-less in peasant tops was also the thing in Arizona at that time, however, that did not workout for me.  As it turned out, my white Scandinavian skin was eventually offset by other assets attributed to my ethnicity.

band 2

At one Tucson Rodeo parade our band played the song that I heard this morning.  It is the theme song from the movie, “The Magnificent Seven.”  I will never forget marching next to Barbara Clark, playing my clarinet, having the instrument’s bell fall off, get chipped and be picked up by the gals behind me.  None of us missing a step!

Masterful steppers we were, and we had to be!  We started off with a high “kick step”, then spent the next several miles and hours trying not to step in horse manure from over a thousand horses and step around the dead horse that dropped in the middle of the parade route.

When I listen to that song, even all of these years later, I still can picture Abel thundering on the on his kettle drums, hear all of the guys hammering on their woodblocks, see Tim’s dancing trumpet leading the brass section, and feel the power and magic of all of our woodwinds playing that beautiful melody.

I think it is safe to say that a good time was had by all…well except for the dead horse.

Here is a link to the theme song from the movie “Magnificent Seven” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iteRKvRKFA



Recipe: Sweet Heat: Strawberry Jalapeno Jam


As a descendant of many generations of Swedish cuisine where butter and white sauce reign supreme and the only spice used to add any heat to food was the dab of hot mustard needed to kill the taste of the annual Christmas lutefisk dinner, I am genetically predisposed to the avoidance of hot spicy foods. In fact, until my first winter in Tucson, Arizona, the only pepper I had ever tasted was pre-ground, black and used sparingly. A Swede-Grove Township cook who even served stuffed bell peppers was considered brave and daring or just mad at her husband.

Due to my father’s military disability, when I was in fourth grade my family began wintering in Tucson, Arizona.  I was transferred in and out of schools twice every year until I graduated from high school. Being a new kid at school is a considerable culture shock.  Especially when you go from an all white class of less than 35 rural Minnesota kids to a large urban school where whites were no longer the majority.

One of the elementary schools I attended in Tucson, as odd as it may seem, was called White Elementary.  I attended there during the winters of 5th and 6th grade.  My teachers, Mrs. Swan and Mr. Garbini, were wonderful…and so was the food served in the cafeteria. None of the food was highly spiced, but I did learn that there were more peppers in this world than just bell and black. Gone were the school lunches of meat, potatoes and gravy that were the mainstay back home to be replaced by tacos, burritos, enchiladas and a variety of other ethnic dishes.

At that time a bean burrito at school cost 25 cents and I thought they were just about the best thing I had ever tasted. Until  I sampled the huge cheese tostadas made at our local Mexican restaurant.  Their huge thin crispy cheese tostadas were delivered to your table on a very large pizza pan and were served with either hot or mild salsa.  Yes, the mild salsa bowl was emptied by us northern Swedes much faster than the hot one.

It is not often in life when you can remember the very first time you tried a new food, but I clearly remember my first taste of jalapeno peppers.  They were ordered as a topping on one of those large cheese tostadas.  The peppers were roasted, skinned and thinly sliced and became an instant favorite of mine.

Jalapeno peppers now are very common here in Minnesota. Why, I have even heard it rumored that some of the more adventurous folks around here actually grow them in their gardens. While jalapeno peppers show up to add some spunk to chocolate, brownies, pasta salads, casseroles and many other recipes, they are most excellent when paired with strawberries and made into jam.

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

4 cups of cleaned, hulled and coarsely crushed strawberries.
1 cup of jalapeno peppers (finely minced or processed in food processor)
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 package of powdered fruit pectin
7 cups granulated sugar

First, sterilize eight half-pint canning jars with lids and rings by boiling them for a least 5 minutes. Keep them hot while you make the jam.

In a large tall-sided and heavy bottomed cooking pot place the hand-crushed strawberries, jalapeno pepper, lemon juice and pectin.  Stir in sugar to dissolve.

Over high heat, quickly bring to a boil. (Long and slow boiling destroys the pectin and your jam will not thicken.)

Once the mixture has reached a full rolling boil, cook for one full minute. Remove from the heat and let jam sit for about five minutes.

Fill the sterilized canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim with hot jam. To remove air bubbles gently tap the bottom of the jar on the counter or run a clean knife around the inside edge of the jar. The rims of the jars need to be completely free of any food residue, so wipe the tops with a clean moist cloth or paper towel.  Place lids and rings on the jars.

In a water-bath canner process the sealed jars of jam for 10 minutes in boiling water.

Cool completely, then store in a cool dark area.

This recipe is spicy, but not very hot.  If you would like to add more heat to your jam add a little bit of habanero pepper. 




How I spent my summer vacation

As many of you know I have experienced quite the bout with Multiple Myeloma.  I have come a long way in the past two years from being bedridden,unable to walk unassisted and in a nursing home, to being able to walk for miles with just a cane and doing some of the things that I used to do when I was able bodied.

One of the great joys in my life has always been oil painting.  I have had paintings in statewide art shows, in the Duluth Depot Museum and in several other states and countries.

To help strengthen my back, after having the cancer make my spine so brittle that every thoracic and lumbar vertebra developed a compression fracture, I have made an effort to keep moving and stretching by doing artwork.  First it was watercolors, and lots of paintings of roosters.  Then, acrylics.  Always seated and elbows on the table for support. Finally, this summer I have been strong enough that for short periods of time I can stand behind an easel and use long handled brushes to gain perspective and paint in oils.

What did I paint?

I painted anger in a painting called, “Wind in the Pasture.”  Anger is a huge part of being a cancer victim and for me this is the second time.  I am angry that I have to learn to live with this cancer diagnosis, the unfairness that it happened to me, that I cannot work because I am disabled from my spine injuries, that I have been stuck in a house for almost two years and that my relationships with my family have changed.  I am angry that I have a huge loss of control and that all of my former professional and many personal goals are no longer possible. Yes, I painted anger.

I also painted peace.  The peace that is found in my faith.  I have felt peace in pain, solitude and yes, even in the hospital receiving chemo and a stem cell transplant.  God has always been with me and I have felt his close presence and hand on my shoulder when I just could not go on.  Yes, he carried me through those times and there was a peace that really does pass all understanding.  There is a God and he is loving.  The painting of peace is called, “Moonlight Peace.”

After two years of living minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day.  I now, again, can look forward to a future.  I am in remission and doing well.  My future is a painting of a sunrise in the west and is called, “Wyoming Retirement.”  I love painting still deep translucent waters and clouds.

The last painting that I have completed this summer was sort of a dare.  I have a bad habit of accepting challenges just to see if I can succeed.  My cousin challenged me to paint blooming cactus and a Gambel’s quail.   This might sound like an odd topic for a Minnesota girl, but I spent my childhood winters for over decade in Tucson, Arizona. My dad is a retired disabled veteran and to escape the cold, which made his disability worse, we would farm in Minnesota in the summer and go to Tucson in the winter.  I transferred in and out of schools twice a year from fourth grade through high school graduation.  My class in Grove City High School was about 32 kids all white.  My class at Cholla High School in Tucson was in the hundreds and less than 10 percent white.  While both worlds were very different.  I loved both places.

Even with cancer life moves on and his morning I started my next painting which will be a still life.  I need to practice some brush strokes as my hands still are not as strong as I’d like them to be and I have always wanted to learn how to paint flowers.  Just saying….

Wind in the pasture

Wind in the Pasture


Moonlight Peace

Wyoming retirement

Wyoming Retirement

cactus and quail oil

Charlie the Gambel’s Quail