Thursday, September 29, 2016

Flax for spinning

Learn something new everyday.

What do I know about Flax except it is a real pretty field when it is in bloom.

Bruce the weaver and spinning wheel fixer grew some Flax this summer.

Flax for spinning

Flax leaning against the garden fence where really tall sunflowers grew!

He harvested it recently. It is pulled out of the soil by the root and not cut.  Then it is bundled and set out to dry.  The seeds are removed and then the outer core is rotted which exposes the inner fiber…then the stalk is broken to remove the fiber.  Then it is combed to sort the long fibers from the short fibers. 

Here is some Flax fiber that was grown and processed a previous year.


Looks like a hairy mess

Flax on the bobbin

But eventually it is spun into a thread.  Those threads can be woven together to make linen. It can be fabric that is made into summer clothing, tablecloths, curtains and if it is very fine it can be used to knit or crochet.

This is the wheel he uses.  I guess I never thought about the whole process before…how about you?

Wheel that spins flax

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Midway Memories: Carnie Kids

Far Guy’s family worked together as a group.  I am certain it wasn’t easy having teenagers out on a carnival.  Remember that this was a family show and there were other kids that they grew up with.
Bobby, Sofronia and their family that I wrote about last week were just the tip of the iceberg.
The show owner had two kids of his own: Dale and Margaret they came out during the summer and during their college years.  By the time I met them they were each married, but still coming out on weekends or on vacation to work.

There was Slugger and his sisters Edna and Carrie. I used to email back and forth with Edna.  Their parents Florence and Red Cundiff had a cookhouse or a “grab joint” and made full meals…including cabbage soup.  Slugger whose real name is Howard worked the kid rides.  Edna sold tickets because she had polio.  Carrie worked in the grab joint.
Preston MN two
This old photo was taken in Preston Minnesota.  We think that is Slugger in the left bottom corner, he would be standing right across from his parents Grab Joint.

The Porterfields had nine kids…Far Guy only remembers Vickie because he and she were partners in crime.  The mom was named Vi.  The Porterfields had a glass pitch and bingo.

Chief Littlewolf had a bunch of kids, his wife had a baby every year.  He had an Athletic Show, he would wrestle people, and also had an Ape that he wrestled.  His kids would buddy up to townsfolk to get free stuff…apples and garden produce.  On the first night The Chief would get out in front of his tent and try to get the toughest guy in town to wrestle with him, the prize of $100 would go to the winner.  Of course all the townspeople had to pay to get inside to watch their town hero wrestle The Chief.  Unless The Chief was in a bad mood he usually let “the mark” win.   While the crowd was still there The Chief would talk “the mark” into a rematch on the last night.   For three or four days this was the talk of the town and on the last night there was a full house for the wrestling match.  Chief rarely lost.  “The mark”= a towns person who has money.

Know how that phrase “the mark” started?  Well you can bet I will tell you.  Someone is playing a game and you notice if they have more money in their billfold, you wish them good luck and thank them for playing…and you just might have chalk on one of your hands when you touch the persons shoulder…they are marked and every other agent in a joint on that midway knows that he still has money in his billfold.

Sam and Molly Evans.  They were Gypsies.  They had a granddaughter named Flossie. Flossie was Far Guy’s age and she was a cute little thing. I asked him if he was sweet on her and he said “Sure but my Dad didn’t want me to have anything to do with Gypsies.”   Sam and Molly had a relative/ grandson or nephew with them one year and there may have been a quick marriage between the classes…that was quickly annulled. (Remember Show Owners, Joint Owners, Agents, Ride Boys and then Gypsies was the class distinction.)  Sam had a knack for finding “stuff” for sale.  He would take off in his car and come back with the trunk stuffed with his wares…shoes, clothing, dishes and one time even a set of tires for the Desoto.   If you needed something…go ask Sam.  Sam had a Six Cat, Far Guy used to be a cat boy and set up cats for him.  A Six Cat is a controlled win joint, the large stuffed cat usually six in the tent sit six feet from the counter, the object was to knock the cat completely off the cat rack with a baseball, just falling down did not count.  Six Cats are rarely seen anymore and most Carnivals have worked hard to improve their image.  Molly had a “Mitt Camp” …she would tell your fortune or bless your money.  One time Great Aunt Emma wandered by Molly’s Mitt Camp.  Emma was not pleased when she was a few dollars lighter…so Far Guy’s Dad had to play “Patch.”  A patch is someone who handles a problem, a go between two people.  Far Guy’s Dad was a patch on several occasions but Russell Frey was the usual patch.

The Butlers were from Austin Minnesota, they owned a grocery store there, one night Bud Butler visited the carnival and was smitten with the carnival life.  He went to the Show Owner and asked “How does one get started in this business?”  Al told him “You have a game or a bunch of pig iron (rides) and the people pay you to have fun.”  Bud started out with Pea Pool. You have 15 round balls (peas) with numbers in a shaker, people would pay a quarter to get a pea from the shaker, he would put his thumb over the end of the shaker and shake them up and dispense a pea to you.  It is an old pool hall game that is too complicated for me to explain.  There was a small pool table and whoever won would win the pot and if there was no winner of course the house won.  Bud’s son Butch deserted the grocery store business ( left his sister to run the grocery store), it seems he was bitten by the show bug too.  He had a Pan Game.  Muffin tins on a table, each hole was a different color, you bet a color to win and a ball is thrown and the pay off is for the winning color.

The South Sioux City Incident:  There was trouble at the Pan Game.  Butch thought a player had moved his bet.  A argument started and the player punched Butch in the face.  The player invited Butch to go behind the tents and finish the fight…Butch said OK…a mistake because the guy had a whole bunch of friends waiting for him.  Butch was getting the hell beat out of him, Far Guy was nine years old and he sees Butch getting clobbered so he jumps in the fight, someone literally grabbed him by the seat of his pans and threw him into the air. A bunch of carnies showed up… the fight broke up, everyone ran.  Eventually the Butlers bought some kid rides and a Tilt and headed for Alaska.  They made good money there and moved to California and Butler Amusements became the biggest Carnival on the west coast.  Butch always remembered his time out on Merriam’s Midway Shows and had several conversations about the old days with Far Guy.
Johnnie Mummart…well he was just one of the girls.  His Dad was some highfalutin lawyer who didn’t want his kid around in the summer.  So Johnnie was sent out to be with his Grandparents.  They had a fish pond. Johnnie sold tickets in the ticket box all summer and drew up fashions in a notebook he was a pretty good artist.  When I met his Grandparents The McMillens I felt sorry for them.  They were old people probably in their 60’s.  Doesn’t seem old anymore but back then 60 was old.   Both had a hard time walking any distance.  They had an old blue house trailer that was about 30 feet long and it was used as a line up joint.  Somehow they had it rigged that water flowed in a trough around the front of their trailer and they would float fish around and around. Little kids love a fish pond and it was a prize every time.  A number on the bottom of the fish corresponded with a prize.  They took turns sitting outside, they didn’t have an awning to sit under for shade and some days it was unbelievably hot….probably why they took turns.  I recall the Mrs. bringing out a sandwich to the Mr.  For the life of me I cannot remember their first names of course they were Mr. and Mrs. McMillen and that is what I called them.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Busy Days

I am tired of Doctor appointments and hospitals.  I hope we are done for a while now.  I think we may have 30 days off now…maybe.  It is always a day of four hours driving and then time spent there. Most days Chance can go along, he likes the ride. Yesterday we were gone eight hours so we left Chance at home.   Luckily Jo came to let Chance outside and walked him around.

My garage is almost back to normal.  Yeah me! 

I am getting ready to go to a Crafting Retreat and hope to make some more sympathy cards and our Christmas cards.  I THINK I have a real cool design for the cards and envelopes…we will see.   I am trying a new craft…stamping.

It rained and turned cooler here and the yard is full of leaves again, now I am waiting for them to dry out so I can mulch again. We had gale force winds yesterday so some blew into the woods!

Tree at Guyles lake

Near Guyles Lake September 25 2016

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Going Viral

Someone famous looks like our son in law Andy.  Andy is constantly being asked to take photos with fans.  He is a true doppleganger. 

They say we all have a twin out there…someplace. 

the boys and Andy

The grandboys and Andy. September 18, 2016.  Who do you think he looks like?

When we last saw Andy he was excited about the upcoming weekend and told us of his plan.   His adoring wife said “I am not bailing you out of jail!”  In fact she did not attend the concert with him…instead his brother Carl and sister in law Roberta went along.

I have shamelessly robbed this from his Facebook Post about his adventure on September 24, 2016.

“The Blake Shelton Concert was entertaining. I now know what it it’s like to be famous. So bear with me as I go through a narrative of my experience at the concert:

Inside the Fargo Dome I immediately drew a lot of attention. People were swarming around me with their phones in-hand snapping photos of me. Groups of girls erupted into screaming frenzies - its Blake!. Some posed for selfies and they were honestly trembling. Others saw through the guise and said " I don't care that your aren't Blake, this will make my friends go crazy". Some walked up to me and told me that they were cancer survivors, that they loved the Voice, that they loved my music. At times I felt bad for leading them on, and other times I felt good about giving people an experience. I acted the part without apology, waving, giving high fives, trying my best to do Blake's signature "pick me finger pointing". It was fun running into people that I knew. They had a good laugh at all the attention. Rumors of the fake Blake were circulating.

I’ve always said, "Act like you own the place." Without a floor ticket I walked unquestioned onto the main floor and continued to stage right. My brother and his wife followed. About eight security / Fargo Dome staff let me pass without question. At this point my brother and his wife are separated from me. I don't look back. A guy in a red shirt and a headset ran up to me and escorted me back stage. He walked ahead of me gesturing to others in the hall to move aside. About 20 people followed his instructions respectfully moving to the side and giving me acknowledging head nods. I walked past some sort of computer control center and the man in the red shirt pointed me to the corridor of dressing rooms. I was in disbelief. In the corridor there were signs posted for each rooms - Blake's Massage room, staff, Raelynn, food, etc… The corridor also had Fargo Dome staff seated at a number of the doors. No one said a word to me - just nods and facial expression greet me. I read the signs while passing through the corridor searching for Blake. I walk confidently so as not to give myself away. I reach the end of the corridor without any luck, so I duck into the buffet area. Four guys are standing around, they greet me, and I grab some food. They try to engage me in conversation, and I deflect and exit to the corridor. I figure this is my last attempt. I open a door and find no one is around. Then a guy dressed in black meets me, He looks puzzled, then displeased and asks me “what are you doing here”. We walk to the hall, knowing that I am done - likely to be removed from the concert. He points to the other staff to remove me from this area. Without out question I walk quickly out. Funny thing happens next. The guy in the red shirt meets me and escorts me out. "Going out for another walk Blake?" he asks. I walk out back to floor and wave to excited fans and make it back to the concourse. I pause and share the back stage story with my group. Unreal.

We walk back to our seats, met with a barrage of rushing fans and smartphone attention. Before we get back to our seats, security finds me. I am given a stern warning to stay in my seat by a large intimidating gentlemen. I abide. I had pushed my luck too much already. Sitting in my seat I am still accosted by fans coming to me. They want a photo with the fake Blake.

To the Fargo Dome staff, I apologize for any grief this has caused. To all the fans bamboozled by my shenanigans, I meant no harm and apologize to you.

To Blake Shelton I would love to have a beer with you sometime.”

So there it is.  I was hoping that he would get to meet Blake…but alas that was not meant to be…can you imagine if they had met up in the hall?   For the record Andy was born first…he is eleven months older than Blake.  That’s why I say Blake looks like our Andy.

As for going viral, the Facebook post I shared with you has been shared over 600 times in less than 8 hours. 

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Sunday, September 25, 2016


Years ago in May of 2009 I bought a spinning wheel at my Uncle Otto and Aunt Marie’s Auction Sale.  It belonged to Otto’s Grandmother and it came on a ship from Norway about 1880 something.

It has been on my bucket list.  First to see if it spins.  Not sure if I can learn to spin but I wanted to know if it still worked.  We had so many oddball accessories, who knew what went with the spinning wheel and what did not. 

Spinning Wheel

This is my wheel and the accessories.  Only two of the bobbins and the bobbin winder go with this wheel.  The blue and red bobbins are too long to be used with this wheel. The rest of it goes with some kind of Industrial Spinning “stuff.”  The one long handled piece of wood might be a laundry stick.

I met Bruce back in May.  He was anxious to see my wheel and see if it worked.

Spinning wheel and bruce woking on it

Bruce put cord around the wheel and oiled it here and there.  He said “It is in pretty good shape for how old it is.”  He also said at one time it was painted blue.

Bruce and spinning wheel

The winder was stiff, it took awhile and some more oil before he gave it a whirl.

Yes it spins

He adjusted it here and there…see it does spin.  He used T Pins to hold the leather in place he said I could switch them out for toothpicks.

I took lots of photos because we had to take it apart to bring it home.  As soon as we got it upstairs we put it back together again. 

One of these days I will give it a whirl.  Not that I need another hobby…but at least I can say I tried to spin.

Most people name their spinning wheels.  Most of the time they are named after women.  Mine will be different….Otto Bruce has a nice ring to it!

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