Local color and otherwise

Harry Drabik

Having heard of no influx of riders for the Sea of Biwabik Road I’m assuming many of you are holding off. Wise choice.
My mother, innocent of what she was doing, led me to acts of teenage crime by teaching me good manners. A polite boy, a good boy could do a lot more ill and get away with much more mischief than a scallywag. (When’s the last time you heard that word?)
Now wait. I should be somewhat more detailed if I’m to be honest. Good manners plus contrition set a boy on the right path for doing foul. A lad needs be alert to the winds and convincing in the way he bends to them, but with practice he should be so convincing telling a preposterously convoluted tale of innocent missteps that to preserve sanity adults give up and send you away so they can take a nap or tip a few in an attempt at head-shaking recovery.

As example I truly had not known how events would develop when some of us discovered a Oliver Cat in the woods. At 16 what did I know of diesel engines? Enough to ruin one? Certainly not. It was all a tragic accident. For sake of appearances I paid $100, the others paid more, but to this day can weave a tale of a lucky logger getting a dozer-rebuild paid for by five idiot teens.

Some of us see things as objects or values, often without story or connection to future, present and past lives. What would you think of a hand carved yoke? What the heck is it? For a canoe?
If you’ve ever had to fetch water in buckets or empty sap pails doing maple syrup you’ll know how useful a yoke is allowing for easier (not easy) carrying of buckets.
You get it, but this yoke was special because it began to split and whoever used it then drilled holes and used wire to stitch it together for a longer life. That’s a story. Couldn’t go to the country store for a new yoke made in farawayzia.
So a repair was made and chores went forward. That’s a story, one very unlike “buy a new one.” That story took place just north of the Twin Ports but could fit many other places. How many would recognize the story and feel it inside? How many toss it as junk of firewood?
As we become removed from life-work something is lost, and not just a story, I mean our stories.
Once having had access to a large collection of glass plate negatives (since lost) I looked into their who-what-where as best I could. Mostly photos of fishing-hunting-camping activity a century past, the dress and composure of the participants said an awful lot about the times and attitudes of people who’d trout fish in a jacket and tie.

Certain personages appeared frequently, among them a judge with an area in Minneapolis still bearing the name. The judge’s niece (a Midwest model of elderly eccentricity) noticed in numerous photos the judge stood next to an attractive younger woman who wasn’t his wife. Curious niece had once piped up, “Unky (her casual name for the judge), who’s that woman?” The judge’s short answer explained exactly why the man was a judge and lifted him to B. Clinton elevation.

“Never saw that woman before in my life.”
I guess we’ve all been trout fishing with total strangers. Well anyway, the judge had and that’s that. The story told-heard on the site holds better weight, but that’s not important to those unaware of life’s tricky, endearing ironies.
I was sent a link to an American poetess encouraging people to talk, dance, sing, act, write and etc. their anger but not be bitter. I couldn’t help laugh.
You work yourself into a lather writing-talking-act dancing your anger it’s unlikely you’re motivated by sweetness. Bitterness and anger are paired. But, promoting Anger Light is OK. Kind of dumb, ask me but no worse than many of the other things heard.
In fact, I’ll put sweetness to it and say Maya’s low-cal anger proposal is humorously appealing more than, say, her poems.
Also recent I was given a link to an innovative program introducing the art of drag to elementary students. Yup, kids half the height of the queens were learning how to parade.
But as one who looks at background I noticed a large illuminated sign reading “It Doesn’t Lick Itself.” That sign doesn’t mean the same in a program on licking drug addiction as it would in a drag show.
But gads, how gritty it feels looking at current cat fighting about assumed meanings and hurt feelings.
Remember the judge from above? Savvy and adept he may have been but in many ways, but lacking in many ways as we. See what you think.
Near a century past the judge asked a neighbor to come with his horse and equipment to move logs. The neighbor came. The judge said “I’m not paying more than 25 cents an hour.” The neighbor turned right around and left. People say they never spoke again.
How humanly flawed is it for neither to work out the details beforehand? How typical for a wealthy man to fear being cheated and made a fool of? How typical of a working man to feel being cheated and made a fool of? How sad neither had the sense to reach out. “Hey judge, I already put an hour into gathering chain, logging tongs and getting my harness ready,” – OR “Well neighbor, I have a wage in mind, but what’s your thinking?” – OR “Let’s pull back and talk this over.”

Instead neither benefited. Logs didn’t get moved. A wage was not earned. The judge, for all his importance and power didn’t handle his life situation any better than the unimportant working-stiff (not talking drag here) neighbor.
A reminder of common humanity seems more useful than lessons in stubbornness and pride, but see what you think. Bar the door or open it?