Signs of the Times: Bison Skulls, Dairy Air and Rednecks

August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

While traveling in Wyoming this summer I saw a sign in front of a log house: “Large Bison Skulls For Sale.” Aren’t all adult bison skulls large? I guess that means that they’re not offering baby bison skulls this season.

Yellowstone Buffalo with skulls intact

At the Cody, WY Fourth of July parade I spotted a young man, apparently from Wisconsin, wearing a brown (!!!!) t-shirt with the words “Smell the Dairy Air” prominently displayed. Just don’t try saying it fast many times in a row. (I warned you.)

I laughed when we arrived at the door of a Colorado Assembly of God for the Sunday service when I saw a sign saying, “No pets.” I guess I take it for granted that I’m to leave my dachshunds elsewhere when it’s time for church. Maybe others don’t take that for granted, hence the need for the sign.

Outside of Cody, WY we ran across a small establishment advertising, “Pizzeria Public Restroom.” Now, is the pizza served in the rest room? Or, will there be a great need for the rest room following the serving of the pizza?

In Ridgway, Colorado a sign proudly advertised “Oriental Chinese Restaurant.” Think about that one. Would there be a different kind of Chinese restaurant than Oriental?

Tired drivers are persona non grata in Utah where signs on I-70 warned, “No Fatigued Driving.” Oh-kaaay!

Or what about the Redneck Cafe at the Stinker Fuel Station, 13 miles east of Ontario, Idaho?

My favorite is the sign on a small cafe in Bear Creek, Montana: “World Famous Banana Cream Pie, Same Day Service.” Great! If you order a piece of pie you won’t have to come back the next day to get it.

It’s signs like these that kept us from fatigued driving.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

Ah, summer!

July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

The 3,500 miles are accomplished and the trailer is resting. Laundry is done. Mail sorted through. Memories of Yellowstone’s bubbling mud pots, geysers and steaming pools, buffalo, elk, and herds of tourists, water’s edge campsites, and bone-warming heat are relegated to the “ah, summer” sub-strata of my memories.

I watched the horse-and-rider-dominated fourth of July parade in Cody, WY holding an umbrella for shade. While the bucking broncos and out-to-get you bulls entertained at the Cody rodeo, a two-year old bucking bronco sitting on his mother’s lap rhythmically  kicked me in the back all the while.

Telluride, the mountainous and magnificent. The two-thousand-foot drop of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. The morning sun hitting the impossible arches of Arches National Park. Canyonlands National Park at sunset. Following parts of the Oregon Trail.

Not surprisingly, a wind storm with 70-mile winds shook us in the Wind River Valley. Swimming with the dachshunds and a few fish in a cool fresh-water pond at a Moab, Utah campsite in 100-degree heat. Yes, ah summer.

Now were back to misty Northwest mornings, ripe raspberries, beets, swiss chard and new potatoes from the garden as well as routine, obligations, deadlines.

And the soon-to-arrive credit card bill outlining all our thirsty engine’s gas stops.

Ah. Summer.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011

Checking for Invasive Species

July 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

ROAD TRIP, Number Two:  When I saw a sign saying “Invasive Species Check” at a Montana rest stop I laughed thinking of some invasive species I’ve known. Now I know that what the government checks are searching for resembles millfoil on boat propellors rather than aliens, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we tourists actually fit the invasive specie category quite well.

Consider the middle-age Asian woman traveling with a tour group who stepped off the boardwalk in Yellowstone in defiance of warning signs in several languages and pictures showing how dangerous the hot water can be. She walked over to a boiling thermal pool and actually stuck her finger in, her face registering surprise. Yep, we tourists want the full experience, blisters and all.

We invasive species like to advertise our comments on our clothing. Consider the young man in Cody, WY proudly wearing a t-shirt from Wisconsin that said, “Smell the Dairy Air.” Perhaps he was a dairy farmer; or maybe not. Nuff said.

Then there’s Jan and Mike from Pennsylvania traveling near Cody, WY on a brilliant blue Harley trike complete with trailer who were hauling their own invasive species: about a dozen Beanie Babies, penguins all, strapped to the back of the bike. Have penguins, will travel.

The great thing about being among the many “Amuricuns” who are traveling this summer, camping, and doing the tourist thing, is that we all fit right in. Whether you’re wearing shorts with stars and stripes in honor of the 4th, or a pink cowboy hat, you’ll fit in. (I’m sitting here writing this shamelessly in a blue and white garage-sale flowered Hawaiian mumu.) The more cameras around your neck, the better.

In some places, bigger cities than Thermopolis, WY where we found ourselves last night, it’s not cool to walk around with a camera dangling from your neck. Visitors to Paris attempt to fit in with the locals, wearing the obligatory scarves tied in the Parisian fashion and keeping cameras tucked alongside monochromatic outfits to be surreptitiously whipped out as needed.

But, not us, we’re the proud, the free, tourists one and all, invading every corner of this fine land in search of that all-American phenomenon, the great family summer vacation. It’s guaranteed that we’ll discover some intriguing invasive species along the way.

© Inger Logelin, 2011

Ya Gotta Love the U.S. of A.

May 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sisters Synnove Aanensen and Solfrid Brekka from Karmoy, Norway

Only in the U.S.A.:

  • Can another nation’s national holiday become an occasion for one of the biggest celebrations around. It happened yesterday in Ballard, WA when around 3,000 participants marched in the 17th of May parade celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day. It was said to have more participants than Seafair’s Torchlight Parade.
  • Is a police presence so welcomed. Cheers and claps erupted when the motorcycle drill team of the Seattle police executed elaborate square dances on wheels.
  • Can the afternoon entertainment before the parade include Norwegian Christian artists. Songs of praise rang out on Bergen Place in Ballard. When public libraries and schools are careful to not use a single religious-sounding word, this community celebration had a toe-tapping, along-singing praise session.
  • Can the national costumes of another nation be the featured dress. Everywhere were bright and beautiful, blond and resplendent women and children in  hand-embroidered “bunads” and gold and silver traditional jewelry and men in their wool jackets, knee socks and red vests. And every pattern of Norwegian sweater possible.
  • Can you get a Norsk hot dog wrapped in lefse.
  • Do immigrants meet. Favorite moment: meeting a young Iranian bride and her seven-month old baby, and her head-scarfed mother visiting from Iran and introducing them to my eleven-month old granddaughter. When they asked, “What is this gathering for?” I explained the occasion. One immigrant to the other, one generation to the other meeting to celebrate another nation’s biggest holiday.

Only in the U.S.A.

Copyright 2011

The Case for the Independent Norwegian

May 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

My father's old flag

If any stray Norwegians around you are acting uppity today, it’s with good reason. The roots to the “gamle landet” (old country) are pulling strongly today, the seventeenth of May. No matter what  little Norwegian blood courses through one’s veins, that’s enough of an excuse to celebrate the heritage of their fathers, grandfathers or farther fathers.

We Norwegian-Americans … the pack of us that I grew up with who came to America in the fifties … always called it Norwegian Independence Day. And acted accordingly. (I have a theory about that: the Norwegians who came to America were the independent ones, the ones with pioneer spirit, who left all to brave the new world. The rest stayed in Norway.)

Technically the 17th of May is Norway’s Constitution Day, commemorating the Day in 1814 When Norway Got Their Own Constitution. There is the small matter that the Swedes were still ruling the country in 1814, a fact that wasn’t taken care of until 1905. So celebrations were frowned upon by Swedish scowls, and kingly bans. Probably the birth of all those Norwegian vs. Swedish jokes came into being during that interval and have lingered to our amusement and amazement, depending on if you are Norwegian or Swedish.

But no one is frowning now as Norwegian-Americans in Stougton, WI, Chicago, Minnesota and especially Ballard in Seattle celebrate with parades, flag waving, speeches, music, lefse, sour cream porridge and of course, cake and coffee. (Parade starts at 6 in Ballard.)

So if you hear stray snatches of  the lyric “Ja, vi elsker dette landet,” (“Yes, We Love This Land”) today, or see Norwegians dressed in bunads (national costumes) shouting “Hip, hip hurra”, or catch them acting uppity and independent, it’s all for a good cause … commemorating our Norwegian heritage.

Me? I’ve got my father’s ancient Norwegian flag flying, I’m headed for the parade in Ballard with my resident Swede, and I’m no more independent than usual.

copyright 2011

“English is My Second Language”

April 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

I learned English in the second half of first grade. Late November storms in the Atlantic had carried our family of five on the S. S. Oslofjord from the familiar shores of Norway to New York. A three-day-train journey brought us to Ballard, the part of Seattle in which our sponsors lived.

On my first day of grade school I was led into the classroom by my mother, and introduced to the class. All eyes stared intently at me. Painfully shy, I felt out of place, on the spot, and as uncomfortable as someone naked in a room of well-dressed onlookers. A boy who spoke Norwegian was assigned to shadow me. But I was a girl, and he was a boy, and he didn’t want to talk to me, nor I to him. By day’s end my weak little bladder was begging for relief. I had no idea where I could find a bathroom, and didn’t want to ask him. The next day I woke up with spots from chicken pox and had to stay home. Saved by the chicken pox!

I did go back, and set my mind to listening and learning what was being spoken. This was before the day of bi-lingual tutors for immigrants. One day I began to understand what was being said. It had rolled through my brain for weeks in incomprehensible sounds, but one day I realized I understood it perfectly. It was like osmosis in my young mind; it just happened. I caught up fairly quickly with my class and was ready for second grade with the rest.

Sometimes now if I use a word wrongly, or misspell a word, I’ll jokingly excuse myself by saying, “Well, English is my second language.”

Could it be the same with God’s Word? It can roll through our minds and we may not realize it has found a lodging place. But, If we are faithful to read, listen and hear, one day, when it is needed, we’ll realize it’s there. A lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Our second language.

copyright 2011

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