Esmerelda, circa 1900

You may know that we bought a house as a hobby project. Some people collect stamps, others knit, but we’ve taken on renovation of a century-old house. We’re somewhat embarrassed that, even though our house once belonged to the former head of the Grant County Historical Society, it took us over a year to find time to actually partake of the Museum’s exhibits. In a display of photos, we noticed somebody familiar:

(I added the color, of course)

The photo was only approximately dated somewhere between 1900 and 1910, which would be about right, and based on the rest of the picture I’m 90% sure that’s our house. Don’t be surprised if the houses around it are unfamiliar; part of what struck us about the neighborhood is that all the neighboring houses are one or 1-1/2 story Craftsman-style houses or even newer ramblers, and our house towers over them as the stately elder of the block. The more exiting fact is this: As you can see in this current photo, there’s just a roof over the porch, and one of the first things we put on our list was to remove the roof and put on a little balcony. We had no idea that’s how it was first made.

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Fergus Falls Mystery Tour

Several weeks ago, Wifey “poked” me — or “tagged” me?  Maybe she tweetered me or something — on Facebook and drew my attention to the Downtown Fergus Falls Mystery Tour.   The Otter Tail County Historical Society does historical tours of town as an outreach program, something more engaging and interactive than touring a stuffy ‘ol museum.   The tour began at 8pm yesterday, June 6th, at the River Inn hotel building.  It had been converted to apartments, but in its day it was a big deal — fireproof, even.

The tour was led by Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke, who started us all out with a story of an old woman beat to death with the blunt end of an axe.  They were right when warning people that the tour wasn’t for the faint of heart, but throughout the stories were — despite death and mayhem — kept light and entertaining.

The tour then moved down the street, in front of a former bank building, to tell the story of financial woes, graft and theft in Otter Tail County. Then, around the corner to the old city hall, where we heard about a nude painting that caused an uproar (and maybe sold some couches, too)

Back to the main road, and in front of the Schacht Block we heard of the untimely demise of a crooked dentist for whom the building was named:

The Hotel Kaddatz was the fourth stop, and the first with a reenactor: the wife of a former proprietor, who favored young ladies more than business sense (the husband, not the wife, that is):

She was immediately followed by Gus Comstock, the record-setting coffee drinker that called Fergus Falls his home.  His story was less tragedy, unless he had difficulty finding a bathroom after his record-setting eighty cups of coffee.

A little further down the block, in front of a former department store, we heard stories of the cyclone that tore through town, picking up citizens and tossing them about, and smashing whatever buildings it saw fit:

The last stop on the tour was the current City Hall, where we heard a various stories about attempts to clean up Fergus Falls, and enforce prohibition despite everyone’s desire to do anything but:

All together the tour lasted about an hour, which was just about right, given the setting sun and people’s tolerance for walking and standing these days.   It was a perfect night for it, though: no bugs, moderate temperature, no wind.  We were surprised at the size of the crowd, about forty people by our estimate, which goes to show the appeal the Otter Tail Historical Society has built for itself.   At the end they announced a few other tours and events; hopefully we can fit more into our schedule!

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An Unwelcome Tenant

In winter, renovations have stopped on our hobby house, but any time we’re in the area we  try to stop in and make sure everything’s still good at the house, check the mail, look to see if the basement is a swimming pool, and so forth.  Last night we pulled up to the house at about sunset, and saw this: It’s hard to judge scale, but that panel of window is about 10″ tall and about 6″ wide.  Not big enough to fit a human through, but there’s all kinds of critters that could squeeze into our basement through this opening. D waited in the van while I went inside, and as I entered the livingroom area, I heard a scuttling of feet and saw a dark shape dash into the kitchen.   Not good, but also not horrible…but there was also not much we could do in the dark, since I have the power shut off to most of the house to remove the knob and tube wiring.  I walked all the way around the house, to make sure nothing else was out of the ordinary, and when I returned to the van D knew something wasn’t good. I gave her the lowdown, and we made plans to come back the next morning.

When we entered the house today, all was silent, until D walked towards the back of the house, and then it sounded like an army of clawed creatures was headed our way. We didn’t get a picture of it, because it moved so fast, but all that noise was coming from a black kitty-cat who couldn’t get any traction on the hardwood floors.   It made it past D, around my legs, but rather than heading for the wide-open door it dived through a hole in the floor where a bathtub’s pipes used to be.   Oh, joy.   We searched the rest of the house for any more feline residents, and shortly after I started noisily exploring the house D saw the black kitty made a beeline away from our house, running through the snowy yard at top speed, towards some trees across the street.

You might be wondering: how was a cat able to throw a brick through our window and get inside?  D joked that if cats were able to break windows and waltz into any old house they wanted to, there’d be cats living in everyone’s basements.  Well, when I went down into the basement, I found this:

From the inside, there had always been glass there — it just happened that, like the other half-hearted repairs that previous house residents had made, the interior pane of windows wasn’t really fastened to the rest of the house.  Either a cat was poking around, or a strong wind pushed it just the right way, but this window fell into the basement and broke all over the place.    Luckily, we have a lot of spare wood from our demolition work, so I was able to cut a board to cover up the open pane, and screwed it over the window opening (but not all the way across — this is the only source of light in this part of the basement), and now the cat will have to find someplace else to hang out.

And the kitty did have a pretty smooth hangout: we have a wingback chair in a back room, right up against a window that looks out into the yard.  All of the dustcovers were knocked off the chair, so the kitty apparently spent his time just chilling on the back of the chair, in his own 2,500 square foot home, just watching the squirrels freeze in the super-low windchill.  I think kitty was just a pet who was allowed outside, which isn’t unusual around here, but it could have been feral.   Things I’m glad the kitty wasn’t:

  • Rabid.
  • Actually an army of kitties.
  • Actually a family of kitties, including baby kittens (although D always hopes for kittens).
  • A raccoon (which was my main worry initially)
  • An alliance of raccoons and cats who have developed thumbs and were ready to fight for their newly-claimed lands.

Anyhow, we didn’t have to herd multiple cats, we didn’t have to deal with baby kittens, we didn’t have to fight off raccoons, so all in all it wasn’t even as bad as I had originally thought.  The house is secure again, and hopefully kitty went home to its warm house.

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One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Pit Stop

On our way back from Maxwell Street Days in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, we found ourselves unable to drive straight through Sullivan, Wisconsin — a parade was in our way. Not the kind of folks to let an unexpected stop get in our way, we got stopped to see it. We had been expecting maybe a Labor Day parade, but what found was The World’s Greatest Junk Parade!

If there are rules to this parade, I didn’t notice them really… But some of the junky vehicle floats were quite entertaining.  Hubby took a number of photos, so perhaps he will post more.

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Not Everything Discovered On The Journey Is Grand…

Stopping along the way to let Mr. Oliver T. Puddington relieve himself, I discovered two pairs of panties. Yup; two pairs of ladies panties, right there in the grass on the side of an I-94 on-ramp.

The next stop along I-94, Oliver found a sock.

On the third stop, we found an old birdhouse. That was the thing we picked up.

(In this photo, you can see the back of the birdhouse as it sits, sideways, on an old bench.)

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Discovering The Hodag In Rhinelander

We decided to go through Rhinelander, Wisconsin, so we could see the legendary Hodag. Up until this past weekend, I’d only seen a Hodag on a t-shirt (and that was back in high school), so I was excited to see the dangerous beast with noxious gas and big teeth…

The Hodag first appeared in the logging town in 1893 and was described has having “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”. In 1896, Eugene Shepard said he caught the creature alive! This created such a stir that someone from the Smithsonian was going to come see it — causing Shepard to confess his Hodag was a stuffed and mounted gaff, moved with wires.

Finding a Hodag to pose by in Rhinelander wasn’t easy as we’d thought; GPS couldn’t track it. Not the way we came into town, anyway. So our first stop was the logging museum at the Pioneer Park Historical Complex. There we saw, and had the kiddies pose with a smaller Hodag statue.

And this old stuffed mounted Hodag looks a lot like Shepard’s… But there was no plaque or info near it. *heavy sigh*

We wandered around a bit, took some photos (visiting the museum is free!), but will post those later. Thanks to help from a young man working at the Soo Line Depot museum and model railroad display (also in the complex), we found “The Hodag” to pose with stands at the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, 450 West Kemp Street. (Sadly, their Hodag info page is lacking.)

Here’s my homage to the films my dad made of my sister and I when we were young… It’s my directorial debut, featuring Hunter, Maddie, and Mr. Oliver T. Puddington, the basset hound. The old super eight home movies were sans sound, so dad’s direction was less obvious than mine.

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Plaster & Lath, Oh My!

We put the kids to work busting down Esmerelda‘s walls.

Even our 9 year old niece was put to work — and boy was she eager to use that hammer!

I think Hunter, 12, wins for really committing to the work. Hulk Hunter Smash!

Here, Hunter and Maddie hammer so hard they take out the shelf on the other side of the wall!

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Lindstrom Teapot Watertower

The adorable teapot watertower in Lindstrom, MN. My mom has a teapot collection, so maybe she can add it to her collection.

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We got our fixer-upper in Elbow Lake! There will be plenty to show off while we work on restoring her (keep an eye on the This Old House category). But for now, you can see a photo of her. Yes, “her.” Her name is Esmerelda. I realized I began calling her that on our second visit — which meant all negotiating power left at that point. *wink*

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Where In The World Have You Been?

If your travel is of the more exotic kind, if you’re a world traveler, you’ll love this scratch-off world travel map. The metallic surface scratches off — like a lottery ticket — to record your travel destinations!

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