Archive | February, 2009

Let is snow

February 27, 2009


Like many others, I was not happy with the snow that got dumped on us yesterday. Yet, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on the opportunities it created to be a Good Samaritan.

First, there was the chance to do some snow removal for my neighbors. I have a large, sturdy snowblower that has worked well over the years and I was able to put it into service once again. I was able to do, not only my own driveway and sidewalk, but my next-door neighbor’s as well, plus a few other neighbors’ sidewalks.

Here’s the neat part — I ran out of gas just as I was finishing. The tank on my snowblower was empty and so was the tank in the garage. I did not have a lot of gas at the start and I was worried I would run out before I finished. So, I asked God to help me finish the job before the tank ran dry. Thanks be to God for answering my prayer!

Then, right after I finished, I was able to help some folks get their cars unstuck. It’s nice to be able to come to the rescue and this snowstorm created plenty of opportunities for that. This being Lent, I felt like it was good timing for an event like this. A bonus was being able to get my two teenage sons involved. After we got the second vehicle out of the snow, I turned to the boys and simply said, “If you ever have the opportunity to help someone else, do it.”

Hopefully, it’s a lesson they’ll practice and never forget.

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Turkey time for kids

February 23, 2009

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The state of Minnesota is offering a unique opportunity for kids this spring. The weekend of April 18 and 19, the Department of Natural Resources and local chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be conducting a turkey hunt for youth. Young hunters who are successful in the lottery for these tags will be able to hunt with an experienced turkey hunter on private land.

It’s a great opportunity that I read about yesterday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The deadline for applying is 4 p.m. today and I scrambled to call as many people as I could think of. There are a total of 300 tags available and, as of yesterday, only 150 kids had applied. However, I talked to Mike Kurre from the DNR today and he said a flurry of applications was coming in today. Still, he thinks kids could have a 50 percent chance or better of getting picked.

There are three eligibility requirements: 1. Youth must be from 12 t0 17 years of age, 2. They must be first-time turkey hunters in Minnesota, and, 3. They need to have a firearms safety certificate.

My friend, Bernie Schwab, has a son, Dan, who fits all three criteria. I called him last night and he was able to submit an application for Dan today. Hunters must pick a specific geographic zone in which to apply, but Kurre told me the DNR will make every effort to fill all available slots, even if it means moving kids who didn’t get picked in one zone to another zone.

The goal is to get as many kids out into the field that weekend as possible. He said it’s also possible that more volunteers may step forward to offer their guiding services, which could open up even more spots for kids. If that happens, or if there are not as many applicants as spots, Kurre will then accept late applications.

It was fun talking with Kurre on the phone about the youth turkey hunt. As the DNR’s hunting and angling mentoring program coordinator, it’s his job to help get kids into hunting and to provide adults who can guide and teach them. This hunt is an excellent way to accomplish that goal and I hope to participate someday. I have taken my two oldest boys out turkey hunting and it would be a thrill and an honor to take out someone else.

For more information on the youth turkey hunt, contact Kurre by phone (651-259-5193) or by e-mail ( or visit

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Thinking ahead

February 17, 2009


I talked to my friend John Nesheim yesterday. He’s in good spirits as he learns how to get around in his house in a wheelchair. Just three weeks ago, he was lying in a ravine in Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul trying to figure out a way to escape. Now, he’s back home and adjusting to life without his feet, which were amputated due to severe frostbite.

As he described the complications of using a wheelchair, he reiterated his desire to deer hunt this fall. And, I assured him that I will be working on it. I have watched hunting videos that featured people in wheelchairs and I have heard about opportunities for disabled hunters. So, I’m confident we can put something together for John. We’ll just have to do the research.

Actually, it will be a unique and fun challenge trying to help John go after a whitetail. I have had the honor and blessing of helping my children harvest deer and turkeys. It’s just about as fun as doing it myself. I suspect the same will be true of helping John. He’s such a great friend and I would love to be there with him as he does something he enjoys so much.

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What are people thinking? McNabb’s short stories offer insight into others – and ourselves

February 17, 2009


“the body of this,”
by Andrew McNabb

Andrew McNabb penetrated the heads of dozens of characters, discovered their thoughts, and reports his findings in “the body of this.”

Often, it’s brilliant.

It’s writing filled both with humanity and a sense of place, descriptive in a way that refuses to ignore who and what we pass by everyday but fail to see.

Especially who.

The setting for most of the often very brief short stories in McNabb’s collection (published in paperback by Warren Machine Company) is Portland, Maine – and the old portion of Portland. The people whose minds McNabb has invaded are God’s people – church-going, Catholic people – and for the most part believable and real.

Meet some faith-filled folk

Take Terry, the central character of one short story who takes the approach to customer service that “could only, only be provided by loving your neighbor with all your might.”

Meet Lydia, the immigrant trying to dress well and fit in at high school.

There’s Frank, the lonely senior citizen serving food to the needy in the church basement who feels misunderstood.

And that young couple who decorated the baby’s room in anticipation of their first child only to…no, you’d better read that one yourself.

Lots of winners, but not all

McNabb writes some pretty weird stuff, too. When someone can bring together both reality and a sense of imagination the way he can, a reader has to wonder why he stoops to vulgarity at times.

It’s offensive. And unnecessary.

I say unnecessary because the empathy McNabb has for what some might call the least of God’s people is truly eye-opening, a blessing for his readers.

His insight into America’s obsession with losing weight is gorgeously brought out in the little more than four pages of the tightly written “Habeas Corpus.”

And the first-person story about a lottery winner – “It’s What It Feels Like” – is a marvelously-told piece of work that’s more about marriage – and the sometimes one-sideness of marriage – than about winning millions.

Is it what it looks like?

Or is it what it feels like?

And how about us?

What are all those people thinking, the ones we live with, the ones we work with and study with and volunteer with – and love?

What’s really on their minds?– bz

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Now’s the time

February 12, 2009


I found out recently that I got picked in the turkey hunting lottery for both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Already, I have started planning for the two hunts, which both will occur in mid May.

I started by calling landowners and securing permission to hunt on several properties in both states. Then, it was on to equipment preparation, starting with my shotgun. This is a good time of year to clean your gun and make sure it’s in good working order.

I tried cleaning the gun myself and did some disassembly to get at the trigger assembly. Problem was, I couldn’t figure out how to put it back together again. So, I brought it in to the gunsmith to have it cleaned and reassembled correctly. It’s now ready for pickup and I will have great confidence in using it for my turkey hunts. That is, after I take it out to pattern it with my turkey choke and ammo.

Even though I am using the same choke and ammo as last year, I still want to take it out to the gun range to make sure it’s shooting the same. Most likely, one shot at 25 yards will do the trick. Plus, I can also check to make sure the gun doesn’t jam after the first shot. If the next shell goes into the chamber, I know it’s good to go. Last fall, the gun jammed after I took a first shot at a turkey and I wasn’t able to get off a followup shot after not bringing the bird down with the first one.

I rarely have needed a second shot on a bird, but it’s nice to know that the gun will work for a second shot if I need it. Actually, if all goes well, I will need to take just two shots in the woods this spring, one in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin. The warm weather we’ve had within the last week has really got me thinking about turkey hunting.

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Home at last

February 9, 2009


My friend, John Nesheim, was able to go home for a visit yesterday. Regions Hospital released him for about seven hours and he was able to wheel his way around the house and visit with family.

According to his wife, Maureen, he is scheduled to go home for good on Wednesday. He has progressed very well after the surgery to amputate his feet Jan. 26 and is ready to leave the hospital. But, he and his family will face many challenges once he gets home.

One of them is making the house wheelchair accessible. It’s a one-story home, so that helps. Then, he will have to figure out what to do about work. He did used car sales before his accident Jan. 19 and it looks like he may not be able to continue that. Maureen says it will be at least six months before he’ll be able to work.

I got a chance to sit down with John last week and talk more about the two days he was stranded in the ravine at Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul three weeks ago and what God did in his life during that time and afterward at Regions Hospital. It is a compelling story and it is the subject of my monthly outdoors column, which will appear in this week’s edition of The Catholic Spirit (Feb. 12).

I don’t recall the last time I felt nervous about writing a story, but I did before sitting down at the computer this morning to put this one together. There’s so much to tell and it’s so personal. I want to do a good job and I want God to be glorified and John and Maureen to be honored. John is a dear friend of mine and I continue to be very grateful that he is alive. I told John and Maureen that I want to bring over a venison dinner after they get settled in at home and I plan on keeping my promise.

I also look forward to the opportunity to help John go deer hunting either this year or next. That would be a great thing to see happen.

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Power of the presidency comes alive in history of Andrew Jackson

February 7, 2009


“American Lion,”
by Jon Meacham

As a new American president takes the stage, reading a history of an American president some 180 years prior is an enlightening joy.
Watching Barack Obama utilize his mandate from the 2008 election has been the perfect backdrop for going back in time to learn how — in 1828 and during the eight years of two terms Andrew Jackson showed many U.S. presidents how the power of the presidency might be used to lead.
A youth during the War of Independence, a hero of the War of 1812 and a renown Indian fighter, the man those close to him called “the General” won the popular vote as well as the electoral vote in two elections, and he never let it be forgotten by those who disagreed with his reasoning.
Meacham paints a thorough portrait of Old Hickory — warts and all — yet his loving brush strokes are obvious. Readers, too, will find much to admire in Andrew Jackson, yet much for which to find fault with him as well, and that’s to the historian Meacham’s credit: He lets Jackson be human, not all good, not all bad, but multi-dimensional.

One way: Jackson’s
Jackson was the break-through candidate, the one who saw the president as the representative of the people against entrenched interests. He took that mandate from his election as a voucher giving him the right to make changes — and that he did.
Coming from his Tennessee home (the Hermitage) to a Washington that was just decades old but already seemingly set in its ways — particularly with regard to who had a “right” to government jobs — Jackson made it plain that he do things differently — and his way. Hundreds of long-time government staff found they were replaced by Jackson appointees, for one thing. That was new.
When it came to Congress, Jackson initiated greater use of the veto, enhancing presidential power: In 40 years no more than four or five Acts of Congress had been vetoed by six presidents; Jackson vetoed four in three days.

A man of firsts
Jackson was the first Democrat, and might be credited — for good or ill — as the one who started party-line voting, and a president who offered favors for votes in Congress.
During the election year of 1832, when he sought a second term, Jackson broke with tradition and initiated the first presidential campaign tour. Not willing to let others do his bidding, Jackson made the barbecue circuit, shaking hands and being seen as he made his way from his home in Tennessee to Washington and elsewhere. In New York City, one observer likened a Jackson torchlight parade to Catholic processions.
The campaign of 1832 may be where image first played a major role in how Americans voted. Jackson’s men repeated the message that “a vote for Jackson was a vote for the people while a vote for (Henry) Clay was a vote for the privileged,” Meacham noted.
Jackson understood the power of his personality and how the power of personality gave a president power.

Pro-slavery, anti-Indian
Along the way, though, President Andrew Jackson made what today society would say were serious errors — even immoral ones.
For one thing, Jackson was a slave owner and upheld the practice of slavery. He moved to curb the forces of abolition, even suppressing with presidential orders the right of printed material to be delivered from abolitionist writers.
He also saw Native Americans as just in the way of the progress of white U.S. citizens, and his policies and practices led to cruel resettlement of Indian tribes. The “Trail of Tears” — the forced removal of the Cherokee to the west — was a shameful result of Jackson’s Indian policy though it took place a year after he left office. An estimated 4,000 of the 16,000 Cherokees forced out of Georgia died along the way due to brutal treatment by the U.S. military.
Reading of his life now, though, is a good reminder, Meacham points out, “that evil can appear perfectly normal to even the best men and women of a given time.”
Ironically, despite his own participation in slavery, Jackson is also credited with preventing the southern states from seceding from the Union. When South Carolina felt compelled to reject Acts of Congress, Jackson stamped down and denied that any state had the right to do that.
When the tariff on southern cotton proved to be a divisive issue that could lead to succession, Jackson worked out a compromise that cooled tempers.

He is still with us
For my taste, too much of Meacham’s work pays attention to the pettiness of Washington society and how it impacted Jackson’s cabinet and household.
But Meacham shines in showing how Jackson has influenced and continues to influence the presidents of the United States:
— Running at the head of a national party;
— Fighting for a mandate from the people to govern in a particular way on particular issues;
— Depending on a circle of insiders and advisers;
— Mastering the media of the age to transmit a consistent message at a constant pace;
— Using the veto as a political weapon.
“He gave his most imaginative successors the means to do things they thought right,” Meacham noted, citing examples of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman as evidence.

A man of prayer
Readers interested in Jackson’s spirituality will find consistent references in “American Lion” that show the seventh president to have been a man of prayer.
Jackson’s rhetoric regularly includes mention of the Almighty, he is seen in prayer and frequently a nearby church, though he didn’t join a particular denomination — Baptist — until after he left office. His reasoning? He didn’t want it to look like he was joining just to improve his image.
One wonderful anecdote that captures a whiff of Jackson’s spirituality and a large bite of his sense of power is told upon his death near the end of the 360 pages of prose in this Random House book. Meacham writes:
“In Nashville,
according to legend, a visitor to the Hermitage asked a slave on the place whether he thought Jackson had gone to heaven. ‘If the General wants to go,’ the slave replied, ‘who’s going to stop him?'”
— bz
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Loss of a friend

February 3, 2009


I was shocked and saddened to learn last week of the death of Dick Paul, a recently-retired teacher at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley. An infection got out of control and eventually shut down his kidneys, leading to his death Saturday, Jan. 24 around 10 a.m.

Dick taught at the school for more than three decades, beginning in the fall of 1976. I was a sophomore then, when the school was called Fridley Grace. I was part of his first homeroom class and I liked him almost instantly. We shared a love of the outdoors, specifically, fishing and hunting, and talked about it often, both during homeroom and the math class I took from him that year.

I did not have him again as a teacher after sophomore year, but that one year was enough for me to consider him my favorite teacher at T-G. I was fortunate enough to have stayed in touch with him over the years. My job at The Catholic Spirit brought me to T-G from time to time and I always made it a point to stop in and see Dick. He had a hearty laugh that was contagious and I always left his office feeling upbeat.

We had talked often about getting out in a fishing boat together and came close last summer, when he invited me to join the annual Totino-Grace/Hill-Murray fishing contest on Lake Mille Lacs. His wife, Susan, is the principal there and he helped organize a friendly-but-competitive outing filled with fun, practical jokes and, yes, some serious walleye fishing by teachers and staff at the two schools aboard one of the lake’s famous launches.

I was all set to go, but a family conflict kept me from joining the group. It was tough not to be able to go, but I told myself I would be sure to make it this year. That may happen, but it will be sad to have this event without Dick. I don’t know if the others will go ahead with it or not.

In the 10 days since Dick’s death, I have been wondering how it happened. Finally, this morning, I got a little more information from Tom Kocon, a teacher at T-G and a friend I grew up with. He said Dick felt sick during an ice-fishing trip and saw a doctor after he got home. He was put on antibiotics for an infection, but they didn’t work. The doctors switched medications, but the infection only got worse. Then, he developed complications due to diabetes and his kidneys finally shut down the morning of the 24th.

“We’re all just shocked,” Tom said. “We can’t believe what happened. It’s a really sad situation. I feel for the whole family.”

I went online and read numerous tributes to Dick. He certainly touched many lives, including mine. I will truly miss the chance to get out on the water with him. I had planned to tell him what a difference he made in my life. But, I’m sure God will now reveal to him all of the good he did on this earth. And, I would love it if God chose to give him his own personal fishing lake in heaven. In the meantime, I will think of him this summer when I’m out fishing.

Dick Paul, may you rest in peace.

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A break from hospital food

February 2, 2009


A beautiful, 46-degree day Saturday turned my thoughts to the grill. I thawed some venison steaks and stood careful watch on the Weber to cook them to perfection.

Then, after feeding my family, I set one grilled steak aside to bring to my friend, John Nesheim. I figured that he would welcome a home-cooked meal after almost two weeks of eating hospital food. I called him and he was, indeed, up for some venison. I brought it down to Regions Hospital and presented it to him. I don’t know if it was allowed or not, but I decided to take the risk.

John and his wife, Maureen, shared it and liked it. I was glad. When someone you know and love is experiencing something as traumatic as recovering from having both feet amputated, you want to do anything you can to provide some comfort. I hope to do it again soon, although John is going to be going home this month. He’s starting his rehab now and will continue when he gets home.

The hospital staff wasted no time engaging him in vigorous and, at times, painful physical therapy. It’s good for him, they say. And, anyone who knows him or has heard of his situation should pray for God’s grace so that he can make progress in therapy. In the meantime, I have plenty of venison in my freezer to share with him.

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