Archive | March, 2010

Tips from a turkey expert

March 31, 2010

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One of the highlights of my year came today. I had lunch with Steve Huettl, a turkey expert whom I got to know a few years ago when I took his wedding photos.

We discovered a mutual passion for turkey hunting and have stayed in touch since. We have lunch once or twice a year to talk strategy. He does most of the talking and I listen attentively to his every word.

He is one of the best turkey experts I know and his advice has paid off handsomely for me over the last few years. It was time to pick his brain once again. As usual, he did not disappoint. I showed him maps of several properties my boys and I will be hunting this year and he gave me tips on where birds might be. He knows turkeys’ tendencies very well and has been very generous in sharing his knowledge with me. I can’t wait to put it to work.

As it turns out, I’ll be in the woods a lot this spring chasing turkeys, both for myself and for others. The weekend after Easter is the Wisconsin youth turkey hunting weekend. I’m taking my son, William, who just turned 12 and is going on his first turkey hunt. We are going to a property where we have killed birds the last two years, including during the youth weekend. So, I’m optimistic.

Then, I take all three of my boys out for the first season in Minnesota a few days later. After that, I’m going to Camp Ripley to serve as a guide for a special hunt for disabled war veterans. I’m being paired with a World War II vet and his grandson, and I’m very excited. I sure hope I can help him get a bird.

With turkey hunting, the odds go up when you understand the birds and their tendencies. Steve truly does, and I learn something from him every time we talk. I hope to use that insight for myself and others this spring.

Steve is off to a great start already. He bagged a nice tom in Nebraska last weekend. He called in a group of gobblers the first morning of his hunt and  got  the nicest one with his bow. I may try bowhunting for turkeys at some point, but that’s far more challenging than using a shotgun.

In the meantime, I plan on trying a new product that just came out. It is made by Gamehide, a camo clothing company where Steve works. It’s called ElimiTick and it’s now available on the company’s website: I’m going to get some from Steve and try it out. I have used spray previously with good results, but, in this case, the repellent is bonded right to the fibers of the garment. It’s odorless and the company  says it will last through 70 washings — essentially, the life of the garment. I can’t wait to try it.

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What if the early black stars had been given their baseball seasons in the sun?

March 29, 2010


The End of Baseball cover“The End of Baseball,”

by Peter Schilling Jr.

What if major league baseball hadn’t waited until 1947 to enjoy the athletic prowess of black ballplayers?

What if, in the midst of World War II, innovative Bill Veeck Jr. had purchased the Philadelphia Athletics and stocked the team with the stars of the Negro Leagues — Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin — during their prime?

During their heyday these players were the likes of Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and Ernie Banks, and we know what just those three hall of famers brought to the big leagues.

Pete Schilling gives us a taste of how a season might have gone if baseball had been integrated before Branch Rickey took a gamble and put Jackie Robinson in a Brooklyn Dodger uniform. It’s a story filled with drama, with racism, with emotional moments on and off the field, with the wacky promotions that even the creative mind of Bill Veeck might never have tried.

And with baseball —  pure, unadulterated baseball.

Precursor to the exploding scoreboard?

Veeck — in real life the non-traditional owner at various times of the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox and the St. Louis Browns — brought fun and fans to the ballpark — and he’s the centerpiece of Schilling’s book, challenging the “gentleman’s agreement” among baseball owners to keep their sport lily white. (And the father of St. Paul Saints’ innovative owner Mike Veeck — he of the pig that brings new baseballs to the umpire!)

Tidbits of baseball history and lore are sprinkled throughout, signs that heroic research has been poured into the writing by Minnesota resident Schilling, who noted that he put seven years in at the St. Louis Park (MN) Home Depot to pay the mortgage while writing “The End of Baseball.”

In what may or may not be based in fact, Veeck fights off famed baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis to break the major league’s color barrier. Veeck’s memoir claims that he tried to do this very thing in 1942 but Landis — who was both judge and jury when it came to baseball policy during his 24-year reign — stopped him, fearing letting blacks play would be “the end of baseball.” Whether the novel captures history accurately or not, the battle makes for a fictional morality play and great, tension-filled reading.

And the innovations the fictional Veeck tries in order to fill seats at Philadelphia’s old Shibe Park are just as kooky — and successful! — as any of the promotions the real Veeck pulled off as a major league owner, including the scoreboard that shot off fireworks every time those pennant-winning 1959 Go-Go White Sox homered, the movable outfield fence in Cleveland (moved in or out 15 feet depending on the power of the opponent) and his most famous stunt, having a midget bat for the St. Louis Browns in order to induce a base on balls.

Famed supporting cast

Veeck may be the protagonist, but this is a book with a cast of worthy characters including the ageless Satchel Paige, the “Black Babe Ruth” Gibson, and future National League MVP Roy Campanella, a star for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s.

The blatant racism fans, hotels and restaurants in many cities show to the novel’s all-black A’s isn’t unlike what Robinson encountered when he played for the Dodgers in the late 1940s and what major league players like Fergie Jenkins and Dick Allen encountered even in the 1960s. While racism still exists in America, the fact that today white fans can cheer the likes of Torii Hunter, Ryan Howard and Derek Jeter only makes the “what-if” of the storyline of  “The End of Baseball” a cause of sorrow and regret.

So read this excellent book, then go online and do a search for the names above — some of the greats of the Negro Leagues who never got to shine at the major league level. One excellent source, too, is

Plug “Black players” into the search box and you’ll find page after page of history worth knowing and stories worth remembering. — bz

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The show goes on

March 26, 2010


I kept faithful to an outdoors tradition by going to the annual Northwest Sportshow, which opened Wednesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center and runs through Sunday.

Usually, I go with my Dad, but he was unable to attend this year due to recent surgery to remove his gall bladder. He’s recovering fine, but will need weeks to heal. So, this year, I flew solo.

I like cruising  the aisles in search of new hunting and fishing products. It’s a good chance to talk to some experts, who are there to answers questions from folks like me.

A pleasant surprise came when I bumped into two guys that I had gotten to know back when I worked for Sun Newspapers in the western suburbs — Steve Carney and Tim Lesmeister. I’ve had the pleasure of going fishing and hunting with them a few times, and the chance meeting at the show reminded me how enjoyable those times were.

One outing, in particular, stands out. Carney was catching walleyes like crazy on Lake Mille Lacs one summer — and big ones. He called me up and invited me to go. I met him in Rogers in the wee hours and we headed northward on Highway 169. We got out on the water about 5:30 a.m., and only minutes into our trip, Steve discovered his GPS wasn’t working.

“Well, we’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way,” he bravely responded to the crisis at hand. He turned on his depth finder and we journeyed out a few miles to the lake’s famous mud flats. He marked some fish, we circled back and dropped our live-bait rigs down to what we hoped would be active walleyes.

Game on! Within minutes, we were catching fish and, before long, the big ones started hitting. I ended up catching two 27-inch walleyes, and he got a 25- and a 29-incher. And, we took home a limit of eaters.

On that trip and several others, I seemed to be good luck for Steve even when some things did go wrong. I’d love to get back in a fishing boat with him this summer. Lesmeister, meanwhile, made me a standing offer to go to Mille Lacs with him this summer. He, in turn, would come to Lake Calhoun with me to fish for bass. He has done well there and so have I.

I’ll store that information in my head for later. Right now, I’ve got turkey hunting on my brain. Unfortunately, I did not find my favorite sportshow booth — Ammocraft. It’s a small store that caters to waterfowl and turkey hunters. I don’t know if I inadvertently missed it, or if he’s not there this year.

Doesn’t matter. I know where the store is — Minnetonka — and I can stop in some other time. For more information on the show, visit

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Mission Venezuela

March 26, 2010


Welcome to our new blog, MISSION VENEZUELA.  To get an idea of the Mission and its people…take a look at this video…

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s some reading material about the Venezuelan Mission:

Missionary to Venezuela receives more than he gives

Venezuela with new eyes

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Spring in Texas

March 23, 2010


DallasspringI got mixed signals about the season of spring during a recent trip to Dallas with my son, Joe. We were there to visit the University of Dallas, which is high on Joe’s list of colleges, and to visit my brother, Mark, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Allen.

The day of the visit, last Friday, was beautiful. After a cool start, it warmed beautifully into the upper 60s, which made for a great day to tour the campus, and to have a meal outdoors at Mark’s house that evening. I saw and photographed some peach blossoms on campus, a very nice bonus to the trip.

Then, the bottom fell out. The mercury dipped into the 30s and stayed there on Saturday. Later, in the evening, we looked outside Mark’s window and saw snow falling in big flakes as we watched an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game.

The snow continued to fall throughout the night and we were greeted with five inches on the ground as we left the house to go to Mass Sunday morning. The calendar said this was the second day of spring, but the streets and yards in Dallas told a different story. Some parts of the Dallas metroplex got as many as 11 inches.

Here’s the irony — there was more snow on the ground in Dallas on Sunday than there was back here in the Twin Cities. What could we do? I just shook my head and laughed, while my sister-in-law, Helen, ordered me to take the snow back home with me on Monday morning.

“No thanks,” I quickly  replied. “We’ve had it in Minnesota long enough.”

 Mark said he thinks Dallas set a record for most snow falling in a winter. He showed me pictures of another, similar, snowstorm back in February. The difference down in Dallas is that snow rarely lasts for more than a day or two. Sure enough, by the time we got to the airport on Monday morning for our flight back home, most of the snow was gone.

The same was true here when we got back. I’m sure glad we’re having an early spring. And, it looks like we may not get any snow in March this year.

That wouldn’t bother me one bit.

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Let Dietrich Bonhoeffer guide your prayer, but don’t get too comfortable

March 17, 2010

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Bonhoeffer cover

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Meditation and Prayer,”

edited by Peter Frick

The Lutheran Pastor who conspired to assassinate Adolph Hitler and lost his life as a result left a handful of writings that challenge Christians yet today to be Christian.

Peter Frick, a college educator, has drawn excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works to be used to encourage the daily practice of meditation and prayer. It was a practice Bonhoeffer encouraged when, while part of the resistance movement, he directed an underground seminary in Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1937, before his opposition to Germany’s warring leadership led to his eventual arrest and hanging.

That activism, that engagement, that hard-core brand of following Jesus Christ — even when difficult — no, especially when difficult — permeates the 56 pages of this slim-but-powerful purse-sized paperback from Liturgical Press (

Bonhoeffer has gifts to share about self-reflection, about self-deception, about silence, about a community praying for one another, about temptation, about suffering. Frick invites his readers to absorb them one day at a time, focusing on one thought throughout the day or even for several days.

They are so meaty that you can. Each meditation is less than a page, but page after page I found myself stopping to internalize the thought there in black and white. Take Bonhoeffer’s warning against “cheap grace”:

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession.”

Bonhoeffer’s faith is a faith of meditation, prayer and then action or consequence. His is not a half-way Christianity. He preaches the Gospel put into action in the world. Check out these excerpts:

“…it is certainly never pious to close the eyes that God gave us to see our neighbor and his or her need, simply to avoid seeing whatever is sad or dreadful.”

“Nothing is more ruinous for life together than to mistrust the spontaneity of others and suspect their motives. To psychologize and analyze people . . . is to destroy all trust. . . . People don’t exist to look into the abyss of each other’s hearts . . . but to encounter and accept eath other just as they are.”

“It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.”

There’s more where that came from. — bz

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Pray the Rosary by turning the pages

March 11, 2010


Life of Jesus cover

“The Life of Jesus: An Illustrated Rosary,”

by Mary Billingsley

Artist Mary Billingsley has offered a wonderful gift to the world, a unique, new way to pray the Rosary that stirs the senses, touches the heart and renews the soul.

First, for those unfamiliar with the chain of beads or those who need a refresher course, she spells out the words of all the individual prayers, and in beautifully drawn info graphic style labels exactly how to use each portion of a Rosary.

Her clever paintings then accompany beautifully sounding, simple to grasp language for each prayer of each of the five decades of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary that long have been part of the Catholic tradition, plus the newer Luminous Mysteries added by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

No Rosary needed

One doesn’t even have to have a Rosary to pray the Rosary with this gorgeous 56-page Eerdmans book that’s a lovely combination of art and text. Just read and pray and turn the page.

If you’re the type of person who takes comfort in your Rosary beads, you’ll get new meaning by reading along as you pray as you always have.

Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Benedict Groeschel notes in a foreword that Billingsley crafted this work for children, but that “children of all ages” will find value in the rich text and colorful, creative paintings that depict scenes from the Scripture.

Paintings that fill the senses

While the text tells the Bible stories in plain English, the paintings are busy, eclectic works that force readers to scour every corner for the little  details that Billingsley has dropped in to make elaborate scenes.

They are the fruit of a unique process in which Billingsley takes found objects — an old gate, a hand-made crutch, a hunk of ribbon — and creates a shrine of a scene from Jesus’ life — Finding Jesus in the Temple,  the Marriage Feast at Cana, the Last Supper — which she then paints.

Every time you look at one of the scenes you’ll see something you hadn’t seen before.

The whole package of words and pictures makes almost sensory overload, but what it really does it add additional meaning to what can often can become prayer by rote. — bz

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Waging war with Wheatless Wednesdays

March 8, 2010


EighmeyCoverFINAL“Food Will Win the War: Minnesota Crops, Cooks and Conservation during World War I,”

by Rae Katherine Eighmey

Baby boomers, get ready to be amazed at what our ancestors did that I’ll bet you never heard about.

Food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey has pulled together bushels of facts that I’ll be surprised if the post-World War II crowd has read or been told about. Page after page of this Minnesota Historical Society Press paperback brought behavior changes and sacrifices that were news to me.

I’d heard generic references to rationing from relatives, but much of that was from their WWII experience. The first World War was a whole different, untold story. Believing “food will win the war,” U.S. leaders asked that food be conserved at every American table.

Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays were all part of a national program to conserve protein for the fighting men and to enable more food to be shipped to the starving people of Europe.

Eighmey called food conservation during World War I “the first large-scale, social-networking enterprise of the twentieth century,” and it was accomplished before radio, television and telephones in much of the country.

“This was ‘everyone’s war,'” Eighmey noted, “and accomplishing this task depended upon the good will of informed and enlightened American citizens. It succeeded, thanks to the organized and voluntary efforts of ordinary people meeting in kitchens and classrooms, libraries, theaters, and churches, on street corners and over backyard fences all across the country — sharing information, inspiring cooperation, and creating solutions.”

Peer-influenced results

The recipe for success included two main ingredients, Eighmey wrote: Persuasive information and the actions put into motion by social-networking and peer-influence efforts.  Harvesting letters home, newspapers from the era, little circulated newsletters and national archives, the author shows how during those war years of 1917-18 Minnesotans in cities, towns and rural areas demonstrated how to be unselfish, how to be responsible citizens, and how to willing people can be on behalf of the common good.

Men, women and children in every household reduced their intake of wheat, meat, fats and sugar. In February 1918, only three of the week’s 21 meals were without restriction: seven were meatless, seven were wheatless and five were both meatless and wheatless.

Slogans became part of the social influences. Every woman, for example, was allegedly “drafted” into the ranks of the “Army of American Housewives”  — kitchen warriors saving calories that would feed the troops instead. Farmers were referred to as “soldiers of the soil.”

Growing food in victory gardens and canning extra food became important for even city dwellers, and the University of Minnesota’s home economists  got to work inventing new recipes to use substitute ingredients for wheat flour and beef, putting corn meal, rice and barley flour into recipes for bread,   and encouraging consumption of more pork, chicken and fish. Among the recipes devised by one Minnesotan: a wheatless, sugar-saving potato chocolate cake.

Minnesotans were urged to eat more cottage cheese, grow more potatoes, and to “Can Vegetables, Fruit and the Kaiser, too.”

Needed instruction done

Milk as a protein substitute went over well in a dairy state like Minnesota, and the university’s extension serve, the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the Food Administration all took educational efforts wherever they could find a group willing to listen to instructions about cold-pack canning, making cottage cheese, even storing eggs for up to six months.

Thanks to Eighmey and the Minnesota Historical Society, those of us who’ve never been forced to ration anything have a better idea of how some remarkable numbers were achieved. America shipped 23 million metric tons of food to Europe during the years of the first World War.

As a poster at the time noted, Americans could “Save a loaf a week, help win the war.”

And they did. — bz

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Taking a fall

March 8, 2010


I figured it would happen sooner or later. Today was the day.

All winter, I have been navigating through lots of slippery sidewalks and streets in my walking and running routine. I have tried to be very careful on the ice, and I think I have gotten pretty good at staying on my feet.

But, finally, I fell. The spill took place in the last mile of my run this morning. The temperature had dipped below freezing overnight and I saw some slick spots as I jogged my usual route. Near the end, I slipped a bit on a sidewalk, then tried to slow down as I crossed the street. My foot hit a patch of ice, and I fell sideways. I tore a dime-sized hunk of skin off the palm of my right hand, and bruised my elbow and knee. But, thank the Lord, there were no broken bones.

Several years ago, two of my coworkers broke their arms in March falling on ice. So, I’m very aware of the dangers that the freeze and thaw of late winter bring. On the positive side, one fall during an entire winter is pretty good, if you ask me. I’m sure hoping not to add any more spills to this total.

The scrape on my palm made me think about Jesus and the wounds he had on his hands from the nails when he was crucified. I experienced some pain as I washed my hand, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the agony that  Jesus endured. So many times when I think of Christ’s passion, I am amazed that he was willing to take on such great suffering.

I know that I do not possess such a willing spirit. But, at least, during Lent and after a fall like this, I can experience more gratitude for the price Jesus paid for my salvation.

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Theology of the Body bullseye?

March 1, 2010

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It was late on Friday afternoon and my son, Joe, and I were cruising south on Interstate 94 toward the Twin Cities. We were on our way back from a pair of college visits, one to Minnesota State University Moorhead and the other to North Dakota State University.

Joe spotted a deer on the edge of the woods and noticed it still had antlers. Most bucks have shed them by this time, so I thought this was an unusual sight. We also noticed that this deer and several others looked full bodied and healthy. They obviously have gotten through the cold, snowy winter in excellent shape.

The sightings gave me an opportunity to share a spiritual lesson based on a hunting-related experience Joe had recently. When we went to Montana over Thanksgiving to visit his grandparents and hunt with Grandpa Bob, Joe got an unexpected gift at the end of the trip. Grandpa Bob had a beautiful .270-caliber rifle with a high-quality Nikon scope. He got the gun before the season and hunted the entire fall with it. As it turned out, he never fired a shot at an animal with it.

Still, he was very fond of the firearm. Yet, in an amazing act of generosity, he gave the gun to Joe right before we left. Joe was nearly speechless and could hardly believe what had happened.

I brought this up on our drive home and asked him a few questions about this extraordinary gift: Why would Granpa Bob give you such a gift? What does it mean to you? Why did he choose you?

I wanted him to get a sense of the magnitude of this gift and to develop an appreciation for it. I went on to encourage him to think about his sexuality in a similar manner to this gift from his grandpa. Our sexuality is a precious gift that we give to another. It is very special and not meant to be casually given. God wants us to treat it with the highest degree of respect and only to give it away to one person, and in the context of a committed relationship — marriage.

This was my opportunity to drive home lessons I had learned on Theology of the Body from a book written by Christopher West, one of the foremost experts on the subject. The primary expert, of course, was Pope John Paul II, who delivered this work of theology in a series of talks that were picked up and assembled into the work that was eventually called Theology of the Body.

I know my brief analogy doesn’t do the topic justice, but I wanted to be able to take something Joe could relate to and connect it to this important concept. When he goes off to college — wherever it ends up being — there is sure to be all kinds of temptations, including sexual temptation. The best safeguard is to have a firm foundation of theology and morals in place, and to develop a high sense of responsibility in living according to your beliefs.

Also, I am hoping he will choose a college that has an environment compatible with his beliefs. In three weeks, we will be visiting the University of Dallas, which is a Catholic college with a strong liberal arts emphasis and a great reputation. We’ll see how Joe reacts to it. This is an important decision for him, and my hope is he will select the college that’s right for him — the one God has for him.

So, I will be fervently praying for him in the coming weeks. I humbly ask those reading this to do the same.

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