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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Should have known better but the cold weather snap took me by surprise. Our fall had been so mild, I was thinking winter would be late in arriving this year. Instead it seems to be a bit early.
I was in the Superior Ace Hardware Store Monday afternoon when a hunter came in looking for handwarmers. Ace had what he wanted but apparently it wasn't the first store he tried for he mentioned another store where he was told "Hand warmers are stocked only in season. We haven't gotten any in yet."
I agreed with the hunter and the Ace clerk. Handwarmer season has been here for several days.
I haven't tried any of the new hand warmer packets though I have bought some and carry them in my camera case, should I be caught out and have the need for such. This week Rita bought me a neck wrap which came with a hand warmer pocket and two hand warmers.
I had never thought of putting a hand warmer on my neck and it seems a bit strange that I would want to put my hands around my neck to keep them warm. However, a handwarmer for the neck makes as much sense and dropping one down the back of my shirt which I routinely did when I rode a horse to country school. The logic of the location was "Keep your kidneys warm and you'll be warm all over." Didn't seem to work well but how cold would I have been if I hadn't had the pocket warmer glowing above my belt?
With one hand holding the horse's reins and the other resting on the saddle horn, certainly wouldn't have done much good to have placed the handwarmer in my coat pocket.
Handwarmers in those days were really little stoves that were burned lighter fluid. Don't remember anyone getting burnt while using one, but such an accident probably happened.
The December issue of Popular Science magazine has a DIY article on how to make hand warmers. Can't print the entire article here but will reprint the first paragraph. "Cold weather makes for cold hands unless, of course, you have a hand warmer. Don't waste money on those cheap disposable ones. Instead, use kitchen chemistry to make your own reusable versions."
The article explains when vinegar and baking soda react they form a compound called sodium acetate. This chemical has a high freezing point, so in liquid form at room temperature it is supercooled. In such a state, a single sodium acetate crystal will trigger all the liquid to freeze solid, which releases enough energy to heat a bag of sodium acetate to about 136 degrees .
The magazine explains how to make the bags and how to reconstitute them for use over and over.
Do you suppose the hobos who used to occupy the village made of cardboard shacks at the west edge of Superior knew how to make such handwarmers? If they didn't, I suspect they would liked to have known.
I don't know how those men survived our winters in their flimsy shacks. I once asked one of them why he didn't go South for the winter. He said the people in the warmer climates didn't welcome his kind and it was better to stay up north when the people of Superior accepted him and let him live as he chose.
While I didn't want anything to do with his way of life, it was what he had chosen. From his conversation it was apparent he could have done something else, had he chosen. He had a little money and enjoyed, at least, window shopping, Understand he was a frequent caller at one, perhaps both of the jewelry stores we had at that time.
On a Facebook page last week, I wrote, "Listening to my furnace running and warm air blowing on my face while reading about how cold it is makes me thankful I'm not staying the night in the Superior Hobo Jungle that was located west of the Farmers Union Cooperative Creamery. Remember waiting in the creamery office to catch a ride home with my mother and looking out the window at the cardboard shacks and the men standing around open fires trying to keep warm. They couldn't have had an easy life.
The post generated several comments. Many of my Facebook friends recalled stories about the men who called the jungle home. Others were surprised to learn the jungle existed. Many recalled the man we called Scratchbox. Others wrote about Smokey, the man who claimed to be Mound from Mongolia when asked where he came from.
I found the comments interesting and will record some of them here.
Tracy Quackenbush wrote "I have never heard about a Hobo jungle. Really?"
Sheila Moore said "My dad took my 3 brothers and me there often to visit a hobo they called Scratchbox.... he could play a tune on book of matches and that's how he said he got his name..."
Bill Collins remembered, "My Dad worked for Burlington Railroad and I played at the depot when I was a small boy. I remember seeing Scratchbox and he had very few teeth but he would scratch his fingernails on the side of a matchbox to create musical tunes."
Rich Wilton remembered Smokey and said he was a good gentelman to visit. Sheila Moore recalled Smokey was one that always wore a long black coat.
Mark Ray recalled his mother always cautioned him to be careful when near the hobos. He suspected it was her fear of the unknown. Mark frequently hiked the railroad tracks to the river and recalled looked around in Hobo camp once when nobody was there.
John Huskinson worked at the Scoular-Bishop grain terminal unloading boxcars loaded with wheat in the summer of 1953. He remembered hearing about the individuals who had taken up residence on a small patch of ground between the railroad lines but said he never met them.
Claudia Hanson said, "My brother spent time down there with the hobos and talked about Scratchbox. He thought they were alright guys!"
Candy Ellison was among those surprised to learn about the village, She commented, "And I thought I knew Superior. I was oblivious to all of this."
Joan Frum recalled "I always heard about Scratchbox."
Marlys McClure chimed in and said, "My folks talked about them."
Tom Laird was among the adventurous young Superior residents who visited the camp. "The 'Bo Jungle was between the creamery and the junkyard. My brother Ron and I used to visit those guys quite a bit. We used to bring a couple cans of food and leave them there when we left. Now you couldn't go to a place like that, because the people there are not the same. HOBO was the term for people riding the railroad cars and living in jungles, looking for work. That too has changed."
Pam Riley recalled, "There was one named Bill Murray-took care of him in the hospital a few times-he taught me how to roll cigarettes, just what I need to know, but he thought I did a pretty good job. Scratchbox would sit in front of the jukebox at the VFW and play his matchbox along with the music. He was actually pretty good. His first name was Jim but I can't recall his last name."
Sherry Brown said, "I grew up listening to the music Scratchbox could make out of those matchboxes. I could never understand how he could have fingernails after he played four or five songs for which he would receive four or five beers."
A classmate of mine, Collette Teson said, "I must have lived in a bubble! I don't remember anything like that."
Nancy Gray remembered, "My dad, Robert Curfman, brought Scratchbox to our home one year for Thanksgiving and let him call his sister on the telephone."
The hobo camp has been vacant for a number of years. I suspect it, like many things we used to have became a victim of the changing times.
The trains which roll through Superior aren't like the ones with open box cars the hobos liked to ride. It is difficult to hitch a ride on a grain hopper or ethanol tank car.
And the closing of the city landfill took away the source of many of the hobos income. Many of my memories involve visiting with them at the old dump located in a bend of the river west of Highway 14. The men walked the railroad tracks between their camp and the dump. They sorted through the trash for small pieces of metal they could tote back to the junk yard in burlap bags slung over their shoulders and trade for a few dollars.
They liked to look over my load of trash and offered advice on where I should dump. Sometimes they told me about something I might like to salvage from the dump.
The men who worked the dump were like unpaid recyclers and dump attendants. They kept close watch of the dump and knew what went on there.
But then the rules were changed. The dump was fenced and only open certain hours. It became illegal to remove anything that was unloaded there.
Without a source of income, Superior was no longer a suitable home for the hobos and they moved on.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
This colder weather caught us farmers off guard. It seems we are receiving December temperatures a month early. Though most of the fall harvesting is in the bins, there are still some milo, corn, and sunflowers standing in some fields. As Sunday morning arrived, the snow covered ground could be viewed and most certainly weren't ready for it.
With the nice Indian Summer days and nights we were enjoying throughout most of October and on into November, the pastures remained lush with grass and full ponds, and it was thought the cattle could wait to be moved after the harvest was completed. The fall harvest was good and the time got away from many of us. The fall clean up of the trucks, tractors and combines became the next step following harvest. For us, a roof had to put back on a shed where the farm machinery is stored. The canvas roof on the hoop shed had been damaged in a wind storm last spring, and so Thursday and Friday were devoted to that duty.
Then came Saturday when the weather changed and the cold front moved in dumping snow. Cattle were still in the pastures. Hay had to be hauled to feed them until they could be moved. In pastures without heated waters, the ponds quickly froze. Trips had to be made to break the ice so the cattle could water. With pastures spread out in the area, this could be an all day chore.
Monday morning we decided to start moving cattle home. All day was devoted to getting the cattle into the pens, moving them up the chutes and on into the trailer. Thankfully the cattle in the two north pastures cooperated. Maybe, it was because it was so cold they were so ready to get out of the open pastures and into the well protected home pasture. For whatever the reason the move was easier than normal. Now there are just three more pastures to move cattle from. A warming trend is predicted for this week so hopefully the weather will be better for the next moves.
Perhaps with the snow all melted and the temperatures warmer, the cattle may be more content in the pastures and thus harder to move. We will have to wait and see but for now I'm thankful the first cattle moves went so well.