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Weekly Columns!

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

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
I'm considering ending a long standing friendship. Like the young woman in the automobile insurance ad who is emotional over the loss of Brad, I'll admit to being a bit emotional when I consider life without Creampuff.
We established our relationship in the summer of 1971. After starting life hauling eggs nearly 24-7 for a poultry business, Creampuff had been traded-in for a more glamourous Pontiac.
Very early in our relationship, I gave Creampuff a thorough bath, inside and out and then left her on Blauvelt's Hill to air out. It was obvious from the first that Creampuff can be a bit stubborn. The chicken smell just wouldn't go away.
Now it may be time to wash the ink off Creampuff and send the tired old van off to another life.
But I hate to do so. Somehow the old 1970 Ford has become part of this newspaper's identity.
I now know how Howard Crilly, the former publisher of this newspaper, felt when the old vehicle he had used for decades to deliver the newspaper to the post office was used by the manager of the Crest Theatre in a smash the automobile contest. The old newspaper auto was perfect for the contest. It was a tough old bird and recognized by everybody.
I'll feel bad if Creampuff has a similar fate.
I have no idea how many miles Creampuff has travelled as I'm certain the odometer doesn't reflect the actual number of miles. It could be approaching 300,000. I do know the old truck is on engine number five. Two engines blew apart within sight of Byron. A third one croaked a mile south of Lovewell Lake. Of the four failed engines, only engine number one was able to reach the truck hospital before succumbing. Engine number five appears to be a real trooper. It always starts, never overheats and sounds like it is enjoying life.
When we serviced the van earlier this month, it was obvious the brake line hoses were about to burst. Until the hoses are replaced the pressure of a sudden stop could be enough to rupture the lines.
Replacement hoses are no longer available. They had to be custom made. And that probably is true with many parts the old girl may be needing in the future.
On one of his visits to Superior prior to writing "The Man Who Ate the 747," Ben Sherwood ride in Creampuff on a trip to the Mankato Post Office made for a book entry.
As we crossed the railroad overpass north of Highway 36, Ben asked me, "How old is this truck?"
After I told him Creampuff was a 1970 model, he said. "I've never ridden in a truck that old before, why don't you get a new one?"
"Why?" I asked and then said, "All a new one would do is deliver papers."
Ben thought a bit and said, "Wouldn't it be safer."
I didn't think so then but it may be true today.
Seeing all the rust on the frame makes me think Creampuff is getting elderly and not up to some of the tasks we used to ask of her.
Creampuff has interior space for lots of newspapers and a three-quarter ton rating. Over the years she has tried to haul more than her share of papers. We were slow learners and tried more than once to haul a full load of papers. Eventually, we learned not to stuff her from floor to ceiling. At least once, we not only had papers from floor to ceiling but also in the passenger seat. She didn't complain and let us transport the big loads but they were too much for the willing truck. Each time we filled her full, we also blew out her rear wheel seals.
During the years we hauled newspapers to the Hastings post office, Creampuff never failed to reach the destination but one year after Floyd Wheeler used the van to break snow drifts on Highway 6, we had to have both front shock absorber mounting brackets welded. When the snow packed under the truck melted, the front shocks were no longer attached at the bottom.
I remember the day two of us were in Creampuff following a fire truck to a rural fire. Didn't need two people to take pictures of the fire but we needed two people to operate the truck. A few days earlier the gear shift lever had broken. While waiting for parts, we were using a piece of pipe as a make shift lever. That worked pretty well on smooth roads when the driver could keep the makeshift handle near by. It didn't work well on the rough country trails. The lever kept bouncing out-of-reach. It was necessary for the passenger to hold the lever and put it into position whenever it was time to shift.
Shifting has always been a problem with Creampuff. Early on we learned not to pull out in front of an oncoming vehicle. Shifting must be slow and deliberate. Get in a hurry and you risk getting the shifter stuck between gears. At least once I got stuck in the mud while attempting to down shift while turning a corner. Had to come to a complete stop and try to start over in low gear. Couldn't get started again without sliding into the ditch. Had to walk about a halfmile and ask a farmer for a tug.
A quick walk around the truck brings back many stories. The cracked windshield in a reminder of the time when lake toys slammed forward into the windshield. That happened more than once. One time the toys hit the windshiled with such force I had no choice but to replace the shattered glass.
A crumpled corner reminds me of the time when two Express employees backed from their parking spaces and collided in the middle of the street. A crease in the side is evidence of the time the truck scrapped a parking meter (remember those in downtown Superior) while being driven onto the sidewalk to make unloading easier. A dinged door testifies to one driver's habit of using a block of wood to hold the door open while loading and unloading. The block did its intended job but it should have been removed before trying to slam the door shut.
I noted the truck always starts but not always easily. Sometimes it is necessary to slide underneath and clean the cable connections leading to the starter. When stopped at the post office, that may be messy but it is possible. I'll not soon forget the day I had to clean the connections while stopped here in Superior at the intersection of Third and Bloom streets. It was livestock sale day and a line of pickup trucks pulling trailers quickly formed behind me on Highway 14.
If in need of a time tested and proven van, be watching this newspaper's classified section. Someday you may find an ad for a slightly used 1970 Ford van known as Creampuff. For the past 45 years that truck has primarily been used to transport printed materials intended for distribution by the U.S. Mails. Before that it was only used to haul a few eggs from farm to market. When asked why the truck is named Creampuff, I explain the cream colored truck has been primarily driven by "old men" and a few women for trips to the post office. And in case you get the wrong idea, the comment about old men refers to guys who drove the truck in the 1970s when, compared to them, I was just a whipper-snapper.
A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

I never imagined so large a chunk of a movie producer's time would be devoted to social media, as a course of absolute necessity. But it is.
Even for short films like those I have written and produced, there are steps which must be taken in order for the films to be seen and discussed by the right people. First, a film must be listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in order for people to even acknowledge its existence. In order for IMDb to list it, a film must be verifiable on a number of websites. They prefer film festival websites that either announce the film has been accepted or that it was already screened. And in order to create the kind of buzz that gets you into festivals, impressive social media campaigns must be carried out.
All that helps explain why I am currently managing three Facebook pages and two Twitter accounts. I have a personal Facebook page, as well as pages for both "Leaving Kansas" and "Shakespeare With Noodles." I also have a personal Twitter account, as well as one for "Leaving Kansas." When we decided to do a Twitter account for "Leaving Kansas," we thought "Shakespeare With Noodles" was nearly through with its festival run, so we didn't bother with one for it. Now, however, after winning a few awards late last year, we've decided to keep it out on the circuit a little longer. There are still possible screenings for it in Canada, Tennessee, South Dakota, Iowa and Idaho.
There is also the festival in Boulder City, Nev., next month, but we've all decided not to go. For me, it's a matter of pooling my resources so I can get to as many midwestern festivals as possible beginning in March with the Omaha Film Festival. An actor friend of mine in Los Angeles named Ray Chao has been asked to run a new festival in Twin Falls, Idaho, and we've sent both films there. Ray is a lawyer turned actor from Chicago and is among the people I've met at festivals with whom I would like to work. We met at the 2013 Snake Alley Festival of Film in Burlington, Iowa. I was there as a screenwriting finalist; he was there with a short drama he had written and directed.
I simply can't say enough about festival networking.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Kansas winters usually provide snow. Some years provide more snow than others. Some people believe recent winters have not been as severe (in terms of snowfall amounts) as in the past. I recall no traveling at all on county roads for days until the motorgrader operators could make all their rounds, moving high drifts from the roadways.
Snow has taken on new meaning for me throughout the years. As a child, with joy and excitement I watched snowflakes falling down. I couldn't understand why my parents were not as excited at seeing the snow. The snow sometimes began just as the sun was going down and my sisters and I hoped it would continue all night so school would be cancelled and we could go out and play in the snow while remaining at home. As the sun rose, we climbed out of bed, looking out the windows to see how much snow had fallen. The bright sun would hit the snow drifts, making them sparkle and gleam like diamonds hidden in the snow. Mother would tell us what we wanted to hear, that school had been called off. We couldn't wait to go outside, but we usually had to wait until lunch was over. Mother would dress us in our heaviest coats, snow pants, rubber boots, nylon and lined mittens and hoods or scarves tied so tight we could hardly move our heads. We'd scurry out the door to make snow angels and snowmen. Sometimes we'd get creative and make a snow family. Sometimes as the sun disappeared behind more dark clouds, new snowflakes would come floating down. We'd try to catch the flakes, but they would melt in our mittens, so we'd open our mouths and try to have the flakes fall in.
At the country school we attended, having snow on the ground usually didn't stop us from going outside for recess. All ages of students would run outside and march out a circle in the snow, and lanes within the circle, to create our fox and geese game site. We built snow forts, one across from the other, and divided into teams where wild snowball battles occurred.
For art work at school and home, we made paper snowflakes to place on windows or hang from the ceiling. In later years, I made paper snowflakes with my two sons.
Snowflakes are a marvel of God's creation. They say no two are alike. Science says snowflakes begin as snow crystals which develop when microscopic super cooled cloud droplets freeze. The shape of the snowflake is determined by the temperature and the humidity. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest snowflakes fell in January 1887 at Fort Keogh, Mont. One snowflake measured 15 inches. Now that is a big snowflake!
There are songs associated with snow, like "White Christmas" and "Let it Snow." Recently, the Disney movie, "Frozen," prominently featured snow and snowflakes.
In these parts, blizzards are possible during the winter months. Pioneer stories tell of people getting lost as they went outside to do chores during blizzards. They tell of tying ropes around those going outside so they could find their way back into the house. Blizzards brought many hardships to pioneers and their families.
As I grew up, I learned as a farmer's daughter that snow is important in providing moisture for farmland and pastures, and to help fill the ponds. I also learned farmers appreciated heavier snow more than light-weight snow, because it contained more moisture and was more likely to stay put on the ground. With the usual Kansas wind, lighter snow would blow off the fields, across roadways and into ditches. Snow provides covering for wheat fields to protect the young wheat from the freezing temperature that often makes for "winter kill" if the snow cover is lacking. But more snow meant harder work for the farmer getting feed and bales to the cattle.
Snow can provide entertainment, such as skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. When snowfall is short in the skiing resorts, it means harder times for those businesses.
When I had to drive to work, going when roads were snow covered made for some tense times. It was during those times that I changed my mind about the snow providing "fun" times. When I had to get all bundled up to go outside and bring in firewood for our wood burning stove, and had to trudge through the snow, I wondered why I ever thought it fun to play in the snow. Yet, there were still some fun times when my husband and I would take our sons outside to sled down the slopes in the pasture. A blast was had by all!
When our sons were young we had Husky dogs as pets, and their love of snow was something to watch. They would run and jump into the snow on the coldest of days and roll around in it. The boys used the dogs to pull them on the sleds and, of course, we didn't know who enjoyed it more ­­ the dogs or the boys.
There were times when blizzards caused power outages on the farm. Without electricity, the water well pump did not work, so trips were made outside to scoop up the freshly fallen snow to bring inside to melt and use.
There is also snow ice cream. Many remember their grandparents making up a batch of it. Here is a recipe, in case someone wants to try it, come the next snow fall: eight cups of fresh snow, 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Quickly mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon, in a big bowl. Spoon out into individual serving bowls and serve immediately.