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A Touch of the Past


Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Monday, June 3, 2001

I assign my freshman English students a number of professional essays to read, and one of them is "The Inheritence of Tools" by Scott Russell Sanders. In it, Sanders tells of inheriting his father's woodworking tools and the knowledge for using those tools. But there are multiple levels of meaning, and by the end of the essay, the reader sees that "tools" also symbolize other aspects of the writer's life.

After we read the essay, the students are assigned to write their own essay about things they've "inherited." This assignment always produces some of the most thoughtful, engaging writing that I read all semester. This spring, one young man, Adam, wrote about inheriting his father's knowledge of farming and work ethic. Another, Kyle, wrote about his mixed feelings over the assumption that he would someday inherit his father's business. Kristin wrote about inheriting her father's tendency toward alcoholism.

Proscovia, a woman from Sudan, wrote about the day her mother taught all four of her daughters how to make their own household utensils so that they'd become "marriageable". Using wood from a certain tree, the mother carved eating and cooking utensils and bowls, and then wove "in-law mats" out of grass, so that each of her daughters' in-laws would have a place to sit when visiting. What Proscovia remembered most was not how to make these things, but the fact that her mother hummed happily while teaching her daughters.

Ister, from Somalia, wrote about inheriting an ivory carving, passed down through her father and grandfather who were both known as men who found joy in helping others in their community. Ister didn't understand what motivated them when she was younger, but now takes pride in emulating their spirit, helping her Somalian relatives and friends here in America.

Nicole wrote about her father's favorite golf clubs, and how she carried them around in her trunk after he died, even though she didn't golf. One day they were stolen and she was heartbroken, offering a reward for their return that was three times their worth. She never got them back.

My own favorite "inheritance" is my Grandma Elsie's cookbook. It is called "Favorite Recipes" and was printed by St. Michael's Church in Morgan, Minnesota, in 1962, the year I was born. The cookbook was among my grandmother's things when she died twenty years ago, and since my mom already had a copy of the same book, she asked if I wante .....
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Time to be ruthless

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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by Virginia CooperMonday, June 3, 2002

The hardest thing about gardening - after you actually get yourself out there and get a few seeds in the ground - is to take charge of your seedlings and thin them ruthlessly.

The little notes on ..... 
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The Bridge Club

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Monday, June 10, 2002

The smells of coffee, cigarette smoke and various perfumes wafted up the stairs to the bedroom my sister and I shared. It was Monday evening. The ladies of my mother's bridge club had begun arriving.

Each time th ..... 
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A Tale of Three Shrews

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Monday, May 6, 2002

Of Minnesota’s six shrew species, at least two are widespread throughout the southeastern Bluff Country counties. By far the largest and most frequently seen is the Short-tailed Shrew, Blarina brevicauda. Both scientific (b ..... 
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Prairie Notes

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Jo Anne AgrimsonMonday, June 10, 2002

The results of the 2002 Minnesota State Envirothon contest left many advisors and team members shaking their heads in disbelief: for the fourth year in a row, a Rushford-Peterson team took first place, be ..... 
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Where the family farm is 90% fun

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Monday, June 10, 2002

It might be hard to locate many dairy farmers who will admit that their day-to-day job is fun, but Marcia Nagel, co-owner of Nagel Farm & Dairy, says just that, "It’s fun. Ninety percent of it is anyway." According to Mar ..... 
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Just another cat story

Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Monday, May 13, 2001

This is another cat story.

Yes, another stray wandered on to the place. We usually find them in the ditch or huddled in the bushes meowing hysterically.

My wife heard this little orphan mewing as loud as ..... 
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Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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Fri, Jun 7th, 2002
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