‘For land sakes alive’ and ‘gosh all fishhooks’

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From the Albert Lea Evening Tribune of June 1, 1949: In pioneer days, Minnesotans were not allowed to swear in the house or in the presence of ladies. This was difficult for some men who were used to language of pioneer saloons and frontier establishments.

A man, however, was allowed to say “the devil and Tom Walker,” “gosh all fishhooks,” and “so help me jumping John Rogers.” These were considered rather lurid for the parlor. More moderate epithets were “jumping Aunt Hannah,” “Land o’ Goshen,” and “by cracky.”

Women’s tempers also got to the boiling point once in a while. They were allowed to say “in all my born days” and “for land sakes alive” without losing respectability.

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Life in a snow globe

I awoke to a world swallowed by cotton; a land leveled in white. The birdfeeders wore snowcaps. Snow and wind sifted through the day.

The snowflakes silenced the world by muffling sounds. They brought memories of throwing snowballs (never a slushy one). Every dog looked ready to pull a sled to Alaska. Footprints in the fresh snow spoke a language of their own.

I tried shoveling snow by using Jedi mind tricks. It didn’t work. The snow was still deeper than a tall Swede. I grabbed a shovel in a valiant, but not altogether successful attempt to free my path from snow. This is what causes Arizona-envy.

Here in Hartland

Hartland is small enough that if it had a one-way Main Street and a driver missed his turn, he’d have to drive all the way around the world to get another crack at it. Just because we are small doesn’t mean that bad weather cannot find us. We talk about the weather as much as anyone. I think we should name our snowstorms. It’d be much easier to talk about a blizzard if we could refer to it by a name such as “Bob.”

Baseball will be here soon

I’m a St. Louis Cardinals’ fan. I listened to the far-reaching KMOX Radio when I was a boy. KMOX was the Redbirds’ flag ship station. An old Philco radio, with 19 knobs and dials, only two of which made any difference–on-off/volume and station select — and a GE transistor radio with an earplug kept me informed on the Cardinals’ fortunes. I listened intently to every word uttered by the announcers — Joe Garagiola, Jack Buck and Harry Caray. Well, not every word. I would sometimes fall asleep in bed, listening to a late game and my mother would have to pluck the plug from my ear and turn off my GE transistor radio. It was all good.

Overheard in Hartland

“I couldn’t believe that you had a child that big.”

“Well, he wasn’t that big when I had him.”

With age comes wisdom

I met a 91-year old man in Sibley, Iowa.

I asked him what his secret to longevity was.

“I had one,” he replied, “but I can’t remember it.”

I’ve been reading

Bill Bryson writes in Made in America, “They certainly didn’t spend a lot of time shooting each other. In the ten years that Dodge City was the biggest, rowdiest cow town in the world, only 34 people were buried in the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery and almost all of them died of natural causes. Incidents like the shootout at the OK Corral or the murder of Wild Bill Hickock became famous by dint of their being so unusual.”

When things go wrong, don’t go with them

He moved slowly and it was apparent that the walker was something new in his life.

He sat next to me in the crowded restaurant.

I needed breakfast. He needed to talk. He told me of various medical procedures that he’d had done recently. He threw in abbreviations and medical terms that I could not identify.

I told him that he looked good. That’s what we say. I wished him well. I meant it.

He thanked me and said, “I’ve decided that I might as well live through it all.”

Notes from Nebraska

An old cowboy from North Platte was telling me about all of the horses he’d ridden and all the rodeos he’d participated in. I became bowlegged just from listening to him.

Life’s lessons

We have all been told that we can never go home again. That’s not true. I go home again. Every time I leave the house I have to come home again because I’ve forgotten something that I needed with me.

In conclusion

Herm Albright wrote, “Perhaps the world little notes nor long remembers individual acts of kindness — but people do.”

Hartland resident Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday.