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What to do (09/18/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

No matter what it is you like to do, you can bet you can do it in the upcoming weeks.

Duck hunting opens Sept. 24. Youth waterfowl day was September 10, and our friend Abby Luhmann got three ducks on her outing that day.

Duck hunting is a great thing, I’ve learned. But it took me a long while to appreciate its value to a marriage. It’s the only thing that will get my husband out of bed before dawn. When I had little kids at home, I resented the fact that he wasn’t there on fall mornings to help with parenting. But now, it’s an opportunity for me to have the bed to myself and time to read and enjoy the quiet. I used to practically gag when he brought in the dead ducks. But the kids were fascinated with the colors of the duck feathers and they love my duck stroganoff. So I got over it. When he started taking the kids hunting, it was nice to have them come home all excited about a morning in the swamp. I kept my thoughts to myself. I am not a swamp in the morning person. I am not a swamp person, period.

I am waiting for the weekend of Oct. 7, 8, and 9. First on my list is the Winona County History Center’s annual Cemetery Walk. This year there is an event in conjunction with the Walk that I am especially anxious to see. Judge Margaret Shaw Johnson, who has retired from the bench, has turned her talents to the theater, and her play, “The Haunting of Potters Field,” will be presented Oct. 7, 8, and 9, by Theatre du Mississippi.

I had the opportunity to read the play, taking one of the parts in a read-through for the director, Alison Di Nio and music director Betsy Neil. It is written in verse, a sort of old fashioned rhyming one that perfectly fits a telling of the tales of those buried in Potters Field.

Potters Field refers to an area of the cemetery, in this case Woodlawn Cemetery, where indigents were buried in days gone by. It is named Potters, Margaret writes, probably because the land used for the purpose would be a nonproductive field with poor soil perhaps used by potters to dig for clay.

In Woodlawn’s Potters Field, established in 1863, there are approximately 1,200 graves. Its use was discontinued in 1939. Margaret’s poem/play will tell the stories of a few of those buried there, including a small boy run over by a bus and Chinese man who ran a laundry in Winona. There will be music and dance accompanying the play, too. Watch these pages for more information.

Also happening on that Sunday, Oct. 9, is the Polish Cultural Institute’s Smaczne Jablka (Tasty Apple Festival for those of you who don’t read Polish). It is a great fall event celebrating the apple, featuring music, dancing, a pumpkin painting contest, baked goods, a Polish movie, and artists’ demonstrations. Plus an auction and raffle.

If the weather is wonderful, which it has a habit of being on that weekend, there is a Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio tour on Oct. 7, 8, and 9. If you get as far as Decorah, you can pick up a brochure, or go to www.iowaarttour.com.

Not finally, but the last on this list, is the Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour, a chance to visit four farms and take part in talks and demonstrations, see weaving and looms, and some of the products made from sheep’s wool. And, of course, you get to see a lot of sheep, some rare breeds, and many other farm animals, some exotic.

I first heard about the Sheep and Fiber tour from Jean Mueller, who was our first graphic artist, back when our offices were above where the Islamic Center on Third St. is now. Back then there was a door next to the building leading to the second floor, where Harold Libera had his attorney offices at the top of the stairs and we had the room across the hall.

We set up some file cabinets and put doors on top of those, covered with glass, to make layout tables. Back then there were no computers or computer graphics. We did all the typesetting on an IBM Selectric, and then ran it over to the corner of Fourth and Lafayette, where Mike Hull had a process camera, to blow it up to whatever size we needed. Then all the type was cut out using X-acto knives and stuck on the page with melted wax. Any illustrations were cut out of big books of pictures, and photos were screened and processed by Mike.

Jean’s job was to set the type and paste it all on pages, making ads out of all that and pages out of all the ads. We were the original savers and recyclers, regularly stealing things from old pages to use on the new ones. We also sharpened our X-acto blades on a stone until they were so thin you could practically do your mending with them.

Jean was a lot of fun, and did a great job except for recurring trouble typing certain words — “toilet bowel cleaner” being one of our favorite gaffes. We still call Christmas “Christsam,” and Twin Bluffs “Twin Bluggs.” Sorry I outed you, Jean!

There. I have your weekend planned for you. Get going! 


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