The Palo Homestead

About time you think your life is as full as it can get, something new wedges in.

Last Friday Clyde Rogers, the Sage of Juniata Street, drove Norma and me to the Oulu Cultural & Heritage Center on the old Palo Homestead in southwest Bayfield County. History was busting out all over. Among the pioneer artifacts was a handmade rug loom from the home of Norma’s grandmother—a gift from Norma’s family. Norma, a Society member, grew up not far from the Center. The Palo homestead is on the National and Wisconsin Registers for Historic Places.

We toured the restored buildings and chatted with Duane Lahti, Society founder and president. His enthusiasm and vision for the future were contagious. Future Hole News posts will tell you more about Duane and his wife Barb’s impossible dream.

I probed the Internet for information on the Oulu Center and came across a book by Steven D. Fortney, The Cabin, A North Woods Memoir. I liked the flavor and one-clicked it. The first pages grabbed me; my kind of people. The story begins in the 60s when Fortney and several of his Wisconsin buddies got hankering for a cabin in  Northwoods hunting and trout fishing country—an ailment common among men of their ilk. They scoured tax-forfeiture land and spotted 80 acres in Southwest Bayfield County. They visited the land, liked what they saw, bid on it, and won. The 80 had been homesteaded by a family named Palo.

If you enjoy poking around real woods, hunting, and fishing trout, I recommend Fortney’s book. Email Steve. He’ll send an autographed copy.  (To foil phishers).

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Too Much Tech?

I may be the pot calling the kettle black, but I’m going to do it anyway. I observed as I walked from my car to the Walmart entrance yesterday that almost none of my fellow shoppers was looking where he was going. People walked through the crowded parking lot and across busy drives with their eyes glued to their smartphones. Only little children lacked the devices. They scampered about playing in traffic unrestrained because mom, dad, or older sibling was checking to see who just texted or whatever else we stare at our phones to discover.

On my last visit to Sandy Ridge I passed a mother and daughter leaving as I walked in. Both were fixated on their cellphones ignoring three deer a few feet away waiting for them to pass before crossing the trail.

I fear my generation and those older are the remnants of those who see the sights around them, who don’t risk their lives walking into traffic, or worse, driving in traffic because their attention is downward instead of outward. Don’t blame youth. The primary offenders are adults. When was the last time you admonished your child to get his nose out of his iPhone and then checked your cellphone to see who just texted?

It’s not the risk of accidents that worries me. We have learned to navigate and talk/text at the same time. But I fear that the sky may no longer be blue and roses have taken on the odor of vinegar, and no one has noticed.

Young Grandpa Keith

The Plan

Last Monday, Carol and Don came for supper.  Norma served stuffed green peppers and salad and we retired to my apartment for dessert and conversation.

I was reminded again and again of what Norma calls The Plan, God ordering each life to fulfill his purpose.  Romans 8:28 and Philippians 2:13 come to mind. When my guests left, I eased back in my recliner, remembering how they came into my life.

Carol and her young family were North Shore members when I came as pastor in 1977. She had lived across the street from the small tarpapered house when it became North Shore Chapel and moved with the congregation when it built a new home on Lakewood Road.

One Sunday around 1980, Don showed up at church with a young boy. In time I learned his story. He and his wife once ran a grocery store up the Shore, but alcohol cost him his business and family. Don turned to AA and managed to stay sober.

Meanwhile, on Duluth’s East Hillside, Paul Peterson began picking up a lad named Danny for Sunday school at Bethel Baptist. Danny lived with his mom in an apartment. She  struggled with severe agoraphobia but met Don and found companionship. When they married, they settled in Don’s mobile home near French River. Danny’s love for Sunday school led Don to North Shore.

One cold December Saturday, I picked Don up for a workday at Camp Green Hill. We were the only workers to show. At noon we huddled near the  barrel stove in the lodge, coffee cups warming our hands. “Pastor,” Don said, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” The following summer, I baptized Don and Danny.

How blessed to have friends! Don, now 86, is working through difficult chemo. Carol, nearing retirement, attends Emmanuel Baptist. We occasionally share after-church lunch. Norma grows dearer by the day. I’m grateful, so grateful, for The Plan.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

A Good, Wise Man

After 16 years of public service, Don Ness is hanging up his political hat. He served eight years on the Duluth city council and eight years as mayor.  Any time a politician voluntarily steps down at age 41, you know he has good values. Would that congressional deadwood would follow his example, but like some preachers, they don’t have the good sense to quit when they’re through.

I have appreciated Mr. Ness’ leadership through the years. When I learned he had released Hillsider: Snapshots of a Curious Political Journey, I ordered a copy for personal enjoyment and our Woodland Garden library.

I found the following quote from the book in a review by Don Davis Forum News Service: “Politicians and pundits too often claim ownership of the truth. … If we believe we’re the ones with the truth, we no longer seek, we simply defend. We build fortresses. Rhetorical attack and defense become the only ways we know how to discuss issues. We’re always fighting or preparing to fight.”

Sound familiar? Theology has lots of company with the   “We got the truth and everyone else is wrong” mindset.

Thank you, Mayor Ness. You led our city to new heights in many areas and laid a foundation for continued growth.

To learn more about Don Ness and his book, go to and Google Don Ness book. .

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Prove You Care

This is a twice told tale from 4 years ago, only it was told elsewhere than in the Hole News. It came to mind while in Walmart yesterday watching staff tear down a section of shelving to make room for additional early Christmas displays. 

The Risk We Take in Doing Good

From a tree in our church narthex set there by the Salvation Army with tags bearing the names of needy children I picked 4 year old Jasmine. She liked Tinkerbell, Mickey Mouse, Handy Manny, and wore size 5-6 clothes. I went to a Disney store and picked up some clothing items in her size and a Tinkerbelle blanket. I added a couple Mickey Mouse and Handy Manny toys.

One shopper told me she didn’t participate in such programs because she wasn’t sure the gifts would go to the child. Another asked me, “How do you know she’s even a real person?”

In Robert Frost’s poem The Exposed Nest a child had found a nest of baby birds uncovered by a mower making hay in the meadow leaving them “defenseless to the heat and light.” She “wanted to restore them to their right of something interposed between their sight and too much world at once.” An older person suggests the child’s efforts might be futile since the mother bird may not return and care for them in such a change of scene.

That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could,
Though harm should come of it, so built the screen
You had begun and gave them back their shade.

The poem ends wistfully.

All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven’t any memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to this place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.

I really don’t know if Jasmine received my gifts, or if there really is a Jasmine, but I trust the Salvation Army. Not knowing means I am free to imagine a mother’s joy in seeing her little girl open a few otherwise unaffordable Christmas gifts. There are always reasons not to do something good. Do it anyway. Prove you care. You know you want to.

Young Grandpa Keith

Twice-Told Tales

The Hole News will soon be seven years old. I calculate I have written about 1,500 editions, exhausting my storehouse of ideas several times over. You can understand why I return to some topics repeatedly.

Not long ago, I expounded on learning something new each day.  Erasmus was my Monday new.  The Sage of Juniata Street brought up his name in our philosophy & coffee session and I feigned knowledge of the Dutch intellectual giant. At home I  consulted my guru, Saint Google, and gained valuable insights into the renaissance/reformation era.

Thursday was a twofer: Nathaniel Hawthorn and poached eggs. Since Hawthorn gave me the name of this post, I thought I should check him out. I learned his Twice-Told Tales contained stories first published in magazines. If the great Hawthorn could openly repeat stuff, I guess it’s OK for me.

My second new came after decades of failure. I  slid a perfect poached egg onto my breakfast toast proving the truth of the old adage: When all else fails, read the instructions. I bet my egg was better than Hawthorn’s. He didn’t have Wikipedia and Google.

I have planned winter reading that will carry me into a variety of fields and provide the  historical context that is vital to understanding. Context is essential to understanding scripture. Can you walk comfortably from Abraham to King David? Or follow Jesus’ path from his baptism to Calvary?

Years ago, while visiting a church, I heard haunting music coming from another room. It sounded like an autoharp, which I played competently, but the sound was infinitely richer. I slipped into the room and found a woman holding an autoharp close to her heart, deftly fingering the chord bars and stroking the strings.  How much I had to learn!

Each day, learn something new: a theme worth exploring twice, thrice, and beyond.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Sandy Ridge Yet Again

Yesterday I set aside distractions, busyness, laziness and assorted other excuses and returned to Sandy Ridge for the first time in a month. For the last week in September it was surprisingly summer-like. I see no hint of fall in the Maples which by now are usually showing some color. I don’t know if it’s to much heat and rain or too little that is responsible. When I reached the marsh I saw two Trumpeter Swans feeding in a patch of lily pads. One of them stuck his head up to check me out.Trumpeter Swans

A bullfrog croaked to make me look at him so I snapped a picture. One of his smaller cousins, a Leopard Frog, hopped onto the path and didn’t move until I took his picture, too. BullfrogLeopard Frog

Out a way in the marsh turtles sunned themselves.Getting some Rays

For a long while I watched a patient Great Egret studying the water. He pounced and got lucky.You Have to be QuickHe'll Catch Dozens More Today

This Great Blue Heron was pondering some weighty matter. He held this pose for fifteen minutes and never moved or twitched. Fish jumping nearby didn’t interest him.Great Blue

Every year I see just one Cormorant at Sandy Ridge. I wonder if it’s the same one.Cormorant

I gathered some flowers on my walk.DSC_0947 web DSC_0949 web DSC_0783 web

Thanks for keeping me company.

Young Grandpa Keith

The Pile

Yesterday I saddled Old Blue (my Minnesota Walker) and headed for the store. It was the last day of summer, warm and windy. Yard flowers were fading and the first leaves were falling, a nuisance to lawn-keepers but nurture to the soil if left alone. But there is something that hates a dead leaf.

Nature wastes nothing. Over the eons, energy from the sun stored in summer greenery on land and sea became our fossil fuels. Creator God never hurries. We can trust him to do things right in our world and in our lives.

Back in my olden times, neighbors gathered each fall in the field back of our home to burn the Pile, the year’s accumulation of broken branches, tree prunings, garden vines, dry leaves—anything burnable and natural. Father would construct a balloon from newspaper and lay it at the edge of the fire. We watched in wonder as it caught fire and rose mysteriously to the sky.

When the Pile’s tall flames were spent, marshmallows and sticks would appear. We thrust potatoes in beds of coals, turning the skins charcoal black but leaving a white, edible core. Kids played and parents visited until dark. I bless the memory of the Pile.

That was long before city fathers banned open fires; before neighbors ceased being neighborly; before Facebook and Twitter and ubiquitous hand-held gadgets. Old guy that I am, I wonder what home memories will linger when today’s kids turn 92.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

My Perversity

I can’t remember when I first noticed my tendency to take the opposite view of anyone whose conversation was clearly (to me) an uncritical expression of an ideology. I don’t care if it is socialist, capitalist, conservative, liberal, religious, or secular, when I hear someone spouting a one-sided solution to a complex problem I take the opposing view even when I share much of what the speaker believes in general.

I have long believed that if any particular ideology had all the answers opposing points of view would have died ages ago of their own inadequacy. The perpetuation and vigorous defense of different political, social, religious, and economic philosophies is self-evident proof that none of them is the correct one.

You may call me wishy-washy, but I consider myself thoughtful. I reject the notion that those who disagree with me are stupid or evil. I seriously doubt that all my ideas are right and good.

Arrogance is the greatest sin. As long as I believe my way of life is best and all others are stupid and/or evil I can’t tolerate considering another’s point of view. That would be a betrayal of all I hold dear. If we claim divine endorsement of our society pondering options is not just political incorrectness, it is apostasy. How sad.

God made us all different. It is no wonder there are such marked disagreements among us. Shame on us that the only solution we have for dealing with our differences is to fight, even kill, those who disagree. Jesus never bought into the rigid teachings of Hebrew Sciptures. He offered a better way of thinking. If this is how God’s son thought, how should we?

Young Grandpa Keith

Rob and Mo and Something New

Count that day lost that teaches you nothing. A wise person said that, or should have.

Rob and Maureen (Mo) Moutoux from Purcellville, Virginia, supplied my Thursday teaching. They acquainted me with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Check out their refreshing approach to farming at

I met Rob and Mo at a family gathering at Keith and Betsy Gagnon’s home. Mo is friend Norma’s grandniece; Betsy is Norma’s daughter. The occasion: Rob and Mo’s first wedding anniversary. Those Finns serve great food! I learned Rob and Mo’s story as we sat around the table.

They are delightful, college-degreed people fully committed to caring for their fields, orchards, and animals while providing healthful food for families who partner with them. Rob is a third-generation Moutoux to manage the business. Read the family history on the website.

Sorry about the goofs in yesterday’s blog. See for an edited version. Haste makes you know what.

I watched Canada geese practice formations today; the woods are taking on color. Lawn furniture has been stashed and the Lutherans are baking pasties. All nature draws her skirts about her, getting ready. How comforting to know I don’t need a snow shovel or wood pile.

I love fall; even winter. Four new Great Courses and a stack of must-read books will keep my spirits warm. In life and the seasons, winter holds no dread. I’m enjoying my long Indian Summer.

Old Grandpa Lloyd