Archive for February 2013

Whoa Nellie

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm
By: Doug Lund
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As promised, I did watch the Oscars Sunday night but managed to get ‘er done in just over an hour thanks to my trusty DVR. I was able to fast forward through all the commercials, lame jokes by the host, long boring acceptance speeches and the annual tribute to those in the film business who died in the last year..most of whom you’ve never heard of. Of course, the Ang Lee movie (one of the few I did NOT see) swept most of the awards. It wasn’t long until this showed up on Facebook and made me spray a sip of my screwdriver all over the computer screen.

 nellie life of pie

I probably shouldn’t even mention last week’s blog about the Oscars since it didn’t bring very many comments. One of them was from my old pal, Jack, who simply wrote “Yawn.”

I first got to know Jack way back in the 70’s when he was a jet pilot with the South Dakota Air National Guard.  

That's Jack on the lower left with his fellow F-100 Air Guard pilots in 1973

That’s Jack on the lower left with his fellow F-100 Air Guard pilots in 1973

He was among lots of pilots and broadcasters who gathered regularly at the “Captain’s Galley” lounge for, cocktails, fun conversation, girl watching and live music.  Jack eventually became a commercial airline pilot and left town only to return a few years ago to spend retirement from high atop a luxury Sioux Falls apartment building. There’s only one way I know of to get Jack back into my blog corner and that’s to write something about his first love; flying.

So here goes.

I forget the exact year but it was sometime during the mid 80’s when it was suggested that I do a story on Nellie Willhite; a little old lady in Sioux Falls who just happened to be the first licensed woman pilot in South Dakota.

She was pushing 90..I was told..but sharp as a tack. Now,  I’ve heard that sort of thing a lot in my reporting days; you gotta do a story on my uncle Torvald or my grandma Esther who’s turning 100. The photographer and I go to the party and find grandma Esther propped up in a chair with hair looking like a dandelion gone to seed ..barely able to see or hear much less do an interview. They’d mostly just shade their eyes from the bright lights and say “What?” a lot. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not making fun of the elderly..especially since I am one, but most really advanced age  folks aren’t quite as coherent as their kids think they are.

 So, to be honest, I thought that’s what I was getting into with Nellie…especially when just as we were about to go  meet her I was told that she’s deaf and had been since childhood following a bout with measles at her home near Box Elder.

Well, you’d never have known it to talk with her. She apparently retained enough hearing to get by just fine plus she had developed a lip reading ability to perfection.

Her interest in aviation began after seeing Charles Lindberg land his “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane at the Renner airport shortly after Lucky Lindy’s historic non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in 1927.  Nellie took flying lessons and the very next year, at the age of 35,  became the first woman pilot in the state. Her father coughed up 27 hundred dollars to buy her first aircraft; a Eaglerock bi-plane in which she became proficient enough to earn a living  by barnstorming and doing aerobatics in air shows.

nellie small photo

 

     nellie with passenger

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the photos above, that’s young Nellie in her full flight regalia and giving rides during her barnstorming days in her very own bi-plane, “Pard,” which she flew until 1935.

 She purchased the plane from another South Dakota legend aviator, Clyde Ice. Nellie also became a charter member in the “99 Club” formed by “Lady Lindy” Amelia Earhart. It was an exclusive club consisting only of pioneer women pilots in America. When I asked Nellie about Earhart, she whispered her answer saying “She was sort of a publicity machine and not that great of pilot.”

Nellie with her bi-plane she named "Pard" after her father. "Pard" is still around; an exhibit at the Southern Aviation Museum in Birmingham, Alabama

Nellie with her bi-plane she named “Pard” after her father. “Pard” is still around; an exhibit at the Southern Aviation Museum in Birmingham, Alabama

In later years, Nellie taught aviation classes and flew airmail. At the beginning of World War II, she applied to join the British Air Transport Auxiliary in Canada hoping to fly military aircraft to Europe but it didn’t work out.

 In her later years, Nellie Willhite received numerous awards and honors for her aviation achievements  not only in South Dakota but around the world. When she was  in her early 90’s, actress Marlee Matlin..who is also hearing impared..paid her a visit to research a possible movie about Nellie but it never materialized. Matlin was so taken with this early aviatrix, though , that she bought Nellie a new digital hearing aid..which, apparently she never wore.

Nellie’s last flight was as a passenger to New York where she gathered with other surviving member’s of Amelia’s “99 Club.” She, like, Clyde Ice, survived a lot of close calls in those rickety old planes to live extraordinarily long lives. Clyde made it to 103 while Nellie didn’t fly off into the sunset until the age of 98 in 1991.

When our interview was concluded, I had to sit back for a second just to absorb the experience of meeting with this remarkable woman. As she, and her little dogs, escorted us to the door, I said how much I appreciated her sharing her story.  She just smiled and said, “Come back again some time, you haven’t heard the half of it.”

Suddenly I thought of all the questions I’d neglected to ask; about her romances, her work with South Dakota’s only woman U.S. Senator, Gladys Pyle, and more about her close acquaintance with Amelia and what she thought might have happened on Earhart’s fateful around the world flight.

Nellie probably knew precisely what went wrong and I missed the scoop of the century.

(Thanks to Augustana’s Center for Western Studies for information about Nellie Willhite to help me fill-in the blanks of my memory.)

It’s Showtime

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 10:10 am
By: Doug Lund
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Oscar_45

I’m actually going to watch the Academy Awards Sunday night; something I haven’t done in several years mainly because I rarely have seen many of the movies nominated; mostly due to  my aversion to movie theaters. Don’t worry, this isn’t another rant complaining about the high price of admittance and popcorn or the deaf-inducing volume or even the noisy inconsiderate clods sharing the theater experience with me who feel duty bound to provide a running audible commentary during the entire show. I generally wait until the films come out On Demand and watch in the comfort of my own big chair surrounded by snacks and beverages provided at no charge; at least not at a thousand percent mark-up.

But this year, I couldn’t wait that long to see “Lincoln” so Linda and I went. It was very good, although as I mentioned here before, I was sort of expecting director Steven Spielberg to provide a couple Civil War battle scenes as only he could..but instead got a lot of long speeches in dark rooms.

I also went to see the nominated “Zero Dark Thirty.” It too was interesting and well acted. It also lived up to the title since the half hour scene at the end.. of the Seals going after bin Laden.. was shot so dark you wished they would have passed out night vision goggles in the lobby before the show so we could see it on screen.

My cousin wanted to see “Django Unchained” so we checked it out a couple weeks ago. For some reason, Hollywood is in love with Quentin Tarantino who writes and directs these shockingly violent blood splattered masterpieces like “Pulp Fiction” “Inglorious Basterds” and this silly spin-off, which amounts to a cross between  old spaghetti westerns and a Sam Pekenpaw production in which bags of blood explode and spray after every impact of lead on human flesh..and there are hundreds if not thousands of them in “Django.” The movie is also peppered with expletives in which the “F” word flies as often as the bullets and in such a variety of usages be they adjectives, verbs or nouns.  Worst of the abusers is Samuel L. Jackson who plays the “Uncle Tom” character as longtime head of Leonardo De Caprio’s family plantation. He plays fast and free with the “N” word to the point where it would make an Alabama audience squirm. Anyway, I thought it was just a goofy movie and felt a bit guilty liking it.

The highly touted Ben Affleck film, “Argo” was On Demand so Linda and I watched it at home and enjoyed it very much. The cast is really good and the plot (even though we know how it ends) is sufficiently tense and exciting but It just didn’t leave me awed like it has some who believe Affleck’s being snubbed for best director is tantamount to treason.

Last but not least, I took Linda to see “Silver Linings Playbook” Thursday..and, unlike any of the other best picture nominees, it has really stayed in my head for some reason. Again, I don’t know why these movies feel compelled to throw the f-bomb in every other word of the script, especially when it really doesn’t add a thing to the story and will take forever for editors to bleep it all out for TV.   Anyway, it’s what I’d call a serious romantic comedy that had me hooked from the start. The performances by Bradly Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence truly capture the fine line between crazy and normal. Robert Di Nero’s character (his best work in years) also treds on a balance beam between nice and nuts.  

“Silver Linings Playbook” is my favorite of the bunch but it really doesn’t stand much of a chance in any of the nominated categories..except maybe for Di Nero as best supporting actor.

Oh, I know, there were NINE movies nominated for best picture this year which, in my opinion, is four too many. Nominations are getting to the point that they’re handed like gold stars in grade school. Give ‘em to everybody so there are no hurt feelings.

I just couldn’t get myself into the mood to see “Les Miserables.”  The clip of Russell Crow singing or Anne Hathaway’s clip of being clipped are bad enough but sitting through three hours of this tired old French fable that even has the word miserable in it..is too much to bear..or pay for; at least until it comes out on my home TV and I need something really sad and depressing to get out of my happy mood.

I’m also not big on anything by director, Ang Lee. Lots of people (including the critics)  liked that crouching tiger hidden dragon thing he directed a few years ago featuring gravity defying Asian people running through trees. It was 2 ½ hours of my life I’ll never get back and wasn’t about to invest in his latest fantasy flick, “Life of Pi.”

The film “Amour” is up for an Oscar. It’s about a French couple coping with the complexities of getting old and losing one’s marbles. I don’t think “Amour” which is sub-titled, has even been shown here yet. I can wait to see it.

The other nominee, “Beasts of the southern wild” is now available to watch at home but I haven’t yet although I’m anxious to see the performance by that 9 year old girl with the funny name; maybe i’ll shell out the five bucks to watch it this evening after I CLEAN THE  SNOW OFF MY SIDEWALKS.

I picked up some popcorn at the store just in case

Faces To Remember

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:38 am
By: Doug Lund
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The walk in question. The sun got most of it but the cold has frozen the melt in place.

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To my great relief, nobody from the city has been by to perform a pop inspection of my sidewalks which, as I told you last week, remained unshoveled as my way of protesting the city’s refusal to scrape the snow off  the neighborhood streets.  It wasn’t much of a rebellion, though, knowing that temperatures into the forties last weekend would likely take care of the snow and the problem. It did too..except at our house where the walks first turned into concrete rivers and now, thanks to this latest arctic blast, have become slippery glaciers that don’t appear as if they’ll yield until sometime in May. So it’s back to ACE for another bag of ice melt.

Besides the ice, this photo from our front deck reveals another truth about my astounding ability to procrastinate. Can you see what it is?

 sidewalks 002

Part of my daily routine is to check a few favorite web sites which is where I came across photos of a couple characters who some of you under the age of forty may not recognize. Heck, I’m  a long ways past forty and I didn’t know who they were right off.

Well..here see for yourself.

 assassans sir han old

Looks a little like that controversial former head of Egyptian antiquities and darling of the History Channel..Zahi Hawass only without the Indiana Jones hat.

But it’s actually the Palestinian who, 44 years ago, took exception to the Middle East policies of presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy and emptied a revolver into him  as he walked through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after declaring victory in the California primary.

He’s Sir Han Sir Han the scum bag with two same names who was first sentenced to die in the gas chamber for his crime but, three years after the murder,  got life instead when California decided the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment. So, Sir Han, who’s approaching 70,  has been keeping busy with Donald Moeller-like appeal after appeal, now claiming he’d been hypnotized and doesn’t remember anything about putting a bullet in Kennedy’s head and injuring five others.

Sir Han shortly after killing Senator Robert Kennedy in 2968

Sir Han shortly after killing Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968

The parole board still isn’t buying any of it so Sir Han remains in solitary at..get this..Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California. He says he’d like to go back to Jordan if he’s ever released which isn’t likely.

Okay, how about this guy..recognize him?

 assassans mark david chapman

He’s a former drug addict who became “born again” and lived a Christian life until jilted by his girlfriend..then resorted back to  his crazy ways which included a plot to assassinate music legend, John Lennon. A plan he carried out in December of 1980 outside Lennon’s New York City apartment building.

Mark David Chapman is a strange ranger. So strange that his lawyers were confident they could get him off the hook on a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. But then Chapman..who got born again..again.. behind bars..surprised his attorneys saying he was going to plead guilty and take his medicine without anymore legal appeals. Chapman, who remarried before the assassination, remains isolated from the prison population at his new digs, Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, but he is allowed one conjugal visit a year from his wife. He’d like to go free somedayand start a new church with her but his requests for parole every two years have, so far, been denied; in part because of so many people on the outside  have sworn they’ll shoot him on site if he’s ever turned loose.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I don’t ever recall seeing  this photo of Lennon signing an autograph for Chapman himself..just hours before Chapman returned to shoot him dead.

 

Photo of John Lennon signing a copy of his Double Fantasy album for Mark David Chapman, taken by Paul Goresh, December 8, 1980. Photo Copyright © 1980, 1981 Paul Goresh. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of John Lennon signing a copy of his Double Fantasy album for Mark David Chapman, taken by Paul Goresh, December 8, 1980. Photo Copyright © 1980, 1981 Paul Goresh. All Rights Reserved.

Chapman’s next shot at parole comes in 2014. Unlike Sir Han, though, there is a possibility he might actually  someday be set free; perhaps when Lennon fans are too old to present a threat.

Maybe he and his wife will open that church.

Who could possibly want to be a member?

I can’t “Imagine.”

Vee Haff Vays

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 10:40 am
By: Doug Lund
9 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

 

So far, I haven’t seen anybody outside my house dressed like city Gestapo agents checking the walkability of my sidewalks but I can imagine the scene if they did show up.

Ding Dong.

I open the door. “Yes, Mr. Lund,” the one wearing a monocle says, “are you avare zat zee city assorities have issued orders zat sidewalks must be free uff zee ice by zis time yet yours are not. Explain.”  “Well, I figured that since you guys didn’t feel it necessary to clean my street, you really couldn’t expect homeowners to stand out there banging away at the ice on sidewalks..which, technically, you own.”

“Zat is no excuse, Mr. Lund. We haff vays of making you work and belief me zay can be most unpleasant. Is zat vat you vish?” “No sir, no. I’ll get right to it. Please don’t take me off in that big black car of yours.” “Very well..see zat you do or vee will return mitt zee dogs.”

We’ve made it to mid February and soon those howling frigid north winds that’ll flash freeze you on the spot, will be replaced with gentle warm breezes wafting up from the south It will be spring and we can brag about surviving one more Dakota winter.

Every time I used to share that Pollyanna optimism with the Keloland weather doctor, Jay Trobec, he’d point out that March and April are often the snowiest months of the year.

There are, though, a few undeniable signs that our suffering is at an end. Spring training has begun and the engines of NASCAR will soon be roaring to life for the Daytona 500 and the beginning of another racing season.

As most of you know, I love cars and I got to thinking the other day about where my fascination with the automobile first began and then it hit me; my brother, Denny’s go kart that he built when we were kids.

He had somehow procured a pedal-start motor from an old washing machine. (Yes, early washing machines used to be powered by a gasoline engine with a kick start. God I’m old.) Anyway, Denny also found a two by six board for the chassis, a pair of two by fours for the axles and four wheels from a pull wagon; probably from my Radio Flyer that would be worth a fortune today. He managed to bolt the engine down and configure a drive mechanism out of a stick with a pulley attached. He either steered the thing with his feet or a rope tied to the front axle..I don’t recall. But I do remember mom saying “Oh, dear lord” the first time he fired it up and flew down our gravel street in a cloud of dust and burning oil.

Unbelievably there's an image of a go kart on the web that looks exactly like my brother's. In fact, that even looks like him..but it's not.

Unbelievably there’s an image of a go kart on the web that looks exactly like my brother’s. In fact, that even looks like him..but it’s not.

But there were times when that old motor wouldn’t fire and I can still see Denny kicking and kicking and sweating and swearing. I learned all the satisfying curses from my brother working on that &^#@$% go kart. 

Dad, being a carpenter and wood craftsman, just couldn’t help but get caught up in my brother’s project and, sort of like a father helping his boy scout son build a toy car for the Pinewood Derby, Dad decided to turn Denny’s basic motorized plank into a magnificent example of homemade transportation. He spent hours constructing a hood, fenders and grill for the thing..then painted it British Racing Green.

The front end on this one looks very much like the grill and hood dad made.

The front end on this one looks very much like the grill and hood dad made.

I believe Denny actually drove it in a Cossack Day parade but he lost interest after getting a driver’s license and a real car. It sat idle in the garage for years and years. Every once in a while, I’d go in and give the pedal a kick hoping that it would miraculously fire up and I could take her for a spin but it never did. I have a hunch mom dumped a cup of sugar in the gas tank.

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Heck, we’re already off to a terrific start by dodging that killer meteor which provided a close encounter Friday.

Wait..what’s this?

Two guys in dark trench coats just pulled up the driveway in a black car with city plates.

“Linda…DO NOT answer that door!”

Send In The Clowns

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:28 am
By: Doug Lund
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There’s a black pick-up truck that is regularly roaring by our house day and night with an exhaust system so loud it makes the windows and our nerves rattle. Its driver apparently takes great joy in revving the big engine up to about 5 thousand RPM’s and spinning his wheels on the still icy streets of our normally tranquil neighborhood. I get so angry I fantasize about putting on a face mask along with my heavy parka with the hood up, then standing out in the middle of the street armed with a baseball bat ready to take out one of his headlights next time he bellows by. I won’t, of course. The only parka I have has Keloland News embroidered all over it..plus I’m too chicken for any such Rambo tactics whether justice is on my side or not. Speaking of icy Sioux Falls city streets, it looks like, once again, no blade shall touch the snow covered asphalt where the people actually live.

Oooh, a little cranky this morning are we? Nothing another cup of coffee can’t fix. (hang on a sec.)

Okay..I feel better now.

The subject I really wanted to visit about today?

clowns happy

Clowns.

 It’s time to stop picking on them. Stop drinking the Hollywood Kool-Aid that portray clowns as evil, creepy creatures..like The Simpson’s Krusty, Batman’s Joker, and Steven King’s Pennywise. It’s become fashionable to bash them..to fear them. There’s even a name for this entertainment industry induced fear of clowns; coulrophobia.

Oh, there are a few real life exceptions, like mass murderer, John Wayne Gacy who tortured and killed 33 young men burying them in his basement and backyard.

clown gacy pogo

 In his spare time, Gacy was known to delight children at parties dressed up as Pogo the Clown.  But he is not representative of the clowns from my youth; not by a long shot. In fact, I want you all to know that I actually lived with a clown in my growing up years and survived just fine, thank you. When we moved into the new house my dad built with his own two hands in the early 50’s, my mother tried her best to make up for the fact that he included just ONE bedroom for 3 boys by telling us how much fun bunk beds will be and decorating the room in a fun circus décor, complete with colorful rings around the ceiling light fixture and a switch plate cover in the shape of a clown whose nose activated the on/off  switch.  I wish I had a picture of it. Wait, you don’t suppose there might be an image on the inter..well, I’ll be darned.

clown switch plate

That’s him. Okay, maybe that’s a little creepy..especially since it remained in place over the light switch until we were all teenagers.

During my reporting years at KELO, I had occasion to visit with lots and lots of clowns from Ronald McDonald, Bozo, Weary Willy (not a big talker)  and most all of the 30 plus members of the El Riad Shrine Circus clowns..especially the delightful Hal Teslow.

clown teslow in makeup

Few took the business of being funny more seriously than Halowishes. Each Thursday, this retired construction contractor would spend an hour putting on his clown outfit..then spend three or more hours making the rounds at Sioux Valley Hopsital visiting patients and passing out stickers that read, “I hugged a clown today.” 

clown teslow squeek my nose

In all his years working the corridors, not one person, including stoic consertvitive midwesterners,  refused a hug and no child screamed in fear when Hal came in the room  unless they’d been warned by their nervous nelly parents beforehand about being wary of any and all strangers.

clown teslow hugging

When my story about Hal Teslow ran on Keloland sometime back in the 90’s, I had the wonderfully haunting..eye moisture inducing melody “Send In The Clowns” quietly playing in the background which managed to turn a few of my colleagues into mush upon viewing it in the editing room..which made me happy and happy is what clowns are all about; or should be.

A recent Google search revealed that Hal died in 1999. I sure hope there were lots of folks around to give him a big hug before he passed on.  He was such a wonderful guy with a heart as big as his clown shoes who, I’m sure, would be sad to see the bad rap he and his fellow comic performers in orange wigs and make-up are getting these days.

But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns…
Well, maybe next year.

Resolutions

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:40 am
By: Doug Lund
10 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I was going to rail-on for a bit about how infuriating the last few days have been watching the price of gasoline go soaring as high as an Iranian space monkey; up to nearly $3.50 again after teasing us with the possibility of dropping below three bucks a gallon at the start of the year. gas prices Industry experts blame the increase on the price of crude oil going up and production cuts ( a million barrels a day) by the Middle East Oil cartel,  OPEC, which apparently needs more cash to build sky scrapers and golf courses in the desert.  But, of course, why rail when there’s not a blasted thing any of us can do about this blatant “stick-it-to-the-consumer attitude by sheiks, suits and speculators.  They have us over an oil barrel and know it. Our only recourse would be to park all vehicles and make those greedy goons suffer through our abstinence. I’m doing my part by staying close to home during these cold winter days and nights. But I think Linda is inclined to believe that it has less to do with protesting the high cost of fuel and more with keeping my rotund rump firmly planted in my rocker.

alaska-on-deck

But, enough of that. I have news. My sweetie and I are heading back to Alaska with Holiday Vacations in late July and are hoping some of you will decide to tag along. It’s such an amazing once-in-a-lifetime adventure that we’ve been privileged to be a part of MORE  than once in our lives. This one includes 4 nights aboard a Holland America cruise ship sailing through the inside passage and Glacier Bay. You can see the itinerary and other information by going to this website: www.holidayvacations.net . The key word is Keloland. Here endeth the commercial.

Speaking of Keloland, I get to visit the station on a daily basis during this month of February; recording the Eye On  Keloland promotions. I still get a kick out of visiting with long time colleagues and meeting the young newzies; wide eyed and excited about the chance to work in television..especially the number one CBS television affiliate in the country. They’re good and talented kids and, when I walk through the newsroom, stare as if seeing a dinosaur..which, of course they are.

I watched a couple classic movies this week; films that I’d thought I’d seen before but really had not..at least not in their entirety. “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon.”bogeyBoth starred Humphrey Bogart and both were made in the early forties and both were..well, a bit of a yawn. I appreciate them and all their noir qualities but I never thought of Bogey as much of an actor or leading man.  He sure could smoke though. Everybody on screen in those movies always had a drink in their hand and a cigarette in their lips. Smoking like chimneys eventually caught up with Bogey and lots of other stars of the silver screen whose lives ended when cancer invaded their lungs. I gotta tell you, though, I loved every Marlboro to hit my mouth for over 40 years and still am tempted whenever one of my golf buddies lights up and I get a whiff of that delicious smoke wafting across my nostrils. Funny, I don’t remember the exact date when I quit cigarettes. But it’s been about 13 years since a check-up revealed a bit of  emphysema creeping into my airway which got my attention enough to squish up a fresh pack of smokes, toss them in the trash and stop cold turkey.  Aside from marrying Linda, it’s the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  If you struggle with the idea of quitting, I hear the South Dakota Quit Line is quite helpful for those who’ve resolved to stop. Here’s the website: https://southdakota.quitlogix.org/

Speaking of resolutions; so many of you have been such loyal readers of Lund at Large over the last seven years, and lately I’ve been slacking off. You never really know if and when a new blog will appear on Keloland.com and that’s not fair.  So, from now on, I’m going to try post a Lund at Large twice weekly by noon Tuesdays and Fridays. (Even more frequently when we’re on the road)   I’ve been afraid of repeating myself but, what the heck, none of my meanderings are all that memorable anyway so if I occasionally plagiarize my own stuff don’t tell anybody.

I know some of you have wondered where to find Lund at Large on the new Keloland webpage. Well, just click on “features” and I’m right there.

For now..as the old maid said to the peeping Tom, “Thanks for lookin’ in.”