Category Archives: Snow

“Eat that mistake”

I’m meeting a candidate for the school board election in seven minutes for coffee. You will have to find that quote in the Trib’s latest mulch news.


I’m so treading water trying to keep above the editors of the Trib and the special interests who want to keep the cozy status quo. That meeting this morning had been rescheduled ahead a week and I was a week early. Well, being a week early at everything I’ve been doing is how I’ll win despite the occasional aggravation it causes.

At least I got to return home with a scone and take my grandsons to school.

That story on the mulch is here.

I want to hear why paying more than we wrote a contract for is justified. I’ll be putting in a day of shoveling snow to build a snow sculpture at Lowell School this winter as my part in paying for the mulch. I offered to build one at a silent auction by the parents wishing to remove the mulch. The $600 bid was the biggest single sale. I’ll be darned if I’m going to do that work for the contractors. I did it for our children.

Card 43 out of 50 – One card short of a full deck

I have always been pleased by this snow sculpture. And yet at Bayfront Park’s Fall Fest one person winced when he looked at it. He was a teacher and was instinctively repulsed. Even after I explained its meaning he gladly accepted my offer of a more harmless looking snowsculpture.

Loren Martell warned me against using the spanking card (card 22 of 50) but I think even opponents of corporal punishment will find it sort of amusing. BUT THE CONFEDERATE FLAG???????

I took great care to explain this all to Robin Washington, one-time editor of the DNT, after he called to warn me kids were threatening to burn my house down over this sculpture.

After re-reading that post I realized there was little left for me to write about this 43rd card in my deck of 50, EXCEPT THIS: While I will keep it in the deck I send to donors I will pull every card 43 out of the cards that I pass out door-to-door or at events like Fall Fest. I think the other 49 cards in the deck will give this potent message of protest against the heroically denied racism of the neo-GOP a little context and cover. And it completes the deck!

And I will offer this for the irony challenged. This is a Rebel Elephant carrying the flag of the old Confederacy……The Elephant being the revered symbol of the Republican Party…..The party that was long called “The Party of Lincoln”…….who freed the slaves. They’ve been infested by southern Dixiecrat descendants whose grandparents loathed Honest Abe…..That’s why you rarely hear of Lincoln Day Dinners anymore.

I hope that makes it clear.

Trading card stories – Card 22 of 50

I had a heartfelt conversation with Loren Martell this morning before setting off to go door to door. He pleaded with me to remove this card from the pack. He was insistent.

I didn’t plumb the depths of his thinking so that left a lot of room for me to imagine his fears. First, he may have thought the spanking man’s actions were so violent or suggestive of violence that it would harm people’s perceptions of me. Loren’s wife was an art teacher and a he himself is a sensitive soul. I doubt that Loren has ever had much contact with such brutality……..except when the Duluth School Board had a Duluth policeman handcuff him after he stood dumbstruck at the microphone for community comment after the Chairman turned his microphone off.

Well, I got spanked a couple times in my life; once with a hairbrush. I had just burned the lawn down. But this was not a common feature of my household. For the first ten years I was a teacher, in the 1970’s and early 80’s, the issue of corporal punishment in schools kept being revisited in the State Legislature until finally it was pretty much outlawed. I think this was for the good but I’m not one who believes spanking should never be employed. I did burn down our lawn! On the rare occasions when it is employed there is one particularly important caveat – it must never be used in anger. If put to use it should be with regret, restraint and it should be brief.

In the case of this sculpture it is strictly metaphorical. My snowman is rendering it on the bottom of the imagined, but never caught, miscreant who pushed (felled) my “dancing bears” (trading card 21 of 50) down our hill. The DNT thought it humorous enough to put on the front page of their newspaper. I think its worthy of the trading cards.

Want the whole pack? You can get them online for a donation here.

NOTE: One of the bear heads survived the tumble and I placed it under the hand of the miscreant. Its in the lower right corner sticking its tongue out at him.

Snowy friend

I’ve spent hours trying to take this photo from my Flickr and put it belatedly into my snowsculpting page where it should have been placed in March of 2015. This was the briefest of snow sculptures which I built for some Duluth spring enthusiasts after they agreed to pile the last and most recent snow on Canal Park into a pile for me to sculpt. They were going to have a bonfire and cook smores to welcome in Spring. This was an idea I found on the Internet of the March wind blowing in the new season.

Here’s the front view:

I once played a bit part on Jimmy Kimmel’s show…

…which I only recalled late last night. It was back in 2004. This mention of the occasion in the News Tribune was published two years later. A local radio station asked me to show up at Mr. Birkedahl’s residence to offer commentary for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show which got one of the local television stations to show up and live video the event so that Mr. Birkedahl could be interviewed. Jimmy didn’t seem to be very impressed.

Back then I’d never seen Kimmel’s show but knew it had the reputation of being a bawdy frat show:



Some folks from church prevailed on me to use the snow in Glen Avon’s front yard to have some fun. On Saturday with the help of my grandsons we made Heart Henge. I described its making as the work of ancient Picts and Scots building a temple to the heart. Think Stonehenge (The original Presbyterians were descended from the Picts who gave the Romans bloody hell while the Romans gave them bagpipes. I’d say that was a fair trade.)

On Sunday we added a bit of color.

In case you were wondering – tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Princess Leia’s 15 minutes of fame

In addition to Reddit Jabba snowed up on CBS stations coast to coast. Friends from church called me this morning to say that KDLH’s little story popped up on their motel TV in California. The story that Destination Duluth covered was on a New York Station.

The New York station even did a follow up on their website saying that I had made good on my promise to build Princess Leia with the fresh snow we got last week. If you look close Leia is pure as the driven while old Jabba is appropriately dingy after a couple of weeks letting dust particles migrate to his surface.

I figure that if she was standing the princess would be nine feet tall. But she’s also petite. I came home from a funeral yesterday and saw her head listing dangerously to the North on her tiny neck. I put some fresh snow in a bucket and brought it inside to melt for patching. Then I took a small hand saw and decapitated the Princess. She may be dainty but he’s also pretty hardly. I put her head back on in a more fetching southerly tilt and gave her a hidden neck brace for good measure.


I’ve been annoyed at the recent insult that my blog is not effective, “efficatious,” because I only have “eight loyal readers.” Well, a screen shot of the Imgur page that was recently sent to my wife by a friend suggests I can occasionally break the bonds of obscurity. Notice the views on this unassuming little picture.

Jabba the Hit

My Son texted me a while ago which is a rare occurrence. He told me that Jabba the Hutt had 35,000 “up votes” on Reddit. Its almost 40,000 now with 821 comments. I guess that’s good.

I was afraid the old coot would melt while I was in Denver but a cold wave saved his bacon the day after I left. Now its snowing and I’m thinking he needs a companion. Hmmmmmmm.

Jabba is an old friend. He came by our place two years ago in a different medium for our Church’s trunk or treat. Here’s a pic.:

I read a lot of the comments on Reddit. Apparently there are a lot of delivery drivers checking on its trending stories. A lot of them chimed in to say we were good tippers when we order a pizza.

Oh, and KBJR TV just sent a photographer to get a little history on the big guy tonight.

Snow Sculpting was about my sixth priority this week

I moved it to number 4 because I’m leaving town tomorrow. I wanted to finish one while the balmy sculpting weather continues. It will be interesting to see how Jabba holds up through one more day forecast in the mid-thirties.

I had a lot to spout off about but the posts had to wait their turn behind more important obligations.

My top priority was angling to get an OK to visit my Uncle in Colorado. I got it by buttering him up with a letter and an old column I wrote about him a dozen years ago. It’s been a while since I last linked to this old column about my Uncle. My cousin said he enjoyed it when she read it to him. His arms went useless a month ago so he couldn’t hold it himself.

And here’s a link to another column of mine about a “spineless bastard” which is mentioned in the first column. This will have to tide my eight loyal readers over until tomorrow.

Perfect Duluth Day – December 30, 2016

I was asked by Brian Barber of Perfect Duluth Day to pass on some information about my snow “art.” Anyone who has ever visited one of the websites for the Harbin Winter Ice Festival or the many snow sculpting contests sites will immediately recognize that what I do and what professional snow and ice sculptors do are world’s apart. Still, I’ve had my moments.

Because Brian asked me for pictures of 800 to 1000 pixels I decided to overhaul nearly thirty years worth of chaotic scraps from my sculpting career which goes back to 1987. I started putting postage stamp sized photos of my early sculptures on my webpage when it took hours to upload or download ordinary pictures.

The “thumbnails” were too small for Mr. Barber’s needs.

I spread all my old scrapheaps out and rediscovered the many joys of my modest success and their quirky results. I now have a chronological record which, after tomorrow, will encompass a thirty-year career which is just shy of 100 sculptures.

Ladysmith Black Mombazo

I was listening to an interesting story on NPR this morning about America’s first elephant. It came from the creator of The Memory Palace. I thought it reminded me greatly of This American Life and The Moth both sites devoted to story telling. That is what the historian in me is drawn to……stories.

While I was sculpting yesterday I had occasion to tell a story to tell one to one of the passerbys who mentioned that she had brought the famed South African Musical group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, past my house on their winter visit to Duluth a few years ago.

Sorry, this story will have to wait until after church and after I finish emptying my attic for tomorrow’s beginning of its metamorphosis into my new office.

I asked the passerby if she had taken the choir out to take a picture by my sculpture and she said I had to be kidding. There was no way these Africans were going to get out in our cold but she said they were impressed with the sculpture. She couldn’t recall which sculpture it was. I told her I had gone to this performance at Sacred Heart Church myself. I had to because of one particular family story but it didn’t hurt that Sacred Heart is Dr. Ahs’s baby. We stayed at his Danish summer home one year a decade ago and he is also, coincidentally, the expert in a malady which once nearly killed Claudia. I’d told the story about Ladysmith, South Africa, to my daughter when she was just in kindergarten and as a result she named her first gold fish “Ladysmith.”

I’ve apparently mentioned my Mother’s paternal Grandfather Thomas Robb three times in Lincolndemocrat. As a twelve year old boy he sailed with his family from Ireland to settle in the United States. As his ship approached New York Harbor in 1860 on his voyage another ship passed them heading out of the harbor. It was hailed with the question asking for the latest news. “South Carolina has just seceded from the Union” was the reply.

Thomas grew up in Pennsylvania and as a young married man made up his mind to start a farm near the railroad by Salina, Kansas. He was a poor farmer but he was a lover of Great Britain. He subscribed to the London Times which was delivered and devoured by his family in the middle of the Kansas nowhere that you will remember from the Wizard of Oz.

In 1900 England got mired in South Africa fighting the Boers. The Boer War is often called Britain version of America’s Vietnam. The family got particularly enraptured with the stories about a small town with a British unit in it that was surrounded by the Boers who laid siege to the town. The Times coverage of events was breathless and the family waited for each new London Times and the latest report on the siege steadfastly cheering the British on. During the siege their milk cow had a calf which the family named Ladysmith in honor of the defense of the City.

One day as the the siege went on their father took a short trip away from the farm. When he returned all of his children rushed out to greet him crying “Ladysmith has fallen, Ladysmith has fallen.” Thomas Robb was furious. The Boers had bested the brave British and he was not to be mollified. Suddenly all the children burst out laughing. Ladysmith the calf had fallen into the pit the family stored their winter ice in to keep their food from spoiling through the summer.

BTW – I took a pilgrimage to my Great Grandfather’s home in Assaria, Kansas eleven years ago and took pictures of what remained of the homestead. This uninspired root cellar may have been Ladysmith’s landing pad.

Old Man Winter

My Sweetie took a picture of me for her Facebook page while I worked diligently down at the corner of the lake, I think that’s what they call it, on a sculpture of Old Man Winter for Destination Duluth. I kept up my usual routine of keeping the final product’s identity a secret not knowing that it had already been outed in the Tribune.

Until about the last hour of sculpting it was still pretty much a blob and all anyone could identify was a nose. I was relieved that it all worked out in the end……after the sun had disappeared behind Enger Tower.

No miracles for this snow sculptor

What promised to begin as a good snow sculpting season hasn’t really materialized. We got a bit of snow before Thanksgiving but not enough. Besides that it was speckled with the leaves I didn’t get a chance to rake up first. I made a clay pilgrim and turkey as a model to speed up sculpting but no more snow arrived until Turkey day had come and gone.

I get occasional suggestions for what to sculpt which I only rarely decide to follow through on. Last Spring’s Wicked Witch of the West was such an example. Recently I got an email urging me to take on the School Board with some sort of parody or satire. I did that for several years running but I don’t have the heart to do that now. I quote Twain all the time but I also know that no one runs for the school board to do injury to children or schools. At the moment I’m looking for a holiday miracle to back away from a year’s worth of mayhem. Maybe I could pray for some decent snow while I’m at it.

A couple days ago I thought I’d like to emphasize a miracle in my snow sculpting. The problem was I couldn’t think of something miraculous to sculpt that would convey that message. I typed in “miracle” in my Google search to see what sort of images I could come up with. Of all the images that popped up only one seemed to me to be really miraculous but it didn’t lend itself to any good analogy with our School District or School Board. It was an image of an adult’s hands cupping an infant’s feet. I decided to Google that particular image and dozens of others popped up.

I printed out the best of the hands and feet images and scraped up the minuscule new snow that fell earlier in the week piling it around what was meant to be my Pilgrim and Turkey. This morning Claudia walked by the picture and couldn’t tell what the heck it was although it was sitting by a small pile of clay. The clay was the sure sign that I intended to sculpt the picture. Claudia, who doesn’t read my blog, had no idea what such an image was meant to convey. Later this morning when I began to mold hands and feet out of the clay she told me she wasn’t sure the image was such a good idea. She worried people wouldn’t be able to tell what it was. She even said it looked vaguely sexual which reminded me of Georgia Okeeffe’s paintings which were infamous for that quality.

This is what I had in mind:

I’ve got two good days of sculpting weather ahead of me and a small pile of snow. Anyone with any suggestions on some hopeful looking image please send me your ideas at:

I’m melting…

…and its about time!

Until the melt hit us I had no enthusiasm or inspiration to sculpt through the coldest sustained below zero temps in Duluth history. Then my buddy Frank suggested the Wicked Witch of the West. I had the snow piled up raring to go and I called my two grandsons to help paint her green.

More snow sculptures of mine here.