Category Archives: Snow

My Book list swerves

I thought I had read more books than the recent post listed. At a book store this afternoon I saw yet another book that I finished this year, The Swerve. Its great. I’ve just added it to my lifetime reading list. I wonder if that list includes James Clavells “Shogan.” I just remembered reading that one too a few days ago. I read it back in the 1970’s. (Just checked. Shogan was included)

While I was updating the old website I also explained how this year’s snow sculpture got built. I’ve been explaining the process each year for those who wonder how they get done. I’d like to encourage others to try their hand at it. Each of my sculptures gets built in slightly different ways depending on the weather, the subject, the time available and the amount of snow.

And a few drivebys

To continue the last post’s ruminations I’ll mention that my yard gets noticed regularly each winter that I can put a snow sculpture together. Sometimes the vagaries of weather only leave me with a couple days of snow art. This year, for the first time in a few years, I’ve lucked into a sculpture that has lasted two weeks because of short cold days.

More than any other sculpture I felt compelled to make this one because of current events. Last year was so warm I was never able to freeze water in the ice bucket candle holders I bought. That was no problem this year and I’ve been able to set them out below my snow sculpture.

Twenty years ago a traffic engineer told me that over 20,000 cars were driving up and down my Avenue each day. Today I’d guess twice that many pairs of eyes go past. This means a lot more folks see my sculptures than read my scribblings. This year’s sculpture has touched a cord with people as never before.

Last night as I lit the 10 candles for the ice luminaries a school bus paused below us with the change of lights. Suddenly windows flew down and ten year old were giving me thumbs up and telling my work was awesome. It made me feel glad even though I’m several days past shedding tears. These stories, like my sculptures, have a short life span.

A couple days ago I read that a survey of reporters listed Sandy Hook as the top story of 2012. We all have a habit of ranking recent events all out of proportion to their real significance. In years to come Sandy Hook will fade in our memories and be eclipsed by Obama’s reelection following a two-year campaign. At least it will hold its primacy in the history books. Still, I’ll remember my latest sculpture with far more fondness than the much larger one I made of Obama two years ago. The heart has its own ranking system.

Letter to Mark Lanthier

Mark Lanthier, Duluth, Minnesota
What a hypocrite he is the one who did not want the children of Duluth to have safe schools. It is in the same yard that had sign that said no to safe school. Shame on you Harry!

Dear Mark,

I read your comments regarding my not caring about the safety of Duluth’s Children on a webpage with a picture of my recent snow sculpture. Your comment was bitter and unfair. What happened at Sandy Hook was a punch to my gut – all of our guts. Back when I served on the school board I visited dozens of kindergarten classes and brought my favorite books to read and a pair of gorilla slippers. I love little kids and I take my own kindergarten grandson to school every Wednesday. His picture would fit in perfectly with the twenty photos that the Duluth News Tribune recently put on its front page.

Your beef with me is over the Red Plan and my continuing complaint that Duluth didn’t get to vote on it and my well publicized suspicion that the Red Planners were repeatedly dishonest.

One of the many claims of the supporters of the Red Plan was that our schools were unsafe. To remedy this they intended to make it easier to monitor visitors. This was a worthy goal. However, it did not take 259 million dollars to install new doors and cameras to accomplish this.

One of the many requests of Red Plan critics was to scale back the plan and Dr. Dixon convinced the editors at the Duluth News Tribune that he had worked hard to make the critics happy. Not hardly. After feigning compromise the cost of Dixon’s Red Plan grew by an additional $56 million to 315 million.

Do you truly believe that our Red Plan schools are safer today than the old schools were ten years ago now that high school class sizes routinely hit 40 students? (It was a rare class that had 34 kids in it when I was on the School Board) How has the overcrowding affected safety?

I have a friend to teaches at one of our high schools and she is fearful and discouraged. With a much worse teacher to student ratio this is understandable. The loss of teachers is one legacy of the Red Plan although it was unintended. This should not have come as a surprise. Our District told the State we would finance the Red Plan in part by taking five million out of classroom spending to pay for the debt on the Red Plan. We told the state we could do this because the plan would save us money by, among other things, saving a million in energy spending each year (reduced square footage to heat and cool and clean) and two million in annual staff savings. They gambled and they lost. They have to pay off the bonds so teachers were cut to make the payments leaving us with 40 kids to a classroom. That has proven to be a safety concern.

This year we’ve had numerous stories in the Duluth News Tribune about hostilities between our two new high schools. They have also reported that Denfeld has witnessed a number of fights. The year before they often reported that there were fights at Woodland Middle School where the District moved kids in a willy nilly rush to accommodate a speeded up construction schedule.

Fathers and Mothers and children crave stability. The problems associated with the Red Plan have made families desperate to abandon the District. Student test results, to the extent that they mean anything, have gotten worse. Ah, but the schools are newer and shinier.

My top motivation was not fighting the Red Plan. It was fighting for our right to vote on it. I might have voted for it myself given the chance even though it was by far the biggest public school construction plan in the history of the State of Minnesota. My second motive was to insure that our taxes went first to people not bricks and mortar. As for safety, another high priority, that could have been accomplished at a fraction of the cost of the Red Plan.

I may not be through with the Duluth Schools, Mark, so I’d like you to take what I’ve written to heart before you repeat the accusation that I don’t care about our children’s safety.

Sincerely,

Harry Welty, snow sculptor, teacher, grandfather

Re: the previous post.

I am flattered that the Duluth News Tribune has featured my snow sculpture for two days in a row. Below you will find the photo someone submitted for today’s paper. I’m always concerned about being uncharitable to those who would probably rather not have me keep biting their hand. I like, and have always liked, the folks at the Trib, even those, who began highlighting my quirkier qualities to my political detriment. I’ve got a very thick skin and I do have a sharp bite for unfair or poorly thought out criticism.

I don’t expect any mea culpa’s from anybody where the Red Plan is concerned although I think there are a lot of them that ought to be handed out. That helps explain why I writing my Red Plan posts a little like professional wrestlers employ submission holds.

I’ll keep baring my fangs when I feel sufficiently provoked but the Trib’s willingness to bury the hatchet somewhere other than my head is gratefully appreciated.

Sandy Hook on my mind

Tonight two women knocked on our front door and asked whether I would mind if they placed 26 red roses below the snow sculpture I finished working on tonight. I choked up a bit and told them I would be happy for them too do so but to watch their footing on the slippery loose snow I had carved off of my original pile of snow.

Nick Cooper from Townsquare Media stopped by and took a few pictures of me chiseling away then explained my work for the readers of several local radio stations he does work for.

Perfect Duluth Day also snapped a picture of it when I was at my five-year-old grandson’s kindergarten class yesterday helping make gingerbread houses.

The White Knight has lost his head

My morning at Stowe Elementary was fun but left me stiffer than ever. I’m though with snow. So is Don Quixote. His head had fallen off in the forty degree temps. The sails are falling off the windmill too and all the pieces seem to be shrinking like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz who got doused by a bucket of water.

I’m trying to get my new website up and running. It always takes longer than I expect.

Rush Limbaugh has lost 30 sponsors. Some people have a sense of decency.

Leap Day postponed by Snow

I’m heading out in an hour and a half to the far west of Duluth. I promised to help teach snow sculpting to the children there. I’ve done this many times before in various schools.

I was originally scheduled to do this on February 29th, Leap Day. There was no snow on the ground up to that day and provisions to haul in man made snow from our local ski hill were in the works. The celebration was called off because of a potent blizzard that left ten inches of snow on the ground. Today is a make up day and there is so much snow it’ll be easy peasy for me. Should be a hoot.

Even better all the global warming is giving us a day projected to hit 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When the snow is sticky like that its as easy to work with as modeling clay. Knock off a nose by accident you can put it back on in nanoseconds. If you’ve got such a day where you are I can direct you to a webpage I put up years ago on how to snowsculpt. Its here.

Life’s too short. Go have some fun.

The Impossible Dream

One last quick post before bed II.

As I was building the sculpture I couldn’t help but warble what I could recall of the signature song from the Man of LaMancha, The Impossible Dream.

As I’ve been working on Don Quixote I’ve thought of one delightful coincidence that it would be fun to engineer. My hero Abe Lincoln was elected to a single term in Congress. It was a miserable year for him. He opposed a popular war and his partisans back home in Illinois were none to thrilled with him from bucking popular sentiment. He was a newbie in Congress with no clout and he was away from his family too much.

Geez it would be fun to match Abe in the single term department. Should I get elected over the likes of the DFL candidates according to my fantasy campaign and then run as a Republican in the next election I could almost guarantee that I would be a one term congressman. Still, there would be so many things I’d love to do while a congressman in D.C. that I think could make a difference to the national psyche. Hell we could use a snow sculptor in Congress. At least I know what do with snow which is our elected leaders favorite pastime – snowing their constituents.

Then I’d write a tell all book about that too. I’ve got a title in mind already. I’ll post it tomorrow.

BTW: Here’s the Impossible Dream. I’ve got a good mind (or a bad one) to post my own version of it. Frankly Richard Harris who got paid to sing it is no great shakes in the vocalizing department. Continue reading

Adventures in snow sculpting 2012

It’s One AM and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t take an advil for the five hours of sculpting I did today and I ate way too much before bed. Bad combination.

By 7:30 a lot of people passing by had started correctly guessing what my sculpture was. Its a tableau. On the top of the hill is what is clearly a Dutch style Windmill and below someone mounted on what’s becoming a horse. I’ll finish up the lower figure tomorrow and give him a lance to attack his dragon. I’ve spent three days trying to make a lance of ice but it hasn’t been cold enough for the water to freeze so it will be something other than snow. A pity.

Its been a pleasure to play in the snow again. I’ve gotten to know the little children from down the block. When I started the older one, all of 8 asked what I was making and I wouldn’t tell her. She came by with a younger sister, brother and their mothers and asked again yesterday. I told her that if she promised not to tell anyone I let her see the clay models I was using. They agreed and hurried up the steps to take a peek. When the mothers started up as well I asked their children if they could be trusted not to tell. I had a fun several minutes getting the girls to argue about whether the mother’s were trustworthy as the mothers hung back pleading that they were. Of course everyone got a peek and I had to explain why Don Quixote was attacking a windmill.

Later yesterday a pretty dark haired woman walked by and paused to ask me what I was making. There was something about her inquiry that piqued my interest and with a little questioning I found out she was once my Mother’s neighbor girl. “**** I’m Harry,” I said Continue reading

Big and white

My daughter posted a comment on her Facebook page about my starting a new snow sculpture. Being a good daughter she knew she was not to give any hints as to what it would end up being. When her friends asked “pretty please” for a hint she gave them my stock reply to such querries. “Its going to be big and white.”

One of her coorespondents then asked, “Its going to be Rush Limbaugh!”

That’s too big and white even for me.

Blog stats for a Leap Month…

…or is that leap of faith Month?

We enjoyed a Leap Day Blizzard yesterday. So does that mean March came in like a lamb or a lion? Any other year yesterday would have been March first. Today, March 1st, is mild but there so much snow in the byways that there is a second snow day in a row and there is no school. Having two cute hyperactive grandkids underfoot isn’t helping with the fatigue I feel from eight hours of moving snow around manually yesterday.

I didn’t blog much because I was playing in the snow yet Lincolndemocrat surpassed January’s modest record for the number of “unique” individual visitors for February the shortest month of the year.

The snow sculpture I have in mind is symbolic for my longing to run for Congress, actually running without campaigning. I’ll have to explain it to my wife and if she doesn’t have a heart attack I my be a little less undercover about my plans for the next three and a half months before the filing. Once again I thank my eight loyal readers for not spilling the beans to her for the past couple months.

Oh, me of little faith!

The snow hit bigtime shortly after my whiney post about being shortchanged again. My 61 year old back is suffering after three hours of moving snow as I described in this interview a couple weeks ago.

Lots more snow is falling and I’ll resume the shoveling after lunch and a little rest for my back.

The big snow storm – I got zip

A week ago early forecasts suggested we might get up to eight inches of snow. That was music to my ears since this would be the first year in a quarter century that I didn’t make a snow sculpture. Later forecasts were for 4 to 6 inches. In fact areas a little to our north got up to 11 inches over the weekend. Only five miles away they got five inches. Our home, however, is on the crest of the hill overlooking Lake Superior. We got a little over two inches at our house. I need four or five more. Maybe we will get it with a new storm about to blow over us tomorrow and Wednesday but so far it sounds like it will skirt to the South.

Even the snow we got was mixed with North Dakota. I’m pretty fussy about my snow. I work hard to avoid soil contaminated with carbon from car exhausts. It melts a lot faster than purer snow as the contaminants soak up sunshine and convert it to snow melting infrared radiation. Closer to the solstice with the sun hanging low and the days short that’s not that big a deal. As we approach March it guarantees a short lived sculpture. I have often made them later in the year only to have people ask me why I didn’t make one because they only drive past my home once a week, often three or four days after some creation has melted away.

If I get some snow yet I’ll put something together long enough to take a picture of it and post it on the Internet along with my others.

I do have one snow sculpting date on my calendar. Stowe Elementary in Gary is having a “Leap Day” carnival and I was asked to help kids make snow sculptures. I’ve done this a half a dozen times elsewhere in the past. When after several weeks of brown lawns I suggested we might need to do something else I was told that Tom Kasper, now of the Duluth School Board, had found a way to guarantee snow. Thanks Tom. I think he may have used his influence in the City to get man made snow from the Spirit Valley Ski Hill to Stowe. With the recent accumulation and some snow plows that may no longer be necessary. I expect we will be just fine Wednesday. Unless a snow day is called.

(BTW – Tom is one of the new school board members I can’t fault for the Duluth Schools current situation. He didn’t realize when he got elected that the Red Plan was about to become a black hole.)

In the meantime we should have white. I made a crude little “How to” for the kids in advance of their adventure in the Winter Arts.