Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mom's neighbor, Ardis Wells

A famous 91-year-old entertainer and musher lives at Clearwater Suites, the senior residence in Alexandria that mother calls home. We visited Mom there Friday and met Ardis Wells, but had no idea who she was until later.

Ardis became nationally known when her recording of "Selling Chances" on the North Star label hit the charts. Her bigger rockabilly single, "Baby Doll," was cut in 1960 and trades on EBay today.

Ardis was born in 1917 in Monterey, Minn., to a family of show people who followed circuses and carnivals. She became the "Yodeling Sweetheart" as part of a western band.

Ardis says she had to swim, wrestle, dance, ride a horse, design clothes, ride elephants and even do trapeze tricks. Later, she would write music, play the ukulele, bass fiddle, accordion, and electric guitar. Oh yes, she wrestled professionally for two years.

She formed her own all-girl western band in 1956, known as the "Rhythm Ranch Gals," one of the better western bands in the country at the time. They appeared nightly in the cocktail lounge of the Flame Supper Club in Minneapolis and appeared on KEVE each Saturday and made a variety of personal appearances in the Twin Cities area.

She married a country singer, Jimmy Wells, and performed with his "Dakota Roundup Gang."

When my mother talks of her, she mentions that she raced dogs and the North Pole. Her friend Iver agrees. But reading her bio on the internet, there's no mention of racing or raising dogs, greyhound or Huskie, in the material.

Then Tommy McKenzie, whose late sister, Barbara Lee Mac, performed with her, saw my comment on YouTube and wrote:

"I remember my sister telling me that Ardis was a Female Wrestler for a number of years and did in fact raise and race sled dogs. ... I remember Ardis stopping at the house when I was a young boy in her yellow Cadillac with her name painted on the sides and the back. She was a very colorful entertainer."

Hmm. Wonder if Ardis knows that Mom is a singer too, who married an organist.

Here is a two minute video with a sample of Ardis singing "Baby Doll."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In The Garden - Mom's Senior Prom

We dropped by the Clearwater Suites yesterday to see Mom and Iver at their Senior Prom. We shot some pictures and video; there's about five minutes of it here. It's a bit rough, Stan is learning a new software package recommended by his nephew the Best Buy geek.
We were disappointed that Michelle wasn't available for pictures. She's with Mom today, getting her ready to attend a wedding. Busy, busy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mom escorted to Senior Prom

See full, exclusive coverage here.
Watch for the music, friendship, excitement and drama of the Clearwater Suites Senior Prom.
Don't miss it!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Heart Ever Faithful

Mein gläubiges Herze
You'll love this video. Beverly Brown Rolfsrud sings J.S. Bach's "My Heart Ever Faithful." The video features vintage 8 mm film of her family shot by a family friend, Elmo Hegg, in the 50s.
Three minutes and fifty seconds. Click once on the forward button, below, to load from YouTube.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Northern chapter checks in

Our earlier post generated this response from Bev Korkowski, who lunches and power walks with Stan's sister Linda in the Far North Suburbs:

Oops. guess we haven't been very good at keeping our "chapter" news up to date! The northern chapter of Ladies Who Lunch is very much alive and well. Since our initial meeting, Linda and I have had a couple more fun days.....once, about a month ago, with a delicious lunch at Linda's new home after we did a great power-walk around the neighborhood, and then again about two weeks ago when we met for a quick lunch at Panera and then shopping after at the Home Goods store. For two people who had never known each other prior to our first lunch, we feel like we've known each other for a very long time....conversation is never lacking and we've had many good laughs. We'll try to remember the camera next time!!

This is Bev (standing, center) on the Lake near Alexandria with her husband and friends. We are not sure, but we think it might be Crooked Lake near Ashby, because if you look closely, one edge of the lake is a bit higher than the other.

Getting the mail

Turns out, Emily loves to take a hike. She showed up in a sun dress today, ready to go. There was an overcast sky and about 75 degrees with humidity rising, but a wonderful day. Lots of birds, no bugs.
Today we headed south, then picked up the mail on the way home. Nothing but junk, of course, but that's okay, at least Emily likes it. Oh yes. Netflix too. "Becoming Jane." Anybody? Today's photos were taken from the porch by Grandma, firing through the wegelia bushes.

Don Pablo hosts

A willing, but fumbling, waiter was hastily trained to snap this shot of the June meeting of the Ladies Who Lunch held near 494 and Lyndale Ave at Don Pablo's. Chips, salads and the tortilla soup went down long before the meeting ended with the usual potpourri of topics. There has been no word from the North Chapter of the Ladies Who Lunch, giving rise to some speculation about dedication and commitment. . . and also summer schedules. Isn't Bev on the lake these days? We know Linda is busy consolidating her many homes.

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Actually, it was an exciting day!

Read about Hunter's sale on the Jerdee blog below.
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Feeling the pressure, Marcy?

Imitation is a fine form of flattery, and Briggs Rolfsrud Siitari practiced a bit of it when she produced this creation. "I was trying to imitate cousin Marcelline Harrisonfields' art," she states in the B&B blog.

Apparently somebody got a paint set for a birthday in Boston. See more of the fantabulous Bill and Briggs creations on their blog, linked below.

(Marcelline, left, at one of her coffee house art shows, is Kathleen and Stan's middle daughter.)

We have a wet basement in Iowa

Water damage occurred in the Amy and Dave Underwood home in Des Moines. But they have good news too. Check out their web site below.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deb's pot

Our neighbors across the street have set a high standard for potted flora again this year. This cornucopia is lovingly tended by Deb, and we enjoy it every day, as the variety of hues changes and multiplies. Click on it to enlarge.

Meanwhile, just across the street from her, our perennial rambling roses clamber up their ladder, but only by half. After a tough winter and no-show spring, the east side of the pig-fence trellis is apparently taking a lazy summer vacation, with only a few vines showing any interest at all in working up a meeting with their ambitious west-side neighbors.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bully! Just Bully!

We have our Monday, July 21, tee time for the Great West Golf Oil Tour. The Brothers Three will tee it up at 9 a.m. at the gorgeous Bully Pulpit Golf Course cut gently into the Theodore Roosevelt Badlands National Park in Western North Dakota.

While booking the tee time, we were sweetly reminded that the Badlands are in the Mountain Time zone, so add an hour. That is confusing and involves math; fortunately Virg is in the group, fresh from explaining the vagaries of the Bakken Shale mystery to his big sister.

There's room for four in the party, of course. Bill Siitari says he might join us in 2010, he's booked until then. Anybody else? Rolfsrud ranchers?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Peonies, peonies

Kathleen and Stan went to the J.R. Cummins homestead this morning over in Eden Prairie. About 90 years ago Mrs. Cummins bought 400 peony bulbs at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. She planted them in front of her house. They have been tended ever since, presently by the city of Eden Prairie. The house is located across the street from Flying Cloud airport, so we had to bring in the bird songs from Bonnie and Bert Notermann's nature preserve, just like they do at the PGA.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rebecca's iris make Father's Day appearance

About 100 years ago, our immigrant grandmother, Rebecca Heide Rolfsrud, planted these iris on her homestead in western North Dakota. Nourished by chicken and pig manure and given encouragement in Norwegian, they have survived the Great Depression and a couple of World Wars.

Now planted across the country, it is unknown how many of Rebecca's descendants enjoy these gifts about this time every year.

The latest transplanting, we believe, is in Blaine, Minnesota, where granddaughter Linda Rolfsrud Letnes is trimming out her new abode. The example shown above grows in Shakopee and, owing to a late spring, is still in full bloom for Father's Day, an unusual but welcome occurrence. (Click to see full detail.)

Thank you, to the Grandma we never knew.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This is NOT the Rolfsrud rig

We made a phone call last night to Harold Rolfsrud, patriarch of the western North Dakota Rolfsrud clan. He was in good spirits, perhaps owing to the arrival there of an inch or so of much-needed rain. The crops are in. Now it is wait and see.
He reports no activity on the old place, where an oil rig is expected to arise any time this summer, making its bid for the Bakken Shale treasure.
The photo above was supplied by a Californian who introduced himself to the Rolfsrud blog recently. Nicknamed "Chops," he's an ex-North Dakotan who inherited a tiny interest in some Dakota mineral rights so now he's googling "Bakken" to see whatever comes up.
He had no interest whatsover in the prestigious 55-Hole Golf Oil Tour.
We wished him luck and riches and referred him to more authoritative blogs. We don't really know the source of his dramatic photo, could be one of those internet things that was photoshopped and passed on, or it could be real. It was taken in Texas in April, the caption says.

Boys of Summer

Irritation leads to opportunity in Iowa
We await word from our Iowans in Des Moines about flooding there; we're hopeful they have had no serious problems. Meanwhile, the Jerdee web site tells an amazing story of a new baseball pitcher for the Red Sox who finally got his chance. Read the Underwood story by clicking on the Jerdee blog link below.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thunder's not frightening. . .

Neither is lightning. . .

It rained and thundered Wednesday, but Emily took it in stride. She doesn't seem to mind the noise, has made a nice adjustment to it. This two minute video demonstrates all that. . . with just a bit of sound effects exaggeration, of course.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

55 Hole Golf-Oil package

Bakken Shale Golf Tour announced
There's still an opening on the mid-July Bakken Shale Golf Tour.
Departing from Shakopee, the prestigious event includes 18 holes of golf at the Geneva Golf Course in Alexandria, featuring a special pre-tee-off luncheon with host Beverly Brown Rolfsrud at nearby Clearwater Suites. Tee time 1 p.m. Basic accommodations follow at Motel Six Kids.
Sunday night, the tour arrives in Medora, North Dakota, to rest for an early Monday tee time at the famed Bully Pulpit Golf Course, 18 holes set deep in the gorgeous Theodore Roosevelt Badlands National Park.
That afternoon the tour remounts to cross the huge Bakken Shale Formation, said to contain the world's largest reserves of oil, locked in an oreo cookie of Shale and Dolomite, a tantalizing solution to the nation's energy woes. Roughneck tours of oil drilling operations will be conducted by local guides, with special attention to the Nils & Rebecca Rolfsrud Great Hope drilling pad seated on the north edge of The Homestead, adjacent to the Norwegian gulag where Erling Rolfsrud's boys toiled away their high school summers.
The spectacular Four Bears casino/hotel overlooking massive man-made Lake Sakakawea will host tour participants for steaks with relatives and a final night of fun. Then an early roust Tuesday to golf The Red Mike at 9 a.m., a treeless Scottish-style Links challenge on the north bank of the mighty Missouri.
That totals 55 holes, if you count the oil well.
Then it is home again, through vast and scenic prairies, just in time for supper in Minneapolis.
Interested in joining the gang for this once-in-a-lifetime Golf Oil package? Should be able to do it for less than $500, if gas stays under $5 a gallon. (Remember, it is expensive oil that is making Bakken Shale exploration viable.) Trip includes expert, knowledgable drivers.
To sign up, consult the

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grandma's Little Democrat

It rained all day today so it was a good thing we got the new doodleboard. Emily went right to work on it. 67 Seconds.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Alex Rolfsrud graduates at the U . . .

Alexander Reed Rolfsrud, the youngest son of Virgil and Rebecca Rolfsrud, graduated this weekend at the University of Minnesota. Really, he did.
That's because his high school class at Eden Prairie is so large, it takes the Northrop Auditorium on the U campus to accommodate it.
These photos were taken on the mall just after the event, and painstakingly supplied by Becky. One photo was taken inside the auditorium, from what appears to be way up in the balcony, at the precise moment the man of the hour strode across the stage to accept his diploma on behalf of his Mother and Dad and all the other little people who made this singular achievement possible.
The shot from the balcony (no, this isn't Ford's theater) prompted one family wise-ass to comment: "Geez, Virg, why couldn't you spring for some better seats?"

We're proud of Alex. He's a good kid with great potential and a winning attitude. He'll succeed wherever he goes -- his first stop is Minnesota University in Mankato, where his aunt and uncle can enjoy that success from a close vantage point.
His summer will be spent at Best Buy, working his Geek-Messiah act with confused computer owners.
Best of luck from Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Stan.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A graduation party on Lake Minnetonka

Our friends, Carol and Gary Lussier, gave a party this afternoon for their son, Gary, a graduate of Breck high school in Minneapolis.
Stan and Kathleen enjoyed a fine afternoon with friends, sampled a delicious buffet and teamed up for this photo essay.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Linda and Shana photograph Obama rally

Stan's dear sister Linda advised him many years ago that whenever you are taking a picture, you should always have somebody that you know placed somewhere in it. It adds tons of interest.

Stan had just returned from a North Dakota trip with a roll of tiny black and white pictures showing the barren landscapes and little else. She was not at all impressed by this effort, and, as big sisters do, said so.

This week Linda attended a huge historic occasion, the Obama rally in St. Paul with her daughter, Shana. Photos were taken. Some are posted on the Erik, Shana, Anja blog linked at left. A quick scan of these photos shows pictures of the candidate (we've seen him before) and the huge, impressive crowd. There are no pictures, however, of Stan's sister and Stan's niece taking in this important event.

So now a word of advice from a little brother . . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Old Harvard Yard scene of Briggs Siitari graduation

By Stephen P. Rolfsrud
Special correspondent

Briggs Rolfsrud Siitari graduated from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. today.

In September 2007, Briggs began her master's degree program at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.
Today, June 5, 2008, Steve and Nancy Rolfsrud and Briggs' husband, Bill, celebrated her graduation at the Old Harvard Yard.

During the traditional proceedings, Nancy made friends with the people who were seated adjacent to her, from Leeds, England, as well as the people in front, who were from from Vienna, Austria.

(Editor's note: Steve did not report the name of the gentleman under the umbrella, but we have confirmed that it is not Ben Stein, who wasn't in Boston today, and is pictured at right.)

Briggs and her friends (above) --some of whom were actually from the United States--had a great time celebrating her graduation.

And her Mom and Dad were there along with her husband, Bill Siitari, (photo, right) to make sure that it was a REAL degree in that binder, and not just some blank sheet of paper.

Says Dad, "We are happy to confirm that after all of the hoopla that she now actually owns a masters degree from Harvard University, making the trip out here all worthwhile. Now it's off to Grendel's Den for a celebratory dinner. Hopefully, Briggs will buy."

(Trailboss says: May we add our congratulations to Stan's niece! Thanks for the special report to the family blog, Steve. Nice work, but submitting expense vouchers might be pushing it.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Beverly Brown Rolfsrud and family

This gorgeous photo of the Brown family arrived today, sent by Stan's cousin, Faith Brown Cole. It is a picture of Stan's mother, Beverly Brown Rolfsrud, with her parents and siblings. Here's Faith's note:

Dear Stan:As I was going through Dad's suitcase of pictures, I found this photo taken in May 1958 at Grandpa and Grandma Brown's 50th Wedding Anniversary. I think it was the final picture of the family together in one place.

Your cousin,
Faith Brown Cole
(She's Richard's daughter)

Dorothy Chase, Kaye Eichenberger, Paul and Jesse Brown, Beverly Rolfsrud.
Back row, Bayard, Richard and Ralph Brown.

Kaye would be in her late 20s. Mom, late 30s; we think the men are in their late 40s. Help.

(If there are any errors in my memory, please let me know immediately at

ABC for Emily

Emily was here for the day. It was cold and rainy all morning, a perfect day to curl up with a good book. This afternoon, the sun came out, she napped, and we made this video. Music by Beethoven. Two minutes. Hope you like it.

Linda sees Obama from Xcel suite

Linda Rolfsrud Letnes viewed the Barack Obama nomination event from a private suite last night in the St. Paul Excel Center. The event drew 17,000 cheering Democrats inside and almost that many outside, watching on a jumbotron.
Though she's a faithful loyalist, Linda drew the honored spot through connections made by her daughter's father-in-law, Paul.
Here's her report:
"This is our moment. . .
". . .We hustled to find the end of the line for 15 plus blocks one way and then rewalked them to get in the Xcel. It was a comfortable night outside, so standing out there for three hours was just fine. The people in line were excited and civil. After an hour in line, we got a call from Marilyn. (Shana's mother-in-law) Paul had reserved two seats for us in a lovely suite so we knew we would have no trouble finding seats once we got in. Smooth as butter. We were there just in time to see the Obamas enter the center. And the rest we watched on tv in the suite. Check Shana's blog in the next day or so, she'll probably put a few pictures up."
(Shana's blog, linked below)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Alexander Rolfsrud to graduate June 6

Stan's nephew and Godson, Alexander Reed Rolfsrud, will be graduating from Eden Prairie High School this month. His parents are Virgil and Becky Rolfsrud.

Alex is presently employed at Best Buy in Eden Prairie, reporting there in the classic white shirt and skinny tie Geek uniform, answering questions and helping people with their computers. ("Did you try plugging it in yet?")
He carries a badge.
This fall Alex plans on attending the Minnesota State University in Mankato to study Computer Engineering.

Eden Prairie commencement is on June 6. Send your congratulations to or snailmail them to The GEEK, at 13200 Cardinal Creek Rd. Eden Prairie, MN 55346.

Alex is an active young man. Once a kindergarten regional wrestling champ (see photo) he enjoyed baseball, skateboarding, bowling and snowboarding.

Now he tools about in a 1990 Cadillac, purchased with his earnings as a geek at Best Buy. His siblings are Cherice and Aaron Rolfsrud.
Congratulations Alex!