Friday, August 30, 2013

The Wolf Caves - Duck and Cover!

Being born in 1957 I got to experience the Joys of the Cold War.  Yes, when I was in grade school we actually had cursory drills for nuclear disaster.  It involved going downstairs to the gymnasium as I recall.

So when looking into the history of the Wolf caves I was tickled to see a few references to these anxious days. Odd how the existential fears of one era become the humor of another.

Tom Curtis, the proprietor of the boat tours and trout fishing inside the now flooded Wolf brewery caves, had a bit of a sideline....

According to a book called Minnesota Underground:

"In the 1950's the caves were designated a fallout shelter, and schoolchildren would run to them during drills.  A fireplace in the caves may date from this period."

Well that would explain this:

It sure looks like a modern addition, and must have been fitted to one of the ventilation holes in the roof of the cave.  For some reason there is still some firewood in place.

Of course "Cave Man" Curtis had flooded most of the cave for his tourist boats, so the fallout shelter section must have been here:

The fireplace is in the middle of the far wall.

I found another reference to the fallout shelter matter in a book called Minnesota Marvels: Roadside Attractions in the Land of Lakes.  Curtis is said to have equipped the caves with emergency rations and advertised them as the safest place in town.  Presumably speaking in jest and long after the fact he is supposed to have said:

"If it hadn't cost so much overtime I'd have hired a couple of Russian pilots to drop a few test bombs to prove my point."

Entrepreneurial gall of that magnitude deserves some recognition.  But the history of the Curtis caves as a refuge from nuclear Armageddon has been lost to time....unless this army surplus box still contains a few moldy K rations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Wolf Caves - A Mystery Tunnel

Tour guides probably hate it when enthusiasts take their tours.  As we were finishing our visit to the Wolf caves behind the Luna Rossa wine bar I asked our guide, you may recall he claimed to be named "Tip", about the tunnel connecting to the building around the corner.

He had never heard of it.

For orientation purposes, here is the main building of the Wolf Brewery.  It faces east.

There are plenty of later additions but the 1872 stone building is the centerpiece.  The cave complex of the same era goes back into the hillside from somewhere near the back left corner of the building.  The newer faux castle entrance to the caves is further to the left and around the corner.

If you turn to the right in this picture and round the corner behind the brewery building you find this:

The 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance map identifies this as the bottling house for the Joseph Wolf brewery.

The little red sign indicates that the building is for sale.  So of course there are plenty of pictures on line including this doozy:

(I suppose since I am borrowing their photo I should give a plug to the Realtor.  If you want to buy the place go here .  I understand the price has just been reduced).

This certainly has many of the features we associate with brewery caves.  Note what appears to be a drain channel down the middle.  It looks to me as if a tunnel was made into solid rock, but that there is old masonry about half way down.  And of course some nice modern cinderblock at the end to keep us from knowing what lies beyond.

The problems are several here.  Supposedly the property above was built circa 1860.  This meshes poorly with the story of the entire complex - and the rest of a city block to boot - being burned to the ground in 1872.

A second issue is the identification of this as the bottling works.  In general beer was not bottled on a large scale until around 1880.  That seems a little late to be expending considerable effort to link up with the ageing cellars, and anyway this passage does not look particularly handy with respect to trundling kegs around.  I am thinking there would have been skinned knuckles and spilled beer going through that doorway.  So whatever was going on it seems unlikely to have been associated with bottling the beer.  They probably by the 1880s had a more convenient piping system in place or simply hauled the kegs over a wagon load at a time.

The above photo does not identify the direction of the tunnel, but it seems reasonable to assume that it went south, towards the beer caves discussed in my last post.  Recall that the earlier Martin Wolf caves were to the north of the later Joseph Wolf ones. Here is a peek into a collapsed section of the M. Wolf cave complex:

This section collapsed during the 1872 fire.  But if this is the far east end of the original cavern system perhaps the tunnel from the Bottling House connected with the western end of the Martin Wolf caves? I was on the lookout and did not see anything resembling that cinderblock wall in the back corners of the Joseph Wolf cave system.

If so this would help explain how the Joseph Wolf brewery was able to stay in business during its rebuilding years.  I suspect that the fire spared this rather substantial building and that a temporary tunnel was sunk through to the surviving part of the original cave system.

Alas, the Martin Wolf caves have been examined and ruled to be unstable.  Like so many buried mysteries, these secrets will not see light.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Back to Stillwater

It is not really fair to call the Wolf caves in Stillwater, Minnesota forgotten.  They are in active use, and have been since the 1860s. With one or two little rough patches.

The first caves on the site, on the south end of downtown Stillwater, were supposedly excavated by a Jules St. Pierre in 1836.  He noted an excellent spring in a small natural cavern and expanded it to serve as part of his trading post.

A fellow named Martin Wolf took over the site - I have seen 1855 and 1868 quoted as dates - and expanded the caves for his small brewery.  Or did he start from scratch?  Evidently M. Wolf had a series of three or four caves stacked one atop another in what is said to be a structurally dubious arrangement.  His engineering skills and business acumen were both shaky.  Some claim that his association with alcohol veered from professional interest to personal enthusiasm.

In any event by 1871 he sold the place to his brother Joseph Wolf who had the misfortune to have it burn down a year later.  The insurance was insufficient but somehow capital was obtained and a fine new brewery complex was put up on the site.  It is standing strong to this day.

A new series of caves was excavated, in an extended dig lasting 8 years.  Since breweries need ageing caves I presume some other arrangement's were made in the transition, perhaps the earlier caves were pressed into service, perhaps one of the several other caves in downtown Stillwater was leased.

With the caves being finished circa 1880 they were not actually in service that long before mechanical refrigeration became practical.  But they seem to have been actively used by the Wolf brewery, both for ageing beer and for storing their other product lines which were varied and alcoholic.

Prohibition had its usual doleful effect, and the Joseph Wolf brewery went bankrupt in 1925.  The conversion to soft drinks just was not profitable.  Of course there were persistent rumors of bootleg operations back in the caves....

For two decades the history of the caves is obscure, until the brewery building was purchased in 1946 by a certain Thomas Curtis.  Curtis owned several businesses including a DeSoto dealership. Implausibly he tried to use the caves as a storage facility for cars, forgetting the constant humidity back there and its predictable effects on metal!

But Curtis was quite the entrepreneur, and came up with a new plan.  After a long slumber Stillwater was beginning to become a tourist destination.  So what better than a cave tour!

Curtis had the caves flooded and rather dimly lit.  By carefully maneuvering the boats around he gave the impression of a vast cavern network, filled with wonders.  The tour cost five cents.  Kids could fish for free.  If they caught one of the stocked trout they had to keep it.  That cost them a dollar.  One assumes Curtis kept those trout hungry.

Thomas "Cave Man" Curtis had a showman's flair.  He told tales of leprechauns and bottomless pits, he showed people a standard ventilation shaft and said it was used by Native Americans to send smoke signals.

Eventually health matters forced him into retirement and the brewery, with its caves, was purchased in 1971 by a man named Vittorio Gozzi.  To him the caves were reminiscent of grottoes on the Isle of Capri, so he had a window installed in the back of his restaurant space and had the still flooded caves outfitted with gondola style boats!  The table with the gondola view was always in high demand.

Various other restaurateurs have been there since.  The current establishment is called Luna Rossa.  I had a very nice lunch there. And although the cave tour does cost $7, you can deduct it from your tab, making it in effect a dessert to your meal.

I have given the history of the caves first, it makes it easier to show the images in something like historical order....

The first room you see on the tour contains water from the spring.  Presumably the original trading post was near this point, but much alteration has made it impossible to pick out this earliest phase.  I guess there are still fish in here.

A section of the 1870's caves.  The little square of light at the far end is Vittorio's window from the restaurant.  The wide benches are an interesting feature of these caves.

There is a lot of historical stuff sitting around.  Some of it is period appropriate, some is not. This is the ruins of one of the wagons for moving the beer barrels around.  It could be true, the floor has some deeply worn ruts that are about this wheel gauge.

Our tour guide was pretty good, although he insisted on performing juggling tricks.  Here he stands in front of a passage that connects the Joseph Wolf caves with the earlier Martin Wolf caves from the 1860s (or 50's?).  Supposedly when the brewery burned in 1871 a worker was in this cave.  A boiler exploded and the cave collapsed.  Everyone assumes he is still interred back there.

By their nature caves are an interesting, enclosed ecosystem.  This place has had electric lighting for a very long time.  Far back in the cave we find a spot with enough light for green moss to photosynthesize.  All other walls still retain the original white paint applied to maximize ambient lighting.

A better view of the window from the restaurant.

One of "Cave Man" Curtis' boats?  Or just his life preserver and a later "gondola".  Curtis must have known that the water was only a foot deep, pretty hard to go down with the ship!

A cave entrance from the tourist boat era.  Now you exit here and enter via the Luna Rossa which is just to the right of this spot.

Overall a nice way to spend a half hour on a hot summer day.  Our guide - he insisted at the end of the tour that his name was "Tip" - knew his stuff.  But there is a piece of this cave complex that he did not know about, and that does not fit into this chronology very well at all.

Come back next time for a few more pictures and a mystery ending at a blank wall.....

Thursday, August 22, 2013

State Fair Parking

It is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, the annual extravaganza of people watching, livestock judging and deep, deep fried food.

I don't think I can make it over this year, but just thinking about it brings back many fond memories.

Back in the Day, we are talking perhaps 13 or 14 years ago, there was an active robot combat organization along the lines of a Midwestern Battle Bots.  There were two years where we put on elaborate robot combat events/shows at the Fair and they were great fun.  With numerous shows per day over the run of the Fair we did not do much "to the death" fighting, but a lot of sparring, smashing of appliances and what I like to call "robot theater".  On very popular feature was cooked up - literally - by my son and I. An audience member operating a cheap RC car would try to evade pursuit by a menacing robot for two or three minutes.  The robot had a flame thrower.  The RC car was packed full of paper towels soaked with flammable stuff and surmounted by a small inflatable toy of the sort available from carnival barkers up and down the Fair grounds.  Ah, good times, good times.

In any case, there was an awful lot of heavy stuff to off load for this event and we were very fortunate indeed to have one of our stalwarts live across the street from the Fair grounds.  We were allowed to park there.  Since he had in past years experienced difficulty with unapproved parking, which he gleefully had towed off, he just asked that we put a note on the windshield indicating we were with the robotics event.

Here is my note:


I could see that my friend Professor Richard was in a bad way.  He lay motionless, ashen pale.  His normally elegant coiffure was a matted "fro" with embedded Cheetos.  He stirred a bit as I approached.

"Closer.  Come...closer", he croaked.

I hesitated.  On a good day his breath falls somewhat short of Fresh-n-Minty, and under the current circumstances....

Overhead one of the circling buzzards wobbled, fell out of formation and hit the ground with a soggy thud.

"I want to apologize.  For, ...for the monkeys......and the Cool Whip."

The effort of speech triggered a spasm of dry heaves and retching.  Recalling the charred monkey fur still adherent to my living room ceiling I was more than a little inclined to join him.

"Richard", I said, "fear not.  All is forgiven."

A serene look spread over his haggard features, and when he opened his eyes again they were earnest, insistent.

"Tacitus*, you have to promise me something.  Please tell me that you will always park on my lawn at State Fair time".

I was for a moment caught off guard.  State Fair parking is a serious matter indeed.  There were so many things I could have told him.  I could for instance have pointed out that he was not actually ill, just badly hung over.  But there are times when you just need to speak the words that must be said.  And I did.

"Richard, when the State Fair arrives I will be here."

*Tacitus is a new nom-de-plume.  I have been known by other names in other times.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Brownsville Minnesota

Driving through Brownsville Minnesota on a sunny day in August it looked like just another sleepy town on the Mississippi.  But my peripheral vision is pretty well tuned, so when I spotted what appeared to be a brewery cave it was time to pull over.

But this proved to be a most atypical site.  There were caves everywhere, too many for your usual small town brewery.

This last one was especially interesting, it looked as if somebody had started excavating a cave and just gave up on the project.

With seven or eight caves in a single long cliff face we have some explaining to do.  Only one was was slightly open for investigation.

This certainly looks like a brewery cave.  Note the trough down the middle.  This is a tip off that there was ice stacked in there, the slot in the floor was for melting water to run off without getting the stored goods too soggy.  There is also a suggestion of a vent hole in the ceiling.  The walls of course show the usual tool marks and algae growth.

So, what was really going on here?

There has been a brewery in Brownsville for a very long time.  The first was called the Brownsville Knoblack Brewery and was started in the early 1850's.  A second brewery called the Brownsville Bluff Brewery was built in 1871.  The image below could be either brewery, evidently under new management in this early 1870's image:

The sharp eyed will notice that the Schwarzhoff Brewery is not set into the face of the cliffs seen in earlier images.

Brownsville was a very early community.  A fellow named Job Brown settled there in 1848.  It seemed an up and coming place, as it had a good landing for riverboats.  The Mississippi was the sole effective transportation system at that time.  People and goods upstream, wheat going back down.

Brownsville prospered early. The bank coming up from the river was steep, so in general the early buildings were two story affairs. The second story backed up against Wild Cat Bluff, and cellars were excavated into it.  In effect what we are seeing is the remains of the main street of Brownsville, circa 1850-1870.  In 1870 there were about 50 business establishments in the town.  Any number of them could have found use for cellars.

There were saloons, grocers, wholesale liquor dealers.  There was F. Brehme, Barber, Confectionary and Toys.  There were three substantial hotels called respectively the Gluck, Roster and Minnesota Houses.  There were several meat markets.

By the 1880's the boom had gone bust.  Brownsville is a fine place for river transportation but once the railroads got fully established post Civil War they became the main transportation system.  Rivers flood and freeze.  Rivers go where they feel like going.

So Brownsville declined.  There seems to have been a brewery still in business there until 1905.  A fire destroyed much of the old community.  Expansion of Highway 26 in the 1920's finished it off.  It now runs directly over the remains of the old town.

So what is left?  The current town is newer, built up around the corner from the early settlement.  One of the early brewery sites is said to be within this area...recall that breweries were often set up on the outskirts of things.  This one was at 7th and Clay Street. The other brewery site was west of the current town somewhere out on County Road 3.  A local source says that nothing from the brewery buildings remains at either site.

It is certainly possible that one or more of the caves I saw were used for beer.  An arrangement with one of the saloons or with what seems to have been a local ice company could surely be worked out. And as noted, the one cave you can see into sure looks like the right sort.  Or, just maybe there are some more mysteries to be found out on the periphery of the semi-ghost town of Brownsville Minnesota.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Ghost of Highway 61

I have had occasions to walk on roadways long abandoned and near forgotten.  Here for instance is the approximate location of the Stanegate Road.  For at least five hundred years it was the major east-west road across Britain near Hadrian's Wall. Now...

But you do not have to go that far to find ghost roads.  On our Minor League ballpark road trip we drove some enjoyable miles down Highway 61 as it winds south from the Twin Cities down towards LaCrosse.

Highway 61 has been described as one of the most scenic, most iconic roadways in Minnesota.  It runs from the southeastern part of the state near Lacrosse Wisconsin, clear up to the northeastern corner where it hits the Canadian border.

It probably started out as an early military road.  Sure in Territorial times the Mississippi River - just out of view stage left - was a far superior way to travel.  But in times of crisis you really did not want to have to wait for the river to thaw!

In more settled times it became just a dirt road for farmer's wagons, but in the 1920's the first steps were taken towards a state wide system of roads designed specifically for automobiles.  US 61 was paved in 18 foot wide concrete.

Cars and trucks got bigger and faster, necessitating the widened, expressway version of 61 on the build up rise to the right.  But if you peek into the underbrush you can still see the old road, gracefully crumbling away...

For a more detailed history of the roadway, go here.

To see what a serious fan of road tripping and of Highway 61 has done on the subject, a Minnesota Public Radio commentator has done a lot of work on this  Kathy Wurzer and Tales of the Road.

Quite a ways to go yet before the old section of 63 reaches the Stanegate level of decay.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lost Nation Iowa

Such a place exists.

Although the cemetery is the most populous district in town, the community is a going concern.  Kids were riding bikes in the streets.  The downtown had two taverns that seemed well patronized.

I am content just knowing that such a remarkable place name is out there.  Those who want to know its origins will face disappointment.  There is a story of a German immigrant looking for other members of his party in this area, but nobody seems to know anything for sure.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pictures from the Road - Lansing Iowa

I like picturesque river towns.  But too often when I visit one I find that the plaque of Tourism has ruined them.  Fudge shoppes and so forth.  So I was rather pleased to visit Lansing Iowa recently and find it largely undamaged.  But as with all communities existing in a time warp, a little unusual.

Here we have an interesting business model.  Auto parts and tanning.  Makes sense in a way, most shade tree mechanics are guys and do their tinkering in the summer months.  Most tanners are gals and would be better customers in the winter and spring.  I guess the smell of coconut oil would not be so awfully discordant to the guy buying some 10W30 for an oil change.  The orange sign on the left hand side of the building is for a chain saw manufacturer.  Seems like the set up for a bad movie, The Iowa Tanning Salon Massacre.

Variety Stores were once common, now they are almost extinct.  Or I suppose just superseded by places that call themselves Dollar Stores.  (Pound Stores in the U.K.).  But Lansing has this remarkable survivor.  Actually there are two Horsfall's stores, the other is newer and up the street a bit.  This place has become locally famous as being where you go to find, well,  anything.  We did not stop in, guys on a road trip do not do recreational shopping, but did snap a few pics through the windows.

The window glare makes it hard to see the dust.  Trust me, it was there.

I am not making fun of at all.  I delight in the improbable survival of such places.  It brought back memories for my brother and I.  When we were growing up there was a place in our neighborhood that looked exactly like this.  It was called Tollefson's Variety.  Same cluttered feel, same red brick. Mr. Tollefson was a wizened old guy who captured even our childhood imagination by siring no fewer than 14 children.

An odd survivor this store.  Had we time we would have gone in just to check.  I  wonder who we would have seen standing behind the counter. Mr. Tollefson or Rod Sterling?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Cabins of the Pioneers

Back at Forest Lawn Cemetery in St. Paul I ran across a log cabin themed monument that I had to include in my Tree Shaped Tombstone series.  A bit of a stretch.  But on our recent road trip to Iowa we encountered a pair of magnificent specimens that were clearly akin to the "Trees".


Here is another view for perspective.  Look at the detail, the chimney not only has individual bricks, there are gobs of fake mortar between them and a foundation underneath.  Remember all of this is carved stone.

Here are the names.  It struck us as odd that just the wife and children were listed.

We found it in the delightful small town of Independence Iowa.  As we continued our journey we made a brief stop in nearby Oelwein, where my brother spotted another small cemetery.  And hey, check it out...

Not identical really, this one has nine logs across the front and eight on the roof.  The Independence specimen had eight and seven.  Also, look at the flat board on the roof.  This was blank on our prior example:

The man's name and dates go on the roof.  Is this symbolic of "putting a roof over his family's head"? But the biggest surprise was on the chimney section of this cabin.

From hundreds of tree shaped tombstones and their close kin this is only the second time I have seen a maker leave his mark.  J.J. Lundy, you were a true artisan.  Sir, I salute you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bricking in Cedar Rapids

When my brother and I travel we have to tolerate our similar but not identical idiosyncrasies.  I am interested in brewery caves and tree shaped tombstones.  He is into railroads and bricks. Interestingly other than the choo choo trains these are all forms that have remained unchanged since ancient times.

Fortunately there is sufficient overlap in these odd pursuits that we can humor each other.  Often for hours at a time.

On our recent Road Trip we did a little "bricking" in Cedar Rapids Iowa.

In almost all respects bricks are the perfect thing to collect.  They are common, but still have fabulous variety as they were a product made by thousands of small enterprises in communities all across America.  They are functional.  You could in principle keep collecting until you had enough for a house. And it is a cheap hobby.  In fact you could regard it as either positive or negative but it seems most bricks pass between collectors on a swap basis.  Maybe this de-emphasis on the "value" of things is natural since most bricks are just casually picked up off the ground.

On the negative side of collecting them, they are heavy.  Pick up truck ownership among brickers approaches 100%.  And of course the chances of your brick collection being worth a fortune some day are not good.

But it is fun to wander about as we did the other day.  It was Sunday morning and we were in an area adjacent to downtown.  It had the usual areas of tired looking houses and slow arising inhabitants.  But there were also tell tale hints of incipient "gentrification". An organic foods mart over here, a day spa over there, most tellingly I spotted a bicycle coop....

Streets were being worked on and there were piles of dirt to be examined.

Some bricks are better than others.  This is an uncommon one from Danville Illinois.

This one as it appeared peeking out of a dirt pile.  Nice, but condition was imperfect.

And some bricks are less good.  Puringtons are super common.

Behind a fence I saw that one of the construction workers must be stockpiling Puringtons.  He appears to have a good leg up on that brick house project.

With a few bricks in the trunk of the car we got ready to leave Cedar Rapids.  We tanked up at a nearby gas station.  I noted that the customers wandering in appeared to be low income sorts.  In a few years they will be gone, priced out of this end of town.  The streets now torn up will be nice and new. Young fit people on bicycles will pedal here and there.  I had a crazy notion that I should warn the current inhabitants.  "The Condos are coming.  The Condos are coming."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pictures from the Road - Clinton Iowa

An early morning walk in downtown Clinton showed some interesting "ghost art".  Not the best conditions for photos, a gentle rain usually helps a lot.

The centerpiece was a very nice Wrigley's Spearmint ad.

Layers upon layers of signage.  Here my brother, an old sign painter himself, ponders the enigmatic messages.  It seems to be referring to buying tickets for something...

And on the south side of town we find a huge, golden dome.  It looks alien, other worldly.  It seems to be an Archer Daniels Midland plant where they make biodegradable plastics out of corn.  It looks creepy, and it was necessary to wipe out a neighborhood to build it, but in this economy it is good to have jobs.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Best Mascot in Baseball?

Mascots don't figure prominently in baseball history.  The most famous mascot ever was quite unofficial and in the end a highly negative influence.  If you are not aware of The Curse of the Billy Goat, rectify this unacceptable shortcoming forthwith.

So I don't understand my fascination with Minor League mascots.  Some things just are, and can't be explained.

On our recent road trip I had considerable trepidation regarding the Clinton Lumber Kings mascot.  Here he is:

A large angry man with a spiked bit of wood.  Other versions feature a bat or an axe.  Not exactly warm and cuddly.  Also difficult to transform to something akin to most mascots.  He is just a bit too humanoid.  Here is what they came up with:

Eerily similar to that creepy Burger King guy from commercials a few years back.  Must be my German peasant ancestors speaking to me but The King always struck me as a callous and indifferent despot, his very face frozen in a mocking leer...

Heck, I was prepared to give the Clinton mascot a shot.  But oddly he was not at the game we attended.  Injured maybe, I figure it is pretty easy to trip and fall wearing those big heads.  But upon reaching the park at Cedar Rapids we were in for a real treat. The mascot of the Kernels, a certain "Mr. Shucks" was a consummate pro, (large) head and shoulders above any other mascot I have seen work the crowd.

Mr. Shucks was there before First Pitch, teasing the visiting team and stirring up the home fans.  The grass skirt btw is part of the Beach Night promotion I mentioned last posting.

Shucks was everywhere.  Standing on top of dugouts, dancing on stilts behind home plate, waving a flag and running down the lines.  He or she (thinking female, hard to say..) was especially good with small children, many of whom might have feared the Lumber King.

I thought it was superb use of what at first glance was not especially promising material.  I mean, the Kernel's logo is this enigmatic homunculus who seems to be a morphed baseball bat and ear of corn:

The costume designers had a ways to go to get to Mr. Shucks.

Shucks was indomitable.  On previous occasions we had encountered mascots that either preferred to hang out in the dugout or were unable to keep up the enthusiasm level through a difficult game.  But nothing stopped Mr. Shucks.  As the Kernels were down to their last out, with a runner in scoring position, my brother was hunched over intently watching every move of the pitcher, the batter, the runner.  He felt something lightly brush his shoulder, just a fly perhaps.  Absentmindedly reaching up he felt a huge black spider!  Of course is was Mr. Shucks who had tiptoed up behind him and deftly used a rubber spider on a fishing pole to punk him.

Even after the game Shucks soldiered on.  In fact, it was then that I saw her (?) make a solitary error. Shucks was still roaming about with the fake spider.  Fans were relaxing in their seats watching on the Jumbotron as a Buffet style "Beach Band" played. There was a nice young couple there, the woman leaning sweetly on her man's shoulder.  A perfect target.  But when Shucks "spidered" her the reaction was a bit unusual.  Shucks dropped the fishing pole, came around to the front of the couple and seemed to be pleading for forgiveness.  It is hard to emote wearing a big grey melon head.  But I saw hands clasped to the face in a "Home Alone/Edvard Munch" gesture of, well, Shock.  I saw baby rocking motions and hands covering eyes to convey that the - I am thinking breast feeding - infant had not been noticed.

Ah well.  Even Hall of Famers make the occasional error.  They are all human.  But for what it is worth Mr. Shucks, whom I last saw up on stage with the band rocking out 90 minutes after the game was over, was a fabulous mascot.

I hope some scouts from the Organization were on hand.  Mr. Shucks has earned a late season call up.

Addendum.  Shockingly I have just learned that Mr. Shucks lost out in the fan voting for Best Mascot. He/she wuz robbed I tell ya, robbed.

Addendum.  This rather nice write up dated 27 August has an "out of costume" photo of the man inside the suit.  And some nice thoughts on his desire to make it to the Bigs.  Does this seem to touch on several of the same points made on this humble blog 18 days earlier?  Yes indeed.  If there was any borrowing it is just fine with me.  I want to see Shucks do well and any contributions on my part, small, large or imaginary, are OK.