The Visiting Hawk

Back in the day, I used to participate in Sweat Lodges with some American Indians. If they saw a hawk or eagle fly overhead before the sweat, they were extremely pleased, and explained such a thing was a very good omen. In fact, any time you see a hawk or eagle fly by, its a good omen.

Recently, a few miles down the road from my house, but a short distance as the crow flies (so to speak), a housing development began on some platted land. Putting in the access road meant uprooting many trees, and apparently destroyed the habitat of a couple of eagles, or at least made their home turf feel uncomfortably un-private. Driving by this new road the other day, I noted a hawk sitting on a power line right by it–a hawk I had never seen there before.

A few days later I was sitting in my living room and noticed something white flash back and forth past my window a couple of times. I checked around the front of my yard and saw a hawk standing on a branch high up in one of my trees at the edge of the yard. I guessed it was from the developed area and looking for a new place to call home.

As I surveyed my yard, along with the hawk, I noticed that the usual squirrels, rabbits, and crows were nowhere to be seen. I then saw another very large bird near it with different coloring–maybe a mate (I know next to nothing about birds). I was equally pleased with the grandeur of these raptors and the fact that their diet consisted of the pests in my yard (except for deer, regrettably).

The next morning I woke to the sound of tiny birds chirping as opposed to the cacaphony of crows that had greeted each new day for the two years I have lived here. The usual murder (flock) of crows were nowhere to be seen.

I would gladly spend a princely sum to convince these hawks that they were welcome to live in my yard with my complete protection and support, but I know of no way to do this.

While I haven’t seen the hawks since then, I think and hope my yard is on the list of places they hunt for food every day, as I haven’t heard or seen crows in my yard for several days. I saw a squirrel a bit ago, but he was discreetly slinking by rather than the usual running all over the place.

(Updated 9/10/2012 to reflect the identification of the birds as hawks, not eagles.)

Can you tell me how to get to the Emergency Room?

While at work at HCMC the other day, walking back from a meeting, a woman pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair asked me “Can you tell me how to get to the Emergency Room?” She and the woman in the wheelchair appeared placid, and I gave her directions: “Ok, take the elevator to 2R, go down the hall to the bank of elevators, go down to the first floor…” HCMC covers three city blocks with tunnels in the buildings to accomodate city streets, containing a labyrinthine network of hallways.

We got on the elevator. After the door closed, the elderly woman in the wheelchair said, to no one in particular “Will somebody help my neice?” I noticed the eyes of the woman pushing her teared up for a second, then her placid expression returned. I stopped giving directions and escorted them to the Emergency Department.

It occurred to me that while my trip to the hospital represents nothing more than the drudgery of another work day, for many a trip to the hospital means one of their nightmares is coming true.

Disrespecting the Sweet Science for 7 seconds

I hope my sons treasure the memory of times I took them to professional boxing matches as much as I do. Its impossible to convey how proud I was showing up at fights with my two man posse–both of them taller than me.

We want to one boxing event at the St Paul Armory some years ago. On one of the undercard fights there was a bit of humorous controversy. The now highly accomplished super middleweight Phil “The Drill” Williams was matched with some clown from Iowa. Dude entered the ring wearing only some shorts style underwear made out of cartoon character print. The ref would not let him fight in his undies and sent him back to the locker room. Dude emerged a bit later and had somehow gotten a boxing groin protecter on underneath his comic strip underwear.

Well, this was still extremely disrespectful, and the ref didn’t like it, but I guess he got the nod from the promoter Tony Grygelco, and the ref agreed to let it go forward. Dude was exhibiting all sorts of arrogant, and disrespectful behavior, much to the amusement and derision of the crowd.

Well, the bell rang and dude charged Phil. I thought it was the first punch Phil threw, but my sons said it was his second one, and cartoon dude took a canvas ride. The crowd loved it. I think the official disposition of the fight was KO seven seconds into the first round. Phil deserved better opponents, and he got them in subsequent fights.

The Inner Game: Let the contest decide

Watching a professional boxing match some years ago, I saw that a boxer I knew seemed to be fighting far below his ability and I was convinced he should be easily beating the guy. But he ultimately lost the fight in a decision. I mentioned this to another boxer from the same gym. He said “He had it in his mind that this guy would win. He lost the fight before he left the locker room.”


When I was in High School track, the mile was by far my first love, but I often ended up assigned to the two mile run. At one track meet in Minneapolis in the year 1976, there were three of us running the two mile. One runner had some pretty good times (race duration), and the other was quite a bit taller than me. The tall guy commented “We don’t even need to run the race, we know the outcome, 1, 2, 3. At 3, he pointed to me, and I glumly accepted his judgement.

The two mile run is typically 8 laps on a quarter mile track. I ran the first part of the race in third place, and at the middle I noticed that the tall guy ahead of me was dying (really hurting). I ran a little harder and started to catch up to him. As he heard me coming, he sped up a but, but I kept after him, and once I passed him, he sort of gave up and slowed down.

I finished in 2nd place.


Moral of the stories: Cast your fate to the wind and let the contest decide. Fate is often kinder to us than we are to ourselves.

My father’s grandfather, early years

I note the following account of the early years of Lewis Haugen Knutson, my father’s grandfather, which is contained in family historical documents. My son Anthony received his middle name, Lewis, in honor of Lewis Knutson. (Lewis’s father, Ole Haugen Knutson, was born in All Hallingdal, Norway, in 1839, and came to America in 1870.)

Lewis Haugen Knutson was born August 24, 1873 in Illinois to parents Ole H. and Olena Fransdatter Knutson. In the year 1877 he moved with his parents to Polk County Iowa. Shortly after moving, his mother died leaving seven small children, two of whom died shortly after their mother. Ole Knutson was married again to Martha Johnson in 1880. They moved with their family to Lyon County, Iowa the same year. This farm is known as the Lehalmen place. Lewis was seven years old at this time.

We are told that at the age of eight years he was an apprentice in a harness shop in Canton. This was arranged by his father and his only pay was room and board. His father agreed that this was better since life was hard where he was. At an early age he had lived on the range and had taken care of cattle over long periods of time in rain and bad weather. His clothes would get wet and they dried on his body. He developed an itch which made him so uncomfortable that he slept in the barn. He worked as a hired hand for some years.

Lewis aspired to become a Pharmacist and he spent a few months in a school located in a city east of Iowa. He had only a 3rd or 4th grade formal education. He tells of a test that he had to pass and he passed it with a perfect score which was outstanding. It was called the white powder test in which he had to identify twenty powders by taste. He was employed at Noid Drugstore, and he assisted Dr. Lewis on emergency cases. He was married to Hannah Tomain Olson on July 11, 1895, at the age of 22 years…

(Among his 10 children were my grandfather Raymond Knutson, born 1907, and Virgil Knutson, born 1914, who reminisced about his country school days in an earlier post.)

Virgil Knutson recalls country school

I encountered the following reminiscence from my Grandfather Ray Knutson’s brother Virgil Knutson. Ray spoke of Virgil often. Virgil was born in 1914 in Inwood Iowa, so this reminiscence may cover the years 1920-30.

I remember the little country school with its pot belly stove, cold floors and outside toilets which seemed a mile away. The student body was made up of Norweigans, a few Hollanders, and a few shanty Irish that ate pancakes with lard for lunches. I remember the little ball diamond with Merle Lewis (our Babe Ruth). I seems I was a self appointed one man committee to keep the teachers from being bored and to create excitement and diversion. I did a good job, so good at cutting off girl’s pigtails, dipping hair in inkwells, spit balls, shooting paper clips, and fighting and talking.