Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My time is unfortunately not money

Time is priceless, time is money, time waits for no man, lost time is never found again and of course time flies, but if time flies like an arrow. and fruit flies like a banana, therefore if you find an arrow that looks like a banana is time just a fruit?

Okay, enough logical paradoxes and proverbs or whatever they are.  Summer has come, whether we like it or not.  The other day Professor KC Jensen of SDSU reported a least bittern near Brookings, SD and needing one in South Dakota and the warbler migration passing us by largely with few birds as the midwest weather has been rather tame, I headed south.

KC picked me up and a few minutes later we heard it, and then eventually, it popped out.

Patience rewarded us.  Boy they are tough birds to photograph let alone even see, my only previous photograph was one I saw in Florida during my big year which was too close and all I could photograph was its head.

Usually I only see this bird accidentally, flying from me after just about stepping on one, or just a heard bird deep in the marsh, sometimes even just a few feet away calling it's tell-tale call, never to be seen.  Whatever the case, I had South Dakota life bird #299, and it was even seen.  One to go!

Another bird frequently heard by me but never photographed is the Virginia rail, but KC had a pair of them too and after a brief stop, we had a pair looking at us in the ditch enar the Big Sioux River

They were almost too close, too.

After this bird adventure on Friday, I had to go and work on things.  I had an annual meeting in Minnesota and then on Tuesday, I was in Highland Park in St. Paul at the fashionable Jewelry Store RF Moeller.  You see, my grandparents had a collection of pocket watches and they thought they had something special, especially these two 1880ish watches.  One lady's watch on a gold chain.  14K is a sellers best friend right?

Let me say it here, I know more about farming than I know about watches, I can tell time and that is about it.

The watch repair guy told me a story about a Macalaster student the week before that came in with having a pocket watch for 3 years in his backpack.....he told the guy it was worth 25,000 and the student left carrying a 20,000 check that would cover his senior year's tuition payment in a bewildered state.  Good thing he hadn't squashed it.

He looked at mine, starting with an 18 jewel Illinois, that still works, it is nickle silver and has a clean face.......$100, then another $50, and then he got to my two gold ones, one of which may have family history to it.  My great grandmother was born out of wedlock, and then after being thrown out of the Mennonite family, her and her mother were taken in by the local vet into what looks to me like a rather functional threesome with his existing wife, although some of the vet's existing wife's looks at the young mistress are quite snide IMHO.  Some say he was just a generous man to take in such a handsome young lady, and I don't sugarcoat the past.  It was 1900 and well, you had to get by and what was a young woman in Iowa to do, her only assets were herself.  I think it rather smart otherwise, I wouldn't ever be here.

We think she was given this watch as a present and then it was passed down.  It was probably the Vet's mother's as that would answer the date it was made or maybe not....

The watch expert looked at commented that it was pretty and then explained to me the Waltham company in MA that made it and bronze filled gold.........I instantly knew what that meant, the chain was a 1970ish, gold plate chain, it wasn't anything.  Value....$100.

The well done men's watch had to be something....

It has lavender dial, but filled bronze.......just ....$100, made in 1881, but really of no substantial value.  "Sorry, we don't buy parts watches and that would be what these would be for to us, sorry.  Neat dial though."  He recommended Ebay as maybe two guys would think these would be something of value in it, and bid it up over a hundred bucks.....much like probably my grandfather did back in the day, three of these he paid nearly $50 back in the fifties to fix, that was a lot of money then.....

my time pieces are not worth much......14 watches and maybe I can scrape together a grand which may take quite a bit of work.  We'll keep the one with possibly family connections although I can't help but think she should have held out for a better watch, but again, she probably thought it was worth a heck of a lot more than it was.  Possibly the wealthy Vet from Jessup Iowa shrewdly played her with a watch that looked nearly priceless but really wasn't.  Oh well, it wouldn't be the first time a mistress was given something that glittered but wasn't gold.

I did feel a little sad for my grandparents guarding these watches for six decades like they were treasures of immense value, but in actuality they were just run of the mill watches, but things like that happen every day.  They may have paid about as much for them back in the 50s as they are worth today, but again this proves the time value of money.  I guess pocket watches turned out to be a poor long term investment, much like all collectibles.....Now as executor of the estate these are my problem.  I'm not starting a watch collection.

So anybody in the market for some old watches?  I got a few....

I guess the bittern had a little more value........
what is a bittern worth.........?



Friday, May 18, 2018

Birding the Peoria Road ...

Some have rode the Burlington Route, others have been routed on the Milwaukee Road.  My grandfather ate on the Nickel Plate, and a few took the curves on the Soo Line...but few remember the old Peoria Gateway.  The Peoria  Gateway!?......when I think of Peoria, I don't think of it as the center of anything let alone transportation and the gateway to what?...but...I could be wrong.

Today I was birding on the road bed of the abandoned railway of  one of the most inconsequential railway enterprises that was ever built.  The amazing fact is that this 1400 mile rail system that went from nowhere to the middle of hardly anywhere lasted for 90 years....90 years!

The Minneapolis and St Louis  railroad, the Peoria Gateway was described as a "Spunky Line" and today I was walking the grade between Revillo and Strandburg SD, looking for an eastern towhee.  Old rail beds are surrounded by bushes and those bushes....are habitat for a bird I need in the Rushmore fact I also need it in Illinois, because to be honest, I've never even been to Peoria, having skipped a speech tournament at Bradley Univ. in college.

Today, I went for a walk to see what I could find....

I saw some deer

Some rather common year birds....eastern kingbird

A saw blackpoll warbler females

Bobolink female

Then I heard something in the brush and I tried to phish it up and I waited and I tripped down the grade and then...up it popped......
A brown no towhee for me
Eventually, I ran out of bushes....and didn't experience any ghost trains...luckily enough for me.

And I looked around.

I'm a mile from LaBolt , South Dakota, a town of about a hundred people, and it's own railroad, still in operation--a BNSF branch that also went through insignificant towns on its way to Watertown, South Dakota, so I was thinking why would they put another railroad here?

I thought about it the whole way home. Then I did a little research.

The Peoria Gateway....Their west of Minneapolis main went right where I was standing and until 1960 came complete with passenger service although truth be told, I can't picture a lot of demand except for taking it all the way to Minneapolis.  Strandburg to say Gaylord Minnesota.  Maybe there was a huge appetite for Hauenstein Beer in New Ulm?

After 1940, the western end was Leola, South Dakota....then Aberdeen on to Watertown, Madison, Minnesota, and Minneapolis then you could go dead south towards Mason City Iowa, meander your way through Iowa to Oskaloosa and then you could go east to Peoria.  It would take a few days, but you could go from Northcentral South Dakota to Peoria, I can't picture any doing it though?.

The 1870 charter for this railroad, like many rail charters showed promise and hope.  Hope for profits of Minnesota and Iowa farmers sending wheat to Minneapolis to be milled.
One interesting facts of this road.  In 1886, North Redwood, MN agent Richard Sears, maybe 60 miles down the road bed gets a box of watches.  They go unclaimed.  Using these as seeds, he created a mail order business....Sears Roebuck....go figure?

The railroad began building its "pacific" division in 1906 heading westward from Watertown, and developing towns along the way laying tracks across the prairie, being called a "dirt railroad" as most of the track was not laid with ballast, only dirt....grass growing through the rails....

they reached the Missouri River the next year and founded the station of LeBeau on the east bank.  They began some effort to secure the crossing and made a deal with the Cheyenne River members about development but the Milwaukee Road was also laying track west in the hopes of getting to the pacific and when the bridge in Mobridge was built, the Milwaukee Road then swung a branch line from their main south on the west bank of the river to cut off the Peoria Gateway, founding towns along the line ending in Faith.  The plan worked and the Milwaukee Road blocked a competitor east of the Missouri......The Peoria ended at Lebeau......When Lebeau didn't work out, and the ghost town was flooded when they damned the river at Oahe....the end of the line was moved back to Anaska....a town that literally meant "confusion" in Lakota, and confusing it was, the railroad went from Anaska to Peoria, literally from nowhere to really not much of anywhere.

After the railroads were nationalized in 1917 in one of the worst things  to happen in America as the big roads liked it since the government agreed to pay them profits based on their previous 3 years of earnings, however, the smaller lines like this one got little and when congress voted to give back the lines in 1920, they basically left this one with nothing.  The railroad went bankrupt in 1923 lasting there for 20 years.  During that period, it was marginalized and the government postulated plans to parcel it out, sell it for scrap, just abandon it entirely, or merged but somehow it survived, and then entered the colorful man, Lucian B Sprague, not to be confused with Louis Spray, the man that caught the record Muskie for a long period in Wisconsin.

Sprague became the white knight of this railroad and a legend in the industry.  He even had a name for his road, the "Miserable and Still Limping."   Sprague turned the lemons into lemonade, except that the Gateway didn't even have any lemons....and it made money, somehow, despite it being a road in the middle of nowhere, he found customers, and was liked by his employees.  It eventually exited bankruptcy in 1943 after one of the longest in US history.  Sprague started spending on infrastructure and guess what?  People used the line,  Despite it going from nowhere to no place, it soon was no longer limping......Sprague bought a Stanley Steamer and showed it off along the route, was a marketing genius and he had his own personal train and sped along the route and top speed hauling famous people to Conde to hunt, fish and caroused with loose women and drank with actors and comedians. 

By 1954, the line had no debt, was profitable and serving some of the smallest towns in America.  The only thing he did was to abandon the end and close the line from Conde to Anaska,  Things were going good but then entered big Chicago money and boardroom drama.  A vulture capitalist came in, bought up stock on the cheap, won a proxy fight, and then kicked out Sprague.  Immediately, the line began to lose money, because they didn't care and which was probably the plan.  Having no debt, like a few of railroads, these lines were worth more in parts than from operations so in 1960 it was sold to the Chicago Northwestern and they basically sold off everything.  Passenger service ended in 1960.  The last freight train out of Watertown went through Strandburg in 1974.  The entire pacific main was disposed of.  half for scrap, a part was sold to the Burlington east of Madison, MN and the line in southern Minnesota became one of the most decrepit shortlines ever....less than a 5% of the 1500 miles was even owned by the CNW when it merged with the UP, but that was apparently the plan.....
Everyone made money except the local people.....but to be fair, many of these towns shouldn't have even existed.  Building west of Watertown in the first place was an ill conceived plan...

Towns along the route took a beating over the years.  Anaska now has a population of 40, Lowry, 6, Wallace 84, Bradley 74, and Strandburg sits at 72.  Conde has 140 people down from nearly 600 when the railroad had a junction there in 1910.  many of the other towns are now doomed, with places like Revillo just losing their high school which can only lead to more of a population drop.

all this knowledge and no towhee...oh well....the walk was fun and the history was interesting


Monday, May 14, 2018

Warbler Week!

Its warbler week in northeastern South Dakota!  This is always a happy time in spring migration.  This year, especially so, since after last week.  That ended up being dominated by a screwy car deal gone bad.  It was an anger filled and frustrating six days, so having something as happy as this is a very good thing indeed.  I’d write a column about last week, but it was just too exhausting and irritating. I’m not sure I want to relive it.  I’m even hesitating on writing Yelp and Google reviews, despite it being a OMG event.  I did get a new car but I did apparently contribute to getting a general manager dismissed, so it wasn’t without a casualty or two.

This blog is also the basis for my Column this week in the Watertown Public Opinion, so it is meant for a more general audience than my followers of avid birders.

I was also working on scheduling book events for my new book “Confessions of a Pike Whisperer,” which is much more satisfying than writing nasty reviews online about Volvo dealers and employees of Volvo dealers.  I will be at DDR Books in Watertown on June 5th at 7pm to sign and sell books.  If you are reading this and located in NE South Dakota support your local bookstore and show up and say “hi!”  I’m sure more on that it looks like I’ll also be in Sioux Falls at Zandbroz on June 16th form 2 to 4 PM and working on others, so contact me for questions.  I'll be at the Grantsburg Public Library in Wisconsin on June 2 at 10 AM.

Warblers….every year, the northern birders wait patiently for the annual spring return of the colorful little song birds called warblers.  These birds can make it about a hundred miles a day in good weather after wintering in central and South America.  They can literally, if there happens to be a fallout, fill trees with yellow, orange, red, and even blue.  A fallout happens if the migrating flock of birds hits a front or a storm causing the birds to all end up in the same place like a small grove of trees, a cemetery, or one shore of a lake.  Places like the south shore of one of the Great Lakes can be a great place as many birds can pile up, waiting for favorable winds to cross the water.  Magee March in Ohio has the “Biggest Week in Birding Festival” where you can see over 20 species or more on a normal day.  After May finding warblers is hard work as the little birds hide in either the tops of the tallest trees or in the middle of the thickest bushes.  Many of them also breed in the wilds of the northern and northeastern forests so even getting to where they live can be a bug and tick infested adventure.

We are on the western edge of warbler migration so here in South Dakota, it is always a very spotty event.  I tend to monitor locations in the eastern border of the state with mature trees and water like Milbank’s cemeteries, Hartford State Park, Sicca Hollow, and the park in LaBolt, but last year, the best fallout around here was at the cemetery on the west side of Aberdeen on a day when a “mega” rare bird showed up near Sand Lake NWR.  We had to abandon the fallout to chase the curlew sandpiper which after driving above the speed limit over there, flew away just as I got the scope on it.  I really didn’t see the sandpiper and I left many unidentified warblers in the Aberdeen treetops so it wasn;t the best of days even if it was the best day of the year.  So we’ll see if we have a good year or not.

They call a group of warblers by many nouns.  One I like is a “bouquet” of warblers but the terms “confusion,” “fall,” or “wrench” also works.  So far I’ve found some small wrenches, and logged two state lifer warblers.  A magnolia warbler and a chestnut-sided warbler this one which eluded my camera since I had ran out of battery power…the luck of Olaf.  I have such a paltry state warbler list...

Magnolia warbler, SD Lifer #295

 Blackburnian warbler

Palm warbler

Go out and find a pretty bird this week!  You might be surprised by what you see.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Marketing and self promotion

It seems always a little weird self-promoting something you did like a piece of art, a performance, or a book.  Despite everything Swedish in me telling me not to, to be frank, books don't market themselves, so I'll say it.  My new book is out!!

To be honest, I have to market the &&% out of this book or my garage will not have room for my car. .

Today I have my first two retailers locked up, Log Gables in Brule, WI and DDR Books of Watertown, SD.  I have also scheduled my first book event for June 5th, 7pm for DDR Books in Watertown, SD.

Some say it couldn't be done and some say it shouldn't have been done, but well, I have (I think successfully).  I have crafted a book about my two passions, birding and pike fishing, telling a lot of stories about my many zany pike fishing adventures AND my big year of 2016. 

Have I have fished with..?
a) A convicted murderer
b) A congressman
c)  An NFL and college sports legend
d)  A crazy Finn who only spoke Clint Eastwoodism English

The answer is ALL of the above.......the stories will leave you ..well....they will leave you scratching your head

The history of the Falun Sucker Club has never before been written

It has some good reviews so far.

I think that is the best book you have ever written
                                            Susan Segelstrom, my mother and author

Okay family members aside:

I have enjoyed Olaf Danielson's tales for years. Whether its high-adventure birding in Alaska or documenting the environmental tightrope of modernization in the tropical paradises of Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, his world-traveling adventures always pull my mind into a magical world that actually exists somewhere beyond the beaten path. Through his stories, photographs, and humorous philosophy I find myself pulled into Zen of learning without even realizing it, and Confessions of a Pike Whisperer fits that genre like the finest fishing braid on the spool of a well-oiled reel. Read it, loved it, and am insanely jealous of his knack for collecting and photographing monster fish, not to mention his unrivaled ability to paint a zesty story that perfectly captures mankind s love affair with the raw beauty of nature.
 --John Luthens, Wisconsin Outdoors Jounalist and Author of Taconite Creek

Here is the official synopsis:

Born into a family of avid fishing people, Grantsburg, Wisconsin native and Watertown Public Opinion columnist, author and adventurer Olaf Danielson’s life quest of catching big fish has taken many very interesting twists and turns.  Even Olaf’s first date with his future wife was ice-fishing. Confessions of a Pike Whisperer  outlines the mysticism of pike fishing and shares many his tales from his founding of the Falun Sucker Club in 1984 to various other surreal experiences from the Midwest to Canada to Sweden. In his Year Without Pike section, Olaf also relates how he became a Big Year birding record-holder in 2016. This is the book for everyone who loves adventure in the outdoors.

So there you have it

it is 296 pages with lots of pictures, PG, and'll even learn something

You can buy it on Amazon shortly (they don't have any in stock as it was just printed) but my publisher sent me a garage full to market and since Amazon doesn't pay royalties save for a few pennies, I would rather you buy it from me, I even take credit cards....$19.50 post paid....

email me at if you want a signed copy and we can figure out the details.

Obviously, you like my blog or you wouldn't even read this, this is more of the same, fish stories, UFO stories, birding adventures, and like I said the history of the Falun Sucker Club....all for one low-low price...........

can you beat that for entertainment?

Thanks for your support


PS  a few spring birds from the week.....   so you feel like you are getting some birding value here...there are field sparrows everywhere
Field sparrow

chestnut collared longspur

Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...