Saturday, April 26, 2014

More from a Roadside Philosopher

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

During the course of the year, Joann and I make as many photography trips as we can. Admittedly, we didn’t go out much this winter, but it wasn’t for lack of desire. It was that prolonged deep freeze in temperatures!

More often than not, these trips take us to the west, since we love the rolling countryside and the slower pace of life (and traffic!). Plus, it gives us an excuse to stop and check the blackboard for more from the roadside philosopher.

After every absence, we wonder if the sign will still be there on our next stop. But in early spring of 2012, we drove some local roads in Dane County looking for color. After a long winter, we’re always anxious to find any signs of spring.

Returning home, we made sure the route would take us past the blackboard to see what new saying awaited us. Finding a redbud tree in bloom and an upgraded blackboard display just added to the pleasure.

Every trip west has me planning how I can fit in a stop at the blackboard to check out the humorous messages with enough light to take photos. Sometimes this is a hard task, since we often drive past early in the morning when it is too dark to photograph and often return home in the dark. But, on another spring trip, we stopped early in the trip to find the message below.

At the end of the day, as we hit the highway to drive home, we realized we would be near the historic Thomas Stone barn. And again, we were lucky to find blossoming trees close enough to be included in photos.

Some years Joann has a special fall trip with a few shunpiking friends. We plan a route that will take them past some good rural scenes, and into Amish country since they enjoy that so much, and on this trip, they stopped in a small town to capture a picture of this Pabst Blue Ribbon beer ad. We can’t count how many times we drove through town without seeing it. Our excuse (and it might be a valid one,) is that we were often driving through in the dark.

Their return trip would take them close to the blackboard, so Joann planned their final stop to check out the display of humor. They were not disappointed.

On an early fall trip to the apple orchard, we managed to pass the blackboard on the way to the Gays Mills area. We always try to make at least one stop at an orchard to buy apples for snacking, and a couple of apple cider doughnuts for breakfast.

I love the humor displayed in the saying. I remember chanting “Liar, Liar, pants on fire!” when we were younger, and I can almost see the cartoon with a person running and flames shooting out of his pants.

A week after our visit to the orchard, we were out again, hunting up fall color on the backroads of western Wisconsin. We love the bright orange pop of sumac along the roadsides, and often try to find scenes that will let the sumac be featured.

On the way home, we made our now normal stop at the blackboard to check for a new saying. The saying had changed, and I have to admit it is one of my favorites so far. Maybe because I never enjoyed algebra and couldn’t imagine where I would ever use it in day to day life.

Our biggest surprise had been to find that the sign was updated over the snowy winter months. We’re very glad it is, and we suppose that other people who pass the sign also appreciate the humor during the long Wisconsin winters.

Last winter on one of our trips, we spent some time in a large cemetery in Reedsburg, and the chapel below was in the back of the cemetery. If you love churches and chapels as we do, be sure to check out cemeteries. You’ll be surprised how many chapels you will find.

And on another of our winter trips last year, we visited the historic Hauge Log church which was built in 1852. We have been to the church in many seasons, but it looks different every time. Whenever we are close, we detour to make a stop.

Returning home that evening, we made a stop at the blackboard.

We did manage to talk to one of the neighbors, who said we had the right house for the person who maintains the sign, but they were not home.

The philosopher is still a mystery to us, but we sure get enjoyment from anticipating what new saying we will find when we drive down the road to the sign. I hope the sign continues to entertain us for years.

Happy Shunpiking!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three Wooden Crosses

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Joann and I have seen three wooden crosses on hillsides near home for years, but we never thought to take a photo until we started to see them during our travels.

If you travel around the country at all, you may have seen three wooden crosses along the road, in a churchyard or at a cemetery.

Then we came across a set of crosses that were colored, with the center cross being a gold color and the two smaller crosses a light blue. Research shows many sets of crosses like these were put up or inspired by one man.

Bernard Coffindaffer was born in West Virginia and by the age of ten was an orphan. He graduated high school at the age of fourteen and served in the U.S. marines in the Pacific and was wounded at Iwo Jima.

He worked in the oil business and later had a coal washing business in the mountains of West Virginia where he earned a small fortune. He became a Christian at the age of forty-two and eventually became a self-proclaimed Methodist minister serving seven small churches in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

In 1982 he underwent heart by-pass surgery after which he liquidated his business. Two years later while napping, he had a vision. He said it was “a genuine, marvelous, glorious vision. The Holy Spirit instructed, blessed, dealt with me and told me how to go about installing these crosses. It was an experience you have once in a lifetime.”

During the final nine years of his life, he oversaw the installation of 1,864 sets of crosses. The crosses were made from California Douglas Fir. The center cross was painted gold and the smaller crosses on either side were painted a light blue. The crosses symbolize Christ on the Cross flanked by the two thieves that were crucified with Him.

In 1999, Sara Stevenson Abraham answered the Lord’s call to continue the Ministry. She formed a new non-profit organization called “Crosses Across America, Inc.”, located in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Their mission is to preserve, maintain and construct roadside crosses across America with a goal of having a new cluster of crosses every fifty miles along the highways and byways of North America.

We enjoy finding the crosses whether they are put up and maintained by a church or the ones put up or inspired by Mr. Coffindaffer and hope we find many more in our travels around the country!

Happy Easter and as always Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Larsmont School, Minnesota

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

At the end of June in 2010, as Joann and I returned from the North Shore of Minnesota, we traveled down old Highway 61 which is now known as Scenic Drive. It follows the lake shore more closely than the new highway and has much less traffic. Our kind of road!

Just south of Two Harbors is the community of Larsmont and the Larsmont School. This summer the school will celebrate its centennial.

The first settlers came to the Larsmont area in 1888. At that time, the location was known only as Mile Post 88 on the Duluth and Iron Ridge Railroad. The school was built in 1914 and in its first year had 12 students. By 1915, the settlement wanted to establish a post office. To do so, they had to choose a name.

They wanted to name the town Larsmo after Larsmo, Finland, which was the homeland of many of the residents. The Postal inspector suggested they choose a more American name, so they changed the name to Larsmont – “Lars” from Larsmo, and “mont” referring to the hills above the town.

For 20 years, the school was the center of activity and learning in the area, closing its doors to students in 1934. For a one-room school, this was a relatively short period of time. This school, though, did not fall into disrepair.

In June of 1934, the school was sold to the community to be used as a church. During the 1940’s, the school became the home of the Larsmont Gospel Mission Society.

In 1959, the Mission Society transferred ownership of the building to the Larsmont Fire Department. It served the area fire department until 1965 when the Ladies Auxiliary put it to use.

Now several elementary schools make an annual pilgrimage to the school. The schools immerse the children in what classes would have been like at a one-room school.

On the day of the field trip, the boys dress in knickers with button-up shirts, and the girls wear dresses with aprons and bonnets. The parents who accompany the students must dress in clothing appropriate for the period as well.

Lunch also reflects the era with meats, dried fruits or jams, and water or milk. The food must be in baskets or pails, or wrapped in a towel as it would have been in those days.

The day starts with the pledge of allegiance and singing. Then throughout the day, the students move through stations where they do some old-time tasks including making fresh-squeezed lemonade, making rope from strands of twine, learning pioneer games, and learning to sew a button onto a piece of cloth.

At the end of the day, they get their picture taken in front of the school and it is printed in black and white. The students love it, and begin asking questions about the field trip as soon as they reach the fourth grade.

Joann and I enjoyed our stop at the school. We’re always thrilled when we see these restored and maintained schoolhouses. And we love that a few lucky students of today get to experience what life would have been like back in those good old days.

Happy Shunpiking!

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