Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

   May 19, 2003

Receiving irate responses from pet owners and pet lovers alike

Dear readers,

My last week's column with the headline "Man bites dog" drew some irate responses from pet owners, which I take as a consolation prize.

Columnists need feedback. Any columnist worth his salt is going to lick his wounds sometimes, and if it means putting some salt in those wounds, it means that somebody out there is paying attention.

I was relieved to hear from the pet owners instead of the pets. I was afraid I would hear from the pets themselves, because I was not making fun of the pet owners, but rather making fun of the pets.

I was especially afraid to hear from Fluffy or Precious, and most certainly afraid to hear from Fifi, even though he is in heaven wagging his tail.

I also did not want to hear from the ghosts of the cats I brutalized in my Waverly youth. I did things to those cats of which I am now ashamed of, such as trying to teach them to swim by throwing them off the dock into Waverly Lake where Al and Evelyn Decker rented out boats.

I would be arrested nowadays for such atrocities.

When I told a cat lover friend of mine the reason I had it in for cats was because I watched one of them torture a mouse when I was a small child, she told me, "Well, Jim, you have become just like that yourself!"

Cat lovers are more likely to be British than American, though, as this headline from England, as noted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for May 6, 2003 testifies:

Cat inherits widow's house and trust fund

"London - He has a house and a trust fund, but will it last all nine lives, especially in a down economy?

"Time will tell for Tinker the cat, whose wealthy owner died recently, leaving the feline the bulk of her estate worth just under $1 million.

"But for now, it's the lap of luxury for the former stray, who now lives in a London house valued at $500,000.

"Tinker also has a $160,000 trust fund to keep him in catnip, cream, and fine seafood.

"When Tinker dies, the estate will pass to the trustees, Ann and Eugene Wheatley, who deliver Tinker's food and milk each day."

Well, about that. It is my sad belief that Ann and Eugene Wheatley are perhaps more ethical than I am.


This week I have some more headlines. These headlines are so wonderful that a person could make a book out of them, something Jay Leno has done, which proves he is good for something.

Here are the headlines:

"Something went wrong in jet crash, expert says."

"Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers."

"Iraqi head seeks arms."

"Prostitutes appeal to pope."

"Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over."

"Teacher strikes idle kids."

"Miners refuse to work after death."

"Crack found on governor's daughter."

"Juvenile court to try shooting defendant."

"War dims hope for peace."

"If strike isn't settled quickly, it may last a while."

"Cold wave linked to temperatures."

"Enfield (London) couple slain; police suspect homicide."

"Red tape holds up new bridges."

"Typhoon rips through cemetery; hundreds dead."

"Man struck by lightning faces battery charges."

"New study of obesity looks for larger test group."

"Astronaut takes blame for gas in spacecraft."

"Kids make nutritious snacks."

"Chef throws his heart into helping feed needy."

"Local high school dropouts cut in half."

"Hospitals are sued by seven foot doctors."

And then there was this headline from Entertainment Magazine for a story about how movie theaters in small towns were not taking to movies featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rambo is heading into, get this, "Terminator 3:"

"Stix hix nix pix."

Do you think it's because he's a Republican?

Veterans' photo project going forward

Mrs. Don Smith (nee Gerry Meehan) of Waverly wants to spread the word that the photography exhibit of area veterans is pretty much completed and ready for viewing.

Now she is looking for photographs of WWI veterans. The WWII photographs were collected and displayed by Ray Daigle during the 1940s in his business called "Ray's In?" which has since burned to the ground.

The American Legion Auxiliary have restored and reframed all of the pictures. They can now be seen in the Waverly City Offices.

There are around 150 individual portraits in the collection. This is a great achievement, and I think it's the kind of unique project which could only happen in Waverly.

Gerry says that in addition to the photos of World War I veterans which are being sought, donations are still being accepted. If you really mean it about honoring our veterans, you can send either pictures or money to the Waverly Legion Auxiliary, 1903 North Shore Drive, Waverly, MN 55390.

Home boy coming home

Dan Herbst is going to give the Memorial Day address this year. For those of you who have been off the planet, Waverly is the place which puts on the most outstanding Memorial Day service in the nation year after year.

Dan Herbst is Waverly's favorite son. He will be a worthy successor to the likes of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who used to give the Memorial Day address year-after-year, and other politicians followed in his wake. Dan isn't even running for office.

It is Dan who advises us Waverlyites who are in exile that the three days which are absolute musts for a return to Waverly are Memorial Day, St. Patrick's Day, and the opening day of duck hunting.

Duck hunting?

Yup. That's a big, big day. Believe it or not, at one time Father Morgan gave the St. Mary's high school boys permission to skip school so they could go feed their family on that day.

He himself was in a duck blind somewhere near Waverly for the opener. At sun-up, the shotguns firing from Drewlow's Slough just south of Waverly sounded like the Battle of Gettysburg at dawn of the second day of the battle.

When I asked Dan for background information on himself to put in the Waverly Star, all he wanted to talk about was fishing and all he wanted to know from me was how the fish were biting at the old channel between the lakes where Isadore Decker had his farm.

He could have asked Chris Schultz, I suppose, but I hear the water is still too cold there for the crappies, catfish, sunfish, northerns, walleyes, bass and the rest for the fish to do much visiting back and forth between Upper Waverly and Lower Waverly Lakes.

When the water warms up, the fish stretch and yawn, and set out for their summer social life.

Although Dan wouldn't give me any useful information on his Waverly pedigree and military career so I could put it into the Waverly Star, he did e-mail this to me:

"I will be returning home to go fishing on Lake Winnebegosh with Jere and John Stephens, as well as Sam Gruenhagen of Howard Lake. We have been making this trip for numerous years and I get not a little grief from my wife for leaving Florida early just to go fishing.

"Some people just don't understand sacred traditions and values. Jere and John Stephens ask about you each year, and I tell them you are still working hard for the Republican re-election committee and doing well."

Since I couldn't get a decent answer out of Dan, I turned to some impeccable sources, Mrs. Mabel Fitzpatrick (who didn't know Dan had been selected to give the speech) and his sisters, Annie Herbst May and Mary Kay Herbst Johnson.

Dan has a rich Waverly pedigree. His parents were Julius Herbst and Duly Fitzpatrick. Julius was born on the farm later owned by Henry Herbst and was the son of Joseph and Catherine Herbst.

His mother died when Julius was very young. People my age can remember Florian Fitzpatrick.

He was a man of various talents, even serving for a while as farrier for James J. Hill, the empire builder, at the Hill residence on Summit Avenue. He also was a painter and that's how Duly learned her trade.

When we first moved to Waverly, Duly painted all of our rooms in the old Graham house, as well as hanging the wallpaper. She and my mother never stopped talking.

Grandma Katie, Florian's wife, was of Polish descent and hailed from Lemont, Ill. She was unusually well-loved and helped raise the three Herbst kids, who, as we all know, were all spoiled rotten by their parents, grandmother, and uncles. Yeah, right!

All three of them are Waverly's pride and joy, and share this common ancestry of noble Waverly pioneers.

Dan promised that I could put his speech in the Waverly Star sometime after Memorial Day. I am alarmed that he still hasn't written it out.

Sooner or later, I will delve into his military career.


Dan Herbst is not the only person who was beguiled by the Minnesota lakes. This is from an advertisement luring immigrants to Minnesota, translated into German and the Scandinavian languages in the 1860s and printed in European papers:

"The whole surface of the State is literally begemmed with innumerable lakes. Their picturesque beauty and loveliness, with their pebbly bottoms, transparent waters, wooded shores and sylvan associations, must be seen to be fully appreciated.

"There is no western state better supplied with forests . . . The assertion that the climate of Minnesota is one of the healthiest in the world, may be broadly and confidently made."

There is no mention here of the fact that the region was really an American Siberia. When Minnesota comes up in conversation, the first thing always noted is "It's sure as hell cold there, ain't it?"

The steamboats that plied the Mississippi to St. Paul were slow and unreliable and when the river froze Minnesota was virtually isolated. It wasn't until the railroads came, that there was an end to Minnesota's extreme remoteness.

And there was no mention, either, of the fact that the lakes were formed by the footprints of Paul Bunyon's great blue ox, Babe.


Next week I will have some gossip from 70 years ago, but I have learned not to do any more pet bashing. "Love me, love my dog," they always say, and cats seem to have a hypnotic effect on their owners. Maybe the Egyptians were right after all.


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