Lake Louise and the Aussies

When we came downstairs for dinner that night, we saw a lovely, little trout pond in the middle of the lobby. A man sat on the rim apparently tickling the undersides of the trout. When he saw us watching him, he asked if we wanted to bet he could catch one. We agreed on a drink for whoever won.

Shortly after that, a fish swam across his hand. He seemed to rub its belly with his middle three fingers. To our amazement, the fish lay calmly in the man’s hand. The fellow lifted the relaxed, unmoving trout out of the water.

We were on our honeymoon at the Chateau Lake Louise in Canada. The man, an Australian, told us he had hypnotized ‘the little mate. ‘ He lowered the quietly resting fish back into the water, and it swam away unharmed.

We came to know this person and his traveling companion, (though their names now escape me.) We paid with drinks all around and ate dinner with them for several nights. They told us they had just come from London where they had been presented to the Queen, and were traveling across Canada selling diamonds when they needed cash.

We didn’t believe a word of it, but we countered with extolling the grandeur of the Kansas City Steak. Though we exchanged addresses, we never expected to hear from them again. To our surprise, they kept in touch with cards each Christmas.

Several years passed. When my mother and father planned a trip to Sidney, I suggested they look up our two ‘mates,’ and wrote the men telling them where and when my parents would arrive.

This is what my mother told me. She and Dad were met by a uniformed chauffeur driving a Roils Royce. They were taken to a lovely estate overlooking the ocean, with manicured grounds stretching from the mansion to the sea. Their host, the fish tickler, greeted them. He and his wife treated my parents royally with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and dinner. Then they drove my parents on a guided scenic tour of Sidney before taking them back to their hotel.

A year went by. The lord of the manor, (I still can’t remember his name) came to Kansas City on business. He only had time for dinner he said, but he definitely wanted to try one of those Kansas City steaks. We took him to the best steak house (back then) in town, the Golden Ox. He said he’d come to visit and perhaps buy Manor Bakery, one of the largest bakeries in the United States.

Turned out what they’d told us was all true. Our Lake Louise ‘mates’ could not only hypnotize fish. They had  been presented to the Queen, and they did sell diamonds for cash across Canada. Little did we know they owned the largest bakery in all of Australia.

  Lake Louise4

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Grossmutter’s Easy Chocolate Fudge Pie

Clayton Barnett’s grossmutter was a fantastic cook. Here’s a mouthwatering, super-easy recipe she called Chocolate Fudge Pie. Makes its own crust and contains no partially hydrogenated oil.

Melt together 2 squares bitter chocolate and ¼-pound butter
Two mixed eggs
1-cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
(this will be fairly thick)

Pour into well-buttered 8″ pie tin. (9″ will work). Clayton’s grossmutter poked little tiny holes in the bottom to let out the steam, but no holes work just fine.
Bake at 300 to 325 degrees for 1 hour. Test after 45 minutes by inserting a knife and if it comes out Not Quite Clean, it is fudgy and done.


Whip up a small container of heavy cream with about ¼ cup of sugar until cream stands in peaks. Cover pie with whipped cream. Decorate with shavings from a square of bitter chocolate.

Perfect for parties or to take to someone’s house if you are asked to bring dessert.

PS: If you want some more of  Grossmutter’s scrumptious recipes write me here or at




Did you get one of them? A notice that you’ve been furloughed—you and 24,199 other non-essential Kansas government workers—at least until our legislators (and the governor) pass some kind of legislation to help you out, or approve a budget?

If your workplace is controlled by Governor Brownback, which includes state schools, state medical facilities, and many other state agencies, you can kiss your paycheck goodbye until further notice. To bad if you need the money to buy food or pay the rent.

And what does it do to your self-esteem—to be categorized as ‘non-essential?’ Kansas University Chancellor Gray-Little said that term has nothing to do with the value of an employee or position, so that should make you feel better.

Dollars and cents-wise, your paycheck has to do with taxes. Democrats want to raise taxes, moderate Republicans want to broaden the tax base, and right-wing Republicans want to cut taxes. It may be more complicated than that, but no matter. Our elected officials have to find a way to fix the state’s $400,000,000 deficit.

And by the way, did you know that in Kansas, ninety days are scheduled for legislative sessions? Each extra day costs the state $40,000 and Saturday was the 107th day. That’s $680,000 that could be used to pay some of you non-essential workers.


May 30th. Decoration Day

My parents told me it was a national holiday because it was my birthday. Schools were closed on that day, and no one went to work. My dad took me swimming at Excelsior Springs, Mo, a favorite haunt of many other famous people.

For the longest time, I didn’t know it was a joke, but the truth of the matter is:

“The 30th of May, 1868, {was} designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

It was 1866 and the United States was recovering from the long and bloody Civil War between the North and the South. Surviving soldiers came home, some with missing limbs, and all with stories to tell. Henry Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard the stories and had an idea. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day to honor the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, Retired Major General Jonathan A. Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery to decorate their comrades’ graves with flags. It was not a happy celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.




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