May 7, 2013
14.87 Miles, mainly in the West End.
Spring! There wasn’t any shouting tonight but it certainly was spoken loudly. From streets scheduled for sweeping…
…to grit and leaf-free avenues…
…to clothes, lots of clothes, hung to dry on a backyard clothesline…winter is finally gone. (I hope.)
Almost everyone has said good riddance to winter though there’s always one pessimist in the crowd.
Spring cleaning does not give you the right to dump your junk along the road so you don’t have to pay for proper disposal. And an extra dose of bad karma for ditching the tires et al on Pleasant Avenue.
Just south on Pleasant is a large field and playground, both part of the Adams Spanish Immersion Magnet School facility. According to the SPPS , when Adams Spanish Immersion opened in 1988 it was Minnesota’s first immersion school. Language immersion schools teach children a foreign language by conducting most lessons in that other language.
Little Free Libraries are now frequently spotted around Saint Paul. Most resemble small houses-but this one at 966 Bayard Avenue is modeled after a circus tent and is unique in its design and colors. The Little Free Library website, http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/, indicates there are more than 40 registered libraries in Saint Paul.
It’s routine to see a statue or lawn ornament in front yards and often they’re subtle enough to escape notice. Not so at Darlene and Edwin Hammond’s home at 914 Bayard. Their collection likely stops nearly everyone who ventures past, which was exactly what happened to me.
I contemplated the assemblage of gnomes, fish, forest creatures, flowers and wheels, as they all seemed to vie for my attention. I figured there must be a story behind it. I was about to find out just what a good story it is.
I knocked on the screen door and a smiling Darlene Hammond came out to talk. Darlene is one of those delightful people with a frequent and infectious laugh who you like immediately.
Darlene told me she and her husband bought the house in 1972. She chuckled as she told me it wasn’t long before he started complaining about doing yard work. “My husband hated to cut grass and I said, ‘Well, I’m not about to do it. OK, I’ll fix ya’. We’re gonna get stone and stone in the whole yard and then you don’t have to ever cut the grass. You don’t have to water nothin’ nor cut the grass.’”
Darlene laughed again as she recalled her husband’s reaction, “He said I was nuts but he said, ‘You know what, at least I don’t have to cut the lawn.’”
Darlene went on to say she covered the front and back yards with stones with only a bit of help from one of her daughters. To Darlene’s recollection, the wagon wheels on either side of the sidewalk were the first of the dozens of items now in the yard.
I asked Darlene if she has a favorite decoration. She shed a tear or two as she pointed across the yard and told me, “I made a little memorial over there under the pear tree for my three children that had died. They all died in their 40s. I have a St. Francis over there and then I have a saying there about if I could walk up to the sky, it’s a pretty saying, that my son gave me when his two sisters died and then I have a cross over there.”
After sharing her poignant thoughts with me, Darlene talked more about the her yard collection. She said many of the decorations were gathered from dumpsters when her husband was in the junk business years ago. The garden gnomes were courtesy of her aunt who made them and gave them to Darlene when she moved into senior living. The weather vane came from St. Joseph’s Hospital where Darlene worked as housekeeping supervisor for 30 years.
Darlene and I talked a few minutes longer before I thanked her and got back to riding the streets of the West End. As I rode I thought about Darlene, the stories she told me and her optimism, in spite of the tragic losses of three of her four children. Our encounter remains fresh as I write this, and more than two weeks after the ride, I continue to feel lucky that our paths crossed on a beautiful May evening.
Click below to see the map of this route: