Hanging Out On a Nice Night

May 7, 2013

14.87 Miles, mainly in the West End.

Clothes line 1

Spring! There wasn’t any shouting tonight but it certainly was spoken loudly. From streets scheduled for sweeping…

When this sign goes up, the street sweepers are on the way.

When this sign goes up, the street sweepers are on the way.

…to grit and leaf-free avenues…

A freshly cleaned street courtesy of Saint Paul Department of Public Works.

A freshly cleaned street courtesy of Saint Paul Department of Public Works. As a bike rider, I really appreciate the grit free streets for more than aesthetic reasons. On a clean street there’s a significantly lower chance of me falling off my bike.

…to clothes, lots of clothes, hung to dry on a backyard clothesline…winter is finally gone. (I hope.)

clothes line 2

Someone at 980 Scheffer Avenue at Chatsworth Street used the pleasant weather to great advantage to dry lots of clothes.

Almost everyone has said good riddance to winter though there’s always one pessimist in the crowd.

1384 Palace Avenue

Santa abandoned his sleigh and a couple of reindeer at 1384 Palace Avenue.

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.

Pleasant Avenue between Armstrong and Watson Avenues. The wood fence on the left is a sound barrier separating the once controversial and highly litigated Interstate 35E from the neighborhood.

Pleasant Avenue between Armstrong and Watson Avenues. The wood fence on the left is a sound barrier separating the once controversial and highly litigated Interstate 35E from the neighborhood.

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.

This picture was taken looking east from Pleasant Avenue. A closer examination of the building allows you to see the jumble of additions. On the left, a 1974 appendage; the three story structure in the center is the original 1924 building; in front of that, with the metal grid work is a more recent wing; and on the right is a 1960 or ’70s era portable classroom.

Looking east from Pleasant Avenue. A closer examination of the building allows you to see the jumble of additions. On the left, a 1974 appendage; the three-story structure in the center is the original 1924 building; in front of that, with the metal grid work is a more recent wing; and on the right is a 1960 or ’70s era portable classroom.

From Tuscarora Avenue the muddle of the additions is more apparent. The main entrance is on the far right.

From Tuscarora Avenue the muddle of the additions is more apparent. The main entrance is on the far right.

The original part of Adams School building, named for President John Quincy Adams.

The original 1924 part of Adams School building, named for President John Quincy Adams.

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.

Books under the replica big top.

Books under the replica big top.

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.

The front yard of Darlene and Edwin Hammond’s home at 914 Bayard Avenue.

The front yard of Darlene and Edwin Hammond’s home at 914 Bayard Avenue.

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.

Just a few of the dozens of ornaments on D

Just a few of the dozens of ornaments in Darlene Hammond’s front yard.

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 Hammond in front of her home.

Darlene Hammond in front of her home.

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.

The stones that replaced the grass and some ornamental fish.

The stones that replaced the grass and some of the ornamentation.

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.”

Darlene's memorial to her three children.

Darlene’s memorial to her three children.

Darlene 5

The plaque Darlene’s son got her in honor of her two daughters who died.

Another view of Darlene's memorial to her late children. St. Francis of Assisi, right. The pink, red and yellow flowers represent each of her children.

Another view of Darlene’s memorial to her late children. St. Francis of Assisi, right. The pink, red and yellow flowers represent each of her children who passed.

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:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/214413027

 

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