Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

The acorn of Sesame Street

Wick's World


The fragrance of the lilies overwhelmed the other flora without diminishing their beauty. There were so many plants, cacti, succulents, shrubs and trees in bloom that at times I felt I was in the southwest desert following a wet February. When I saw the monkeys hanging from the nearest vine, I felt like I was back in the jungles of Panama. Alas, I was still in St. Paul — a city not well known for its tropical Februarys. I was once again taking a day in winter to visit the arboretum and zoo in Como Park.

The email from our friends said, “We’ll be in town to visit our new grandson. Do you guys want to do the zoo thing again?”

Without even consulting my wife, I replied, “We’re in. You can stay here if you want.”

Later we dined at the nearby Lakeside Pavilion. The popular restaurant had recently been leased by a group dedicated to recreating a New Orleans style menu and atmosphere. I must say, we were pleasantly surprised with both. Our table dined on pecan smoked chicken, shrimp gumbo and steamed mussels, topped off with a large tray of beignets that mimicked those we ate in the French Quarter last Christmas.

An added attraction appeared outside the window. When we first approached the cafe, we saw a couple of ladies in bikinis. What caught our attention, though, was a man in a pair of shorts. No shirt, no shoes, so he obviously was not going to dine with us. Instead he walked over to the snow-covered lawn, laid down on his back and rolled over like a polar bear that had just finished a carcass of fresh seal meat. My wife pointed out the steamy portable sauna just over the hill. The sign read, “Sign up for free saunas during the entire month of February.” No more explanation needed.

Before our friends returned to Wisconsin, we sat at the table for a while feasting on our plate of beignets. The sharing of our current lives was the highlight of the day. Dave shared an intriguing story concerning his new job. He was ending his careers as a professional scuba diver, a chemist and currently a custom furniture builder. Exotic work, however the tale he told about his newest job of driving the elderly to doctor appointments was the topper.

Dave said he had a regular client who recently shared his life story. The man was born shortly after the Depression when times were still hard on the farm in rural Wisconsin. As a baby he was neglected to the point that when he was rescued by the state, he was a lice-covered under-nourished skeleton. As a ward of Wisconsin State Children’s Home for the next six years, he received the minimum of care, lacking both physical and emotional nourishment. There were few foster homes willing to take in an abandoned child and he temporarily entered a tuberculosis sanatorium after contracting TB. He then spent 10 years languishing in an "insane asylum." He knew insanity wasn’t his problem. He was simply illiterate with no social skills. At age 16 some lawyer recognized the situation for what it was and obtained his release. He had nowhere to go and no one, so he was literally on his own. However, he was a hard worker and managed to make ends meet.

He still couldn’t read or write, but sometime in the 1960s he got a television. On November 10, 1969, this throw-away child’s life was changed forever. Public broadcast television stations around America aired a show called "Sesame Street." First he learned the alphabet. Then he learned words and began to read books. Then he began to study and learn everything he could.

Dave said he is one of the most well-read, learned men he has ever met. Twice a week they share a drive in rural Wisconsin to a medical facility in the city. This is Dave’s new job. This man, a cracked acorn who became a giant oak tree, is Dave’s new friend.


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