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19 Road Trip IIa – Meet the Parents

I'm back in the woods for a busy few day in the city.

Arrived in Cornell yesterday on a stunning, sunny fall morning.
The drive from Stillwater, MN where I overnighted with friends of my wife (and now mine) was leisurely and memorable.

The St. Croix River majestically separates Lake Wobegon (MN) from the Cheeseheads (WI), but on this day all was clearly not right. Lampposts, park benches, and trashcans were submerged. The bridge span across the river into Wisconsin was only a few feet above the water line. An inquisitive paddler could not pass underneath the span.

The rest of the two hour drive was pleasant; halfway there an eagle came from behind the trees and swept over the car at about 100 feet.

My thoughts turned to Cornell and my goals for the three days along the Chippewa.

My first task was calling the Phelps. Aaron BS '99 MS '99 was up for the weekend with his son and I finally had a chance to sit down with him and his parents (Jerry and Michelle). I called Aaron's cell and he told me to come on over.

As expected they are delightful people, friendly, and generous. They expanded on some of the tales we shared by phone in July and August. They began accumulating some of Ezra and Mary Cornell's  acreage own south of town in the early 1980s . From time to time they fell some trees for expenses like tuition. The family leases the land to folks who raise livestock. But their passion is hunting. The three boys return to town often to join Eric (a Cornell High School senior) and Jerry in the woods.

Once again we discuss the possibilities of closer ties between the town and the university. Jerry and Michelle believe that higher educational aspirations for students and parents might result. Aaron has offered to return to campus with me to make the case for a connection between our alma mater and the community and region that was so instrumental to the university's financial, and thus, academic success.

I left the Phelps's satisfied that the stories, histories and legacies of Ezra's ventures in these woods are reasons enough to justify and pursue the Cornell-Cornell partnership. I think that the Ithaca Cornellians would reap the rewards of this initiative as much as the Cheeseheads (term of affection conveyed from one Wisconsinite to another).

Packer Fans know – Dec. 31, 1967
I finished the afternoon at Turk's sharing some local Leinenkugel's  with the friendly locals. Once again, it took less than five minutes for someone to introduce themselves and welcome me. When I explained the reasons for my visit, one patron simply stated, "I do not believe you." I went out to my car to retrieve the just-published Ezra Magazine article. A few minutes later her two friends asked for their copies.

I would give anything to have a photo of these Green Bay Packer-attired fans sitting at the bar, Lions-Packers playing (3rd quarter) on the screen above their heads, but with the three of them, heads buried in the latest edition of Ezra.

The Pack won 28-26. Another reason to be happy.

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