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Notebook Recollections: West 7th Liquor Barrel Glacier

Local staple Tim Rumsey walked to work most days from 1987 to 2000. He began as a form of exercise but kept at it for his love of local lore harvested through his interactions with people on the street. He began documenting his musings and eventually filled 53 pocketbooks with his observations. Here is just one tale. 
By Tim Rumsey, MD
As this is being written, on April 22, 2022, there are still clumps of icy snow and a little dirt here and there on West 7th. The high temperature today is 58 degrees, sunny, Earth Day. They are hidden, of course, in the shade of backyard garages, under porches, and attached to the occasional parking ramp outside walls. They’re glaciers, technically. Accumulated and compacted snow. Melted and re-frozen. Messing with spring. 
Ten thousand years ago, huge melting glaciers in northwestern Minnesota created a massive lake that drained to a then torrential Minnesota River, which carved the wide valley we now know as St. Paul. The Dakota people knew this same valley as the center of the universe. Bdote: “where two waters come together.” Dakota ancestors hunted ice age wooly mammoths, giant bison, and beavers as big as Shetland ponies. 
On a micro scale, our modern-day ice monster was the Liquor Barrel glacier of 1997-98. Let that tale be told. 
December 1997: Plowed snow and freezing rain are forming a giant winter mass behind the West 7th Liquor Barrel. It’s as big as a two-story double car garage now. Someone threw sand over it. Really a pinch of salt on the back of the Moby Dick that is the Liquor Barrel Glacier (LBG). 
January 1998: The LBG looks bigger at night. Who knows what’s under there? Fast food trash containers, bottles. A shopping cart or two. It will be the last snow pile to go. An island of dirty white surrounded by a black parking lot and greening grass. There will be fjords flowing from it, snaking down Saint Clair to 7th Street. 
February 1998: The West 7th LBG is probably at its max. Twelve feet high and covering an area of 50 by 40 feet. 
It got up to 45 degrees today at noon. The snowmelt froze by the end of the clinic. I took a harmless, humiliating fall on the sidewalk ice by Cooper’s and three people ran over to see if I was OK. 
April 7, 1998: The LBG continues to shrink away. The snow is crappy and sooty. A winter’s worth of junk is eroding out of its bank. Pop cans, red McDonald’s fry boxes, two hubcaps. 
April 8, 1998: There was a freak April snowstorm this afternoon–2.5 inches. It was mostly gone the next day. But it whitened up the LBG. 
April 14, 1998: The LBG was nothing but a sheet of dirty snow this morning. Probably the last snow left on all of West 7th. 
On my night walk home, it was just a wet, black stain on the asphalt. With a faded, red VW Beetle parked over the puddle as if it had appeared out of the ice like a wooly mammoth frozen in time. 

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