Tuesday, July 25, 2006

hummingbird feeder : Mr. Positive

Les Tiede looks on the bright side of life
By KEN THOMAS/Staff Reporters

There are people in this world who always see the glass as being half full.

Such is the like of Les Tiede, who always looks for the bright side of life and tries to spread a little sunshine wherever he goes.

Tiede first came to the attention of the Daily Citizen when he wanted to share a story about some amazing hollyhocks he has grown on the side of his apartment building on Cherokee Lane.

"I measured the tallest one at

9 feet 10 inches high," said Les, who got the seed from one that had sprouted up near an electrical box on the nearby hill. "I got the seed a couple years ago. Some people think you have to bury the seeds, but you just have to scratch the ground a little and just lightly cover them over. I didn't know there would be that many colors. Some of them are doubles and each blossom looks like a corsage."


The neighbors couldn't be happier, as the mulch along their side of the building did nothing more than attract moles, mice and earwigs.

Les has experienced much in nearly 84 years; his birthday is on Aug. 16. He was born on a farm on the east side of Madison, and later pursued a career in the corrections system in Waupun.

"I was a bellboy at the Crow Bar Hotel for 30 years," he said. "Now I've got the best job I ever had — working for Dolittle & Sitmore."

When he moved to Beaver Dam 11 years ago, he brought his woodworking skills with him. He was one of the most dedicated helpers in the woodworking shop at the Beaver Dam Senior Center and helped incorporate the bluebird project, designed to build houses to increase the area's dwindling bluebird population. One of his more innovative designs has a hole in the bottom.

"I got that idea from 'Birds and Blooms' magazine," Tiede said. "And I sold them all over. There are eight of the them that are going to Texas."

He points at a box filled with the birdhouses ready for shipment.

His skills as a woodworker are widely known through his travels in a camper that he hauled to Texas, Arizona, California and other destinations — many to see his two sons.

"I've been all over," Tiede said.

The camper is now for sale, since his wife Josephine finds walking difficult and traveling is not as easy as it once was.

Josephine is from Reedsburg. They met on a blind date.

Other crafts in his tidy garage, plastered with pin-ups, are weather vanes, hummingbird feeder hangers and his well-known gag items.

"When I go to a restaurant pull out my three piece chicken dinner," he said, showing a small wooden box containing three kernels of corn. "I made 300 of them for Schaumburg Supper Club. They put their address on the back and sold them to customers so they would remember the place. They were tickled to death to have them."

His gag stool sample is a film container holding a tiny three-legged seat.

"When I showed that to my doctor he almost fell off his chair. He said, 'I have to have one of those.'"

A polish briefcase is a pair of underwear attached to a wooden handle.

"This one comes as a set with a tie and a pin," he said, showing two cut-outs with a hole drilled in the center of a wooden number.

"It's a hole in one," Tiede said, adding they were big sellers at a local golf shop.

The latter is made of black walnut, although Les has used woods of other varieties as well.

"I have walnut, cherry — all different stuff. Right now we're getting the best wood we ever had (at the senior center) from Northwoods Paper Converting. "Usually we got used wood. Now we get the cut-offs from pallet making at Northwoods. There's some yellow pine — some white."

Other items include the world's smallest washer and dryer, consisting of a steel washer next to two tiny dowels with a string stretched between them.

A rectangle of wood with a half cut-out stands with two tiny nails in the lower half.

What is it? A tacks shelter, of course!"

"I've got about 50 different things altogether," Tiede said, after pulling out cigar box after cigar box of his tiny, gloss finished novelties and puzzles.

"Would you like some fat free mixed nuts?" he asked, holding out a wooden container concealing three steel nuts of various sizes.

The jokes keep on coming when he shows a wooden post about two feet high, with an attached outlet box and a water spigot.

"I'm always doing things to have fun," he said, describing how fellow campers would try to plug in appliances of fill a coffee pot in the morning.

"I like to run a cord to it and toss the other end under the camper," he said. "It sure did fool a lot of people."

He made dozens of the Polish rocking chairs (adaptable to the nationality of your choice) with rockers going side to side. He also picked on the Poles with his Polish compass, consisting of a small round container holding a small circle of mirror.

"It can't tell you where you are, but it will tell you who's lost," he said, wearing a sly grin.

He typed up special labels calling them a Norwegian compass which he handed out to people on a Norwegian ship on a Caribbean cruise.

"I gave one to the captain and he just loved it," Tiede said. "That was a good trip. I saw fish there that I haven't seen since World War II!"

And the stories continue, along with the jokes.

"He's got a million of them," said Josephine, smiling warmly at the antics of her light hearted husband.

"You've got to laugh as much as you can," he said, realizing that he is the subject of his wife's joke. "If you can't laugh a little, what good is living?"

Few would argue that he isn't right.

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