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Answer Man: Litter-box odor returns to Mississippi bottomlands

Dear Answer Man, the cat urine smell has returned to the Mississippi River bottomlands area, especially in the Wabasha and Pepin, Wis., area. Did you ever figure out what causes that ammonia smell? — Kitty Kat

Thanks, Kitty Kat, I've been urining to return to this issue . No, I never figured it out, though I have two new theories: It's either an annual invasion of cats from outer space that land in the Tiffany Wildlife Area at this time of year, or it's a law enforcement effort to make that area stinky and inhospitable to marijuana growers, who have been known to illegally camp in the Wisconsin woods there.

The more conventional wisdom is that it's just a marshy smell, maybe related to runoff and pollution in the river, that becomes aromatic in late spring.

Where baccalaureate lives on

Not all communities have given up on baccalaureate services at graduation time. A few of my tens of thousands of fans reported on some area ceremonies, after my insightful column Wednesday .


Eileen B.noted that "on June 2, at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, there was a baccalaureate ceremony organized by the city's clergy and graduating seniors."

Wayne,last initial unknown, wrote that "while baccalaureate services are falling victim to a number of issues, the Diocese of Winonapulled off what might have started a new tradition this year. On May19, a diocesan-wide Baccalaureate was held at the Cathedral in Winona, hosted by the bishop with seniors, family, and friends from all four Catholic high schools in the Diocese: Winona Cotter, Mankato Loyola, Austin Pacelli, and Rochester Lourdes High Schools."

Frank Moonsays, " Hayfield Community Schoolscontinue to hold Baccalaureate services at the school on the Wednesday evening prior to graduation. Local pastors take turns doing the service, with music provided by the high school choir. While attendance is voluntary, most of the graduates attend the service."

John Schreiber, an English teacher and theater director at Triton High Schoolin Dodge Center, says Triton has had a baccalaureate service for many years, "usually the Wednesday before graduation. This was revived many years ago by seniors and put on by them with help from the Triton ministerial association. It is voluntary attendance for seniors. I'd guess that about 70 percent attend."

Maybe that's a model for Rochester to emulate -- students run it, with input from ministers.

"Hey, Big Guy," an admirer with the initials M.B.wrote, "Byron had a baccalaureate program last Sunday at the United Methodist Church, my home church. I'd say about a third of the graduating seniors and their families showed up. The church was full, which it usually isn't on Sundays, and it was loaded with the singing of the hymns. There was supposed to be a duet of two of the classmates. The girl was ill so the guy's mother filled in. Holy smokes, were they good! Glad I went!"

Another fan named Donaldsays, "Just a line to let you know that indeed, Spring Valley's Kingsland Highhad a baccalaureate service — in fact, it was covered on the front page of the Spring Valley Tribune. And yes, we read your column faithfully … you are, of course, magnificent!"

What a perceptive reader.


And Sherisays, "Baccalaureate is still alive and well in Pine Islandand is held at St. Paul Lutheran Church in mid-May."

Congratulations to the graduates and to the communities where baccalaureate remains a traditional rite of passage.

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