Longtime friend, former coworker 'punks' Cloquet man with front-yard surpriseThe last thing Cloquet resident Freeman Johansen expected to see when he looked out his front window one Tuesday morning was a birdbath.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The last thing Cloquet resident Freeman Johansen expected to see when he looked out his front window one Tuesday morning was a birdbath.
Karl Aho strikes again.
The two men and former coworkers have been friends for 30 or 40 years, depending on which one you ask. Aho lives in Two Harbors and is an avid gardener, among other things; Johansen is a longtime Cloquet resident who frequently asks his buddy why he “wastes his time” with flowers and birdbaths and such.
The idea was percolating in Aho’s mind for about a month before he and his wife, Alene, drove down to Cloquet with “the goods” in their van: a resin birdbath, a couple dozen marigold plants, dirt, shovels and scalloped brick for the trim.
When they were finished with their little project, Johansen’s new birdbath and flower garden were perfect. The green patina of the birdbath and the fact that there weren’t any piles of dirt – the sod Karl and Alene had removed sat in buckets in the van – made it look like the little bird oasis had been there forever.
“It just belongs there,” said Alene, satisfaction in her voice.
In the meantime, the 83-year-old Johansen was on the other side of Cloquet, volunteering at the Friends of Animals Humane Society, something he does on a regular basis.
“It would be so much fun to wait around,” Alene said Monday, as the couple
was packing away their digging tools. “I’d love to see his face.”
Instead they went home and waited for a call from Johansen.
“I know he’ll call us,” Karl said with a big laugh. “And I know it won’t be a polite conversation.”
It’s a good thing the two stealth gardeners didn’t stay. It would have been a long wait. Johansen said when he got home from dinner at his daughter’s house that evening, a car was parked in front of his house so he drove straight into the garage and never even noticed his newly decorated lawn.
He went to bed that evening unaware of any changes. Then he got up the next morning.
“I happened to look out the front window and I thought I must be seeing things,” said the former Cloquet City Councilor and active volunteer. “So I looked again. I thought, ‘Where the heck did that thing come from?’ ”
Johansen had his list of usual suspects, and Aho was one of those. Although the Two Harbors man didn’t fess up when his longtime buddy called for their almost daily chat, the cat is out of the bag now.
“My good friend Karl,” Johanson said with a chuckle when the newspaper reached him the next day. “He’s pulled more stunts on me.”
Aho is delighted with his prank.
“We talk to each other almost every day,” said the 81-year-old, who has 37 flower beds in his own 100-by-300-foot yard. “Tell the same lies we’ve been telling each other for years.”
Now they have one more thing to talk about.
“Now I can call and say to him, “Get out and fill your birdbath. Did you water your flowers today?”