Archive - Nov 2015

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November 6th

Get ready for lutefisk season...

According to the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists have isolated the gene which causes people to eat lutefisk.

   The news was greeted with jubilation in the lutefisk-eating community, which hopes the discovery that the desire for lutefisk is genetic will lead to greater acceptance of their eating habits.

   “This study strikes a great blow to the forces of lute phobia,” said lutefisk activist Elmer Bjorgland. “No longer can they say we eat lutefisk by choice.”

Bjorgland, who first became aware of his love for lutefisk at age 9, said the discovery should provide encouragement to young people coming to terms with their emerging feelings for the glutinous delicacy.

   “If eating lutefisk is not our choice, we can no longer be discriminated against.  We are only doing what is natural to us,” Bjorgland said at a press conference Tuesday.  Ivan Stern, chairman of the Coalition Against Lye-Laced Food, disagrees. “Our efforts to show that lutefisk eating is wrong will continue,” he said in a prepared statement issued to the press.

   “This is just the beginning. Soon, radical lutefisk activists will want lutefisk on the menus of our public school lunch programs,” Stern said, adding that if that happens, he would educate his children at home.

   Bjorgland claims that the anti-lutefisk forces are overreacting, and points to a recent report by the National Association of Lutheran Theologians which goes so far as to condone the consumption of lutefisk “in moderation.”

   Stern replies that Lutherans have been soft on the lutefisk issue from the very beginning.


   “The Lutheran church was strangely silent on this reprehensible habit,” Stern said, until the recent convocation confirmed that the church would give its blessing to those who openly eat the lye-soaked cod dish.


This essay is taken from Down on the Farm, now available for Kindle


November 4th

Protecting the elderly

IMG_5439 (1).jpg 

As I was leaving the nursing home a few years back, I shook hands with an old man who pulled me towards him and pleaded, “Please, please, take me to Rollag!” Since it was Labor Day weekend, and the Steam Thresher’s Reunion was in full swing, I was tempted to load him up and go.

   But the old man’s son intervened, winked at me as if the old guy was a little daft, and scolded, “No, Dad, you know your heart can’t take a trip like that,” and dragged the old man back to his room.

   About six weeks later, I ran across the old man’s obituary. He died quietly between the stainless steel restraining bars of the bed. Of a heart attack. With his son nowhere near.  

   How much better for the old man if he would have been allowed the chance to drop dead next to a steamer at Rollag six weeks earlier!

   People who are protective of the old and say “they can’t take the trip,” aren’t doing the elderly any favors. What they fear is a scene. They don’t want to have to be around when somebody dies. They would rather have the death happen in a sterile room in a nursing home with professional medical personnel in attendance, preferably when they are out of town.

   What is ignored in all of this is the desire of most older people to die with their boots on, or as Winston Churchill would put it, “in harness.”  What is life worth if to preserve it you give up all that you love to do?

   Most would push forward with farming, golfing, walking, gardening, cooking, and life in general, despite the risks.

   It is the younger generations who wish to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible. They baby their elders out of what they see to be concern, but which may actually be a selfish desire to avoid either the trauma of death, or worse yet, the unpleasantness of being there when it happens.

   I’ll bet many older folks would appreciate it if we younger ones swallowed hard and let them wind things up however they wish, even if it might mean risking a scene at Rollag. 


Learn about Eric's latest book A Treasury of Old Souls. 


The above photo was taken by Eric overlooking the harbor in Napier, New Zealand. 


Golfing with Grandpa



Late each summer while he was able, my Grandpa would take me on our annual golf outing. It was always an odd experience. Grandpa considered himself to be exempt from green fees. In lieu of payment, he would bring along his clippers and trim the trees on the fairways as we golfed. This slowed us down quite a bit. It also made quite a mess since Grandpa considered picking up the branches to be beneath us.

   Before we teed off, we each selected one club and left the rest in the trunk. Grandpa usually took an eight-iron.  Later on, my cousin Tom gave him a nine-wood for Christmas. I didn’t know there was such a club, but Grandpa thought it was great. It was the only club he used for the rest of his life.

   Grandpa was impatient with putting and considered a shot within three yards of the hole to be as good as in. He would pick up his ball and go trim trees while I chased my ball back and forth across the green.

   The most dramatic moment of our golf outings came when Grandpa parred hole number two in Fosston using his nine-wood. He must have been near eighty at the time. When the long putt went in, Grandpa threw back his head and laughed until he was red in the face.

   Grandpa usually tired out by hole number six and would stretch out under a tree while I golfed six and seven. Many golfers would stop to see if he needed medical attention. By the time I picked him up again, however, he was usually awake and delivering a lecture on trees complete with scripture references to a group of golfers, some interested, some not.

   After we finished, we always stopped at the Flapjack restaurant in McIntosh for pie, even if it was six o’clock in the evening. The pie made Grandpa feel even better, and he would start singing hymns out loud. This behavior puzzled other restaurant patrons, but nobody ever asked him to stop.

   As a teenager, these outings were an ordeal of embarrassment. Now, however, they are fun to look back upon. 

   For whatever reason, I haven’t golfed since.


Eric's new book A Treasury of Old Souls available here. 




November 3rd

Goering's Guard


Today at the Fertile Library, Author Jack El-Hai spoke about his recent book, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist, which focused on the relationship between psychiatrist Douglas Kelly and Nazi Hermann Goering formed at Nuremberg. In the audience was Art Olson of Mentor, above, age 90, who was Georing's guard at the prison in 1946 and spoke often to the gregarious warlord. 


"Want to trade places?" Goering had said to Olson as the American GI brought the Nazi to his chair in the Nuremberg courtroom. 

Olson was quiet during the lecture until one slide: a picture of the prison atrium with guards stationed outside of each cell to prevent suicides of the 22 Nazis on trial. 

"That's where we were!" he exclaimed. 

To the left of Olson in the picture above is Byron Ness. He and his wife Marilyn have been studying the war to find out more of what Byron's father Victor went through in Italy. Victor only recently began to talk about his war experiences, and Byron and Marilyn have been faithfully recording his stories, and reading aloud to Victor other accounts of the Italian campaign. 

Victor passed away early this morning at Fair Meadow Nursing Home at age 98. Even so, Byron and Marilyn followed through on their promise to bring old Art Olson to hear the lecture on his former prisoner. 

Goering knew he was going to be sentenced to death. He was convinced that if Germany had won the war, it would have been Eisenhower, Roosevelt and Churchill on trial, not him. "Luck of the draw," he shrugged. 

Goering did not want to die by hanging, however. That was the way to kill common criminals. He was a head of state. 

So the night before, he popped a cyanide tablet he had smuggled into the prison and died within minutes. 

The author of the book, El-Hai, noted that his subject, psychiatrist Kelly, viewed Goering's suicide as a small triumph for the Nazi. He had foiled the Allies by taking things into his own hands and not allowing himself to be hung. 

"Oh, we hung him all right!" Olson exclaimed. 

"Really!" the author replied. 

Yes, the Americans on guard who found Goering's body apparently made sure he got his final humiliation. After the symbolic hanging, the Nazi leader's body was cremated in a concentration camp oven. 

Psychiatrist Kelly was altered by the experience of interviewing the Nazi war criminals. Contrary to his expectations, Kelly's work revealed that the monsters responsible for the deaths of millions were no less mentally healthy than anybody off the street. The discovery caused him to despair and leave the psychiatric field. Furthermore, he felt a kinship with Goering. He may have expressed that kinship when, with his life in shambles, he killed himself in 1958. 

Dark stuff, true. But it was fascinating to see an academic historian interact with a person who lived the history, a GI who had walked the very halls the author studied. 

Olson mentioned the films of the concentration camps shown at the trial. He had seem some of the gruesome clips, and he described them. El-Hai said that nobody had seen those films until the trial, and that, in contrast with our violence de-sensitized culture today, they were completely shocking to people back then. 

"What effect did they have on you?" the author asked Olson. 

Oh oh, I thought. Here you have an old Scandinavian being asked to describe his emotions. Olson paused. The author waited. Television producers would hope for tears at this point. 


"Well! It wasn't very pleasant!" Olson finally snapped, with the attitude of, "what kind of a stupid question is that?" 

I had to cover a laugh, because I knew Olson wasn't going to give in and show emotion. He was just to old school for that. It was just a matter of how he was going to find a way to keep his Norske dignity in the face of invitation to at least quiver a bit.

He pulled it off perfectly. 

Purchase Eric's new book A Treasury of Old Souls here.