Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

August 14, 2004

Open house

A perfect day for the open house at the gardens. Things started slowly, and I wondered if anybody would come. Then they came in droves. Cars lined up down the road. The ice cream stand had a line for most of the day.

Joe and I did four performances of music. They were made more fun by the newly-purchased sound system. Joe sold many CDs. In between the musical performances, Joe led tours of the gardens. Dad gave his "how to plant a flower" demonstration--sounds pedestrian enough, but Dad turns it into a vaudeville act which people enjoy.

We went through 45 lbs of BBQed beef. The 40 dozen donuts were gone by mid-afternoon. So, it was a successful day. The gardens were in peak condition.

AUNT OLLA came up for the occasion with her reflexologist Linda. She stayed much of the afternoon. She has been writing down some history at the request of some old neighbors of hers from the Home Lake area outside of Twin Valley. That has worn her out. Generally speaking, it has been a rough month for her--busy, busy, busy.

Florence stopped by Olla's the other day and right away told her she looked like hell and that she should get to bed, so Olla did. Slept two hours.

I took Olla and Linda out to the house site. She was glad to see it so she could imagine more accurately what it will look like. Her goal is to live long enough to see the house, and I am pretty sure she'll make that--no health clouds on the horizon right now, although at age 92 you can never be too sure.

The rafters and stacks of lumber were sitting around the yard, so there were many house questions from the curious throughout the day. I find that I am defensive about 1) the fact that the house is situated overlooking a slough and 2) the cost of the project. Have to remind myself that both are my business and that I don't need to defend any of it to anybody but myself.

SO MANY people to talk to today. I felt like I was involved with a political campaign. Good people having a good time. Still, it has some stresses, especially when some of these good people bring dead branches of trees and imply that it is my fault that their tree is dying because they bought it from me four years ago. Managed good humor in most of those situations today, although I did walk away from a lady who was whining on and on about a petunia she bought this spring that turned yellow and died--it looked fine when she bought it, she said, but then it just went downhill. Instead of coming to the obvious conclusion that she had something to do with the plant's demise, she expressed disgust that she had invested in a plant which was apparently faulty to begin with. Never again, she said. I am done with those petunias. No sir, that is the last petunia I am every going to pay that much for only to have it die. The litany went on until I turned and left.

MET A COUPLE of you readers of this weblog! Thanks for saying hi. And thanks for reading. Also met many people who read my weekly column. Such encouragement is nourishing--but it mustn't be real solid food because I never get enough of it.

I am reminded of Winston Churchill's letter from abroad to his mother, asking her to include clippings of praise for his latest writings in her next letter. "Only send the good ones," he said. "I can't bear the rest."

Gardens open house

Perfect weather for today's open house at the nursery. The gardens are in beautiful shape, absolutely at their peak. The crew has made things look real neat and clean for the events today.

Last year, it was in the 90s and humid for the open house, yet there were over 1,000 people who showed. The year before that, the high was in the low-50s and we still got rid of 40 dozen donuts. So, we'll see today.

I didn't advertise this year's open house as much. Last year's advertising bill came in at $1400, and that was a bit of an eye-popper, so I cut that down by about two-third. Last year's ads were bigger than needed, anyway.

Brother Joe was busy making copies of his CD yesterday. It is specific for the open house, with gardens pictures on the cover. It contains 10 songs. This is his first entrepreneurial venture. I think it will go well. We are giving four musical performances today, and I hope he promotes his CD at each one.

LAST NIGHT WAS a beautiful evening. Uncle Rolly and Aunt Jean came up from Indiana for the weekend, so we ambled through the gardens and then walked out to the house site. I hadn't really been through the gardens in several weeks, so it was good to see what's out there. In fact, I took over 140 pictures yesterday. Digital, so it won't cost me a thing unless I develop them.

Amongst the gardens visitors yesterday were three vans from various area nursing homes. One bus brought a picnic. On that bus was a woman named Edna who is 103 years old. Her friend Alma is 101. Or at least that is what she said. So, I had a picture taken with the two of them.

I quizzed them, and they were both smart and sassy. However, the nursing home staff was a bit puzzled that Alma was 101--they had not heard that. I asked her when she was born, and she said 1903. Everything else checked out as well. But the staff thought sure they would have known if they had two 100-year-olds in their midst.

I wonder if the attention that I was lavishing on Edna for her age made Alma, who was standing nearby, a little bit jealous. The staff didn't doubt her out loud, but I could tell that her advanced age was complete news to them.

There comes a point when years become something to brag about. Ella Ellegaard from Fertile died last spring at 107. Three weeks before, she told me with a straight face that she was 112.

A couple of weeks ago, a nursing home van came. One resident who looked completely healthy but for the condition of his legs asked me for a book of matches. I reached into the drawer and pulled one out without thinking. Well, apparently his long-term goal has been to burn the nursing home down because a nurse spotted the exchange and ran over to wrestle them away from him. It was quite a struggle.

August 13, 2004

Pristine morning

Cool, fall-like, clear--a beautiful morning. We are getting ready for an open house at the nursery tomorrow. That means cleaning up the gardens and the gift shop and generally spiffing things up. I hope tomorrow is as nice as today.

Every year I debate whether to have an open house or not for the gardens. It is such chaos, and people are welcome to come to the gardens whenever they want. You'd think they'd want to come when there weren't crowds. However, there are certain people who will only come if there they are sure their will be a crowd. That is fun to them, as incomprehensible as it is to me.

So, we will have BBQs for sale. Jen will bring her delicious homemade ice cream. There will be donuts. And there will be formal tours of the gardens, led by Joe. Again, we go against our instincts. Our family, by nature, has always hated guided tours of anything. Ugh. Herded around like cows. But some people love, even demand, guided tours, so we will provide them. They seem to welcome herd opportunities.

Joe and I will be playing music. Joe has been producing a CD of his music, some of which he has written. He is duplicating them today and will be selling them this Saturday. Technology is such now that you can burn CDs on your home computer. No wonder the music industry is having a little trouble. Anybody can do it. Well, anybody who had some talent with music and computers both!

BIG DAY yesterday, and not a bad day, despite the troubles outlined below--especially the bizarre situation with a tour bus wandering out to my building site and sinking up to its axles. Kind of funny in retrospect. What a relief to have neighbor Jim come and rescue us with his huge tractor.

The lumber for the house came and was unloaded successfully. Neighbor Marv's forklift worked wonders. Once again, the local mafia proved invaluable. I asked the backhoe guy where I might find a forklift, and he knew that Marv had one freshly built that he might want to use. Stories like that, repeated a dozen or so times, make the house project a neighborhood affair.

At the end of the long day, I said to Marv, keep track of your hours and when we're done, we'll settle up. Well, he doesn't want any money himself, he just wants a donation to the church kitchen fund in Rindal. Well, church kitchens are near and dear to my heart, and the Faaberg Church in Rindal is pretty much the nearest and dearest, so that won't be difficult.

August 12, 2004

Chaotic day

One-half of my house arrived this morning from Wisconsin. Two semi loads worth. They were slated to be here at 8 a.m., so neighbor Marv, who built his own forklift last winter "just because I have always wanted a forklift" came over at 7:30 to be ready for the trucks.

Marv had to wait until 10 a.m. the trucks were a little late. The forklift was supposed to have a capacity of 5000 lbs. Marv's could lift 6000, and even so, two of the bundles of lumber presented a challenge. Something 51 2x12s, 24 feet long. Very heavy.

Before the trucks arrived, a big tour bus with 55 people from Fergus Falls pulled up to see the gardens. I had warned them that they would be competing with two semis, but they had already scheduled the event, and they took it in good humor.

Their humor was stretched thin later. Their driver, who was something of a character, assured me he could turn around in the yard when they left. I went back to the unloading and didn't notice that the bus disappeared down the field road to the south.

The road in question is less than a month old. It ends at my house. It has soft spots. At the house, there is, after all the recent rain, a real soft spot.

As the story goes, the driver ignored the protests of his passengers and continued down this obviously primitive road hoping to find a place to turn around. He didn't seem to want to back up. He ended up at my house sight, where the bus sank down to its axles.

All the people got out and walked back to the place, and it was left to me to find a way to get this bus out. I called around to many farmers--none were home--and finally caught neighbor Jim at home, and he came right over with his huge, huge, tractor. It pulled the bus out without even grunting.

The bus driver wasn't real popular with his passengers. They were due at the Inn at Maple Crossing for a foofy lunch at 11:30, and they didn't leave here until well after 1 pm.

One good thing: The people wandered the gift shop for a while more and bought lots of things.

August 11, 2004

Sifting through the internet

An article was forwarded to me via email yesterday about George W. Bush's alleged erratic behavior and treatment for depression. Citing the ubiquitous "anonymous White House sources," it told of obscene outbursts by Bush at his aides. The article was published online in a magazine called Capitol Hill Blue, which bills itself as an "experiment" in online journalism.

Now, when they say "experiment," does that mean they are fictional? Are they making this stuff up? Or are they an experiment in the sense that they are trying to run a newspaper online without producing paper copies, much like a weblog?

The article quotes many doctors who have "concerns" about Bush's sanity. Some of them are named. I suppose the first step to finding out if this article has a grain of truth to it would be to see if these doctors exist, and if they occupy positions at legitimate institution. If they do exist, and they were misquoted, they certainly would object.

I write satire myself and am sometimes taken seriously when I shouldn't be. Upon rereading the article in Capitol Hill Blue, I wondered if it was satirical. However, it left none of the clues you would typically find in satire, clues which most people catch and the clueless don't. Clues like bizarre names, gross historical inaccuracies, overly provocative quotes and other buffooneries which make it evident that satire was the intent.

I think I am going to use this article, or others like it, in government class. I'll have the students research the sources and books cited in the article. Are they legitimate? What is legitimate? Is this mere Bush-bashing, or are some of these stories about Bush telling George Tenet that it was "God's will" that he step down as CIA chief true?

There is so much junk on the web, much of it masquerading as truth. People make up things--like stories of medical students drugging other students at parties and taking out their kidneys to sell on the black market--for which there is absolutely no evidence, but which many people want to believe. So, they forward the message to their friends and it gets spread all over and some people accept it as gospel.

The more information that is out there--and we supposedly live in the "information age"--the more critical it is that people are equipped with the basic ability to criticize the written word. Unfortunately, most people tend to be critical only of that with which they disagree. If a written piece massages their prejudices, they accept it as truth, no matter how outrageous. Thus we have people like Rush Limbaugh and Micheal Moore making 100s of millions off the gullible.

August 10, 2004

Cool, cont.

Another day of drizzle.

A confession: Before I left for vacation, I decided that rather than have the cat sit in my house, I would bring it over to the nursery where brother Joe would take care of it. So, I brought it over with its food dishes, put some tuna in the dish, and let kitty sniff it so it knew where there was food.

Kitty hung around for about 1/2 hour, meowing pitifully, and then it disappeared. I called on my vacation to see if it came back, and it had not. I assumed it ran away and was at a neighbor's or something.

I didn't know that Joe was putting out food every day and that every morning it was gone. He was assuming it was some other animal, but continued to put food out just in case.

Well, this morning, there was a mouse on the office doorstep, ripped to bits. It looked just like what Cat does to mice. So perhaps kitty is still hanging around. I can't imagine that it doesn't come up to every person who's here and meow for attention. Nobody's seen it. But there's hope, anyway, that Cat is still around.

AFTER TAKING over 2500 digital photos over the past three years and not developing one, I loaded some onto a CD this morning--about 154--and I am going to take them to Ritz for developing. I have printed a few, but none have been professionally developed.

An autumn day in August

Lots of moisture today, most of it sideways in the form of mist and wind. Good to get back in the office and find out that nothing really happened while I was gone. I always expect there to be this huge backlog of things to do when I get back from a trip, and usually there is just a stack of junk mail to go through and that's about it.

Brother Joe has turned the Dell computer over at work into an impressive sound studio. He purchased a couple of microphones and is doing some recording. I have done a little as well. It sure is fun. You can record yourself over and over doing different parts until it sounds like a choir.

Joe downloaded a program from the internet which creates the echo effect of various rooms, from concert halls to cathedrals. So, after he recorded an old hymn in many parts, over 26 tracks--so it sounded like 26 people (actually more) singing--he added the cathedral effect, and the result was astounding. The choir of Joe. I told him he should put a picture of 50 people on the album cover, all with his head.

I was trying to start work on recording "Brighten the Corner" when somebody came in the door wanting to buy stuff. Ugh. Those darn people who want to give you their money.

The other problem was flies landing on the live microphones. Little buzzes in the middle of the song aren't good.

August 09, 2004

Home again, home again

Greeted by blustery, rainy weather after a good trip west. The main trial driving from Denver back to Fertile was dealing with bikers headed for Sturgis for about 600 miles. Wow. We estimated that we saw well over 10,000 motorcycles in the other lane yesterday on I-90 heading from Rapid City to Sioux Falls. They came at a steady rate of over 40 per mile.

I had to look up biker culture on the internet when I got home just to see what it is all about. I recall bikers being into all sorts of wierd things--hard drugs, promiscuous sex and so on. Now, however, the biker festival has corporate sponsors and seems quite mainstream.

Like everything, the biker movement, which originally was quite evil, has been taken over and sold to the masses as an acceptable way to escape from the dull middle class life. Hence, you have people dressing up a little as if it were Halloween--in very, very expensive leather outfits--and driving very, very expensive motorcycles, and perhaps drinking a little beer--just to imagine that they are rebellious for one week per year.

No wonder that the original bikers, of whom there are at present very few, are a bit angry that their culture has been corporatized. Thus, the refrain of people attending the biker events like the one in Sturgis: "Yesterday, I saw a real biker."

I found some sociological studies about bikers online, most of them unreadable. But they compared these biker events to Mardi Gras, times when it is acceptable for otherwise good people to act bad. This apparently gives bored people a release of some sort.

Saw some bikers yesterday wearing swastikas, and several showing off Confederate flags. Out of the thousands of bikers, only one I saw was black. Makes you wonder.