Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

December 18, 2004

Lion's Club party

Joe and I played for the Fertile Lion's Club Senior Citizens Christmas party this afternoon. I am always surprised to find out that somebody local reads this weblog, and today it was Margaret who said, "We keep up with you!"

Here's a picture to surprise Irv.

Also, here is a shot from last night's sunset which includes oak, and I think gives you an idea why I enjoy December sunsets so much.

Valley pictures

Yesterday, I took the back roads home from Grand Forks. It's lonely out there in the valley.

I went through Climax at about coffee time. I think this must be an old schoolhouse--if anybody knows, let me know.

This scene is typical of December around here. The corn stubble always glows in the late afternoon sun. By spring, it has faded to a dull tan.

Mac starts

Dad put new oil on the Mitey Mac after it thawed out and it started right up with a couple of coughs. So, that little crisis was resolved without much damage.

It was a beautiful afternoon yesterday, so I was in a picture taking mood. Winter features more textures and patterns than bright colors. I always enjoy groves of poplar. Did you know that a grove of poplar such as this one is really one organism connected by a network of roots?

The colors really come out at sunset. This is a larger file. I didn't want to reduce it down.

December sunsets in Minnesota can be spectacular.

December 16, 2004


Butch didn't come--he's retired--but his son Tim, who took over Butch's backhoe business, did come to help pull out the Mac.

By this morning, the Mitey Mac looked pretty frozen in. Tim arrived about nine-o'clock.

A while back, Dad and the local electrician were discussing the "bedside manner" of some mechanics. Well, Tim's bedside manner is pretty darn good. He started off with a bunch of ice breakthroughs which were not only worse, but more stupid than mine. Then he added a story about himself that happened only last night, and by then it appeared that getting the Mac out of the swamp was just a fun challenge for which we all could thankful, despite the 10 degree temperatures.

It took some crowbar work to break up the ice enough to allow Tim to pull the Mac around. We rehooked several times. Tim was on some pretty thin ice himself, but he can walk his way out with that backhoe. It was fun to see him use the tree stumps left from yesterday's sawing to prop himself.

In a nutshell, we had the Mitey Mac thawing out in the shop by 10:30 a.m. I had awakened in the middle of the night worrying that it would sit there until spring, when, if we got it out, it would be only good for scrap. Now it appears that we just have to drain the fluids, probably put in a new battery, and we might be good to go.

Thanks for the encouraging notes, some of which included stories--and even pictures--of other ice disasters. They made me feel better.

Here's a picture of Tim and brother Joe debating the physics and geometry of hooking a chain to the Mitey Mac. This was taken after Tim had rotated the Mac 90 degrees to line it up with how he was sitting on the shore before pulling it up onto the ice.

Hitterdal Lions

Last night, Joe and I drove down to Hitterdal to play at their Lion's Club Christmas Party. It was a fun bunch.

They tuned the piano for us, even! They said that according to the writing inside the piano, the last time it had been tuned was 1929. Let's hope this isn't a sign that the market is going to crash again. Doggone it, every time we tune that darn piano...

The show went well. Joe wrote a blues tune which outlined the events of yesterday for the audience--about havin fun cuttin firewood till the skid steer goes through the ice. I didn't know that was coming. The people enjoyed it.

Sometimes things just click, and this was one of those times. The men served lasagna and other goodies.

WOKE UP in the middle of the night feeling bad about the Mitey Mac sitting in the water and wondering how we'll get it out. Joe and Dad talked to Butch last night. As Dad put it, Butch is "the last word" around here in situations such as this.

Butch is a local legend. He used to run the backhoe. Now he just consults on large machinery matters. He's an at-large, free floating community consultant.

Everybody has a Butch story. Yesterday, Dean told me that Butch once dug a hole as deep as the backhoe would go, but wanted it to go deeper. So, he hooked a chain to the backhoe and lowered it into the hole with a caterpillar and dug some more.

I remember watching Butch making a ditch in the swamp with the backhoe. He only got concerned when the fan on the engine started kicking up water. Dad tells about the time Butch's wheel came within an eighth of an inch of our office while he was digging a trench. Dad waved his arms and stopped him, saying you're going to hit the building. Oh no, Butch said, he was pretty sure he had an eighth of an inch to spare.

December 15, 2004


Determined to break my own record for stupidity without the benefit of steroids, I headed out on the ice (yeah, I know) with the skid steer loader. Actually, the story isn't that simple--I was originally just going to clear a path down to the ice so I could go out there and cut firewood. With my pickup, not the skid steer.

But when I saw that blasted dead brush that I had been dreaming of scraping off the ice in the winter since I first got the idea to build a house, I couldn't resist. I drove out on the ice and was scraping brush to beat the band. I hit three clusters of brush. They scattered when I scraped them, and I was headed for the fourth cluster when...

...I encountered a problem. It was, as they say, a sinking feeling. And I suddenly realized how stupid it was to be on the ice this time of year. The fact was, I was so eager to scrape off that dead brush that I never once considered the depth of the ice.

You'd think the landowner would put up a "DANGER: THIN ICE" sign. In fact, I should probably sue.

Anyway, this will be a challenge. I am sure that updates will follow.

Blogger down, the program which runs this website (the best way I can think of to describe it) was broken down for the better part of the past day, thus the sparse postings--for you regulars who wondered if I had fallen and couldn't get up.

In fact, I do have a problem along those lines. More on that later tonight. But right now, it is off to Hitterdal, MN to sing and play with brother Joe for their Lion's Club Christmas program.

December 14, 2004

Time flies

...when you're having fun. I just spent the last five hours on school work without a break. Normally my attention span is about twenty minutes.

First, I corrected the tests I gave to my American History students today and calculated their grades. I didn't add a number. I looked at their test grades, the grade on their papers, and gave them the grade I thought they deserved. This method was to their benefit, believe me.

On the ones I flunked, I added the numbers to make sure. I did get a couple of emails after the test lobbying for sympathy, but I don't think they'll help. I was ready to give one person a passing grade if she so much as showed life on this last test--but she went and flunked the thing by a huge margin, and it wasn't due to lack of brains.

After entering the grades, I wrote the American Government test which I will give tomorrow. Fifty multiple choice questions. I always think they will be easy, but nobody has aced a test yet. Several 49s, but no 50s.

AFTER the test, I ran to Red Lake Falls to pick up some backordered parts for the wood stove outside the new house. On the way home, I saw a spectacular sunset. I wished I had my camera--for a while, until I realized that all sunset pictures, unless they are taken with a tripod, turn out blurry. This sunset was too good for a picture to do it justice.

Tomorrow, the temperature warms to near record levels. Jeff and Dean will enjoy that. They are trying to get the house enclosed. It takes time. Today they worked on the soffets, which are made of wood. They look beautiful.

THE TWINS officially lost Cory Koskie to the Blue Jays today. That's all right. I am not mourning. His price went up way too high, and always seems to be injured in some sort of way. He's a good, fundamentally sound player, but the Twins won't lose much at all by putting Micheal Cuddyer at third base. Plus, they'll save about five million per year.

A national writer was looking at the silly money being handed out this year to questionable players. Christian Guzman's $14.8 million contract was on the list. The writer said in his article that "the Twins don't make mistakes," meaning that they are pretty darn good at this offseason business of getting rid of old players and finding somebody new. Much more fun than being a Yankee's fan and getting mad when money doesn't always talk.

December 12, 2004

Bernie comes to class

State representative Bernie Lieder came to speak to my American Government class at UMC last week. The class responded well to Bernie, and he seemed to enjoy himself.

Bernie is sort of soft-spoken, and much loved down at the legislature. He is the only member of the legislature remaining who has World War II combat experience. He was in the Battle of the Bulge.

I haven't heard Bernie tell the story himself, as he doesn't really talk about the war, but during the Battle of the Bulge, he was just about shot for being a German spy.

It seems that Bernie got away from his unit and was using his German to speak to somebody and was overheard by an American soldier. The military at that time was very sensitive to spies because Hitler had unleashed all kinds of English-speaking spies into the American ranks to mess things up by changing commands, twisting signs to point the wrong direction, and much worse mischief.

Such behavior goes against the rules of war and is punishable by immediate execution. Bernie, because he spoke German and had nobody to vouch for him, was in hot water until somebody from his unit showed up.

I have asked Bernie about the tale, but he shrugs and says that he has little or no memory of those weeks of battle. It seems the memories were so bad that he just wiped them out.

Bernie is still, at age 82, pretty darn tough. He was telling the class about how he knocks on every door in his district every election and always has. It takes him one hour per 100 people in the populace. That's about 360 hours of walking and knocking per election. If the people aren't home, and you get the impression he doesn't mind if they aren't, Bernie leaves a signed note saying, "sorry I missed you."

When Bernie came in the classroom, he had a slight limp. Turns out, two days after the election he had hip replacement surgery. "Golly, Eric, before that it was bone-on-bone."

I didn't think until later that what Bernie was saying is that he had knocked on thousands of doors with a hip that was completely shot, and had postponed his surgery so he could do just that.

Bernie's grandpa-like demeanor belies his propensity to tell it like it is. One student complained that the cops are stopping him for tint on his windows while they never stop old ladies in SUVs for tint on their windows. Well, Bernie said, you're just asking to get stopped if you drive a hot sports car.

Blow, blow thou winter wind

Mrs. Olson had us sing a musical version of the following Shakespeare poem in high school. In fact, the poem has been put to music many times. I couldn't help but think of it today, as the wind sped upwards of forty miles-per-hour:

BLOW, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh ho! sing, heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh ho! sing, heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

When blizzards fizzle

It was supposed to be stormy today, and the wind is blowing something fierce, but no snow is coming down, and the loose snow that was floating around last night stuck in place when the temperature rose above freezing yesterday afternoon and evening.

The rise in temperature, however temporary, made quite a difference. Visibility is good this morning, even with wind gusts headed up towards fifty miles-per-hour.

UPDATE at 12:30 p.m.: Now the snow is coming down and the visibility is plummeting. I guess we'll have a storm after all.

THE SWAMP CASTLE is nearly enclosed. The windows went in Thursday and Friday. The garage doors are on order. I guess I sort of slipped up on that one--if I would have ordered them earlier, the could have been put in Monday. We will be waiting a while for the windows for the prow, so that part of the house will be wrapped in Tyvek for the next couple of weeks.

Next, soffets. Soffets, I learned recently, are the horizontal boards under the eaves. Mom recently finished staining them, and Dot and Mom all but finished staining the siding as well. It was nice to have a greenhouse available for such work.

Koskie pretty much gone

Looks like the Toronto Blue Jays are going to win that battle for Twins third baseman Cory Koskie. That is unfortunate. I suppose you can't blame Koskie for taking $19 million instead of $8 million.

Koskie has a difficult time living up to his potential because he is injured a lot. He had a bad wrist last year, and that cut down on his homers. He was out a while this year, and I forget why, but he was productive when he did play. He also has a tender back. He plays in pain all of the time.

Koskie's grit is why the Twins should keep him. He plays hard, with a good head on his shoulders, and he plays great defense. On the other hand, Spending that many million on an oft-injured player might not be the smartest way to spend your money.

Speculation is that if the Twins lose Koskie, they will be able to sign Jacque Jones. Well, I like Jacque Jones' million-dollar smile after he gets a hit, but the guy goes fishing for every low and inside curveball they throw him. I don't understand why anybody would ever throw him a fastball. I think teams have caught on--his average went way down this year. I would rather see them let Jones go and keep Koskie.