Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

April 01, 2005

Around the horn

This weekend is going to be a busy one. Tomorrow, I speak at the Wild Rice Electric Cooperative annual meeting. I accepted the engagement before I knew what it was about--annual meetings usually feature a crowd of fifty or so, but I guess this one draws 700 or more people. They also want me to entertain, so I will play some piano before hand, watch the business meeting, then speak.

It is a new speech, so I am a little nervous about it. I have been tossing ideas around and writing notes for the past few weeks, but now it is time to put it all together. Speeches which aren't about gardening are always tougher to give. In this case, I am expected to entertain. However, I have learned the hard way that if you get up there and try to be funny without having the entire speech make a somewhat serious point, you're in trouble. A talk about general small town stuff might not come across as well at a serious meeting like this, so I decided to make a speech about electric co-ops, of all things. It will be mostly funny anecdotes, but they will be strung together by a serious theme: Rah, rah co-ops! Bravo for electricity! Thank goodness for those talented line crews!

As soon as I am done with that one, I get in my pickup and race to Bemidji to speak to a Garden Seminar there. Found out that they have about 200 people slated to attend. The speech itself is pretty cut and dry; I am just worried that I will get out of Mahnomen on time and find the hotel in Bemidji without problem.

Then I will go across to Grand Forks, spend the night, and head down to Colfax, ND to speak Sunday afternoon at a fundraiser for the school speech program. This was the brainchild of a good customer of ours named Wanda. Two years ago, she had me speak at a church down there to raise money for their youth organization. The kids sold tickets and about 100 people or more attended. It was a good time.

So, Wanda's doing it again, this time as a benefit for the speech department. The kids are selling tickets door to door, but you never know how many people will buy the ticket and then just not show up. She said anywhere from 20 to 200 might attend.

Again, as long as I am speaking about gardening, the topic matter isn't a worry.

AS I WAS GETTING ready for this round of busyness this afternoon, the mail came and in it was a regional business magazine. I always read the mag, and last month enjoyed their editorial about small town life enough to write an email of thanks to the editor--which was off the cuff. I didn't edit it, I wasn't intending for anybody else but the writer of the editorial to see it, and I wrote it in a colloquial (read: sloppy) style.

Well, the editor published it. In the letter, I issued some harsh critiques of small town life such as "man, I wish we had a decent grocery store within driving distance" which I would rather not be made public--given that our grocery store is pretty darn good, as small town grocery stores go. I was just thinking about how fun it is to have a nice big supermarket down the street as I do when I live in Tucson. But now I am on record bashing the local grocery store, not really a position I care to take or defend.

Oh well. In the end, I looked through the letter and it was an honest expression of my thoughts. But in the future I will be more circumspect dashing off notes to people who buy ink by the barrel.

OTHER UNACCEPTABLE THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Why is it that the same people who claim to have the afterlife pretty much figured out are the same ones who get the most flipped out by the possibility of death? As the pope's life dwindles to a close at a perfectly natural age for a long and rich life to dwindle to a close, people are weeping and praying for his recovery in an unbecomingly desperate manner. I think some of them believe it is their spiritual obligation to behave this way.

I am with good Catholic convervative William Buckley who wrote a provacatively entitled essay last month called "Death to the Pope," in which he said the proper thing to wish for would be a graceful and merciful end to the pope's long and successful life.

Death is what gives life meaning. Subtract death from the equation and life, uninterrupted endless life, would become intolerable. It is the prospect of death which gives us motive to live well. It is the inevitability of loss through death which leads us to tolerate, perhaps love, the people around us. Some deaths come too soon. Some deaths come too late. But all in all, death is a great boon. Without it, we'd be miserable. By coming to terms with it, we can become content. I would argue that until one accepts one's eventual oblivion, one really hasn't gained the therapeutic benefits which come from facing facts.


March 31, 2005

Mountain Bluebird

Darn but Cousin Anne can take pictures. Today's weblog entry (under the entry "Splashes of Color," if you are reading this after what is presently today) features a picture of a Mountain Bluebird (scroll all the way down) which I find particularly striking.


Baseball

The regular season starts next week. I am about as excited as a 12-year-old. I don't know what it is about the start of baseball that gets me going, but I can hardly wait.

For one thing, it will give me some news to read besides people dying. March is usually a month of death, but this March has been exceptional. Even baseball wasn't untouched: Bob Casey, the Twins eccentric PA announcer, died last week.

So many sad situations with no solutions--how about the prospect of spending an evening watching Johan Santana pitch? Not just one evening, but one evening in every five! And on the other nights? Brad Radke will be pouring out strikes on at least one night in five, and the other three pitchers aren't bad either.

Any games Joe Mauer plays in will be a bonus. I just hope his career isn't ruined by his knee. The chance to watch Justin Morneau develop--he's like a bomb waiting to go off, in a good way. Torii Hunter will likely continue to dazzle in center field. I think Micheal Cuddyer is going to be an improvement over the departed Cory Koskie at third, although it is heretical to say so. And Jason Bartlett is going to be an improvement over Christian Guzman at short.

The bullpen is stocked with hard throwers--the hardest throwing bunch in my memory. Gardenhire is another year smarter, although I still think he's a bit too conservative. And the minor leagues are well stocked in case anybody gets injured.

So, there you have it. The Twins are in good shape to start the season, the best shape they've been in for many years. And yet, the games have to be played, and teams that are on top at the beginning of the season have a way of flopping. I will be paying attention for signs of such a flop. I am making no predictions.

I am also glad because the steriod era is over. Nobody's ever going to hit 70 home runs again. Thank goodness. We all knew it was going on, but now only the stupid and desperate will try it. Of course, they're going to drag everybody through the mud, but the bottom line is that the problem is in the past.

The North Dakota state senate passed a bill today calling for Roger Maris' record to be reinstated because the people who broke it were cheating. Ha. Very funny. All baseball records are a product of their era. Ty Cobb probably batted .367 because back then pitchers didn't really throw hard until somebody got on base. Babe Ruth probably hit all those home runs because the porch in right at Yankee Stadium was so shallow. Maris benefited from that short porch as well. Neither would likely have hit more than 50 homers if the fences were at the present distances. And what about all those pitchers who won 30 games back in the early 1900s because they were allowed to spit on the ball?

I confess that I am wanting to try out for Bob Casey's job. There is no better job in baseball, in my opinion, than being a PA announcer. I have done some PA--mainly at wrestling tournaments years back--and enjoyed it. It doesn't really fit in with my present career plans, but...whoa, what could be better than taking command of that sound system at the Metrodome? And watching all those games?


March 30, 2005

Cleaning House

Last night the realtor called to say he would like to show my house today. Ten minutes after he called, I discovered that my washer had overflowed all over the basement.

So, my work was cut out for me today, cleaning house, vacuuming water, trying to make things look normal. The problem, the plumber discovered, was with the steel drum in the cement in the basement where the water gathers before it is shot out of there by a sump or sewage pump. That steel drum, set in the cement, is rusting badly. Water is leaking into it. The pump is pumping that water out so often that it is overwhelming the drain field.

Or something like that. The upshot of it is that something needs to be chiseled out of the concrete and something new needs to be put in the concrete and that all of this is going to cost well over a thousand dollars and likely anybody who is going to buy the house had better know this and will probably want me to take care of it before they agree to buy the place.

Those are my assumptions. In any case, I spiffed up the house good and proper, even vacuuming cobwebs out of between the wall studs in the garage, hoping that the wet carpet in the basement would be overlooked. I eventually decided upon full disclosure and called the realtor and told him what needed to be done. No use trying to pull one over on anybody.

I MENTIONED a week ago or so that I was wondering what factors contributed to the position of the moon on the horizon at moonrise. I have noticed that the moon is moving south across the horizon--but not really in tandem with the sun. And, as far as I can figure, there really is no reason that they should move the same direction at all.

I emailed astronomer Ron Fevig at the University of Arizona my question. Turns out, it is a very complicated question to answer. Ron said his strategy in answering me was to so inundate me with information that I would never ask such a complicated question again.

He led me to some websites which address the question directly, but I have yet to comprehend anything said there--except to say that figuring out the moon's position on the horizon is much more complicated than figuring out or predicting the sun's position on the horizon, and that the people at Stonehenge had it all figured out.

I will try to comprehend the matter and report later.


March 29, 2005

Spring breaks loose

The water really ran today. It reached 60 degrees, probably for the first time of the year. A field ditch broke loose just above the drive out to my house. Unfortunately, the culvert wasn't open yet, so a flood of water came over the road and washed some gullies.

By one this afternoon, the culvert had opened and was gushing through. I expect by morning, the water will have gone down enough to stop the flow over the road.

To get a culvert put in (legally) on my own drive on my own land, I had to get a permit. I should have asked for a permit for a bigger culvert. It appears as though this is going to be an ongoing problem.

Two pair of geese settled in on the swamp by the house this morning. They walked around the ice wondering what to do and eventually flew on.

Today was the first day I saw both robins and red wing blackbirds. The song of the red wing blackbirds is particularly festive. I sat in the crow's nest at sunset this evening and watched some through the binoculars.

Yesterday morning a friendly cat showed up at the nursery. It looked uncannily like Nemo, but it wasn't. It was every bit as friendly as Nemo, however. It even rubbed up against my computer. It sat on my lap so nice, but it was kind of a pest to the people who were trying to work in the greenhouse. It needed to be right in the middle of the action at all times.

I wasn't about to take aggressive action to get rid of the thing, but Mom got on the phone to neighbors. One was missing a cat. He drove over. It wasn't the right cat, but he took it anyway. Kind of a relief. We can't really have a cat at the nursery because they tend want to sleep in the seedling trays. That gets expensive in a hurry.

I took advantage of the warm weather to go on a run tonight. It was refreshing. Since I am no longer cutting wood, I have to do something for exercise.

While I was running, this van kept driving up and down the road real slow, pulling into approaches, sitting, acting real funny. As I ran back towards my house, they sat across from my driveway. I wondered what was up, whether they were planning to shoot me or just what. They took off just as I got 1/4 mile from home.

Got a call later that somebody wants to view my house tomorrow. So that's what the deal was! Good thing I didn't stare at them real mean when they drove by.


First Rose



Pretty fun to go out into the greenhouse this morning and find this Winnipeg Parks rose blooming. It is about six weeks early, but that's fine--it is good to see some color.


March 28, 2005

Brazil night

Danilo, one of two Brazilian students who are going to work at the nursery this summer, wrote to invite me to a Brazilian dinner at UMC.

Dinner started with a salad which was sprinkled with fresh hearts of palm which were especially delicious. The main course was trout in gravy over rice with black beans. Very good. The dessert was a slice of candied plantain, I believe, although the Brazilians swore they had never tasted it in their life and they had a hard time getting it down.

Danilo caught me at the door and seated me at a table with the Brazilian students, so I had fun conversation. Tom, who sat next to me, had worked at Gerten's Nursery in St. Paul--a top notch business. He spent a few months helping them put up a new state of the art greenhouse from Poland.

Alex is at UMC studying Hotel and Restaurant management. His English was particularly good. Vladamir was studying agronomy, and a last student, whose name I couldn't get straight, had already graduated in Brazil in agronomy and was here learning English. He was of Japanese decent, but was pure Brazilian--he didn't know a word of Japanese. The Brazilian people are, as Danilo explained to the crowd, a result of taking Africans, Portugese, Europeans and Asians and "putting them in the blender."

The six gave a good presentation using a computer which was constantly acting up. The technical glitches only added humor, although I could see Danilo was getting frustrated when the thing would advance ten slides at once when he only wanted to move up one.

Things I didn't know: According to the students, only 3% of the Amazon jungle has been destroyed, and they are taking steps to keep it intact. There is a wetland in southern Brazil which is immense (and totally separate from the Amazon) which contains some 600 species of birds.

Over half of the world's known species of plants and animals (some 10 million total) live in the Amazon.

Sao Paulo, Brazil is the third largest city in the world at some 13 million people.

Brazil imports only 5% of its fuel. The rest comes from natural gas supplies, domestic oil wells, and alcohol from agricultural products. Most cars in Brazil are hybrids of gas and alcohol.

The biggest enemy of Brazilian economic success, according to these agronomy students, is subsidized agriculture in the USA and Europe.

Brazil is also hurt by an inflation rate of 11.5% and interest rates of 16.5%.

It is going to be fun to have Danilo and Cassio, another Brazilian whom I have not yet met, work at the nursery this spring and summer. I am already planning a trip to Brazil.


Easter

It has almost become a tradition to go to Aunt Ede's and Uncle Orville's for Easter Sunday dinner. At Easter, we are at the point at the nursery where if the sun goes in and out, or on and off, as the case may be, somebody needs to be home to vent the greenhouses. Today was cloudy, but Mom stayed home to nurse a bad cold and keep an eye on things.

The rest of us went to Ede's to indulge in the usual excellent spread. Ham. Turkey. Creamy mashed potatoes. Gravy of heavenly magnitude. Carrots made in a sort of hotdish so they were downright gobblable. A broccoli, bacon, raisin and cheese salad. Corn. Bread. Lefse. Homemade pickles and jam. And raspberry pie.

Brother Joe went down to pick up Aunt Olla from Twin Valley and bring her to Ede and Orv's. Olla is slowing down a little, but still held court at the table, telling stories about the old days.

Olla had prevailed upon Joe to bring his guitar along--she wanted us to play some music. I was reluctant. As much as I know Olla and the next generation down might enjoy it, there were cousins and such there in large numbers who might not of their own volition choose to spend the afternoon watching their cousins play guitar and sing.

They had no choice. We played, they watched, some of the younger ones got naps, and all was well that ended well.

Afterwards, Olla wanted to see the house--as did Cousin Ryan and his fiance Heidi--so we went over and Olla got the full tour. She even crawled up the temporary stairs--with one of us in front and a couple more behind--to see the loft.

It was a good day, but I came right home and took a two-hour nap. Thus the late hour of this posting. I had to write a column, and I didn't get started on that until 10 pm.

The topic of the column was clearly going to be the Red Lake shootings--but I didn't know how to approach it. I have had some contact with people from Red Lake, starting in fourth grade when I was at Bible camp with two busloads of kids from Red Lake, extending into high school when we had a sort of exchange with Red Lake, and then finishing up with the time I went to the Red Lake school while working for the legislature ten years ago. Also, I saw, and was moved by, the ceremony at the casino in Thief River last Tuesday.

None of that personal experience seemed appropriate to share in the column, however. I have a very little sense of the cultural differences--and of some of the things I liked about their culture, namely their persistent and gently facetious sense of humor--which I saw on display even last Tuesday--but writing about that didn't work.

So, I came up with a more general column on the matter.

IN OTHER SAD NEWS THIS WEEK, long-time PA announcer for the Twins Bob Casey died this afternoon. He was one of my heroes, and has been since childhood. I look for a good round of stories about him to come out in the media in the next few days, for he was a character. Known as the "angry announcer" by the national sports media, Casey was famous for mangling names and making blunt proclamations--such as the time he told the crowd at old Metropolitan Stadium to leave the premises because "in fifteen minutes, a bomb will EXPLODE!" Not really a good way to downplay a phoned in bomb threat.