Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

April 09, 2005

Area-Wide Lutheran Women's Conference

Yep, that's where I went today: A conference at Moe Lutheran Church in Roseau. Because I was slated to speak at nine, I got on the road a little after six-thirty this morning. The trip went fast due to some nice sunshine and a good Bach organ CD in the player.

When I arrived at the brand-spanking new Lutheran Church, there were cars all over--so I drove up to the front door to bring in my box of stuff, and was promptly escorted to a special parking space by the conference organizers--a group of unusually young women.

Three hundred and fifty women showed. I got to speak to them in shifts. When I first arrived, however, they were all in the sanctuary listening to a speaker who interspersed her speech with contemporary Christian songs accompanied by a band with drums and tamborines--and she was inspired, which tends to reduce awareness of clocks and schedules and things of this world, so she went fifteen minutes over.

That turned out fine; when I have a sense of urgency, I can pour out more information in a smaller time.

The women were a good group to which to speak. They were there for fun, not for business. They were eager to learn. They were younger than most crowds of this sort in the region. So, pardon me for looking at the bottom line, but I think it was a pretty darn good PR day.

I would say that the size and youth of the crowd might be attributed to three things: Marvin Windows, Polaris Industries, and perhaps Digi-Key. There are young, vital people up north because there are jobs. Period. If the same conference would have been held 100 miles south, it would have drawn about 95 retirement age women. That is a guess, but it is a guess informed by years of experience speaking at area-wide women's gatherings.

I figured I would have the bathroom to myself, and that was true, but it was a bathroom way in the back. They had commandeered the remaining men's bathrooms for the conference. I got the handicapped unisex one.

Now the weather is turning cloudy--it might rain here in the next couple of days. That's fine. This warm weather is good, but a little cold splash now and then might give us a chance to catch our breath.

After the speaking, I figured it was time to go buy some things for the house. Like paint. It is time to commit to a color scheme. However, I was so shot from getting up early and giving two sermons that I fell right asleep for two hours and am still groggy.

THE TWINS were lackluster against the White Sox last night. I was furious when I saw that they weren't on TV. I had planned all day to lounge in front of the TV all night. Well, when they fell behind, I was a little less upset. There's plenty else to do.

Like clean out the old garage on my property in preparation for the move. We had filled it with old greenhouse furnaces, so the guys came over and loaded them all on a trailer. They will now go in the woods, since dry space under a roof is a commodity at the nursery and we don't have space for six enormous old greenhouse stoves. Last night, I swept out the unattached garage for the first time in seven years.

What do people who don't have a woods for junk do with old greenhouse furnaces? I was hoping to clean the woods out, but it has 70 years worth of junk, and it will all disappear when the leaves come on.

April 08, 2005

Pristine spring days

When in the past few years have we had such perfect April weather. I don't think we had this many consecutive nice days during the month of May last year, much less April. I am reveling in it--sunshine and warmth gives me energy, the type of energy that leads to spring cleaning. Yesterday, my pickup got the treatment. A winter of sawing wood had filled it with sawdust and other residue.

I checked out apartments in Fertile last evening to cover the gap from when I must move out of my old house, which is apparently within the next couple of weeks, and when I am able to move into the new house, which may yet be a while. I was impressed with the apartments. It would be fun to live someplace new and different for a while.

The grand piano continues to be a problem. I found out yesterday that having a crew come pick it up and store it in Grand Forks will cost $900. Ouch. So, I am going to see if the people to whom I am selling the house would mind having a big grand piano in their living room for a while. If that doesn't work, I don't know what I'll do. It will cost me more to store my piano than to rent an apartment in which to store myself.

Next week, the first of two Brazilian exchange workers, Cassio, arrives. Danilo comes later in the month. I had thought that I would have to split them up, since my house was too small to accomodate two guests comfortably for any length of time--but if I get a two bedroom apartment, it should be no problem to put bunkbeds in the one room.

What a beautiful evening it was last night. I ran three miles, the most I have run in three years. It felt great. I actually gathered steam as the run went on.

Today I drive over to Ada to record the spring radio shows with Woody the announcer. It is best for us to record them ahead of time--pretending it is May 3, Monday, and so on, so we don't have to try to connect by phone thirty times over the course of the spring. Ray in Crookston prefers live radio, so I still will visit with him in real time--but Woody and I will spend this morning recording about 21 shows which will play over the course of the spring.

I wrote a big entry last night for this weblog, only to have it all wiped out. My computer at home is refusing to connect to the Blogger site, so I will have to do some work there.

April 07, 2005


The coffee table (which is actually a ping-pong table covered with table cloth) is getting fuller by the day at the nursery. Transplanting season is hitting its peak, and some people actually came today to buy bare root apple trees. The nice weather is making people eager.

April 06, 2005

Crookston Matrons

Spoke to a group which I think was called the Crookston Matrons today. The meeting was held in a wonderful old house on what, I presume, was once an elm-lined street. The dozen matrons were well dressed and were eating seafood quiche when I entered.

The matron who prepped me on my appearance before the matrons had said that their theme this month was something like, "smell the honeysuckles, go skinny-dipping." So, when I walked in, I announced that I was looking for skinny-dipping matrons. Since none of them were aware what the theme of the month was, I think that took them by surprise.

Before I spoke, I partook in the dessert--a pumpkin roll with a cream cheese filling. Sort of like a jelly roll, only made with pumpkin bread. It was wonderful, of course. It came with tea.

The matrons were a fun bunch. I gave the usual gardening speil, and they had fun with it.

EARLIER in the day, Marv, my high school biology teacher, came out to look at the house to see if he'd be interested in doing the interior painting. He is a neatnik painter and enjoys that sort of thing--the very thing I can't stand. So, it won't be long until he can start to do some priming.

Marv was wrestling coach for Jeff, one of the carpenters, about 35 years ago. Jeff and Dean were pretty happy to hear that they will have Marv around to torment for a while. Marv's a character, so it should be pretty lively out there at the house when he arrives.

It looks like my other house sold. I was informed yesterday that I probably need to be out in two weeks if this deal is to go through. Wow. That was sudden, and it took a while to sink in. That means I have to find a place to live for about a month or two. I have to call the apartments in town in the morning. I have an offer of a camper which I could park out by the new house for a month or two. I thought about renting a big RV, but whoa, is that expensive.

The only big problem is the grand piano. You have to have professionals move it. Now I am going to have to have them make two trips from Grand Forks, and also pay them to store the thing. It weighs 840 lbs, and no number of strapping young men are likely to be able to move it without scratches--you need the pros.

I found that the news that I am close to moving totally disoriented me. Everybody hates moving, I think, and I know I do. I don't mind packing two bags and traveling, but digging into my stuff and boxing it up is disturbing at a deep psychological level.

Speaking of psychology, I received a nice email today from a school psychologist who said she passed my column on the Red Lake tragedy around at her school. I was touched by that. She said that the emphasis right now is on "zero tolerance," which means kids get kicked out at the first offense and really are at that point out on the street. She said the stuff she hears about students' home lives is unbelievable--all night fights, parties on weeknights--by the adults.

And still there are those who devote their energies to protesting the fact that we can no longer sentence juveniles to death. Killing off a kid raised in that sort of environment is cruel, cruel, cruel. As such, it violates the Bill of Rights.

THE TWINS WON their second in a row tonight. Last night, Santana got beat up early, but held on for the win. Tonight, Silva, the sinker-baller, used his sinkerball to stymie the Mariners completely. They were beating the ball into the ground all night. Sinkerballers can be infuriatingly unhittable when they are on. It is good to see Silva, another Venezuelan, do well tonight.

April 05, 2005

A little history break

Today I went to Thief River Falls to attend a group meeting of the Social Studies teachers I will be tending to in a seminar this August. I don't know what to call it. I am not teaching the class, I am "facilitating" it. In other words, I will keep the discussion rolling by asking questions and so on. I have another "visiting scholar" sharing this none-to-heavy load with me.

Today, the teachers gathered--about 10 of them--to chose the texts for the class. Well, that was pretty easy as the texts were already chosen--we just had to decide whether we wanted to read all of them or not. In most cases, we decided to read them all, but we did manage to cut out a few pages. Like ten. Then we ate a huge catered meal to celebrate the accomplishment and parted ways.

I am going to enjoy doing the reading and discussing the readings with the teachers. They are all interested in history and literature, and they are interested in finding new ways of teaching those topics to kids. I think the seminar will be interesting once it gets rolling.

So although the actual topic matter thus far has been a little light, I mean feather light, visiting with the teachers and discussing things such as: the fact that the music of Vivaldi was almost unknown until it was promoted by poet Ezra Pound; the fact that Lincoln was never popular while he was alive; the wonderful poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, my favorite poet--just the chance to discuss these things with people who actually care was well worth the trip.

But tonight: Johan Santana is pitching against Seattle. We'll see if he's in good form. It should be fun.

April 04, 2005

Less PR than imagined

I found out that just because an article appears in the online edition of a newspaper doesn't mean it is in the print edition. It will be interesting to see if any print articles show up. I have no way of telling unless I get an actual copy of the newspaper. However, it was plenty fun knowing that a bunch of papers picked up the story in whatever form.

THE TWINS lost their opener to Seattle, 5-1. Radke gave up two home runs to Richie Sexson, and that was it. But it was enough. Santana goes tomorrow morning at 11 am.

Tonight, I drove to Clearbrook to teach a community ed class. About twenty or more people showed up, most of them familiar. We had a good time.

There was an athletic awards banquet going on in the next room. Yikes.

"We had a pretty good year although it didn't end up like we hoped...the kids worked really hard...we really have a good group coming back next year...its up to the kids to work over the summer...we'll really miss our seniors...we wish them the best."

The rituals are no different than when I was in high school twenty-five years ago. I still feel relief every time I realize that the high school world is forever behind me. The high school plays such an exaggerated role in the life of a small town that school activities take on far more seriousness than seems appropriate.

I think it is sad that so many people reach their peak their senior year of high school and go to pot after that. The pictures local paper of confident, spontaneous high school seniors striking crazy poses after they get two stars at the solo contest--what happens to them? When and why does that confidence get rubbed out?

It is a naive confidence, the bubbly brashness of high school seniors, almost annoying. But you'd wish they could just wear off the rough edges over the next decades, not become dull all together.

More PR

After refining my Google search, I have discovered that the article on the nursery also appears in this morning's Kansas City Star, Charlotte Observer, Akron Beacon, Fargo Forum, Philadelphia Daily News, and about a dozen other papers. Yee haw!

Good PR in Miami

An article about the nursery which appeared in the Grand Forks Herald Agweek section last week has appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Miami Herald this morning. I should add that the three newspapers are owned by the same company, Knight-Ridder. But you can't argue with publicity like that! If anybody's in Miami reading this, I sure would appreciate you picking up a copy of the paper. Or, for that matter, a copy of the St. Paul paper.


That's what it felt like I was doing this weekend.

First, I spoke at the Wild Rice Electric Cooperative Annual meeting. There were several hundred people there. It was a two-hour meeting. I was at the end.

I think I misread my assignment a bit. I thought that the speaker was sort of the tag on at the end, but for many people, that is why they came. In fact, there were people who came who had nothing to do with the electric co-op--they weren't even customers.

Yet I mistakenly took it upon myself to be relevant and talked about electric co-ops, of all things. There were some laughs, and so on, but if I were to do it over again, I would probably just let go and talk about general small town stuff instead of trying to address the issue at hand.

I ran out the door of the Mahnomen school and raced to Bemidji, across the beautiful back country near Itasca, where I spoke to a garden seminar. I needn't have hurried. They were running twenty minutes behind.

There were 200 people there. It went well, but it was an odd venue--the people were seated in a conference room which was long and narrow--so long and narrow that people in the back could barely see.

After I got back in my pickup to go home, I realized I hadn't given the people the option of receiving our catalog when it comes out in a week--which is really why I like to speak to these groups--to get their name down so I can mail them bribes and catalogs and whatnot to come to the nursery. Here were possibly 100 people who hadn't been to the nursery before, avid gardeners, and I let them slip through my fingers.

They did get gardens pamphlets, however, so perhaps they will show up anyway.

Then today, I drove to Colfax, ND to speak to a group of about 25 people at the Richland County School. They had a nice Yamaha piano there for me to play, so I enjoyed that. I spoke for over an hour there. I was shop for a pair of jeans on the way home, but was too tired out--so I drove home.

Instead of napping, I went over to my house--good thing, for that is where I came up with this week's column idea. In fact, I had planned to write on the swans--but they hadn't shown up yet. They did this evening, which made the column more satisfying than it would have been if I had been bemoaning their absence.

Baseball tomorrow! Twins vs Seattle at 4 pm. I am teaching a class in Clearbrook at 7 pm, which means I have an excuse to walk out of the nursery at 3:30 and say--"I have to go--I have a class in Clearbrook tonight" without mentioning that it will be a good two hours before I actually have to take off.