Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

August 04, 2005

Founding Fathers

I AM READING in preparation for participation in a history seminar next week. The seminar is for continuing ed credit for high school social studies teachers. I am the "visiting scholar." That means I will keep the discussion rolling.

The texts are many and varied--having to do with the American Revolution and the Constitution.

This morning I read Washington's farewell address. It deserves to be as prominent as Lincoln's Gettysburg address in our public discourse, if for no other reason than its humanity, humility, clear thinking and elegant prose. Washington was the very model of a gentleman.

Also: writings by Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, some preachers, both white and black, as well as a former slave who did well as a farmer after buying his freedom. He had been captured in Africa as an eight-year-old.

Stop to think of it, all of the resources are online. The former slave Venture Smith's fascinating story can be read here.

Jefferson's views on farmers could be summed up by this quote:

"Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue."

Hamilton, while readily conceding to the sanctimonious Jefferson the monopoly on virtue held by farmers, said manufacturing would come in handy because it would provide a more steady living and could profitably employ women and "children even of a tender age."

Apparently he had never heard of eight-year-olds milking cows.

Madison and Jefferson made it clear that government was not to fund any form of religious education whatsoever. Their opinions on the matter read like a modern Supreme Court ruling.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison were not just tolerant on matters of religion, but were essentially agnostic--by which I mean they had their private faith but the thought of ever claiming that they knew that theirs was the correct faith was anathema to them. Others have reached different conclusions, and that is fine.

You can't read much about or by the Founding Fathers without being utterly impressed by their gentlemanliness, their culture, their humanity, their humility, their wisdom--and, of course, their intelligence. We have some intelligent people today, but the other virtues don't show up all that often.

August 03, 2005

Gardens pics

These blues and yellows--ageratum in the foreground, daisies and then blue salvia--showed up brilliantly when it got dark and cloudy this afternoon.

Here are some hanging baskets in the gardens with the Swamp Castle in the background.

Dad in the peat swamp

Weblog reader Elmer, who happens to be my father's high school roomate, requested that I take some pictures of my father's main preoccupation at present: the hauling of peat. Getting peat out of the peat swamp is an annual ritual--and a very important one. We use peat to grow everything. It is the lifeblood of the nursery.

Pictured here is the 1963 Ford Truck. It has been the only truck on the nursery since the GMC burned up in 1975. It has hauled thousands of loads of peat. Many times it has been buried in the swamp. Peat swamps are soft, and the duals just sink right in if you hit the wrong spot.

Here is the new Cat which has revolutionized peat hauling. With the old skid steer loaders, you couldn't get into the swamp very easily. In fact, for the past three years, Dad has taken to hauling out 1/3 of a yard of peat per trip with a little scraper behind a tractor.

The Cat, however, can go anywhere. It has allowed Dad to discover that the peat is six feet deep. We thought the swamp was nearly depleted of peat. We have, after all, been taking for 25 years. However, with the Cat, it looks as though we should be good for a few years. If Dad keeps up, we'll have enough peat out for several years.

Eugene arrives

Here is friend Dale with Eugene the bear, the 137th largest black bear shot by bow and arrow on record. Dale shot the bear up in the woods northeast of Oklee.

I was going to have the rug by the fireplace, but it simply takes up too much acreage. So, we put it in a big empty spot where it will stare down anybody who comes into the living room. Here is a view from the loft.

When Dale shot the bear, he had a friend along in the stand videotaping the whole thing.

Taxidermy was by neighbor Les Krogstad.

Moving sale summit meeting

Cousin Ilene, Aunt Ede, Aunt Olla and myself had a summit meeting on the matter of Aunt Olla's rummage sale. The first item of business was that she is changing the name to a moving sale, which is probably smart. I was sort of hoping to avoid the entire sale thing altogether, but that isn't in the cards, so we'll go through with it on August 27, a Saturday.

We'll see how this progresses. Olla has ideas about every item in her house. "This isn't about money," she said, "it's about sentiment."

She was going to sell a picture to one lady until she found out she was planning to hang it in her bedroom. Well, that won't do--nobody will see it there, so that sale got revoked.

We hashed out the date and what would be done with the rest of the stuff. Olla has an awful lot of things she wants to take to the nursing home with her; I think reality will intrude. There isn't that much room there. But we'll just set that stuff aside and sell it later if there isn't enough room.

This is more a party than a moving sale. Olla wants me there, not so much to help, but so I can visit with people--never mind that the prospect of visiting with people for eight hours fills me with utter and complete dread. Sitting there dickering over knick-knacks--yikes.

Olla's schemes are pretty minor compared to my Grandpa's. What they have in common is that there is always an agenda underneath that is not acknowledged. For instance, Olla isn't so concerned about selling her stuff. Her main idea is to go out in a blaze of glory. She is hoping to have a bunch of people help--not so much so that the job gets done, but so that she can be in charge one last time.

Grandpa would set up complex schemes. For instance, he would postulate in his head that I had to go to Fargo to get fertilizer, which may or may not have been true. Then he would decide that while I was getting fertilizer, I had just as well stop at the cemetery in Twin Valley and do some trimming. And while I was at it, I should really stop to see one of his old friends who would enjoy talking to me so much. And on the way back, I could stop for pie at the Felton cafe. And--all this had to happen on Tuesday or he would have a heart attack.

To introduce the scheme to me, he would call and innocently ask: "Are you going to Fargo for fertilizer sometime?" My heart would sink. I knew there was a laundry list coming. I knew that he had already decided exactly when "sometime" was going to be. I knew that the laundry list would be slowly unveiled to me and that if I asked for it up front so that I could do it in my own time and in a sensible manner that it might push him into a tantrum.

Grandpa liked a particular brand of organic peanut butter which he would eat by the spoonful. You could only get it in Twin Valley. That peanut butter was an excuse for all kinds of other errands. I thought to myself, why can't I just buy a case of the stuff so we aren't always running to Twin Valley for peanut butter?

So, either my mother or myself, I don't remember who, gave Grandpa a big case of peanut butter for Christmas. Whoa! You could see how disappointed he was. Now he didn't have an excuse to send us to Twin Valley every month or so. The fun wasn't getting the peanut butter, the fun was having people run around doing his bidding. The frustrating part was I don't think he realized this on a conscious level. I think the anger he felt when we would foil his intricate plans by coming up with an easier solution was real, but caused by something he couldn't quite put a finger on.

So, I an pretty used to this stuff, and Olla's schemes are pretty minor compared to what Grandpa used to cook up.

August 01, 2005

North Shore rocks

Home from the North Shore

What an enjoyable weekend. The North Shore is quite cool. We didn't have air conditioning on in the room--the breeze off the lake took care of that.

I brought books to read. The social occasions were limited to about one per day. Last night, we all had a sort of farewell dinner, and everybody left this morning.

All in all, a truly relaxing weekend.

Still, it is good to be home. I cooked supper for Cassio and Lance. We stopped at Wal-mart in Bemidji and stocked up on groceries, and I bought a juicer--since my other one is out on permanent loan. So, I made some carrot/apple juice this evening--oh man, was that good.

NOW, about these Twins. Once again tonight they are having a tough time scoring runs. The newspapers are writing the obituary for this season. Bret Boone was released. Torii Hunter is out for the season.

Don't look now, but they just might wake up and play some good ball. Baseball works that way. Just when everybody is giving up hope, something good comes of it. These guys aren't nearly as bad as they have been playing for the past month-and-a-half.

AUNT OLLA had left a message for me to call her when I got back. The issue of her rummage sale is coming to a head. Of course, the goal is to talk her out of it. I can't imagine all the work, pricing all that stuff. We are having a summit meeting at her apartment tomorrow, the concerned parties, and I hope that we can come to a sensible conclusion.

I flat out asked her if she was wanting to have the sale for the fun of it or for the money. She said she didn't care about the money, she just thought it would be so much fun to see everybody. I think we could arrange a pretty nice party on the occasion of her leaving Twin Valley without having to go through the trouble of pricing dish towels at 50 cents apiece.