Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

December 10, 2005

Pryor and McCarthy

The comedian Richard Pryor and the politician/philosopher Eugene McCarthy both died today. The news broke when I happened to be watching CNN. Oddly, they had a live interview with Pryor's grief-stricken widow who had tried to give her husband, who was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis, CPR before the paramedics arrived.

I couldn't listen to the entire interview. I thought it was unbecoming of CNN to put her on live and ask, "so, what happened?" only a couple of hours after her husband died. But, that's journalism.

McCarthy is known for his early opposition to the Vietnam War and his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968. His strong showing in New Hampshire caused Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from the race.

McCarthy was a United States Senator from Minnesota at the time. Leave it to Minnesota to elect somebody like McCarthy, a true curmudgeon, usually, but not always liberal, but always cranky. That's what endeared him to Minnesotans, I suspect.

Later, Jesse Ventura filled the same role, in a lower-brow way. Blunt. Tell-it-like-it-is. Erratic. Minnesotans have a taste for the unusual and the forthright in their politicians. They like characters.

Rudy Perpich was somewhat strange. So was Rudy Boshwitz. Wellstone was far from run-of-the-mill. Go father back and you have two boy governors: Harold Stassen, a liberal Republican, and Floyd Olson, who was pretty much a socialist. Stassen was elected when he was twenty-nine. Olson, who said, "I am not a liberal, I am a radical," was elected at age thirty-nine and held office until he died of stomach cancer in 1936.

All to make the point that Eugene McCarthy was a typically atypical Minnesota politician. Stassen ran for president eight more times after nearly taking the Republican nomination in 1948. McCarthy ran for president six times. In between, he wrote books of poetry. Neither Stassen nor McCarthy seemed to mind losing.


Christmas lights

I have never so much as put up a single Christmas decoration in a house of mine in my life--until today. A couple of days ago, I saw some nice lights at Target for only $5.99 for 25 feet. I bought four strands. They are larger, frosted bulbs, very pretty.

Brought them home. Started putting them up. The end of the strand of lights dropped down onto the stairway. One bulb burst sending glass all over. I put in a new bulb, stolen from one of the other strings. The whole strand, which I stapled in place on the wood railing of the loft, still refuses to light.

There went the oomph for that project. I did hang some of those glass ornaments in a constellation over the piano using strands of fishline.

I am trying to get the house in shape for the Bergeson Nursery employee party which will be held here on Wednesday evening. So far, the attempts to decorate have been a washout. I think I will settle for a bunch of candles to make the occasion adequately festive.


108 Cottonwood

Weblog reader Adele sends a couple of stunning photos of my favorite cottonwood, and hers, on Minnesota Highway 108 north of Rothsay.

I think one could fill a gallery with photos of this tree throughout the various seasons. It is the very picture of elegance, strength, solitude, dignity--and exuberance. Adele, you live closer to the tree than I, so I am afraid the seasonal cycle will be yours to capture.


December 08, 2005

Winter meetings

That's where trades happen in baseball--when the general managers get together at some hotel in a warm climate and talk shop. It is called the Hot Stove League, the winter meetings, as well as the tradition of baseball fans sitting around the hot stove at the general store in the winter discussing what their team should do to improve itself.

Thirty years ago, I would run over to Grandma and Grandpa's place after school and tear into the sports section of the Fargo Forum hoping for a smidgen of Twins news during the winter meetings. I was almost always disappointed. Now, however, you can watch online and waste endless hours waiting for a trade to happen.

The Twins are hoping to pick up some big bats. They sure need them. Trouble is, they'll have to give up some of their excellent pitching to get the bats. Or, they could sign free agents such as Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas--big bats who can no longer play in the field, and who may well be washed up.

No action for the Twins yet, and the meetings ended today. There were many trades, but none involved the Twins. I am not disappointed. Many of the trades seemed quite stupid. Some of the free agent signings were just plain crazy. Mediocre pitchers getting $55 million. Nuts. Probably just best for the Twins to ride it out.


On the swamp

Spent part of the morning walking around the perimeter of the swamp in front of the house. It is so much larger than it seems from the shore. There is a lot of open water, and I am convinced it is frozen enough to support the skid steer loader. We'll see if I dare try it.



Here is a rotten stump on the ice of the swamp. I took a lot of photos today with the bright sunshine, but most of them were disappointing.



This cattail looks like a snack of some sort--either a root beer popsicle, a corn dog, or perhaps an ice cream cone.



This cattail had burst open into a furball before the ice storm of last week.

And here's a picture of the house from the swamp, a view I don't get until winter.


December 07, 2005

Lake Park Lutheran

Tonight I performed at the Christmas party at Lake Park Lutheran Church. My Uncle Bob was pastor there for 17 years before passed away from cancer eight years ago. He was much-loved, both by his family and his congregation, so I wasn't surprised to see a good crowd--which included many faces familiar to me from that time.

Given Bob's popularity, I could have probably read out of the phone book for 40 minutes and nobody would have noticed. As it was, I told some stories about Bob--about the times I brought Grandpa and Grandma down to Lake Park to hear him preach.

Long story: Grandpa was born Lutheran but converted to the Baptist faith. He and Grandma raised Bob Baptist--mostly--but after after attending evangelical schools and preaching at Baptist churches, Bob converted to Lutheranism before his call to Lake Park.

Grandpa was circumspect about Bob's Lutheranism--it clear that Bob's temperament and theological views belonged in the Lutheran Church. But one thing Grandpa never got over was his firm opposition to the Lutheran practice of baptizing infants.

So, I bring Grandpa and Grandma to Lake Park Lutheran for a Sunday service unaware that their son Bob was slated to baptize no fewer than three infants that morning. I should have called ahead. I wondered how that was going to go over. Sure enough, Grandpa had to leave during the baptisms because he "wasn't feeling well." I knew enough to follow him. Found him on the floor of the parsonage looking green. "Get the nitro," he said.

One nitro pill under the tongue did the trick. It was a good thing he kept a bottle in the glove compartment. You never know when you're going to run across a baptism or something.

Anyway, it was nice to see the bunch at Lake Park Lutheran. The Pricilla Circle provided five different macaroni salads in the basement afterwards, plus Christmas cookies. And coffee, which they claimed was decaf, but I am feeling awfully awake right now.


Forced photos

This weblog gets dreary without photos. Trouble is, it is just plain dreary outside. It is difficult to find any photo opportunities which would brighten things up in here.

So, I gravitated towards the artificial colors in the junkyard in the woods.



Here is an old seeder which hasn't been used for a few years.



The side of this tank produces a scene which looks vaguely like a shot of earth from about 500 miles up.



This is the interior of a rusty wheelbarrow. Snow, ice, then rust. Mundane, but colorful.



A branch of an aspen tree still is covered with ice from a couple of weeks ago. At least that is how long it seems.


December 06, 2005

Fisher

A few days ago while sitting in the crow's nest, I noticed a large weasel-like animal bouncing around the swamp. It came right up near the house. I got a good look at it with the binoculars. Turns out it is a fisher. Neighbor Gary has trapped several, so I learned from him that they are in the area.

Fishers don't fish. They specialize in eating the belly out of porcupines. They are nasty and clever, like wolverines. Despite being about twenty pounds maximum, they can take down a deer.

Although the wildlife is somewhat less evident in the winter, I do have a piliated woodpecker living in a hole in a tree about eye-level out my window when I am sitting in the crow's nest. Three little finches have been plundering the thistle seed in my feeder. And two deer ambled past the front window about noon.


Out on the swamp again

It was last year about this time that I put the skid steer through the ice on the swamp. Since that time, we got a new Caterpillar skid steer with rubber tracks. Today I went out on the ice again, although I stayed very near the edge. There's just too much beautiful firewood out there on the edge of the swamp to resist.

I didn't go through, but I came up with a new problem unique to the Cat.

The Cat has an enclosed cab with a swing door. If the bucket is raised at all, the door won't open. After I got out of the cab, shut the door and started sawing trees, the bucket, on its own accord--probably because it was sitting on a springy downed tree--rose up a few inches making it impossible for me to get into the cab again.

Time to get Dad.

We came up with a bunch of possible solutions, including jacking up the Cat, lifting it with another skid steer--methods we hoped would allow the bucket to lower enough to get the door open. It did not look possible to remove the door.

Then Dad spotted a little ring on the back window. It looked like an escape mechanism. We went up to the shop and got a long iron rod, which Dad bent into a hook at the end, and used it to reach in and pull the ring loose. The ring pulled the rubber seal around window out and allowed us to push the window out with a long two-by-two. It took awhile, but it was quite a bit easier than pulling a machine out after it fell through the ice.

Cutting wood at this time of year is even easier than doing it in the fall. The mushy swamp muck is frozen solid. The Cat floats over the snow. The wood saws nice. I got two full buckets full of ash. A nice day's accomplishment.


So you want to win the lottery?

This article in the New York Times is another in the genre of instant wealth gone bad. Of course, we all still think we could handle it!


December 05, 2005

Belief-o-Matic

Finally, you can discover what religion you should join by answering twenty simple questions. Please pay attention to the disclaimer, printed in red.

Surprise, surprise, I ended up stuck with this bunch.


Cold spell

It isn't the deepest cold, just moderate cold. Right around zero. Bearable. At least the sun is out today.

Three goldfinches have found the thistle seed in my feeder, which is nice. They have already nibbled about 1/3 of the seed I put out four days ago. I wouldn't even have known there were finches around if I hadn't put out the feeder. They are cute, puffy little things with a swatch of yellow.

The other feeder with regular old bird food has been undisturbed so far. I am hoping for chickadees.

YESTERDAY, I had so much fun out driving. I took perhaps 100 pictures. I walked through ditches and reeds to get closeups of ice-encased branches. I drove by Varnes Church northewest of Fertile and took pictures of icy trees with the beautiful steeple in the background.

Got home to find that I had forgotten to put the memory card in the camera once again. Ha! Lots of clicking for nothing. For some reason, it didn't bother me. I still had fun.

As pretty as the ice is, it isn't my favorite scenery. In fact, I dislike snow and cold so much that I avoid looking at pictures of snowy landscapes. I can say, "oh, that's beautiful," but my heart isn't in it.