Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 03, 2006

Home remedies

Aunt Olla has dozens, but she despairs. When I told her I have had a sour stomach for a few days, she suggested a teaspoon of vinegar, but added, "I don't suppose you'll listen to me, either."

Well, this time I did. And it seemed to help. At least until I went on the internet to see if there was any truth to it. The websites which came up were about evenly split. Half said vinegar did nothing or inhibited digestion, and half argued that it helped digestion. That is an oversimplification: the results ranged from articles bragging up vinegar as a cure for everything from hair loss to arthritis, to scientific papers which said it cured nothing and did only harm.

With those results, the placebo effect was destroyed and my stomach started growling again.

Aunt Olla is now on the program committee at the Fertile Hilton. Oh, how she loves programs. She and her brother, my Grandpa. Grandpa loved programs so much that he'd put on programs just so he could be in charge of the program.

According to Olla, Grandpa's love for programs came from an early age. He was kind of shy as a kid, but when he acted in programs, he would have the whole place rolling with laughter. So would their sister Millie. She would read the same monologue every year--I believe she did it for decades at various gatherings--and it was a much-anticipated annual event.

Olla loved programs, too, so much so that I get the impression that when she taught country school, they did little else but prepare and put on programs. That was just one reason she was a walking scandal wherever she taught--as one old board member once put it, she didn't impose much dis-EYE-plin. Oh, and she also bought toilet paper for the outhouse, a frivolous luxury which just gave kids the idea they should have it at home. Grounds for firing, to be sure.

Now, Olla is dreaming of a big program at the Hilton for Norwegian Independence Day, or Syttende Mai, the seventeenth of May. I believe that I am in those plans, but exactly where has not yet been revealed unto me. Right now, her main focus is getting some people who can sing in Norwegian. But she also wants to have exhibits on hand. A Norwegian flag. Hardinger. Whatever else.

Olla figures that this will be one of the last Syttende Mai celebrations because most of the old Norwegians are dead or nearly so. I doubt it, having spoken to a few Sons of Norway celebrations populated with people who look in reasonable health, but I do not wish to rob her of the privilege of putting on the Last Syttende Mai.

There's enough old Norwegians around that I don't think she'll have a problem assembling a crowd!

March 02, 2006


I get a kick out of baseball blogger Aaron Gleeman's entry today. He is running down the players he considers to be the top 40 Twins of all time. He is giving a run down of each of the players careers.

Today, he hit upon relief pitcher Al Worthington, who was a little before my time, but whom I heard about from my grandfather, who regarded him as a fine upstanding man.

Now I know why. Gleeman reports that Worthington's career with the White Sox was limited to a handful of games because the White Sox, he alleged, were stealing the signs from other teams and Worthington felt that was immoral.

That brings up the curious matter of baseball morality. Generally speaking, it is okay to steal signs. That is accepted. It is not okay, however, for a batter to sneak a look at the catcher before the pitch comes to see where he's sitting. Try that and you'll get a pitch to the head and nobody will feel sorry for you.

Also, it is okay for players on the field to steal signs, or players in the bullpen, but hiring somebody not on the team to do the stealing who relays the signals to the batter through a light on the scoreboard, for example, is not okay.

Worthington, in any case, by being ultra-scrupulous, violated one of baseball's more sacred moral codes: If somebody's doing something shady on your team, you look the other way.

Another baseball behavior mystery: In what other sport is it accepted behavior for the coach to come out and scream at the officials and kick dirt on them and throw things and carry on--and at most, if he doesn't touch the umpire, get thrown out for the rest of the game, probably to a standing ovation?

Europeans are mystified by this. In soccer, I guess you can't look at the official wrong without getting penalized.

Good weather to be under

The weather today is beautiful, but I am under it. A little flu bug or something, just on the verge of not being sick--but not feeling all that well either.

So, do I just go with being sick and lay in bed all day and feel like a vegetable? Or do I kick myself in the butt and get something done anyway and maybe pop out of it sooner?

The word "disease" applies here, as in lack of ease.

March is a time for disease, no matter what. It always has been. People can make it through the winter fine, but the funeral home always does brisk business in March.

There is the change of seasons. That is always difficult. November is another month that is tough for people.

Then there are all the diseases in the air. For some reason, March is full of them. "There's a lot of stuff going around," is the operative phrase.

Then there's the fact that winter seems to always get worse before it gets better in the month of March. The mild January is long forgotten; now we have piles and piles of snow and no real immediate hope of it melting.

One begins to feel like the farmer I heard on KFGO in 1997 during the big April 4 blizzard, when all the radio towers went down and Ada flooded and Fargo fought flooding and roads were under water when the temperature sank to five above and power was out all over.

KFGO was the only station still on the air, TV or radio, and they were broadcasting straight through without a break. They were taking calls from people reporting what was going on.

This farmer called in sounding cheerful. Oh, he was doing fine, he said, but he'd been out in the barn with the cows all night trying to get them fed and milked without power and he just was wondering, "do any of you know when this here is going to let up?"

March 01, 2006

Something doesn't add up

Northwest Airlines pilots voted to authorize a strike if the bankrupt company tries to cut their wages beyond a certain point. However, by all accounts, the pilots are still pretty well compensated for their work, which amounts to about 10 days per month.

How does a bankrupt company which has lost billions over the past four years stay in business? Why am I still getting fantastic offers for free stuff from Northwest on email? How do they think they are going to make any money when they have these ridiculous union contracts--and I have so many World Perks miles that I could fly free for a couple of years? Something's got to give.

On one hand, I want the free market to work. On the other hand, I want to use my World Perks miles before the airline collapses.

February 28, 2006


I think I am still recovering from the weekend manning the booth at the Fargodome and giving two seminars. My throat is a little raw from all the talking. And I think when you're exposed to all those people, you're bound to pick up some sort of bug this time of year. I just feel a little off. I am glad I have the baseball writers to aim my vitrol at, otherwise somebody closer might get it for no reason.

It is strange to get up in front again after several months off. I lose a lot of the names of the trees, and it just doesn't click right away. I was trying to come up with the name "mockorange," and I just couldn't. I had the tree pictured in my head and I even had the Latin name, philadelphus, but I just couldn't come up with mockorange. I would think it was a senior moment, but it happens every year.

Fortunately, Professor Dale Herman of NDSU was in the audience, so I just said, "Dale! Philadelphus!" and he shot back, "mockorange!" and all was well.

Also in the audience was Orvin Hagen, a real character of an old guy who was the first gardener at the Peace Gardens. In fact, I think the whole thing was kind of his idea. He supervised it for decades. He's in his eighties now, but still absolutely full of energy. He contributed a lot of supporting evidence to my talk.

Having horticultural experts in the audience is a bit disconcerting, but I am getting used to it. I never hesitate to turn to them for advice, either, since they know volumes.

I have another one this weekend. I speak in Moorhead at the Hjemkomst to the Moorhead Community Ed Garden Day. They have classes throughout the day, and then I speak to the whole group at the end. Well, all the other speakers are usually in the audience for my speech, experts on perennials, experts on hydroponics, experts on landscaping, experts on all kinds of things I am not expert on.

Boy, do I watch the experts close when I am saying something I am a little unsure of. If they nod, I keep going. If they wrinkle up their nose, I stop and give them the floor.

One thing about public speaking which I never realized until I started doing it is that the speaker can see absolutely everything which is going on in the crowd. I mean, if one person's head nods out of 150, you'll catch it. If one person wipes their nose, you'll see it. If two people whisper, you'll hear it.

That awareness has changed my behavior when I am listening to speakers. I always look intently at them even if my mind is off dreaming of watching Santana throw change-ups past the Yankees.

You can't look too intently or they'll stop and ask you if you have a question. It is really embarrassing at that point if you are daydreaming so totally that you don't hear them ask you if you have a question--instead, you just keep staring at them intently.

ONE INTERESTING MAN stopped by my booth after the seminar. He had asked several questions during the seminar, and he came by to talk about Round-up and other chemicals.

He is in his mid-30s. He looks fine, but he has no hair and that is because he is in chemotherapy. He has had cancer three times--three different types of cancer. He said his doctors are convinced that there is a correlation between growing up on a wheat farm and getting cancer. They are doing a study at Roger Maris Cancer Center on just that, according to him.

He grew up on a wheat farm, which meant he probably was exposed to all kinds of 2-4D.

I have thought Round-up was harmless, but he said there is a study that finds a correlation between exposure to Round-up and some kinds of cancer. That is not a good thing. Monsanto responds to such studies by sending an army of lawyers after the person who did the study and the people who funded the study accusing them of all sorts of evil practices.

An example closer to home: A local county agent once made a negative comment about Round-up in a report he put together on soybean research. Well. He had barely published his results--which weren't going to be read very broadly--when Monsanto lawyers wrote the Dean of the extension service accusing the extension agent of bad science and all sorts of other crimes. In fact, I believe they wrote the president of the University of Minnesota as well saying the agent should be fired. All for one comment in a soybean report.

So, who knows whether we'll ever find out the truth about the effects of chemicals on our health. I happen to think that an awful lot of my neighbors, young and old, are dead of one thing or another. Many, many died before their time. Many, many had cancer. I would like to do a study of our township of Bear Park, which is probably one of the most intensive wheat farming areas in the world. I think we've lost more than our share of people.

The healing continues

Here's more Twins psychobabble from the St. Paul Pioneer Press about Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau. Apparently they shared a "poignant moment" together last Sunday. It really warms your heart. Once you're done puking.

February 27, 2006

More baseball psychobabble

Just when I thought the unholy marriage between Freudian psychology and Twins baseball couldn't get any worse, I run across this piece of journalistic trash. Isn't bonding something that happens between a child and a mother?

Random observations

SAW a new one yesterday in Fargo: I was following a car which had the window open. A cigarette ash flew out. The car turned left ahead of me, and I saw that the driver was not only smoking a cigarette, but talking on a cell phone. I have yet to figure out how that is done.

ON THE PSYCHOBABBLE theme: At the Cenex in Hillsboro yesterday, I was waiting to be helped--which meant waiting for the conclusion a deep conversation between two seventeen-year-old clerks, the one of whom, a boy, was saying something like, "When I work on developing a relationship..."

Hey kid, you're seventeen. Fall in love, get burnt, get up, dust yourself off, do it again. That's what being seventeen is all about. Skip this "developing a relationship" crap.

IN THE STAR TRIBUNE this morning is an article about new Twins designated hitter Rondell White. There is nothing at all about whether he can hit. The entire article is about what a nice guy he is and how he gets along with everybody. Priorities, priorities.

PASSAGE TO INDIA: Last night, I was thrilled as I drove past the former site of the Taste of India in Fargo to see a new Indian restaurant opened in its place. I did a U-turn and went inside.

Had a nice talk with the lady who waits the tables. I asked her if she had just moved here. She said yes. From where? I asked. "California," she said, with a look which spoke volumes about her opinion of Fargo weather.

The new owners emphasize south India cuisine, which I think is rare. I have been to a couple of dozen Indian restaurants and I have never tasted this particular type of sauces. The coconut chutney was particularly good.

I just had the lady pick out something from the menu representative of their cooking. She eventually brought a two-foot wide crepe, folded in half with potatoes in the middle. On the side was the chutney and a lentil soup. I asked her what to do with the big crepe, and she said you break off chunks, pick up some potatoes with the crepe and dip it in both the chutney and the soup before eating. Typical Indian approach. Mix it all together.

Whoa, it was good.

Even so, I would recommend going to the noon buffet so you can sample a wide variety of the foods in small servings to avoid having a plate-full of something too challenging to the Norske palate.

Passage to India is on 45th Street, near the Wal-mart in south Fargo, in a strip mall north of Conlin's furniture. I am going to promote them hard because I want them to stay here!