Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 17, 2006


Some friends went to Sioux Falls last weekend. That's a town just down the road. They had no snow there and it was 55 degrees.

Just talked to my uncle in Indiana. Yesterday, they had 75 degrees. The fruit trees are in bloom.

It hits home that a Minnesota March is not just obnoxious, it is unnecessary. A person could be somewhere else! And no, it is not written on stone tablets somewhere that enduring the miseries of March is a requirement of being human. I have thought for years that it was, that nobody could escape March, that the warm temperatures on the weather map in other climates were somehow just numbers--that people south of here, even if they were in warm temperatures, were going through some other tribulation to compensate, something else that made March miserable for them.

No, they aren't. They're enjoying spring. And I can barely stand it.

I mean, it is difficult to walk right now. Clumps of ice everywhere.

Disease. People are complaining of lingering this and malingering that. No use even listing all the stuff that's going around. Over seventy were missing at the Fertile school one day last week.

TOMORROW, brother Joe and I are headed to Perham to teach at a Master Gardener seminar. That's always fun. They have an active Master Gardener group which puts on a day of classes attended by about 500 people from all over the area.

These next three weeks are going to be fairly nuts. At a meeting this morning, somebody said, "I look forward to hearing you speak next Wednesday." Well, I had just looked at my calendar this morning and I remembered Wednesday looking blank next week. So I asked, where am I to speak?

Clearbrook. At the Lutheran Church. I came home to find that event written on the wrong date on my calendar--April 6. I went back to the emails about the event and they all said March 22. I have no idea where I got the notion that April 6 was the date, but boy am I glad I caught it.

So, that caused a crisis of confidence and I went back over the speaking engagements I have and double checked the dates. I have this nightmare--in fact, it is inevitable that it will happen sometime--that I get a date wrong and leave an audience of 200 sitting eighty miles away. I have taken to asking people to call two days before the event to "confirm final details." What I really mean is to make sure I remember.

I have partial dyslexia. I invert numbers, letters and dates. For example, if I see a phone number in the phone book--say 6854--I am likely to turn it into 6584 by the time I dial it. I can be so stubbornly sure of something that I don't hear any evidence to the contrary. If I am convinced that March 4 is a Wednesday, for example, I will get that in my head and not go to my speech until a Wednesday, even though March 4 was Tuesday on every calendar in the world including the one in front of my nose.

In fact, when I checked my schedule, there was one event that wasn't on my calendar anywhere that I remembered agreeing to. It is next week. Thursday. The day after the Clearbrook thing.

I remembered it in part because it is the scariest speech I have agreed to give all year. I have to speak to elementary students about character. Sounds easy until you think about it. How do you not come off as a scold? How do you not sound like a Sunday school teacher? Be good to others! Don't lie! Don't cheat! Don't steal! Those kids are bored of those messages already--I know I was at that age. I thought they were so obvious!

Well, the reason the repetition of such basic lessons is so necessary is that the older you get, the more you realize how few people actually took them to heart in the first place.

March 16, 2006

Winter, cont.

Drove across the valley to Halstad today to play and sing at the nursing home there. For some reason, the nursing homes all call in March.

Above are some of my favorite windbreaks--multi-row cottonwoods out towards US Highway 9 on Norman County 1. They are neat and symmetrical, cottonwoods at the peak of their life cycle. These windbreaks are probably not practical according to present windbreak doctrine, but I admire whoever left them there because they are beautiful. Old trees are not to be taken lightly.

Neither are old people, I think. You can't take for granted because and old person is crabby looking, or looks out of it, that they won't engage you in conversation. In fact, some of the most rewarding conversations can be with those who seem unresponsive at first.

One man was curled over, his head almost impossibly placed under his arm with his forehead on the armrest of the wheelchair. I decided to peer under there and say hello. He turned right into my face with bright blue eyes and said hello back. He talked in an almost silent whisper.

He worked in Montana after going to high school in this area. Now he has Parkinson's. But God has blessed him so richly and has taken such good care of him, he said. With that, he was out of breath and his head went back down. I got the feeling that he would have had a lot more to say if I had the time. In the short time he looked towards me, he seemed content.

Now, where can you find such inspiration on the street? Where else besides a nursing home can you find people who have, by conventional measures nothing left, but who seem authentically able to relish every moment of life? I know it isn't the case with all older people, and I am not going to argue that all old people are essentially beatific, but there sure are some lessons to be learned.

One of the joys of the small town is the extent to which people in nursing homes, whether older or merely sick, stay a part of the community. I admire the staff at nursing homes around here. They put their heart into their work, and it has to be heartbreaking at times. I know that the ties between the nursing homes and the community aren't nearly as tight in metropolitan areas. In fact, I'd bet we'd be appalled at what goes on in other parts of the country.

Earlier today I got a delightful email from a lady in an assisted living center who said, "I am 87-years old so I can relate to a lot of what you write."

I think I am going to take that as a compliment!

March 15, 2006


This morning, hoar frost was everywhere. Before it all fell off in the breeze, I drove around and shot some photos. For those of you in warmer climes, here is what things still look like up here. To say the least, this scenery has worn out its charm.

March 14, 2006

Catnap with poodle

This lady caught a catnap with her poodle on her lap while I was playing yesterday. She said her cousin brings the dog in every morning and picks it up every night and that it spends most of the day on her lap.

An awful website

This website won some sort of award as one of the worst-designed sites on the web, despite its obviously important mission. To get the full effect, you have to turn up the sound and wait for it to download completely. See how long you can endure it.

It strikes me as so darn hilarious in part because back when we were kids, my sister and I used to perform operettas (with Mom at the piano) using the U. S. News and World Report as the text. We would find the driest article in the whole magazine, something about the Federal Reserve, and put it to song. The results were similar to music on the above website.


Yesterday, I played and sang for some of the residents of Villa St. Vincent nursing home in Crookston. Lance came along and took some pictures.

I am not a big fan of electronic keyboards, but this Roland wasn't too bad. I had some apprehension coming in--I knew there was something funny at this venue, but wasn't sure what. Well, it was the electronic keyboard. I have trouble with them. It went fine this time, however. Just a few squashed notes.

Lance's photos sometimes look a little lonely! This scene isn't going to make you want to run and enter the nursing home. Neither is this somewhat lonely but effective shot of nursing home resident Rena Moon.

I met Rena two years ago when I last played for the residents. I wrote this about her at the time:
Beforehand, I was talking to some of the residents. One lady sat over in the corner with oxygen looking kind of asleep. I said, hi, how are you, and she said quietly, "I am just so happy."

Well, I couldn't let that go by. I asked her if there was any particular reason she was so happy. The woman, who is named Rena Moon, told me a story.

About sixty years ago, she said, she bore twins, a boy and a girl, and had to give them up for adoption. They were adopted by a professor and his wife. She always remembered watching the adoptive mother play with the twins on the floor--she looked like she would be a good mother, and that was the last time Rena saw her twins.

Well, her subsequent children started researching on the internet this past year and found those twins. This past Sunday, Rena got a call from her long lost son. She said it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. The son lived in New York and the daughter in New Mexico. Both had good lives and were very happy.

They whole family plans to get together this summer. Rena is going to call the newspaper, so I can only assume she wouldn't mind me mentioning her story here.

Rena seems to be doing fine. She is 82 years old. She has had a rough life. She smoked for 52 years, she said, quitting a couple of years back "cold turkey," she said proudly.

Finally, Agnes. Agnes is a long-time nursery customer who is now 93 years old but sharp as a tack. She held forth on "things these days" at lunch afterwards. "Who taught these people that they can buy, buy, buy and never pay for things? Where did people get this idea?"

She thinks a recession is imminent. Sometime all this debt is going to come back and bite us, Agnes said. Kids dig themselves in so deep they can't get out for the rest of their life.

She's right, of course.

March 12, 2006

More drum beating

Lance and I decided to get away and go to the Passage to India for supper last night. Only a few hours after the roads looked like the picture below, they were perfectly clean last evening. We drove through Halstad--where I was supposed to perform yesterday morning but canceled due to snow--in clear weather with dry roads. I almost felt guilty.

Oh man did we have a good meal. Lance ordered #45, and I ordered #19. We also had a #4 for appetizer. If you think that sounds delicious, you should taste it!

Afterwards, we had a nice talk with a couple from India who were chatting with the owners of the restaurant. They were agog at the quality of the food. "Who would have imagined that in Fargo you would find some of the best Indian food in the world!" the man gushed in his Indian accent.

The woman who has been the waitress for the three times I have visited almosts acts like my confidant. I asked her about #19. She said it wasn't spicy enough for her, but that it was okay. Lance's #45, on the other hand, was pretty hot. So, I said, since they would be served family style, I would balance the heat of #45 with the cool of #19.

Well, the mint sauce cooled things off, too, as did the tamarind sauce and the raita, a mix of yogurt and cucumber.

All three numbers were wonderful. You could probably pick three out of a hat and not be disappointed.

After the meal, we dialed up a friend on the cell. He happened to be at the grand opening of a new Irish pub named Dempsey's on Broadway. Irish pub! That can only mean one thing: Guinness, the best beer in the world. I was not disappointed. The bartenders at Dempsey's served it up right, pouring half the pint, then letting it sit for a while before pouring up the rest.

There was quite the crowd. As I fought my way to the bar to acquire a Guinness, I nearly ran over a red-haired, freckled-faced lad who looked very Irish. I apologized and asked if he was Irish. No, he was raised in Fargo. Pure Norwegian. Where you from? he asked. I told him. Oh, do you know about that nursery up there?

Ha, what an opening. "Oh, I own it," I said without a trace of humility. I was assuming he meant our nursery and not Lee Nursery, also of Fertile, run by my cousin Gary, a considerable operation several times the size of Bergeson Nursery but which only sells wholesale and thus maintains a somewhat lower profile devoid of full-page ads with blaring headlines.

Yes, he meant our nursery. So, that made my night. He's going to come up to get some of those "Bergeson Purple Tomatoes," he said. I didn't tell him that there's no such thing, just a variety called Pruden's Purple we chose to advertise a couple of years back.

All in all, it was a good little six hour vacation to Fargoland.