Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

April 08, 2006

Lake Country

Got up way too early for a Saturday morning and headed down to Underwood, MN for another Garden Days. I ran late, so I was worried about finding the school in time to get to my first class at nine. No problem. Underwood is a town of 312 people, and there were over 700 people at the Garden Days, so it was quite obvious where I should go. They even had a separate speaker's entrance and parking area, for which I was grateful.

Since I arrived a full three minutes before the class was to begin, the organizers were a little worried. My classes were in a choir room at the school. It was stuffed with people and stuffy. But it was a lot of fun.

I used to think that 100 miles away was a little far to go to promote the nursery, but when I first went to this Garden Days (which is usually held in Fergus Falls) I was happy to see several carloads of people come up as a result and leave with trunks full of petunias. So, it paid off then, and I think it paid off even more today, for I must have spoken to about 300 people in all and they somehow managed to take over 400 catalogs out of my box.

I spoke to four hour-long classes. I must gesture a lot and I know I walk around a lot while speaking, but I don't realize it until later. My legs were sore and my arms ached when I laid down for a nap this afternoon after returning.

I drove home through lake country north of Underwood on Otter Tail Highway 35, a scenic road I have never taken before. I visited two towns I have never seen before, Dent and Vergas. Lots of hills and lakes.

This school built with fieldstone is now an art gallery and had a sign out front telling its history. It was built as a WPA project in 1939. It closed in 1971. It is built like a brick....schoolhouse. The concrete work on the other side of the building is in the 1930s art deco style.

Barns galore on the road. I love 'em all, but only take pictures of the ones which appear when there is no traffic behind me to prevent me from stopping, or no obvious people watching me photograph.

Another beautiful day! Back at the ranch, Joe and Dad were selling trees. These are some of the earliest tree sales we have had since 1998 when I believe we had another early spring.

April 07, 2006

Mallards and bison

At the same spot where last night's bufflehead was floating, this pair of mallards took off tonight when Leo and I drove by in the pickup.

We were on our way to Mahnomen to the casino where Joe and I were to perform for the Minnesota Bison Growers Association annual meeting.

It was a fun group. Last time I played at the casino, I arrived to find an unplayable electronic keyboard as my piano. I about had a fit. Tonight, there was a nice Young Chang grand piano. It was a bit out of tune, but it was really an improvement over the spinets and uprights I have been playing on lately.

Until somebody decided to open the lid. Turns out the hinge on the lid had been ripped from its moorings. When they lifted the lid, the hinge started to peel away from the case of the piano. However, the piano sounded so much better with the lid up that I didn't tell them about the hinge and the nice buffaleros (their term) who simply wanted to hear the piano went ahead and propped up the lid with some books.

I played piano for quite a while and sang some until Joe arrived. We had requested three mikes--one for each of us to sing into and another for Joe's guitar. When I arrived, I saw there were only two. I requested another but was told that would be impossible because if you hook up a third mike, the other two quit.

Luckily, when Joe arrived, he had brought his own sound system, which he hauled in while I stalled for time by playing endless Joplin on the piano. In the end, we sang duets with him on his sound system and me on the house sound system and I don't think it sounded too bad.

Beforehand, Leo and I sampled buffalo done several ways, all of them delicious. I really do like buffalo meat. Later, Leo snuck off to the slots with nursery gift shop manager Dot who came down to the casino for the evening. I had given him a pocketful of quarters to waste and waste them he did.

The performance was different than most that I do--the audience really wanted background music, not a performance where they sit quietly and listen. More like a bar situation, actually. I have tried doing such things in the past and haven't had luck. Tonight, however, it went fine. There was loud talking, but the fact that a few people were listening kept me interested. Otherwise, I forget where I am and I can't finish a song. If nobody else is paying attention, I don't either.

What a beautiful day! I was up at sunrise for some reason--probably got used to it yesterday when I had to be up to speak to the Kiwanis. The colors were stunning on the horizon before six a.m.

HOW ABOUT THOSE TWINS? Oh, forget it. They have lost three out of four. Today they got pounded by the Indians, their nemesis. There is a North Dakota boy (Travis Haffner) and a Twins reject (Casey Blake) on the Indians team. Both play out of their heads against the Twins. Today, Blake had a grand slam. And after a spectacular spring training, Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse reverted to his usual mediocre self. The only encouraging sign came from Justin Morneau, who hit two home runs.

April 06, 2006

Speaking circuit

This is the first time I have had a speech at 6:30 a.m. and another at 6:30 p.m. on the same day. The early speech was in Crookston for the Kiwanis. As one would expect of a gathering at such a crazy hour, most attendees were retired men.

After the Kiwanis, I drove down to Ada to record 20 radio shows which will play over the next six weeks on three area radio stations. Although it takes away from some of the spontaneaity, Woody at the Ada radio station likes to get them all on tape ahead of time to avoid us playing phone tag while he's waiting to go on the air on some busy spring morning. Woody's a pro--you walk in the door, thirty seconds later you are taping, an hour later you are out the door with a spring's worth of radio shows on tape.

Tonight, I spoke in Fosston at the Cornerstone, which is their new assisted living facility. The public was invited, and there was a real nice crowd. I played piano ahead of time and afterwards as well.

On the way over as I passed our peat swamp, which is filled with water this time of year, I saw this little cutie. When I got home and blew up the picture big enough to see, I looked in the bird book and found that it probably is a "bufflehead." New one to me.

Below is an enchanting little grove of spruce near Fosston.

April 05, 2006

Cell phones

Got word this morning that a vehicle containing two weblog readers, who shall remain anonymous, was hit from behind at a stoplight yesterday by a woman who was, you guessed it, talking on a cell phone. Cell phones are worse than booze, I tell you! Serious damage to the vehicle, little more than sore necks for the six passengers in the car. Bloody nose for the woman on the phone. Lesson learned, I hope.

Opening Day

Well, the Twins and Johan Santana got bombed. So much for the thrill of Opening Day!

Leo and I rushed back from Grand Forks to get home in time for the first pitch. As we proceeded down Highway 102 from Crookston to Fertile, we encountered what looked to be a shattered windshield lying in the middle of our lane. There was no avoiding it. I straddled the worst of it, worried a bit about a flat, and forgot about it.

When I got to town and stopped at the station to drop off another tire for fixing, I turned around--and saw that the rear tire on my pickup was flat as well.

This was the first flat I have had in 178,000 miles, and a good thing. I couldn't get my spare off. It takes a key to let the spare down from underneath, and that key was nowhere to be found. Luckily, the boys at the station found a tire to put on, and we made it home by the first pitch. However, I somehow have to find a key for that spare now. What a hassle. Why do they have to make things so complicated?

In the good news department, thanks to those of you who contacted the Grand Forks Herald about running my column again. They called yesterday and will start running it in the "Neighbors" section later this week. That didn't take long!


Leo and I went to Grand Forks to get him a Social Security number yesterday. He told somebody today, "Now I am American!" Well, it will take a while to get an actual number since Homeland Security has to make sure he's not going to bomb anything first.

We took a side trip to the Sorlie bridge, which is closed to vehicle traffic but was open to pedestrians as of yesterday afternoon. The water was a couple of feet higher than the last photos taken Sunday. It is supposed to crest sometime today or tomorrow.

We walked out onto the bridge. The water a few feet below swirled furiously. An ice floe arrived and broke up with some big noises just below. A large tree clunked against the bridge and did not come out the other side. Neither did an aired up tire.

Here are workers setting up the fancy post-1997 dikes in the middle of Demers Avenue before it crosses the Sorlie Bridge. I suspect this method is a lot more dependable than a pile of sandbags. It doesn't appear as if this dike will be needed, but they are putting it in place just in case.

April 04, 2006

Twins prognosis

Opening Day of baseball season brings out the prognostication in everybody. So, here goes:

The Twins should be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the major leagues. It helps that they have one of the best pitching staffs. Pitching wins, unless you can't score at all, which is what happened last season. The Twins have added a little punch to their batting order since last season, and the pitching may well be improved.

The biggest addition was acquiring second baseman Luis Castillo from the Florida Marlins. Now, the Twins have an unfortunate history at second base. Every promising second baseman acquired by trade fails. Bob Boone. Wally Backman. Larry Milbourne. Tom Herr. All-star names who failed upon arrival at MSP. So, it is up to Castillo to break the Twins second base jinx.

Other additions were by subtraction.

1) Crybaby Joe Mays went to Kansas City, where he belongs.

2) Crybaby J. C. Romero was traded to California for a bag of lettuce. Twins got the better end of the deal.

3) Jacque Jones, who you couldn't help but like, went to the Cubs where his glow-in-the-dark smile will be right at home. He takes with him is infuriating propensity to swing at every low inside curveball in the dirt thrown his way.

4) Matt LeCroy, another likable sort, disappeared into oblivion, taking with him his beer gut, the piano on his back and his career total of zero stolen bases.

5) Luis Rivas disappeared as well, along with his cast of imaginary friends with whom he would hold conversations while playing second base, conversations which sometimes were a higher priority than catching the ball.

At shortstop, the Twins are starting Juan Castro. Castro is magic with the glove and has a weak bat. Shortstops should be magic with the glove. They can save runs rather than produce them, a fair give-and-take.

At third base, the Twins added the bizarre Tony Batista, a Bible-thumpin Dominican whose conviction that the Lord wanted him in a Twins uniform did nothing to motivate him to lose weight over winter. The Japanese team he played for last season couldn't figure him out, so they paid him the $15 million he was owed on his contract and sent him home. For some reason, the Twins picked him up. We'll see.

Also in the realm of the bizarre is Torii Hunter with his almost daily therapy sessions with reporters where he complains about his traded friends and criticizes his new teammates and acts as if he is guru of team chemistry and bemoans the loss of the old days and the old ways--and he's only 30. Torii needs to take his telegenic mug to New York. Trade him for even more pitching while he still has some value.

But, the fun things:

1) Joe Mauer. He could be one of the best catchers ever. His swing is a thing of beauty. His defense is smooth. He, not Torii Hunter, should become the heart and soul of this team.

2) Justin Morneau. This Boom-boom (isn't that some kid cartoon character who doesn't know his own strength?) will eventually learn to hit major league pitching as well as he hit minor league pitching and will strike terror in the hearts of pitchers.

3) Johan Santana. Each time he goes to the mound should be declared some sort of holiday. Poetry. Magic. Some of the very best pitching ever done in a Twins uniform.

4) Joe Nathan. Best Twins closer ever. Lights out. One of Terry Ryan's master trades was to get Nathan from the Giants for one year of A. J. Pierzynski.

5) Carlos Silva. Getting better every year. Walked about a dozen batters all year. Another steal by Terry Ryan.

6) Francisco Liriano. Best pitching prospect in the major leagues. Throws harder than Santana. Only 22 years old. One of those crazy Dominicans with their wonderful flair for life.

7) Rondell White. Remember Chili Davis? White will do the same thing for the 2006 Twins that Davis did for the 1991 Twins--provide them a wonderful first half of hitting and then coast. It will be worth it.

8) Ruben Sierra. Joe Torre called him the most difficult player he has ever managed. But he's now 40 and he is poison at bat with the game on the line. His veteran flair for the dramatic could win three or four extra games for the Twins.

9) Mike Redmond. A wonderful back-up catcher. Good clutch hitter. Smart. Mark Salas, Sal Butera, Phil Roof, Tom Nieto--the Twins have had some fun back-up catchers over the years, but this is probably their best one.

This is a fun team. I don't care if they win the division, I am looking forward to seeing the season play out.

April 02, 2006

The Rising Red

This is the Demers Avenue bridge in Grand Forks, viewed from the Minnesota side this evening. I was surprised at how high the water was. The waterfront was bustling with cars and pedestrians getting a view of the ice floes sneaking under the bridge.

One wonders what this couple may have gone through in 1997. There weren't many residents of the Grand Forks area who were unscathed.

Here you can see how far the river has to rise before it reaches the levels of 1997. I believe in that year it rose higher than the railing for pedestrians on the bridge above.

Not much room remaining under the railroad bridge. The crest in Grand Forks may still be a week away. There may be some drama ahead, as a lot of snow melted in the past few days. The suddeness of the melt has surprised most everybody.