Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

August 18, 2006

Win some, lose some

When the mail came today, I got a letter forwarded from the Grand Forks Herald asking its editors how long they were planning to carry the "childish rantings" of "that Eric Bergeson." The letter was in reference to a recent column I wrote about going to a Twins game in which I wrote disparaging remarks about Boof Bonser (who did fine tonight, by the way).

"Haven't you ever had tough times, Eric Bergeson? Think long and hard about that! Some people aren't always perfect like you!"

The letter was anonymous, signed only, "A GF Herald reader of 45 years."

Then, tonight an nice email from the editor of the Morris, MN Sun Tribune setting up the details so they can carry my column on a weekly basis. Very nice! Since I don't actively solicit newspapers for syndication, when one calls it is a happy occasion.

WHAT A FUN game tonight. I sat through it from start to finish. The Twins won 7-3. Bonser did tolerably well. The bullpen was fantastic, as usual, and Team Leader Torii Hunter got a couple of big hits. It is always great to defeat the big bad White Sox.

Jason Tyner got three hits. He is now approaching 1,000 major league at-bats without a home run. Even so, he is proving to be a real pest to opponents. Tonight, he dropped a picture perfect bunt past the pitcher down the first base line for a base hit at an important time. Last year, the Twins couldn't bunt worth squat--now, with the addition of two expert bunters, Tyner and Castillo, as well as a third and unlikely bunting afficiando in Joe Mauer, the Twins are exploiting that exciting but underutilized strategy.

Morneau now has 106 runs-batted-in. That is a good amount for a full season, and we have forty-something games remaining. He could threaten to put up Killebrew numbers for the year if he keeps it up.

Michael Cuddyer is an asset in right field. That, after he was put out there earlier this season just to get his bat in the line-up. He has thrown out nine runners this season. Eleven assists in a season by an outfielder is usually enough to lead the league. So, he has probably played well enough in right field to throw the team an extra game over the course of the season, a very valuable contribution. Has to be satisfying for Cuddyer who is finally coming into his own four years after he was called up as a can't-miss rookie. They stuck him out in right field during the playoffs against Oakland in 2002 and the first thing he did was throw the ball fifteen feet over the catcher's head.

Lew Ford has been out of the picture. Sad to see his role decline. He will not be back next year, I am afraid.

Pat Neshek has been lights out. Plus, he keeps his fans up to date on his mail and other interesting items on his weblog. This guy's a gem.

Radke's arm hurts him so much that he can barely brush his teeth. He doesn't do any throwing between starts. Yet, he has been pitching some of his best baseball. Each start could be his last. We will see how he does tomorrow night.

Clouds and rain

We haven't had many overcast, rainy days this summer. In fact, this probably is the first one. Such days provide a nice respite from the heat. In addition, they create a welcome change in mood--welcome, at least, as long as it doesn't last for a week.

The Fertile Journal had a nice article yesterday with some pictures of the open house at the gardens on Saturday. Twyla took my word for it that there were 1,000 people in attendance. We have no way of knowing, of course. Last year, we guessed 1,200. For some reason, everybody, including me, is very curious about how many people came--to the extent that a few of us spent some time debating which would be the best way to count. I think hiring somebody to stand at the top of the drive and keep a tally would be about the best way.

We went through 600 donuts. However, it doesn't seem like everybody takes a donut, and of course some take two or more. So that isn't an accurate way of counting. La La homemade ice cream was for sale, too, and that might have been enough sugar for some people.

JUST GOT AN EMAIL NOTICE from a high school friend of a change of address. She and her husband are moving to the country where they now have an address, 56390 369th Street (numbers slightly altered to protect the innocent). The house number is bigger than the zip code. I wonder how many people can say that? And if you multiply the house number by the street number, you get a 21,500,000 or so. Pretty impressive. And they live on a farm with a barn and cows and chickens.

August 16, 2006


It was a beautiful day, and many visitors came to the gardens. I was on retail patrol today since nobody else was around.

The first group was eight eighth graders from Ada. Every fall, a teacher in Ada requires that the eighth graders collect and identify a certain number of tree and shrub leaves. Every fall, parents bring their eighth graders over to have us help them collect and identify leaves.

This year's Ada eighth grade mothers were a step ahead: They organized a trip for a group, which will probably make things a lot easier. I decided that since I was going to be busy, I would make up a checklist of leaves which were in our yard. Of course, I missed about a half-dozen, but by the end of the morning, they had dozens of Zip-loc bags filled with leaves.

I wonder how much the kids actually learn with these projects. Looked like the Moms were doing most of the work. But whatever, maybe they picked up something.

Then, a big bus drove in the yard from Bemidji. It was a senior women's group. Most of them had never been to the nursery, so that's good PR. One woman asked, "So, how do you fund this place, do you get grants?" I replied that we con you into coming back next spring to get your plants. Oh, she'll be back, she promised. But she still insisted that we should charge admission.

Well, we considered it once. We even announced it in our catalog that we were going to charge something like $4 per visitor. By the time summer rolled around, it became apparent that charging admission would take all the fun out of the gardens. If we charged, we would be obligated to keep it persnickety neat all the time, whereas now, if we have something else urgent to do, like put new plastic on the greenhouses, we can let the gardens go a bit, especially in September.

Next was a group of non-senior women from Bemidji. Just after they left, a Red Hat group from Bemidji drove in the yard.

Later in the day, a group of Baptists arrived from Calvary Baptist in Fargo. My mother was raised at Calvary, and my parents were married there. Later, my Dad often preached there as a substitute. So, lots of familiar faces.

So, it wasn't so bad sitting waiting for customers because there were people to entertain all day.

In between, the battle with the bacteria in the Cat fuel tank continued. Ken and Shannon drained the tank and used the power washer to rinse out all kinds of slime. Then they used fuel to wash out the water. Then they got it going again and called me in to test it in the swamp, which is the acid test. It bogged down again, a sign that there were still some obstructions in the fuel line somewhere.

This has been going on for quite a while. Tomorrow morning, we are going to put on a new fuel pump to see if that gets things rolling, as the present fuel pump seemed a bit anemic.

While trying the Cat out in the swamp, where I am removing reed canary grass in hopes for some open water in front of the house when the rains return, I fell in some sort of mudhole and had to be pulled out for the umpteenth time this year. Shannon, the mechanic who makes house calls quite often to our place, was dumbfounded that something with tracks could get stuck like that, but I assured him that I was talented at doing just that.

And to top the day off, a Twins win over Cleveland. And, an arrest in the JonBonet Ramsey case! Just when the tabloids were running out of juicy stuff...

Other news items: The Alfonso Rodriguez trail has finally started. He killed UND student Dru Sjodin three years ago in a most brutal fashion. The only question is whether he gets life in prison or the death penalty. The guy deserves to be slowly tortured to death, of course, but governments should not have that right--ever. Neither should governments have the right to kill their own citizens except in immediate defense of the public. So, I am hoping they lock him up for good.

British law enforcement officials are having trouble pinning down specific charges on the perpetrators of last week's alleged plot to blow up ten airliners over the Atlantic. Turns out, the evidence of the plot was quite possibly revealed during torture of suspected terrorists in Pakistan. Intelligence produced by torture is rarely any good. Wouldn't you cough up some whoppers if you had live battery cables hooked to your nipples? Look for this story to evaporate very gently into the night. The people arrested were probably up to no good, but the plot was apparently far less advanced than first thought. The alleged perpatrators were going to make a "dry run," but apparently most of the suspects lack the travel documents necessary to get on the plane for even that.

August 15, 2006

Twins 4 Indians 1

Santana was on tonight. The only disappointment was that Gardenhire didn't let him finish the game. After Santana came off the mound in the eighth with a 1-0 lead, Gardenhire told him he was done.

The Twins got three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, and so when closer Joe Nathan came in, he had four runs to work with instead of one. Oddly, Nathan does worse with a big lead. He gave up a run, but the game was never in question.

Only now do I read in the Tribune that Santana is pitching with a blister and a broken fingernail. You want to give a blister time to heal, so no wonder Gardenhire pulled Santana out.

MACHINERY ILLNESSES: Our Cat loader has been suffering from a bacterial infection in the fuel tank which gunks up the fuel line. Four visits from the mechanic and a bottle of anti-bacterial medicine have not solved the problem. So, my project of cutting wood in the swamp was put on hold, as was the canary grass elimination program out in front of the house. Both require a machine with tracks due to the boggy ground.

Instead, I went out to cut wood for a bit. Two trees down, the chainsaw quit and wouldn't start. I am now completely stymied.

Earlier in the morning, I did successfully clean the office area. It tend to build up with things. Empty boxes. Signs for plants. Magazines. Catalogs. Warm clothing left on the hangers from winter. Stacks of books. All covered in a layer of fine grit from the dry weeks.

It was fun to clean. Always is. I like to have the place to myself when I clean so there is nobody to holler at me when I try to throw something away. I chucked a whole box of catalogs nobody will miss, at least until they read this weblog and discover them gone--then I'll catch it.

Whenever I start aggressively cleaning, I know that I am putting something else off: I should be working on preparing the syllabus for the class I am teaching this fall, but it is much more fun to clean. The syllabus will get done--probably in a total of two to three hours--but only after about three weeks of miserable procrastinating, during which time I will do a lot of cleaning, cutting of fire wood and clearing of swamp grass.

August 14, 2006

Green, green grass of home

Wow, it did not take the lawn long to green up after the rain this past week. One week ago, my lawn was completely parched. I couldn't detect any green. Now, it is a rich green again and will need mowing soon.

The two inches of total rainfall in the past week resulted in a few pools of water reappearing in the swamp in front of the house. The wetland still looks pretty grim, but any water is nice after looking at cracked earth.

I have been studying the craft of window washing. Last week, I heard that newspaper works as a good wiper offer after you squeegee the window. Although it will make your hands black, it leaves no streaks on the window. So, I about fifteen of the windows with newspaper tonight. I will see in the morning if there are streaks.

My big problem is lack of concentration. I can keep the squeegee on track for about two swipes, then I get sloppy and it slips off track and makes a mess. So, I have to simply concentrate and take my time. In that sense, window-washing is a lesson in discipline and character.

Another thing I learned is that streaks are caused by not scrubbing the window thoroughly enough in the first place. You have to do more than just get the window wet and squeegee it off. You must scrub down all the bumps and hardened insect spots until they are dissolved before squeegeeing--or you will invariably have streaks.

Tonight, I applied several of the new window-washing lessons. The windows looked nice afterwards, but I have learned that early morning is the acid test. You can see every spot in the rising sun.

WITH THE OPEN HOUSE at the gardens in the review mirror, it is now time to look forward to fall at the nursery. For me, that means getting ready to teach history at UMC starting the last week in August. I also have about ten speaking engagements this fall, some of which will require preparation.

The real doozies are three motivational speeches I am supposed to deliver to continuing education conferences for teachers. I got the pamphlet today. There's my picture with a blurb on my career as an accomplished teacher and motivator! Except they somehow figured my name was Kevin Bergeson. Kevin Bergeson, motivational speaker.

I was hired for these speeches by some outfit out of the Cities. They called last winter and said somebody had recommended me as a motivational speaker. My protestations that I have never given a motivational speech in my life did nothing to deter them.

So now I have to come up with a motivational speech profound enough to merit billing as a "keynote."

The underlying dynamic here, I suspect, is that putting on continuing education conferences--so teachers can get credits to up their standing on the pay scale--has become something of a for-profit venture. The conference organizers hire speakers with nice credentials and charge attending teachers (or their school districts) a fee. The teachers get credits. The schools get to tout the ever-advancing credentials of their teachers. The speakers get a nifty honorarium. The conference organizers take in more than they pay out. Everybody's happy.

The speech has to have a serious title. But it is best if the speech itself isn't serious at all, since by the time I'll get on the stage, the poor attendees will all be bored stiff, silly, to tears and to death. So my job, if I understand it right, is to entertain while seeming to educate. Or to educate while seeming to entertain.

It really helps my somewhat shaky credentials to actually be in a classroom this fall. I can at least say I am teaching before I preach to teachers about how they should teach. But I think it will go best if I don't try to make any serious points or do any serious preaching. I'll try to have a point, but it will be pretty light and fluffy.

As you can tell, I am thinking this through as I write, trying to figure out what to do. The first speech is September 27.