Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 04, 2006

Trouble in Zion

Poor Ted Haggard's life is crumbling around him. The pastor of a 14,000 member church in Colorado Springs, of all things, bought meth from a prostitute. He didn't use the drug, of course, and the prostitute did nothing more than administer Rev. Haggard a massage. Even so, Haggard has resigned his positions and submitted to the authority of an oversight board within the church which will decide his fate.

Many people outside evangelicalism see Haggard's behavior as pitiful, just what happens when somebody tries to cover up who they are. They mistakenly assume that his tawdry visits to a prostitute will forever discredit him with his co-religionists.

Not true. The wheels of forgiveness are already spinning. I always suspected this was some people thought, but I never thought I'd find somebody to say it out loud: For some, hypocricy is a high virtue.

Yes, it is far better to hold old time moral standards, violate them in tawdry, even dangerous ways, go through emotional public confessions and tears and pain for you and your family, than it is to lead a life of integrity which might not fit with the mid-1950s nuclear family ideal.

"We're all sinners," is the refrain right now amongst those who are rushing to forgive Pastor Ted. What they don't say is they are much more comfortable with tawdry, sick, sinful behavior--from that, people can convert--than they are with somebody who calmly seeks to live with consistency outside the norms.

November 03, 2006

Starting a fire

The guys got my wood stove moved into a position more agreeable to the insurance company today. Now it is 80 feet from the house. A nice walk. Tonight, I fired it up.

When heating with wood, I can turn the temps up a bit without guilt that I am running up the electric bill. Plus, the scent of wood burning is a cozy thing.

So, I got the stove going just in time for a little warm spell which is going to happen next week. We'll take what comes. If it gets back into the 50s, that would be fun.

YESTERDAY, I conducted my first interview for the Halstad project. Larry Macleod is former athletic director at Moorhead State University. He is in his mid-eighties. He was assistant coach at Halstad in 1952.

What a kind gentleman. We talked about 90 minutes. He had a sharp memory for the people and their character. He remember difficult coaching lessons he learned, and told me about what shaped his coaching philosophy. "Work hard and good things will happen."

True to form, he had no memories of actual games. You get the impression they weren't that important to him. I brought up several big games, but no luck there. That's fine, I got some good stories from him.

I came home and downloaded the audio from the interview into I-tunes on my computer. I ran the recording and transcribed it by typing on the computer. I had no problem whatsoever keeping up. Why? Because I talked more than Macleod did! I was supposed to be doing the interview, but instead of collecting stories, we exchanged them.

Nothing quite so humbling as listening to one's self on tape.

After interviewing Macleod, I went to Trinity Lutheran in Moorhead to speak to a caregivers conference. I have done a few of these before. It is a deal where Lutheran Social Services provides a day of respite for people who are taking care of sick relatives in their home. Somebody is sent to the home to take care of the loved one, and the caregivers spend the day eating and getting entertained.

I made it in time for lunch. Got talking to an elderly lady next to me. I told her about the Halstad project. She was from Ada, and she said, "oh man, they had a good team in 1952!" Then she rattled off the names of the starting five. That surprised me.

I spoke on gardening to the group. The caregivers at these conferences are, as you might imagine, tired. It was just after lunch, so some of them nodded off, which didn't offend me in the least.

November 02, 2006


Late in the gray day today, the sun peeked through, illuminating this cornfield and some of the trees beyond it.

November 01, 2006

Plowing under

Members of the American Crystal Sugar cooperative were ordered to plow under 8% of their beet crop this fall. The crop was so good that there were more beets than the plants could ever process by the time the weather warms in May.

October 31, 2006

Winter project

It looks as if I will be busy this winter. I have been hired to write a book about the 1952 Halstad basketball and baseball teams. I am going to use the book as an excuse to research and write about life in Halstad at the time.

I have my first interview with a participant this week. I will interview the assistant coach at the time, Larry Macleod, who later went on to be the head basketball coach at Moorhead State.

Last summer, as we were investigating the possiblity of doing this book, I met with the starting five of the 1952 Halstad basketball team. I taped the interview. Last night, I went over the tape. They had good stories. If I can sit down with each of the players, I think I will get a surplus of stories, both about the time and about the phenomenal Hoosiers-like season the teams had.

For the record, the Halstad team got third in the 1952 Minnesota State Basketball tournament. They were weakened a bit by measles and scarlet fever otherwise they might have won the whole thing.

At that time, there was only one class in basketball. And, at that time, the Minnesota State Basketball tournament was the biggest such event in the United States. Over 70,000 fans attended the sold-out games at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

A couple of months later, the Halstad baseball team, featuring many of the same players by now recovered from their illnesses, won the Minnesota baseball title.

The Halstad team was the darling of the Minneapolis media during the tournament. A photo layout in the Minneapolis Star featured Halstad team members viewing their first television set, looking up at tall buildings, and standing in the immense Williams arena.

Although the newspapers of the time, both small-town weeklies and large city dailies, were more literate in their writing style than they are now, much of what they wrote was contrived clap-trap. They had a nose for a story, but if they didn't find one they'd make one up.

So, I will have to contrast what the papers say with what I find out in interviews.

Other documents can be just as revealing: Somebody gave me a copy of the instructions given band members who went to the tournament. "There are no rules as of yet," wrote the band director near the bottom. He seemed utterly unworried that anybody would go astray. His confidence was probably justified. "The sooner we get registered, the sooner you may move on to more interesting things," he wrote, suggesting that they break up into groups and tour the downtown area.

It was a more innocent time in some ways, but in others it was not. There was a lot of betting on games, for one thing. No evidence that players were ever pressured to lose games, but one baseball player did report that while in the on deck circle, he was offered the princely sum of $5 if he would kindly drive in the winning run.

He whiffed on three straight curve balls.

I anticipate that the book will take about six months to research and write. But I love to look through old newspapers and hear about the old days, so I will be like a pig in slop.

A pro-nap treatise

This writer in Toronto really gets deep into the roots of napping as well as the modern prejudices against the practice.

October 30, 2006

First storm

The deep roar of the winter wind is audible from inside. Light, sandy snow is falling. The temperature is falling, too. Winter storm warnings have been issued, and people are hunkering down for the first storm of the season. There is some hope that the worst will slide north of us, but even so, it looks that winter is here.

Ken, Dad and Joe have nearly finished digging up the trees. I helped only a little due to teaching and speaking obligations. Although the summer was dry, the trees and shrubs put on good growth. The dirt came off the roots pretty nicely due to the dry conditions.

In class today, I collected the students' papers. Over the noon hour, I read through about half of the first batch. I usually dread reading student papers. This bunch, however, was unusually good. The students took my instructions seriously. They were not just to report on the life of the historical person they were assigned, they were to compare their sources, discover discrepancies, and evaluate the sources for accuracy and bias.

Some of the papers were darn near brilliant! Of course, there were errors in grammar, punctuation and paragraphing. However, I am sometimes relieved when the writing style is clumsy. After all, then you know darn well that the students wrote the paper themselves and didn't just copy out of the encyclopedia.

When grading, I will have to balance my happiness that they seem to have learned something from the exercise with my desire that they know how to write well.

Tonight, I was scheduled to teach a community ed class in Mahnomen. I could have canceled, I suppose. I had one student! But she had a list of questions she wanted answered. By the time I answered them all, the hour was gone. I was glad I went.

Although I am not thrilled with the onset of winter, there is something cozy to sitting inside a warm house listening to the wind roar. It feels like the right time to curl up with a good book.