Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

November 25, 2006


This year I was responsible for the turkey. I don't recall ever having fixed a turkey before, so I went online and found a "fool-proof" recipe from my long-time nemesis, Martha Stewart. It called for putting a cheesecloth dampened with butter and wine over the breast of the turkey to keep it moist.

This I did, with a dishtowel substituting for the cheesecloth. Over the course of three hours, I dumped a whole bottle of white wine on the turkey. When it was done, I pulled all the meat off the carcass and nibbled on it some and it seemed quite moist. However, I think the wine in the recipe was just to make one feel sophistocated. I suspect butter would have done the job better.

I have enough leftovers to choke a horse, with little appetite to consume them.

Aunt Olla came out from the Fertile Hilton for the festivities. She had been looking forward to seeing me carve the turkey, so when I informed her that I had already picked the carcass clean, she was a bit disappointed. "I guess I'll survive," she eventually admitted.

After the meal, Olla insisted, "we have to have a program." We were all dead tired, but Joe and I played a little music. Olla is indefatigable. No family gathering is complete without a program.

Olla has the same program gene as her brother, my grandfather. When Grandpa was in the nursing home and no longer felt like joining the family gathering for Thanksgiving, he would call to dictate which table grace we were to use.

Yesterday, we drove down to Aunt Pam's house for a second round. An opulent meal. A chance to visit with cousins Laine and Ben and their partners Desi and Kristin, as well as Aunt Pam and her sister Aunt MaryAnn.

November 23, 2006

Things to be thankful for....

Health. We tend not to notice it until it goes away.

Productive work. It is a prerequisite for sanity. It is an increasingly rare luxury.

Leisure. Time to read books. Time to make music. Time to watch the Twins.

People. Family, friends. We're all getting older. Sounds sad, but it is not. If we lasted forever, that knowledge would cause us to be unforgiving and petty. Knowing that we are all frail, and increasingly so day by day, enables us to tolerate, appreciate and love what is good in all.

Sanity. Not everybody is lucky enough to have it, and we all struggle for it. When it happens, we should enjoy it.

Food. Not everybody has that, either.

Good coffee in the morning. With all these great new flavorings.

Birds. I am encouraged daily by their energy at the feeder. They have no trouble getting up in the morning!

Trees. To grow, they must commit to one spot for the rest of their life. If that spot has limitations, they just do their best where they're at.

Stars in the sky. A constant reminder of our insignificance--and of the grand mysteries of the universe. May we never unlock all of its secrets! And may we die trying.

Scientific advances in health. We no longer die of abscess teeth. Or tuberculosis. Or measles. Or strep. If it seems like there are mysterious new diseases coming down the pike, it is because science has identified them and is preparing to fight them, something we were not able to do in the past. The more we learn, the more we find there is to learn. We should not let that frighten us.

Death. If not for our imminent demise, we would have no motive to live full lives while we are here. Mortality is a great boon, and shunning it only warps us.

Loss. If not for the possibility of loss, we would never value what we have.

Pumpkin pie.

Fresh green beans at the store in November.

November 21, 2006

MVP, cont.

In my estimation, Justin Morneau is the third most valuable member of the Twins, even though today he was named the MVP of the entire American League. Santana and Mauer played a bigger role in the Twins success this season, although you can't discount what Morneau did. There really is no reason to turn things into a competition; the players complement each other, and we're going to enjoy these guys for at least several years.

And oh, are New York Yankee fans angry tonight. Type in "Morneau" on Technorati and find the most recent blog entries from the east coast disparaging Morneau. More posts come every few minutes.

Getting your money's worth

For the record, Justin Morneau, the Most Valuable Player in the American League made $380,000 last season. The MVP of the National League, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, earned $355,000. The minimum salary is $327,000. Alex Rodriguez made about $22 million last year, and Roger Clemens $17 million.

I would say the Twins got their money's worth.

MVP Morneau

Twins fans knew that Joe Mauer won the batting title the last day of the season. They expected Johan Santana to win his second Cy Young award. But I don't think very many people seriously expected Justin Morneau to win the Most Valuable Player award.

The Twins have some authentic stars on their team. Mauer, Morneau, Santana and Joe Nathan are about as good as you can get. If the young starting pitchers come along, things are going to be fun.

Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

I have spent the past few evenings reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by famed World War II correspondent William Shirer.

The book, with a big swastika on its formidable spine, has been glaring at me from the shelf for several years. I have hesitated to read it because I get very involved with such tales and spend weeks on end meditating upon them. One hates to spend much time thinking about the grim tale of Nazi Germany.

But once I got into the book, I had a tough time putting it down. Shirer was in Germany until the early 1940s. He had a clear view of Hitler's rise. And he had access to almost all Nazi documents once the war ended.

What stands out is the level of moral decay in Nazi Germany. Bankers had no problem processing the gold taken from the teeth of concentration camp victims. Companies were happy to participate in experiments to find out the most efficient way to kill thousands without wasting ammunition.

Shirer quotes from internal Nazi documents which make one numb. The treatment of the civilian population in the western Soviet Union is one area which doesn't get enough attention. Millions were starved and killed. Hundreds of thousands were taken into slavery into Germany. The only check on the killing seemed to be the eventual shortage of slave labor.

Hundreds of thousands of Eastern European women were made slaves in Germany, to help German women with housework. They were not to be allowed outside the house. They were not to attend church. They were to be worked hard, with no limits on the number of hours worked. They were, most emphatically, not to be treated as human beings.

Quote from Himmler: "I care not one whit if 50,000 Slavic women die of exposure while digging a ditch. My only interest is that the ditch be completed." Cruelty was high virtue. Hardness was cultivated.

The Nazis knew they would be in trouble if they lost the war. As they retreated back towards Germany across Russia and Poland, they took steps to cover their tracks. One commander was cited as a hero for what was regarded as an incredible accomplishment: His soldiers dug up a mass grave containing 240,000 East European civilians and burned the corpses to destroy incriminating evidence.

One thing stands out about the post-war trials at Nuremberg: The lack of remorse. Instead, there was pride. Pride at finding a more efficient way to kill Jews. Pride at developing more humane ways of killing. One commandant viewed himself as sort of a Joan of Arc for tweaking his execution methods so there would be less screaming and carrying on by the doomed.

Constantly, Hitler prodded his underlings to be more cruel, more ruthless, more violent. Naturally, those who rose to the top were the scum of the earth, those without any moral scruples whatsoever. And naturally, those types fell to squabbling amongst themselves in brutal ways.

When Gen. Rommel was caught as a part of a plot to kill Hitler in 1944, he was, due to his heroic status with the German people, given the choice to kill himself rather than be slowly strangled with piano wire on film as were the other generals in the plot. S. S. agents came to his home, informed him that he would be dead one way or another in fifteen minutes, allowed him to say goodbye to his wife and kids, assured him he would be given a full state funeral, and handed him the cyanide pill. Rommel took it and was dead in three minutes.

One wonders, what would have happened if Hitler hadn't made a few collosal mistakes? What if he hadn't gone into Russia? What if he had stopped short in 1941 and simply used the 3 million troops that he sent to the Eastern Front to concentrate upon taking England? He might have succeeded. And he might have kept Western Europe as imprisoned by Nazism as Eastern Europe was imprisoned by communism for the next 45 years.

Hitler's plans for England, once it was conquered, were as brutal as his plans for Eastern Europe, plans which were actually carried out. All men were to be taken to the continent to be used as slave labor. The remaining population would be starved, as all foodstuffs would be taken to Germany.

Germany, the home of J. S. Bach, Martin Luther, and so much other good. What got into them?

November 19, 2006

Old House, Old Church

I don't know whose house this was, or is. Below, Faaberg Church looks stately across a field of CRP.

Sunday photo safari

I don't think I have ever seen Flame Willow looking so good. The orange trees above, in case you haven't seen previous pictures on this website of this same row of trees, are Flame Willow along the driveway of nursery employee Sharon Fealy. Grandpa selected the tree for its perfect round growth and outstanding winter color. Both are on display here.

The tilled fields look corduroy in the setting sun. Lance and I stopped along the Fertile-Winger road to take a few pictures near the Morvig farm. Chester stopped by to see what we were up to. He said he'd lived on the farm all his life, "except for four years Uncle Sam took."

He meant World War II.

"They came and said, 'We need three volunteers. We'll take YOU and YOU and YOU! Now go over and kill those bastards!"

Chester was in the Navy. I asked him whether he was in the Pacific or the Atlantic. "Both!" he replied.

"We went through the Panama Canal on Christmas Eve of 1944. We were getting bitten by mosquitoes. Bing Crosby was singing White Christmas. We wanted to shoot him!"

This beautiful lake is on Chester's property. This summer, I counted as many as seventy swans there.

Another mile or two down the road we found another corduroy field.