Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 01, 2007

Aunt Olla plays whist

While visiting Aunt Olla at the Fertile Hilton yesterday, she told me about a game of whist she had attempted. No need for me to relate the story second hand; Olla wrote it down herself. (I think she's tired of me twisting what she says.)
For a while now, I have wanted to play four-handed whist again. I told this to Linda who is on the activity program. She said she would come and get me one day and find the best players.

This she did. She got us started, but then she had to leave for a meeting so couldn't give us the help we so desperately needed.

We couldn't get the cards to even out when dealing. Plus, the cards were plastic. I could never get my hand ready to go. Nobody knew who should start. I struggled and struggled to get my cards lined up, and found out I had forgotten completely how to play four-hands. I had forgotten about high or low or the meaning of the word "grand." We played half the game before I realized I hadn't paid any attention to my partner.

Towards the end, I finally had it somewhat straight. We finished. Nobody moved. We had no idea who won. The game had taken one-and-a-half hours. I was all in.

I have decided: No more whist playing!

Although it might seem improper to laugh at the notion of four ninety-year-old nursing home residents struggling to play whist, the memory of it gave Olla the giggles.

I was at the Hilton playing piano. There were fewer people in attendance than usual. Those who were there seemed worn out. Many people are sick and stayed in their rooms.

Olla had the flu last weekend, but was better now due to her high intake of garlic powder, which she sprinkled liberally on her chicken noodle soup. This bout of the flu was just as much fun as the last one, Olla said, complete with heated blankets and lots of pampering from the Hilton staff.

But Olla thinks things have changed in the past month at the Hilton. It is quieter. As we sat and had coffee, she got the giggles again. "It has been like this for a month!" she said, trying to supress her laughter at the oppressive silence in the cafeteria. She was right, it was morbidly quiet.

One of my favorite buddies down the hall from Olla is in rough shape. Usually full of stories and fun, he could barely lift his head. Very sad to see. I hope it is temporary. But March is a tough month.

History unearthed

The son of a reporter who was the first into Nagasaki after the bomb dropped has put together a book of his father's dispatches, which were intercepted by General McArthur and supressed at the time.

Notice the statistics about American prisoners in the Japanese prison camps.

One aspect of World War II which is consistently overlooked is the brutality of the Japanese. Their behavior in Nanking, China matches anything the Nazis did to the people of Eastern Europe, and explains some of the tensions which exist between China and Japan.

Cedar waxwings

A flock of one of the most beautiful birds in our area was devouring flowering crab berries this morning up at the nursery. The cedar waxwings twitter and whir, attacking their prey in groups.

Their smooth, almost translucent feathers make them look graceful in almost all they do.

Allegedly, the berries are fermented by spring and make the birds drunk. However, they were all sitting right side up and seemed quite sober. Perhaps if there are any berries left when the weather warms, we'll see some avian inebriation.

And, this young robin twerped its way around the yard, stopping to swallow a berry whole every now and then.

February 27, 2007


Got off the main roads in the Red River Valley today and looked for some striking windbreaks. There was a low fog hanging like angel hair through some of the trees, but it simply did not turn up on the camera.

However, the fresh snow did create some striking effects.

This shelterbelt was striking, as was this green ash windbreak.

February 26, 2007

New bird

Last week, I shot a bunch of pictures of what I figured was a gray jay only to find out that the memory card wasn't in the camera. This morning, I heard a completely new bird call while I was trying to fire up my wood stove (after I used up all the newspaper to start the wet wood without success, I found a couple of rolls of Christmas gift wrap--boy did that work) and figured perhaps the gray jay was back.

I ran inside and put the telephoto on, and sure enough, he showed up at the feeder, and eventually flew onto a nearby branch for a modeling session.

Later on, I finally got a good shot of a more common visitor to the feeder.

February 25, 2007

Hairy ride

Of course, the one day this year we have bad roads due to snow and ice, I am struggling to get home from Fargo.

At the Home Show, the guy in the next booth totalled his pickup this morning when he was hit by somebody who lost control. Another woman went in the ditch twice on the way to Fargo. A third person did several 360s on an exit ramp while his little daughter said, "Wheee!"

So, I knew something was funny out there.

When I started home, I put it in four-wheel drive. It did little to stabilize things, however. I had no feel for the road. The ice, which seemed quite harmless, would pull me one direction and then the other. I went about forty miles per hour.

About six miles west of Ada, my tires started sounding noisier than usual. I thought there was ice and slush building up, so I didn't think much of it. The noise increased, and got downright obnoxious, so I finally pulled over.

My right rear tire was a steaming nest of rubber shreds.

It was near dusk. There was only a little light left. And never in the 196,000 miles I have put on this pickup have I had to figure out how to get the spare out from its perch underneath the box.

Last flat tire I had, I tried to get the spare loose and failed. It was locked, and I didn't have the key. Luckily, I was at the service station when the tire went flat, imagine that, so I just had them put a new tire on the rim.

No such luck this time. However, I did have the mechanic cut out the lock to the spare last fall. That didn't mean I knew how to let the spare down.

Visibility was a bit low. A car that was turning onto the same gravel road where I had pulled off stopped. The man got out to see what was the matter, and helped me put together the jack and figure out how to let down the spare. Then, he left.

I was a bit nervous with three tires on ice and that little jack standing there precariously. What if the whole keboodle slid to the side when I had the tire off and the pickup ended up sitting there on its axle? In that case, I had a cell phone.

Beet trucks whizzed by only feet away, splashing slush in my direction as I laid on the ground.

A major victory: I thought to put the lug nuts in the hub cap so they didn't disappear in the snow. By the time I was putting the lug nuts on, it was so dark I could barely see.

When I got going, I went very slow. Something seemed funny. I stopped several times to see if the tires were okay, as there were wierd noises and the pickup was pulling side to side. I hope it was just the wierd ice conditions.

I made it home, but I am convinced that the wheels are about to come off my pickup. We'll see if they heal by morning.