Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 08, 2007

Geranium day

Today, 6800 geraniums arrived at Fed Ex in Grand Forks. I picked them up in the van. By the time we got them all in, I was pressed against the windshield for the most cramped drive I have ever undertaken.

No sooner had I gotten home than another box showed up in Grand Forks, so I turned around and drove back. Meanwhile, a semi load of trees arrived from Bailey Nursery which the guys unloaded.

So, things are popping at the nursery. We have plenty to do.

Many people are complaining about sinus problems, etc. Now I have swollen tonsils. I am convinced that it is just my reaction to cold weather and that if I were to go to Arizona, I would be instantly cured. Past experience has proven this. When I am here, I am sniffly and sore-throated; when I am Arizona, I am fine. Two women who work at the nursery report the same phenomena. All winter, they are plagued by various cold symptoms, but the minute they get off the plane somewhere warm, they're fine.

The nice letter below about my column on squirt hockey was followed today by a big, long article in the Detroit Lakes paper taking issue with the column. It was written by a hockey mother. I really couldn't tell what her point was. She said her son has a new hobby--trading pins with other hockey players from around the world. I was alerted to the letter by another hockey mother who emailed that "you got it right!" She still isn't over paying $400 for a pair of skates for her third-grader.

Well, it was fun to write something which got a little reaction. Nobody really gets too upset about travel articles.

TWO DAYS ago, I went over to Halstad to interview a couple of ballplayers. I had forgotten the address of the house where I was to go, so I found the right general area of town and knocked on a random door. The person who came to the door took one look at me and said, "You're supposed to be over at Roger's!"

Only in a small town.

Great stories about ball playing in the early 1950s. It was a different time.

The godfather of Halstad baseball was old Irv Warner. He managed the town team and wasn't far away whenever anybody had a ball or glove. He also farmed. Sort of. And he employed ballplayers on his farm. The catcher for the town team, for example, did Irv's farm books during the winter when he was seventeen years old. You can imagine what kind of bookkeeping that amounted to.

As I interview the players, they all have an affection for old Irv. He was rough around the edges, a bit profane, a little bawdy, but for most of the boys, I think he was a welcome relief. Their own dads were often busy, or they were impossibly reserved Norwegians, so having hot-headed Irv take an interest in them was something they never forgot. The phrase "second father" creeps up a lot.

One story yesterday: Irv's centerfielder Wally could really fly, both in the outfield and on the bases. When Wally got on base, Irv would often have him steal.

One time, Wally got on base. Irv gave the steal sign. Wally ran on the pitch, but was thrown out by a mile.

As Wally was jogging back to the dugout, an exasperated Irv screamed at him in his squeaky voice: "Jesus Christ, Wally, did you put the plow down?"

Irv was short and round and took little steps when he went out to the mound for a visit. Sometimes opposing fans would go, "hup, hup, hup!" in time to Irv's gait and Irv would stutter step just to throw them off.

Those were the days when 800-1,000 people would show up to a town team game. Some people would park their cars on Saturday night just so they had a good spot for Sunday afternoon's game.

Irv's farming suffered from baseball. The team played up to 40 games per summer. When they weren't playing a game, Irv had them practicing. If there was a ballgame during the middle of harvest, Irv's whole farm would shut down at 4 p.m. so they could get ready for the game.

Some of you might remember Shorty Dekko, Gary, MN's baseball man. He managed the town team. He was short, like Irv. In fact, he was the only opposing manager shorter than Irv, so Irv loved when Halstad played Gary. Those two would tangle all day, yelling at each other and making life miserable for the umpires.

I can't imagine how fun that would have been to watch. There was no baseball on television, and very little on radio. Town ball was all there was.

March 07, 2007


Got this in my email inbox a few minutes ago:
Your Tuesday, February 27th “Squirt hockey” column was right on the money! I’ve shared it with a host of educators across a three-state region. I know that the ND High School Activities Association staff were most appreciative of my sharing it with them (and of course they have no authority over squirt hockey competitions.) One of my Department of Public Instruction staff members had a youngster who participated in the weekend challenge event and when I shared it with her she could well have written the column from her experience as well. Keep up the great work. I find your topics right in line with my thinking and sad to say happenings!

Dr. Wayne G. Sanstead
State Superintendent
ND Department of Public Instruction

Gang of One

Uncle Dale and weblog reader Ron have pointed me towards Fan Shen, a teacher at Rochester Community College and the author of a book entitled Gang of One, an account of his life in the Chinese Red Guard.

I love the facetious autobiography on the official community college website. Makes me want to read this book.

March 06, 2007

A look back

A Chinese scholar looks back at his youth during the Cultural Revolution. He was separated from his parents. He went to the countryside, while his parents went to a village in Pudong, Shanghai.

That caught my eye. Pudong, Shanghai is now bristling with skyscrapers. No villages there now.

Mystery solved

On July 10 of 1977, the Twins were playing the Seattle Mariners. I was listening to the game while riding in the back end of our Dodge station wagon.

With nobody on in the first inning, up came Mike Cubbage against Stan Thomas. Thomas fired the first pitch at Cubbage's head. It missed. Seemed odd, Herb Carneal said, this early in the game for a pitcher to be throwing at somebody.

Next pitch, same place. Thomas missed Cubbage again. Third pitch, right at Cubbage's legs. Fourth pitch, again, right at Cubbage's shoulder. He walked. Carneal was really buffaloed. What was going on?

Darrell Johnson, the Seattle manager came out of the dugout. He pulled Thomas from the game. A few days later, Thomas was traded to the Yankees. A few weeks after that, he was traded to the White Sox, and by the next spring he was out of baseball.

Turns out, Thomas and Cubbage were roomates at one time in the minor leagues. It didn't come out at the time, but thanks to Warroad blogger Seth, I found out just now the reason for the blowup: Cubbage had stolen Thomas' girlfriend.

Uff da. You'd think that wouldn't be worth ruining your major league career.

March 05, 2007


I heard this essay on NPR today. Having just been to Shanghai, it perked up my interest. Plus, the point made is everlastingly true.

Perspective from China

Our friend and guide in China, Michael, middle of the back row, went home for the Chinese New Year.

On his left is his brother. He works 364 days per year. This was his only day off. He works twelve hours per day driving bus. His pay? $180 per month, or 48 cents per hour.

Michael's sister, on his right, works 364.5 days per year. This day was her only half-day off for the entire year, including weekends. She, too, works twelve hours per day, but her pay is $80 per month, or 24 cents per hour.

Goods are somewhat less expensive in China, but by no means are they that much less expensive. And can you imagine working that hard at a job for such a pittance?

We're trying to get Michael over here to go to school. His English is remarkable. He should be able to cope just fine. China doesn't care if people leave. The problem is getting into the USA. But can you imagine what he could do for his family if he could come here and get an education?

Cold again

Nine below in March. That's a jolt after the nice, melting day yesterday.

The effects of any cold weather are mitigated in March because you know it won't last forever. One month from now, the Twins will be playing, the snow will be melting and things will be looking up. If there's a blizzard or two in the meantime, fine.

I am partial to blizzards this winter because I want the swamp in front of my house to fill up. It drained last summer when the beaver dam holding the water in place broke down. It was also dry.

The pond is about six acres, I figure. Only 30 acres drains into those six acres. So I keep computing how much moisture is needed on those thirty acres to get two to three feet of water in the swamp. The numbers aren't encouraging.

In fact, it will take a couple of years for the swamp to fill even if we have adequate moisture. I have trouble with that, and am considering setting up pipes with big pumps to take water out of the road ditch this spring and fill the swamp. Of course, that is not practical. Better to let nature take its course.

I HAVEN'T been very good about daily entries lately. My apologies to you regulars. I am at sort of an impasse. I have opinions on the issues of the day, but every time I post them, I get angry emails telling me I am misguided. That stirs me up, and then you can start firing emails back and forth. So, unless I am an elected official or a paid journalist, getting tangled in the debates of the day seems like an unnecessary disruption. Much more fun to post pictures of birds.

On the other hand, I am appalled at many of the things that are going on.

For instance, I turned on the television the other night. Larry King was on. His whole hour was devoted to the Anna Nicole Smith funeral. Before I had a chance to switch the channel, he blared in his trombone voice to the reporter on the scene: "Was any thought given to an open casket?"

Thanks for the relevant journalism, Larry. I turned the channel before I heard the response.

I read some political weblogs each day. I am beginning to question the worth of the exercise. On one hand, a person can be more informed now than ever before. On the other, one can have his or her day unnecessarily stirred up by overexposure to the idiocies of the day.

Debates go on throughout the day between prominent political bloggers. They exchange salvos by the hour. They check each others' facts. They make fun of each other. They call each other names. And millions watch. It isn't so far off from Jerry Springer.

The net effect, I think, is that people are more convinced than ever that they are right. For any wierd opinion, you can find fellow believers on the internet. These fellow believers reinforce each other in their beliefs, mock all those who would differ with them and spin off into their own world of fantasy.

For instance, there was and article in the Fargo Forum this morning about a Northwest Airlines pilot who believes that 9/11 was a plot by Boeing, and that most passenger planes have detonation devices planted in them already. Ahem. Well, this nutcase posts on a website which has millions of visitors. Millions. When you have numbers like that, convincing people that they are nutcases becomes more difficult.

The mocking tone of the fringe web-based political commentators is the most troubling to me. You have people with the strangest ideas--say that the world is flat, or that it was created pre-aged 6,000 years ago despite all evidence to the contrary, or that it is going to end soon with Armageddon--confidently sharing the stage on equal footing with people who actually require solid, real-life evidence for their conclusions. You have Holocaust-deniers acting like their beliefs are just an alternative view.

It is sobering to me that we still spend so much energy sorting out belief from fact.