Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

March 23, 2007

Melt picks up

It is going to remain above freezing all night tonight. That is when things start to dry out and the remaining snow goes fast. We still need rain, so if any of those predictions come true, I don't think anybody would argue.

The yard at the nursery is a mud hole. My pickup is covered in mud, but why wash it until it the puddles dry out?

Flocks of geese are flying low. They don't land in my swamp because there's not enough water. It is nice to hear them honking. It is a sign of spring.

WENT into the Fertile Hilton today on a cookie mission. Successfully smuggled out another zip lock bag full. Aunt Olla is now out of zip lock bags, so I will have to bring some more in so she can continue to hoard the cookies.

When I arrived today, Olla was busy clipping coupons for vitamins. If she uses even half of the coupons she clipped, she will empty her bank account completely.

I also brought in some clippings of a newspaper article about the McCoy Ministries out of Jamestown, ND. Olla is a big fan. The old Rev. McCoy started his radio show during World War II from his living room. His wife played the piano and sang, and he gave a message. If I remember right, he would plow right through the entire Old Testament, taking a few years to do it, expositing each verse.

I remember my Grandpa listening to McCoy while he sorted trees down in the old cellar. McCoy had a trombone monotone voice, an old-time radio voice, which he didn't modulate as equipment improved in the 1970s. So, he always sounded a bit like Ed Murrow reporting from London, which I suspect was part of his appeal.

Rev. McCoy and his wife are long dead, but his grandson is carrying on the ministry.

However, the main issue is that Rev. McCoy often talked about his relations, the McCoys who fought with the Hatfields in Kentucky. Of course, that branch of his family provided a great example of the fall of man.

But, by marriage, it turns out that we are related to boththe Hatfields and McCoys. My Aunt Jean is from southern Indiana, and she is tied in to both sides of the clan feud.

So, Aunt Olla deduced, much to her satisfaction, we are actually related to the McCoys of the McCoy Ministries in Jamestown!

I told Olla I would put that one on my resume.

Resident numbers are up at the Hilton, Olla reports, so the higher ups look a little more relaxed. It was tough for a while this winter when numbers suffered due to attrition of various sorts.

Olla is still getting along famously with her new roomate Bernice. You'd think they were college freshmen the way they gab and carry on.

So, all is well at the Hilton.

Tomorrow, I provide entertainment for the REA annual meeting in Halstad. If memory serves me correctly, they have a good piano and a nice sound system. I think I'll mention something about the 1952 project just to see if I get any feedback after the program.

The biggest game for Halstad that year was the region final against heavily favored Thief River Falls. The game was played in Thief River. Halstad won after overcoming an 11-point fourth quarter deficit.

Today, I called the assistant coach for that Thief River team. He lives in Wisconsin. I explained my purpose in calling. As soon as I mentioned the word "Halstad," he said, "Oh, you would punch me in the gut like that." He was still upset at the officiating, and he remembered the names of the officials.

Turns out the man was considered an unofficial assistant coach because he was such a big fan. It was sort of a running joke. One of my sources must have thought it would be funny to have me call him and ask about his assistant coaching career, when in fact he just sat in the stands and yelled a lot.

March 22, 2007

Joe Mauer will be okay

I'll get to that in a moment.

But first, some background. I had a meeting tonight of our local Early Childhood Initiative. We are trying to figure out how to help young children. We will be working with a grant from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. I am on their board. So I was at the local meeting in a dual capacity.

Also at the meeting was the mother of my friend Cynthia, a fourth grader, and the youngest known daily reader of this weblog. As the meeting progressed, Cynthia came in after basketball practice (in fourth grade?) in her uniform (in fourth grade?) with her last name printed on the back (in fourth grade?).

Cynthia plopped down in the chair next to me and quickly picked up on the jist of the meeting. We were discussing what might be a nice gift for local child-care providers--some books with ideas for games, etc., with pre-schoolers, or some activities, or educational toys, or some games, or...what?

Cynthia whispers to me, "They have a shelf of books like this at daycare. They don't need any more books, what they need are some craft supplies."

Well! I decided to share Cynthia's opinions with the group, and it is likely that her opinion will carry the day.

So, as the meeting was breaking up, Cynthia and I were kibbutzing about the Twins. Cynthia is getting to be a bigger Twins fan than I am. She visits their website every day, and she has memorized the middle names of all the players (I kid you not) so she can properly scold them when they screw up. For instance, when Joe Mauer strikes out, she yells "Joseph Patrick Mauer!" at the television.

None of her family objects to this because it takes some of the pressure off them.

This is the girl who overheard complain to her father that the insurance company was making me move my wood stove forty more feet from the house. She didn't act like she understood at the time, but six months later when she visited with her parents, the first thing she said when she got out of the car was, "You were supposed to have that stove moved six months ago!"

Anyway, I casually mentioned to Cynthia that Joe Mauer had injured his leg. I had no idea that Cynthia would take the news so hard. She broke into tears! I felt bad that I had even brought it up, because Joe Mauer is going to be okay, and it isn't going to be a long-term problem, we hope.

March 21, 2007

Lifelong learning

Today, I drove to Clearbrook to talk to their Lifelong Learning seminar. It is mostly retired people. Community ed puts it on. There were well over 100 people there. I sang and played and talked.

It went fine. The people in Clearbrook are always fun and inquisitive.

I talked about China. For some reason, when the hour ended, I realized I had just told the sobering things and none of the funny things. I tried to sneak in some of the funnier stories, but it was too late. We were well into question time, and the questions were good. However, I realize now the presentation might have been a bit of a downer to these people who had come to my talk expecting a pick-me-up.

Probably I tended towards the downer side because I have been battling some sort of tummy and tired bug. I could barely stay awake on the drive there and back, despite a full night's sleep last night, and when I got home I went straight to bed and slept hard, barely waking up long enough to run up to the nursery to have afternoon coffee with the crew, then coming home and flopping right back on the bed for a few more hours. Good grief, I feel like a vegetable. Utterly washed out.

I was supposed to serve as a "team member" tonight in Glyndon for a DNR meeting on setting deer population goals. I was asked because our nursery has always had trouble with the deer, and we are always whining to the DNR to get rid of the pests. We have no complaints about how the DNR has treated us. They have built us two expensive electric fences, and they seem eager to help us with the problem. If a deer gets in the fence, they'll get us a permit to shoot the thing within minutes. That does us little good, since none of us hunt or care to learn how to shoot, so when a deer gets in, we end up calling in neighbors or employees. But that's our problem, not theirs.

The problem still exists. Dad sprays with Liquid Fence, a deer repellant, all summer on some of the items we know the deer particularly love. However, we have simply quit raising some of the more touchy things, like apple trees, which we now buy in, and in fact the problem has sort of leveled off.

So, instead of going to the meeting, which I don't think would have worked, I emailed my thoughts. We were to determine whether we would opt for a 1) 50% decrease in deer population 2) 25% decrease 3) no change 4) a 25% increase in deer population and 5) a 50% increase in deer population. I opted for a 25% decrease, even though I suspect 50% would be just fine.

I almost wanted to go to the meeting just to see if anybody showed up advocating a 50% increase in deer population. That would have been a treat.

TWINS: Okay, today's game showed the problem. Fat Sidney Ponson got roughed up in his four innings. Seven hits, three runs. Young Matt Garza comes in and is lights out for three innings. One hit, no runs. The kid is ready. But where will he start the season? In Rochester. And Ponson will drag his fat butt out to the Metrodomemound once every five days for the first two months of the season to get beat up by the opponents much like he has for the past four years. Finally, Terry Ryan will see the light. In June, Garza will be brought up. Ponson will be cut loose, sent back to Aruba. And the Twins will see if they can undo the damage done to their record in the first two months of the season by a washed up pitcher.

Oh, I almost forgot. At the same time, Carlos Silva will be dragging his fat butt out to the mound every five days, and getting whiplash from watching all the home runs launched off his non-sinking sinker. By June, Terry Ryan will finally see the light and will bring up young Glen Perkins from Rochester. Silva will be sent back to Venezuala. And the Twins will see if they can undo the damage to their record done by yet another washed-up, rotund pitcher.

If Ryan and Gardenhire had some guts, they would cut Ponson and Silva loose now, be happy that one out of three of their washed-up retreads, Ramon Ortiz, has shown promise, and go with the young guys. But Ryan and Gardenhire are two of the most conservative people in baseball. Their record shows that they know what they are doing in the long run, but oh do they frustrate you in the mean-time.

One thing the three retreads have in common: They are head cases. Silva has lost his confidence. The struggle to get it back has gone on now for over a year. Ponson is a flake who went through treatment and now only has "a few glasses of wine at a time." Ahem, I don't think that's how rehab works, Sidney. Ortiz is an emotional guy who has had a tough time since his father died three years ago. While you want these guys to have a chance, my compassion goes out the window when I realize that they are all well-fixed multi-millionaires who are taking a roster spot away from a deserving broke rookie.

I haven't talked about Boof Bonser. He had a fine September last year. And that was it. He stunk in July. Perhaps he started pulling it together, perhaps it was a fluke. I like Bonser, but he has, what, fifteen major league starts under his belt?

The Twins season is going to hinge on their starting pitching. It could be phenomenally good. Or it could be woefully bad. An injury to Santana could throw the whole thing into chaos.

Ah, but no matter what, the Twins are set to be an entertaining team.


A great article in today's Tribune about a player from a 1931 state tournament team who lived to see his town return to State this year. Look at the obvious respect the young players and their coach have for the gentleman in the photographs.

March 20, 2007

Retired Teachers

At noon today, I spoke to a retired teachers group in Grand Forks. Most such groups are pretty tame. This one was not. They were lively and fun.

I gave them a choice: I could give them the talk I have given other teacher groups about the value of teaching (it's more interesting than it sounds, at least I think so), a standard gardening talk, or I could talk about China. It was pretty much unanimous: China.

This is consistent with what I have found since I returned from China. People are very interested in the place. I have heard people who went to China fifteen years ago complain that when they came back, nobody really cared to hear about their trip. The interest level was low. I am finding great interest.

Perhaps it is because by now people know that China is going to be the next economic dynamo. They see "Made in China" on nearly everything they buy.

Anyway, what a good audience retired teachers make. Great questions. I had a sense that they are hearing the nuances, not just the big picture. They showed genuine interest, without condescension towards the country in question.

Last week, I gave a talk to a Rotary group. I asked them what they wanted to hear, too, since I had been asked to talk about trees. They wanted to hear about China. So, that's what they got.

It was funny. One man had a court appearance (as a witness) at one o'clock. He warned me in advance that he would have to leave at quarter to. But at three minutes before the hour, he was still there, standing by the door, listening to me blab about China. So I kicked him out.

Tomorrow, another speech which was supposed to be about gardening or whatever, but which I think will end up being about China. I really enjoy the topic, so I am happy to oblige. I feel a little guilty; I am supposed to be on the road promoting the nursery, not talking about China.

TWINS: I tuned in to the Twins on television tonight. It was great to see baseball, but I knew that the pre-season game wouldn't hold my attention. Something doesn't work for me when I know there is nothing at stake. Real games will come soon enough.

IMMIGRANTS: I have had more responses on the column on immigration than on most, so far all positive. I just got real torqued off last week when one of those hateful emails arrived which made all sorts of charges about the freeloading immigrants. Just nasty stuff, when you consider the abject poverty in Mexico. I am glad I had a week to cool off before I wrote the column.

Columns like that make many people think I am pretty liberal. That's fine. I probably am. Trouble is, the liberals I know often think I am pretty conservative. So, I am pleasing nobody when I write on things political.

I guess that probably cuts it about right.


Lavelle E. Neal II writes a good piece on the issue of Carlos Silva.

There are times when pitchers just plain lose their mental edge and never get it back. I think that is what has happened to Silva. Don't feel sorry for him, he has a guaranteed $4.5 million contract for this year. He should be set for life whether or not he gets his edge back.

The place for such a pitcher to get his edge back is in Kansas City, playing for the Royals. The Twins do not have the time nor the need, what with about six quality starting pitchers vying for Silva's spot, to wait for Silva's psyche to heal.

I don't like to make predictions. They are usually wrong. But I am wondering if this won't be the year that Santana throws a no-hitter. One of these years, he's going to pull it off.

Twins blogs

In addition to the Star Tribune's excellent coverage of the Twins, I have been reading some of the weblogs that have popped up in the past few months.

Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins for the Tribune, and has now moved on to academics, but he has returned as a fan to register his commentary.

Joe Christenson is a good writer who covers the national baseball scene for the Trib.

LaVelle E. Neal III is the Twins beat reporter. Can you imagine a better job in the world?

Then there are the blogs I prefer, the more spontaneous ones started by non-professional journalists who turn out to be more fun than real journalists.

The most prominent of those in Twins land is Aaron Gleeman, who as you can see from today's entry, has gotten so big in blog land that he was hired by NBC and now has a house. This means that his Twins blog is suffering from a lack of Twins-related content right now, although there is a pretty graphic picture of Gleeman's ear post-surgery if you page down a bit.

Blogger Seth from Warroad digs up stuff from the past and goes into almost impossible detail about all things Twins.

The Pioneer Press, like Avis, is number two and not trying very hard. They just lost their somewhat mediocre reporter Jason Williams on March 10, and their new one is sort of clueless. Updates to their baseball blog have been sporadic and of spotty quality.

March 19, 2007

St. John's

Went to speak this weekend at a Master Gardener's workshop on the campus of St. John's University near St. Cloud. The building where the workshop was held was near the famous modern chapel at St. John's.

The building is unabashedly concrete. The forms for the concrete were lumber, and the imprint that the lumber made on the concrete was allowed to remain after the forms were removed. So, the concrete has knots.

I took a couple of pictures inside, but there was a monk in there chanting, so I didn't quite feel as if I should be there clicking away. I should have brought the silent point-and-shoot camera.

I started the trip to St. Cloud from Bemidji. I took Highway 64 south from Kebokona Corner to Akeley, then Motley, a beautiful route I have never taken before. Along the way, I saw several bald eagles. This is the only one traffic allowed me to stop and photograph.