Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

May 25, 2007

Manic depressive May weather

It has either been balmy warm or chilly cold this May. Very little in between. The fluctuations happen quickly. Today was really very nice, although some low-lying areas had frost last night. At least one gardener lost his tomatoes. Young melons, pumpkins and squash are at risk of keeling over in the cool weather whether it freezes or not.

It was very nice to have a little rain settle down the dust before the winds returned.

TWINS: Watched the last innings of tonight's nice win over Toronto. I haven't watched a game in weeks! It was good to see Nathan and Neshek do their thing--that is, giving us all a scare and then getting the out when it matters.

In the middle of the day today, I got an email from a newspaper editor who had warned me earlier in the week that he had an early deadline of this morning for next week's column due to the Memorial Day holiday. I had forgotten his warning. He emailed to remind me.

Ooops. I had all of an hour to write a column, and the nursery was busy. Luckily, the phone quit ringing and others took up the slack and I managed to put together 689 marginally coherent words in time for deadline. We'll see if when I read it over I will find it worth reworking for the next column in all the other papers. Sometimes, a quick, sudden deadline is a good thing.

May 24, 2007

Officers against torture

Here is yet another high-ranking military officer against the use of torture. His letter is brief but eloquent.

Gen. Petreaus is against torture. Most of the generals are against it. It degrades the torturer. It yields misleading intelligence. It ruins our status abroad. It threatens those soldiers who are captured, both in this conflict and in future conflicts. And, above all, it is indecent.

People who support "enhanced interrogation techniques" as a policy have a lot to answer for, especially the low-grade thugs in the Justice Department who drew up the legal justifications. I am absolutely appalled at the people in the administration who consciously and deliberately set about to torture, as well as anybody amongst their supporters who justified it by calling it by other names.

Amongst those are many supporters who claim to be quite Christian, despite their contempt for the rule of law, their zeal for military solutions to every problem, their paralyzing fear of all that isn't familiar to them, and their willingness to hand moral authority and governmental power over to anybody willing to mouth the right phrases about the Lord. These moral midgets clothe themselves in righteousness over issues like gay marriage but seem downright enthused about torturing people. They have been leant far more credibility and attention than they deserve.

Goof ups

Inevitably, we goof up some orders in the spring. We take in a pot to fill for somebody, and it breaks. We agree to set something aside and then it disappears. We tell somebody we have something, they drive fifty miles, and then we don't have it. Such goof ups drive me nuts, but we have been minimizing them in the last few years.

However, yesterday was the exception. I committed two of the worst sort of goof ups: Those having to due with the recently deceased.

Sometime a month ago, a lady came to me with a request. She had one kind of peony set aside, but she wanted to switch it to another one that blooms on Memorial Day. I said I would switch it. I wrote it on a note, but the note got misplaced. I found it yesterday, knew I was in trouble since we were now out of the kind of peony she wanted, but hoped it would take care of itself.

It did not. The woman came yesterday, asked for her peony, and I had to tell her that not only had I failed to do what I said, but we were now out. She paused and then broke down crying. The peony was a memorial for her daughter.

A few hours later, a customer came to pick up an order for somebody. She had no idea what was in the order, she was just here to pick it up. Well, I remembered taking the call. It was a "could you set aside" call, and since we had plenty of what she wanted, I didn't treat the note with urgency, never suspecting that an emissary would arrive to pick up the order who had no idea what was in it.

Those trees were a memorial for another person! So, I botched two memorials in one day. Uff da. However, I got ahold of the party and they weren't upset.

As for the first woman, she recovered. Brother Joe was describing a bush to her. She wanted to know how big it got, and Joe held out his arms in as big a circle as he could, and she said, "Oh, you mean about as big as my ass?"

May 23, 2007


Thanks to weblog reader Irene for correcting the spelling of the German delicacy which I used in my column.

Then, I got an email today from Karen of Karen's Kuchens out of Cavalier, North Dakota. She bakes kuchens and sells them over the internet. Let's give her a little business!

Furthermore, Karen is originally from Ashley, North Dakota, which is my mother's home town. Her recipes are likely of the same provenance as those my grandmother used.

And the picture of the kuchen on her website is perfect--that is what a kuchen should look like.

May 22, 2007


Tuesday went much better than Monday. The credit card machine was replaced. The lost transactions were found somewhere on some machine. I got my bureacratic bungling taken care of by 11 o'clock. And the rest of the day was spent battling the tremendous south wind.

Tonight, we are getting some badly needed rain. There is a pleasant amount of thunder and lightning. I hope we get over an inch. We are dry.

With my satellite dish on the fritz, I didn't get to watch Santana dominate the Texas Rangers tonight. However, I am in no hurry to get the dish back on as it is sort of good to take a vacation from that thing for a while. I am overstimulated anyway. I relish quiet!

After things calm down at the nursery, I am going to pull back into my shell and write my book on the Halstad ball teams of 1952.

A few months ago, I wrote about Gus Isaacson, a legendary pitcher for the Fertile team. Today, a local old-timer who played with Isaacson was out at the nursery. The story was that Isaacson was the greatest pitcher seen in these parts, but he got swept off the shores of Guam by a tsunami during the Korean War and was never found.

Well, that story got the kabosh today by the gentleman who stopped by the nursery. Yes, Isaacson was a great pitcher, and yes he died in Guam, but the circumstances were probably a bit more interesting. Isaacson had struggles with depression. "On the mound, he was king," said the man I talked with today, "but once off it he fell apart."

Because Isaacson was a great pitcher, the team named him manager one season. Well, he couldn't handle managing and he ran off--to Guam. He was an electrician there. He wasn't likely in the military. He just left the country because he couldn't stand the pressure around here.

Or, at least that is the latest version!

Ah, that is the fun of doing historic research. Isaacson isn't a big enough part of the book for me to spend a lot of time researching this matter, but I probably won't be able to resist chasing down the facts later on.

For the record, the gentleman out here today had batted against Isaacson once. "He threw three straight pitches at my head!" he said. "I hit the dirt on all three. And I was out. All three were strikes." Now that is quite a curveball.

I also found out some tidbits that I will follow up on about the basketball district games in 1950 and 1950. Fertile beat Halstad both years. "But we got lucky," said the gentleman today. "It was a fluke."

Ashcroft revisited

I never thought I would see John Ashcroft as a hero, but with the present bunch of cowboys in charge, anything is possible.

May 21, 2007

Forced writing

Last night, I failed in an attempt to get a column idea. I know the newspapers need the column by the morning, but sometimes when I get it there by eight they don't seem to mind. I went to bed with 1/2 a column written, but awoke to find it lacking, so I deleted it and started from scratch at six a.m.

I didn't have an idea until ten to seven. Then things started rolling a bit, although I was never that satisfied. As I was finishing, one editor wrote an email, "Do you have a column this week?" I wrote him back, "In five minutes..."

I should have gone back to bed right then, for the day proceeded to be a Monday of Monday's. When we got started, Mom noticed that the credit card machine hadn't spit out its usual report over night. I wouldn't have even noticed, but Mom called the company and sure enough, they had absolutely no record of yesterday's credit card transactions at the nursery. That's a lot of money to have evaporate into thin air.

So, Mom got on the phone with some woman at company headquarters in Kentucky. After going on and off hold for over two hours, Mom gave up trying to understand the woman's Kentucky accent and handed the phone over to me. It didn't take me long to despair as well. The woman not only couldn't talk our language, but she didn't know what she was doing. Customers were lined up at the till with their credit cards, and we had two people tied up trying to understand somebody from Kentucky.

Finally, we called the local sales guy who convinced us to use this credit card company, and he said he'd be here in the morning to make it all right.

Well, he'd better.

That set the tone for the day. Later another bureaucratic bungle appeared which is going to take 1/2 a day tomorrow, at least, to resolve.

And then a salesperson appeared. Nice enough guy--brilliant, in fact, with an interesting and well-concieved product--but he woke me from my nap. Now, if a paying customer or employee wakes me from my nap, I don't mind, but when it is somebody selling something, my inclination is to keep sleeping and hope they go away.

It was a good weekend at the nursery, despite the cold weather. Saturday was odd. It was chilly, and people were crabby. When we were in the lunchroom exchanging war stories, the crew decided that either we were cranky, the customers were unusually ornery, or a combination of the two. My favorite event that day was a phone call from a woman who bought some petunias at Wal-Mart and said they looked just awful, "what can I do to perk them up?"

Sunday was a different story. What a difference ten degrees and a little sunshine makes. The day went smoothly, and once the sun came out, the yard filled with cars and everybody seemed to have a good time.