Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.

Lonely in a crowd

One striking feature of modern life is the loneliness many people seem to experience even while in a crowd--even while they are busier than ever and more connected than ever by electronic devices.

In fact, the myriad gadgets which connect people only seem to make loneliness worse. One person may have called today, but ten others did not. Three people emailed today, but twenty other people were silent.

Crazy ideas

In a few days, the legislative session will begin in Minnesota. Legislators will introduce thousands of bills. Most of the bills will never reach the floor, much less pass--which is a good thing.

Any idiot can introduce a bill, and many do. A legislator who wants some attention might introduce a bill to give twelve year olds the right to vote, for example, knowing full well that it will never pass, but also knowing that if the media picks it up, interviews by the dozen will follow.

The pleasures of dictatorship

Some political scientists have argued that the most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship. I agree, at least when it comes to building a house.

As dictator of my house building project, I lay down the rules. Those rules include, but are not limited to, the following:

No fluorescent lights. Fluorescent lights are of the devil. They make all things and people look washed out and blue, and they make me dizzy. Plus, they buzz. Fluorescent lights should be banned nationwide, but for now I will settle for banning them in my house.

Thin ice

Last week handed us one of those perfect winter days--sunny, just above freezing, perfectly still--when you just have to get out and do some work. I decided to cut wood.

I cranked up the Mitey Mac skid steer loader and started clearing a path down to the swamp, where swaths of fallen firewood awaited.

When I got to shore of the swamp, I spotted a bunch of dead willow clusters that I had been wanting to get rid of since I decided to build a house overlooking the swamp last summer.

Canadian Brass

The world-reknowned Canadian Brass found their way to the Bemidji High School auditorium on an icy evening a week ago, as did several hundred locals who came in from the cold to listen and watch.

They’ve played for presidents, prime ministers, and kings and queens. They’ve performed on the Tonight Show, recorded specials for PBS, and appeared on other national television programs.

Shop ghosts

For the past few months, I have been dying to get out on our big swamp to cut down some of the unsightly dead willow brush that sticks up out of the water.

With the ice finally strong enough to hold me this past weekend, I fired up the chainsaw, trudged out on the ice and started shaving away the dead sticks. It worked like a charm. I looked forward to piling the brush up in the middle of the ice and starting a big bonfire after sunset.

Thanksgiving disorientation

The first snow of the season, however gentle it falls, hits me like a punch in the gut and sends me reeling for a couple of days. Winter is inevitable, yet I seem incapable of greeting it with Zen-like equanimity.

This year, the first snow came the day after Thanksgiving, which only heightened the confusion. Not only does Thanksgiving break up one’s weekly routine by making Friday seem like Sunday, but the big meals, leftover sandwiches and frequent naps make a person feel jet-lagged.

Early Christmas music

The temperate November weather made it even more of a shock last week when I heard “Sleigh Bells Ringing” in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, a full week before Thanksgiving.

Without thinking, I yelled to nobody in particular, “It’s too early for Christmas music!” A fellow grump down in the oatmeal section mumbled, “I agree!”

Nobody changed the station. The most irritating Christmas song of all kept shing, shing, shingaling-ing in my ears all the way from the Cherrios over to the Doritoes two aisles down.

A defense of hicks

City-dwellers have long held their country cousins in contempt. We’re rubes, hicks, rednecks, bigots, ignorami, quaint remnants of a bygone era.

But the urban intelligentsia’s disdain for all things rural got a whole lot worse with the re-election of George Bush, a disaster for which America’s rural people are apparently responsible.

Bush states are red. Kerry states are blue. If you break it down by county, the color differential becomes even more obvious: Rural areas went for Bush while urban areas and college towns tilted towards Kerry.

Voting

Not a single lawyer, poll observer, exit pollster, picketer or media representative greeted me when I voted at Sundal Town Hall last Tuesday. You’d think we don’t exist out here the way people ignore us.

Sundal Township has just over seventy registered voters. Turnout is usually close to 100%. It is almost to the point where if you don’t vote they send out a party to see if you’ve fallen and can’t get up.