Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.

Freedom

The world yearns for freedom, we are told, yet freedom doesn’t seem to guarantee happiness. For many people, in fact, it seems that freedom brings misery.

An example: In communist East Germany, you had no choice what career you entered. The government decided that for you. You took a test and boom, you were off to engineering school.

With the exhilarating fall of the Berlin Wall, millions became free. Nobody told the citizens of formerly communist countries what to do. And, as was later and more quietly reported, millions became disoriented. What should I do? Who should I be?

An important meeting

The Tri-County Interagency Collaborative Committee (TCICC) held its monthly meeting last Thursday. Nobody, including the committee’s members, knows what the TCICC does, but it continues to hold very important-sounding meetings on a timely basis.

Topping the agenda this past meeting was a brainstorming session to facilitate the development of a mission statement which accurately reflects the TCICC purpose.

Reading directions

If I ever learn how to read manuals, my life would be so much easier. The VCR would advance beyond a blinking 12:00. My watch wouldn’t beep at the top of every hour. My pickup clock would be on Central time. And that’s just clocks!

What about computers? Every new one comes with reams of manuals and stacks of compact discs--although all the information you need is supposedly already on the computer under the so-called “help” menu.

When the box arrives, I get my nose right into the manual. Plug your machine in. Easy! Turn on the switch. No problem! Turn on the monitor. A breeze!

Dropping in

You know, people just don’t drop in like they used to.

In the old days, if stories from my older relatives provide any clue, people dropped in at the drop of a hat. It was expected that the coffee would always be on. Women knew to keep extra food in the pantry just in case somebody dropped in about dinner time.

Nowadays, the only time people just drop in is if they run out of gas or blow out a tire by your driveway on the way to town. Disaster is a legitimate reason to drop in, otherwise people pretty much want to be left alone.

House in a swamp

Last winter while cross country skiing on the farm place, I was struck by the beauty of our big swamp out back. The snow-dusted black ice, surrounded by reeds, oak woods and poplar groves, was utterly serene as sunset approached that December afternoon.

After crossing the ice, I struggled through the reeds, then reached shore and climbed a gentle bank into the deep oak woods.

Ode to Fall

Rain or shine, there’s nothing like September and October in the northland. Take a poll and I’d be willing to bet that over 62% of registered voters prefer the fall over any other season.

The most obvious argument in favor of fall is the weather. It is crisp in the morning, moderate during the day, cool again by evening. The air is clean, not muggy. The mosquitoes are in retreat.

Santana

After the Twins beat the Orioles 5-1 Sunday afternoon behind another astonishing pitching performance by lefty Johan Santana, the Twins’ mascot TC ran around the field waving a Venezuelan flag.

As well he should have. Santana won the game, helped along by fellow Venezuelans Henry Blanco and Luis Rivas, who hit home runs.

In the dugout charting Santana’s pitches in preparation for his next start was Twins pitcher, Carlos Silva, also from Venezuela. In the bullpen ready to bail out Santana out of possible trouble was another Venezuelan pitcher, Juan Rincon.

Commissioner race turns nasty

It didn’t take long for the local race for county commissioner to turn nasty. Although most observers agree that the incumbent, Carl Peterdal, handled the flood of 2001 pretty well, his challenger Percy Bjornrud says Peterdal lacks a coherent vision for the future.

For many county residents, Carl Peterdal will forever be remembered for crawling atop a pile of sandbags with his bullhorn and exhorting volunteers to “not let this here mess get you down.”

End times

Last month, explorers in Peru found a previously undiscovered ancient city. Just last week, archeologists discovered a previously unknown 2,500-year-old tomb in Egypt filled with thousands of colorful statues of soldiers.

It makes one wonder: When our present civilization collapses and is buried by centuries of sand, sediment and silt, what do you suppose future archeologists will make of us? What discoveries will amaze and amuse them?

War politics

Where were you during the war?

It is often the most prominent question in electoral politics, and this year is no exception. Did John Kerry’s boat ever cross the Cambodian border as he has often claimed? Did George W. Bush ever show up for his cushy National Guard job?

Politicians have known for centuries that the most effective way to win an election is to come back from the war a hero. Some were authentically heroic, of course, but some of our greatest politicians stretched things a bit.