Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.


The art of chiseling is fast falling by the wayside. Gone are the days when a little haggling was expected on most any purchase. More and more, the price is the price and that’s that.

Even car dealerships are coming around. Long a bastion of haggling and deceptive pricing gimmicks, more and more dealerships put the final, unalterable price on the vehicle right from the beginning.

Up-front pricing is a good thing. Why should a person have to be a jerk to get a fair deal? Why should nice people who naively assume that businesses mean what they say get ripped off in the process?

The Attic

One of the charms of any old house always was the attic. Oh, to sort through an old attic, stacked with boxes and antiques, musty and hot in the summer, cold and creaky in the winter.

The things you might find in the attic: Baseball cards worth thousands. Antiques. Old letters. Boxes of photos. A spinning wheel. Junk which somebody way back didn’t want to throw, but which was too delicate to put out into the woods.

When I was a child, our attic was the upstairs of the old granary. That was where old things were put that had to be kept dry.

The Sturgis effect

A simple trip through the Black Hills for a little vacation wasn’t so simple this August. Turns out, half the country had the same idea.

Before arriving, I called my favorite hotel, an old brick monster in downtown Rapid City, built in the 1920s, refurbished only slightly since, a place where I stayed last winter for a very modest fee.


People who build a deck onto their house in this neck of the woods often seem to think they’ll actually use the thing to barbeque steaks and sip lemonade more than twice per summer.

But decks, like exercise machines, offer a promise of change in lifestyle which is seldom fulfilled. Building a deck is one thing. Actually making use of it is another.


The national political convention season is upon us. Yawn. If anything’s certain, it’s that nothing of interest will happen at either one. I’ll be watching baseball, thank you.

Gone are the days when national political conventions were rowdy, boozy affairs where pot-bellied pols made momentous decisions in smoke-filled hotel rooms.

Instead, conventions have become made-for-television events, devoid of all substance, stripped of any drama by a primary system which prevents delegates from changing their mind.

The Stages of Life

Psychologists have noted that humans go through different stages of development as they age. Very few people are able to escape their genetic programming. It lies deep within us, and it drives us to do things that we later find inexplicable.

It starts early. Young kids will always run, run, run until they bump their head, at which point they will cry, cry, cry, until they get over it and run, run, run again. All you can do is let them run.

Suburbanites back for a visit

Summer is when small towns throw parties. County fairs. Carnivals. Prairie Chicken Days. Water Carnivals. Centennial celebrations.

Up from the suburbs come the small-town expatriates--those who left for college and never came back--decked out in over-sized khaki shorts, sunglasses and tennis shoes, ambling around town angling for conversations with somebody they once knew.

The key to happiness

After going nearly four years without locking my keys in my pickup, I did so twice in the past week.

My pickup is not equipped with that device that unlocks locked cars from space. Instead, I keep a spare key not very well hidden underneath. I am not afraid to declare that publicly. How many car thieves read the newspaper?

The hidden key trick worked the first time. Although some bystanders might have wondered what I was doing crawling under my muddy pickup in a shirt and tie, that humiliation was minor compared to having to call the cops for help.

Rural real estate boom

After years of stagnation, the area real estate market is sizzling. The price of farmland has gone nuts. No surprise there, given the low interest rates and the improved prices for farm commodities.

What is surprising is that non-tillable woods and swamps which were once considered junk now sell for premium prices as hunting land.

Hunting land? What a concept. Who could have ever imagined that city dwellers would pay $1000 per acre for the privilege of shooting deer one weekend per year? The notion offends the sensibilities of the sensible people who have lived here forever.

June pessimism

When the beautiful June weather finally hits and the northern countryside turns a vivacious green, there is always some spoilsport eager to point out that pretty soon the days will start getting shorter.

These are the same cranks who ruin the fun of a mild winter by warning of an imminent drought next summer, or spoil a much-needed rain by saying, “now I suppose it won’t know when to quit.”

Pessimists find a dark cloud for every silver lining. When we finally have a warm spring day, it isn’t fifteen minutes before they complain about the heat.