Archive - Apr 2013


April 30th

Turning the corner

So much has happened to the climate in the past few days. Yesterday, I went for a run on the railbed. Only last week, it was under drifts. I think it was last Friday that the ditches broke loose. The swamp in front of the house gathered a lot of water, but still is only about 30% full, if that.

The ground is still frozen in many places. However, the weather forecast looks pretty good.

We sit with a huge inventory, hoping to sell everything by June 10. I rest easy that we have done everything possible as far as promotion and preparation of inventory. Joe has managed things very well this spring, getting us readier than we ever have been. But oh man, do we have to sell stuff in the next four weeks. That's when it happens. 

The spring is fun for most of us, but Aunt Olive awoke with horrific back pain yesterday. It is tough to figure out what went wrong. Tests show no infection. It could be her back went out. It could be compression fractures. But it sure is no fun to see her in pain. The staff at the Hilton are so good to her. They keep a hot pack on her back, which makes her feel better. 

Yesterday, Olla thought she was ready to die, but today she thought she'd better wait a while, which is a good sign. She's worried that her funeral would conflict with the busy season at the nursery and then we wouldn't be able to properly plan. So, she is going to try to hang on until the end of the season. I tried to tell her that we'll put on a good funeral no matter when she goes, but you have to be careful not to act too flippant about the date. 

"I could die any moment!" she said to me yesterday. 

"So could I," I said. 

"No sympathy from you," she said with disgust. 

I really hope this back thing straightens out. The staff is doing all they can, as is the doctor. But it is no fun to see Aunt Olive in pain. 


April 26th

Tangled web...

Spoke 70 miles south of here at a townhall meeting today. About 80 people were present. I was speaking about peat, a favorite topic, when a woman raised her hand and said, "I did just like you said and put peat on my garden and it didn't grow!" 

Wow. I didn't know what to say. She had gotten her peat at Pete's Peat, which I had recommended last year at the same town hall. "We had only pumpkins, every thing else was dead," she said, as her husband looked at the floor with a little smile. It looked as if he had tried to stop her from speaking, but failed. She was too excited to show me up.

Afterwards, the husband came up to talk. He seemed sheepish. "Yeah, we got the soil four miles north of here and three miles west," he said, oddly specific. "What happened was the guy took a track hoe and reached out into the middle of the swamp and got some peat." 

Just then, the wife strode towards us. "So that was at Pete's Peat?" I said. 

"Well," the man said before his wife screeched, "Yes, it was Pete's Peat!" 

Well, Peat's Peat is nowhere near four miles north and three miles west of where we were. And he does not have a track hoe. And Pete would never simply take muck from the center of the swamp and plop it in somebody's truck. 

What happened, I finally figured out, was Mr. Husband told his insistent wife that he would get some Pete's Peat for her stupid garden. In the back of his mind, he had a plan. He knew a buddy who had some peat in his swamp and had a track hoe. He would get some for free there and wouldn't have to drive all the way to Peat's Peat and pay full price. 

He came home with some worthless crap and put it on the garden, only to have the useless muck kill everything except the pumpkins. His wife now blames Pete's Peat (and me) for their disaster. And the man hasn't had the guts to fess up yet that the junk he put on their garden was nothing close to Pete's Peat. 

Given the woman's sheer delight in embarrassing me in front of 80 people and ragging unfairly on Pete's Peat, I suspect she got her end of the bargain. The man should confess and make her joy complete: Having ragged on me, she could then focus her rage on her husband and milk the whole thing for more expression of anger. 

For his part, I think her husband was a despicable coward for not fessing up and saving the reputation of Pete's Peat (not the actual name) and myself.

But you just have to laugh!

Typical married stuff. 

April 24th

Yet More Promotion

Today, I loaded up about 900 catalogs and drove north to Red Lake Falls and Thief River Falls. Eventually, I stopped at 47 places. In the evening, I traveled to Newfolden to speak to a WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Church of America) Spring Fling. 

It was called a "salad luncheon." Oh, I was hungry. I worried that there would be lettuce with croutons. As the devotional finished, however, a grand parade of women bearing dishes emerged from the kitchen. It was clear that the Lutheran definition of "salad" still holds. It is anything that is cold. Chill a hotdish and it qualifies as salad. There were taco salads which, if heated, could have been served at a funeral. Countless macaroni dishes. Jello dishes. The only thing which a non-rural Minnesota Lutheran would actually call a salad on the buffet table was a spinach and strawberry salad. Just in case somebody was truly hungry, there were ham sandwiches at the end of the table. 

I did not go hungry. 

A woman came up to me before the program to say that she did not enjoy my columns this winter. She had enjoyed them in the past, but she did not enjoy them this winter. And she was a teacher, she added for good measure. I was not sure what to make of her comments. However, she came up to me afterwards again and started to list columns I had written ten years ago. She must have referred to five. All were about country life in the small town. Apparently, she preferred those. She is from the city originally, but she prefers columns about the country. And this winter, I was writing about Arizona, which included some articles about the city. So, that is where I must have gone wrong. I didn't feel too bad about it in the end. 

I am approaching 4500 in catalogs distributed. With the weather warming, I will soon have to stay at the nursery. It will be interesting to see how many people come to the nursery saying they picked up a catalog at so-and-so place. It is a gamble, I suppose, but I suspect it will pay. 



Radical small town mayor

Lake Park's mayor takes a stand that would have been radical only a couple of years ago. Read his story. 

April 23rd


Here is a study which concludes that those who believe in a punative god have more mental health issues. I would think this wouldn't even need study, but if a study is necessary to make the point, so be it. I am especially troubled by the effects of belief in an authoritarian father figure god, a belief which often, it seems, correlates with a childhood spent under an authoritarian father. 

April 19th

Promotion, cont.

It does me good with this late spring to be out distributing catalogs in the hopes that promotion will make up for the lateness of the spring. Today I stopped at 57 places and got rid of 900-some catalogs. I was rebuffed only four times, which is really remarkable considering I am basically a door-to-door solicitor. Even so, I don't take rejection kindly and it was all I could to not to plan the demise of those who said sent me away by saying, no, nobody here is interested in your gardening catalog. 

I arranged to be in Detroit Lakes for the noon hour, which allowed me my most guilty pleasure: A trip through the Kentucky Fried Chicken Buffet. A neighbor came and joined me for a good talk about crop prices, sub-soil moisture and the Twins. 

In and out, in and out all day in a raw wind. Tonight, my neck is sore. Must be getting old. I feel drafts. 

The highlight of the whole day was when I stopped at a nursing home to put a stack of catalogs in the staff lounge. Out in the hall keeping watch were three lively ladies who were full of vinegar. One clearly had Alzheimer's. She was telling me to behave! I said, yes I will behave! to which she added, emphatically, "You have great strength!" 

I throughly enjoyed the originality of the thought. How many times does a complete stranger tell you that you have great strength? 

Take what you can get. 

In sad news, a local boy made good, Stephen Gabrielsen, passed away this week. Although my father and his siblings grew up here in the old neighborhood with "Gabe," I only met him once, at my Uncle Bob's funeral. Gabe and Bob were classmates. Gabe generously agreed to drive up from the Cities to Lake Park, MN to make the music at Uncle Bob's funeral really, really something. Chill inducing. In particular, he used the organ to create a version of "A Mighty Fortress" like none I ever hope to hear again this side of the grave. (Or, in my case, the flower bed where my ashes will be spread). Then Gabe moved over to the piano and led the congregation in a version of "Jesus Loves Me." Uncle Bob couldn't sing or play a lick, but he would have been proud as punch to know that his childhood buddy Gabe made the music at his funeral grand. 


April 16th


With snow still everywhere, we aren't selling a thing yet at the nursery. However, that allows me the time to promote. We had a lot of extra catalogs printed and I spent the day distributing 1,100 of them to 62 stops. I started in Winger, went to Erskine, McIntosh, Fosston, Bagley, then Bemidji. I stopped at banks, convenience stores, all medical establishments, dentists, and a couple of manufacturing plants. People are very friendly, even if they haven't heard of the nursery. They like to get a full-color gardening catalog. 

The younger the person who greets me, the more suspicious. The older, the more eager they are to get a catalog themselves. Ended up visiting with the cleaning lady at one hospital and she said she would put 20 catalogs in the employee lunchroom, which is really what you want. Another lady in Bemidji asked for 40 catalogs to distribute to everybody she knew. You don't get much better PR than that! 

Last weekend, we distributed about 1,000 catalogs at the Grand Forks Home show. The week before that, I distributed about 800 in the Crookston-Grand Forks area. 

I try to concentrate upon places who have employees who are well paid, as you might expect. 



Here is what we should do in response to the Boston bombing: Keep calm and carry on. Except for the police work involved with solving the crime, we should move on in a hurry. No flags at half staff. No maudlin displays of injured national pride. No fear. No increased security. Nothing. Move on. Carry on. More people died and were injured in car accidents yesterday. We don't lower the flags for them. Why is it that when something happens in one place that we freak out as a nation and then do exactliy what the terrorists want: go bumbling into the Mideast with 100,000 troops to try to find the perpetrator? Police work is the answer, not maudlin national mourning. 

This is one of those days where Facebook becames unbearable due to the endless postings of crying bald eagles and other such nationalistic syrup. All sympathies to those who suffered injuries, but they are the same sympathies I have for Mrs. Ellen Nelson who died in a car crash in Pensacola, FL, or Herbert Severson who had a massive stroke in Appleton, WI, or Shalaqua Jackson who died in a drive-by shooting in Chicago, or any other human being who died yesterday. There was tragedy all over! 


April 15th

The right-wing mind

Here you have the right-wing mind in all its ugly glory. Read the article. Contemplate it. You have a professional radio announcer saying that the families of the victims at Newtown can "go to hell."

The right-wing mind celebrates displays of strength against helpless victims whereever it sees it. Most of the time, the right-wing mind has the good sense to keep its ugly thoughts private. But nowadays, their deep sadism, their thrill at seeing power used to crush the weak and helpless is expressed over and over, more openly than in any non-fascist state in my knowledge. 

Sean Hannity "sort of enjoyed" seeing the Rutgers basketball coach abuse his authority to beat players who didn't dare fight back. Hannity thought it "old-fashioned." It was indeed old-fashioned, redolent of slave days. 

Now, we see a radio host ranting to an audience he knows well, an audience that enjoys violence on a very deep level. If a few kindergarteners get in the way, well they can "go to hell." This man and his audience's right to arm themselves to the teeth is more important than keeping a few kids alive. He said it right there. 

These people are sick. 

I remember once when I had a couple of Brazilians working for me on a J-1 visa program. We weren't required to pay them much ($300 per month) because there were allegedly here to be "educated." We gave them the federal minimum, plus housing. Pretty meager. Trouble was, most farmers (some of them within 50 miles of here) on the program abused their workers, paying them less than $1 per hour, forcing them to work seven days per week, eighteen hours per day, and forcing them to sleep in shifts in overcrowded, filthy accomodations. I was appalled as I found out about this from the Brazilian students who worked for me. 

So, I brought up these obvious and atrocious abuses in conversation in front of somebody I already knew to be a right-wing bigot. He immediately defended the farmers and praised them for finding a way to get cheap labor. The students, he said, must have known what they were getting into. If it is legal, hey, how can you fault anybody for taking advantage? And those kids are lucky to have a job at all! They probably came from worse conditions.

What I am getting at with these posts is that I think there is a deep sickness in the right-wing mind, particularly the right-wing religious mind. They are sadistic and mean. They relish expressions of male authority, even when it strays into abuse, at which point they are quick to forgive the perpetrator and to blame the victim. And they love violence, whether they do so openly, or covertly. I have heard these types defend bullying. They are always, always in favor of corporal punishment, sometimes administering it to their small children in front of others with a self-righteous joy I find repulsive. Authority! They worship it to the point of fetish.

Remember, according to Pew research, no group in American society was a stronger supporter of government-sponsored torture during the so-called "War on Terror" than evangelical Christians, who are by definition right-wing. It wasn't even close. There is simply no sicker an abuse of power than torture, no matter the circumstance. Yet 71% of evangelicals support it. I have a big problem with this. It indicates something severely wrong with their culture and their philosophy. 

There is nothing Christian about these people's impulses, philosophy or actions. And yet they lord their holiness over the rest of us every chance they get.

Oswaldo Arcia

Put that name in the back of your mind. He made his debut tonight with the Twins at age 21. They have been trying to hold him back because he is so young, but he has torn the cover off the ball at every level of minor league play. I don't often make big bets on rookies, but this guy is going to be a star.

The Twins are struggling. Surprise, surprise. At some point  they are going to have some good streaks this year, however. It is young talent, but it is solid talent.