Rural Reflections

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Brand new columns-from the Grand Forks (ND) Herald's "Yesteryears" section.

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Full Support

I believe we are going to war and that our military is prepared to fight this war. I believe we will win this war. The only belief I do not hold is that all of the American public is ready for war. Our soldiers are prepared and now we need to prepare also. We must prepare in order to support our soldiers. They deserve much more but absolutely nothing less.

I would say preparedness and willingness to fight decreases the closer your come to Americas coast. The Midwest has always been willing to do the tough thing. We are the children of immigrants who paid a great deal of money to take a perilous trip across the sea for an uncertain existence in the new territories. We are the heart of the United States. We are the last to receive the latest trend and the first to be consulted when anyone takes the pulse of America. We hold the fewest people and yet we are the conscience of our country. When an important decision is to be made you never see a reporter talking to people in the large cities but rather the average person in a diner in a small town in Iowa, Wisconsin or right here. The Midwest for the most part is not effected by popular culture. Our values are learned in church and from our parents and not at the foot of a politically correct media that has no belief and no moral compass. We know when something threatens our existence we join together and prepare to fight.

People say that America is too mighty to be threatened by a thug like Saddam Hussein. I paid attention in history class. We read about a man who spent the 1920s in prison, the 30s basically as a gang leader and then almost defeated the world in the 1940s. Adolph Hitler wrote Husseins story years ago. Winston Churchill decided to fight Germany at a time when the people backed a naive diplomat named Neville Chamberlain who signed a meaningless pact with Germany that sold out much of Europe to buy a little time for England. Churchill rejected this path and prepared his people to fight. He did not stick his finger in the wind to find the most popular choice but instead followed a higher purpose. Tony Blair offers the same backbone today in the face of negative public opinion. The reason for these opinions is simple-given the choice, people will take the easy way out.

 

Ive watched a lot of television lately. Most of the coverage of the impending war has to do with people protesting. The angle of the camera usually hides the truth thats revealed by a broad angle lens. Most of these groups are small, radical and young. These are the same high school children who a year ago could not see past the universe which featured themselves as the focal point. Many are intelligent college students at that point in their life where the common sense they were born with has been taught out of them yet have inadequate prior experience to compare to a new situation. They are still young and testing authority and would probably rank protesting a war closely with bizarre clothing and piercing themselves as a way to upset their parents and call attention to themselves. The problem is they make good television and so that is what we see. The problem is that people see these scenes from a news source they believe to be credible and question a war to protect America. Our news source fails to prepare us by not presenting solid information and instead opting for something a little more sensational.

What can we do? The stoic Midwest must speak. The country needs our common sense and our morality more than ever. Our children must learn history and in some cases we need to learn at the same time. Popular opinion may sway people but we need to realize that television news programs have become simple entertainment and not simply the news. We must prepare our minds and our hearts for war. Our soldiers stand to fight to secure our existence. We are not there with them but they need to know that we are there with them. They comprise our family, our friends and our fellow Americans. We owe them nothing less than our full support.

The Apology

This week featured the holiday Valentines day. If you forgot the day you probably have now apologized several times since Friday. I began thinking about apologies a few weeks ago and I think I may be able to help make a good apology.

This story really began with something that happened at work. One person had yelled at one of my co-workers and had obviously made her quite unhappy. I reacted to this immediately but that incident would probably fit better in a story about loyalty. In the end, this person apologized and then thought everything was fine. It was not fine. Somewhere along the way, people have forgotten what really makes an apology legitimate. An apology used to be a white hanky held up in surrender and was a door back into the good graces of the person youd offended. Nowadays it seems an apology is that same hanky only now the offender blows his nose in the hanky and leaves it with the victim. What I mean is that the offender uses the apology as a "quick-fix" in an effort to get what he or she wants or to avoid punishment for their actions. Its no wonder that in a generation (mine, unfortunately) that grew up with electronic equipment that can be repaired by punching the "reset" button that weve begun to see an apology as the equivalent of a that same button.

I will attempt to diagram an apology without putting you to sleep. The words "Im sorry" are a request for forgiveness and to be allowed back into your victims life. We have learned that when the victim accepts the apology the incident is over. I believe when the apology is accepted the perpetrator now has to prove he/she really meant the apology. There is only one way to do this is to not do it again. I have observed people bring unhappiness on a mass-produced level as no one ever confronts the offender because of a quick, strategic apology that carries no more weight than the air that made the phony words come out of his mouth. Words let people know your intentions, acts let people know your heart. An apology without a change in deeds means nothing. You might just as well says, "Im going to do this again but I dont want to be seen in a poor light so Im going to say two words that mean nothing to me but will hopefully serve me well one more time." It certainly would be more honest.

The words "I apologize" should come from your heart and not just your mouth. Some may not agree and therefore will certainly have the opportunity to prove me correct over and over. Those that feel the same way will find what Ive found out. Those who know how to truly apologize rarely have to do so.

Spending Time

I am not the morbid sort but I do consider my own death. Ive always felt its healthy to consider the end as it motivates you to use every day to its fullest. Sometimes I think maybe Ive wasted a little time and so I take stock of whats been keeping me busy with hopes my time is spent wisely. I recently did a personal inventory and this is what Ive found out about myself.

 

Allan Jackson is one of my favorite country music singers. I like his attitude as he once said "no one will every remember you for what you owned." I agree with this, its character and not your bank account that tell the story of your life. You will never lie on your death bed wishing you had been at work more. I am usually in a sprinters stance waiting at the door for the end of my shift at the Sheriffs office. However, I do lose my perspective when it comes to my part-time self employment as a farmer. My nephew Jamie and I were working on my truck the other night when I realized it had gotten late. I called Lisa, pulled the pin and went home. I thought about being a work-aholic but stopped short. I had just spent time with a cherished family member and it was time well spent. My family has always worked together and many of our best times occurred at the end of a pitchfork. I thought about the other things I do around home. I work with cattle that I truly love and maintain buildings and equipment that make our lives enjoyable. Im a happier person and that makes time together with Lisa even better.

There is a down side though. I think time spent away from family isnt nearly as bad as the time you spend with family when your mind is elsewhere. Some people think about work, money or future projects all the time. I think about projects. I will walk myself through a project so many times that sometimes my hands will move and I havent even realized it. Its good to prepare but I think this might qualify as theft of time. Sometimes you have to just quit work and be with friends of family. The politically correct call it "face time" but thats not what I mean. Sometimes just quietly enjoying being in the same room is what you need but you have to be there not back on the tractor or on a fence line. You cheat the other person and yourself when youre there but your brain is elsewhere.

So what did I learn? I spend time like I spend money. I try to get the most from every dollar but occasionally will find myself buying too much fast food instead of home cooking. Then again, lets look at what I did today. I had coffee and jelly roll with my Dad this morning and chili and beer with my brother Darrel tonight. I guess Im doing just fine.

After Midnight

My wife Lisa goes to be about ten o clock each night. I sometimes will join her and sometimes not. I like to stay up late. I have even gone so far to say that there is a whole other world that starts when primetime ends. Its a time of night filled with re-runs, the internet and perhaps a sandwich. Join me as we go after midnight.

I usually start off by switching our television to the satellite. I like "Third Watch" re-runs and keep it on in the background while I fill the humidifier and let our dog Muffin out for a bathroom break. I then sit down for a little TV until I get the direction of the story, from then on I merely monitor the tube from the other room. Its time for something a little more interactive-the internet.

The internet for me is like a huge classified ad listing that never stops. I fool myself into believing that I will just check my email, my website and then quit. The session begins that way but rarely ends with a few quick replies to messages. I will never fault a woman for shopping for bargains because I do it myself. ME saying I like the online auction site EBAY is like a a gambler likes.... What starts as a quick check on whisky decanters made in the shape of cattle soons becomes something totally different. When I check into the agriculture section its already too late. I check for tractors even though I have no intention of buying one. I usually will run across an old Oliver caterpillar and my palms immediately begin to sweat. I will own a Cletrac or OC-3 track-tractor one day but will probably never find a use for it.

Next we move on to seedbed preparation and planting equipment. I seek out chain harrows and three point mounted no-till plants at reasonable prices. The former is as infinitely possible as the latter is impossible. The problem isnt the price of the items, its the shipping. I have a Heald three-wheeler that has sat in Northern California the better part of a year waiting for transport. I paid very little for it and have almost accepted high transport costs but continue to pursue the mythical extra space on a flatbed that just happens to be bound from Alturas, California to somewhere (anywhere) near me. I used to laugh at people who believed in UFOs but I would guess that the people who believe in UFOs will see green men before I ever see that little atv purchased in a weak internet moment late at night with the tv on in the background and a sandwich poised just near enough to be reached without taking my eyes from the screen.

NOt all is wierd that occurs after I am by myself. Muffin gets petted, I may plug the tractor in and check the cattle one more time. Speaking of things that arent too wierd I even wrote this column after midnight that I hope youve enjoyed. Well, maybe that wasnt a good example.

The Adoption

My relationship with grain trucks is fairly well known. Like a desperate lover I usually take the cheapest and the first one that comes along. My methods have rewarded me only with bittersweet memories and loads of manure left unhauled. I recently changed all of that and became a better person for it

I have always carried lust in my heart for trucks-all trucks. Semis, fuel trucks, spotter trucks which are used to move trailers in large yards, milk trucks, garbage trucks but none more than the dump truck. I include in this group all trucks that lift their box hydraulically such as; grain trucks, gravel trucks or beet trucks. I work near

the former Bridgemans milk plant in Thief River Falls, MN and occasionally I will see a bulk milk truck with many rear axles plus two steerable front axles. I cant tell you how many times I have considered offering the keys for my workplace in trade for the truckers keys to his truck. I have also carried lust in my heart (this is starting to sound like a confessional) for the Cenex bulk fuel trucks that are dispatched by computer from a central location, or so Ive heard. Still there is nothing like the dump truck. Many are former over the road semi tractors that have been stretched with a box and hoist added. The simple act of carrying and then dumping a huge load with one massive lift stirs me deeply. I think any little boy who has dumped a Tonka truck full of sand will probably knowingly nod his head in full appreciation of this statement.

I have owned two trucks in my life. A 1956 Ford and at 1956 Chevrolet. Both had steel floors and wood sides. I sold the Ford and used the Chevrolet until it couldnt moved anymore. I ended up making the Chevy into a dump trailer that I pull behind my tractor. A local machine shop lopped the cab and front frame off the truck and then loaded the decapitated front into the box. It reminded me of my first (and only) trip to the stockyard processing place in Fargo-absolutely ghoulish and disturbing.

I recently found a classified ad in Yesteryears for a 1964 Dodge D-600 grain truck. The truck was located quite far away but I was reminded of adoptive parents trekking to Russia to find a child so I decided an adventure to the wilds of central North Dakota probably wouldnt be too bad. I called the owner and found he wasnt too far from Carrington,ND were my brother Dave resides. Dave knows most of the farmers in that area because he is a Service Manager at Case/IH. Dave agreed to look at my prospective adoptee and confirmed that she was perfect in every way. (every parent feels the same) I sent a check via two day delivery and next week expect to drop jaws when I cruise the township in my new baby.

A new child often tightens the bond between husband and wife. Our new Dodge will do the same for Lisa and I. More accurately it will remove the barrier that exists between us. A barrier that is not built of soured emotion or

words but rather one made entirely of every truck magazine and car trader magazine I can get my hands on. I no longer need them as I now have my own truck.

This is my new truck

The Apology

This week featured the holiday Valentines day. If you forgot the day you probably have now apologized several times since Friday. I began thinking about apologies a few weeks ago and I think I may be able to help make a good apology.

This story really began with something that happened at work. One person had yelled at one of my co-workers and had obviously made her quite unhappy. I reacted to this immediately but that incident would probably fit better in a story about loyalty. In the end, this person apologized and then thought everything was fine. It was not fine. Somewhere along the way, people have forgotten what really makes an apology legitimate. An apology used to be a white hanky held up in surrender and was a door back into the good graces of the person youd offended. Nowadays it seems an apology is that same hanky only now the offender blows his nose in the hanky and leaves it with the victim. What I mean is that the offender uses the apology as a "quick-fix" in an effort to get what he or she wants or to avoid punishment for their actions. Its no wonder that in a generation (mine, unfortunately) that grew up with electronic equipment that can be repaired by punching the "reset" button that weve begun to see an apology as the equivalent of a that same button.

I will attempt to diagram an apology without putting you to sleep. The words "Im sorry" are a request for forgiveness and to be allowed back into your victims life. We have learned that when the victim accepts the apology the incident is over. I believe when the apology is accepted the perpetrator now has to prove he/she really meant the apology. There is only one way to do this is to not do it again. I have observed people bring unhappiness on a mass-produced level as no one ever confronts the offender because of a quick, strategic apology that carries no more weight than the air that made the phony words come out of his mouth. Words let people know your intentions, acts let people know your heart. An apology without a change in deeds means nothing. You might just as well says, "Im going to do this again but I dont want to be seen in a poor light so Im going to say two words that mean nothing to me but will hopefully serve me well one more time." It certainly would be more honest.

The words "I apologize" should come from your heart and not just your mouth. Some may not agree and therefore will certainly have the opportunity to prove me correct over and over. Those that feel the same way will find what Ive found out. Those who know how to truly apologize rarely have to do so.

Getting Rippled

In an effort to deliver economical power, local electric cooperatives created a system called load management. In an effort to drive me crazy, local electric cooperatives created a system called load management. I couldnt decide on which sentence to start with so I decided both were accurate. Load management is the current term but I find this little dance more accurately described by the old-school term know as gettin rippled.

Earlier this year I awoke to a cold house. I am a load management customer so I have a fuel oil back-up furnace that I set at about sixty degrees. When they ripple us the temp plunges to this level and awaits my bare feet on the kitchen floor. Which brings up an important point. Not only does the air temp plunge to sixty degrees but everything in the house is just as cold;floors,chairs and the worst one-the toilet seat. The thing that really gets me is that at just the time when we need electric heat there is none. Each time we get rippled I bring a five gallon can of diesel fuel home and top-off the tank. Unfortunely I over-filled it last week and when I commented to Lisa how good her cooking smelled she replied, "yes, it smells like peachy pork and fuel oil." This load managment stuff leaves no part of my life untouched.

Now lets be reasonable. I decided to find out a little more about load management from my cooperative. I didnt used the phrase "rippled" as that is recognized only by old-timers (I am 37) like me. Kevin Reich from Red Lake Electric and Mike Nesbitt from Minnkota Power gave me some great information. Load managment occurs when

a cooperative 1. cant buy economical power 2. system load is high 3.transmission passage problems (power line down) or 4. power plant problems. There are eleven distribution cooperatives in the area that buy their power from Minnkota Power. Much of the power comes from the Milton A Young plant in Center, ND.

I spoke with Mike from Minnkota who told me that last year theyd predicted 200 hrs of load managment but there were actually only 22 hours of load managment (could have fooled me) This year we have seen 40 hours of

load managment or ripple down economics as I call it. Minnkotas load operators will even let us off the hook if theyve had to manage the load more than they predicted but not switching to load managment even when the situation is right. They even have a website that you can check to see if the ripple is coming your way at www.minnkota.com After I got some information, load managment seemed a lot more helpful and friendly than prior to my enlightenment.

What a journey Ive made. I started out with a little rant about load managment and ended up sounding like a representative for my local co-op. Its amazing how quickly my opinion can change. Speaking of changing opinions, its starting to feel cold at my desk. I foresee a trip to get another can of diesel fuel in my future.

The way it was

I recently received a phone call from Rose Potulny of Fordville, ND. Rose had read the column where I mentioned the framed auction bill I had purchased. The bill was from 1923 and Rose was born five years prior to the event. As it turned out that auction was held south of Lankin, ND which is about one mile from where Mrs. Potulny grew up. During our conversation Rose mentioned that she had written a book about her family and past memories. I like local history so I ordered one from her. The autographed (thanks Rose) copy I received bore the title "The way it was" and is the subject of this weeks column.

While I read the book two subjects seemed to pop up fairly often-food and entertainment. The book included family history and other memories but I was really struck by how much labor there was to process food and keep it

fresh. Butchering was completed in late fall when the meat could easily be frozen in the granary. When spring came the beef was buried in the still freezing grain. Summer saw only canned meat or in brine but other food items that needed refrigeration were placed on a shelf deep in the family well. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that life was not only endless labor early in this century. People actually had fun. Rose writes how the men would sometimes play whist at until five in the morning. The lady of the house would make coffee and lunch at midnight to sustain the visitors. Dances were a main source of entertainment and as there were no baby-sitters to be found the kids went to the dance with their parents. One of my favorite quotes is "we learned to dance almost as fast as we could walk."

There was sadness on the prairie also. The first paragraph begins with an invitation for the Urban (Roses maiden name) family for a going away party for a young man going to World War Two. Roses father tells the young man that they are worried about flu and dont dare to attend. I thought this was awfully cautious but in the next sentence we find out that two of the boys and the mother of that family were dead from flu before the end of the week. These two paragraphs answered a lot of my own questions why people from this era seem so cautious. Its really pretty simple, they grew up in a dangerous world and it paid to be cautious. Another favorite tale involves Roses grandmother collecting buffalo bones during the late 1800s. Her grandpa thought this was silly and refused to take them to town to see if they had any value. Money became scarce however so he finally agreed and received seventeen dollars for the bones in town. The money made all the difference when it came time to get groceries. What about the bones? Well they were used to purify sugar.

Rose and I had a nice conversation that day. We both like history and I found out in her book we are both Czechoslovakian. I suspected it during her stories of making colache for Christmas and found it was fact later in the story. The section about Christmas was very touching and included a story about her dad dividing an apple in five pieces. Id like to tell you about it but I am out of space. If you see Rose maybe you could ask her. She can tell you the way it was.

Its Christmas time again and again and again

The New Year has begun and its time for a yuletide wrap-up. Like
many people, we celebrated Christmas with our families over several different days. It was also Lisa and my first Christmas together so it had added meaning for us. Clear aside the paper and
empty egg nog cartons and ready yourself for one last Christmas
story.


Every couple has many firsts. The first kiss, first date or maybe even
their first snowbine.   Of our many firsts, I really
appreciated our first Christmas.   Lisa and I purchased a tree and
despite my constant grumbling were able to get it successfully into
a stand.  Lisa then trimmed the tree and everything around it.  As a
child, I would look at the pictures on Christmas presents and want
to climb right into the scene.   Lisa recreated those scenes with
every ball, light and wreath.  I like Norman Rockwell's perspective of the holidays but I believe I like Lisas touch even better.  The only stumble we took on the holiday road was when the tree fell down.  We had set it a little crooked in the stand and it toppled.  Lisa and I felt bad because our bride and groom snowmen ornament was broken.  I suggested to Lisa that maybe this unfortunate event was like the little problems that crop up in a relationship.  We would fix those problems like we would fix this little ornament.


Our progressive Christmas is the reason for the title of this
column.  We celebrated the holiday five times this past Saturday. 
We started at my brother Steves for hours dourves then to Darrels
for salad.   Sister (sweet,insane) Debbie was our next stop for soup
then onto our place for ham sandwiches.  We ended the night at my
mom and dads place for dessert and to open presents.   I really
enjoyed this as it was like going out for Christmas five separate
times but all in one night.  We also had a little Christmas cheer
at each stop and by the time we reached my mom and dad's for dessert and presents our little mob resembled the scene from Jimmy Jensen's song "I yust (norwegians will understand) go nuts at Christmas."  Each of us had found a present for another of the same sex and we drew numbers to pick a gift.  People who draw later numbers can steal your present so being first is of little benefit.  My brother Steve got so caught up in the spirit that he quietly spirited off my present while I had my back turned.  It was a typical Nelson holiday get together.
 
I am writing this column on New Years day.  Lisa has put away some of the ornaments and tomorrow we will take the tree out for the birds to use.  We will fix the broken ornament and it will become one of the many memories of our first Christmas together.  The gift of another year is what I hope for and next I hope to write that is Christmas time again and again and again.

It's Alive

This is a story that has a life of its own. The subject of this story has a life of its own. Finally, now that the subject of this story has finally been built maybe I can have a life of my own. In the movie "Frankenstein", mad Dr Frankenstein proclaimed as his creature rose from the slab, "its alive, its alive!" I recently was able to make the same bold proclamation as I came to the end of the project known as the snowbine.


If youve followed this story you know many of the basics of this story. Boy meets combine meets snow blower. Combine and snow blower fall in love and become something called a snow bine. The concept and the name are a little foreign. Every time I type the name snow bine my spell checker highlights it as a miss-spelled word. After a quick introduction people have quickly warmed to both the idea and the name. Up until last week though it was all just a dream and a big chunk of metal. Only recently has my creation become a true snow bine in that it has finally blown snow.

It happened after the first big snow. I had recently replaced the driven pulley and the generator and everything seemed ready work. I plugged in the frost plug heater that morning and fed the cows while the bine warmed up. I walked into the shed where my beast is kept about eleven that morning. The frost from my breath formed bright suncatchers in the air that looked like massey combines. I took this as a good omen and climbed into the cab. You can only fully realize how claustrophobic you are when you try to wedge into a 510s cab with a jacket and bib coveralls. I punched the starter and heard a satisfying "chunk" as the starter engaged and the Chevy 327 (industrial, mind-you) leaped to life and belched smoke from the stack. I backed out and went to work. Together we blew snow hither and yon. I was reminded of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox when I tried to put the volume of work being accomplished into terms mere humans could appreciate. The snow fairly fled from before us as the bine ground out foot after yard after driveway. Despite a broken hydraulic hose I was almost done when I turned my attention to the garage ramp. We were a smoothly running machine blowing our way into local history when everything came to a stop. All of my planning, all of the good money, all of the bad money and all of the work was for nothing as I discovered the one fatal flaw of any machine. It needs gas and my snowbine now had none.

I filled up the bine this morning and blew a little snow to celebrate Christmas. It dropped a belt on the final drive but was all that needed was little tightening. It worked great and and I would call the project a success. Its the afternoon of Christmas and family is starting to arrive so I will put on my best face and try to be brave. You see although I have now finished this long project, I have a new problem. What do I do now?



smowbinetwo.jpg

Women, Men and the Manual transmission

I recently purchased a different pick-up to replace my Jeep Grand Wagoneer. (anyone wanna buy Christine?) I am really excited about the pick-up and my reaction was in stark contrast with Lisas. Upon seeing it was a stick shift she said, "oh, I guess I wont be driving this." Wendy, whom I work with, said in reaction to the five speed transmission said, "why did you do that?" It occurred to me that men and women werent really born on different planets but simply drive different vehicles.

 

I love driving with a stick shift, whether its my pick-up, beet truck or semi. The smooth precision with which the gears mesh (or occasionally grind) really appeals to me on an inner level of my soul. It seems like ballet to me when a truck is carefully downshifted and comes to a halt near an intersection. It must be somewhere inside the male psyche that we love the feeling of control and making a huge machine do our bidding. Women on the other hand realize that a feeling of control is most likely not firmly based in reality and enjoy their automatic transmission which takes life as it comes and merely reacts to starts and stops as opposed to making each intersection a show of virility. It could also be that it is very difficult to apply make-up and still make those endless shifts.

 

Does a well-performed upshift or downshift really make me a better man? I know it makes me a happier man. I feel like Im 20 feet tall as I work the rpms and execute a perfect shift without use of a clutch and then carefully make the corner. I always figure theres about 300 rpms between shifts and try to watch the tachometer and make my transition as flawless as a Swiss watchmaker. I have, however observed women driving trucks and they seem to have a different method. Apparently theyve learned from decades of convincing their men that theyre getting their own way because they seem to shift with a sort of finesse and grace. I dont believe they watch their tach at all but rather cajole, reason with and finally become one with the truck in a blending of souls-human and mechanical. Its the sort of beautiful experience which would make me question my own manliness and throw all of the scented candles and chamomile tea out the front door. Its more than I can take, Ill just watch the tachometer and keep my hands at the ten and two position on the steering wheel between shifts thank-you very much.

History has attempted to define the differences between sexes for decades with limited success. While I may not have done much better I do believe that this approach deserves more research and that an answer will be found.

In the end we will find that the difference between women and men lies not in environment, estrogen or testosterone but rather in that esoteric, unexplored region between the clutch, fifth gear low and first gear high.

The Fall Guy

I think I saw a friend last week or at least a hint that my friend will soon be here. You see theres no season I like better than the one that brings the harvest, breaks summers heat and warns us that winter will soon be here. I like this season so much that you could call me the fall guy.

 

I love the look of green crops growing and flourishing in the summer sun. However I think the golden color of wheat ready for harvest is even more satisfying. The color green reminds us of life but the color gold reminds us of the comfort of plenty and the possibility that a windfall may be in our future. The months of worry about too much rain and too little rain are almost over. August is traditionally a dry month but the crops are already grown and have roots deep enough to finish their life. Long, dry days make for a harvest without ruts in the field or prolonged

pauses during rainstorms. I find few things more appealing than colorful combines moving together across a yellow lake of small grains. It amazes me when the dust and chaff rise to a point where they change the appearance of the horizon. It seems too bad that the farmers who create this scene probably never get a chance to enjoy it as they concentrate on the task ahead of them.

I know the calendar says otherwise but for me fall starts a few weeks after the last county fair. As a young man I always knew that football practice started soon after the second cutting of alfalfa was done and two weeks later I would be sentenced to nine months of white brick and fluorescent lights at my local high school. I guess fall was not always the poetry of harvest and the amazing community that takes to the fields of grain while I stepped onto the field of play. Fall brought an end to seeing my animals each day and even sleeping late courtesy of my mom and dad. Today I think that autumn is an excellent chance to step back and look at your life. Its a nice chance to take stock of what was planned and what was accomplished during the summer and even pat yourself on the back for a life well-lived and the work youve done.

 

Tonight as I sit upstairs and feel the cool wind through the window I can almost imagine the green leaves turning colors and the colorful fields around me cultivated a uniform black. Even as I look forward to my favorite season I think I will pause to enjoy the summer day Ive already been given. Cool days, clear skies and the first frost will come in time and not before, not even for the fall guy.

The County Fair

Many years ago, rural families decided they needed a break during the busy summer season. A little fun, some friendly competition and a chance to see your neighbors were all excellent reasons to create an institution that would continue to this very day. That institution is called the county fair. I rarely will say "that is my opinion" or "from my perspective". These phrases make no sense as what other opinion or perspective would I use but my own? In this case though I want to separate from a historical or educated view of the county fair and rather use my own strange perspective.

 

One of my favorite sources for a quote, singer Chris Ledoux, once sang the lyrics, "theres nothing I know of, can make you fall in love like a night at the county fair". As a child I never I never paid attention for signs of love at the fair as I was too busy checking on my cows or having fun on the midway. Even later in adulthood the only love I ever saw was two misguided bulls engaged in something Id rather not see again prior to the bull ride at the Pennington County fair in Thief River falls, MN. Having become more thoughtful in my old age I now see love splashed all over the fairgrounds. Theres something about the lights, people laughing and the heady smell of jalepeno poppers that not only unlocks loves door but rather kicks it right open. I guess after you cheat death on one of the many carnival rides you kind of realize you need to embrace life and maybe the opposite sex. The chance to win a teddy bear for your girl, guide her to a seat during a show at the grandstand or simply hold hands while you protect her from the carnies can really bring a couple together.

I have also gained another perspective of the fair during the last decade. I work as a dispatcher for my local Sheriffs Office and along with providing security we usually host a booth at the fair. I always say its great to meet the people but after being deluged with questions that normally start with either, "you know I got this ticket once," and "say, my brother is in jail and I was wondering.." or my favorite "do you know that female trooper up in Roseau?"-I am ready for a corndog and a hiding place to eat it. The nice part of sitting at the booth is meeting all the regular people who rarely ever need us but pay the bulk of our salaries. Its a nice reminder that most of our taxpayers support their sheriff and his office. Most of us who work at the fair booth feel quite relaxed including the Sheriff who finally gets a chance to let his hair down-all four of them. (Hi Sheriff Hruby)

As our fairs change we see fewer cows but more computer projects. I love cattle but am cheered that 4-H and the fair have changed with the times as that will be what ensures their existence. The fair in my county is going on this week and I can hardly wait to see the exhibits and sit at that dang booth. I will see my neighbor, get a look at his crops and cattle and maybe if I watch closely Ill see someone fall in love during a night at the county fair.

The Antique

My fiancee Lisa and I currently toil at turning my house into our home. During this time Ive noticed a trend in our tastes-we both like older items. A cast iron tub, a commode with dove-tailed drawers and maintaining the original woodwork of this house have all been considered as we feather our nest. Why do we like antiques or even just plain old stuff? It could be that older items items are less expensive (usually not the case) but thats too easy. I think people like a little history in their homes, each for a different reason.

 

I find items from the thirties and forties particularly interesting. Historically that period contained a time when the United States was recovering from the depression and preparing for World War Two. The generation of people growing up during this period has been called "the Greatest Generation" and I think the way these people lived and the time in which they lived have made an impression on me best represented by items from these two decades. These antiques also remind me of simpler times when a quarter of land could sustain a family and maybe a time when the families existed who were happy with the life that a quarter of land produced.

Of course, as I write about simpler times I type at a computer thats currently linked to the Internet and I can hear my satellite television in the background. I guess Im a hypocrite.I do know a fellow who likes antiques and is part of the Greatest Generation. I grew up in Viking, MN and a bellwether to our history stood guard at the North end of town. His name is Leonard Larson. I used to visit Leonard and his wife, Alice, with my mom when I was younger. I remember the neat old clocks and in particular a great old cuckoo clock that set my imagination in motion every time the little bird came out to announce the hour. Leonard likes to collect antiques and as such represents not only a respect for history but the actual history itself. Leonard farmed long ago with implements that create nostalgia today but at the time were used to farm the land. My memory of Leonard would find him seated on a tractor driving to the field with his dog, Poncho following close behind. He is part of my historical memory even as his lives today with his own collection of memories-some tangible enough to be held in your hand. I saw Leonard had an auction not too long ago, I hope the buyers got that portion of history that means something to them.

People covet antiques, or maybe they just like the past and antiques remind them of their own history. I know that today has to be the best day of your life but sometimes I just want to slip back in time, find my bearings and to be pointed in the right direction. If something or someone can do that for us they leap from histories pages become a vital sign pointing us to the future-and something much more than just an antique.

Goin to the Chapel

I started a trip about seven months ago. This is not a trip of distance but rather a trip traveled mostly by my heart.

Last February I asked a lady to marry me and she said yes which began a rare trip were the end is actually the beginning. By the time you read this column I will be wedging myself into a tuxedo and goin to the chapel.

 

The road to marriage has not been a fast lane for me. I dont know how many times I have aimed for the right person and been off target. I often compare myself to a batter waiting for the right pitch. I have been tempted to swing once or twice but despite aching shoulders have been patient and waited for life to throw me my pitch-high and just a little outside is the way I like it. The last several months have also changed my way of thinking. I had never considered one person perfect for me. I just thought Id marry someone who I really liked and respected. I have never been more wrong or more right. I am marrying that person but as it turns out she is just about perfect for me. I think I only realized that completely last week when Pastor Cuppett asked me if I could ever imagine being married to someone else. I have a pretty good imagination but I wasnt up to the task.

 

 

....and the mushy stuff continues. I will get back to cattle, tractors and local history next week. While several people have worked to near-exhaustion to make this wedding happen, I think Lisa and I are a little more weary because we are the focus of this happy occasion. However, I think we reached a point a few days ago where the momentum gained would carry the day. I am at a point where I am looking forward being with friends and family more than anything else. Its strange but I already feel married. I cant tell you how many times Ive had a quick moment of panic looking for a ring on my left ring finger that sits in a box at Lisas house. At some point after last February 15th I became married in my own mind. I think one of the best things about us is that I feel like we both are so in control of this rellationship. I have mistaken infatuation for love in the past but somewhere along the line I realized love is a choice. Love is respect, consideration, loyalty, compassion, kindness and a long list of good emotions that are no longer abstract when you carry out the acts that define them. I am now at the point where I choose who I love. My eyesight has gotten better, not only can I see Lisas beautiful face but I can even see her heart.

Ive never been much of a single person and today I get to prove it in a church. Ive never been much on trips but today I begin a journey and the only thing I know is where it starts. You see, Im goin to the chapel.

Bright lights, Big city

I recently went to a training day in Bemidji, MN that was necessary because of my job. As Frank Bruggeman and I drove to Bemidji I remarked how I couldnt remember the last time Id been out of town. I thought about it for awhile and realized that my last out of town trip had been two years prior when I attended the same training in the same town. I guess you could say I dont get out much but recently Lisa and I honeymooned in Winnipeg, MB and this small-town youngster had a chance to see the bright lights of the big city.

 

I am always amazed at how one event can change your perspective on life. In this case I could see why residents of a large city might have a different perspective than my own. We stayed on the eleventh floor of the Holiday Inn and from our window I couldnt see anything that wasnt made of concrete or steel. Its really no wonder that many grade school students have no idea where their food originates. I wondered how people could ever dream or develop an imagination when they couldnt see the horizon or even the stars in the sky. In my case, the horizon has always been like the carrot at the end of a stick and helps me stayed inspired in life. I imagine many people in a large city live their lives within a few blocks and probably never gain a perspective outside of their small world of huge buildings.

That brings us to my own, small perspective. Its obvious that I rarely leave my rural surroundings and when I do its uncommon that I see a building taller than three stories. My world became larger as we visited a world of many different races, ethnicity and cultures-particularly the culture of a people who are constantly in a hurry. Downtown is a place where people hurry to work or the bus stop or just to get across the street. Lisa and I made it to the midway point at a crosswalk when the "dont walk" sign turned on. When taken as a whole, the one thing that the many different people, their different ways and the environment in which they lived had in common was that they helped me realize that there are several ways of living your life. I think this realization may open my mind a little and possibly change the way I handle my challenges.

Lisa and I enjoyed our honeymoon, I guess thats probably the real reward from this trip. Lisa has lived in a large city prior to our marriage but for me this was quite a change from my regular life. Although I had fun I am very glad to be home. The question has always been "how are you going to keep them down on the farm once theyve seen the big city?" In my case that wont be a problem.

Angels among us

Each morning as I leave the house I am greeted by my dogs, Muffin and Rudy. I usually bend over and hug them both. I thought I had only recently began this little ritual but discovered differently last summer during Mom and Dads anniversary party. Old pictures had been posted on tagboard and one of them was me bent over and hugging my dog. It was apparent that a dog in my life has always been like an Angel on my shoulder.

Before Muffin and Rudy came along my best friend was a Shepherd/cross dog named Buddy. Buddy always accompanied me whether on walks or cutting wood. One day while we gathered wood along the railroad I saw a train approach. I called Buddy over and held him tightly as the train passed. Buddy wiggled away from me and was killed while I watched. I had never known real sadness until that moment. Susan Halverson was my boss at the time and called to offer condolences and extra time off if I needed it. My family called as if there had been a death in the family. There had been. My wife at the time finally helped me get passed my sadness. She told me that she had planned to leave me that month but Buddys death had convinced her to stay to help me. We eventually divorced but the time Buddy bought for us allowed us to work some things out and leave as friends. Buddy exists now in my mind as he did then-an Angel.

I have no sad stories about my current pair of dogs. I hope the only sad story I can ever tell is that they only lived until the age of nineteen instead of twenty. Muffin is very easy-going but Rudy is a middle-aged puppy who is quite possessive. Muffin recently arrived at my door early so was hugged first. This did not sit well with Rudy at all. As I hugged muffin I noticed the shadow of a three-legged dog on the snow in front of me. I turned my gaze in time to see a cascading stream of urine as proof that Rudy had decided to cock his leg and make claim of me in a most ancient canine way. Now Ive observed Rudy fail at this same little trick with everything from a pile of old twine to a pail of feed so I know hes a terrible aim. I let out a little yelp, however and our eyes both met. Rudys gaze belied the fact he knew he had chosen the wrong approach to gain my favor. I was too shocked to do anything but give thanks that his aim hadnt improved. Considering our relationship and his doggy ways it almost seemed logical.(appealed to the Vulcan in me-I guess)

Do Angels exist? Yes. Do they have wings? I dont think it really matters. I do believe that those who make us feel special, help us appreciate life and give love without strings have some angel in them. The next time a dog makes you cry, calms you in a tough time, loves you to death or makes you laugh until youre sick-consider your definition of an Angel. I know I will.

A wedding and a funeral

A wedding and a funeral couldnt be more different. The first is a beginning and the second is an ending. The last two weeks have given me a chance to think about these two events and Ive found some fairly important similarities that go beyond the fact that they both occur in a church.

 

I had to work while Kinzie Hibbert and Travis Easley were married however I did attend the wedding dance. These two young people had decided to give up some of their own independence for the promise that really is love. The promise to support each other, to keep each others secrets and to be faithful in their new life together. I and Lisa were both a little nervous as we thought about how soon we would be married. A married couple begins a new life that might be a little scary but infinitely satisfying. I was happy for both of them in the same way I was happy for any couple joining together in a new life.

 

About a week later I learned about the death of Richard Bruggeman. I am a friend of his sons and attended the funeral in Red Lake Falls. I watched the service and felt sad for my friends and even sad for myself. I considered that one day I would also die. It seemed unfair that a life well-lived should end and leave only memories and sad family members. At that moment I felt a jolt inside of me. I was ashamed of myself for thinking of life in such a small way. Life, as sweet as it is, truly begins with eternal life. Its a good thing that Pastor Gabrielson had given me such a good base of spiritual education because this was a moment when I truly needed it. A funeral, much like a wedding, is a celebration of a life beginning-two lives becoming one or the start of eternal life-both were an occasion for celebration. Id like to say this made me feel better but it didnt. I was still watching my friends suffer at the loss of their father and it hurt me. I did feel relief at the notion that as much as I crave waking up each morning, one day I wont and it will still be okay-actually much more than okay. It would be a new life that was a little scary but infinitely satisfying.

 

I had the inspiration for this story because I will often say "funeral" when I really mean "wedding" and vice-versa. This is not a Freudian slip revealing some unknown inability of mine to commit to a relationship. Maybe I finally figured out why I get these two seemingly different occasions confused so often. A wedding a funeral are two signposts that say the same thing-life starts here.

A Very Jeanette Christmas

If you knew fire would burn or would make your skin hurt-you wouldnt touch them. If I had known that hanging Christmas lights would cause me pain and suffering, I wouldnt have attended Christmas decorating day at my mother in laws. Its amazing the things you learn during the holidays, especially after spending a day at a little place I like to call Jeannettes Holiday prisoner camp.

It started innocently enough when I was called upon to assist my mother in law to display her outdoor holiday ornaments. I arrived to find my sister in law Jill and her husband Craig already at work. Now I know what youre thinking- people wrapped with scarves, sipping hot chocolate, singing carols and happily trimming medium-sized evergreens. I arrived to find Craig and Jill walking quietly from the garage to Jeanettes house carrying armfuls of Christmas decorations. I noticed that they dare not make eye contact nor did they look to the side. I had heard of this kind of conduct in prisoners of war but dismissed it as grim determination in the face of the cold weather. I also noticed a steely blue look in Jeanettes eyes when she greeted me. I would guess the prison guard from "Cool Hand Luke" had these same eyes under his sunglasses. The scene was not one of frivolous Christmas.

I dont want you to think that hanging tons of Christmas ornaments is not enjoyable nor does it not offer time for fellowship. I can still remember the heart-warming times as Jeannette allowed us to jog in place to warm our feet while she barked out cadence. My benevolent little dictator of a mother-in law has a definite artistic flair for decorating although she has decided its more efficient to have a small scale at the exit to her garage that we must weigh all ornaments prior to their being hung. I believe 10 tons was this years goal. It is also verboten (forbidden) to try and hide any ornaments for later disposal and we are thoroughly checked for hidden Christmas items which I thought added to the Christmas cheer. At one point, I suggested a few different options about how to hang the lights but was met with a "thousand mile stare"" by both Craig and Jill-my fellow elves. These were old-timers hardened by years and years of Holiday fun. They spoke not a word but gave each other that "well it looks like the new guy is gonna get beat-up" look. I heard the last guy who spoke-up during Christmas decorating is -well lets not talk about it.

So anyway lets get back to the fun. Jill sat on her husbands shoulders who had perched a top on my shoulders and our brow-beaten little crew was happily trimming (one string of tinsel at a time) a thirty foot jackpine when I noticed my feet were a little cold. I dismissed it as more holiday pain/mirth. A little later however, I noticed the same sting and was almost going to dismiss it when I first noticed the bloody tracks that were being created behind me and then a few steps later I noticed a gray toe had fallen out of my shoe. I imagined myself in one of those gladiator movies where all of the slaves are rowing and theres a person walking up and down the middle whipping them in an effort to encourage them to greater efforts. I was not surprised to find that the person holding the whip in my weary daydream to be my own beloved mom in law. I noticed how she only used the club end of her whip on the others and I felt to myself that I must be displaying true holiday spirit and lugging more ornaments, lights and those dang plywood Christmas yard displays than my other fellow indentured servants.

What you have been reading is a farce. I like to make up little stories based on an event but with a twist that comes from somewhere in my own mind. My mother in law has brought joy to people for years with beautiful holiday displays . Last year she didnt because she had only recently lost her son. This year she made a huge comeback and god bless her for it. She has both religious and secular yard displays plus a red, white and blue light set-up to remember our boys fighting for our freedom. The little effort I added to make this happen is my honor. I can hardly wait to see what happens next year when Jeanette, Jill and Craig (not me, Im calling in sick) ring in Christmas.

Rudy

I went out to feed my dogs, Rudy and Muffin one night last week.  Rudy didnt come for his supper which is
strange because Rudy loves to eat.  When the carpenters were here this summer they even packed an extra
sandwich for Rudy.  I walked up to the dog house and found Rudy in his favorite spot in the straw.  My friend was
dead.
I got Rudy from the dog pound in Thief River Falls about nine years ago.  Rudy craved human attention.  When I
would go into the house, Rudy would lay by the door and whine.  Later he would just stand and watch the door
waiting for me to come out.  Each morning when I came out I would sit down on the front steps and put on my
shoes.  Muffin both would come over eventually but Rudy was there before I grabbed the first shoe.  Rudy loved to
lay across my lap and get petted.  I dont mean just lay his head across my lap either.  I mean almost all of his one
hundred-plus pounds splayed on top of me.  Rudy was tenacious about attention and would sometimes even get
between Muffin and I and push her away.  I always had to hold on to him so he couldnt shut Muffin out.
I am sitting here thinking about the last time I ever saw Rudy alive.    I cant remember it exactly but I do
remember the day before he died that I was working on the corral he came up and sat down by me.  My motto is
never too busy to pet a dog.  This little phrase means exactly what it says  but it means a little more.  It means I
cant be so busy that the important things are lost in all the busy-ness.  Rudy taught me that by constantly getting
in the way while I worked.  Right now I wish I could have one more chance to try and dodge him at feeding time or
just one more chance to bend over and hug him.  Hugging Rudy was the best as he would groan and make a
chuffing sound.  I would even make it back to him sometimes and he really liked that.  I am very fortunate in
that Rudy and I werent scared to show each other how we felt.  Rudy and I loved each other and I could see the
best parts of my own personality in him.  I guess I feel like a small part of me lies in the ground with Rudy.
Muffin and I had a little ceremony before we buried him.  I made his grave with very square corners and made sure
it was absolutely flat on the bottom.  I cut out all the sharp tree roots and made sure he had enough room.  After I
lay Rudy down I covered him with an old jacket that had my name stenciled on it.  I wanted something of mine to
be close to him.  I cried the first few times I went by the grave but the last time I went by I realized something.
Rudy was gone.  This was very comforting because I couldnt feel his spirit anymore.  The vessel that held his
beautiful soul lay in the ground but Rudys spirit was somewhere much better.  If anyone ever asks you if animals
go to heaven, tell them yes.  I know it for a fact.
Last night before I went to bed I prayed and thanked God for my wife and family, the health of my cattle and my
dogs.  I am so fortunate to have known Rudy.  I am glad that he didnt die violently but rather from what I guess
was a heart attack.(my brother-in-law, Mike reminded me that it is the death of Kings)  Rudy and I loved each
other and I wont clutter that up with a lot of regret. He was a good dog and a great friend.   I just wanted you to
know.

rudy.jpg
















I Love Lucy

I think most people remember the old I Love Lucy sitcom.  I used to enjoy watching Lucys antics whether in her
home or at work with Mr Mooney. It occurred to me just the other day how many times I end up in situations that
are fairly comedic-if not to me then to the casual bystander.   As one such situation played itself out in my own
bathroom I realized how for the past many years I have been subconsciously stealing scenes from the queen of
physical comedy.

Our home has been in a constant state of remodeling for the past several months.  Recently two men came over and
installed linoleum in our bathroom and laundry room.   I arrived home after they had left to find the linoleum
finished but nothing else put back into place.  I replaced doors and reconnected various water fittings-they werent
a problem.  However sitting in the bath tub was our one and only toilet which I could foresee needing in the near
future.  I had a wax seal with me so I quickly laid it on the base and then reached for the toilet.  I assumed they had
removed the water but had guessed wrong.  I soon had water and some kind of slime that collects in the bottom of
the tank everywhere.  I panicked at the thought that I had ruined our new floor and despite my efforts still had no
toilet.   Lucille Ball had become stuck in an overflowing shower once so I tried to remember how she handled her
lavatory emergency.   I believe she ended up crying and her friend Vivian saved the day.  I handled the mess and
bolted the toilet down in time, just in time.
Another Lucy-like situation occurred this past week.  I had picked up a fourteen foot swinging gate for my corral.
Now my pick-up is a shorted (six feet long) so I put up the tailgate and hoped for the best.   I was very careful until
I got on a back road and headed for home.   I believe I was singing along with a BR-549 (great country group)
rendition of  Cherokee Boogie when I realized the gate was falling out of the pick-up bed.  I hit the brakes just in
time to stop this impending disaster only create a greater one.  The front of the gate was by this time pointed
skyward and gaining speed.  I heard the screech of tires and my own heart beating as the gate left the bed of my
pick-up.  Ive seen beauty before but nothing like the awful glory I saw through my windshield as that swinging
gate crested over the cab of my pick-up.   NASA has tried to jettison large objects into the air for years and here I
had done it without even trying.   As the gate landed it came to a harmless stop and I scurried to pick it up and
load it again then fled the scene with a quick check over my shoulder.
I was just sitting here trying to think of a good ending for this column.   Something that included an accident or
some type of misadventure worthy of the I Love Lucy title.   As I reached to grab a Kleenex tissue I hit my coffee
cup sending a cascade of the dark, acrid stuff all over my computer keyboard and my pants.   I stood up quickly and
then hit my head on the roll-top desk.   My keyboard is now shorting out and I hope I can dry it up and still use it
in the future.  One good thing though, I did find my ending.
 
















To Barn or not to Barn

Hamlet asked himself, to be or not to be-that is the question.  This is one of William Shakespeares most famous soliloquies during which the main character contemplated suicide.  I have recently contemplated a situation that doesnt carry the dire importance or potential for sad consequences seen in Hamlet.    My soliloquy contemplates the use of barns-both for practical and architectural uses, and borrows slightly from Mr Shakespeare as I pose the question, to barn or not to barn?

Each generation tries new cattle-managing techniques.  Ive heard several stories from years ago about how cattle were kept inside a barn all winter long.  Ive never kept my cattle indoors as a matter of course.   I do allow them free access to a barn but bed and feed them behind a windbreak.  The image of hot, moist cattle breath commingling with whatever bacteria was causing pneumonia that season in a floating cloud of disease kept me inspired to leave the cows outside as much as possible.   Bedding, a constant supply of hay and windbreak are a must but the cattle seem happy with their situation and only go inside during the worst storms.
Now heres my other barn question, this is the architectural one.  When Lisa and I went up to Canada for our honeymoon, we noticed something wed never seen in this area.  There were about three houses that had a barn attached-most likely for convenience.  I remember Per Hansa built a barn/house combination in the book Giants in the Earth and even Laura Ingalls Wilder began in this same type of structure.  Lisa and I own an 18 by 30-foot wooden granary that we plan to attach to our house.  I suggested that we attach it to our house and leave it red so that it looks like those houses up in Canada.  Although weve modified our plans to paint the addition white instead of red and will probably opt for a roof similar to our house, we plan a very old-fashioned look for our home.  We will have to add a peak overhang to the front of the barn and a cupola (one of my obsessions) for the roof to really make it look authentic.  In the end our house will hopefully look like the old house/barn combinations built by practical early settlers.   I hope that the impact this has on the looks of our home will only be eclipsed by the lack of impact it has on our checkbooks.
The questions I ask myself do not approach the depth of those written by Shakespeare.  I do believe that I will be able to attain the high drama of a Shakespeare play, however.  That drama will occur when I ask Lisa if we can maybe put a few chickens and cows in our new addition.  It sure would be convenient and think of all the extra body heat from the cows.   All in the name of authenticity-William would be proud.
 

Something Wicked this way comes

(prologue)  A storm door ripped open by a wind from the south
                     A sticky trap that held a half-dead mouse
                     I sat in a corner huddled down with my wife
                     Readying myself for Halloween night!
 
It started much earlier that chilly fall day
Lisa and I hung decorations so happy and gay
Wed purchased some candy for treats in lieu of tricks
First-class, fun-size bars and suckers to lick
As darkness fell we felt ready for visitors
Wed ply them with chocolate and even some Twizzlers
The night went great, some would even say well
We had no inkling of impending Halloween Hell!
Midnight was too late for tricks or the treaters that brought them
we perceived a cold evil had began to us threaten
A hairy figure approached with horns and a tail
Was it the Jersey devil with brimstone and hail?
A cloven-hoofed minion stood close by its side
Its eyes flashed in the night, it wore a hairy hide.
Lisa locked the door-I hid under a quilt
I though about life, unforgiven sin and guilt
It was just at  that time the security light kicked on
It revealed this intruder-come to end our dawn.
It wasnt very evil but it sure was a beast
It was a Highland cow and her calf that Id leased
I breathed sigh of relief, Lisa admired her brave Grant.
Happy Halloween everyone, hope you like my poetic little rant.
Grant (Igor) Nelson
 

I Love my Truck (sort of)

Ive long wanted to own a grain truck.  Last summer I finally realized my dream with the purchase of a 1956 Chevrolet 6400 series grain truck.  While neither antique nor road-legal, it has proven to be a good buy for $300 dollars.   It does a good job of hauling manure, gravel or just providing me another little piece of machinery to fix.   Ive come to admire my full-size Tonka toy and if caught in the right mood might even say I love my truck.

Lets put everything in historical context first.   When my truck was built; World War two was a recent memory, many farmers made a living from a single quarter of land and I was-well lets just say I wasnt yet.
This little truck came with a Flathead six engine and a four speed transmission with a two speed axle.  After my purchase, I painted the box a gorgeous red (leftover barn paint) and later painted the cab John Deere green.  (gives it that nice, expensive look)   I changed the oil during which I could almost hear the engine sigh with relief and finally dumped a can of the mysterious substance known as Seafoam engine additive into the crankcase.   My 56 hauled many loads of gravel and manure throughout the summer of 2001.  Judging by how much room my neighbors allow me on the road, I think they've  learned to even respect my little truck.  The fact that loose steering causes the truck to swerve wildly has nothing to do with the wide berth granted my truck and me, Im sure.
This year has been a little less active.  I see the fact that the engine wont start as a positive thing, I mean think of all the wear and tear Im avoiding.   I parked the truck under a window of our house as we remodeled.   I remarked to Lisa as we turned into bed last night that the load in the back of the truck had almost reached the same height as the second-floor window.  I had tried numerous times to dump the box but could never start the truck.   I have changed the plugs, installed a new coil and even a new/old (never brand new) battery.   The latest wrinkle is that the starter locked up nice and tight so that I cant even pretend that maybe it will start tomorrow.   All may be lost.
I now must face the truth and make the best of this situation.  I suspect my truck will soon fall to the cutting torch and reciprocating saw and become a heavy-duty trailer. I would like a new trailer but my sadness reveals the one question that still haunts my mind.  I know you can love a truck but can you ever love a trailer?
 

Treasures in the Earth

(I asked my sister Debbie to write a column for this week.  As you will soon read, she was up to the task-Grant)
 
It's almost Christmas again, and, as it is for many other people, it is the time when I most often
reflect on the past and look forward to the New Year.This may have been the impetus for my
recent call to Kraig Melvie of K & K Trucking of Viking, Minnesota.
Kraig was quite a bit younger than me so I didnt  know him very well before I left Viking in
1970. He was so pleasant when I called and I immediately felt comfortable making my somewhat
weird-sounding request.   I don't know if my brother Grant would remember, but there is a small
pile of rather large rocks on the West side of the grove of trees surrounding Mom and Dad's home
place. When we were small, Dave, Steve, and I would play on those rocks for hours every
summer. There were three main boulders and some interesting smaller rocks around them. We
would each choose one of these boulders as our "house" and make up games as we went. The
largest rock had some granite in the angular face and at times, the angular face would be an easel
and, at other times, a school desk. The smaller rocks formed "rock paths" between the main
boulders. We fought like kids do but I can't remember one fight we had while playing out there. In
my mind the rocks were huge and beautiful and I wanted them for my own yard.  Decorating with
rocks seems more acceptable than decorating with sheep, huh? (remember debbie had a little
lamb?-GN). The rocks are to me, a permanent reminder of three little kids, linked forever by
these treasures of the earth and their love for each other.
So, my call to Kraig was necessitated by my need to find someone to move them the 14 miles to
my home. Kraig seemed interested in helping me but somewhat hesitant when I told him the
approximate size of the largest (Chest high and at least 5 feet long and 3 deep). I did preface my
size estimate with the fact that this was the recollection of a child's impression. He and I agreed
that it would be best to ask Mom and Dad for permission to take the rocks before we made
arrangements.
A couple of days later, I remembered, and asked Dad for permission to move them. He sort of
snickered (I sometimes wonder what this dear, practical man thinks of my ideas) and gave me the
nod I needed. We agreed that, on Sunday, I would drive out to Viking and we would walk out
and size up the location and accessibility of my "treasures". The day came and I was eager to go
out there and once again, lay eyes on these beautiful monoliths. It has been a while since Dad and
I have done anything; just the two of us. We walked out to the West side of the grove and I found
myself searching the edge of the woods for those huge forms. Dad said that the trees and brush
had grown up and that they were now further back in the woods. Soon, I spied our "rock houses".
They were much smaller than I remember and pretty much blended into the branch and leaf laden
floor of the woods. However, after moving some branches and sweeping dead and decaying
leaves off with my hands, these were our rocks! I caught my breath as the flood of memories
came over me.
Dad said that the rocks were moved there in 1956 when Johnny Bornholdt cleared the land on the
West side of the grove with his D-8 Caterpiller.  I suppose it was about 1958 or 1959 when we
were old enough to wander far enough by ourselves and discover the rocks. An old steel-wheeled
corn planter and a steel-wheeled binder now sit between the rocks and the edge of the field. I
remember looking forward to Johnny's visits to our farm. As was the custom then, anyone
working on your farm was invited in for at least a couple of lunches and most likely, the noon
meal, also. Johnny's tall good looks, warm, deep voice, and cheerful demeanor were a happy
addition to our kitchen table in those days.
Lots of memories in this woods......Mom pulling us out there in our red wagon so that she could
pick chokecherries or highbush cranberries. Favorite climbing trees. Watching the cows come
home for milking from the vantage point of our rocks.  I considered the day a total success. Time
spent with Dad and time to reflect on a childhood that was idyllic by any generation's definition.
We had plenty of time to dream then- about our futures, about beautiful things on our earth,
about the families we would have. I feel so lucky to have had those opportunities and to have
shared them with two other treasures on earth - my brothers.
 
Debbie Waterworth
 

Midnight in the Sugarbeet Patch

 

Its Midnight as I leave the house. Ive had my nap, kissed my wife and have taken one last look at my warm bed. It is time to hop in a truck and haul sugarbeets.

It all started a couple of days ago. The first morning started like every beet season begins. All the veterans and a few new guys gathered in a circle in front of the shop at R and R farms near Warren, Minn in Polk county. Swearing and lies are usually what punctuate the early morning conversation as we all ready ourselves for another campaign. This years little meeting was different this year. I thought to myself that except for the modern equipment, the lack of bib overalls and the abundance of callous-free hands this could have been an old-time threshing bee crew preparing for the day. We were all there for one purpose-a little money, however I think most of us enjoy being drawn together each Fall to see if anyone has died or if anyone has actually come up with a new story to tell. In the last ten years I can only remember the sad passing of Vic Rehder who was a real gentleman and sorely missed. Unfortunately new stories have been even more scarce.

This has been a strange harvest so far. I have been more concerned with swatting mosquitoes than trying to stay warm or awake. The one comforting aspect of the whole process is my own incredible skill at creating embarrassing situations for myself. I was driving back from the beet dump one day when I noticed the semi losing

power. I suspected the fuel filter needed to be changed but also checked the fuel tank for diesel when I got to the field. The phrase "running on empty" gained near clarity in my mind as mere fumes rose from the opened fuel tank. I just made it back to the yard and soon was filling the starving truck full with number two. The fuel tank pump finally stopped at 166 gallons. To give you a little perspective, this semi held 169 gallons so thats a little like running your average car down to about a thimble-full of gas. The other problem is that you have to prime a diesel engine before you can start if its run dry. I guess I dodge the bullet on that one. As my co-worker Alden told me "you cant trust any fuel guage in this part of the country." Aldens great for these little gems of wisdom. Its really a wonder that he hasnt ran for high office or something that rewards this type of home-spun wisdom. Ive done fine other than this little episode and as I look into the night I can only think of what adventure lies ahead and hope that we all stay safe.

The backbone of this area is agriculture. Although I like to use a little humor when I describe what I do I also realize how important the next few weeks are to many people, including farmers and the industries that support them. Its Midnight as I leave the house. Ive had my nap, kissed my wife and have taken one last look at my warm bed. It is time to hop in a truck and haul sugarbeets.

Drive time

The time during the afternoon when people travel home is designated as "drive-time" by most radio stations. It is an important time to advertise as listeners as very receptive while enjoying their favorite program or music. I have always loved to listen to the radio so for me its always drive time.

 

It hasnt always been drive-time for me, however. I think my vehicles are fairly well-known for having rather poor sound systems. You dont need a radio for a car to drive but it sure helps. My old pick-up came with a radio and a booster about 6 years ago. The booster switch was held in place with a matchstick so maybe I should have been suspicious. I havent heard that radio speak for about 5 1/2 years so I do a lot of singing when I haul hay or use it for fencing. Judging from the dismayed look on the faces of my dogs, Rudy and Muffin, I would guess they might like something other than my crooning. Christine, my jeep, also went for a time without a stereo. One day when I was in Grand Forks I decided to splurge and ended up with a stereo that not only plays music but can receive satellite programming. I went from the outhouse to the penthouse on that deal. Its usually feast or famine for me.

Now that I have one working radio I love to play my cassette tapes. I have spent the last 2 months listening to Chris Ledoux. I have never called myself a cowboy but Chris Ledoux plays and writes cowboy music. I love the lyrics and can recite them at a moments notice. Ive even suggested (threatened?) singing one for Lisa during our wedding. I sang it for her last night but she was not impressed. Chris Ledoux does not write the regular sappy, honeydripping type of love song. Heres a sample of some of his lyrics;"for your love Id take the moon and put it in a blender, mix up a concoction that might make you surrender" and "Id climb the tower on the tv station and broadcast my affection to the United Nations" or my favorite "your love aint just the hot sauce its the whole enchilada." I guess I can see why she didnt want me to sing that one. Maybe Ill leave the singing to trained professionals-discretion is the better part of valor.

 

When I consider how much I enjoy music in my jeep it inspires me to perhaps install a new stereo in my old pick-up. Maybe some new speakers too, I know Rudy and Muffin would like it and then it would always be drive time. It might be cheaper if I just learned some news songs to sing and bought earplugs for the dogs. As far as Lisas lack of appreciation for Chris Ledoux, that might take a little more time.

The Campaign

I wrote this in a Semi-tractor in early October but never typed it at the time. I had hoped to put it in my column at the time of sugarbeet harvest but didnt have the chance. October 1st I went back to "Trucker Fantasy Camp" for the Campaign.

 

I have hauled sugarbeets since the early 90s. Its an enjoyable task and I really like my employers, R and R Farms of Warren, MN. Most of the drivers and other machinery operators have worked for John and Eddie for years and most new arrivals are family or friends of current employees. My brother Darrel helped me gain access to this exclusive little club and I did the same for my brother, Steve and his son, Jamie. This year however, I was on my own until the last few days prior to the October 1st start date. A last minute replacement was needed so I called my friend Ken Krohn and he accepted. I guess my family and friends are to beet hauling what the Chinese were to early railroad building.

This years short campaign was full of little surprises-like most years. In my own efforts to find a quicker way back to the field I ended up lost for 45 minutes. I started out from Warren and ended up going through Tabor and Alvarado because of construction. My boss, Eddie Rosendahl only laughed when I got back to the field. I also had the endgate pop open which released a partial load of beets-and in the interest of "full disclosure" I will admit now that I did indeed back into the piler at Warren. You are the first to know about this as I had told no one else-yet. No injuries, no damage, no big deal I always say. Many people would be ashamed to admit these little incidents but I always say that it just adds to my character and creates another layer to my legend. I just hope the drivers examiner who gave me my CDL this week isnt reading this column.

This years campaign was short but rewarding both monetarily and in the experiences I gained. Its always a tough balance between not getting enough hours and the feared "beet harvest that wouldnt die" but I think we struck a proper balance this year. We just finished but I know I will again crave the crashing of gears, the camaraderie and the looks of terror as I pull up to the beet dump in my semi. I will know then it is time to return to the scene of the crime and start The Campaign.

The Pre-stage

Ive often times used a phrase from drag racing to describe the time prior to the occurrence of an event. The phrase is pre-stage or any of its variants such as pre-staged or pre-staging. Some examples of pre-staging include greasing the tractor before using it or cleaning up before going to town. Its only recently that I realized that I am currently pre-staging to my very own wedding.

Yes, this is going to be another wedding column. Some of you may want to read the classifieds or look at the pictures instead of what is about to printed here. I write about my life and our wedding is on the front burner right now. Lisa and her mother, Jeanette have really done most of the work however much like a husband has sympathetic pains during his wifes pregnancy I feel the anxiety that comes during plans for our wedding. The last few months have seen Lisa and I pick rings, decide on a date, make a wedding list and even take a test of almost two hundred questions to determine our compatibility as married folk. It wasnt a test by fire and water but it did test my dexterity as I filled in those tiny ovals with a number two pencil.

There have also been many enjoyable tasks during our wedding preparations. Lisa and I even got to bottle our own wine to be given to people who have helped pre-stage this wedding or as presents to special guests. Now this was Lisas idea and I thought it sounded unique for our wedding but it hadnt weighed on my mind on a daily basis. When we actually got to bottle, label and cork the wine it was really fun. We used a picture on the front label of us standing together at Lovers Lane (or Hartz park if you asked the chamber) in Thief River Falls. I dont know if it was glass three of the Raspberry Merlot or maybe just the general atmosphere but I really enjoyed corking those bottles. Lisa did a nice job on filling and had a steadier hand during the labeling process than I but we made a good team. At nights end we had about fifty bottles of wine loaded in the bed of my pick-up and were on our way home.

Somewhere between "will you marry me" and "this wedding is driving me crazy" I think Lisa and I have begun to enjoy some of the facets of pre-staging this event. The wine we bottled (and drank) drew us together and gave me a picture of how lucky I was to be marrying my best friend. As I finish this weeks column and a reflect there is one thought that keeps rising to the top of my sub-conscious; "man, I hope I passed that test."

The Post-game

I realize I said last weeks column was the last on our wedding but much like a Senator who cant keep his promise about term limits I want one more go. In deference to the fact that it is now football season I will call this column the post-game.

 

It was time for rehearsal Friday night so thats when things really got rolling. My sister (sweet, insane) Deb and her husband Mike hosted our grooms supper afterward at their home. Things started off as youd expect at a Midwestern get-together of this sort but soon the Bohemian (really, Im one-half) blood took hold and all of us were laughing as we shared stories-both real and imagined. Saturday started out with a trek to Grand Forks to

pick-up refreshments. If clerks receive commission on beer sales, I would say we made one man very happy. I arrived home Saturday morning to find a fairly long piece of fence torn to the ground. I couldnt imagine what great beast would have the menace in its heart to tear my fence asunder so.(a little kings English for you) I could only imagine a large moose or something similar could cause such damage. I followed the fence until I found a small, brown, 4 legged, cloven hoofed menace resting peacefully just outside the fence. A repair was made and the young calf was remanded into the custody of its mother.

A little soap and water later I arrived in St. Hilaire to find my new bride and most of our wedding party ready for action. Action is probably not a good word for the next two hours, however. Our photographer, Heather, is a friend of Lisas and a very accomplished photographer and really knows how to motivate a wedding party. Never before have I ever smiled until tears came to my eyes nor would I ever guess ten people could stand so close to one another all for the purpose of that one special wedding photo. Heather cracks the whip and for two long hours we found out why they call her the "photo Nazi." Soon the music began and we all entered the church. The organist wouldnt have needed to play "the Wedding March" to get my attention but it sure made everyone else rise. Lisa graced the rose petals thrown before as she walked to the altar and we were wedded.

The final act of this 3 part play was staged at the old St. Hilaire school. I couldnt believe how many people came to help us celebrate. Polkas, waltzes and even a little AC/DC rung in our new life and I believe everyone had a great time. Lisa and I finally got to our hotel room at about two-thirty after we purchased two personal pizzas and a can of pop. We were tired, we were happy, we were married.

You have followed the odyssey of the previous six months that has lead to our wedding. I hope you have enjoyed the stories and hopefully have recognized my attempts at a little humor. This little post-game wrap-up will end the tales of our wedding but not of our life. We now return you to your regular programming.