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2004

Wednesday, December 29, 2004. A weather report called the haze this morning "freezing fog." Frost covered tree branches, giving a sort of fairytale look to the streets. After my eight-year-old boy's sled skidded to a stop today, he lay down and gazed up for a while. He explained to his big sister that he was looking at the pretty trees.

Between a late winter sunrise and solid cloud cover, the light was dim outside Sauk Centre's Post Office about 8:30 yesterday morning. As usual, all three parking spaces in front of the building were full, a soft rumble from the engines filled the air, and headlight beams shone through a fog of exhaust.

Christmas decorations still grace downtown and Main Street. I expect they'll be going down soon after New Year's Day. Micromoose, that little wire-frame moose, was lit up today. The baby Jesus has come to one household's display, near downtown. Their display caught my attention before Christmas when they set up a scene with angels, Mary, Joseph, and a spot on the lawn reserved for the manger.

At our house, we're counting down to Epiphany Sunday. Today, the Wise Men are on a window sill, closing in on the crche.

More folks have fishing houses on Sauk Lake today. The clusters look like little villages: complete with the occasional pickup or SUV.

This Christmas season seems to have had more bad news than most.

Detroit Lakes's Zorba's restaurant, a couple hour's drive north, became a drive-in Monday night when someone drove a van into the building. No one was seriously hurt, happily. Back on the 13th, someone else drove a pickup into the Gas Mart convenience store in Carlos township.

Donovan James Schuhmacher, 73, of Nelson, died last Friday when his pickup was rammed head-on by another pickup that apparently had been stolen. The driver of the allegedly stolen pickup apparently crossed the centerline, causing the accident. He suffered minor injuries and will probably be charged with criminal vehicular homicide.

A two-story office building in Ramsey, a Twin Cities suburb, blew up Tuesday morning. Three people are dead and one severely burned. The odds look good for this being another gas explosion. Just two weeks before, a veterinary clinic in Alexandria blew up when gas leaked into the building. I hope this sort of thing isn't going to be a regular event.

Sunday, December 26, 2004. My wife's car wouldn't start Christmas Eve morning, and no wonder: The low that night had been minus15. Driving around town, I saw several more vehicles with their hoods up and people leaning over the engine.

Cold weather and a sketchy cover of snow put a solid layer of ice on area lakes. Folks have over a dozen icehouses on Sauk Lake near the Highway 71 bridge, north of town.

Merry Christmas! Churches in town have been busy this week with Christmas celebrations. I spent the last couple of hours on Friday afternoon with the choir at Our Lady of the Angels church. Despite Christmas Eve's Viking-Packers game, the only video equipment around was a camera and VCR to record the Mass, and I didn't see anyone wearing a radio earplug. I think that at least one of the guys there was recording the game for later viewing.

Micromoose, that little wire-frame moose near the band shell, was still in stealth mode Christmas Eve. With lights off, this Christmas Moose is one of the more subtle displays in Sauk Centre. And one of the more unusual.

Inflatable Christmas displays aren't limited to santas and snowmen. A larger-than-life glowing Grinch smiles in a yard westward of Sinclair Lewis Park.

Construction on the east side of the Alco-Coborn's-liquor store block is going to be an addition to the liquor store, I've heard. Apparently, we'll be looking at changes inside Coborn's, too.

My most recent encounter with jaywalkers involved a cheerful youngster running ahead of his family, streaking out from between parked cars. I saw the yard-high little guy in time to stop, but he scared me out of seven year's growth: which I can't afford at my age.

I've also seen drivers ignore folks crossing streets at the crosswalks. Here's just a short harangue about pedestrians, crosswalks, and "Minnesota's Crosswalk Law." In this state:

  • Pedestrians have right-of-way when in crosswalks that don't have working traffic signals
  • Crosswalks exist at intersections, whether there's paint on the pavement or not
  • It's illegal to drive over a crosswalk, when another vehicle has already stopped for a pedestrian in that crosswalk
  • It's illegal for a pedestrian to run in front of a vehicle that can't stop in time (it's also very stupid)

The Minnesota Safety Council has a pretty good discussion of the "Minnesota Crosswalk Law" (Minnesota Statutes 1999, Chapter 169.21).

Wednesday, December 22, 2004. Early Monday morning, freezing precipitation lubricated Minnesota roads and streets. Getting to work Monday was a little challenging.

"Zamboni explodes in Duluth ice rink." That Monday morning headline confirmed what my wife had told me about an exploding Zamboni. Happily, no people or animals were killed when Peterson Arena's Zamboni storage room doors blew across the rink. I hope that Alexandria's exploding veterinary clinic and Duluth's freak Zamboni explosion are the last of Minnesota's high-profile catastrophes this month.

Back in Sauk Centre, First Lutheran Church has windows and a brick veneer on its new north wall. The scaffolding and plastic wrapping are down now.

It's 9 below as I write this, about 10 p.m., so what little snow we have should still be on the ground for Christmas. Unless there's another heat wave, of course, like Monday's high of about 40.

Our house is full again, now that our eldest daughter is here during the semester break. I'm looking forward to spending time with family over the next week or so.

I don't expect to make another entry until the day after Christmas, and so will take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2004. Finally, it feels like winter. Yesterday started out at around 37 degrees and was 2 below zero by midnight. 20 mile an hour winds made it feel colder. This morning it was 7 below in Minneapolis and 9 or 10 below in this area. By the time I grilled lunch at noon, it was warmer: a couple degrees above zero. It's still hard to say if we'll have a white Christmas. The afternoon's flurries didn't put much snow on the ground.

There's a new construction project in Sauk Centre. A foundation was poured this week on the east side of the Alco-Coborn's-liquor store block on the south side of town. I haven't heard whether it's going to be new store or an expansion of the existing places.

Meanwhile, it looks like wind tore a hole in plastic sheeting covering work on the north wall of the First Lutheran church expansion.

The assisted living center has most of its siding on, except for the east entrance.

I noticed more inflatable Santas and snowmen in yards this year, including a life-sized Santa waving at traffic from the front yard of P's and Q's Computing on Main. With just a week left until Christmas, the displays are pretty near their peak.

Yards in high-end neighborhoods, like Morningview on the east side, have nice arrangements of Christmas lights and outdoor decorations, but the most spectacular displays are in ordinary neighborhoods. Two households near Main on the north side and two more on 2nd Street west filled their yards with pinpoint lights and glowing plastic figures. South Ash Street has a yard-full of lights at the corner of 4th. Closer to the fairgrounds, an extravagant collection of signs, santas, glowing garlands and, this year, red and green flashing beacons, lights up Ash Street near 9th.

Traffic on I-94 was heavier than usual on Saturday. Most of the people were probably doing what I was doing, visiting relatives.

My daughters, son, wife and I arrived safely at my sister-in-law's house for the annual Christmas family get-together. Following them into the house, I passed flocks of low-flying nieces and nephews on my way to the living room. Folks in that room were more at my eye level. I spent the day with a dozen or so in-laws and a priest from Kenya. I'm doubly blessed: I live in a very nice town, and married into a great family!

There's good news up the road. Alexandria's Animal Doctor will be open for people and their pets with appointments next Wednesday, December 22. "We're here for the animals," someone at the veterinary clinic said. They're setting up a new clinic at 803 North Nokomis, across Highway 29 from their old location.

Animal Doctor has been running a radio spot, memorializing the animals killed in the explosion that destroyed the old clinic on December 7. Here are their names:

  • Boarding (both cats)
    • Angel
    • Nellie
  • In for treatment
    • Scout (dog)
    • Snickers (cat)
    • Snowball (cat)
  • Resident pets (all cats)
    • Ed
    • Jasper
    • Jezabell

I learned that the resident cats often lounged on the desk. Jezabell, who was something of a flirt, had learned to drink out of the Culligan water dispenser by pushing the tap handle and then lapping water out of the catch basin.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004. I read in the news that coyotes are using pets as chew toys from time to time around the twin cities. It really isn't funny. Unnamed coyotes are the chief suspects in the death of a cat and a beagle in Eagan. I'm not surprised at these reports of coyotes in the Cities. One of my daughter's friends saw a cougar near Osakis this year.

This week's Sauk Herald gave another example of how small towns aren't immune from trouble. A decorated Christmas tree was stolen from the streets of Grey Eagle. This makes four years in a row that the town has had this sort of trouble.

Two of my daughters told me they saw a semi tipped over on eastbound I-94 between Sauk Centre and Melrose Tuesday morning. It wasn't particularly windy, so they assumed that ice was to blame. The accident was slowing traffic to a crawl.

Back on Main Street, between the new Centre Auto lot and Main Street Chiropractic, a small stand of pine trees was cut down. I suppose another business will be moving in there.

Sunday, December 12, 2004. "It's beginning to look a lot like winter," all around Sauk Centre. My joints were hurting yesterday, and sure enough: today we had wind blowing snowflakes, strings of Christmas lights, and tree limbs around, and making just-under-freezing temperatures feel much colder.

Happily, my grill is on the lee side of the house, so grilling lunch wasn't too hard: after I got the fire started. According to the weather, it's windy all over the state. Down in the Cities, these winds blew down the Governor's mansion Christmas tree. The one standing outside, that is.

Today's wuthering wind was an improvement over what we had Thursday, when morning fog had visibility down to a block or less in town. Thursday evening wasn't much better: I drove home from the elementary school Christmas program through a sort of drizzling mist that froze into pellets on windshield and made the street slick in spots. By Friday morning we had what I call "cat track" snow.

Notable events have been happening this week, west and south of us.

Down the road, in Glenwood, Gerhard Schmidt and Richard Justice had been in Fort Meyers, Florida, helping fix homes damaged by hurricanes. Late Thursday afternoon they were coming back to Glenwood in Mr. Schmidt's Piper PA 32. Rain and fog made the day less than pleasant in this area.

Something went wrong on the way to the airport, near a hobby farm. Kay Harth, outside on her horse, watched the plane go by her: entirely too close. Inside the house, her son heard a roar and a smash as the plane tore off some siding. The crash that followed killed Schmidt and Justice. No one else was hurt.

Alexandria's exploding vet clinic, which caused upwards of $600,000 damage and killed six cats and two dogs, seems to have been caused by a cracked natural gas pipe under the frontage road. The fractured pipe has been dug up and fixed. There's a chance that last summer's utilities work broke it. I hope there aren't any more surprises under the streets.

Animal Doctor's owner tried to get rescue crews into the area where the pets were housed, but learned that the animals probably died in the explosion. The good news is that Dr. Kraker plans to rebuild. He and the people who lost pets are getting support from the folks in Alexandria.

Finally, good news on Thursday: Darin Pomije bowled a 900 series, 36 strikes in a row, three consecutive perfect games, at the Strike Force Bowl in New Prague, south of the Metro. This is the first time three consecutive perfect games have been recorded in Minnesota, according to the American Bowling Congress. ABC recorded their first set in 1997, and Mr. Pomije's is the seventh one on record. The New Prague Times (www.newpraguetimes.com) has a good article on this historic event.

Wednesday, December 8, 2004. Snow finally came: enough on the ground Monday morning to cover grass on a well-trimmed lawn. With temperatures sliding back and forth across the freezing point, a certain amount of vehicular pinball was almost inevitable. Maybe I shouldn't joke: there were quite a few accidents in the area, with at least one fatality on I-94.

Maybe it's me, but there seem to be more jaywalkers around these days. Driving downtown after dark (which is almost any time after 5:00 this time of year), I saw, barely, one whose dark clothing blended almost perfectly into the dark storefronts. He (or, maybe, she) almost succeeded in colliding with my vehicle by popping out from between parked cars.

There's a new monthly newspaper in the area, La Voz Libra ("Noticias, Informacion, y Opiniones Para La Communidad"), published in Long Prairie. I tried reading the December issue (volume 1, number 4), and learned how inadequate my Spanish is. Too bad: I was interested in the biography of a police officer in the area.

I saw sections of at least three modular houses rolling up Tuesday and Wednesday: more than I usual, and one set heading north on Main in a sort of convoy.

On the north side of Alexandria, the Animal Doctor veterinary clinic blew up Tuesday evening, about 7:30. No people were hurt, but all the animals in the clinic were killed, about 10 in all, and the building was gutted in the following fire. Highway 29 near the clinic was blocked and about a dozen homes were evacuated because they had no heat.

I got an up-close look at St. Michael's hospital this afternoon. My wife was at the school, attending our son's Christmas program, when she passed out. By the time I caught up with her, she was in the emergency room at St. Mike's. I'd like to thank the lady who called 911 and stayed with her, the police officer, school staff, paramedics, hospital staff, and everyone else who helped. She's okay, by the way, and home again.

Back to St. Mike's: the east facade is free of construction equipment, and quite an impressive bit of architecture. At night, flood lights set into the sidewalk light the entrance awnings from below. Inside, there are still some openings in the walls blocked by black and yellow tape, and a few temporary signs. It must be exciting (or "challenging?") to keep the hospital working during construction.

So far, between an exploding veterinary clinic up the road and the promise of more well-lubricated highways in the forecast, it's been an exciting week. And it's only Wednesday.

Sunday, December 5, 2004. A skim of ice on Sauk Lake got thicker this week, and reaches almost to the downtown bridge now. I doubt that it's thick enough to hold much more than a goose, though.

Canadian geese are in the area now. Each time I've seen flocks of those birds lately, they've been heading north. I suppose it's really part of their daily movements, but it looked like those northbound flocks were headed back to Canada.

St. Michael's Hospital east side looks nearly finished now. Big metal awnings in the Modernist glass wall mark entrances. It's quite impressive.

Sauk Centre's two coffee shops are each approaching the holiday season in their own way. The Main Street Coffee Company's sign announces, "Gifts-Antiques / Ornaments / Stocking Stuffers / Plus GREAT COFFEE". Jitters Java's music channel was playing Yuletide jingles Friday, and a Christmas tree with lights stood near the fireplace. True to Jitters. more-or-less 1920s decor, the tree was quite slim.

Micromoose was in stealth mode near the band shell Friday night, hiding in his yard with lights unlit. (Wednesday's entry has a little more about this odd holiday decoration.)

News from around the state made this week in Sauk Centre seem uneventful.

I read in the St. Cloud paper that Spongebob Squarepants is gone from that city's west side Burger King. No theft was involved this time: the manager said that she took it down to keep spongenappers from getting hurt. I'm just glad that I was privileged to see that colossal Spongebob while the aquatic media star's likeness graced Burger King's roof.

Meanwhile, in New Ulm, the Associated Milk Producers. butter packing plant caught fire Wednesday night. Nobody was hurt, but the 180 employees there can't be having a very good time right now. Besides that, about 3 million pounds of butter were involved. No matter how you slice it, the place is going to be a mess.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004. I drove past some men doing start-of-winter routines on the street drains Monday. I tugged my cap; two of them waved back. It's great to live in a town where folks recognize each other on the street like that.

Construction at St. Michael's Hospital is still under way. The new open entrance is the northerly one on the east walls.

First Lutheran Church's expansion has a new door on the south side, replacing those plywood panels.

Christmas displays are up all over town, and if this season is like most there will be more going up in the next few weeks. They range from elegant to extravagant, from traditional to weird.

I think my favorite in the last category is the display I call Micromoose. He's a little wire-frame moose, standing outside the back door of a house not far from the band shell. Micromoose stands about four feet at the shoulder, and lights up his back yard in solitary, if undersized, splendor.

Looking at the new street lights on Sinclair Lewis Avenue yesterday evening, I had a thought: Since New York City has the Great White Way, why not call the upgraded avenue the Little Orange Way?

Last night the Centre Area Concert Association brought the Marcoux Corner a cappella quartet to town. The High School Auditorium was just about full. By the time I arrived with an assortment of daughters and cousins, the parking lot was full. We wound up sitting in row X. A member of Marcoux Corner quipped that the crowd was so big because this year everyone from Grey Eagle were here.

Sunday, November 28, 2004. The temperature around noon on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, was creeping up past freezing. Light snow was falling at that point. Very light. We still don't have more than cat-track snow on the ground.

An animated sponge helped put this area in the national news. A giant inflated SpongeBob SquarePants disappeared from the roof of the Little Falls Burger King, north of here, on Thursday. The spongenappers left a ransom note demanding Krabby Patties, fries, and milkshakes. I've heard that the note was signed, "Plankton."

The Little Falls incident was one of three cases, nation-wide, of SpongeBobs disappearing from Burger King roofs. The other two were in Moab, Utah, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, in New York City, SpongeBob was one of 59 balloons in the Macy's parade.

We heard about something much more serious, early this week. The murder of six people a week ago today in Sawyer County, over in Wisconsin, was too close to this area for comfort. They were part of a hunting party, enjoying the outdoors and each other's company at the Willers-Crotteau hunting cabin, on private land. The murders happened near the cabin.

Because of these deaths, this Thanksgiving Day weekend is different for many families. I put together some information about them, from news articles:

  • Bob, 40, and Joe, 20, Crotteau, a father and son, of Haugen: funeral Saturday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin
  • Mark Roidt, 26, of Rice Lake: funeral Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dobie
  • Jessica Willers, 27, of Rice Lake: funeral plans not yet settled
  • Allan Laski, 43, of Haugen: funeral Saturday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Haugen
  • Denny Drew, 55, of Rice Lake: funeral tomorrow at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dobie

Two more people in the hunting party were wounded.

A "Rice Lake Hunters Survivors and Victims Fund" has been set up. Contributions can be sent to:

Dairy State Bank
16 South Main Street
Rice Lake, WI 54868

A man from St. Paul, Chai Vang, has been accused of killing these people. Apparently he explained that they shot first, and said bad things about him, so he shot them. A news conference today featured his oldest daughter saying that in the trial "the truth will come out."

On a happier note, Alexandria, 20 miles up the road, has a new railroad bridge over 3rd Avenue East.

The Assisted Living Center on the south side isn't quite finished. Some insulation is covered with siding, though, and the construction crews have plastic-wrapped scaffolding on the east side.

Christmas displays erupted in Sauk Centre's front yards this weekend, in time for this year's first Advent Sunday. From yellow-white lines of bulbs outlining the houses of Hoboken Hill to red and green flashing beacons near the school, folks seem determined to light up the night with reminders of the Christmas season.

Now all we need is a little more snow on the ground. What came down around here over the weekend trimmed branches and leaves, but wasn't enough to fill the grass, except in a few spots. At least there was frost on roofs and windshields this morning.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004. Winter is coming: There were unmistakable signs on Monday. The street department set Christmas decorations on Main Street lampposts. I should say, "holiday decorations." The sign over Main spells out a safely generic "Happy Holiday."

Earlier Monday morning, drivers on the Interstate discovered that mists can freeze on pavement. A charming phenomena we call black ice caused quite a few accidents in Stearns County.

The St. Cloud Times wrote that 5 people were taken to area hospitals after being involved in 2 crashes near Melrose on I-94. Those accidents closed the eastbound lanes for about an hour after 8:30 a.m. Two people were hospitalized in serious condition: Judith Whitworth of Froid, Montana, and Steven Hawkins of Long Prairie. In all there were 8 accidents between Albany and Sauk Centre.

Monday afternoon I saw more Canadian geese overhead. This flock was heading west, so I suppose you could say they've got better navigation than the northbound birds I saw last week.

The assisted living center still doesn't have siding, although there's been activity inside. First Lutheran Church as bricks on the west wall now of its addition now, but not the north.

Today is the heaviest travel day each year. With an Interstate running through the south side of town and a US highway's traffic on Main Street, I expect to see some of that traffic on my way home from work tonight.

Monday, November 22, 2004. We had frost on the Interstate this morning, which didn't help traction at all. I suspect that has something to do with the sirens I heard.

Sunday, November 21, 2004. We're on the downslope of November, and there's still green grass in Sauk Centre. We have had an early morning frost or two, but that doesn't take the place of some lasting sign of oncoming winter.

Tuesday morning we had fog so thick that schools were 2 hours late. In our part of town, you couldn't see the fourth house down the block, and the third was a blur.

Then, around 1:30 that afternoon, I noticed majestic flocks of Canadian geese winging overhead. Each noisy V formation was heading north.

This week's Sauk Herald had some notable articles.

One was a write up of Shaunia Zirbes. death. She's the 18-year-old who was killed in a rollover just outside town November 8. Folks around here turned out to mourn her and support the surviving family: Shaunia's funeral at Our Lady of the Angels church was standing room only. Neither she nor the young woman who died in another accident near Alexandria that day was wearing seat belts. Using a belt is a simple way of boosting survivability in a crash, so I'll quote what Shaunia's mother was quoted as saying in the article, "you should always wear your seatbelt".

On a happier note, new entrance doors and a parking lot opened at St. Michael's Hospital and Lakeview Clinic. The Sauk Herald article pointed out that the new features will make Lakeview Medical Clinic easier to use. I'm sure it's been a long haul for everyone involved, getting the work done at the hospital, the clinic, and the construction site at the same time.

This has been a busy week for me. Stepping outside at the place where I work and seeing those wrong-way flocks was one of the few times I've been outside during the day. When the wind is right, I often hear the noon church bells of Our Lady of the Angels and St. Peter's, this week I've been hearing the 6 o'clock bells, too.

This, with the rapidly shrinking days of this season, has given me a good look at Sauk Centre after dark. At least, the parts I see while driving home.

There's a house on my way that has an early start on Christmas. Glowing geometric pine tree simulations and flashing displays populate their yard. A long line of lights leads from their sidewalk to the back yard garage. This household is already lighting their part of the street with hundreds of tiny red, green and yellowish-white lights. I think it's one of the more spectacular displays in town.

Sunday, November 14, 2004. This week didn't get off to a very happy start. There was no school Monday. Some kids were driving on a gravel road west of town just before 3:00 in the afternoon. The driver lost control, and an 18-year-old young woman got killed. As often happens in a small town, this hit close to home: The young woman's mother has worked in the same office that I do.

That same day, near Alexandria, about 20 miles away, another accident killed another teenager the same afternoon. In that accident, a 17-year-old girl died. As usual, news reports about both accidents mentioned that the victims weren't wearing seat belts.

Harbor Light left Main Street last week. The words, hand-painted in orange on the front window, said it all: "Close Out Saturday November 6 9AM 2:30PM."

Meanwhile, at the corner of 2nd and Main, the particleboard walls of a 2,000 square foot office building are up.

Temperatures slid back and forth past the freezing point this week as what we call The Holiday Season is getting started.

More than 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, and this Tuesday I saw Christmas lights glowing on a house. Someone was putting finishing touches on one end. I like the Christmas season, but this seems early for decorations. I drove by the school parking lot as the 9 to 5 workweek drew to a close. Twilight was merging into night, and tiny Christmas lights twitched in the leafless branches of a small bush.

The weekend ended today with another fine autumn day, mostly clear with a few picturesque cirrus clouds. Then, right after sunset, I saw a thin sliver of the moon next to the silhouette of a leafless tree. Beautiful.

Thursday, November 11, 2004. Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day in Canada. Not all that long ago it was Armistice Day. A day, and an hour, to honor those who served the USA in times of war. As usual, I've got more to say, but not here.

To help those who serve this country today, post offices in this area at least, are selling "Phone cards for Troops." We can buy phone cards worth $10, $20 or $30. Then the cards get collected and distributed to local military units with members overseas. This sounds like a good way to help someone call home and hear a familiar voice.

Sunday, November 7, 2004. A Sauk Centre tradition ended last Tuesday. Instead of voting at the Armory, we voted at the new (and improved) City Hall.

One thing hasn't changed, though. Before I got to the sign-in table, the "A-I" line's election worker had the book open to the right page, and was pointing to my name. Folks around here know each other, for the most part.

This week's news had a reminder that small towns aren't immune to humanity's troubles. Stearns County's first murder in 2004 happened when someone killed one of the 200 people in Elrosa. On March 24, 82 year old Raymond Wander was stabbed to death and left, hands still bound, in his basement. On Thursday of last week, an acquaintance of one of Mr. Wander's 9 children was charged with his death. He's scheduled for arraignment on November 15.

This is the time of year when the basement dehumidifier goes off and the furnace goes on. Happily, our furnace is working. A friend of mine decided to have their household's furnace checked this year: and a good idea that turned out to be.

They had two furnaces. The technician said that one shouldn't be turned on at all, and the other needed to be replaced. Broken parts that allow carbon monoxide into the house were just part of the problem. I understand that the price tag will be around $9,000: which is quite a bit of money for most of the folks I know.

On the other hand, not waking up in the morning or having the house burn down could be unpleasant, so I suppose that it makes sense to make routine checks and maintenance. The TempSat company in Dallas, Texas has some good ideas for folks with gas furnaces. Some of what they say apply to most heating systems. And here's what a University in Missouri and the Minnesota Department of Commerce (www.commerce.state.mn.us) have to say.

My household is getting ready for winter, including having the furnace checked. We've got blankets mounted over doorways to control drafts and let us keep different parts of the house at different temperatures, most of the windows have been caulked, and we're in the process of putting extra insulation on windows. I've seen other folks getting their places ready, too.

Autumn is passing. Most of the leaves that will fall have fallen. A pleasant feature of this season is that sunsets happen around the time I often go home from work. Thursday's sunset was a quiet spectacle in neon pastels and dark purple streaks, against glowing turquoise.

Sunday, October 31, 2004. This morning, all across the country, people experienced jet lag in the privacy of their own homes, thanks to the switch from daylight savings time to normal time.

We've had a fine variety of weather this week. Monday was a beautiful October day. Friday we had fog and a high around 70, thunder, and a tornado near St. Cloud.

Some over-achieving trees had already shed their leaves on Monday. Many others seemed determined to shed slowly, bringing new opportunities for raking every day. By the end of the week, I saw only a few green holdouts. Even the lilac leaves are turning yellow.

Boxelder bugs and ladybugs are moving inside, gracing the walls around many windows with their presence. I understand that many of the "ladybugs" are actually Asian lady beetles.

The old city hall's second floor windows got taken out of the north side of the building, along with much of the wall up there. By the end of the week, most of the open space was filled in with new wall: and probably with much better insulation than they had in the 1950's, when the place was originally built.

Major construction projects around town haven't displayed any spectacular changes this week.

  • St. Michael's Hospital still doesn't have paving on the east drive, although the northeast parking lot is paved, painted, and partly in use
  • First Lutheran Church's south side has finished facing on the wall now, but the doorway is still blocked by plywood
  • The Assisted Living Center near the Interstate has some gray siding on the east side now

Today is Halloween, or All Hallows Eve. Then on Monday it's All Saints Day, and All Souls Day on Tuesday.

That makes for a busy schedule. In addition to church services, Our Lady of the Angels church has a high school party in the church basement tonight, there was a party at the elementary school gym, and more get-togethers put on by various groups. I just brought my son back from trick-or-treating, followed by that party at the school. Then we've got more services over the next two days.

That party at the school was put on by the River of Life Church, with everything from a bean bag toss in the hallway to an inflatable slide in the gym. Quite a few local businesses donated material or money.

Finally, The Palmer House Hotel now has a ghost story, Footsteps, on its website.

Sunday, October 24, 2004. Some days during autumn have beautiful, bright, blue weather. Words to describe most of this week's weather come from farther along in the alphabet: cheerless, chill, comfortless, depressing, discouraging, disheartening, dismal, drab, dreary. We've had quite a bit of light rain and drizzle. Also normal autumn temperatures, from just above freezing to somewhere in the fifties or sixties.

I'm not sure if I'm a victim of inadequate marking of a construction zone, or if I just wasn't paying attention. On Thursday, the corner of Elm and 4th Street South was being dug up. Just to make things more interesting, there was no barrier for eastbound traffic at 4th and Maple.

I drove for most of the block between Maple and Elm before noticing there was no way around a barrier at the east end of the block. Actually, I could have driven around the barrier: but not the 10-foot-tall mound of sand behind it.

I suppose I could have deduced what the situation was, when I saw the white-and-orange-striped boards and sand pile at the other end of the block. The backhoe towering over the sand pile was another clue.

Construction projects continue their race with the start of winter:

  • The Assisted Living Center driveway is paved now. There's still no siding over the insulating panels, but lots of activity inside
  • St. Michael's Hospital new east driveway has curbs, but no paving
  • First Lutheran Church's northwest addition has shingles on most of the roof

A sign on south 2nd and Main tells what sort of building is coming: "For Rent Office Space 1000 sq feet."

Finally, I was afraid that The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga was at an end. Barriers are gone from the street, traffic and parking lanes are marked, and traffic is back to normal. The only obvious "to do" left is another layer of paving: the street surface doesn't quite come up to the bottom of the curbs. I mentioned this my wife, and she reassured me that there were probably still a few things left for next year.

Sunday, October 17, 2004. I'm a little disappointed. A few flakes of snow fluttered down this afternoon, but none stayed on the ground. It's early in the season, but now that leaves are off many trees, a light coating of snow would dress up the landscape.

By Wednesday, an overcast sky and a chilly wind had made it obvious that autumn was here. Drizzle started coming down from the dim gray sky on Friday. I don't like the damp days as much as October's bright blue weather, but it's part of the annual cycle.

Up the street from my house, someone strung Halloween lights around their front window. The cute ghosts and other spooks some folks have on their lawn are fun, but I'm still getting used to strings of orange lights glowing in the night.

In fact, I'm still getting used to the way that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas merge into a three-month event in the stores. Of the three names for a blended holiday that I suggested on the third, "Hallankismas" sounds the best. I think it should be shortened to "Hallinkmas," though, to make it easier to pronounce. Maybe we could say, "Happy Hanikmas?"

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga saw the street east of Main turn from a construction site to a length of street with barricades at the ends. By Wednesday, traffic lane and parking space markings had been painted. A few vehicles were already parked in the downtown block. The "detour" barricades were still up on Friday, but it's only a matter of time before this project is over.

This week started with the second Monday in October, our official Columbus Day. Flags decorating Sinclair Lewis and Main, downtown, plus Oak Street between the new City Hall and the Oak Street Mall. The real Columbus Day was Tuesday, the 12th, of course, but our leaders have decided that it was important to have holidays occur on Mondays whenever possible.

The Main Street Coffee Company's professionally-done "Open Mic" sign was up Thursday, with a little "& Karaoke" shingle clipped to the bottom.

Up the street, the L. N. Kaas Company has a new sign out front: "Red Tag Sale Clocks Cuckoos Carved."

West of downtown, First Lutheran church's expansion project looks more finished, with brickwork and windows up on the one-story section by their parking lot, and most of the wall and windows in place on the side facing Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

Sunday, October 10, 2004. The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga may soon be a thing of the past. Main Street (The Original Main Street) was blocked with "Local Traffic Only" signs for a block north and south Sinclair Lewis Avenue on Monday. The traffic lights dutifully paced through their cycle as heavy equipment rumbled around, paving the Main-and-Sinclair intersection.

Crosswalks were being painted on Sinclair Lewis Avenue on Tuesday, in stages so that traffic could go around the wet paint.

At least 3 fire department vehicles screamed to the public school Tuesday morning. They clustered around the senior high end, while all the student body stood outside, from first graders and younger to seniors.

Sauk Centre has some metropolitan culture now, thanks to the Main Street Coffee Company. The hand-lettered lower sign out front said "Thurs. 6-9 PM Open Mic and Karaoke" this week.

The major construction projects in town are still in a race with the start of winter:

  • The First Lutheran Church expansion has brick facing getting applied to the east wall of the south. Plywood now covers the northwest part's roof.
  • St. Michael's eastside entrance awnings are visible, now that another parking lot is being graded and curbed there.
  • The Assisted Living Center's driveway and curbs are in place, but there's no paving. The walls are covered with Tyvek insulation panels, but no siding.
  • There's a new project at the corner of south 2nd Street and Main, downtown, where Land Gas & Tire Shop used to be. Excavation of the lot started this week.

Centre Auto on south Main got asphalt paving on its lot on Tuesday.

There's been a Jerry's Northstar on west Sinclair Lewis for 31 years. As of October 1, it's just "Northstar." Dale and Joan Donnay are the new owners. They're keeping the same full service: Joan told me that someone will still fill your tank and clean the windows.

The transfer of the Northstar's ownership was important enough for the Sauk Centre Herald to give the event over 12 inches of column and two color photos on page 2 this week. I learned that Jerry and Doreen Lentz bought the station from Ted Paulson in 1973. A gas station has been on that spot since the 1950s, when fire destroyed a truck stop and caf there. Jerry Lentz died in 2003. I've missed talking to him when I picked up gas, and I'll miss chatting with Doreen Lentz: but it's good to see the station keep going.

The Herald gave front-page attention to the contents of the old City Hall cornerstone. Back on July 4, 1889, folks put mementos in what was then the new City Hall. In 1951 that building was torn down to make room for the City Hall I knew when my family moved here.

In February of 1952, at least some of those mementos went back into the modern building's cornerstone, along with a 1951 telephone book, pictures of Sinclair Lewis Days, and an envelope from Bob's Service Station, Bob Freeman, prop.

That envelope had instructions that the coins inside be given to "the nearest relative of Robert Louis Freeman, Jr., born 12, 27, 1951. Thank you. Robert F. Freeman." The coins were a 1887 penny, 1901 and 1951 dimes, a 1904 nickel, a 1928 Canadian five cent piece, and a 1902 quarter.

The weather this week was fairly typical for this season. The temperature was 30 at 7:00 Monday morning in Glenwood, near here, and by the weekend we had highs near seventy with blue sky. Maple trees on Ash Street have been turning. Friday's clear morning and early evening had sunlight washing over green, gold, red, and orange leaves. I wouldn't know about the rest of the day: I was in an office, eyes fixed on computer screens, for the most part. Most of the week has been like that for me.

Thursday, October 7, 2004. I heard on the news that some counties in southern Minnesota have been declared Federal disaster areas, following those floods. Considering that, I won't complain about the overcast day we had here. 

Sunday, October 3, 2004. This year's Harvest Moon rose Tuesday evening in a clear autumn sky: a fine end to a beautiful autumn day. Whenever I went out that day there was the same crystal-blue sky and cool breezes.

We had unsetting news from up the road, in Melrose. Last Sunday, the 26th, a farmer north of that town encountered a stranger on his property. Some kind of rapid confrontation followed, and the farmer told authorities that a gun had been discharged.

Sure enough, there was a hole in a window, but no shell casing, and no other evidence of a shot fired. We're still sure that the confrontation took place, but the farmer himself isn't sure that shots were fired, now that he's had time to think.

Driving through downtown Sauk Centre on Tuesday evening, I saw Christmas decorations in the Ben Franklin store window. It's a little unsettling, seeing a brightly-lit flocked Christmas tree in a dark store window with two days left in September.

On Wednesday, I was driving north on Main, under the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge. There's a sign there, advertising Halloween's Monster Manor at the fairgrounds.

With the some kind of observance of the next three big holidays overlapping like this, maybe we need a new name for them. Here are some possibilities:

  • Hallankismas
  • Chrisallowving
  • Thanksmaseen

Construction projects in town moved along. As of weeks. end:

  • The north part of the St. Michael's Hospital construction site is now a parking lot, complete with lines painted for the parking spaces
  • Work on the Assisted Living Center, just north of the Gopher Prairie Motel, seems to be mostly inside now

A name-the-building contest for the Assisted Living Center ended on Friday. I don't know when the Chamber of Commerce is going to release the results. One of my ideas was Gopher Rest. I don't think they'll choose that one.

And, there's more evidence that the Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga is drawing to a close. New sidewalks are being laid east of Main, downtown.

The Weather Service issued a freeze warning for Friday night, saying that there would be lows overnight in the mid to upper 20s. They were right. Early this morning, it was 25 in Glenwood, the nearest place for weather information. I wore a flannel shirt Saturday.

Finally, some sad news from this area. Father Nathan Packard died this week. There's a little more about this on the Catholic Events page.

Sunday, September 26, 2004. Walking downstairs Saturday morning, I saw that the stairway was flooded with radiance. This strange phenomenon was sunlight, streaming through a window onto the floor downstairs!

I haven't seen much of that, this week.

I shouldn't complain about the rain, though, with over 3,000 flooded homes down in southern Minnesota. Then there's Florida, where Jeanne is the fourth hurricane they've had since mid-August. I read that the last time one state got hit by four hurricanes in a single season was Texas in 1886.

The rain here this week started mid-afternoon on Monday, and was an on-again, off-again affair until Wednesday afternoon, when the sky cleared and the temperature rose. St. Cloud tied a record high last set in 1958, with a temperature of 81. The time-and-temperature bank sign here displayed 81, too, a little before 5:00 Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday evening, with two and half day's worth of evaporated rainwater hanging in the air, I wondered which I preferred: damp and dreary or hot and humid.

Rain was back for part of Thursday, but the air was cool and dry by Thursday evening.

Construction work in town has moved forward this week:

  • First Lutheran Church's expansion has plywood on the roof of its northwest section now.
  • The Assisted Living Center's walls are covered with insulation panels.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga may be nearing an end. A piece of heavy equipment smoothed the corner of The Original Main Street and Sinclair Lewis Friday afternoon, quite an improvement over the gravel pond we've had. About the same time, parts of the east sidewalk between Sinclair Lewis and 4th were torn up and resurfaced.

On the cultural side, the first show of the "Always Patsy Cline" musical went on stage at the Sauk Centre Auditorium Friday night. "Always" was put on by the same folks who made "A Dash of Rosemary" last year, Red Hope Productions.

The top two headlines in this week's Sauk Centre Herald were, "Clinic, hospital project on target," and "Found: class ring lost 31 years ago." Those two articles, with one photo for the hospital story and two for the class ring one pretty much filled the top two-thirds of the front page.

I love living in a place where details of how a class ring dropped into Fairy Lake in 1973 and pulled out 31 years later with some pennies and a few bottle caps is page one news.

Sunday, September 19, 2004. With hurricanes Charlie, Frances, and Ivan storming their way through the news lately, writing about rain here in Sauk Centre feels like an anticlimax.

I assume that there was a sunrise on Wednesday, but we couldn't see it through the rain. All morning, clouds diligently wrung themselves out overhead. I heard that 2.11 inches of water deposited itself on the grass, sidewalks, and streets of Sauk Centre. Quite a lot found its way into the storm drains.

By mid-morning, water bubbling up through holes in a utilities access cover at south Elm and 5th joined merry streams running down the gutters and raced toward its destiny in the Sauk River

Downtown, the corner of Sinclair Lewis Avenue and Main was no place to take your clean car. While waiting for the light to change, I watched cars and trucks driven slowly across the intersection's muddy gravel. Each time a tire plunged into a rain-filled pit, waves at least a foot high shot up, redecorating the vehicle's side panels. Just to make things interesting, the big orange traffic drum had gotten knocked into the northbound lane.

When I drove through the intersection in the late afternoon, a fresh load of fine gravel had solved the mud problem. I was a few vehicles back from the intersection, waiting for the light to change, and noticed that people driving through weren't making waves. I wondered, though, why drivers were hesitating, then dashing over the fresh gravel. I should have noticed that the gravel was exceptionally fine.

The answer was obvious when I released the brakes and rolled forward. My van's front wheels dropped off the pavement's edge and into drifts and furrows of fine gravel.

Happily, I had enough momentum to plow forward. A lifetime's experience of navigating unplowed roads in North Dakota and Minnesota served me well. I reached solid pavement on the western shore of this gravely pool and went on my way.

That wasn't the first time this week that the heart of Sauk Centre's road system offered more than the usual challenge. The downtown traffic light was off Tuesday morning, at least when I was there. A stop sign, stuck in that orange traffic drum gracing the intersection's center, and some more portable stop signs were keeping traffic orderly. The presence of sensible drivers helped, too, of course.

Here's a final thought about storms like Charlie and Frances.. If we call the ones with girl's names, like Jeanne, are called hurricanes, why aren't the ones with boy's names, like Ivan, called himicanes?

Sauk Centre experienced two of this summer's rare hot days Saturday and Sunday, but it is obvious that autumn is coming.

Someone on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue was having insulation put on their house early this week. That's a good idea, with winter coming.

A birch tree on south Main has dropped all its leaves, and a maple nearby has shed most of its leaves, too.

All over town it's the same story: Some trees are still green, some have already turned color. Some can't decide which season it is, and have fall colors on one side and summer green on the other.

The major construction projects in town are moving along.

  • A sign placed in Sinclair Lewis Avenue on Thursday read, "Road Work Ahead," but it was work at First Lutheran Church's expansion that blocked traffic. The construction crew had roof trusses stacked neatly in the street, and was lifting them onto the roof of the northwest part of the project with a crane. The framework was completed Friday.
  • The Assisted Living Center on the south side has shingles on most of the roof now.
  • Carefree Travel had brickwork added to the front of its building by the Armory today.
  • The old city hall building is going through changes. There's a hole more than a yard wide in the south wall Friday afternoon, where the second floor meeting room was.
  • The St. Michael's Hospital addition hasn't seen any spectacular changes lately, but the east wall is more complete.

Sunday, September 12, 2004. There's an old joke about there being 4 seasons in Minnesota: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Road Work.

I remembered the joke again this week when driving through downtown. Besides the Sinclair Lewis Avenue project and the South 12th getting repaved, the road to Grey Eagle has fresh asphalt and lane markings now.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga seems to be drawing to a close. The street still doesn't have paving, but at least the trenches have been filled in and the surface is level now. Holy Family School is still cut off, though. That makes getting the students in and out of the school somewhat challenging, and I heard that they had to change the way they got the kids to Mass during the day.

We had hoped that the east Sinclair Lewis Avenue project would be done in time for the school year. I'm still impressed at how well-marked the detour on 4th is, and how smoothly it is working.

The results of this summer's construction around town are becoming more obvious:

  • That refurbished building east of the Armory is the home of Carefree Travel of Sauk Centre. I learned that they're doing a full-building makeover.
  • The First Lutheran Church addition has walls up on the northwest section now, so we can see in general terms how it will look.
  • That assisted living facility near the Interpretive Center has plywood covering the roof now.
    "Lakeridge Community," the development between the old correctional facility and Sauk Lake, has sold all but 9 of the 28 lots, according to the map on the sign at the east end of Lakeridge Drive.
  • The St. Mike's hospital addition is shaping up nicely, but navigation around there was a little exciting on Thursday. A trench on Elm and the sand that's used to fill it in blocked almost all of the street.
  • South of the hospital, at Lake & Elm, an older house on the lake has been torn down. It looks like a new place will be built there. There's a foundation laid, not quite where the old house was.

Despite stereotypes, "small town America" is no haven from the world's unpleasant realities. We've seen another example this week.

A woman's body was discovered on Monday of this week, in a quarry outside Little Falls, in Belle Prairie Township. That's about 40 miles northeast of Sauk Centre, as the crow flies. Deidria Clapp, of Minneapolis, had been killed 3 or 4 days before her body was found.

News reports have Sheriff Michel Wetzel saying that someone who knew the area probably deposited her body. It is likely that she was killed elsewhere. By Friday, a man from Blain, a north Metro area suburb, had been taken into custody in connection with her death.

At least Deidria Clapp's relations know where she is now.

Saturday, September 11, 2004. Three years ago today, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 won our first victory in the War on Terror.

The Sauk Centre Journal generally deals with what's happening in and around the town I live in. Today's entry will be an exception. I plan to be back tomorrow, with this week's observations.

As I write this, September 11, 2001, is being remembered as the day when thousands of people in New York City and Washington, DC, died at the hands of terrorists. I have seen little attention paid to what happened in the sky over Ohio and Pennsylvania on that day.

That is where the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 fought back when terrorists tried to hijack their airliner. It is likely that we will never know in detail what happened, but one thing is as certain as anything can be in this world. Those free people faced armed terrorists and succeeded in stopping an attack on a national landmark, probably in this nation's Capital.

The folks on UA Flight 93 died when their airliner crashed, but many others lived because of what they did that day. By stopping one of that day's attacks, they won the first victory for freedom in the War on Terror.

Here are a few links to websites involved in memorializing the people of UA Flight 03:

Monday, September 6, 2004. Labor Day.

Minnesota had some heavy weather yesterday. Sauk Centre wasn't affected very much, although I had to stand on very wet concrete to grill lunch.

Not everyone had such a happy experience. I've read that up near Richville, a town roughly 50 miles northwest of Sauk Centre, what was probably a tornado hit a farm. The good news is that nobody seems to have been hurt. They've got 15 or 20 damaged buildings, though, and about a dozen dead cattle. Another twister touchdown happened down near the Iowa border.

Sunday, September 5, 2004. Flags went up on light poles downtown this Friday, marking the start of the Labor Day weekend. I haven't been doing much traveling, but three of my children are: one on her way to college, the other two having a weeklong stay with Grandpa. Actually, the rest of us did travel a little: about six blocks to eat supper with the other Grandpa yesterday. I doubt that counts as a "trip," though.

On the south side, 12th has brand-new lane markings. A crew was putting the bright white and yellow stripes on the black asphalt, from south of the fairgrounds to the Interpretive Center, in time for the Labor Day Weekend.

Aside from some leaves falling from a few prematurely turned trees, this week seemed more like summer than most this year. The temperature got up to 90 mid-afternoon Thursday, on the downtown bank thermometer.

The First Lutheran Church expansion project is moving along. Monday morning, Sinclair Lewis Avenue between Maple and Elm was blocked off so a crane could lift pre-stressed concrete components onto the northwest section. I think they're floor sections.

I heard more about the Gene-O's fire in Long Prairie, weekend before last. What's left of the building has been leveled. I understand that the owner plans to rebuild. That's good news. Gene-O's has been a Long Prairie landmark and community hub for decades.

On the north side of town, across from the Food n Fuel on Highway 71, what looked like a white and green hot air balloon over 12 feet across added visual interest to the roadside near the baseball field. It was a promotional balloon advertising Phil Polipnick's Country Insurance open house.

I'm a little fond of inflated advertisements like that. One of my favorites, set up in another town, was a big plastic gorilla, arms held over its head, maybe fifteen feet tall. I saw it on a windy day, so it looked like a big cartoon character, threatening cars in the parking lot.

I've been more than usually aware of jaywalkers this week. It isn't at all uncommon to see someone standing in the middle of Main, halfway between the Ben Franklin and Heartland Gallery, or crossing from the Post Office to their car, parked on the other side. Except near end-of-week rush hours, traffic is fairly light, so this isn't quite as dangerous as it sounds, but I couldn't recommend the exercise to anybody.

The situation reminds me a little about the years when I was growing up in Moorhead, Minnesota. Moorhead was growing fast then, and had been a much smaller town just a few years before. I remember seeing people back then, braced just beyond a line of parked cars, whipping their heads back and forth to keep track of traffic. At an optimum moment, they'd dash across a lane or two, stop to avoid becoming one with the radiator of some mass of metal, glass, and chrome, then repeat the process until they reached safety on the other side. Years later, I recognized the same pattern repeated, in the old Frogger video game.

It's amazing that more people don't get hit while making these treks across traffic. I suppose an unconscious sense of self-preservation, or alert drivers, or possibly the guardian angels involved, can be thanked for that.

Sunday, August 29, 2004. We had summer for a day or so at the beginning of the week: high temperatures around 80, and lots of humidity. After that taste of genuine August weather, things got back to what would be appropriate for autumn.

"Heavy traffic" and "small town" are phrases that don't often go together, except sometimes on The Original Main Street during rush hour. I was downtown this week on Thursday and Friday around 5:00, and traffic was backed up well over 2 blocks, south of the downtown lights both times.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga continues. On Wednesday, I saw 2 or 3 overgrown backhoes, still at work digging up Sinclair Lewis Avenue, east of Main Street. Near the east end of the work the crew had excavated a concrete block tube, about 2 feet across inside. A yard-long piece of the tube was laying on the dirt.

At the heart of downtown, the intersection of Sinclair Lewis Avenue has a striped orange traffic barrel in the center and absolutely no pavement. Folks have, by and large, learned to take it slow and easy while driving through there. The street is a trifle lumpy.

The last 2 weeks of The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga have been unusually exciting. I read in the paper that, on Thursday of last week (the 19th), someone got the day started by breaking a gas line under Sinclair Lewis Avenue, near Ash Street. Folks for a block and a half around there were asked to leave their homes. Two hours later, at 10:30, they were allowed back.

This week, Friday morning, at least 2 or 3 Fire Department vehicles were at the corner of Sinclair Lewis Avenue and Pine Street with their flashers on. I think we'll hear that there was another utility line break.

South 12th Street got new asphalt pavement last Monday, from the traffic lights eastward past the fairgrounds. Little arrows and short lines show where the lane markings will be painted, later. I'm looking forward to those markings, although it's been exciting driving there, as folks figure out where the lanes are.

The Assisted Living Facility on the south side had most of its roof framework up by the end of the week. At this rate, it looks like they might be finished by winter.

The work at the west side of the Junior and Senior High School was to install new (and improved) windows, I hear. There seemed to be a lot of work going on at the east side, too.

Up the road, in Long Prairie, we lost a sort of landmark. Last weekend, the Gene-O's restaurant on Highway 71 burned. The good news is that the fast-spreading fire didn't ignite nearby buildings. The authorities think the fire started around the kitchen in Gene-O's, but aren't sure what started it.

Monday, August 23, 2004. As of the middle of the month, this has been the 9th coldest August on record for Minnesota.

As well as being generally chilly, a few records were set around here. Wednesday night, actually very early Thursday morning, St. Cloud set a new record low of 38. The previous record of 40 happened in 1950 or 1967, depending on which report you ran into. Another report mentioned that the previous low had been set twice, so I suppose it could have gotten down to 40 on that date in both 1950 and 1967.

At any rate, Little Falls reached 34 that day. Friday morning we heard that Minot, North Dakota, had reached 32 the previous night, and that the temperature had been 26 south of Grand Forks, in the Red River Valley. These temperatures can be bad news for crops.

On Tuesday, I noticed a maple at the corner of Ash and 3rd has started turning color. A maple or two on south Main are turning, too, as well as shrubbery on the north side of the curve where Main/Highway 71 starts curving eastward. Looks like autumn is getting an early start this year.

The second curve on Highway 71 heading north looks a little different now. Town and Country Sales has a you-park-it sales lot there that I don't remember from previous years.

Folks are moving into "Lakeridge Community" on the north side. The new section of Lakeshore Drive has 2 new house foundations laid now, and the place with the big brick drive seems to be occupied.

The Assisted Living Facility west of the Interpretive Center had walls going up on Wednesday. It's wet work. We got rain that morning. On the next lot west, the River of Life church doesn't have a building up yet, but they did have their bus parked near the back of the property.

Main Street Coffee Company on The Original Main Street had a professionally done sign hanging under their main one, reading, "open mic nite tonight 6-9 pm."

I noticed quite a few vehicles with boats in tow heading east on the Interstate Sunday evening: most likely folks going back to the metro from a weekend at the lake. Looks like this brisk August hasn't cooled interest in Minnesota's lake country.

Sunday, August 22, 2004. Sorry: I don't have this week's entry quite ready yet.

Agnes Kaas, wife of Deacon Lawrence Kaas, mother and grandmother of the Kaas, Simonson, Schwieger, and Gill families, and great grandmother of Simonson children, died Saturday night, August 21. The wake is 7:30 pm Monday, August 23. The funeral is 11:00 am Tuesday, August 24.

My family and I are a little distracted right now, so I'll get the Sauk Centre Journal entry out a little late. Maybe tomorrow. Then again, maybe not.
[Brian H. Gill, webmaster]

Sunday, August 15, 2004. The Sauk Herald this week explained why the traffic lights downtown were out a week ago Wednesday. A backhoe hit overhead lines around First National Bank and Pfeffer's grocery. That cut power to downtown and damaged the Pfeffer building.

Autumn came early this year. Last Monday we had drizzle, the temperature was 64 on the bank sign at 4:00 p.m., and the next few days weren't much better. We didn't have drizzle all the time, but it was cool and cloudy Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday, the temperature finally rose above 70.

Record low temperatures were recorded Wednesday night. St. Cloud dropped to 43, breaking the previous record of 44 set in 1982. When I mentioned this to someone in town Thursday, she replied, "big deal. It was 43 here when I came to work."

Glenwood reached 43 too, breaking a record set in 1952.

The building east of the Armory got some new holes knocked it its front on Monday. By the end of that day, the entire front wall was gone. Work continued, and by Thursday the building had a new front wall and was getting new siding.

Across the street, a crew with grading equipment paved the lot behind Oak Street Mall on Thursday.

The Senior High School got new windows. On Wednesday, 2 windows on the west wall near the auditorium addition were being worked on, with 4 more boarded up. At the Junior High, the door north of the main door was being worked on, a new window was going in, and a window was still boarded up. I still haven't heard what connection, if any, all this work has with the emergency vehicles that went roaring by some time ago.

I was in the Armory Wednesday and saw a sign taped to a door which read, "KNOW LOITTERING." A joke? Or an example of "checklish?"

Friday afternoon traffic was heavy, as usual, with more than the usual percentage of boats in tow. At 2:49, traffic was backed up on The Original Main Street for 2 and a half blocks south of the downtown lights, as far as the L. N. Kaas Company.

Saturday night's racetrack roar had a new feature this week. At about a quarter to eight, and again after eleven, we heard a sort of boom, a much louder roar, and the sound of a turbine winding down. On a guess, I'd say that someone was running a jet engine at the racetrack. I looked south from where I live after the last time and saw bright light and a great deal of smoke coming up from the racetrack area. That little event certainly got the attention of Sauk Centre's south side.

Sunday, August 8, 2004. Getting to the Interpretive Center on the south side of town has been a little tricky this week.

A new curb was set on the southwest corner of Main and south 12th recently. This week crews have been busy there. Dug-up pavement and equipment including a cherry picker have blocked one of the westbound lanes. Between that activity, and the Interpretive Center's main driveway being dug up, folks going there have had to go in the back way, using the street leading to the Gopher Prairie motel.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga continued through the week, as crews filled in trenches, dug new ones, filled in those, and seem to have dug more trenches where they had already worked. There were piles of large, bright blue pipes, smaller green ones, and a pile of fireplugs a various points along the street.

The traffic lights at Sinclair Lewis Avenue and Main, downtown, were off when I drove by there at about 8:20 Wednesday evening. The good news was that the temporary stop signs were directing traffic effectively. On Friday afternoon, about 3:40, vehicles were backed up for two and a half blocks, south of the intersection. This isn't unusual, at that time of day. I've noticed, driving on Main, that the lights seem to take a long time to run through their cycle.

Monday's early-morning hail took leaves and small branches off trees around town, but I think it was Dutch Elm disease that had a crew removing a grand old tree near where I work.

On Wednesday, I noticed a new sign downtown: Jessica's Shear Paradise, just north of the State Farm Insurance office. As a creative touch, the "A" in "Shear" on the sign in front is shaped like a barber's or hairstylist's shears.

A town the size of Sauk Centre has contrasts that aren't often seen in larger places. A small field between Main Street Press and Westside Liquors on south 12th ripened recently. On Thursday, a reaper was parked among the harvested rows. A block or two west, a traffic light directed traffic between the McDonalds and convenience stores.

Centre Auto has cars on the lot in its new location on south Main. It looks like work could be continuing: They're probably going to want a better sort of paving on the lot.

Main Street Coffee Company, on south Main, has a new, hand-lettered sign up, below the main one. They're letting folks know that they have books, bagels, and scones. This coffee place has a charming, old-fashioned atmosphere, which contrasted with the red-and-chrome motorcycle parked in front late this afternoon, glittering in the sun.

Finally, the big news in town this week was that Christopher Hinnenkamp is no longer missing. He turned up in Butte, Montana, and is facing charges that he stabbed Shannon Olson.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004. News reports say that Chris Hinnenkamp has been found in Butte, Montana. The reports say that he's in custody. He's been missing since July 26. The Chevy pickup that he apparently took with him showed up in Butte, too. The local lady whose 5-year-old boy was dropped off in downtown Sauk Centre, and whose truck was taken, is still recovering.

This is good news: Chris is alive, and apparently safe. Maybe now we'll learn a little about why this happened.

Sunday, August 1, 2004. Almost a week ago, Chris Hinnenkamp went missing. What I have heard is that he stabbed a local lady, took her pickup into town with her 5-year-old son in the back seat, dropped the boy downtown (not at City Hall, as a metro news station had it), and disappeared.

Aside from that, it's been a pretty good week. Purple wildflowers continue to grow in patches along the Interstate, and we've been getting what seems to be enough rain.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga took an exciting turn on Monday. "Local Traffic Only" signs were up on the approaches to downtown, with "Detour" signs routing traffic away from the first block of Sinclair Lewis Avenue east of The Original Main Street. By Tuesday, there was a very well-marked detour along 3rd Street to the east side of town.

Ash and south 3rd Street is now a 4-way stop, with stop signs protecting 3rd between Main and Ash. Unhappily, there is the one place where there seems to be a slight problem with the signs. At Ash and 3rd, a small tree obscures the stop sign for eastbound drivers.

Sauk Centre's central intersection, Sinclair Lewis Avenue and Main, has been dug up a few times already. It's gotten rather lumpy as a result.

I understand that this roadwork will have part of downtown without water on August 2nd. This week's paper announced that people in town are not to water their lawns on Monday. They're serious about it, too. The word is that if folks water their lawns, their water will be shut off.

Quite a few sirens went toward the school last week, and the day after that, windows were boarded up to the right of the Senior High main door.

The last of the fair midway rides were gone by Thursday.

That day, the street that runs by Sinclair Lewis Park was closed for the bicycle MS TRAM. On Lake Wobegon Trail, just north of Sinclair Lewis Avenue, there's a new little rest shelter and a portapotty. Convenient.

On Friday, a man with a greenish reflective vest, a flashing motorcycle, and a smile, stood in the rain where Lake Wobegon Trail crosses Ash Street. I assume he had something to do with the bicycle TRAM.

Friday, July 30, 2004. Sometimes bad things happen in small towns. On Monday, a 14-year-old boy from Sauk Centre apparently stabbed a woman who had given him a ride outside town. They knew each other, which isn't unusual in a place this size.

He left her, and drove her pickup into town, with the woman's 5-year-old son in the back seat. He dropped the youngster off downtown, and hasn't been seen since.

The woman is expected to recover, and the 5-year-old apparently was unhurt. The 14-year-old hasn't been seen since Monday.

The missing boy is Christopher Hinnenkamp. Friends of the family have made a poster, to help find him. I got permission to make information from the poster available here. [Chris Hinnenkamp has since been found, so the poster is no longer available. Thanks to Main Street Press, for their help. B. G., webmaster.]

Sunday, July 25, 2004. This was the week of the Stearns County Fair.

Monday and Tuesday were hot, with a high around 90 on Tuesday. Wednesday was hotter, with 100% humidity in the morning. The bank sign near downtown displayed 97 degrees at 3:55. Down at the fairgrounds, more midway rides arrived and got set up. Things started cooling off Wednesday night, and Thursday was actually pleasant.

That was good news for me, since my daughter and I were setting up a booth in the Commercial building on Wednesday.

Most buildings at the fair are cooled with 2/x/y air conditioning. That is, two doors open, with x and y standing for wind speed and direction. A system like that makes pleasant weather a big plus.

While walking around the fair, I wrote down some of the signs at food stands:

  • "Frozen Lemonade" (they had strawberry lemonade, too)
  • "Beer Battered Onion Rings"
  • "oof-da Tacos" (those were the sign's exact words)
  • "Deep Fried Oreos"

Near a stand selling fried corn dogs and other fair food on Friday, a sign announced "free blood pressures at Jaycee Building." (No, thanks: I already have enough blood pressure.)

There were the familiar landmarks at the fair, like the Knights of Columbus Bingo booth. From there, the Bingo caller's amplified voice traveled west to the midway and the new Sauk Centre Herald bandstand, east to the 4H building, north to the American Legion Beer Garden, and south to the racetrack. On Saturday night, the racetrack's demolition derby struck back, nearly drowning out all other sounds.

And, as thousands strolled between buildings and exhibits, one of the fair officials rolled through the crowds on a discrete motorbike. I think it was a Honda Elite.

Elsewhere in town, First Lutheran Church's expansion project has moved to the Sinclair Lewis Avenue side of the property. They've got a big hole in the ground at the northwest part of the building.

On Main Street, at the 12th Street South intersection, we had to drive around road construction early in the week. By Friday, traffic sensors were embedded in the westbound lane of 12th on the east side of Main.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga may be entering a new phase. On Saturday, orange and white traffic drums seem to have erupted from the pavement on Sinclair Lewis Avenue east of Main Street. They occupy small but deep holes in the pavement, where utility covers stood.

Thursday, July 22, 2004. This is the second day of the Stearns County Fair, and it looks like there will be cooler temperatures for the rest of the week. That wouldn't take much, after yesterday's 100% morning humidity and high in the nineties.

I'm particularly interested in one of the booths there. Brigid's World, selling copies of artwork created by my daughter, Naomi Gill, is sharing a booth with my website design and development service. When you're at the fair, I'd like you to drop by the commercial building and see what I do when I'm not working on Brendan's Island. Look for the booth with "Brigid's World" and "Brian H. Gill" on it, on the east side of the building.

Sunday, July 18, 2004. We had pretty good weather for Sinclair Lewis Days, yesterday. The high point of the day for me was the parade. For over 50 minutes, we watched as a marching band, convertibles, farm equipment, and the wonders of this area marched by. I made a short list of some distinctive units:

  • A cross between a dragster and a Paul Bunyan-sized grocery cart, promoting Coborn's
  • The Red Hat Societies of Sauk Centre, with their red hats, purple dresses and non-staid approach to life
  • Someone dressed as an accordion-playing gorilla on roller blades
  • Shriners in little land-going boats (go-boats?), and another set on go-carts

And then, tonight, there were fireworks down by the lake. No municipal fireworks on the Fourth, and then an Eighteenth of July fireworks display, is a little odd, I suppose: but still fun to watch.

The Post Office's flag went to half-staff on Monday, and stayed that way for most of the week. The postal service was marking the death of a Governor of the Postal Service and 67th Postmaster General, Albert V. Casey. It's been a little over two months since they lost the 70th Postmaster General, Marvin Runyon.

Preparations for the Stearns County Fair are getting more visible. On Wednesday about a half dozen folks were planting flowers around the Fairground entrance. By Friday morning, there were three midway rides sitting on their trailers on the fairgrounds.

The top floor of St. Mike's Hospital is getting new insulation. Folks across the lake, in Sinclair Lewis Park, can see the bright yellow walls and orange windsock through the treetops. Too bad - that cheerful yellow insulation will be covered by bricks.

There's been a sign in front of the public library this week, "Celebrating 100 Years As a Carnegie Library 1904-2004." I went to their open house on Friday, returned some books and bought a commemorative book bag.

Sunday, July 11, 2004. An excellent summer day. Highs got back where they belong this week, in the 80s. We've had rain, so the yard is ready for another harvest, but the last few days were picture-perfect partly cloudy.

On the down side, an unusual number of elms had to be removed this summer. One of the diseased trees was in this family's yard. I understand that dry conditions over the last several years made elms around here more likely to get Dutch elm disease.

Back on Tuesday, the first day after the Independence Day weekend, flags were back at the top of their poles.

I was reminded of a reason I like living here on Wednesday. At a convenience store, I saw a boy, maybe ten years old, hold the door open for an elderly man. I hadn't been used to seeing that kind of courtesy when I moved here, some 18 years ago. The civilized behavior of Sauk Centre's children was one of the first things that struck me about this community. 

I think it was Thursday when things started warming up. I noted that the temperature on the bank sign downtown was 81 around mid-afternoon.

That new construction on Main Street, just south of the Subway, is identified now. On Friday, a sign there announced that this was where Centre Auto would be.

On the north side, the "Lakeridge Community Welcomes You" sign by Highway 71, south of the Sauk Lake bridge, showed that four lake front and five other lots are still unsold. It's a little hard to see the inland lots on the sign, since an enthusiastic thistle is reaching across the map's lower part. A crew was laying sod Friday afternoon at the lakeshore edifice with a brick drive. They a hot job. Back downtown, the bank sign indicated a temperature of 88 late that afternoon.

Most of the lots in the "Lakeridge Community" haven't been cleared. I hope that the new owners decide to leave as much their woodland standing as possible. At this point, the trees are one of the best features in that area.

Monday, July 5, 2004. What happened to summer? This was a cool, overcast day, and the forecast says we'll have another like it tomorrow. I was out in the back yard, though, grilling lunch and supper.

There's a new business in town, one I'm personally interested in. Brigid's World sells copies of artwork created by my daughter, Naomi Gill. She will be sharing a booth at the Stearns County Fair with my website design and development service.

There, that's about enough self-promotion for one day's entry. Hope you had a good Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 4, 2004. The Fourth of July. Independence Day. Happy birthday, USA. I heard a few personal fireworks displays this evening.

There's more than usual in this week's entry, so I've made an effort put the first mention of some subject in bold lettering.

Finally, we had a week of summer weather. Highs were in the eighties, and we even had some thundershowers as the Fourth approached. Part of town, around the school, even had a momentary power outage during a shower on Friday.

The big news for me this week is that Sauk Centre's Main Street Theatre added two screens.

Now they can have six movies showing at the same time. I read in the Sauk Herald that the two new theaters each seat 60 people, have stereo sound and plush seats. Bob and Mary Douvier have been showing movies on the fifth and sixth screens since May 1.

This makes Main Street Theatre a six-screen movie house.

The new screens have been in the works since 2000, when the Douvier's bought the upper level of the old Odd Fellows Club next door. The last meeting of the IOOF Sauk Centre chapter was back in 1990. Their meeting space had been rented out as an apartment.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga's western chapter approaches an end. Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, lane markings were painted on Sinclair Lewis Avenue between Main and the Lake Wobegon Trail. That street is nowhere near as exciting to drive on now, compared to when it was an expanse of fresh, unmarked black asphalt: especially when there's traffic.

On Thursday, I noticed that crosswalks were getting repainted all over town.

The St. Mike's (St. Michael's Hospital, to be a little more formal) addition is moving along. On Wednesday, bricks were being laid over insulation on the north side.

The town had flags mounted on utility and light poles downtown Friday, in preparation for the Fourth of July.

Fishing on or near the Sauk River Dam in Sauk Centre isn't allowed any more. The city government was worried about getting sued: not an unreasonable concern, these days. So, now we've got "No Trespassing" signs up on both sides of the dam, and locked gates going up along the top of the dam.

So, now folks have been trespassing on Mill Apartments property, to get to the dam area.

If live musicals are a sign of culture, Sauk Centre is getting to be a cultured town. Last year's A Dash of Rosemary stage presentation went over so well in Sauk Centre, that Douglas Kampsen decided to bring another musical to Sauk Centre. Kampsen, a Sauk Centre native, and Red Hope Productions, will bring Always Patsy Cline to Sauk Centre Auditorium around the end of September this year.

Meanwhile, down the road, in Melrose, the Sauk River Players will stage Damn Yankees at the Melrose Auditorium in mid-July.

Sunday, June 27, 2004. It was raining this morning, but cleared by noon. I was a little concerned about that: I might have gotten soaked, grilling lunch!

As far as temperatures go, this has been a cool week in Minnesota. On Friday, the high was in the upper sixties: and that was one of the warmer days.

Undeterred, folks have boats on trailers parked in front of their houses, and this week we have had more traffic backed on The Original Main Street. Sometimes there were vehicles waiting for the light to change, two blocks north and south of Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

The spire of St. Paul's Church got attention from a cherry picker crew Monday morning. They seemed interested in the louvers on the north side. Over at Our Lady of the Angels Church, Father Statz started celebrating morning Mass on Monday, a good indication of his recovery.

On Tuesday, I noticed new benches on front of the public library, flanking the bike rack. They're the old-fashioned variety, wood slats between metal end-pieces, each on a pebble-surfaced concrete pad touching the sidewalk. I don't think they were there last week, but they could have been hidden from the street by parked vehicles.

Lake Ridge Drive has a fine, fresh asphalt surface now, with none of the protruding access pipe caps and two-tier curb that gave it so much character for the last several months. Trees there have been cut down on another lot, making room for another house. At least one of the new residences seems to be occupied now: a van was parked on the brick drive.

On Wednesday, Sinclair Lewis Avenue, west, started sporting tiny T-shaped paint marks, probably showing where lane stripes will go.

A sort of cultural note for Sauk Centre: A sign in the entry of the public library announced that the Main Street Coffee Company would have a weekly talent night, starting Friday, July 2.

First Lutheran Church on Sinclair Lewis Avenue is missing the south part of the building now. As I recall, that was mostly some kind of lobby. It's part of their expansion project.
On Thursday, I noticed that the new Assisted Living Facility's foundation had been laid.
Late in the afternoon Thursday, traffic was backed up two blocks on Main, at Sinclair Lewis Avenue. That was much earlier than the usual rush hour wait.

The big old tree just west of the Sinclair Lewis house front yard went down today. A tree cutting service came and took everything except a stump.

The new city hall has a flagpole now. A crew installed the pole by the main entry, on the building's northeast corner, Friday afternoon.

Saturday, June 19, 2004. It's been a beautiful weekend, so far. Another sunset is fading from the western sky as I enter these words, helping me forget for a moment that my eldest daughter's new notebook computer has a screen that's larger than the family's television.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga continued this week. On Tuesday, the tops of manhole covers and sewer caps were still sticking about an inch out of the pavement. Except for one which, in the morning, was actually detached from its pipe and lying nearby on the street. That made for a bit of exciting driving.

By the end of Wednesday, the outer thirds of the street were mostly asphalted, leaving a strip down the middle. As Friday drew to a close, Sinclair Lewis Avenue, from Main to the Lake Wobegon Trail, was a sea of dark asphalt, as yet unblemished by a single lane marking.

Toward the end of the week, the flags at the Post Office and Armory were still at half staff. Others are at the top of their poles, and one is undecided, at about three quarters staff.

There's an "Assisted Living Facility" being built on the south side, near the Interpretive Center. The sign at the construction site says "October 2004." On the next lot west, another sign proclaims that the River of Life Church will be next door.

On Friday, a fireworks tent was up in the parking lot by West Side Liquor. We've had fireworks for sale in Coborn's for some time now. I must admit that I am glad that we now live in a state which does not protect us from the perils of sparklers. This is almost like the Fourth of July season that I remember, back when.

Sunday, June 13, 2004. At about twenty to five Monday afternoon this week, the bank clock south of downtown registered 93 degrees. We had rain that night. Rain continued Tuesday, with lightning. Drought conditions have disappeared in central Minnesota. Tuesday night, at about 10:00, I was heading for home on the Beltline road, and enjoyed God's light show in the southern sky: lightning in the clouds, stretching from east to west.

We brought the flags in town to half staff this week, after the news of former President Reagan's death.

On Thursday, I noticed that Original Main Street Antiques and Main Street Coffee Company's sign has been raised about seven or eight feet off the ground. Now it is visible over the roofs of parked cars.

Another American icon died on Thursday of this week: Ray Charles. Not that this has much to do with Sauk Centre, but even my oldest daughter recognized him. He had quite an impact on the culture of this country.

As of Friday, there was still a sod-free lawn on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. I think that they're seeding the soil there. One more note in the continuing Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga: that strange inverted speed bump is still there, and particularly jarring for westbound traffic. I have developed the habit of slowing to a crawl, in deference to my suspension. My wife didn't, and enjoyed the full tooth-jarring effects.

Toward the end of the week, construction began where the old A-frame fast-food place used to be on south Main.

These new outdoor cafes seem to be a good idea. I've seen people sitting out on the patio at both Main Street Coffee Company and Jitters Java, on Main Street.

Sunday, June 6, 2004. The St. Michael's addition is coming along. Walls were going up on the first floor on Thursday, and the steel framework over what I assume is the entrance is in place.

In another chapter of the Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga, sod on those re-landscaped lawns got another tanker-full of water. So far, the re-sodded sections seem to be doing well. In fact, they look as if they need a haircut.

This week's Friday was warm. The bank sign near downtown displayed 82 degrees at 5:55 that afternoon.

More change in Sauk Centre: The A-frame building that once housed an old fast-food place on south Main was torn down long ago. All that remained was a parking area south of the Subway on Cass and Main. On Friday, June 5th, that was gone, too. The lot, just south of the Subway on Cass and Main, has been cleared and is being leveled.

Sidewalk repair isn't limited to The Original Main Street. Another new section is in place, at Lake Wobegon Trail and Walnut. It looks like the city is cracking down on cracked sidewalks.

The latest Harry Potter movie came to town on Friday. I took part of the family to the matinee today, and plan to take most of the rest in the near future.

Signs at the southwest corner of the Stearns County Fairgrounds have been announcing today's Firemen's Demo Derby, and more! On the evening July 21, when the Stearns County Fair opens, we can look forward to The Killer Hayseeds, at 8:30.

I learned what caused that power failure last week. The June 1st Herald reported that a truck took out a utility pole. What happened after that either shows how vulnerable the power supply is, or how fast we respond to a problem. Maybe both.

The accident happened at about a quarter to six on Tuesday morning, May 25th.

A truck with two trailers whipped around the corner on Beltline Road near Gopher Prairie Motel.

The second trailer left the road, and hit a utility pole. And the main transmission line for Sauk Centre.

That's when the lights went out in Sauk Centre. West Union and Birch Lake followed suit. About 2,150 Stearns Electric Association customers lost power, leaving dairy farmers with a challenging milking time. Meire Grove, Greenwald and Melrose only experienced flickers.

In all, three substations were knocked out. The driver is okay, by the way, aside from getting a ticket. An hour later, most of Sauk Centre had power. City Hall and St. Michael's Hospital had standby generators, happily, and the city loaned a generator to Gopher Prairie Motel during the twelve hours it took to repair their damage.

Monday, June 1, 2004. Memorial Day.

This has been a rainy Memorial Day weekend. I'm not complaining, considering the sort of weather that's generated tornados, hail, and wind in other areas. Even in this area, there have been flood watches.

Small flags lined the sidewalk leading up to the flag and monument at Sinclair Lewis Park on Sauk Lake, as usual on this day.

The really big events of this weekend, of course, have happened elsewhere: the annual laying of the wreath at Arlington, and the historic dedication of the WWII Memorial on Saturday.

Back here in Sauk Centre, all this rain has made the golf course on the north side of town profoundly and sincerely green. On the new street, extending eastward from the northeast corner of the course, construction has been moving along. Some of the new houses there now look like the grand dwellings that they are.

Saturday, May 29, 2004. Memorial Day weekend has begun.

Yesterday, Friday the 28th, the boy and girl statues appeared in the fountain near the lake. Street crews put flags up on The Original Main Street and Sinclair Lewis Avenue, downtown, and hand-made signs on strategic street corners pointed to garage sales. As a final confirmation of the day's identity, an unusual proportion of vehicles on Main were towing boats, and the lakeside campground was filling up.

On Tuesday, May 25, power was out for about an hour early in the morning. As a result, the school started two hours late.

The same day, Father James Statz, of Our Lady of the Angels Church in Sauk Centre, suffered a stoke. He was preparing for a funeral, so people were at hand, and he received medical attention is as little time as we could hope for. He was transferred to the St. Cloud hospital. Doctors said it was a "miracle" that he wasn't dead or on a life support system, considering the severity of the stroke.

The stoke, caused by a blood clot, affected his left side. By Thursday, he was walking, could raise both arms over his head, and was speaking "pretty darn good," as Deacon Kaas said. As I am writing this, Fr. Statz has been released from the hospital and is staying with his mother, who will try to make him rest and recover.

Please keep Father Statz in your prayers.

On a lighter note, on Wednesday, May 26, I noticed that part of the sidewalk on the west side of Main, on the 500 and 600 blocks south of downtown, were torn up and in the process of being replaced.

Another chapter in the Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga: Just west of the Lake Wobegon Trail on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, where the new paving ends, there is a sort of trench or inverted speed bump. It is about a foot across and an inch deep, with steep sides. For the sake of my tires and suspension, I try to take it a little slow there. I took a look, and the same feature graces side streets off Sinclair Lewis Avenue west, too.

Congratulations to the 113 graduates from Sauk Centre High School. Graduation ceremonies were on Friday of this week.

Finally, I noticed, while grilling lunch this noon, that the grass on our lawn is just about ready for harvesting. This week's rains have had an effect in town, but there's still a blotch in Minnesota, on the national drought map. More rain came today, so I'm hopeful that soil moisture levels will be rising.

Sunday, May 23, 2004. It rained and sprinkled on and off today, mostly in the morning. I'm normally not a big fan of rain, but I understand that we can use the moisture. The down side of this precipitation is that the lawn will need another mowing soon, and I had to grill under the eaves of the garage to stay dry. Foregoing my weekend grilling was, of course, out of the question.

Outdoor tables at the two new coffee shops in town are still up, and in use. At least, on clement days. Jitters Java, near downtown, put up a third table, potted plants, and one of those decorative posts, about three feet tall, that are designed to let cigarette stubs in, but keep oxygen out - a sort of high-tech ash tray.

Apart from a momentary power failure in part of town, and one of the cable services being out for a while on Thursday evening, this has been a fairly quiet week.

I read in the paper that the road work on Sinclair Lewis Avenue last Tuesday involved fixing a gas leak. The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga now has two gas leaks to its credit: last week's, and the one back on September 22, 2003. I've read that last year's, downtown, happened when a crew found an old, undocumented, gas line.

Sunday, May 16, 2004. Up the road, in Osakis, a downtown landmark is gone. Demolition work on the old Empress Theatre on Central Avenue in Osakis began May 4. The big marquee in front, with its Art Deco lettering, hit the pavement at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, May 6. Now, there's just a vacant lot next to A.J.'s Restaurant, on the west side of Central Avenue.

As long as I'm talking about Osakis, last week's Echo Press told about the fate of a 200-year-old elm tree in Alexandria. When the elm died, the owner decided to make a statue out of it. A chainsaw sculptor commissioned by the owner used wood from the elm to make a replica of the old Osagi statue in "Osagi park" in Osakis. It isn't any accident that Osagi and Osakis sound quite a bit alike. The Echo Press reports that Osakis historian Marjorie Schelfhout identified "Osagi" as a more correct form of "Osakis." Apparently, when French explorers mapped this area, the local word "Osagi" mistakenly got written as "Osakis."

Back to Sauk Centre:

Sauk Centre City Administrator Coralee Fox has resigned. She's been city administrator since 2000. Besides this, there were less spectacular changes in Sauk Centre this week:

Tuesday of this week, I noticed roadwork on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. The block between Maple and Walnut, west of downtown, was blocked off. The next day, work continued up and down the avenue, but without the detour. It looks like they're putting tar around utility access covers, or whatever manhole covers are called these days.

On Wednesday, new old-fashioned streetlights were being installed across the street from the new City hall.

Streets were wet from overnight rain on Wednesday, but I understand that we are still short on ground moisture. Unlike northern Minnesota, where Rosseau is expecting a major flood.

It look like we have another residential development in Sauk Centre. A little south of the Interstate, on Highway 71, a sign with "Pleasant Pines" across the top displays a lot map.

Thursday morning, a crew was pouring the second floor on the St. Mike's hospital addition.

Main Street Video has had a sign up for a while now: "FINAL SALE: VIDEOS & GAMES $1.00 EACH." Main Street Video has been sharing a store front with Sauk Centre Agency Real Estate for quite a few years.

Jitters Java's outside tables were sporting green umbrellas on Friday.

Sunday night, I had the pleasure of driving into Sauk Centre downtown from the west. Both rows of the new orange-yellow "acorn" streetlights were on. The evening's rain had made the street into a rolling reflecting strip, with each streetlight sending a shimmering pillar of light down the surface of the pavement. The drive down Sinclair Lewis Avenue, up and down the low hill west of downtown, felt like a procession. 

Sunday, May 9, 2004. Last Monday, May 3, at mid-afternoon, the flag in front of the Post Office was taken to half-mast. Later, I found out that this was to honor Marvin Runyon, 70th Postmaster, who died that day. He served from 1992 to 1998.

I also did a little catching up with Sauk Centre events this week. City Hall offices moved into the new building on April 27. The city council had their first meeting in their new chamber on the 28th. The new City Hall has a "modern" interior, with a timeless white-and-gray color scheme. I was told that this was to make it something that wouldn't have to be changed, as interior decorating fashions change. I read in the paper that the old city hall is going to be made into apartments.

Sinclair Lewis Avenue now has a complete row of those old-fashioned streetlights on both sides, from Main Street almost to the Lake Wobegon Trail. Since they're closely spaced, they accent the dip west of downtown, and the miniature hill beyond that. (It isn't much of a hill, but I grew up in the Red River Valley: and any change in elevation more than two or three feet per block tends to impress me.)

The Main Street Coffee Company, south of downtown, has a new patio on the south side of the building, with three tables, two umbrellas, and a bird feeder. It was put together recently, and will soon be open.

Jitters Java, across from the Post Office, had two tables set up outside yesterday. I understand that they're European imports, with chairs that are more comfortable than they appear to be.

I think that these are the first two open-air cafes in Sauk Centre. Considering the climate here, it's not surprising that it took this long.

There were whitecaps on Sauk Lake Tuesday. We have had wind, and pleasant temperatures, but not much rain. We could use more moisture in the soil: it is still quite dry.

Sunday, May 2, 2004. It's a beautiful, cool day today. I grilled lunch, as usual for me on weekends, and am enjoying having my eldest daughter back home for a few months.

This last several days dramatized one thing I really like about Minnesota. On Wednesday, April 28, the time and temperature sign downstairs displayed 91 degrees. The next morning, Thursday the 29th, it was 31 degrees outside our north window. I'll say this about Minnesota weather: it is not boring.

On Sinclair Lewis Avenue, I've seen crews out getting work done, but I haven't found out exactly what is getting done. Aside from finishing the installation of the new old-fashioned streetlights, there is quite a bit to do in some front yards, in terms of landscaping and new sod. The street is wider now, and some lots have new slopes leading down to the sidewalk.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004. I try to update this page on the weekends. Connection problems and schedules got in the way last week, however, so I'm doing a little mid-week catch-up.

Eight days ago, Tuesday the 20th, we had a nice, soaking combination of rain and drizzle in the afternoon. So far it has been a dry season, and the water was welcome. Lawns in town started turning green, at least in patches.

Mike Pfeffer, of Pfeffer's Country Market, died on Wednesday the 21st. He's been dealing with cancer for some time, I understand. He will be missed. Mike Pfeffer's funeral was on Friday, April 23. A sign of Pfeffer's Country Market, downtown, said that the grocery was closed all day and added, "please keep Mike, Vicki, & their families in your prayers."

The same day, a military helicopter came to Sauk Centre as part of the D.A.R.E. program. I noted its landing at Holy Family School, where the crew talked with the students and showed off the helicopter for over three quarters of an hour.

Golfers were out at the Sauk Centre Country Club on Tuesday, April 27, enjoying a beautiful day. The time and temperature bank sing downtown indicated 75 degrees that afternoon.

Today, Wednesday the 28th, the same sign told us that it was 91 degrees in the afternoon.

Sunday, April 18, 2004. We finally had some rain: We also had lightening and thunder about 4 or 5 in the morning today. The grass in town is starting to look green. During the day, there was some rough weather in the area, including hail and a tornado warning.

Saturday, April 17, 2004. Golf season seems to have started. I saw two boys walking with golf bags on the east fairway of the Sauk Centre Country Club Monday. We haven't had much rain yet this season, and the land is dry. The Sauk Centre fire department got called to a grass fire around midnight, late in the week.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga continues. Sidewalks on both sides of Sinclair Lewis Avenue have been torn up, from Walnut west to the Lake Wobegon Trail, and forms are in place for the concrete. Parking is still a little awkward west of Main, since the pavement remains about an inch lower than the concrete sill of the curb.

The new Sauk Centre City Hall is almost done. The paper says that the city government will start moving in, starting with the fire department.

Small-town settings on television and the movies sometimes show a checkerboard on a barrel in the general store. Sauk Centre doesn't have that, but there is a chess table in a new cafe, just south of downtown. I learned that the wooden chess table in the back of Java Jitters cafe were hand-crafted by the owner's father-in-law. They're more than something to look at. Early this week, I saw a white-bearded older man and a woman enjoying a relaxed game of chess there.

Sunday, April 11, 2004. Easter Sunday. Yesterday was a picture-perfect day in Sauk Centre, complete with clear sky. We have overcast today, with the same predicted high of around 40, but that's fairly normal for this time of year. Unhappily, I've got a cold, and had to stay inside.

That storefront on Main Street, just south of Main Street Theatre, is now open for business. Blue Star Realty has been open there since Thursday, April 1. Monday of this week was more of their 'grand opening.. Blue Star Realty isn't a particularly new business: it has been around for a few years, operating from an address on County Oak Drive.

Across the street, a neon sign with "OPEN" in green and a purple border announces that Sun Daze is open for business.

Back on the east side of "The Original Main Street," near the corner, the awning still says "Main Street Cafe," but the sign on the sidewalk says "Hometown Cafe."

The homicide in Elrosa (see the March 26, 2004 entry) may have been solved. I read in the paper that a suspect is in custody, already caught on another charge.

Sunday, April 4, 2004. Palm Sunday, and another beautiful day in Sauk Centre. This is also the day when we "spring forward:" setting our clocks forward, bringing the benefits of jet lag to those who don't travel.

Saturday, April 3, 2004. When I grilled lunch this noon, the temperature was about fifty, the sky bright blue with a cloud or two near the horizon and the noon airliner drawing a contrail overhead. One of my children sat nearby, reading. Another two hung around me and blew soap bubbles. The wind, eddying around the house, had bubbles racing around me. Happily, none got into the meat. In short, a beautiful day: what I like to think of as "typical."

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga continues. New streetlightss were being installed early this week, on the south side of the street between Maple and Walnut.

The Main Street Theatre, downtown, has two (fairly) new signs in one of the windows: "Custom Artwork / Atelier Douvier," and "Call 320 256 4351 for more information / Randy Douvier Graphic Artist." Next door south, at 325 Main, there's another "coming soon:" Blue Star Realty." This business has stars formed from rows of blue LEDs in the window: a dressy effect at night. This storefront is where a barbershop used to be, before the Pamida store collapsed.

Across the street, one of the windows of Gold 'N More was damaged. They have a temporary plywood patch over it.

Finally, a little north of that, Sun Daze is opening Monday, April 5 - according to a sign in their window.

Friday, March 26, 2004. This week has been spring-like, at least Minnesota-spring-like. I've seen a street cleaner roaring along the gutters, dodging around parked cars and leaving damp streaks of grit along the edge of the street. Thursday we had dense fog, and a few claps of thunder, along with some rain. I couldn't see farther than about a block down the street Thursday morning. There are still pools of snow-melt in some yards, and the street department has been out, clearing out the storm drains. Today was beautiful: high in the sixties, clear skies, and not too much wind.

The Jose Cole circus came to town on Thursday. I went with those of my family who don't mind the unique aroma of the circus animals. The show was a good way to enjoy two hours, as usual.

There was very bad news today from Elrosa, a few miles down the road toward St. Cloud, today. An elderly man was found dead in his house, tied up. He had lived there since 1953. The Stearns County Sheriff is treating the death as a homicide for now, according to kstp.com down in the Metro.

On a happier note, work proceeds on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. This afternoon, someone from the Minnesota DOT was out with a concrete cutter, using a concrete cutter on the new sidewalk west of downtown. It also looks like there will be more work done on the paving soon. At this point, the street side of the concrete curb sections are about an inch above the surface of the pavement: making parking close to the curb a trifle awkward.

Sunday, March 21, 2004. The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga continues, with ground having been dug up from Walnut to the Lake Woebegon Trail to make room for new sidewalks.

On Wednesday of this week, Leonardo Defilippis performed his live drama, "Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz" at the Sauk Centre Area High School's 900+ seat auditorium, to a nearly-packed house. I went, with one of my daughters. A most impressive performance, despite some trouble with the sound system.

East of town, there's a sign up by one of the new residential areas: "Daybreak Place, Maintenance-Free Patio Home Community." Daybreak Place has one of those pretzel-style street plans, homes starting at $129,000, and one sidewalk, running between two of the lots.

The store front where B + K Hobbies was now has a big orange sign in the window: "COMING SOON - Sun Daze AIRBRUSH TANNING." They've removed part of the cloth awning that had "B + K Hobbies" on it.

Up the road, in Alexandria, work continues to put Doolittles Air Cafe back in business. They had a fire there on February 4 of this year, and had to close for repairs. The Doolittles owners have been paying their employees their average wages while remodeling and recovery are in process. A competitor, D. Michael B's has been giving all Doolittles employees half-priced meals while the Air Cafe is closed. An editorial column in the Echo Press cited this, and the concern that Alexandrites had for Doolittles, as an example of small-town closeness and generosity.

Saturday, March 13, 2004. This is going to be a long entry.

Tuesday morning this week, as I walked in to where I work, birds were singing, a woodpecker knocked in the distance, and sunlight warmed the back of my neck. At about 1:30 that day, the time and temperature sign downtown displayed 50o.

By Thursday morning, we had 20 mile an hour winds gusting to about 30, temperatures at 5 and a windchill of minus 17. Today, it's overcast and threatening to rain, or snow, or sleet. Ah, springtime in Minnesota!

On the south side of Sauk Centre, there's construction under way on Timberlane Drive between the AmericInn and Fitness Guru. I hear that some sort of large service station is building there. The frame of the new building is already up.

I twenty dollar bill I used this week at a checkout got very special attention. Last week's paper had the explanation: Someone has been passing counterfeit money in this area. This week's paper says that two Todd County residents were found with counterfeit bills and possibly-stolen property. A third suspect is in Sherburn County jail on other charges.

This may be a small town, but we do have some of the problems that big cities have. Again in this week's paper, I read about a routine traffic stop last Saturday. The sozzled occupants of the vehicle had drugs and a 9 mm handgun - loaded - with them. The good news is that this is rare enough an event to make a headline on the front page.

I learned what all the fire trucks at the school were doing a week ago Friday (March 5). The paper reports that a clothes dryer caught fire in the school. Folks there cleared smoke from the halls by opening the doors, and the girls. basketball coach evacuated students who were in the school. Between that, and a false fire alarm set of at St. Michael's hospital on the 4th, it was a high profile couple of days for the fire department. The St. Mike's fire call happened when construction dust set off an automatic alarm.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue Saga will have another chapter this summer. County Road 17, Sinclair Lewis Avenue where it goes through Sauk Centre, will get torn up and resurfaced. The plan is for work to start after school lets out in June and be complete by the time classes start in August. The plan says that old sewer and water lines under the street will get replaced, too, and new old-style streetlightss will be installed. What struck me was that this project will make it awkward to leave town when going east. Other than the Interstate, the only other almost-direct route out eastwards is by taking a gravel road, across the river beyond the River's Edge and road department garage.

The next big road project in town after this will probably be an already-delayed Highway 71 reconstruction: that highway is what we call "The Original Main Street" when it goes through town.

Friday night, my wife and I went to see The Passion of the Christ at the Main Street Theater. It's still an impressive movie. The theater was well over half-full: We only had two seating spots to choose from that were anywhere near the center rows.

Saturday, March 6, 2004. The ground outside is white with yesterday's snowfall, but it's still up around freezing. There's been a great deal of melting going on. Driving around the northwest side of Sauk Centre golf course on Tuesday of this week, I saw water from the snowmelt covering one lane of the street.

The St. Michael's Hospital addition is moving along. Second floor steel work is up on the east side. I drove by there Tuesday, too, and noticed the MRI truck parked by the northwest corner of the hospital. I'm glad that 'big-city. medical services like that are available locally, at least on occasion.

With most of the snow melted off the street side of the sidewalks on Sinclair Lewis Avenue east of downtown, we don't really need those little orange flags to mark where the new streetlights will go. The metal plates and wires are mostly visible now. At night, it's getting to be a treat, driving into Sauk Centre downtown from the west. Those old-fashioned streetlights with the new orange-yellow lights inside dress the place up, and do a decent job of streetlighting.

I learned this week that the Country Music Festival USA is being held at a campground north of Sauk Centre, near the Captain Tony's location, June 17 through 19. I put a link to the festival website on the Area Web Sites page.

Sunday, February 29, 2004. Since this is the only February 29th we'll have until 2008, I felt that I should make an entry, even though there isn't much to report.

It has stayed warm. The snow sculptures my kids made in the back yard are almost melted away. This isn't the end of winter, though. There is an enormous mound of snow by the 9th Street exit of the school parking lots. It is supposed to be off limits, but kids slide on it anyway. I think it has shrunk a bit lately, but we should have it around for some time yet.

Saturday, February 28, 2004. Winter has been melting this week. We've had highs in the forties. Snow and ice are disappearing, and what is left has either been slush, or that marvelously traction-free, lumpy ice that makes walking an adventure.

The new Mel Gibson movie, The Passion, opened on Wednesday. Last night, one of my daughters and I went to see it. Quite a remarkable film. I plan to go again, with my wife, in the near future. Having the multi-screen Main Street Theatre in town is great: We can see movies while they're still current, just a few blocks away, in a theater that has good projection and sound equipment.

Sunday, February 22, 2004. A letter went to Sauk Centre residents last week, from the owner of "Oak Ridge Campus," up on the north side. This place, where the old "Home School" was, may become an "adult non-violent offender facility. The idea seems to be to have people serving time for non-violent crimes, who will be in for less than 18 months, would be housed there. The facility would be lower risk, he says, than the other detention facilities that have been there. It sounds like a good idea: and might add 100 jobs to Sauk Centre. Of course, I live on the other side of town, so it isn't quite so up-close-and-personal as it is for people who live near the golf course.

Last week's Sauk Centre Herald had a color banner again. It looks like a color photograph running across the top of the paper. They've had a color banner on and off since the 2003 Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season. At this point, they run the color banner when there's a color ad on the back page. The Sauk Herald expects to print their new banner about once a month now.

Saturday, February 21, 2004. Flags were up downtown last weekend and Monday, for President's Day. I took a break on Monday afternoon and stopped in at the Jitters Java cafe downtown.

There was a fire in the fireplace: welcome on the cold and damp day, and a surprise. I had thought that the fireplace was strictly decorative. Flames licked around charred logs, spreading welcome warmth. Five ladies clustered around a low table in front of the fire. The table was covered with books. I sat nearby, drinking coffee and updating notes as words like "specialized proteins," T-cells," and " gamma globulin" sailed by.

When I was finished, the logs and fire were unchanged. The flames were natural gas, and the logs some sort of ceramic: shaped very much like charred wood.

Friday, I noticed that someone had blocked the window in the old B & K Hobby store with newspaper.

Sunday, February 15, 2004. The day is bright, clear, and warm (for Minnesota in February), and there's still enough packed snow on some streets to give snowmobilers a chance to drive in town. Downtown, there was a Cub Scout breakfast this morning.

Saturday, February 14, 2004. Flags were up on light poles downtown yesterday, in preparation for President's Day on Monday. The Farm Toy Show is on as I write this, at the Sauk Centre High School. Hand-lettered signs are up at strategic corners, including the one where I live, directing people to the event. I see that is started at 9:00 and will last until 4:30. Judging from the number of cars in the school parking lot, I'd say that attendance is good.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004. On Monday of this week, I noticed that the south side of the new city hall was almost complete, except for a window. We're better able to see what the completed building will look like now.

What a weather report called "ice pellets" were coming down this morning. When I was out, the things were a reasonable substitute for frozen rain, melting and re-freezing on the windshield. The stuff turned to snow later, with wind. Schools in Sauk Centre were closed at 1:30 today. I hear that quite a bit of central and west-central Minnesota was affected. Snow plows in the Red River Valley, north and west of us, were called off the roads in the afternoon.

News items reminded me of the killings in our area within the last year. A man who is accused of killing a Long Prairie family, Holly Chromey and her children, Jerrod and Katie Zapzalka, and being involved in killing an elderly man and his daughter in Minneapolis, apparently will be tried in Moorhead. He's the surviving member of a duo that apparently committed these acts. The other one pleaded guilty and then killed himself. And in St. Cloud, the accused killer of Cold Spring high school students Aaron Rollins and Seth Bartell is being held with one million dollars bail. He's fifteen, but being tried as an adult.

On a happier note, the weather is clearing and we should be back to normal schedules tomorrow.

Sunday, February 8, 2004. A fairly serious snowfall started coming down, with wind, this afternoon. Roads aren't closed, but all that blowing snow has affected visibility, making driving more interesting than it usually is.

Meanwhile, down in the Metro area, there's a new custom that I read about at the KSTP.com website. Folks coming to the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace have started treating it as a deep-freeze wishing well. They'll lick a penny or other coin and hold it to the wall until it sticks. According to KSTP, the coins started showing up the weekend of January 25th: the first weekend after the Ice Palace opened.

Saturday, February 7, 2004. I didn't notice much happening this week except for the snow. We've got a few more inches on the ground now that we did last weekend. I had to sweep off the grill before fixing lunch this noon. Happily, it's been cold enough so that the snow is the light, fluffy variety, not the stick-to-any-surface near-freezing-point stuff.

Monday, February 2, 2004. This is a longer-than-usual entry. Between the cold weather, the Harbor Light store, and new computers in the Post Office, I had quite a bit to say.

Last week was another cold one. On Tuesday it was -8 F F with a -28 F wind chill in St. Cloud at 8 in the morning. Outside our window it was cooler, a little later: -11 F. Wednesday morning it was colder at our house: -18 F. The radio was reporting -24 F, with a wind chill of -38 to -46 F. Thursday it was the same story, with -17 and a -36 F wind chill in Glenwood at about 9:30. The weekend was warmer. The Saturday morning at Glenwood was -5 F at Glenwood at 9:00, warming to -2 with a wind chill of only -21 F at about 10:30, at about 10:30. By Sunday morning, about 10:30, the Glenwood temperature was a warm 9 F above. Of course, by then were were getting snow. The positive side of that is that it freshens up the landscape.

(I often give Glenwood weather information, since that's the reporting point given for Sauk Centre area on the Wunderground weather Web site.)

The Sauk Centre Post Office got a new computer system on Tuesday, January 27. When I came in on Wednesday morning, they were learning how the new units at the service window work. The monitors look flatter and more up-to-date. The readout that I saw worked fine, although they tell me that they'll need to fix a glare problem: light reflecting from a ceiling fixture makes the screen challenging to read.

Driving through downtown on Saturday, January 24, I saw a "Now Open" sign in the old Treonne's storefront. Taking a closer look, I saw that Harbor Light Candles and Gifts had moved in. On Monday, the 26th, I noticed that the old B & K's Hobby storefront has a "For Rent" sign in it, and Martin's Jewelry next door north of B & K's location has a "For Sale" sign in the window. The Treonne's and B + K Hobbies blue canvas awnings are still up. I suspect that they'll be down as work progresses.

A few days later, I stopped by Harbor Light, now in the storefront next north from Gold 'N More, where Treonne's used to be. The first thing I noticed in the window was a "Moose Crossing" sign. Harbor Light has been there for a while now. They moved in on November 8 of 2003: the first week of deer season.

Some of the inside of the store is still in process of being fixed up, but they have displays of their candles & gifts set up. They're planning to add a consignments and antiques section in the back in late February.

The front of the store has stained glass panels, but you can't see them now. There's an old drop ceiling in the way inside, and outside the Ben Franklin store panels cover the wall. The story I heard was that when the Ben Franklin panels went up, the installers kept going after they reached the end of the Ben Franklin store. The owners decided to have them finish the next storefront, where Harbor Light is now, instead of tearing out what had been done. Harbor Light hopes to get the ceiling out and the outside panels out of the way, so that folks can see the stained glass.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004. It's been cold again today. The bank time and temperature display downtown showed -18 F this morning as I went to work, the temperature at Glenwood (about 25 miles west and a little south) around noon was still 18, with a -44 wind chill. The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities issued a wind chill advisory that ended with some helpful and a bit obvious advice: "This [the cold] will result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken. If you must venture outdoors... make sure you wear a hat and gloves."

Saturday, January 24, 2004. A picture, ten and three quarters inches wide and four and a half high, dominated The front page of this week's Sauk Centre Herald. The words "Pinewood Derby hits the track" had been superimposed on the picture. Underneath, the headline read, "Adam Jensen's Car wins Cub Scout classic." The story of this race ran onto the lower half of the front page.

The Pinewood Derby is a Cub Scout event involving race cars five inches long or less, carved from wood blocks and weighing not more than five ounces, that run down a track. Cub Scouts have been doing this since 1953. I remember the car I made, back when this was a new phenomenon: and now enjoy living in a place where an event like this can be front page material.

It's been a chilly week in the area. Wednesday night in Glenwood it was -8 F with a -30 wind chill. Thursday morning the St. Cloud temperature was -13, but here in Sauk Centre the bank time and temperature sign downtown said it was a relatively warm -11. A wind chill advisory for this area on the wunderground.com site read, "brisk northwest winds" - wind chills later tonight -30 to -35. Then, a bit of quite formally phrased, and in my opinion obvious advice: "Persons venturing outdoors should dress accordingly for the bitter cold."

I saw that there's a single-globe streetlight in front of the Oak Street Mini-Mall, just off Sinclair Lewis Avenue, and more metal plates and wires in the sidewalk on the south side  of Sinclair Lewis Avenue. Osakis and Melrose, towns about ten miles up and down the Interstate from us, already have lights like this downtown.

Sunday, January 18, 2004. At noon today it was -4 F in St. Cloud, about 40 miles down the road, with a -22 F wind chill. It can be uncomfortable to be outside, especially without adequate clothing: a lovely day, though, with a completely clear, blue sky. Someone told me that walking across a parking lot today felt "like someone was pressing an ice cube on your forehead."

I grilled hamburgers for my family, as I usually do on weekends. The spot I use is in sunlight, with shelter from northwest winds: quite comfortable, all things considered.

Saturday, January 17, 2004. The wind picked up this evening. I could hear it rushing around the house. It's about 0 F outside (in Glenwood, anyway) as I'm writing this, at half past ten in the evening. The wind chill is -22 F: chilly, but fairly typical this time of year.

The new street on the north side of Sauk Centre, connecting the northeast corner of the in-town golf course and Highway 71, is Lake Ridge Drive. A sign at the east (highway) end shows a map of lots on Lake Ridge, and most are sold already. Some quite expensive-looking houses are being built, one of them seems close to completion. I'll be interested in seeing how the development on Lake Ridge Drive and the one called Oak Ridge (or "oak ridge," as the sign by the entrance says) progress. The Oak Ridge area is immediately south of the lots on the south side of Lake Ridge Drive, but the Oak Ridge entrance is on the opposite end, opening onto Highway 71 as it jogs over to meet Main Street.

I drove downtown Friday evening, and saw that the Chinese restaurant has a new sign in the window. The hand-lettered "Grand Opening" sign in the window to the left of the door as you go in has been replaced by a red LED "OPEN" display in the right window.

On Sinclair Lewis Avenue, the new old-style globe lights are shining. Double-globe poles march down both sides between "The Original Main Street" and Elm, four single-globe poles stand on the north side of the street between Elm and Maple, then there's a dark block, and finally three more single-globe poles light the north side of the street between Walnut and Willow. It looks like more poles will go up soon, judging from the metal plates and wires mounted on the lightless block.

Saturday, January 10, 2004. This week got off to a cold start. Monday morning at 8:00, the temperature around here was -12 F, with wind chill of about -30 F. we had a wind chill advisory that morning. Tuesday morning was warmer, -2 F at 8:00, but still with a -30 wind chill. Wednesday morning had an eight o'clock temperature of -1 F, more or less normal for this season.

Retrostyling on Sinclair Lewis Avenue is moving along. On Tuesday, January 6, I saw seven double-globe streetlights on the south side, between Main and Elm, one on the north side of Sinclair Lewis Avenue and Elm Street. Single-globe lights were being put up on Sinclair Lewis west of Elm on the north side of the street.

A city crew was working on bulbs for the new streetlights on Friday the 9th. Friday night, the new lights were shining.

Also at Sinclair Lewis and Elm, the First Lutheran Church has a "Future Expansion" sign up, with a picture of what the new and improved church will look like.

Municipal Christmas (excuse me: "holiday") decorations were taken down Thursday the 8th. Some folks around town still have their Christmas lights on.

I found out that an area music group, the Nite Owls, have produced a CD - The Nite Owls: A Family Polka Celebration.

Sunday, January 4, 2004. At 9:30 pm, it's about minus four F, headed for lows around ten to fifteen degrees below zero. That's a little colder than usual for this area. Elsewhere in the state, ice harvesting has started on Lake Phalen for the Saint Paul Ice Palace. That's part of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, that starts January 22.

Saturday, January 3, 2004. At 8:00 pm, it's about three above zero here, heading for a low of about minus 5. Not bad, for this time of year.

Looking down the street, I didn't see many Christmas lights on. Yesterday, however, most of the displays were still glowing: the municipal lights on the downtown streets ("HAPPY HOLIDAY" and all), the Knights of Columbus Creche on Main Street, and home displays all over town.

Thursday, January 1, 2004. My New Year's Eve celebration consisted mostly of staying up to watch the ball go down in Times Square, New York City: And to enjoy seeing three quarters of a million people (many in orange caps) dancing and shouting in confetti snow.

Today, I got around to reading an article from the December 9 issue of the Sauk Centre Herald. After 24 years as a postal carrier in town, Rich Tabatt retired. He started as a part-time carrier in 1980, and started working full time when Jim Beste retired as the city mailman. I'll miss Rich Tabatt's friendly presence on the route: but must admit that the weather is warmer in Arizona this time of year.

And, I read about the Red Hat Dillies, a local chapter of the Red Hat Society - a women's group "deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan."

Happy New Year!

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