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Wednesday, December 31, 2003. Last night, coming home from work, I saw folks lined up for yards outside the Main Street Theatre.

Since today is the last day of the year, I drove around southeast Sauk Centre on my way home from work tonight. I expect that quite a few folks will have their displays off after tonight, and I wanted to have another look while the magic was still here.

The inflatable snowman on Main Street is still holding a candy cane proudly aloft, but the Santa next to it is a rumpled pile of red fabric on the snow.

Saturday, December 27, 2003. Christmas eve morning, Wednesday, was beautiful in this area. Thick frost had formed on trees overnight. I took a picture, and added it to the photo album.

It warmed up on Friday: highs in the forties. When I grilled at noon today, there was standing water underfoot, and water dripping off the roof.

The flu is a problem here, as it is in most parts of the country. St. Michael's Hospital has limited visitors to the immediate family of patients. As of earlier this week, no one had been admitted to the hospital because of the flu, but they're being cautious anyway.

Construction work at St. Mike's is proceeding, too. They've got most of the old east parking lot torn up, with a good-sized excavation in front of the hospital.

I read in the paper that the winter parking rules have changed. Starting next month, most streets will be no-parking zones from 1 am to 7 am, from November 1 to April 1. They're changing the way the announce snow emergencies. In the past, the city used Charter Cable company to let people know. Since Mainstreet Communications and satellite dishes came to town, Charter Cable reaches less than half the people. I'm not entirely clear on how snow emergencies will be handled now.

This may seem trivial, but what to do with your vehicle can be a real problem in the winter: especially if you live in an apartment or some place without off-street parking.

Saturday, December 20, 2003. The new City Hall building had an open house on Thursday of this week. I didn't go, but I understand that they've got enough of the walls up inside to let people know what it will look like. There's plastic sheeting around the window-wall on the east side of the building now.

Downtown, sidewalks were scraped almost clear after the snowfall. Then salt pellets were dropped on the fraction of an inch of compacted snow that remained. The result was a thin coat of compacted snow and ice, decorated with that fascinating pattern of worm-tracks that salt pellets leave as they melt their way through snow and ice.

Most people who will have Christmas displays up this year have them in place by now. I've seen cars slow down while driving by some of the more spectacular light shows.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003. With another inch of snow forecast for tonight, it looks quite certain that we'll have a white Christmas here.

The biggest event in Sauk Centre this week, for some folks at least, is the opening of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at the Main Street Theatre. The first show started there tonight at 7:30 - all three and a half hours of it. I'm hoping to see it with the majority of my family this weekend.

Although it isn't a local event, I feel that I should note the 100th anniversary of the first successful powered flight, by the Wright brothers, there at Kitty Hawk.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003. The several inches of snow forecast for this area didn't come, at least not locally. I can't say that I'm disappointed. I'm told that there were whiteout conditions in the area last night. Schools are pretty much back on schedule now. The roads are slick, though, and the plows have been going around town.

I read in the Sauk Centre Herald  today that Melrose now has a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Monday, December 15, 2003. Alexandria, Minnesota, Osakis, and at least a half-dozen other communities in this areas closed their schools early today. There's a winter storm coming. By the time I went home from work windshields, sidewalks, streets, and just about every other exposed surface was covered with a light speckling of frozen droplets. Later on, with the snow that is supposed to follow, the roads should be in rare form.

Friday, December 12, 2003. Yesterday morning, a little before 8:00, it was -10F in Alexandria. Things were warmer here in Sauk Centre. The thermometer outside our north window showed -8F. Today I read on the KSTP website that this morning had the coldest temperatures of the season, statewide. According to them, Tower won the deep freeze prize with -30F, with Embarrass and International Falls trailing with -26F and -23F respectively. They also had an article Thursday which helpfully pointed out that at temperatures where water is a mineral, a poorly-tuned car may be hard to start.

Folks in town have been getting their Christmas decorations up. The local Knights of Columbus have their crche scene up on Main Street, just south of the inflatable snowman and Santa Claus. Some yards are thick with lighted snowmen, wire-frame animals, and flashing lights. Quite a few of the east side addition homes have some combination of lighted Christmas trees in their windows, monochrome light strings along the edges of the roof, and lawn displays. One household even outlined the evergreen trees lining their back yard with strings of lights.

Friday, December 5, 2003. A little snow Thursday gave a fresh cover to lawn, but didn't add much depth. Christmas decorations are up now on many houses. More people seem to be using those abstract spiral Christmas tree light ropes this year. Lighted wire frame animals are on display, too. I even saw a moose in one yard: much less than life-size, of course, about three and a half feet at the shoulder.

On Main Street, around the south side of downtown, The inflatable snowman on Main Street, in the south 500 block, has been joined by an inflatable Santa Claus. By the time I was going home tonight, they were both flat on the ground. During the day, though, they make a cheerful display.

Sauk Centre now has two coffee shops on Main Street. One is a coffee shop and restaurant, the other an antique and collectibles store with a coffee shop.

I noticed a portable sign outside the old Cenex station on 4th and Main on Monday. It read "Jitters Java Cafe Now Open." The next day, I stopped in to see what it looked like.

Jitters Java is "casual upscale:" coffee posters on the wall, a chess table in one corner, armchairs around a "fireplace" with a magazine rack with titles ranging from Popular Science to Saveur. I understand they'll have the tables and chairs for outdoor seating soon. I think that'll be more popular when it's warmer. The place has a good view northwest towards Sauk Centre downtown, with several tables and barstool-window seats to take advantage of it. They've even got a drive-in window on the south side of the building, and take call-in orders.

I understand that Java Jitters has been open since Saturday, November 23. They've got Espresso and other coffees, sandwiches, ice cream, and baked goods, and plan to expand their menu.

Down the street, near 6th on Main, across from the Marc'ette Place flower shop, the "Main Street Coffee Company" sign is sporting a cluster of balloons. The house is festooned with Christmas lights. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Main Street Coffee Company and Original Main Street Antiques moved there from their spot at the back of a hair styling place on the corner of Sinclair Lewis and Main.

From the outside, it's an ordinary house, with a lighted "Espresso OPEN" sign in the window. There was an 'open. sign in the door when I was there, so I went in. After going through a small porch with a bench and chair along one wall, I was in a room filled with what we call collectibles and antiques these days. There's a bookcase covering much of the south wall, and some comfortable-looking furniture.

That's Original Main Street Antiques. The Main Street Coffee Company is in the back. They've got pastries, Abdallah candy, and more kinds of specialty coffees than I knew existed in my youth. I'm half Norwegian, and grew up in Northern Minnesota: I knew that the four food groups are meat, potatoes, vegetables, and coffee, but only later discovered how much ground the term "coffee" covers.

Sunday, November 30, 2003. Thanksgiving Day is over, and the first Sunday of Advent is drawing to a close. Quite a few households in town have Christmas displays up. On Main Street, around the south side of downtown, an inflatable snowman has once again taken its heroic stand. As in previous years, this stalwart icon is already losing pressure, but will not abandon its post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003. Sauk Centre put up Christmas street decorations today. This evening, a stream of west-bound traffic on the Interstate marked the start of this year's Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Ice, thin, but ice nevertheless, is probably back on Sauk Lake. It's hard to tell, under that half-foot of snow we got last weekend.

Two of the new street lamps are up on Sinclair Lewis Avenue now, on the north side of the new city hall's block.

Monday, November 24, 2003. We had roughly six inches of snow on the ground this morning, but the sky was clear as only a winter sky can be. School was two hours late: Snow and wind had continued through the night, but not quite as enthusiastically as on Sunday.

Saturday, November 22, 2003. The service interruption early this morning seems to have been quite short.

There's a Winter Storm Warning out for much of Minnesota and surrounding areas today and tomorrow, with a good chance that we'll have a half-foot of snow by Monday. As of this evening, not much has happened locally.

Friday, November 21, 2003. Brendan's Island will be unavailable for a few hours tonight, starting Midnight (Central time, USA). I understand that the outfit that hosts this site is moving to new (and improved) quarters, and will have to be off the Web during part of the process.

Now, to something more interesting:

At the start of this week it looked like we might have a very short winter. Ice was off Sauk Lake, except for a little just above the dam. Waterfowl that winter around there were still hanging around below the dam, however, where the water stays clear year-round, most years.

This Tuesday, I saw my first outdoor Christmas lights at a residence in Sauk Centre. By now, several households have their Christmas lights up and running. The stores, of course, have had Christmas stuff on the shelves for weeks by now.

The south side of the new city hall looks like a fire department building now, and the east side has windows and most of the exterior "stonework" in place.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga may be drawing to a close. On Monday, sidewalks had been poured on both sides of the street where S. L. Avenue meets Main Street. By today, sidewalks have been poured as far west as Walnut Street. The "Road Closed" sign was down on the west end of the construction zone this afternoon, and a "Road Work Ahead" sign set up at the side of the street. By the time I went home, about 6:00, the "Road Closed" sign at Main Street was down, too. Near downtown this afternoon, I saw someone driving a small green car on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. Its hood was almost covered with orange traffic cones: not a bad way to move them around, if you're not going far.

Now as the weekend is coming, winter is about to re-assert itself. This afternoon there was a mix of snow and rain in South Dakota heading our way. The weather forecast says that we can look forward to several inches of snow before the weekend is over.

Friday, November 14, 2003. The Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga has entered a new phase. "Road Closed" signs are still up at both ends of the project, but the paving has been complete. Early this week, they started pouring sidewalks on the north side of the street, downtown.

The photo service that has been in the storefront at the back of Winter's Main Street Drug has moved into larger quarters, one door west. They're now in the space formerly occupied by Gold 'N More.

I saw the first Christmas decorations of the season (outside a store, that is) in Osakis this Wednesday. Someone had a big reindeer-and-sleigh-shaped arrangement of colored lights up in their yard: festive, colorful, and very early!

Sunday, November 9, 2003. Sauk Centre high school students put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The two nights I went, the 900+ seat auditorium was nearly full: only 20 empty seats on Friday, I'm told.

I'm slightly biased about the production: my second-oldest daughter had the part of Yente, and provided the actual violin music for the on-stage Fiddler, who did a fine job of playing without making a sound. The same young actor who was the Fiddler had two other roles in the play. All in all, a good show.

Saturday, November 8, 2003. Yesterday Sauk Lake had a skin of ice: not very thick, and certainly not ready for anything much larger than a bird to walk on.

This week, I noticed a few changes in town. Several houses near St. Michael's Hospital are gone. At this point, the sandlot where they stood is parking for St. Mike's employees.

On south Main Street, near 6th, across from Marc'ett Floral, a house has a new sign outside. It is now the site of Main Street Coffee Company.

Wednesday, November 5, the building which had housed the Land Gas & Tire Shop and a great deal of vacant space got torn down. Land moved operations to the north end of town, and is sharing space with Flowers Auto. The old building had formed the north side of the Family Dollar Store main parking lot. By Friday the debris had been cleared away, the hole where the basement was filled in, and a layer of sand smoothed over the site.

Tuesday, November 4, 2003. The ground is covered with several inches of white, heavy, snow. A good start to the winter.

Oops. Missed something! Today, I discovered that I missed a couple of business openings and moves around Labor Day. The old VFW building went through massive renovation, and is now home to Team Access Mortgage, Sauk Valley Veterinary Service, and Jimmy's Pizza (a new pizza place in town, open 4 to 10 Sunday through Thursday, 4 to 11 Friday and Saturday - they do takeout 351-7992). The mortgage place opened first, the veterinary service opened a day after Labor Day, and Jimmy's Pizza opened there around the 14th of September. With the Sinclair Lewis Avenue roadwork blocking traffic a few hundred feet east of them, I hadn't been past that location since summer.

Monday, November 3, 2003. Sauk Centre had its first snowfall today, and there's a winter weather advisory out for tonight. Coming home from work today I saw a few cars go sailing past, whose drivers were learning the effects of inertia on moving systems.

Sunday, November 2, 2003. Driving through downtown Sauk Centre today, I noticed that Sinclair Lewis Avenue appears to have a surface on it from Main Street west. The downtown sidewalks are chewed up, resembling a sandbox after recess, but there's fresh concrete poured farther west.

Saturday, November 1, 2003. This week we had the first snowfall that stayed on the ground: for a few hours, at least. Halloween has come and gone, and temperatures are now staying around the freezing point.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue road work progresses. On Thursday, near Jerry's Northstar, the north and south thirds of the street had paving on them. Down the middle there was the compacted sand that we've gotten used to seeing. The last time I looked, there was no paving at the Main Street end.

Our new city hall is getting move along. There's a tower on the southwest corner that received  attention this week.

Work on Our Lady of the Angels church also progresses. Last weekend, we heard that the bell tower is now structurally sound. On the first big occasion, we hope to hear bells again. One of the next steps will be to make more of the windows weather-tight, and repair damage done to some of the windows by some sort of projectile. Inside that church, there used to be a picture of Mary over the altar. It was painted over several years ago. Now, an artist has been found who will put a new picture up. That should happen this spring.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003. More rain, snow, and undecided precipitation today. I got a flu shot at a sort of clinic set up at the Coborn's pharmacy this morning. There wasn't actually much of a line, but about four people went through the process while I was waiting to see if I had a reaction. (It's been about a quarter century since I had that sort of inoculation, and they wanted to see what happened.)

This evening, I noticed that the Schutz Taekwando Academy banner on the west side of Main Street has a big Coca Cola logo on it. As Yakov Smirnoff says, "what a country!" One more thing: that bank clock downtown is now set to the correct time.

Monday, October 27, 2003. As usual, after the twice-a-year ceremonial clock re-set, there's been a little confusion. I stayed late at work today, and was driving home in the dark. Passing a bank on main, I was shocked to see that the bank clock read "7:40!" I knew I was late, but that was ridiculous! They'll probably have that digital light show re-programmed soon.

Schutz Taekwando Academy had a banner above the door on the Main Street side of the new corridor north of the Ben Franklin store. 

We're experiencing the usual sort of autumn weather here: grey skies, and precipitation that can't make up its mind whether it wants to be rain or snow.

On the road-work front, the 12th Street project has a surface on it, but hasn't been finished. There's still about an inch to go before the road surface reaches the bottom of the curb.

Saturday, October 25, 2003. After a little rain this morning, we had the season's first snow this afternoon, a little after two. For the most part, the flakes were big and fluffy: a picture-postcard sort of snow. The snowfall didn't last much past three, and none accumulated on the ground that I could see.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga continues. Curbs are in place from Main Street westward and the street itself has a drivable dirt surface on it. It's still a road work site, though. The Sauk Centre City News & Views reports that work on 12th Street, on the south side, should be complete by November 1. That project involved new curbs & gutters, and fresh paving. The downtown project is on a rather grander scale. We're expecting to have old-fashioned acorn style streetlighting on Sinclair Lewis Avenue by the time they're through, along with a wider street and new sidewalks.

And I see that there's an "open house walk-through tour" at the new city hall planned for sometime during the winter. They're expecting to move in during March of 2004.

Down at the Stearns County fairground, folks have been working on a sort of Monster Manor: a spook house for Halloween. That's been an annual feature for quite a while now.

Thursday, October 16, 2003. The Treonne's storefront, north of Gold 'N More's new location, is empty now, with plastic sheeting behind the windows. On the other side of Main Street, and next block south, work continues at the old Cenex building. I've heard that the new eatery there is still in process of construction, and that there's a lot of work still to do.

Move over, Hollywood! Lake Wobegon Film Festival starts tomorrow at the Main Street Theatre, and runs until Sunday. Among other things, they have an 'emerging filmmakers. showcase: films and short videos made by "the next generation of aspiring filmmakers," as they say on their website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003. Although this journal is mostly about Sauk Centre, some events in nearby towns affect us, too, if only indirectly. Cold Spring, about an hour down the road from Sauk Centre, is going through another rough patch. I'd like to post a few details about the Cold Spring community's response to the shootings there.

Aaron Rollins's memorial service was held Monday, Sept. 29 at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. Tomorrow, Seth Bartell's memorial service will be held. He and Aaron Rollin were shot at their school last month. There have been two funds set up:

Seth Bartell Benefit Fund
1st National Bank of Cold Spring
PO Box 416
Cold Spring MN 5320

And, there is an Aaron Rollins Memorial fund. Contributions can be sent to:

State Bank of Cold Spring
Box 415
Cold Spring MN 56320
1st National Bank of Cold Spring
PO Box 416
Cold Spring MN 56320

There are a few events scheduled, connected with Seth Bartell's death:

Spaghetti Dinner & Silent Auction Sunday Nov 2, 2003 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
at River Station in Richmond MN Adult tickets $7.00, 12 and under $4.00
Tickets are available at area Cold Spring businesses, or call 320 685 4413
email Raffle tickets also available

And, there will be a motorcycle ride to remember Seth Saturday, October 18th. They'll start at 2:00 p.m. at the Rocori High School Parking lot. For more information on the ride, contact Greg Nagel 612-710-7200 or Matt Olund 952-334-2328.

I got most of this information from news, MPR news, and from a very helpful person at the Cold Spring city offices.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003. This was another "typical" autumnal day here in Sauk Centre. This time, the sky was blue with a few bits of cloud-stuff swept across the world's ceiling. If yesterday was chilly, today is brisk.

Monday, October 13, 2003. (Oops. I made a couple corrections today, in last Saturday's entry. Two were to fix badly-constructed sentences, the other was an error in fact. The shooting in Cold Spring occurred Wednesday, September 24, not on the date which I listed.)

While I'm on the subject of the Cold Spring situation, Seth Bartell's funeral is scheduled for Thursday, at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring.

On a more local, and happier, note, the weather has turned typically autumnal: overcast skies, highs around sixty, and enough wind to make you wish you had a jacket on if you forgot to put one on. The latter applies to non-teenagers, of course. Quite a few of those folks are still walking around in short sleeves.

Saturday, October 11, 2003. It rained most of the day. I understand that we can use it, with the drought we had in late summer. Yesterday, at the road work site on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, water trucks were dousing dried dirt to cut down on wind-blown dust.

Holidays are coming up. In addition to the traditional pumpkins by the walk and on the steps, a few households have Halloween lights up: strings of orange bulbs, cheerful plastic statues of smiling ghosts, glowing in the front yard. Christmas decorations are for sale in the local stores.

Meanwhile, on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, curbs have been poured on the street near Jerry's Northstar, and elsewhere. The detour situation hasn't changed: drivers still have to guess how to get around the work, starting from Main Street.

I've been concentrating on the Sinclair Lewis Avenue makeover, but there's work coming along on the county road on the south side of town, too.

On the north side of town, the Oak Ridge area is growing. There are brand-new (and expensive) houses going up by the lake, on the not-quite-complete new road up there. It looks as if they're going to keep most of the trees, so that should be an attractive area.

We had sad news from Cold Spring yesterday. Seth Bartell, the surviving high school student, died Friday. He and Aaron Rollins, both students at Rocori High School, were "allegedly" shot by a fifteen year old. One of the witnesses was a teacher who, happily, was able to remove the gun from the killer before anyone else was hurt. The shootings took place two weeks ago, Wednesday, September 24.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003. What a beautiful day! Warm "Indian summer" weather, with a clear sky and just enough wind to feel in your hair.

And, another not-strictly-Sauk-Centre item. Anyone with a telephone has a special feeling for those telemarketing calls. Late today we finally heard some sense from a court. Specifically, a Federal Appeals Court which decided that work on the Do Not Call List could go ahead. And, humorist Dave Barry had a very interesting suggestion about what ordinary citizens could do to help one of the companies that provides this, ah, service know how we feel what they do, along with the company's phone number. (That was in his Sunday, Oct. 5 column.)

Sunday, October 5, 2003. The last week saw more changes downtown.

Schutz Taekwando Academy had open house in it's location among the new shops north of Ben Franklin, and I see that an outfit called Quilt Bubbles expects to open in the third space in November. Gold 'N More, in the first of the three new locations, is having a Grand Opening October 6 through 11.

Friday, October 3, 2003. The little boy and girl statues in Sinclair Lewis Park's fountain were taken down for the season this week. With freezing temperatures at night, this is a necessary preparation for winter.

The new city hall construction is moving along. The roof is up, partly still sheathed in plywood and partly covered with what appear to be dark shingles.

Leaves are falling from trees. With the remarkable lack of rain late this summer, many of the fallen leaves are still partly green. Some of the more spectacular autumn performers have either already lost their leaves without having put on much of a show, or are displaying more brown than brilliance.

Saturday, September 27, 2003. Not much to do today, except give a weather report: Blue sky, bright sunshine, temperatures that are, ah, "brisk." What a fine day! Personally, I'm looking forward to grilling lunch.

The weather warmed up for the weekend: parts of Minnesota touched the freezing point on Wednesday night this week. Moorhead, International Falls, and Austin all reported lows of 32 on the night of September 24, with the rest of the state not too far behind. I haven't heard official numbers for Sauk Centre (hardly a surprise), but the low was 33 in St. Cloud and 35 in Alexandria that night. Since Sauk Centre is between them, I suppose we got down to about 34. It's definitely time to make sure any outside plumbing is either heated or drained.

Friday, September 26, 2003. Today a musical about Rosemary Clooney, A Dash of Rosemary! opened in Sauk Centre. It is "a new musical revue by Doug Kampsen and Kathy Weese featuring the original NYC cast." This was quite a big deal for us. One of my daughters saw a performance, and was impressed. I believe this is the first time she's seen live, professionally choreographed, dance. More performances are coming, and The Palmer House Hotel downtown is having some sort of cast party this evening. In fact, that's going on while I make this journal entry.

This afternoon I passed through downtown. As is often the case, traffic was backed up over two blocks north of the traffic light. At both intersections, drivers had stopped their vehicles well short of the crossing lanes, making it possible for someone to make a left turn onto a side street! I've seldom seen this sort of courtesy in larger cities, but it is not uncommon here: and is another reason I'm very glad to live in this small town.

This journal usually focuses on Sauk Centre happenings, but what happened down the road in Cold Spring this week is making enough of an impact here to warrant a little more attention.

It is still possible that there will be only one death in the Cold Spring murder. Aaron Rollins, a senior at Rocori High School, died Wednesday after being airlifted to St Cloud Hospital. Seth Bartell is alive and in critical condition at the same facility. Both Aaron and Seth were shot by a fifteen year old male who is a student at the school.

Stearns County law enforcement has turned prosecution of the case over to the attorney general's office. One reason is to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. The 'alleged. killer is the son of a Stearns County sheriff's deputy.

Meanwhile, back in the hospital, Seth isn't doing too well. As of Friday afternoon, he still had a life-threatening injury to his brain that happened when a bullet went through the left side of his brain and stayed in the back of his head. Aside from what the bullet did, there's a lot of swelling inside. Seth got shot in the chest, too, but that wound isn't as serious. It will probably be a long time before anyone knows exactly how bad it is for him.

Memorial services for Aaron Rollins will be held at 11:30 am Monday at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Cold Spring. His body will be buried in the parish cemetery. Friends may call after 4 Sunday afternoon and between 9 and 11 Monday morning at St. Boniface's.

There is an Aaron Rollins Memorial fund. Contributions can be sent to:

State Bank of Cold Spring
Box 415
Cold Spring MN 56320

First National Bank of Cold Spring
Box 416
Cold Spring MN 56320

Wenner Funeral Home
600 Red River Avenue South
Cold Spring MN 56320

A little about Cold Spring and "Rocori:" Rocori is what Rockville, Cold Spring, and Richmond call themselves when they do something cooperatively. They made a new name from the first two letters of the existing town names. These "combined communities" have a website at Cold Spring's website is

I got most of my facts from news and Minnesota Public Radio news.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003. Sadly, "small town America" isn't immune to whatever ails today's culture. This morning, about an hour down the Interstate, at the Ricori high school in Cold Spring, a student shot two other students. One is dead, the other very seriously wounded. The folks around Cold Spring will be feeling this the most, those closest to the victims, but we're all affected. I won't do the usual "how could this happen in such an idyllic setting" stuff. All the people around here are human beings, and that means trouble: sooner, or later.

I was pleased to see that, once the emergency started, the folks at the school were prepared. Teachers locked down their rooms, and later evacuated the building. Helicopters airlifted the casualties to St. Cloud Hospital.

KSTP news says that the Minnesota Department of Education doesn't have a record of any other "fatal shooting" in a school, except for fourteen year old kid who shot himself in 1993 with a rifle he had brought to the Middle River school.

This was a sad day, and our neighbors have suffered a terrible loss.

Monday, September 22, 2003. A crane was lifting roof trusses onto the new city hall's roof this morning.

Sinclair Lewis Avenue west of main looks a little more like a street again. Last week's trenches have been filled in, and most of the area is a mud flat now. Details of last week's excitement are in the paper now. From what I read there, quite a few folks didn't take the matter of a gas explosion seriously: incredible, considering what happened in St. Cloud a few years ago. The break happened somewhat after 5:00. The paper mentioned ladies from a nearby restaurant carrying their food out with them, folks down by the American Legion (about a block away) coming out to watch, and a crowd gathering to see what was going on. This, while natural gas was venting from a broken line.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue traffic situation has a new wrinkle. There is now a new stop sign at on 2nd Street, where it meets Willow, and the detour sign has been put on the same pole.

At the south end of downtown, a plumbing company truck was parked outside the old downtown Cenex station. I understand that refitting that building as a restaurant is still going on, if slowly.

Friday, September 19, 2003. The concrete-block walls of the new city hall now have plywood forms attached, giving the building a more stylish shape. We're starting to have a better idea of what that place will look like. It will take a little getting used to, going a block west of Main to reach City Hall, instead of a block east.

Meanwhile, deep trenches have been dug in Sinclair Lewis Avenue, west of Main Street. I heard that a gas line was compromised late Wednesday or early Thursday, encouraging the folks in charge to shut off power. I understand the need: natural gas explosions can be very messy.

The good news is that we still have as many buildings downtown as we did at the beginning of the week. The bad news is that those digital cash registers were completely offline for a while. At least one business spent quite a bit of Thursday re-programming theirs.

This week,  I finally noticed that Gold 'N More has moved into its new place on Main Street, just north of the Ben Franklin. They've been there since about Labor Day.

In fact, it is the first of what may be three businesses to move into what used to be the north half of the Ben Franklin store. Gold 'N More has their store set up, but the other three places are still part of a construction zone. So is an enclosed pedestrian route from Main Street to the parking lots. That pedestrian access should be handy, when the new city hall opens

Monday, September 15, 2003. The new city hall's concrete-block walls rose above ground level last week. Construction, and road work, has blocked traffic on the block west of the post office.

There are huge "loose gravel" signs up on Main, near Sinclair Lewis Avenue. Sure enough, there is a thin coating of sand with bits of gravel in the intersection, particularly the west side where the pavement ends. As of this evening, there are still no visible "detour" signs up on Main: at least, none I could spot while driving by. Good news, though: the "detour" sign at the end of 2nd Street's run west from Main is still up, showing people smart or lucky enough to take that route where they turn to avoid hitting someone's yard.

Thursday, September 11, 2003. Two years ago today, the NYC World Trade Center was destroyed when terrorists used two airliners as flying bombs. The Pentagon was attacked by a third. On a fourth airliner, the last words heard on a passenger's phone message were "let's roll." Minutes later, that airliner was a field of wreckage in Pennsylvania. There's a possibility that the terrorists on that one were planning to hit the White House.

Today, it was another beautiful day in New York City. Thousands of names were read, each belonging to a victim of the attack. At the Pentagon, a stained glass window has been installed in the chapel: one that's very special to survivors.

Here in Sauk Centre, I didn't notice any special observance. But then, it was raining almost all day and I have a job that keeps me busy this time of year.

Sauk Centre seems far away from New York City and Washington DC, but we're also affected. There have been National Guard people who weren't on the job here because they were keeping fanatic mass-murderers from killing more innocent people. I've had to change the way I mail some items, because the trusting society I had been used to doesn't exist any more. No complaints, here: there is a very real threat out there, and the needed adjustments have been minor.

Back to small town stuff: The rain this week turned Sinclair Lewis Avenue into a titanic collection of mud puddles. I don't envy the guys that have to work in that. On the up side, there are some more detour signs up, and even a set of signs on the west side of town letting people know how to get to the business district.

September 10, 2003. Last Friday, Governor Pawlenty asked that about 49 counties in Minnesota be declared federal agricultural disaster areas. As the governor said, "A month ago we were looking at a good crop year and now we're looking at more than a billion dollars in economic loss." Lack of rain over the last several weeks has hurt crops badly.

So, today it rains. Not that it will help the crops: they're toast. But at least it settles the dust.

South of us, a dozen or so towns cut school off early on Monday. It was so hot that the energy-saver plan they are on was shutting down the air conditioners. In a sealed building full of people, with temperatures in the nineties, that isn't the best situation. One of the places close to us that had to do this was the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa school system.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue road work saga continues. Over the last few days, huge piles of dirt got piled on the northbound lanes of Main Street, then put back on Sinclair Lewis. There's a lot getting installed, under the street.

It says in the local paper that Sinclair Lewis Avenue's decor is going to go retro. Sauk Centre Public Utilities will be installing old-fashioned acorn-style globe lights on the avenue: single globes in the residential area, double globes downtown.

Finally, up on the north side, Sauk Centre is going to become a three-stoplight town. A light has been okayed for Main and Lakeshore Drive, at the northeast corner of the golf course. It's a good idea, since a new street has been cut through the north side of the old "home school" grounds to the highway. With the Lakeridge development there, they're expecting more traffic. There are already a few homes under construction on the new road.

September 4, 2003. I should have looked more closely at those green and gold fields. They looked nice, but some of that green wasn't as green as it should be, and the gold was dry before its time. Governor Pawlenty is expected to make some kind of an announcement tomorrow about the state of crops in Minnesota and what can be done about it. Not the crops, apparently, but rather what can be done about the economic impact. We're about $1,100,000,000 short this harvest, state-wide. That's right: 11 with eight zeroes to the right. The 1.1 billion dollar figure came from John Monson in the U.S. Agriculture Department.

On the other hand, today was a picture-postcard day: exactly the right temperature and humidity, no breeze to speak of and a sky as clear as glass. I spent most of it inside, closeted with a computer and greenbar printouts.

August 29, 2003. Labor Day weekend is starting, and my front yard looks a little like autumn. The recent hot weather encouraged some of the trees and bushes to start shedding leaves early. Driving to Osakis, Alexandria, and points beyond during these last few weeks has been pleasant. With some fields ripe, some harvested, and some still green, the landscapes in many places are a patchwork of green and gold.

August 23, 2003. About that tax proposal connected with the local hospital we voted on, back on August 5: It passed by an overwhelming margin. It will be interesting, seeing how the upgrades to St. Mike's go. ("St. Michael's Hospital and Nursing Home," of course, by the lake, up on the north side.)

August 22, 2003. Finally, some relatively dry and cool air!

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue saga continues. Jerry's Northstar has gravel on that back road leading in from the corner of 4th and Walnut, and a neatly-lettered sign to supplement the hand-crafted spray-paint-on-cardboard originals. There's even a sort of path over the depression that was Sinclair Lewis Avenue leading in from the north. The latter is passable, if your vehicle isn't too low-slung.

There are a few more "Detour" signs up, although I've got to think that navigating around that area could be challenging to anyone not familiar with the town. Someone told me of a out of town woman, who had gotten lost trying to scout out an alternative path. She wasn't at all happy about the situation, or the fact that she hadn't seen a single directing sign.

Meanwhile, the roadwork includes putting blue drainage pipe (sewer? runoff?) underground in the vicinity of Lake Wobegon Trail.

August 20, 2003. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." The highs were only in the mid-to-upper-nineties earlier this week. It was the humidity that had me melting. Actually, anything over about seventy is warm for me: and our overnight lows have been in the low seventies. My hat is off to everyone who works outside.

Sinclair Lewis Avenue is still torn up, and will be for some time. In addition to replacing the pavement, the road is being widened. One of the residents, on the south side of the road, is not at all happy about losing a favorite tree and had a sign out, declaring the fact.

August 15, 2003. I've seen my first "Detour" sign around the Sinclair Lewis Avenue project now. It's at the west end of 2nd Street's westward run from Main, where you need to jog left, when going west.

On the online side of life here in Sauk Centre, the MSBlaster / Lovesan worm has hit locally. A relative's computer had to be cured by one of his sons, but as far as I can tell we didn't lose service. The local ISP has been doing a good job, maintaining our connections. 

August 10, 2003. Sinclair Lewis Avenue is pretty obviously out of use by now. Those "Road Closed" signs and barriers seem almost redundant, considering the half-foot drop and rough terrain beyond the edge of the construction zone. I've been told that it is a county project that just happens to be inside Sauk Centre city limits.

The rest of today's entry is what I've seen, catching up with the regional news.

There's bad news, and just a little good news, about ten miles up the road in Osakis. From what I've gathered in the news, a woman moved there from San Francisco. On July 29, she called 911. She told investigators that she shoved her 18-month-old son under the water in Lake Osakis twice, then changed her mind and called 911. I'm glad she changed her mind, but we do frown on that sort of thing around here. She's been charged with attempted second-degree murder, third-degree assault and child endangerment. The good news? The last I heard, the boy is in an Alexandria, Minnesota, hospital and in "satisfactory condition."

The war in Iraq got much closer to home. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Hellermann, 35, the second soldier from Minnesota to die there, was killed by enemy fire Wednesday. His wife and children (9 and 14) are living in Fort Bragg. Memorial services will be in Fort Bragg, the funeral in Salisbury, North Carolina, where his wife is from. There will be another memorial service at the St. Rose of Lima church in St. Rosa, down the road from here. The family here is working through the Freeport bank to set up a memorial fund to improve playgrounds in St. Rosa. A close family friend was quoted in the St. Cloud times as saying, "Brian told his mom that the reason he had to do this was not just to free adults, but to free the kids over there, ... And so his kids and everybody else's kids won't have to fight over there."

Finally, John Vakulskas, special envoy to carnivals from the Vatican, was at Sauk Rapids recently, to bless the midway rides at the Benton County Fair. Father John, carnival priest and minister to the carnival workers, said that the common view of carnival workers wasn't accurate. He was quoted on KNSI as saying, "These are all God's children and we serve their spiritual needs."

August 5, 2003. The Saga of Sinclair Lewis Avenue continues.

The Sinclair Lewis Avenue roadwork is well under way now. As of today, finding a way around the blocked street is a little exciting.

Coming in from the west, It isn't obvious until you're close to Lake Wobegon Trail that not only is there no marked detour, but there are no cross streets.

At the "Road Closed" sign, you have two choices: turn around in the street and go back a quarter mile to Fairy Lake Road, take that road to 2nd Street, and go east from there; or climb the curb and drive across the warehouse-and-light-industrial lots to 2nd Street. Then carefully drive over the 2nd Street curb and head east. I saw two pickup drivers take the second option yesterday. I don't blame them: I've known bosses that I'd hate to try explaining that half-mile round trip (and delay) to.

Coming from the east, it's pretty obvious. No detour marked, but anyone who's lived in Sauk Centre, and is familiar with the street layout, knows that streets don't go all the way over to Fairy Lake Road, or the highway, from Main until a long way south of downtown. The shortest way around the road construction is 2nd Street.

Just one problem today: a block west of Main, you run into two residential construction projects, across the street from each other. There should be a crane at one tomorrow, just to make things more interesting. It would be easier to go two blocks south from the "Road Closed" sign and drive by Sinclair Lewis Park. Too bad there aren't any cross streets from 2nd to Park Drive for several blocks west of Main.

Come to think of it, what happens to people who aren't familiar with the street layout of Sauk Centre?

At least the work seems to be going quickly.

I was downtown this noon, to vote on a tax proposal connected with the local hospital. Happily, the voting place at the armory was accessible.

August 4, 2003. Roadwork has started on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, between downtown and Lake Wobegon Trail. The eastbound lane is being chewed up first. Jerry's North Star station has a back road leading in, from 4th and Walnut Street. That road is more of a grass track right now, but there are two signs up, marking the entrance: look for large pieces of cardboard, a couple feet on a side.

On the other side of town, restoration and repair work resumed on Our Lady of the Angels church: the north and west sides of the bell tower, this time.

August 2, 2003. This should be a lively night downtown. They're having a street dance. A block of Sinclair Lewis Avenue just west of Main is blocked off with snow fence. A flatbed trailer is athwart the street at the east end. At 5:00 this afternoon, there was already some sound equipment on the flatbed.

On the block of Main Street just south of Sinclair Lewis, construction/remodeling is still going on in the north half of the Ben Franklin Store. The south half has been set up for business for a while now. They're putting a corridor through the north half, from the parking lot to Main. Good idea, since there's going to be much more activity on the west side of downtown after city hall moves: and access from parking to the front doors of shops has been a problem for years.

I hear that Sinclair Lewis Avenue will be closed from downtown to well beyond Jerry's Northstar. the street will be torn up for roadwork. This season, with the fields going amber and winter not too far away, isn't the time I would have chosen to block the major east-west corridor and block off at least one business. Something like this happened in recent years in a town a little west of here. A minor highway was blocked for months. What a surprise: a number of businesses which were on the highway folded in the months during which the only way to reach them was with an ATV.

Jerry's Northstar has a back access that hasn't been used in years. They're going to open that and set up signs for the roadwork's duration.

July 31, 2003. That work on the old VFW building on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue has a sign on it now. "Jimmy's Pizza" is coming soon, it says.

July 24, 2003. I finally got around to reading the paper, and saw some very sad news. Almost a week ago, early Saturday morning, about half past midnight, there was a fatal car accident at the west side I94 exit. According to the paper, the co-owner of Centre Lumber, Dennis Hoeschen (48), was coming back from his son's go-cart race in Alexandria: a regular event for him. That night, someone from Burtrum was driving up the exit, going the wrong way. It took 20 minutes to sort the drivers out from the vehicles. Sauk Centre Ambulance took John Wilfred Siefert (53), the other driver, to Sauk Centre's St. Michael Hospital. He died there. A LifeLink helicopter airlifted Mr. Hoeschen to St. Cloud, where he died. Centre Lumber was closed all day Tuesday this week, in Dennis "Whitey" Hoeschen's honor.

On a happier note, there are so many cars, trucks, and RVs parked on the street where I live that sometimes I can't see the street. That isn't good news in itself, but is a symptom of a happy occasion: the Stearns County Fair. I live pretty close to the fairgrounds, and get to see the people looking for an open spot, then later see them walking south from wherever they found one. There's parking on the grounds themselves, and across the street in at least two directions, but that costs money.

July 23, 2003. The Stearns County Fair opened today. It looks like they'll have good weather for at least the first two days. There is a new outfit providing the midway rides, so the place looks rather different from the road. The Sauk Centre Herald Bandstand is up, ready to go. It was being built during the last few weeks. The thing is essentially one end of a pole barn, painted bright red, with the floor raised about chest-high.

Out on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue, there's work in progress at the old VFW building. It looks like they're putting on more insulation.

July 19, 2003. This has been a busy day here in Sauk Centre. The circus came to town. Not the Jose Cole Circus: They come sometime around Easter each year.

This was the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, complete with big top. Two of my kids and I watched them put it up at the fairgrounds this morning. The human crew got help from Betty, one of the two elephants.

We were back at 2:00 for the first show. Great fun!

Then, this evening, the Sinclair Lewis Days parade went by our house. Neighbors of ours, who had asked if they could put up chairs on our yard, were there. So were a dozen or so other people, many of whom I didn't recognize. Most yards around here were like that. Lawn chairs and blankets had been collecting on the grass around here since morning. It took about fifty five minutes for the procession to pass. Local businesses, not-so-local businesses, the Knights of Columbus, an unidentified rock band on a flatbed trailer, a dozen or so horses, and about a hundred other units marched, or rolled, by. Folks came from at least as far away as St. Cloud to be in the parade.

July 18, 2003. Downtown, in the new Chinese restaurant's window, there's a hand-lettered sign with big yellow black-outlined letters, reading "Grand Opening."

A few doors south of there, the Ben Franklin store is in the south half of its storefront. The north half is going through remodeling. The Snyder Drug that used to be in the south half is long gone. We're still a two-drugstore town, though: there's a pharmacy in the Coborn's grocery store, as well as Winter's downtown.

July 14, 2003. Things are happening at the Stearns County Fair grounds. Sometime last week, the Sauk Centre Herald band shell was finished. It's at the south end of the midway, facing east toward the Eagles. food concession and the Knights of Columbus Bingo booth. Today, as I was getting home (later than I like), I saw some carnival equipment heading north through downtown. Out at the fairgrounds, there's part of a ride: still on its trailer, parked at the north end of the midway.

July 12, 2003. Sinclair Lewis Days is coming next weekend, and then the Stearns County Fair, starting on the 23rd. I saw a sign up at the southwest corner of the fairgrounds that read:

Free Street Dance
The Killer Hayseeds
No cover! July 23 8:30 p.m.

Now there's an incentive for coming to the fair!

July 8, 2003. These last two days it would have been possible to count mosquitoes in terms of pests per cubic foot. That big "Fireworks" tent on the south side (see June 19) is still up, but the tables inside have been empty since the 4th.

I've heard that all the rain we've had is helping the mosquitoes keep their numbers up. It certainly has been keeping the river up. Below the dam, at the Conservation Club Park, water rose over the lowest foot or so of grass. That's horizontal foot, not vertical.

July 1, 2003. We can look forward to a fireworks display down at the I-94 Speedway on the Fourth.

Yesterday, the new Chinese restaurant opened. The announcement, "GRAND OPEN 7 DAYS 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM" was displayed not only on a white board outside, but in the window as well. They've got an inviting buffet inside, and a menu that has me looking for an excuse to see what their food is like.

And, there's a wooden awning going up on the front of Sportsman's. Bar, on Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

June 28, 2003. Next Friday is the Fourth of July, and fireworks are for sale in the stores again this year. Sparklers, what I used to call snakes, and similarly safe ones, anyway. "If it whiz's or bangs... It is illegal" Deputy Fire Marshall Dan Bernardy was quoted as saying on KSTP's site this week. I've heard some of those unmistakable signs of bottle rockets and similar contraband in town, but not very often.

Meanwhile, downtown, the "coming soon" sign is missing from the window of the new Chinese restaurant, and the door was open this morning. I understand that a family from the Morris area is opening this as a sort of branch of their restaurant there. I'm looking forward to this.

June 19, 2003. Sometime this week, a large tent went up in the parking lot of the defunct Economart, just east of the McDonald's. There's a big "Fireworks" sign outside, along with a Black Cat poster. Fireworks have been on the shelves in stores for a week or so. I don't remember this last year, and for a very long time the Minnesota State government has been protecting us from sparklers and firecrackers. Being something of a sentimentalist, I'm rather glad to see these items available again: The sanitized Fourth of July that occupied much of my life doesn't match the lively times of my childhood. (You have to be "of age" to buy these things now, of course.)

June 17, 2003. More changes downtown: Newspaper came off the door's glass panel and the blinds went up at the Chinese Restaurant. It's still 'opening soon,. but now there are booths in place, and work was in progress this afternoon. Two doors south of that soon-to-open business, a new sign has been painted in the window of where B & K Hobbies was: Harbor Light Candles and Gifts. That small storefront was a jewelry store when I moved into town, about seventeen years ago.

June 14, 2003. Yesterday, someone told me that the weather forecast said temperatures would be high for the next few days: a good thing, since this would warm up the water so  the kids could go swimming.

It was in a warm summer evening today when the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe went from Our Lady of the Angels Church to St. Paul's in a procession. About a dozen people were involved. This is the first procession involving either of these churches that I can remember in the seventeen years I've lived here.

June 11, 2003. The south side of the Ben Franklin store downtown has display racks up, and some merchandise. The place looks more like a store and less like a construction site now. Across the street east and about a half block south, on the corner of fourth and Main, there's been work going on, too: window work at the old Cenex location. Today, sheets of particle board filled the window frames on either side of the door.

June 7, 2003. Stearns County had a household hazardous waste pickup point in the parking lot of the Sinclair Lewis interpretive center today. Smart idea, making it possible to safely and legally get rid of paint, 'bug bombs. and the like!

Despite work earlier this week with the weed harvester earlier this week, there are still thick mats of water plants on Sauk Lake. It's a little odd, seeing tracks of open water in the lake where boats go by. There's an especially well-defined one leading north from the public access landing near the south end of the lake.

June 3, 2003. The Central Minnesota Federal Credit Union branch on south Main opened this week. That Chinese restaurant continues to be "opening soon." And today I saw Sauk River Watershed District's weed harvester out on Sauk Lake, picking up masses of those water plants that boats have been cutting channels through at the south end of the lake.

Yesterday evening, on my way to see if the light was right for a picture or two by the golf course, I was deflected by a closed road: part of that work I mentioned on May 28. This happy event led me past a driveway where two youngsters had an upturned blue plastic tub with something very colorful on what was not its top. When I passed the spot again, they were struggling with a white board which was nearly as long as the biggest one was tall. The younger motioned me over. Sensing a grand business opening, I parked about twenty feet beyond them.

The youngsters were selling painted rocks. If memory serves, the prices started at ten cents and went up to seventy five cents. I chose the only non-painted rock in the lot: a fifty cent piece. One of them explained that, although not painted, it was "cool," and threw in one of the smallest painted rocks.

My hat is off to them: this is a fine variation on the traditional lemonade stand!

May 28, 2003. The Treonne's clothing store downtown has "Going Out of Business" signs in the windows. Next door, renovation is still going on in the south half of the Ben Franklin store.

Earlier this year, the VFW started sharing facilities with the American Legion. That move freed up some commercial space on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

Road work is picking up again on the north side, near the Sauk Lake shoreline where that Minnesota State facility used to be. A sign says they're selling lakefront lots there.

May 20, 2003. Construction on south Main Street, where the Cenex moved to when they left downtown, seems to be almost complete. Judging by the banner they've got spread over part of building, pretty soon we'll have a branch of the Central Minnesota Federal Credit Union here.

May 14, 2003. The Chinese restaurant is still "opening soon," according to a sign in the front window. The door's window is blocked with sheets of newspaper, so I suppose that there's a bit of work still going on inside.

There's an antique store with a difference going in on the other side of the street from the new restaurant, at the southeast corner of Sinclair Lewis and Main. I saw a painter putting lettering up on the window as I went home from work yesterday. Apparently this place will have a coffee bar and half-price books. Interesting combination.

May 12, 2003. There's a new sign up on The Original Main Street now: "Grand Buffet Chinese Restaurant 351-1688." The new restaurant is where "all star PIZZA" used to be, about half a block south of Sinclair Lewis Avenue, on the west side.

May 8, 2003. Just a quick correction and addition to yesterday's entry. The fiber cable cut happened near Rockford Road in Plymouth: not at Rockford, Minnesota, as we heard at first. The cut happened about three in the afternoon. A repair crew was there at about 4:10, and service was restored about 5:38.

May 7, 2003. Brendan's Island was unavailable to most of the Web this afternoon. A fiber cable near Rochester, Minnesota, was accidentally cut about 3:00 this afternoon. The cable handled servers in quite a bit of Minnesota. Folks were fixing it by the time I checked with the local ISP. When I logged on this evening, service seemed to be back to normal. Fast work.

This entry is going to be longer than usual. There's been quite a bit happening. I saw in the paper that there has been quite a bit of trouble here and there in Sauk Centre recently. There's some good news, too: I saved that for last.

A young woman moved into town recently with her boyfriend and eighteen month old baby. April 27, the boyfriend ran away and took her baby with him. The baby's been recovered, safe, and he's been charged with "depriving another of custodial rights."

The same day there was an altercation at a motel, when some guests tried to sleep three people for the price of two. Some fifteen-year-old did about $1,700 worth of tire-slashing at an apartment parking lot. He's been caught.

Before April 30, the school had two Colorado blue spruce trees. They had been donated, and by now were about fifteen feet tall. Sometime between late Wednesday, April 30, and early Thursday they were cut down. There's a $200 award out for whoever did this.

This isn't exactly the dreamy "small town America" some people think of: but I still would rather live here. Good neighbors, family, and a pleasant environment make this a very good place to live.

Downtown, the Ben Franklin store is going through quite a metamorphosis. It occupies two storefronts on the west side of "The Original Main Street." The south half is empty and seems be be getting remodeled. The north half is open for business while this is going on.

Just west of downtown, buildings have been removed and ground is being prepared for the new city hall.

Sauk Centre's Boy Scout Troop 25 will be planting trees, again, on Lake Wobegon Trail. This is the third spring they've been at it. So far they've planted fifty. They and their parents been watering the trees weekly. Besides making the trail nicer to look at and providing a windbreak, the trees make a small habitat for wildlife.

May 1, 2003. It's been quite a week. Late Monday, about 20 miles north of here, three bodies were found. Holly Chromey (49) and her children, Katie (18) and Jerrod Zapzalka (16) had been killed in their home in downtown Long Prairie. Wednesday afternoon, police arrested two alleged suspects (as Fearless Fosdick would have said) in northeast Minneapolis.

Apparently, a couple of drug users are responsible for the three Long Prairie murders, and for killing an old man and his daughter (William Schwartz (88) and Claudia Schwartz (50)) in northeast Minneapolis on April 17. The Minneapolis police chief said that robbery seemed to be the motive in both cases.


April 30, 2003. Unhappily, on Monday (4/28/2003) a mother and her two children were found dead in their house in Long Prairie. That's only about 20 miles north of here, straight up Highway 71. The police there are treating it as a triple homicide. Folks in Long Prairie are extra-cautious now, since there's no clear indication as to who killed them, or why.

April 19, 2003. "Snow" is off the ground again, except in a few sheltered spots. The white ground cover is actually those tiny ice pellets that came down earlier this week. The last few days have showcased another feature of springtime in Minnesota: green grass poking up through snow. Or, in this case, millions of tiny ice pellets.

The downtown traffic lights got upgraded last week. Until a week before yesterday, they would flash red on Sinclair Lewis Avenue (east-west), amber on The Original Main Street from 11 at night to 6 in the morning. Now, they'll be going through their cycle 24 hours a day.

Besides that, there are new rules for the pedestrian crossing at the downtown lights. Before, the walk/don't walk signals cycled automatically. Now, pedestrians push a button to start the walk/don't walk sequence. Pushing the button doesn't speed up the lights. cycle: it just lets the system know that someone is there, hoping to cross the street. The Sauk Centre Herald published a story on the new lights, detailing how to interpret the flashing hand and walking-person icon. The paper mentioned that the current downtown stop lights have been working there since October of 1981. The downtown stoplights were upgraded during the 2001 bridge project, to allow protected left turns (Factoid Man: Changes in Sauk Centre, 2001).

The golf course north of town (GreyStone Golf Club) has been under new management for some time, and has a new Web site. There is now a link under "Places to Recreate" on the Some Web Sites From This Area page.

April 16, 2003. Today, sleet and freezing rain. Temperatures staying around the freezing point. Last night we had lightning and wind blasting rain and sleet at us from the east. Then, somewhat after midnight, the power went out for most of Sauk Centre. Our six year old didn't like that, and I wasn't too thrilled myself.

As I said yesterday, this sort of climatic roller coaster is about what we expect during spring.

April 15, 2003. Yesterday, the thermometer outside our north window registered 87 degrees in the early evening. Earlier in the day, I had noticed that the ice was finally gone from Sauk Lake.

Today, temperatures rose to the mid-sixties and stayed there. The forecast includes a severe thunderstorm watch tonight and a "wintry mix" tomorrow. That's a polite way of describing snow, rain, and freezing rain, and assorted other unpleasantnesses, all hovering around the freezing point.

That's about par for late spring in Minnesota.

Fleet Supply, out on the west side, roughly doubled its floor area earlier this year. They're just about finished reorganizing and moving everything into the new space.

April 11, 2003. I finally read this week's paper. It seems that Sauk Centre now has a buyer for our existing city hall. Someone has a plan for converting it to housing. I hope that they keep the interior stair as it is. That old 1951 building has a certain amount of period charm to it.

April 10, 2003. It was 72 degrees, Fahrenheit, as I went home from work today, and there's still ice on the lake. We have clear water all the way across in many spots, and ice only covers half the width of the lake in others. Sauk Lake is one of those long, narrow lakes, more of a submerged river channel than a lake. This morning, I saw ducks swimming in an open patch, and gulls perched on the ice.

April 9, 2003. I drove through downtown this evening, and noticed that the curtains were drawn at the pizza place ("all star PIZZA") on Main Street. There's a sign in the window, reading "Chinese Restaurant Coming Soon." Meanwhile, a block west, a small apartment building has long since been torn down to make way for the new city hall. I expect we'll see more work being done around there this summer.

April 5, 2003. Just enough snow was on the ground this morning to make it white. Most disappeared as soon as the sun hit it, leaving the shadows snow-covered.

And, let's not forget that we set clocks forward tonight. We get to experience jet lag without traveling!

April 4, 2003. Light snow this morning came down on top of yesterday's ice. Some of the ice has melted or been worn off, which helps traction a bit.

April 3, 2003. Pretty much everything outside that was facing up or east got covered with a film of ice today. A strong east wind, rain or some other precipitation coming down, and freezing temperatures are what did the trick. The ice wasn't thick, somewhere around a thirty second or sixteenth of an inch, but it made sidewalks, streets, and even lawns slick. The windows of my vehicle had a lovely coating, like textured glass, when I left work yesterday.

March 31, 2003. The high was in the sixties today, and that crust of ice is still on Sauk Lake.

March 28, 2003. Driving by Sauk Lake today, I noticed that there is still a crust of ice on most of the lake. The first foot or so near shore is clear, and there are a few open patches. It isn't very thick, though: about enough to support the two Canadian geese I saw near one of the open spots.

March 27, 2003. The Jose Cole Circus put on a performance at the Sauk Centre Civic Arena tonight. They come every year, sometime around Easter. It's a pretty major community event: an hour and a half of aerialists, animal acts, clowns, and Anna-Louise, the dancing elephant.

March 24, 2003. I was out of town with two of the kids on a special trip, so I missed the excitement. On Saturday night (March 22), at about 8:30, my wife heard and felt a very loud bang. She thought something might have hit the house. A quick check showed no damage, so she called her mother. She had heard the bang, too. While this was going on, most of the emergency vehicles in town screamed by our house.

Today (Monday), at work, I learned that most of Sauk Centre probably heard it, at least on the south side. Apparently, someone east of town, near the old dump, got a fire permit. He put brush in a pit and, wanting it to burn fast, added quite a bit of gasoline. Gasoline fumes being what they are, he got more of an explosion instead of a fire. Happily, no one seems to have been hurt.

March 20, 2003. The rains of the last few days melted the last snow, at least except for very sheltered spots and the top of Sauk Lake. It is now Springtime in Minnesota: which means mud underfoot and a sweeper roaring up and down the streets, brushing away winter's sand and debris.

March 5, 2003. I read that the temperature up in International Falls set a record low last night: 30 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. The northwest Minnesota town of Tower hit 39 below. Alexandria and St. Cloud, near Sauk Centre on I-94, went down to 15 below. This morning, outside our window here, it was a comparatively balmy 12 below. Now, that's winter!

March 3, 2003. About an inch of snow came down today, on top of some that fell on the weekend. Fresh snow on packed snow and ice means low (or no) traction. Sadly, a fatal accident happened on I-94 near Clearwater today: about an hour back toward the Metro area from here. Both westbound lanes were closed for some two and a half hours.

March 2, 2003. A few years ago, I started hearing Spanish spoken when I went out for groceries. I see that for some time now, Coborn's has had about 10 feet of shelving devoted to products such as tamarindo, ajonjoli, and abuelita. What really caught my eye were the devotional candles there: including one featuring St. Jude Tadeo (St. Jude Thaddeus, I usually call him). I bought the candle, but not the food: with my roots (tubers?) in Norway and Ireland, I'm more a lefse and stew guy.

February 22, 2003. I noticed some signs that were new to me today.

There are two brown and cream signs flanking the road into the old Minnesota Correctional Facility. The place is now called "oak ridge." That's no typo: the letters are obviously all lower case.

Jerry's Northstar, on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue, has a "for sale by owner" sign in the front window.

It's been a warm day: at least 17 above zero (Fahrenheit, of course). Teens and young adults were in shirtsleeves outside Coborn's when I picked up something there this afternoon.

February 11, 2003. It was a bit warmer this morning, but at noon I heard that areas north of us were getting ground-blizzard conditions. By evening there was a "winter weather advisory:" winds from the west-northwest of 15 to 25 miles an hour and an overnight wind chill of around minus 20. The actual temperature should only be about minus 5. After getting home from work, I decided to stay inside.

Going through last week's newspaper, I saw more discussion about the new city hall, starting on the front page. We're told we need a new one, which I can believe. The existing building is charming, in my opinion, but dates from the 1950's, when energy was cheap and wheelchair ramps unheard of in public architecture. The price tag of the new one may be around $2.5 million: which I figure works out to about $625 a head for us. That's a noticeable amount of money for this household. I've seen pictures of the proposed building: It could be a bright spot downtown.

Another item on the front page wasn't exactly good news, but illustrates one reason I like living here. Back on January 28, two ladies from Eden Valley were crossing Main Street, downtown. The were on a marked crosswalk, and so had the right of way. A small truck with a "juvenile" behind the wheel came along, clipped one and threw the other onto the hood. The lady on the hood has a broken leg.

I wish the incident hadn't happened, but I like living where a traffic accident like this is front-page news.

February 10, 2003. It was 13 below zero (Fahrenheit) this morning: even I think this is cold. Last week's snow is still with us, and probably more to come.

February 3, 2003. First, I stand corrected. There was enough snow yesterday to make a snowman. My wife noticed a small snowman on top of one of the pillars at the entrance to Stearns County Fairgrounds.

Second, about a half foot of snow came down overnight. Schools in Sauk Centre were two hours late today. There was quite a bit of wind, which would make driving in the country a little awkward.

February 2, 2003. We've had snow, off and on, during the week, and by now it finally looks like winter outside. Since it's also been warm, the snow has been nearly ideal for packing: not enough for a serious snowman, but fine for other purposes. Yesterday, my young son and a friend of his plastered the west wall of our shed with snowballs.

February 1, 2003. Generally, this page of Brendan's Island is devoted to what happens in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Today will be an exception.

At about 8:00 this morning, Central time, radio contact with the space shuttle Columbia was lost. Columbia was about 200,000 feet over north central Texas at the time. Debris has been found, and it is obvious now that there can be no survivors.

The crew of the Columbia:

  • Shuttle commander, Colonel Rick Husband
  • Shuttle pilot, Commander William McCool
  • Dr. Kalpana Chawla (the first Indian-born woman in space)
  • Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson
  • Captain David Brown
  • Commander Laurel Clark
  • Israeli A. F. Colonel Ilan Ramon (the first Israeli astronaut)

The President of the United States concluded his remarks on the loss of the Columbia with these words:

"In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing..

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America."

January 26, 2003. The temperature outside when I looked this Sunday morning was about 8 below zero (Fahrenheit). By noon, it was up to zero, and I was out in the back yard, grilling lunch. One of my daughters ran the food in, before it froze. I've noticed that not many other folks here grill year-round.

I've got a display of current time and temperature for Sauk Centre (plus San Francisco and Chicago) near the bottom of one of the Factoid Man pages.

January 24, 2003. It is quite warm this morning: 6 above zero. Happily, there was a light snow coming down. By evening, there's enough snow to cover most of the grass in the yard. I'm hoping for a little more, just to settle the dust.

January 23, 2003. The thermometer outside our window indicated 10 degrees below zero this morning. I decided not to listen to the radio for Alexandria's reading. I saw the operator of a tow truck getting ready to haul a car on Main Street away. That's not a very common sight around here: I assume that the cold temperatures caught up with someone's engine.

January 22, 2003. The temperature at Alexandria, Minnesota, was 9 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) this morning. It was fairly warm here in Sauk Centre: 6 degrees below zero outside our window. Tomorrow will be colder, the weather forecast says. I wish there were more snow on the ground. With mostly bare ground, and just a few patches of snow less than an inch deep, I'm afraid we may have some problems with pipes freezing. Still, I'll take this climate over others: it isn't boring.

January 17, 2003. One of the latest meth lab busts in this area happened a week ago, just a few blocks from where I live. That's uncomfortably close.

On the positive side, we finally have a little snow on the ground: and near-zero temperatures to remind us that it really is winter.

January 10, 2003. After ridiculously warm temperatures this week, we finally got some sensible weather last night. Howling winds and temperatures dropping to the teens. By morning, "cat track" snow had fallen.

The municipal Christmas decorations came down right after New Year's, as usual. A few homeowners still have their displays up.

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December 12, 2002. By now some parts of Sauk Centre are spectacular, with brilliant and colorful yard displays. One of my favorite decorations this year are the all-blue icicle light strips.

November 22, 2002. There are, today, three houses on my five-block route to work with Christmas decorations up. I went home by a different route, and saw three more. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

November 14, 2002. MS Fabrics, a cloth and sewing store in a mini-mall west of downtown, is closing. The B & K Hobbies store, on Main Street, is empty (see March 18, 2002).

Saturday, November 2, 2002. All Soul's Day today, and the St. Paul's Church rectory was burgled. While Father celebrated the 4:00 Mass, someone made off with the Holy Day collection.

Thursday, October 31, 2002. Halloween and colds don't mix, so the family missed trick-or-treating this year. I think the cold kept quite a few folks inside. On a happier note, a house several blocks north of us had a fine display up: glowing candy corns a foot and a half tall marking the front walk, with a discrete plastic ghost shedding light and a slight smile to the left of the door.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002. There's still snow on the ground this evening, left over from Sunday night's three inch snowfall. A few flakes have come down since then, but the vast bulk of what we have today arrived then. The local paper featured a front-page photo of a snowman this week.

Thursday, October 17, 2002. Snow was falling this morning. Much of it was gone by evening, but it looks like we got a good three or four inches. Bushes and tree branches were bent down, especially since we still have many leaves on the trees.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002. I saw lights up on a few houses this evening. Christmas lights? This early? On closer examination, they proved to be Halloween lights.

Monday, October 7, 2002. I believe that I witnessed the first snowfall in town this morning. The flakes made a pretty scene, barely filled in spaces between the leaves of grass, and were gone without a trace by afternoon.

Sunday, October 6, 2002. No church bells on this side of town for about a year or so. Our Lady of the Angels, down the street, is getting long-overdue attention. When folks took a careful look, during the renovation project, the bell tower proved to be held up by clay tiles. On top of that, the corners weren't bonded together properly. Father Statz said "it's a miracle" that it didn't come down earlier.

The bad news is that fixing the church will cost more now. The good news is that, in addition to fixing known problems, like the leak over pew 19, this project stopped a disaster.

Saturday, October 5, 2002. Downtown, this week, in the place that was selling Christmas decorations in mid-September, I saw some of the new Christmas tree ornaments. Prominently displayed, and I'm sure destined for a tree near here, was not only an apparently glow-in-the-dark replica - in purplish blue - of the Star Wars Death Star from Return of the Jedi, but a figurine of Darth Vader. With his light saber.

Friday, October 4, 2002. Some time ago, an anonymous tip alerted a Minnesota state agency that ancient burial mounds were near the old correctional facility in north Sauk Centre.

Then, on Friday the 13th, last month, work at the Lakeridge improvement site, on the north side of Sauk Centre, stopped! Bones had been found! Rib bones! The police were called in, and they called on State Archeologist Mark Dudzik.

Sure enough, bones are in the soil there. After a thorough investigation, they proved to be buffalo bones. Three hours after the gruesome discovery, it was back to work.

(The local paper covered this story in their October 1 issue.)

Friday, September 20, 2002. Schwan's Ice Cream is something that has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. I don't believe I ever ate any, but those yellow trucks with the white swan on the side are a cherished part of my childhood: and they're still around. My wife now and again reminisces about her favorite flavors. This week I discovered that people can order from Schwan's on the Web. You'll find the link under Places to Shop in Some Web Sites From This Area. The listings on that page have been expanded a bit today.

Friday, September 13, 2002. Picking up one of those one-use cameras downtown, I noticed Christmas decorations for sale on the shelf. I believe that this is the earliest that I've seen a snowman, plastic or otherwise.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002. A caravan of ambulances, police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles came into town, filled the county fairgrounds with flashing lights and horns, and moved on. They were honoring the emergency workers involved in last year's attack.

Sunday, September 8, 2002. There's an example of real chutzpah on a billboard by the Interstate's westbound lane, about a mile before you reach the first Sauk Centre exit. It reads:

America's Best Public Liberal Arts College"

Saturday, September 7, 2002. Some things have changed in the year (almost) since September 11, 2001.

More flags are up: some spots are awash in red and white stripes and blue-backed stars.

Folks in the local Post Office wear photo-id tags. I suppose it's for security, but in this town if there was a stranger behind the Post Office counter, we'd all know it.

I saw in the paper that there will be a sort of march through this area, honoring the emergency workers who, by their actions almost a year ago, reminded us that "hero" isn't a childish word.

Saturday, August 24, 2002. The Sauk River level is down, a little, but we still have plenty of evidence of the recent heavy rains. We've had it easy, compared with some folks. I drove through the Red River Valley last weekend, and saw too much cropland under water. Not as obvious as standing water where grain should be is the effect on harvesting. One outfit up there has crops ready, but hasn't been able to overcome the mud yet.

Monday, July 29, 2002. I saw the last of the Stearns County Fair leave today: two food concession booths, being towed north on Main Street. We didn't have as much of a midway this year as we usually do. The item I missed seeing most was the Ferris wheel. Plenty of folks showed up, though: and got very wet Saturday, around noon. Unofficially, we got two or three inches in an hour or less. We seem to have missed the worst storms, though: They had softball-size hail near Tyler MN (that's west of Minneapolis), and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was shut down last night while a storm passed.

Saturday, July 20, 2002. Today was "Sinclair Lewis Days:" quite a big event here in Sauk Centre. This year, I volunteered to help out with the "Sinclair Lewis Days Parade." The original idea was that I'd drive my minivan for a local group. The van's engine got temperamental this morning, and I wound up driving someone else's: a much larger and cleaner vehicle. The parade started some time in the early evening.

This was the first time I'd seen a parade from the inside in well over thirty years. I was in unit 95, so the spectators were a bit worn out by the time we got to them. The parade route is about a mile long, roughly half in a residential area and half on or near Main Street. Folks were sitting or standing one or two deep on the lawns in front of houses.

When we got near Main Street ("The Original Main Street" it says on the signs), folks were two or three deep, four to five where there was room. Quite a few of the places along the route, even on Main, have lawn in front of them. Some, because they're still houses, others because they started as houses before being taken over for business purposes.

The unit in front of me, and quite a few others, had a habit of tossing candy to the folks by the road. Sometimes they didn't throw very hard, and the candy landed ten or fifteen feet out from the curb. That made life interesting, since youngsters have a habit of darting out to pick up the candy. Not just youngsters, either.

A gentleman who, from his appearance, might have played basketball sometime just after the Great Depression, waved at one of the candy-throwing units. They lobbed a candy stick to him, as he stood in a front yard. They overshot his hand by a slim foot. He waved his thanks and retrieved the treat.

At the other end of the age range, I saw a young father sitting on a lawn chair by Main Street, with a small baby fast asleep on his shoulder.

Fireworks followed the parade. We don't do fireworks, locally, on Independence Day, but we put on a show for Sinclair Lewis Days.

Saturday, July 13, 2002. Minnesota (and other parts of the continent) got a very great deal of rain this week: mostly around the time I made the July 10 entry. Our house is okay, with just a little water coming down the chimney. That's one advantage of sitting on a sandy ridge.

The Sauk River was still noticeably up on Friday, and I've heard of flooding here in town and in towns around here: everything from water in the basement to a convenience store with a wading pool where their parking lot used to be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002. We've had the first Fourth of July weekend under the new, less restrictive state of Minnesota rules. This year, I was delighted to see sparklers and poppers for sale in stores. This is a more like the Fourth of Julys I remember.

Tuesday, June 26, 2002. Driving by Sinclair Lewis Park today, I saw that we have a new bridge. It's a small affair, just long enough to span a tiny stream that runs into the lake. The old bridge was a culvert with concrete poured on top. Now we have a fine, sparkling white walkway on the path between the band shell and the playground.

Monday, June 24, 2002. Going through clippings this weekend, I ran into a beauty from the June 11 Sauk Centre Herald's editorial page. At 8:00 in the morning the previous week, someone involved with the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home got a call from a telemarketer. The caller wanted to sell Mr. Lewis special window glass. For the record, Mr. Sinclair Lewis died over fifty years ago, and is no longer accepting calls in Sauk Centre.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002. The Cenex Co-Op in town went out of business a while ago. Now, the building out by the Interstate that they had moved to has been torn down. Today, only the larger pieces of concrete are still in place. I understand that the old Cenex building, downtown, will be converted into a restaurant of some sort. Times change. When we moved here, I remember someone at the Cenex, they were downtown then, persuading me to become a member, so that I'd only have one gasoline bill per month. I joined, and in the long run it was a good idea.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002. Eight days ago, Tuesday the 21st, some pathetic creature set fire to "The Little Red Schoolhouse" down at the interpretive center. Happily, someone was driving by in the wee hours of the morning and called the fire department. The structure can be repaired, but many of the irreplaceable old books and objects inside are gone. Quite a few people go through there. This summer I'm afraid that they'll be disappointed.

Thursday, May 16, 2002. Star Wars opened about an hour and a half ago in the local theater. I expect that I'll be taking the family there soon. It's nice to have a four-screen theater downtown, with equipment that's good enough to rate a first-release showing of Star Wars.

Saturday, May 11, 2002. This is the day before Mother's Day, and fishing season opener: not the best example of scheduling in this country's history.

Monday, April 29, 2002. The news called the weekend's weather a "freak snowstorm." I'm inclined to agree, reading about what happened south and east of us: up to 20 inches in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota, with at least four traffic deaths.

Sunday, April 28, 2002. Snow covers the grass, all but the tips of the new green growth. The snow should be gone soon: it was raining this morning, with more on the way tonight, the forecast tells us. That's "spring" in Minnesota.

Saturday, April 27, 2002. It's snowing outside, but by mid-afternoon there had been no accumulation on the ground. By evening, though, the grass was covered.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002. About $30,000 worth of methamphetamines, plus $8,000-plus in cash explains why some guy took off from a routine traffic stop in Osakis, a town up the road. The Douglas County K-9 unit located the driver of the car after he gave up trying to outmaneuver Osakis police and took off on foot.

Monday, April 22, 2002. This morning there were a couple inches of snow on the yard. This evening, the snow is melted: except for a few small patches near the north side of the house. Spring in Minnesota is the season when snow melts faster.

Sunday, April 21, 2002. Less than a week ago, we had temperatures in the upper 80s. Fargo, North Dakota, north and west of here, had record-setting heat. Then it snowed in Fargo. Now we have a back yard covered with snow. We've been sliding up and down the thermometer this last week. I love this climate! It is not boring.

Monday, March 18, 2002. On my way home today, I noticed that Sauk Centre has a new store downtown: B & K Hobbies, I believe the name was.

Saturday, February 9, 2002. We buried Elizabeth Marie today.

Tuesday, February 5, 2002. Sadly, Elizabeth Marie died yesterday and was born early this morning, shortly after midnight.

Saturday, February 2, 2002. This "Seasons" page is getting quite long: too long, perhaps. Don't hold your breath, waiting for me to change it, though: my wife and I are expecting a baby. Today is the official due date. Of course, that comes with a two-week margin of error. These are exciting times!

Saturday, January 19, 2002. I read in the paper this week that One of Sauk Centre's police cars has a new onboard computer, with a companion unit in the dispatch office. Among other things, the police officer can call up data about a vehicle in seconds, not the minutes it used to take, use e-mail and get map information. The other police car should have one of these computers soon.

The weather, by the way, is now quite cold: sub-zero, in fact, the other night. One thing I like about this area: the weather isn't boring.

Saturday, January 12, 2002. The weather has been very warm (for Minnesota) this week. We usually get a January thaw, but this one set records in a few places.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2001. Snow. Lots of snow. Snow in drifts. Snow blowing across the windshield. Near-zero traction at some intersections. Yes, this is definitely winter. Even the Sauk Centre schools were closed today.

The worst of this storm seems to have gone south of us. 28 inches of show came down on Willmar, I hear. That's straight snowfall, not drifting.

Storms showcase qualities I like about the people in this area. Last night I drove past a little old lady whose car was nose-down in a drift near a street corner. I drove around the block. By the time I got back, two teenage boys were shoveling her car out, and their dad was on the way. Everyone was gone, and I trust in a heated building, by the time I returned from a little equipment-tending at my job.

Our street department had the streets clear in good time today. My kids had just finished clearing the driveway, when a plow went past, throwing up a new ridge. The kids were not pleased.

Monday, November 26, 2001. Yesterday it was almost shirt-sleeve weather. Today the first winter storm of the season is starting. I think I'll call this the start of winter.

Sunday, November 25, 2001. Thanksgiving Day is over, red and green decorations went up over Main Street a few days ago, and my family is getting back to business-as-usual. At least, as much so as is possible in the holiday season.

With the help of two daughters and a son, I got my oldest daughter on a bus for the trip back to college. My wife had done the hard part earlier: getting daughter #1 packed. It was a treat, having all the family under one roof again, hearing a guitar in the north room, and having an unexpected visitor hang out with me while I tried to get work done on the computer.

Mom didn't see our daughter off, since she's due in about two and a half months. The baby is already a noticeable percentage of her total weight, and she preferred to stay home.

Sunday, November 18, 2001. I was out driving last night and noticed that more people have their Christmas light displays up. Looking at the calendar, I see that Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet. Good grief! I'm all for promptness, but what's next: Halloween decorations up after the 4th of July?

Please, don't misunderstand me: One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is that brilliant spangle of colored lights that transforms the evening into something out of a fantasy. And I do understand that, in this climate at least, it is easier to put up displays now, than when there's a deep layer of that white, fluffy stuff on the ground.

On the other hand, one way of keeping something special is to keep it restricted in time and space. With an apparently abrupt change of subjects, remember when the sports seasons started to overlap? I remember a cartoon that showed a man watching four television sets: one each of baseball, hockey, football and basketball. Here's the point: When the sports seasons started spreading out, there were concerns voiced that interest might flag because of the (perhaps excessive) amount of exposure. I suggest that even the sparkly Christmas decorations might face a similar threat.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001. The first Christmas lights I've seen this season were up this evening. I saw the them on my way home from work. The householders have almost covered the front of their place: a fine display, and up before Thanksgiving!

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