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Sunday, December 31, 2006. New Year's Eve. A fine, wet snow frosted trees in time for his holiday. Then today we had something a lot like rain. Streets were in rare condition by noon, lending excitement and thrills to a short drive from church, to grocery, to home.

Quite a few houses in this neighborhood still have their Christmas displays lit tonight. If folks follow local (at least) traditions this year, the lights will be off after this. I like to keep observing Christmas until Epiphany, next Sunday, but that doesn't seem to be a common habit.

I observed the passing of the old year and the coming of 2007 in my usual way. I watched television coverage of about a million people in New York's Times Square shout out a countdown as an extravagantly lit and ornamented ball slid down a pole.

Alexandria's Echo Press assures us that law enforcement will have extra officers on duty tonight, encouraging folks to drive in a hooch-free condition. For those who pursue a more traditional approach to celebrating the new year's advent, the paper gave telephone numbers for two taxi services that promised to stay open for partyers: Viking Taxi and Taxi Guy.

Air traffic is usually light over Sauk Centre, apart from bunches of birds now and again. The other day, skeins of geese crisscrossed the sky: or more likely one set of birds having a serious problem deciding on a route to follow. If so, they weren't so much flying in circles as flying in pretzels.

On a personal note, this has been an unusually interesting year for me: getting laid off, then having both hands and both hips operated on. It feels a little odd, not planning for another trip to the hospital followed by a dip into the lifestyle of pain killers and occupational therapy.

I'm doing incredibly well with these artificial hips. This week I climbed a flight of stairs, and hope to grill burgers next weekend. One of my kids, hearing my weekend plans, cheered and said, "briquette burgers again!" It's nice to be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006. We had a white Christmas in Sauk Centre, thanks to about an inch of snow.

Apart from blades of grass showing through, it's been a white Christmas in SaukCentre. December 25, 2006.

I don't know that anyone celebrates Lille Yuleaften in town: Sauk Centre is traditionally German and Irish, so Norwegian celebrations aren't on the cultural radar. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, on the other hand, don't pass without some pretty serious attention. Our Lady of the Angels church, where this family goes, had at least three masses during those two days. Folks know that they've had Christmas by the time we're through.

Wreath on Our Lady of the Angels church, Sauk Centre
Our Lady of the Angels' Christmas Wreath. December 24, 2006.

This year's Yuletide celebrations weren't as exciting as they were last year. The Christmas tree by the altar didn't fall over. I understand that Father Statz put on a hard hat during the mass, just in case. I'm pretty sure that was a joke.

Christmas Tree, Angel, and Star
Christmas Eve at Our Lady of the Angels wasn't as exciting this year: the tree didn't even lean. December 24, 2006.

Next stop on the holiday circuit: New Year's Eve.

Starting New Year's Day, folks will be able to park on residential streets overnight, unless there's a snow emergency. They've been able to all along, of course, but were likely to be ticketed and/or towed. We're supposed to leave the parking lanes free from 1 to 7 in the morning downtown, and from 2 to 7 on other streets.

The Sauk Herald says that the city council has been talking about this change for about 2 years. The parking ordinance has been rough on folks who have a car, but don't have a garage or parking lot to put it in. I've heard that quite a few folks living in rented space are in that position.

That news item was the Sauk Herald's front page lead story. Below it was a photo about a foot across of the Holy Family School students' in their "O Holy Night" Christmas program costumes.

I'll say it again: I like living in a place where that sort of thing is front-page news.

Merry Christmas, from Sauk Centre

Sunday, December 24, 2006. Christmas Eve. Yards in town were the same brownish tan they've been this winter for the first half of the week. What may have been the only snowman in town was on display on the other side of the street. I've no idea how they collected that much snow.

Thursday, one of the kids looked outside and said, "I don't know if it's snow, sleet, or rain: but at least it's white."

Today we've got snow on the ground, not quite covering medium-height blades of grass. It's much more of a white Christmas than I expected.

The folks getting the Wal-Mart supercenter ready are probably glad that standard-issue winter weather waited until they got the walls and roof up and sealed. There aren't many signs of activity there now, aside from subcontractors' semis parked in back, and cars and SUVs of the crews in front of the store.

An article about a Sauk Centre family covered almost half of the Sauk Herald's front page this week ("It's the Season of Giving" at the Herald Web site). The photos told the story rather well: Mrs. Rivers and the six kids were in upper left corner; Mr. Rivers was over on the right side.

He's been away from his wife and six kids since April of 2005, training for duty in Iraq and then serving there. Except for the two times he surprised his family and got home for a brief visit. They're expecting him back to stay in the spring. It's great, living in a place where a family gets on the front page with good news.

The gift shop at St. Michael's up on the north side gets inspected regularly by the facility's resident cat, Sassy. I learned Sassy's origins this week, thanks to one of my daughters.

A few years ago, a sick stray cat decided to follow a lady as she went to work at St. Mike's. When the two arrived, the lady and some other of the staff noticed the cat, and the cat's condition.

A trip to the vet helped bring the cat back to health, but the creature still didn't have a home. Folks at St. Mike's decided to adopt her, naming her Sassy. My daughter thinks that Sassy's background explains why "she likes to be patted and played with so much - and doesn't know what to do with a ball and a string."

Sassy at St. Mike's, Sauk Centre
Sassy fits into daily routines at St. Mike's. December 14, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Finally, I see that NORAD still has its Santa-tracking site up and running (Santa Tracker You'll need the current version of Macromedia Flash Player to keep an eye on Santa this year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006. Christmas is next Monday. Five days. Roughly a hundred hours.

Hundreds of high-velocity school kids will be released this Friday for about ten days of vacation. Other folks are either getting ready to visit family and friends, or waiting for someone to show up.

Tape cassettes from the elementary school's "holiday musical" came home today. This family watched part of "Snow Biz!" during supper.

Boxelder bugs came inside here yesterday and today. That's a little late in the season, but this has been an odd winter.

It's been warm, and snow-free: apart from a token shower now and again. Skiers, and the folks who make a business of helping them have fun, have been depending on snowmaking machinery.

Farmers don't have that option. The recent drought left soil dry, and frozen ground won't soak up much of whatever snow comes down this winter. A DNR hydrologist said on the news that the dry weather we've got now is just an adjustment. He said we're making up for 15 years of wet weather.

I suppose it helps, knowing that this is a natural cycle, but that still leaves farmers with the issue of finding crops that will yield enough to pay for the year's expenses, or getting very efficient at feeding their cattle.

One of the nicest things about getting laid off and needing four operations in the same year is finding out what sort of folks live around here. We got some unasked-for and very welcome help with the Christmas holiday a little while ago.

Sunday, December 17, 2006. The corner of Ash and South 12th Street is more nearly ready for our Wal-Mart supercenter's traffic. Ash Street's south end now has three clearly marked lanes, and it looks like lane markings are on the supercenter's north drive, too. I hope the traffic light is in place and working there before the store opens.

New lanes at Ash and south 12th in Sauk Centre
New lanes at Ash and south 12th. December 14, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

I took a closer look at this week's Sauk Centre Herald, and found a word about the company that lost its computers. The word is in the December 7 entry of Police news / Sauk Centre Police Department: "Burglary" - right between "damage to property" and "10-38--written warning".

I talked with a few folks, and found out that those computers are still missing, there aren't any suspects, and the police are still investigating.

Happily, the company had some old computers lying around. The folks there are using those digital relics now. It's a little like a carpentry shop having its power tools stolen, and staying in business by using some old hand tools they found in the wood shed.

Christmas lights in Sauk Centre
Warm lights in a Christmas season night. December 7, 2006.

The Herald had a colorful and Christmasy front page this week. The middle of the page had pictures of a Sauk Centre man and some of the Christmas gifts he made this year: big, shiny wooden toys.

Below the timber toys was a photo of the local Knights of Columbus and the nativity they set up on Main Street. They had a lighting ceremony there last Tuesday.

I wish all the news could be that pleasant.

The man who kidnapped a woman in St. Cloud a week ago Saturday was arrested this Friday. He drove her to Minneapolis, used her ATM card, and raped her. He's charged with first-degree sexual assault, robbery and kidnapping, KSTP news said. Police in St. Cloud told people to keep traveling in groups, since there was another, similar, attack Wednesday. They're not sure whether it was the same guy, and don't want folks to take chances.

That's too close for my comfort, especially since I-94 goes right past St. Cloud on its way from here to Minneapolis.

Finally, decades of television Christmas specials are dripping from dozens of cable channels, with no relief in sight for at least a week. Enough schmaltz and syrup drip from most to make me worry about folks who are vulnerable to diabetic shock.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006. This has been a beautiful day. Sunlight shining through winter-ready trees cast sharp shadows across tan lawns, bathed brickwork and boards on buildings, and would have sparkled on the snow, if we had any. Which, as far as I can tell, we don't.

Radio news reported a loud explosion around Long Prairie recently. As of this morning, they don't know what caused it. This reminds me of the time in March, 2003, when someone east of Sauk Centre tried helping a brush fire with gasoline. Nobody was hurt that time, happily.

In Orange Township, near Osakis, about 10 miles down the road, a householder fought off a daring daylight attack by a mink. Normally, minks hunt small critters like mice and muskrats, and do it by night. This marauding mink went after a Mr. Mostad in broad daylight.

Apparently, the mink missed Mostad by a whiskers-length or so on the first two attacks, and then made the mistake of wandering away from the door. That gave Mostad time to draw his gun and shoot the mink. After talking with a conservation officer, Mostad thinks the mink may have been rabid.

There wasn't anything in the Sauk Centre Herald about last week's theft of computers, or maybe I missed it: which is quite possible.

The rest of today's entry is going to be mostly about me, so feel free to skip it.

Recovering from having my left hip replaced took most of October and November. By the end of last month, I was taking long walks, inside, sometimes over 25 feet, with nothing but my cane for support.

And so, I went back last week to have the right hip replaced. I was a little nervous about going back, which may explain why that cutlery commercial kept running through my mind: the one where the announcer says, "it slices! It dices!"

Everything came out okay, and I got back home yesterday. Today, thanks to prescription pain-killers, the leg doesn't hurt - as much as it would otherwise.

I'm looking forward to walking around outside this spring.

Sunday, December 10, 2006. Christmas is about two weeks away now. Stores have more red, green, and white stuff on the shelves than they do any other time of year. I suspect that folks here are just as capable of putting off holiday shopping as our big-city counterparts.

Poinsettias and more holiday decorations for sale
Green, red, and white stuff for the holidays, plus a pale poinsettia. December, 2006.

The last half of this week started with the first Minnesota wind chill advisory I heard this season. It was for the northeast part of the state, but Sauk Centre got chilly, too. Wednesday night I noticed a stream of cold air flowing down the stairs and pushing a curtain out about fifteen inches. It looks like we missed something while winterizing the house.

'Small town America' is a great place to live, but we've got problems, too. When some folks I know opened their office Thursday, about a half-dozen computers were gone, stolen. That's bad. They need those things to get their jobs done, computers are expensive to replace, and worse yet, it sounds like information they need was stored on the missing units.

On a happier note, holiday displays are shining and flashing on more yards now. Most seasons, I make a point of driving around town to see what's been set up. That isn't happening now. With the sun setting earlier now, though, I've had a chance to see a few light shows while being driven back from some errand.

Holiday lights in Sauk Centre
Part of a small but exuberant yard display. December 4, 2006.

A yard with the new inflatable snow globe
Those inflatable carousels look better on someone's yard, somehow. December, 2006.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006. Snow covered the ground Monday morning. It wasn't thick enough to be a blanket: more a sheet of snow, thoroughly but thinly covering the ground.

Finally: snow in Sauk Centre
Only a few flakes deep, but it's snow. December 4, 2006.

Between Monday's coat, and a little more that came down today, it's starting to look more like Christmas. Garlands and banners on Main Street help establish that some sort of holiday is happening.

Melrose clinic and Eyes On Main, Sauk Centre's fairly new spectacle emporium, have reasonable imitations of evergreen trees on display inside, loaded with tiny yellowish-white lights.

Stores reinforce the holiday message with racks of poinsettias, shelves of candy bars, and inflated Santas on display. One Santa rode a motorcycle.

Santa on a motorcycle in Sauk Centre
Moto Santa? Ho-Ho-Vroom? December 6, 2006.

Instead of proclaiming the presence of warm bread pudding, the sign in front of Main Street Coffee Company's antique-and-stuff shop told folks to 'visit our new gift section for unique gifts.'

Maybe it's my upcoming operation, but lately I've felt a little slow on the uptake. For example, my daughter and I were at Alco this afternoon, picking up batteries and a printer cartridge. I couldn't find the batteries. One of the folks at the store pointed me to the kind I was looking for. They were in a perfectly logical place: the girls' clothing department.

Talking with one of the owners of Main Street Press this week, I got caught up on that company's big move. Main Street Press opened their doors on Main Street around the first week in November.

Hauling any business across town is a major project, but a print shop has some special issues. The printing presses were so heavy, they bent the moving company's piano-carriers.

A couple weeks later, around Thanksgiving, some old water main in front of Main Street Press burst, making a sort of fountain in the sidewalk.

I'm glad I'm not involved in getting that print shop settled in. I've got enough on my mind as it is.

Sunday, December 3, 2006. It was cold enough to be winter today, but we still don't have more than a few grainy flakes on the ground: and those are in the shade. I'm hoping for a white Christmas, but we've had grayish-brown ones, too.

Some of the season's changes are routine:

  • Sauk Centre's holiday decorations are up downtown: "green fuzzy wreath-like things," as my oldest daughter called them
  • The Knights of Columbus crèche's shelter is in front of the L. N. Kaas's clock shop on Main, but lights, crib, and little statues weren't in place yet
  • Main Street Coffee Company's and Jitters Java's outside tables are in storage, and probably have been for a while now

Main Street Press is in its new quarters downtown. I assume that Extras is in it's new location, too, but didn't have a chance to check. I think the print shop's front office is a lot classier than the old refurbished supper club, and I'm glad I wasn't involved in the move. That had to be a lot of work.

Main Street Press on Main Street in Sauk Centre
Main Street Press is now on Main Street. December 1, 2006.

Down on the south side, on 12th, Wal-Mart's supercenter has plastic wrap on the east entrance. Most of the construction work must be inside by now.

Plastic-wrapped Wal-Mart entrance in Sauk Centre
Wal-Mart won't be wrapped up until spring, I hear. December 1, 2006.

The Coborn's parking lot isn't what most folks think of as a scenic spot, but it's a good place to watch the sky. My oldest daughter parked me and the van there while she ran some errands, giving me time to watch lines and clouds of birds fly overhead. Some flocks were close enough for me to identify ducks or geese. Other birds were either too small to appear as more than dark specks, or else they were really far away and moving fast.

Next door, Alco was observing the holiday season in its own way, displaying an inflated Santa, a snowman, and a sort of cross between a titanic snow globe and a beach ball. The overgrown globes have been around for a few seasons, and keep changing every season or so. A few years ago they started having ersatz snow blowing around inside, this time the new and improved version has a carousel inside, carrying a reindeer, a Santa, a snow man, and a penguin on slow spin.

Holiday spirit in Sauk Centre
Holiday cheer on display. December 1, 2006.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic signals: coming soon
Quiet now, but wait 'til next year! Sauk Centre's third set of traffic signals, at 12th and Ash. December 1, 2006.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006. Holiday season is here. Sauk Centre's downtown streets have their red and green garlands overhead, and great banners of greenery and lights proclaim "HAPPY HOLIDAY" to travelers on Highway 71.

There's a skim of ice on Sauk Lake, probably enough to support a medium-size bird. I doubt anyone will be testing its strength with snowmobiles or fishing houses soon.

Ice on Sauk Lake, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Thin ice on Sauk Lake. November 27, 2006.

Some sort of street work had a car-sized chuck of Main Street downtown relieved of its pavement and accompanied by a sand pile this week. The joke goes that the Minnesota seasons are fall, winter, spring and road work, but we can enjoy artificial potholes any time of year.

I tried taking a photo of the pavementless patch this Monday as my daughter was driving me downtown. She called the picture an "interesting artistic piece." I thought it was just a blurred picture. You can decide for yourself.

Holiday Blur, Sauk Centre
Blurred photo or art? I'll leave the decision up to you. November 27, 2006.

Somebody was getting snow on Monday. Some vehicle, probably a large truck or semi-trailer, had collected a fair fraction of a gallon in its wheel well and dropped a sample on Main Street. A few flakes have come down here, but we've yet to keep any on the ground.

Work on Wal-Mart's Sauk Centre supercenter is probably going on inside. The exterior hasn't changed much lately. The base of what will probably be part of Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights is in place at Ash and South 12th. It's good to see them installed before cars pile up there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006. Christmas lights went on Thanksgiving night. Our neighbors with displays have had them lit on the three days since.

Seasons Greetings in Sauk Centre
This is the 'ski lift' house at night. November 19, 2006.

Colorful lights in outdoor displays are one of the things I like about the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It's also nice to get together with family, which many folks do in this season.

Backyard holiday display
This display lights up part of a back yard. November 19, 2006.

This is going to be a very short entry. I've been a little distracted. The rest of this entry is about me, so feel to skip it and check back another day.

Between our 10-year-old son enjoying a four-day weekend and sharing some of it with me, and our college-student daughter packing as much as possible into her Thanksgiving break here at home, it's been a full four days.

We didn't go to my father's place, since I'm still not all that mobile, and anyway he's getting over a long session with pneumonia. Introducing him to a family-full of out-of-state bugs didn't sound like a good idea. We learned tonight that he's back in the hospital, with a new health issue.

As I said, I've been a little distracted. There should be more about Sauk Centre to report later in the week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006. Good grief! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day! This holiday sneaked up on me.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, from Sauk Centre

Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter will probably open in March of next year. At least, that's what I heard from someone who is what reporters call a 'reliable source.' I'm looking forward to seeing the place open, and seeing what folks around here say about it.

A baby who's probably less than two weeks old is alive, because someone noticed a car seat at the side of a gravel road somewhere in rural Stearns County. The car seat held the little girl, a blanket, and not much else. The Stearns County Sheriff's Department is interested in learning who the baby's parents are, and why she was left by a remote gravel road.

On a happier note, two turkeys will visit Disneyland soon, instead of someone's oven. Following a tradition started back in 1947, during President Truman's administration, the president was presented with prime poultry. Then, also following tradition, the president pardoned the turkey.

Actually, two turkeys, since these days the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation is a national event. There's a backup bird, in case the first fowl is indisposed.

This year the National Thanksgiving Turkey is Flyer, and the backup (Vice Turkey?) is Fryer. Visitors to the White House Web site voted on a short list of names, and that pair won. This year, we could have had Plymouth and Rock, Corn and Copia, Ben and Franklin, or Washington and Lincoln. I didn't vote this year, but I think I'd have chosen Corn and Copia.

Back in Sauk Centre, some folks are visiting relatives, or getting visited. Our college-student daughter arrived tonight: a happy event, but one that slowed down my getting this entry prepared and posted.

A household near my home is doing a fine job of decorating their  yard and house. I was puzzled, though, to see that they had added a leprechaun riding a reindeer. I think it was his green pants and green hat trim that made him look Irish to me. Come to think of it, why shouldn't a leprechaun moonlight as one of Santa's helpers?

Christmas leprechaun?
Santa's helper or Christmas leprechaun? November 21, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Sunday, November 19, 2006. The Wal-Mart supercenter looks much more like a large, empty store than a construction site now, with what appears to be a greenhouse for lawn and garden supplies at one corner. The front of the building seems complete except for the signs. Lean light poles tower over a vast and mostly-empty parking lot.

Wal-Mart supercenter in Sauk Centre November 19, 2006
Wreath on the door, lights around the window, and a Crèche: ready for Christmas. November 13, 2006.

My daughter drove me around part of Sauk Centre this afternoon. I appreciated being able to take a look around town.

Holday decorations in Sauk Centre, 2006.
Wreath on the door, lights around the window, and a Crèche: ready for Christmas. November 13, 2006.

Signs of the holiday season are all around us:

  • Stores downtown have a mixture of pilgrim caricatures, plastic candy canes, stylized giant snowflakes, and impractical doodads and decorations in the window.
  • More households are getting their decorations out, and the early adapters are adding to their displays.
  • Back inside, commercials for more-than-usually nonessential and attractive products punctuate television programs.

Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, a scarecrow and antlers in Sauk Centre
Wreath on the door, lights around the window, and a Crèche: ready for Christmas. November 13, 2006.

It's the season for two kinds of bird migrations, too.

I assume that hordes of turkeys have migrated from their ancestral turkey barns to home freezers, but I haven't confirmed it. By now some of them are in the refrigerators of those who prefer the slow-thaw approach over the cold bath.

Meanwhile, wild geese are making their way to their winter homes. My daughter saw a V-shaped formation of them flying east over St. Mike's late this week. Several minutes later she saw a long goose racing after the flock. What puzzles me is how a goose could be forgetful or dilatory.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006. It's still a week and a day before Thanksgiving, and folks are already setting up their Christmas decorations: not a bad idea in Minnesota. Our winters are notoriously whimsical when it comes to the timing of blizzards.

Wreath on the door, lights around the window, and a Crèche: ready for Christmas. November 13, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

My oldest daughter took a camera with her and scouted out holiday displays in town. As usual, both Christmas and Xmas are celebrated. It looks like wire-frame animals and Yule trees in the form of an abstract helix are still with us, as are the traditional crèche. In a more innovative vein, neighbors across the corner from us have Santa (I think) and a reindeer riding a small ski lift in their front yard.

I assume that Wal-Mart's supercenter is still moving along, or rather staying put and getting closer to completion, and that stores now have Thanksgiving and/or Christmas displays set up. I'll have to ask someone in the family to check that out..

Wire frame reindeer graze by helical trees. November 13, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

My recovery from having my left hip replaced is going well, but traveling through three rooms is still a long walk for me, I still haven't climbed more than three stair steps, and driving will wait until next year.

Staying in the house is a wonderful opportunity to catch up on Alexandria's Echo Press and the Sauk Centre Herald.

Over in Osakis, Someone named Dennis Larson wants to put 18 lots on the southeast side of Lake Osakis. The problem is that map made by an "advocational archeologist" in 1902 showed over 200 Indian burial sites around the lake.

The Private Cemetery Act makes it a felony in Minnesota to disturb ground that you think might have been used as a burial ground. Sounds like a good idea to me, but it's stopped the project for now.

Here in Sauk Centre, there's a crime wave going on.

Someone's tried to break into several businesses, including Thread Shed III, the Mustang Bar, and Glen's Moonshine Shoppe.

Friedrichs Tire & Oil wasn't so lucky. About ten days ago someone broke into the shop, and the shop's safe. Besides being stuck with repair costs, Friedrichs' is missing quite a bit of cash.

Meanwhile, over at the school, a couple of cars were broken into.

I'd still rather live here than in, say, Pittsburgh.

On the positive side, a lot of folks voted in last week's elections. Here's how the USA in general, Minnesota, and Sauk Centre did in terms of turnout.

Eligible voters showing up at the polls:

  • USA: 40%
  • Minnesota: 59%
  • Sauk Centre:66%

When what to my wondering eyes did appear a Santa at ease with a tiny reindeer. And a snowman. November 13, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Sunday, November 12, 2006. Southern Minnesota got in the national news Friday, for the usual reason: remarkable weather. Mankato got about a half-foot of snow, part of a small but sincere snowstorm.

All we got was the cold weather that came along with it. I heard of someone saying that she'd be satisfied with enough snow to make a snowman, and that it could go away after that.

Here in Sauk Centre, we're caught up in the usual round of holiday season routines. Christmas decorations have appeared, put up by householders who probably prefer snow-free yards and roofs to the whims of Minnesota's winter.

I went to church today, thanks to a surgeon's skill, the healing of muscle and sinew, exercise, an accommodating family, and the elevator at Our Lady of the Angels church. I learned that music at the polka Mass I missed was performed by the Nite Owls. I'd heard that it was a bit livelier than many.

Back in the seventies, when I drove through this part of the state regularly, I'd gotten used to hearing oompas all the way up and down the radio dial, AM and FM. After that experience, the first polka Mass I participated in was something of an aesthetic letdown.

Instead of a band of brawny Bavarians blasting out Ave Maria on trumpets, an accordion, and a tuba, what I heard was a mildly brass interpretation of standard hymns.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006. School was out Monday and Tuesday. For the kids it was a four-day weekend, for the teachers it was "Teacher's Work Days," and for me, it was time to visit a couple of doctors. More about that later.

Dr. James Mohs, who has been with the Melrose Clinic for many years, is getting a combination birthday and retirement open house on the 26th of this month. His family and colleagues at the clinic are hosting it. Quite a few folks are in the position we're in now, choosing a new 'family doctor.'

Christmas season has already started, at least in stores. Folks in the Melrose Clinic lab were discussing which toys to buy for the kids on their list, and ads for the usual assortment of Christmas movies are crowding out suntan lotion and vacation ads on television.

The road heading east to the cemeteries has a fresh blacktop surface with bright lane markings, but isn't in use yet. A sign says that the bridge is still out.

County 17 east of Sauk Centre
Still more work to be done on County 17. November 8, 2006.

Main Street Coffee Company now has "[see photo for quote]." Right now we have what was called "Indian summer" when I was growing up, but as soon as the temperatures drop again I can see the appeal of warm pudding.

Warm bread pudding on Main Street, Sauk Centre
New pudding at Main Street Coffee Company. November 6, 2006.

We've got two construction projects on the south side now: Wal-Mart's supercenter east of the McDonald's, and some sort of pole barn structure west of the River of Life Church.

Wal-Mart supercenter in Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter: it's starting to look like a store. November 8, 2006.

More new construction in Sauk Centre
New construction, west of Main Street. November 8, 2006.

Back to me now. As usual, feel free to let your attention wander.

I saw a couple of doctors the first two days of this week It was a routine post-surgery maintenance check, plus a flu shot. The new hip joint is doing fine, but I broke the leg bone it's set in: the femur, to be technical. Happily, it's more of a fracture than a break, and should heal. I'm told that the leg is okay to walk on, as long as I'm careful not to twist it.

Aside from that, things are going fine. I'm looking forward to having the same hip-replacement surgery on the other leg before the end of the year.

Monday, November 6, 2006. Yesterday was a nearly perfect autumn day. So was today. Most of the leaves that will fall, have fallen, leaving more sunlight to wash over yards, sidewalks and streets.

A perfect autumn day in Sauk Centre
Autumn days don't get much better than this. November 5, 2006.

I saw three teenage boys with skateboards walking, rolling, and occasionally jumping, southward on Ash Street this morning. There's no school today, happily, so ungraduated folks could get out and enjoy the day.

I'll be back Wednesday night with something a little more substantial to say. Maybe.

Sunday, November 5, 2006. Small towns are notorious for a lack of the "privacy" that some folks want. This can be a problem or a perk, depending on your point of view.

I like it.

Someone came to the door this afternoon, introduced himself to my wife, told her that he heard I was recovering from surgery, and asked if we'd mind having our yard mowed and cleared of leaves. A little later, he was out there with a sort of vacuum cleaner / lawn mower hybrid, trimming the grass and inhaling leaves and clippings.

Not that charity is a small-town monopoly. Earlier this week, KSTP's 5 Eyewitness News told about a metro-area family who had gotten hurt and lost their only means of transportation, two bicycles, in an accident. By Tuesday, people and companies had donated "baby clothes, bus passes, cash, food, and new bikes" to the family, using KSTP as a middleman.

I'm turning from Sauk Centre to me now, so feel free to check out new guest book entries, or new links at the end of the St. Brendan page. Or another Web site, for that matter. I expect to be back with something about Sauk Centre Wednesday night.

It's been just over a month now since I've gotten outside for a look around town, apart from a short ride from Interstate 94 to my home. It's a little frustrating, waiting while exercise and healing make stair-climbing, driving, and extended walks practical again. My wife plans to chauffeur me to a doctor's appointment tomorrow, so maybe I can take a short look around then.

Since climbing stairs is as much of a challenge as we expected for me and the new hip joint, I've been living on the first floor of the house since I got back from the hospital. The only real problem was that the digital den where I do most of my Web work was two flights of stairs away, up in the attic.

My family took the computer I use for most of my work from the attic to the first floor last weekend. Since then, I've been trying to catch up on almost a month's worth of projects. I'll say this about my life: I haven't been bored for a long, long time, least of all this year.

Friday, November 3, 2006. I may have had my annual late-fall/early-winter bug this week. Sorry about the delay in updating this journal.

Thursday, November 2, 2006. Our household didn't see as many trick-or-treaters as usual this Halloween. I suppose the threat of freezing rain kept many families inside. We didn't have candy this year, falling back on clusters of pennies and nickels. I wasn't sure how kids would react, but one young Halloween celebrant said "yea! money!" when he saw the coins.

Centre Stage Music moved into the Oak Street Mall, a mini-mall near the new city hall. They opened on Main Street, part-way down the corridor that runs between Main and a parking lot, earlier this year.

St. Paul's Church windows getting attention this summer. November 1, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Light poles are up in the Wal-Mart superstore parking lot. It's looking more like a store now.

Wal-Mart Supercenter in Sauk Centre
Wal-Mart is starting to look like a store now. November 1, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

The NorthStar's new owners have been changing the looks of their place on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. The big garage that used to sit next to the store is at the back of the lot now, the propane tank was moved over, making room for a new building, and they've put more pumps where the garage used to be.

NorthStar on Sinclair Lewis Avenue Sauk Centre
Lots of changes around the NorthStar station. November 1, 2006. Photos courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

I see in the Sauk Herald that the hospital and nursing home have a new flagpole now. I also learned that the place is called the St. Michael's Hospital and Nursing Home/Lakeview Clinic medical campus. I've got to admit that name has more class than "St. Mike's," which is how this family refers to the place.

The original flagpole went up when the hospital was built, back in 1949. The Herald reports that Felling Trailer's Merle Felling made the pole, donating time and material, Centre Electric's Mike Froseth made a bucked truck and a crew available for putting the pole up, and that the Sauk Centre VFW donated money to cover other expenses.

It's great, reading about people giving their own time and money to set up a public item like that. I don't know that putting up a flagpole is quite as personal an affair in larger places.

Elections are coming in less than a week, and I'll be glad to get past November 7th. I like living time and place where ordinary folks can have some sort of say in who runs things. On the other hand, I don't enjoy the sniping that goes along with elections. Since I vote, I pay attention to campaigns, but it's not my favorite activity. Keeping track of the campaigns is a necessary but less-than-pleasant process, sort of like root canal surgery. Happily, the local races have been civilized.

Fall Holiday Displays, Sauk Centre
Thanksgiving displays on the corner, with happy Jack o' lanterns. October 27, 2006. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Finally, a word of thanks to my oldest daughter, who helped keep this journal up to date. While I was in the hospital, she handled the technical side of publishing new entries, and this week she was my eyes around town.

Assistant webmaster
Naomi Gill, assistant webmaster at Brendan's Island. October 29, 2006.

Sunday, October 29, 2006. Halloween is a few days away. As usual, some households set up pleasantly spooky displays in their front yards. Others have their Thanksgiving decorations up already.

Most folks limit their seasonal trimmings to a turkey or something of the sort. My family lets the trees in the yard add autumn leaves to the neighborhood's ambience, and leaves it at that.

This is the time of year when ghost stories move off the fiction shelf and into the newspapers. Down the road, in Alexandria, tales of an eatery with a resident spook haunted the Echo Press' Lifestyle section's front page this Friday. Apparently, Alexandria's Old Broadway has a metaphysical friend who likes to turn lights on and once used a vacuum cleaner.

Here in Sauk Centre, The Palmer House hotel is supposed to be slightly haunted, but I haven't seen any public recognition of the home town spooks lately.

One of the good things about small towns is the support folks can get from their family and neighbors. The Breitbach family, in rural Sauk Centre, has been dealing with a rare kind of leukemia. Earlier this year, Mike Breitbach learned that he has myelofibrosis.

They got some good news, too. Mike's brother Bob can donate tissue that should help treat the disease. Unhappily, this sort of thing costs a lot of money.

Like quite a few people around here, Mike is part of a good-sized extended family. The Breitbach and Gertken families got together to have a "Spaghetti Dinner and Live Auction Fundraiser" yesterday, at Skeeter's on Main Street in Elrosa.

The Sauk Herald ran an article on the Breitbach's situation last week.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006. Things are changing on the south side of Sauk Centre.

Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart superstore passed another milestone recently. They're laying tar on the parking lot. That's a big job in itself. I doubt they'll have the Wal-Mart open by Christmas, as originally planned. My wife heard that the shelves may be stocked and the doors open in March.

Sassy's, the eatery that used to be just off Sincair Lewis Avenue on the west side of downtown, has a slightly new name to go along with its new location. Sassy's Restaurant and Catering is now Sassy's Under the Palms. They started in the old John's Place building, just off Sinclair Lewis Avenue on the west side of downtown, and now are where the Hayloft used to be on the lowest floor of The Palms motel. According to the Sauk Herald, Sassy's also got a liquor license: something they've been wanting for quite a while.

Someone in the family has been volunteering at St. Michael's Hospital gift shop, and so I've learned about Sassy, the nursing home cat. The nursing home is under the same roof as the hospital. When Sassy, a white cat with orange-brown and gray spots, wanted to go outside, she used to wait for someone to come along and open the automatic doors. Eventually she learned how to open the doors herself.

I'm told that, like many cats, Sassy gives the impression that she owns the place. She seems to like her home, except for a particular cart, which rolls by at intervals. When she hears it coming, she flickers along the wall to a corner, and then flees.

As far as I know, there's no connection between the nursing home cat and the eatery under The Palms.

The rest of today's entry is mostly about me, so feel free to skip it. Resting to heal muscles, tendons, and skin, and exercising has given me time to start catching up on some backburner projects. Now that I don't need as many pain pills, I can even think straight.

I'm told that hip replacement recovery usually doesn't take this long, but I'm not surprised at the time I'm taking. Between dealing with a defective hip joint that was rebuilt in the mid-50s and muscles that had about a half-century to stiffen up, the surgeon had to work hard, and be a little imaginative about installing new parts.

I'm pleased with progress to date, but I'm still limited to the ground floor of my home. I've much more familiar with the appearance of the front porch across the street than I ever expected to.

Later this week, some of the family will be moving equipment down to the floor I'm on so that I can get some more work done.

Sunday, October 22, 2006. Hats off to my daughter for taking care of the Sauk Centre Journal while I was getting a new hip installed.

Sauk Centre's new Wal-Mart supercenter is enclosed now, or nearly so. Outside walls seem to complete, and it looks like the crew is putting roofing material on. At least, a dozen or so bundles or packages were on the roof Friday, and a lot of guys were moving around up there. Peaked facades on the north side show where the entrances will be.

That's going to a big place.

Over on the other side of Main Street, the River of Life Church's new building is in use. I read in the Sauk Centre Herald that the RLC has been around Sauk Centre since 1927. They've been working on their new building, between the Getty Street assisted care place and part of Sauk Centre's industrial zone, for two or three years. The Herald says their sound system was installed by Centre Stage Music, that new music place downtown.

The last week and a half gave me a chance to compare medical care in a small town and in a not-so-small town. Much as I like living here, having more people around has very real advantages. The 160,000 or so people in St. Cloud's "metropolitan statistical area" are able to support more sophisticated equipment than you'll find in a place like Sauk Centre or Melrose.

They've even got a digital food service. Someone came around with a sort of pad, told me what was available, and built a meal. The gadget even kept a running total of calories and other nutritional stuff. Melrose gives patients choices for each meal, but they use an old-fashioned paper-and-pen system.

Now that I'm at home, keeping up with Sauk Centre events should be easier, More important, I'm with my family again. I think they're glad to see me, too. After I got back, my 10-year-old said, "It's nice to have you home, daddy."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006. Webmaster's #1 daughter again. Halloween is fast approaching, and making its presence known. Around town people are putting out a few more pumpkins (real and artificial) and strings of orange lights. On TV there are the ever-present, and much less pleasant, holiday specials.

The trees have gotten into the decorating spirit as well. This year's display isn't as spectacular as some other autumns, but it's done rather well considering the weather.

The subtle yellow-orange hues of the pumpkin flowerpots compliment nicely with the bold yet subdued gradients nature has washed over the parsonage trees.

God isn't afraid of using color, as evident in this stunning bush outside a Sauk Centre residence. The color in the photograph isn't quite as boldly neon as I remembered, so I tried some alterations:

Might be a bit too bright now. But it's close.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006. It snowed in Duluth on Friday. Snow in northern Minnesota isn't a big deal, but the 2.7 inches that fell on Duluth is some kind of a record. St. Cloud may have set a record for early snowfall earlier, but I haven't been able to confirm it.

I saw snow showers around St. Joseph on Wednesday afternoon. It's been unusually cold this week, too. This being Minnesota, it could be balmy in a few days. One of the perks of living here is that we have a flighty climate. I'm looking forward to getting out into it soon.

We had a Friday the 13th this month. I woke up in a Melrose hospital bed that day, but I'll count the experience as 'good luck.' I'm still recovering from hip replacement surgery, and have graduated from the St. Cloud hospital to the swing bed section in Melrose' hospital.

Being a little preoccupied with all that medical stuff lately, I haven't kept up on events in my corner of small town America. We'll see how things go next week.

Sunday, October 15, 2006. Things have been busy here. The webmaster is still not at his usual post, but at least he's a little closer to home now.

As his #1 daughter, I have been given the duty and privilege of updating the Sauk Centre Journal for the duration.

Some light snow fell on Wednesday as a prelude to winter. The new Walmart is coming along nicely, so if weather permits they just might make the anticipated pre-Christmas opening.

Now, here are some pictures to liven up the webpage.

This was just a month ago. They have Walmart's walls up now.

Downtown may get a facelift, but old-style shop signs are here to stay. A look up Main St. toward the movie theater.

Sunday, October 8, 2006. Your friendly webmaster is in for repairs. :)

U.S. Air Mail, Bills, and regular mail

Wednesday, October 4, 2006. Some folks over in Melrose have Halloween decorations already. A new wrinkle in Halloween marketing, at least new since I grew up, are Halloween lights. I expect more folks will have strings of orange lights up this year.

Next thing you know, there'll be garlands of green lights for St. Patrick's Day, glow-in-the-dark Easter egg strings for Easter, and lighted drumsticks for Thanksgiving lawn displays. Come to think of it, I seem to remember seeing phosphorescent Easter eggs.

Boxelder bugs are in bloom again. There's been a crowd of them milling around this household's gas meter lately, and a small squadron was posted outside the Melrose Clinic when I was there the other day. From what I've heard, the little red-eyed spooks have been selective this year. Some households are bug-free, others are, like ours, graced with the things.

The Wal-Mart supercenter roof trusses have been going up this week. It looks like they make the Christmas-season opening date. I've heard that it will take over a month to fully stock the place, though, so the pickings may be a bit slim.

Sassy's restaurant either has moved or is moving into the lower level of The Palms motel. The two businesses have an eye-catching sign on the building's roof-mounted billboard. Sassy's has been where John's Place was for many years, off Sinclair Lewis Avenue downtown. The "John's Place" location was a bit colorful, but secluded.

To the east of downtown, the St. Paul's Church windows have been getting some needed attention. Scaffolds have been up at various spots on the church's south side for much of the summer.

St. Paul's Church window repair
St. Paul's Church windows getting attention this summer. September 25, 2006.

Spending time at the St. Cloud Hospital has given me a look at some technology that hasn't made its way out here yet. There's an oversize, motorized, revolving door at the north end of the building that's big enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

A talking door: what'll they think of next?
It's smarter than the average door. September, 2006.

At the risk of sounding like a small-town rube, I'll admit that I was impressed by how smart the door was. I'm slow on my feet, and so got bumped by the door. After I paused and the door tapped my heel again, it said, "Please step forward." When I got out of the way, it quite politely said, "Thank you." The artificial tree in the door's center is impressive, too.

Autumn sunset
This is part of why I like living here. September 27, 2006.

Sunday, October 1, 2006. Coming back from St. Cloud Wednesday, I saw a sign promising road work on I-94 between here and Osakis the next day. I haven't been out of town since then, but that stretch of Interstate is probably getting attention by now. It's late in the year, but there isn't a lot of time in the fourth of Minnesota's seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Road Work.

That's a very old joke. I can remember running into it around the time color television was replacing black-and-white.

Bright blue skies and a light breeze today were just about idea for grilling. My wife did the honors today, bringing in another set of near-perfectly-done burger patties. The burgers I bring in are more sincerely grilled. One of my daughters said that she likes the crisp-rimmed burgers I make.

Hearing the word "Sauk" and "shot the principal" in the same sentence on the news Friday got my attention. Doing a little digging, I learned that the trouble involved a small town, but not this small town. A fifteen-year-old high schooler in Sauk County, Wisconsin, shot the principal of Weston School. The principal, John Klang, died later. He sounds like a nice guy. Last weekend he had been washing cars at a homecoming fundraiser.

The sort of trouble we have is generally more like the case of the fugitive goat. The Sauk Herald assured residents of Sauk Centre that if they thought they had seen a goat running loose during September 12 to September 19, they probably had. It escaped while being brought in for butchering, and eluded capture for about a week.

It looks like more trees are turning color. I'll try to get a few pictures before that hip replacement operation this week. I've made arrangements with my oldest daughter to update this journal while I'm in for repairs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006. Gas was $2.149 a gallon tonight when I filled the van's tank. It hasn't been this low since last year. The price of gas, that is, not the level in the van's tank.

Let's see: picture-postcard weather on Monday, more rain on Tuesday, an assortment pack of sun and rain yesterday, and what one radio announcer called "crisp" weather today. That's a fairly typical set of autumn days in Minnesota.

Yellow, red and orange are showing up on more trees now. We may have a colorful fall after all. I enjoy the show that trees put on, getting ready to drop their leaves, but could do without the indecisive, flighty weather.

Centre Stage Music has their "Now Open" sign suspended two stories up from the sidewalk: a commanding position, but I'm not sure how visible it is for pedestrians. They've been in business since about May, so I suppose this is more of a 'grand opening.'

We had more demonstrations that small towns and rural areas aren't immune to annoyances and evils. A fiber-optic cable was accidentally sliced this morning.

The cable service my household uses was out until about 1:30, and didn't clear up until after supper.

Around Little Falls, a fifty-something man drove stopped his pickup near two boys waiting for a school bus and tried to get them into his pickup. The 12- and 9-year old boys had good sense, staying well away from him, and he fled when the school bus showed up.

The Morrison County Sheriff's Department wants help identifying the man, according to, so here's the description: "thin, in his 50s with a gray or black beard, wearing a flannel cap and denim overalls." He may have been driving a Ford 1999 or 2000 F250 or F350 pickup with a long box and cab lights. Anyone with information is supposed to call 320-632-9233.

I've been distracted lately, getting ready for a hip replacement operation next week. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of the afternoon in St. Cloud with a dozen or so other people who are having joint replacement done. The hospital there does a good job of letting patients-to-be know what to expect, and how we can help with the process. Health care has changed a lot in the half-century that I've been aware of it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006. The Oak Street Mini-Mall will be missing a tenant soon. Stamp Paper Scissors is going out of business. The craft business has been there for over a year, and I'd hoped that they'd make a go of it, but those "35% off" and "fixtures for sale" signs up in the windows have an air of finality about them.

Wal-Mart Supercenter construction in the rain
On days like this, there's a lot to be said for a desk job. Wal-Mart supercenter construction goes on. September 21, 2006.

It started raining Thursday afternoon, and didn't stop until some time Saturday night. I suppose I shouldn't complain, but I would have thought that this sort of weather was better to get earlier in the growing season.

Wet Day, Hot Coffee
Some signs look more inviting on wet, cold days. September 21, 2006.

Fall is coming, time to get ready for winter. My wife got the other bedspread/curtain up, to control drafts, a few days ago. Our oldest daughter came home for the weekend to help winterize the house. The biggest single item accomplished was getting an air conditioner out of a window. I doubt we'll need that again this year. Now that I've written that, I remember the phrase, "famous last words."

Grilling accessory: the umbellybrella
New grilling accessory for those who don't care how they look: the umbellybrella. September 23, 2006.

I was under the weather today, and missed meeting the dad of a family we've made friends with. He's back on leave from Iraq. I'd been looking forward to that meeting.

Staying in out of the rain yesterday might have helped. I was outside, grilling in the rain yesterday. The visiting daughter kept me company, wisely standing in a sheltering doorway. She loaned me her umbrella. I found out that I could tuck it down the neck of my jacket, getting shelter from the umbrella while keeping both hands free.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006. The River of Life Church has moved into its new building at 705 South 12th. I noticed their bus parked outside the new place Monday. It was raining at the time.

The RLC's dark blue bus, a parking lot of soggy sand, an off-white pole barn building, and a plain sign focused attention on colorful playground equipment near the building's south side. The RLC folks have a daycare that's been advertised on posters around town for a while. Someone who knows the place says it's well run. They're down by the Getty Street assisted living place.

River of Life Church, Sauk Centre
The River of Life Church's playground equipment (right next to the sign) got a thorough rinse Monday. September 18, 2006.

Over on the other side of Main, Wal-Mart's supercenter construction is keeping the crew busy. Leveling land for the parking lot has been an impressive bit of work. I cant be sure, but I think around five feet have been filled in at the bottom of the old watercourse, mostly with dirt scraped from the east part of the property.

Wal-Mart and Main Street Press, Sauk Centre
Changes on Sauk Centre's south side: Wal-Mart and Main Street Press. September 16, 2006.

All that landscaping left Main Street Press at the top of a small cliff. Anyone taking a stroll around the south side of the building after dark would be in for quite a shock. Not that anyone would wander there.

Main Street Press mini-cliff
Landscaping behind Main Street Press. September 16, 2006.

It's been easy for me to get to Main Street Press all these years. They've been in that little green building on South 12th. That changes in November, when they move downtown. It's official now, with a sign in their front door. I see that they're changing their name, too. Main Street Press becomes Main Street Printing on January 1, 2007.

Main Street Press is moving, will be Main Street Printing
A couple of changes for Main Street Press. September 16, 2006.

Summer is definitely making way for autumn. My wife took a bedspread out of storage and hung it in one of the doorways at the bottom or the stairs yesterday. That's the first step for winterizing the house, keeping heat in the room we use most. She had the right idea. It was a cold night.

Finally, some personal stuff. Two weeks from now I'm scheduled to have the first of two hip replacement operations. I know it's a routine procedure these days, but waiting for it is really cutting me up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006. Gas cost $2.369 a gallon when I filled the van's tank on Friday. Impressive. The last time gas was this low around here was March of this year. Of course, $2.369 a gallon seemed like a lot to pay then, not a low price.

The Palms, a tropic-themed motel here in the heart of Minnesota, opened this week. I think they've got a good idea. It's going to be a wonderful contrast this winter, a coral-pink motel rising above the snow drifts, defiant palms flanking the entrance.

The Palms motel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A thousand miles from an ocean, in the heart of Minnesota: The Palms motel, Sauk Centre, should be particularly enticing in mid-winter. September 11, 2006.

That north side property that's been called the home school and Oak Ridge got on the Herald's front page this week. There's an "Independent church group" called Christ's Household of Faith (CHOF) that's looking at the property.

CHOF's described as a self-supported church group in the Herald. There was more about CHOF in an article by Jason Hoppin in the Pioneer Press (September 2, 2006). According to the article, members of the group give everything they own to the church. Then they're allowed to live in a church-owned house and work at a church-owned business. Pioneer Press says that CHOF's founder, Donald Alsbury, is "a sometimes controversial self-proclaimed prophet who preaches communal living and a return to Christianity's roots". Alsbury, according to the article, also says corporal punishment is okay, and that people can be perfect on Earth.

CHOF hasn't had too much trouble through the years. In 1969, Alsbury said that he beat a demon out of a 17-year-old and told a newspaper that "if God would have said kill him, I would have killed him." In 1993, someone said that Alsbury wanted members to beat their wives. Followers of the prophet didn't bring charges, and aside from these incidents outsiders haven't seen any sign of impropriety.

If CHOF moved into the old home school, they'd add about 10% to Sauk Centre's population, all members of one hard-working and very obedient group. I'll be very interested in how negotiations between CHOF and the home school owners work out.

There's not much more to add today, not surprising since it's only been a day since my last entry.

Silent sentinle in Sauk Centre: a wooden turtle
An excellent way to deal with a stump: have a sentry-turtle carved. September, 2006.

As I wrote yesterday, it's been quite a week, and quite a year for me.

Being laid off over the summer wasn't such a big deal: This is the third year running for that, and it's gotten to be a sort of routine. What I haven't figured out is how to get the bills laid off, too.

Surgery on both wrists for carpal tunnel work was an exciting break in routine, and as long as I was "in the shop," they fixed a couple of fingers.

Now I'm looking forward to getting both hips replaced. One thing is certain: So far, this year hasn't been boring.

Saturday, September 16, 2006. It's been quite a week for me. I'll get back to that at the end of today's entry.

Some trees are showing fall colors and dropping leaves early. I suspect that the summer's drought is responsible.

The grass in our yard is made of tougher stuff. After the recent rains it started catching up on a summer's worth of growth. We dealt with the back yard around Wednesday, before most of it started growing seeds. The place looked a little like an untidily mowed hayfield when we were done.

"We?" My wife, actually, ably assisted by the kids.

More walls are up at the Wal-Mart supercenter construction site. That is going to be one big building. Those concrete block walls are braced with wooden poles. I suppose the contractor doesn't want one falling over. There was a brisk south wind most of today.

The little green former eatery that houses Main Street Press is starting to look dwarfed by the walls of Wal-Mart growing off near the Interstate. Main Street Press has a notice up on their door now, announcing their upcoming move, and a name change.

My wife had a package to send by UPS yesterday. She found out that there's a UPS pickup point at Fleet Supply. The package wouldn't fit into the box on Main Street. When she went out there, they told her to put her box on a pile that the UPS guy would pick up. That looks like small town informality. It's the sort of simple cooperation that can work because so many of us know each other, and have mutual trust.

I really like living here! Enough philosophizing.

I read that a six-year-old and his sister caught what looked like an odd, oversize sunfish in Lake Carlos. Someone with an eye for fish identified it as a pacu. That explains why the picture on Friday's Echo Press front page looked so odd. Pacus live in Central and South America, and are sometimes called "vegetarian cousins" of piranha. Someone from the DNR said that this icthian interloper had probably started its Minnesota residency in someone's aquarium.

This entry normally would have been posted Wednesday night. Here's a sort of explanation.

It's been quite a week.

I was a little off my feed Monday, but went to my day job for a short time anyway. I've been spending a lot of time there for a guy who's laid off. I'm glad I went, but that evening I could tell that I'd pay for being diligent.

I slept most of Tuesday, except for a brief interlude for voting in the primary and an errand or two. The poling place was in City Hall, using those new ballot-and-scanner voting machines.

Wednesday I went to my day job, and stayed there for about 14 hours. Not surprisingly, I wasn't quite at the top of my form Thursday. I don't actually remember much of that day.

Friday was better. I spent a little time at the day job in the morning, and got some other work done in the afternoon.

Actually, it's been quite a year, but I've written at least enough for now.

Sunday, September 10, 2006. Now I know why a household left over six feet of tree sticking out of the ground when the branches were cut off. A big wooden turtle now stands sentry at the end of their front walk: an excellent way to deal with a big stump.

The streets of Sauk Centre, some of them, anyway, are getting a fresh surface. Pings and clicks of pea gravel shooting onto the van's underside make driving through town a sort of musical experience. It's at least as much fun to listen to as some of the avant-garde music I heard, back in the 60s and 70s.

St. Paul's church has been getting work done on the south windows this summer. Those stained glass windows were due for maintenance.

It looks like nobody's going to be driving out of town east from Sinclair Lewis Avenue anytime soon. That thorough bridge, utilities, and road replacement project is still going on.

So is Wal-Mart supercenter construction. Enough of the walls are up to give an idea of how big the building is going to be. I'm starting to think that they may get the doors open by Christmas.

I was at the public accuracy test of new voting machines at City Hall Thursday. One of them was a handicapped-accessible thing that shows magnified versions of ballots, and can read the ballot to someone whose sight isn't up to the job.

I'm not feeling up to par today. I didn't even grill burgers this noon, and probably shouldn't have yesterday. This entry is finally being posted Monday morning. I.ll see to getting "today's" pictures added, probably around noon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006. Students have been in school for two days now. The most obvious sign of this return to academic pursuits is a horde of cars, each with a teen at the wheel, flowing out of the school parking lot around 3:00 in the afternoon.

Things keep changing downtown. Northland Gallery has a new sign above their window. At least I hadn't noticed it before this week. A few doors north, The moving-sale sign in Extras' window is still up. I understand that they'll be out in November.

Main Street Press is planning to move into the storefront where Extras has been. The Main Street Press folks are hoping for a late first snowfall this year.

I'm not sure what will happen to the building Main Street Press is in. That one-story pile of green-painted concrete block and glass brick has been a feature on the 12th Street landscape for decades.

Before Main Street Press moved in, the building housed the Peach, a regional advertising publication, and before that, it was a sort of restaurant or supper club, complete with a revolving sign. That was years ago, of course. I suppose they used the drive-in basement for receiving supplies.

Back then, when you'd find a kitchen and not a darkroom where Main Street Press is now, I've heard that one of Sauk Centre's cemeteries was home to a sort of eerie phenomenon: a flashing tombstone.

On nights when the moon was at a certain phase, as twilight darkened to night, a particular tombstone flashed with a strange, pale light. This would make a fine ghost story, except for one detail. The restaurant's rotating sign had a flat, reflective surface. When the moon rose at a particular spot on the horizon during a clear evening, moonlight bouncing off the sign made a sort of searchlight. With each turn of the sign, that moon-powered searchlight shone on the tombstone, making it flash.

Monday, September 4, 2006. Labor Day. It's been a beautiful day, but I stayed inside except for a brief session before lunch, when I grilled burgers and a hot dog.

There's nothing quite like standing in the smoke of a grill, waiting for that moment when the meat is done, but not incinerated.

Sunday, September 3, 2006. So far, this Labor Day weekend has been ideal for folks who like to sit inside, contemplate the rain and an occasional rumble of thunder, and take the occasional nap.

Clusters of mushrooms have, well, they've mushroomed in a few lawns during this damp weather.

Here are some highlights of today and the past week:

  • A priest visiting from Zanzibar was at Our Lady of the Angels church this morning
  • School starts the day after tomorrow
  • Road and bridge work continues east of Sinclair Lewis Avenue
  • The Wal-Mart supercenter is still growing at the end of Timberlane Drive

A hot start this summer: 86 in May
It's been a hot summer. May, 2006.

A beautiful sunset in Minnesota
Monday's sunset. Beautiful. August 28, 2006.

Saturday, September 2, 2006. There's an explanation for this journal's mid-week entry coming on the weekend. You'll find it after today's pictures.

Labor Day weekend is here. Cars and SUVs packed with families, with boats in tow, are driving through the gauntlet of flags in downtown Sauk Centre.

Flashing clocks Friday morning told me that it'd be interesting at the fraction of a day job I've got. They were right. Sometime around 5:00 we had enough of a power failure to knock out computers all over town.

I don't envy the feast-and-famine schedule of folks who get called for help on days like this, but I understand that it's their bread and butter.

Thursday evening the kids who shot out windows in town last November got a chance to talk with the folks who, so far, have been paying the repair bills. I was one of the 19 people there. The process is called Restorative Justice. I'll get back to it a little later.

The public elementary school had their open house Wednesday evening. School starts right after Labor Day. It feels as if the summer sneaked past me this year.

Now that it's harvest time, we're getting rain. I'm no expert, but I could tell that the crops weren't in good shape when I drove to Moorhead this Monday. It's not a good sign when parched yellow fields fade to brown on the high points. A few patches were worse, where plants had died, withered, blown away, and the ground had a bleached look.

Back to that Restorative Justice meeting now. The two kids who caused the damage and their parents were there, so were nine of the homeowners involved, including me, probation officers and other folks involved in the program.

I'm not allowed to go into detail about what we talked about, which I think is a mistake, but I was satisfied with what went on. The kids have already had quite unpleasant experiences, and will be paying for repairs for a long time.

The idea of meetings like this is to help people who commit crimes make amends on a social level, on top of whatever punishment they receive.

There's more about Restorative Justice at Restorative Justice International, Prison Fellowship, and the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

I took some photos on I-94 between Sauk Centre and Moorhead this Monday. These aren't the worst-hit fields along that route, but they give some idea of what it's like.

There was also a spectacular sunset, but that will have to wait for the next entry.

First drought, then rain before harvest time
Yellow fields usually mean that it's harvest time. This year, it's probably withered crops. August 28, 2006.

Minnesota crops don't look good this year
It's scenic, but I doubt there's much to harvest here. August 28, 2006.

Parched fields and a greenatercourse
At least there's something growing in the watercourse. August 28, 2006.

The rest of today's entry is about me, not Sauk Centre, so feel free to stop reading here. It's a sort of explanation for why this entry is so late.

Monday, I drove one of my daughters back to college in Moorhead. We've been enjoying her company for much of the summer. That trip took most of the day.

Tuesday I saw a couple of doctors, which took more time.

Wednesday morning, the land between here and St. Cloud was in a fog and so was I. Visibility was down to about two-tenths of a mile or less. On the road, that is, not in my mind. I was on my way to see a third doctor.

By the time the sun set Wednesday, I had gotten x-rayed and CT-scanned, and learned that I may have an opportunity to learn what it's like to get new hip sockets.

Part of Thursday got devoted to working out how to pay for the parts and labor, and stewing about the situation.

I know that hip replacement is a routine procedure, but there's a definition of "major surgery:" It's any surgery that's done to you.

I've already talked about Friday, so you know what happened then.

I hope you have good Labor Day weekend. This journal should be back to normal tomorrow.

Sunday, August 27, 2006. Sirens went off in town at about a quarter after 4 on Thursday afternoon. Weather forecasts being what they were at the time, my family and I headed for the basement.

Little drifts of hail
Little drifts of hail in Sauk Centre. August 24, 2006.

The storm asserted itself with wind, rain, and hail for a few minutes. I went upstairs after most of the excitement was over, finding small drifts of hail and sincerely wet streets in this neighborhood.

Three-quarters-inch hailstone
Like many of the larger hailstones I've seen, this one was shaped like a little loaf of pumpernickel. August 24, 2006.

State Road, by the school, had a sort of super-puddle at its north end. Water was deeper around the tiny triangular park where Grove Lake and Getty Streets don't quite meet at 6th. Some kids were having a good time, wading through water at the south corner of the park, and a pickup was up to the running board on the north side, when I drove by.

Kids, bikes, and a flooded street
Those kids know what the water's for. August 24, 2006.

Drive-thru wading pool
For a short time, Sauk Centre had a drive-through wading pool.
August 24, 2006.

Oddly, with all that water and street flooding elsewhere, the low spot on Main Street, where it dips under Lake Wobegon Trail, was merely damp. I suppose pretty good drainage was built under the town's major street.

There was water in the public library's basement. I'm told there was enough to soak the carpet in front of the Historical Society Museum's entrance down there.

Aside from that, there didn't seem to have been much damage in town. I doubt that this storm did crops any good, though.

The storm has ended, but the sprinklers carry on
The golf course sprinklers must be on a timer. They were merrily drenching an already-saturated course after the storm. And yes, that's a temporary and unplanned water hazard in the middle background. August 24, 2006.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006. The new hotel in the old Super 8 building is called "The Palms'" A couple of guys installed signs with this puzzling name Monday morning. I wondered why a motel in central Minnesota was called "The Palms" until hearing that they'll have a tropical theme.

At the other end of Timberlane Drive, walls for the Wal-Mart supercenter are still going up. Exposed ground at the southeast end of the project has been claimed by at least one flock of gulls. I noticed them for the first time this morning, driving on I-94 on my way to Melrose. I wonder: does that land count as a wildlife habitat now?

Meanwhile, road and bridge work still has County 17 closed, east of town. Anyone going east has to go a mile south to 12th and follow the detour signs. There is a sort of bonus from this project, though. Besides from repair and maintenance on that road, we got paving on the dogleg formed by 393rd Avenue and 415th Street, since it's the County 17 detour.

A little wild weather went through this area early this morning. Unofficially, Glenwood, about 20 miles west of here, got 95 hundredths of an inch, someone around Melrose got an inch and someone else got an inch and four tenths of rain. I understand that the soil is still dry from this summer's drought, so this rain was welcome.

That "pizza kitchen" I saw last week in Casey's makes more than just pizza: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and other food from breaded pork sandwiches to cheese breadsticks. Not exactly health food, but it sounds delicious.

Sunday, August 20, 2006. Casey's Pizza, inside the Casey's on Main, opened over a week ago, on Thursday, August 10. The new service was pretty obvious, a sign out front, and a well-lit pizza kitchen back by the coffee machine, but I missed it anyway. I haven't been stopping in there for a cup of coffee for longer than I thought. The sign in front of Casey's says that it's their 10th year here, with or without pizza.

The price of gas has been holding around $2'979 for at least a week now. It's odd: when gas prices go up, there's sure to be someone saying that it's a trick to make money for big oil companies. When the price goes down, I've never heard anyone say that it's a trick by big tire companies to make people drive more, wear out their tires, and buy new ones.

Guys have been tearing up pavement and putting down fresh asphalt on parking lots and driveways for most of the summer, and the school has been getting roofing done, too.

I thought that it was a good idea to get that done during the summer, until someone told me that the work had been blocking access to the baseball diamonds and the football field. I still think doing road and roof work in summer was good timing, although I got a better appreciation of how much those places get used.

Carefully labeled doors in Sauk Centre
One door is clearly marked "1" and the other "A". I'm not sure why. Nobody's likely to mistake one of them for the other. August, 2006.

A wooden moose showed up outside a house on State Road, across from the school, this summer. At least, that's when I noticed it. Three of the things are there now, all made by the householder, Brent Rutten. The moose on his deck is the first one he made, this spring. He's got another moose chained to a pole in front of the SuperAmerica, giving his work a wider audience.

Cheerful moose sculptures in Sauk Centre
Cheerful moose sculptures. August 17, 2006.

Each moose is artwork committed with a chainsaw, although I think Brent Rutten must use something else to put the final polish on the things. I talked with him this week, and learned that he's started a business: Chainsaw Carvings & Crafts (320 250 9377 or

A friendly moose sculpture in Sauk Centre
A moose, chained like Prometheus or Loki: but with a much better attitude. August 17, 2006.

A younger entrepreneur offered a variation on the traditional lemonade stand. As well as the familiar summer beverage, he had baseball cards for sale. Maybe a bobble-head figure, too, although that could have been part of the street-side stand's decor.

Baseball card and lemonade stand in Sauk Centre
Not thirsty? How about a baseball card? A young entrepreneur with a diversified line of products. August 17, 2006.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006. So far this week, it's been pretty much business-as-usual. Which is good news, although it leaves me a little short on things to write about.

Extras, a home-decor store downtown, is moving across the street and a couple blocks south. Their new home will be in that micro-mall at 5th and Main. Meanwhile, they've got a 'moving sale. sign in the window.

Extras in Sauk Centre is moving
Extra's moving sale: They're heading for the micro-mall at 5th & Main.
August 14, 2006.

The Patton-Schad Funeral Service, out on Beltline Road, seems to be getting a new sign.

Paton Schad Funeral Service and no passing zone
Patton Schad Funeral Service's sign is over by the 'no passing zone. marker for now. August 14, 2006.

Most spaces at the lakeside campground are filled. A couple of parties there brought pontoon boats with them. That's a good choice for vacationers with no need to prove their maritime prowess. The pontoon boat is about as goof-proof a watercraft as any you'll find on Minnesota lakes, and was invented by Minnesotan Ambrose Weeres about the time I was born. (There's more about pontoons and their inventor at the Weeres Industries web site')

Pontoon boats at Sauk Centre lakeside park
Pontoon boats at the lakeside park in Sauk Centre. August, 2006.

Wal-Mart's new supercenter is taking shape out at one end of Timberlane Drive, and the motel near Timberlane's other end had new siding up on most of the east side this mid-afternoon.

Wal-Mart supercenter construction, Sauk Centre
There's a whole lot of building going on at the Wal-Mart supercenter. August 16, 2006.

motel renovation, Sauk Centre
New siding on the former Super 8 motel, and a passing livestock truck.
August 16, 2006.

I finally found a coffee cup that matches my liking for the go-juice. Among the coffee paraphernalia at Jitters Java is a coffee cup the size of a stubby stovepipe hat.

Huge coffee cup at Jitters Java, Sauk Centre
Now that's a coffee cup! August 16, 2006.

Monday, August 14, 2006. Here a few pictures that belong with yesterday's entry. ("Monday's" entry is getting posted Tuesday, between 8:30 and 9:00 in the morning. Sorry 'bout that!)

Off with the old siding of the Super 8 motel building
The old Super 8 motel building is getting a new face to go along with its new name. August 10, 2006.

Avocado range in parking lot
Avocado: not even nostalgia seems to make that color attractive.
August 10, 2006.

Sauk Centre Wal-Mart supercenter construction
Towers and scaffolding at the end of Timberlane Drive. August 10, 2006.

Sunday, August 13, 2006. Above-ground construction at the Wal-Mart supercenter was mostly near the end of Timberlane Drive. The concrete blocks look more like part of a building now. Scaffolding and some block towers tell that a fair-sized building is planned. Of course, we knew that a "supercenter" wasn't going to be small.

At the other end of Timberlane Drive, some guys were pulling siding off the old Super 8 motel building's east side. Contractors. trucks were sharing the parking lot with the old avocado kitchen range that's been, offered free to anyone willing to haul it away, out for days. So far, there have been no takers.

A few odds and ends of observations:

  • A "Grand Opening Today" sign was still up in the Chinese Buffet window
  • Youngsters were fishing on the pier at Sauk Lake, near the band shell. "Youngster" is a relative term, of course: it means anyone under about 25 for me, these days
  • Main Street Coffee Company extended its hours for the All-School Reunion
  • MainStreet Communications is offering computer repair services

(No new pictures for this entry, I see. I should have some ready by Tuesday morning')

The yard and street looked wet this morning: a very welcome change from the dry days of this summer. Thunderstorms rolled through here last night, leaving over an inch of water and startled kids in their wake. At Glenwood, about eight tenths of an inch came down before midnight, and almost a half inch today. Happily, nothing came of last night's tornado watch, at least around here.

After an encounter with an outdoor grill, two LP gas cylinders, and rain today, I was reminded of the old saying, "man disposes, God disposes'" Not that my experience involved anything very important.

I was ready to put up with dark skies and light rain before going out to grill lunch today.

We'd run out of gas during yesterday's grilling, so my first task was to swap a full cylinder for the one on the grill. My oldest daughter asked me if I was sure about which way the cylinder's connector turned after watching me struggle for several minutes.

I've tightened and loosened equipment off and on for longer than she's been alive, but I tried it her way to be polite.

She was right, of course, and showed great self-control as the connector turned when I tried it her way ("lefty-loosey!").

I still don't know why gas now won't get from the cylinder to the burner. I took the disappointment about as well as might be expected from a middle-aged guy with water running down his back and quite a bit of Irish blood running through his veins.

A little later, the right lens fell out of my glasses'

Wednesday, August 9, 2006. I noticed above-ground construction at the Wal-Mart supercenter site for the first time Monday. They had a few courses of concrete blocks laid near the end of Timberlane Drive. I think that's what the street east of McDonald's is called. The wall is higher today, so progress is still happening there.

Sauk Centre Wal-Mart construction site
That gray line behind the sand pile is the first above-ground construction I've seen at the Sauk Centre Wal-Mart. August 7, 2006.

The Sauk Centre High School All-School Reunion starts this Friday. I doubt that there are many folks in town who don't know about it: There have been banners strategically placed around town for weeks'. One was on the bridge over Main Street. That's a favorite spot for community announcements.

Banners on the bridge over Main in Sauk Centre
Banners on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main. August 2006.

The Super 8 Motel down by the Interstate is closed. New owners have been working at fixing the place up and opening another motel there.

Lunch break in Sauk Centre
Lunch break near the Interstate in Sauk Centre. August 8, 2006.

Last November's shooting spree is still getting sorted out. I was one of five or ten people at city hall tonight, learning about a 'restorative justice. meeting that's being set up. We talked with folks from law enforcement, including the probation officer involved, and watched a video made by an outfit called the International Institute for Restorative Practices. The video shows how meetings like this are supposed to help victims deal with how they feel, and help perpetrators learn that what they did hurt real people.

The plan is to get the two kids who shot pellets through windows that November evening together with the folks who were in the houses. This way, the folks get to tell the kids what it felt like to be on the wrong end of a shooting gallery. Apparently, seeing that real people were in the houses and learning what their exercise in bad judgment did to the householders will help keep these teens from doing a repeat performance.

That seems to make sense. That sixteen-and-seventeen-year old duo and their families have a lot of fence-mending to do, and this sounds like a good way to start.

The kids are in the process of paying for the window-mending. One has a job now, and the other is looking for one. The court system was able to get documentation for about $10,000 of the over $20,000 estimated damage done, and we're told that sooner or later those two will get it paid off. After they turn 19, they're in the adult judicial system, and have ten years to pay. If they haven't squared things by then, there can be an extension of the ten years. In the meantime, they can't get loans, and have other restrictions on how they can handle money.

Meanwhile, for the folks who had to pay for windows before winter hit, it's a long time to wait.

Enough of that. We've been having fine weather lately, and I'll try to enjoy some of it tomorrow.

Afternoon clouds in Sauk Centre
Scenery in the sky: something new every day. August 8, 2006.

Sunday, August 6, 2006. Wal-Mart's supercenter construction kicked up a little dust Friday, but it drifted across 12th and disappeared before I could get the camera out. I don't keep an eye on the place, so This might not be the first time.

The Casey's on south Main was packed when I stopped in Friday afternoon. Someone there told me that the price of gas was going up to over $3 a gallon, and $4 for premium. That was encouraging folks to migrate this way, in search of lower prices. It looked like every pump was in use.

Inside, someone came to the till every minute, the two folks who usually work there were taking care of customers while doing one of those gotta-get-this-done-by-a-deadline inventories, and a technician was installing kitchen equipment in an alcove at the back.

That was a hectic afternoon.

Wedding guests were outside both St. Paul's church and Our Lady of the Angels yesterday. Folks at OLA had a white horse-drawn carriage parked in front. The driver wore a cowboy hat.

Wedding party and horse-drawn carriage outside Our Lady of the Angels church
Wedding party outside Our Lady of the Angels church. August 5, 2006.

A tractor pulling a hay rick seemed to be shuttling well-dressed folks between the two churches. I don't suppose I'll ever find out why.

Another load of wedding guests leave St. Paul's. August 5, 2006.

"Once Upon a Mattress" performed it's last show today at Long Prairie. For all my interest in cultural events, I missed it. Too bad: I remember the original Carol Burnett television broadcast, and saw the recent remake. I'd have enjoyed the local production.

Members of my family have been taking turns, helping the local Soo Bahk Do group run the food concession at an Arabian horse show at the fairgrounds. This way, we can afford to go to the Soo Bahk Do special functions. Actually, it'll probably be "they'" I haven't been able to keep up with the group for a while'

Wednesday, August 2, 2006. The Stearns County Fair midway was being taken down Monday. I don't envy the folks who were readying the rides for transport.

Stearns County Fair midway noon break
Taking down the Stearns County Fair midway, and using a little shade for the noon break. July 31, 2006.

They may not all feel the same way about the heat: A small grill was set up outside one of the campers.

Hard work, hot sun, and an outdoor grill
Hard work under a hot sun, and a portable grill. July 31, 2006.

Meanwhile, work goes on at the Wal-Mart supercenter. My hat's off to the contractor. Even with Monday's hot south wind and machinery stirring up acres of sandy soil, I didn't see any dust blowing across 12th. They've been pretty aggressive about spraying water on the ground.

Wal-Mart supercenter construction, Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter construction site: acres of sandy soil under a hot sun with a strong sough wind, but no dust to speak of. Aggressive watering, like the irrigator in the inset, may be why. July 31, 2006.

Sauk Centre missed Minnesota's wild weather Monday night, but we got some rain and more reasonable temperatures.

It will take more than the fraction of an inch that came down here to end the drought, though. We're not in the worst-hit part of Minnesota, but I've heard that the crops aren't doing too well here, either. (NOAA's Drought Information Cednter has more information')

Monday was Grand Chinese Buffet's "Grand Opening Day," according to a sign in their window.

I've heard that the local Casey's is having a "re-grand opening" August 25. I've wondered what someone could call a situation where a business has been around for a while, but is making a new start. "Re-grand opening" is a good way of getting the idea across.

In Casey's case, they've getting new services, including pizza. I think that'll make four pizza places in town: the Pizza Hut, Jimmy's Pizza, the Food N. Fuel on the north side, and now Casey's.

I filled the tank Monday, paying more than $3 a gallon for the first time since last year. It wasn't that much more than what we've been paying before, but somehow it feels like more when one of those round numbers is passed.

A building next to the Northstar on Sinclair Lewis Avenue was up on blocks Monday. It could be an energy-saving air conditioning method, but I'd guess that the building is going to be moved.

Northstar building ready to move
Innovative air conditioning, or readiness to move? You decide. July 31, 2006.

Finally, this entry is being posted Thursday morning. I had another out-of-town trip earlier this week, and didn't have the pictures ready last night. Maybe I'd be more organized if I could find my daily planner.

Sunday, July 30, 2006. It's 101 degrees outside as I'm getting started on this entry. It feels like 111, according to the weather report. I haven't been out since around noon, when I grilled burgers for lunch.

There is good news about this week's heat:

  • No water lines froze
  • No intersections were icy
  • No furnaces exploded

Aside from that, and the keyboard not melting while I wrote this entry, it's been pretty miserable.

Hot Friday afternoon in Sauk Centre
The bank sign is usually a few degrees hotter than the weather reports, but it felt this hot Friday afternoon. July 28, 2006.

The Stearns County fair is winding down now. My hat's off to the determined folks who defied heat and exhaustion to provide the fair with attendees and workers.

Two-level race ride at the midway
This two-level race ride was new to me. July 28, 2006.

Not as many people were at the midway when I was there: although since this was around 6:00 and 8:00 Saturday night, I could have missed larger crowds. I've been told that there were quite a few rides there for youngsters, but not as many for the older set. In fact, my 10-year-old was either too big, or too old, for many of the rides.

Quiet midway at the Stearns County Fair
Even at 6:00 Saturday evening, I'd have hoped for more people on the midway. July 29, 2006.

On the other hand, a live sting ray exhibit was there. They were de-barbed, and in a shallow tank which allowed folks to get close, and touch them. Those are very graceful creatures, which is more than I can say for the horseshoe crabs in the same exhibit.

Getting to know a stingray at the Stearns County Fair
Getting to know a stingray at the Stearns County Fair. July 29, 2006.

Aside from the fair, I see I don't have much to say about Sauk Centre now. The heat has kept me inside for all but the most important tasks, like grilling burgers.

Evening on the midway, Stearns County Fair
Sunset and less heat brought more folks to the midway Saturday night. July 29, 2006.

Thursday, July 27, 2006. I'll be very glad when it cools down. There's a short harangue about heat at the end of this entry, but don't worry: There will be a warning posted where it starts.

The midway of the Stearns County Fair was getting set up Monday. Deeper in the grounds, less flashy preparations were going on, too: folks setting up exhibits, bringing in livestock, and putting equipment in place.

Out-of-towners in a hurry can make driving interesting. I had to do some creative steering when the driver of a truck and horse trailer on 12th decided not to turn left, and went straight east from the left-turn lane at 12th and Ash.

The fair started today and, as expected, cars are parked along Ash. There's parking on the fairgrounds, but the VFW wants $2 per vehicle. Folks may have calculated that a fraction-of-a-mile walk is a small price to pay for saving enough money to buy part of a giant corn dog.

VFW parking at the Stearns County Fair
Opening day at the Stearns County Fair. July 27, 2006.

Wal-Mart has started digging in. I noticed the construction crew excavating something, maybe a basement, earlier this week. They're still at it today.

Wal-Mart Supercenter digging in at Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre Wal-Mart diggings. July 24, 2006.

Small projects are important, too: Fresh yellow lines on the band shell parking lot, down by the lake, were dry and ready for Wednesday's concert'

Fresh paint on the parking lot
Fresh paint on the parking lot. July 26, 2006.

The biggest attention-getter in town this week was a small fleet of vehicles parked behind the truck stop on Tuesday. The fleet's fuel tanker and a sort of outsized wrecker with some special attachments were pretty ordinary.

96-wheeler at Sauk Centre
96-wheeler parked at Sauk Centre. July 26, 2006.

The other vehicle was a two-hundred-plus foot long rig carrying a grain dryer from Milwaukee to an ethanol plant in Richardton, North Dakota: Red Trail Energy. Perkins Specialized Transportation of Farmington was handling the move.

Oversize load
A 17 feet across and over 200 feet long: a sincerely oversize load.
July 26, 2006.

Folks were coming to take a look when I was taking pictures in mid-afternoon, and were still stopping by a few hours later when I took my son and a daughter to see. I've heard that people kept coming late into the night.

Long rig, long haul
A long rig on a long haul: 96 wheels under a grain dryer. July 26, 2006.

The rig finally got going again about 2:00 in the morning. I did a little checking, and found out that the super-truck shouldn't travel unless the temperature was below 85. Above that, and the road can't handle the 230-ton load. It's just as well that driving was limited to early morning hours. That thing wouldn't travel at more than 50 miles an hour.

The birds weren't excited. It was business as usual for this meadowlark. July 26, 2006.

And, I'm more satisfied with my van's mileage now. That rig goes through about two gallons each mile.

Plus, I don't have to spend as much on tires as Perkins. They had a Kenworth tractor in front, with a two-wheel axle followed by three axles with four wheels each. The dryer hung from a trailer that had four axles of eight wheels each in front and six axles of eight wheels in back. I think that makes it a 96-wheeler.

Sauk Centre Herald's new front
Sauk Centre Herald's front: freshly cleaned and fixed up. July 2006.

Here's that harangue I mentioned. There won't be anything more about Sauk Centre in today's entry, so feel free to stop here.

I don't like hot weather. The transition up from the sixties is okay, but about halfway through the seventies I lose my enthusiasm for warmth.

My office/work area is in the attic, the only place in the house with enough space. An air conditioner keeps the place cool in the summer.

More accurately, it kept the place cool. After about twenty years of faithful service, the air conditioner seems to be going into semi-retirement. With this July's weather outside, and a computer, a light, and me inside, it manages to keep temperatures in the eighties.

I've picked up an extra fan to blow on me, and adopted a tropics-casual dress code for myself while 'at work. up here, but it's still not what I'd call an ideal work environment.

Between being laid off, having two operations, getting diagnosed as having sleep apnea, and working during a hot July in an attic with an efficiency-challenged air conditioner, it's been a memorable summer.

Sunday, July 23, 2006. Sauk Centre has two new, or semi-new, businesses now. The Chinese Buffet downtown re-opened Friday, with more hand-written signs in the window telling folks what to expect inside. Meanwhile, down by the Interstate, Wal-Mart's superstore is still acres of sand and dirt being scraped into shape.

The outfit that's building the Wal-Mart uses big John Deer tractors to drag their earth-moving equipment. It makes sense, but I still associate tractors like that more with farm work than with construction sites.

The Sauk Herald's remodeling (or restoration) work seems to be done. The newspaper's storefront, and the related publications Old Times and Minnesota Trails next door, have been cleaned up, at least. Old, understated, colored panels over the Herald's door and windows are much more obvious now. I like the way that part of Sinclair Lewis Avenue is starting to look.

I didn't see the 2nd Annual Hog Roast and Bike Run Benefit for the Kenny Stepan family today. My Sunday routine keeps me in the southeast part of town, so I wouldn't have run into them. I hope they raised a good amount for those folks.

I noticed the 2006 Stearns County Fair Handbook on the kitchen table recently. I don't think anyone in the family is entering something, but I've been surprised before. That fair is a big event for Sauk Centre, and for this neighborhood. We live about an eighth of a mile from the fairground's main entrance, and can count on fair-bound folks parking here and further north. They're pretty good about not parking across driveways.

Thursday, July 20, 2006, a late word or two. The Chinese Buffet opens tomorrow! The writing is on the window: "Lunch Buffet 5'99," "Dinner Buffet 7'99," "Sunday Buffet 7'99," and "Senior over 60 Dollar off'" I hope they do better the second time around.

Thursday, July 20, 2006. Bad news: You may have noticed that Wednesday's entry was published Thursday. That makes two times in a row that regular entries weren't on time. Good news: I don't see another long trip in the near future, so my schedule should be getting back to normal this week.

It's interesting: thirty or so years ago, I looked forward to driving a few hundred miles. Now, I enjoy watching the landscape go by, but get stiff, sore, and tired in the process. Eventually, I may have to admit that I'm not a kid anymore.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006. Alexandria has about twice as many people as Sauk Centre, so I suppose it's natural that they're installing a talking traffic signal before we did. Third and Broadway is one of Alexandria's busier intersections, and now folks who can't see as well as most will find it easier to cross. The talking stoplight pole beeps, making it easier to find, and the thing has a voice which tells people when it's safe to cross.

Alexandria's talking traffic signal was a front page story for today's Alexandria paper. The Echo Press pointed out that there are no more than a dozen folks in that town who need the signal, plus however many blind/sight-impaired/whatever tourists pass through.

Back here in Sauk Centre, folks are getting ready for the Stearns County Fair. The fair starts in about a week. So far, the most obvious indication of its coming is the sign on the bridge over Main.

I'm not sure what kind of weather I'd rather see. On the one hand, I'd just as soon have no rain, low humidity, and cool temperatures. I've had my fill of 'thunderstorm weather'. On the other hand, we definitely need moisture in the soil. It's been a dry year. A bit of sweating would be okay as a tradeoff for an inch or two of rain.

The 2nd Annual Hog Roast and Bike Run Benefit for Kenny Stepan and family starts this Sunday at the Mustang Bar and Next Door Bar in Sauk Centre. They'll be riding to Doochies (St. Martin) Padua Pub (Padua), 10 Mile Tavern (Westport), and then back to the Mustang Bar and Next Door Bar in Sauk Centre. One thing I like about living here is the way folks in the community pull together, or ride together in this case, when someone needs help.

The Chinese Buffet downtown in still "opening soon'" Chairs are piled near the windows now, showing that progress is being made.

Proof that tastes differ: Main Street Coffee Company has been advertising "Warm Homemade Bread Pudding since last winter. Warm bread pudding is about the last sort of thing I'd want on a hot day, but it looks like quite a few people like it.

Finally, south of 12th between Main Street Press and Westside Liquor, construction of the Wal-Mart supercenter roars on. They're still hauling the southeast part of the property to the northwest part of the part and tamping it down'

Monday, July 17, 2006. Yesterday's text was published this morning. Pictures of the Sinclair Lewis Days parade were published about noon today. There are more pictures, which I'll add as time permits. Thanks for your patience! [Brian Gill]

Sunday, July 16, 2006. I've been out of town for a couple days, but got back to Sauk Centre in time for the Sinclair Lewis Days Parade. It was down to the low nineties by 7:30 when the parade started. . Up in the Red River Valley, temperatures had been around 100, and I understand it hadn't been much cooler here.

Any sensible person would have been sitting, or lying, in front of the nearest working air conditioner. I carried a lawn chair to the parade route's edge, and settled down in a small patch of shade.

I had company. Folks, singly and as families, had been gathering along Ash Street and 9th since suppertime. I'm pretty sure that people lined the rest of the parade route but I wasn't about to go see in this weather.

My young son joined me. One of the advantages of having kids is being able to do less-than-grown-up things without need for explanation or excuse.

Most folks didn't stand for the whole parade: just the flag. July 15, 2006.

The Sauk Centre High School Band was close to the front of the parade. Mercifully, their uniforms were appropriate to the season: T-shirts and shorts. Back in the "Good Old Days" my high school band once marched in weather like this, in outfits whose woolen long sleeves and legs would have been welcome in late fall. I haven't been nostalgic for the Good Old Days very often: My memory is too good.

For an hour, plus a few minutes, the parade went by. It's quite a cavalcade of local culture:

  • A viking ship on wheels, trailing bubbles
  • The Knights of Columbus float
  • Shriners on go-karts
  • A walking corncob
  • Coborns. double-decker shopping cart
  • The Red Hat ladies of the local Red Hat Society
  • About 90 other units, including emergency vehicles, folks with convertibles under them, farm equipment, and a cement truck
  • Finally, a lot of horses

The dancing gorilla wasn't present this year.

Once called the Scourge of God, now we're blowing bubbles
I'm not sure if a viking ship on wheels and trailing bubbles is the best representation of Minnesota's Scandinavian heritage: but it's fun. July 15, 2006.

I heard fireworks later in the evening. They weren't the Sinclair Lewis Days display down at Sinclair Lewis Park: that happened tonight. I suppose the sounds were part of a display at the racetrack, but some sounded a lot closer.

Clowns have little dignity
This unit was a bit less dignified than most. July 15, 2006.

Sauk Centre is changing. We could see the SLD fireworks display a little more clearly this year, now that some neighbors cut down a line of trees. There are bigger changes happening, too.

The Chinese Buffet downtown still has the "Opening Soon" signs in the window, and there is progress happening there: the windows are cleared, except for the signs, and there's what looks like a beveled glass door in place now. And, down on 12th, The Wal-Mart supercenter's groundwork is progressing. More dirt has been moved downhill and packed in place.

This has been a bad season for crops. I hear that the weekend rain, a half inch in one field around here, was welcome but not nearly enough to moisten the soil. I knew it was bad what KSTP, a Metro station, mentioned the state of Minnesota's farms.

Between the effects of several long drives and the heat, I decided to stay inside today. My eldest daughter grilled lunch. The burgers were better than I've often done'

Wednesday, July 12, 2006. I don't like heat, so I've been sweltering, simmering, and seething this week. Relatively rainless weather hasn't more than slowed down the zucchinis, though. Someone provided us with a good supply of those vegetables. It's amazing, how many ways there are of preparing zucchini for a meal.

We're in the fourth of Minnesota's seasons: fall, winter, spring, and roadwork. Some of Sauk Centre schools. parking lots have been torn up and seem to be getting resurfaced. The street department has been re-painting crosswalk markings. That made north Main into a sort of slalom course last week. They've worked their way into south side neighborhoods by now.

Another leg in the Sauk Centre Slalom
One block, barrier on the right; next block, barrier on the left. Sometimes these painting projects feel like a slalom course. July 2006.

Ground work for the Sauk Centre Wal-Mart supercenter has started. A crew with earth-moving machinery and a water truck have been piling up ridges of dirt (mostly sand, in this part of the state), starting at the south end of the acreage. It looks like they may be building up the land near south 12th between Main Street Press and the Westside Liquor-Gerard's building.

Just Add Water
'Just add water'. The Wal-Mart construction zone would be very dusty without that water truck. July 12, 2006.

Main Street Press is still open for business, but they got a surprise when work started. The east part of the silt fence went up across their driveway. Happily, the printing outfit can use another driveway, a little east of the main one. Someone there told me that the building shakes when an earth-packer goes by. I heard that it's reassuring in a way: all that shaking without anything falling apart proves that the building is sturdy'

Sauk Centre Wal-Mart digging began on the south end. July 2006.

Sunday, July 9, 2006. Orange rings around more trees in Sauk Centre mark another engagement in the battle against Dutch Elm Disease. Several trees on Ash Street, and other parts of town, will be gone soon.

A few households cut their trees down by choice. When I arrived for a short weekly task at my day job Friday, I noticed a grand old tree next door lying in sections on the yard next door. I'd guess that the homeowners decided to bring it down before it came down on its own on their house, on someone's car, or on someone. That tree had character, which is a fine thing: unless you've got something breakable underneath.

Young entrepreneurs had a lemonade stand set up on Ash street Friday. They had a good day for it: a distinctly warm day.

Lemonade stand on Ash Street
Lemonade stand on Ash Street. July 7, 2006.

The two outfits who were selling fireworks have folded their tents and gone on to whatever they do for the rest of the year. Now the crack of firecrackers has been largely replaced by the rattle of drums, at least in this neighborhood. The high school band is using the school parking lot to practice for Saturday's Sinclair Lewis Days parade.

That's all I've got about Sauk Centre now. The rest of today's entry is about a lesson I had in vehicle maintenance.

As a rule, I'm pretty careful about equipment, including vehicles. Events in the last few months must have been more distracting than I thought, because I got a surprise on Friday.

My wife had pointed out a funny noise the engine was making. I figured that a quick safety check couldn't hurt, and took it in. The garage told me that I was running the van on no oil. Dumb. The good news was that the engine didn't seem to have been damaged yet.

It looks like the experts were right. I took one of my daughters and a niece on a trip to a weekend visit with grandpa. We had a good visit, and the van performed normally all the way to North Dakota and back. I've been doing catching up since we returned.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006. Impromptu fireworks displays during the evening before Independence Day kept some members of my household jumping. There's nothing quite like a series of after-dark explosions to liven up a quiet small-town neighborhood.

Independence Day Bunting
Independence Day bunting: part of a very red, white, and blue yard display. July 3, 2006.

Now that Independence Day has passed, the next big deal in town will be Sinclair Lewis Days. It's fun to watch this town's population explode as folks come to the sidewalk sales, turtle races, and all the rest.

Gold 'N. More got its new front door ready just before the 4th of July. the store occupies two of the old narrow storefronts on downtown Main Street now, and that new door will make getting in a lot easier.

The flag at the Armory was at half-staff again (or maybe still) when I drove by Monday. I'd guess that it's because of another Minnesota National Guard fatality in Iraq. Willmar lost Specialist Kyle Miller last week when a roadside bomb exploded. As I've said before, small towns don't exist in some sort of isolated retreat. What happens on the other side of the world gets felt here, too.

And some of the trouble starts right around here. Thanks to some jerks, Munsinger Gardens in St. Cloud is in serious need of repair. Someone burglarized buildings, threw garbage cans into the Mississippi after snapping them off their stands, and smashed plants. Lots of plants. Munsinger Gardens is open, I hear, but it will be a while before one of this area's beauty spots looks the way it's supposed to again. St. Cloud police are interested in finding out who's responsible for this exercise in self-expression.

On a happier note, the St. Cloud Times reported that a man who lives near Avon, Pat Klepaida, has a new American flag. He's flown flags for years on the highest hill of his farm on Stearns County Road 151 near Avon, but this one is the largest: twelve by eighteen feet'. On a clear day, folks can see his stars and bars for three miles around.

Minnesota is being invaded by wild parsnips! According to KSTP, this foreign flower has advanced past the Metro and reached as far as the Paul Bunyan Trail from Bemidji to Brainerd. The problem is more serious than the word "parsnip" suggests. Apparently they're taking over the ditches, river banks, and fields of Minnesota.

Quite a few people have found out that mowing wild parsnips should be done with care and protection. When wild parsnip juice, someone's skin, and sunlight come together, the person generally gets blisters that can last for months, hurt, and leave scars.

At least that would take someone's mind off the mosquitoes.

A minor change in this week's household schedule reminded me of another one of those jobs that generally don't attract attention until something goes wrong.

The garbage pickup service that keeps us in compliance with this community's rules, and the demands of good sense, took Independence Day off. That reminded me of the folks who put trash in its places; keep the water and waste systems running; and maintain all the other services people seem to need these days. It takes a lot of work to make it possible for us to get annoyed by telephone solicitors and televised antacid ads'

It's been a while since I put pictures in the Sauk Centre Journal. My new (and improved, I hope) work station is set up now, and it's time to catch up.

Antique Oldsmobile San Francisco to New York
I wouldn't want to drive across the country in an open car, but antique car enthusiasts are made of sterner stuff. June 30, 2006.

Antique cars and Internet access
Internet Access and a Stanley Steamer. Holding on to antiques doesn't mean giving up today's conveniences. June 30, 2006.

There's a new tent in town
Sauk Centre boasted two fireworks tents this year. The new one was in
the Coborn's parking lot. June 24, 2006.

Downloading at Jitters Java
Playing Battleship? No: trying to figure out how to make a complicated download work. My daughter found the solution. June 23, 2006.

A tradition continues: fireworks and flags. June 21, 2006.

South side Fireworks Tent
A sure sign that Independence Day is coming: the fireworks tent being
set up in the Westside Liquors parking lot. June 20, 2006.

Dutch Elm strikes again
More trees with Dutch Elm disease. There's going to be a lot of open
space in Sauk Centre yards after this summer. June 19, 2006.

There! a couple week's worth of pictures, finally done.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006. Independence Day!

Happy Birthday, USA! Independence Day 2006

Sunday, July 2, 2006. Independence Day observations have already started. The I-94 Raceway put on a fireworks show last night, and folks have been setting off firecrackers around town. Some of them were quite loud, and quite close.

According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, only five states ban all consumer fireworks: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

Oddly, they were among the colonies that rebelled against England. Two and a quarter centuries ago, these states were ablaze with the spirit of independence. Now, they've passed laws to protect the common people from firecrackers and bottle rockets. These days, I doubt that dousing of the right to light bottle rockets will spark a Boston Fireworks Party. The old Tea Party spirit seems to have gone west.

It's supposed to be warm for the 4th, but I think the last few days have been carrying the tradition too far. While a crew worked on the Jitters Java roof Thursday and Friday, the bank sign announced temperatures in the mid-nineties.

Motorcyclists showed up along with the heat. I'd guess that riding on the outside of your vehicle feels pretty good in weather like this.

One thing that really old antique cars have in common with motorcycles is that both let their riders experience the outdoors directly while driving. A big difference is that most of the old cars have some sort of canopy.

Antique cars, including a Stanley Steamer, filled most of the north side of the AmericInn's parking lot Friday. I talked with Roy Bernick, one of the car owners, and leaned that the cars and their owners were there for the 1- and 2- Cylinder Tour. I think I got that name right.

I also learned that the San Francisco & New York banner painted on the side of the old Olds he was driving wasn't just a slogan. He and Gary Hoonsbeen had driven that open-sided, golf-cart-sized, auto all the way between those cities. My hat's off to anyone who would make a trip like that. I like fresh air as much as anyone, but I think I'd draw the line well short of a three-thousand-mile-long exposure to the stuff.

The 4th of July is still a couple days away, but today was my "independence day'" This afternoon I freed my left forearm and hand from the splint that's encased them since Tuesday. We don't realize how much fun it is to bend a wrist until we can't for a few days. Everything seems to work, happily, although one of the fingers is stiff: and will be, at least for a while'

Wednesday, June 28, 2006. It isn't hard to tell that Independence Day is coming. Alco is selling bright red, white, and blue artificial flowers, ribbons, banners, and assorted stars & bars stuff, and there are two fireworks tents on south side parking lots.

Sauk Centre won't have any fireworks on the 4th, though. We save our whiz, bang, and flash show for the 16th, during Sinclair Lewis Days. I don't know where the money for this year's fireworks came from, but it looks like the Sinclair Lewis Days Raffle is raising money for next year's show. A sign downtown said that "all proceeds will fund the fireworks in 2007'"

I spent the day inside today, not getting much done, while anesthetics bid a lingering adieu to my system. Yesterday I had some slice-and-dice done on my left hand, to fix carpal tunnel trouble. As long as I was in the shop, they worked on a trigger finger too.

That left me with time to contemplate a patch of sidewalk under the air conditioner that gets damp when conditions are right, and pay attention to local news.

I see in the paper that Oak Ridge is closing again. That's what used to be the home school until Minnesota stopped providing north Sauk Centre with ethically challenged youngsters in need of room, board, and the occasional opportunity to practice escape-and-auto-theft skills.

Lately Oak Ridge has been offering minimum-security accommodations to counties in this part of the state. Unhappily for Oak Ridge's owner, it seems that the counties weren't sending enough residents.

I wish the owner, Jim Jauss, well. He had an idea that was worth trying. We'll see what happens next.

On a happier note, the low fabric fence on the south side of 12th, between Main Street Press and West Side Liquor, is a sign that the Wal-Mart supercenter is actually going to get built. The Sauk Herald says that Breitbach Construction Company, over in Elrosa, got the general contractor contract for the job. They're the ones who put up the silt fence. Apparently they plan to start pushing dirt around after July 4th.

I hope that Wal-Mart's plans take into account the fact that the acreage they're building on is in a natural waterway'

Monday, June 26, 2006. At about 3:00 this afternoon, I discovered that Sunday's entry wasn't available online. Sorry about that!

I still haven't figured out exactly why Sunday's entry didn't make it online. From now on I'll be a little more careful about verifying that this journal actually got updated.

Apart from some rain this afternoon, it's been a fine day: billowing summer clouds in a blue sky, birds on the wing, all accompanied by the rhythmic whang of a pile driver pounding posts into the riverbed east of town.

Sunday, June 25, 2006. It's about 10 days until the 4th of July. Sauk Centre's summer is rolling along as it usually does: An Arabian horse show is at the Stearns County fairgrounds here, and there's road work going on nearby. It doesn't look like anyone will be driving eastward out of town from Sinclair Lewis Avenue soon. They seem to have removed the bridge.

Another fireworks tent went up on the south side of town this week. Folks were setting up displays in a big white tent on the upper part of the Alco/Coborn's parking lot yesterday. They're open for business now. I suppose there's enough people wanting sparklers and other legally-sanctioned fireworks.

I took a look at what fireworks we're allowed to use here in Minnesota. The State Fire Marshall's web pages has information about what's legal, what's not, and how to get permits. Just about anything that pops, bangs, or flies through the air is verboten, but I see we're not yet protected from party poppers.

That's all for the Sauk Centre-related part of today's entry. The rest is mostly about me, so it's safe to stop reading at this point.

It's a week now since I've been laid off. This will be an exciting summer, one way or another. Between turning a part of the attic into office space, reorganizing my schedule, and a little long-range planning, I've gotten a little behind on Brendan's Island. That is changing now.

In a related development, my oldest daughter and I went to Jitters Java a few days ago to use their wireless Internet connection. It's the fastest connection we have access to, and we had some rather serious downloading to get done. When we got our laptops set up, it looked like we were getting ready to play Battleship.

We have a few projects that we're cooperating on. I'll write more about them when we have something to show.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006. The eastward extension of Sinclair Lewis Avenue was finally closed today. It'll make traveling east harder, but it's a sort of relief to finally have the work moving to that point.

With only a couple of weeks to go before the Fourth of July, I'm starting to notice signs of the coming holiday. Red, white, and blue artificial (or is it "permanent?") flowers dominate Alco's center aisle, and the fireworks tent was open for business today in the Holiday Liquors/Gerard's parking lot.

The Armory's flag was at half-staff today. I suppose that it's to remember Spc. Brent W. Koch, a 22 year old member of the Minnesota National Guard from Morton, about a hundred miles south of here. He was killed Friday in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq. The news says that two more soldiers from Minnesota are hospitalized from the explosion that killed Koch.

We got an unexpected bonus from Wal-Mart's plans for coming to Sauk Centre: a good, close look at city ordinances. According to this week's Sauk Herald, Wal-Mart's lawyers noticed that Sauk Centre's ordinance #643 said that surfaces that wouldn't let water through couldn't cover more than 50% of a lot. This could be a problem for Wal-Mart, since their building and parking lot would cover well over half of Wal-Mart's lot.

It sounds like #643 is part of a new zoning ordinance made last year. Apparently, nobody noticed that the new ordinance didn't just prohibit places like Wal-Mart from building big parking lots. Gerard's, Coborn's Dairy Queen, Holiday, Moonshine Liquor Shoppe, and quite a few other businesses have been in violation of zoning regulations. According to the Herald, this wasn't what the city commission had in mind, so they changed the ordinance.

Country Music Fest brought about ten tines as many people as live in Sauk Center to the north end of Sauk Lake last weekend. It sounds like country music fans had a really good time.

I hear that the biggest Yak herd in the east half of North America is near Cold Spring, near St. Cloud. John Hooper, the herd's owner, says that yak meat is healthier than beef, since it has more protein and fewer calories and fat per pound. He's starting to show a profit from his herd of 55 yak, according to KSTP.

I wonder how long it will be before folks can get yakburgers here in Sauk Centre.

Monday, June 19, 2006. (The Journal doesn't usually have a Monday entry. But, since last night I wrote that I'd add "a little more" today, I'll post this. There isn't much to say')

Pothole packers were at work west of Main Street today, and the road that was supposed to be closed, starting today, wasn't. At least, when I was at the east end of Sinclair Lewis Avenue just before noon and again in the late afternoon, I didn't have any trouble driving out of town and back. I'm getting curious about when, and whether, that road will be closed.

(This was actually posted Tuesday morning. It was very late when I wrapped this up, and I've learned the value of sleep in the last few decades')

Sunday, June 18, 2006. This has been a good Father's Day, at least for me. I grilled lunch about an hour later than usual, since Our Lady of the Angels had a Corpus Christi procession to St. Paul's and back.

We've been having these processions for a while now. For me, they're a welcome return to a tradition that my wife remembers. Fr. Statz, of OLA, said that anyone who could walk could be in the Corpus Christi procession.

Since at this point my walk is more of a lurch, the staid and stately progress of the parishioners would have been a breakneck pace for me. Good news! That left me free to pursue the processing parishioners in the van and take pictures. I plan to post those later in "A Walk on the Catholic Side'"

Gold 'N. More's newly-revealed storefront has one of the more colorful of downtown Sauk Centre's old stained glass windows. I was hoping that the colors would have been exposed inside, but this setup probably displays them better for the street'

Two stained glass storefronts: Gold 'N. More, left, and
Sauk Centre Floral. June 14, 2006.

Meanwhile, over on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, the Sauk Herald is going through what looks like major remodeling. The front windows and door have been replaced by plywood.

Road and utility work on the east side of town is still adding a little adventure to folks driving in that direction. A sign went up this week, saying that the road would be closed tomorrow, June 19. We'll see whether they keep it closed this time.

Promises, promises. They said it would be closed beginning June 12.
June 17, 2006.

Having a good Father's Day can be a mixed blessing, I discovered.

On the plus side, I had the thrill of lighting a grill in a brisk breeze and speed-grilling burgers while playing catch with my son. Also, hanging out with three of our kids and my wife, and getting a phone call from another (kid, that is), gave me as serious a case of the warm fuzzies as anyone could hope for.

On the other hand, between having all that fun and realizing that I left my notepad in the church long after the doors were locked, I'm a little short on material for today's entry. I plan to be back with a little more late Monday evening'

Wednesday, June 14, 2006. County Road 17 was open today: fast work. Or maybe they're off to a slow start.

There's quite a bit of 'cultural. activity of one kind or another going on this week.

  • "Once Upon a Mattress" is in rehearsal, and will open in July.
  • "The Confessions of Saint Augustine," the story of a sinner-turned-saint, is going to be performed by Leonardo Defilippis this Saturday at the high school. (Here's a shameless plug: the show is at 7:30 p'm'. It's okay for folks age 12 and up. Call 320-352-3502 until 2 in the afternoon, or 320-763-4079 (a home number) for ticket prices and other information')
  • Country Music Fest USA starts tomorrow, about seven miles north of town. That may explain the unusual traffic downtown this afternoon'

Gold 'N. More doubled the size of its front windows this week. The plywood panels are off the north half of their store on Main. Now that a door is visible, but not usable, on the north half, they need a sign on the sidewalk letting folks know that the entrance is in the inside hallway.

The robin family has moved on. Blinky and Mo would be young adults by now, I think. They outgrew the nest about a week ago, pushing the northwest rim out in the process. I've probably seen the youngsters without recognizing them. Just as people often outgrow the hairstyles and attitudes that haunt their high school yearbooks, Mo will have abandoned that distinctive hairdo (featherdo?) and Blinky will have an adult's clear eyes.

Monday struck with unusual severity this week. The tone of my day was set when I sat in the van, tried to start the engine, and realized that I didn't have any keys. My oldest daughter found them: right where they belonged, next to where I kept the rest of my pockets. contents.

Keys found and engine started, I went to work: very aware that this is the last week before I'm laid off. Toward the end of the afternoon, the right lens of my glasses fell out, again, and skittered into a well-hidden spot.

As if to prove that I'm not the only one with days like that, the next day my oldest daughter incinerated several day's worth of stew while fixing supper.

Sunday, June 11, 2006. A main road going east of town will be closed, starting tomorrow. I noticed the sign announcing this coming attraction, and the work that's already being done, on east Sinclair Lewis Avenue a block or so before it becomes County Road 17.

Coming attractions: road closing
Road construction: Summer unfun in Minnesota. June 8, 2006.

It looks like some sort of utility work is involved: I suppose to take care of all those houses being built on fields between the river and the cemetery road.

Pipes being buried east of Sauk Centre
Looks like the new houses are getting new utilities. June 8, 2006.

It's a good thing that "393rd Avenue" and "415th Street" are paved now. They'll be one of the easier ways for folks from Sauk Centre's south side to go east to places like St. Rosa. I'm still getting used to the idea of country roads having street numbers that seem to be centered on St. Cloud.

Jaywalkers are back. I ran into a couple this week. Not literally. I should say that I noticed some folks walk out from between parked cars, sometimes take a look, and dash across Main Street downtown. We can still get away with that sort of thing, but traffic and population is growing to the point where I think it's not a good idea any more. The folks that really scare me are the ones who walk out and don't seem to noticed that they're on a street.

I grilled again this weekend: always a pleasure. On Saturday I learned that my sense of timing needs work. As I flipped one of the burger patties, I noticed that one side was almost incinerated. My daughter caught a picture as I observed a few seconds of silence, contemplating the burger briquette.

I grilled not wisely, but too well. June 10, 2006.

While Grilling on a Weekend

Flipping one too late,
I see darkness on a burger's bottom:
grilled not wisely, but too well.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006. Some folks think of Small Town America as a sort of changeless utopia, stuck somewhere between the Victorian Age and the Roaring Twenties. This small town has been anything but unchanging, at least recently.

Yesterday I thought the Chinese restaurant on Main had opened, since the door was open to reveal a hand-written sign showing a special. Today the door was closed, so there probably was some other reason for the door being open.

still opening soon
The new Chinese restaurant is still 'opening soon'. June 6, 2006.

Two other new businesses are definitely open, though. One new business and a serious expansion of another, at any rate. Centre Stage Music has been open for a little while now, down the hall from Gold 'N More in the old Ben Franklin-Snyder storefront. Next door south of Gold 'N More is where Sauk Centre Eye Clinic moved. They've added "Eyes on Main" to their business.

Eyes on Main and Sauk Centre Eye Clinic have an interior that's worth seeing. My wife called it 'eye-popping!. after she went there, and she doesn't usually speak with exclamation marks. I took a look today. She was right. The place is set up to resemble an old-fashioned street, and includes a sort of street scene painted by Monica Fahrner, of Melrose. I understand that Dr Freese, the owner, and his brother had a hand in the décor.

Glowing shelves and an interior window sign that both cycle through several colors, and computers in the office area keep the place from having a really consistent 19th-century look: but I like them.

An eye-popping eye clinic
Eyes on Main & Sauk Centre Eye Clinic: Eye-popping! June 7, 2006.

Centre Stage Music has been open for a little while now, and was featured in this week's Sauk Herald. The first thing I noticed inside was a yellow-and-blue motorcycle sitting in the west part of the store. That's where part of a sound system and some electric guitars were. They've also got acoustic guitars and part of Amundson Violin's inventory of violins. Amundson Violin is in the process of moving into Centre Stage Music. Some local musicians are working for the store, offering lessons on violin, piano, guitar, bass, and fiddle. (I know: Fiddlin. is just another way of playing a violin')

I'm glad to see a music store in town. I don't know if a 'cultural. business here will help Sauk Centre be more urban, more urbane, or if it's just another facet of life in this small town.

Centre Stage Music: fine art and a motorcycle
Centre Stage Music: guitars, violins, and - a motorcycle?! June 7, 2006.

Sunday, June 4, 2006. A short drive through St. Cloud this week made me glad I live in a small town. I lost count after dodging three drivers making U-turns at traffic lights. Aside from being illegal, it's stupid to present you car's side to traffic and count on someone else's reflexes to keep your insurance payments low.

Other than that, and getting fitted for a gadget that helps me keep breathing at night, it's been a pretty quiet week.

Downtown, the Sauk Centre Eye Clinic has its sign in the window across from "eyes on main" in one of the remodeled storefronts. A little north, I noticed that Martin's Jewelry is now Martin's Jewelry Box: a subtle change, but one that makes the name special.

New name for Martin's: Martin's Jewelry Box
Martin's Jewelry downtown is now Martin's Jewelry Box. June, 2006.

I took some pictures recently that show the differences between the two places on Main Street selling specialty coffee. I wrote about them about a week and a half ago, so I'll let the pictures do most of the talking now.

Metro Retro and Americana with pink flamingos
Jitters Java, a 'Retro Metro. cafe, left. On the right, Original Main Street Antiques and Coffee Company, a slice of Americana with pink flamingos. Summer, 2006.

They both have tables outside, but the antiques-and-coffee place has a homier looking setting. On the other hand, you can get a good meal at Jitters, while the Coffee Company is more snack-oriented.

Original Main Street Antiques and Jitters Java in Sauk Centre
Original Main Street Antiques and Coffee Company, left and upper right, still reminds me of places I visited while growing up. Jitters Java, lower right, looks like it started picking up its ambiance in the '20s. The radio in Jitters might be playing anything from big band era tunes to Golden Oldies. Summer, 2006.

Meanwhile, in my back yard, the grass is getting brown and young robins are growing up. Mo and Blinky now look like bedraggled teens, and seem to have outgrown their nest.

a watchful young robin
'Where's that worm?!'. June, 2006.

Mom and/or Dad Robin are still doing double duty, guarding the nest and keeping the nestlings supplied with worms.

bird on guard duty
Avian vigilance meets human curiosity. June, 2006.

A song from "The Sound of Music" came to mind while I was looking at the nest. I'll close with the alternative lyrics I made up.

Don't cry young robins, whatever you do, don't cry 'cause you are alone.

Open real wide for the worm that will come.

You'll get a worm of your own.

You'll get a worm of our own, young bird: You'll get a worm of your own.

Statue of boy and girl under an ubrella in Sauk CentreWednesday, May 31, 2006. The little boy and girl are back at their summer posts, under an umbrella in the fountain at Sinclair Lewis Park. They've made their appearance every Memorial Day weekend since long before I moved here.

A crew was on Main, filling in potholes, when I went to work this morning. Even on heavily-traveled (for a small town) streets like Ash, the pothole packers are pretty casual about setting up signs and warnings. The trucks they bring with them are hard to miss. Actually, they'd be hard not to miss: the point is that they aren't at all inconspicuous.

It was a different story on Main. This crew had an orange truck with one of those light-up signs announcing that pothole repair was ahead.

East of town, along the road that runs between the St. Paul's and Our Lady of the Angels cemeteries and a new crop of houses, some sort of piping is being laid.

Meanwhile, back in town, a crew has been methodically moving from corner to corner, flushing water down manholes. I assume that they're still working at getting the storm drains ready for summer. It takes a lot of work to keep a town's workings in good order these days.

There's a "new" place downtown, or will be when the Snyder-Ben Franklin storefront work is done. "Eyes on Main" has a sign up in the window there. I understand that E. on M. is what the Sauk Centre Eye Clinic will be soon.

Of course, I've been wrong before.

For example, when I identified the Poppy People as collecting for the American Legion. I took a look at one of this year's Memorial Day poppies, and these particular Poppy People were collecting for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Veterans Assistance Programs.


Monday, May 29, 2006. "If you don't remember what you did today, ask someone: they'll know" is an old joke about small-town life. It's also a fact that news travels fast and far in a place like this.

One of my daughters experienced this when a comparative stranger said to her, "I hear you're going to cut your hair and give it to the children who don't have any. I think that's just wonderful. You see all these girls with long hair and it's not doing anything'"

There weren't as many garage sale signs around as I expected, or maybe I wasn't out at the right time. After work on Friday, I headed home and have been there since, except for church.

Garage sale sign
Summer: season of sunshine, warmth, and garage sales. May 26, 2006.

I saw boys at a lemonade stand on Main Street ("Original Main Street" the sign says). That's an old tradition, but you'll notice that the lemonade stand is made out of a plastic crate.

Lemonade stand on Main
Lemonade Stand on Main. May 26, 2006.

It's been a hot Memorial Day weekend. I read that St. Cloud had a record high of 92, the hottest it's been on this day since 1988, when it got up to 88. The heat is one reason why I haven't been outside today, except to grill lunch.

While I was converting frozen burger patties into a grilled treat, my son and one of my daughters checked to see how a robin family was doing. She's called the two newly-hatched birds Mo and Blinky: the first because of a tuft of whitish fluff that looks like a Mohawk, the other because his (her?) eyes are slightly open.

Momma Robin and Mo
Robins: Momma and Mo. (That's Mo on the right). May 28, 2006.

Those two are being careful not to disturb the nestlings. When my daughter noticed a robin, with a worm dangling from its beak, hesitantly hopping near the nest, my kids moved away. That was the bird's cue to deliver the meal'

Sunday, May 28, 2006. Signs of Memorial Day Weekend appeared Friday: downtown streets lined with flags and another invasion of the Poppy People. I saw several while driving to work, never moving more than a few yards from one spot and always with a cluster of red plastic flowers in one hand.

Memorial Day Weekend Begins
Getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend. May 26, 2006.

I didn't get one of those American Legion poppies this year, since by the time I left my day job the Poppy People had disappeared.

Yesterday went out of its way to show that summer had started, with highs that I heard almost set a record

I grilled Saturday's lunch for the first time in a long while. That was a good feeling, although I'd be a little happier if I had remembered why it's a bad idea to have your face too near the grill when it lights up.

 I didn't singe my eyebrows, and didn't incinerate the burgers too badly. Today I did better, sending in rich brown grilled patties with only a few charred spots.

One of my daughters has been watching a robin's nest in our back yard. The eggs hatched some time before noon today. There are at least two oversized beaks with lumpy heads and scrawny necks attached sharing the nest now. One of the hatchlings seems to have a fuzzy Mohawk, so my daughter calls that one Moe.

Between the heat and enjoying my family, I didn't get as much done as I'd like to. I'll be back tomorrow, with more.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006. Downtown Main Street's west side is looking better. Centre Stage Music's front wall has a window now, showing off instruments inside. Colored glass panes over the windows and door of the storefront next to Centre Stage saw daylight earlier in the project, when metal paneling came off. Someone was up on scaffolding Monday, cleaning the old glass.

Another spring ritual was being performed by a city crew: clearing storm drains. Seeing last fall's leaves evicted to make room for runoff from summer rains is a sure sign that summer is really coming.

Clearing of the storm drains: a spring ritual. May 22, 2006.

The bank sign displaying 88o Tuesday afternoon was another sign of the new season. We had a strong south wind and haze in the air. At least, I hope it was haze. Fire trucks were heading south that afternoon.

Time for summer. May, 2006.

Sauk Centre doesn't have a Starbucks, but we've got two places that sell specialty coffee. Aside from both being on Main Street, though, they don't have much in common.

Original Main Street Antiques and Coffee Company has updated their sign, letting folks know that they had "big 1/2 off tables'" I realized that this could mean two different things. Either they had tables displaying half-off items, or that they had some big tables that they were selling at a discount. It's an antique store, after all. Inside I saw that the discount applied to what was on top of the discount tables.

Jitters Java offers meals and specialty coffee, but they have some stuff for sale, too. This week they picked up some new coffee mugs for their retail cabinet.

What really makes the two places different is their style. The Coffee Company looks like some of the old homes I visited as a boy, while Jitters has that smooth 'metro retro. look.

Enough of that. Wal-Mart was in the news again this week. "City's deal with Wal-Mart finalized" was the top headline on this week's Sauk Herald. I doubt they'll open in time for Christmas, though'

Sunday, May 21, 2006. Homemade garage-sale signs popped up on street corners, mostly along Main Street, as the weekend approached. If this year is like most, Memorial Day weekend will bring even more. I think some households work at attracting vacationers out for the unofficial beginning of tourist season.

Gas prices have gone down from that eye-catching $2'899 of a few weeks ago. I filled the van for $2'779 a few days ago. Granted, I don't use the highest-prices stuff. It'll be interesting to see what happens a week from now.

I heard a conversation that had a very small-town sound to it a few days ago. Someone giving directions said, "…then you turn at the cow'" "What if the cow moves?" the other sensibly asked.

Water bird in Sauk Centre
A rainy-day visitor to Sauk Centre. May, 2006.

Not too long ago, by my standards, timesharing places to live seemed to be a new idea. Birds have been doing it for a long time, though, and still are. One of my kids noticed that robins settled into a nest that pigeons used last year. I'm looking forward to seeing the gawky fledglings.

Sauk Centre sunset behind the school
Time to get ready for Monday.

Oops! I made a mistake on Wednesday's entry. The new music store's name is Centre Stage Music. I'm still looking forward to seeing what it's like'

Wednesday, May 17, 2006. We have a new music store in town:  Sauk Centre Music Centre Stage Music. They moved into the commercial spaces on the north side of the old Snyder/Ben Franklin storefront. A sign out front says they sell instruments and offer lessons. I'm looking forward to seeing what they have.

There are a couple more musical items to note around here. Prairie Players. had their casting call for "Once Upon a Mattress" this week. This Friday they're putting on an auction and wine tasting as a fund-raiser.

Some folks watched, and played, at ballgames at the school grounds around 6:00 Monday and Tuesday. One of the teams arrived in a school bus from Melrose. They picked fine days for the games: what Sauk Centre boosters would like to say are "typical" Minnesota evening.

Ball Game at Sauk Centre School
Folks getting together for a ball game. May 15, 2006.

Yesterday, at my day job, I found out that I would be laid off this summer, one of my hips gave out, and a lens fell out of my glasses Aside from that, it was a good day.

D.A.R.E. Helicopter at Holy Family School, Sauk Centre
A helicopter and a cluster of attentive kids behind Holy Family School.
May 16, 2006.

A helicopter landed outside the public school, and in back of Holy Family School, as part of the DARE program. It's quite a treat for the kids, and I enjoyed seeing one of those remarkable machines and its crew again, too.

The "D.A.R.E." Helicopter, Taking Off
The "D'A'R'E'" helicopter, leaving for its next stop. May 16, 2006.

The post office flag was at half-mast that day, but not on my account. It was a mark of respect for G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery, who pushed the G'I. Bill through Congress, and who was interred Tuesday.

A street department crew was back on Ash Street today, filling in more potholes. Last winter was bad for roads and streets.

Minnesota, land of four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Street Work
Minnesota, land of four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Street Work.
May 17, 2006.

Sunday, May 14, 2006. Happy Mother's Day! It's also the start of the Minnesota fishing season.

Rain at Sauk Lake campground
Rain, campers, and a colorful truck at Sauk Lake. May 12, 2006.

Campers, the kind with wheels, almost filled the campground by Sauk Lake Friday evening. The only two-legged campers I saw were conferring near one of the RVs during a lull in the rain. Camping isn't what it was in my youth. One of the campers, at a lakeside space, had a satellite dish set up outside.

Roughing it at Sauk Lake
Roughing it in the 21st centure. May 12, 2006.

The price of gas actually dropped in town, from $2'899 Thursday afternoon to $2'879 yesterday. That two cents didn't seem like much, after Thursday's jump from $2'739 to $2'899. When word of that 16¢ hike got around, I'm told that eight cars were lined up at one station in town.

I don't envy the gas station operators. I understand that most of them get told what they charge by someone higher up the chain, and then get to deal with folks who don't like the new price. A 6% increase right before fishing season opener/Mother's Day won't make the job any easier.

Click on the picture for a larger image. Art by Brigid's World.

The eatery with "Chinese Buffet Opening Soon" in the windows has dark plastic sheets up now, obscuring what's inside. I hope the business makes a go of it this time.

It's good to live in a place where traditions are maintained. Yesterday morning, an across-the-street neighbor's son was out selling cookies and lemonade at a streetside table, using a toy cash register'

Wednesday, May 10, 2006. Staff cuts at the school were front page news in the Sauk Herald this week: seven teachers won't be working there next year, and eleven lost their jobs but were offered other positions. I doubt that anyone's particularly happy about what's happening.

The Tip Top Dairy Bar in Osakis made the news on KSAX. I recognized the place right away: the walk-up/drive-up is a landmark near the west side of downtown. The owners have been having a rough time. Their 17-year-old son died when a car hit him in March. That's about the time the Tip-Top usually opens. According to KSAX, the family wasn't sure whether or not they'd open at all, but folks encouraged them to go ahead.

The Sauk Centre Herald's editorial page had a refreshing letter headed "Thanks small town America'" A Sauk Centre couple has been through some hard times and are glad to live in this small town.

Thanks to the lack of privacy that small towns are notorious for and prying neighbors, they got support that ran from food on the doorstep to anonymously paid bills. It's nice to hear from someone who appreciates the lack of "privacy" we enjoy here.

A neat circle of tiny balls under this tree
This tree can be counted on for a neat circle of little balls each spring. May 2006.

Some folks have lawns, my family has a yard. We mowed it a few days ago, but after tonight's rain, it will probably need another trim. This was a good spring for apple trees. The ones in a small downtown park look like tethered pink clouds.

Small park with pink trees near downtown
A spot of green, and pink at the moment, near downtown. May 10, 2006

Sunday, May 7, 2006. At first I thought that a local store was getting a big head start of the 4th of July. They had a display rack full of flags, red-white-and-blue ribbons and bows, and patriotic pinwheels. Then I remembered that Memorial Day is coming in about three weeks: a time for remembrance, a weekend at the lake, and garage sales.

Tree blossoms on a Sauk Centre street
Spring: a time for sunshine, colorful blooms, and tree pollen.

We had a perfect afternoon for a walk around the yard today. After a Minnesota winter, I'm not used to so much fresh air and sunshine. My yard has a comfortable, lived-in look, the result of years of back yard games and a laissez-faire approach to lawn care.

A few dandelions popping up a day or so after the last mowing reminded me of the "Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project" down by Sauk Lake. Since a lakeside weed patch can be a shoreline habitat now, I suppose I could call the dandelions wildflowers. I don't think many folks would agree with me, though.

Dandelions: wildflowers or weeds?
Our yard: an urban wildflower habitat preservation project? May, 2006

Signs for garage sales popped up on strategic street corners in town toward the end of this week. Even if I hadn't seen them, I'd have known that the garage-and-rummage-sale season had begun. Each Wednesday, I can count on seeing clippings of the Sauk Centre Herald's rummage and garage sales listings on the kitchen table, with my wife's notes written on them.

There was an art fair at the high school this Saturday. I didn't make it, partly because I was seeing our second daughter off. She'd been spending a few days here, before returning to college. The rest of the family had taken off a little earlier, to be at an extended-family get together.

It's been a busy week for this family. Our third daughter was confirmed on Thursday. I missed that, too. Probably just as well. I'm told that this year's was a particularly large class, and that the overflow seating in St. Paul's church basement was packed. I stayed home with our 10-year-old boy and oldest daughter, who's between jobs now.

Cherry blossoms in Sauk Centre
Cherry blossoms: a little weekend beauty and tranquility. May 7, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006. The Sauk Herald put Friday's I-94 incident on the front page, right over a photo from the high school prom, and below an article about E85. Next to the prom picture was a photo of a beaver and a story of its travels through town. I like the slice-of-life feel of small town news.

What I had heard Friday about the I-94 accident wasn't accurate. The truck tipped a half-load of plastic-wrapped beef tips on the Interstate, not the exanimate turkey trash I was told about. Thankfully, no one was hurt, at least not badly. What with hauling the truck out and cleaning up the mess, it was three hours before traffic was moving again in the westbound lanes.

After the weekend's rain, grass in town was green. And growing. Tuesday was the sort of day that's an invitation to stay outside. I got a good piece of advice while dropping something off on my way to work, and drove the rest of the way with the window down. It wasn't as good as spending the day outside, but that fresh wind was a treat.

There are signs of change downtown. A sign on the wall between the old Snyder storefront and Gold 'N. More advertises office space for rent, with a local phone number. A little farther north, the now-clear windows of the 'old. Grand Buffet Chinese restaurant have two bright pink signs reading "Chinese Buffet Opening Soon!"

Sunday, April 30, 2006. Downtown, work on the old Snyder storefront is moving along. I took a look at the newest set of second floor windows Thursday. Either these are the first new set with a coat of paint, or it's the second new set in about as many days.

New second floor windows (again?) on Thursday. April 27, 2006

Driving away from my day job Friday afternoon at about 2:00, I heard a siren heading south on Main. By the time I got to Main Street, a police car went by with lights and siren on. An ambulance, tanker, and fire truck followed. I heard that a rendering truck full of turkey parts tipped on I-94 east of here, making quite a mess, and that traffic had to be re-routed through south Sauk Centre again.

This Saturday, I finally was well enough, and had a sufficient number of extremities out of a cast and mobile, to grill. It started raining Friday. Saturday brought more rain and, from the point of view of a would-be griller, was a dreary, dismal, chilling, gloomy, overcast, and generally drab day. Sunday's weather wasn't much better.

On the other hand, some trees are now in flower. I think the rain may have encouraged them.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006. I suppose it's another sign of spring. Sauk Centre started flushing the water mains today. Guys from Water, Light & Power will be driving around town for the next two days, systematically opening and shutting valves on the fire hydrants.

Flushing the mains: a Spring tradition of sorts
Flushing the mains: a Spring tradition of sorts. April 26, 2006

The old Snyder storefront downtown has changed again. New plate glass windows joined the new upstairs windows Monday.

New windows top and bottom yesterday. April 25, 2006

The upstairs windows were gone this morning and back in place this evening. Or maybe it's another set of new windows. I would have thought it would be easier to board up the window openings instead of installing them twice.

Second floor windows are out Wednesday morning
Out with the new windows on the second floor. April 26, 2006

There was a very strange accident east of Alexandria. Apparently, man from St. Paul was out jogging on I-94 around milepost 89 when a Chevy Trailblazer hit and killed him. I don't think walking or running on an interstate highway is legal, but taking a pre-dawn jaunt next to freeway traffic just isn't smart.

Gasoline prices went up again, although it's still under three dollars. I've heard that one station that's known for competitive prices ran out of gas once.

A coworker at my day job got a motorized two-wheeler about three years ago. I call the bright yellow little rig the Roxmobile. It won't run in cold weather, and has about as much cargo capacity as two grocery bags, but I'm thinking about getting one.

The Roxmobile: high-mileage, high visibility
The Roxmobile: high mileage, high visibility. April, 2006

A gas station owner said, "the motor homes and boats are starting to happen" as someone drove up with a trailer in tow. This is good news. We get some business from travelers in the summer, and tourism is important for quite a few folks up in lake country.

Sunday, April 23, 2006. After this week, I can understand why some folks write poetry about Spring.

Cherry tree leaves
We might get to the cherries before the birds do this year. April 23, 2006

It's been a beautiful couple of days, warmer temperatures, billowing clouds, and budding leaves marking the season's transition to summer.

April showers came from these clouds
We've had the April showers. Now it's time for some flowers. April, 2006

The two places in Sauk Centre with specialty coffee, Main Street Coffee Company and Jitters Java, have outside tables. I noticed two wind-resistant souls outside Jitters this week. I like being outside, but it wasn't warm and calm enough yet to sit and eat out there, for my taste.

Jitters has been selling cups and plates lately, with coffee-related quips on them. One of these Mudpie™ cups read "Nothing great will ever be achieved without coffee'" I don't know how true that is, but it was funny.

Driving home Saturday, around suppertime, my family and I noticed cars and kids milling around near the school. Weekend school events aren't that unusual, but colorful dresses that reach the ankles but don't quite make it to the shoulders made this gathering stand out. A revving car engine later in the evening provided more evidence of a prom in progress.

Sunday afternoon in a small town. Not bad at all. April 23, 2006

I grew up in a place and time when small towns were usually built around a grain elevator, and I understand how important an elevator can be in grain country. Green Valley, near Marshall in southwest Minnesota, is missing an elevator.

The elevator was built in the 1940s and was owned by a farmer, Steve Schuler. It caught fire Thursday and burned to the ground. Six fire departments kept the fire from spreading, although a neighboring house got singed. The debris may keep smoldering for a week.

Mr. Schuler got a tractor and two wagons from the building, but lost about 18,000 bushels of corn and about 120 bags of seed corn. That's a lot of lost revenue for him, and for everyone he does business with'

Wednesday, April 19, 2006. There was a very bad accident east of town after midnight last Saturday. A Dodge Daytona heading west on County 17 went into the ditch just before the first curve in a sort of dogleg turn east of Sauk Centre. It hit a driveway, rolled, and snapped a power pole.

A 20-year-old man from town is dead, two more in their twenties were airlifted to St. Cloud after treatment at St. Mike's. The paper reports that rescuers looked for a fourth occupant, but couldn't find the person. I've heard that the fourth man was tracked to Lake Wobegon Trail, where he left a gastric calling card, and that authorities finally caught up with him near the airport.

A law enforcement crew with surveyors. equipment was measuring the accident scene Monday afternoon, and someone seemed to be planting flowers in the ditch. The prayers of my family are with everyone affected by the accident.

Windows above the old Snyder storefront were missing glass and frames Monday. New and improved windows were in place today.

The Prairie Players has a casting call for "Once Upon a Mattress" May 15 & 16. I remember watching the televised version with Carol Burnett as Princess Winnifred. ("Do they call you Winnie?" "No, Fred'") The recruiting poster calls the show "The Summer Family-Friendly Musical" - with italics. I suppose that description is necessary, considering the title.

Sunday, April 16, 2006. Happy Easter!

Many families use this holiday as an opportunity to get together. That could be why I've noticed folks in town, dressed like tourists: for example, a couple standing in front of the public library, reading the official plaque outside; and a family disembarking at the McDonald's down by I-94.

These folks wore clothes that were more colorful than yard-work outfits and more comfortable than what's worn for most jobs.

Young entrepreneurs had a lemonade stand at the corner of 6th and Main yesterday. They had a good location, with lots of traffic and a side street nearby where customers could park to buy the lemonade.

Lemonade stand at 6th and Main
Traditions live on in this small town. April 15, 2006

Rain and warm days this week turned even my yard green, and yesterday I saw my first boat on Sauk Lake. Thursday I saw a flock of birds wheeling over the lake. They were too far away to positively identify, but from their size and color, I think they were pelicans. I think these count as signs of spring.

The early boat gets the lake
First boat of spring? April 15, 2006

Lilac buds
By now, even I can tell this bud is going to be a flower. April 15, 2006

I unwound my right hand tonight. What I thought was a metal bar holding the wrist and hand in place was a plaster cast. Now to hope that the carpal tunnel problem didn't permanently affect the thumb and fingers. sense of touch.

Carpal tunnel surgery ties up your hands
I've worked at this for years, if you get the picture. April 14, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006. Wednesday's entry is available now, and so are the most recent guest book entries. My computer couldn't find the Internet when I tried to update this journal last night. I thought the modem had died.

Today, my daughter pointed out that I'd left the modem disconnected after the latest thundershower. I mention my reason for being less than alert at the end of Wednesday's entry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006. Folks have been raking their lawns, a neighbor spent part of today washing a semi tractor in his driveway, and branches are sprouting leaf buds. I'm starting to take the idea of spring and summer more seriously.

Leaf buds give an air of credibility to talk of Spring. April 12, 2006

The José Cole Circus was in town yesterday. They come through each year about this time of year, and I've enjoyed bringing the kids in the family who were interested. This year, for the first time in years, we couldn't make it'

It looks like the public school will have fewer teachers soon. The budget cuts were in the Sauk Herald again this week. According to the paper, funding went down when enrollment went down. Lots of folks are frustrated about what's going on. I overheard two high schoolers talk about another aspect of the staff cuts: "The state wants a longer school year, and is cutting costs," one said.

Right now, my right thumb and fingers stick out from layers of cotton, a metal bar, and several feet of ace bandage. I had carpal tunnel surgery and some other work done on my right hand yesterday. Everything seems to have come out okay. I'll be glad when my right thumb can touch all four fingers of that hand.

The bottle of painkillers I took home bears an orange label: "This drug may impair the ability to drive or operate machinery'" Ideally, this warning could point out that "machinery" includes things like computers'

(I see that I missed an entry in the guestbook while getting ready for Tuesday. The guestbook is up to date now')

Sunday, April 9, 2006. The flu outbreak here is supposed to have peaked. The Sauk Centre nursing home lifted their visitor ban, so the Our Lady of the Angels choir could sing there. Problem was, quite a few choir members weren't well enough to go.

Down at the post office, photo-ID badges are back. Since most folks around here know who's supposed to be working there, maybe the badges are supposed to reassure any city folk who might come in.

It's warming up. Someone at my day job spotted the first mosquito of spring Thursday, and the Sauk Centre's end of Sauk Lake was ice-free, except for a patch west of the north Highway 71 bridge. Saturday, neighbors across the street had a garage sale. That's one of the first this year.

Smoke over Highway 71 near Sauk Centre
Smoke was visible from near Sauk Centre's downtown. April 6, 2006

A grass fire got the attention of the folks who live on Yellow Pine Drive late Thursday morning. The fire had burned most of small field and was working its way toward a mix of pine trees and leafless hardwoods on the field's south side when the first emergency vehicle came.

Fire near trees by Yellow Pine Drive
Happily, none of the trees caught fire. April 6, 2006

Sauk Centre sent five emergency vehicles, six if you count the ATV one was hauling, and their crews during the next few minutes. They slapped and sprayed the ring of fire around the field, and had it out in a few minutes.

Fire fighters at grass fire
Someone helping the fire crew. April 6, 2006

Fire crew, civilian, and enthusiastic dog
Fire crew, civilian, and an enthusiastic dog after the fire was out.
That's a neighboring farm building in the upper right corner. April 6, 2006

Wednesday, April 5, 2006. The last few days have been the sort that help me understand why some folks are so enthusiastic about spring. It's been nothing but clear skies and pleasant temperatures'

Sauk Centre Skyline
Sauk Centre skyline from Sauk Lake. April 3, 2006

The secular side of Easter has filled store shelves with enough candy to warrant warning labels for sugar shock. Relentlessly cheerful "Silly Smile Eggs" beam from one display rack, just a few feet from baskets that look like they were woven from particularly colorful Mardi Gras sweepings.

A new Sauk Centre visitor's guide is out now. It's a little different this year, with color-coded sections. I think the pictures look better, too.

The Elementary school has "Let the book bugs bite" on the east side of their sign. An announcement of the Book Fair in May gives the other side of the sign a more matter-of-fact air.

Much more seriously, budget cuts at the school are in the news and on people's minds. It sounds like there will be fewer folks working there soon. I can't say that I'm happy about that'

Work at the old Snyder store is coming along. Debris from the second floor has been sliding down a chute into a truck-sized dumpster parked in front.

Work in progress at the old Snyder store
Cleaning up the front, and cleaning out the inside of the old
Snyder store. April 4, 2006

Sunday, April 2, 2006. I was down by Sauk Lake Thursday, at the Sinclair Lewis Park. Ducks were swimming in open water above the bridge, and in a gap in the ice a yard or so wide around the end of the fishing pier.

A sign near there identifies the shore as a "Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project'" When I was growing up, places like that were called weed patches.

Probably due to the weeds, the wet weather, or a combination of the two, I've spotted some long-legged birds near the lake recently. A couple of them, maybe a half-mile west of Sinclair Lewis Park, were white. Another was a sort of gray. That one went wading near the park's boat landing. "Shoreline Habitat Restoration Projects" are okay, if weeds attract that kind of bird to a place a couple of blocks from downtown Sauk Centre.

Grace, beauty, and a cold drizzle at the Sauk Centre boat landing
Grace, beauty, and a cold drizzle at the boat landing. March 31, 2006

A cool bird wading at Sinclair Lewis Park in Sauk Centre
A cool bird, wading at Sinclair Lewis Park. March 31, 2006

I saw a crow being chased by a bird about a third its length. I suppose that sort of apparently lunatic behavior has to do with nesting, and is another sign of spring. It's only a matter of time, I suppose, before we'll have to start looking out for addled ducks and drakes, waddling after each other into traffic.

Downtown, work on the old Snyder storefront is moving along. There's something like particle board up in the front wall now.

Normally, the 'spring forward. part of the daylight saving two-step we had this weekend gives me something like jet lag. This year, I've been coughing too much to notice.

Saturday, my wife went to the store to re-stock our supply of cough syrup. She tells me that there are big gaps in the cold remedies section of Coborn's. I guess I'm not the only one who has been experiencing this disgustingly persistent bug.

It's getting really serious. Another weekend went by, and my wife won't let me out to grill. Besides that, I've been missing time from my day job. An in-law who's a doctor says that this sounds like something that's going around, and can take as much as eight weeks to shake off.

My wife showed me an ad in the paper for the José Cole Circus. They're coming to town April 11. I always look forward to the circus, but this year I won't be taking any kids. If I'm over this bug, I'll be having the first of a couple of sessions with a surgeon, fixing carpal tunnel problems and a couple of other maintenance issues'

And four days later, it's April 15 and tax time'

Other than that, things have been pretty good around here'

Wednesday, March 29, 2006. Springtime in Minnesota! There's still ice on Sauk Lake, but that could change any day now. There's a banner advertising the Country Music Fest USA on The Palmer House Hotel's railing, and the Sauk Centre schools had their spring break this week. My son tells me that they got Monday and Tuesday off so the teachers could grade schoolwork.

I heard a mourning dove yesterday, a sound with happy associations for me: and another sign that we're getting closer to summer.

The old Snyder storefront downtown is missing its front wall. It looks like they may be planning something fancy, but that could just be the way they put up the plastic wrapping that keeps weather and critters out and warmer air in.

Charlie Company, the local National Guard Unit who have been training in Mississippi, are in Kuwait now according to the Sauk Herald. They're getting used to the climate for a few weeks before going to Iraq. As the sign over Main Street said last year, God be with you, Charlie Company: We love you!"

The usual New Year's flu season started about two weeks ago in Melrose, and is still growing here in Sauk Centre, the paper says. We could have skipped it entirely, as far as I'm concerned. This was not the year to miss a flu shot.

A bunch of sozzled kids got in the newspaper this week. Last Saturday night, two kids between 18 and 20 and another 15 who are under 18 were cited for underage drinking. They were in a barn near Sauk Centre.

I read that there are about 200 varieties of the common cold. I feel like I've had every one of them this winter, but what I've got now probably isn't a cold. I don't usually go along with popular trends, but I think I've got the flu. This is not fun, but as the Minnesotan saying goes, "it could be worse'"

Sunday, March 26, 2006. Snow on the north side of houses and a high in the 40s made this a pretty normal Minnesota spring day. Earlier this week, I saw some guys at a local eatery, sitting around a table with coffee mugs and fishing maps spread between them. A truck parked outside was from "Let's Go Fishing of Minnesota," an outfit I hadn't heard of before. They've been around since 2002, providing fishing and boating excursions for folks over 54.

Another vehicle caught my attention on Thursday: a car with advertising for the new game, Going-Going Crazy, came through Sauk Centre this week. Nobody would call its paint job understated. I haven't often seen a car with so much advertising per square foot.

Eye-catching, isn't it? March23, 2006

St. Paul's human rights director put the city in the news this week, protecting people by ordering a "a cloth bunny, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words 'Happy Easter'" out of the city hall lobby. A city council secretary put up the offensive display, without using city funds. According to KSTP, the city council president thinks this isn't about political correctness. "As government, we have a different responsibility about advancing the cause of religion, which we are not going to do," the president said.

I hate to think what will happen some Christmas, when someone down there finds out how holly and mistletoe were viewed by Druids.

Folks on the radio around here has been discussing a 19-year-old from Sauk Centre. He apparently met a 15-year-old girl from Alexandria on a chat room for teenagers and then had physical relations with her. Given the ages involved, that's illegal. I guess that's another example of how Small Town America has the same human failings as any other place.

That's all for this week. March, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006. Sure enough, overdressed leprechauns and oversized shamrocks are gone from store displays. In their place, pastel eggs and oddly colored rabbits carrying baskets beckon shoppers.

Most homeowners don't put on the sort of show for Easter that they do for Christmas, but someone put a clutch of big, pale eggs in their front yard.

This can be an awkward time of year for folks trying to balance fashion sense with the common kind. Monday, around coffee break time, a high school girl walked by my day job's front window. Her jacket was a little warm for the 35-degree afternoon, which may be why she had it unzipped and flying in the breeze. Her scoop-necked outfit would have been fine for an afternoon about 30 degrees warmer, which may be why she was coughing.

The University of Minnesota Morris has a new billboard, a little west of their old one. This one tells us that UMM is "simply an excellent choice'"

Sunday, March 19, 2006. It's was almost balmy today, with a high around 40, which is about par around here this time of year. We unsealed another window this afternoon and got some fresh air inside.

St. Patrick's Day came and went quietly. Like quite a few other folks, I wore something green. That was the limit of my observance, though. I asked my wife about the chances of having corned beef and cabbage some time and she said that cabbage is out, but that we might do corned beef and sauerkraut some time.

The KCCO radar ball in Alexandria looked sort of like a monogrammed golf ball, east of the main near the south side of downtown. I see in the news that it went down Wednesday, to streamline the tower it was on. KCCO has been gone for a while: the old  kccotv'com address forwards folks to wcco'com nowadays. I'll miss the radar ball, a little, but I doubt that I'd have joined a Save the Alexandria Weather Ball Society, even if a group like that existed.

More seriously, of the 4,000 National Guard troops deployed to Iraq last week, 2,600 are from Minnesota. Friends and families of the troops, and Governor Tim Pawlenty, were down in Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for the sendoff ceremony. The papers say this is the biggest deployment of Minnesota's National Guard since World War II.

I've been missing work lately, thanks to what an acquaintance calls 'the crud,. but it could be worse. Alexandria schools have had more than the usual number of students staying home, sick. The 'in. bug this year is strep throat. The Alexandria school district's nurse said, in Alex's Echo Press, that she hadn't seen this much strep in her 32 years with the district.

Meanwhile, the nursing home here in Sauk Centre is limiting visitors to immediate family. They're trying to stave off a flu outbreak.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006. Winter froze again. Temperatures dropped around the beginning of the week, and stayed there. I saw a flock of robins Monday that would have been well advised to stay south for another week or so. Snow coming down on warm streets made driving to work interesting. I found some sincerely slick spots on my way to work.

Folks were talking about a winter storm coming tonight. I think they were listening to weather from the Metro area. News there often make it sound like whatever happens in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area affects the whole state.

Springtime in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Springtime in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. March 14, 2006

Gas was only $2'399 or $2'409 Monday. Today it went up to $2'499 or $2'509. You could even spend $2'619 for Premium at one place. Ouch.

St. Patrick's Day is this Friday, but signs of the next big holiday are already here. I noticed plush Easter bunnies lurking on a top shelf at Winter's Main Street Drug downtown. It's as if they were infiltrating, preparing to take over on the weekend.

I see that the Archbishop here gave the okay for eating meat on the feast of St. Patrick, even if it is a Lenten Friday. That's so that "those for whom it is a tradition to eat corned beef and cabbage on Friday can go ahead and do it," as a priest was quoted in the Chicago Tribune. This meaty Lenten Friday is getting quite a bit of attention in the news. About a third of USA dioceses are making room for corned beef and cabbage.

This Dutch-German-Norwegian-Irish-Scots-and so forth family will stick with fish on Friday. Much as I like corned beef and cabbage, we'd go nuts trying to keep up with all our ethnic traditions.

Moonrise over Sauk Centre's goal posts
Moonrise over Sauk Centre's high school goal posts. March 14, 2006

Sunday, March 12, 2006. Winter started melting this week. Water dripping off roofs and onto icy pavement served double duty as mirror and lubricant. Bird songs of fair-weather feathered friends joined the caw and chirp of crows and sparrows. Grass has turned green, often within a few paces of ice and snow.

Water and ice reflections in Sauk Centre
Combination reflecting pool and driveway. March 10, 2006

Tonight's forecast includes a winter storm warning. One thing I really like about living in Minnesota is that the weather isn't boring.

St. Patrick's Day is bearing down on us, heralded by electric shamrocks, pictures of clay pipes, and, in one store, a picture of teddy bears in green vests. After the 17th, I suppose we'll be seeing pink rabbits and pastel eggs in shredded green plastic.

Martin's Jewelry is open for business again, after their remodeling. That seemed to be a fast job, although I probably missed when the project started. A few doors south, the transformation of the old Snyder storefront to office space is still underway.

Alexandria's Echo Press announced Friday that the Douglas County Coordinator will allow them to print articles without his prior approval, after all. The article says that the Coordinator "never intended it to be a front-page article'" I can believe that.

The Douglas County Attorney "wanted the public to know that the protocol idea was not driven by his office or the county board'" County commissioners seemed anxious to either say something non-committal or deny any connection with the Coordinator's idea.

It's reassuring to see that kind of response to what looked like a poorly-thought-out attempt at prepublication censorship'

Open water on Sauk Lake. Springtime in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Not quite winter, not yet summer: Spring in Minnesota. March 9, 2006

Wednesday, March 8, 2006. It's about 10 days before St. Patrick's Day, and someone down the street has the outline of a green shamrock glowing in the window. Green displays have replaced red ones in stores.

"All I know is what I read in the papers," Will Rogers said. I haven't gotten out much since Sunday, so that's the situation I'm in. I see that the Sauk River Watershed District's R'I'V'E'R Award (Residents Improving Valuable Environmental Resources) went to Sauk Centre for a stormwater restoration project here.

Meanwhile, up in Douglas County, the County Coordinator asked Alexandria's Echo Press to, as the newspaper said, "give his office draft copies of any future news stories about the county board or any county office before they are printed'" I wonder if the County Coordinator realizes how long there's been freedom of the press here, and what it looks like when an official seems to be trying to re-establish royal privileges.

Last night's precinct caucuses started another election cycle. The trivial foolishness that seeps into anything involving human desires keeps me from putting our democratic process on the pedestal some folks have it on. That said, it's a bit awesome, watching a two-century-plus-old process work one more time.

I usually don't go along with popular trends, but a bug that someone called The Crud has been going around this area, and I think I caught it. At least, I've been in no condition to go to my day job since the weekend. And, it's kept me from looking around town to see what's going on.

Monday, March 6, 2006. You caught me! Sunday's entry, below, wasn't posted until almost noon today. It was a big weekend.

Sunday, March 5, 2006. Remodeling work at the old Snyder store is progressing. This week there's a sign in the window, announcing that Dan's Cabinets is at work inside. With all this change, there's still a reminder of the last occupants: a tulip border at the bottom of the south window.

I did more driving today than I usually do. One of my daughters spent the week at home, and I drove her up to Moorhead: and returned with a van full of stuff belonging to another daughter who's moving back to Sauk Centre.

With light rain and temperatures hovering a degree or two above freezing, I was ready for an exciting and eventful trip. I can't say that I was disappointed at finding only one dubious patch of pavement.

I must have hit the right day to travel. Several guard rails on I-94 between here and Moorhead have missing posts and loose cables, evidence that someone experienced Newton's first law of motion up close and personal.

There are more signs around now than when I was growing up, saying things like "Caution! Coffee May Be Hot!" In a convenience store in Fergus Falls, I noticed a small sign inside the door. It said something like, "These doors must remain unlocked during business hours'" The Alco store doors here in Sauk Centre sport similar signs. Maybe it's just me, but having to remind folks that the only public access to a building has to be unlocked during business hours seems daft.

Sauk Centre sunset, winter of 2005-2006
Another Sauk Centre sunset. February 14, 2006

Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Today is Ash Wednesday. Along with quite a few other folks in town, I started Lent by going to church and getting a smudge of ash on my forehead.

Ash Wednesday: Lent begins. March 1, 2006

This is a great place to live. I was taking a picture of streetlights on Sinclair Lewis Avenue Monday evening when a youngster in a sports car stopped and asked if I needed help. There I was, blocking the parking lane at an intersection, and instead of some crude gesture, I got an offer of assistance. ("Youngster" may not be accurate: I'm at the point where most people under about 25 look like kids')

Sinclair Lewis Avenue, Sauk Centre, on a February evening
Sinclair Lewis Avenue in the evening. February 2006

A billboard on I-94 announces "Country Living on Golf Course by Lake'" That's a description in Real-estatese of a new building on the north side of town. It's called W. H. Cates Estates (2 bedroom condominium units for "55+ Community Living").

I suppose I'm splitting hairs, but although W. H. Cates is across the street from the northeast corner of an 18-hole golf course, the entrance is at the southwest corner. Sauk Lake is across another street and through fifty feet or so of woods to the north. At the rate things are going in that part of town, folks will have expensive houses built in those woods in a few years.

Ice fishing season ended a little early, I think. The Minnesota DNR called it quits and told everyone south of Highways 10, 34, 200 and 2 to have their stuff off the ice by midnight, February 28. Fishing houses near the Highway 71 bridge were on the shore Tuesday afternoon. Folks in the northern part of the state have until March 15.

Ice fishing houses: back on land at the end of the season
End of the ice fishing season. February 28, 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006. Clear skies and sparkling snow have been taunting me each time I looked out the window at my day job. At least with longer days, there are sometimes a few minutes of daylight after I go out the back door.

Snow was soft enough this week to make snowballs and sculptures. I haven't seen snowballs, but an oversize cat, a rat, a rabbit and an undersize ox showed up in the back yard, thanks to one of my kids.

A rabbit, an ox, a rat and a huge cat, and some sort of pillar
Snow sculptures: just having fun, or a sort of folk art? February 2006

Someone, probably a crew from Sauk Centre's Public Works department, went up Ash Street South Friday, trimming branches. My guess is that the places that were trimmed had branches hanging too close to the pavement.

Down at the south end of Ash Street, the new Stearns County Fair sign is already announcing events for this summer's fair.

Palms from last year becoming this year's ashOur Lady of the Angels Church burned last year's Easter palms after mass today, starting a sort of countdown to Ash Wednesday and Lent. Meanwhile, about a thousand miles south of here, the New Orleans Mardi Gras is doing roughly the same thing in a much better publicized way.

I learned something new over the weekend:

Waterskipping is a sport where someone drives a snowmobile over water: either fast enough to keep from sinking, or not. It's been around for 20 years, but the first I heard of it was an article on the KSAX website.

Since it's a rare winter in this part of the world that doesn't leave a few open spots in lakes and rivers, waterskippers have plenty of opportunities to see how far they can go over open water.

The KSAX article about waterskipping said it was illegal in Wisconsin. I can understand that: it's hard work, dragging bodies off the bottom of a lake in winter, and next of kin might get upset about waiting for the spring thaw. The folks interviewed for the article seemed to have some sense, including a sort of 'kids, don't try this at home. warning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006. Driving east on I-94 yesterday at sunrise was a treat. A rosy glow covered the landscape as tendrils of fog rose from the Sauk River and streamed out of turkey barns.

Morning fog near Sauk Centre
Morning fog over the Sauk River. February 2006

On the way back, I noticed that the billboard east of town proclaiming the U of M Morris to be "America's Best Public Liberal Arts College" is blank. That declaration of supremacy has confronted westbound travelers on I-94 since the summer of 2002. I'm going to miss the U's assertion that Minnesota was a national leader in something besides mosquitoes and crazy weather.

Someone is organizing the "Jitters Java Book Club'" There's a sheet on display in Jitters, encouraging folks to sign up. I suppose this group will create a sort of symmetry on Main Street. The other place in town with specialty coffee, Main Street Coffee Company, sells books, and folks will be talking about books at Jitters.

Remodeling at the new office space in the Snyder storefront is moving along. They've got translucent plastic draped inside the windows. Meanwhile, Martin's Jewelry, next door north from rejuvenation by Jes, is closed for remodeling.

Both the Martin's and rejuvenation storefronts are small, and Martin's is so understated that it's easy to miss. Maybe they'll change that in the remodeling. I don't know how. Being a jewelry store, their options are a little limited. Flashing neon lights are out, I guess.

Early boat season in Sauk Centre?
A little early for boating in Minnesota. February 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006. It was 18 below when I left the house Friday morning. That would explain the way my nose felt. Between a beard, glasses, and a cap, it's the only part that sticks out when I'm outside.

Sauk Centre had a pretty warm Friday morning, for central and northern Minnesota: Park Rapids was 23 below and Crookston had been minus 33 overnight.

Downtown, someone had been out in this weather putting flags back up. Friday morning saw several blocks of south Main Street and Sinclair Lewis Avenue lined with a quivering flutter of red white and blue, in anticipation of President's Day.

As I was wrapping up the week at my day job, some folks in town were calling each other. They'd heard that a man had been found on Guernesey Lake, frozen to death, and were trying to find someone with definite information. That lake is in West Union township, a little west of here.

Sadly, they'd heard right. About 9:00 Friday morning, the Todd County Sheriff's Department got called in to help find Kelly Donald Maus, 28. By the time searchers found him, near the south shore of Guernesey Lake, he was dead, apparently frozen to death. Sheriff David Kircher said, "He wasn't a drinker. He lived at home, was a hardworking man who helped his family on the farm," according to KSTP. That's close to the best epitaph anyone can have.

Thursday, February 16, 2006. "Life With Father," the Howard Lindsey-Russell Crouse play, opened at the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Auditorium last week. The Prairie Players now have fliers up in Sauk Centre, for this weekend's performances. I looked them up on the Web and found that they had a decent website.

A little more digital digging uncovered quite a few community theater groups in Minnesota with their own websites. Many use the alternative spelling, "theatre'" I suppose it's more artistic.

A Wal Mart Supercenter might open on south 12th in time for the 2006 Christmas season. Or, it might not. That was the gist of an article in this week's Sauk Herald. Either way, we're supposed to have the store by February of next year. At this point, it looks like lawyers are making sure that legal descriptions of the property on south 12th are accurate.

A company that I work with at my day job will be short one employee soon. He's being called to active duty. Problem is, the company he works for isn't very large, and it's been hard, finding someone to replace him for the next years or so. One short-staffed company in one small town doesn't sound like a big deal, but I'd guess that this sort of micro-crisis is being played out in small companies all over the country: and that adds up.

A small storefront downtown, between the Larson optometrists and the now-empty Grand Buffet Chinese restaurant, has a new sign in the window: "rejuvenation by Jes - certified massage therapist'" That's where Posh Gallery, a hair stylist, was last April. That storefront has housed a hobby shop and a candy store in the last few years.

I usually make the Sauk Centre Journal's mid-week update late Wednesday. This week I was happily distracted by whirlwind visit from my oldest daughter, who was job-hunting in this area.

It's getting cold outside! Winter 2005-2006

Sunday, February 12, 2006. The high point of Sauk Centre life this week may have been the Farm Toy Show at the high school on Saturday, where collectors and dealers traded in tokens of memories. Odd: People who buy useless but valuable things are collectors; people who sell them are dealers, not collectees. And dealers may be collectors, themselves.

Another high point of the week, for me at least, was getting back outside Saturday and Sunday noon and grilling lunch. There's nothing quite like grilling burgers on a crisp winter day.

Grilling in Minnesota: sunshine, burgers on the grill, and about a half-foot of snow on the ground
Sunshine, burgers on the grill, and snow on the ground. February 2006

I finally learned the name of our new postmaster: Jeff Zimmerman. I also leaned that there'll be another name to learn soon. Mr. Zimmerman is here temporarily. I hope that the postal service settles on someone soon.

Sauk Centre isn't large enough to support a hospital with all the latest medical gadgets: especially big, expensive ones. That's why a truck with "Mobile Nuclear Medicine" and a picture of one of those heavy-duty scanners painted on the side was in front of St. Michael's Thursday afternoon.

One of life's mysteries, for me anyway, is the rhythm of construction projects. The old Snyder storefront downtown was a fermenting cauldron of activity on January 18, with workers, power tools, and timber uniting in a harmonious dance of creation. At a quarter to six Friday afternoon, the plate glass windows revealed a bare floor, one man working deep in the lattice of unfinished walls, and another at the back of the building.

I like to get a cup of coffee after work. I suppose it's my Inner Norwegian asserting himself. There are two places in town with specialty coffee: Main Street Coffee Company, where they've been announcing their home-made warm bread pudding since the weather turned cold; and Jitters Java. I went to Jitters.

Friday afternoon and coffee in Sauk Centre
Not a bad way to end a Friday afternoon. February 2006

Wednesday, February 8, 2006. This week's paper had sad news. Last Thursday was Christopher Hansen's 27th birthday. That night he died in an industrial accident at the Jennie-O Turkey store in Melrose. The Sauk Herald put his mother's description of him across the top of page 1: "He was a quiet, shy kid who loved to hunt, fish and play poker'" That's a fair description of quite a few of us around here.

Sauk Centre has a new postmaster, again. The name slot on the postmaster's office is empty, and I haven't learned his name. So far, he's "the new guy'"

Big chess table, small chess player
A small chess player at a big chess board. February 2006

With a week left until Valentine's Day, I discovered that my wife's present won't arrive for over 10 days. Oops. Well, she's put up with me for over 20 years: I suppose she'll take this in stride.

Sunset at Sauk Lake
Another sunset at Sauk Lake There was a bright contrail,
but it got away. February 2006

Sunday, February 5, 2006. It's been a beautiful weekend: clear blue skies, cold enough to feel like winter but not cold enough to interfere with outdoor activities. And I wasn't out there, grilling lunch, because that bug of mine wouldn't take the hint. You'd think that a spending a week at my day job would let it know that I didn't want it around any more

Living in a small town doesn't mean being isolated from the rest of American life. In Alexandria, 20 miles up the Interstate, another three people were arrested on suspicion of dealing methamphetamine. That's nine arrests involving meth there in the last couple of weeks: part of a West Central Minnesota Drug Task Force project.

I was reminded of how thoroughly steeped in the national culture we were when one of my daughters turned to me after watching another reference to football on television. She said, "I'm so excited for the Super Bowl Sunday, because that means that on Monday they'll stop talking about it'" My wife, with the wealth of wisdom that comes from observing seasons as they pass, said, "I wouldn't count on it'"

There's been change in the air. KDDG FM has been "Funlovin. 105'5 '60s and '70s Flashback hits" for quite a while. I enjoyed tuning in and listening to familiar music. Then, Thursday, Funlovin. 105'5 became Bob. I suppose there's room for another country station, but I'll miss the Moody Blues and the Eagles.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006. St. Valentine's Day is bearing down on me like a lace-trimmed juggernaut, but I have something in mind for my wife that may show the right combination of thoughtfulness, practicality, and economy. The Information Age is a mixed blessing for guys in small towns. On the one hand, I can find anything from books to power tools online; on the other, I don't have the excuse of not being able to find whatever is on the 'get. list in town.

A little light snow in winter
Careful trimming in summer, a little light snow in winter. February 2006

Driving through town was more scenic than usual today. Light snow touched up branches and yards, and lubricated the streets. Then public utilities applied sand and salt. It's safer now, but much less interesting.

Amazing, what a little snow can do
Amazing, what a little snow can do. February 2006

Jaywalking hasn't died out in Sauk Centre. A woman with a child in a stroller and another on foot scooted across Main Street downtown today, neatly avoiding assorted cars, trucks, and vans near Main Street Theatre. I can understand youngsters deciding that shaving a little time off crossing the street is an acceptable risk. But the leader of this fearless threesome was old enough to know better. Folks who play dodge-em with cars and trucks would probably have said "yes" if Dirty Harry asked them, "do you feel lucky?"

Sunday, January 29, 2006. It's about 2½ weeks to St. Valentine's Day, and I see that this is the first day of the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar.

What a week. Snow and winds rushing out of the northwest on Tuesday, a nice, clear Wednesday, and rain late Thursday. It's been above freezing here, and down in the Twin Cities, during the day. I see in the news that the St. Paul Winter Carnival is melting. A little snow is coming down this evening, but it drizzled earlier. Driving to work tomorrow could be a treat.

The bug I've had for some time now re-asserted itself this week. I haven't been outside since I came home from my day job on Friday. I'm not sure which I mind more: the symptoms, or not grilling this weekend.

There hasn't been much happening in Sauk Centre lately, as far as I know. That's not necessarily a bad thing. A road crew found a pipe bomb near Hawley on Highway 10 Thursday. The State Patrol closed the highway until the Red River Valley bomb squad disabled the thing. The thing was a plastic pipe about fifteen inches long and filled with gunpowder.

Meanwhile, Pelican Rapids lost its Dollar store and some apartments in a fire. Nobody was hurt, happily. A fire in a St. Cloud mobile home killed two men, and two people died in separate fires in the Metro area.

Events like that help me appreciate an uneventful week in Sauk Centre. Tragic as they are, fires aren't that unusual in winter, since there is always someone who isn't careful enough with heating systems. A pipe bomb lying on a median crossover is something new around here. I'm not sure that this is progress.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006. Ever since I moved to Sauk Centre, there was a set of buildings up on north Main that had character. Desultory cabins, lanes, and trees filled the space between a large building on Main and Sauk Lake. I think there may even have been a trailer back in the little labyrinth of lanes.

Now there's nothing between the big two-story building and the lake except trees and a partly-finished, single-story, high-roofed building that could become a fair-sized house or a really small apartment building.

Back downtown, Sauk Centre Apartments in the old city hall still has a 'for rent. sign near the door. I've seen lights on, though, on the rare occasions I go by there at night, so I assume there's somebody in at least one unit.

The new commercial space in the old Snyders storefront is closer to being ready, judging from the guys with tools I saw inside while driving by.

This week's Sauk Herald listed some convictions from November of last year.

Someone from Sauk Centre was convicted of setting fire to the Interpretive Center's schoolhouse, back in May of 2002. He was about 20 then. The sentence of 18 months in prison and 10 years probation sounds impressive. Since the sentence was "stayed," if this guy behaves himself, he'll actually spend 60 days in jail.

Another Sauk Centerite, a 29-year-old man, was convicted of a much more serious offense, Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Second Degree (Minnesota 2005 Statute 609'343). The offense happened March 7, 2004. He was sentenced to 30 years probation and 21 months in prison. This sentence was "stayed" too, so he might spend only 180 days in jail. The sex offender is also to have "no contact with victim or his family and no contact with minors without prior approval by agent'" There's more in "November 2005 Convictions" at County Attorney: Janelle P. Kendall's 2001-2005 Convictions page.

It's obvious that the folks around here are fallible human beings, but I still think this is a good place to live.

Sunday, January 22, 2006. Beautiful, postcard-quality now fell Thursday. Huge flakes swirling in a playful wind settled on trees, houses and slick streets. My van moved more like a boat than something with wheels, and steering was more a matter of making suggestions than giving directions.

Driving was even more exciting on the Interstate, I hear. At least one semi went off the road around New Munich and Freeport, and several cars made unplanned stopovers in the ditch between here and Alexandria.

The old Snyder storefront downtown has a sign heralding change downtown: "For Rent – Commercial Space'" Another sign lets us know that Kostreba Contracting is doing the work.

The next storefront north has a very energy-efficient, but casual, look. The words "Tyvek HomeWrap" proclaim that heat is meant to stay inside, and that exposed insulation sheets can be used as siding.

I was out, grilling lunch, yesterday. That was fun, standing in a little square of shoveled pavement and flipping burgers on a clear winter day. A light wind rustled the plastic bag that's graced the branches of a tree since November and now and again, snowmobiles whined past on Lake Wobegon Trail.

There's always something going on in this small town, even in the dead of winter. Today the American Legion's "Dad's Belgian Waffles" raised money for the local Dollars for Scholars scholarship.

Finally, I heard that the kids who were caught after about 20 thousand dollars worth of windows got shot last year will have to go to court in six or eight months. At least it looks like there will be some sort of trial.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006. The old Snyder storefront downtown had a pickup parked by the front door this morning, parked at right angles to the street. Only the cab and part of the engine were actually in the parking space. The tailgate was practically at the building's doorway, the back wheels on the sidewalk, and the pickup's nose stuck a couple feet into the traffic lane. Happily, Main Street is pretty wide downtown, and traffic was fairly light.

While making sure I didn't hit the protruding pickup, I noticed wood being unloaded: probably destined to become part of the walls that a construction crew are putting up inside.

Once and future summer
A reminder of once and future summer, thanks to careful design and permanent flowers. December 2005

'Tis the season to be sneezin'. And coughing, with an occasional hack and wheeze thrown in. Folks at my day job have been taking turns having a really unpleasant bug. My son missed school this week, which may be just as well. I understand that strep is going around the school. Strep throat doesn't seem to be what's ailing my family, and I hope it isn't what my co-workers have.

You'd think, with bird flu in the news, strep in the school, and phlegm in so many people's throats, that everyone at checkout counters would be more careful. But I suppose not even Sauk Centre's community cough will stop an unconscious habit.

I still see a few people getting traction on plastic bags by using a home-grown finger coating applied with a flick of the tongue. Then they pick up produce, meat, and whatever else was on my family's shopping list and put it in the bag.

Organically dampened plastic I don't mind so much. But, on the way home, but I try not to think about the merry little community of microorganisms swimming on our produce'

Sunday, January 15, 2006. This was another day of blue sky and warm temperatures. This week has felt more like late march than mid-January.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. I think that's why flags were set on downtown light poles on Friday, putting a splash of color on the winter street scene. MLK's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech reminded me of some other cultural milestones of the '60s:

  • "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas
  • "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees
  • "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by The Electric Prunes'

One way or another, there was a lot of dreaming going on then.

A few households still have their Christmas lights on. One of my favorite Nativity scenes appeared shortly before Christmas Eve, and was still up when I drove by on my way home from the day job. It's not the biggest, or the fanciest, but it was one of the first that I noticed after moving to Sauk Centre, and is one of those simple, well-done homages to the holiday.

A simple, well-done Nativity Scene in Sauk Centre
One of my favorite Nativity scenes. Christmas, 2005

At the post office, first class postage went up to 39¢. Somebody mailed quite a few envelopes just before the price went up, and apparently took the last of the old stamps. She tells me that her correspondents will see a lot of Muppets.

Some kind of a bug has been going around. A few members of my family and a co-worker have been coughing and experiencing assorted unpleasantnesses. I don't usually go along with popular trends, but this is an exception. My fever has been bouncing up and down, leaving me sincerely sub-par, but not quite sick enough to see a doctor. Besides, I've been through this before. Generally, the best that medicos can do is tell me that I'm sick, and what part of my body is affected: and I already know that'

Wednesday, January 11, 2006. This week's blue skies, wisps of cloud, and bright sunshine made a welcome change from last week's weather. Better yet, my fever is down so that I can enjoy it: and, more importantly, get to my day job.

Snowmobile trail on Sauk Lake, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A northbound trail on Sauk Lake. January 10, 2006

I took a detour to the north side of town yesterday, to see how the ice fishing houses were doing. The one at the end of a long stretch of open water is gone: moved, I hope. The others, upstream of the Highway 71 bridge, are doing fine.

As I was turning around in the public lake access drive, a man who may be my elder slowly exited his car, walked to the lake's shore, strapped on skis, and slid eastward. Cross-country, or in this case cross-lake, skiing is one of the few activities I can honestly say I would like to be capable of. Another is tap dancing.

Driving down Main Street, I discovered at least part of the reason that small towns like Sauk Centre lag so far behind the Metro in pothole production. Small Town America will never close the pothole gap while road crews run free in the streets, filling in potholes before they have a chance to grow.

Road crew on Highway 71 in Sauk Centre, filling in potholes
No wonder we're so far behind the Twin Cities in pothole production: somebody keeps filling them in! January 9, 2006

Camp Snoopy down in the Mall of America will be gone in just over a week. After 13 years, United Media and the Mall of America will be parting ways. Too bad: It was nice, having a Peanuts theme park associated with Charles Shultz's home city. The amusement park will stay, but it just won't be the same as Zippy's Yard, or whatever they come up with.

Finally, we know the fate of the burning mouse of Fort Sumner. Or at least another version of the story. The mouse wasn't a furry flaming Nemesis after all.

The tale of a vengeful mouse running from a burning leaf pile and setting fire to the house of a man who threw it in the pyre isn't true. At least, that's what KOAT-TV in Fort Sumner says. Apparently, the mouse was dead when it was flung into the flames. The house burned down, but probably because the homeowner was burning leaves in a high wind. The Associated Press had a more entertaining version of the story'

Sunday, January 8, 2006. I see in the news that a burning mouse set fire to a house in New Mexico, so I suppose things could be worse. I haven't been outside since grilling lunch yesterday afternoon.

Normally, standing by the grill and flipping burgers doesn't wear me out, and I don't usually sleep through the afternoon, both of which were the case on Saturday. To nobody's surprise, I was running a fever. I thought about grilling lunch today, but the fever was still there and cooler heads prevailed.

Enough about me. With snow on the ground and more drifting down today, it's hard to remember that Spring will come. As if to promise that winter will come to an end, the post office has a box of tax forms set out for folks to pick up. What joys: it's only three months and two weeks until April 15.

With not a blade of grass or blooming flower in sight, it's nice to know that one thing grows during Minnesota winters: potholes. I've been dodging another season's crop in Sauk Centre's streets.

One way that cities have an advantage over small towns is the size and quality of their potholes. When I lived in the Metro, I could count on an abundance of microcanyons in urban streets each winter. Many of those metroholes were over a foot across: axle-wrenching, tooth-jarring tire traps, not the wimpy little recessed speed bumps we have.

Back to that incendiary mouse. With more than 53,000 acres of southeastern New Mexico burned, a Fort Sumner homeowner decided to burn leaves. When he caught a mouse in the house, he threw it into the burning leaf pile. The mouse, of course: not the house.

The mouse caught fire and fled the burning leaves. Like a buck-toothed Nemesis or a furry Sampson, it ran to a wall of the house, just under a window, and ignited the house. Nobody inside was hurt, but the fire destroyed the man's home and everything in it.

The Associated Press story didn't answer two burning questions: why was the man burning leaves in "unseasonably dry and windy conditions;" and what was the fate of the mouse?

Wednesday, January 4, 2006. Not that it makes a bit of difference, but I don't like temperatures near the freezing point. The last few days. fog, drizzle, snow, slippery roads and walkways, and aching joints are things I can do without.

Actually, I think that fog can be picturesque, but it's a nuisance when driving. It doesn't help that there always seems to be someone in stealth mode on the road, driving with the headlights off.

Red lights, whilte lights, but no blue Christmas lights
Now, if only the next house would get blue lights. January 4, 2006

Those garlands over downtown's Main Street are back in storage, but quite a few homeowners still have their Christmas displays lit.

Flying reindeer after Christmas
That's right: flying reindeer. January 4, 2006

A new house was finished recently on the east end of Sinclair Lewis Avenue, near the river. That's closer to high-water marks than I'd care to live, but the place will have a good view of the river until someone else builds a little farther east and a little lower.

Version 3.0 of what happened in the neighborhood over the Christmas weekend came out in the Sauk Herald and Melrose Beacon.

About 9:30 Christmas Eve, someone in Melrose called 911. He reported that a couple of guys in a Chevy Tahoe with a big Chevy emblem on the back window had driven by his yard while he had been sitting in a vehicle with three kids. That wasn't a problem, but the shots they fired was. Thankfully, nobody got hurt. The police didn't find any bullets, but they did collect a '25 caliber shell casing.

The Melrose police chief said that the guys in the truck and the dad had been in a "verbal altercation" earlier in the day. When Melrose police started looking for the Chevy, they found out that Sauk Centre police were looking for a truck just like that in connection with a domestic assault here in Sauk Centre. Sounds like a busy day.

Apparently, the only thing that the domestic assault and the shooting had in common was the truck, which turned up across the street from my home. A little later, folks from the Melrose and Sauk Centre police, and the Stearns County Sheriff's office, arrived and collected the two suspects without any fuss.

That house across the street has been dark and quiet since then. When I drive by, on the way to my day job, I've noticed that a decorated Christmas tree is still in the front window.

National Sweatshirt Week?
I have absolutely no idea what's going on here: National Sweatshirt
Week, maybe? I'll probably never know. January 4, 2006

Sunday, January 1, 2006. Happy New Year! Today dawned with the hopes and dreams of a new year spread before us, and ice pellets in the evening's forecast. We didn't get ice pellets, and the Christmas tree at Our Lady of the Angels church didn't fall over, so it was a good day.

Grilling in winter, Sauk Centre
Sun, fun, and burgers on the grill in Minnesota. December 31, 2005.

Besides, I've been able to grill twice this weekend, and am looking forward to doing so again tomorrow. There's nothing quite like scraping snow off the grill and enjoying fresh air and a brisk breeze while fixing the family's burgers.

Christmas lights: another spot of color in Sauk Centre
Another spot of color in the night. Christmas, 2005

As expected, Christmas lights are going out all over town as holiday hysteria gives way to mid-winter melancholy. Next stop on the holiday express is Valentine's Day, about 6 weeks down the road.

Explanations for why a police car's spotlight lit up a neighbor's garage during Christmas weekend are up to version 2'0 now. Apparently, someone fired a shot during a discussion in another town, and then came to Sauk Centre. The police had reason to believe that this person was in the neighbor's house and were being careful, since someone with less-than-good sense was running around with a gun.

I hope something gets into the paper about this. The way stories about what happened have changed reminds me of what happens in activities like the telephone game. I remember doing that in school. Once or twice, the message was recognizable by the time it went around the circle'

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