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Sunday, December 30, 2007. The secular holiday season is just about over. About 24 hours from now, the crowd in Times Square, New York, will have counted down as that big ball goes down, and midnight will have swept through Minnesota.

Folks here will be out, seeing in the new year with friends. Or, like me, staying home and watching other people do the hard work of whooping it up.

Then the Christmas lights will go out, for the most part. The Sauk Centre street crews will have the garlands and "HAPPY HOLIDAY" signs down within a few days, and life will be routine until winter starts melting.

All this philosophizing is intended to distract you from the fact that I don't actually have much to report.

The biggest deal I learned about this week was that the Our Lady of the Angels church has a new painting. Fr. Statz commissioned it, someone's paid for it, and it's hanging in the church's entrance. I found out about it this morning and, wouldn't you know it: this was one of the very few Sundays when I didn't bring my camera.

I ran across some photos that seem to sum up this year's Christmas

Pre-lit red, white, and green Christmas trees in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
New, and improved: pre-lit red, white, and green Christmas trees.
This isn't your grandfather's Christmas tree, but the white (silver, I suppose), and red one would look good in some settings.
December 6, 2007.

Folks coming to Mass on Christmas Eve, at Our Lady of the Angels church in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Our Lady of the Angels church in Sauk Centre is a long way from Bethlehem. December 24, 2007.

Inside Our Lady of the Angels church, Christmas Eve. Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Getting ready for Mass on Christmas Eve, in Our Lady of the Angels. December 24, 2007.

It's a little early, but: Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2007. What I think is Sauk Centre's first view-of-the-street webcam was launched today. Actually, I got the technical side of it done last night, but it wasn't ready for its opening until late this afternoon.

I don't have more to add today. The medical procedure I had this morning left me feeling no pain: and with the left-over anesthetic sauntering through my system for the rest of the day. I wrote a little more about it in "Through One Dad's Eye".

Wednesday, December 26, 2007. My guess is that quite a few folks have been doing some combination of visiting family, getting back to work, and seeing what they can get at after-Christmas sales.

I can't confirm that, though. Today has been another demonstration that I am no longer a teenager. I'm getting ready for an up-close-and-personal encounter with today's medical technology tomorrow. I know how that sounds, but it'll get worse if I try to fix it.

The bottom line is that I won't have much to report or add to the Sauk Centre Journal until tomorrow. Meanwhile, there's a more personal look at this family's life in Sauk Centre in "Through One Dad's Eye".

Sunday, December 23, 2007. The church we go to, Our Lady of the Angels, was so full this morning that my wife said, "I hope they realize this isn't the Christmas Mass."

The bulk of the family was at Soo Bahk Do tonight, with the van, which is part of why I didn't get to the tree lighting service tonight. I don't think this season will be as exciting as the 2005 Christmas holiday. That's when, on Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree clipped the priest and the star bopped the deacon. I think Father Statz has enjoyed referring to that, last year and this.

It was a windy and snowy day. Nothing very serious, but enough to make me hope that everyone got home without incident.

I spent most of the day, and the weekend, taking naps and being with family, so this will be a short entry.

But, there's always time for a few more photos of Christmas lights.

One of Sauk Centre's more throughly decorated yards
One of the more thoroughly decorated yards. December 18, 2007.

Blue tree, distant Nativity in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Inside, a very blue tree. Outside, some distance away, a Nativity scene. December 18, 2007.

As I've said before, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007. To paraphrase a slogan I read many years ago, "next week I gotta get organized! Somehow, I missed Wednesday's update of the Sauk Centre Journal.

On the 'up' side, I got out today, and talked with the proprietors of Hamilton's Old Time Laundry. They've been around since October of 2006. They say that they "clean your clothes without cleaning out your wallet" - and do it in 900 square feet of the lowest floor of The Palms motel, across from McDonalds. They've even got a dryer that 'freshens' wrinkled clothes.

Hamilton's Old-Time Laundry sign in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A new, old-fashioned, laundry sign. December 20, 2007.

The year-old laundry's sign was painted by the owners' daughter. Nice work: in my opinion, anyway.

I'm not sure what happened to Sassy's Under the Palms. The space they occupied, next to Hamilton's Old Time Laundry, is for lease again.

Now, it's time to look at some more Christmas lights.

Nice, bright, Christmas display in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Colored lights around the garage door, glowing snowpeople in the yard.
December 18, 2007.

A quiet, glowing blue Christmas display in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
This Christmas display is a bit different. I like it. December 18 2007.

Sunday, December 16, 2007. Still doing catch-up. On my way to the Lakeview Medical Clinic in St. Mike's (St. Michael's Hospital, to be more formal) this week, I noticed a new sign near the north end of Main. That dark blue pylon really stands out against the snow.

Not much more to say, except: here are the photos.

Nice, quiet street in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Nice, quiet street in Sauk Centre: during a Minnesota snowfall.
December 1, 2007.

Wal-Mart snow removal, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Clearing the Wal-Mart lot: no small job. December 1 2007.

Winter grilling in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Grilling in winter: there's nothing quite like it. December 1, 2007.

Snowmobile on Ash, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Snow on the street: a treat for snowmobilers. December 2, 2007.

Snowplow on South Ash, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Snow: picturesque; with practical concerns. December 4 2007.

Snow, road, and sign in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Cool sign. December 13, 2007.

I hope you're having a good holiday season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007. I'll be doing catch-up for a while, it looks like. Whatever bug I've had has kept me inside for the most part: so I don't have all that much to say about what's been going on in Sauk Centre in the last week or so. My educated guess, based on over two decades living here, is that the stores are busy, and that more people have their yard displays up and running.

Now, going back almost a week, here are a few photos of the elementary school's Christmas show. Or winter show, or whatever it's supposed to be called.

I like this lobby, between the auditorium and the multipurpose room. Someday, I may manage to catch the 'sparkle' in the overhead lights. December 6, 2007.

Getting all the kids in all the grades on and off stage, on time, and in order, is no minor task. December 6 2007.

SRO - Standing Room Only. The auditorium was full, from the stage, to the equipment recording the show, to the two sets of seating in the back. December 6, 2007.

Meanwhile, we'd had some of that snow that's been falling this month. I like having a 'white Christmas.'

Looking outside, I saw a face in the snow. December 6, 2007.

It's getting closer to Christmas. May your season be relatively stress-free. Or, to be more traditional, "Merry Christmas!"

Monday, December 10, 2007. This is going to be a brief entry, for reasons that I wrote about in "Monday: Another Week, Another Set of Antibiotics."

So, tonight, I'll post a photo or two, and try to get back with more tomorrow. (And you know how well those assurances have been going of late.)

Snow-covered grill in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Snow on the grill? No problem! December 9, 2007.

Christmas lights, and burgers on the grill
Supper on the grill. December 9, 2007.

Footprints in the snow: Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Meter-reader's footprints in the snow. December 7, 2007.

Footprints in the snow last week reminded me of the guy who reads the meter, and everyone else who keeps things running, year-round. Thanks for all that work!

Sunday, December 9, 2007. Christmas preparations are interfering with my schedules.

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

I'll have more, later on Monday. Including photos.


Sunday, December 2, 2007. I've got three things to say, before starting:

  1. I missed Wednesday's entry this week. Sorry about that!
  2. Today's entry is going to be very short.
  3. I plan to be back, with more (and photos) by about 5:00 on Monday.

I know what the calendar says, but about four inches of snow on the ground say that it's winter. I commemorated the occasion by getting the family van stuck on my way out the driveway.

Thanks, everyone who got me out! (There's more about this at Sunday: Snow, Advent, Grilling, and Family, on my "Through One Dad's Eye" blog.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007. Thanksgiving Day weekend is over. We just missed having a white Thanksgiving here: A few flurries on  Thursday were all promise and no substance.

Thanksgiving weekend starts with a little snow in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Not quite a "white Thanksgiving." November 22, 2007.

The lights at the south end of Ash street are still flashing red. I hope they get that fixed before major Christmas shopping traffic starts. The intersection's a trifle complicated, and not everyone understands the Minnesota standards of how to treat that sort of situation.

People are still getting places set up for Christmas: including the Historical Society, in the basement of the library.

A wreath and some lights at the Sauk Centre Historical Society
A little greenery, a few lights, at the History Society. November 23, 2007.

I don't really have that much to report. I've mostly been hanging out with my family, since Wednesday. we went to 'Grandpa's' this afternoon, for a get-together with another unit of the extended family. That was a good time. One of my nephews brought his laptop, and spent some of the afternoon trying to fix part of the power supply. I haven't heard how that worked out, yet.

Up for a Thanksgiving visit, and some electronics repair
Back in my day, he'd have been working on a car. November 25, 2007.

That wraps it up for this week: except for sharing today's sunset.

A Minnesota Sunset
Another Minnesota Sunset. November 25, 2007.

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I'll be going to Mass in the morning, but that's about all the traveling this family has planned for right now.

The lights, down at south 12th and Ash, have been set to flashing red. I suppose that's a step toward getting repairs done. A crew has been through there, painting crosswalks on the street: painting over some traffic arrows on the south side of the intersection, and leaving an arcane message on a curb.

Mysterious message on curb, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Probably means "crosswalk here." November 19, 2007.

P's & Q's Computing skipped right past Thanksgiving, and got their Christmas display up. They're one of the Main Street businesses that can be counted on for a big holiday display.

Santa, Snowmen, and (I think) Snoopy: Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Ho, Ho, Ho: Sauk Centre's computer store display. November 19, 2007.

Coburns has a big turkey out front now. My wife's been getting at least one 'turkey card' stamped there, so we may have a turkey soon.

Big turkey sign in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That sign reminds me of construction-paper turkeys I used to make, back in elementary school. November 19, 2007.

Downtown, they were getting the garlands up. I checked today, and the south Main "HAPPY HOLIDAY" sign is up, too. I assume they got the north one taken care of, too.

Getting those garlands up isn't exactly a small job. November 19, 2007.

Folks have been getting Christmas yard displays up, too. I'll get to that on Sunday, I trust.

Sunday, November 18, 2007. It's holiday season. No question about it. In fact, in the Wal-Mart supercenter, I saw three holidays represented, within about ten feet of each other: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. See for yourself:

Three holidays within 10 feet at Wal-Mart, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A painted Jack o' lantern, scarecrow, pumpkins: and a Christmas tree. November 13, 2007.

Folks are getting their Christmas decorations up, while the weather is still relatively warm, and yards are snow-free. One of the more reliably exuberant households has a fancy display up: complete with palm tree.

Flashy Christmas lights in Sauk Centre, Minnesota: animated GIF
Christmas lights. November 14, 2007.

Another household is among the Christmas early birds (early reindeer?): but their display is more of the elegant simplicity type.

Very simple Christmas lights in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Broken pumpkins, unbroken televisions. November 14, 2007.

Main Street Coffee Company has their display up, too. I'm not sure how many businesses will deck themselves out this much.

Main Street Coffee Company, lit up for Christmas in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Specialty coffee shop lit up for the holidays. November 14, 2007.

Those "technical difficulties" I talked about on Thursday are turning out to be no big deal. I hope, anyway. I wrote a little more about what was going on in Through One Dad's Eye and Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007. I've been experiencing technical difficulties, and hope to have something new published by Sunday, at the latest.

Thank you for your patience.

Sunday, November 11, 2007. Veteran's Day. Or, for the traditionalists, Armistice Day. Or, in Canada, Remembrance Day. Banks and Federal offices will have today off, but for most of the rest of us, it'll be another work day tomorrow.

Red, white, and blue banners were up in Our Lady of the Angels church today, with an American flag and a Vatican flag up front. Rather colorful. I know: I concentrate on OLA: but that's the church I go to, so that's what I talk about.

Flags were up on the downtown light poles, as far back as Friday, at least.

I heard an unusual number of sirens tonight: Maybe we'll read about it in the paper.

We've had a snow flurry or two, but not a single flake endured. Sooner or later, though, winter will come.

I don't have all that much to report today. Part of the reason for that is that I've been trying to get an oversized video file out of my digital camera. Without success. Right now, the device is sitting in a safe in Alexandria, waiting for a technician to come in Monday morning. At least, I hope so. He might be taking Veteran's Day Monday off.

Also, I've been distracted by some interesting technical stuff. Enough excuse-making, though. I'll be back Wednesday: with pictures, I hope.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007. Christmas decorations and merchandise went up in stores here in Sauk Centre right after Halloween. Now, they're in full holiday shopping mode. It'll be red-and-green for the next two months.

Looking back on it, putting old television sets and a monitor for pickup on Halloween wasn't the best idea in the world. They weren't broken, but some pumpkins were smashed around them.

Broken pumpkins, unbroken televisions. November 1, 2007.

That suggests a quite restrained approach on the part of the pumpkin breakers. Just the same, breaking pumpkins and destroying Jack o' lanterns is a custom that I may never really understand.

I think there have been more jaywalkers downtown lately. I've run into more, at least. That's to say, I've seen more. I haven't actually run into any. In fact, the people I've noticed seemed to be taking an intelligent interest in minimizing the probability that they'd end their lives as hood ornaments.

Sunday, November 4, 2007. I was out of town over the weekend, taking a couple of the kids up to see "Grandpa Gill." That was time well spent.

Speaking of time, the "fall back" part of daylight saving time happened over the weekend. Once again, folks here in America have been given jet lag, without the need to travel. I could do without getting yanked back and forth one hour, twice a year, but there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it.

Friday, around 5:00 in the afternoon, I noticed smoke west and a little south of town. As I went over the Interstate, it became obvious that the cloud was over a mile away.

Field fire, west and south of Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Field fire, west and a little south of town. November 2, 2007.

Make that a couple miles out of town. A field fire had started, and was heading east, thanks to a quite brisk wind. Quite a bit of the Sauk Centre fire department was out there, putting a dent in the fire.

Sauk Centre fire crew at a field fire in rural Minnesota
A whole lot of fire, and only so many firefighters. November 2, 2007.

I wasn't able to stick around to see how it came out. I trust that the firefighters kept the blaze away from trees, down by a watercourse, that the fire was heading for.

I said I'd be back, with more Halloween photos.

Halloween yard decorations: with crash landing
These folks did a nice job. That looks like a serious crash landing.
October 20, 2007.

Halloween - spider lantern? Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That's not a Jack o' lantern. A spider lantern, maybe? October 31, 2007.

There, that'll have to be enough for now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Happy Halloween!

I'll be back later, with something to say.

Now, it's later. I'll get back to Halloween right after a few other items.

Crime Scene Investigation tape isn't seen too often around here, so it sticks out. Someone seems to have lobbed something fairly substantial through a window, a few blocks north of us. I hope that gets sorted out before things get much colder.

Crime scene, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A very broken window on south Ash Street. October 29, 2007.

The house that burned on south Pine earlier this month must have been in worse shape than it looked from the curb. It had been torn down, and the hole filled in, when I drove by today.

Effects of the fire on Pine Street, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
The way it was. October 1, 2007.

The way it is. October 31, 2007.

Whoever lived there had some nice decorations and plantings before the fire. One of those small hanging-pot stakes had been set up in the soil where the basement had been filled in. I like that: a sort of tribute to the house that stood there.

It's that time of year, when birds head south, some of the critters dig in, and insects do whatever it is that insects do. The things I call boxelder bugs were holding some sort of even on the wall of our house, near the utilities meter. I don't know what they were up to, but I suspect that it had to do with their kind's strategy for making it through the winter.

Bugs of autumn. No wonder they don't have odes written about them. October 6, 2007.

One of the banks has a new sign: with color. That explains why their old sign was dark the last week or so.

The new sign has eye-catching animations, too. October 29, 2007.

Sic transit gloria mundi, and all that. At one time, the old sign was a new and exciting technology. October 29, 2007.

Today was Halloween. In the stores, some folks were getting last-minute treat-buying, gizmo-getting, and costume-picking done. A few households went to quite a bit of trouble with their displays. (I plan to be back, Sunday, with a few more photos.)

These folks were ready early (The sign on the left says, "Treats Inside (tricks optional)." October 11, 2007.

Windy day: good thing those decorations were firmly attached.
October 31, 2007.

Ps and Qs has a tradition of holiday displays. October 31, 2007.

Finally, trick or treating. October 31, 2007.

I was able to walk (waddle, actually) with my son, trick-or-treating tonight. That was fun. We met quite a few other family groups, doing the rounds. I've seen more folks out: it was windy and cool this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007. This week I've got a better explanation for missing Wednesday's entry. My wife is ill. Nothing serious, just enough to take the edge off. I've been pitching in, a little, and probably haven't messed too much up in the process.

That pair of traffic lights at Ash and 12th are still pointing in the same direction, more or less. I suppose there's more to fixing the fixture than taking a firm hold of the assembly and giving it a good twist.

Father Robert Olima has been visiting the Our Lady of the Angels and St. Paul Parishes, at least, for the last several weeks. He's from the St. Joseph parish in Migori, Kenya. The Sauk Centre Herald did a good piece, "Kenyan connection," on October 2.

Welcome Father Robert Olima: Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Part of a photo board in Our Lady of the Angels Church in Sauk Centre. October 21, 2007.

I saw a cluster of kids, and adults flowing through downtown this Friday. The kids were in Halloween costumes: I don't know what the occasion was, but it looked like the folks were having a pretty good time. I was impressed. The grown-ups had good control of the group: There wasn't any of the 'trying to herd cats' aspect to it. Not, at least, from the safe ten-yard distance I maintained.

Kids in costume on the corner. October 26, 2007.

This hasn't been the flashiest fall I've ever seen here, but it hasn't been the biggest washout, either. As usual, the maples are among the top performers. It's getting toward the end of the season, though.

Autumn leaves, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
One of my favorite spots for fall photos. October 22, 2007.

We've been getting some wonderful sunsets lately. Or maybe I'm just reacting to them more, now.

Autumn sunset by Sauk Lake, Minnesota
Autumn sunset by Sauk Lake: Someone's burning leaves. October 24. 2007.

Just a few more days, and it will be Halloween. Good grief! I see it's on a Wednesday this year!

The Wednesday entry should be published sometime Wednesday night. I've got some decent photos of Halloween lawn decorations.

Sunday, October 21, 2007. "There should be more ready to go Wednesday night." Ha!

You've noticed that I missed this week's Wednesday entry. Sorry about that. By the time I realized what had happened, it was already Friday. It isn't that anything in particular happened this week. Things have just been uneventfully hectic.

At least I'm in better shape than the traffic light down at 12th and Ash I don't know what happened, but it looks like something big and heavy brushed by it, probably last weekend. With all the other lights there, it isn't really confusing, just odd that red and green lights are both pointing in the same direction.

Rumpled traffic lights at 12th and Ash, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Rumpled traffic lights at 12th and Ash. October 17, 2007.

We've been getting rain. I shouldn't complain, considering the lack of water we had over the summer, but it's a bit dreary, when parking lot lighting is on in the mid-afternoon.

Mid-afternoon, and the lights are on. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Mid-afternoon. Too early for the lights to be on. October 18, 2007.

Two days after that picture was taken, it was a bright, beautiful autumn day.

Bright, beautiful autumn day in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Two days later: beautiful fall weather. October 20, 2007.

I haunt the computer and electronics aisles in Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart. One day, I saw the biggest toaster I'd ever seen, on a shelf next to a computer. No, it was another computer.

Pop-up computer, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Pop-up computer? Internet-ready toaster? October 9, 2007.

Yesterday was another beautiful day. I had the grill set up, burgers properly placed. Our daughter who's home from college even decided to keep me company.

I lit the fire, put the burgers on when the grill was hot, and then we ran out of LP gas. Cooking the burgers inside just isn't the same.

Today, with a re-filled LP gas cylinder, I was ready, and we had drizzle at noon. That's okay, though: those grilled burgers are worth getting damp.

Our Lady of the Angels church had a polka mass this morning. This time, the musicians were sufficiently polka-ish for my taste. I'll admit it: I like the oom-pahs.

Polka Mass at Our Lady of the Angels. I liked it. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Polka Mass at Our Lady of the Angels church. October 21, 2007.

After the polka Mass at Our Lady of the Angels
The Country Polkateers kept playing a little while after Mass. October 21, 2007.

Country Polkateers, after Mass at Our Lady of the Angels at Sauk Centre, Minnesota
One thing is sure: this is a change of pace at OLA. October 21, 2007.

This next week should be more 'normal' for me. Famous last words? I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 14, 2007. Another weekend gone. I enjoyed grilling, Saturday and Sunday. Today's light rain was a plus, in a way: When raindrops started exploding on contact with the grill, I knew it was hot enough.

Now that we're half-way through October, on the way to Halloween, it's starting to feel more like fall.

Green trees, yellow trees, and a ready-to-rake lawn in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Blue sky, yellow leaves, and a ready-to-rake lawn. October 4, 2007.

This wasn't the best year for autumn colors, but it wasn't as much of a dud as I expected. I don't know that there was a 'peak day' around here. Trees and bushes seemed to have a staggered schedule for shedding this year. Actually, it made for some rather nice effects: bare trees, green trees, orange trees, and green, ready-to-rake grass, all in one place..

Sauk Centre's lakeside campground: season's end
Season's end at the lakeside campground. October 11, 2007.

And, there's the farmer's market by the American Legion, downtown. The folks there have to dress warmer now, than they did a month ago, but they're still in business.

Farmer's Market at the American Legion
Farmer's Market at the American Legion. October 11, 2007.

I've been going back, catching up on photos. There should be more ready to go Wednesday night.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007. There's an explanation for why I didn't get a Monday updated made for the Sauk Centre Journal. It's at the end of today's entry.

There's an explanation for why I didn't get a Monday updated made for the Sauk Centre Journal. It's at the end of today's entry.

Around 6, Sunday evening, the lights went out, and stayed that way for about 40 minutes. I haven't heard what happened, but assume that it had something to do with the thundershowers that were passing through.

Lights out in downtown Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That portable four-way-stop sign is a good idea. October 7, 2007, about 6:30.

Lights weren't out all over. At least one building downtown had battery backup for lighting in what I think was a stairway. And, happily, fire/police/emergency services seems to have its own reserve power system.

Emergency lighting for Sauk Centre's emergency serivices.
Sauk Centre Fire and Police: these lights don't go out. October 7, 2007, about 6:30.

It's getting to be more conventionally Autumn-like now. Yesterday's wind reminded me of my childhood in the Red River Valley of the North: a strong, wuthering sound that relaxes or worries, depending on a person's personal history.

Now, and explanation (not an excuse) for why I didn't do what I said I'd do, and get something ready for Monday.

I got sick. Not so sick that I could claim pity: just ill enough to make my efficiency and alertness approach zero.

Then, yesterday, I used my head as a percussion instrument. Not intentionally, but quite effectively. One of the kids had done a good job of mopping the kitchen floor, but not such a good job of drying it.

I broke my fall with my head. In case you're in a similar situation, a word of advice: another part of our body might be a better choice.

What surprised me was what a musical sound my head made: a sort of hollow, wooden "boink."

After that, I didn't feel like doing much. My legs, on the other hand, decided, in the wee hours of the morning, to see which could produce the most Charlie Horses per minute.

Aside from that, though, I'm doing fine.

Sunday, October 7, 2007. The good news, for me, was that I got some paying work over the weekend, was able to grill hamburgers Saturday and Sunday, and had a good visit with some of the extended family today.

The bad news is that I don't have much ready for the Sauk Centre Journal. The key here is "ready." I've got photos, notes, all the parts ready to go.

Here's what happened. We had some lightning and thunder this afternoon, which didn't bother me a bit, since I was having a good time visiting with family. I was ready, a little before six this evening, to get started on the Sauk Centre Journal and a few other obligations: all of which required a working computer.

Then the lights went out. A few minutes later, they were back on. Then they went out. And stayed out for about forty minutes.

Not long after the lights came on, and I had the computer running and ready to go, I saw flickers. Then, I heard thunder.

It's not the lightning I'm so worried about: it's the power surges that can happen when lightning affects our power grid. The computer went off again. And stayed off as a long-winded thunderstorm muttered its way over Sauk Centre.

Eventually, the atmospheric percussion performance and light show was over, and I got to work. Now, much later, that I've got time to work on this Journal, there's flickering again.

That video clip shows what I've been enjoying this evening. My plan is to get back to work on the Sauk Centre Journal Monday morning.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007. This is one of those weeks when I didn't enjoy reading the newspaper.

For starters, it's been a hot eight days in and around Sauk Centre. I read in the Sauk Centre Herald that no one was hurt when that house on South Pine caught fire.

And, nobody got hurt when a truck caught fire on Highway 71 in Sauk Centre. The lady who was driving the truck was none too pleased. That truck had a new engine in it. She got out with her purse and a folder of her husband's, but the truck and some Tupperware party material got burned.

That was the third fire in eight days that the Sauk Centre fire department had to deal with: starting with that house fire last week.

The top story wasn't so happy, though. A nineteen-year-old Sauk Centre man was killed when his vehicle went off east Highway 28 and hit a tree. If it's the section of road I think it is, it isn't the place I'd want to be driving, after 1:00 in the morning.

Then, there's the Sinclair Lewis Park.



Some jerk or jerks knocked in part of the gazebo, threw trash in the fountain, kicked in a pop machine, and indulged in other forms of self-expression a week ago. The Sauk Centre Police want anyone who saw someone at the park after dark Wednesday, September 26, to call them at 351-7022.

That explains why the umbrella-kids sculpture  was down, and the gazebo had snow fencing around it last week. The fountain sculpture wasn't mentioned, so I'm assuming and hoping it's okay. That thing is quite a local seasonal landmark.

As one of the men who was cleaning up after the presumably over-age-in-grade brats said, "the more stuff they break, the less new stuff we can get." (quoted from the Herald) There was going to be new playground equipment at Sinclair Lewis Park. Now, I don't know. Apparently, there's been a continuing problem with vandalism at area parks. Sad.

On a happier note, the weather today was bright, sunny, warm. Too warm, actually, for me: but I'm not complaining. The sun is starting to rise and set south of due east and west, so we'd better enjoy sweating while we can.

Monday, October 1, 2007. The house on south pine doesn't look as bad as it might. The vines growing on the south side even seem to be relatively okay. On the other hand, those broken windows on the second floor and attic aren't what I'd want in my home. I imagine we'll be reading about this in the Sauk Centre Herald tomorrow.

As we say in Minnesota, it could have been worse.
Beautiful autumn day, not so pleasant scene. October 1, 2007.

Effects of the fire on Pine Street, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Happily, the vines seem to be okay. Small consolation, I know.
October 1, 2007.

On a happier note, I was in Alexandria today, and saw a collection of ducks, geese, and gulls at Noonan park, near downtown.

Gulls, geese, and ducks at Noonan Park, Alexandria, Minnesota
I like these Autumn holiday trimmings. September 26, 2007.

Sunday, September 30, 2007. I was out of town for the weekend, and got back later today than I expected. So, this will be a rather short entry.

There was a house fire over on Pine Street South. The place doesn't look good: broken windows on the upper floors, and windows boarded up on the ground floor. I hope everyone got out in time.

Roadwork on the eastward extension of Sinclair Lewis Avenue seems to be done: there's a snappy set of lane markings on the black asphalt surface now.

The autumn leaves aren't going to be very spectacular this year. That drought didn't help.

I haven't heard or read anything about what effect the recent rains had, but they should have helped.

I plan to be back Monday night, with a bit more: and with photos.

Thursday, September 27, 2007. The two big autumn holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving, are coming. The most obvious signs are the pumpkins piled outside some stores, a few people who got a head start on holiday decorating, and a distinct orange-and-black color scheme in some store shelves.

Holiday pumpkins outside Coborns, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
I like these Autumn holiday trimmings. September 26, 2007.

Early Halloween decorations in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Getting an early start on Halloween decorating. September 25, 2007.

The umbrella kids statue has been taken down in Sinclair Lewis Park, and the gazebo is, for reasons that I don't quite understand, wrapped in orange snow fencing.

Taking the statues down I can understand. Wrapping the gazebo in snow fencing puzzles me. September 27, 2007.

I've seen flocks of birds overhead. They're preparing their annual evacuation, leaving us humans, sparrows, and squirrels to keep an eye on the north country.

Migrating birds over Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Autumn migration over Sauk Centre. September 25, 2007.

Downtown, we've got another set of those new old-fashioned street lights. These are on Main, just north of Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

More new old-fashioned lights in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
More new old-style lights downtown. September 27, 2007.

Sauk Herald after the big storm in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A fire, power outages, and someone who found out how deep the underpass was, under the Lake Wobegon Trail. September 25, 2007.

This week's Sauk Centre Herald included an account of that fire just off the southeast side of town. No one was hurt, happily, but the Melin's house was pretty badly smoked up. The paper says that Jim Melin's co-workers from Wal-Mart showed up, asked their clothes sizes, and came back with clothes. Other folks brought a motor home in, so the Melins would have someplace to sleep.

Taking a phrase from the article, I'd say the it was a case of "Wal-Mart family" mixed with Minnesota Nice. That's something I like about living here: We don't just have people living next to us, we've got neighbors.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007. So far this week, I learned that last week's storm was the worst that Sauk Centre has experienced in five years.

I also learned that I can do only so many things in a given amount of time. Finishing the Wednesday entry for the Sauk Centre Journal wasn't one of them. Barring unforeseen developments, I should have something done tomorrow evening.

Sunday, September 23, 2007. Sauk Centre, along with quite a bit of Minnesota and Wisconsin, had exciting weather on Thursday. After the summer's drought, I don't feel like complaining about the rain, though. Hail around our house wasn't even pea-size, for the most part, but I've heard that other parts of town got up to - golf ball size? I think that was it.

As the rain was letting up, a fair fraction of the Sauk Centre police department went by our house, including a tanker. I kept hearing sirens, and got curious.

Someone just south of the Interstate was not having a good day. A house on the highway that runs by the airfield was very sincerely on fire. I suppose lightning started the fire, but that's an assumption.

Tanker and police car, after Thursday's storm in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
There's a lot of coordination involved in fighting a fire. September 20, 2007.

A tanker from the Melrose Fire Department and one from Sauk Centre shuttled back and forth from a hydrant in town to the fire while other firefighters worked on the house.

Sauk Centre and Melrose Fire Departments at a house just outside Sauk Cemtre, Minnesota
Not what a homeowner wants to see in the front yard. September 20, 2007.

I expect there'll be details in Tuesday's Sauk Centre Herald.

Firefighters: These guys earn their pay. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A few of the firefighters near Sauk Centre's southeast side.
September 20, 2007.

I took some video, and put it in Central Minnesota Theatre (Storm & Fire, 9/20/2007).

Aside from that, it's been pretty quiet. I grilled burgers yesterday and today. I think I'm getting the knack of not incinerating them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007. Those new old-fashioned lights seem to be on their way north of Sinclair Lewis Avenue now. A crew has been working on the sidewalk on the east side of main, up to the Family Dollar Store corner.

More new old-fashioned street lights in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
New old-fashioned lights by the Family Dollar.
September 19, 2007.

Sidewalk work outside the Holiday Super Stop on the south side was getting the store ready for winter. It looks like they decided it made more sense to heat the sidewalk, than shovel and scrape.

Heated sidewalk for the Holiday Super Stop in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Heated sidewalks. Sometimes those things make sense.
September 18, 2007.

Meanwhile, on the east side, it's road work time. There's going to be a lot of that going on next summer.

East side road work, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
It's nearing the end of one of Minnesota's four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Roadwork. September 19, 2007.

Quite a few people sat in on the council meeting tonight, including me. The council had a public hearing on the North Pine/South Ash Street work that's scheduled for next summer.

Actually, it wasn't officially scheduled until tonight, if I understand how this works. Some details are still getting sorted out, but tonight the council voted, 5-0, to go ahead with the north Pine Street and South Ash Street reconstruction. It's going to be a busy, and messy, summer next year.

Street lights were on by the time I left the council meeting tonight.
September 19, 2007.

Right now, I've had a big day, and am turning in. I'll talk more about next year's big street work project another time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007. Downtown Sauk Centre has another block's-worth of the new old-fashioned street lights now. I'm looking forward to seeing what they look like at night. The project couldn't be missed by anyone going downtown this week, as sidewalks were cut up with near-surgical precision.

A pleasant side-effect was that, while yellow tape blocked the sidewalks on one side or another, there wasn't as much jaywalking. Once the tape was down, though, folks were back, testing the nerves of hapless drivers.

New lights getting installed on Main, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
New old-fashioned lights needed new power lines, apparently.
September 12, 2007.

Someone needed help, around Martin's Jewelry, Thursday afternoon. My hat's off to the folks who keep the police department and ambulance service working.

Emergency services at work in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Hats off to Sauk Centre's emergency services. Someone needed an ambulance, in front of Martin's Jewelry. September 13, 2007.

Friday afternoon, one of the last street lights was being lowered into place on "The Original Main Street."

New old-fashioned street lights in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That's a tall crane, being used to install "Original Main Street's" new old-fashioned streetlights. September 14, 2007.

I suppose it could have been worse at Jitters Java. They've got a working parking lot back, although with a decidedly sub-par surface.

Not the ideal parking log surface. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
It could have been worse: they filled in the trench. September 14, 2007.

Actually, it could have been a lot worse. I understand that a water main broke, somewhere outside the eatery. A crew came, and declared that the leak was three feet from the building.

So, that's where they started digging. When they got to the pipe, no leak. Reasoning that it must be a little nearer the street, they extended the hole westward.

Still no leak.

Digging a little farther west, they still couldn't find the leak. The leak must be somewhere on the pipe, and the pipe led west, toward the street, so once more it was westward-ho!

Eventually, they had a trench dug as far as the shutoff valve. Still no leak, but their quest was almost at an end. The leak was off, on the other side of the shutoff valve.

Do you see that orange-reddish traffic marker near the street, in the photo up there? That's roughly where the leak was. The packed sand is where the trench was dug: all the way from the building to the street.

The church I go to, Our Lady of the Angels, has been raising money to replace the old, defunct, dishwasher. Finally, fundraising got nearly to the goal: just $700 short of what was needed.

That's when the elevator went phut. That's going to cost well into five figures to fix. It's not an option, really, since the church is obliged to provide wheelchair access. It's fix the elevator, raise the ground, lower the church, or knock down walls to make room for one of those carnival-ride-style switchback access ramps.

And, next summer, everyone on this part of Ash Street gets to pay for (much-needed) utilities and street repair/replacement. That costs money, too.

To end on an 'up' note, it's been a beautiful weekend. Clear skies, (fairly) gentle winds. Today, it was in the high seventies, I'm told.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007. I got out yesterday, and took a few pictures. It was 9/11/2007, six years after the attack on New York, and Washington, D.C. For the most part, flags around town were at half-staff.

9/11/2007, Sauk Centre, USA
Flags at half staff, in remembrance. September 11, 2007.

Meanwhile, life's been going along as it usually does. A fair fraction of  the Jitters Java parking lot got dug up. I haven't found out why. Most of the dirt is back in place today.

Jitters Java excavation, September 11, 2007, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Not the sort of thing a business owner wants to see in the parking lot. September 1, 2007.

Lake Wobegon Trail has another bench, near Ash Street in Sauk Centre. I think the cement had just been poured and smoothed when I came by.

New bench on Lake Wobegon Trail, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Another bench for Lake Wobegon Trail. September 11, 2007.

And someone's put a new sign on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main, letting Justin know he's welcomed home.

Welcome Home Justin: sign, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Justin: welcome home. September 11, 2007.

It's starting to feel like fall. And about time, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not built for heat. Some trees are starting to turn. I don't think it's exactly fall colors, though. My guess is that they've been stressed by this summer's drought.

Sunday, September 9, 2007. Actually, Monday morning. I got distracted yesterday evening.

School started last Tuesday. I'm getting used to the twice-daily sounds of school busses and cars passing by, with the occasional screeching tire.

The school year got off to a hot start, but now it's cool. Literally. It's a few degrees below 60 here, compared to last week's torrid temps.

First day of school: mid-90s. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Hot stuff! First day of school, and it's not quite 100. September 4, 2007.

Street work on the east side of Main has been going along well. Saturday, I noticed that retro-style lights were up. (Sorry, no pictures yet: that'll teach me to go out without a camera!)

New lights going in, downtown Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Downtown's new street lighting construction reduced jaywalking, at least temporarily. September 4, 2007.

I must have been very impressed with the work in progress. After dropping something off at Main Street Press, I took this photo from inside the printer's new place. Well, not so new now, but for twenty years I'd been going to that green building that's near Wal-Mart now.

Work on Main Street, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Street scene from inside Main Street Press, downtown. September 4, 2007.

It's a beautiful day, out there. With a little creative scheduling, I should be able to enjoy some of it.

Saturday, the 3rd annual Motorcycle Fun Run, for Companies A (Alexandria), C (Sauk Centre), and E (Hutchinson), made their Sauk Centre-Osakis meandering drive. (Hey! ACE! I hadn't noticed that before!) I missed it: taking pictures, not participating. Maybe next year. I that the Sauk Herald covered the event.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007. It's been a hot week, so far. I hope the schools are air-conditioned. School started yesterday, a fact that I'd have noticed without our son's getting back in the academic track. Our house is on one of the major feeder streets for the school, so traffic gets pretty exciting around 8 and 3.

It's been hot: around 95 yesterday, and not much cooler today. On a personal note, I discovered something important: It's not a good idea for a fifty-something guy, who's still exercising his way back from decades of arthritis, to do a brisk half-mile walk in this heat.

The Ash Street project is still getting talked over. Maintenance has to be done, the street would work better if it were wider, and I really don't mind some extra effort (and cost) going toward making crosswalks safer for pedestrians.

However, the mildly heart-stopping assessments could have come at a more convenient time.

Then, there's the matter of the sidewalk on the east side of Ash, from 9th to: the fairgrounds? That wasn't in the plan earlier, but apparently now it is. And, of course, that makes it a big more expensive.

Thankfully, the people who've talked to me about it have been quite practical. Something I'm not looking forward to is losing several trees. Nothing's been said, but I can't see how widening Ash can be done without removing some relatively attractive, and very shade-producing, trees.

Sunday, September 2, 2007. school starts soon: this week, I believe. But for now, it's Labor Day Weekend, and a Sunday, and I'm going to take it easy: even to the point of having more pictures, and less writing, in this entry.

New awnings on Jitters Java, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Jitters Java, on Main, has new awnings. I understand that work's not finished on them yet. August 3, 2007.

Roof repairs after the storm, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Repairs are moving along, fixing damage from the mid-August storm. August 30, 2007.

Labor Day Weekend wedding in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Labor Day weekend wedding at St. Paul's. September 1, 2007.

That brings me pretty much up to date. I hope you're having a fun, and safe, Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007. My wife and I, and two of the kids, went to the elementary school this evening, for what I think of as school orientation. The picture I took doesn't do justice to the event. What you see was the quiet corner of the classroom.

Back to school in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
School orientation: next time, it's the real thing. August 29, 2007.

The classroom we were in has a special 'poet chair' in it. I don't think I've run into this sort of thing before. I hope to learn what's involved, later in the school year.

The poet chair, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A poets-only chair? I hope to learn more about this. August 29, 2007.

I learned what's going on next to the Centre Floral storefront today. The boarded-up windows belong to the south half of the flower shop. They're putting in new windows. It's part of the Main Street project to give downtown a historic look, with new materials.

Construction: This will have a historic look, with new materials. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That's going to look nice, when it's done. August 29, 2007.

Meanwhile, down at Main and 4th Street, a crew was working at something that involved cutting up quite a bit of cement. The word is that the city's replacing the downtown Main Street light poles with retro-style poles, like the ones on part of Sinclair Lewis Avenue.

Street work in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
It was a beautiful day, but I still don't envy these guys. August 29, 2007.

Downtown Sauk Centre is going to be a treat for the eyes when all this is done. I hope some of the vacationers driving through, on their way to lake country, decide to stop on their way.

Sunday, August 26, 2007. First of all, Snap Fitness Center opened a week and a day ago, on August 18. They're the third fitness outfit in town now, joining Curves for Women and Fitness Guru. What makes Snap different, aside from being on Main Street, is that they'll be open 24/7/365, and I'm told will be lower cost. I suppose there are enough people in and around Sauk Centre to support that many fitness places: it helps that they've developed their own set of attractions.

Snap Fitness, Sauk Centre, opened August 18, 2007.
Snap Fitness. It's a snap? Snap to it? Oh, never mind. August 18, 2007.

There's work being done on the storefront just south of Centre Floral, downtown. Boards are over the windows, and have been for most of the week. What's been going on inside, I don't know. I'm hoping to get out next week, and start catching up.

Work in progress downtown, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Something's going on behind those boards, there in the center of the picture. Maybe I'll find out next week.. July 24, 2007.

Friday and Saturday, I drove the family van up to visit my father, followed by one of my daughters, with a car packed for college. That was a good visit, but I'm glad I've got a day to rest before helping another daughter move, tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007. I haven't been out much this week, so most of my experience of Sauk Centre has been second-hand.

Like this week's Sauk Centre Herald. There's an article about the Ash Street project. We've known it was coming since early August. The paper says that the average Ash Street household will end up paying $8,400 each. The Herald did a good job of detailing what's going to happen, and how much it will cost.

My family lives on Ash, so I'm taking a personal interest. Eight grand may not seem like a lot to some folks, but for us that's 16 cars like the one my wife drives, with almost four week's food supply left over.

I know that the project needs to be done, and I'm not complaining. The arrangements are reasonable. Still, I'm going to go to the property-holders' meeting set for later this month.

They're going to be working on the water mains and sewer system, too: and about time. Systems like that take as much of a beating from Minnesota's wild temperature swings, but buried pipes deteriorate like everything else.

I hope I can stay this objective when the assessments come due.

One of the bits of unintentional humor in the paper was the statement that "water main and sanitary sewer improvements will not be assessed against residential property owners with the city picking up the cost."

Okay: property owners aren't assessed directly. But we pay, directly or indirectly, for all the revenue that the city picks up from taxes and fees. I don't think it was meant to be, but "picking up the cost" struck me as funny. And, I know what they mean: and appreciate it.

That can't be all that happened in Sauk Centre, so far this week, but it's all I can think of at the moment.

I'll be back when there's more, or at least by Sunday night.

Monday, August 20, 2007. This should have been the Sunday entry, but I picked up some sort of bug. Nothing serious, but it's made me less efficient - and bright - than usual.

"Small town America," one version, at least, is supposed to be this timeless, idyllic place where life is happy and serene.

That's not how it works. We've got the same problems as everyone else: just maybe not as often.

Someone I knew was arrested for stealing from the Alexandria Wal-Mart. And apparently he'd been living in a house near ours. It was a rental place, and the last two sets of tenants had lifestyles that encouraged the police to visit at intervals.

I haven't been able to verify much, apart from what was in the KSAX and Echo Press News. Maybe the Sauk Herald will publish more information.

Meanwhile, I've noticed that the McDonalds, down by the Interstate, offers, and I hesitate to key in these words, Iced Coffee!

Iced Coffee, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota!
I mean to say, Iced Coffee?!. July 26, 2007.

Surely this must signal the end of civilization as we know it! Coffee, as everyone knows, is supposed to be hot!

The rain we've been getting is fine, but even I think it's been too cool. It got up to 60 yesterday, over in Glenwood where the weather numbers I use are collected. It's supposed to be 79, this time of year. It could be worse. The low was 55 there, back in 2004.

Now, I think I'll go lie down for a while.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007. Reading the Sauk Centre Herald, I learned that the weekend storm hit the school, too. The athletic area east of the school, actually. Between flying bleachers, uprooted trees, and a toppled scoreboard at the school, and parts of the Ford dealership's buildings getting thrown at their cars and points downwind, there's been a lot to clean up.

The Herald and Alexandria's Echo Press reported a robbery at the Sauk Centre Wal-Mart last Friday. The Echo Press article said that the crime was reported "about 1:04 p.m. on August 3," but everyone else remembers it happening on the 10th.

The good news is that no one got seriously hurt, although I'd guess that it didn't feel that way to the person working at Wal-Mart, who got sprayed with Mace.

Some 25-year-old guy and a teenage girl got caught caught in a stolen van near Alexandria, around exit 103. They're both from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the van was stolen in Cedar Rapids, and food stolen from the Wal-Mart here was found in the van.

The guy's in jail, the girl's been handed over to her mother.

That's about as much excitement as I want. More, actually.

School season is bearing down on students and parents in Sauk Centre. The sign near the Elementary School's entrance announces open house in a little over a week.

School open house sign in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Less than two weeks to go, it looks like. August 14, 2007.

Another transition is happening at Jitters Java. Germaine, who's worked there (several years, I'm not sure exactly how long), is moving on: and made a farewell banner for the occasion.

A 'farewell' banner in Jitters Java, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Transitions at Jitters Java. August 13, 2007.

The return of Charlie Company, and other Minnesota National Guard soldiers, is still getting recognition. Stopping in at an optometrist's downtown, I saw an "Enduring Freedom" banner on the outside/inside light pole. (My wife had picked the item I was going to pick up. She asked me to get it, last week.)

Enduring Freedom banner in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Indoor street scene downtown. August 13, 2007.

Today, after mass, I saw a very personalized paint job on a van in the church parking lot. This family is very glad to have the dad/husband home.

"We really missed you!" custom paint job, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
This family is very glad to be together again. August 15, 2007.

I'm actually publishing Wednesday's entry Thursday morning. Things happened: again. One of these days, I've got to get organized: and talk the rest of the world into cooperating with me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007. Friday nights are a bit more lively than those during the work week, but this weekend got a bigger kickoff than usual.

Something, a really strong spot of straight-line wind, or maybe a small tornado, re-arranged part of the south side a little after midnight.

Sometime between 1 and 2 on Saturday morning, I heard an enormous clatter. It was as if someone had thrown a King-Kong-size garbage can or a load of metal siding onto Ash Street.

Near-Miss for folks living near Lake Wobegon Trail in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A near-miss for folks living near Lake Wobegon Trail. August 11, 2007.

Looks like part of a shed, but most likely started as part of a roof. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Saturday morning's storm could have been worse. August 11, 2007.

My wife told me, as she was leaving to mind the store for her father later that morning, that a shed had blown over near Lake Wobegon Trail. That's what she saw, in the first and second pictures. Despite its appearance, it isn't a shed. It's part of a roof, I think. It could have been worse. As far as I have heard, no one was hurt.

This yard is usually much more neatly picked up. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A near-miss for folks living near Lake Wobegon Trail. August 11, 2007.

Several yards near the intersection of Ash and Lake Wobegon Trail in Sauk Centre had debris deposits and broken branches.

In the background, John Weis Ford. In the foreground, part of their body shop. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Just follow the trail of debris. August 11, 2007.

Finding where the bits and pieces of building came from wasn't very hard. A neighbor of mine pointed out where the most damage had been, but I think I'd have been able to follow the trail of broken trees, crumpled metal, and cracked timber.

A tipping light pole, and a big mess in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That tipping light pole at John Weis Ford is no optical illusion.
August 11, 2007.

Seeing what happened to the trees, I'm glad the event missed the houses and housing in that part of town. I've heard two explanations of what happened: it was a small tornado; or it was straight-line winds, something like a downburst. Just how the storm re-arranged part of Sauk Centre will be discussed for a while, most likely.

.This lot needs cleaning up, and these guys are the ones to do it. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Around 10:30, cleanup and repair were underway. August 11, 2007.

The worst damage seems to have been at a car dealership, John Weis Ford.

  • Mr. Weis's new body shop lost part of its roof
  • Light poles are bent - one all the way to the ground
  • Quite a few vehicles are damaged
  • His lot won't be ready for use until the mess is cleared away
I'm pretty sure he has insurance, but this is going to hurt.

By the time I got there, a couple guys, one armed with a monkey wrench and tool belt, were starting work on the worst of the light pole damage.

One light pole down, two guys making plans. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That pole was bent, not broken. August 11, 2007.

Not the best day for this car dealership. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Window glass for vehicles is tougher, and safer, than when I was young. August 11, 2007.

Look at the bright side: half the driveway isn't blocked! Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A tree down, but apparently no broken windows. As I said before, it could have been worse. August 11, 2007.

Meanwhile, just west of the car dealership, folks one of the apartment buildings on Fairlane Drive were driving around a tree that had tipped onto about half of a driveway.

Good news: It looks like part of the building is still servicable. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Looks like the roof was either peeled off, or fell inside Either way, it's a mess to clean up. August 11, 2007.

Back on the south side of John Weis Ford, the new body shop obviously needed 'body work' itself. It looked like a work bay on the east side was still in working order, happily.

Trampoline or modern art? You decide. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Friday night, a trampoline. Saturday morning, lawn art. August 11, 2007.

There was some damage in the residential areas. That modern art sculpture, behind the pool in a back yard near Lake Wobegon Trail, was a trampoline yesterday. Again, it could have been worse. Another few yards to the east, and those folks would have had more fresh air in their house than they'd want.

By the way, have you noticed how much those new above-ground pools look like the old-fashioned cloth-bottomed ash trays?

Bad weather for the Metro area, beautiful skyscape for us. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A few minutes after 7, Saturday evening. Those clouds are about a hundred miles away, near the Twin Cities. Beautiful from here, dangerous when they're overhead. August 11, 2007.

Whatever roared through town was very selective. Some folks who live on the west side said that they hadn't noticed anything (not surprising, considering the hour), and that there was no damage in their part of town.

Considering the thousand-foot swath of destruction, Sauk Centre as a whole came away with very little damage. Apart from the Ford dealership, of course. Whatever went through "picked" one of the few open areas in town, this side of the Interstate.

I'm looking forward to see what the Sauk Centre Herald has to say about the storm, and the cleanup. I didn't see any damage elsewhere, but I didn't cover the whole town.

The Our Lady of the Angels parish is having another bake sale, raising money for a new dishwasher. I think it's the third one for that project.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007. The price of gas has been going down since around Independence Day. It's still not what I got used to, back in the sixties, but it's better than it's been.

Gas prices in Sauk Centre, Minnesota: at the sign of the Green Dinosaur
Time to give the green dinosaur some screen time. August 8, 2007.

Flags flew at half-staff at the Minnesota State Capitol complex today, on the order of Governor Pawlenty, in remembrance of the people who died when the 35W bridge in Minneapolis went down. The governor encouraged people across the state to do the same. One place in Sauk Centre did, that I saw.

I'd guess that the rest didn't hear about the Governor's request. I had to stop in at this outfit to find out why they had their flag and half-staff. They said it had been on the radio all morning. I'm glad someone was listening in Sauk Centre.

I-35W bridge collapse: in memory of the victims, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
I-35W bridge collapse: in memory of the victims. August 8, 2007.

On a much happier note, Fitness Guru, next to Wal-Mart, had a sign in the door last week, letting folks in the military know that they could have free workouts this month. The sign, and the offer, are still there.

Free workouts in August for military, at Fitness Guru, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That's a nice touch. Good business, too, I suspect. August 3, 2007.

A household in south Sauk Centre must have wanted to make sure that their yellow ribbon got seen. It may be the biggest one in town.

One big yellow ribbon in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That's one big yellow ribbon. August 8, 2007.

I see in this week's Sauk Herald that Sauk Centre is looking at a major project on Ash Street, repairing the street and putting in a sidewalk to connect the existing one on the west side to Lake Wobegon Trail.

Some of the services under the street are about 40 years old. Hmm. That's about how old the 35W bridge was. This might not be such a bad idea. My family and I live on Ash, so this is going to make life very interesting.

Sunday, August 5, 2007. The folks at a couple parishes got their deacon back when Deacon Kaas started assisting at Mass, earlier this week. It's pretty good news for the extended family that I'm part of, too.

The 35W bridge collapse is still in the news. Happily, there don't seem to be local connections to this disaster.

The Sauk Herald cleared up why an ambulance wove its way through the parade route after the Sinclair Lewis Days parade this year. A 7-year-old Melrose boy jumped off a float a little early as the parade units were going into the Stearns County Fair grounds.

The trailer rolled over his leg, giving him really bad road rash. He was taken to St. Mike's, then to St. Cloud hospital. Six days and three surgeries later, he's back home: and hoping to walk to school this fall.

One of the stereotypes of  "Small Town America" is that it's an idyllic backwater, untouched by time and crime. This week's Sauk Herald demonstrated that Sauk Centre, at least, is keeping up with the times. Someone carrying 15 pounds of contraband mushrooms, wrapped as birthday presents for the most part, a little marijuana, and $10,000 in cash, was ki-yaying down I-94 at 85 miles an hour, 15 over the speed limit. On top of everything else, the driver had a suspended license. Sure, the two in the car were from Myrtle Beach, Oregon: but they were right in this area!

Come to think of it, that's more like the sixties than now.

The Sauk Herald also has an article of the Little Red Schoolhouse down by the Interstate. The piece will be online at least through tomorrow.

What with one thing and another, I didn't get much done on the Sauk Centre Journal since Thursday.

Check back, though: By Wednesday, there should be something new.

Thursday, August 2, 2007. The news is still full of the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I put some toll-free numbers and websites handling blood donations in yesterday's entry.

I'll repeat my comment about "Minnesota Nice." All accounts so far tell that when folks in that part of the Metro saw the bridge go down, they rushed to help people get out. Even some of the people who went down with the bridge stopped to help others get off.

Back to Sauk Centre.

There's still activity at the old Super America store location, across from Holiday at Main and south 12th. I understand that there's going to be a new fitness outfit there: open 24/7/365. Or thereabouts. I somehow misfiled and/or lost my notes on the place (embarrassing). Didn't lose the photos, though. There hasn't been much change outside, but trucks with different materials and equipment have been outside off and on for the last several weeks.

New activity at the old Super America building in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Activity at the old Super America building. July 10, 2007.

New fitness center for Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Coming: a new fitness center. July 18, 2007.

With all the brouhaha over Charlie Company's homecoming, let's not forget that other folks from Minnesota are still over in Iraq, or headed that way. Some one made sure that we'd have a reminder, by putting another sign on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main.

Danny & Jozy of Able Company welcomed from Wobegon Trail bridge, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Personalized signs were up at least a week ago. July 23, 2007.

I've been noticing more personalized 'welcome home' signs lately in Sauk Centre.

Shear Paradise welcomes Chad home from Iraq: in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Shear Paradise welcomes Chad home from Iraq. July 31, 2007.

Sauk Herald welcomes Todd, Brent, and all Charlie Company back to Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Sauk Herald made sure that Todd, Brent, and all Charlie Company knew that they were welcomed home. July 31, 2007.

The Diversicom / Mainstreet Communications sign on Main announced that they had Welcome Home Charlie Company DVDs for sale. I haven't seen their DVD, but I'm sure it's a good, professionally done presentation - and taken from better vantage points than the hour of video available in four parts on Central Minnesota Theater. On the other hand, the Central Minnesota Theater video is free.

Charlie Company DVDs for sale at Diversicom, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Charlie Company DVDs for sale at Diversicom. July 31, 2007.

All that was left of the Stearns County Fair midway earlier this week were two trailers and a few trash cans. Most of the rides and concessions moved on to their next destination Sunday night. As usual, quite a few went past our house.

Once and future midway at the Stearns County fairgrounds in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
The once and future midway, Stearns County fairgrounds. July 31, 2007.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007. The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed a few minutes after 6:00 today. At this time (about 10:00), rescue and recovery was still going on. Trauma personnel in the Metro area have been called in. It's going to be a long night there.

I've heard that they're going to need blood. In case you're in the Metro area, interested, and able, here are some places to donate: Memorial Blood Centers / Where to Donate: Twin Cities Locations

The Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter says that eligible donors can "call 1.800.GIVE.LIFE" (1.800.4483.5433) "or go online to to learn more about blood donation and to make a blood donation appointment. A blood donor card or driver's license are required at check-in. Donors must be at least 17 years old and must weigh at least 110 pounds."

This is obviously a very bad situation. A sort of silver-lining aspect of this is the way that "Minnesota Nice" happened. All accounts so far tell that when folks in that part of the Metro saw the bridge go down, they rushed to help people get out. Even some of the people who went down with the bridge stopped to help others get off.

I was rather distracted this evening, and don't have my regular Sauk Centre Journal entry ready. Getting those numbers and website addresses out was more important, anyway.

I'll be back, tomorrow morning, with today's Journal entry.

Sunday, July 29, 2007. The Stearns County Fair ended tonight. It's been an exciting weekend here. I live on the other side of Lake Wobegon Trail from the fairgrounds, and as usual, we've had vehicles parked in front of the house since the fair opened.

Nobody parked across our driveway this year, happily.

I spend a couple hours Saturday night, calling numbers at the Knights of Columbus Bingo booth. One of my daughters participated in what I understand was the Stearns County Fair's first Karaoke night. I didn't get to hear it, or take part, but I've been told that the Karaoke extravaganza was still going strong after 11:00.

The first of three short videos about the Stearns County Fair is on Central Minnesota Theater. Two more should be ready tomorrow night. (The first one takes about about four minutes to run.)

There's been more happening around Sauk Centre than the fair, but at this moment, I can't remember what it was. Goodnight, all.

Thursday, July 26, 2007. Just a technical note: If you noticed that all four of the Sinclair Lewis Days Parade videos were identical, you caught me! The glitch has been fixed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007. With temperatures in the mid-90s and humidity higher than I like, it was no wonder that we had a heat advisory this afternoon.

That didn't stop preparations for the Stearns County fair. Folks were out this afternoon, encouraging livestock out of trailers, moving benches and equipment into position, hoisting feed out of trucks, and washing down their bovine entries.

The fair opened this evening, and will keep going through the weekend. I'll be back tomorrow, with a little bit about the fair, and more about what's been going on in Sauk Centre.

Besides Charlie Company being back, of course.

Minnesota troops have returned in Alexandria, up the road, I understand, with more coming this Friday.

I finally got the Sinclair Lewis Days Parade video ready. It's available, along with the Charlie Company Homecoming, on Central Minnesota Theater.

Sunday, July 22 2007. It's been a big week. Charlie Company came home, and Sauk Centre celebrated Sinclair Lewis Days.

Not all the soldiers are home yet. One family is picking up their husband/father around Friday. I'm told that he was told that he had a choice of waiting in Iraq, or in Wisconsin. He chose Wisconsin. Sounds like a good choice to me.

I've got about an hour of video of the Sinclair Lewis Day parade, but that will have to wait until my Wednesday entry.

This year's Sinclair Lewis Day parade was a bit more exciting than most: before the procession started, an ambulance came wailing from State Road, onto south 9th, and then northward on Ash. Then, as the parade was winding down, an ambulance came through the elementary school parking lot, onto south 9th, and southbound on Ash, turning in at the fairgrounds. I haven't heard yet what happened: maybe it will be in Tuesday's paper.

Friday, July 20, 2007. There's still some work to do on the pages, but Charlie Company Homecoming 7/19/2007, a five-part set of movie shorts covering the homecoming of the Minnesota National Guard's Charlie Company to Sauk Centre, is available on Central Minnesota Theater.

I plan to improve and expand that part of Brendan's Island later this year.

Thursday, July 19, 2007. Charlie Company returned today.

I've put the first of a five-part set of movie shorts covering the homecoming on Central Minnesota Theater. The rest will follow, as soon as I get the pages set up.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007. UPDATED

Charlie Company is
scheduled to arrive
in Sauk Centre,
at the fairgrounds,
at 1:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 19.
This is the latest information, as of 5:51 p.m., July 18, on the Minnesota National Guard website.

The Sauk Herald ("Soldiers expected in Sauk Thursday") reports that after passing through Melrose, Charlie Company's busses will go on I-94 to Sauk Centre, exit onto Main Street, head north to the downtown traffic signals, east to Ash Street, and then back south to the Stearns County Fairground.

"Once the busses arrive, the Soldiers will dismount and meet briefly with their families. After the brief initial meeting, 1SG Bednarek will call a formation for the Soldiers. At this time the families will make their way to the grandstand to take their seats. The guest speakers will take their seats on the stage, and the ceremony will begin." That's how the Minnesota National Guard's website put it.

The Herald says there'll be "a short ceremony after that first, brief, meeting. and then the soldiers of Charlie Company will be released to their families.

I trust that the ceremony will be short. I'm in strong agreement with what the MN National Guard's website said: "We want our Soldiers to be with their families."

Even for folks who don't have immediate family involved, Charlie Company's homecoming is a big deal here in Sauk Centre.

"Welcome Home Charlie Company, We Love You!" - Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Couldn't have said it better myself. July 18, 2007.

Finally: a "Welcome Home" sign for Charlie Company. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
That "Welcome Home" sign is on the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over
Main Street. July 18, 2007. Remember the sign from 2005?

Red, white, and blue welcome Charlie Company home. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Independence Day doesn't generally get this kind of coloring-up downtown. July 18, 2007.

Charlie Company's homecoming: time for signs. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Both sides of Main Street down town have the Sauk Herald's "Welcome Home" signs and flags up. July 18, 2007.

Bunting, flags, and a sign on south Main, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Flags, bunting, and signs show up further south on Main. July 18, 2007.

More of the Sauk Herald's 'Welcome Home' signs, and flags, in the window. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
In fact, even places off Main are showing their colors. July 18, 2007.

A flag in the window for Charlie Company, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Some window displays are subtle. July 18, 2007.

Sauk Centre's Mustang Bar: yellow ribbons galore on the window, flags overhead
And others are anything but subtle. This bar doesn't seem to want
anyone to miss that they're glad to see Charlie Company coming home. July 18, 2007.

Charlie Company may be back in Sauk Centre,
at the fairgrounds,
at about 1:30 p.m.

That was the last, most accurate, information that the Armory had, as of 3:03 pm today, July 18.

The timing of Charlie Company's return is still not established, as of 11:12 a.m., yesterday on the Minnesota National Guard website. Someone with the Guard told me that some of their people have been working 20 hour days on the task of getting all the people and equipment sent to the right place.

It's a massive, complicated, effort. The impression I got was that 'they'll get here when they get here.'

Monday, July 16, 2007. Preparations for Charlie Company's homecoming continue. The most obvious signs are, well, the signs downtown. There are a few more downtown.

According to the Minnesota National Guard, Charlie Company will be here Thursday, July 19th at the Stearns County Fairgrounds in Sauk Centre. The time still hasn't been established. That information was current as of 7:07 p.m., July 16.

Welcome Home Troops, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
More places with signs welcoming Charlie Company. July 16, 2007.

Welcome Home Charlie Company - Thank You, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
More signs at a place welcoming Charlie Company. July 16, 2007.

Charlie Company homecoming flag, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A flag that's been displayed since the weekend, welcoming Charlie Company home. July 16, 2007.

Sadly, not all soldiers from Minnesota will be meeting their families. The Minnesota National Guard has posted this list of Our Fallen Troops.

Staff Sgt. Greg N. Riewer
Age 28
Hometown: Frazee, Minnesota
A Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died March 23rd, 2007 near Habbaniyah, Iraq

Sgt. Maj. Michael Mettille
Age 44
Hometown: West St Paul, Minnesota
A Co., 134 Brigade Support Battalion
Died Feb. 1st, 2007 in Camp Adder, Iraq.

Staff Sgt. James M. Wosika Jr.
Age 24
Hometown: St Paul, Minnesota
B Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died Jan. 9th, 2007 in Fallujah, Iraq

Sgt. Nicholas D. Turcotte
Age 23
Hometown: Maple Grove, Minnesota
A Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry
Died Dec. 4th, 2006 near Al Nasiriyia, Iraq

Sgt. Bryan T. McDonough
Age 22
Hometown: Maplewood, Minnesota
B Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died Dec. 2nd, 2006 in Fallujah, Iraq

Sgt. Corey Rystad
Age 20
Hometown: Red Lake Falls, Minnesota
B Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died Dec. 2nd, 2006 in Fallujah, Iraq

Staff Sgt. Joshua R. Hanson
Age 27
Hometown: Dent, Minnesota
A Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died August 30, 2006 in Khalidiyah, Iraq

Sgt. Kyle R. Miller
Age 19
Hometown: Willmar, Minnesota
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery
Died July 29, 2006 in Balad, Iraq

Sgt. Brent W. Koch
Age 22
Hometown: Morgan, Minnesota
E Co., 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry
Died June 16, 2006 in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq

Staff Sgt. David F. Day
Age 25
Hometown: St. Louis Park, Minnesota
C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery
Died February 21, 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq

Sgt. Jesse M. Lhotka
Age: 24
Hometown: Appleton, Minnesota
C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery
Died February 21, 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq

1st Lt. Jason G. Timmerman
Age: 24
Hometown: Tracy, Minnesota
C Company, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery
Died February 21, 2005 in Baghdad, Iraq

Sunday, July 15, 2007. It feels a bit odd, being glad that gasoline is only $3.199 a gallon. It seems that a flooded refinery in Kansas caused that Independence Day spike.

Friday the 13th gas prices in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Better, but still a bit heart-stopping. July 13, 2007.

Not far from that sign, at least two people got the weekend off to a bad start. By the time I got to 12th and south Main, the only indication of an accident was a police car by the side of the road, and a bit of debris. I hope it was just the fender-bender it looked like.

Debris from an accident at 12th and south Main in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Not the way I'd have chosen to start a weekend: debris from a. July 13, 2007.

There's a sign up by that previously-treeless park on the east side, a block or so northwest of the schools. The fine print on that sign says, "This small forest was planted in 2007 for the class of 2018." That's a nice idea. I hope the trees survive.

Brown's Park Build-A-Forest: Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Brown's Park Build A Forest: nice idea!. July 13, 2007.

There's a lot of anticipation going on in Sauk Centre: especially for the kinfolk of soldiers from Charlie Company (C Company 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor, from the Sauk Centre Armory).

Folks are getting signs and flags out, there are yellow ribbons on the light poles, and I realize that the part of the light pole maintenance I saw, back on the 6th, was polishing the poles for Charlie Company's homecoming.

The Sauk Herald's latest edition reported that they'd have updates on their website, telling when Charlie Company would be returning.

The Minnesota National Guard says that Charlie Company, and other units, returned to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, on July 10. The National Guard website said that they'd be fully occupied with demobilization there, and that kinfolk were advised to keep out from underfoot. (The "Visitors at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin" section was much more politely worded, but that's the gist of it.)

We can expect to see Charlie Company back in Sauk Centre next Thursday, July 19, although as of this morning the exact time hadn't been set.

God Bless Charlie Company: Sauk Centre, Minnesota, bank
"God Bless Charlie Company" at Sinclair Lewis and Main. July 12, 2007.

Charlie Company - Thank you!: the other Sauk Centre, Minnesota, bank
The other bank will be glad to see them, too. July 12, 2007.

Flag in the window in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Downtown will be a bit more colorful this week. July 12, 2007.

Other preparations are being made, too. Sinclair Lewis Days will overlap Charlie Company's return, making next week quite a celebratory double-header.

Sauk Centre High School band, practicing their march in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Sauk Centre band, getting ready for Sinclair Lewis Days. July 13, 2007.

This last item isn't directly related to Sauk Centre, but it's something that's happening in our area.

I was down in St. Cloud last week, twice. While the gas prices were high. But that's another story.

The point is, I spent some time in the waiting room of the WorkForce center down there. Some folks whose language bubbled where English hisses were there at the same time. I can't be sure, but I think these folks are from Somalia. It may not be too long before we have another set of specialty shelves in the groceries up here.

Seeing those folks reminded me of the sort of culture shock my ancestors went through, coming to what for them was a strange land.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007. Minnesota, the state where, if you don't like the climate, wait a day or so: it will change. The heat and thick air lasted through part of Monday. Tuesday, we had wind. Today, it's comfortable by my standards. My wife thinks it's cold.

Getting the bad news out of the way first: Sauk Centre isn't immune to what's going on in the rest of the country. Gas prices went up before Independence Day, to about $2.85. After that, it was $3.099. Now it's $3.259. And I have to drive to St. Cloud tomorrow. Again.

Gas prices in Sauk Centre, July 4 and 11, 2007.
Yike. July 4. 11, 2007.

Aside from that, things are going pretty well.

Deacon Kaas is still on the mend from his double-header knee replacement surgery. Folks in a couple parishes here can tell he's off duty.

It looks like the 1st State Bank sign is getting some attention. Like everything else in the world, it needs TLC now and again.

Bank sign getting fixed in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A welcome sign for the bank sign: a guy with a cherry picker. July 10, 2007.

I've been meaning to see what's happened inside Marc'ette Florist & Gallery (I think that's what the place on Main is called). They've done a nice job, expanding the flower shop into the rest of the house. That might be "floral" - I've had trouble remembering that place's name since day 1.

There's quite a variety of artwork in with the floral stuff, now: framed photos, paintings, and doodads that are decorative, if not strictly functional.

Marc'ette in Sauk Centre: flowers & creative stuff
I've seen homes like this, almost. July 10, 2007.

Marc'ette on Main Street in Sauk Centre: art and plants
More of Marc'ette. There's some beautiful work here. July 10, 2007.

And now, something completely different.

Across the Interstate from an equipment dealership, there's a sign that's very symbolic of something. What, I've no idea.

Space Aliens and farm implements in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Space aliens and farm implements in Sauk Centre. July 6, 2007.

Welcome Home Charlie Company! We Missed you! - from folks around Sauk Centre, MinnesotaThe Herald's front-page-top story was that the National Guard troops based at Sauk Centre's armory are expected home next week. Just in time for Sinclair Lewis Days.

Seriously, this town, and area, will be very glad to see them home. One family I know has been waiting for this for a long time.

The picture to the right says it all. It's two sides of a sort of flier that the Sauk Herald printed for the homecoming. I'm not entirely sure that it was in the paper, so I went to the Herald offices and got two copies. I plan to put them up later this week.

The Herald also put out the Gopher Gazette, for Sinclair Lewis Days. I'll get back to that later.

Sunday, July 8, 2007. This has been a good week for family experiences. Not so good with the weather. Yesterday it was 98 over in Glenwood, about 20 miles west. Today it was only 87 there.

There wasn't enough water in the air here to make aerial swimming possible, but it felt like it. I grilled lunch anyway, enjoyed another day with my family and (very briefly) my kids' cousins. Again, there's a little more at Through One Dad's Eye.

Sauk Centre has a new mailbox. This really is significant. The new mailbox, behind the post office building, is the only one I know of that a driver can use without either getting out of the vehicle, or getting illegally creative with traffic patterns.

Sauk Centre's driver-friendly mailbox
A mailbox positioned with drivers in mind. July 6, 2007.

That mailbox. and the postal system it's part of, reminds me of Small Town America's place in the country. Ben Franklin's 18th century information-transmission service helped tie this country together, and helped people share ideas in the days before the Internet.

Generations after radio and television, and as the Web is becoming a part of daily life, Small Town America is even less isolated from the world if ideas and issues than it was in the days of Sinclair Lewis.

We're not a monolithic, parochial, pack of people. Scratch the smog-free, smiling surface of Small Town America, and you'll find a diversity of more-or-less sophisticated and thoughtful people.

Freedom of speech: Valuable, and sometimes decorative. July 6, 2007.

Over on Main Street ("The Original Main Street" the signs say, memorializing Sauk Centre's contribution to the Nobel Prize in Literature), a crew was working on the light poles Friday. I think they were removing the brackets that have held Sauk Centre's banners, and giving the poles a rub-down. There's always something that needs fixing, or maintaining.

Light pole maintenance on Main in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Light pole maintenance on Main. July 6, 2007.

This family planted a cherry tree several years ago. They look nice, and we like cherries. Most years, bugs and birds got to the cherries before we did. This was one of the years when we won.

I noticed that another household is taking firm measures to keep one of their trees safe. I don't blame them one bit. The only differences between what they're doing and what we tried one year is that

  1. Theirs seems to be working
  2. It looks better than ours did

Top tree security in SauK Centre, Minnesota
Now, that's one protected tree.. July 5, 2007.

This year we didn't try to protect our tree, and so far we've gotten a gallon or more of cherries, with more left to pick. I'm not bragging: we just got to the tree before the b&b patrols did.

It could be worse: a Minnesota cherry tree
As we say in Minnesota, "it could be worse." July 8, 2007.

Getting back to what we celebrated on Independence Day, transcripts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are available online:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 #2. I grilled lunch, enjoyed being with my family while my kids' cousins and some of my kids flittered back and forth between this house and my father-in-law's. There's a little more about that situation at Through One Dad's Eye.

While grilling, I heard a siren: probably over on Main. Hats off to emergency workers and law enforcement, who collectively keep watch 24/7/365.

Clear skies, billowing clouds, bright sunshine, and the occasional exploding firecracker in the street outside were the order of the day.

On the community level, the flags flying downtown were just about the liveliest thing going on. On the other hand, judging from what I can see from my front yard, though, folks have been busily celebrating a holiday on the friends-and-family level.

Yesterday was another matter. Hot, humid, wind, and weather watches. I was out on an errand when the National Weather Service announced a storm warning for a patch of excitement coming this way, more or less.

Since "some rotation" was part of the storm's description, I paid particular attention.

Storm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota July 3, 2007
3:07 pm by my timepiece. I'd just heard about the storm watch. July 3, 2007.

Storm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota July 3, 2007
3:08 pm. Here's looking at you? July 3, 2007.

Storm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota, July 3, 2007
3:10 pm. I'm no meteorologist, but this, and that eye-in-the-sky two minutes before looked like the work of an overachiever among storms. July 3, 2007.

Storm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota, July 3, 2007
3:11 pm. Since it's not moving right or left, but seems to be getting bigger, maybe it's headed straight toward the Stearns County fairgrounds. And me. July 3, 2007.

Storm near Sauk Centre, Minnesota, July 3, 2007
3:12 pm. At about this point, I decided that it might be better to head for a place with a nice, deep, hundred-year-old fieldstone basement, than stay put and get more pictures. July 3, 2007.

Hail: nothing spectacular, I was glad to be inside. July 3, 2007.

This robin did not seem entirely satisfied with its shelter. July 3, 2007.

There's a short video of Sauk Centre's rain at the Central Minnesota Theater.

I've heard that golf-ball size hail came down north of Sauk Centre, but all I saw in town were chunks of ice about the size of an olive, at most. I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007. Independence Day. The 4th of July. The day in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The birthday of the United States of America.

I'm going to get this posted quickly now, and hope to get back with something about Sauk Centre in the evening.

Meanwhile, if all goes well, I'll grill lunch.

Happy birthday, USA. July 4, 2007.

I think it would be appropriate today to remember how the Declaration of Independence ends:

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Sunday, July 1, 2007. Deacon Kaas is back home, being taken care of by a selection of his kids and grandkids. I go into a little more detail in Through One Dad's Eye. He's not going to be back at his deaconly duties anytime soon, but he's doing a lot better than I did after getting replacement parts last year.

Wednesday is Independence Day. I've been hearing fireworks off and on for the last week or so. I suppose it'll get to be a much more common event next week.

The race track south of the Interstate put on a fireworks display last night: a fairly common event during the racing season.

Fireworks displays will be going off all around us. The Alexandria paper listed some in their area:

  • Alexandria
    • Star Storm 2007 at the Arrowwood Resort
    • Viking Speedway
  • Osakis
  • Big Chip Lake
  • Lake Carlos Parade
  • West Union

Sauk Centre, as usual, saves its fireworks for Sinclair Lewis Day, later in the summer. Makes sense, I suppose.

I've been a little preoccupied this week. since Deacon Kaas is my father-in-law, I've been a a little involved with his medical procedure. Not as much as my wife and kids, though: some of them have been minding the shop in his absence.

Living in a small town has advantages, but not if you like to be an anonymous member of a throng. The other day, I was in the Coborns parking lot when someone walked up to me and asked me how Larry was doing. "Larry" isn't how I think of my father-in-law, but I knew what the questioner meant. I like living in a place where folks know me, know who I'm related to, and care about how others are doing.

Rummaging through some photos in my work computer, I found some that hadn't made it into the Sauk Centre Journal. These two might be worth looking at.

Model tent in Sauk Centre Wal-Mart superstore
A miniature display model, or a tent for someone's pet gerbil? My wife thought this microtent looked cute. I'm inclined to agree. June 15, 2007.

Fast food icon and flower planter
Not much of a conversationalist, but always in a good mood. Someone had a good idea, setting him up to look at the planter. May 19, 2007.

One more thing has been keeping me occupied me this week. I finally got Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers ready to go, and published. Now I need to let travelers know about this directory of "Destinations and Diversions in Minnesota."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007. Deacon Kaas, of the Our Lady of the Angels and St. Alexius parishes, had his knee replacement operations yesterday. The last I heard, he's doing okay. If they're using the same recovery philosophy on him that they did on me, he probably was shifted to a vertical position today. (In my case, it wasn't what I call 'standing,' although my feet were on the floor.) I haven't heard anything about his progress today, though, so that's just speculation.

Gopher Prairie Motel got a new sign yesterday. They've been connected with the America's Best Value Inn chain for some time, this new sign just emphasizes the fact.

Gopher Priaire Motel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
I keep thinking of the place as "Gopher Prairie Motor Lodge" for some reason. I'll have to check into that. June 26, 2007.

It's a good thing, too, I think. GPM is tucked away, behind the Interpretive Center. Aside from I-94 to the south, it's a great location for someone looking for a quiet night's sleep. On the other hand, the place hasn't been the easiest thing to spot, coming into town from the south.

Gopher Prairie Motel's new sign, near I-94 in Sauk Centre
The crew didn't waste any time, getting that sign in place. I spotted them as I came off the Interstate, and by the time I got back with a camera, they had that sign nearly in place. June 26, 2007.

This new sign should fix that. It's set up to catch the eye of folks on I-94, with a nice, simple message.

America's best in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Whaddaya know. Americas' best is right here in Sauk Centre. June 26, 2007.

Funny how it works. It's a rare event when I go outside without a camera, ever since I missed a never-going-to-see-the-like-again cloud. This morning, I had a follow-up on the hip replacements down in Melrose. Going out the door, I thought about taking the camera, but decided, "nah. Odds are that nothing will happen." So, something happens, and I near-as-anything miss it. It'll probably be years before I leave a camera behind again.

There's the dusty old joke, "Minnesota has four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Road Work." We're in the fourth of those now. Local and regional news services have announcements of road closings and detours, and here in Sauk Centre, the aroma of hot tar wafts across lawns and gardens as a crew edges its way along the streets, filling in cracks with a pungent distillation of ebon viscosity.

I love using big words like that.

I see in the Sauk Herald that there's a postal drop box behind the Sauk Centre Post Office now. I'll check that out: The ones in front are a little awkward to get at when traffic on Main is heavy.

Much more importantly, it looks like the part of Minnesota's National Guard Company C may be coming home, around the 3rd week in July. The Sauk Herald has a detailed article on what's not classified about the homecoming.

Charlie Company has been away from home for a long time, since October of 2005. They got a good sendoff then, and it looks like there will be something of the sort next month. The Herald article says they'll return to Sauk Centre by way of Melrose, "as a tribute to all that community has done for us," Captain Michael Mohs was quoted as saying.

Speaking of Melrose, the parishes of St. John the Baptist in Meire Grove and St. Andrew's in Greenwald have said goodbye to Fr. Pascal Otieno Ounga, a priest from Kenya who has been living in this area for the last 18 months or so. I've enjoyed the times he came to Sauk Centre. The Melrose Beacon said that a catchphrase of his is "God is Good - All the time. All the Time - God is Good." Fr. Ounga is returning to Kenya soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007. Oops. Driving on south 12th between Ash and Main, I noticed that "Westport Liquors" is "Westside Liquors." I've corrected the last entry or so, but thought that I should note the change. Maybe that's my old academic training, popping up again.

Also, the Gopher Prairie Motel is getting a new sign. More about that tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2007. Sushi has come to Sauk Centre. The Chinese restaurant downtown added "sushi available" to their window signage recently. I noticed it this week, but it may have been up earlier: I've been a little distracted lately.

Someday, I really should try sushi. Long ago, when I had access to such things, I discovered that snails can taste good. Of course, the French habit of frying everything helped put them on near top of the heap when it comes to international cuisine.

Sushi comes to Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Sushi comes to Sauk Centre. June 22, 2007.

Funny. Give food a name like "coq au vin" or "poulet de Sanders" and some folks will pay top dollar to be served small portions while being insulted. Call it "fried chicken" and the some of those folks will think of it's food for rednecks.

Where was I?

Right. Sushi, now available in Sauk Centre. It's good to have something other than fast food and north central traditional available in town: not that I've got anything against either. I've mentioned it before, but there's what looks like a decent assortment of Mexican food available in grocery stores. I wouldn't mind getting an informed opinion on how well the food outlets are doing in that line.

I stopped by the Westside Liquors fireworks tent late this week and took a picture inside. It seems to be a family-run outfit, with quite a variety of whiz-and-sparkle-makers.

lots of fireworks, no firecrackers in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Fireworks by the barrel. June 22, 2007.

My family's been hearing some loud booms for the last week or so. They were coming closer together today. My wife tells me that she smelled gunpowder after the last one, so I guess we can rule out a backfiring motorcycle as the source of those sounds.

It was another beautiful day today. Overly warm, a tad muggy, but who's complaining? I grilled burgers again at noon, relaxed, and enjoyed being with my family. I love it here.

Small town sunday afternoon in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Sunday afternoon in Sauk Centre. June 24, 2007.

One of my kids called this the Year of the Moth. An unusual number of those dusty flutterers have been bumping around the house for the last month. It's not just our house, either. I've seen unusual numbers of the things around town. I've never heard or read what would cause a plague of moths. Plague? More like a wave. Or a flutter. Maybe an unusual number of moths should be called a dusting of moths.

Quite enough of that.

It looks like the Minnesota National Guard's Charlie Company is actually coming home. I know one family who will be very glad of that. Quite a few folks around here have had close kin over in Iraq the last 16 months or so.

Coming home. Good news.

Thursday, June 21, 2007. A day late, again. I'd fire me, but then who would I get to write this?

Independence Day is bearing down on us. Those fireworks displays in the stores have been joined by two tents: one, set up in the Westside Liquors parking lot on Tuesday, the other in front of Alco. The folks at the Westside location were planning to get their fireworks set up today.

Two fireworks tents in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Two tents of fireworks vendors. June 20, 2007.

Despite their reputation, small towns do change. Main Street Coffee Company, on Main Street, for example, added a couple of things to their outdoor seating and front yard. I think the things are called pergolas, but I could be wrong.

Main Street Coffe Company in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Gifts, famous recipe bread pudding, bike rental, and a motorcyclist beneath the pergola. June 18, 2007.

The First State Bank sign was blank on Monday, except for one very bright light on each side. I imagine they've fixed that, by now, but haven't checked.

Nothing to say on a fine summer day in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
It's odd, how folks notice what isn't there. June 18, 2007.

Deacon Kaas, of the Our Lady of the Angels and St. Alexius parishes, is scheduled to have his knees replaced next week. His family have arranged to take care of some of his deaconly duties, mind his shop, and take care of him. I ought to know: I'm part of that family, having had the good sense to marry one of his daughters.

As long as I'm indulging in discussing my family: I experiencing another sort of family adjustment, having to do with my father. There's more at Through One Dad's Eye, a blog of mine.

Meanwhile, street work of some sort is creeping up Ash Street on the south side. This is my cue to trot out the old gag:, "Minnesota, the four-season state: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Road Work."

Sunday, June 17, 2007. Fathers' Day. With all four kids under the roof again, I'm constantly reminded that I am a father.

Rain and roof runoff in Sauk Centre, MinnesotaThis part of central Minnesota got quite a bit of rain Friday. Glenwood, about twenty miles west, got 7/10 of an inch, which is antihistamine precipitation (nothing to sneeze at).

When I got home, Friday afternoon, there had already been a shower or two, sending sheets of rain chasing each other down the streets and folks with good sense and a choice indoors. The weather service had announced a severe storm warning for this area, a sensible choice, considering the heavy rain, high winds, and enthusiastic lightning.

I decided to wait for a break between showers, which gave me quite a bit of time to contemplate the symphony of falling water and flashing clouds. Also, time to remember that this household hadn't quite finished mowing the yard after its last growth spurt.

Happily, there doesn't seem to have been much damage from the storm, although some trees got a free-form pruning.

Rain and runoff in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Nice to watch, damp to walk through. June 15, 2007.

Country Music Fest happened this week, so there were more cowboy hats and folks with sincerely red sunburns in town than usual.

Roughing it in the 21st century. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Roughing it, 21st-century stile. June 16, 2007.

Some householders in Sauk Centre seem to have a philosophy that paraphrases Socrates: "An undecorated yard is a wasted yard."

"An undecorated yard is a wasted yard." Sauk Centre, Minnesota
One of the more thoroughly decorated yards in town. June 16, 2007.

The family did pretty much what we usually do on a weekend. I grilled burgers Saturday noon, and would have today, if a task hadn't taken a great deal longer than I expected.

We had grilled burgers, but not by my hand: our second daughter produced some of the best burgers I've tasted. Nothing quite matches my burger briquettes, though.

Weather was perfect yesterday noon, so we ate outside.

Father's Day weekend in Sauk Centre
Sunshine, grilled burgers, and a family to share it with. June 16, 2007.

It just doesn't get much better than this.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007. We've had rain, so soil moisture doesn't seem to be as much of a concern for now. For a townie like me, the big issue right now is how soon the grass will need cutting again, and getting an outsized branch subdivided and out of the back yard.

The price of gas is still going down. Funny: That doesn't seem to be getting into the news as much.

Two eighty nine nine gas? Wow. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Incredible! Gas is getting cheaper! June 12, 2007.

The public library has been working to encourage kids to read during the summer. I'm told that I missed the animals that they had out front: including a snake. I did, however, meet a big inflatable ape inside. He wasn't much of a conversationalist, but his consistently cheerful personality made up for that.

Going ape over reading in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Going ape over reading. June 12, 2007.

A downtown storefront that's been part of a gift shop was a work in progress yesterday. A small crew replaced part of the facing with what looks like plywood sheeting. This is probably a work in progress. Either that, or someone's going for a really cutting-edge, trend-setting style.

Storefront work in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Cutting-edge exterior design or work in progress? June 12, 2007.

Don't say I didn't warn you. I took pictures at the celebration of Deacon Kaas' 20th anniversary as a deacon, and I'm going to show some of them.

Our Lady of the Angels church, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Deacon Kaas' 20th anniversary of becoming a deacon. June 10, 2007.

There's generally a meal after special occasions at a church, and around here it's the Christian Mothers who see to it that folks are fed and that everything's properly washed and stored afterward.

Doing that for a hundred or so people takes coordination and attention to detail. Someone even saw to it that each table had attractive centerpieces. This would be a good time to say "thanks!"

Getting together after the celebration at OLA in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
After celebrations there's almost always a meal. And there are always folks who stay and talk longer than others. June 10, 2007.

Blue centerpiece, Our Lady of the Angels church, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Good food and about two dozen centerpieces: half all blue, like this one. June 10, 2007.

Transparent centerpiece, Our Lady of the Angels church, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
The other kind of centerpiece that day. June 10, 2007.

Which reminds me: Now that the Our Lady of the Angels church roof doesn't leak, the gutters are fixed, and the bell tower isn't going to fall over, the Christian Mothers want a new dishwasher. The old one broke some time back.

As Fr. Statz said: like any other house, something always needs fixing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007. The Prairie Fire Children's Theatre and Sauk Centre Elementary PTA presented a musical "Peter Pan" Friday night. Not PP as envisioned by Disney Studios, Not PP as written by Barrie, the Baronet Bard of Britain but Peter Pan as written by Nordquist & Pick.

Tinkerbell in Peter Pan at Sauk Centre
Tinkerbell: jingle bells plus ballet equals drama. June 8, 2007.

Like the other Prairie Fire Children's Theatre shows, this "Peter Pan" featured a cast of dozens, catchy tunes, and a casting-to-opening night cycle of just a few days. And, like the others, it's a good way to spend the evening: for me, at least, and the sampling of this family's kids and a cousin (to the kids: she's my niece) that went with me.

The lost kids in Prairie Fire Children's Theatre's Peter Pan, Sauk Centre
The Lost Kids: Peter Pan must have had his hands full. June 8, 2007.

In deference to contemporary sensibilities, Tiger Lilly is in charge of a baseball team called the Cleveland.... Oops. Sorry. Almost forgot myself there. Moments after being introduced, the team was renamed the Cleveland Norwegians.

Tiger Lilly and the Cleveland Norwegians, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Tiger Lilly and: yes, it's the Cleveland Norwegians. June 8, 2007.

In addition to demonstrating multi-cultural sensitivity, this musical drama teaches important life lessons. For example, there's this excerpt from the song "I Am Hook:"

I am Hook, the King of the Pirates,
I'm no good, so don't make me irat.
Walk the plank, and if you don't like it:
Tough noogies, I'm a pirate! [trill]

All in all, one good show!

A ticking crocodile and five beasts: Peter Pan in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A ticking crocodile and five colorful beasts. June 8, 2007.

Hook, the Lost Kids, and pirates in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
A tense moment for the Lost Kids in Neverland. June 8, 2007.

Tense drama in Peter Pan, as staged in Sauk Centre, Minneosta
Tense drama as the pirate captain refuses to let Wendy and company
off the hook. June 8, 2007.

The cast of Peter Pan the musical, Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Peter Pan: drama, music, and a cast of dozens. June 8, 2007.

Then, this afternoon, folks from the Our Lady of the Angels and St. Alexius churches came to OLA to help Deacon Kaas celebrate his 20th anniversary of becoming a deacon.

The Christian Music Festival part of the event took us past a couple dozen songs and tunes, from "Salve Regina" and "Grandfather's Clock" to "Edelweiss" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Also three musical approaches to Ave Maria and Pachabell Cannon.

Some of the music revealed the ethnic heritage of this town: One of my kids told me that she hadn't been aware that "Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam" was a polka.

It's only fair to post this warning: I took pictures there, and might put a few of them in this journal this Wednesday.

Thursday, June 7, 2007. This entry is late. Sorry about that: There hasn't been anything particularly major going on this week, just a lot of minor things that took longer than I expected. The effect is not unlike having to walk through a waddling mob of ducks. One or two ducks have almost no effect on one's progress. When there are dozens of them, it's an entirely different matter.

Let's see. The traffic light at 12th and Ash was working on Monday, flashing again on Tuesday, and working on Wednesday, when I saw a crew attending to the lights at 12th and Main. I don't envy folks who earn a living by standing in a small box, suspended fifteen or twenty feet over traffic.

The 112th and Ash lights were still in operation today, so it looks like whatever whatever got fixed, stayed fixed.

Traffic light work in Sauk Centre, 12th and Main
Steady...steady.... Traffic light work at 12th and Main. June 6, 2007.

Gas prices were going the wrong way this week: at least, according to my computer-based prediction in May. From what the news says, gas is going down all over the country. Good news, I'd think, for the tourism industry in these parts.

gas prices in Sauk Centre. Minnesota: June 2007
Gas prices: going down?!. June 4, 6, 2007.

A state trooper got hit by a truck during a traffic stop on I-94 today, near Sauk Centre. The good news is that, apart from a broken leg and assorted other injuries, he's in good condition and has been airlifted to St. Cloud after a brief stay at St. Mike's here in town.

The semi that hit him also turned the left doors of his patrol car into modern art. Not to get preachy, but good sense and state law say that drivers should get into the left lane when they see a law enforcement vehicle with flashing lights, stopped by the roadside.

Northern Minnesota got some excitement this afternoon, with tornados roaring up in Otter Tail and Wilkinson Counties, north of Sauk Centre, and hail the size of golf balls came down somewhere in the vicinity of the metro area. All we got was some wind, rain, and lightning. I can't say I'm disappointed.

Storm clouds over south Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Storm clouds coming over south Sauk Centre. June 7, 2007.

Driving north on Ash street after one of the rumblers went over, I saw a branch about seven feet long and miscellaneous leaves and twigs in the street. That's one of the advantages of storms like this: they act as a sort of tree-trimming service. As such, their work tends to be sloppy and unpredictable. On the other hand, they don't charge anything.

Wind damage, but not much, in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Impromptu lawn decoration, courtesy of an old willow. June 7, 2007.

I also noticed that a big willow dropped a small tree's worth of branch in our yard. Since experience has taught that ignoring such things doesn't make them go away, I suppose that we'll have to haul it off.

Thursday, June 7, 2007. Thanks for touching base at my Sauk Centre Journal. I'll be back later today.

Sunday, June 3, 2007. School is out for the summer. Months will go by before once again southeast Sauk Centre's mid-afternoon ennui will be enlivened by the screeching of tires, the occasional honking of horns, and the pageant of youthful academics issuing forth into the streets to play bumper cars.

To be fair, accidents are fairly rare here, near the school, and the divot left in this household's yard from the last vehicular experiment in applied inertia is no longer visible.

It helps to have a yard that has what I call a "lived in" look.

Meanwhile, down at the corner of south 12th and Ash, Sauk Centre's newest set of traffic lights continues to industriously flash red in all four directions.

Flags over Sauk Centre
Flags over Sauk Centre's south side. June 1, 2007.

We've had rain, off and on, for the last several days. I know that we can use it, catching up from a dry year, but it's inconvenient. My pre-teen son has expressed displeasure at having to stay in, and the front yard looks like it's about ready for harvest.

Storm clouds near Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Storm clouds: beautiful, in their own way. June 2, 2007.

Happily, we've missed whatever severe weather was available: so far, at least. On the other hand, boaters were well-advised to come in off the lake yesterday afternoon, when the sky flickered like a scrum of paparazzi following a minor celebrity.

Sauk Lake under storm clouds. Sauk Centre, Minnesota
This was a very good time to come in off the lake. June 2, 2007.

Finally, here's a photo of the local post office that I'd like to share. On the wall above the Postmaster's office door is a harvest painting, almost certainly dating back to WPA days. We haven't harvested grain like that for generations, but it's still a good symbol of what this town was, and to a great extent still is: a small center of commerce and industry in the agricultural lands of Minnesota.

Old-time harvest painting in Sauk Centre post office, Minnesota
Sauk Centre post office. We don't harvest that way now. April, 2007.

Thursday, May 31, 2007. School is winding down, with students taking field trips, cleaning out their desks, or whatever else the school calendar mandates.

The recent rains have pushed back the territory covered by dryness ratings ranging from 'Dusty' to 'One-Heated-Word-and-it-Burns' (professionals unimaginatively rank drought intensities from "Abnormally Dry" to "Exceptional").

Last Sunday's shooting is still news. Yesterday's Echo Press and St. Cloud Times published more information. I think the St. Cloud paper put it on the front page because several miles of I-94 were closed Monday, while evidence was gathered.

Alexandria-Osakis-Sauk Centre shooting headline
Small town makes front-page news: but not the sort that I'd prefer.
May 30, 2007.

The traffic lights at 12th and Ash were flashing red Tuesday and Wednesday. It could be that someone decided that traffic was so light that all we needed was a glorified 4-way stop, but I think the things are on the fritz again.

29 seconds of what may be the most boring video recorded so far this year: but how else do you show a flashing light? May 30, 2007.

The two Catholic churches in town have been getting attention. Someone has been working on St. Paul's bell tower, and Our Lady of the Angels church wrapped up an extensive overhaul with gutter work this month. OLA started clearing a backlog of repairs about three and a half years ago. It's good to have a bell tower that's not likely to fall over, a roof that doesn't leak, and working gutters.

St. Paul's bell tower gets attention: Sauk Centre
St. Paul's bell tower. Even with that kind of platform, it's not the sort of work I'd prefer. May 30, 2007.

Our Lady of the Angels gutter work: Sauk Centre
Gutter work on OLA in May. May 8, 2007.

It looks like an early 4th this year. Yesterday, I spotted fireworks in a local store.

An early 4th of July: fireworks in Sauk Centre
Down with the egg baskets, up with the fireworks. May 30, 2007.

Monday, May 28, 2007. Memorial Day.

Ducks have been in town for some time now. I haven't encountered any genuinely addled ducks yet, but they've started to pair off.

'Ducks over grass' in Sauk Centre
Ducks over grass. May 4, 2007.

Sauk Centre's post office has had a little extra decoration in the lobby lately: part of the "Star Wars" stamp promotion.

"Star Wars" C-3P0 and R2-D2 in Sauk Centre
"I'm sorry, the master is rather busy just now." April, 2007.

We heard sad news this morning. Alexandria police got calls at about 4:30 Sunday morning, reporting that someone was driving around "impaired" (my guess is that the callers said either "drunk" or "stoned") and had a weapon. The guy decided to lead a chase through Alexandria before getting on I-94. Police ended the chase with stop sticks, apparently between Osakis and Sauk Centre, and tried to talk with the driver. As the news piece said, "shots were fired" and the driver is dead. The two police officers involved are on paid administrative leave until things get sorted out, as usual when this sort of thing happens.

I'm glad we have folks who are willing to keep services like fire and police departments running, holiday or not.

Here in Sauk Centre, there's something of a puzzle. The computer model I made, based on mid-May gas prices, conclusively demonstrated that we'll be paying over $124 per gallon by the end of the year. Now, I may have to take another look at that prediction. The cost of gasoline reached $3.299 per gallon by May 17, stayed there, and went down to $3.199 today.

Memorial Day gas prices in Sauk Centre
Gas prices going down on Memorial Day!?. May 28, 2007.

Finally, here's a look at Memorial Day in Sauk Centre.

Memorial Day at the lake, Sauk Centre
Some folks took it easy at Sauk Centre's campground by Sauk Lake.
May 28, 2007.

Memorial Day at the playground, Sauk Centre
The playground in Sauk Lake Park (Sinclair Lewis Park, officially), and the fast food places near Main, may have been the most hectic spots in town. May 28, 2007.

Memorial Day traffic, Sauk Centre
Flags and traffic on Sinclair Lewis Avenue. May 28, 2007.

Sunday, May 27, 2007. Memorial Day weekend.

We're about half-way through this year's Memorial Day weekend. Some towns and cities have traditional Memorial Day parades, with a dwindling turnout of WWII veterans marching. Vets from the Vietnam era made another Rolling Thunder ride on their motorcycles from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Memorial.

Sauk Centre doesn't make a very big deal out of Memorial Day, apart from flags lining the downtown streets.

On the other hand, folks around here celebrate this day and honor all who served in this nation's military in what may be one of the best ways possible.

Down by the lake this afternoon, I saw families relaxing: adults on the grass, often in the shade, kids bouncing off the playground equipment.

At the other end of town, people were picking up Happy Meals from a fast-food place, shopping at Wal-Mart, or continuing their drive northward into lake country.

All over town, rummage and garage sales brought householders with too much stuff and folks with a perceived need for stuff together. More than just a part of the area's economy, these sales are a summer social event of sorts.

By spending the day by the lake, shopping, slurping sodas, or rummage sale-ing, these folks show that the sacrifices were worth it. Despite attacks and threats over the generations, there is still a prosperous, growing, and free USA.

I plan to be back late Monday evening with another entry, and a few photos that don't have a thing to do with Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007. A day late, again! By way of explanation, I spent most of Wednesday in St. Cloud, several hours more than expected, on a family-related matter. Sorry about that!

One thing I'll say about Minnesota weather: it's not boring. It got up to around 80 last week, was 40 Sunday morning, and back up to 80 Monday.

It's been windy, too. Monday afternoon at least three fire/emergency trucks screamed south on Main. One of them was a tanker, so I assume the fire was outside the city water system. With Monday's wind, it wasn't the day I'd have chosen to have a fire. Not that any day's particularly good.

Bueckers City Sanitation had another fire Sunday, exactly three weeks after another fire. The first fire did about $1 million damage, the second destroyed their main garbage and recycling building. The Bueckers owned the business for thirty years with only one fire before this.

There's some good news: although a dog died in April's fire, nobody was hurt in either one. Also, BCS is up and running, with no interruption of service. Employees got to the site in time to get garbage trucks out of the building. The Sauk Herald article reported that spontaneous combustion was blamed for the first fire, and that it's too early to tell about last Sunday's

Bueckers City Sanitation, Sauk Centre
Somewhat the worse for wear, but still working Bueckers City Sanitation. May 22, 2007.

Bueckers City Sanitation fire damage, Sauk Centre
At least they got the trucks out. May 22, 2007.

Tuesday morning the power was out, at least in part of south Sauk Centre, from about 6:05 to 6:50 in the morning. Twelve hours later, the same thing happened, from about 6 to 7. That's a little unusual.

On a much happier note, a family of sparrows (I think) is in the process of launching their next generation. They're subletting a hollow in the wall of a downtown business.

Birds: launching the next generation in Sauk Centre
Preparing the next generation of birds. May 7 & 22, 2007.

Also, the pelicans are back. Those outsized fish-scoopers don't seem to get much attention, although they're very much part of the summer season in these parts.

Pelicans over Sauk Centre: near St. Michael's Hospital
Pelicans wheeling past St. Michael's Hospital. May 21, 2007.

Now, it's time for me to get back to work on my Memorial Day project.

Sunday, May 20, 2007. Gas prices are still at $3.299 in Sauk Centre. They were yesterday, at any rate. It's possible that the projection I made Friday may need a little adjustment.

The power went out in at least part of Sauk Centre Saturday morning, from about 5:50 to 7:10. It was raining at the time but with no thunder. I haven't heard what happened, but it's not likely to be a planned outage. For one thing, those are pretty well publicized, and for another, they're close to an even hour long.

There's another little mystery downtown. The north-facing traffic lights at Sinclair Lewis and Main got hit by something big recently. The set of lights over the street are askew, warped, and missing a few parts.

Downtown damage: twisted light as modern art
Mystery of the Twisted Light: Who or what turned an ordinary traffic light into modern art in this small town? May 19, 2007.

On the other hand, the red light of that trio still works. For southbound pedestrians on the right side of Main and Sinclair Lewis, the lights go green-yellow-off.

Downtown damage: traffic lights in Sauk Centre
There's nothing wrong with your eyes, or the camera. Southbound pedestrians saw the lights go green-yellow-off at Sinclair Lewis and Main. May 19, 2007.

July 4th/Independence Day stuff is already showing up on store shelves. No fireworks yet, at least not that I've seen, but I spotted something with a red and white pattern and white stars on a blue background. I won't say that the color scheme was gaudy, but it reached out and grabbed my attention from a shadowy position about three inches off the floor.

Friday, May 18, 2007. I see that the Wednesday entry is coming out on Friday this week. Sorry about that!

Before anything else, I would like to utter a word in regards to the recent changes in gasoline prices:


Sauk Centre gas prices May 9 - 17 2007
Gas stations in town were busy this week, changing their signs. This reminds me of the good old days of the early 70s, when we had double-digit inflation. May 9-17, 2007.

I created a computer model in an effort to predict gasoline prices for the rest of the year. If these figures are correct, the outlook is grim. Using data from the period May 15 to May 17, I discovered that not only were gas prices going up, but the rate of increase was itself increasing!!

Best-case exponential extrapolation of petrochemical retail consumer costs
Sure looks scientific, doesn't it? May 18, 2007.

A conservative, best-case scenario, based on my computer model, shows that we will be paying $124.819 by the end of the year! A more realistic model, taking into account the inflationary rate of change, indicates that we will be paying about $3.229 x 10139 (or 3.299 times 10 with a whole lot of zeroes after it)

I'd be worried, if I took this seriously. On the other hand, I could be missing the big picture. Maybe I should expand this prediction into a grant proposal, and ask for about $1,000,000 dollars to help me continue my research!

Just to make things more interesting, I've heard that a dozen or so gas stations in Minnesota have already stopped accepting credit cards for gasoline purchases. It seems to make sense: As more dollars are needed for each gallon, the piece of the action taken by credit charges goes up. Apparently one gas station is actually losing money on each credit card gas purchase now.

I think I heard my wallet whimpering.

Stearns County Fair Rotary Club gate in Sauk Centre
Much as I like tradition, these have a sharper look. May 14, 2007.

On a happier note, someone finished the Stearns County Fair gate makeover seems to be done. Whoever did that job. got it finished in good time.

Sauk Centre's 3rd traffic lights: maintenance continues
Another crew at 12th and Ash, keeping the lights turning. May 17, 2007.

Also, technicians were out at the 12th and Ash traffic lights yesterday. I suppose it has something to do with whatever had them flashing red a week ago.

Finally, another sign of early summer: ducks on docks imitating work shoes. More about that on Sunday.

Sunday, May 13, 2007. Mother's Day. A little more about that later.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights was on the fritz Friday afternoon. At least, I assume that they weren't supposed to be flashing red in all directions. It's quite a tribute to the folks who design and maintain traffic control gadgets like that, that even when something goes wrong, they slip into a default setting that lets drivers treat them like a four-way stop.

I didn't see any traffic problems, the times I drove through there: once around 5:00, with vehicles backed up two or three deep.

Garage and rummage sales are back: a sure sign that summer is almost here.

This is going to be a short entry. I didn't notice that many remarkable events in town, and I'll admit I was distracted.

Here's my usual caution: the rest of today's entry is mostly about me.

Back to Mother's Day. This household doesn't make as much of the day as some, although my wife does get tokens of appreciation for the 24-7-365 commitment she's made. My gift was, for once, appropriate. I'd taken the advice of one of the kids, and it turns out that he hadn't been prompted. I've got smart kids.

I didn't notice that many remarkable events in town this week, but I'll admit I was distracted.

First, there was work: I've got a self-imposed deadline of Memorial Day weekend to get a new website launched.

I also let myself get involved in online journaling (or blogging, or whatever) last week. I created something on LiveJournal that I call Small Town Dad. My excuse is that the exercise may help more folks learn about "Brendan's Island" and this Sauk Centre Journal.

Besides, it gives me an excuse to write things like this:

Ham Lake / Gunflint Trail fire

The fires in the Los Angeles area, Malibu, Georgia, and Florida have been thoroughly covered in the national news. That's understandable, and proper, since:

  • The LA fire affected the Griffith Park Observatory, a sort of national landmark
  • Malibu is home to celebrities, this country's equivalent of royalty
  • The fires in the southeast states are huge and affect many people

There's another fire, up here in the north country, that's fairly major, too, but has been on national news just twice, by my count.

The Ham Lake fire has scorched over 52,000 acres so far, according to the Minnesota Incident Command System. That's over 80 square miles. It's the biggest of many fires burning Minnesota.

So, why has this fire been a non-incident as far as most news media is concerned?

It could be that there's about a hundred miles of forest and lake between the Ham Lake fire and the nearest city: Duluth, Minnesota. This area is remote, even by Minnesota standards.

Or maybe it's because Minnesota isn't even a fly-over state. The major New York-Chicago-Los Angeles air routes are south of us.

Whatever the reason, A fire that's converted an area of hardwoods and conifers that's bigger than the District of Columbia (at 68.25 square miles) to charcoal seems to be a non-event that's not happening, as far as the news nabobs are concerned.

(from Small Town Dad)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007. A high around 80. It's starting to feel like summer. And, after the weekend rain, the lawn is shaggy.

I'm still catching up, but there's a reason. Last week, I forgot that the family get-together was happening on Saturday. So, instead of hunching over a computer here in Sauk Centre, I had to go with the family and have fun with a house-full of in-laws, nieces, and nephews.

The Art Festival on Saturday was a bigger affair than I expected. I didn't think there would be time to see it, but I lost the car keys.

That accident gave me and my oldest daughter a chance, or excuse, to drop in for a few minutes.

Art Festival at Sauk Centre: a painter and painting
A pleasant picture, and a pleased painter at the Art Festival. May 5, 2007.

Art Festival at Sauk Centre: quite a variety
Lots of displays, and many different sorts of work. May 5, 2007.

Half of the Multi Purpose Room was sectioned off for the Festival. The exhibitors weren't crowded, but there wasn't a whole lot of space left over, either.

Art Festival in Sauk Centre: ceramics
Ceramics, framed art, and interested folks. May 5, 2007.

This is an aquarium even I could probably maintain. The paper fish and aquatic plants were made by folks at Camphill Village, north of town. That's a do-not-touch-it carved ostrich egg in the foreground. May 5, 2007.

I stopped in at Bag Me yesterday and took a couple pictures. Maybe I'll get to that later. The place is a sort of gift shop with a combination of products that I haven't run into before. More about that on another day.

The rest of today's entry is about me, again. Feel free to skip it.

The family gathering wasn't that bad, except for the trip. Even with a reasonable facsimile of hip joints, it's not easy for me to shoehorn myself into a small car: and that's the vehicle I had to use.

The family van had started making a spectral howl Friday, and then complained when I used the turn signals or windshield wipers.

I'm no automotive expert, but I knew that wasn't a good sign. A mechanic looked under the hood, took readings from a power meter, and declared the alternator DOA. Then he noticed a broken fuel line and said in a detached, matter-of-fact tone, "I'm not driving this thing."

And so Saturday found me installed behind the wheel of a smallish 'loaner,' ferrying a fraction of the family to the gathering. The rest enjoyed the ride with their grandfather.

Monday, May 7, 2007. Wouldn't you know it. I say "Monday afternoon," and I'm not ready until this evening.

Three or four classes in the Sauk Centre Elementary school got together for a science fair last Friday afternoon.

They had an impressive array of displays set up in the MPR (as most of the folks called it when they wrote their destination in the security log - it's the Multi Purpose Room or Auditorium, depending on who you listen to).

Sauk Centre Elementary science fair: seed dispersal
Seed Dispersal: one of the science fair exhibits at Sauk Centre Elementary. May 4, 2007.

Quite a few teams had opted for the "Bridges" experiment. Each team did a good job of experimentation and analysis, although their style ranged from literally by-the-book to the team who created the "Twig Crusher."

Sauk Centre science fair: bridges
Those books on the table were used as weights in a serious, by-the-book experiment. A team with a bit more panache created "Twig Crusher" (inset) to test a construction. May 4, 2007.

I only saw one "Craters" experiment. That's probably the one I'd have chosen: it involved dropping different objects into a bowl of flour.

Sauk Centre science fair: craters
This team made quite a splash with their "Craters" exhibit. This photo
was taken at the moment of impact. May 4, 2007.

Some teams investigated handedness in people, and one studied it in cats. Turns out that cats are right- or left-handed, too. One team measured how fast folks' reaction time was by measuring how fast they could grab a falling yardstick. My reaction time was about what you'd expect from a fifty-something desk jockey.

Sauk Center science fair: computers, yardsticks, plastic balls
Computers, yardsticks, and plastic balls, but no volcano. May 4, 2007.

In a sharp departure from sitcom science fairs, there was no sign of the traditional volcano. There was, however, a model solar system.

Bill Mauldin was right. It's not supposed to make sense ...
This sign reminds me of Bill Mauldin. May 4, 2007.

Here's a sign that's been on the inside doors of the school entrance for a while. I'm all for school security, and think that some sort of pass for visitors is a good idea. However, it would be very hard to get a "Building I.D. pass" and follow the instructions on this sign to the letter. Reporting to the office means walking a good ten yards past the sign that says "You Must Have School Identification Beyond This Point." I think it was Bill Mauldin who wrote "It's not supposed to make sense, it's regulations."

Bag Me: new store on Sauk Centre's  Main
New store on Main: Bag Me. May 4, 2007.

There's a new store on Main: Bag Me, between the public library and the post office. They opened today.

Sauk Centre vet for pets
Animal Doctor: another new business on Main. May 4, 2007.

And, finally, there's another new business on Main, closer to the Interstate, in the building that housed Jim's Jack and Jill back when. Veterinarians are nothing new here in dairy country, but Animal Doctor seems to specialize more in small domestic animals. Pets, in other words.

I see I'm still not quite caught up. Last weekend was a busy one. Gradatim and Community Educations' Art Festival will have to wait until Wednesday.

Sunday, May 6, 2007. Just one week left until Mother's Day, and the fishing opener. If everything goes well, my Mother's Day gift for my wife will arrive: just in time.

Another 'big M' holiday is coming up: Memorial Day. This year it's May 28. I hear that Poppy Days will come earlier than that in Melrose. The American Legion there is doing the poppy fundraiser May 11 and 12.

Meanwhile, back in Sauk Centre, folks have been working on the Stearns County Fairground gates. This time, it's not just touching up the mortar: they're making the masonry pillars taller, and adding what I think is called a flagstone facing.

Stearns County Fair gate: work in progress
Stearns County Fairground gate. This time it's more than just a little repair. April 26, 2007.

Stearns County Fair gate: getting a new face
That's a pretty good start. The fair starts in August, so they've got time. May 1, 2007.

The mystery building on the south side, between River of Life Church's new pole barn and DHIA, isn't anonymous any more. A big, bold, blue and yellow NAPA Auto Parts sign has been up for a while now.

There's more to write about, including last week's science fair and yesterday's art festival, but I'm running out of time.

Check back Monday afternoon: I may have the rest of what I meant to do today done by then. Then again, I may not.

Adding a sort-of-a-game to Central Minnesota Theater took longer than I expected. Bouncy factory is one of last week's science fair projects, adapted for Brendan's Island.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007. More beautiful days here in Sauk Centre. Nice!

An Art Festival will be happening this Saturday, put on by the "Graditim and Community Education." It'll be at the High School auditorium doors, with local artists displaying and (it's hoped) selling their artwork.

One of the signs advertising this cultural event said it's "made possible by a Grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, through funding provided by the Minnesota State Legislature." I think that the folks who painted, wove, and quilted contributed a little something, too.

Another sign, outside the Main Street Coffee Company, says that they've Free WI-FI in a Relaxing Atmosphere. Also antiques and meals.

sunlit coffee break in Sauk Centre
Sunlight, outdoor cafés, and antiques: just like Paris, but without the historic sewers. April 23, 2007.

Sassy's is now Sassy's Under The Palms, and has been ever since they moved, back in November of 2006. That put the building where John's Place used to be back on the market. It'll be interesting, seeing what occupies that spot next. Meanwhile, Sassy's is closer to what's promising to be a new center of activity in Sauk Centre, near the corner of Timberlane Drive and south 12th.

Sassy's Under The Palms in Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's Sassy's Under The Palms
New and improved digs for Sassy's Under The Palms: much roomier than the "John's Place" building downtown. April 26, 2007.

The Information Age is good news and bad news for folks living in small towns.

  • Good news: We are in touch with the rest of the world in a way that used to be reserved for urbanites: but without the smog and high crime rates that go with cities.
  • Bad News: We're in touch with the rest of the world, and get our computers infected as easily as urbanites do.

I was reminded of this today. One of my kids rousted me out of bed this morning with the news that the main computer was acting oddly. An early-rising family member had stumbled onto a Web site that used to be geared for kids, and has apparently been hijacked by a morally-challenged company. A few hours solved the technical side of the problem, temporarily at least.

Sunday, April 29, 2007. Forget spring. The season we're experiencing feels like summer. One of my kids spotted a second dandelion, today's temperatures were positively balmy, and there's not a patch of snow visible for blocks around.

The two specialty coffee places on Main ("The Original Main Street" on the signs, but "Main" to the folks who live here) have their outside seating set up, and I've seen folks absorbing sunlight and breeze while enjoying a meal and/or coffee break.

On the other hand, trees haven't quite deployed this year's quota of leaves, and cherry blossoms still decorate odd corners of town.

Cherry blossoms in Sauk Centre
There's no cherry blossom festival in Sauk Centre, but the trees put on a show anyway. April 26, 2007.

Besides that, an annual rite of spring, the flushing of the hydrants, took place during the last half of this week. For most folks, I suspect that it's a necessary nuisance that briefly turns their water rusty. I enjoy taking note of the yearly ritual, in which someone goes from hydrant to hydrant, performing a routine bit of maintenance: and creating a succession of ephemeral fountains in the process.

Grand Chinese Buffet, downtown, has replaced their 'driver wanted' signs with a set proclaiming, "We Do Have Delivery."

In a sort of good news/bad news news item, Friday's Echo Press announced that a counterfeiting ring in the Alexandria, Parkers Prairie, Wadena and Staples area had been caught. Three guys in their 20s were caught with bogus bills. What was a little odd about this bunch is that they were passing small-denomination bills: ones, fives, tens and twenties.

Just what we need: one more thing to be on the lookout for. At least this bunch was caught. I'll follow the Alexandria's Echo Press's lead, and add a link to the U.S. Secret Service "Know Your Money" page.

The Sauk Centre public school will have a new basketball coach. This week's Sauk Herald reports that Don Peschel's 16 years in that position are ending. I've known him more as "Mr. Peschel," one of the teachers my kids encountered at school.

I see that I've let some things get past me, so here's the first bit of catching up.

The tank farm on the west side of Sauk Centre, near the west Interstate exit, has a new name. I've lost track of how many different companies had their logos on display there. Right now, it's a Valero holding facility.

Today, it's a Valero facility
This sign changes quite often. I wonder: at what point would it be cost-effective to install an electronic sign to handle changing company names? April 12, 2007.

To wrap up today's entry, here's something that isn't about Sauk Centre. Feel free to skip it.

The computer I use for most of my work is finally back from the shop, rising from the workbench more powerful than before. Unhappily, now it can't seem to find the memory card from my camera.

That was my cue to install some picture-handling software that came with my FujiFilm picture-taker. Installing software these days is almost disappointingly simple for someone like me, who remembers the days of Hollerith cards and wood-burning computers (kidding about the wood-burning computers, not about the Hollerith cards). After breezing through a nearly effortless process, I was treated by a statement which was grammatically correct, elegant in its simplicity, and easily understood: but clearly the work of someone for whom English was not a cradle tongue. I admire those who learn to use languages other than their own.

"Enjoy the taken photos
with FinePixViewer S as you like."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007. Beautiful weather! Monday and Tuesday were what I'd like to have as typical summer days. It'll get a lot warmer, of course, and the sky clouded over this afternoon.

As I've said before, Minnesota weather is not boring.

Easter stuff is off store shelves, except for the odd clearance sale. Prom and graduation gimcracks are the commercial world's main sign of spring these days. I hadn't realized that there are special plates for graduation parties.

A local high-schooler's death last week hit this community hard. The first report I heard, in church on Sunday, was that it was suicide. Then we prayed for him. The funeral is tomorrow.

I decided a long time ago that I'd never tell a teenager, "these are the best years of your life."

Living in town, it's easy for me to lose track of just important agribusiness is around here. Local radio news, about a week ago, provided a reminder.

The winter weather weirdness this spring is a sort of mixed blessing. On one hand, the cold snap (cold thud?) put planting behind schedule, and hurt the winter wheat crop. On the other hand, folks who do get a wheat crop may get good prices. Aside from the usual supply-demand situation, a fungus from Africa hit wheat crops in the Middle East this year, creating a larger demand than usual for our crops.

Finally, a progress report on my main computer: I hope to pick it up tomorrow, revived by a new main board (I used to call the things motherboards) with a new processing chip. I'd hoped to have it back in time to work on today's entry. On the other hand, this is an opportunity for me to practice using the replacement software.

Thank you for your patience!
Monday, April 23, 2007. The technical problem at my end that made parts of this page unviewable Sunday afternoon through Monday morning has been fixed. (Brian Gill, webmaster)

More good news: Central Minnesota Theater is in working order.

Sunday, April 22, 2007. Looking forward to a meal of grilled hamburgers this noon, I carried plates, patties, matches, spatula and watch outside, lit the aromatic flame, and set burgers on the grill. Then it started to rain.

Later, I poured water off a plate, set grilled-to-near-perfection burgers upon it, and walked back to the door. My wife, staying carefully under the eaves, received the fixings with song. "Raindrops keep falling on your head," to be precise.

The first dandelion of spring (as far as this family knows) was spotted yesterday, I've seen ducks flying in pairs, we had thunder Friday night, and there's a light green mist around an old willow tree in our back yard.

In short, it looks like the weather has settled into a summery mode: for now.

Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter is into its fifth day of business. They seem to be doing pretty well, although some of their checkout machines haven't been working quite as well as they could have been. On the other hand, their door sensors are working quite well. I tripped an alarm, going through them the other day. I'm guessing that it'll be a while before a retail store's sensors can tell the difference between metal that someone's carrying and the sort of implants I got last year.

While picking up a signal splitter there yesterday, I saw two young women wearing formals. Earlier in the week, I'd noticed some teenagers at the store in what I think were ‘to see and be seen' clothes, but this was way and away beyond that.

'Wedding guests' was the least unlikely explanation. Sure enough, the east end of the downtown Sauk Lake park was almost covered by a wedding party when I drove by there later in the day.

The NorthStar on west Sinclair Lewis Avenue had a Grand Opening for their car wash on Friday, plus a special on E-85 ethanol. The latter was something they were doing with or for a lung association. They were pretty busy, so I didn't take time to get any details.

This year's Sauk Centre "A Visitor's Guide" is out now, in time for the summer tourist season. I think they were aiming at an April 1 release, and came pretty close to making that date.

Now, something about this website, and something about me.

First, the Central Minnesota Theater video should work now. A technical problem kept me from getting it properly set up, Wednesday.

Second, I took my main computer to an outfit in Alexandria on Wednesday to fix some performance issues. That was good timing, in a way. The motherboard, two months after its warranty ran out, has gone out of the data-processing business and is pursuing a career as a pop-art sculpture.

In short, the computer won't work. That leaves me with the information and software it takes to process pictures and video, and just about everything else I do, sitting on a workbench about 20 miles west-northwest of here.


Keeping this journal up-to-date will be a little challenging, until this technical snafu gets sorted out.

I'll 'see' you later, in Wednesday's entry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007. Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart Supercenter is now open.

Wal-Mart comes to Sauk Centre
Wal-Mart's Grand Opening in Sauk Centre. April 18, 2007.

The first impression I had, walking inside, was that the place was big. Really big. Sauk Centre being the size it is, I knew quite a few of Wal-Mart's night shift, who were lined up to greet people coming in for the Grand Opening this morning.

First impression of Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart: big!
First impression: this place is big! April 18, 2007.

About 7:30 this morning, the Sauk Centre High School Choir sang Doo-Bee-Doo-Bee-Doo, or something of that sort, the store manager and Sauk Centre's mayor said a few words, and finally, right around 8:00, a humungous scissors cut the ceremonial ribbon.

A very short set of video clips of Wal-Mart's opening may, or may not, be at the Central Minnesota Theater, a new feature of Brendan's Island. If the feature works at all, it will require Windows Media Player for viewing. I plan to improve the CMT in the near future.

An a sad note, folks here are still talking about the Virginia Tech shootings on Monday. With 33 deaths, that seems to have been the biggest shooting incident in the USA, let alone at a school. Now, this afternoon, I hear on the news that a bomb threat encouraged school administrators, or somebody, to evacuate seven buildings at the U of M down in the Metro.

Finally, a new and unusually nasty sort of spam started showing up in messages relating to this website a few weeks ago. A flurry of Windows updates started not long after, and this household, at least, has been having trouble connecting to the Internet. I love living in the Information Age, but as Snoopy said in the Peanuts strip many years ago, "on the other hand, I have to put up with things my ancestors never dreamed of."

Monday, April 16, 2007. Another beautiful day! The thought of summer happening doesn't feel so unlikely now.

Sauk Centre weathered Friday the Thirteenth without incident, unless the usual tax-time jitters count. Speaking of tax time, this is an odd year. Since April 15th fell on a Sunday, I expected the returns to be due in the postal system by the end of the 16th.

The next two paragraphs are about taxes and E-Day. feel free to skip them.

That would be too simple. There's an obscure holiday in Washington, DC called Emancipation Day. Since the DC-ites have the day off, the forms where we assure Uncle Sam that he got his piece of the action don't have to be postmarked until tomorrow night.

E-Day doesn't have much to do with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The mayor of Washington, DC signed the "Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2004" in January of 2005 to celebrate that auspicious day in 1862 when President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act.

Back to Sauk Centre. Friday the 13th actually brought what some could call good luck to the neighborhood I'm in. The plastic-potted permanent tulips returned to their posts, flanking a front walk and as bright as ever.

Plastic Tulips in Sauk Centre
Back and bright as ever: plastic tulips on display. April 13, 2007.

Sunday was a pretty big day for folks in Sauk Centre who pay attention to the Divine Mercy Devotion. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the day when Bishop George Speltz dedicated the St. Cloud Diocese to Divine Mercy from St. Paul's in Sauk Centre.

25 years of the Divine Mercy Devotion in Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's St. Paul Church: celebrating 25 years of the Divine Mercy Devotion in Sauk Centre. April 15, 2007.

Sunday was also what tourism and convention bureaus would like to believe is a 'typical' spring day in Minnesota. Blue sky, warm sun, and leaves budding combined to lend an aura of verisimilitude to the notion of a coming summer that has been noticeably lacking of late.

Leaves budding: springtime in Minnesota, for real!
Springtime in Minnesota, for real this time. Leaves budding. April 15, 2007.

The warm weather had already tempted me outside and onto Lake Wobegon Trail. For the first time in a very long time, I walked to the Trail's Sauk River bridge. That's been a goal of mine since last year's surgeries made mobility more than a memory. I hadn't expected to get so far, so soon.

Yesterday saw another personal milestone. For the first time since last summer, I got out and grilled! There's nothing quite like standing in a pall of smoke, guiding hamburger patties to the brink of briquette-dom.

First grilled meal of the year
First grilled meal of the year for this household. April 15, 2007.

Meanwhile, down near the Interstate, the old, the new, and the routine meet. The building that housed Main Street Press for years is still empty. There's also the mini-mountain of organically-enhanced mini-mountain of snow that Minnesotan's expect to see this time of year: but this snow pile is on the parking lot of Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter.

Old, new, and routine in Sauk Centre
Something old, something new, and something routine in Sauk Centre. April 15, 2007.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights became operational last Thursday. They're already serving an important function at 12th and Ash. A whole lot of people are working in and around the store, painting traffic markings on the pavement, stocking shelves, and whatever else it takes to turn a building the size of an airplane hangar into a retail service.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights
Sauk Centre is now a three-traffic-light town. April 15, 2007.

There's already quite a bit of traffic at those lights around 5 in the afternoon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007. What a beautiful day! Finally, it's feeling like spring. I was so distracted, that today's entry isn't ready. Please be patient. I'm aiming at publishing Sunday's entry Monday afternoon or thereabouts.

One thing before signing off for the day: Sauk Centre now has three working sets of traffic lights. The signals at south 12th and Ash have been directing traffic since Thursday of this week. Just in time, too, since I understand that the Wal-Mart supercenter is going to open next Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007. It's been that kind of a week. I labeled the Wednesday entry "Monday." The mistake is preserved below, as a warning to those who might publish without proofing.

Monday, April 11, 2007. Good grief. More snow.

More: snow.

More snow in Sauk Centre
More snow for Sauk Centre. April 11, 2007.

Two robins got smart, taking shelter in an evergreen near our house. Problem was, they couldn't agree which one owned the tree, so only one could perch at a time.

King of the perch: a cool robin in Sauk Centre
One tree, one robin seemed to be the rule today. April 11, 2007.

My hat's off to householders who brighten up the landscape. There's a place on the north side that generally as something special out front. This week, they've got some of their usual displays, plus a little Easter-bunny-shaped reflector near the curb. It didn't show up too well in this picture, alas!

A little spring cheer in Sauk Centre
A little spring cheer in Sauk Centre. April 11, 2007.

Back on the south side, another set of dedicated decorators set out a double row of potted plastic tulips by their front walk. This morning the flowers were tipped over, and this afternoon they were gone. I hope that the wind was too much for the pots. I've seen enough vandalism to last me a while.

A valiant attempt at lawn decoration. April 10, 2007.

Before the latest reminder that we live in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and about as many kinds of weather each season, I noticed a set of orange flags set up in a quiet residential street. They were another sign of spring: parking flags for drivers' education.

Drivers' Education is ready to go in Sauk Centre
More snow for Sauk Centre. April 9, 2007.

Sauk Lake almost looked inviting, too, with most of the lake ice gone. There still isn't much ice, but with today's wind and overcast, that open water isn't an advertisement for tourism.

Sauk Lake: not much ice left
Sauk Lake almost looked inviting, with only a few yards of lake ice left. April 9, 2007.

The traffic lights at 12th Street south and Ash look like they're ready to go, except for those burlap, or maybe canvas, covers. I suppose there's still something of a technical nature still to be done, down in the control boxes.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights
Just about ready to control traffic at south 12th and Ash. April 9, 2007.

The Chinese restaurant downtown seems to be trying something new: delivery service. Or maybe I missed it, when they started. Those hand-written signs in the windows really stand out.

Drivers wanted at Sauk Centre's Chinese restaurant
It works for pizza, it should for Sauk Centre's Chinese restaurant, too. April 11, 2007.

A little further down the block, a crew was putting in new windows today at the corner of 4th and Main. Quite a few of those second-floor places downtown seem to be getting fixed up now.

New windows at 4th and Main, Sauk Centre
New windows for the place at 4th and Main. April 11, 2007.

The rest of today's entry is more or less about me, so feel free to skip it.

Many folks, when they get to be my age, look back on their lives and wonder if they've succeeded, if they've reached the peak of whatever path they've plodded upon.

This week, I got my first set of trifocals. Since there's no such thing as quadrifocals, except maybe as a rare custom prescription, I now have as many lenses squeezed into my spectacles as I can get. As far as my glasses go, I've reached the top!

Before closing, I want to share a thought that passed through my mind this afternoon. The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but the voice is its answering service.

Sunday, April 8, 2007. Easter Sunday. And chilly.

Happy Easter from Sauk Centre Minnesota, 2007
This weather would have the Easter Bunny thinking about retirement.

Cold would be a more accurate term. Even by Minnesota standards, this Easter snow cover is unusual.

I saw on the weather forecast that we'll probably beat St. Cloud's record low for tomorrow. The coldest that St. Cloud has been on March 9 so far is 14, and we're looking at a low around 10. Fahrenheit, that is.

This weather reminded me of the Good Old Days when I was in high school, back in the sixties. When we weren't getting acquainted with that weird organo-psychedelic lettering, there were serious warnings about the impending doom of a coming ice age. It seems that, globally speaking, things were getting colder.

Exactly what we were supposed to do about glaciers grinding down from the frozen north, I'm not sure. Make travel plans, I suppose. Or maybe set up a line of electric heaters run by solar cells.

Anyway, It's Easter Sunday. In common with many other folks, this family has gone to church and hunted for Easter eggs. Actually, the kids hunted for the eggs. My wife and I sat this year's egg hunt out. We even missed the egg coloring, which the kids handled entirely on their own yesterday. "The kids" being a relative term, of course. Half of them are already "of age," as the expression was

This morning was brrrright. I fooled around with some "I'm dreaming of a white Easter" lyrics, but stopped after the first few tries. It just doesn't have the appeal of that old "White Christmas" song.

Easter Sunday morning in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Easter Sunday morning in Sauk Centre.
"I'm Dreaming of a White Easter" probably wouldn't be as much of a hit as the song about Christmas. April 8, 2007.

After church, I drove a little out of the way to see what Sauk Centre looked like on a winter-themed Easter. Near where Lake Woebgon Trail crosses Main Street, I spotted a couple of birds. Or it might have been one bird, flitting about.

Easter Sunday in Sauk Centre, with snow and a cool bird. April 8, 2007.

The bird, or one of the birds, was a robin. You don't usually see them near snow. If there were avian travel agencies, I think this robin could reasonably ask for a refund.

Out of season robin in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
This robin looked a bit out of place, or out of season. April 8, 2007.

Nothing of earth-shattering importance happened in the last half of this week, which isn't all that unusual a circumstance here in Sauk Centre. That's not to say that nothing happened.

A crew was at work Friday on the south 12th-and-Ash traffic lights. The job at hand this time was putting up street signs.

Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights get signs attached
Street signs getting attached to Sauk Centre's 3rd set of traffic lights.
April 6, 2007.

Apart from that, I didn't notice anything special, apart from the temperature.

Global warming, Minnesota style: April 6, 2007
I suppose this is the global warming I keep reading about. April 6, 2007.

By Tue

Did I mention that it's cold? Ice had left a beautiful floral design on a window Saturday morning. If we can't have flowers, these ice gardens are a pleasant substitute.

Floral designs, if not flowers, in Sauk Centre
No flowers this Easter, but we've had floral designs on the windows.
April 7, 2007.

Icicles are a nice touch, too: a sort of Norman-Rockwell detail to make the small-town scene look cozy. Cozy, as long as you stay indoors.

Icicles: a heart-warming sight in Sauk Centre
Icicles: a heart-warming, but finger-chilling, sight. April 7, 2007.

One more thing: there's been some sort of trouble with Internet service here in central Minnesota over the weekend. I haven't been able to get a reliable connection, so this entry may be a little delayed.

Thursday, April 5, 2007. Just a few days until Easter Sunday, and there's several inches of snow on the ground. One thing about Minnesota weather: it's seldom dull.

Monday morning, around 8:40. April 2, 2007.

Curved icicle in Sauk CentreIt started snowing Monday, but the Weather Service's winter storm warning didn't take effect until that night, so Sauk Centre schools carried on. Visibility was well over a block in town, so what's there to worry about?

Tuesday morning: With a Winter Storm Warning over much of the northern part of the state, schools across Minnesota were canceling classes, and folks were being told that community events were being called off. Osakis, a few miles up the road, balanced safety and time-open credits, and cancelled classes. Here in Sauk Centre, schools opened two hours late.

A family member says that we're tougher, here in Sauk Centre.

About that picture of an icicle. Thanks to temperatures right around the freezing point and a happy set of wind speeds and directions, we had a few curved icicles this week.

Spring flower, Minnesota style
Spring flowers, Minnesota style. April 4, 2007.

By Tuesday afternoon, streets and most downtown sidewalks were being cleared and shoveled, although slogging from the curb to the parking lane's street side was no treat.

More of Sauk Centre's Minnesota spring weather
Ah, to be in Minnesota in the spring, again. April 3, 2007.

Down on the south side, near the Wal-Mart supercenter, Alco and Coborns' entrances face south. Folks in both stores kept just a little ahead of drifts dropped by a stiff north wind.

Summer fun: outdoor tables, gas grills, and snow drifts
Looking forward to summer fun, with outdoor tables, the latest in gas grills, and two-foot snow drifts. April 3, 2007.

Several inches of fresh-fallen snow picked out details on signs, shrubbery, and roofs. I doubt that scenes like this will make it onto picture postcards, though.

Not exactly picture-postcard weather in Sauk Centre
Pretty, it its own way: but not your usual picture-postcard scene.
April 3, 2007.

A lot of the fun folks have in watching snow fall seems to depend on which side of the window they're on. Shoppers coming and going on Tuesday didn't seem to be in a very frolicsome mood.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Minnesota style
"Walking in a Winter Wonderland," but without the upbeat music and lyrics. April 3, 2007.

As of noon today, we've still got a beautiful covering of fresh snow. It probably won't last, though. The forecast says that it'll get above freezing sometime Easter Sunday afternoon.

If April showers bring May flowers, maybe April snows help gardens grow. Somehow, I don't think that this attempt at rhyme will make it into those Poems for Children books, any more than my "April blizzards bring May lizards" did, years ago.

Sunday, April 1, 2007. April Fools Day, and Palm Sunday. It's supposed to be "in like a lion, out like a lamb" for March, but this year it's more in like a lion, out like a penguin. Or maybe a polar bear. Each flake that I saw melted as it hit the ground, but we got some snow today.

Minnesota in the spring: Sauk Centre
Ah, to be in Minnesota in the spring. March 28, 2007.

A family trip kept me out of town for most of the weekend, and distracted last week, so this will be a short entry.

Urban sophistication: Atomic Coffee
Travel allows me to observe, and perhaps learn from, the sophisticated lifestyles of urbanites. March 31, 2007.

Wal-Mart's Sauk Centre supercenter already has store hours posted near the doors, so I thought they might already be open. Inside, it didn't take long to figure out that the store is still a work in progress. A few construction materials were still piled in the entrance, and the folks who will be working there were in the store last week, having some sort of orientation session. On my way out of the parking lot, someone told me that they'll be open April 18.

Fog, snow, and Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart
Fog, snow, and Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart. March 21, 2007.

Wal-Mart, Sauk Centre
Wal-Mart in Sauk Centre, a week later. It's still quiet outside.
March 28, 2007.

inside Wal-Mart, Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart: busy inside. March 28, 2007.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007. More signs of spring: It's raining, and garage sales have started in Alexandria. One of my daughters drew these seasonal mileposts to my attention today.

I learned a little more about Ceramic Cafe. Christie Namvar, the owner, is from San Diego and is still adjusting to living in Minnesota. She thought of opening a day spa on Main Street, but switched gears. She decided to have "something for the kids, since I have three kids of my own." Sounds like she had the right idea. Ceramic Cafe's already hosted a couple of birthday parties.

Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter is getting ready to open. Since the electronic sign by the Interstate was flashing "Wal-Mart," I decided to see if they were open. They weren't, but there was some sort of staff orientation going on inside.

There shouldn't be any lack of traffic when the supercenter opens. A couple drove up as I was leaving, and asked if the store was open.

Monday, March 26, 2007. It's officially spring now. Shirtsleeve weather had my kids out in, well, shirtsleeves, Saturday afternoon.

True to form for Minnesota, springtime comes with patches of snow and ice topped with a winter's accumulation of dust and dirt, pools of chilly water, and yardfulls of brown grass. At least it's warm now.

A neighbor's yard made a quick change from leprechauns to Easter eggs.

Easter eggs and an electric bunny head in Sauk Centre
Easter eggs on the march, electric bunny face in the window: It must be spring. March 21, 2007.

Another sign of spring is the re-emergence of the Elgin streetsweepers. One of them whooshed past this household this morning.

streetsweeper in Sauk Centre
Ah, the sounds of spring: singing birds; babbling brooks and driveling drains; and roaring streetsweepers. March 26, 2007.

Those shoes adorning an overhead cable are gone now.

A backhoe is an effective tree trimming tool, if you don't mind what the tree looks like afterward. Someone in south Sauk Centre was getting express-speed landscaping that included a hole in their front yard that included part of the street. I'd guess that a sewer or water pipe needed attention.

backhoe in Sauk Centre
A crude, but effective, tree trimmer. March 22, 2007.

Thunder woke me at about 3:15 this morning. Normally I like the sound of rain and thunder, but I'd left computers plugged in. Not good. A quick tour took care of the digital devices' safety. It's back to unplugging at night, and closer attention to the weather.

Enough of that.

Ceramic Cafe is open, again. Their first opening was on the 10th of March. Then a family emergency happened, and the place re-opened last Wednesday. Two family groups, maybe three, were getting paint on hands, clothing, tables, and the occasional ready-to-color ceramic piece. It looked like they were having fun.

Ceramic Cafe window display in Sauk Centre
Vases, and a really hot soccer ball in Ceramic Cafe's window. March 24, 2007.

"Something ready by noon" I said in yesterday's entry. Didn't quite make it. As today's Sauk Centre Journal entry is getting published, I'm still catching up on what should have been finished Friday. My oldest daughter's online journal, The Jumbled Contents of Brigid's Brain, goes into a little more detail than I wanted to about our experiences with a new Internet connection.

Sunday, March 25, 2007. It's been a big weekend for me. Between tax preparations my son's birthday, and an exciting time with a glitchy internet connection, I don't have today's entry quite ready. I'll be back to work on it in the morning, and should have something ready by noon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007. A technician was back, working on the traffic signal controls for the lights at Ash and 12th this Monday. The superstore itself has quite a few vehicles parked in the lot, but it must be folks working to get the place ready for business. The last I heard, the opening date is still sometime in April. Which isn't too far away now.

A few things are changing on south Main Street. Mert's Auto moved out to the Beltline Road on the west side. I didn't notice when. Meanwhile, back on Main, Centre Rental is relocating. Maybe the PA & DJ Equipment outfit and Centre Towing, too. They're all in the same business below / house above building. Getting into their undersize parking lot is a little tricky, so I can understand why they might want to move.

Sauk Centre had fog most of today, which matched the fog in my head. A project deadline kept me up a sizeable fraction of last night, so I was in a fog, too. Somehow, I don't bounce back from work-induced insomnia the way I did in the '70s. With my mind as swift as a high-performance car on snow-bound road, I watched more television than usual.

Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter
Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart: Opening in April? March 21, 2007.

It may be that before television, radio, and newspapers, folks in small town were isolated from the outside world.

These days, we're as aware of national and world affairs as we want to be. Today, for example, I learned that Anna Nicole Smith is still dead, and the 2008 presidential election still shows signs of life.

Sauk Centre sunset
Sunlight: a nice way to end a day. March 21, 2007.

Sunday, March 18, 2007. It's been a while since Wal-Mart's new supercenter in Sauk Centre showed up in this journal. There's been a great deal of work going on there, judging by the cars and trucks parked in front.

Meanwhile, at 12th and Ash, a technician was slogging between his truck and the traffic light controls last Monday. It will be good to get a third set of traffic signals in town.

Back to work on Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights
Another bit of work, and another step closer to finishing SauK Centre's third set of traffic lights. March 12, 2007.

Back on Wednesday I wrote about two pairs of suspended shoes. On Thursday there were four pairs dangling by their laces on an overhead cable. Today there were six. I didn't look at the latest two pair, but the ones I saw earlier this week all seemed to be in better shape than what this family often wears.

I sincerely hope that my showing these pictures didn't encourage whoever is indulging in this display. A little checking showed that new sneakers cost around thirty to fifty bucks a pair: and that's not the fancy high-end fashionable ones. At those prices, what I'd call between half a week's and a week's pay is being left to rot on a utility cable.

Granted, those twelve sneakers make a funny-looking sight. Just the same, waste on this scale reminds me of some old stories about rich twits who lit their cigars with a fin or a sawbuck. (That's slang for a five- or a ten-dollar bill, for those with better things to do than watch old movies.)

even more shoes hung out over Sauk Centre's streets
Somebody put a lot of effort into this display. March 15, 2007.

Then there's the crime wave sweeping western Stearns County.

(I'll get more cheerful right after the next three paragraphs, honest!)

The Sauk Herald ran an article this week, warning that with more than a dozen daytime burglaries in western Stearns County in the last month, folks should keep their eyes open. At least, that's what the Sheriff's Office said.

The article went on to say that the sheriff "encourages anyone who has had someone stop by asking for directions or a similar innocent sounding inquiry, to contact law enforcement." The Stearns County Sheriff's Office's number is (320) 259-3700.

The St. Cloud Times reported that two people, age 19 and 17, were arrested for burglarizing a home "in the 10300 block of Andrew Drive" near Sauk Centre. I'm guessing that they meant Andrew's Drive, by the Greystone Golf Club up north of town. Two bits of good news here: likely enough, the ones who did the crime were caught; and over a thousand dollars worth of pilfered property was recouped.

The Ceramic Cafe has a new sign painted in the window, and a display that ranges from a very life-like ceramic fish to a yellow-and-red flaming soccer ball that's brightly-colored even by my standards. The store opened recently, and then closed again. A sign in the door explains that a family emergency distracted the proprietor and that they'll be open again next week: Wednesday, I think.

New roofing for Our Lady of the Angels church in Sauk CentreOur Lady of the Angels church is getting new roofing. The old tiles are being replaced by a new composite material that's very close to the color, texture, and shape of the tiles, is a great deal less expensive, and should last at least as well as a new tile roof would.

This isn't the time of year I'd like to be out on a windy roof, but come to think of it, it's probably better than being up there in, say, August.

Then there's the man who is either lucky or knows Sauk Lake's ice a great deal better than I do (which wouldn't take all that much). I was out at a public lake access on the north side when a man in a black truck came driving around the bend in Sauk Lake, up to the access ramp, and past me to the road. Looking back on it, I probably should have asked him where he was driving from.

A spring drive on Sauk Lake, north of Sauk Centre
It was a fine day for a drive: but on Sauk Lake? March 17, 2007.

Finally, Sauk Centre had a "Finding of the Green Treasure Hunt" this year around St. Patrick's Day. It's a solve-the-riddle sort of thing, with another clue coming out each day. Friday's clue ended with "I hope you've found the connection. Without this we can't go far in any direction." I like puzzles: crosswords and things like that. But a few decades back I decided that I lacked the talent for solving riddles such as these. My hat's off to those who can.

Happy St. Patrick's DaySaturday, March 17, 2007. St. Patrick's Day! This is a day when, all over the USA, folks are dressing up in green, affecting more-or-less awful fake Irish accents, and drinking green beer (an insult to a fine drink, so I'm told).

As a rather sizeable portion of my ancestors lived in Erie, I'm pleased that a saint of Ireland's feast day is celebrated with so much vigor on this side of the Atlantic. Not to say that I wouldn't be more pleased if the not-at-all-inconsiderable accomplishments of old Padraig were given as much attention as, say, those folks in Salt Lake City who jumped into green Jell-O.

As a sort of next-to final thought, a daughter of mine found this poem:

What shall I say about the Irish?
The utterly impractical, never predictable,
Sometimes irascible, quite inexplicable, Irish.
Strange blend of shyness, pride and conceit,
and stubborn refusal to bow in defeat.
He's spoiling and ready to argue and fight,
yet the smile of a child fills his soul with delight.
His eyes are the quickest to well up with tears,
Yet his strength is the strongest to banish your fears.
His hate is as fierce as his devotion is grand,
and there is no middle ground on which he will stand.
He's wild and he's gentle,
he's good and he's bad.
He's proud and he's humble,
he's happy and sad.
He's in love with the ocean,
the earth and the skies,
He's enamoured with beauty where ever it lies.
He's victor and victim, a star and a clod,
But mostly he's Irish-
in love with his God.

Erin Go Bragh!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007. Centre Auto and Valley Auto Glass share a sign and a lot on south Main ("The Original Main Street" as the street signs say). One or the other put up a 4-bay addition to their building at the back of the lot. It's good to see a business growing.

Winter is melting. Between almost a foot and a half of snow from March's overture and temperatures that had at least one householder in shirtsleeves while using a snowblower, there's quite a lot of water flowing.

As long as you don't have to use any of the submerged pavement, the new reflecting pools and babbling brooks are a nice addition to Sauk Centre's landscape.

Springtime in Sauk Centre
Parking lots have space reserved by water. Sauk Centre's south side. March 12, 2007.Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter's water feature
Wal-Mart's main drive is scenic, but I hope the drainage improves.
March 13, 2007.

I've said it before: Kids know what to do with snow. When we finally got material to work with, snow sculptures and snowpeople popped up before many walks got cleared.

Snowpeople in Sauk Centre
I'd recommend a good diet and exercise program for the snowperson on the left, but seasonal warming will take those pounds away much faster. March 12, 2007.

Sunday's entry in the Sauk Centre Journal mentioned a pair of suspended shoes. Now they've got company. Yesterday I noticed a second pair on the same cable.

More shoes left overhead
More overhead shoes. March 13, 2007.

Since it looks like there won't be much more winter, here are a couple of pictures to help us remember the snow.

Shirtsleeve snowblowing in Sauk Centre
A day or so after the snowfalls, wearing a jacket would have been overdressing: especially for anyone wrangling a snowblower.
March 4, 2007.

Icicles and palm trees in Sauk Centre
Snow, icicles, show shovels, and palm trees. March 2, 2007.

Sunday, March 11, 2007. Finally, a Sauk Centre Journal entry is out on time! I wrote Wednesday's entry on Thursday, and didn't get it published until Friday. There hasn't been any big deal happening in my household: just a lot of little deals with a talent for getting underfoot.

Minnesota's March came in like a lion this year, leaving a load of snow that we might have appreciated more back in November or December. Still, it's nice to have a bright white snowscape.

When we're not skiing or snowmobiling, I think most adults see snow as something to shovel, scoop, or pile. Kids generally have a more creative approach. This journal's last entry featured a photo of a fence made from icicles. Today, here's what happened when a snow pile near Sauk Centre's school gave someone the raw materials for a cave.

I've been informed that the excavation is more than a simple hole in the snow. On the north side entrance is a sort of cylindrical room, open to the sky. Going through a tunnel from that, there's a second chamber with a sort of crevice in the wall to the left. The crevice leads to some very steep steps going down the hill. Directly across from the tunnel is an alcove, and on the wall to the right of the tunnel are steps carved into the chamber's side that lead up to a sort of lookout. As a family member said, "somebody spent a lot of time and work on that."

It also sounds like a lot of fun.

Snow castle, Sauk Centre
More of a snow-castle than a snow-fort. March 4, 2007.

Before I forget, there's the odd matter of the suspended shoes. I suppose the of these aerial shoes might symbolize the solid dependability or steadfast traditions of small towns. Or maybe not.

At any rate, last month, on the 22nd, I noticed a pair of shoes dangling above south Birch Street in Sauk Centre.

Chicago has overhead trains, Sauk Centre has overhead shoes.
February 22, 2007.

How they got there, I've no idea. More than a week later, on the 4th of this month, they were still there. Too bad: they look like a fairly new pair, hardly used.

Still there, more than a week later. March 4, 2007.

Enough of that.

The rest of today's entry has nothing to do with Sauk Centre, although we've been affected here by today's daylight saving time's spring forward, just like everyone else. Feel free to skip it.

Daylight saving time and its jet-lag-like effects used to come three weeks later. Now, until the folks in Washington change their minds again, we'll have our lives yanked forward each year around the middle of March. Then, each fall we'll get another week before re-setting clocks.

I read that this is supposed to save energy. Experts also think that the ‘extra' daylight could perk up folks who suffer from winter depression. On the down side, timekeeping gadgets from Blackberrys to home computers may get fuddled, and airline schedules may be messed up more than usual.

Inspired by the sort of thinking that gave us daylight saving time, and now new-and-improved DST, here are three more ways that changing the clock could change our quality of life.

  • Set clocks back 12 hours during August. Keeping people quiet during the day could save enormous amounts of energy that would otherwise be wasted on air conditioning in stores and offices.
  • Set clocks back ten hours and forty minutes at noon on April 15. This 10:40 time shift would both remind those who wait until the last minute to file tax returns of the date, and give them more than a full business-day's-worth of additional time to get their forms in. Ten hours and forty minutes is a large time shift, so clocks should be set forward one hour and twenty minutes at 2:00 a.m. for the next eight days to minimize psychological stress.
    • Although this stress-relieving measure might not save significant amounts of energy, the psychological effects could be a big boost to quality of life.
  • Finally, replace December 31 with Substance Abuse and Drug Interaction Study Time. Instead of over-indulging during New Year's Eve parties, citizens would be encouraged to learn about substance abuse and the dangers of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. This should reduce deaths in drunk-driving accidents, reduce the need for expensive security measures in places like New York's Times Square, and promote sober, healthy lifestyles among the general public.

Thursday, March 8, 2007. All things considered, I think that whoever owns Melrose Turkey Farm, Inc. had a worse week than I did.

Turkey farm flambé
Turkey farm flambé. As we say in Minnesota, it could have been worse. March 6, 2007, about noon.

Melrose Turkey Farm: one barn down
Keeping an eye on the embers. March 6, 2007, about a quarter to two.

Thanks to tests and checkups in Melrose, I've been driving myself and family members back and forth on I-94 more than usual. About noon on Tuesday, during one of these trips, my oldest daughter and I saw a cloud coming up from somewhere ahead soon after topping the hill east of Sauk Centre.

Halfway to Melrose, the cloud was obviously still far ahead. By the time we reached the Melrose exit and turned into town, we'd decided it wasn't the Kraft plant, and might be a fire somewhere east of town. A fire engine turning onto the street in front of us as we approached downtown pretty well settled the matter.

The news said it took fire crews from Melrose, Sauk Centre and Freeport to stifle a burning turkey barn at Melrose Turkey Farm. Three bits of good news: nobody got hurt; only one barn burned; and the barn was empty. If it had gone up a week later, a shipment of young turkeys would have come out extra-crispy.

We had slick streets yesterday. Before the street department interfered with a little sand, Ash street had an almost friction-free surface. Exciting.

Later in the day a road grader was prying up inch-thick slabs of compacted snow, ice, and road sludge on Ash.

That shopfront where Dr. Freese had his practice before he moved across Main and became Eyes on Main is sign-free now. The hand-lettered "Ceramic Cafe" sign on the window is gone, and the window blinds are down. The inside looks like it's ready for business, at least what's visible from the door.

One Sauk Centre householder, at least, is getting St. Patrick's Day observances started a little early. Shamrocks and frolicking leprechauns decorate the walk by day, while by night a window's greenly-glowing outline of a shamrock shines like a beacon of Erie.

Leprechauns in the snow
Erin go brrrrrr. March 4, 2007.

Meanwhile, the Sauk Centre elementary school's sign got an accidental editing job when someone cleared the street.

Not-so-friendly greeting
Folks are usually friendlier than this around here. This greets people driving up to Sauk Centre's elementary school. March 4, 2007.

Get lost in a good book - that makes sense
It's attention-getting, and a good idea, but these days you have to get really close to see all the message. March 4, 2007.

Finally, sorry about the scrambled schedule this week. I may, or may not, be back on track by Sunday.

Icicles in Sauk CentreSaturday, March 3, 2007. The Blowing Snow Advisory that replaced our Winter Storm Warning yesterday was supposed to last until 6:00 p.m. today, but petered out early. Especially north of here, the snow was that light, powdery sort that's good for skiing and bad for visibility when there's a wind.

We've finally got some slightly chilly temperatures, too, so it actually feels a little like winter.

School was actually canceled on Friday, despite streets being kept fairly clear in town. My son thought that was a great idea, and so did I, although for different reasons. He recognized the entertainment potential in the 14.5 inches that were deposited by Friday morning, while I was relieved that nobody was risking a school bus route on the picturesque country roads we have around here.

Icicles can be hard on roofing and siding, but I like the things. Between the last week's twin snow falls and temperatures lurking around water's melting point, quite a few buildings in town sport these ephemeral ice sculptures.

And conditions were right this morning for another example of free, no-effort, interior decorating. Frost on one window had formed a sort of floral pattern of crystals.

Naturally occurring artwork on a window. March 3, 2007.

Saturday morning after Sauk Centre's second storm
Looks like we'll have winter for a little longer. Saturday morning, March 3, 2007.

Thursday, March 1, 2007. This winter storm started living up to its label around noon. More snow reached us then. That, and wind, was making travel rather unpleasant out of town.

That may be why Sauk Centre schools closed at 1:00. Conditions have to be really bad before that happens.

Sauk Centre street with icicles
Thursday afternoon on a Sauk Centre street. It looks peaceful now, but those icicles will make quite a racket when they fall. March 1, 2007.

It could be worse, of course. I hear that Iowa's governor declared that state a disaster area, and St. Cloud's Crossroad Center closed at 4:00 p.m., and so many people were using Minnesota's that the road information site is somewhere between sluggish and lethargic.

Winter snowfall in Sauk Centre
I enjoy looking at this sort of weather, but I'd rather not drive between towns in it. Thursday afternoon, March 1, 2007.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007. So far, this winter storm warning is a bit of a dud. At 9:00 this evening, about a half inch had fallen on Alexandria, about 20 miles west of here. Not that I'm complaining. The Weather Service is talking about snow and, more to the point, more wind, tomorrow. That could make things interesting.

The weekend storm had schools opening two hours late in Alexandria and Osakis Monday. Sauk Centre's schools didn't lose a minute of their time-open credit. It takes quite a bit to make this town's school system miss an hour or two, let alone be closed for the day.

Bilingualism has arrived in this area. The headline of February's La Voz Libre (Noticias, Information y Opiniónes Para la Comunidad Hispanica) read, "Aproximadamente 20% do Melrose son hispánicos." Right under that was "Approximately 20% of Melrose is Hispanic." Then the article was printed in two columns: one in English, the other in Spanish. The inside of the paper had several double-printed articles, too.

The Wal-Mart supercenter on Sauk Centre's south side has signs over the doors now, and an 'open soon' banner. I've got pictures, but this family's college-student daughter came home as soon as the weekend storm allowed, and we've been rather distracted with catching up on the last few months.

Next entry, I should be a little better prepared.

If forecasts are accurate, I'll have time. That winter storm warning is still set to run until 6 Friday evening.

Back to Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart: I hope those traffic signals at 9th and 12th, the store's main entrance, are on line soon. At this point they are still merely hopeful promises of effective traffic control hung over the street, wrapped in burlap.

Work crews coming and going don't generate much traffic, but that's still enough to add excitement to the humdrum routine of driving.

A few days ago I saw a southbound vehicle breeze through the intersection of 9th & 12th, and come within a yard or so of whacking someone going east. Thanks to a smartly-executed evasive maneuver, the eastbound driver dodged the opportunity to make a pop-art sculpture out of the two vehicles.

Sunday, February 25, 2007. According to the radio. someone in Alexandria, about 20 years up the road, spotted two robins. If birds had travel agents, those birds could demand a refund.

Sauk Centre downtown before the snow
Friday afternoon: no snow yet. February 23, 2007.

As of this morning, towns around here had between Belgrade's 8 inches of snow and Little Fall's 14 inches. More snow came down during the day, although the U.S. Weather Service called off the winter storm warning late in the afternoon.

Sunday morning with snow in Sauk Centre
By Sunday morning, Sauk Centre had what looked like more than a
foot of snow on the ground. February 25, 2007.

Although it fell short of a blizzard, this storm had enough wind and snow to make Minnesotans cancel church services this morning.

My kids had the right idea about what to do with snow today. After shoveling and other chores, they went out and played in it.

Clearing the walk Sunday morning in Sauk Centre
Shoveling out on Sunday morning. February 25, 2007.

Some folks around here thought that a blizzard was expected here, although weather forecasts were pretty clear about the event being a "winter storm" rather than a full-scale blizzard in this part of the state.

It's understandable how someone could get that impression. Media was full of the blizzard headed for part of central Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and we're pretty close to the middle of Minnesota here.

The Twin Cities metro area is in 'central Minnesota' too, although they're in the southern third of the state. I think the early reporting could be another case of regional media's metro-centric view of the Minnesota.. One of the more amazing examples of this happened one summer years ago, before the kind of televised, real time, weather updates we have now were common.

It was thunderstorm weather, so I had the radio on to catch any weather warnings. After a while, the music stopped and a grim-voiced announcer intoned, "The United States Weather Service has declared a tornado warning for portions of Minnesota." Then he described the sort of death and destruction that a tornado can cause. Finally, he said, "this warning does not include the Metro area" and the music came back on. That's all I heard about the tornado until the evening news.

We had much better information about this weekend's storm, happily. Between that, an efficient network of snow plows, and folks armed with shovels and snow blowers, most of us should be able to get around tomorrow.

Even so, this was an antihistamine storm – nothing to be sneezed at.

Snowmobile on street in Sauk Centre
Snowmobilers enjoyed the snow. February 25, 2007.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007. Yesterday I saw another small cluster of military vehicles driving down Main Street. That's the second set I've seen within a week. Either I'm lucky about being around Main when blotchy brown-and-green paint jobs go by, or there's more than the usual amount of activity.

Families of folks serving in the armed forces have wall space in the public library's entrance where they can put some reminder of family members who aren't home now. The display's placement at the lower landing of the stairs makes it a can't-miss-it for anyone going into, or out of, the library.

Troops overseas rememberd at Sauk Centre public library
Keeping family in mind: folks at home remembering folks overseas. February, 2007.

"You can't miss it" is a phrase that's emphatically true for a house in south Sauk Centre. A blast of blue color slapped my eyes as I drove through an intersection over a block away from the azure edifice. In a culture that doesn't generally go for colors bolder than beige for buildings, it was a delight to see two and a half stories of two-tone blue declaring "I'm here!"

A very blue house in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
An eye-popping abode on the south side. February 20, 2007.

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the start of this year's Lenten and Easter season. Along with a churchfull of other folks, I went to Our Lady of the Angels today to get ashes on my forehead.

Ash Wednesday in Sauk Centre, Minnesota
Ash Wednesday in OLA (that's how "Our Lady of the Angels church" is often indicated in print around here). February 21, 2007.

Sauk Centre's outdoor lighting system is as unobtrusively effective as most civic services in this country. That's probably why a street light shining at midday seemed so strange. The light in question is in the lakeside park, near the pagoda and band shell. Thanks to that sight, I'll probably be thinking of that part of the park as "Lantern Waste" for a while now.

Lit lamp in lakeside park challenges sun in Sauk Centre
That's no reflection: One lamp post competing with the sun in Sauk Centre's lakeside park. February 20, 2007.

My hat's off to the folks who keep civic support systems running. What looked like a water line break was getting attended to on the north side this week. Even with the spring-like temperatures we've had of late, that's not a job I'd want.

Keeping Sauk Centre's infrastructure in repair
Keeping things running in Sauk Centre. February 20, 2007.

The twin ersatz palm trees flanking The Palms' entrance sported bright highlights of snow a little while ago. I'm not sure whether seeing those symbols of tropic bliss defying a Minnesota winter warm my heart or tickle my funny bone, but it's a sight I like.

The Palms in Sauk Centre: tropic theme in central Minnesota
That's no tropic breeze they're feeling. The Palms motel gives Sauk Centre a tropic touch year-round. February 6, 2007.

Finally, an example of how folks help each other was in the Sauk Herald this week. Here's what the Herald had to say.

Fundraisers set for Leischner family
Friends of the Marlon Leischner family will be hosting a Chili Feed, Bake Sale and Silent Auction from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, March 31, at First Lutheran Church in Sauk Centre. Plans for a raffle are underway.

On Monday, March 5, you can help support this cause by dining at Funky's in Melrose. A portion of the sales from their chicken buffet will be donated to the Leischner fund.
As stated in last week's article, Marlon is facing months of surgeries and rehabilitation because of his recent battle with necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh eating disease.

If you would like to help in any way, please contact Tim Hardy at 352-0088 days, 351-4330 evenings; Pat Super at 352-6159 or Mark Anderson at 352-6933.

If you would like to help with a monetary donation, your donation can be tax deductible if you make your check out to First Lutheran Church (Leischner Fund on the memo line). Green cash will need a receipt from the church.

(Thanks to the Sauk Herald for permission to reproduce this article. The original article is available on the Sauk Herald's website.)

Monday, February 19, 2007. Normally, I get this entry done on Sunday. Although sleeping through most of Sunday left me feeling relatively refreshed, there wasn't much time left for writing this. Some key members of the family are having what we call "stomach flu." It probably isn't any kind of influenza, but it's no fun.

On the positive side, I could count this as a family activity, and say that we had a bonding experience.

This part of central Minnesota had another cultural weekend when The Prairie Players put "Little Women" on the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Auditorium stage, starting Friday. It looks like they'll be back on stage next weekend.

Downtown here in Sauk Centre, Main Street and Sinclair Lewis Avenue are lined with flags. I've been a little more than usually flag-conscious lately, with flags oscillating from the top of their poles to half-mast and back for this, that, and the other reason.

It took me a moment or three to realize that city crews were getting a jump on Washington's Birthday/Presidents' day.

Presidents' day is celebrated in a rather low-key fashion around here, chiefly by not getting mail and (for parents) having kids around the house instead of in school.

The radio is usually on when this household gets going in the morning. Not too long ago, I heard someone on the air say that some guy with a cell phone had been found, up to his hips in a lake around here.

That was odd enough to do a little digging. Here's what I found.

It's never exactly good news when someone turns a snowmobile into a submersible, but contemporary communications technology and dumb luck helped one driver near Alexandria, about 20 miles up the road.

A week ago last Wednesday, some guy found a spot on Lake Brophy with ice that wasn't quite strong enough for him and his snowmobile. His cell phone was still working, and he called 911. The Douglas County sheriff's dive team found him standing on his snowmobile's seat in about four feet of water. That February dip in a Minnesota lake left him soaked and chilled enough to warrant a trip to a hospital.

I'll be back Wednesday, with some pictures.

Friday, February 16, 2007. Brendan's Island and the Sauk Centre Journal are now back on the Web, finally! A brief (for me) explanation of this situation is at the end of today's entry.

Easter stuff was up on store shelves even before gals around town learned what the men in their life thought was romantic. Silly Smile Eggs are back this year. They've been joined by eggs with camouflage markings. Of course, there are the traditional pastel plastic hollow eggs, and shredded green (also purple) paper marketed as "Easter grass."

Those camouflage eggs should add a challenge to Easter egg hunts this year.

More immediately, there's already talk about Mardi Gras. It's interesting, how the custom of ridding households of rich foods like eggs, fat, and butter before Lent has turned into an annual debauch in New Orleans, and family-friendly fairs up here.

I put another half-tank of E-85 Ethanol into the van's tank this week, probably for the last time until summer. The van started having trouble starting in the morning at the same time that the sincerely-wintry temperatures started. That was also when I started using E-85. I figured that the hard starting was weather-related. Now I learn that, being mostly corn alcohol, E-85 doesn't evaporate at Minnesota-winter temperatures as well as gasoline. Well, nothing's perfect.

Talking up Sauk Centre's Main Street a little, there's a new business opening soon across the street from Jitters Java: Ceramic Cafe. There's not likely to be much competition, though. The new place is one of those outfits where you go in and paint your own ceramic doodad. Sounds like fun, although I probably won't be going there very often. This household is doodaded to capacity already, at least according to my wife.

Sauk Centre's Ceramic Cafe on Main: customize your own bric-a-brac
The Ceramic Cafe, on Main. Soon we'll be able to customize our own bric-a-brac. February 14, 2007.

Down the street, Main Street Coffee Company and the associated antique emporium keep updating their outdoor sign and maintaining their old-town ambience. I'm more likely to be in Jitters Java. It's not just the "retro metro" look of the place: JJ has one of Sauk Centre's faster Internet hot spots.

I didn't ask, but I'd guess that Jitterites (If that wasn't a word before, it is now: folks who frequent Jitters Java) were affected Monday morning when Mainstreet Communications/Diversicom lost their part of the Internet. Apparently it even affected some long distance phone service. The folks at MCD started working on the problem about 5:30, I hear, and had it fixed by noon. Quick work, really.

Which leads me back to an explanation of what happened to Brendan's Island this week. This website has grown, with another growth spurt just over the horizon. Between that and the very interesting and challenging financial/employment situation I've been experiencing, I started looking carefully at the arrangements I had made for hosting Brendan's Island, back in 2001.

Having a new company handle hosting for Brendan's Island seemed like a good idea, and still does.

However, since I hadn't done this before, what could have been about a four-hour process took about five days. During most of that time, many folks weren't able to find this website.

Sorry about that!

I've been through what's called a steep learning curve this week. If and/or when this sort of thing needs to be done again, there shouldn't be such a long break in service. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, February 11, 2007. This area had a musical weekend. Gordon Men's Chorus had a concert scheduled Saturday afternoon at West Union's St. Alexius church. Then Sunday, the Episcopal church in town planned a Choral Evensong to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.

I stayed in for most of the weekend, missing both events.

Wal-Mart's supercenter is still being readied for a spring opening: April, it says in the Herald. Meanwhile, the company rented Oak Street Mall's corner office for use as an employment center. The paper reports that they've got 225 or so jobs to fill. About 600 folks had signed up by Wednesday, I hear. I went there Thursday and filled out their application form.

Folks were still coming in to sign up for a job, or get interviewed. The interviewer looked like he might be younger than some of the jobs in my employment history. That's not unusual: I've noticed that a lot more people look like kids to me these days.

As I've said before, "small town America" is very much part of the rest of the world. The 2008 election is almost two years away, but presidential candidates have been regular items on the news for weeks. Maybe months. It looks like "interminable" will be the word for this campaign. I'm not complaining: this will encourage me to spend more time not watching television.

Thursday, February 8, 2007. It was about 23 below zero last night. Now, this is what I call winter!

Also, I didn't think of anything more interesting for yesterday's entry, so here it is'

Wednesday, February 7, 2007. Valentine's Day is a week away, and Sauk Centre's supercenter has started taking job applications. The Herald did a nice front-page piece on the new place's manager.

Enough snow came down this week to make the place look like winter. More practically, a few inches of snow put enough insulation on the ground so that I'm not quite as concerned about water pipes freezing. That happened to this household a few years ago, and I've got no desire to repeat the experience.

Lacking anything more to say about Sauk Centre, I'll indulge in a few short harangues.

The van's engine insisted on a sabbatical at the garage this week. We got a nifty little red sports car for a loaner. At least, that's what it looked like to me. As far as being a practical vehicle for me, it's a very stylish sardine can.

Getting the van back meant a double-header trip to a gas station, first to refill the loaner, then to get the van ready for use. I've been using E85 Ethanol lately: That's corn (other grains, too) alcohol cut with 15% gasoline. I understand that it's not practical to make the stuff without a subsidy, but maybe if enough people start using ethanol, volume of sales will make production cheaper per gallon. I like the idea of growing fuel.

There seem to be more jaywalkers now. Maybe that's because I've been driving more lately. I understand how appealing the idea of taking a shortcut can be, especially in this weather. On the other hand, it's uncomfortable for drivers to see someone standing at the edge of the traffic lane, waving back and forth like some exotic underwater plant.

Will the pedestrian stay in place, in the comparative safety of the parking lane's edge, or dash outward in the mistaken belief that there's enough time to get across. Or, even more disturbingly, take a step or two farther into traffic and stop.

Enough! Maybe I'll think of something more Sauk-Centre-oriented later.

Monday, February 5, 2007. Martin's Jewelry Box was burglarized last Monday at about 2'00 in the morning. The Herald says that a trucker told police after seeing the broken window. Happily, whoever accomplished this redistribution of wealth was satisfied with whatever Martin's had in the display window.

Meyer's Portrait Studio, on Main, has a new owner. I glanced at the sign out front this morning, but didn't look closely. About a block farther on, I thought "Main Street Coffee changed owners?!" and started turning the corners that would lead me back. Meyer's is next to Main Street Coffee, which gave me a slight excuse for confusion. Besides, when I drive I sometimes get distracted from reading roadside signs by traffic and pedestrians.

Meyer's Portrait Studio: new ownership
New ownership for Meyer's Portrait Studio. February 5, 2007.

Thanks for checking on my Sauk Centre Journal this morning, and sorry I didn't have anything ready. My Sunday entry wasn't ready for publication on time, and then Monday morning presented me with a scheduling conflict. "Next week I gotta get organized," although there was more of a reason than usual for being tardy. More about that later.

Valentine's Day is ten days away, it's Superbowl day, and we're finally having sincerely wintry weather. Down the street one of the neighbors has a warm Valentine greeting on the front walk. Warm colors of the purple and pink hearts stand valiantly above the snow.

Valentine's Day front yard display
Warm hearts, cold walk. February 1, 2007.

It was thirteen below Saturday morning, not all that much warmer by noon, then Sunday and today were more of the same. Someone on national news was so impressed that his breath left frost on his parka hood that he had the camera zoom in on a whitish patch about the size of a postage stamp. I wonder what he'd think of icicles on the beard, something I remember from the days when I shoveled the walk.

February freeze: Saturday, February 3
A brisk Saturday morning. February 3, 2007.

Back to why I seem to have made missing the Sunday entry a weekly event.

That new and improved version of Web Sites from This Area is still not ready for publication, so I decided to pick a project that might take less time to launch.

So, I set up the beginnings of an online store over the weekend. I've been collecting photos and looking an outfit that handles things like personalized cards, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and the like for quite a while now.

As usual with new experiences, the process took longer than I thought it would.

All that the Brendan's Island store has "on the shelf" now is a boxed set of note cards, but there will be more to look at soon.

I'll be back Wednesday with another Sauk Centre Journal entry.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007. Sundogs aren't rare around here, but they aren't common, either. On our way back from Saturday's Family Fun Day, my son and I saw a bright pair.

Sundogs. Actually, one and a half sundogs. the one on the right didn't quite make it onto the picture. I could blame it on a camera with insufficient wide-angle capacity, but it could be that I goofed.
January 27, 2007.

Now that's a sundog!. January 27, 2007.

I didn't notice much else around Sauk Centre until yesterday, when the nomadic MRI truck set up shop behind St. Mike's, up on the north side

A traveling MRI truck at Sauk Centre's St. Mike's. These days, thanks to this sort of setup, folks in small towns get pretty good medical help. January 30, 2007.

I heard in the news that at least on lane of the Interstate was closed from Osakis to Alexandria. A US Mail truck overturned, and another truck was involved. A crew was out, recovering the mail, but one of the drivers died. Under the circumstances, I feel selfish when I wonder if anything this family sent was affected.

Today's will be a very short entry, I'm afraid.

Besides a bug that seems to have dug in for a last stand, I've been driven uncomfortably far from the center of serenity by a technical difficulty which kept me from updating this journal yesterday.

Monday, January 29, 2007. No Sunday entry! Sorry! There's a little about that farther down.

"Minnesota doesn't have climate: it has weather" is an old Minnesotan joke. Distinctly non-bland weather is one of the advantages of living near the center of North America. We've got nothing but trees, fields, swamp grass, and a few cities, between us and either the Arctic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

The high on Friday was 42 a little west of here, in Glenwood. Right now it's about thirty degrees cooler than that. One of my daughters opined that, as far as she was concerned, winter could end now. I enjoyed Friday's weather as much as I could, but would rather see a good snow cover.

Wal-Mart's supercenter sits on a lot that's a lot bigger than the store and its parking lot. I noticed another "For Sale or Lease" sign at the edge of the property, this one discretely placed at the back of the old Main Street Press parking lot.

For Sale or Lease sign on Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart supercenter lot
Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart lot runs most of the way to the water treatment plant. January 26, 2007.

Trees waved at me Saturday morning when I looked outside. Even when it calmed down, a little later, the day was, ah, brisk. Weather reports have started listing the wind chill factor: a sign that winter is starting to get serious about its reputation.

Family Fun Day filled a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon. Two inflatable slides, maybe a dozen activities, and a jumbo assortment of Sauk Centre families occupied the Multi-Purpose Room at the school.

T-Rex, kids, and Family Fun Day in Sauk Centre
Kids bouncing through the tunnels and down the slides had this T-Rex waving at the folks on Family Fun Day. January 27, 2007.

It was actually more crowded in the auditorium lobby and hallway, where the silent auction display and prize table were. My son and I spent quite a bit of the afternoon, sampling bean-tosses, slide-and-tunnel inflatables, and a micro-bowling alley. The pins were full-size, the alley wasn't more than a couple yards long.

Kids enter an inflatable fun-run. Family Fun Day, Sauk Centre
Children were lined up each time I looked at this fun-run at Sauk Centre's Family Fun Day. January 27, 2007.

Now, back to how Sunday's entry wound up being finished Monday.

I let myself be distracted. I had hoped to have an expanded, and better-organized, version of Web Sites from This Area ready by today. There's more organizing to do than I expected, and by the time I realized that it was Family Fun Day.

That bug I've had won't be an excuse for much longer. The antibiotic seems to be working, although the bug displays an admirable unwillingness to go down without a fight.

Thursday, January 25, 2007. I'm getting Wednesday's entry done today. I've been putting what I hope are finishing touches on a new Web site. Maybe there'll be more to say about that Sunday. Then again, maybe not.

My excuse for missing Wednesday's entry is that I was so fuddled with this bug I've got that I'd forgotten it was Wednesday. Besides, the day wasn't routine: not that I have too many of those days these days. After almost three weeks of tolerating a cold, I went to a doctor. Drawing on his years of training and experience, he deduced that I was sick. More helpfully, he identified the sort of bug it was and prescribed an antibiotic.

Enough of that. Here's Wednesday's entry.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007. Opening day for Sauk Centre's Wal-Mart Supercenter keeps getting closer. The building looks pretty much the way it did last month. Cars, vans, and trucks showing up every day tell that there's work going on inside.

A crew was working on the 12th and south Ash lights Tuesday, and again today. My hat's off to folks who work outside on days less pleasant than these to set up the gadgets we rely on, and keep them running.

Traffic Signal Installation in Sauk Centre
Burlap, steel, and snow: To everyone whose work is like this, thanks! January 24, 2007.

A sign by the westbound Interstate, near the far end of the Wal-Mart property, a sign says "Retail Sites for Lease or Sale." The debris-catcher fence marking the edge of Wal-Mart's land isn't very far from the Sauk Centre water treatment plant. That's a big tract of land.

Another sign, the 1st State Bank & Agency's across from the Post Office on Main, got punctured. I don't think that hole has been there long: it looks like Sauk Centre's been visited by more vandalism.

Now what?!
The bank sign across from the Post Office on Main has a hole in it. January 24, 2007.

The NorthStar station on Sinclair Lewis Avenue has Sauk Centre's newest car wash, I think. The new owners there have made quite a few changes, expanding the store/office to make room for a bigger cooler, shifting display shelves around, and shifting the checkout from the west to the north wall. Outside, more recently, they've moved a sort of a garage to the back of the property, and put up this car wash.

More changes at the NorthStar station. January 25, 2007.

The Lake Woebegon Trail bridge over Main Street doubles as a sort of community bulletin board. Right now, banners announce the PTA Family Fun Day that's coming up Saturday.

Bulletin board on Main in Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre's bulletin board: the Lake Wobegon Trail bridge over Main. January 25, 2007.

Sunday, January 21, 2007. It's a good thing I didn't fill the van's tank when gas went down to $1.999 a gallon, since it was $1.959 on Friday. These days, that's quite a bargain.

Elementary students had a double bonus this week. The schools here are between quarters, so kids got Friday off, and don't have to go back until Tuesday. Before this four-day weekend, I understand that five or six folks from the Minnesota Twins, including their mascot, came to Sauk Centre's elementary school. This family, and all the rest with students, got an automated call from the school, letting us know that KSAX news was going to show something about the event. I may have heard the time wrong, since we missed seeing it.

Otherwise, I haven't noticed any new developments in town. I may have missed something, of course: that alleged cold I've been entertaining for the last two weeks or so doesn't seem to understand that it's no longer welcome, if it ever was.

I've been enjoying Minnesota's clear winter sky (not to be confused with Minnesota's not-so-clear winter sky, which will sulk overhead soon enough).

Sauk Centre's downtown boat landing
Sauk Centre's south boat landing: a good place to catch the sunset. January 19, 2007.

Downtown boat landing in Sauk Centre
Who needs to travel? Each day's scenery is different. January 19, 2007.

Sauk River Valley silos, Sauk Centre
Silos across the Sauk River Valley January 19, 2007.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007. Monday was Martin Luther King Day, so flags sprouted from downtown's light poles. Down at the corner of Ash and south 12th, a crew was back at work. This time they were putting the traffic signal poles up. Burlap-wrapped lights are in place today.

When those lights are running, they'll be Sauk Centre's third set of traffic lights.

Comimg soon: Sauk Centre's third stoplight
Sauk Centre: Soon to be a 3-stoplight town! January 16, 2007.

The first baby born this year at St. Mike's had his picture on the Sauk Herald's front page, along with his big sister and parents. I've said this sort of thing before, but it's really nice living in a town where the new-year-baby family gets front-page coverage: with a photo a half-foot across.

Not that any small town, including this one, is one of those mythical afflictionless zones.

On one side of the growing family's photo was an article about a couple pounds of marijuana and a couple grams of cocaine found in someone's home. The drugs showed up after a Sauk Centreite with debatable judgment sold marijuana to investigators working with Stearns County.

On the other side of the family photo was the headline "Charlie Co. Iraq tour may be extended – Families not happy, but adapt."

Down at the lower left corner of the front page was something a little closer to home. A household a few blocks from us had one of the few picket fences in town: an attractive way of decorating their property and encouraging the kids to stay away from the street. Someone smashed about twenty feet of the white plastic fence early Sunday morning. I'm not impressed by this bit of self-expression.

Vandalism in Sauk Centre
This was one of the neighborhood's highlights. It still is, in a way.
January 16, 2007.

On a lighter note, the paper says that someone drove out on Sauk Lake in a '91 Oldsmobile and walked back. It doesn't say if the car is still parked on the bottom. I probably shouldn't make light of this sort of thing. A snowmobiler drowned in a Metro area lake recently, and another is still missing in southern Minnesota near a lightly-iced lake.

On a personal note, I'm looking forward to not having a cold. Even if people in their right minds enjoyed that sort of thing, coughing and blowing the nose would lose their appeal after almost two weeks. On the positive side, this bug has given me and a couple of my kids an opportunity to bond through sharing a common experience. I'd have rather shared a game or two of Scrabble.

Sunday, January 14, 2007. On the northwest side of 12th and Main, another part of the SuperAmerica store is gone. When I drove by on Thursday, a crew was tearing down the awning that sheltered the pumps.

Sauk Centre's SuperAmerica store on its way out
First the sign, now the awning: Sauk Centre's SuperAmerica on 12th and Main looks like it's moving to memory lane. January 11, 2007.

At last, it feels like winter. I was so impressed by non-balmy temperatures around noon yesterday that I took a picture. The effect will be complete if we can get, and keep, a few inches of snow. I'll admit to some bias about climate. Growing up across the river from North Dakota, Sauk Centre is still 'down south' to me, and I haven't yet adjusted to the relatively wind-free and warm winters here.

Mind you, I said "a few inches." I'm not superstitious, but the old "be careful what you ask for" adage is pretty deeply rooted in me. I'd just as soon not share what's going on well to our south. After this winter's oddly clement start, Missouri is getting a meteorological reality check. As usual in a situation like this, news services are reminding people that when visibility is best measured in feet rather than yards, and dry pavement has been enhanced with lubricative layers of ice and snow, one is less than prudent when one drives as if the day were mild and bright. That's good advice that isn't routinely followed by some.

Fog in one of Sauk Centre's parks: in January.
This is a Minnesota winter? This 'day at rainy lake' scenery is not what I've come to expect. January 4, 2007.

A little closer to home, it looks like the Minnesota National Guard isn't coming back as soon as we hoped. The Sauk Herald published a front-page piece about the upcoming March homecoming: just before plans changed.

Sauk Centre Sunset
Sunset, trees, and Our Lady of the Angels' bell tower in Sauk Centre. January 9, 2007.

Two weeks of 2007 have passed, and I still haven't come up with any profound thoughts about either the old or the new year. That's hardly surprising, since for most of the new year my head's been stuffed more with a cold than with philosophical ruminations.

The rest of this entry is mostly about me, so feel free to skip over it.

I've read that recovering from surgery can depend on having a good support system. My daughter who was home for the holidays noticed that I was walking around more, now that I've got new hip joints. More precisely, she noticed that I walked like a penguin. "All he needs is a tux and a bill," she helpfully observed as I waddled through the kitchen.

Inside Fitness Guru, Sauk Centre
Someplace I didn't expect to be: inside Fitness Guru in Sauk Centre. January 9, 2007. Photo courtesy Naomi M. Gill.

Walking, or waddling, without the sort of snap-crackle-pop percussion accompaniment I've been used to is a great experience. Now, something even more amazing has happened. I signed up at one of those exercise places.

I wouldn't have, if an insurance company hadn't agreed to foot a great deal of the bill, and if my wife and doctor hadn't told me that it was a really, really good idea.

The last time I'd had any sort of contact with organized exercise enthusiasts was some time in the 1970s. I was left with an impression of exercise services as places populated by people who might be as much as a quarter-ounce off their ideal weight, wearing clothing that cost more than I've ever made in a week. Make that two weeks.

Fitness Guru, at the end of Timberlane Drive (or the start of it, if you're coming from Wal-Mart), was a surprise: no perfection-or-death attitude, and no plate glass windows.

If this keeps up, I'll lose my reputation as a couch potato.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007. Stores have changed color again. Valentine's Day cards and other red stuff on the shelves mark this as mid-winter.

Earlier this week, I saw two formations of geese over south Sauk Centre, headed west. I don't know my birds that well, but I think they were Canadian geese, visiting their southern resorts for the winter.

A crew was working at the 12th and Ash Street traffic lights today. It's looking like Wal-Mart may be ready to go by spring.

The bug that circumvented my immune system's defenses has settled down to being an annoying cold. It's not strong enough to make me actually lie-down ill, but has been keeping me from feeling well-rested, motivated, or smart for at least a week now.

I'm blaming the cold on what I did to the garage door. Again. On Monday, in a misguided effort to save time, I backed smartly out of the garage. Or, rather, not all that smartly. The garage door hadn't quite gotten all the way up yet.

Something on the back of the van caught on the bottom of the door, with a conspicuously discordant screech. In less than a second, I had introduced a graceful curve into the bottom panel of the garage door. Aesthetically pleasing as it was, the door was now thoroughly stuck at the top of its track.

I understand that my wife said, "Oh, that man! Well, show me the damage" when she learned of my accidental creative stroke. By the time I got back, she and my oldest daughter had hammered the door back into its proper shape. I think it works better now.

During this season, some folks ponder the year that has ended and the one that has barely begun, musing on the human condition and sharing their wisdom. The best I've managed to do is look through some photos that I took during the last couple of weeks.

Sunday, January 7, 2007. Articles on neighborhood safety talk about "eyes on the street." It looks like our part of town has pretty close to 20-20 vision. A neighbor noticed someone trying the latches of houses and cars, and called the police this week. We found out when my wife met the neighbor, and I expect that this sort of informal meeting will have alerted most householders by now.

I suppose that this is the lack of privacy that's supposed to plague small towns, but I see it as security.

Over in Alexandria, their city council decided to stop giving permission for new electronic signs. They're concerned that the flashing, blinking colors and video displays might distract drivers, but don't want to step on the free-speech rights of the folks who use the signs.

I can see their point. Here in Sauk Centre, the e-sign by the Interstate can be pretty bright on a cloudy day. On the other hand, I've had more trouble with people having a lively conversation on their cell phone while the car they're driving rolls through traffic.

Wal-Mart was in the Sauk Herald again this week. The company promised to pay Sauk Centre for "costs associated with the city during the planning and building process." So far, city hall has spent $38,787.12 of our money, Wal-Mart has paid back all but $2,514.75. Ever since I heard of such things, I've been impressed at how folks can work out the value of something worth tens of thousands of dollars down to the penny.

Besides whatever that money was for, Wal-Mart has paid $34,899.25 for a building permit, plus siren fees and park dedication fees: about $140,000 all told. I suppose the siren fees might be for the disaster sirens we've got, but: "park dedication fees?"

It feels like I haven't been doing that much since Wednesday, other than exercise, read the papers, and work at getting over a bug that seems to have settled down to being a bad cold. I feel like I've got flannel in my throat and fur-lined eyelids, but as we say in Minnesota, "it could be worse."

Thursday, January 4, 2007. Wednesday's entry got posted today. Sorry about that. I was a little distracted last night.

As part of the recover-from-operations process, I signed up for an exercise program this week. Then I came down with some bug. In spite of that coincidence, I doubt that exercise really causes flu-like symptoms.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007. Downtown's holiday decorations were coming down this afternoon, marking the start of a prosaic period before storefronts blossom with shamrocks, leprechauns, and green doodads.

Sauk Centre's Main Street decorations coming down
Right on schedule, down come Sauk Centre's Main Street decorations. January 3, 2007.

Not everyone follows the decorations-down-after-New-Year's custom, though. Quite a few households, the Knights of Columbus, and Jitters Java still have their displays up.

Post-New Year's decorations at Jitters
Some holiday decorations stay up a little longer than others. January 3, 2007.

I like to observe Christmas until Epiphany, but it's nice to have things slow down a little earlier. My daughters and some nieces, mostly teenagers, were in town over the weekend. They flitted between our house and 'grandpa's' like a flock of convivial, caffinated hummingbirds. It's much quieter, now that school is back in session and the kinfolk are gone home.

Ice fishing enthusiasts have their houses out on Sauk Lake near the Highway 71 bridge. I didn't see anyone out on the ice today, which was probably just as well, since temperatures were around 40 from about noon on.

Thin-ice fishing on Sauk Lake
Thin ice won't stop determined ice fishers. Sauk Lake north of Sauk Centre. January 3, 2007.

At the other end of town, the SuperAmerica store is gone. The building is still there, but the signs are down and there's no sign of activity. Today was the first time I've been out on my own since October. I've got to look around to see what else has changed. The only other change I noticed today was a new offer on Main Street Coffee Company's sign.

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This page last updated: December 29, 2013