Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All About Not Much to Report

Apart from the observation that it's finally feeling like fall, today's entry is the sort of thing I write when I don't have all that much to report.

I was out of town yesterday, Tuesday, spent much of Monday getting ready for a funeral, and a remarkable portion of today experiencing the emotional after-effects. That, and a bit of a fever.

I've had perkier days.

And, somehow, I didn't fit in the usual look-around-town time in. Not when I had a camera or a notebook along, that is.

Too bad, since there's a few things I saw that I want to cover.

Not bringing a camera along, when I took the family van to the shop, shows how distracted I've been, what with one thing or another.

Well, tomorrow's another day, and I'm rather hoping that nothing too dramatic happens.

A Local Business Gets Featured Online, Fall's Here, Hordes of Teenage Drivers

Wednesday, September 30, 2009. I see that Main Street Coffee Company, across from Marc'ette Floral in south Main's 600 block, was featured in an article in AgriNews (September 22, 2009). The focus of the article was on homemade bread pudding with caramel sauce.

When you see me lead with something like that, you know I don't have a whole lot of my own stuff to say. I thought about writing about what I read in the Sauk Centre Herald, but you can read that as well as I can - and I'm just about opinioned-out right now.

It's been quite a month - highlights in my personal blog. I'm hoping that October will be a little less eventful: but one way or another, my life has never been boring. We'll see what happens.

Speaking of not-boring: My webcam shows the excitement Monday through Friday, as a horde of teenagers in cars and trucks pour from South 9th onto Ash Street - and kids who don't have wheels negotiate the crosswalk. Come to think of it, some of the kids who don't have 'wheels' are on bicycles - which have wheels - but don't 'have wheels' in the colloquial sense. I think.

After the recent weirdly warm weather, it's finally feeling like fall. Highs in the fifties, frost advisories not too far west of here.

I plan to get out with a camera and catch some of the leafy action before Sunday. But then, I've planned a lot of things. Getting those photos, though, I'm fairly confident about.

Have a good rest-of-the-week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Baseball Diamond, Autumnal Colors, and a Death in the Family

I was on the north side of Sauk Centre this morning, getting a headlight and brake light replaced on the family van. It looks like there's been some construction at the baseball diamond up there - or else I've forgotten what it looked like, which isn't all that unlikely right now.

I hope to get up there with a camera - another example of absent-mindedness. I almost never go out a camera, just in case I see something interesting.

I trust that I'll be back to my usual standards of inefficiency, after the scramble of activity in my household dies down. We're still dealing with my father's death, last Friday: nothing out of the ordinary, but I find it's quite distracting.

Oh, well: It could be worse.

Meanwhile, a note to myself: There's a multi-tone tree, up near the water tower. This season's autumnal colors probably won't set any records, but some trees are putting on quite presentable displays.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nursing Home Request; Both Sorts of Autumn Weather

Sunday, September 27, 2009. Quilts were on display in the 1st State Bank when I went in on Friday: One of them has something to do with a West Union sausage supper and a raffle. I didn't notice what the other one was about. I've been a little distracted lately.

Quilts being raffled, a boy and his dad in, attending to some business: another Friday afternoon at the bank. September 25, 2009.

At church today, I heard that the nursing home has asked that anybody with a respiratory infection stay home and not come to visit. Makes sense, I'd say, H1N1 or no.

We've had both sorts of typical Minnesota autumn days: bright and clear, when it's a joy to be outside; and grimly overcast with rain and wind. Birds are either on their way south or making ready.

Gulls. Lots of gulls. West of Wal Mart. September 25, 2009.

It wasn't raining around noon Saturday or Sunday, though, so I didn't get wet while I grilled burgers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Can I Say? I'm Half-Irish: and You Know What They're Like

"Trail rapist pleads guilty" was the lead story in this week's paper, and in this blog's Wednesday post. It's the sort of thing that just doesn't happen in the Mayberry RFD/Green Acres version of small town America.

What's a bit awkward is that the fellow who ran into a cornfield, was caught, confessed, and pleaded guilty, seems to be from Guatemala.

In the more 'relevant' portrayals, a situation like this, where someone who is neither Irish nor German was accused and convicted, you'd expect to see a mob with torches and pitchforks. And a few of the townsfolk, inexplicably speaking with a southern-redneck drawl, would utter vile racist comments.

I'm pretty sure that a few people in town made catty remarks about those people. I've lived in cities and in small towns - and there are jerks everywhere.

On the other hand, not all folks in the cities I've lived in were jerks - and the same is true for the boonies.

Typhoid Mary and the Trail Rapist - Yeah, There's a Connection

I ran across an account of Typhoid Mary in today's online Wired magazine. Mary Mallon was born in 1869, was an Irish immigrant, a fine cook, and a healthy carrier of typhoid fever. She was ordered to not work as a cook - but ignored the court's demand.

Unreasonable? Maybe. But look at it this way: She felt fine; she didn't show any symptoms of typhoid fever; she'd been tested - and found to be disease free; and she was Irish.

This was in the "good old days." As the article put it:
"...Mallon felt persecuted, and she may have had good reason considering the class prejudice that existed then, which fueled the prevailing attitude that 'dirty immigrants' were responsible for most epidemics...."
Odds are pretty good that the chemist who found Mary Mallon disease-free was right, as far as tests available at the time went - and that she was in remission at the time.

That was then, this is now. America has had an Irish president - and survived - and that quintessentially Irish holiday, St. Patrick's Day, has become a time when just about everybody claims to be part Irish.

I think it helped that after Irishmen got haircuts, dropped the accent and our zesty taste in attire, and learned to walk stiffly - we could pass as Anglos. I also think that times have changed - by now, too many people in responsible positions have a family history of being 'those people.'

In my case, about half my ancestors came from √Čire, and some were more proud of the fact than others. As one of them said of that smooth-talking Irishman who was sniffing around her daughter, "he doesn't have family: he's Irish." (Through One Dad's Eye, March 17, 2008)

Yep. Those were the 'good old days.'


Getting My Annual Flu Shot

I walked to Coborn's this afternoon - a thoroughly pleasant experience in this perfect early-autumn weather. ('Typical,' I'd like to say, but yesterday's overcast was 'typical' too.) My mission: get punctured for my own good. I've gotten to the age when a flu shot makes sense.

After a little palaver, I got my driver's license and insurance card photocopied, filled out the forms, and got a slightly unbelievable reading from the do-it-yourself blood pressure reader.

In the fullness of time, I got called in for the shot. The syringe was smaller than my little finger, but that needle looked big - and a whole lot longer than necessary to get under my skin.

The injection itself was a bit of an anticlimax: I could feel that it happened, but that's about it. I suppose my shoulder will be a bit sore tomorrow: but I'm not counting on it.

Rapist Pleads Guilty, Swine Flu's in Town: Not Exactly Mayberry, RFD, But I Love it Here

Wednesday, September 23, 2009. The headlines at the top of this week's Sauk Centre Herald are "Trail rapist pleads guilty" and "H1N1 is here / What to do to protect yourself" - and after that, a feature about Kevin Kerffeld's dealing with lung cancer.

The sky was as somber as the lead stories yesterday.

Ever have days like this? September 22, 2009.

Some trees were turning: but what I mostly noticed was the unsunny sky. September 22, 2009.

The "Trail rapist" pled guilty, with no plea bargaining. Turns out he's probably in the country illegally, and came here from Guatemala. Given the minimum sentence, 144 months (12 years), he probably won't be back in circulation for a while. Which is a bit of a relief.

Our Lady of the Angels' priest, Fr. James Statz, was the first person the victim met after the attack: my family is in that parish, which brings this incident a bit closer to home.

The paper gives some good, common-sense advice about not getting H1N1/Swine flu this year: Basically, wash you hands, don't get sneezed on, and don't sneeze on others.

I walked down to Coborn's this afternoon to get my annual flu shot. Which doesn't cover H1N1. Well, can't have everything. I'll just have to be a bit more careful than usual. (I've been keeping track of H1N1/Swine flu in one of my blogs, and collected a fair amount of information about the bug, and what's being done about it.)

Flu shots inside: I got the point. September 23, 2009.

There's something new inside Coborn's: a hand/handle sanitizer pole. The idea is to take one of the wipes, wipe it across the handle of the cart you take, and do your hands while you're at it.

By far not the worst idea I've run into.

Swab the handle and your hands? Yeah, it takes a few seconds: but I think it makes sense. So, apparently, did the folks who'd used the pole just before I took this photo. September 23, 2009.

The sky's cleared up today, I'm hoping to attract chickadees - plus a whole lot of sparrows - at the birdfeeder this winter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday: A Gloomy Day, But the Rain is Welcome

I see that Alexandria got just over 1/10 of an inch of rain so far today. I suppose we got around that, here in Sauk Centre. Just as well: the last I looked, we were still shy on soil moisture.

I've made the point before: if folks in small towns talk a lot about the weather, it's probably because agribusiness is important to the local economy - and the weather affects crop yields, big time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Soo Bahk Do Tests Today

My wife and #3 daughter are still at the Soo Bahk Do class. They went a little early to help set up for tests this evening, and expected a longer-than-usual session. Looks like they were right.
The ladies came home just now: apparently the test went well.

About that House Fire

I really feel for the owners of that house on south Birch that burned last Monday. It's a huge loss, not just financially, but emotionally as well, when a dwelling disappears like that, along with its contents.

A dumpster in the back came out medium-rare, so I guess that they may have been putting time, effort - and cash - into fixing the place up.

Whatever the case, it's a very much not-happy situation.

Hummingbirds, House Fire, and a Glass-Bellied Frog

Sunday, September 20, 2009. I'd been wondering why I wasn't seeing hummingbirds at the feeder. Then I found out: hummingbirds arrive here around May, and leave in September. On the up side, chickadees, sparrows and Minnesotans stay here all winter.

I can tell, by the way the sun hits my eyes at the computer after suppertime, that we're getting close to the Autumn Equinox. I see it'll come Tuesday of this week.

The grass, and most trees, are still green, but a few have gotten a head start on the season.

Sure, winter's coming: but I like the colors. September 19, 2009.

I see in the paper that a fire broke out at 4 in the morning last Monday. It was three doors south of where this family lived when we first came to Sauk Centre. The house itself is kaput, and from the looks of it it came close to taking the ones next door with it. The folks on the corner will need new windows on the south side, plus roof repairs, minimum.

Bad news, somebody lost their house: Good news, nobody got hurt. September 19, 2009.

That was a quite thorough fire. September 19, 2009.

The - potting shed, I think, off behind the corn - and garden weren't scorched, at least. September 19, 2009.

Again, good news: nobody got hurt. Still, that's a big - maybe huge - loss.

On a happier note, I spotted this - thing - over the weekend.

The incredible glass-bellied frog of south Sauk Centre. September 19, 2009.

And, since nobody in the family was getting married, and we weren't up in the Red River Valley of the North visiting my father and the newlyweds (yes we did leave them alone quite a bit), I had the pleasure of grilling - twice - this weekend. Perfect weather for it, too. Warm, but not too - and enough breeze to discourage the mosquitoes.

That's one thing I like about Minnesota winters: no mosquitoes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Autumn, Campground Expansion & Ducks

Wednesday, September 16, 2009. We're in the last half of September. It still doesn't look or feel much like autumn, but the signs are there.

The lilac flowers, months later. Another cycle is ending. September 15, 2009.

Down by Sauk Lake, trees are still green, but a few leaves have fallen. And the campground isn't as full as it was earlier in the year.

Like the sign say: "open." It wasn't this quiet earlier, and it's likely enough that the place will be filled next year, too. September 15, 2009.

Those speed bumps encourage a slow-and-easy driving style. And things are still likely to pop off trailers and boats. September 15, 2009.

I see in this week's Sauk Centre Herald that the Sinclair Lewis Campground is expanding. The city would have added more camping spots west of the existing area before, but neighbors - reasonably enough - weren't all that keen on looking at a campground from their front yards. A row of pine trees has grown up now, making it hard to see the houses - and, presumably, hard to see the campground, too.

There's $20,000 of campground planned for this spot. The city figures it'll pay for itself in about two years. They're probably right: the existing sites fill early and stay that way each summer. September 15, 2009.

The Sinclair Lewis Campground is near the Sinclair Lewis Park, a couple blocks south of Sinclair Lewis Avenue and the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home: open and available for people who didn't get enough of Sinclair Lewis at the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center down by the Interstate. We're not likely to forget that Sinclair Lewis came from Sauk Centre.

Ducks are still around. A dozen or so filed across the campground road while I was taking photos. This was no milling crowd: rather, a purposeful procession, with a mallard and attendants in the lead.

Ducks journeying through shadows and across asphalt. September 15, 2009.

This is it: the promised lawn. September 15, 2009.

Sinclair Lewis Park, down by the lake? It's still there: band shell ("Sauk Centre Bowl" it's called), playgrounds, picnic
tables and all. And trees. Lots of trees. I didn't check out the east end, so the 'umbrella fountain' may be down for the season.

Sinclair Lewis Park: a pretty nice place, actually.

And, there's the less nostalgic-seeming sign of autumn's advent: revving engines and squealing tires, just after 3:00 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday, here at the corner of Ash and South 9th Street. It makes for a real change of pace from the usual view of yards, trees, light traffic, folks out walking, and intermittent hummingbirds.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Drought, Change of Season

Sunday, September 13, 2009. At least the drought hasn't gotten any worse right here. Which is more than I can say for a few counties north of us. Looks like the rain we got helped us stay even with evaporation and the like: and that's about it.

Well, 'it could be worse.'

From the University of Nebraska, Lincoln,
U.S. Drought Monitor.

The way it was, Almost a week ago

From the University of Nebraska, Lincoln,
U.S. Drought Monitor.

The way it was, almost three weeks back. August 25, 2009.

Aside from that, things are fine. As far as I know, that is. There haven't been any epochal changes downtown, traffic is still light enough, even on Main, so people jay-walk downtown instead of trudging over to the crosswalks.

After Labor Day, summer's pretty much over. September
4, 2009.

I've been out of town for the weekend. (A little more about that in the
Sauk Centre Journal Blog.) It was good to be coming up Sinclair Lewis Avenue, a bit past 5:00 today.

Sinclair Lewis Avenue, near the armory. September
13, 2009.

Some of the trees have started turning. I don't know if they're 'really' turning color, or have been stressed by lack of water. Maybe a little of both.

A little fall color's showing up. September 13, 2009.

It's good to be home. September 13, 2009.

Barring any more surprises, I expect to stay in town for the rest of the week, grill burgers Saturday and Sunday, and generally revel in life as it's lived, here in 'small town America:' Minnesota style.

Sunday's Entry Should be On Schedule

It looks like I'll be able to get the Sunday entry in the Sauk Centre Journal done on time this week.

It's been a trifle hectic in my household. A week ago today, my second-oldest daughter got married: a very happy occasion. Earlier this week, we got word that another big transition may be coming soon: it's possible that my father is dying.

One thing I'll say about the last quarter-century of raising a family: it hasn't been boring.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

The first half of this week wasn't exactly uneventful: for me. I grilled burgers Sunday and Monday, getting my weekend quota in despite the intrusion of my second-oldest daughter's wedding.

Not that I minded taking as much time as it took for that happy occasion.

On the other hand, even though I didn't have to do much more than walk through the rehearsal, make sure I didn't trip anybody with my cane as my daughter and I walked down the aisle, and enjoy time with family I knew and those who were new: I'm a bit pooped.

Or maybe it's a sort of post-holiday letdown.

Doesn't matter. The point is, between coming to a full stop after the pre-wedding swirl; and working out a new self-management system for myself, I didn't really have all that much to say about Sauk Centre today.

I could have ranted a bit about jaywalkers - always a reliable standby topic - but that's probably getting a bit stale. I've done it often enough over the years.

Sunday's another day - and I've got the rest of the week to nose around town and see what's happening.

Wednesday: Shorter Days Ahead

Wednesday, September 9, 2009. Labor Day's been called the unofficial end of summer. There's something to that.

It's still warm, but between school being in session and rapidly-shortening days: it's time to put the boat away, make sure the furnace is in good shape, and get ready for the season of snowmobiles and shoveling.

After Labor Day, summer's pretty much over. September
7, 2009.

Sauk Centre's school year started yesterday, so there's a sort of rush hour around 8:00 and 3:00, as kids on foot, on bikes and in cars go through their weekday migration. My
webcam catches the action - along with the more sedate hours when you're more likely to see a
hummingbird, someone taking a walk or folks driving by on south 9th Street near Ash.

I see that zebra mussels are in a half-dozen Alexandria-area lakes. (More at the
Echo Press and DNR.) It'd be nice if everybody who moved boats and equipment from one lake
to another would check their equipment - although it looks like the mollusks
aren't all that easy to spot.

On a happier note, we got rain last night - and may get more this weekend. I understand we're a bit short on soil moisture. Still, it could be worse.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday: Labor Day Weekend, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009. First State Bank got its roof re-shingled, or re-covered, or whatever, this week. Maintenance like that is just routine stuff: the sort of thing that doesn't get a lot of attention, unless it doesn't get done.

Maintenance: if you do it right, nobody will notice what you did. I doubt that the bank roof will look any different, next week. September 2, 2009.

I try to keep the tone in the Sauk Centre Journal upbeat: but it seems to me we've been having a lot of funerals this year.

Again?! I've been seeing a lot of these, it seems. September 4, 2009.

On a much happier note, flags have been up for a few days, for the Labor Day weekend. We've had the right sort of weather for the holiday: warm, sunny. When I grilled burgers for lunch today, there was enough wind to discourage mosquitoes, but not enough to make the grill hard to light.

Sinclair Lewis Avenue, Labor Day weekend. September 6, 2009.

The Marian garden between Our Lady of the Angels church and the rectory is finished, as far as I can tell.

The Marian Garden by Our Lady of the Angels church: statues, a bench or two, flowers and plantings. I'll want to spend a little time there. September 6, 2009.

There's still a day left of the holiday weekend, but I've got a few 'gotta-do' tasks to get done tomorrow. For everyone who's being sensible and taking the day off: enjoy, and get home safely.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sauk Centre Americana: Sawdust Plant, Basketball Nets, Gardens, Race Track and All

This post is mostly for people who don't live in Sauk Centre, or any other small town: which is why I'm pointing out some obvious things.

Sauk Centre, like most small towns, doesn't have the heavy industry that places like Detroit have. Considering the way things are going these days, I don't mind a bit.

We've got 'industry' here - but it's more along the lines of 'light industry.' Like Felling Trailers Inc, the Minnesota Sawdust & Shaving Company, Engle Custom Tank Builders, Kane Transport and Advanced Lighting Systems. (ALS got acquired by Nexxus Lighting in September, 2007 - not bad for a small-town outfit).

Like most small towns, this isn't the sleepy - or festering - backwater you read about in stories. We're pretty much like New York, Detroit, or Los Angeles. Except the air's cleaner, there isn't as much crime per capita, our traffic jams clear up in minutes, and the cost of living's lower.

It's rough, living without all that major metropolitan areas have to offer: but I can stand it.

Like most places in America that I've been, you'll see basketball hoops on driveways: permanent ones like this, or something that can be taken down and stored in the winter.

Quite a few folks around here have the usual flower gardens: and sometimes their own produce. You won't be able to feed a family on what'll grow on a city lot: but it does help with the grocery bills.

Speaking of groceries: this is Coborn's, a couple blocks down from where I live. Don't let the appearance fool you: The folks working here are my neighbors, friends of my kids: a great bunch. If you don't live in town, they won't know enough about you to ask about your family - but my guess is that they'll be friendly.

Picturesque? I suppose so. This is in the Prospect Avenue area. It could have turned into a sincerely high-end residential enclave. Instead, it's a really nice-looking neighborhood.

Propane tanks: lots of them. Lake Wobegon Trail is behind that line of trees, and the back yards of a house or three are past the right edge of the picture. Industrial blight or contemporary landscape sculptures? Take your pick. I like the way sunlight shines off them.

Quite a few householders have set those ground-level lights along walkways or around their house. I'd think they're a bit hard to mow around, but they look like a low-power way to light things up.

As it says on the City of Sauk Centre's Tourism page: "I-94 Raceway / Racing every Saturday night." The raceway's own website seems to be down right now. Too bad. They put on fireworks displays now and again: we can see them from an upstairs window. There's advantages to living this close to everything else in town.

You want Americana? We got Americana. Home-grown, spontaneous. The sort of thing that happens when there isn't a neighborhood association to keep people from expressing themselves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

News, Photos and Back Yards

Wednesday, September 2, 2009. One reason I've heard for reading the news is that it makes you feel better. Between fires, floods, earthquakes and the occasional or wild- or car fire started by a flaming squirrel: no matter what's happening to you, odds are there's someone who's worse off.

I'm not sure I believe that, but it makes a good story.

I see in this week's Sauk Centre Herald that two men have been charged in the July 20 burglary at the GreyStone Golf Club. Melrose's Meadowlark Golf Course got burglarized around the same time. And, apparently, vandalized. As if stealing wasn't enough. The Saint Cloud Times ran a short article on the arrests, too. Can't say I'm sorry they were caught: I just hope the damage done at GrayStone gets paid for, and the stolen goods replaced.

There's also an article, available online, about how the family of Bryan Silbernagel is coping with his suicide, back on July 11 (or 12, according to a Fergus Falls paper). I've had some personal experience with suicide, and appreciate what an unpleasant, awkward topic it is. Hats off to the Herald for printing that.

Time for something that's not quite so depressing.

Again in the Sauk Herald, I see that Emily Lahr was a runner up in this year's Princess Kay of the Milky Way contest.

My second-oldest daughter's getting married this Saturday, which is a pretty big deal for this family. And definitely not depressing.

School's starting next week, which is probably why I've been seeing more kids going by lately. And hearing more squealing tires.

Coborn's had a spot of color out front this week: pots of red and yellow (mostly) flowers.

Local color. September 1, 2009.

I spent some time, yesterday and today, driving around town: mostly on errands. I'm still impressed by the many ways people have of using their yards.

One big garden of a yard on the north side. September 1, 2009.

A quietly understated collection on south Ash. September 1, 2009.

This household moved their 'bathtub Madonna' - this year, I think. It's probably not, strictly speaking, a bathtub Madonna: but the effect is about the same. September 1, 2009.

Now that's the way to be a birdwatcher: buy one, set it out by the grill, and watch at your leisure. September 2, 2009.

Finally, the Sauk Centre Journal has a Blog, named, unimaginably enough, the Sauk Centre Journal Blog. Mostly, it'll just be a repeat of what's written here: but I'll put commentary and extra photos there from time to time.
And now I've got it copied over here.

I plan to be back tomorrow, with some more photos.

Thucydides, Al Tingley, Myth and Me

I live in a small town in America, but I wasn't born in one.

I grew up in a college town with a population of a hundred thousand and climbing when I left. I've lived in a number of places, from Dunseith, North Dakota, to San Francisco: and found something attractive about all of them.

I've lived here in Sauk Centre, a town with about 4,000 people, since early 1986. I like it here, too.

Town Historian? Well, Sort of

Not too long ago, someone called me the town historian.

That wasn't quite accurate, the way the word is used these days. A historian is generally thought of as someone who looks for documents about dead people and past events; reads them carefully; then writes a report on who they were, what happened, and why.

That's not what I do. I've been a historian of sorts, but that's another story.

On the other hand, I'm a historian now, in the way that Al Tingley and Thucydides are: Someone who actually experienced the events that he or she is describing, while making an effort to be sure of the facts; but having a point of view.

'Things that really happened' is history. Or, "the aggregate of past events", as Princeton's WordNet puts it.

Quite a few people think that myth is 'things that didn't really happen.' They're right - sort of.

Mayberry RFD, Peyton Place, and Myth

Say "Small Town America," and people who don't live in one - and some who do - are likely to recall Mayberry RFD; Lake Wobegon; Harper Valley and their PTA; or Peyton Place.

There's only one problem with those examples: none of them is real. Like Brigadoon, they're settings for a story. Or, in the case of Harper Valley, a song that told a story.

They are, arguably, mythical Small Town America: the contemporary equivalent of the 'kingdom far away' where Cinderella and Jack the Giant-Killer lived.

Mythical settings are fine for story-telling. An unnamed petty kingdom somewhere 'out there' lets a storyteller enhance elements of reality, making the story more entertaining and memorable. And, highlight selected ideas and beliefs.

Note: "mythical" doesn't necessarily mean "not real." One definition of a myth is "a traditional story accepted as history; serves to explain the world view of a people" (Princeton's WordNet)

The first part of that definition is what's behind the widely-accepted meaning of 'myth' as something that's 'not real.' The second part, myth as a story "to explain the world view of a people" is what I have in mind, when I call Mayberry RFD and Harper Valley 'mythical' places.

Ah, the Simple Bliss and Tranquility of Small Town America

Or maybe it's the ignorance and squalor of of small towns, those havens of hypocritical bigots. Depends on who's telling the story.

I don't think that people in small towns are particularly gifted when it comes to ruining their lives, and the lives of others. No more so than people who live in places like San Francisco or Chicago.

But then, I don't see big cities as dens of iniquity, set to trap youths with vain promises of fame and pleasure.

On the other hand, I've been around enough to know that big cities offer opportunities for self-destruction that aren't quite so available in small towns. Still, we're not all that isolated from what's now and wow.
Small Town America's No Brigadoon
For example, police found a meth lab a few blocks from my home in 2003.

December of 2005 was a bit more eventful than most. The month started out with about $20,000 of shot-up windows - including one of ours - and drug-related arrest across the street.

That arrest across the street was the end of an incident that started with a domestic assault and gunshot in a town down the road. What I called Version 3.0 of the story came out in local papers in early January. A 'resolution' of sorts for the incident where kids decided to spend time shooting at windows came in September of 2006.

Small Town America, Twice a Week

At least, that's the idea. The Sauk Centre Journal has a new entry late every Wednesday and Sunday - circumstances allowing.

Those biweekly posts will be copies of what appears on the Sauk Centre Journal, with the occasional additional comment.

Now, it's high time I start working on today's entry.

Related post:

Sauk Centre Journal: The Blog

Don't worry: Most of this blog will, I expect, be copies of entries from the Sauk Centre Journal.

First, thought, I thought it might be a good idea to write a sort of 'background' post.

Hypocritical Bigots, Tom Sawyer Clones, and a Reality Check

In 1997, I'd found two sorts of 'Small Town America' described online:
  • Morasses of hypocrisy and intolerance
    • Generally stifling someone self-described as
      • Creative
      • Misunderstood
      • Maligned
  • Beautiful, serene havens of bliss populated by
    • Jolly shopkeepers
    • Unhurried natives
    • Tom Sawyer clones wearing
      • Bib overalls
      • A straw hat
Although there are a few elements of truth to both stereotypes, those places weren't like the small towns I'd lived or worked in.

At all.

I could have started my own website, gushing with angst at the awfully unfair way small towns were presented.

Instead, I created a website called "I Love it Here!" - which grew into Brendan's Island. Eventually, I wrote this:

Small Town America: This Dad's View

Like the Brendan's Island of legend and history, "Small Town America" is often more of a myth than a real place.

But, just as real places very likely lie behind the story of St. Brendan's voyage, real places lie behind the myth of Small Town America.

Brendan's Island, the website, reflects the reality of small town America, at least in my experience here in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Brian H. Gill, Webmaster
I started the Sauk Centre Journal on November 7, 2001. At that time it wasn't called by that name. It was the home page for the "Sauk Centre this Season" section of the Brendan's Island website, which I updated as the seasons passed, or something interesting happened.

Over the next eight - nearly nine - years, I got into the habit of updating the page twice a week, re-named it the "Sauk Centre Journal," and gave the Sauk Centre Journal it's own URL:

That's enough about the Sauk Centre Journal. Now let's talk about me.