Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Weekend, and Here Come the Christmas Lights

Sunday, November 29, 2009. It's definitely the Christmas season. 'Jingle bell' music is in the stores, and helical LED Christmas trees are alight in yards. Along with some more traditional decorations, of course. Around here, Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the Christmas lights season: a number of households lit up right on time, Thanksgiving evening. As far as I know, it isn't an organized thing: it's just the way we do things.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." November 27, 2009.

And, in the church I go to, Advent has started.

The star's up in Our Lady of the Angels church. November 28, 2009.

Lights in the Marian garden by Our Lady of the Angels church. November 28, 2009.

I know: Our Lady of the Angels isn't the only church in town. But, it's the only one I've been near since Wednesday.

Which reminds me: Thanksgiving's come and gone. The four-day weekend is winding up as I write this. Folks who traveled to family gatherings are, I hope, safely home by now.

I spent the weekend at home, mostly enjoying having our oldest daughter home for the weekend. It's nice, being at the age where family comes to see me and my wife.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! And, Here Comes Christmas

My neighbors across the street, northwest of us, have their Christmas lights on: As I'm pretty sure quite a few other households do, since this is Thanksgiving Day.

You can get a glimpse of one corner of their display on my webcam: "Small Town America: Minnesota."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, the Day Before Thanksgiving Day, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009. Sure enough: the house next to the one that caught fire on south Birch Street in September is getting new siding. And, from the looks of it, fresh insulation.

Looks like repairs are getting done just in time for winter. November 23, 2009.

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day. Which means that folks will be watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television - or in person, if they're in New York City and don't mind the crowds.

Perhaps more importantly, families will be getting together. My oldest daughter showed up today. Looks like she'll be spending a long weekend here.

Autumn stuff, on sale. It's off the shelves now. November 5, 2009.

Things have changed in the quarter-century-plus that I've lived here. There's a Wal Mart superstore in town with piƱatas for those special occasions. November 5, 2009.

My son and I were in the local Wal-Mart this afternoon, returning one router and picking up a new one: sooner or later, we'll get the home Internet connections working better. I noticed that the Halloween-autumn-Thanksgiving displays were down. I didn't see any, at any rate. Swapping holiday-themed merchandise around must keep folks in stores busy this time of year.

Sure, that's not "the true meaning of Christmas:" but I like the bright colors and shiny ornaments, anyway. November 5, 2009.

More householders have been getting their Christmas displays up. There's a sort of unofficial tradition, getting decorations up right around Thanksgiving, then pulling them down around New

I don't remember this one from last year. I've dubbed him "Fuzzy the Snowman." November 23, 2009.

The Sauk Centre - street department, I think has been busy, getting the city's street decorations up - - -

Nothing's going to make a day like that cheery: but the festoons help. November 23, 2009.

That's outdoor lighting on, about 4:00 p.m. November 25, 2009.

- - - Including that safely generic "HAPPY HOLIDAY" sign over The Original Mainstreet. I've opined about that before.

"You are entering Happy Holiday? November 25, 2009.

Wherever you are, have a happy Thanksgiving Day. And, if that's not part of your national or cultural pattern, may your routine Thursday be a good one.

Me? I'm hoping to catch at least part of the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade on television. And enjoy being with the family, of course.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hispanics and Anglos in Small Town America: There are Jerks Everywhere

I 'look Anglo,' but I'm not. My ancestors, for the most part, came from Norway, Ireland and Scotland. Not England - at least not for quite a few generations. I was born after "Irish need not apply" was part of American history, not the help-wanteds. Can't say that I miss the "good old days."

Today, there are still people coming to America. And, there are still jerks to be found in every group.

I had to think about giving the name of the 'Lake Wobegon Trail rapist.' It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Benjamin Delacruz Ajqui (probably) isn't either German or Irish: the two ethnic groups that, until a decade or so ago described just about everybody here in Sauk Centre.

The two groups got along okay: in the sense that there weren't any riots. But the ethnic divide in this town is why we've got two Catholic churches: the 'German' one, near downtown, and the 'Irish' one near my home. Which is another topic, for another post. Someday.

I'm quite certain that some of the people whose families moved here and check off "Hispanic" on those census forms have run into "anglos" here who weren't very polite. I won't say that I know how they feel: but I ran into someone here who didn't quite approve of me until he found out I was part Dutch. And, therefore, somewhat German. Turns out, I was wrong - but that, again, is another topic.

What can I say? Every group, if it's big enough, has a few jerks in it. Not that the fellow who had the "people-and-all-those-non-Germans" attitude was a jerk. He was just very, very old-world, and wasn't used to dealing with 'foreigners.' Nice guy, apart from that quirk.

And, I've heard two people in town who referred to "those people" in the same tone that I imagine one of my ancestors used, describing another of my ancestors: "He doesn't have family, he's Irish." If I was one of "those people" today, my feelings might be hurt.

But, not that it's the same thing at all, I think it's likely that Benjamin Delacruz Ajqui isn't your typical Hispanic-American. Maybe it's possible that the jerk who doesn't like "those people" isn't a typical Irish-German-whatever-American "Anglo."

Just a thought.

An Inventor, a Conviction, H1N1, Hospice Training and Tortillas in the Grocery

Sunday, November 22, 2009. It looks like work is being done on the house next door north of the one that caught fire on south Birch Street in September. Their siding got badly singed, parts of the roof didn't look the way I'd like: and there was probably damage inside, too. At least their house didn't go up, too. If there's been news about how the fire started, I haven't run into it.

I haven't been out much since Wednesday, so most of what I know about what's been going on is from the Sauk Centre Herald. If you haven't gotten the November 17th issue yet, or haven't read it yet, I suggest checking out page 6: There's a pretty good article on area inventers, including Don Lahr and Dick Zetah.

Sauk Centre Herald, "above the fold," November 17, 2009.

The "above the fold" stories on the front page were mainly medical: about the H1N1 vaccinations at the elementary school, and about a family that's been dealing with the sort of disease most of us never hear about: adrenomyeloneuropathy and Addison's disease.

The H1N1 vaccination program was the top headline this week. I'm not clear on whether my son's one of the kids who's going to get the H1N1 vaccinations tomorrow. The doses are being rationed, something the local school had to do, to get any. As I wrote Wednesday, I put together a set of links to pretty reliable sources of information. ("Swine Flu 2009") From what I've read, getting vaccinated - if you can - is a good idea.

Something I didn't see in the print edition of this week's Herald was on the newspaper's website: Benjamin Delacruz Ajqui, the 22-year-old who was accused of that July rape on the Lake Wobegon Trail (August 2, 2009, July 29, 2009) has been sentenced to 12 years. That probably won't be the end of his trouble. There's a possibility he's in this country illegally, and he may be deported when his sentence is up.

Sauk Centre Herald, "below the fold," November 17, 2009.

On a happier note, one of the "below the fold" articles in this week's Sauk Herald tells about training the St. Michael's Hospice staff is getting, about Hispanic culture. Makes sense, I think. Until a decade or so ago, just about everybody in town were either German- or Irish-Americans: and we'd figured out how to get along. And, more to the point for Hospice, we knew what the neighbors might reasonably expect from a service like Hospice.

That was then, this is now: and there are quite a few Hispanic families in the area: and like everybody else, some of their members are getting into the Hospice system.

On a not-entirely-unrelated note, having a new set of people in town has made quite a difference for my family: we're able to pick up prayer candles in the grocery now, for one thing. And, there's a somewhat wider food selection there, too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

H1N1 2009, Compost, Thanksgiving and Christmas

Wednesday, November 18, 2009. I had some business at City Hall today, and saw this reminder of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. Earlier this week, we signed up so our youngest child could get the H1N1 vaccine at the school. The immunizations take place next month, I think.

What the sign says should be just common sense. It (quite politely) says something like, 'if you're running a fever, coughing and sneezing: please don't infect us. November 18, 2009.

About H1N1 2009: I've been writing about what's happening, in another blog: and put together a set of links to pretty reliable sources of information. ("Swine Flu 2009") Enough of serious stuff.

We've had some beautifully clear, blue-skied days: "October's bright blue weather," come a little late.

Sauk Centre's Yard Waste Compost Facility: I don't usually hang out here, but I was out Monday, and wondered what was making the smoke. November 16, 2009.

It's no campfire: That's an orange dump truck down there. November 16, 2009.

I suppose there's a limit to how much "composting" can be done with Sauk Centre's yard waste. There was a lively fire putting some of the stuff through a really fast recycling process this Monday. Depending on your point of view, the city was endangering fragile Earth - or providing plants with vitally-needed carbon dioxide.

It's not exactly new, now, but I think this is the first time I've featured the Sauk Centre water processing plant. November 16, 2009.

A bit north of that Godzilla-size bonfire, the Sauk Centre water works was too good a photo-op to pass up. While I'm thinking of it: Thanks, everybody who keeps services like water, power and light running.

Some householders skipped right past Thanksgiving, and are getting set for Christmas. November 18, 2009.

On the other hand, some take the holiday's one at a time: in some cases, with distinctly non-traditional artwork. November 18, 2009.

I'm running out of time, and still haven't said anything about holiday displays in the stores. Well, that will wait.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Small Town America: Bucolic Scenes, Bison, and Cable Television

Sunday, November 15, 2009. I drove up Fairy Lake Road last week, for no reason other than that I hadn't been out that way in some time. It was a fine day, and I took a few photos.

Small town America: a bucolic refuge from the hustle and bustle of the big city? Well, maybe: but we've got cable television and rural telephone service, too. November 5, 2009.

Farmers were taking advantage of the good weather, getting crops in while they could.

Harvest time. November 5, 2009.

I'll admit it: I like living here. November 5, 2009.

Like the title of this section of Brendan's Island says, "I Love it Here!" Sauk Centre's a fine community, and I enjoy living in a place where we have to be reminded to not feed the ducks, just north of downtown.

But this area isn't just about woodland scenes, the untouched beauties of nature, and all that. People live here, and we have work to do. Sometimes that involves getting at the sand that so much of central and Northern Minnesota is made of.

A lovely woodland scene: with skid loader and sand. November 5, 2009.

Don't knock it: sand pits can get downright picturesque, if you leave them alone for a season or two. November 5, 2009.

'Extinction' of the BisonI was - and am - something of a science fiction fan. Stay with me: This really does connect with central Minnesota. Back in the late sixties, I ran into a few stories that assumed that the American bison had been driven to extinction in the 19th or 20th centuries. And, if my memory serves, a few "factual" articles said the same thing.

Which was sort of crazy, considering that I'd seen the bison herd at Itasca State Park.

You're not seeing things: those lumps are American bison: someone's herd, north of Sauk Centre. November 5, 2009.

I'm not sure if the word has filtered to the coasts yet: but the American bison is alive and well, and being raised for their meat. They make sense for this climate: They're built to withstand our winters, which the usual sort of cattle aren't, quite.

That was a big bird: I'm pretty sure it's an eagle.. November 5, 2009.

That's about enough for the photos for today. I plan to be back Wednesday, with whatever I've noticed in and around Sauk Centre. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day, New Fleet Farm Store, and a Band Concert

Wednesday, November 11, 2009. Veteran's Day, 2009. Also Armistice Day - and it has a few other names. I'd like to say something profound: but that's not going to happen today. I posted a few links to earlier efforts here: "The Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month: Yeah, It's Kind of Important."

I've been out twice, so far this week: both times on Monday. The first was to get something done at the bank drive-through, the second: I'll get to that. Whatever it is that I've got, it isn't H1N1 - but it's quite enough to encourage me to do as little as possible. (Don't worry, by the way: each time I was out, I made sure I didn't make direct contact with people - and kept my hands unusually clean.)

I checked the news a few minutes ago. If you got the impression that there were a lot of law enforcement cars on Minnesota Highway 23 Friday, you were right. There was a saturation patrol there - with three arrests and 12 citations, according to the
St. Cloud Times. The Sauk Centre connection is that our police department was involved.

And I see that Glencoe is going to have a new Fleet Supply store. Bob Tomsche's chain is in Paynesville, Little Falls and Glenwood. And, of course, Sauk Centre. That I got from the McLeod County Chronicle.

Monday evening, the grades 7-12 bands put on a concert, Mad About The Classics.

Mad About The Classics: But they didn't look angry. November 9, 2009.

You're out in front of everybody, talking to bright lights and darkness: Giving that sort of talk isn't the easiest thing to do. November 8, 2009.

The music was well-done - arrangements of well-known (and not-so-well-known) classical pieces. And hats off to the young man who got up, talked to bright lights and darkness (I've been in that position: trust me, that's all you're likely to see), and made it look easy and natural.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pumpkins, Geese, and a Slow, Gray Day

Sunday, November 8, 2009. Thanksgiving is less than a month away, then there's the Christmas/New Year double holiday: and then we'll be able to relax. It's also autumn. I've seen flocks of geese heading south in those shifting V formations.

Householders who make a point of setting up yard displays have been shifting gears.

Halloween's gone: Here's Thanksgiving. Christmas? That's coming. November 5, 2009.

Hey, who ever said we can't have Jack 'o Lanterns out for Thanksgiving? They're ripe pumpkins, right? November 5, 2009.

Some folks have both Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations up: not a bad idea, considering what the weather's likely to be, after the end of this month.

Getting ready for the holidays. That snowman is doing something - unusual. November 8, 2009.

No, I wasn't seeing things. That snowman is roasting marshmallows over a wood fire. November 8, 2009.

The 1st State Bank sign is announcing time, temperature - and Toys for Tots, along with other community activities. The sign by the Stearns County Fairgrounds is advertising storage space, instead of coming events. We got more rain this afternoon, so this wound up being another one of those slow, gray days.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

After Halloween, Before Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 4, 2009. A week ago I wrote about the seizure of a small dairy herd near Sauk Centre, in the Sauk Centre Journal Blog. (Not All Dairy Farmers are Like This (October 28, 2009)) It was breaking news then: and on the front page of this week's Sauk Centre Herald. (the article's also online) As I said last week, this sort of thing makes the news because it's so rare. I was very glad to see Keith Streff quoted: "This is a rare and isolated incident."

Above the fold: Sauk Centre Herald. November 3, 2009.

Several households still have their Halloween displays up. And, happily, this year there aren't as many broken Jack 'o lanterns around.

I get the impression that group on the right's having a heated debate. November 4, 2009.

Those are expressions you don't see every day. November 4, 2009.

That's a more traditional set of spooky Jack 'o lanterns. November 4, 2009.

There's more going on in Sauk Centre, like Toys for Tots and Thanksgiving stuff in the stores. But that'll wait until Sunday.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brigadoon This Isn't

I've made the point, from time to time, that "small town America" isn't some idyllic never-never land, cut off from the world and its problems.

I ran into another 'case in point' this morning after church. I've already posted about it in another blog, but figured it was worth a brief mention here: The short-short version is that the parish priest at Our Lady of the Angels church didn't meet with someone's approval.

Like I've said before, this is no Brigadoon.

Halloween's Over, First Snowfall, Jack 'o Lanterns

Sunday, November 1, 2009. This afternoon was a fine example of "October's bright blue weather." A little late in the game: but I appreciated the sunlight and clear sky, anyway.

Sauk Centre got its first snowfall Friday, after (another) day of rain. There wasn't all that much snow, and it melted later: but it was a definite sign that winter's coming.

This winter's first snowfall. After rain. October 30, 2009.

I was going to take some pictures of Halloween displays people had set up: but in this weather they seemed more dreary than fun. Maybe next time.

It's been raining. Quite a bit. Drizzling, mostly, now that I think of it. Also overcast.

Holidays aren't for everyone. October 31, 2009.

Saturday was Halloween. There don't seem to be as many kids out, trick-or-treating, as there were in earlier decades. On the other hand, one of the youngsters who came to this household wore a 'traditional' sheet with two eye holes cut in it.

While I'm thinking of it: Hats off to everybody who keeps emergency services running 24-7-365. What looked like a traffic stop happened in this neighborhood. I've been in situations like that, and it's no fun being pulled over. On the other hand, it's nice to know that the police are
on the job.

Enough with the philosophizing.

Between the weather and the way I've been feeling, I didn't get out to catch the Halloween decorations this year. Almost didn't get out. On my way to church this morning, I saw a collection of Jack 'o lanterns.

Happy Halloween! November 1, 2009.

The next big holiday is Thanksgiving, so I figure the stores will have the things that go bump in the night down, and turkeys up soon.