"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn
Our school in Morris is a hub of community activity and enrichment. (B.W. photo)

Friday, July 31, 2015

A tale of two (journalistic) icebergs

I have done a lot of writing since 2010 but have done no interviewing. Thus there's a void. The best interviews aren't real formal. They might include a little laughter. Early Saturday morning, Jerry Witt might tell me about a key block thrown by a Tiger on a key play in a scoring drive. The level of detail probably got to be too much. It certainly went beyond what we see in the Morris newspaper today.
I did many non-sports interviews that were lively and enjoyable. At my best I am really quite good, I assure you. My career did run into two icebergs. They are quite easy to explain.
 
Iceberg No. 1
Beginning in the mid-1980s, I was buried under photographic darkroom work. The photography department exploded. When I started in 1979, the newspaper owned just one camera, outdated. You determined the shutter speed/aperture settings through the "needle in the notch" system.
That Pentax camera was very difficult to focus. The flash unit had been put away as if there was no intention to use it. I'm sure the problem was that the flash occasionally required a set of AA batteries from the drugstore. The bill would go through the general manager's office (and be under that scowling eye).
Those were also the days - how quaint - when the business manager would query all over the place: "did you call (Hooterville)?" She'd accost us one after another: "did you call (Hooterville?)" I once dialed a dead-end phone number for an outfit called Northstate Advisers in connection with a political story, and was probably in conversation with them for 20 seconds. I got the usual hostile query. We were supposed to write down all our long-distance calls but it was easy to forget sometimes.
I really take no pleasure in being negative - seriously - but St. Cloud State hadn't prepared me at all to run, or even to use, really, a photographic darkroom. I had been taught outdated techniques. I had never even touched a bulk film loader.
When I started at the Sun Tribune, the bulk film loader had been put away and film was being ordered in those little plastic containers from Doug Garberick. I would later be told: "You wouldn't order it that way if you were the owner."
I obtained my own bulk film loader because I wasn't aware the paper had one. Ron Lindquist reacted with consternation. "Oh Brian!" he said, and he went to get the paper's property. Remember, it was not being used. Why wasn't it being used? Lindquist was the general manager and maybe he should have had an explanation ready. I dabbled with the thing and discovered a problem. I contacted Garberick who was familiar with the situation and he said the paper's loader "left a streak on the film." OK, well get a new one, then.
I tried using my own loader of the Watson brand, considered name brand. Let me insert here that any photography hobbyist or professional of those days could have myriad problems. They'd get into conversations in which all they did was talk about their problems. Maybe that was kind of a badge of honor, discussing all your complicated problems. Again, how quaint. There appear to be no technical hurdles in taking pictures today. It's like comparing pulleys to hydraulics.
I found with my Watson bulk film loader that the film would get fogged in places. I was trying to follow all the instructions. I decided I couldn't accept the risk of trying to use a bulk loader. Getting film in those little plastic containers at least ensured no risk in handling the film. So that's the route I took for a very long time.
I visited a friend who ran the newspaper in Madison MN. He had been using a Watson bulk film loader. I asked him why he took two photos of every car for his car ads. Turned out, he had problems with his film getting fogged in places. He showed me some negatives. But he had only a fraction of car photos each week, compared to what I dealt with in Morris with our several well-established dealers of that time. I told Rick, "I might have a hundred car pictures to take on Thursday morning alone." So, I just couldn't risk having problems with my film.
Starting in the mid-1980s, the photo department of the Morris paper went berserk with tons of inefficiency. Point and shoot cameras came into being. There were weeks when having four of them wasn't enough. If I had a nickel for every roll of film I developed with only three of four shots taken on it. . .
In many weeks we had to crack open a new roll of film for the two or three "tail ender" photos at Atlantic Auto Sales (when it was at its original location, actually on Atlantic Avenue). Many weeks I'd go over to Atlantic Auto Sales, specify the photos I needed to take, and I'd be told the cars "are coming on the transport." Of course that would be too late. So we'd have to scrub those, substitute or whatever.
Today I think the car dealers take their own photos and maybe even design their own ads.
Photography was a complicated specialty toward the end of the 20th Century. Today it's 180 degrees the opposite. Thus it's painful to remember the old way. For posterity I'm sharing some recollections here.
 
Iceberg No. 2
Public school teachers unions were feeling their oats through much of the 1970s and into the '80s. They could really throw their weight around. We heard about teacher strikes or looming teacher strikes in many communities. Such conflict was very hard on the small communities, as I'm sure you can imagine.
Morris had a very assertive and political nucleus of teachers. I soaked in some of their conversation sometimes. I can give first-hand accounts of how teachers "circled the wagons" vs. their real or imagined adversaries all the time. Of course, the adversaries didn't set out to make life difficult for teachers, they simply had ideas about education that sometimes went out of bounds from the parochial sphere of the teachers.
Morris extracurricular activities reached a state in the mid to late 1980s where something had to be done. Because I saw this and might acknowledge it in conversations around town, I became a pariah in the eyes of many within that teachers' circle. The lid finally came off of that matter, as the best-laid plans of school employees to tamp it down finally failed. The status quo in Morris school life could not continue.
The flaccid state of extracurricular reflected an overall philosophy that did not promote tradition. The deconstructionist attitudes of academia - attitudes that permeated so greatly through the 1970s - were hanging in there.
Times were going to change, everywhere. In most places they changed more quietly than in Morris. Today I get the impression that the school's basic values and aims are in line with what the public wants. Conflicts are kept at the margin. I remember the days when many teachers were known to say highly disparaging things about Supt. Fred Switzer - no inhibitions - around town. Today the system would tamp down or discourage such inclinations.
By the end of the 1980s, I was carrying significant baggage as I sought to continue my newspaper career. I had been in cahoots with the likes of Merlin Beyer and Erv Krosch. "In cahoots?" I simply felt the protest of these people had merit and we ought to all consider these protests in an objective or unfettered way. Instead we got business boycotts.
I lost credibility with a lot of people. It put me on the defensive. To an extent I lost confidence.
The newspaper hired an editor who was clearly an ally of the teachers. This is an editor who made about the biggest mistake you can imagine in newspaper work. She took a rumor off the street from a known eccentric (initials M.D.) and put it on the front page. Not only did the newspaper have to run a correction, it had to run a front page "correction and apology." What would have happened to me if I had done that? Here's where politics come in, politics being defined as being treated for who you are, not for what you do.
Toward the end of that editor's tenure, she couldn't automatically get her editorials published. One got nixed in which she castigated the Prairie Pioneer Days committee for choosing Ronald McDonald as parade grand marshal. My, the committee had chosen a "corporate advertising symbol" as grand marshal! Those were the words used, but let's consider that Ronald would be driving a carriage in which kids were seated who had been at the Ronald McDonald House. This detail was omitted. Oh, those corporate "meanies."
The editor was a toady for the public school teachers union which at that time had a pernicious reach. These memories are not comfortable for me to share. I'll get back to baseball in my next post.
 
Addendum: Remember that union-oriented people, once they determine certain people who are contrary to their aims, will pillory those people and try to crush them, and in my case I'd be judged an incompetent writer incapable of writing a sentence. It is a hard hole to dig out of. Sometimes I feel I'm still trying to dig out of it. It was the community's loss that I got derailed by the two "icebergs." I had so much to offer. I'd actually like to get along with everyone.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

Has writing technology made us smarter?

I did no writing at all for three and a half years after leaving the Morris newspaper. It would have been fun writing about Taylor Witt's senior year of football. I would walk to the brand new Big Cat Stadium and see what all was going on. I remember the scoreboard coming gradually into view and seeing that both Morris and Paynesville had scored over 40 points. It was "sandlot football," to use Donnie Eich's description.
The Internet was well established at that time. But I think a lot of people weren't real well-versed in using search then. I remember telling a friend, a very well-educated person, that I had some Morris Eagles baseball photos online. "How do you find them?" he asked.
The Internet was still somewhat exotic in the first decade of this century. Web 2.0 is what changed everything. In those Web 1.0 days, organizations would put up a billboard style of site. Such sites had novelty value at the start. We were all amazed by the Internet itself when it came into existence. Heck, I was amazed at VHS tapes when they came into existence. No such thing existed when I was in high school. I'm old enough to have gone through the 8-track tape phase.
It was Del Sarlette who convinced me I could establish a blog site and it would be no big deal. I had seen a big thick book at the Alexandria mall bookstore: "Blogging for Dummies." Turned out, no book was needed at all. Google guides you right into it.
Blogging is simply an online platform for writing. Say what you want about "blogging," a reasonably good writer can get a big enough audience to make it worthwhile. I do consider myself a reasonably good writer. Allow me to tell you a little secret: since opening this new phase of my writing pursuits, I have gone back to the system I used in high school and college. By that I mean, I write out the first draft using pen and ink and a spiral notebook. I type it and post it later, using public computers. I say "first draft" but it's really pretty close to a completed product. I only do a few superficial alterations after that.
If you're my age, you remember when typing something was a terrible chore. Those were the days of manual typewriters. Electric typewriters came along but they weren't much better.
Nobody enjoyed "typing." A newspaperman would bang out an article, rip the paper out of the typewriter and then do so many pen and ink corrections, he could just as well have written the whole thing with a pen. The article would then go to a "typesetting" department. The typesetters themselves could screw things up. I remember when I submitted an article about an archer (bow and arrow) enthusiast of note in the Hancock area. Upon proofreading, the article needed the usual 3-4 "correction lines" to be typed to handle typos. One line stated "there is no great financial reward" from the bow and arrow competition circuit, but the typesetter typed "there is now great financial reward." The archer came in and brought it to my attention but he had a friendly disposition - no big deal. He said "it was caught" in terms of people knowing what was meant.
Newspapermen would submit this grotesque combination of typed and handwritten material, with stuff crossed out all over the place, as if it was some badge of honor. Like climbing a mountain. Today - well, I don't have to tell you it's completely different. You make corrections on the computer screen. When you're done, it all looks completely polished.
I remember the prolific columnist Harvey Mackay writing about this, how much more fun writing was, in the computer age. One effect of this is for writing to be more conversational, easier to grasp.
There was something about the old, Neanderthal system that encouraged writers to do things in a more contorted, labored way. Sentences were longer. Writers felt they were "crafting" something instead of just communicating something to readers. A lot of old "classic" literature got carried away with writing craftsmanship, the objectives of which were different from simply communicating in a cogent way. The teaching of Edgar Allan Poe should be outlawed. OK I'm exaggerating. It should be taught as a curiosity. That guy was crazy.
I remember coming across a pile of old "Picture" magazines in our basement. We saved them because they had articles about Minnesota history. As I perused, I was amazed with that outdated approach to writing in which the writer wanted to impress us with writing technique. I used that technique myself in college classes to try to get an 'A' grade, usually successfully. Today we just write to communicate. The idea is to get from point 'A' to 'B' in the most direct manner possible. "Big words" or "50-cent words" are used only to be absolutely precise about something, not to try to show you have an education.
I remember the great cartoonist Del Holdgrafer of Donnelly teasing me by saying "I think you have a little too much education." I think it was when we first met. I probably still had some of my bad college habits. Members of my generation could be a little smart-alecky then. We might use a big word to rattle people's cages, to try to show we were smarter than the generation that acquiesced to the Viet Nam war.
I once had a musical compatriot, a guy who taught at Southwest State, who would have fun trying to explain the occasional big word I used. When a member of our band asked "what does that word mean?" he'd always chime in in the same way: "inundatious." No matter what the word was, he'd say "inundatious."
Today everyone is a writer. We live in a communications-drenched universe. I'm not sure our sensibilities are really propped up. Look at those Republican presidential candidates. Look how we got conned into the Iraq war.
I remember how the "Zeus" character in the original "Clash of the Titans" philosophized at the end of that movie, saying the amount of mendacity among humans would never change. Alas, how true.
I'm not sure I'll write about MACA football this fall. The revelations about the sport of football just keep pouring out. I wonder how the parental permission slips are worded these days. "This sport could kill your son, seriously maim him and cause his brain to deteriorate." OK I'm speculating. It is unconscionable to allow your son to be in it. I notice Alan Page is retiring from the Minnesota Supreme Court. I have to wonder if the writing is on the wall there.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 23, 2015

U of M regents weigh "affirmative consent"

Dean Johnson, regents' chair
"Affirmative consent" sounds rather like a redundancy. As the Jack Nicholson character in "A Few Good Men" said: "Is there any other kind?" I would be criticized if I employed a redundancy in my writing. Academics should know better. A couple years ago I criticized U of M President Eric Kaler for a writing glitch in an op-ed in the Star Tribune. Touting his University of Minnesota, President Kaler talked about values that the U aspires to "everyday." It should be "every day." "Everyday" has its place in "everyday low prices."
Now we're talking about "affirmative consent." Let's leave aside if there is "any other kind." What kind of consent are we talking about here? Ah, the subject is sex. This is the most high-profile matter that the U is currently grappling with. A July 9 headline: "U delays 'affirmative consent' rule."
There is an old saying that sex always has consequences. It would seem logical to suggest that "sex out of wedlock," in particular, has consequences. An asterisk might be applied: even sex within marriage can be a sticky subject, as we learned through the news recently about a man having sex with his wife who has Alzheimer's. A social worker got involved and now the man has the book thrown at him. But with the U we're talking about college students.
Sex and college students? This is a merry-go-round of trouble. The regents are trying to calm these roiling waters with "affirmative consent." But it's no routine matter.
Is anything routine with sex? The board of regents says it needs more time to debate the proposed policy which purports to eliminate some of the confusion about sexual encounters. Is the female really willing? We presume the male is. Human biology is such that men are far more likely to be suspected of sexual assault. Some militant-toned feminists, most likely gay, see the male-female sex act in and of itself constituting assault.
The regents are trying to address something that is fraught with trouble no matter how it's addressed. The proposed policy would subject students to disciplinary action for having sex unless both parties give what's known as "affirmative consent."
Regent Michael Hsu woke up and smelled the coffee about this whirlpool of trouble recently. Hsu became concerned about the legal implications of "affirmative consent." Critics say the policy contradicts fundamental principles of American law in that it places the burden of proof on the accused. Anyone who has had to deal with social workers i.e. Human Services knows what that feels like. Human Services often makes you feel guilty until proven innocent. You don't know what that's like until it has happened to you.
Reflecting the kind of wisdom that the U exists to celebrate, Hsu said "I think we need to make sure everyone knows what we're doing."
Kaler likes the proposed policy. He argued there's a crisis around sexual assault on campuses. "Rolling Stone" tried shedding light on that, remember? How did that turn out? And now we have that book by Jon Krakauer which was rushed into print to counter the stain of the Rolling Stone fiasco, lest we think rape on campus isn't a crisis. I wrote a book review of Krakauer's "Missoula" for my companion website, "Morris of Course." Here's the link:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2015/05/book-review-missoula-by-eminent-jon.html
  
Kaler has agreed to delay implementation of the "affirmative" thing until September. This was pursuant to a request from Dean Johnson, regents' chair.
We're not alone in Minnesota tossing about ideas like "affirmative consent." The idea is to encourage these hormone-charged kids to express consent for sex through "clear and unambiguous words." What does this have to do with education? Doesn't the board of regents exist to promote the most effective model for education? And now they've fallen into this abyss of trying to adjudicate kids' sex lives. It's an unattainable goal.
Regent Hsu said he wants to hear from the U's legal counsel about the implications of the policy. It's a thicket where lawyers will swarm, increasingly. Lawyers by definition get involved in something when a certain commodity begins attracting conflict. Maybe this is my whole problem with the affirmative consent proposal: It promotes the commoditization of sex. Those militant feminists ought to start rejecting the proposal on this basis alone.
A female's disposition toward sex should not be viewed as a commodity that boys can "win" through "affirmative consent."
What is the solution? The solution is to recognize the basic model for college education in the U.S. - its flaws. There is no true solution except maybe for college kids to practice abstinence and focus on their studies. I'll repeat a proposal I've stated several times on my blog sites. Let's back off from the traditional college model where we expect 18 to 21-year-olds to behave responsibly in these beehive places called campuses.
Let me reiterate: when you wake up on the morning after your high school graduation, your top priority should be to join the adult world. No way station like college where you experience a prolonged adolescence. Before you go off and live on your own somewhere, college or no, you should be well-schooled in life skills. You should be prepared to live like a fully-adjusted adult. Is that asking too much? A lot of people might say it is. But I'll argue that it really should be no big deal.
I'd further argue that the traditional college environment, i.e. "freshmen dorms," result in peer pressure that tugs kids in the wrong direction too much of the time. Throw youthful hormones into the mix.
I have suggested repeatedly that kids ages 18-21 ought to give greater consideration to just living at home with parents where they might make the same educational progress as they would anywhere else, most likely superior progress. But that seems to be stigmatized. Let's get rid of the stigma. All the information in the world is online. It's free. We should be pinching ourselves to see if we're dreaming. Instead we keep propping up the old college model which presupposes that knowledge is scarce.
Outstanding professors who might be giving lectures to audiences in the many thousands, via the web, instead toil in classrooms with a Gideon's band of students. The web has shown us that it breaks through barriers. The traditional model for college education is bound to come under scrutiny for change.
In the meantime, we have the U of M with its sticky and high-profile problem of addressing sex among students. Lawyers are taking over. We may eventually see full-fledged "contracts for sex." Doesn't that warm your heart? Well, lawyers will argue that everything has to be made crystal clear. At present, how would you like to be a campus security person who has to deal with allegations of sexual assault? I don't know how we can find enough money to pay these people.
Krakauer's "Missoula" presents examples that I think are counterproductive. Rape allegations grow out of behavior that seems just totally irresponsible, like getting intoxicated at your basic college party. The kids might "crash" on a couch instead of going home. I am particularly mystified by these cases where a woman will say a man "forced her to perform oral sex." It strains credulity.
Dean Johnson made his debut as Regents' chair at the meeting when the postponement on the policy was agreed upon. Kaler responded by saying "the regents have every authority to talk about things that affect the reputation of the University."
Dean Johnson? Is this the same Dean Johnson who became somewhat disgraced because of a back-and-forth with the Minnesota Supreme Court? Back about ten years ago, Johnson became the "victim" of some recorded words he spoke. He was speaking to a group of pastors. He told the group that several Supreme Court justices assured him they wouldn't overturn the state's law banning gay marriage. How quaint. In 2015 the gay marriage issue has been completely ironed out. In 2006 the homophobes still had some momentum.
In 2006, several groups were pushing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions because they were worried the courts would overturn the state law.
Johnson apologized. I remember the West Central Tribune of Willmar being upset with the pastor who did the recording. I'm rather amused and heartened every time a politician has his words recorded. It's a good thing. I had a friend in Willmar who said he was upset that every time Johnson's name surfaced in an article, we were reminded of his role with the state's National Guard, even if that had no pertinence. A little shilling, I guess.
So Johnson apologized and then, trying to spin his way out of an imbroglio, said he "embellished" a conversation he had with one judge. But even that was challenged when the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court said no one on the court discussed the issue with Johnson. Didn't Johnson subsequently lose a re-election bid? And might it have been because of the perception of him as being less than truthful? So now he's chair of the U of M board of regents?
Are the regents a place for disgraced state politicians to "parachute" after their stumbling? Politicians like Wendell Anderson? It's an interesting sort of racket. At any rate, we're depending on these people to now take charge of the high-priority and august matter of students having sex with each other. We are so human an animal.
 
Addendum: I learned the term "Gideon's band" from interviewing Max Lerner at St. Cloud in the 1970s.
  
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cemetery has a "no trespassing" sign

We think in terms of one cemetery in Morris, though there's two. You'll see a sign identifying "Calvary Cemetery." It's my understanding, these are the Catholics who I guess prefer being buried separately. I wonder if they're separate in heaven. I actually think some Catholics think that.
Separate but equal? I don't know. I know an elderly woman with a rich Catholic background who had some grandkids growing up Baptist. "They'll never see the face of Christ," she said. I found that charming.
Rigid denominational beliefs don't seem as evident today as in a previous time. Those divisions were a prime reason why my generation - the boomers - drifted away from organized religion. We equated those divisions with a Peyton Place type of living template in America. It seemed pointless and backward.
Boomers, as we watch our parents age, have come to overlook many of the societal shortcomings that go back to the Lawrence Welk era. We're thankful if our parents are even alive. Why raise uncomfortable issues when we're dealing with the fundamental issues of staying alive (and solvent)? We can remember how miserable the Viet Nam war was, how it sent tremors through our societal fabric. Those tremors were legitimate and had to be confronted. Just watch the movie "Born on the Fourth of July."
Remembering that pain reminds me of how imperfect us human animals are. God created us that way.
Boomers don't think much about grousing about religion anymore. We are not fully restored to the kind of commitment that characterized mid-20th Century America. We just have different priorities, more basic priorities. Not only should we be glad our parents are alive, we should be thankful we are alive.

Summit and Calvary Cemeteries here
People in Morris tend to lump our two cemeteries together. They occupy the same physical space. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Calvary Cemetery does one and maybe two things that are controversial. First, there's that "baby" tombstone in a conspicuous place: a blatant political message about abortion. Why don't we just let our legal system wrestle with abortion? Abortion is so divisive. Let's keep political messages about this, out of our public places, please. Abortion (as a contentious issue) is the equivalent to what slavery was.
 
How to interpret signs?
There are two signs at one of the cemetery entrances and I'm not 100 percent sure they're associated with Calvary, so I'm guessing they are. Summit Cemetery is the "town" cemetery and I don't think it would choose to be so exclusive.
There are two signs side by side that bother me and which I feel are inappropriate: "No trespassing through cemetery" and "trespassers will be prosecuted." Imagine the "Dragnet" theme song in your head.
Really? Are these signs to be taken literally? Are we forced to parse the word "trespassing?" Do we need to consult a lawyer?
First off, "no trespassing" signs bother me, anywhere. Whatever the property owner fears, his/her concerns could be addressed in a more civil, gentle way. A "no trespassing" sign can be translated as "get the f--k out of here." This is not the voice of the deceased individuals. I think the families of the deceased would appreciate visitors coming through the cemetery, just to look.
If these signs are intended to be directed toward would-be troublemakers, then this should be made clear. Young people including college students seem more mature than in an earlier time. Would they really be inclined to make trouble in a cemetery?
UMM football players seem much more mature than in an earlier time. Of course, they lose a lot too. A pox on football. If the MACA and UMM numbers are the same as before when fall arrives, I'll be totally befuddled about our society and culture. We get such vivid warnings about football from the scientific community. Don't parents care about the health of their sons?
 
Stop by our monument
Our family has had a monument for only two years at Summit Cemetery. It's a bench. I welcome casual walkers to just stop by and sit a spell. The purpose of our monument is to remind people who we were. My father was the founder of UMM music. That's a nice distinction.
Are casual walkers welcome at Summit Cemetery, the non-Catholic cemetery? In the past I assumed the cemetery was like a public park. I never suspected there might be an issue with just strolling through. I noticed a sign at the Fergus Falls cemetery that said the cemetery was closed from 8 p.m. until morning. That's more reasonable than the terse and rather rude "no trespassing" sign. The "no trespassing" sign here is placed in just one place, or so I've noticed. You could easily walk onto the grounds without seeing it.
What is a "trespasser?" Is it anyone on the grounds who doesn't own it? Let's be lucid here. A person might want to walk through just to admire all the various headstones, to appreciate their design and to wonder who all these people were. The deceased are getting ever more distant in time.
The Sam Smith statue stands out magnificently at our Summit Cemetery. I don't think 'ol Sam would want anyone to be chased away. I think people should be welcome at the cemetery, to soak in the peace and solitude (if the chimes aren't playing). Even people who won't see the face of Christ.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Thrifty White reportedly will not be big

I had envisioned the new Thrifty White in Morris as a super-duper place. I am now hearing that it will be a quite scaled-down place. It will be small, at least compared to what we might have imagined. Certain departments will be phased out. These departments were obviously judged insufficient for generating profit. That is the yardstick by which we judge everything these days.
Thrifty White will be conceding certain departments to Family Dollar and ShopKo. Thrifty White will stick with the departments that do best for them by the bottom line. Will this shift have collateral damage? By that I mean, will the number of employees be cut way down? The company saves money by not having to pay as many people.
I encountered a long-time Thrifty White employee at East Side Park over PPD weekend and asked about this. Will the staff size be shaved? This person immediately did a big shrug and made a face as if to indicate: "I have no idea." Employees are never told about these things in advance.
I remember when rumors were afloat about Coborn's closing. I asked a carry-out man (other than Glen Helberg) about what was up, and he responded the same way as that Thrifty White employee at the park. At Heartland it was the same story as rumors began about their re-location. "They (the company) don't tell us anything."
No company has any moral obligation to pay any more employees than it wants to. But there are growing economic fissures in this country, and that's why Bernie Sanders attracts such huge crowds to his rallies. We hear about a growing economic divide in the nation. The so-called middle class appears increasingly stressed, or so they say.
I'm never comfortable talking about the middle class and its problems. The term itself implies there is a lower "poor" class whose travail must obviously be greater. Vince Bugliosi has pointed out how in a previous time, we heard concern about "the poor," the remedying of their lot. Today the whole mantra is about the "middle class," even coming from the likes of Barack Obama who has been called a socialist by so many on the right wing. Ron Paul got boos at a right wing gathering once when he described Obama as a "corporatist." Obama is a mainstream Washington politician.
(BTW millennials aren't bothered by the term "socialism.")
 
The numbers rule
The Thrifty White re-location in Morris will probably reflect the typical corporate ethos of today. Decisions will be made by the totally detached bean counters. There will be some very short-term hand-wringing. And then everything will go quiet and everyone will just move on. At some point, stresses in our economy - the kind of stresses that cause real hardships for average people - might tip the scale in favor of a political shift, wherein government does more to ensure calm and continuity in the lives of the folk. That of course would bring a shift to the Democratic Party.
Think that can't happen? You think you can just "mail it in" for the Republicans in solid red states? Oh, you'd be surprised. Take a look at interest rates. No matter where interest rates settle, people will say those rates will stay there indefinitely, maybe forever. Remember where interest rates were, back in about 1980? They must have been at that level for a reason. We cannot rule out our nation's circumstances reverting back, due to pressures we cannot predict now.
When I was a kid, the stock market was a distant and mysterious place populated by very rich folk. It was nothing that common folk needed to give any mind to. We always heard stories about people losing lots of money in the stock market. Miraculously, that whole outlook has changed to where the stock market appears to be the financial foundation for most people. They (not me) have "401Ks."  Let me tell you why companies like 401Ks. They like it because it's the employees, not the company, taking the risks.
We have had this bizarre economic environment where interest rates have been down near zero way too long. There is no precedent for this. That's what is unnerving. How many financial advisers know what it's like to work in an environment where interest rates are going up? Oh, "interest rates will never go up." Well, we'll see.
All this new construction on the north end of Morris may not be what it's all cracked up to be. We'll have the substantially downsized Thrifty White with fewer employees (based on background I've been able to obtain), and we'll have Heartland Motors which is just a re-location, and then there's Grandstay which we'll probably find is just an extension of Superior. It may all be very underwhelming. And we've been very inconvenienced by all the roadwork through the summer.
And now we have to worry about killer amoeba possibly in area lakes. The Star Tribune says the recent death occurred from a "central Minnesota lake," thus adopting a stance of vagueness, after first reporting that the problem was associated with Lake Minnewaska. You don't suppose a few irritated Glenwood spokesmen called the Star Tribune and went into a hair-pulling tirade, do you? Starbuck too, I suppose. BTW does Starbuck still have that resident who prominently flies the Confederate flag? Just curious.
At present there are two Thrifty White stores in Morris. One occupies a major space at City Center Mall which hasn't gotten off the ground, let's be honest. The other is on the west side of Atlantic Avenue and seems to attract more people traffic. The Del Monico Cafe used to occupy part of the space where the west side Thrifty White is. The Del Monico used to share that space with Messner Drug.
I have been begging for years for Morris to have a true main street diner again, a place where you can get a reasonably priced hot beef sandwich special with an ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy, in the afternoon. (I recall Dan Schmidgall ordering that at the old Shorty's, next to the movie theater.) How about an all-day breakfast buffet?
Since Thrifty White at present has two locations, I suspect there are two chief pharmacists, one for each location. At the new place, will these two people be expected to work together? I think that could be problematic. My theory is that the company will select one of the two, and then just surround that person with (lower-paid) worker bees. Profit is the crux of everything now. But the future is always hard to predict.
We would be best off if Thrifty White just kept its two downtown locations going. We'd also be best off if Stevens County had just kept its offices at City Center Mall. How convenient. It made too much sense.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 13, 2015

"UMM Hymn" was seminal UMM showcase

The first thing I remember about UMM is the circle drive. The circle drive used to connect with the road in front of the Welcome Center. I'm not sure why it was necessary to cut that off. I really think UMM administration had plans of phasing out the circle drive completely. I heard that rumor about 13 years ago.
Money pours into colleges these days. They come up with extensive lists for how to tweak things and add things. How about a climbing wall? There, I started a rumor.
No one considered UMM to be blessed with riches in 1960. We were transitioning from an ag school campus to liberal arts - quite a shift in mission. We were like church mice at the start. There was constant fear over how our humble little experiment of a public liberal arts campus might be short-lived.
The "UMM Hymn" helped elevate our profile. It was an inspiring theme song for our prairie campus. Some people may have joked that even though we weren't at the edge of the Earth, you could see the dragons and serpents from here. Some people might even think that way today. A doctor left town because his wife had concerns about our apparent remoteness. I know because he told me. That was a charming doctor visit. I felt like I was the one dispensing advice or counseling!
No, it's not a reach to say UMM is a little remote, even today. I guess an ongoing issue for our campus is lack of job opportunities for spouses of new faculty members. As far as lack of amenities, this is offset by the relative safety felt here. You can take a walk after dark.
Anyway, the UMM Hymn was a signature song sung by the UMM men's chorus, the group that did more to elevate UMM's profile than any other. There is a wall exhibit remembering that group at the entrance to the HFA recital hall.
If I had my life to live over, I would get my hands on a movie camera and a high-quality 35mm camera and document the chorus' adventures. All that stuff could be online today. I'd persuade my dad, who wrote the UMM Hymn, to knock off hunting and fishing and buy me some media stuff. Reminder: camera equipment above the level of the Kodak Instamatic was very expensive in those days. I have heard the flash units were very limited. Still, if you spent enough money, I'm sure you could get decent equipment. We couldn't have imagined "selfies."
I was only seven years old for the UMM men's chorus trip to Seattle in 1962. And so I would have been nine years old for the New York City trip in 1964. I was actually along for the 1964 trip. I remember sitting in the "vista dome" car during the train ride. I got familiar with an African-American "porter," a quite nice man. He was the first "negro" I met. That term had currency then.
I invite you to click on the link below to listen to the UMM men's chorus of the early 1960s sing my father's "UMM Hymn." This is the first song in a lengthy YouTube posting. There are parts 2 and 3 also. Just use standard search methods.
 
Thanks to Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for helping me get this material online. Brent Gulsvig took this off a cassette that had been digitized. Roger Boleman assembled the original cassette for us.
My preferred recording of the UMM Hymn was actually made in 2001 for UMM's 40th anniversary. I liked that version because it had both men's and women's voices. But my recording of this got destroyed by a new boombox I purchased. So instead we'll rely on the true archival version, sung by the men, which I think is quite fine and appropriate.
My father wrote two sections of lyrics for the UMM Hymn. You might say it had an AAA song structure but with only two A's.
The song appears to have been phased out at UMM. Last spring I blogged that if UMM were to perform the Hymn for graduation - it only takes a minute and 15 seconds to perform - I'd "get out my checkbook" for the UMM music department, as I've done in the past. Maybe the powers that be at UMM just don't like the song. Music is a very subjective thing. We all have a right to our opinions. I'm biased of course.
Maybe I'll contribute to Social Sciences this fall. Those are "my people" where I feel affinity based on the subject matter. I was once good at pretending I was a musician - that's all. Today I try to compose pop/country music. My father never encouraged me to do that.
The remainder of this post will be "the UMM Hymn: a new version." The first two blocks of lyrics are my father's. Then, after an instrumental interlude, we'll have some new lyrics, and these were written by me. A father-son effort. I included references and terms that my father could not have. Here we go:
 
The UMM Hymn: a new version
by Ralph E. Williams and Brian R. Williams
 
We salute our Minnesota
Morris our campus dear
We proclaim its destiny
Now sustain our loyalty
Varsity, varsity, hail thy fame afar
O guide our alma mater
Thee our shining star!
 
Hail to thee our Minnesota
Morris a beacon clear
Mem-ries of the plains and pines
Hills and waters, trees and vines
Varsity, varsity, 'neath our state's western sky
Cherish our alma mater
Hold her banner high!
 
It awakens each September
Leaves slowly turning brown
Football soccer volleyball
Cheer-filled faces on the mall
Varsity, varsity, peace in our prairie home
O Morris be that fountain
Brimming as we go!
 
We embrace our Minnesota
Morris a forward place
Treasures in this little town
Hail our jewel in the crown
Varsity, varsity, building blocks spreading far
O Morris help us try to
Set the highest bar
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Conflicting thoughts re. Summit Cemetery

Our Summit Cemetery, Morris MN, at twilight (B.W. photo)
UMM cannot expand to the west because of Summit Cemetery. Minus the cemetery, UMM could perhaps have made use of the old school property, perhaps establishing the soccer fields there. The cemetery is a landmark associated with UMM, being right next door and very visible.
By definition a cemetery is depressing. We associate it with death. If there were no cemetery, there would be no chimes controversy. Until 2013 I had nothing to do with the death industry in Morris. It doesn't warm the cockles of your heart.
The cremation industry tells us that the percentage of people choosing cremation is steadily going up. In 2013 our family went with the traditional approach because we hadn't considered any alternatives. Given that my father was a semi-public figure, as a UMM founder, maybe that was the best approach.
When I chose a monument, I was immediately attracted to the idea of a bench, because it could be useful. I encourage everyone to relax and sit a spell at our monument when visiting the cemetery.
I think each new generation of young people will show increased skepticism toward the traditional method of dealing with death. I have heard a local minister say "people don't go to funerals anymore." People are more likely to lead harried lives, to retreat inward and be more focused on their own daily needs and responding to pressures.
We used to live in a slower-moving, more laid-back world. In that old world we might want to pull strings to "knock off early" on Friday. Unions negotiated so members could get optimal personal space in their lives. People were more likely to view work as a necessary evil, something to simply endure. Today, people work obsessively and they don't question - they had better not - their employer's lofty goals.
I see another reason why funerals seem no longer as big a deal. There are exceptions, of course, as when a middle-age person dies rather suddenly, but in an increasing number of cases, the deceased is very old and is not likely to attract many funeral-goers. And we all know that with many very old people - people who have had to battle chronic health issues - death comes as rather a relief. In that case, we aren't likely to see uncontrollable sobbing at funeral time. People are respectful and reverential but they aren't cut down by grief as would be the case with that middle-age example I cited.
The amount of land needed for a cemetery will always increase, it can never decrease. I think young people increasingly doubt the necessity of cemeteries with the big blocks of stone with names on them. They doubt the need for those vaults and coffins and the embalming process. If we are going to keep cemeteries, why not make them "green" cemeteries in which the bodies would just be placed in the ground and allowed to decompose the way God intended.
As far as memorializing people, it takes hardly a thought to realize this could be done using new media. A memorial site could be chock full of biographical information, remembrances, photos and links to photo albums etc. Visitors to the site could be asked to submit their own remembrances. Compare this to a slab of rock at the cemetery.
I am new to understanding the etiquette at our Summit Cemetery. Apparently the one-lane road that winds through the cemetery is intended only for people with official business at the cemetery. It appears that mourners are supposed to park along a city street outside the cemetery and walk in from there. Because the cemetery road is one lane, it is impossible to park without pulling out onto the grass. And there is an official cemetery policy for visitors not to drive onto the grass. I noticed a sign out there stating this just the other day.
I got another notification too. We tried visiting my father's grave on July 4 and pulled just off the road, whereupon I was verbally berated by a cemetery attendant. It is unfortunate to have to learn some of these things the hard way. I'm not sure how practical it is, to push a wheelchair over the surface at the cemetery. A high percentage of cemetery visitors are senior citizens, I would guess. It's a rather expansive place.
The best thing about Summit Cemetery is the Sam Smith statue.
I think maybe the cemetery attendant had a case of "parking lot attendant syndrome" in which they feel they can throw their weight around. Based on all the rules, it's unlikely my mother will ever see the monument again. I'm not too disconsolate about that.
When my father died, his soul departed from this existence. The same will happen with the two survivors. My father is in heaven now with his dog "Sandy."
There remains only one reason why I'm glad we have a cemetery plot at all: the monument reminds everyone that my father was the founder of UMM music, and that he served in the Navy for WWII.
I can live with never visiting the cemetery again. But I have to manage the vase holders on the monument. I remove the silk flowers for the cold weather months. I have to check to make sure the flowers aren't blown out of the holders in a severe storm. The recent storm in Morris dislodged a set of flowers for the first time.
When I go to the cemetery now, I park on a city street and walk all the way in. I'm still physically vigorous enough to do this. Perhaps the text referring to me on the monument should say I ran three marathons in the 1980s. Just kidding. The text is already there and it refers to me as "son, caregiver and journalist." Caregiver is listed above journalist because that is the most important role I have held.
It's ironic that chimes should be an issue at the cemetery. A cemetery, if nothing else should be a place where one can experience quiet and serenity, like a Civil War battlefield. Quiet is the one sure asset a cemetery can offer. And yet we have the chimes controversy in Morris. How stupid. You can't allow loud public music near residential neighborhoods. Maybe I should run for mayor. You laugh? I once joked with Merlin Beyer, the quintessential small town politician, about how pointless it would be for me to run for local public office. Merlin said with all seriousness: "You'd be surprised how many people would vote for you." Hmmm.
Death is mysterious and dreary, and a cemetery hits us over the head with that. Maybe it's time, led by the young, to depart from all the legacy practices. We can remember the deceased in more meaningful ways. My father is not in the ground out there. He's in heaven. With "Sandy."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 6, 2015

How best to eat properly?

What did you have for breakfast today? Simply being asked the question probably puts you on the defensive, and you'll be inclined to maybe embellish. We all know what a good breakfast consists of. If you are in a hospital or some other kind of institution (e.g. prison), you will be forced to accept a tray that has a decent breakfast on it.
Why am I fixating on breakfast? Well, a nice full breakfast helps get your mind focused for the tasks of the day. It helps your attention span and stamina. Is it possible you had no breakfast at all, or just a cup of coffee? Maybe you stopped by a convenience store and just picked up some small item. Even if you went to McDonald's and got a sausage and egg biscuit, it's really not enough.
If you are not being served institutional food - if you're just a free-roaming American - what are you to do? I would guess it's ungainly for many of us to buy the rough ingredients for breakfast and make it daily. You end up with dishes to wash.
Here is why I am writing this post: the demographics of our society are changing. The Norman Rockwell model of the American family has been fading. That old model would have the housewife filling her grocery cart at the grocery store, to overflowing. Yes, that puts dollar signs in the grocer's eyes (Paul Martin). But the composition of our society has been changing from that model of a husband/wife in their 30s or 40s with about four children.
We hear that the tradition of "gathering around the dinner table" has been fading. People are "on the go" as they grab food rather haphazardly.
Part of the old model is Dad reading the morning newspaper at breakfast. We can push this to its cliche level by citing Ozzie and Harriet. I prefer Norman Rockwell. The painter gave his images real dignity. Grandma by the stove for Thanksgiving. We have seen recent Thanksgivings in Morris where there is no public place to even go and eat.
The demographics are shifting to where there are more singles, small families, retirees and senior citizens in general. These people mostly just "grab a basket" when going to the grocery store, not a cart. They might just purchase a handful of items at the store. It is hard to buy groceries for a small family. You are often forced to buy quantities that are too much. Food gets stale or goes past its expiration date. I used to bake cakes when we had a family of three and I'd bring a piece to the neighbor. People have died. It is no longer even practical for me to bake a cake. And I don't like "Jiffy Cake."
I look at that big grocery store and wonder how practical it is any more.
We can eat at restaurants. Two problems with that: 1) It is expensive. A simple bacon/eggs breakfast at a restaurant, with coffee, will come to about 7 1/2 dollars. You leave a tip also. And, 2) restaurant food is not designed to be optimally healthy, it is designed to "taste good." You can't blame the restauranteurs. And heaven help you if you ate all your meals at McDonald's.
As I ponder a solution, I remember when our family would dine at the old Forum Cafeteria in Minneapolis. You'd grab and tray and walk along, taking items that would make for a full, satisfying meal when you were done. It was a quite different restaurant experience, wholly satisfying. When last I read an update of that art deco place, it had been converted to a night club.
It seems it would be nice if all communities had a cafeteria type of place for people to get a nice, ordinary balanced meal. The meal would be like what you'd get in the hospital, and yes, I realize people joke about "hospital food" (like Jay Leno). I suspect people make these jokes because such meals aren't designed with your taste buds in mind.
Well, you can't just go and get "french fries" all the time. If you have spent several days in the hospital at any time, just stop and think how good you'd feel if you ate three meals on an ongoing basis, 365 days a year. You'd be more hearty and sharper mentally.
What would it take to get such "cafeterias" established? Well, I guess public demand would be needed. And apparently it's just not there. So we continue making "meals" at home that are probably not sufficient or properly balanced. In the old days, a family of several people would pass a bowl of potatoes around. Do you make potatoes at home?
What kind of incentive do we need to feel, to upgrade our lifestyle in the proper way? We all need to pause and think about this.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Confederate flag can continue in a benign way

I have written a song about the Confederate flag but I'm not sure I should have it recorded. My interest in the Civil War goes way back, I'm sure originating with the Walt Disney presentation of "Johnny Shiloh." (I was going to type "The Little Drummer Boy" but of course that's about Christmas.) "Johnny Shiloh" was a Civil War drummer, their purpose to lift morale. Johnny wore blue. I'm not sure the sound of a drum would make me willing to face shrapnel coming from cannons. BTW in regard to "The Little Drummer Boy," did you know the story isn't in the Bible?
Anyway, I quickly came to learn that each side in the Civil War had a flag. The Confederate battle flag is a really quite beautiful symbol. The brilliant red background makes it striking. I recall Disney making no grim moral judgment of the Confederates. I recall them following the time-worn meme of the graycoats being men of valor who were products of their culture. You reach this assessment reading "the Killer Angels" too.
"The Killer Angels" is what inspired Ken Burns to do his PBS mini-series. The book of that name was a historical novel written by the late Michael Shaara. If you want to know what a historical novel is all about, I suggest this book. It drew me in. We see these very swashbuckling men, men commanding their charges to their death, grappling with the most fundamental questions about their mortality. One of them wonders that if he should die, go to heaven and see his friends/family there, what age would they be? He seems to ponder the question with the same seriousness as the grave questions of what strategy to mount in the growing battle.
What could possibly make so many young men willing to put their lives on the line in this way? I once bought Civil War magazines that often presented this question and sought to explore. It's fine to try to speculate on such things. My own outlook has been that we cannot possibly get into the minds of Americans who lived in the mid-19th Century. They lacked advantages that we take for granted today. Life could be short and afflicted by caprice.
Our culture seemed to guide young men to be warriors, and this pattern would hardly end by the end of the century. The wars of the mid-20th Century were as heartless and grotesque as any. "Progress" meant we could kill using industrial efficiency. The Civil War draws a certain fascination, I feel, because it was the last war fought by human beings.
The southern soldier was motivated by that rebel battle flag. It technically wasn't the flag of the Confederacy. The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia had its place on the battlefield.
A Civil War author once suggested with a scary sort of accuracy that a Civil War battlefield had "an eerie kind of beauty."
The glorious Confederate battle flag went into mothballs after the Civil War. Commentators say that not much was made of it, not for a long time. Then, as the story goes, it got trotted out again for purposes we can argue about. The argument is heated at present in Charleston SC. That's where the cannons fired on Fort Sumter.
We hear the flag got renewed in connection with resisting desegregation. However, based on what I've read, the Confederate symbols had a resurgence in connection with the Centennial observation of the war. That would have been between 1961 and 1965. It would make sense that the South would restore some of the old pride. There is within all of us a resistance to centralized authority. The Confederate flag can respond to that impulse in us. We admire fierce competitors.
We long ago achieved enough emotional distance from the Civil War. We're not pained remembering any of those individual casualties. We think of the Civil War in terms of the "eerie beauty of the battlefield" and the gray-clad southerners, the epitome of valor, fighting for their homeland. If only we could embrace that popular conception as saying it all.
The truth is much more nuanced and cannot escape the angle of racial subjugation. Anyone who uses the Confederate flag today as a naked expression of racism is to be condemned. The Sons of Confederate Veterans would be the first to proclaim that. Oh, the Civil War is so "complicated" to sort out. 
  
Would "mission statement" help?
One wonders why Charleston SC would be so eager to promote the flag when in fact their side lost. I think the flag can be understood to project simple regional pride. Here is how I think the South Carolina legislature could resolve this: pass a "mission statement" in connection with the flag and how it's presented today. The mission statement would be crystal clear on how that Southern symbol is to be interpreted today. Obviously, obviously, no negative racial overtones.
The statement would encourage all of us to affirm what we've always had tucked away in our minds about the flag: it was a symbol of regional resistance to an uncomfortable period of growth in our country, like "growing pains" with a most substantial price. The U.S. was not going to be Balkanized.
Many of those Confederate soldiers did not wear those official gray uniforms that we see in movies. They weren't in uniform at all. Soldiers clash at a pivotal point in U.S. history where we were working out some fundamental issues. Surely we can't equate Confederates to Nazis.
The Confederates had run into a wall, that wall being the future. They didn't even have a sense of their own country's boundaries. Therefore it was a "rebellion" which was the term promoted by the North i.e. Union. As such it would crumble. Four miserable years of untold deaths was the price paid - staggering on both sides.
The technology of weaponry advanced beyond what many older generals were able to understand. All major battles ended in stalemate, really, with one side having to withdraw and go home to be perceived as the "loser." Both sides had such strong weaponry, neither could overwhelm the other. All new war technology gives an advantage to the strategic defensive. That's why the astute General Longstreet at Gettysburg wanted to take the defensive stance, in contrast with the tragically pugnacious Robert E. Lee (who had severe diarrhea at Gettysburg).
Of course there's lots of mythology connected with Civil War battles. No way could the South's army at Gettysburg succeed to the extent of forcing the North to sue for peace. The Union had military resources it could have summoned from far and wide. The Union pulled out all stops at Gettysburg such as using "flankers" - soldiers assigned to shoot and kill anyone running from his duty. The Joshua Chamberlain character in the movie "Gettysburg" is shocked when told he is to employ flankers. The troops had no choice but to dig in and perhaps meet their maker.
I'm reminded of the D-Day approach of sending in troops from the sea, because there's no way they could retreat. Watch those U.S. soldiers get mowed down by the Nazi "pillboxes" in "Saving Private Ryan." Isn't there some way all those U.S. battleships could have cleared the beaches a little better first? All those powerful guns. I have read that belatedly the U.S. ships moved closer to shore, entering water deemed too shallow for them, to desperately try to clear the way better.
I'm not surprised at all that Dwight Eisenhower, post-war, spoke like an absolute peacenik. He wanted no part of war. He probably went to his grave haunted.
Oliver Stone says it was the Red Army coming from the east that really crushed the Nazis anyway.
Getting back to the Confederate flag, let's try to view it as benign, really. We can re-define it and let native-born Southerners have their self-esteem. The strong arm of the law can take care of racism.
I'll share with you the lyrics of my song about the Confederate flag, called "New Day for the South." Would you like to hear it recorded? Piano or guitar backing?
 
New Day for the South (by Brian Williams)
 
A flag that flew to show Southern will
It stood for victory at Chancellorsville
Red as bright as the whole mother lode
Stars as clear as when Jeb Stuart rode
 
REFRAIN:
New day, new day, South is having a brand new day
Somehow, some way, we can honor the men who wore gray
 
It flaps so vibrant for each Southern dawn
Making passers-by look up with awe
We all hear how that era has died
Still that flag can express Southern pride
 
(refrain)
 
They say it has to come down from that pole
They might as well tear away at our soul
Southern men who all fought to the end
Saw that flag as their partner and friend
 
(refrain)
 
The guns echoed with fury and smoke
Making it clear the South had awoke
Soldiers looked up to Robert E. Lee
They envisioned a swift victory
 
(refrain)
 
First Manassas is where it began
The men in blue were defeated and ran
South wanted its own sovereignty
Only war could give them that key
 
(refrain)
 
Face to face at Antietam Creek
Lee and McClellan, there would they meet
Neither side won on that bloodiest day
Southern devotion stayed firm through the fray
 
(refrain)
 
Conflict wore on as God used a scythe
Time was never on Johnny Reb's side
Valor was high but numbers were low
Still the graycoats could render a blow
 
(refrain)
 
The guns went idle with Union complete
A new day dawned for our nation to greet
Our Southern flag could still be unfurled
Keeping us close to our Southern world
 
(refrain)
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com