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

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I'm a year away from Social Security!

Here I am at a younger age, in George Jones' tour bus in Nashville TN.
"Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter."
- Satchel Paige
 
John Wayne walked with his characteristic elan up to the saloon counter. We were entering the last stage of his movie "The Shootist."
"Today is my birthday, give me the best you've got." It sounds like a joyful scene but a gunfight was looming.
My birthday has always been in the dead of winter. It comes at around Super Bowl time. Maybe the Super Bowl has replaced Groundhog Day as the real emblem of winter, a time when maybe we should all hibernate. Look at the recent weather in Morris. Two weeks ago we had our church service canceled. Rumors have circulated that something other than the weather was involved. Church and rumors are bedfellows.
Our church is down to one pastor. I'll repeat: There ought to be just one ELCA church in Morris. One of those initials is for "Evangelical." However, when I hear the team "evangelicals" in connection to the Iowa caucuses, I don't think they're talking about people like me. The media coverage has us assume that "evangelicals" are totally Republican, and not just that, they're on the right wing of "Republican." Ted Cruz is probably your man.
Few of us would actually want someone like Ted Cruz governing us. I don't think Cruz gives a rip whether any new laws get passed against abortion. I don't think he really feels the Second Amendment is threatened. He doesn't lose sleep over it. Self-styled "conservatives" or "evangelicals" have just learned to put together a coalition of supporters (like in parliamentary government) that can bump up poll numbers. Someone like Cruz seeks to ride the wave.
So the media impress on us this term "evangelicals" which becomes a turn-off to a wide swath of our youth, who are more receptive to Bernie Sanders' message. The youth become less inclined to attend any kind of church. Do you have to be a right wing Republican to be a Christian?
First Lutheran Church had a guest pastor not long ago, for one of the Wednesday night services, who implied that "Occupy Wall Street" was somehow the work of the devil. We don't need Pat Robertson-type messages in our mainstream churches like this. I shared a concern with our pastor at the time - it has been a revolving door there - and I said "Jesus Christ would probably be a member of Occupy Wall Street." Pastor Don was receptive.
What if the stock market crashes? Are you saying this can't happen?
Anyway, I share the same birthday as Alan Alda. For years I was reminded of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster on my birthday. It happened on that date. The media have backed off a little on this. I learned through reading that I share the same birthday as the last big league baseball pitcher to legally throw a spitball. Hmmm.
As I reach my new age, I'm one year away from being eligible to collect at least some Social Security. I'm inclined to take whatever I can get, beginning right away. Bank interest has been lousy. One of these days I probably ought to get health insurance again. I have been without it for ten years. But at any rate, one's birthday is a time you ought to feel a little buoyant.
I should be like that John Wayne character: "J.B. Books," an old gunfighter, an anachronism at the turn of the century. In my opinion it was Wayne's best acting job, right at the end of his career. He had been an SOB in the 1960s, going against the tide of our nation's young people. Ugly as all that was, we moved beyond and in the end, felt affection for Wayne. We have had to dismiss much of what developed in the '60s, when the boomers were young and were amazed at how the Viet Nam war was thrust on us.
"America, love it or leave it."
The schism in our society faded as if it had been a bad dream. Boomers went from embracing the "new left" to becoming the foundation for the tea party, what John Stewart called a "going out of business sale for the boomer generation."
I'm turning age 61 today: Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. When I was younger I might stop by the Met Lounge and get my complimentary drink for my birthday. Just like I used to get my "Tom and Jerry" drink on Christmas Eve day there. I'm too homebound today to consider doing that. I guess I have no inclination to do it. I'll watch Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC and then go to bed.
I was born in 1955 in the heart of the Eisenhower administration. I spent the first five years of my life in St. Paul. I developed an attraction to journalism and it might have been a mistake. Maybe I should have just washed dishes. I have observed much of Morris history in a most vivid way.
In 1980 we were at the end of the Jimmy Carter malaise period, never mind he didn't actually use that word. There was a very tepid quality to Morris life at that time. Everything was so quiet and predictable. It's as if we were content simply being blessed by getting lots of state paychecks, and we didn't have to actually do anything to show dynamism. We began talking about the Wheaton fair like it was the really big-time fair in this part of the state. You would have gotten no argument if you suggested our Stevens County Fair was ho-hum. Eventually we woke up.
Our school system became the epitome of small town conflict by the end of the 1980s. If you're new here, you must realize I'm not exaggerating. The public school had devolved into an ossified mess of self-interest. The remedy to that involved such base tactics as petitions. How much fault was owned by the superintendent? That's hard to say because he dealt with a teachers union that was absolutely fierce and entrenched. The union put aside ideals and fought in a parochial way in the manner that all labor unions do.
The conflict was of course so needless. Principle took a back seat to who your buddies were. Teachers used those ubiquitous house parties to develop synergy for their efforts, making the superintendent into an ugly gargoyle of sorts.
School-based conflict was common around Minnesota in the early and mid 1980s. It's just that it was worse here. We're talking social cliques and base retribution that caused an odor to begin emanating from our community. Previous generations of parents wouldn't have recognized it. The venom was poisonous.
I tried viewing things from the standard of principle, not from expedience. Technically I survived. My image in the community had taken a serious hit, though. I could never function the same again. I had to watch my back for the next 20 years, and that was a shame. The late Don Fellows implored me on putting that conflict period in a better context, a more realistic context. Fellows is one of the real shining gems in Morris history. He was the school counselor. His sense of humor always calmed things.
In the wake of the vicious conflict that shook the community in 1987-88, he told me that I shouldn't generalize about all the Morris teachers. "Most" of the teachers, he said, weren't preoccupied by the divisive issues of that time, much of it centering on youth sports and the kind of guiding philosophy it ought to have. You would think this was a small potatoes issue. Oh no, it fed an atmosphere of contention that smeared the community.
Mr. Fellows said there was "a group" of teachers on the front lines of that, but that "most" of the teachers didn't care, in the sense they'd be perfectly happy to sit back and follow the directives of those who in theory were in charge. These lines can get blurred in a small town. A school board member might have a spouse on the teaching staff.
Consider: why has our school taken such a firm stand against hiring spouses of teachers? I remember Paul Court being upset that his wife couldn't even get an interview for a job, such was the firmness of the policy. Why the firmness? Had the district been through some bad experiences? The problem with married couples within a given enterprise, according to my friend Brent Waddell, is that they develop a "proprietary" sense, as if they own it. The marital relationships develop into a synergy of power, greased by those notorious house parties where people gossip and build strategy for their narrow interests. I have witnessed some of this directly.
Things did calm down in our community. Around Minnesota we began seeing fewer headlines about teacher strikes or threatened strikes. The system must have gotten tweaked in some way.
I resent the power that the public school monopoly had on my life when I was young. I was a below-average student who should have been treated as such. But I came from a UMM-oriented family so I was supposed to be special. So as a sophomore I got put in Gene Mechelke's class with all the other "smart" types (not that they were really smarter).
I found Mechelke to be a distasteful person. He attacked me in a visceral way one day. Steve Poppe can tell you about that. Jerry Lembcke thought I should actually take action against this pretentious fool. Many years later when I was dealing with Diane Kratz on a newspaper project, I shared a comment about Mechelke and she said "He was in trouble a lot." Really? Were the problems with him ever solved?
Here's how I saw his modus operandi: He'd identify a couple kids in class who seemed unsure of themselves, give them low grades initially, then prop them up which of course caused them to praise him out of a sense of relief. He said things to agitate us, as if he enjoyed just seeing our response, as if he had some inner psychological need satisfied.
An example: he started carrying on one day about Donnelly being a backwater place (hint: w/ ignorance). There was a rather attractive girl in the class, whose name I won't type here, who everyone associated with Donnelly - Donnelly kids had a real group identity in those days - and she was so incensed at Mechelke's language, she stayed after class to dispute him. Did he get his jollies from that? He was arrogant and overrated, IMHO.
Approaching one's birthday causes you to reflect on the highs and lows of your life. Would I be a less cynical person if I had had Al Hendrickson instead of Mechelke for those classes? Hendrickson was just like Fellows: a genuine, gentle and caring human being. Life's road is challenging, though, and you'd better be ready to confront the SOBs. The union probably had more power than the superintendent or the board. We learn that life isn't fair sometimes.
Still I'll try to project the John Wayne persona today (Thursday, Jan. 28), my 61st birthday. Happy birthday, Alan Alda.
 
Addendum: One day in some idle moments toward the end of class, with 4-5 students hovering close to Mechelke's desk, he began speaking in a mocking and disrespectful way about one of his teaching colleagues: Andy Papke. He wondered if Papke might pronounce the word "psychology" as "psychogee." I don't think Papke would do this and regardless, he was a far classier person than Mechelke. Mechelke made a big deal out of Francis Gary Powers the spy plane pilot. It was a down note in our history. I resented the emphasis. America was fighting the Soviets. Of course, teachers unions at that time were very friendly to communism or collectivism. How much better off we'd be just reading a nice mainstream historical novel like by John Jakes. Mechelke gave us these eerie reading assignments out of Japan. That's how I learned the word "concubine" which is "prostitute" or "mistress." Such distasteful memories. Mechelke derided "American Heritage" magazine because it was "superficial." What is that supposed to mean? The diss was just typical academic pretentiousness (i.e. bulls--t). I think we all needed to be deprogrammed. The story circulated that Randy Thraen's parents made pre-arrangements to make sure Randy never got Mechelke as a teacher.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

MACA girls overcome Minnewaska's 3's

Tigers 75, 'Waska 67
Wow! A game with an exciting complexion ended with the MACA girls on top. The score was 75-67 on Tuesday night. This West Central Conference hoops action was at our home gym, where our fans could cheer in spite of 14 - that's right, 14 - three-pointers by the visiting Lakers of Minnewaska Area.
Carley Stewart made four 3's for the Lakers. Abby VerSteeg and Ashlyn Guggisberg each made three long-rangers. Shelby Pfannenstein connected twice from three-point range. Bailey Stewart and Anna Vold each made one '3'. Stewart with her 23 points led 'Waska's scoring.
In spite of all those thrilling long-rangers, it was coach Dale Henrich's Tigers who prevailed! How? We countered those 3's with balanced scoring. We also had a fair amount of our own success with long-range shooting. Becca Holland sank three 3-pointers, followed by Correy Hickman with two and Riley Decker with one.
It was Moira McNally topping the Tigers' scoring with 21 points followed closely by Karly Fehr with 20. Holland and Ashley Solvie also made double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Riley Decker scored seven points while Nicole Solvie and Carly Wohlers each scored two. The Tigers led 32-29 at halftime.
Our win was No. 8 of the season and brought us within a game of .500. In conference we're sitting better at 6-3. 'Waska sails along with a quite fine overall record of 13-5 and 5-3 in conference.
McNally was a force on the boards, collecting a team-best 14 rebounds. Ashley Solvie had ten rebounds and Holland nine. Holland produced seven assists. Holland picked up five steals and Hickman had four.
The Tigers turned things around from when they were dealt defeat by Minnewaska on December 10 (a 55-43 score). Note that MACA surged with 31 rebounds in the first half of the Tuesday re-match. 'Waska came into this game having won ten games in a stretch of 12. Keep an eye on 'Waska. They are never any kind of pushover.
 
Boys: ACGC 67, Tigers 65
Suspense was high in the closing stages of the MACA vs. ACGC boys hoops game on Friday, Jan. 22, at Grove City. Unfortunately for the Tigers, breaks didn't go their way at the end. The outcome could have gone either way within the last minute. Gabe Eisenbacher stole the ball for ACGC. He kept the ball, charged toward the basket and performed a two-handed dunk. The clock showed ten seconds left.
The Falcons then performed another steal to snuff out any remaining MACA hopes. The final horn sounded with ACGC as the 67-65 winner.
The Falcons entered the night having lost five straight. They entered the weekend with a 5-10 overall record. Meanwhile the Tigers stayed over .500 with 10-7 overall numbers.
Star Tiger Eric Staebler was held to just ten points. The Falcons got up on us by halftime, by a margin of eight, and improved on that into the second half to where they led by 14. The Tigers got back into the game but couldn't surpass those Falcons and their cheering Grove City fans.
It was Jacob Zosel leading the Tigers in scoring with 16 points. Sean Amundson put in 14 points. Steabler with his ten points and Lukus Manska with 12 were other double figures scorers for coach Mark Torgerson's crew. Camden Arndt put in nine points and Robert Rohloff four.
Manska was dead-on in three-point shooting, making four of these shots. Amundson and Zosel each made two long-rangers, and Arndt made one. Staebler was in the groove rebounding, collecting 17. Zosel had seven assists followed by Amundson and Rohloff with four each.
The top ACGC scorer was Colton Minnick with 24 points. Payton Kinzler made two 3-point shots. Adam Johnson and Eisenbacher each grabbed ten rebounds. Erik Belgum produced five assists. Jarren Kaddatz and Kinzler each stole the ball twice.
Click on the permalink below to read about these other recent MACA hoops games: the girls' 58-42 win over ACGC, the boys' 59-56 win over Benson, and the girls' loss to Monte by a score of 46-43. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2016/01/becca-holland-makes-three-3s-in-road.html
 
Willmar paper continues struggling
The recent 59-56 win by the MACA boys over Benson got puzzling coverage in the Willmar newspaper, in that the Benson scoring list included two players with the same name: "Adam Lindahl." Adam Lindahl scored eight points and Adam Lindahl scored 20 points, according to that paper. Further down in the boxscore, we see the Lindahl name with first name abbreviations. We see "Ad." Lindahl and "An." Lindahl. I found the roster with Maxpreps and discovered we have Adam Lindahl and Andrew Lindahl with the Braves, a rare team still represented by a Native American nickname. And don't think "Braves" is intended generically, because the logo has feathers from a headdress. I'm surprised they've gotten away with this so long.
Seems to me the Willmar paper could refer to the Lindahl boys with full names always printed: "Adam" and "Andrew." We saw the same problem when the Holland sisters both played for MACA. First initials didn't work because the names were Beth and Becca. The type size is so small in the first place, the paper isn't saving an appreciable amount of space by abbreviating names.
The tiny type size is an issue by itself. Look at page B3: it's a sea of gray with type size so small, you'll at least need reading glasses. It has limited value in a scrapbook for this reason.
The Willmar newspaper would respond in its know-it-all way by saying a simple mixup with brothers' names is no big deal. Well, I can assure you it would be a big deal if I did it.
We learn that Rand Middleton of the West Central Tribune has been voted into some sort of football hall of fame. Well, what this means is that Mr. Middleton has spent the last 40 years or so promoting a sport that we're now learning has unacceptable health and physical consequences for its participants. I'd be ashamed getting an "honor" like that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Albie Pearson Got It Done" indeed (w/ halo)

Albie Pearson was the signature player with the early Los Angeles Angels baseball team. He was never a superstar in the mold of Harmon Killebrew, but his bat did have spark. He was quite diminutive, standing only five feet-seven. He weighed 140 pounds.
Prior to the creation of Gene Autry's Angels, he played for Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators and then the Baltimore Orioles. He could have been an original Minnesota Twin. But, he moved on as so many baseball players did. In his native California, he reached his prime as a ballplayer. The Angels had their first season in 1961.
I have written an extensive essay on Albie on my companion website, "Morris of Course." I invite you to read by clicking on the permalink below. Thanks.
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2015/12/albie-pearson-endears-with-signature-on.html
 
Today I have lyrics/poetry on Albie to share with you, called "Albie Pearson Got It Done." He has been a saint in his post-baseball life, establishing institutions to help troubled youth. He's quite a committed Christian person too. Hats off to Albie.
Here's my poetic offering on Albie the baseball player, with a chorus that could be sung. The verses are to be presented narration-style, no melody. Just think of the song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. It's set up like that. Oh, and keep in mind when you see poetry or lyrics on my sites, it's subject to revision.
 
"Albie Pearson Got It Done"
by Brian Williams
 
The Angels came to play their game in 1961
A whole new team to chase their dreams in the L.A. sun
A little man would take command with that fledgling crew
Running fast on outfield grass, swinging hard and true
 
Fans would rise and memorize that Albie Pearson name
Looking large on their scorecards as they watched each game
Big league ball was standing tall there on that West Coast
Taking planes instead of trains made our nation close
 
CHORUS:
Albie Pearson got it done back in 1961
Wowing fans in La-La Land
He expressed that city's brand
Playing great in his home state
Making baseball shine first rate
Win or lose they brought us fun
Albie Pearson got it done

 
Giants, Dodgers felt the urge, leaving NYC
Yankees were the only team not a memory
Ebbets Field was gone for real, New York sang the blues
Polo Grounds would hang around 'til the Mets were news
 
Willie Mays would see new days by the Bay so grand
Sandy Koufax was the max in his newfound land
Fans were glad the Angels had stars to cheer on too
Not enough to really strut, but they could come through
 
Ken McBride could find his stride on that pitching mound
Earl Averill gave us thrills, hitting homers loud
Albie shone in his new home - what a neighborhood
All those beaches within reach, close to Hollywood
 
(repeat chorus)
 
The owner's box was all the talk with that singing gent
From the screen he owned that team, knowing what it meant
Fans could see ol' Gene Autry staying right on course
So beloved in cinema, singing from his horse
 
With halos on the team built bonds, hearty all the way
Cheers and shouts were heard throughout Californi-aye
Looking good in Hollywood, up on that marquee
On a par with movie stars, sharing in that scene
 
They were in where Errol Flynn flashed his shining sword
Where the reign of ol' John Wayne was the town's last word
Rod Carew would join that crew, hitting in his prime
With Gene Mauch he kept his stock elevated high
 
Years go by and yet we strive to recoup the past
We recall that old baseball, Albie and that cast
Leon Wagner hit with verve, causing quite the buzz
We recall his moniker: "Daddy Wags" it was
 
The team today just comes to play, 55 years old
Looking good like Albie would, confident and bold
Fans would chant to see that man so diminutive
He just played real hard each day, all that he could give
 
(repeat chorus)
 
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A political reality: "Let Daddy do his work"

"Dr. Evil"
I have found a line from an Austin Powers movie having wide applicability beyond that plot. I find it applicable to contemporary American political behavior. We see pundits on the TV screen speculate endlessly on the direction of the various campaigns. So many people believe the presidential campaign is way too lengthy and bloated.
We must feel entertained by it. All this "stuff" wouldn't fill the cable TV news time if we weren't. Whole shows like the Heilemann/Halperin thing are built on this apparent obsession. We watch the candidates examine their navels. We watch the talking heads examine their navels. Candidates set up conflict to get attention. The candidates salivate over the attention, but why would any sensible individual want to be drawn into the vortex of all this? It seems rather a perversion or evidence of dysfunction.
We spent months going through this, leading up to the elections of 2000 and 2004. We allowed the conservative media to get into our heads too much. A particular strain of conservatism erupted that attacked its perceived adversaries as a rabid dog would. We slowly acquiesced to all that and gave the nod, narrowly, to a man from a political dynasty - i.e. he "knew the racket" - who made the worst foreign policy decision in the history of our nation: the invasion of Iraq.
Maybe George W. Bush just rubber-stamped the breathless advocacy of a possibly unstable Dick Cheney. Whatever, we invaded Iraq and destabilized that whole region, not realizing that those people are not like us, and that a dose of dictatorial rule is a necessary part. Iraq was led by a secular "strongman." He would want no part of the Islamic extremists. He had to be brutal at times because brutality is weaved into that culture, unfortunately. It's not the way we choose to live.
Bush wanted to spread our ideals around the world. It's not practicable. So, when you include the cost of treating all the wounded soldiers, we spent something like $6 trillion on the folly of the Iraq invasion. Much worse was the profound sadness brought to so many families including some in West Central Minnesota.
My point is that the American people went through so many months following media coverage of the presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004. We had the luxury of being able to over-analyze the candidates and ideas. But did we really weigh the ideas or rhetoric properly? Or, were we led along by a cabal of conservative-minded people in the media, people who were really just surrogates for puppet-masters in the big money world: Wall Street etc.
Those surrogates know there is all sorts of code language they can utilize to put "liberals" and Democrats on the defensive. They use the frontier principle of self-reliance. Do you want government to take over health care? Well, it seems to work for Medicare. Medicare and Social Security are examples of socialism. So are the ample subsidies for new sports stadiums.
Yet the conservatives create the boogeyman called "liberals" who simply wish to see government as an agent making our lives a little easier and giving us some decent security, beyond what pure "private enterprise" can deliver. Yet we are encouraged to extol "private enterprise." "Let's privatize the V.A. system."
Conservatives try to nudge everything toward privatization. It seems consistent with that frontier ethic of "self reliance." A lot of conservatives don't even believe what they're saying - they're just trying to gain standing in what David Frum calls the "conservative entertainment complex."
In this age of advanced medicine, which is a real blessing, we cannot pull our own weight with our own resources. You absolutely must realize about conservatives that their over-arching goal is to discourage people from liking government. At the same time they prop up those sports team owners. They're willing to shrug at the cost of $6 trillion for the Iraq adventure, simply because we were fighting some apparently unsavory people. "We're fighting to keep us safe." Hey, we can never be totally safe. We try to negotiate to smooth over rough spots around the world - consider the recent deal with Iran that conservatives are flailing their hands about.
What are we supposed to do? Comedian Dick Shawn joked about how some politicians wanted to see a "United World. . .of America" (laughter). Conservatives are the first to decry the idea of "world government." They decry the United Nations. And yet one of their flock, George W. Bush, behaved like he wanted to see the whole world reflect America, to where Norman Rockwell's paintings would have applicability everywhere.
Joe Scarborough has repeatedly assailed Bush's thinking on this. Scarborough is a conservative and a Republican.
So, how to explain or rationalize the system where we spend months being drenched in political campaign news, as if we're going to make such a well-thought-out decision, and then we elect Bush who crashes our American resources like a bull in a China shop, because he never had to pull himself up by his bootstraps, because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and became a mere puppet for other well-placed figures? How did this happen?
It's as if Bush was elected and then said to us all, like "Dr. Evil" to his son in one of the Austin Powers movies: "Let Daddy do his work." Dr. Evil was about to let one of his minion/guards lead Powers away to be detained, and we all know the hero would escape. The son, "Scott," pleaded the obvious to Dr. Evil, whereupon Dr. Evil retorted "Let Daddy do his work." We as a nation are supposed to go through certain motions, I guess. We did it with the Viet Nam war.
"Let Daddy do his work." How can we be so misguided? How can we be such lemmings?
  
Addendum: Remember the Iowa caucuses of 2012? "Let Daddy do his work" would apply to those on the Republican side who supervised that process.
The media encouraged such a buildup to the Iowa caucuses, with Joe Scarborough camping out and setting up shop at the "Java Joe's" restaurant etc. After all that, we got headlines trumpeting how Mitt Romney was the winner over Rick Santorum, albeit narrowly. Everyone scrambled to interpret those results. But we later found out that Santorum was actually the winner. How would things have changed if the results had been reported accurately? No way would Santorum, the man who wants to take all pornography off the Internet, have gotten the nomination. But Romney might have been weakened.
Our story of pratfalls doesn't end there. It turned out that Ron Paul actually got the most delegates from Iowa. I tell you, if a group of elementary school students were this inept doing a school project, they would all get a failing grade. And yet we allow these people to guide us through the process of determining a major party nominee. Sheesh.
Those Iowa pols would probably say "Let Daddy do his work." Meanwhile the media people cash their paychecks. The "conservative entertainment complex" is truly entertainment, though not to me. We're wising up, it seems, but too slowly.
Ah Bartleby, ah humanity!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

1962 New York Mets worthy of a poem

The New York Mets seem as well-established as any major league team today. People my age - the boomers - remember when the Mets were a metaphor in American life. They were a metaphor for "hanging in there" and plunging forward in spite of always-mounting losses.
I was seven years old in 1962. That's the year the Mets were born as an expansion team. I don't know if big league ball was seeking to punish New York City for some reason, but the deck was quite stacked against the National League newcomer. The early Mets developed into a symbol of futility. At the same time, a certain charm came to be attached to them. Remember?
They had the eccentric (but smarter than he seemed, of course) Casey Stengel as manager, he of the quips and malaprops. "We have a kid here named Goossen, 20 years old, and in ten years he has a chance to be 30."
My parents bought me a plastic New York Mets helmet when we were out East attending the New York World's Fair in 1964. I remember we were at a subway station when a kid close to my age passed close to me and shouted "the Mets stink!" He was smiling.
There is within all of us a certain affinity with those on the treadmill of below-average performance. Maybe we consider it a starting point. Maybe we just realize that losers are inevitable in life.
I wrote an extensive essay on the 1962 New York Mets on my companion website, "Morris of Course." You'll find the link below, and thanks for reading. At present I have a poem to share about the early New York Mets. I invite you to read and to feel some nostalgia. Remember that by 1969, the Mets shed their image of mediocrity. They won the world championship with Jerry Koosman, West Central Minnesota native, playing a key role. My poem starts out with a reference to the Yankees as New York City's only team when the '60s began. The Giants and Dodgers had left for the West Coast.
The Mets' creation allowed fans in Gotham to finally see the National League again! I invite you to read my retrospective essay:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2013/09/1962-new-york-mets-had-their-place.html
 
You'll enjoy listening to the song "Meet the Mets" which was written at the time the team began. Here's the YouTube link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jfz7gW2Wf3I
 
And now, the highlight of today's post - drum roll, please - my poem about those lovable early Mets.
 
New York had just one ball team
When the '60s came to be
JFK with his big smile
Rock n' roll with its new style
 
Giants, Dodgers gone for good
To that West Coast neighborhood
They had been so tried and true
In that Gotham City brew
 
How could two teams pull up stakes
With such loyal fans in place?
Bobby Thomson's bat was loud
With one swing he moved the crowd
 
Sun did shine on Ebbets Field
Humphrey Bogart came and cheered
Dodgers had their loyal flock
They were tied up at that dock
 
Time moved on and we realized
Baseball was commercialized
Bats and balls were just the tools
Of the rich guys and their moves
 
Ebbets Field and Polo Grounds
Lost their pleasant springtime sounds
So the Yankees stood alone
While their brethren went and roamed
 
Dodgers went the L.A. way
While the Giants found the Bay
Meanwhile back in NYC
Fans just had to wait and see
 
Would the N.L. come on back
Bringing all their balls and bats?
Surely fans would scurry fast
To a place to see all that
 
Willie Mays could play once more
Where we hear the subways roar
Where the skyline is so vast
Baseball ought to thrive and last
 
JFK was still alive
When a new team did arrive
We could watch our TV sets
Cheering for the New York Mets
 
Somehow baseball made it hard
For that team to get too far
Mets had some familiar names
But they struggled in their game
 
40 wins was all there was
For the fans to feel some buzz
Placing tenth among ten teams
Left us only with our dreams
 
Still we watched as if the flow
Could adjust to make us crow
Nothing much could push the pace
For that team to find its grace
 
Still we had a hopeful gleam
As we watched our bumbling team
Rags to riches is the way
We lift up the USA
 
Anyone with goals can find
Ways to prosper, ways to climb
New York Mets were on their way
As their fans knelt down and prayed
 
It was 1969
Prayers were answered oh so fine
Rising from the ashes true
Mets would bury all those boos
 
Now the team was upper crust
Finding boom instead of bust
We were walking on the moon
Beat the Russkies none too soon
 
JFK had said we would
Zoom through space so very good
It was part of that Cold War
In those dismal days of yore
 
Nothing much that we could do
To erase those Cold War blues
So we went to watch our team
Belt out cheers, blow off steam
 
Polo Grounds the Mets did grace
Where they first showed us their face
Meanwhile hard at work in Queens
Crews put up our park of dreams
 
We would fall in love with Shea
Beatles played there in their day
But the Mets were our first love
Even when they lost so much
 
They exalted all we had
As a nation, feeling glad
Russkies couldn't make us bleed
Not with Casey Stengel's creed
 
He would hold that maiden torch
Making quips and holding forth
Though he sometimes seemed a clown
He was someone of renown
 
He put players on the field
Best he had, like Charlie Neal
Still the errors took a toll
Making Casey grow more old
 
On the mound was Roger Craig
For those wins he had to beg
On and on he got those starts
Losing games but winning hearts
 
He went 10 and 24
Making pitching seem a chore
He once wore the Brooklyn blue
Now he had to pay some dues
 
Richie Ashburn had a past
Full of a productive bat
Then he went on that scrap heap
Still his hitting stroke was neat
 
Richie batted .306
Like the star who gets those hits
'62 was his last year
He departed getting cheers
 
Mets were 60 games behind
Giants and their wunderkind
Willie Mays brought oohs and aahs
As his Giants won applause
 
Mets were seven years away
From the time they'd make that hay
They would win the toasts of all
With the way they played baseball
 
Seaver, Koosman, all the gang
Passed the Cubbies with a bang
Then the Braves succumbed to them
As they shone just like a gem
 
Finally in the fall showcase
They had fuel left in that race
So they slayed the Orioles
In five games they felt their oats
 
Koosman on the mound so sure
Found the strike zone with his curve
He came from the great Midwest
In New York he passed the test
 
He was sterling in Game 5
With his left arm Koosman thrived
He would pitch for all nine frames
Making sure to win that game
 
Through the years the legend grew
Of those Mets and what they proved
Seven years had drifted by
How they changed and climbed so high
 
JFK would show a gleam
Had he lived to see that team
He would join in that big swoon
As his space men reached the moon
 
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

Monday, January 18, 2016

Correy Hickman scores 23 points vs. Benson

Tigers 75, Benson 30
The Benson gym was the site for a Tigers vs. Braves game on Friday, Jan. 15. MACA owned the night with a convincing win. Correy Hickman gave lots of fuel to the MACA "mo." Hickman poured in 23 points in this 75-30 win. We jumped up 37-15 by halftime.
Becca Holland made two 3-pointers and finished with 18 points. These three Tigers each made one 3-pointer: Riley Decker, Karly Fehr and Hickman. Moira McNally contributed ten points. Then we have Ashley Solvie (8), Jenna Howden (6), Decker (3), Fehr (3), Abbie McNally (2) and Nicole Solvie (2).
Three Tigers each had five rebounds: Ashley Solvie, McNally and Howden. Hickman had four assists and McNally three. Hickman stole the ball eight times while Ashley Solvie had four steals.
Benson's Amanda Nissen made two 3-pointers. Dana Rud had one 3-point make. Nissen was Benson's top scorer with 13 points. Presley Gonnerman scored five points. The list continues with Danielle Himley (3), Rud (3), Megan Amundson (2), Kaitlyn Knutson (2) and Rachel Lee (2).
Himley and Gonnerman each had five rebounds. Nissen and Gonnerman each dished out two assists.
The conference success upped the Morris Area Chokio Alberta won-lost mark to 4-2 in conference. In overall we're 6-8.
 
Boys: Melrose 79, Tigers 47
Melrose took command in a BBB contest played Thursday in Morris. Melrose gained its 12th win of the season against one loss. This was done with a 79-47 final score. The halftime score was 32-25. The MACA Tigers entered the weekend with a 9-6 overall mark, 3-4 in conference.
Jacob Zosel was a bright spot for MACA with 24 points including three 3-pointers. Eric Staebler made one '3' and finished with 15 points. Sean Amundson scored five points and Camden Arndt three.
Staebler led in rebounds with eight. Zosel contributed three assists. Staebler stole the ball three times.
Melrose was lifted by four players in double figures scoring. The charge was led by Drake Meyer with 19 points. Colton Meyer and Tyler Braegelmann each scored 14 points, and Dillon Haider added ten. Brady Birch added six points to the mix. The list continues with Adam VanBeck (4), Zach VanBeck (3), Jordan Klaphake (3), Justin Middendorf (2), Zach Ettel (2) and Hunter Rieland (2).
Haider and Drake Meyer each made two 3-pointers. Zach VanBeck and Klaphake each made one long-ranger.
 
Remembering "Eye Opener"
We lost Don Riley recently. I don't expect many young people or young adults to remember the old scribe. He had a popular and idiosyncratic column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. On many an afternoon I'd buy the St. Paul paper at the student center at St. Cloud State, mainly so I could read Riley's "Eye Opener" column in sports.
You could expect humor. You could expect irreverence. You could also expect politically incorrect assertions, certainly by today's standards. Riley covered women's golf as if his only interest was in the athletes' looks. The criterion was of the type you'd expect as applied by the Dean Martin Variety Hour.
I remember him writing of women golfers: "My God but they're ungainly and crude." He picked out Laura Baugh as a nice sexy exception, and said of this blonde: "She's the only one I'd care to share a rhumba with." Try getting that past a copy desk today.
Women's athletics in general was a novelty that the well-established sportswriters of the time just didn't know how to handle. The one thing they had trouble doing was writing about female athletes like they wrote about all other athletes. And when they did start taking it seriously, they could still be condescending at times. They couldn't keep from attaching an asterisk of sorts to women's sports.
I remember myself, being surprised that female hoops players could even make 3-point shots. Mary Holmberg would want to bang me over the head for sharing that memory.
Don Riley had these offbeat subheads in his column that could be such a delight: "I'll talk, you listen." "Scatter-gunning from the catbird's seat." "Behind the lockers." "Don't print that." I remember coaxing Bart Hill to use one or two of these in his youth baseball submissions to me at the Morris paper in the1980s!
Riley set up this amusing adversarial relationship with Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers. It was faux teasing and anger, of course. He just seized on a rivalry. He would sometimes publish angry feedback from a Wisconsin fan, and then react with his own (faux) vitriol. He'd respond by saying, for example: "And you'll love the view at Happy Acres." Of course that's politically incorrect humor too.
Yes, it was a more innocent and naive time in the history of our civilization. We worshipped the Vikings back then in the 1970s. We didn't know those poor men were being physically and mentally hurt to such a great degree by their sport. Fred McNeill the linebacker recently died because of degenerative brain problems. Alzheimer's or CTE? Lou Gehrig may not have died from Lou Gehrig's Disease.
The Star Tribune has had some long-time survivors from that era. I wonder if Sid Hartman has a ghostwriter today. At least there must be a very vigilant editor. Sid is at a very advanced age and should just be enjoying retirement. He has stayed at the dance too long, just like Herb Carneal did. Some people just cannot let go.
Patrick Reusse is a holdover from the Riley era, and he often strikes me as a throwback with his cynicism and incisive eye. My generation when young understood and accepted that cynicism and frankness. Young people of today who have studied "conflict resolution" are far less understanding. Today's youth are encouraged to be "glass half full" types. It was impossible to be like that in the age of the Viet Nam war.
Don Riley belongs in another age. He did give spice during that age. Don Riley RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Girls rule in second half, beat Melrose

Tigers 63, Melrose 32
The MACA girls limited Melrose to nine points in the second half Tuesday (1/12). What an incredible defense! Coach Dale Henrich surely smiled as he watched his Tigers down the Dutchmen. This hoops action was at the home court.
The first half saw the orange and black outscore Melrose by three, 26-23. The second half, by contrast, was a story of dominance by the Tigers. The Tigers outscored the stunned Dutchmen 37-9 - wow! - and prevailed in the 63-32 final. The second half indicated that the Tigers may get to .500 soon. We're at 5-8 now. In conference we are a game over .500 at 3-2.
Becca Holland nailed two 3-pointers. Riley Decker connected for one '3'. In scoring it was Ashley Solvie setting the pace with 16 points. We had two other double figures scorers: Correy Hickman (14) and Holland (13). The list continues with Moira McNally (9), Nicole Solvie (7), Decker (3) and Jenna Howden (1).
Ashley Solvie was also tops in rebounds with 12. Hickman collected five rebounds. Hickman had the team-best totals in assists (5) and steals (9).
The top scorer for Melrose was Maci Blommel with 16 points. Cassie Klaphake was a bright spot in this otherwise-struggling evening for Melrose, making three 3-pointers.
 
Boys: Sisseton 61, Tigers 57
The MACA boys got down early and were defeated by the Redmen of Sisseton SD. This Tuesday, Jan. 12, hoops contest saw the host Redmen get up 18-9 in the first quarter. It was a hole we couldn't escape. We outscored the Redmen in the second and fourth quarters but it wasn't enough.
Eric Staebler scored 20 points and Sean Amundson 17, but it wasn't enough. Sisseton prevailed 61-57. The MACA scoring list continued with Jacob Zosel (7), Robert Rohloff (4), Philip Anderson (4), Camden Arndt (3) and Lukus Manska (2).
The Tigers made exactly half their field goal attempts: 16 for 32. Amundson made two 3-pointers while Zosel and Arndt each made one. MACA was four of nine in three-point shooting. In freethrows the numbers were 21 of 28.
Staebler
had the team-best rebound total of eight. Zosel was tops in assists with six. Anderson stole the ball twice. We had eleven turnovers.
 
Powerball adventure
Why does the Powerball have to have such a high jackpot? Instead of one staggeringly big prize, why not split it up so you create a whole bunch of millionaires? In theory this argument is so strong. But the people who run these things know better: the one astronomical prize has an allure that attracts all the suckers, excuse me, "customers."
I once knew Willie Martin well so I'm inclined to use the word "astronomical." Maybe I should say "super astronomical." Willie would say "have a super astronomical day." I don't think he'd be fond of the Powerball, a phenomenon that maybe says something about the desperation of living in America. We buy into an elusive dream, a dream as likely to come alive for us as seeing a unicorn.
Morris native Dom Klyve reminds of the futility of buying tickets. Klyve is a mathematical genius, quite the opposite of yours truly. I reject the Powerball on the basis of common sense. Klyve can help us reject it using numbers logic. Dom's father Bill used to arrange for me to come and cover Pheasants Forever banquets.
I once worked with Dom's mother Lynn at the Morris Sun Tribune. Lynn said "good morning" to me in a way that made me feel more buoyant than anything in the world. Those times are gone with the wind now. Lynn once said that years hence, "no one will remember I worked at the Sun Tribune." Well, I remember. She got attuned to the Internet early-on. She helped me learn the ropes. It was through emailing with Lynn that I learned that you can send and receive email from anywhere in the country, using a Yahoo or Gmail account. I was amazed discovering all this. I was so used to old, analog systems of communications. Finally I got "hip." Thanks Lynn.
Is it realistic to hope to win the Powerball? Is it realistic to hope to come in contact with space aliens?
"It's hard to come up with words for how unlikely this is," Dom Klyve of Central Washington University said. "You could try flipping a coin, calling it in the air, and your odds of getting it right 28 times in a row are better than your odds of winning the Powerball." Only one combination out of 292 million will win.
The more tickets you buy, the better the odds? Not by much, Klyve advises. If one person buys a single ticket while another person buys 20, Klyve says "they have a 20 times better chance of winning, but 20 times approximately zero is still approximately zero - neither of you are going to win tonight."
I remember the young prodigy Mr. Klyve working along the checkout line at Pamida in Morris. Pamida you'll remember was the predecessor to the more high-class ShopKo. Pamida was notorious for having such gaping potholes in the parking lot, it was dangerous.
Dom has a sister Danika who you might remember too. Danika is in the TV media field in the Twin Cities. Each year I email a Christmas greeting to Lynn and I see that she gets a link to my new Christmas song. She has stopped answering those emails. I'm sure she's very busy. She's a good friend of Judy Diehl of Morris.
 
Girls: Eden Valley-Watkins 62, Tigers 55
The Tigers were in good position at halftime, to try to win their Saturday contest vs. Eden Valley-Watkins. We led 29-27 in this road challenge. But the host found the tools to surge in the second half. EV-W outscored us 35-26 to win in the 62-55 final.
We faded despite having four double figures scorers. Ashley Solvie scored 12 points. Correy Hickman and Becca Holland each scored eleven, and Moira McNally put in ten. Nicole Solvie was a point shy of double figures. Riley Decker added two points to the mix.
Hickman made the Tigers' only 3-pointer. Ashley Solvie attacked the boards for 14 rebounds. Hickman and McNally each had six rebounds. Hickman passed crisply to get ten assists, and Holland had four. Hickman stole the ball five times.
The top EV-W scorer was Olivia Kuechle with 17 points. Five different EV-W players made one '3': Halle Jansen, Madeleine Geislinger, Emma Schultz, Kuechle and Kaitlyn Root.
 
Boys: Eden Valley-Watkins 63, Tigers 53
The MACA boys also faced Eden Valley-Watkins in the Saturday chapter of play, and victory eluded them as well. The Tigers were outscored by EV-W in both halves, 29-22 in the first and 34-31 in the second. So we lost in the 63-53 final.
Jacob Zosel was the top MACA scorer on this day, putting in 15 points. Eric Staebler scored 14 points and Camden Arndt ten. Then we have Sean Amundson with six points, Robert Rohloff with five and Philip Anderson with two.
Zosel
made a couple 3-point shots. However, this department hurt the Tigers as we made just three of 14 three-point tries. In total field goals we were 18 of 54. In freethrows: 13 of 18.
Staebler had the team-best eleven rebounds. Zosel led in assists with six. Rohloff had two steals.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is this the kind of basketball we want to see?

Tigers 37, 'Waska 36
Boy, I don't know about this kind of basketball. The MACA boys scored 17 points in the first half and 20 in the second. Amazingly, this was good enough for victory. I wasn't there but I imagine the game wasn't exhilarating to watch. I'd prefer a more up-tempo approach even if it meant we'd risk losing.
But it was a win, which is surely a nice consolation prize even if the game wasn't riveting from a fan enjoyment perspective. The game was played on Thursday, Jan. 7. The site: Minnewaska. MACA achieved its ninth win with a 37-36 score vs. the Lakers of Minnewaska Area.
The Willmar newspaper is no longer reporting team stats. I also noticed during volleyball that the paper cut out the "made/attempts" numbers in stat categories, just going with the most basic stat numbers. I wonder if that newspaper has had to negotiate with coaches to establish a system more comfortable for them. I wonder if coaches are reporting a feeling of burden and stress in having to call in so much game information.
Coaches are not contractually obligated to do this. It's more than a routine task at the end of a long day for them. Stats are often the focus for contention. Parents sometimes challenge them. What about stats for the opposing team? What about getting all the names spelled correctly for the opposing team? Are coaches even required to compile data on the opposing team?
No coach wants to be reprimanded in connection with an activity that they are not even contractually obligated to perform.
But, hasn't this always been the case? Circumstances are different today because parents and fans have such an easy channel with which to air gripes. In the old days you'd have to "pick up the phone," a task which many people wouldn't want to bother with. But email is completely different. You can click on "send" and it's so easy and routine. "Hey, Suzy had four assists, not two." Then the ball is in the coach's court or athletic director's court. It's not unusual to hear of parents keeping their own stats.
Here's another issue that coaches must weigh: Might the press coverage have the effect of making players "play for stats," putting aside team objectives to a degree? After all, the Willmar paper still has a wide circulation, although I'm surprised it has retained as much vitality as it has. Why does Willmar have a daily newspaper but Alexandria has only twice-a-week? Morris is a pathetic once a week, and in the fall we have this bizarre situation: The Saturday Willmar paper on the newsstands, having coverage of the Friday night Tiger football game, but the Saturday Morris paper, arriving at the same approximate time, does not.
Last spring the Willmar paper started shaming coaches who weren't calling in after games. This was a signal to me that some stress was growing, that maybe all was not rosy between the coaches and that paper. I think negotiations were started to alleviate some of the burden on coaches, like removing some stat obligations. Is that enough? I'm not sure.
Young coaches who habitually go online to get info for their daily lives might increasingly question the obligation imposed by an old "dead tree" newspaper. I have long suggested that the teams should just do what colleges do, and create reliable websites with all the info you need. "Maxpreps" has templates available for all teams. In online reporting you can correct any mistakes that happen. The coaches are in control. Wouldn't they like that? Surely public relations is important to them. Change can come haltingly.
The scoring list for MACA vs. the Lakers is pretty ho-hum with low totals. Eric Staebler, normally the leader, is quite down the list with six points. It was Sean Amundson leading the Tigers with eleven points, then we have Jacob Zosel with ten. Lukus Manska and Camden Arndt each scored four points, and Robert Rohloff had two. C'mon guys (or c'mon coach Torgerson), turn on the jets and play a more exciting style of game. Roll the dice. You're good enough.
Zosel had both of the team's 3-point makes.
The 'Waska stats are no more exciting to report. We have Austin Ver Steeg topping the list with 13 points. Matt McIver scored eleven, then we get into single digits: Jake Peters (6), Greg Helander (4) and Matt Gruber (2). Ver Steeg and Peters each made two 3-pointers. The top Laker rebounders were Ver Steeg (7), Gruber (6) and Peters (6). Ver Steeg was tops in assists with three and in steals with three, so surely his play won compliments.
The Tigers led 17-16 at halftime.
 
Girls: Tigers 71, BOLD 41
The MACA girls played at home on the same night that the boys edged 'Waska. The scoring pace was considerably faster in the girls game (yea). Coach Dale Henrich's squad put in 71 points and buried the visiting BOLD Warriors by 30 points.
We raced to a 38-18 lead by halftime. In the second half our scoring advantage was by 33 to 23. The 71-41 win was our fourth of the season.
Ashley Solvie was in the groove with her offensive play, putting in 19 points. Becca Holland was a force on 'O' with her 15 points. Correy Hickman and Jenna Howden each scored eight. Riley Decker scored seven points, then we have Nicole Solvie (6), Moira McNally (6) and Liz Dietz (2).
Holland had a dead-on eye from three-point range, making five of those long-rangers! Hickman and Decker each made one '3'. It was Nicole Solvie leading in rebounds with six. Hickman collected five rebounds, then we have three Tigers with four each: Karly Fehr, Ashley Solvie and McNally. Hickman dished out seven assists while Dietz had five. Hickman had five steals and Decker had four.
BOLD's Makenna Steffel scored 14 points. Emily Gass made a three-pointer for the Warriors.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, January 8, 2016

Thinking of America and MN just before WWII

In wake of big blizzard of 1940
Just think of this nation as it existed in 1940. We talked of "the great war" and it was a reference to World War I. Armistice Day focused on that. People tuned in on the radio to hear the American Legion Armistice Day program from Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
Conventional wisdom has it that FDR's New Deal hadn't pulled us out of the Great Depression. Let's just say success was halting, or seemed so. Europe was already ablaze with World War II. It might be easy to forget we weren't on board with that horrible conflict right from the start. Americans were quite determined to stay out of it. Thus we had the "America First" movement with our famed Minnesotan Charles Lindbergh as a leading spokesperson.
The 1940 Democratic platform pledged against participation in foreign wars, except in case of attack.
As Minnesotans experienced late fall and early winter of 1940, we were a year away from the "Jap" attack on Pearl harbor, which overnight made it inevitable we'd plunge into that hellish conflagration called WWII. Had President Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen? Speculation was rife.
In 1940 the University of Minnesota football team won the national championship. Two days before the famous Armistice Day blizzard, the U beat Michigan and its Heisman winner, Tommy Harmon. Bruce Smith raced in a memorable 80-yard touchdown run for the winning Gophers at the old Memorial Stadium. I saw one game at Memorial Stadium in the fall of 1973, when Tony Dungy was our quarterback.
In 1940 we could hardly imagine getting big league pro teams established here. In 1940 we had the controversial third term election of FDR.
Reading about the Armistice Day blizzard, one is struck by the huge role of hunting in our culture. The history of that event includes so much material about those (male) hunters all over the place, dealing with the adversity of that storm, many destined not to survive. The clothing available to hunters was not nearly as good as today's, in terms of offering protection from the elements. And, the elements became an absolute bear in a short period of time.
Initially, deer hunters liked the idea of snow falling: they could track deer better. Snow would also provide better visibility in the woods. Duck hunters, who ended up especially vulnerable in the storm, thought birds would be easy to find. Oh, if all these people could have just stayed home. The lucky people were the ones who could just hole up at home. As for everyone else, those are the people who ended up telling dramatic tales of all they experienced that day, Monday, November 11, 1940. It was a day that "went down in infamy" a year before Pearl Harbor.
The weather forecast had been quite inadequate. The forecasters used that maddeningly vague word of "flurries."
I have read a number of survival stories, including Betty Waage's (of Morris). Betty's story happened here in Morris. It's preserved in William Hull's book: "All Hell Broke Loose." My mother was offended by this title until I convinced her, with considerable effort, that the title was offered in the proper spirit. If you cannot use the word "hell" to describe that blizzard, then it would have no application.
The broad population was caught off guard by the blizzard. There's always one exception to the rule, of course, and in this vein I'll present the name of Bill Schutte. Bill left his home in St. Louis Park early on the morning of that fateful day. He felt it was a fine morning indeed. He was a pilot so he scanned the skies in a different manner than the rest of us. He was sensitive to what was happening in the atmosphere. At 9:30 a.m. he called his wife at home. Her first name isn't provided in my research, but I came across "Mrs. Schutte" which was common style at the time, and what you'll find in back issues of our Morris Sun Tribune newspaper from when Arnold Thompson was editor. (I did some work for Arnold.)
Bill asked "Mrs. Schutte" to check their "barograph," a self-registering barometer. Mrs. Schutte reported that the instrument must be broken, as the recording needle had dropped so low, it left the graph paper on the drum. Bill called a friend at the U.S. Weather Bureau office at the airport, then called "Wold-Chamberlain." His friend there offered confirmation: the needle there had completely moved off the drum.
Bill decided to go back home. He put chains on his car tires. He filled the gas tank. The gas station attendant was in shirt sleeves and was incredulous. Bill went back downtown and put his car in the company garage. The storm came. Bill left his office and began an extended process of picking up stranded office workers and driving them home. Real late he returned to the garage and then "bedded down" on an office desk. Perhaps a statue should have been erected of the prescient Mr. Schutte. God bless his wife too, whatever her first name.
 
Music to preserve memories
Several days ago I put up a post that presented a song I wrote, inspired by the Armistice Day blizzard in Minnesota. I like the song very much, but when finished with writing it, I felt I hadn't fulfilled the mission totally. Maybe I hadn't covered all the ground I should have. With my mind so full of details connected to the blizzard, I went to work on a second song.
Perhaps my mind got so focused on the event because my late father always had an interesting story to tell. I heard that tale from when I was very young. My mother, about a junior in high school at the time, must have just taken refuge in their house, a minimal house but still sufficient, in Brainerd MN. My mother never said much about the blizzard. She had a brother Edwin who was so typical of young men of that time, about to be swept into WWII commitments. He survived the war. Brainerd had a National Guard unit that got swept into utter tragedy, as it was sent to the Phillippines where they were captured by the Japanese. (Edwin wasn't part of that.)
There is nothing good about war. The war may have pulled us permanently out of the Depression. Too bad we couldn't have fought it with rubber bullets.
What if we had never been forced to build up our military so much? What would have happened in connection to the Korea and Viet Nam conflicts? Could the Red Army have wiped out the Nazis without so much help from the U.S.?
My second song about the great Armistice Day blizzard of 1940 has a melody that is more consistent with ponderous lyrics. I'm thinking right now that if I have either song recorded, it would be the second. I fact, I might have it done soon. Here are the lyrics:
 
"The Blizzard of '40"
by Brian Williams
 
The Armistice dawned like nothing was wrong
Way back in that autumn of '40
We honored the boys who fought for our soil
And made sure we all knew their story
The Gophers were fresh from thumping their chest
Accomplished on their football mission
They rumbled and ran for all of their fans
Dispatching the Wolv-rines of Michigan
 
When Monday arrived we looked at the skies
And did not see anything troubling
A light misty rain seemed normal and tame
A storm did not seem to be bubbling
The rivers and lakes were quite the fine place
For men with their shotguns to venture
They scoured the skies with ducks as their prize
With nary a thought to the weather
 
And then the snow came, could not be restrained
But would it be just a few inches?
As it piled high we had to realize
The weather gods were sons of bitches
An ocean of white commanded our sight
As we faced a test of our mettle
We looked all about to find a way out
But mostly we stayed where we settled
 
The radio dial was on all the while
With 'CCO as our companion
Those voices advised how we might survive
We heard it from ol' Cedric Adams
Our coats were not made to keep us real safe
We could have used more goose down filler
With good antifreeze our cars might not wheeze
But they were still no match for winter
 
We battled the storm as Europe was torn
We wanted to mind our own business
We heeded the word of Charles Lindbergh
Who honored the best of our wishes
The wind was a brute up north in Duluth
At 63 miles per hour
It dug out the trees, defying belief
So much, Paul Bunyan would cower
 
We'll never forget the worst blizzard yet
When people were fans of Jack Benny
We could not yet see a glowing TV
But candy would cost just a penny
A snowfall so big, it blew off the lid
Of records and standards longstanding
And those in the know will hasten to crow
We'd rather have Hurricane Sandy
 
The stories were stored in books and in lore
To keep the awareness so vivid
Of all the travail we faced in that gale
And how the Lord taketh and giveth
If it came today there'd be hell to pay
No matter our progress or vision
Those piles of snow would still have to go
they don't disappear by just wishin'
 
We feel winter's wrath but then it does lapse
With spring and the days getting longer
We're left with our dreams of winter's extremes
And all of its stresses to ponder
The Armistice term is no longer heard
And Nazis were sent into Hades
Our heroes returned where home fires burn
Got married and had lots of babies
 
But we'll never forget the blizzard of '40
We'll never forget the blizzard of '40

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Boys fade in second half, fall to Montevideo

Monte 68, Tigers 60
The Tigers led at halftime but did not preserve that advantage through the second half, in Tuesday BBB action. The orange and black led 36-33 at the halfway mark. Our offense faded the rest of the way, or let's just say the Monte defense put the clamps down. The host Thunder Hawks won in the 68-60 final.
Troy Diggins gave lots of fuel for Monte's winning effort, scoring 23 points. He and Isaac Douglas each made two 3-pointers. Douglas' point total was eleven. There were four total T-Hawks scoring in double figures. Riley Emery put in 14 points and Travis Dreyer had ten. Preston Herfurth added eight points to the winning mix, and Jared Saue added two.
Diggens snared eight rebounds and Saue accounted for five. Diggins had four assists and Saue two. Emery had three steals followed by Diggins and Herfurth each with two.
Eric Staebler made three 3-pointers for the Tigers. Robert Rohloff made two long-range shots while Sean Amundson and Jacob Zosel each made one. The scoring list: Staebler (22), Amundson (15), Zosel (11), Rohloff (6), Camden Arndt (4) and Lukus Manska (2). Staebler had the team-best nine rebounds. Zosel and Rohloff each had four assists. Staebler and Amundson each had two steals.
 
Tigers 69, Chatfield 55
MACA boys basketball marched forward with two wins over the holiday season, in Annandale. The Tigers defeated Chatfield 69-55 on the first day of the Annandale Invitational.
Balanced scoring buoyed coach Mark Torgerson's crew. The win was No. 7 of the season. Eric Staebler led an offensive attack that had four Tigers in double figures scoring. Staebler poured in 19 points including one 3-pointer. Jacob Zosel led in long-range shooting with three long-range makes, and his point total was 16. Lukus Manska connected once from 3-point range.
Sean Amundson put in 15 points. Camden Arndt rounds out the list of double figures scorers, with ten points. Three other Tigers scored: Manska (5), Robert Rohloff (2) and Philip Anderson (2). Staebler was the top rebounder with 18. Amundson supplied six assists and Zosel had five. Amundson stole the ball twice.
The top Chatfield scorer was Dillon Bance with 15 points. Tristan Aguiar and Tyler Amy each made two 3-pointers. Chatfield led at halftime by one, 34-33, but MACA revved up its engines in second half play, outscoring Chatfield 36-21.
 
Tigers 63, Annandale 56
Eric Staebler came on strong, as he so often does, to give chief fuel in the Tigers' day 2 success at Annandale. The opponent was the undefeated host Annandale team. Annandale was no longer undefeated at the end of the day.
The Tigers got their win No. 8 of the season in this noteworthy 63-56 win. Annandale was left with a 10-1 record.
Staebler's scoring output was a most ample 34 points. He was quite dead-on from 3-point range, making four of these shots. Jacob Zosel made one '3'. Staebler was followed in scoring by Sean Amundson (11 points), Zosel (9), Camden Arndt (4), Lukus Manska (3) and Philip Anderson (2).
Staebler vacuumed the boards for 19 rebounds. Zosel had six assists and Manska had four. Robert Rohloff and Zosel each had two steals. MACA led 34-30 at halftime.
Annandale's top scorer was Jarod Wilken with 22 points. Alex Alma made four 3-point shots, and Brock Fobbe made one.
Let's usher in the new year with gusto!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, January 4, 2016

Will we get another old-fashioned "blizzard?"

Armistice Day blizzard scene, 1940
Are we having another "Iowa" type of winter? An intense winter with layers of crisp white snow is supposed to be a trademark of our life here in Minnesota. This winter might be one where we'd cuss if purchasing an expensive snow-blower at the start.
Is there a part of us that enjoys that periodic intense blizzard? We don't want anyone to get hurt by such events. But I think a part of us enjoys the opportunity to put our lives on hold and "hunker down" as it were. We could then share stories about how we all got through.
I can remember being stranded three times in my life due to a sudden intense storm. I remember leaving Westport after the "all clear" was finally given for motorists. I remember exchanging a wave with someone as we both felt the "Minnesota relief" of being able to confidently proceed on the roads again. It was more than a wave. We smiled with that particular exhilaration of such experiences. "Hey, we're Minnesotans!"
I got stranded in Starbuck once, trying to come back from Quinco Press in Lowry with the Morris paper. I never should have started out for Lowry in the first place. Howard Moser would have normally made that trip but he was on vacation, probably in Florida! The Sun Tribune's manager should have excused me from making the trip at all.
And after all my dedication after so many years with the paper, the end came in totally humiliating fashion. Newspapers became highly scaled-down and yet they seem to have stabilized anyway. Strange. Is the Morris paper simply being sustained by all those Alexandria advertising circulars? And even if you shop a lot in Alex, do you really need all that stuff? Do you need to look at the Sears circular, or the Elden's circular?
I remember getting stranded due to a blizzard up in northern Minnesota - was it Warren? - when I played in a musical group called the Tempo Kings. We traveled a lot in that group, very often to Grand Forks ND. We'd joke about the "Grand Forks glow," the lights of that city in the distance as we got close. Our "gig" would go from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Our customers were older people, what you might call the "Lawrence Welk crowd" of that time.
I regret having been involved in an activity that forced me to keep such late hours so often. Late? Call it early-morning sometimes, as I might get back to Morris when the roosters were crowing. Ben Franklin was right when he said "early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." There's another saying about how "nothing good happens after (state the late-night time)."
My late father once told about his experience in the 1940 Armistice Day blizzard. I really, really wish I had had him write it down. He was 24 years old when it happened. The generation that experienced that blizzard has mostly left us. There was a time when all middle-aged people could recount that day in pretty fair detail. What an experience that must have been.
Betty Waage had her story appear in a book: "All Hell Broke Loose" by William H. Hull. Hull stated that he published only a portion of the stories he received, due to space limitations of the book. Today with the Internet, all the stories could be shared somewhere. A photo on the cover shows a number of stalled cars with the snow up to essentially the top.
Many photos of harrowing scenes are preserved online. A couple years ago I wrote an extensive blog post reviewing that great blizzard, and it's on my companion website, "Morris of Course." I invite you to click on the link:
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2014/01/armistice-day-blizzard-in-minnesota-in.html
 
Our Minnesota Historical Society has a YouTube post that nicely presents an historical account. Here's that link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QccI2GeLvk
 
Might the Armistice Day blizzard be inspiration for a song? A calamity can indeed be inspiration for a song, as we saw so magnificently with Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." OK, so I've written lyrics or poetry about that great blizzard. I did this within the last few days. I don't know if I'll have it recorded. The lyrics go with a "sea shanty" type of melody. Here we go with the lyrics:
 
"Snow Came a-Fallin' "
by Brian Williams
 
The year was 1940, with war still far away
Though we kept our distance, there would come a day
Here in Minnesota, for the Armistice
We had solemn feelings, then the blizzard hit
 
CHORUS:
Snow snow snow came a-fallin'
We had never seen the like
Cold cold cold cut right through us
We had never felt such fright
 
From the gates of Hades came wind so violent
We asked our creator, why the harsh treatment?
Weather sent a message, lest we had forgot
We were just mere mortals - please accept your lot
 
(repeat chorus)
 
FDR was leading, new in his third term
He beat Wendell Willkie with the votes he earned
He embodied spirit for that rising tide
As we fought the snowstorm, he was at our side
 
(repeat chorus)
 
Hunters sought their quarry in forests and the sloughs
On those river bottoms that the ducks would choose
Famously they struggled once the air was filled
With the snow and biting cold that the Lord had willed
 
(repeat chorus)
 
We looked across that landscape - something to behold
Drifts up to our shoulders, cars encased in snow
We renewed our spirit, just like our forebears
Life in Minnesota is for those who dare
 
(repeat chorus)
 
We mourned for those who suffered, for those who lost the fight
Then we rolled our sleeves up to get on with life
Then we're left with stories, countless to digest
Of those Minnesotans who survived that test
 
(repeat chorus)

Soon we'd see the morning light