"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)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Here's my song re. First Minnesota Regiment

The image shows Private Marshall Sherman with captured flag from Battle of Gettysburg.
The monument to the First Minnesota Regiment in Gettysburg looks exactly like our Sam Smith monument here in Morris. It's the "running rifleman" statue. The history of the Regiment has always fascinated me. Same with the whole phenomenon of Civil War remembrance. I strongly recommend the book "Confederates in the Attic" by Tony Horwitz.
I am pleased to have a new original song online, inspired by the First Minnesota's heroics at Gettysburg. The late Jack Imholte wrote a definitive book about the Regiment. Jack was our UMM chancellor (called provost at that time). I invite you to listen to my song. It's called "Take Those Colors" which is a paraphrase of the orders given these intrepid men (many of them lumberjacks) by General Hancock. The general, relieved to find troops available to plug a hole in the Union line, gestured toward the oncoming Confederates with their red battle flags and said "See those colors? Well then take them."
The song was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Frank (Franklin) Michels. Frank is a sensitive musician and always does a great job. I love the Nashville music community. He plays all the instruments himself.
I again thank Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for getting the song online. If you ever have media transfer work that needs to be done, contact the Gulsvigs. Here is the YouTube link for my song, "Take Those Colors." Thanks for listening. - B.W.
The First Minnesota Regiment saw action in most of the major battles of the war's Eastern Theater, mainly covering Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Minnesota was a newly-minted state, having joined the Union in 1858.
The regiment mustered for duty at Fort Snelling on April 29, 1861. It was heavily engaged at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21. It took part in the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles near Richmond VA. It incurred serious losses at the pivotal battle of Antietam. Men charged at each other through cornfields. It was spared direct battle at Fredericksburg which was a major Union loss.
Of course, every battle in the Civil War worked against the Confederacy because the Confederacy could ill afford any losses of men. The Union could always replenish its resources. Robert E. Lee gambled that the Union would tire of the conflict and negotiate to get out of it. Gettysburg might have tested that. But the South failed to prevail there.
Did the South actually "lose" that battle? The large-scale battles of the Civil War basically ended in stalemates. That's because of the advanced state of the weaponry. The losing side tended to be presented as the one that had to leave and go home. Lee's army was in Pennsylvania. It had to go home. The Union pulled out all stops to win at Gettysburg. It used "flankers," considered a drastic move: these soldiers shot anyone retreating or withdrawing without orders to do so.
An engagement for the ages
The First MN Regiment gained permanent fame with its fighting on Day 2 at Gettysburg. The day was drawing to a close. We were quite outnumbered as the "Alabamians" advanced. We engaged the graycoats at close range over 300 yards of open ground near Cemetery Ridge. It was a strategy of "buying time" while reinforcements were on the way.
Cemetery Ridge would prove essential on Day 3 of the battle. The Union had the coveted "high ground" for Day 3. Remember how Sam Elliott pronounced "high ground" in the movie "Gettysburg?" It was quite the factor.
Lee could be faulted for attacking the middle of the Union line. The rest is history. We have our statue of Sam Smith in Morris to appreciate it. Corporal Henry O'Brien and Private Marshall Sherman received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Alas, hundreds of Minnesota soldiers died or were wounded.
The regiment was nearly destroyed. But we survived to help quell the New York City draft riots. Our last fights were the Battle of Bristoe Station and the Mine Run Campaign. The regiment returned home in February of 1864. On April 28, exactly three years after many of its men had enlisted, the First Minnesota held its final parade and was dismissed from service.
Remember to pay a visit to our Sam Smith statue on Memorial Day. There's an American flag pushed into the ground there, so different from the other flags adorning the cemetery, because this flag does not commemorate service against a foreign power like Germany or Japan - it commemorates service against our own countrymen, profoundly sad but necessary.
The First Minnesota will always have a distinctive place in Minnesota memory. "Take Those Colors."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tigers sweep an impressive Melrose team

Tigers 3, Melrose 0
The Tigers played with a sweep flourish once again, dispatching the Dutchmen of Melrose on October 10. Scores at the Melrose gym were 25-13, 25-14 and 25-16. It was a significant win as it dislodged Melrose out of a tie for the WCC lead. We breezed into mid-week with a 15-3 record. Melrose has impressive numbers too at 18-4.
It was a feather in our cap to win at Melrose. Jenna Howden led the spiking as she typically does - she had the team-best 13 kills. Jenna Larsen was No. 2 on the list with her nine kills. Bailey Marty and Lexi Pew each had five. Kenzie Hockel had four kills and Karly Fehr three. Fehr and Howden each executed four ace blocks. Pew had two ace blocks and Marty had one.
Riley Decker was busy in digs, posting the team-best 29. Marty complemented her efforts with 22. Howden dug the ball up eleven times while Fehr had ten digs and Larsen nine. Howden showed diversified talent on this night, coming at the Dutchmen with two serving aces. Marty, Fehr and Larsen each had one serving ace. Fehr facilitated the winning offense with her 33 assists. Decker added two assists to the mix.
For Melrose, Mallari Funk led in kills with seven. Mia Meyer went up to perform three ace blocks. Kelsey Fleischhacker and Cassie Klaphake each had 13 digs. Luetmer and Mashayae Tschida each had one serving ace.

Cross country: meet at Benson
The assignment for MACA cross country on October 9 was to visit Benson. It was a day when Lac qui Parle/Dawson-Boyd impressed with a No. 1 showing in boys and girls. Marquee runner Keiser Freetly of the Eagles was No. 1, timed at 16:42.30. Jordyn Sterud of the girls took champ honors with her time of 19:55.60. There were nine teams in the boys field, eight in girls.
How did our MACA runners fare? The Tigers were No. 4 in the boys division, No. 3 in girls. Here's who ran for the boys: Tate Nelson (7th, 18:02.20), Ben Hernandez (12th, 18:10.80), Thomas Tiernan (28th, 19:07.80), Bradley Rohloff (32nd, 19:37.60) and Judah Malek (44th, 20:37.30).
Meredith Carrington set the pace for the MACA girls with her fourth place showing, time of 21:35.20. Caryn Marty arrived at the finish chute No. 14, time of 22:25.80. Malory Anderson was 17th with her 22:34.60 showing. Also wearing the orange and black were Kaylie Raths (24th, 23:23.10), Isabel Fynboh (27th, 23:54.00) and Alexis Motz (34th, 25:09.30).
The site of the running was the Benson Golf Club.

Cross country: meet at Sauk Centre
Unfortunately we're still seeing just one Carrington name in MACA cross country data. Meredith Carrington is doing fine as shown in info from the Sauk Centre Invitational on October 3. Carrington placed eighth in this meet that had ten teams. She covered the course in 21:36.2. We're awaiting the return of Meredith's sister Maddie. Maddie is reportedly dealing with a foot issue.
As a team the MACA girls placed fifth at Sauk Centre. The host Streeters took first. Meredith was joined in the MACA effort by: Malory Anderson (22:51.4), Caryn Marty (22:55.7), Isabel Fynboh (23:30.3), Crystal Nohl (23:34.1), Alexis Motz (23:40.1) and Kaylie Raths (24:04.8).
Noah Stewart was quite excellent for the MACA boys. Stewart was No. 3 to the chute in the boys race with his time of 17:31.7. Tate Nelson was the next orange and black runner getting there, timed at 18:20.0. Solomon Johnson had a time of 18:20.3, then it was Ben Hernandez (18:22.1), Tyler Reimers (19:09.8), Thomas Tiernan (19:11.2) and Bradley Rohloff (20:07.5).
Staples-Motley had the top boys team among the eleven total boys teams.
There was a junior varsity race also. Our Katya Lackey was the girls champion in JV with her time of 24:11.1. Meghan Goulet placed tenth with a 26:32.9 time. Victoria Vargas was clocked at 27:47.7, and Bobbi Wohlers had a 28:45.6 performance. Boys running JV were: Allen Roberts (20:41.5), Judah Malek (20:51.3), Colton Wohlers (20:55.5), Micah Aanerud (21:48.2) and Tyce Anderson (23:07.8).
I am having to wear powerful reading glasses to learn this information from the Morris newspaper. The meet data is reported there in type size that is way too small. Newspaper readers are an aging population, so this makes no sense.
With papers shrinking all the time, there is a natural inclination toward running stuff smaller, except for the front page photos which sometimes take up half the page in the Morris paper. This happens even when the photo is quite pedestrian and with no photojournalistic merit. Killing space with photos means, of course, the news department doesn't have to work as hard.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wither the concept of Homecoming royalty?

Will high school Homecoming continue to be a solid tradition into the future? Surprised I would ask this question? Look what happened to the concept of Homecoming royalty at UMM. The students seemed to be determined to make a mockery of it. We suspect that in high school, the concept is more likely to remain within safe and traditional bounds.
Sometimes there are undercurrents, though. Why would this be? There is precedent in the sense that we have seen cheerleaders, the "class will" and class prophecy wiped out. The will and prophecy can be added to the list of things we used to consider fun, harmless, innocuous etc.
We used to consider heavy consumption of alcohol acceptable. With alcohol, though, we discovered the undercurrent eventually. People were outraged at traffic fatalities caused by drunk drivers.
People rose up through the political process wherein we finally saw a prohibition on smoking in restaurants and other public places - pretty much everywhere now. Step into your imaginary time machine and go back to when you'd enter a restaurant like DeToy's and find several people smoking. Imagine having to work in a place like that.
I have opined that a high school "cheer team" would be acceptable and desirable in this day and age. It would be considered like an athletic activity. We'd see boys with girls. Remember the cheer team competition in Las Vegas in the movie "Dodgeball?"
I think back to high school and how in my era the cheerleaders were the "cute girls." They had to have a modicum of coordination to perform the cheers. But fundamentally they were chosen on the basis of being cute - we all knew that. We knew certain girls would never be considered because of their appearance, like being heavy. They need not apply.
The "cute" criterion has been rendered anachronistic. This may well be the reason, even if unstated, that cheerleaders were canceled at Morris Area.
So now we proceed on to the subject of Homecoming. On what basis exactly are the "royalty" chosen? Are these criteria also to be considered anachronistic? Ponder the criteria: Is it "popularity?" That doesn't even answer the question because we must then ask: What is the popularity based on? If this cannot be answered, then the royalty concept might well be considered a candidate for the scrap heap like the class will and prophesies.
I remember that Tony Cruze of my class had a prophecy of being "mistaken for the Hamm's Bear and shipped to the Como Zoo." I remember a couple females who sniffed at how they were referenced, for good reason as I recall, but I don't remember enough of the details to share them here. So we saw cracks in the tradition even back then.
There is a little nugget of Morris history that ought to be preserved in connection to royalty. Certainly the Historical Society would have nothing to do with this. It's significant though because a particular glitch happened not once but twice within a relatively short period. The crown got bestowed on the wrong girl. It happened with the high school junior attendant and it even happened with Miss Morris. These events have receded in time so perhaps not many people remember. I was there so I remember. Had I been a cartoonist, I might have done a drawing with a billboard outside of Morris saying "Welcome to Morris, home of botched coronations."
A Morris school administrator commented in the wake that no longer would we have a crown presenter "fake" putting the crown on a certain head, going back and forth until finally putting it on the right one. The administrator thought this practice to be "tacky." In saying this he was offending the small schools around Morris who indulged liberally in this.
When I was in high school the coronation was held in the 1968 gym. So were many music concerts. That location seemed quite nice - people could sit up in the bleachers and get an ideal view of everything. I remember a band concert that featured Renee Schmidt (male) as flute soloist. You could see every member of the band. Once the auditorium got built and concerts moved there, you could only see the front row of clarinet players.
We performed a pops concert at the 1968 gym. Tables were set up for the audience, as I recall. I played a trumpet solo on a "Carpenters" medley.
Jane Larson was crowned as our Homecoming queen there in the fall of 1972. We had pep rally skits on behalf of the various candidates. Jane's skit presented her "first date." But you see, this stuff can get dicey and personal. Maybe the day will come when Homecoming royalty gets phased out just like at UMM. It'll be a dinosaur.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Home volleyball for Homecoming: a 3-0 win

Tigers 3, BOLD 0
MACA was back in familiar position of winning by sweep in the match vs. BOLD. The Tigers showed the kind of dominant flair that is so often their tendency. MACA won this October 3 home match by these scores: 25-9, 25-18 and 25-14. It was our 13th win of the season, coming during Homecoming week. BOLD was a conference opponent. The Warriors are having a sub-.500 season.
Jenna Howden showed power at the net, her forte, accumulating ten kills on this night. Here's the rest of the kills list: Bailey Marty (5), Jenna Larsen (4), Lexi Pew (3), Karly Fehr (1), Kenzie Hockel (1) and Hallie Watzke (1). Pew came at the Warriors with three ace blocks. Fehr went up for two ace blocks, and Hockel and Howden each had one.
Riley Decker performed her forte of digs well with 13, but Marty was right with her with 13 also. Larsen had nine digs followed by Fehr with eight and Howden with six. Fehr in her specialty of setting had 20 assists. Hockel, Fehr and Larsen each had two serving aces. Marty, Howden and Decker each had one serving ace.
For BOLD, Makenna Steffel led in kills with seven. Ashley Trongard and Taylor Sagedahl each had six kills. Steffel and Elli Honzay each had one ace block. Brenna Weis had the team-best 12 digs and Sagedahl had ten. The primary setter was Makayla Snow who had 24 assists. Morgari Schmitz and Alex Revier each had one serving ace.
MACA owns a shimmering W/L record for Homecoming week 2017. Let's cross our fingers for ideal weather for the Friday parade.
Recent football action
My summaries of MACA football have been on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Things didn't go so well at the Minnewaska gridiron last Friday as we were dealt defeat. Click on the link to see the review. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
The previous week saw the Tigers shine in a win over Benson. Click on the link below to refresh on that game.
Pro-referendum voices heard
We have now seen a standard public statement from someone proclaiming we need to support our school. As if anyone would present a contrary opinion. Public schools can seem like a bottomless pit when it comes to funding. Periodically the public must make a "no" statement to simply force the school to live within its existing resources.
If we have allowed our school campus to over-expand, well then that's our fault. When the "new elementary school" was built it ended up including a new varsity gym, new high school band and choir rooms and an expanded and remodeled high school cafeteria. School advocates craft these "end runs" because they are always after more. Often the public acquiesces. Parents can feel an emotional pull and then they condemn those like me who want to promote realism and some fiscal restraint.
Go ahead, vote yes, and then within a few years we may start hearing cries about how we need to build a new high school. And we'll be dragged through all that again, like when we nudged the 1914 school into retirement and then the wrecking ball. I thought the art deco auditorium was quite nice, complete with balcony.
School advocates push for new and improved all the time. They seek money like a big vacuum cleaner. Even if you support the current referendum, you must look upon the pricetag as being rather bloated. Should we be surprised, what with "consultants" coming here and writing prices on a piece of paper? As Count Floyd of the old SCTV TV series would say, "brrrr, scary." Be sure to ask "Sick Rick" Lahn - nickname given by a regional blogger - tough questions.
Or don't - be lemmings.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, October 2, 2017

Seeking optimal relationship with UMM

The image shows your blog host and mom Martha H. Williams in front of the United Nations, New York City, during the UMM men's chorus' exciting trip for the World's Fair in 1964. (photo scanned by Del Sarlette)

Another UMM Homecoming is now history. I was pleased recently to write a check that would benefit UMM music. The check is on behalf of my mother Martha and I. Maybe it's an attempt to stay relevant in the Morris community. We have been on the sidelines for a long time.
Years have come and gone since my parents' involvement at UMM. Generations of students and staff have come and gone. Systems and priorities have changed. Mom had a reputation of having a fast "gait" as she crossed the campus doing business for the UMM post office which she supervised. I would guess few people on campus now are familiar with that. We have in our family photo collection a shot of Mom doing this activity, taken by someone on campus who wanted to preserve it. The photo has been scanned by Del Sarlette and I will be displaying it sometime.
Giving to a college can leave one with mixed feelings. The institution has fund-raising people who will be dripping with gratitude about this. But I'm sure that once any contribution is tucked away, those people without missing a beat try to get more. This is how they are incentivized. They are good people to be sure. But they are likely numbers-driven and salivate over getting more $. If you stop giving, the communications from them will dry up until you finally get nothing. It can leave you with an empty feeling.
My father will always be remembered to a degree because he was an original faculty member. He has been cited for helping cement UMM's future because of the high profile and popularity of his men's chorus. I was just the kid who would hang around. As an adult I had no chance to be accepted by the UMM community on the same terms as my parents. There was even some resentment which I never understood. People thought I was privileged.
Maybe I would have been better off as a kid being sent to a foster home somewhere.
I came to campus often as a newspaper person, probably more often than anyone else who would have held my position. My coverage of UMM was never comprehensive or totally consistent because that would have been an unattainable ideal. In the pre-Internet days, communications outreach was not nearly as high a priority for UMM, not at all like today when there is a sharp commitment to PR via UMM's website including its sports component.
I came out to UMM for music concerts. Often I'd get a photo of a musician or musicians warming up before a concert. I'd get their names and I also had a high priority for getting their hometowns! It was always interesting to find out where all these kids came from.
One day I photographed a Homecoming parade float that included a kid whose last name was Vick from St. Cloud. I asked "is your dad the speech teacher at St. Cloud State?" He answered yes. On another occasion I photographed some students - if I remember right they were in costumes for Halloween - at the Newman Center, and took down the last name of Nistler. I asked, are your parents the mass communications alums of St. Cloud State who I once knew? The answer was yes.
It's nice to see these young people with strong ties to St. Cloud State choosing Morris for their college education. St. Cloud State doesn't even have a Homecoming anymore. Why? Ahem, let's not get into that.
Not that UMM has a spotless Homecoming background, as many of us still remember the harrowing goalpost incident that left a student deceased. I wasn't there when it happened. I was at that game in the first half before departing. I came back for the 4 p.m. volleyball match at the P.E. Center. But I missed the horrible tragedy and I really have no misgivings about that. It probably left psychological scars for a lot of people. My coverage in the paper included an eyewitness description which I acquired from the ESPN2 website. I was happy to find such an account because I couldn't find people willing to go on the record. Some people took issue with what I quoted. I think maybe they were trying to create a red herring: let's make yours truly the issue.
Was there really a phantom gesture made by a UMM security person, a gesture which according to legend and rumor, had the effect of shooing the rowdy kids away from one goalpost and toward the other? The incident happened back in 2005. UMM has since moved to a new football field with artificial turf.
I got one of those mass emails Thursday informing us that the parking lots would not be checked for permits Friday, the day of the chancellor's inauguration. We have a Retirees Association permit. But I was bothered by the whole issue of UMM charging for parking. We have to try to understand why. I suppose it's a fund-raising source and also a way for discouraging rabble from coming to campus. That said, I think the permit policy is a hindrance for people who might have only an occasional reason to visit campus for something or to see someone. It might be a one-time visit. It might be a visit with UMM's fund-raising people. It's a distraction and a worry.
Don't a lot of students park off-campus to avoid the fee? I'm told some students park at Willie's and leave their car there all day. It's not like parking space is a limited commodity like it might be in a big city. We're a small town surrounded by prairie.
I made a financial contribution to UMM because I, or we, wanted to continue having a feeling of connection with the UMM community. I owe it to UMM music. I gave lots of coverage to UMM music through the years, mostly in connection with Jim Carlson. I did interviews for articles. Yet I always felt like an outsider away from the mainstream. That sense always hovered over me. A friend tipped me off once that Kay Carlson, Jim's wife, murmured some disparaging comments about me when I showed up to cover a music event. I photographed a visiting pianist who posed pre-concert with the event's sponsors. The photo turned out great. Was there something so terrible about me being there? I'm not from the right tribe, I guess.
I was raked over the coals after the 2005 goalpost incident. A Morris physician name of Mike Busian, who I always gathered had a volatile personality, wrote a bizarre letter to the editor in which he suggested the public had to put up with my coverage because of "the First Amendment." He's dead now.
I have now spent eleven years out of the loop in regard to public things. Mom retired long ago. Dad died four years ago. I am trying hard for that optimal relationship with UMM, with our recent financial gesture (of $10,000, hope it's not chump change). Already we have gotten communications seeking to wring out a little more from us. Money's honey, I guess.
All three of us are represented on our cemetery bench monument. Please stop by and visit sometime and feel free to sit on the bench. I haven't been able to bring Mom out there because our cemetery is not handicapped-accessible. There aren't many institutions you can say that about anymore.
I don't even know how UMM did in its Homecoming football game. And I don't care.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, September 29, 2017

MACA girls looking great in West Central Conf.

Tigers 3, Benson 0
The Tigers got conference win No. 8 with a sweep over Benson. The site was the Benson gym on September 28. We're clearly on top of the West Central Conference. We upped our overall win total to twelve.
Scores vs. the Braves were 25-12, 25-14 and 25-11. Karly Fehr put up 35 set assists. Jenna Howden went on the attack to pound down 15 kills. Jenna Larsen achieved eleven kills, and the list continues with Kenzie Hockel (7), Bailey Marty (3), Fehr (3), Lexi Pew (2) and Jen Solvie (1).
Three Tigers each executed an ace block: Fehr, Hockel and Larsen. The digs list has Riley Decker at the top as usual, this time with 17. The list continues with Marty (14), Fehr (12), Larsen (10) and Hockel (5). At the serving line, Marty and Howden each had two aces. Fehr, Hockel and Larsen each had one ace.
For the host Braves, Zoe Doscher had a serving ace. Courtney MeNeill had nine set assists while Mariah Arndt had seven. Anna Gosson had six kills. Lizzie Staton had an ace block. Abby Mitteness and Gosson had 21 and 20 digs, respectively.
Tigers 3, Montevideo 2
Things weren't so routine when the Tigers played the Montevideo Thunder Hawks on September 26, here. The Tigers actually got on the ropes for a time as they dropped the first two games. Scores were 27-29 and 18-25. Could the Tigers get infused with a higher caliber? Yes! Coach Kristi Fehr coaxed her team to victory in games 3 through 5 with scores of 25-9, 25-11 and 15-13.
Kenzi Hockel had three serving aces to lead. Jenna Larsen batted two serving aces at the T-Hawks. These Tigers each had one ace: Karly Fehr, Jenna Howden and Riley Decker. Karly Fehr was all over the court to contribute 42 set assists.
Once again it was Jenna Howden at the fore in hitting, aiding the resurgence with 22 kills. Larsen socked 12 kills. Karly Fehr had seven, and the list continues with Bailey Marty (4), Jen Solvie (3) and Hockel (1). Here's the list for ace blocks: Howden (3), Lexi Pew (3), Karly Fehr (2), Marty (1) and Larsen (1). Marty and Decker were tops in digs with 26 and 20, respectively. Fehr had 12 digs and Larsen had seven.
To see the runners more
I saw Tom Carrington this morning and we discussed the rarity of home cross country meets. The Morris Area Invitational was on August 28, a real early-bird meet. You drive out to the golf course and notice cars parked along the shoulder for a long ways. Intrepid parents and fans can walk a considerable distance to get their preferred vantage point. It can be exhilarating if exhausting. The atmosphere is dead calm for a while and then, here come the runners!
The last time I attended a meet, in my post-newspaper time, I had a camera and was able to post a little. But a big headache I had that day was trying to distinguish the Morris runners from the Marshall runners. I'd see the orange and black colors and assume these were Tigers and they were, but they could be either the Morris or Marshall Tigers - same nickname and colors.
I should go out every year for this meet, camera or no. My photography is basically phased out because I haven't gone digital yet. I'm not sure Thrifty White even sends in camera film anymore. Am I hopelessly out of date with my approach? Maybe I am, but I'm sure a digital camera with zoom capability (for sports) would not be cheap. I could buy a lot of camera film for that.
The Morris Area Invitational appears to be the only home meet in the regular season. Tom Carrington and I feel there ought to be at least one more. Why travel all the way to Milaca as the Tigers did on September 23? Why couldn't we have one other home meet even if it was a small one, maybe with 3-4 total teams? Schools such as LQPV and Benson could come. Other MACA fall teams have the benefit of roughly half their competition events at "home." Cross country seems to exist on the road. We need to see these talented athletes a little more.
Postcard re. referendum
So, we finally get a postcard telling us the date for the upcoming school referendum: November 7. No way can I predict the outcome of something like this, but I continue to find it unseemly that we are taking a yes/no vote on a matter of essential maintenance, because the problems do indeed need to be remedied.
Why are we voting? What if we vote "no?" Will the work not get done? The local commercial media need to corner administrators and board members on this. Is there an option for getting the work done that would not involve a "yes" vote to vacuum more money from district residents?
Schools always want more money and they always say it's essential. It's up to the public to show some educated skepticism now and then. Everyone wants money. Surely you all know that. Maybe the school will have to consider some cuts. They might say: OK, these are separate budgets. As my old friend Jim McRoberts might say, "figures lie and liars figure."
A guy named Metzger writes in the local media something about how schools have lean budgets. Well, let me reach for my little violin. I wouldn't expect him to say the school has a bloated budget.
I don't want this referendum to dampen enthusiasm for the expected upcoming library referendum. I'd vote yes on the library referendum without doing any research because I trust the people associated with the Morris Public Library, all the way up to City Manager Blaine Hill. My feelings about the public school people are quite the opposite.
Don't let them turn on the vacuum cleaner.
BTW Jim McRoberts also taught me the following: "Talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whiskey." 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, September 25, 2017

President's comments are a familiar echo

We seem to again be hearing the message of "America, love it or leave it." That quote springs from a time of supreme division in America. How unnecessary all that was. I'm referring of course to the Viet Nam war which dominated the 1960s.
The quote comes to mind as a result of the president's comments on several fronts, but mostly in the realm of pro sports. There, that will get everyone's attention. As if the Charlottesville statements weren't enough, the president now complains about how NFL owners ought to "fire" players who don't stand properly for the national anthem.
All of us should have been asking for a long time: why is the national anthem played before sports events? It's a song that promotes a superficial type of patriotism. The subject matter of the song is war - it glorifies war. Musicians will tell you the song is flawed because it requires too wide a vocal range to sing.
The president - I don't want to dignify him by typing his name - seizes on the controversy to ram home what got him elected: division and race-based suspicion. Suspicion of Barack Obama's birth certificate was a ticket allowing him into the arena in the first place. The racism was always veiled, to be sure. Oh, so thinly veiled that we all ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We all knew what was going on.  White people were trying to seize power back, as if they'd ever lost a legitimate political voice. Republicans formed an unholy alliance with our current president because they felt he could facilitate their normal agenda. Republicans could count on all the racists and fundamentalist Christians to be receptive, even though the real "prize" for Republicans would be their usual assortment. It was a matter of forming a coalition which is what politics is always about.
Thom Hartman has said that Republicans court the anti-abortion people even though Republicans in their own mind "don't give a rat's patootie" about the issue. Republicans scream about how we need to prevent "socialism" in health care even though Obamacare isn't about socialism, it's about allowing the insurance industry to continue its primacy. The insurance industry has come out against the current Republican (DOA) proposal because of its fear that the scheme would fail, and if it fails, then presto! The public will agitate for single payer which would really torpedo the insurance industry's aims.
Single payer is coming anyway. Charles Krauthammer of Fox News says as much - he estimates about seven years until it comes.
What are we to make of the NFL players taking a knee? A bigger issue is what this game does to the health of everyone who plays it. We just learned about the effects of CTE on the late Aaron Hernandez. The NFL is a mammoth entertainment product that keeps the game high-profile and promotes high interest among boys. Boys feel the invulnerability of youth. They really need parents steering them away from the game. Some are in fact doing this. It seems that most chafe at the suggestions I'm making. They seem glib and flippant about rationalizing the game. In the short term they find enjoyment and maybe even some community building. It's horrific because they seem to find it acceptable to downplay the health effects on kids.
Football rolls on as this monster we can't seem to stop. It took several years but I'm at the point where all I do with televised football is to check the score occasionally. I swear I never watch for an extended time anymore. I root against the U of M Gophers because I hate how we use that program, infusing tons of money into it, to puff up our egos so we might feel better about being here. Oh, remember that old message that was once so conspicuous at the Metrodome: "We like it here." Bill James said he found that sign "curiously defensive." It was as if we were saying "we don't care what everyone else thinks," James pointed out.
I don't want the Vikings to win. The Pittsburgh game indicated we might not have much to worry about on that score. Things got better Sunday. I read that when Teddy Bridgewater got hurt, it was so severe, his leg "almost came off." That'd be worse than Joe Theismann. Why can't all of us find better things to do with our time?
So the president seems to be saying "America, love it or leave it." I remember that John Wayne had a record album called "America, Why I Love Her." That was the Lawrence Welk generation talking. I hate to re-visit all of that. But re-visiting it we are, thanks to the Ken Burns documentary on Viet Nam. I watched a large portion but not the whole thing. Did it ever get into "fragging?" Eventually I just had to turn away.
My generation never much cared about the details or the history of why we were in Viet Nam. Wasn't there a song with the lyrics "don't tell me I don't give a damn." A young man in America had no reason to want to know who Ho Chi Minh was and what he stood for. That young man would want to live the American dream, to be productive and raise a family, not to risk his life in a dismal foreign jungle. Kids today give no thought, I'm sure, to what it was like to fear being drafted and sent to Viet Nam.
I switched away from the Burns documentary because of a veteran being interviewed, a vet who struck me as insincere and suspicious, acting like he just wanted to put on a big show for Ken Burns. I cared not about his recollections even if genuine. I found it annoying to listen to some background music of songs associated with the whole 1960s zeitgeist, like by Simon and Garfunkel. Was the documentary encouraging nostalgia? If it was, it was unforgivable. First off, those songs were composed by music professionals who were exercising professional music craftsmanship. Songwriters may talk about inspiration but it's really about professional craftsmanship.
Soldiers in the hellhole weren't thinking about Simon and Garfunkel. They were cannon fodder in the bright, shining lie of Viet Nam. I really don't care to recall it at all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwillyh73@yahoo.com

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Jenna Howden nails 25 kills in road triumph

Tigers 3, Sauk Centre 0
The Tigers handled the Streeters of Sauk Centre in sweep fashion. The scores were 25-16, 25-19 and 25-23 in this September 19 road match.
Karly Fehr and Riley Decker each had two serving aces. Fehr was proficient as always in setting, coming through with 44 set assists. Bailey Marty and Decker each had one assist. Jenna Howden was mighty proficient in hitting, coming at the Streeters with 25 kills. Marty had a kill total of eight. Jenna Larsen pounded seven kills, and the list continues with Lexi Pew (5), Kenzie Hockel (3) and Fehr (2).
Howden executed two ace blocks and Pew had one. Decker topped the digs list with her 37. Fehr dug up the ball ten times. Marty had eight digs, Larsen six and Howden five.
Click on the link below to read about the MACA football game against ACGC. It was a big night for Camden Arndt at Big Cat. ACGC prevailed by one point. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Tennis: Montevideo 6, Tigers 1
Ryanne Long got the win for MACA tennis in a 1-6 setback. Long defeated Julia Hamann of the Monte Thunder Hawks 6-3 and 6-0.
Lea Asmus was the first singles Tiger and she was defeated by Kori Douglas 3-6 and 1-6. Lilly Swanson took the second set vs. Alissa Eickhoff at second singles, 6-2, but couldn't duplicate that success in the other two sets which had outcomes of 0-6 and 3-10. Hannah Watzke was the third singles Tiger and she bowed vs. Lauren Kluver, 1-6 and 3-6. Long was the fourth singles Tiger and showed the winning flourish.
On to doubles: here it was Abbigail Athey and Greta Hentges getting defeated by Erica Loose and Andrea Loose, 3-6 and 3-6. Lahia Manska and Katie Messner were dealt 1-6 set outcomes by Elizabeth Padula and Hannah Cushing of the T-Hawks. Halley Jackson and Lexi Gomer were on the short end vs. Taylor Knutson and Emily Brace at third doubles, 0-6 and 0-6.
Tennis: Monte 7, Tigers 0
The home courts were the site for this tennis dual against Montevideo. Lea Asmus wielded the racket for MACA at first singles. She was outdone by Kori Douglas of the T-Hawks, 2-6 and 3-6. Monte took the match 7-0.
I covered MACA tennis for a long time at the paper, and I recall feeling discouraged at sweep losses that seemed to happen too often.
Lilly Swanson was the second singles Tiger and she fell vs. Susie Wamstad, 2-6 and 5-7. Hannah Watzke wielded the racket at third singles and she was defeated by Alissa Eickhoff, 1-6 and 4-6. Ryanne Long was on the short end against Lauren Kluver at fourth singles, 0-6 and 5-7. At first doubles it was Abbigail Athey and Greta Hentges representing the orange and black, and this pair bowed vs. Erica Loose and Andrea Loose, 5-7 and 4-6. At second doubles it was Lahia Manska and Katie Messner vying against Elizabeth Padula and Hannah Cushing of the T-Hawks, and the outcome was 2-6 and 0-6.
Halley Jackson and Lexi Gomer vied at third doubles and they bowed vs. Taylor Knutson and Emily Brace, 0-6 and 1-6.
A little puzzled
Out of simple curiosity I sometimes check the Morris newspaper website. The management there was really talking big about the things to be accomplished there, at the time I departed. Things were changing at the paper so fast, it was dizzying. That degree of chaos, in and of itself, signaled that bad things were likely to happen.
The print edition of the paper has gone through shrinkage that exceeds even my most bleak expectations. We won't be able to consume details about the football game vs. ACGC until Saturday, by which time the Tigers will have played their next game. As for the website, I have noticed the last couple weeks that the paper has token coverage of football: 2-3 sentences maybe. I noticed a photo from the ACGC game, and you can click on the side to see a second photo, so that's fine. I'm wondering why the paper can't copy and paste the West Central Tribune coverage of the game and put it there. A possible answer is that the paper doesn't want to "give away" too much coverage on its site. Web-based coverage cannot really be monetized, and the Sun Tribune is a private business motivated by profit.
A decade ago I heard talk about ads being placed on the website. I don't think that has been developed to an appreciable degree. In fact that's probably an understatement. Remember that whatever the Morris paper does, it has to be justified by the bottom line. The paper isn't motivated by some benevolent desire to serve the public. Serving the public is incidental.
You can go and read about the most recent Tiger football game on a site where money is not a factor, and that is my "Morris of Course" blog where I have extensively covered the last two games. I may cover some games on this site which is my primary one: "I Love Morris." We love Morris and our extracurricular activities. I don't love our administration (or school board?) which is putting this referendum in front of us.
It is fundamentally unacceptable to use the referendum tool to get money for essential maintenance. Referendums are for things that are new and extra, and we oftentimes look favorably on such things.
I asked a retired teacher about the referendum the other day. He shrugged in effect and said "well, I guess the work has to be done."
Of course it has to be done. It should have been done over the summer. It should have been done quietly to protect the image and the PR interests of the district. That notorious referendum pamphlet that was put out by the school, is a tremendous black eye for our school system: an admission of shortcomings that could even have health consequences for our students. Now the district figuratively speaking has a gun pointed to our head, saying we must pass the referendum to do this essential work.
We may rue the day we allowed our school campus to become so vast and sprawling. We don't think enough about the maintenance costs when we create new assets. The new assets seem wonderful on paper. But they are accompanied by huge responsibility. Is our school space excessive? I think it is. I have written before about a past "trendy" thing in education where new schools were built with huge commons areas, such things as gyms, auditoriums and expansive cafeterias. I have thought that such huge spaces like the gym at Lac qui Parle (where you get to the top and then find another gym space) are built to "wow" the public, to show "what their money bought." But if it's excessive, it can be problematic. We very clearly have excessive gym space in Morris. The concert hall can be jaw-dropping when you see it the first time, but have you noticed how a small audience can seem really, depressingly small there? An extra aisle would seem to be needed.
I wouldn't promote such a fuss about all this, were it not for the current scheming whereby our school administration (and board?) is seeking "extra" funds from the public, squeezing the public as it were, to pay for essential maintenance. It's a terrible precedent. The administration needs to pull strings to get the funds without the referendum. The cost estimate for the work to be done would seem excessive. Give any of these public entities a chance to get a little more from the trough, and they will.
I hope the school referendum does not dampen the enthusiasm for the expected upcoming public library referendum. I would vote "yes" on a library referendum even without researching it because I totally trust the library people. My feelings about the school people are quite the opposite. Be sure to press "Sick Rick" on what the heck is going on.
I theorize that we will see a future trend with schools where they will be built by the opposite criteria of today: they will be built as relatively small, tidy structures that simply get the job done for helping kids master the three R's. They could blend into neighborhoods. They wouldn't loom on the edge of town, looking like prisons. Why did we get into this?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, September 18, 2017

My reaction to school referendum is shared

I understand the uneasiness of people who received that referendum flyer from the school recently. We now see some venting in the commercial media. A prolific letter writer hits the nail on the head with points made. I hate to give him too much credit because of a certain issue in the past. That issue was the cemetery chimes.
Anyway, Mr. Cemetery Chimes was disturbed by the school referendum flyer. I'm reluctant to give him too much credit but he articulates well. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about community issues, though not as much as in the past. I was not aware that any part of our public school campus was in such horrible shape, as described in the flyer.
I'm discouraged that we have to again deal with building decline issues so soon after we were dragged through all this with the old, now-razed school. I thought the demolition of that building would leave us breathing a sigh of relief over having quite satisfactory contemporary structures. All right, so we're done with all that, mold etc.? Wrong-o.
The school starts beating the drum for having to get money for substantial fix-up work. Mr. Cemetery Chimes wonders why the problems could not have been seen and addressed as they developed. Don't ask such stupid questions (sarcasm).
The way I see it, dealing with these problems costs money and this might force the superintendent, "Sick Rick" (nickname courtesy a regional blogger), to cut programs or positions to free up the money. This would cause a fire-breathing reaction by school staff, and we all know what a many-headed hydra the school staff can be. So the administration sits back, allows the situation to get very bad and then turns to a tried and true remedy: the referendum. This community has voted "yes" on school referendums in a knee-jerk way over the recent past. It sure isn't like the 1960s.
So, the administration figures it can routinely pass such a referendum, vacuum in the needed funds from the taxpayers, pay the contractors to come in and do their thing, and then presto! No staff layoffs or program reductions. The staff is mollified. I have seen the tail wagging the dog many times.
That was such a fancy color brochure that was put out, promoting the referendum. I suspect that by law, such a brochure if put out by the school cannot advocate "vote yes" directly. So the powers that be use a lawyer's cleverness to say "vote yes" in every other manner possible, without an explicit statement. I didn't come into town on a turnip truck - I can readily see this.
We read "years of use have rendered many building spaces unsafe and unusable for our students." Should the high school parents initiate a class-action lawsuit alleging that their kids have been exposed to unreasonable risk?
Society is being forced to take a whole new look at school infrastructure. We saw an article in Saturday's Star Tribune about "University of the People" that does not use textbooks, rather it keeps costs down by using existing assets on the Internet. The Internet has developed so far, what isn't on the Internet? So I have to wonder: do we even need a school library anymore? We can ask that about colleges too. The sociologist Charles Murray has asked this pointedly. What, a school without a library? The thought on the face of it might seem absurd, but I think it's totally reasonable. The school expends resources managing its library.
I gather that shower facilities are an issue at our high school. Whenever water is involved, there is potential for wear and tear and decay. So I ask: why do we even expect our students to shower during the day? We don't shower during our day at work, do we? Oh, there's phy ed classes. I have questioned the existence of phy ed classes. The counter argument might be,"we can't expect our kids to just sit in desks all day." Well no, but there are desks made nowadays that allow users to stand. Research shows there is a health benefit to this. I believe the brand name is "Vari-Desk."
And as far as exercise is concerned, why aren't students simply assigned a "walking period" where they'd simply walk laps in the school hallways, quietly of course? Oh, I'm such a conservative fuddy-duddy, aren't I? Or maybe I'm just arousing the wrath of school staff, who fear a friend or two might get laid off. Well, welcome to the real world.
I would like to see a reaction to this school referendum like what we saw with the proposed jail. The superintendent can be nudged to make budgetary adjustments to get the money to do the belated rehab. He should seek a lower price for all this than is now put forth, eh? These issues can be difficult. Austerity with school matters can bring a visceral reaction from school-centered interests/people. It can get nasty. If you want to vote "yes" and keep the same old racket going, fine. I'll just observe from the sidelines. We should all look forward to the Homecoming parade. Remember the way I used to cover MAHS Homecoming for the Morris newspaper?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

Volleyball gets fifth win, 3-0 at home gym

Tigers 3, ACGC 0
MACA volleyball rolled forward with a sweep win over Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City on September 12. Fans at the home gym enjoyed these dominating scores of 25-8, 25-16 and 25-13. The success pushed our record to 5-0.
Bailey Marty and Kenzie Hockel each batted three serving aces at the Eagles. Karly Fehr chalked up two serving aces, and Jenna Howden and Riley Decker each had one. Fehr was the cog in setting as always, chalking up 23 set assists. Liz Dietz picked up one set assist.
In the crowd-pleasing hitting department, it was Jenna Howden at the fore as she picked up ten kills. Karly Fehr had six kills and Jen Solvie five. Then it was Marty with four kills, Hockel and Jenna Larsen each with two, and Islande Sperr with one. These five Tigers each executed one ace block: Hockel, Fehr, Howden, Sperr and Larsen. Decker showed her digging flair with 14 digs, followed by these three Tigers each with five: Marty, Fehr and Larsen.
The top ACGC spiker was Rylie Wilner with nine kills. Karina Kinzler was the top Falcon in set assists with eight. Wilner had one ace block. Alex Hovey produced eleven digs.
We deal with grief
Taryn Paul was the daughter of Tanya Paul who is the former Tanya Estenson, who once was setter for the Morris Area volleyball team. I remember covering Tanya and her generation of Tiger athletes. Words can't describe the extent of grief now felt.
I wrote a little song encouraging everyone to make sure Tanya has the warmest Christmas possible under the circumstances. I'm pleased to share the lyrics. God works in ways mysterious. - BW
"Tell Her Merry Christmas"
by Brian Williams
Christmas brings good feelings to everyone
Mostly we just wear it like bling
Let's remember those who cry on and on
They need all the love we can bring
Tanya makes it easy to be a friend
Everyone has good things to say
Now she's feeling grief that will never end
Let's unite and brighten her day
Tell her Merry Christmas
Send her your best wishes
Bring the Yuletide spirit right up to her door
Tell her Merry Christmas
She deserves a big kiss
She is bound for heaven
She'll be there with Taryn
She was once a setter in volleyball
Wearing the orange and black
Making sure the offense would never stall
Tanya was as quick as a cat
She moved on to duties of parenthood
Most important duties of all
With a guiding hand that was always good
Just like when she played volleyball
(repeat chorus)
Now the time has come where we look ahead
We just can't exist in the past
We can carry mem-ries right to our bed
Then the morning comes and we move fast
Christmas is a time for humanity
Salving all the wounds in our soul
Tanya will maintain her vitality
As she inches nearer that goal
(repeat chorus)
Copyright 2017 Brian R. Williams

Cross country: Little Crow Invite
Noah Stewart and Meredith Carrington set the pace for the MACA cross country runners Thursday at Little Crow Country Club. Stewart was fourth in the boys race with his time of 17:53. The boys champion was Keiser Freetly of LQPV-DB who covered the course in 16:28. LQPV-DB was the top boys team while MACA took fifth.
Meredith Carrington arrived at the finish chute No. 5 with her time of 22:10. Jordyn Sterud of LQPV-DB was the champion girls runner with her time of 20:29. Eden Valley-Watkins was the top girls team while MACA was No. 5. There were eleven teams total in the Little Crow Invite.
Stewart was joined in the MACA effort by: Tate Nelson (18:44), Ben Hernandez (18:45), Tyler Reimers (20:30), Thomas Tiernan (20:59), Bradley Rohloff (21:20) and Judah Malek (23:26). Freetly was followed in the top five by Mikey Kvaal of LQPV-DB, Jonathan Tostenson of Benson-KMS, Stewart of our Tigers and Tristan Thompson of New London-Spicer.
Carrington was joined in the MACA girls' effort by Malory Anderson (22:38), Madelyn Siegel (24:14), Crystal Nohl (24:42), Isabel Fynboh (24:45) and Caryn Marty (26:23). Sterud was followed in the top five by Isabel Schirm of LQPV-DB, Katie O'Brien of Sauk Cantre, Zya Lueders of EV-W and Carrington of our Tigers.
An aside: Keiser Freetly is an excellent runner but I think the Willmar paper puffs him a little too much.
Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Invite
The Knights of West Central Area had a quite fine performance on September 11 in the Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Invitational. The Knights topped the team standings in both girls and boys. Our Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers took sixth in the girls team standings among the very large field of teams.
Meredith Carrington was the highest-achieving Tiger with her seventh place showing, time of 22:03.7. The lineup continued to be without the other Carrington sister, Maddie, who is dealing with a foot problem. We cross our fingers regarding her.
Madelyn Siegel arrived at the finish chute No. 30 with her clocking of 23:26.9. The rest of the MACA lineup: Malory Anderson (34th, 23:40.5), Kaylie Raths (58th, 24:48.4) and Crystal Nohl (59th, 24:48.6). Noah Stewart led the orange and black in the boys division, placing 28th with his 18:40.5 time. This meet featured a mass of runners. Stewart was joined in the MACA effort by Tate Nelson (19:06.4), Ben Hernandez (19:27.0), Tyler Reimers (19:36.0), Bradley Rohloff (20:24.1), Judah Malek (22:27.5) and Micah Aanerud (23:04.2).
Tennis: defeat at Lac qui Parle
MACA tennis made the trip to Lac qui Parle Valley on September 12 and was defeated. The Eagles were the 7-0 victor.
Hanna Watzke bowed at first singles vs. Molly Hacker, 0-6 and 1-6. Ryanne Long was on the short end at second singles vs. Ashtyn Oie, 0-6 and 1-6. The third singles Tiger was Abbigail Athey and she bowed vs. Anna Hacker, 4-6, 7-5 and 3-6. Katie Messner had a great start at fourth singles, taking the first set against Katelyn Wittnebel 6-1, but dropped the next two sets 3-6 and 2-6.
Lea Asmus and Lilly Swenson played first doubles. They came out on the short end against Courtney Hanson and Jessica Sigdahl, 1-6 and 1-6. At No. 2 doubles it was Greta Hentges and Lahia Manska on the short end against the LQPV tandem of Rachel Halvorson and Addi Oie, 3-6 and 2-6. The No. 3 doubles team of Lexi Gomer and Halley Jackson dropped their set vs. Veda Mahavaj and Gionna Parson, 1-6 and 2-6.
The Eagles are doing quite fine this fall and came out of this match with a 9-2 record.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwillyh73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Runner Maddie Carrington forced into hiatus

The MACA cross country runners visited Holdingford for their third meet of the season. The girls team placed fourth among the nine teams in this September 7 event. An injury cloud hangs over the team as Maddie Carrington has been sidelined. Normally a premier runner, she's idle due to a foot problem. My inquiry about this has revealed that not all the specifics are known. We'll cross our fingers and hope for her return.
Click on the link below to read my review of the MACA home football opener, a win over Montevideo. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Maple Lake had the top girls team at Holdingford. Albany was second and Sauk Centre third, after which the Tigers occupied fourth. Albany's Kristine Kalthoff was the top female performer, time of 21 minutes on the nose. Kate O'Brien of Sauk Centre was second, time of 21:27.52. Continuing with the top five we have Andrea Fromelt of St. Cloud Cathedral, Sophie Pribyl of Maple Lake and Mary Miller of Melrose.
Meredith Carrington carries the Carrington family banner alone, and this budding athlete had a 22:28.43 time to place ninth. Also representing the orange and black were Malory Anderson (23:12.31), Kaylie Raths (23:57.27), Madlyn Siegel (23:58.07) and Crystal Nohl (24:04.63).
Isabel Fynboh took third in the junior high race, time of 15:49.1. Katya Lackey took seventh (16:25.96) and Alexis Motz was No. 10 (16:40.73). Other orange and black jr. high runners were Caryn Marty (17:00), Meghan Goulet (18:12.46), Victoria Vargas (19:07.5) and Bobbi Wohlers (19:55.73).
In the varsity boys race it was Tiger Noah Stewart excelling to finish third with his clocking of 18:05.30. Stewart was joined by these teammates: Tate Nelson (18:50.23), Tyler Reimers (19:44.66), Bradley Rohloff (21:22.98), Judah Malek (22:39.62) and Micah Aanerud (22:57.52).
Ben Hernandez was third in the JV race with his time of 19:08.3. Other JV Tigers were Colton Wohlers (23:47.01) and Dakota Roberts (24:38.56). Thomas Tiernan was second in the junior high race, time of 13:36.94. The MACA jr. high roster also included: Tyce Anderson (15:05.73), Reid Tolifson (15:20.42), Barron Schneider (15:36.83), Gavin Stallman (15:41.91), Sam Jordan (16:07.91) and Pierce Richards (16:10.96).
Jake Andres of Pierz was the boys varsity champion with his time of 17:20.57. Preston Poepping of Melrose was second (17:52.14), then came our Stewart at No. 3. Tristan Thompson of New London-Spicer placed fourth, and Michael Miller of Melrose was No. 5.
The champion boys team was Holdingford while our MACA Tigers placed sixth. There were eleven boys teams.
Morris paper's shrinkage continues
Is 16 pages the new norm for the absolutely minimal Morris newspaper? It wasn't long ago that the paper slid from an average size of 24 pages to 18. But then we started seeing some 16-pagers. Is there a sense of alarm in the community?
A newspaper person from out of the area emailed me to say that by contrast, the Elbow Lake paper has 16 pages. . .in the 'A' section alone!
Why the minimal approach here in Morris? Is the day coming when Forum Communications will decide to just start mailing the Alexandria paper to people on the Morris subscription list? We may end up getting the same treatment that Hancock got, in effect losing our paper. Have we become this much of a satellite community for Alexandria? Maybe the answer is yes.
This morning (Monday) I checked the Morris paper website and only found about two sentences about the Morris/Montevideo football game. Compare that to my "Morris of Course" blog where you can at least read a game review by someone who gives a rip. If that had been me at the Morris paper, writing two sentences about the game and then having the chutzpah to put my "byline" on it, people would insult me all over town. What would Mike Martin say about such a lousy commitment?
All these developments come as the Morris paper still pretends it has "combined" with the Hancock paper. In the weeks following that announcement, the paper stayed the same size as before, which means that literally it could not have "combined" with anything. Now it's worse: the Morris-based paper has gotten still smaller.
How do they answer phone calls about this? They still posture like they're trying to incorporate Hancock. Look at Saturday's paper: there's extensive coverage of the Hancock football opener: article and photos. Wow! Before the announced combination, the Morris paper didn't even cover Hancock sports. Now that it's at least trying, the coverage is going to push aside some coverage of Morris. I'm 100 percent certain that in the days before the announced combination, Morris would have sent its sports photographer to Holdingford for the opener. Now the paper turns its eyes to Hancock.
Eyes still on referendum
I have written recently about the referendum being put forward by the Morris school district. I think it's fundamentally awful for the school to use the referendum tool for what amounts to necessary maintenance. I also think it's terrible PR for the school to be broadcasting all these awful problems as part of "selling" the referendum.
On Sunday I had a chance to talk with a very knowledgeable person with a background of being involved in the Morris school district. I won't type his name here, but what he offered to me was this: The cost of the project exceeds what we're getting in return. If my arguments don't fly, maybe his will. 
A "consultant" came here to analyze what needs to be done. Isn't that how we got the recommendation to build a jail? Those consultants have their own agenda, incentives and bottom line to promote. Bring in a string of consultants and they'll clean you out. We have highly-paid administrators. Don't let them sit back, take it easy and "contract out" all sorts of stuff.
The jail issue brought an explosion of controversy and resulting rubble of ill feeling. Wasn't there a county commissioner who was quoted in the print media saying "I'm glad none of my children live or work in Stevens County." What strange people we are, to elect a commissioner like that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, September 8, 2017

The winning beat continues for volleyball

Tigers 3, BOLD 1
MACA volleyball kept rolling forward with a Thursday (9/7) win over BOLD. The Tigers' record is now 4-0. They did get dinged with a loss in one of the games. Here are the scores: 25-16, 25-14, 16-25 and 25-22. BOLD was the match host.
Jenna Howden zeroed in for three serving aces. Bailey Marty executed two serving aces. Karly Fehr and Jenna Larsen each had one. Fehr went to work performing 32 set assists. Larsen added one assist.
In kills it was Howden clearly setting the pace with her 20. Other Tigers with kills were: Marty (7), Fehr (6), Jen Solvie (3), Larsen (2) and Kenzi Hockel (1). Howden showed her prowess with six ace blocks. Fehr and Solvie each went up to perform two ace blocks, while Marty, Hockel and Larsen each blocked one. Riley Decker was the digging whiz with 34 digs. Marty had nine digs, Larsen had eight and Fehr came through with seven.
For BOLD, Taylor Sagedahl had the team-best in kills with 14. Ashley Trongard and Makayla Snow co-led the Warriors in ace blocks with three. Brenna Weis pleased the home fans with 25 digs. Snow contributed 17 set assists and Sagedahl had 15. Snow batted two serve aces.
Tigers 3, Benson 0
Fans at the home court enjoyed another of the Tigers' (frequent) sweeps on September 5. Coach Kristi Fehr had to be satisfied as she saw her orange and black show a balanced attack. The balance led to winning scores of 25-7, 25-8 and 25-14 over the Braves of Benson.
Balance was exhibited in hitting where these kill stats can be reported: Jenna Howden 7, Bailey Marty 6, Kenzie Hockel 3, Jen Solvie 3 and Jenna Larsen 2. Howden executed smoothly at the net with her three ace blocks. Karly Fehr and Larsen each blocked one.
Riley Decker showed a flourish with 13 digs, followed by Hockel (12), Marty (10) and Fehr (9). On to serving aces: Hockel (4), Marty (2) and Decker (1). Fehr put up 23 set assists while Decker had one.
For Benson, Courtney McNeill and Abbie Mitteness each had one serving ace. Mariah Arndt and McNeill led Benson in set assists with seven and six, respectively. Anna Gosson had four kills to lead. Lizzie Staton had one ace block. It's always reassuring to see the name "Staton" continue to be in Benson sports reports. I'm sure I covered some of the parents in my Sun Tribune and Hancock Record days. Leah Molden contributed 26 digs.
Cross country: meet at Appleton
I was surprised to see the MACA cross country team have another meet so soon after the Morris Invite on August 28. The runners' assignment on August 31 was to perform at Appleton, perhaps with a diminished gas tank. Oh, but youth can overcome that, right?
Lac qui Parle/Dawson-Boyd won the boys division in their own invitational. Our MACA Tigers placed third behind runner-up Benson-KMS. There were seven teams.
Keiser Freetly of LQPV-DB was first to the finish chute, time of 16:53.78. Jonathan Tostenson of Benson-KMS was second at 18:17.75. Two Morris Area Chokio Alberta runners achieved in the top five: Noah Stewart in third (time of 18:19.01) and Tate Nelson in fifth (18:30.56). Zeke Sather of LQPV-DB placed fourth (18:21.50). Joining Stewart and Nelson in the MACA arsenal were: Tyler Reimers (19:19.20), Bradley Rohloff (21:06.91), Solomon Johnson (20:01.83), Micah Aanerud (23:11.77) and Judah Malek (23:01.01).
On the girls' side, we notice the absence of Maddie Carrington. I'm wondering if she was given a rest for the meet so soon after the Morris race. If it's an injury issue then I'm quite disappointed. I'll have to ask grandpa Tom about this early some morning at DeToy's. The two of us get there shortly after 6 a.m. most mornings.
A different Carrington, Maddie's sister Meredith, finished in the top five. Her time was 17:42.53, good for fifth place. The other Tigers were Malory Anderson (18:02.16), Madelyn Siegel (18:56.32), Kaylie Raths (18:58.47) and Crystal Nohl (19:08.24). As in the season opener, we were reminded of quite the nemesis that LQPV-DB is. Jordyn Sterud of the Eagles was No. 1 with her time of 16:03.19, and the runner-up was teammate Isabel Schirm (16:29.59). No. 3 was Carissa Vanderwal of Ortonville (17:18.19), and No. 4 was Reegan Duininck of CMCS (17:38.87).
We were the runner-up team behind those Eagles. Montevideo was third, BOLD was fourth, Ortonville fifth, Benson-KMS sixth and YME seventh.
More re. the referendum
My previous post was about the upcoming referendum - what's the date for it? - that was puffed in a breathless, urgent way by that slick pamphlet with color photos that got sent around. I was surprised. I wasn't aware of any urgent issue that would require a referendum.
How much will the whole package cost? Is that figure in the "informational" pamphlet? I suspect that by law, the school cannot have any direct advocacy statements in such a flyer. However, they come so close as to be actually appearing to cross the line. An example: "Our students deserve a clean, safe and functional space to learn." Really?
The referendum appears like a gun pointed to our head, because of course the stated problems need to be solved. They should have been addressed all along through a regular part of the school's budget, right? But maybe the Morris Area school district is playing us for suckers. They know that in the recent past, it has been a slam-dunk for school-related referendums to pass. It's a cup of tea, right? Unless we start asking some hard questions.
We have voted yes to a school campus that increasingly appears rather monstrous. So if you're impressed by that sort of thing - large commons areas etc. - fine. But will trends change in education? Will it become fashionable for schools to be built as tidy, comparatively small structures that serve their purpose just fine? They could be tucked into neighborhoods instead of being out on the edge of town, often looking like prisons (like the KMS school, for example). The late Laura Carrington made the "prisons" comparison.
I consider our gym space to be excessive - I'm tempted to type "obscene." Do kids even need physical ed. class? If physical ed. classes are so effective, why do we see so many obese kids? Why do varsity sports teams have to travel so far so often? The late Les Lindor, chairman of our school board, was perplexed by this.
Now we have a referendum coming at us for what appears to be essential infrastructure expenses. The pamphlet is so graphic I might throw up. I'm not sure I'd want to set foot in our high school building. Is this trickery engineered by the superintendent? Maybe he has earned the nickname "Sick Rick" as he has been given by a regional blogger.
Addendum: Maybe you don't even know about the 1991 gym. It's way off on one end and you have to wind through hallways to find it.
-Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

We're asked to "vote yes" again, sigh

Did you see that "vote yes" flyer that was distributed by mail? Oh, I know it wasn't literally a "vote yes" flyer. The message wasn't stated directly, at least not in so many words. But "yes" came through with the force of a sledgehammer. One of my first thoughts was: the issues appear so severe, work ought to begin immediately if not sooner, and why are we even voting on it?
The flyer actually seems like a disincentive for parents to open-enroll their kids to Morris. It makes the high school look like sort of a minefield of hazards. The school always has needs for spending money, right? I remember many years ago, when I was at the paper, I mentioned at the shop about the school having some particular need, and Terry Manney immediately responded: "The school always needs money." I read in the Star Tribune once that residents of outstate communities always feel chagrined about the demands of schools, as their local school seems to them like a "money pit." A money pit.
Sometimes it strikes some as a game of seeing how much the public can be shaken down.
We have such a sprawling school campus, don't we? Remember the campaign for getting a new "elementary school" built. Paul Rentz said "well, do we need a new elementary school?" He was skeptically suggesting that maybe the proposal was going to include much more than an "elementary school." Tony O'Keefe talked in a similar vein. Tony said "they're going to build a new high school," and that of course was an exaggeration, but the elaborate new structure did include a whole lot that would be used beyond elementary school needs.
A new varsity gym? Really? Was there really a pressing need for that? It's nice of course but a lot of things are "nice." That's not necessarily what district residents need to approve. Holy mackerel, remember when the 1991 gym went up? You probably don't. It sits there like a big barren enclosure. It's "nice" but is it used for any major athletic endeavors? Was it built just for gymnastics practice? I remember once when a building proposal was in front of us, Jim Morrison actually wrote an editorial wondering if we were trying to become "the gymnasium capital of western Minnesota."
Such skepticism did not win the day. We plowed forward and just kept on building. We voted "yes" on the RFC. I remember Charlie Berg at the dedication of that facility, saying that when he first heard about it, "I wondered what (the proponents) were smoking."
I could almost faint, when comparing the alleged largesse in such projects with how this community was stubborn on school referendums in the 1960s. Holy cow, it was like pulling teeth. People my age all still well remember. We remember the famous proposal that included the pool - it got voted down. Eventually a bare bones version got to the finish line. Were too many corners cut? Is that why we're having all the problems with the high school building now? There is such a thing as "durability." It does cost a little more. I have a push lawn mower today that is built so much better than my previous mower which was a Lawnboy, supposedly name-brand. But that Lawnboy had parts start to fall off almost from the start. My new mower (actually three years old now) from Eul's Hardware is so solid. Thanks Rob.
This flyer promoting the referendum practically makes me ill. Are we really sending our kids to this place? Is their basic health even safe? We read that "years of use have rendered many building spaces unsafe and unusable for our students." What if we vote "no?" Is it time to consider just cutting off or closing a portion of our sprawling school campus? But we sure have a state of the art football stadium. School parents of the 1950s would faint if they saw Big Cat Stadium. Of course a football stadium is dangerous for the health of the kids who play football, but I digress.
Looking at this flyer, I'm inclined to view the high school almost in the same light as the old, now-razed school in its final years. Have we fallen that far over such a relatively short timespan? The high school was built when I was junior high age. I used the place when it still seemed fresh and new.
Fred Switzer seemed like the kind of superintendent who would want to spend as little as possible most of the time. Was he a good enough steward for our facilities?
I was rather shocked when we abandoned the 1968 gym for nearly all serious varsity purposes. That gym was built as the long-term solution for varsity. It seemed like a dream when it was first opened for basketball. I'm old enough to have attended basketball games at the previous school building.
I once heard that the superintendent chose the cheapest possible bleacher seats for the 1968 gym. That probably doesn't surprise you if your butts ever got sore there. Switzer was old enough to focus on certain financial issues that today would seem petty to us. There was probably a lingering influence of the Great Depression. I was at a school board meeting when Switzer told a story about how he accosted a young man in the gym who was shooting baskets for Community Education open gym. Switzer seemed to be bragging to the board about his concern about the lights being on in the gym for just one person. As I recall the story, the superintendent told that young man to himself find the light switches and turn off some of the lights. In general, I suspect there was a lot of hand-to-hand between school superintendents and Community Ed. people in the early days of the latter. Superintendents felt their authority had to be unchallenged in school facilities, I suspect. Today I think it's all ironed out.
I recently wrote a post about how school teachers unions were once such a horrible, toothache-like pain in communities. Today, that seems to be ironed out too, for the most part. Teachers needed to be made to feel a little more humility. My God, how they used to be in-your-face.
Why are we now being asked to spend for updates and repairs that appear absolutely essential? This after various building projects through the years, much of which seemed less than essential. The concert hall is "nice." Is it essential in such opulent form? Was it essential to have a new varsity gym constructed and to leave the 1968 gym in a state of irrelevance? I probably have to remind you that we even have the 1991 gym. Common sense easily suggests that all the gym space is unnecessary.
As far as an artistic performance venue, the high school auditorium seems inadequate - I get claustrophobia there - while the concert hall seems too much. We could use something in between. Remember when music concerts at the school were free? As the late Terry Manney said, "the school always needs money."
So we get this new flyer in the mail. Who exactly put it out? The school people? It is slick and with color photos, photos that can induce nausea. Why not a simple but thorough text letter instead? Look at those pictures. Or better yet, don't look at them.
If the "yes" vote is to be assumed, why are we even voting? Cracks, leaks, rust, corrosion, mold, mildew, mineral deposits. We read that "areas of the building have become unusable." The flyer says "our students deserve a clean, safe and functional space to learn." As if anyone would say the kids don't deserve it. So it really is a "vote yes" flyer for all practical purposes. Sigh. Where does it end? Where in heck does it end?
This whole thing just keeps rolling along like it's a racket, n'est-ce pas?
Are we having the referendum because the school has over-spent in other areas? Give any school a long leash and they will spend every penny they can get, and later say it was all "essential." I'm 62 years old and have been around these matters for a long time.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Tigers thrill on volleyball court with sweeps

Tigers 3, Monte 0
The MACA girls of volleyball bounced up to 2-0 with another sweep. They're 6-0 in games this year, 2-0 in matches. Can't beat that. They made their road debut on Thursday (8/31). The Tigers visited the home of the Thunder Hawks, Montevideo.
Once again Jenna Howden was powerful at the net, helping set the tone for this 3-0 triumph. Howden had 15 kills as Morris Area Chokio Alberta disposed of the T-Hawks by these scores: 25-15, 25-19 and 25-13. Jen Solvie added seven kills to the mix. Bailey Marty and Jenna Larson each pounded down five kills. Karly Fehr came through with a kill.
Larsen came at Monte with an ace block. Fehr was dependable as setter, following her usual form: she had 34 assists. In serving, Kenzie Hockel and Fehr each had three aces, and Howden had one. The digs department saw Riley Decker get under the ball 17 times, while Marty had six digs.
Monte's Kari Fragodt gave her team some fuel with six kills. Cali Christianson produced five kills. Sydney Zindie had four ace blocks for the T-Hawks. Kamren Saue had 19 set assists. Sydney Bednar batted two serve aces. Katie Turcios had the team-best total of 15 digs.
Tigers 3, NL-Spicer 0
MACA has four starters back from a team that reached stellar levels. So, we can expect lots of excitement on the volleyball court this fall. Kristi Fehr has the coaching reins. Some new faces are getting involved in the attack, helping create a whole new feeling of cohesion. That cohesion was most evident as the Tigers swept their season opener foe.
It's never a routine assignment to play New London-Spicer. The orange and black squared off against the Wildcats Tuesday (8/29) at home and impressed greatly. We outdid the Wildcats by these scores: 25-9, 25-15 and 25-14. Do you suppose we could parlay this success into basketball? NL-Spicer has been a nemesis. These things can change. As the old saying goes, "they don't win because of the uniforms."
Coach Fehr liked the caliber of her team's play Tuesday. Jenna Howden supplied lots of power in the opener success. Jenna pounded down 17 kills. Jen Solvie and Jenna Larsen each contributed seven kills. Bailey Marty came through with six, then we have Kenzie Hockel (3), Karly Fehr (1) and Islande Sperr (1).
Karly Fehr is back to facilitate the offense with her setting. She came through with a total of 36 assists. Riley Decker complemented her with her five assists.
These three Tigers each had one ace block: Fehr, Howden and Solvie. In digs it was Decker setting the pace with her 19. Marty had 13 digs and Hockel six. On to serving: here it was Howden coming up with four aces to lead. Karly Fehr batted three aces from the serving line. These Tigers each had one: Marty, Hockel and Larsen.
A newspaper report indicated that NL-Spicer came out of Tuesday with an 0-5 record. So the Wildcats apparently had much more early-season action under their belt, and not only that, the .000 win percentage is surprising considering the Wildcats' reputation in girls sports. I'll state again: these things change. Paige Olson had 17 serve aces against the Tigers. Ashton Engelke had five kills and that modest total was good enough to lead. Paige Olson dug up the ball ten times while Hunter Paffrath had nine digs.
Cross country: Morris Invite
A big cross country meet is an exciting spectacle for ushering in the new school year. Fans gathered at our Pomme de Terre course on August 28 to admire the mass of runners.
I was hoping to see the Carrington sisters first to the finish line. They ran well but were outdone by a pair of Lac qui Parle-DB runners. The girls champion was Jordyn Sterud whose time was 20:53. Isabel Schirm was runner-up with her time of 21:15. A West Central Area runner, Lexi Bright, arrived at the finish chute No. 3, timed at 21:24.
Then it was our Maddie Carrington arriving at the chute No. 4 with her time of 21:29. The top five was completed by Carley Kramer, time of 21:31. Meredith Carrington posted a time of 23:18. These were the other orange and black runners: Malory Anderson (24:11), Madelyn Siegel (24:24), Crystal Nohl (25:18) and Kaylie Raths (26:14).
LQPV-DB did not place first as a team despite having the top two runners. Rocori was at the top. Our Tigers placed fourth. Lac qui Parle-DB did take No. 1 in the boys race. Our Tigers faltered a little, finishing eighth. The boys champion was Kaiser Freetly of LQPV-DB, time of 16:58. Jacob Bright of West Central Area was No. 2, clocked at 17:26.
Here was the MACA lineup: Noah Stewart (18:29), Tate Nelson (18:54), Solomon Johnson (19:47), Tyler Reimers (21:05), Judah Malek (23:35) and Micah Aanerud (24:10).
What about football?
The schedule says MACA played at Holdingford last night (Friday) for the opener. I'm not sure a Holdingford-hosted game would get reported in the next day's Willmar paper. That's where I get most info for my sports reviews.
But let's ponder this sport further, underneath all the superficial cheers, band music and the like. It's so festive but it conceals the very concerning issues about the sport. Occasionally a school board member somewhere makes a public comment recommending the end to football. It makes news but such voices still seem isolated. I would love to see a member of our Morris Area school board make a skeptical public comment. That person would be like a hero. Forever.
A news report on August 27 told us that a California high school football player ended up in a medically induced coma after surgery to remove swelling in his brain. Bailey Foley of Fortuna High School was on the sideline late in the season opener at Cardinal Newman when he began to have cramps and then seizures. He was taken to the hospital where doctors discovered bleeding on the brain. Doctors removed a portion of his skull, a common practice when the brain swells.
A linebacker and runningback, Foley took and delivered hits throughout the game, but coach Mike Benbow said the game film does not indicate anything out of the ordinary.
Related: Former NFL center Ed Cunningham has resigned from his role as an ESPN college football analyst due to his concern regarding head injuries within the sport. He said "I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport. I just can no longer be in that cheerleader's spot." He continued: "In its current state, there are some real dangers - broken limbs, wear and tear. But the real crux of this is that I just don't think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it's unacceptable."
Let's hear a Morris Area board member make a public comment sometime.
The MACA sports schedule
The sports schedule was recently distributed with the Morris paper in the form of a slick insert, a single piece of paper that had MACA on one side and Hancock on the other. Did you notice that Hancock had the privilege of being on top? You had to turn it over to see the MACA page. I suspect some people won't bother turning it over. Is Hancock on top as part of the paper's desperation to convince Hancock that they can survive the cancellation of their paper?
How well will this schedule page even be distributed? Until recently it might be distributed with the free Ad-Viser, but the paper has cancelled the Ad-Viser. So, we apparently must acquire the Morris paper. It costs money and it is acquired only by a limited number of people.
The schedule insert is essentially a "sucker ad" where businesses have their names appear on it. Why? Why does money have to change hands just for the sports schedules to be made available to the public? I would remind those businesses of the existence of the Internet. Sports schedule information should exist somewhere online that is easily accessible and free for everyone. Does anyone have a rebuttal to that?
Pheasant Country Sports has pretty reliable schedule pages online. Maybe our school should just consider putting up links to those Pheasant Country schedule pages, n'est-ce pas? If you think it's necessary for money to change hands for people to simply have access to high school sports schedule information, you're still living in the 20th Century. Wake up and smell the coffee.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

U.S. Civil War was just another tragic war

R.E. Lee statue (WTOP image)
Recent headlines have gotten us wondering, "What if the South had won the Civil War?" If you accept the premise that the Confederacy was a (mere) rebellion, it's easy to see why the war just ran its course. There was no grand vision in the South for a "new nation." Only in rhetoric was that aspiration voiced. The South felt alienated from "the Union" and wanted to blow off steam.
Had there been a grand vision for a new nation, Southern interests would have promoted a more powerful central government to make it happen. Decentralized government was what the South articulated. But that sure won't win you a war. It's hard enough to win a war with a coordinated central effort. Did the Confederacy ever have a real sense of its borders? The Mason-Dixon line was just a straight horizontal line.
Literary minds have speculated on the South "winning." Articles and books have fallen into the "alternate history" vein which is the sort of thing that appeals to sci-fi buffs. It endlessly taps the imagination. What if Napoleon conquered Russia?
I would suggest that the genre could also apply to Hollywood. What if Shirley Temple and not Judy Garland had been cast in "The Wizard of Oz?" What if Rod Steiger and not George C. Scott had been cast in "Patton?" Steiger was offered the role. His stock had risen in the classic "In the Heat of the Night" with Sidney Poitier. Steiger declined, based on the political tenor of the times. The Viet Nam war had left a big chunk of America vigorously opposed to war. Steiger decided the movie "Patton" would glorify war.
So how did "Patton" turn out? Aside from being artistically and commercially successful, it was a movie that didn't really make a statement about war in general. Patton in reality was a controversial figure. His surviving family was poised to take action against the movie because of a suspicion that it would promote contentiousness with the general's memory. But the family was pleased. The movie was about America and a love of simply winning, two things that are quite intertwined. The war was long over as of 1970. It would have been beating a dead horse to resurrect any controversies. And there were definite bitter controversies. "Ike" Eisenhower was so incensed about the movie "The Battle of the Bulge" (with Henry Fonda), he called a press conference.
Taking Iwo Jima, specifically the steep price paid, was controversial. "Island-hopping" in general was a sore spot in the American psyche. The taking of Tarawa, again with such a huge price paid, brought demands to fire an admiral. Many parents across America were embittered permanently about losing their sons in World War II, even though the meme grew that this war was grand and glorious, a triumph over tyranny. Those parents weren't much inclined to attend Memorial Day programs and hear sanctimonious speeches by guys wearing funny hats.
Even "the good war" like WWII was nothing but hell. Think of the hand-to-hand combat scenes in "Saving Private Ryan." The Ryan movie has become a definitive one about WWII. Cable TV channels run it a lot. Didn't the young Ryan defy an order by not agreeing to be taken away by the Tom Hanks character and his comrades? Had he agreed to that, would the endearing Hanks character have survived and been able to go home to his family? There'd be no need for that scene at the end where the older Ryan weeps at graveside.
History is full of wars with blood and death. It's ironic we seek entertainment at the movie theater about them.
We don't see movies with Civil War combat in them much anymore. Interesting. Is it because Hollywood is stepping lightly with its relationship with the Deep South states? The movie "Gettysburg" (with Jeff Daniels) had a sequel that seemed to back off from the assumption that the Union was on the morally higher ground. "Gods and Generals" wanted us to understand where the South was coming from. A black woman answers the door in Fredericksburg. The Union soldier at the door says "is this your master's house?" There's a pause and then she says "this is my house." General Jackson gives a lecture where he talks about Northern leaders being able to fall back on their profiteering interests after the war. Hint: the Southern people were more noble.
The "alt right" demonstrators in Charlottesville VA would like the movie "Gods and Generals." Maybe that movie killed off the Civil War genre of movies. Viewing the South as being morally equivalent to the North is a lie and people can see that.
Alternate history books can be fascinating. I read one once that had the Army of the Potomac wiping out the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at the end of the battle of Gettysburg. Such a story seems plausible. But one problem: it didn't happen. Why? It's so easy to apply hindsight. Maybe General Meade felt that the three days of fighting were so horrific and bloody, restraint was needed or else the morale of the army might suffer irreparably. The soldiers on the battlefield were not like pawns on a chessboard. They are human beings.
Think of the most depressing Viet Nam war movie you have ever seen. Such a movie may well have not gone far enough. Has any movie really gotten into the phenomenon of "fragging?" This is where soldiers would kill their own superiors, often with a fragmentation grenade. Sometimes a grenade would be left on a bed as a threat. We are learning that the U.S. had no choice but to leave Viet Nam when it did, precisely because "fragging" was happening often and could not be accepted.
I wonder if any veterans who committed fragging actually show up at Memorial Day programs. Why not? Veterans get treated as heroes at such events. Just wear that little hat.
War is simply hell. The battles do not follow the logical lines that are presented in movies. Andy Rooney once made this point. He was there in the mess of World War II. And that's what it was, he said: a mess. Books written by generals make battles seem more organized than they were. The reason battles seem a mess is that both sides employ deception. Both sides are good at it. What a depressing science.
Could the South have won the Civil War? My answer is an absolute "no." George Will wrote that it's simple to understand why the Union won. It simply killed all the Confederates.
Addendum: Here's a little more follow-up on "Saving Private Ryan." Did the American side really make the best decisions in that confrontation with Germans in that little town? We see the "tank buster" airplanes arriving like cavalry at the end. Did the U.S. troops know those planes were on the way? Maybe they should have re-deployed away from that bombed-out town and given some time for the planes to arrive. The planes could have taken out the German tanks and perhaps done even more damage. But instead we got those scenes that were right out of the old "Combat!" TV show with Vic Morrow. Or, right out of the "Sergeant Rock" comic book series where the machine guns made "rat-tat-tat" sounds.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com