"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)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Alan Hendrickson was endearing gentleman

(Swift County M-N image)
We lost one of the Knights of St. Urho last week. Alan Hendrickson is now prancing across those wrestling mats in the sky. He died just days after I became aware of his illness. It's an illness where unfortunately there is little wiggle room in terms of how long you'll live. We are all mortal and end up meeting our maker.
Hendrickson was the popular coach of the Morris High School wrestling program for a long time. It was the era before hockey in an indoor arena. It was the days of the "District 21 Tournament" when the small towns out here could sustain their own programs. Today we see all these combined programs. Our local wrestling team has the cumbersome, and I feel unwieldy, name of "MAHACA." It gets pronounced as if it's a word.
Hendrickson was coach of the "MHS Tigers." I'm not sure I ever saw a match until the pep band was required to play. I'm sure that was political: having the pep band play for a wrestling match. Pep bands were challenged everywhere as the number of athletic programs increased. The teams all demanded equal treatment, of course.
I can remember when UMM had a pep band playing for basketball games at the old P.E. annex. Once the women's programs got going, there was a justifiable demand for equal treatment, but those poor musicians could only devote a limited amount of time to these commitments. It got to where there was no pep band.
UMM at its outset had a fight song that was composed by my father. I wish that song could be revived now and then just for its archival value. The song did not have an introduction, so you had to watch the director if you wanted to sing it from the start. I don't think my father's "UMM Hymn" had an introduction either. I guess that was one of my father's traits, not to emphasize introductions. The creators of song often have their own particular traits, like Neil Diamond starting out his songs with the title of the song.
As I remember my high school years, I remember wrestling as the "other" sport in winter. Today with all the widened opportunities, I'm not sure any such judgment is made. Post-season basketball games at the P.E. Center could attract large, loud and wild followings, whereas today the fans have to travel so far right at the start of tournament play. There are so many activities, their supporters all get divided up.
It's quaint to think of the old full gym with that cacophony of sound. I found it a little troubling at times. So much emotional investment in a kids' game. I wondered about all the pressure these kids were feeling, to carry the banner of their towns as if they were warriors. I wondered if they might get psychologically damaged. In the meantime, I was just an observer, consistent with being a lifelong journalist.
At times I wrote as a stringer for the Morris Sun Tribune. Today the Sun Tribune wouldn't touch my work. Ah, the ebbs and flows of life.
Randy Thraen was in my high school class and he made the state tournament under coach Al Hendrickson. Randy's wrestling career ended on a downward note and I'm quite certain why: he worked too hard to lose weight. I thought that was an abhorrent aspect of the sport. Losing weight has nothing to do with developing your skills in a sport. It can hurt your ability to mentally focus.
I remember Randy wearing sweat clothes for phy. ed class as a way of getting pounds off. Our P.E. teacher was Roger Snaser for a time. He had been a star basketball player for UMM. He stood out with his tall physique. He had a "punishment" in phy. ed class that would be unheard of today, for boys to "wear a girls P.E. uniform!" Oh my, the sexism. The world of education continually passes out of one era with its values and into another. I was once shared with a friend: "the trail of education is littered with the bodies of education professionals who couldn't make the transition from one educational era to the next."
It's interesting how I as a young person could see and understand these eras as they flowed, while some adults in the system failed to.
This town was dragged through an unnecessary controversy in the late 1980s. Many people were demanding more quality in extracurricular, leaning more toward the AAU model, but what it was really about was accountability.
No one spoke a bad word about Alan Hendrickson, not during that time or in any other time. He had a fine sense of humor that was expressed in a deadpan way, making it even more funny. He was very perceptive and practical. He was gentle. He was effective and loved as the wrestling coach. It was a sport that seemed like the red-haired stepchild of winter sports.
Wrestling attracted boys many of whom - let's be frank - had a rather "ruffian" image. At the same time, these ruffians could surprise you by building a grandfather clock in industrial arts class. They were in a different league from me in that regard.
Why was wrestling developed as the "second" sport in winter? I theorize that relatively speaking, wrestling is inexpensive. Why does sports overall get so much emphasis? I think that way back when, sports was seen as a way for kids to combat boredom, in an age when there were so few alternatives. Today because of the tech/digital age, boredom seems to have been completely conquered. So much so, we hear about data overload and distracted driving.
And yet sports flourishes as much as ever, more so actually. I'm troubled at times because I feel the non-sports kids can be made to feel insignificant. I know those kids are out there. I look at issue after issue of the West Central Tribune with its sports section with the usual prominent photos of sports kids, and I really wonder about our sense of priorities. We make heroes out of these sports kids, many of whom excel simply because they were born with athletic genes.
Al Hendrickson was the kind of guy who valued all students, no doubt about it. I wish I had had him as a teacher instead of a certain other teacher whose name I won't type here. Al had a heart of gold, whether in the classroom, by the wrestling mat or at the Eagles Club as a member of the "Knights of St. Urho." We will miss him in all roles. Toward the end of his life I'd chat with him, his wife Dolora and maybe Dave Holman (the indefatigable Swede) at the McDonald's restaurant. The banter was always fun.
I'll close out this post by quoting an inside joke I had with Al, based on an anecdote from his background: "I always thought highly of you, Al."
- Brian Williams, morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Getting food at grocery stores: a dated habit?

I made a cake this past weekend, Easter weekend. It is no longer so practical for me to do such a thing. We're a family of two, and our long-time neighbor with whom I shared has passed on.
I remember bringing a piece of cake to the neighbor, Les Lindor, when Steve Poppe happened to be visiting. "You mean you have cake delivered?" Steve said with a smile. Steve and I graduated with the Morris High School Class of '73. He was one of the "little wrestlers" on Al Hendrickson's team, Craig Murphy being another. I'm sad to learn that Al is dealing with health adversity now. The sands of time cannot be stopped.
Many of the names I drop in my online writing are unfamiliar to the generation of young adults in Morris. They were household names once. Hey, even mine was, no doubt. So I made a cake in the year 2017 partly for old times' sake. It went well.
I cracked the eggs into the mixing bowl just fine. Which reminded me of a radio discussion I heard not long ago on WCCO. Young people of today "don't crack eggs into a pan," I heard. They don't really want to deal with the hassle of all that. You have a lot of clean-up while making a cake, and when you're done eating it, there's the pan that can be a hassle to clean.
Large families were common when I was a kid. The "housewife" took on the chores of preparing meals. All very Norman Rockwell-ish. Times change and our norms of behavior change. Few people seem very interested in spending time in the kitchen preparing meals in a manner that requires multiple steps.
These days, the population has so many young singles and elderly people who either live alone or with their elderly spouse. The young and the old aren't likely to want to prepare meals in an elaborate way. I walk through the Willie's store in Morris and often think it's obsolete. Preparing meals at home also means dealing with leftovers. You put stuff in the refrigerator and then you have to remember how old it is. You always end up discarding some of it.
Shopping in grocery stores also means you'll be making some "impulse purchases." You end up buying more than you need. I find that even if I resolve to not do this, my self-discipline lapses. No potato chips.
Remember the opening of "Ghostbusters" where we see Sigourney Weaver entering her apartment, a single person, with a sack of groceries, eggs on the top? I think back to that scene and wonder how practical it is - a single person buying "groceries." Today I think young singles and seniors would gravitate to a deli where they could pick up a reasonable meal in a sack, maybe with plastic utensils, and just discard everything by the time they're done. There goes the chore of "washing dishes" too. Is washing dishes becoming outdated? I would compare it to the writing of on-paper Christmas cards. We used to go through our Christmas card list and just assume we'd prepare a pile of cards to send. But it seems more laborious today, in our new age where we habitually communicate by email.
My Christmas communications are unique, I'd like to think: I write an original Christmas song, have it recorded, and then send links with personalized messages to my acquaintances. I'm proud of that. We have basically ceased sending on-paper cards.
My little adventure of baking a cake went well. It reminded me of the labor requirement in doing this type of thing, how it feels more demanding than it used to. I ended up eating most of the cake because I had to. It's a distant memory of bringing a piece over to Les.
Our dog had great affection for Les. We referred to Les as "Sandy's best friend." Sandy almost made it to age 17. He was put down two weeks shy in an unavoidable decision. He was half American Eskimo and half poodle. Sandy and Les are together in heaven now.
Sandy got to an age where it seemed he couldn't run anymore. One thing would get him to run. Les might be coming in from getting his mail and I'd say to Sandy: "Let's go see Les." Sandy would take off!
I look at various items on the Willie's shelves and I wonder: who buys this stuff? The frozen flounder? I experimented once with the frozen northern pike because I wanted to prepare it on my Foreman grill. So many bones! Pike may taste good but the bones make it totally impractical.
Thank goodness we dine each weekday noon at our Morris Senior Community Center. We trust Robert to put the best food in front of us.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minneosta - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrating chocolate bunnies for Easter

Mid-April is the time of year when weather is non-descript, just teasing us about the warmer weather to come. We often see a forecast for warmer temperatures and then find that a gale force wind sets in. So much for getting out the bicycle. It's a special occasion for me when I can get out the air pump and WD-40 and activate my bike for spring. Going out to the Pomme de Terre River is euphoric after the long winter.
We had a winter with sickness being reported all over the place. People coughed and blew their nose. It was nothing but an ordeal. Very soon I'll be making that full "lap" using both sides of the river, feeling quite elated doing so. Joggers and walkers will be out there.
I'm writing this on Easter weekend. I was one of those kids who associated Easter with chocolate bunnies. I heard the ministers talk about what Easter really was. But I found it depressing: all that literal torture that Jesus endured. Mel Gibson sure mined that to excess. I never saw that movie, just read about it. The crucifixion story is macabre. The story is that Jesus then rose from the dead. My former boss, Jim Morrison, doesn't believe that. Call me skeptical too.
I'm rather relieved when Easter weekend is over. There's a Monday holiday called "Dyngus Day" observed in various cities. Something about that gave TV journalist Anderson Cooper the giggles one year. It was just like when David Brinkley tried reading a story about damage done to the Maraschino cherry crop. He couldn't compose himself and the show went to a commercial. In Cooper's case, something about the "pussywillow princess" set him off, as I recall.
It's so nice to hear about an unbridled occasion for pleasure, Dyngus Day, coming right on the heels of a holiday that has blood and gore, i.e. the abuse of Jesus. Why do we even need to acknowledge that so much? Couldn't we just choose to emphasize the positives (if we have the faith) of what Christ's death meant for us?
Why can't we know more about what Jesus did between the ages of 12 and 30?
I was discouraged by our Morris Public Library being closed for Good Friday. The library is a public institution. A growing percentage of the population is not Christian or not affiliated. More of us choose to live outside the boundaries of religion. And it's rather understandable if you watch the movie "Spotlight" which has been available on DVD from our library. Anne Barber is pretty sharp running our library even tbough I still miss Melissa Yauk. I sent Melissa a happy birthday email on April 12. She was kind enough to answer, and she reports that spring has arrived nicely out in Idaho.
I was quite familiar with the factual background of "Spotlight" before watching the movie. It truly makes me skeptical of entering our Catholic church in Morris for any reason. I went there for Fritz Schmidt's funeral because I just had to.
I have heard it said that the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has hurt all churches. Young people consumed the news and can't believe we continue to support institutions where this kind of risk is presented for kids. The millennials are wise.
Del Sarlette says that young people aren't necessarily rejecting faith, it's just that they don't see the point of "going to a building" for this. Generations have their different traits. The beloved WWII generation were "joiners" and did things like bowl on bowling teams. Then we got the book "Bowling Alone" which told of the erosion of that trait. It is no longer as important to form friendships based on sharing a geographic place - we form friendships based on shared interests, with people we find using the new communications.
My generation thought it puzzling that Christians were divided into different denominations. We rejected the old dichotomy of Lutherans and Catholics in our small outstate communities. We were better educated and had the benefit of affluence, giving us more freedom to form our own judgments. We reached the age of puberty younger. I won't go into the ramifacations of that - perhaps in a future blog post.
Back in about 1980 there was an organization called "Young Life" in Morris, the purpose being to get kids interested in Christianity again. They were not inclined to support the youth groups of their parents' churches, like Luther League. Some very prominent Morris citizens - heads of banks - were involved in promoting Young Life. Eventually I think their objectives were realized, so that's kind of nice.
Myself, I'm more inclined to go along with Jim Morrison's outlook on spirituality or the need to be free of it. Ron Reagan Jr. promotes this. My preferred activity on Easter weekend is to watch the DVD of "Life of Brian." Or, eating a chocolate bunny.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 14, 2017

Some UMM memories increasingly precious

You will see a display by the entrance to the HFA Recital Hall at UMM. It's a fond look-back.
UMM's earliest history fades further into the past, an inevitable process as the institution moves through changes and new challenges. I look at today's faculty and think "my, they're young." I also think that when looking at policemen. "When did they start hiring kids to be policemen?" It has been said that the latter thought is a primary signal that you're getting old. "When did they start hiring kids to be physical therapists?"
I'm 62 years old and have qualified for Social Security. I am a boomer and thus not inclined to acknowledge much aging at all. But I'm 62 and can recall firsthand observations about some of the historical stuff preserved at the HFA. I'm talking about the UMM men's chorus. It was a pride and joy of my father Ralph.
The heyday of that chorus finally faded. Perhaps there were "political correctness" forces working against it. Maybe a gender-specific choir was no-go as the political sensitivities of the late '60s and '70s built.
Is it possible that "sacred" music was put aside too? Music that presumed a prevailing Christianity? I was college-age in the '70s and could easily see such a snubbing. I would never suggest a push for Christianity as some sort of preferred philosophy. But music is fundamentally art. Christian-oriented art springs from a pure artistic wellspring.
I began sensing a few years ago at UMM that it was no longer taboo to present sacred music. The argument is, I presume, that some of the most inspired art can have a Christian or otherwise religious theme. I realize that religion has caused tremendous strife around the globe. But brilliant art must be acknowledged. When you exclude Christian-themed or Christian-inspired music, the range of choices is thinned.
I have a theory that UMM and other institutions may have been forced to change because of African-American gospel singing that celebrated that culture's contributions to our American art and was Christian-themed. I could just see a conservative campus organization complaining if the gospel/spiritual stuff was allowed and even celebrated, while other comparable Christian expressions on campus might be snubbed.
I remember when UMM people were asked to have little exhibits prepared touting the accomplishments of their own - retirees included. These little displays are up annually for an exhibition. It looks like a high school science fair! I remember considering preparing one for my father. I was immediately concerned, though, about the heavily sacred theme of so much of my father's original (professionally published) music. So I wondered if I would need some sort of disclaimer message.
Seriously, I considered this: "Much of Ralph's music has a sacred/Christian underpinning, but the Williams family wants everyone to know we respect all the world's faiths." I suspected that such a message would be needed to make the little "science fair exhibit" (LOL) palatable. I ended up wondering if the message would be sufficient to make the display acceptable in the painstakingly secular (in my mind at the time) world of the U of M-Morris.
As many critics of mine have pointed out: "Brian, you think too much." I hope it's not a totally worthless quality.
I refrained from considering the display, only to realize as time went on: "UMM seems to not have these inhibitions anymore." I learned this partly through attending concerts at UMM. So I suppose I should have pursued the display.
But instead we have the quite terrific display at the entrance to the Recital Hall. It celebrates UMM's travels in the early 1960s, UMM's heady (bur fragile) early days.
My father took the men's chorus to two World's Fairs: Seattle and New York. I was along for the New York trip in 1964. We were on top of the world or so it seemed. Our chorus opened the Minnesota Day festivities at the Seattle World's Fair. This was in a time when Americans were terrified by the Cuban missile crisis. We got through that.
UMM got through its fragile early days to become the "jewel in the crown."
I have always felt a personal schism with UMM, as I could never really internalize everything the institution stood for. I felt intimidated by it. But today I'm at peace, knowing I can be accepted as a UMM supporter without myself having to be any sort of intellectual.
That men's chorus at the '64 Fair gave unique thrills with its sounds.
Listen to the golden sounds of the original UMM men's chorus by clicking on this link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcXFMzPGCH0
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MACA girls defeat ACGC and Montevideo

Tigers 14, ACGC 2
The Tigers made short work of it, five innings, in getting past the Falcons of ACGC on Tuesday. The offense clearly took over. We scored in each of the five innings.
Bailey Marty had three hits in three at-bats, drove in a run and scored four in this 14-2 MACA softball win. Piper Gibson was in the groove at the plate too: two-for-three, two RBIs and three runs. Whitney DeMaris went two-for-three with two ribbies and two runs. Emma Bowman had a hit and a run scored.
Karly Fehr had a hit and crossed home plate twice. Ashley Solvie had a hit and a run scored. Nicole Solvie went one-for-two with a pair of ribbies. Riley Decker had a hit in her only at-bat. Kailey Hottovy added a hit to the winning mix.
The MACA line score was 14 runs, 13 hits and a nice "zero" in errors;. The ACGC line score was 2-4-5. Maree Lee had a double and run scored for the Falcons. Rylie Wilner and Taryn Reinke also hit safely. Wilner had an RBI and Reinke had a double.
Brooke Gillespie pitched the whole way for the Tigers. She struck out four batters, walked two and allowed four hits in her five innings. Reinke and Micayla Hobson were the Falcon hurlers with Reinke getting the loss. Six of the 12 runs that Reinke allowed were unearned.
A pivotal point occurred with ACGC having the bases loaded. The score was tied. How did the Tigers put out this potential fire? With a triple play!
 
Tigers 9, Montevideo 8
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta bats were robust at the home diamond in a 9-8 win over Montevideo. Brooke Gillespie's bat was sizzling with four-for-four numbers including a double. Three Tigers each had a two-for-two line: Kailey Hottovy, Piper Gibson and Liz Dietz. Hottovy and Gibson each had a double.
Emma Bowman had two hits in three at-bats and delivered the decisive blow in the fifth. Bowman's single brought in the tying and go-ahead runs. Karly Fehr delivered a double. Bailey Marty went one-for-four.
Our line score was nine runs, 14 hits and two errors. Monte's line was 8-12-3.
The MACA pitching was divided among three. It was Gillespie getting the pitching win with her stint of 3 1/3 innings. She set down two batters on strikes and walked no one. Dietz picked up the save as she worked 2 2/3 innings. She fanned a batter and issued no walks. Ashley Solvie pitched for an inning, fanning two batters and walking one.
The losing pitcher was Breanna Welling. Welling made noise with her bat as she socked a home run. Cali Christianson had three hits in four at-bats. Other Thunder Hawks hitting safely were Ashley McKee, Abby Olson, Sydney Zindel, Sydni Striech, Rachel West and Jasmyn Kronback.
The fourth and fifth innings were the big ones for MACA: three runs in each. We scored one run each in the first through third innings. We're delighted that the spring sports season is underway. We're especially delighted that spring is here at all. We had a seemingly endless winter with no redeeming qualities.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Let's celebrate the peace of North Dakota

(image from "pow-wow")
North Dakota is a most unpretentious place. My own familiarity is with the eastern edge. I'm not talking about Fargo, I'm talking about I-29 going north to Grand Forks. I can still remember some of the billboards. We cruised along listening to Garner Ted Armstrong on the radio. This was in the 1970s. "We" was the musical group known as the Tempo Kings.
I-29 north to Grand Forks seemed such a peaceful world unto itself. Such is the nature of North Dakota. It might easily be known as the state of wide open spaces, except that Montana seems to own that distinction.
North Dakota? It doesn't seem to seek notoriety at all. It's a state where small towns are sprinkled along the countryside. The town of Rugby is at the exact center of the North American continent. ND is a rather celebrity-starved state that feels a big deal can be made of Lawrence Welk coming from there. Welk's music was a bastion for the older folk during the years of the "generation gap," remember?
So, ND doesn't much care if the likes of Manhattan-ites diss them a little.
I recently decided to pen a little song in recognition of North Dakota. It's simply called "North Dakota" and that's its refrain: "North Dakota, North Dakota." I hope it can make a positive impression. I don't have it recorded yet. This may be done in the near future, using the singing talents of Debra Gordon.
In the meantime, let's think further about the wonderful if understated assets of the state. I'm pleased to make reference to the rich Native American culture by including the powwows of springtime. The very first words refer to Medora as a place that fulfills artistically just as well as Broadway in New York City. I have sent my mother on two motorcoach trips that included a Medora show. Audience members are treated to the sight of elk grazing atop a nearby hill. Nothing like that in NYC.
Nor does the metro have anything like the grasslands to the west that have Theodore Roosevelt's name attached to them. Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota Badlands to hunt bison in the fall of 1883. It is said he "fell in love" with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. He invested in a ranch south of Medora. He launched a second ranch north of Medora. He wrote all about this for eastern newspapers and magazines.
TR became a crusader for sound conservation practices. The crusade became part of his eventual presidency. I'm not sure our current president is attuned at all to this. A National Park commemorates Teddy Roosevelt and his legacy. Theodore Roosevelt National Park comprises three geographically separated areas of Badlands in western North Dakota. The grasslands predominate.
The Park's larger south unit lies alongside I-94 near Medora. My song has a reference to I-94 which goes east-west straight across the state. The Park received 753,880 recreational visitors in 2016, an increase of 30 percent from the previous year.
I'm pleased in my song to also acknowledge the wide Missouri River. The Missouri River in its whole is the longest in North America. More than ten major groups of Native Americans populated the watershed. They were mainly nomadic in lifestyle. The huge bison herds sustained them.
Long as the river is, it was not found to be that mythical (as it turned out) "Northwest Passage." Lewis and Clark were the first to travel the river's whole length. Passage or no, the Missouri turned into one of the main routes for the westward expansion of the U.S. in the 19th Century.
Trappers blazed trails in the early 1800s. Pioneers headed west en masse beginning in the 1830s. The covered wagons rumbled. Steamboats explored the river. Settlers worked to take over lands that had been occupied by Indians, leading to intense conflicts. The Missouri River became a resource for major hydroelectric power in the 20th Century.
Development has loomed as a threat to the kind of pristine environment that Teddy Roosevelt celebrated.
Here are the lyrics I have penned for "North Dakota":
 
"North Dakota"
by Brian Williams
 
No need to visit Broadway
Medora does it right
North Dakota, North Dakota
We've learned to do it our way
To make it like fine wine
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
We see the long horizon
As we cruise 94
North Dakota, North Dakota
Imagine all the bison
That roamed in days of yore
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
BRIDGE:
The Bakken has the oil that makes us go
The people of the North can make it flow
Just like the gold in them thar hills
The farmers all around can grow the wheat
A shining exhibition so complete
It does much more than pay the bills

A powwow makes it certain
That spring is in the air
North Dakota, North Dakota
And then the summer season
delights us with its fairs
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
Out west there is the grassland
Where Teddy left his mark
North Dakota, North Dakota
He knew it was the best plan
To make it all a Park
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
(repeat bridge)
 
We see the wide Missouri
A mirror to the sky
North Dakota, North Dakota
No need for you to hurry
When you are by her side
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
We feel the love in Fargo
The city not the flick
North Dakota, North Dakota
You can't beg, steal or borrow
The qualities of it
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
© Copyright 2017 Brian R. Williams

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Fool's Day is outdated occasion

The front page of the Morris Sun Tribune is ridiculous. This isn't said in a spirit of sour grapes. I'm referring to the April 1 edition, a date that tempted their staff to attempt humor on a juvenile level. If they read this they'll snicker at me. People in the old corporate media aren't receptive to criticism.
Let's start with consideration of "April Fool's Day" itself. Haven't you noticed that we don't hear much about that occasion anymore? Doesn't it, in fact, seem like a stupid, outdated occasion? Do you find any humor in the kind of jokes associated with it? Aren't you a little fearful that such jokes can be hurtful? What sort of satisfaction can anyone take in such foolish gestures?
April Fool's Day has faded partly because of the litigious tendencies in our society.
I remember when Neil Thielke was one of the pastors writing a pastor's column in the Morris paper. This was back when the paper was substantially larger, twice a week in fact. Neil's column represented some of the best journalism in the paper. He recalled telling some young people about the dangers of actually doing some of the things you might see in the movies. Hollywood is the dream factory. The actors themselves say "leave 'em laughing." The expression is meant to show the line drawn between themselves and their audience. What's on the screen is make-believe, even for movies that claim to be "based on" or "inspired by" reality.
Is it legitimate to engage in a "barroom brawl?" Is it innocuous behavior? Is it "boys will be boys?" Movies that I grew up with showed violent conflict. But if you break someone's nose in an altercation, the victim will seek medical help and the insurance company will want to know what outside party was responsible. The Neanderthal behavior will be shut down readily. Try some elaborate April Fool's joke on someone and you could be setting up some undesirable consequences for yourself. You might get sued.
Someone mentioned to me that elderly people could be misled by the Morris Sun Tribune front page. I'm getting to that age where I might not be as "hip" and I could be vulnerable.
I saw a headline that announced the trade of Tom Brady from New England to Buffalo. At the time I wasn't aware it was April 1 or April Fool's Day. I just wasn't conscious of it. I couldn't care less. But I saw the headline and immediately took it seriously. OK maybe I was thinking like an elderly person, taking things at face value too readily. Is it ridiculous on the face of it to believe Brady would be traded to Buffalo? It seems unusual and certainly worthy of big headlines. But preposterous? Harmon Killebrew ended up playing for Kansas City. Brady is up in years. Player movement in pro sports is always to be expected.
I sort of shrugged and just moved on with my reading, as I used a computer at the Morris Senior Citizens Center. More affirmation that I'm elderly. A couple days went by. I suddenly realized I wasn't hearing any more about the Brady trade. Ergo, it was an April Fool's gag! So what? What satisfaction could the perpetrators have taken? It was dumb. It was nothing but dumb, just like the front page of the Morris paper which if nothing else engaged in overkill.
If you really want to appreciate an April Fool's joke, such a joke should be subtle and maybe have some finesse, IMHO. But I would suggest, why even bother? I remember when a joke was pulled on a fellow at our DeToy's Restaurant, wherein he was given a fake winning lottery ticket. It resulted in genuine better feelings. Again, why bother with such a joke?
If April Fool's Day had the kind of high profile it once did, we'd hear a lot more patter in connection to it on TV, on the cable news channels. I recall hardly any acknowledgment.
The news connected to Donald Trump might be taken as some sort of cruel joke: the fact he ran as a populist but now is doing things quite in contradiction. Remember the endless debates? Were there any debates at all between Nixon and Humphrey or Nixon and McGovern? But in 2016 in our new media-saturated world, we get incessant debates which resulted in a truly dangerous man getting elected president. So what have we accomplished? What does April Fool's Day accomplish?
At least we're inching close to more pleasant weather, quite belatedly. Let's shelve the April Fool's Day foolishness. Mr. Thielke, do you agree?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Mom Martha is home again

Here's Martha Williams in her days managing the UMM post office.
The friends of Martha H. Williams will be happy to know she's home again. The past month and a half has been a real odyssey for her. I probably shouldn't share specifics about her health challenges, but I'll note that pneumonia in one lung was a highly complicating factor.
I give a grade of A-plus to the medical personnel of SCMC. Dr. Rapp of the Starbuck Clinic attended to her when her situation seemed most precarious. Dr. Lunzer attended to her during an emergency one evening where 4-5 nurses worked with her to temper the situation. I honestly thought she might die.
It was helpful for me that a high school classmate of mine was at SCMC with his mother at the same time. I won't type his name for privacy reasons. Though I won't list my mother's issues, I'll just say they were typical for someone of advanced age.
Dr. Rapp suggested a rehabilitation stay at a nursing home. I guess there wasn't room at our local nursing home. So it was off to Barrett, a situation that I at first wasn't enthused about. The daily commute wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The highway to the north is nice and smooth, having been worked on. I was careful to stay under 60 MPH and that's a good thing because I saw several "Smokeys" along the road. More than once I saw them turn their lights on, for a motorist other than me. Maybe the smooth highway tempts people to speed.
It has always been a problem in outstate Minnesota, on a smooth, lightly traveled highway on a sunny day, to get a "lead foot." It happens almost without awareness. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Cruise control solves that. But sometimes you have to disengage that to deal with other vehicles.
I remember once I was just east of Cyrus in the Sun Tribune van when a Smokey did a U-turn and pulled me over. I got just a warning. But the experience was chafing because the officer scolded me rather seriously because of something I did as he pulled me over. I reached to the floor of the van. I did that because I often chose to put my wallet on the floor of the van, so as not to have to sit on it during an out of town drive. The Smokey must be disturbed by that because, in his mind, I might be reaching for a weapon? The thought wouldn't cross my mind. I've never lived in Chicago.
In the 1970s I got several speeding citations, what I would attribute - we all have excuses - to spending a fair amount of time on the Interstate at that stage in my life. I drove my prize 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado which we got from Bill Dripps.
Careful as I am now, it is hard to maintain the proper discipline 100 percent of the time, out here in peaceful rural Minnesota where the traffic can be light and we have wide open spaces. But heavens I'm no Bill Janklow with my attitudes about this.
So, Mom and I spent time at the Barrett Care Center, following Dr. Rapp's directive or suggestion. It really was essential. It was harrowing for a time and then Mom, as she has always done in the past, stabilized. At present her condition is tender and I would not say she's completely out of the woods. But if past is precedent, she will be OK for the foreseeable future, maybe even improve more. It's so satisfying to note, yet it subjects me as the caregiver to no small amount of stress. I'm sure the health care professionals consider me a "helicopter" family member, to the point I need a little counseling sometimes. I'm inclined to think that family caregivers don't get enough empathy.
The drive between Morris and Barrett is an interesting one. It's certainly not like the drive between Glenwood and Sauk Centre! On Highway 59 we enjoy the sight of Pomme de Terre River and its lakes to the east. To the west we view the substantial wind farm.
All my life I have been struck by the rather odd entrance to Barrett. The road splits up with each portion having two lanes. So do I bear to the left or stay on the right? Frankly, a town the size of Barrett should not have confusing intersections.
The Barrett Care Center is a pretty ambitious facility. On the whole I was pleased. But I felt considerable anxiety over what the timetable for my mother's discharge would be. I was misled more than once. I began considering enlisting an attorney. I was worried the staff would set the bar too high, as it were, for approving discharge. I got nervous other whether my mother would have to stay there just because of having a bad day or a bad session with physical therapy.
My mother was rather "up and down" with her condition as you might well imagine with someone her age recovering from a bad health bout. She was having a bad day when I took her to Morris to see her personal physician once. So, any enthusiasm I might share about the Barrett Care Center is tempered by what I had to go through. Finally we got official word about her impending release. I made sure Mom truly wanted to go home. She made it clear. We do have home care provisions through Knute Nelson.
My mother showed an interesting trait through all her recent health travail: she reverted back to speaking the Swedish language, the original language she learned. Her parents emigrated from Sweden. Mom grew up in Brainerd which was a company town with the railroad at the time. She played with the band at ceremonies in connection to the Brainerd National Guard being called for duty in World War II. It's a tragic story because the Guardsmen were captured by the Empire of Japan in the Philippines.
Douglas MacArthur said "I shall return." He should have said "we shall return." MacArthur was greeted with a parade after he was fired by Harry Truman. But he flopped miserably when trying to run for president. My late father said "Americans were afraid he'd get us into another war." We too often associate our experience in WWII with glory and success. Truth be told, war is all hell.
I wish to acknowledge a nurse at Barrett Care Center who I thought was so totally capable and warm with her nature, all the time. Her name is Melissa. I don't know her last name. I will miss seeing her. I'll also warmly remember the house cat named "Jingles." I remember at our Morris Public Library, early when Melissa Yauk was here, they tried having a house cat. All it took was one complaint to end that. How unfortunate.
It is possible based on Mom's track record that she will continue improving. Of course we don't know - only the Lord knows. My father reached age 96. I would say they've done OK.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com