History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A little hyperbole behind "The Greatest Generation?"

Our church pastor recently wondered if there truly was a "greatest generation." The term "greatest generation" was offered to us by Tom Brokaw in a book. We bought the term and its meaning. It's so warm and affectionate, how could you not?
Each generation has its attributes we must honor as they begin leaving us. "The Greatest Generation" was a perfect book for my generation to buy for our parents. I smile, though, as I wonder to what extent they actually read it. It's a nice book to have in theory, but I doubt that it was ever much of a page-turner.
I'm reminded of my old college friend Brad, the "ranger," talking about B.F. Skinner's book "Beyond Freedom and Dignity." Most of us had already read Skinner in high school or early in college. The book piqued our interest, or the title did anyway. We'd buy "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" with its title appealing to the philosopher in us. Then, six months later, we'd discover the book "with the receipt still in it," Brad chortled.
I suppose many copies of "The Greatest Generation" went through the same thing. It was heartwarming just to see the book with that endearing title lying around the house. Like a paperweight.
We all know the story of the "greatest generation." These were the folks born when destiny would take them through all sorts of travail. First it was the Great Depression. These folks learned to watch every nickel they had. They kept that habit even when times improved. My late father was always keen on the price of every little thing. Dave Nelson noticed that and commented on it to me once.
My father Ralph was a 1934 high school graduate (in Glenwood). Those were the John Dillinger years. Men became gangsters because they couldn't stand "the grind" of trying to get by legitimately. You know, some of that feeling is hard to resist today. Seriously, in the 1930s the adversity and heartbreak could be intense. The economy was still somewhat staggered when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Daily life in 1940 was absent so many of the conveniences and luxuries we take for granted today. Uncle Sam would begin taking care of a whole lot of young U.S. men. We had to go fight the Nazis and Japanese. When all that was over, "the greatest generation" settled into ordinary life, most thankfully, and created the great U.S. middle class. Their children became the boomers with traits so different from their elders.
Our pastor at First Lutheran recognized that "the greatest generation" answered its challenges. It was nudged along by draft notices, of course. So many of the young men didn't make it back. I recently wrote a post for this site about Floyd Lange, who lost his life when Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked the USS Luce.
The young men had to be terrified entering the service and facing the prospect of combat - guns and the other hardware of war designed by the devil to destroy human life.
Courage vs. trepidation
Post-war the survivors spoke proudly of their service. That's wholly understandable and commendable. But I'm reminded of "The Great and Powerful Oz," who, when addressing the cowardly lion at the end, said "back where I come from, men march in parades with their (accoutrements of war service) and they have no more courage than you." The lion needed a "testimonial."
Brokaw's book was like a testimonial for a whole generation. The generation climbed past adversity, never mind they would have given anything to avoid that unpleasant stuff.
Our church pastor suggested there was an element of hyperbole in the book title: "The Greatest Generation." An obscure blogger suggested that Brokaw might have been author in name only, at least to an extent. I remember a panel on the old Don Imus morning show on MSNBC discussing this. A mini-firestorm erupted. Brokaw was, after all, a member of the media elite "club" of the time. The club had the kind of primacy it no longer has (due to media fragmentation). Its members were sort of a pretentious fraternity. They watched each other's backs. They pounced on that blogger who did have some rough edges in his writing - a couple minor factual errors for example. But the essence of his critique was probably spot-on.
In publishing circles, a big name gives "cred" to a book. It propels sales. Brokaw was a network news anchorman. He is a well-read and hard-working person. But in reality, many books like "The Greatest Generation" are produced by a team. There are young researchers and interns who perform what might be called the "grunt" work. The celebrity author is too busy with other commitments to get buried in that tedious stuff.
Mark Levin of the radio airwaves has pointed his finger at Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly "doesn't have time" to write these books that bear his name, Levin argues rather pointedly. I find these book titles rather odd, always talking about "killing" someone. "Killing Jesus" etc.
We can overlook how much very hard work goes into producing successful creative products. That includes music. "The Monkees" of my generation were assailed in some circles because they didn't produce all their own music on records. They were assailed because they were conspicuous and popular. Fact is, "studio musicians" were enlisted to enhance the recordings of many popular groups. The Beach Boys did it. However, the Monkees were not just a popular music group, they were clearly an extension of my generation with their irreverent image. Thus they were a target for criticism. I wish the four souls in that group had just come out and said "we're primarily actors." Honesty is the best policy. They did know how to play their own instruments.
Our Al Franken, U.S. Senator, showed total honesty when disclosing he had a "team" behind one of his books. He even had a group photo! He of course was the primary member of that team. But he acknowledged in effect that a major non-fiction book is best done with input from several people. Kudos to him.
I remember Joe Scarborough laughing one morning about how whenever accusations of plagiarism are made, the reaction from the author is to "blame an intern!"
Brokaw discusses demographics
Brokaw is a sincere person who often talks about the decline of what he calls "The Great Plains states." He talks about the courthouses that are 20 miles apart, each with its own auditor, and how the system "probably made sense in the horse and buggy days." Not so much today. Counties are doing lots of consolidating, according to frequent media reports. The process will only accelerate.
I question the substantial renovation of our Stevens County courthouse. Infrastructure is becoming less important in government. The change is irresistible. You can either go along with it or be dragged.
Each generation is challenged to keep up with what's going on. "The greatest generation" was aghast when rock 'n' roll music started coming to the forefront. The movie "Mars Attacks!" had "grandma" listening to Slim Whitman records. Those older folks also liked Mitch Miller and Lawrence Welk. The Welk thing became kind of a stereotype. My generation propped up that stereotype when trying to argue that older folks were too detached, living in sort of a bubble. We can forget how true that was.
We are all human and have human weakness. Yes, even that "greatest generation." Those older folks had power that they could have exercised to try to get our troops home from Viet Nam. The kids protested en masse but we just didn't have the power. Our parents did, along with their mainstream religious denominations that were all too complacent. Us youth became indifferent about religion, many of us anyway. Religion wasn't doing enough to straighten out flaws in our world.
The word "irrelevant" entered our vernacular in the 1960s. We began to see the mainstream Christian denominations as "irrelevant." Young men were getting gunned down in Viet Nam. We became idealistic with the issues that really seemed to matter.
"The greatest generation" seemed consumed by their own parochial world. But we must understand: those people were just thankful having their amenities. They never wanted to shake things up. Beneath their steady veneer, there was still insecurity. We must understand what shaped them. They were a great generation in so many ways. But they were simply human. They wanted what we all want. We can say each generation has those qualities.
Transformation always lies ahead. It's how we react that reveals our character.
The pastor at my church, incidentally, is Paul Erdal. Our First Lutheran church served a great many people at "Luther's Eatery" at the 2014 Prairie Pioneer Days. Pastor Erdal gets his points across articulately. He could easily be a "TV pastor." I think he's too sincere for that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 24, 2014

morris mn - Thoughts in midst of our 2014 summer

Nature's wondrous colors in Morris (B.W. photo)
It's the height of summer or dead of summer, depending on your outlook. The time between Prairie Pioneer Days and the county fair represents that time of year.
This post is composed of items that recently appeared on my "I Love Morris" site, but were presented on an "addendum" basis with sports reviews, therefore you probably haven't seen them unless you were interested in the sports. Sometimes I do a sports review and find I also have a non-sports topic I'm eager to share on. I present it under a subhead.
Wildflowers by Pomme de Terre River (B.W. photo)
Enjoy what remains of the summer of 2014. You might find me (and Mom) seated in front of the rest cottage at the county fair. Please say "hi." 
Let there be music!
In the old days, like when I was in high school, many schools had quite thriving marching bands in summer. They traveled around, having great fun of course. They spiced many a community celebration. Our Morris High School band did its part. Those days are getting lost through the mists of time.
Close your eyes and try to imagine an MAHS marching band in the Prairie Pioneer Days parade. It would be right at the front. The approaching sound of the drum cadence might give you goose bumps. I guess it's too good to be true. Kids developed other interests as the years went by.
John Woell was in charge of the last great chapter of the Morris High School marching band. By the end of the 1970s, that heyday had passed. Kids were going to sports camps. Perhaps these programs were getting unreasonably expensive. (What isn't?)
Some towns hung in there like Litchfield. I had the chance to interview the Litchfield band director toward the end of my newspaper career. He talked about a recent Litchfield grad who excelled in sports and across the board, and this individual said that of all those activities, marching band was most memorable. It instills discipline. It's actually quite physically rigorous, especially for the drummers.
What enrichment these groups provide for their communities! They can even do an outdoor concert without marching. Part of the band could be up on the Killoran bandshell stage (at East Side Park) and the rest in front. What a magnificent sound! What great excitement! Hopefully the surrounding neighborhoods wouldn't mind.
Years ago I suggested that the Hancock High marching band come to Morris for Prairie Pioneer Days. Yes, I know this would have the effect of "showing up" the Morris school. Let's forget about that. Fact is, the Hancock band gets in shape for the July 4 celebration in Hancock. I used to be amazed how sharp this band looked and sounded considering this was their only "gig" of the year. This marching band has all the standard features. The PPD parade watchers would be thrilled seeing this.
I have heard the old refrain: "Oh, the kids don't stick around (through the rest of the summer)." Oh really? Where do they all go? I think this is an exaggerated excuse. I think the kids would have fun and find it highly rewarding to polish their routine for the Morris appearance. It's certainly no long trip here.
When I was in high school, we went to Moorhead and Winnipeg among many other places. We valued it. I remember that when we were in Winnipeg, one of the trombone players, initials G.B., seemed to want to watch TV during every available moment in his hotel room. I finally asked about this. Someone told me this individual belonged to the Apostolic Christian Church which I guess prohibited TV watching. I fail to see how watching "Bonanza" could be considered immoral or sacrilegious.
There is so much in this world I don't understand. I don't understand a recent action by the Morris Area school board. I don't understand the applause from teachers in response to that action. But if I was so smart, I'd still be with the newspaper.
All hail soccer!
It almost seems like a media conspiracy: all this attention devoted to world soccer of late. Memo to you younger folks: Every few years we get this meme that soccer has finally arrived in America. It never seems to stick, though.
Remember that in the 1970s, soccer exploded in popularity in Minnesota with the Minnesota Kicks professional team playing at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington. Freddie Goodwin was coach. The Kicks took off with faddish popularity. Actually the wave lasted longer than a mere fad.
But as I said, soccer never seems to stick. The Kicks couldn't make the transition from the beautiful, pastoral setting of Met Stadium to the basement-like atmosphere of the Metrodome. The Kicks are merely the fodder for nostalgia now.
What kind of organized soccer exists in Morris, if any? I remember a time when some rather robust youth programs were going. We saw games on that expansive old playground east of the defunct East Elementary School.
There's an area to the south of the present-day Morris Area High School that would be quite fine for soccer.
It's especially important that boys have the option of playing soccer. That's because they need an attractive option to football. Football gets worse media scrutiny all the time with the nonstop revelations about semi-crippled former players, or fully crippled. A herculean effort will be needed to try to get this nation to go into "withdrawal" from football. Progress will have to be done with baby steps. I do see it coming, though.
Let's get some enthusiasm revved up for organized youth soccer here in Motown! The girls have it good with volleyball, a healthy and entertaining sport all around. Boys, quit bashing your heads in. Cross country? Those little guys will keep going like the Energizer Bunny.
All hail soccer in 2014! Get going out on that "pitch."

PPD is in the books for 2014
The 2014 Prairie Pioneer Days seemed like a quite nice celebration. It serves its purpose as a midsummer community gathering for an outstate community. It doesn't seem to have all the features it once did. The turnout may be a tad diminished. But no matter.
A light rainfall caused us to leave the park a little sooner than we had planned on Saturday. Thus we missed most of the community band performance.
I would like to suggest a more ambitious community band. That's easy for me to say. I told Mr. Mike Odello to check the website for the Eastern Iowa Brass Band (EIBB) to see if the Morris area might have the potential for supporting something like this. A group like this would be tailor-made for the Killoran bandshell at East Side Park. Let's make those acoustic panels at the stage useful.
The EIBB is much more formal and structured than our community band. It travels for competitions. An old acquaintance of mine, Joan Force, is a long-time member of the EIBB. We're trumpet players.
Am I all talk and no action? Well, in 1971 here in Motown, I played in the "German band" as well as a larger ensemble for the grand Morris Centennial. The German band roamed around town (including into the Met Lounge). The larger group played under the reconstructed "alfalfa arch." A large photo of that reconstructed arch is on a wall at Willie's Super Valu. I could have been in that photo but missed it.
John Woell directed us musicians for the Centennial. Let's see a nice large formal musical group get organized for the Morris Sesquicentennial in 2021. If we're ambitious enough.
Del Sarlette has long suggested with tongue in cheek that Morris have an "apathy festival." Problem is, an organizing meeting gets scheduled and no one shows up, Del says. Rimshot.
If we're apathetic for the Sesquicentennial, there's no hope for us.
I hope our Morris Area school district gets back on its feet by then, with leaders who aren't getting into serious trouble. Is that too much to ask?
Everyone seemed to have fun for the Prairie Pioneer Days parade on Sunday. If I were to nit-pick, I'd say the politicians were too overbearing. I can remember five who were in the parade. I don't mind as much seeing incumbents in the parade, like Collin Peterson. It's annoying when a campaign lackey passes out literature along the route. All that stuff becomes litter. I am not a "Backer backer." Let's all support Democrat Jay McNamar!
I normally don't complain about minor price inflation, but I thought the $3.50 for an ordinary chocolate shake at the shake trailer was outrageous.
It seems Luther's Eatery has less competition than it used to. I hope First Lutheran Church raked in the $.
Siblings and their names
The Jergenson boys are presenting the same problem for the Willmar newspaper as the Holland sisters. It's not enough to refer to one of the Jergensons as "B. Jergenson" in the boxscore. One is "Brady" and the other is "Bryce," and in the case of the Holland sisters we had "Beth" and "Becca." You'll note that not only is the first initial the same, the first two letters of the first names are the same.
The system of using initials (for subsequent references) is common procedure for newspapers. You see, newspapers have limited space as they try to squeeze things in as much as they can. That constraint is solved with the Internet. Sometimes in the Willmar paper you'll see results of an athletic event, like a large wrestling tournament, where the type size is so small, I wonder why they even bother. It's unreasonably small and not just for people who need reading glasses.
The names "Bryce" and "Brady" should just be spelled out in full in all references. It was the same with "Beth" and "Becca." Maybe you just can't tell the players without a program!
What's up with the school?
Writing about the Morris Legion team puts my mind on high school matters, where obviously things have not been placid over the past few months. The waters have been turbulent. Our high school principal, a man I have never met, was forced out of his office back around Christmastime - not a merry Christmas indeed - and had to go on extended paid leave. That's nothing but bad news for taxpayers, I assume.
But hey, government entities can always get the money, right? Just like our library, which is hobbling along right now with much less than 100 percent of its assets being provided. I assume we as City of Morris taxpayers are supporting the library all along, even if it's hobbled.
As for the school, we of course got the bombshell news a few days ago that criminal charges vs. the principal were dropped, mysteriously. It's mysterious of course because we are getting no communication as to what the "new evidence" is. It's of public interest because the former defendant was our high school principal, a very important local official or public figure. I think we really are owed an explanation on this.
We deserve such an explanation because our school year was seriously disrupted. I'm sure there were severe logistical challenges for the school. I mean, for the principal to just be ejected, in effect, suddenly from his office - man, that's drastic. The school had to have been seriously inconvenienced, even if that's being denied. What would you expect them to say? "Man, things really went to hell." We won't hear that.
Everyone is going to try to put a gloss over this, and that especially includes the county attorney's office. The party line right now among the "tag team" of prosecutors and the police has been back-patting all around. "Everyone did an outstanding job" etc.
Well, I'll differ on that. If "new information" was to be garnered, it should have been garnered sooner. A man faced the prospect of at least 30 years in prison. Can you imagine what that must be like? And now, it's over and we're supposed to progress back to normalcy? Initially people are going to be relieved and will want to "get past this." But if you think there are not scars or won't be a cloud, then you must have been born yesterday. What a mess.
Motown ought to be above this. And now our superintendent is rowing away in his lifeboat.
Let's look at our community, sans hype
Sometimes I think we have the Garrison Keillor syndrome in Morris, feeling convinced we're all above average. Keillor's fictional town certainly pats all its young people on the back. The kids are all wonderfully talented, at least in their parents' minds.
We can rationalize this by saying self-esteem is important. Studies have been done showing that even though USA education lags on a worldwide basis, our kids' perception of themselves and by extension their schools is much more generous than that. Superiority seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or is it?
Our Morris is a little like an isolated island. Because of that we can create our own delusions. The surrounding towns have declined or rather they have adjusted, adjusted to becoming quite nice bedroom communities or havens for retirees. The towns are happy places but in some cases, not what they used to be. As a newspaper person I covered countless lively special events at the Alberta school. What has become of the Alberta school? Also in my career I covered Cyrus High School events including gala graduations. Such things seem to be gone with the wind. Starbuck has been through a similar scenario.
"The cheese stands alone" in Morris where we have the grand or maybe grandiose Morris Area School. The campus seems a bit much to me. Somehow we got all that built so I suppose we should thump our chest.
We got our absolutely state of the art football field built - look at the artificial turf. Big Cat Stadium is a shrine built to a sport, football, that is absolutely under siege today. If education reflects enlightenment, we should realize that football is a throwback sport that increasingly seems ill-advised. Its whole culture seems anachronistic. It reflects a time when macho males occupied a special privileged circle - boys blessed with bodies that were bigger and stronger. So what? We needn't pay attention or keep reinforcing that culture.
Morris as a whole projects a feeling of being the "cock of the walk," affording the best of most anything. Maybe compared to the small hamlets around us (and getting smaller), such effusive pride is called for.
Our family occasionally visits Fergus Falls and I can't help but think this is just as progressive a town as Morris. I would readily compare its assets with Morris. I will bet they have a public library that has been open all summer. I'll bet it's a quite fine library.
Here, because of a whopping dose of negligence by someone, the library has been scarred by a rather routine weather incident. The city blames a roofing company but I'm not sure this is the last word.
That incident should have put up a red flag, reminding everyone to be vigilant about water damage risks. I have been vigilant around our own house. But weeks after the library debacle, the very same thing happened to the Catholic school, maybe even worse. It takes herculean efforts to remedy this problem. The cost? It would be interesting to know the figure for both buildings. Insurance is involved - I should certainly hope so - but insurance companies don't just routinely cut huge checks without ramifications for the parties involved. Rain may be an act of God but these disasters were not acts of God. It wasn't too much to ask for preparedness to be exercised.
Morris regularly proclaims its fantastic quality of life. We can certainly brag about UMM and justifiably so. But I wonder how the community is really faring if you were to take UMM out of the equation. Too few people look at our community that way.
It's in UMM's interests for the outside community to thrive and be inviting. Yet we have only one real grocery store in the county. Coborn's used to be an asset with its 24-hour schedule. Coborn's is now a building on the edge of town with a message on the side proclaiming that it's open 24 hours. Except the building is vacated.
We have a McDonald's restaurant but its prices are constantly going up (and portion sizes are reportedly getting smaller). McDonald's has a monopoly of sorts too. We used to have a Burger King.
Where can people enjoy outdoor swimming around Morris? Come on, tell me. We used to have an earthen pool out at Pomme de Terre Park that for a while at least, was quite the rage. There was even a concession stand out there. (I heard the concession stand workers were paid ridiculously well.) Lifeguards were positioned. That pool would be right along the bike trail that circles the area.
The pool was closed and deteriorated to a swamp. I might have been one of the last people to swim there. (I got a bloodsucker.) Today there's a mere "spray park" that doesn't seem quite the same.
Morris is located close to Alexandria where the lakes are a huge attraction and swimming abounds, like with the Lake Latoka public beach. Alexandria is tempting for Morris residents for many reasons: its array of dining establishments, big box stores and lakes recreation. Let's be honest: Morris really does not compare well.
This is a town where you have to be scared to see a police car. I doubt that such fear circulates in Alexandria.
I recently contacted our local humane society, a spokesman of which in a terse manner referred me to the Lakes Area Humane Society in Alexandria. "Our kennel is full," she said. I'm glad I have never made a monetary donation to our humane society. Incidentally, we were undecided about keeping a stray cat but we decided to keep it for the foreseeable future, if it can become a little less "hyper." We have had him to the vet! We call him "Toby."
Alexandria has a new public school campus, right? And I'll bet Alex has school administrators who are non-controversial and non-notorious with their behavior. Morris certainly can't claim that! So, I'm not sure we abide by Garrison Keillor's criteria for being so wondrously above-average, unless said perception is only in our own heads (which I think it is).
Maybe "I Love Morris" for the intangibles!
Levity: always therapeutic
Here's a favorite humorous story that I believe was originally brought to my attention by Della DeGier, office manager for the Morris Sun Tribune. Della is deceased. She and I had an old-fashioned workplace sense of humor. That kind of irreverence has been getting ushered out. Joe Tetrault, also deceased, used to address Della as "Delilah."
There was a young man once with a passion for baked beans, although they had a rather unpleasant side effect with him. He met a young lady and fell in love, whereupon he realized that she would stand for none of this and that once he got married, he'd have to sacrifice the beans. Then one day he was driving home and his car broke down. He parked it and decided to walk, whereupon he passed a diner where the aroma of freshly baked beans overwhelmed him. He figured he could have some and then walk off any ill effects, so he ordered three big servings. He putt-putted his way home, where he was greeted by his wife, who informed him that she had a wonderful surprise awaiting him, but she'd have to blindfold him. She led him into the dining room and sat him down at the table, his blindfold securely on. Then the phone rang and she said she'd be back in a couple minutes. In the privacy of the room, the young man had some unfinished business so he lifted up a leg and "let fire," followed by some other blasts until there was a real "prize winner." He grabbed his napkin and fanned the air to disperse the ill effects. Then his wife returned and said "I have the most wonderful surprise for you tonight." She removed the blindfold, whereupon the man was treated to the sight of several of the couple's closest friends, all seated around the dinner table next to him - guests for dinner that night.
On that note. . .
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bump in road for Morris Legion boys: 2-0 defeat

Morris Legion baseball had a setback Thursday (7/17) at the hands of Osakis. Osakis has the top seed in District 7 North of Division II. A formidable challenge was expected, and Osakis did not disappoint. They sent Ky Zimmel to the pitching mound. Zimmel was overwhelming much of the time. Not only did Morris fail to score, our batters went down on strikes often. Zimmel achieved 14 strikeouts as Osakis won 2-0. He twirled a two-hitter.
Morris is having to regroup in this double-elimination affair. Now the task is to play at 5 p.m. Saturday in Wheaton against either Glenwood or Eden Valley-Watkins.
The only Morris batter to have Zimmel figured out was Brady Jergenson. Jergenson rapped a single and double, but no other Morris batters hit safely. It was Zimmel's day. He walked only one.
Osakis plated one run in the first inning and one in the fourth. RBI base hits off the bats of Mike Herringhsaw and Jarrett Weisphening did the job. Drew Searing had a triple for the victor. Osakis played errorless ball while our Post 29 team had one error. The Osakis hit total was a modest five.
Joey Dufault was quite steady on the mound for Post 29. Dufault fanned two batters, walked two and gave up five hits in his six innings of work. Both Osakis runs were earned.
Morris enters the Saturday game with a 9-6 season record.
Success by NL-Spicer too
New London-Spicer stayed alive in the playoffs with an 8-1 triumph over Wheaton. NL-Spicer was in the losers bracket due to the 4-3 loss it was dealt by Morris. NL-Spicer felt sting in that game by some bad fortune: a ground rule double ruling that appeared to deny them a run.
NL-Spicer wasted no time establishing an edge in the contest against Wheaton. NL-Spicer raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. The onslaught grew with one run each in the second and fourth and two in the sixth. Ryan Vraa, the player who hit that pivotal ground rule double vs. Morris, continued showing his offensive prowess, this time with three hits in four at-bats and two RBIs. Lucas Nordmeyer was a perfect three-for-three. Wyatt White had a two-for-three line, and Trey Austvold and Tyson Gislason each had a hit. Gislason drove in a run.
In all the NL-S bats produced ten hits, and that robust number was complemented by zero errors. Wheaton had four hits and one error. Braedon Lampe had two of the Wheaton hits.
Nordmeyer got the pitching win with his six innings of work. He fanned four batters, walked three and gave up four hits. Jarrett Hatlestad wrapped things up with one inning of pitching (one strikeout, zero walks, zero hits allowed). Cameron Maudal took the pitching loss.
NL-Spicer has the No. 4 seed and came out of Thursday with a 6-6 season mark. NL-S will vie in Wheaton Saturday like Morris. At 2 p.m., the NL-Spicer nine will take the field to play either Clinton or Brandon-Evansville.
Play ball! We're in those lazy, hazy days of summer when it's a delight to be at the ballpark.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Westward ho!" through western MN in 19th Century

Image from "Family Search" site
The trek from St. Cloud to Dakota territory was filled with challenge and danger. Why would human beings court such risk? It's in our nature. There's a reason why kids were fed such a diet of "western" stories on TV. Boys especially were captivated by the rough-hewn approach to life, the raw sense of right and wrong and how justice could be meted out.
This was life in territorial America, on the cusp of statehood but not quite there, a time that became fodder for Clint Eastwood movies. A judge is exasperated by no court of appeals.
You'll see a big rock at East Side Park in Morris commemorating those rough-hewn days. It tells us about the Wadsworth Trail. Named for a U.S. Civil War general, the trail was an artery west. It was an artery into a world that would have captivated Eastwood and novelist Louis L'Amour. It brought people to the Morris area before the railroad. "Morris" hadn't been coined.
The Wadsworth Trail served its purpose fine during its relatively brief time. Are there any traces still evident around Stevens County? In the mid-20th Century, there were.
The commemorative rock with plaque might be better positioned out where the trail was located. I don't think there's any commemorative marking out there. The trail passed by Wintermute Lake. The lake cannot be seen from North Hwy. 59. Some very narrow roads snake out toward this lake which still has a pretty pristine atmosphere. It's not a recreational lake. But the setting is quiet, removed and pleasant for people who have built out there like the McCannons.
"Sunday drivers" might find themselves at the McCannons' simply because it's "the end of the road," a dead end. I'm told the McCannons occasionally expect such an "accidental visitor," so you needn't be apologetic if you encounter the genial Roger out in his yard. He tells me snow isn't a problem for travel in the winter, because of the preponderance of trees. There's little drifting. This area is about four miles north of Morris.
The commemorative marker at East Side Park was erected in 1929 by the Wadsworth Trail Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Grace Hall helped keep alive the history of the trail. This she did with a paper she presented at the time the DAR received its charter. Hall's father often traveled the trail.
Grace shared the background of how, after the U.S. Civil War, two companies of soldiers were stationed at Fort Wadsworth, on the Sisseton Reservation, in what was then the Territory of Dakota. I wonder why we couldn't have ended up with one U.S. state named Dakota instead of "North" and "South." A comedian impersonating George W. Bush once commented on the continued schism involving the Koreas, and said "we haven't even been able to unify North and South Dakota." Rimshot.
Fort Wadsworth would later be re-named Fort Sisseton. Soldiers were sent to the fort to prevent the Sioux Indians from leaving their reservation and joining the Indians farther west. (A family joke of ours is to say "furthermore we shall go farther.")
These Native Americans were the same ones who joined in the Sioux massacre in Minnesota during the Civil War. What a decade: the 1860s. Was God calling for some grand punishment of our people? For slavery?
The soldiers also positioned themselves at the fort to prevent trouble among the Indians themselves, to protect them from molestation.
Grace Hall shared how, in order to supply the soldiers, the U.S. government laid out a route from St. Cloud to Fort Wadsworth. This "Wadsworth Trail" was traveled alike by government officials and traders. The government and traders sent supplies up the Mississippi River to St. Cloud. There the goods were loaded on wagons or sleds and transported by teams of horses or oxen to the distant fort. The route passed through Sauk Centre and then to Lake Osakis, Osakis being the name of an Indian chief in the vicinity.
Travelers continued toward the area we call today Stevens County and Morris. Here, respite and relief was afforded by Gager's Station. I hope Gager's Station gets ample attention when the time comes for our Morris Sesquicentennial in 2021. We ought to start planning for that. How about a skit or song recognizing this chapter of area history, involving such intrepid souls, who we can visualize so easy sitting around their campfires. Eating baked beans?
Going beyond Gager's, the intrepid folks arrived at Frisby's Grove. Here is where traces of the trail could still be found in the mid-20th Century. Travelers continued west as if captivated by a spell, and then came upon a temperamental stream called "Big Muddy." It was sluggish in dry times but a torrent of muddy water after heavy rains in that bygone time when there were no fields to absorb the water.
Big Muddy had muddy banks and "a well-nigh bottomless bed," Ms. Hall reported. "Travelers would go as far as their struggling teams could take them, perhaps through the stream, perhaps only to mid-stream where the drivers would have to get out, unhitch the teams and let them get to more solid footing, leaving the wagons mired. Then perhaps they carried the loads to firmer ground and by means of ropes and chains, manpower, horse or ox power, finally pulled the wagons from their muddy resting place."
"Toqua" synonymous with "Graceville"
Onward west. The travelers of all stripes, adventurous souls all, finally got to Lake Toqua. We hear "Toqua" and think of Graceville. It's a Sioux word meaning "fight." The placid lake was actually the site of many battles between the Sioux and their Indian foes. Grace informed us that "the name of the town on the shore of the lake was changed from Toqua to Graceville when His Grace, Bishop Ireland, brought his colony of settlers from Connemara, Ireland, and located them near this lake."
Actually "Toqua" would have been a nice name, IMHO.
The next destination was Browns Valley. And after that, "The Agency," now Sisseton, where the Indian agent stayed, where the school and store were located, and where the "whites" on the reservation lived.
"On more than one occasion when the Indians threatened an outbreak, someone from the Agency crept through the dark to the fort to bring aid to the whites," Grace wrote. "The glitter of the soldiers' arms, the call of the bugle, the tramp of marching feet as the soldiers responded to the call, subdued the flame of battle in the breasts of the war-like young braves." Author Ethelyn Pearson has used the term "young bucks."
Finally the travelers got to their "Emerald City" destination: Fort Wadsworth. It was, as Grace described, "the end of many a journey to complete which called for every reserve of nerve and strength possessed by travelers as they battled with storm, flood, blizzard or cold to reach the shelter of the fort." Train travel rendered the trail unneeded.
For years the settlers could see signs of the old artery west, and they must have imagined all the travail and adventures those travelers experienced. Some children who were playing discovered a sword pushed into the ground which was determined to be a gravesite.
A stronger force: time itself
Ms. Hall wrote that the trail "has given way to the march of time, whose encroachments nothing can resist."
The Wadsworth Trail Chapter of the DAR had its officers published in the Diamond Jubilee publication for Morris. I see familiar names like "Mrs. J.M. Killoran, Mrs. Wm. Coombe and Mrs. J.C. Morrison." How quaint: women didn't have their first names published. They were like extensions of their husbands. Today we'd find this offensive. We must be cautious about judging the people and culture of that earlier time. People are always a product of the culture in which they're immersed.
I have even heard a historian warning about judging the white people of the Antebellum U.S. South. They are products of their culture, having had various notions firmly instilled in them. There's no point pressing any issues of the Civil War today. The Union won. The Union obliterated the contrary forces. We see a monument to that commitment at Summit Cemetery in Morris: the spellbinding Sam Smith statue, about which I have written three posts.
I am proud to write too about the Wadsworth Trail. A mere cursory history appears on that rock at East Side Park. Onlookers can hardly begin to imagine the panorama of wild and dangerous surroundings those travelers faced. It was the opening of a continent, a manifestation of man's unbridled, restless spirit - not to be contained.
Mrs. J.M. Killoran was Eleanor who inspired the bandshell at East Side Park. The charming Eleanor was bathing in nostalgia when she and her son Skip pushed for that. A bandshell had existed previously at the park. Her thoughts were commendable although I have always had reservations about the structure. It's too big and obtrusive for the amount of use it gets - negligible in the scheme of things. A park is supposed to be a "breath of fresh air" open space. Just leave it open, please.
Mark McCollar once suggested to me that a "food court" might have been a nicer thing than the bandshell. I agree.
How about a more ambitious band?
It would help if we had a super well-organized community band that played at the park regularly, taking advantage of the acoustic tiles. We have a much more modest community band than that - I might say "rag-tag." We should have something like the Eastern Iowa Brass Band. Look it up online. My friend Joan Force of Marion IA is a long-time member.
Mrs. J.C. Morrison was part of the newspaper family of Morris. It's too bad that family doesn't still have the reins of the paper.
Mrs. Wm. Coombe was the wife of the man for whom Coombe Field was named: "Bill." I had him for seventh grade history. He liked referring to himself in the third person. Coombe Field has been taken over by weeds. It was a fine traditional football field. Just close your eyes and remember the fans, cheerleaders, band and players, along with the P.A. voice of Duane Kindschi carried by wind to the outreaches of the town! It's Friday night in Morris!
Today we have the very fancy Big Cat Stadium. Football is on precarious footing today due to the horrible health dangers we are increasingly becoming aware of.
The "encroachments of time" that Grace referenced have eliminated the Wadsworth Trail Chapter of the DAR. But we still have that commemorative rock at East Side Park. Come review it during the 2014 Prairie Pioneer Days.
It would be nice to see the "mini" alfalfa arch resurrected for PPD. The original huge arch in 1913 represented a significant chapter in Motown history. Time marches on.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com