Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Warning

This is a warning to all you witches out there!
by Charlie Leck

The photo above came in from a friend in South Carolina. Together we tracked what appears to be its original source in an effort to give out some credit. I thought it was clever and creative enough to be shared.

We don't get into decorating for this big night. In the 20 years we've lived here we've had trick-or-treaters twice -- and both times just one single group! Nevertheless, we stock up on candy and have a basket full in our foyer just in case.

Is it appropriate to wish someone a Happy Halloween? I don't know. Anyway, have a good day!

I leave you with this very frightening thought on this Halloween. Tom Emmer for Governor? It's a scary proposition!

At the moment here in Minnesota, the race has gotten very tight. I think polls are less trustworthy this year than I have ever thought so before. The local polling organizations are showing Mark Dayton with a 6 or 7 point lead over Emmer and that Tom Horner, the independent, is another 10 points or so behind Emmer. I don't believe either of those propositions at all. I think Horner is much stronger than that and is likely to pick up a large block of people who are undecided but likely to vote. I also think there is no spread between Dayton and Emmer, putting them in a virtual tie.

Could there be another tie and recount in Minnesota, as there was in the Senate race in 2008, which took nearly 6 months to award Al Franken his seat in the Senate? (That was a terrible sentence, but it's Halloween and I'm just a ghost of myself today.) It's also another scary possibility.

You folks around the country, keep your eyes on Minnesota on election night and see if I am not correct about this gubernatorial race. It is going to be very, very close and, as someone once said, "the last could be first!"


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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Emmer Strong in Southeast

Driving through much of the southeastern part of the state in the last few days gives me the eerie feeling that Emmer may carry the day down there!
by Charlie Leck

I made two trips down to Rochester this week, taking different and very back-road routes both times. I didn't like what I saw in the farm fields and small towns of southeastern Minnesota.

I'm aware that the polling organizations have shown Dayton with a 6 to 8 point lead in the race, but those farm fields down there gave me some doubts. Everywhere I looked there were large, blue and white signs out in the fields with the name EMMER staring off them at me. I was trying to relax and shake politics from my brain, but the fields were caterwauling at me: "Emmer! Emmer! Emmer!"

The signs were like a nightmare from which I was to awaken, except this was real and I needed to understand it. I kept my eyes opened.

Just east of New Trier, as I approached a farm, I saw signs for a "pumpkin sale" that was a quarter mile ahead. I slowed as I approached the farm and saw a woman -- very much a farm woman -- standing in her yard near a big pile of bright orange pumpkins. I turned into a large driveway and coasted up by the pile of squash and pumpkins. In the grass, in front of the farmhouse off to the left, I saw the big sign promoting Tom Emmer for Governor.

I didn't need a pumpkin. Our own sheep pasture was littered with them. When the grass inevitably gave in to the compulsory winter, the sheep would devour the piles of pumpkins.

I climbed from my car and tried to smile in a most friendly way. I warned myself not to sound like a kvetch.

"Great lookin' pumkins!"

It wasn't a great opening line, but it drew a friendly response from her.

"You from the city?" she asked. I wondered what gave it away. Maybe it was the soft and odd looking Swedish shoes by Echo.

"Got a farm west of the cities," I countered. "Raise sheep and crops!"

She looked at me doubtfully, but smiled nicely and stroked her tangled, salt and pepper hair back on the sides. The wind was playing havoc with it.

"Needed to stretch my legs a bit," I said, attempting to coruscate [to exhibit a brilliant, sparkling technique or style] my way through a little interview.

"Thought I stop and buy a pumpkin for the front porch -- you know, to get ready for the big trick or treat night."

"That's what we count on, don't you know?"

I wandered around the orange pile and saw a pretty well formed pumpkin that might carve up nicely into a jack-o-lantern. I reached down and, with a jerk, lifted it away from its kin. I told her of my intentions and that this one ought to fit the bill.

"Yup," she said, with laconic disinterest. "That'll be five dollars!"

I tried to hold the large gourd in one arm and fish out my money-clip with the other. The woman chuckled at my clumsiness. I didn't look like a farmer to her. I could tell she was thinking that. Her skeptical eyes gave it away. She took the future jack-o-lantern from me and hugged it to her fulsome breasts.

I found the money and pulled a five-spot from among the bills. As I handed it toward her, I flicked my head over to the left, toward the big sign in front of her house. Before I could speak, she flashed a smile that seemed to say: "Now I understand why yuh really stopped!"

"Lots of support for Mr. Emmer down here in these parts," I said, trying to sound countrified. "Wonder what folks around here like about him so much!" As she took my money, she, sort-of, rolled the pumpkin into my arms.

She vigorously brushed the crumbs of soil off her breasts with both hands, causing that part of her body to compress and then spring back. She smiled somewhat coquettishly at me when she saw me watching them. I think I blushed -- embarrassed more because I didn't find anything attractive about her than that I did.

"We's Tea Party folks around here," she declared proudly. "Folks is tired of all the big spending and debt coming out of Washington and the State Capitol. We's people who pays his bills and we want government to do it, too."

"But," I countered, "most of this debt was created by George W. Bush and not the current folks in control."

"Makes no what-for to us who started it," she said. "We's fixin' to end it! We's out to get rid of 'em all and put folks in there who know what it means to pay his own bills and save a buck or two for a rainy day."

Suddenly, looking into her fiery, impassioned eyes, I knew what rainy-day meant and where the expression came from. I was startled by the sudden realization. Farmers had less to do on a day of steady rain. There was time to go to town -- maybe for breakfast at the town cafe or even to take a drive 'up to the cities' to wander about in the big mall.

The woman stared at me with a befuddled expression, as if she wondered if I'd gone off into some kind of trance.

"So, it isn't a Republican or a Democrat thing?" I stood there holding my pumpkin, probably looking stupid and asking dumb questions. She looked at me as if I'd asked something ineffable -- something too profane. Her mouth hung open for an instant.

"Ain't indeed," she said sternly. "We don't think in those terms no more. Henry -- that's my man, you know -- he used to call hisself a DFLer, you know! He don't no more. He says he belongs to the Tea Party and I'm right with him like I always is."

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, I thought to myself, going off into another trance right in front of the woman. Of course! The DFL, indeed! Most folks around here would have been part of the Hubert Humphrey movement. They would have backed the young radical who wanted to boot crime and corruption out of the cities and get more money to the people out in the country -- to give them more electrical power, better phones, higher quality roads, improved schools and rural police and fire protection. Old Hubert knew how to spend a buck. When he went to Washington he learned quickly how to get federal money pouring into his home state.

Now, too much money was being spread around in the cities again and the disappearing small farmers were being forgotten. Time for a new radical who seemed to be more farmer-friendly. Sarah Palin seemed to fit the bill. I could see it in the eyes of the woman as they gawked at me. I didn't need to ask her anything more.

"Thank you, ma'am," I said courteously.

"No," she responded, "thank you kindly. Enjoy your pumpkin."

I turned and carried my purchase toward my car. She called after me.

"I like your shoes. They look comfortable."

It was a way, I guess, of avoiding her pronouncement that they also looked uglier than sin -- something upon which she and my wife would agree.

I drove on into New Trier and saw the Church of Saint Mary upon a hillock to the north. The big brick building towered above the town. I swung the car up a small street that led to the church and the large cemetery on its east side. I parked by the gates to the ossuary and look out over the monuments.

Had I not been in such a good mood, the woman's words would have tormented me. I wondered if she understood what she was saying. To provide a better life for the rural people of Minnesota, Humphrey knew money had to be spent. How were people now to have better lives? How were they to get high-quality and yet affordable health care. How do we pay for outstanding schools, colleges and technical institutions? How was government to protect them from unscrupulous money manipulators? From where would we get money to protect us from terrorists and criminals? From fire and floods? Government needs funds to give us these things.

I looked out over the rows and rows of gravestones. It crossed my mind that this place would make a wonderful setting for an evening Halloween party.

Could Emmer really win? The question startled me. Before that moment I never believed it possible. A person of such awkward, nonmelodic timbre couldn't be elected! Now, as if ghosts were rising from the graves before me, I felt haunted by the possibility that the inmates might indeed take charge of the asylum.


I'd picked up some insight, I guess, by stopping at the farm. It didn't answer, however, why there were so many Emmer signs up and down the streets of each and every little town there in the southeast. Wabasha, the little town that sat along the mighty Mississippi, was loaded with them.

I drove up and down the streets and found there was no bashfulness about declaring support for this candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin. I looked about for a single sign for Mark Dayton or Tom Horner, Emmer's opponents, and saw nothing.

In front of the car wash stood a huge sign for Emmer. So, too, in front of a lawyer's office and a real estate broker. These were town folk, I reminded myself. They thought differently than farmers. Many of them are university graduates and many had advanced, professional degrees. They understood the purpose of government and they grasped the concept of spending for services and better lives. Ghosts kept pursuing me.

Finally, I saw a lone and lonely sign for Mark Dayton. It was propped up in front of the Eagle Nest Coffee House on 2nd Street West. I parked nearby and went in to order a latté. The owner was there, a dazzling and large ear ring hanging from his left ear and another small one pierced into his right earlobe. His hair was cut wildly, looking as if it had been colored, and his shirt was open half way down his chest.

Imagine! I'd found a liberal among a sea of Tea Partiers. I introduced myself and shook his hand, telling him I'd been driving around town, looking at all the signs for Emmer.

"What's happening down here?" I warned him that I might quote his answer. I told him I'd seen the sign for Mark Dayton in front of his business.

"Well, I suppose I do lean a bit left," he said with a broad smile.

"I'm shocked," I replied, nodding my head downward, looking at the bold necklace he wore.

We both laughed. Wherever there weren't signs, he told me, that's where there is some hope for Mr. Dayton.

"And there's more places than you'd think," he proclaimed. "Even out in the country, there are many, many fields without signs. Those are the quiet people. They're not going to rile their neighbors. It's the same with me. If some guy wants to put up an Emmer sign next to my Dayton sign, right in front of my shop, I'd let him. I'm open!"

Was it possible? Way back in February, Dayton, building his base, had held a "meet and greet" session at the Eagle's Nest and the turnout had been pretty good. He had some followers here and we'd only know late Tuesday night how well his base did in this little town.

With my hot latté in the cup holder beside me, I turned the car north and northeast, following the river toward home. I slowed in Red Wing to look at the beautiful Saint James Hotel. I swung down the street next to the historic building and drove by the magnificent train terminal. I looked straight out at the Mississippi beyond the tracks. The Amtrak trains stopped here, on their way to Chicago from Saint Paul. After I'm gone and turned to dust, there will be a high speed train running here, getting folks to downtown Chicago faster than they could get there by flying. It'll cost money to give us such a wonder, but that's what government does in great nations. If government does nothing, the nation will degenerate into something quite ordinary and we'll be common among the nation-states of the world instead of being a beacon on a hill.

It was not now, at this peculiar and particular time, a message that very many people wanted to hear. A visionary, like President Obama, had been elected at precisely the wrong time. As a people, we just didn't want dreamers right now. We are thinking all too much about ourselves and not about our children. Obama isn't calling us to spend! He's calling us to invest -- to invest for our children and for the future greatness and strength of the nation. The Tea Party doesn't see it that way. Those folks are too caught up in the moment and in themselves. The real question should be: What will make the nation greater 50 years from now -- or even a century or two from now?

That's not the way folks will be voting this year, however. Issues have to do with the here and now. Dreamers are being rejected and thrown out of office. Big thinkers aren't allowed in.


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Soaring Freely

I turned away from home, toward the river and the eagles!
by Charlie Leck

I felt free, relieved and reborn. When I saw the exit sign for Zumbro Falls, I instinctively turned the car eastward. I’m still having a love affair with this new car. It’s enormous fun to drive. The road east of Zumbro and on in to Wabasha would be enjoyable and challenging. The hills just west of the Mississippi River are handsome down there in southeastern Minnesota. It was early in the afternoon on a Thursday and there was barely any traffic.

The highway fell quickly, mile after mile, down into the valley where Zumbro Falls is nestled along the Zumbro River. The river is normally friendly and makes for enjoyable fishing and canoeing, but late this summer, responding to pounding and enormous rains, the river rose far above its banks and ravaged the little community down there. I’d listened to and read the stories about the destruction and heart-break. Over 50 homes were destroyed and a number of businesses were wiped out. On TV, I’d watched the big, burly mayor speak at a gathering of town-folks. He told everyone that it was the worst flood the town had ever seen, way beyond the devices in place to measure the height of the river. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke of the losses the people of his community had suffered. Over 50 percent of the residents of the town were seriously impacted. Some people lost everything – photographs, clothing, furniture and appliances. Fortunately, no lives were lost and the mayor said he wanted to keep it that way.

I slowed the car as I pulled into town and turned down a side street or two, toward the river. I stopped on Water Street and looked at a couple of the vacant, abandoned homes there. What had just a little more than a month ago been people’s pleasant homes were now little more than rotted shacks. Yards, which I imagined had been lush and green and healthy once, were cracked, ugly and mud covered. Legal abandonment notices and safety warnings were posted on all the homes. A few were being reconstructed, but most were not. It is difficult to go back to the river once it has insulted you so.

Just to the east side of town, the river falls dramatically south. It is a popular recreation area and this has been important to the economy of the village. It’s not been much fun there this autumn. Folks have pretty much stayed away. For miles and miles, the river falls and bends and winds its way south and southeast and flows through Millville. Then it climbs north and east and heads for the mighty Mississippi.

My car roared up the winding, narrow highway out of Zumbro Falls. Near the tiny town of Dumfries, I caught up with the river again; and then, a few miles further on, it dropped south once more. The winding, curving highway began to fall now and I knew I was approaching the big river.

A large gathering of birds appeared in front of me, tearing at some carrion in the middle of the road. I slowed and leaned on the horn. Three or four great, shiny black birds flew off in fear, but a huge, majestic bald eagle stayed put and stared at my car and me as we approached. I slowed and braked to a stop, not ten yards from the noble bird. We stared at each other. Without taking my eyes away from him, I reached into the back seat and fumbled for my camera. I retrieved and brought it slowly to my lap and cautiously, then, raised it to my eyes. The big bird, startled, spread its massive wings and began beating them, quickly boosting himself up and skyward. I missed the extraordinary photograph and cursed as the eagle bent eastward.

The Zumbro River was 6 or 7 miles south of me now, flowing eastward. It passed by the pretty town of Kellogg, on its northside, and just a few miles further east the Zubro emptied itself into the Mississippi.

My car purred downward, swinging easily around bending turns to the right and left. As I approached the river town of Wabasha, I passed by Coffee Mill Country Club, built into the steep river hills. I thought I knew all the golf courses in the state. I’d never heard of it. I was tempted to stop, so I could take a few photographs, but my car was flowing downward now and running too free to rein back. We’d be down in the river bottom very quickly, moving in a perfectly opposite direction from home.

I thought about the face of that mighty eagle, back there in the middle of the road. How free! How regal! I thought about the doctor who came back into the examining room and told me I was free to go also.

“There’s nothing,” he said quietly. “The blood analysis was a false indicator. There’s nothing there. Everything is clean and healthy.”

For weeks I’d worried. I’d wake up nights thinking about where the disease would lead me. What treatments? What surgeries? And now, he was telling me there was nothing.

“You’re free to go! Come back in the spring, so we can visit again!”

Down in the dungeoness hallways beneath the clinic, I found a bench and sat. My cell phone connected to the clinic’s Wi-Fi and I sent off a text message to my wife.

“Very good news. PSA very low. Bladder clean. No biopsy necessary. Doc says I’m healthy. I’m free to head home.”

Yet, I couldn’t head home. For some reason, the eagles attracted me. The National Eagle Center is in Wabasha. We’d brought the children here a few times. One could sit along the river and watch the majestic birds gracefully soar and then dive to grab fish with their talons and swoop away with them.

My car slid into the quiet little town. A big sign welcomed me.

“Welcome! Home of Grumpy Old Men!”

Much of the movie with Jack Lemon, Walter Mathau and Sophia Loren had been filmed here. Some of the ice-fishing scenes had been filmed on a little lake back in my town.

I parked my car down along the river, by the observation deck. It was chilly and the wind was strong. I didn’t feel it. This spot and the eagles beckoned me. So did old Chief Wapahasha. The extraordinary sculpture of him stood there beside the river, reminding everyone of us that he once lived freely here, as free as the giant eagles themselves. I looked up into Wapahasha’s eyes and nodded at him.

“I’m free, too, pardner. Free as a bird.”

The river was flowing rapidly – as if, perhaps, winter was chasing it down from the north. I was there alone – only in the company of the chief – and I felt as peaceful as a man can feel. The chilliness didn’t bother me and the wind felt good upon my face and I happily let it blow my hair into a tangle.

“You’re free to go,” the doctor had said with a gentle smile upon his face. There’s nothing! Everything is clean and healthy”

In the distance, almost over in Wisconsin, a bald eagle fell from its flight in a sudden dive toward the water. Without any loss of speed, it swooped close to the water and it hung its talons low and then rose with extraordinary power and force, its prey secured and fixed in place. It was too far away to photograph, so I sat down on a bench, close beside the river, and waited, hoping one of the great fishers would perform for me.

It was a very beautiful day and I was in no hurry to go anywhere.


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wish I Hadn’t Read It

My curiosity tugged me into clicking on a story and now it’ll take time to shake it off!
by Charlie Leck

Ever get drawn into reading a news story that you, later, wish you hadn’t? That happened to me this morning, long before dawn. I had my cup of hot coffee in front of me and life was good. I answered a couple of emails and then popped open, as I do nearly every morning, the on-line newspaper, MinnPost.

There, in front of me, were dozens of good stories I could have read. Representative Betty McCollum, who has faithfully and honorably represented the citizens of St. Paul in the U.S. House of Representatives, evidently failed to use the words “under God” eight years ago when she took the Pledge of Allegiance. Evidently, a video of the moment has, as MinnPost puts it, gone “viral.” Oh, my! I passed on reading the story.

There was also an account of the first debate between Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her Democratic opponent, Tarryl Clark. I also passed on that.

Actually, there were a dozen tempting little bits that should have tugged me to them before I went where I did…

Arne Carlson, former Republican Governor, has endorsed a couple more Democrats for congressional seats. Wow! He endorsed the Independent in the governor’s race and now Tim Walz and Terry Bonoff for the House of Representatives. What’s up with Arne? Years and years ago he was a Democrat. Maybe, in his sage years, he’s getting things right again.

Mary Lahammer’s column is about the St. Cloud State University poll that shows Mark Dayton (Democrat) with a 10 point lead (40 to 30 percent) over Tom Emmer with Tom Horner (Independent) coming in way back (18 percent). The part of the headline that teased me, however, was that 15 percent of likely voters are still undecided. Still could be surprises on election night!

Former billionaire Chuck Feeney says the Gates/Buffet effort doesn’t go far enough! How could I have passed on a tease like that? Yet, I did.

Instead, I was pulled by this teasing line: “Canadians struggle to understand one of the most unusual serial killers in their country’s history.” And, another little tease was added: “Masterful interrogation draws his confession.” So, I went to the GlobalPost story by Sandro Contenta. I also watched the video of the interrogation on YouTube. I shouldn’t have.

I know you’re tempted, but don’t! Don’t!

I’ll be in a funk all day.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Heaven for Political Junkies

photo by Pobytov (iStock)

This is one of the great races for political junkies to keep their eyes on!
by Charlie Leck

If you are nuts about election time in America and enjoy watching the ins and outs and campaign tactics of some of the great races, have I got one for you to watch. Cast your eyes north, to the huge state of Alaska. There is every chance in the world that a write-in candidate is going to win up there even in the face of opposition from Sarah Palin.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, was beaten in the state primaries this year by Joe Miller, one of Palin’s patsies. Nevertheless, Murkowski declared herself a write-in candidate against the advice of nearly every political strategist in the state. The fear among Republicans was that she’d divide the party and hand the election over to the Democrat, Scott McAdams.

Now, against all odds, it appears Ms. Murkowski may pull out a victory! Too bad for the Democrats because they could use that seat. Na… na… na… na… na… to Ms. Palin and her influence in Alaska.

Lots of wonderful stories are appearing in newspapers all across the country about this election, but, perhaps, the best is the one in this morning’s New York Times. I suggest it to you.

Another good analysis comes in from Scott Conroy on Real Clear Politics.

All polls show the race to be between the two Republicans and they are in a dead even tie with Murkowski seeming to have the momentum with only seven days to go. McAdams has proven himself a poor campaigner and doesn’t appear to be a factor any longer. Murkowski, who is very bright on national issues, is a very able campaigner who has nearly total control of the native population in the state.

Go get ‘em girl!


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Monday, October 25, 2010

A Boatload of Fools

Fools supporting fools supporting fools who support fools!
by Charlie Leck

Do you know what damage that a fool captaining the ship can do? Think about the Exon Valdez up there at Prince William Sound in Alaska!

Look what the fool, George W. Bush, did captaining the nation. He dragged us into two wars and set the economy up for a kill by Wall Street, the banking industry and a pile of real estate crooks. Now the same fools bend everything mercilessly to make others think it was a disaster caused by Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Now there are a pile of fools in the Republican Party who are willing to vote for Minnesota's ultimate fool for Governor. One of those fools, David Frauenshuh, who will vote for anything endorsed by the Republican Party – even skunks – tried to take pen in hand to write an endorsement column in our shell of a local newspaper on behalf of Tom Emmer. Frauenshuh is a commercial real estate kingpin who should know better. He gives lots of money to the Elephants. He once held a big bash at his home for George W.. A boatload of fools were in attendance back there in the hills of Edina.

It’s amazing what some men will do when it comes to loyalty to the party!

What made Frauenshuh’s column so foolish is that it was juxtaposed against a piece just above it that was written by three thinking, intelligent Republicans (George Pillsbury, Nate Garvis and Tim Penny) – who all will refuse to vote for Tom Emmer even though he is the endorsed candidate of the party.

Frauenshuh obviously does not know the Tom Emmer who lives out here in our part of town nor the Tom Emmer who plays fast and loose with money and often cheats people out of what he owes them. He doesn’t know this slugabed who is a bag of wind and who hasn’t the ability to have an original substantive thought come out of his mind.

“I am four-square for Tom Emmer,” Mr. Frauenshuh writes. It’s not a hyphenated word, sir! Go all the way and be foursquare behind Emmer instead of playing around.

Perhaps Frauenshuh knows Emmer is a guy who will be easily tucked into the pocket of the commercial real estate industry and will faithfully kiss the combined keisters of the local business community.

The big pitch that Frauenshuh makes is that Emmer will do more for the private sector and will enable local businesses to create more jobs. While the goal is worthy, there are plenty of us who don’t trust that the business community will use increased benefits on job creation and not just to line their own pockets a bit more. And while we're at it here, I'd wager my bumpkin that Horner would do more for growing Minnesota business than Emmer would.

There is a sensible conservative Republican in the race for Governor and then there is the endorsed fool. Unfortunately, blindly loyal Republicans will support the fool even though he is dangerous and has none of the needed qualities of a leader.

If you had brains, rather than blind loyalty, Mr. Frauenshuh, you'd be supporting Tom Horner. Though I won't vote for him myself, it is clear that Horner is a man of solid timber and I'm glad we Democrats don't have to go one on one with him. And, sir, I'm sure glad, for just this one election, that we don't have ranked-choice voting. In their column endorsing such a voting procedure, Pillsbury, Garvis and Penny call Tom Horner "a smart, qualified candidate running a thoughtful, issue-based campaign." They're right about that! It was a tough call for me when I decided not to support him.


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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reading When I was Youthful

A little book sale brought me happily back to more youthful times and tastes!
by Charlie Leck

I have written here about the most important books I’ve ever read – not in a worldly sense, or national sense, or even as cultural accomplishments – but books that effected and affected me the most of all the books that I had ever read. However, I have never written about the books that I just and simply enjoyed the most; that is, books that I found to be the most entertaining. Some of the novels of Tom Robbins are among those. You know, there's a big difference between Dostoevsky and Tom Robbins.

Yesterday (Saturday), I stopped at a book sale in the Corcoran Neighborhood in South Minneapolis. I wandered through three rooms of books that were semi-neatly stacked on long, narrow tables. There my eyes, by chance, scanned across a row of six or seven titles by Tom Robbins. I had read them all except for the last one among them – Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.1 Of course, I reached out and grabbed the hardcover volume that looked as if it had been cared for lovingly; and, indeed, there, on the title page, was the embossed library impression of Eric A. Gustafson. The price for the hardcover volumes on that table was a $1.50.

I feathered the pages and was stopped by some words that sprung out at me on page 309:

“As a matter of fact, he worked her chador off her shoulders, unhooked her bra, and bared her breasts. She didn’t object, though the breasts themselves, livid and alert, seemed almost to blink in astonishment at their exposure.”

How stunningly simple and astonishingly captivating! It was a vaguely familiar word that drew me to the sentences – chador. I knew it came from the middle east or, perhaps, from Asia – India, most likely. It had, I thought, to do with religious garb – a hooded gown from head to toe in black or dark, drab colors.

My eyes strolled to the page on the left – the opening page of a paragraph – and there I saw her name, Domino. It didn’t take much scanning until I realized the chador was a nun’s habit and Domino was a sister of Jesus in Peru.

“The first night that they met in the tower and lay on the rug (Switters never dared to test that floor with his feet), admiring a moon that looked as if it had been oiled by a Kurdish rifleman and pointing at the satellites that skittered from sky-edge to sky-edge like waterbugs crossing a cow creek, Domino confessed, with a minimum embarrassment and no shame at all, that she had ‘a big crash’ on him. Switters, ever the language man, was on the verge of correcting her English when it occurred to him that being infatuated with the likes of himself was, indeed, probably more akin to a ‘crash’ than a ‘crush.’

That rascal, Tom Robbins, I chuckled. All his books were so profane with surprising twists and exploding plots. Humor was rampant and the world was not treated by him with reverence. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues2 was one of the most enjoyable novels I’d ever read. I remember being entranced by it and in it as I read its pages. I think it’s included in my list of the most important books I’ve ever read. I have a first edition of it here in my library and first editions, too, of Another Roadside Attraction,3 Skinny Legs and All,4 Jitterbug Perfume,5 and Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas 6.

I wondered why I had stopped reading and collecting his volumes there. Why hadn’t I purchased this current volume before this? Odd! Aren’t mysteries like this interesting to you? What crisis or momentous matter was happening in my life when it was published that I didn’t notice or care?

Have you read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? If you haven’t, and you enjoy novels that deal with our culture in America, you really should. Well, check that! I’ll add a caveat that you should if you can handle his flagrant wit and language (because Cowgirls is loaded with it) – stuff like these little paragraphs from Jitterbug Perfume

“She needed help, but God was in a meeting whenever she rang, and the Daughters of the Daily Special had postponed her grant almost as often as she had postponed going to bed with Ricki. With Ricki, her sponsor, turning hostile, Priscilla had to assume that the grant might never come through. ‘Well, shit,’ she said. ‘Shit, shit, shit. I’ve got no choice but to make that call.

“She shoved the Kotex box back in the cabinet, pulled on some stiff jeans, dipped a fistful of coins from the fishbowl, and ran down the hall, not even looking to see if she might have run over a beet. It was late, but she knew her party had a habit of working into the night. Her finger was trembling, but she managed to dial.

“The wall phone swallowed the quarters, Priscilla swallowed her pride.

“‘Hello, Stepmother,’ she said.

“There was a pause. Then:

“‘Where are you?’

“Madame Lily Devalier always asked ‘Where are you?’ in a way that insinuated that there were only two places on earth one could be: New Orleans and somewhere ridiculous.”

Ahh, Robins is wonderful. I’d forgotten that I use to promote him as my favorite writer. I was more impudent back then.

The dust jacket of this new acquisition says that Italy’s Fernanda Pivano once called Robbins “one of the most dangerous writers in the world.” That’s something that must obviously have been said in America’s curiously insane 70s. A writer who receives such acclaim must draw your attention. No?

1. Robbins, Tom: Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates [2000, Bantam Press, NY]

2. Robbins, Tom: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues [1976 (first edition), Houghton Mifflin, NY]

3. Robbins, Tom: Another Roadside Attraction [1971 (first edition), Doubleday, NY]

4. Robbins, Tom: Skinny Legs and All [1990 (first edition), Bantam Press, NY]

5. Robbins, Tom: Jitterbug Perfume [1984 (first edition, Bantam Press, NY]

6. Robbins, Tom: Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas [1994 (first edition), Bantam Press, NY]


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Firing the Whole Damn Lot of Them!

Sometimes I just get sick of TV news and have to shut-er down for a while. Don’t you?
by Charlie Leck

I read a really good column last night – freshly published – by Eric Hananoki: Wishing for Obama’s assassination won’t get you fired from Fox News. I recommend it to you. It will take you less than 5 minutes to read it and you’ll see a litany of terrible news gaffs that have been made on FOX – and some of them just awful – after which no one got fired or seriously reprimanded (probably because FOX likes those ratings that sensationalization rather than real news reporting gets its network).

Over at CNN, two very successful news personalities have recently been fired for remarks they probably shouldn’t have said. Juan Williams talked about the fear that strikes him when he sees a Muslim in traditional dress on a plane flight. 91.872 percent of all of us have the same thoughts aboard planes, but Williams shouldn’t have said it. Rick Sanchez’s comments about Jon Stewart and Jews were probably a little tougher – but I just don’t get that they were outrageous. Both of these CNN transgressions were like child’s play compared to the some of these bogus and awful things commentators are saying over at FOX.

And, you know something? FOX is now winning the ratings contest over CNN. Isn’t that shameful – I mean, that so many people would tune-in to that clap over at FOX?

All of it gets me so sick sometimes, that I just turn the damn channel (can anyone out there remember when we turned channels?). Thank goodness there are plenty of football games and end of the season baseball games on! I can also sit outside and watch the leaves falling and get more inspiration than I get from TV News.

Below, you can watch and hear Sanchez’s comments about Jon Stewart and Jews and decide for yourself.

To hear what Juan Williams said, go to this FOX News page and click on the video of his comments.

If, however, you haven’t read the Hananoki column, you’ll miss the real context I’m trying to write about here. That is, TV News just sucks – all of it. This crap is what’s given birth to the awful Tea Party and to all the irrational, fictitious and asinine things being said about progressive thinkers in America today.

I’m off TV News for awhile!


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Life is Good

It is autumn in Minnesota and I love to feel the chilled air in my nostrils.
by Charlie Leck

The Minnesota evenings have on them that lovely chill we so expect and cherish here. One seems to breathe more joyfully and carry on with such energy at this time of year.

Visitors arrived from France early last evening, at a delightfully crepuscular moment. I wish I could have painted the way the darkening sky hovered over us and how the trees, bare of their leaves, looked against it. The visitors brought with them that special joie de vivre that the French are so good at! They gazed about in wonder at the rolling land beneath the dark, autumn sky and they spread their arms in wonder at it, laughing and almost cheering.

My memory captures ambrosial moments like this as surely as a camera lens and won’t release them – ever!

I was in a particularly good mood anyway, because a message had arrived from Colorado that our dear friend, Lisa, had received her kidney donation from the saintly Sarah. (See yesterday’s blog!) Nearly three hours of surgery and then the doctor appeared with as much good news as they are willing to share: There had been no surprises and the surgery went as they had hoped it would. Now they will run their constant, important checks and monitor both of the women.

Le vie est trés bonne, non? Mais oui!

Organ transplantation was once a wonder of medicine and science. Now it is common. Mon Dieu!

Little things make life so wonderful. Yesterday, while I was scurrying around the kitchen, preparing a special dinner for these arriving guests, an old buddy called to say he missed me and thought often of me. How nice! He’s scandalously out on the right wing politically and hopelessly religious and righteous about it, but I still like him almost like a brother. I gathered energy from his call and it drove me to make the dinner very special.

“How about this truffle oil as the base for the salad dressing,” I asked myself, “and some tres cher vinegar from the grape mixed with it?”

I took a sip of the breathing wine, to test it. Ahh!

Le vin est bon!

And so, too, is life.

La vie est belle!


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Becoming Part of Another’s Body

The idea of the living donating parts of their body that another may live is quite mind boggling to me!
by Charlie Leck

The daughter of a good friend of mine will receive a kidney tomorrow. The wonderful young lady who is donating one of her kidneys shall be known here as Sarah. Her extraordinary gift of life and health is the culmination of many months of praying and hoping.

Sarah and Lisa have been blogging about their extraordinary relationship and this gift that draws them into a closer relationship of intimacy than most of us will never know. Imagine! This lovely person, Sarah, is actually going to become a part of Lisa's body – not just Lisa’s life, but her body!

Oh, my!

It was many, many months ago that I wrote here about Lisa and her need for a kidney transplant. One of my own, dear daughters read the blog and made the incredible offer to donate her kidney. It turned out to be a mismatch. That was back in January. We’ve been waiting so patiently for Sarah to come along and here she is, as intimate a part of the circle of friends and family who surround Lisa as is humanly possible.

There are good stories and great stories and stories that just blow you away. This one is the latter. We’ll be thinking about Lisa and Sarah all through the night and again through the morrow. Sarah, you’re a star in our circle of intimacy now and we’re glad to have you among us. Dear, dear daughter, how proud I am of you, too.


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Eye on the Elections

Here’s a look at national races right now!
by Charlie Leck

Here are the races that most interest me right now – that are important to those of us who call ourselves progressives

California Senate Race
Barbara Boxer continues to carry a very minimal lead (2 percentage points) over her Republican and female opponent, Carly Fiorina. In honesty, this one has got to be called a toss-up.

Wisconsin Senate Race
Russ Feingold, one of the finest senators in the history of this nation, continues to trail the Republican, Ron Johnson, but the lead is slightly less than a week ago (7 percentage points). Feingold continues to work hard and progressives are hoping for a huge surge of young voters who will carry Feingold to victory. Likely, it’s dreaming! There’s an interesting story in today’s local paper from the McClatchy News Service that discusses Wisconsin’s shift from a liberal-state-of-mind to a much more conservative one. 74 percent of Wisconsin voters called themselves liberal or moderate in 2006. Now, only 53 percent label themselves as such. 47 percent of voters now call themselves conservatives. Too bad! For years, Wisconsin has been the leading liberal state in the nation and I’ve admired it so for that.

Nevada Senate Race
Harry Reid the Democratic leader of the Senate is in the fight of his life. At the moment, the race is dead even. Again, this race may depend on the young and their willingness to get out and vote. Obama will try to raise the dead out there. Maybe!

Colorado Senate Race
Most experts are calling this race between the Republican nut-case, Ken Buck, and the incumbent Democrat, Michael Bennet, a toss-up. I think it looks dangerously like a significant lead of 4 or 5 points for the Republicans.

Washington Senate Race
Patty Murray, whose fund-raisers call constantly, looking for dough, is in a tough race against her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi. Rasmussen gives Murray only a 3 point lead in this one, which would make it a statistical toss-up. CNN/Time, however, has Murray with an 8 point lead. I’d go into utter depression if Murray loses out there.

Illinois Senate Race
Well, one wonders which crook will steal the election in Illinois this year. What a reputation that state has in matters politik. Remember how difficult it was to pronounce the name of the state’s corrupt Democratic governor – what was it? – Bleh-goy-O-vich! Well, try out the Democratic candidate for the Senate, Mr. Alexi Giannoulias. All recent polls there show the race is a dead-even tie. The Republican candidate for the senate seat is Mark Kirk. At one time, Giannoulias had an 8 point lead in this race.

West Virginia Senate Race
There is no incumbent in West Virginia. The race there is dead-even. The Republican candidate is John Raese and the Democrat is Joe Manchin. Raese boasts that he is a life-time member of the National Rifle Association (naturally) and a conservative businessman. He runs and owns most of Greer Industries in West Virginia and he also has deep roots in the communications/entertainment field. Manchin is currently the governor of West Virginia. He played football at the University of West Virginia, worked in business and served in the State Legislature for almost 14 years. He’s a pilot and an outdoorsman who hunts and fishes and rides his motorcycle. He and his wife have 3 children.

Control of the House of Representatives
It would take some kind of miracle for the Democrats to retain control of the House of Representatives. Right now the Republicans have commanding leads over many Democratic incumbents. There will, however, be some major surprises for both parties in these races. In Minnesota, it looks like incumbents will win in all House races. That means the reelection of the notoriously nutty Michel Bachman, probably the worst member of the House for the last four years. Too bad, but her opponent has just not shown enough energy or charisma to win over the fence-sitters.

At the moment, it looks like 141 House seats are certain for Democrats while the Republicans are counting on 162 certain seats. It will take 218 seats to control the House. There are 40 races out there that are absolute toss-ups. Adding in the races leaning toward them, to control the Republicans would only have to take half of those toss-up races and they probably will.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Minnesota’s Next Governor will be a Weak One!

It’s called not having a mandate! You begin as a weak governor and probably finish as one as well.
by Charlie Leck

Here’s the facts, Jack!

Minnesota will elect a governor, again in 2010, who will not carry a majority of those who vote. The winner will likely get anywhere from 36 percent to 42 percent of the vote (and the lower number is more likely).

The Democrat, Mark Dayton, continues to lead in almost every poll, but the largest percentage of voters he pulls is 42 percent. He drops down all the way to 38 percent. At the bottom level, that leaves 62 percent to be divided between the Republican Party candidate (Tom Emmer) and the independent (Tom Horner).

It is virtually certain that a governor will again be elected with less than 50 percent of the voters backing him.

So what?
Such a small percentage of the vote means that a governor is elected without a mandate of any kind from the people. It means that legislators from all parties don’t really take the governor seriously. He has no great power of persuasion over those who vote in the State House and State Senate.

The people themselves have not sent the governor into office with any clear message.

This has been going on in Minnesota for a long time now. It has left state politics and state governance in a state of utter confusion and indecision.

Here we go again!


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

1862 in Minnesota

Great Grandfather Warren Wakefield told pleasant stories about the Dakotah men and women with whom he spent time, including tales about the important Mdewakanton leader, Cut Nose!
by Charlie Leck

My wife’s great grandfather, Warren Wakefield, even though he died many years before I was born, has become a special friend of mine. That’s what can happen when one leaves memoirs and journals behind. I don’t know how many other people have gathered up Warren’s writings, but I have and I’ve read them all carefully. Grandpappy Warren was a bright fellow and he was also stubborn. He was a bit of a radical thinker and he was suspicious of banks and bankers and most big business (probably another reason why I regard him as a friend). It was more than ironic that one of his sons, Lyman, would become a big time banker and a corporate leader in Minnesota in the 30s and 40s – long after Warren had died of course. There are copies of some humorous correspondence between them right after Lyman launched his banking career as a teenaged teller and janitor at a small bank down in Austin, Minnesota.

As for Warren, he arrived in Minnesota a couple of years before it became a state. He was just a boy of seven or eight; yet he was an eager and curious lad. He wanted to know everything about his new home near Lake Minnetonka and everything about everyone who lived in the area. That included the Dakotah men, women and children who lived in the area for parts of the year. Some of these Native Americans set up a camp on a small hill that overlooked a small body of water that we now call Long Lake, which was part of the land his father and mother, Bradford and Maria, had claimed and settled. The little hill is now a historic cemetery that opened in 1862, given to the community for one dollar by Warren’s parents. The cemetery was quickly established and dedicated in preparation for the bodies of local boys who would die in battle with the Union Army in the American Civil War.

The boy, Warren, use to often find his way up to the knob, which locals had begun calling Teepee Hill, so he could visit with and learn from the brave Dakotah people who camped there. He had begun to learn a smattering of their language and he was proud of that. One of Warren’s favorite characters among the Dakotah was a fellow named Cut Nose, who was a leader among the Mdewakanton tribe. Cut Nose had been in Warren’s family’s little settlement house and Warren had bartered with him up there on Teepee Hill.

In my 2007 book, The Wakefield Pioneers, I reprinted a couple of stories that Warren once wrote about Cut Nose.

The young Warren remembers a Native American named Cut Nose and often writes about this man he called a native chief and frequent visitor in their home.

“One spring we had a cellar full of vegetables that we could not use, so father invited all the squaws who lived near us to come and get some. They came and took them away. In the cellar also was keg and a two gallon jug of maple vinegar. Cut Nose, one of the finest specimens of manhood I have ever seen, tall, straight and with agreeable features in spite of the small piece gone from the edge of one nostril, was their chief, and came the next day with a large bottle, asking to have it filled with whiskey. Father said he had none, but Cut Nose said he knew there was a jug and keg of it in the cellar. Father told him to go and take it if he found any. He sampled first the jug and then the keg with a most disgusted expression and upon coming upstairs threw the bottle on the bed and stalked out. This maple vinegar was made from maple sugar and none could be better. “ [Anecdotal History of Minnesota: Warren Wakefield, unpaginated]

Warren called Cut Nose a braggart and believed most of the chief’s tales were hyperbolic.

“He was very fond of telling how he shot the renegade Inkpadutah. This was all imagination. He had an old flint lock musket with the flint gone and would illustrate his story by crawling and skulking, generally, to the great delight of the boys. One rainy day my mother was sick and was lying in her bed which was curtained off from the rest of the living room. As Cut Nose, who did not know this, told his oft repeated story, illustrating it as usual, he thrust his gun under the curtains and his face and shoulders after it to show how he shot the renegade chief from ambush. My mother dashed out with a shriek, but was no more frightened than Cut Nose, at the apparition of the white squaw.” [Anecdotal History of Minnesota: Warren Wakefield, unpaginated]

In 1862 everything changed, however. The terrible and angry reaction of the Dakotah people in that year to all the broken promises and mistreatments they had endured brought violence upon the land and ended, for a long time to come, the friendliness between white settlers and the Dakotah Indians. The story of Minnesota in 1862 is filled with much about which we can take great pride, but it’s also a year that tells a shameful story of our treatment of the people who had lived in this place long before white settlers came to claim the land that had been so sacred to the natives that it was beyond claim of ownership.

The best telling of this story that I’ve ever encountered is the one by Mary Lethert Wingerd in North Country: The Making of Minnesota* in the chapter called Cataclysm on the Minnesota. Cut Nose is, unfortunately, one of the central characters of the story. I find myself wondering about how grandpappy must have felt when the details of the violence, sensationalized as they were, appeared in local newspaper accounts and on national cartes de visite.**

To understand Ms. Wingerd’s account of the outbreak of violence, one must have carefully read her previous chapter, The Roads to War. In it she explains the broken treaties with the Dakotah and the unfulfilled promises to them. The details that follow are gleaned from Ms. Wingerd’s extraordinary book.

In 1861, at Fort Sumter, the long expected war between the states was begun. Only by coincidence, Minnesota’s Governor, Alexander Ramsey, was in Washington when the news of the war’s outbreak spread rapidly through the streets. The Governor rushed off to the State Department in a frenzy of patriotism and pledged that 1,000 Minnesota men would soon arrive to fight with the Union Army. Through this coincidence the young, young state became the first in the nation to volunteer troops to fight. The Minnesota Volunteers would go on to establish an extraordinary record of bravery and success in that awful war.

Governor Ramsey had his own problems back in Minnesota. The Native Americans of that state had watched droves of new white settlers pour into their land. Ownership grants of huge parcels for very little money were granted to the new settlers by both the federal government and the young state. This was land upon which the Dakotah Indians had existed for many centuries. They didn’t claim to own the land because they didn’t believe ownership of it was possible. The land was sacred and only owned by the Great Spirit. Several times, large tracts of land were set aside or “reserved” for the native people. Time and time again, these “reserves” were disregarded and ignored and land grants were made to newly arriving white settlers. The sizes of reservations were reduced several times to make more of the rich and productive land available for arriving European settlers. Payments to the Dakotah, which had been guaranteed by the treaties of 1837 and 1851, were to a great extent ignored and, when not, often arrived very late. Agencies that were set up to trade with the Dakotah and to sell them provisions were run by men who were not always scrupulous. The natives were often cheated and sometimes significantly so. A careful, historical look and analysis of the various treaties made with the Dakotah make it abundantly clear that they were often cheated and the conditions and terms of the treaties were often ignored. In 1858, new terms were negotiated with leaders of Dakotah, but, as Wingerd says in her book, it made little difference.

“The promises of 1858 proved no more durable than those of earlier treaties and nearly a year passed before Congress bothered to take up the issue of payment.”

From the agreed price the government paid out, most of it went to traders who claimed various Native American groups owed them money for previous services. And, in the end, the Dakotah people received almost nothing and lost most of their “reserved” land. They were forced on to much, much smaller pieces of land “reserved” for them. Their former reservation had extended all along and ten miles out from the Minnesota River. After 1858 they found themselves forced on to small tracts called the Upper and Lower Sioux Agencies. There they awaited their payments from the government so they could purchase supplies of necessity from generally dishonest agency traders.

As Wingerd writes in opening the two seminal chapters of her book:

“By the Spring of 1862 conditions on the Dakotah reservations had deteriorated alarmingly. Both friend and foes agreed that the Indians were in ‘an extremely destitute condition.’ After a brutal winter, hunger stalked the villages. Most storekeepers, worried than annuity payments might not be made, were withholding credit, even to the farmer Indians. One or two traders, like mixed-blood David Faribault, honored Dakota traditions of reciprocity and continued to provide credit, but what they could offer was not nearly enough. According to Faribault’s wife, Nancy, he ‘had trusted them [the Indians] for very nearly everything he had, for they were very hard up, and the other stores would not trust them for anything.’ Dakota agent Thomas Galbraith had tried to help with supplemental rations over the winter, but by spring his storehouses had run low and he spent much of his time away from the reservation. The hungry Indians haunted Fort Ripley and New Ulm, performing traditional ‘begging dances’ in hopes of food or money. Settlers in the surrounding counties complained that Indians were ‘pests’ and ‘a nuisance.’ Their begging was bad enough, said the settlers, but the Indians also were competing for game and even killing farmers’ cattle and hogs. For the proud Dakotas, all this was humiliation heaped upon humiliation. They were barely hanging on, counting the days until their annuity payments arrived.” [Wingerd, pps. 301-302]

June, July and August passed and still no payments were distributed to the Native Americans. During the month of July, Galbraith and another white official tried to convince the Mdewakanton and Wahpetkute leaders to accept greenbacks rather than the gold that the treaties guaranteed. The chiefs refused. Out at the agencies there were provisions under lock and key. For various reasons, the Native Americans were refused those supplies.

Wingerd then tells of the famous , or infamous, exchange of words between the storekeeper, Andrew Myrick, and a number of braves.

“The Indians warned Myrick, who had cut off all credit, ‘not to cut another stick of wood or to cut our grass.’ The arrogant Myrick responded, ‘You will be sorry. After a while you will come to me and beg for meat and flour to keep you and your wives and children from starving, and I will not let you have a thing. You and your wives and children may starve, or eat grass, or your own filth’ ‘Let them eat grass’ became a rallying cry in the ensuing conflict, a symbol of all the injustices and humiliations that could no longer be borne.” [Wingerd, p. 302]

In early August of 1862, men, women and children of the starving Sissetons, Mdewakantons and Wahpetkute were dying in large numbers. On the fourth day of the month, a few hundred braves stormed the warehouse at the Upper Agency in Yellow Medicine. There were troops there to meet them. Galbraith, who was probably drunk, remained locked up within the storehouse. A missionary from the area and the soldier in charge of the troops negotiated with leaders of the braves. The soldier insisted that Galbraith open up and distribute whatever provisions were inside.

Down at the Lower Agency in Redwood, Chief Little Crow was insisting on the same treatment. Galbraith refused even though Little Crow had warned that men who are hungry will ‘help themselves.' Soldiers stationed in the area and employees at the agency knew there was going to be trouble.

“The following day, August 17, as the early Sunday morning sun began to warm the valley, no one could have predicted that by nightfall Minnesota would be forever changed. On their scattered farmsteads families gathered together for morning prayer. At the Redwood Agency, farmers, storekeepers, teachers, and missionaries began their usual Sabbath routines of work or worship. Little Crow attended services at the Episcopal chapel at the agency and shook hands with everyone there. Galbraith and his rangers spent the day in New Ulm, ‘celebrating’ before beginning their trek to Fort Snelling. And four young Wahpeton braves from the Rice Creek band were heading for home empty-handed, after scouring the countryside for several days in vain search of a deer or some small game to bring home to their village.” [Wingerd, p. 304]

The young braves, hungry, thirsty and tired approached a farmhouse near Acton and probably begged for food and water. Something went terribly wrong there – perhaps the braves were both refused and insulted or perhaps the braves just reached the very end of their tethers. The seven members of the family were found dead in their yard. The braves raced on to Shakopee and their own encampment for protection.

Little Crow was approached by the Indians in Shakopee and he was begged to lead them in a war against the whites. The proud chief knew that such a war was hopeless, but he could not talk the angry, desperate men out of a clash. They called him a coward. It was an incredible insult. He declared a warning and an oath to them.

“You will die like the rabbits when hungry wolves hunt them in the Hard Moon. Taoyateduta is not a coward; he will die with you.” [Wingerd, p. 304]

The war began with an attack led by Little Crow at the Lower Agency in Redwood. No women, children or mixed bloods were killed there. The attackers were very selective in killing only agency employees. Twenty were left dead and another ten were taken as captives. Andrew Myrick was one of the dead and he was found with his mouth stuffed with grass.

As word of the attack spread among the Indians, others of them were encouraged by their pent-up rage to join the violence. Whites who were encountered were killed, sometimes savagely. Only a fraction of the Native American population, perhaps a thousand men, participated in the violence. Quite a few of those Indians who did not join the warring braves did what they could to warn the white citizens of the dangers or actually joined in fighting against their tribal brothers. Somewhere between 400 and 1,000 whites were killed in the brief uprising. A party of 46 troops that had come out of Fort Ripley to quell the violence was wiped out. The Fort itself was attacked but managed to withstand the assault. The braves also attacked the community of New Ulm and met a strong defense, but 26 of the town’s defenders died before the attackers withdrew.

The war went on in some form for more than two weeks. White communities had drawn themselves into fortified buildings. Nevertheless, braves would attack various towns and destroy the vacant homes and other establishments and ignor the dangerous, fortified positions. An army of about 1,600 troops was roaming the countryside in search of fighting braves. They finally met in an encounter at Wood Lake, just south of Yellow Medicine. By this time there were only about 300 braves with any fight left in them and they were led by a reluctant Little Crow.

In the aftermath of the brief war, though Little Crow had escaped to Winnipeg, many innocent, warrior Indians were arrested and hauled to a prison in Mankato. The caravan moving these Indians to Mankato was savagely attacked as it skirted the town of New Ulm, where so many had died in the raid some weeks earlier. The attackers included men, women and children who armed themselves with guns, knives, stones, pitchforks and other tools of farming. Two of the Indians died in the attack and probably more than 75 percent of the others were injured. In Mankato they awaited a trial that was to turn into a kangaroo court. Many of the Native Americans who had assisted white settlers, and risked their own lives in the process, were sent to trial and convicted. The legal panel that tried the accused Indians was made up of the very military men who had been in combat against the Indians only days earlier. The 400 prisoners were convicted and condemned to die.

Imprisoned in Mankato, the convicted men were still not safe and they had to be guarded by troops day and night in the face of threats by vigilante groups.

The orders for the hanging had to be individually approved by President Lincoln. When the reports from the trial were read to his cabinet there were serious questions raised. Lincoln stayed the executions and it caused a wild uproar of objection all over Minnesota. Criticisms of Minnesota's mistreatment of innocent Indians were raised all over the nation. Lincoln was caught in the middle.

“Lincoln struggled to find a solution that would temper the draconian sentences, yet be severe enough to discourage another outbreak and satisfy the howls from Minnesota.” [Wingerd, p. 304]

Lincoln scoured the lists and examined the charges and, in the end, ordered the execution of forty Indians that had been charged with the murder of unarmed civilians. Those who were condemned were moved to Mankato for execution. The remainder were ordered taken to Fort Snelling, which stood high above the point where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers joined, where they would await transfer out of Minnesota to some areas on the western plains. As the caravan passed through Henderson, Minnesota, it was attacked by citizens of that community and innocent Indians were beaten severely – no matter whether they were men or women or children. An undetermined number of the Native Americans, including a small baby, died from the beatings. Those who were gotten safely to Fort Snelling had to be kept in fortified quarters and guarded by soldiers to prevent citizens of the surrounding communities from killing them.

On Christmas eve day in 1862, down in Mankato, carpenters and soldiers built the hanging gallows in the center of town. On December 26, the 39 condemned men were hanged after showing incredible signs of bravery as they approached the gallows. As they died, they were singing traditional Dakotah death songs.

Among those who were hanged that day in Mankato was Cut Nose. He had confessed to murdering 18 women and children and 5 men. Grandpappy Warren would later write that even that was probably some of the usual hyperbole common to Cut Nose. This minor chieftain who had been in the little Wakefield home in Orono, who had chatted humorously with little Warren, was deeply reviled in most of Minnesota even after his death and was not allowed to rest in peace. The pit into which his body was dumped was invaded on the very night of his execution. Cut Nose was carted off by grave robbers that included the famous founder of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. William W. Mayo and his two sons, Charles and Will. The skeleton of Cut Nose was kept hanging in Mayo’s office throughout the doctor's life and then passed into the hands of his sons who used it for teaching and instruction at the Clinic. In the year 2,000, the Dakotah community won claim over the skeleton and it was removed and taken back to the Lower Sioux Community, near Morton, for burial.

Fifty years after the execution, writing for the Wayzata weekly newspaper, Warren Wakefield would say this about Cut Nose:

Cut Nose was also a member of Shakopee’s band. He was truly a ‘Big Indian’ and a fine specimen of physical manhood. More than six feet tall, young and finely proportioned, he was in appearance the Indian of romance. He was hanged with thirty-seven others at Mankato after confessing that he murdered eighteen whites with his own hand. It was he who murdered the Dustin family at Moore’s Prairie only thirty miles west of Wayzata. The proximity of this murder started the building of the block house at Long Lake, a huge log building was hastily rolled up on the ridge just west of the Redeen residence, which was prepared for occupancy and defense should the occasion require it, but the fort was never occupied and it was afterward moved to the low ground and converted into a stable.” [Wayzata Record: 18 July 1912]

Indeed, this was not a proud time in Minnesota’s history and it has often been glossed over or polished up in other histories; however, Ms. Wingerd carefully documented every thread of this story and tells it bluntly and unflinchingly in her remarkable history of the period.

* Wingerd, Mary Lethert: North Country: The Making of Minnesota [2010, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis)

** Carte de visite (carte de visité) were small cards, the size of contemporary playing cards, and were precursors of the postcards to come. They were sold as souvenirs of visits to new places or of historic events. The photograph of the Mdewakanton warrior, Cut Nose, used in the heading of this blog, was originally published on a carte de visite by Joel Witney of St. Paul. Witney sold the cards in his retail shop for 28 cents each.


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