Wednesday, January 16, 2013

                     Bring your shovel?

The assassin for the Columbian drug cartel aimed the gun and the victim fell into the pit.  It had been previously dug by a backhoe as the gravesite for a sick horse.  
And it wasn’t the first human body dumped in there. 
It was on a horse farm near Cannon Falls.

This scenario is part of a book written by crime novelist, Christopher Valen who has won many awards for his series featuring St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana.  

I met Christopher through e-mail interviews as I was trying to find a speaker to visit the Cannon Falls TRIAD - citizens and law enforcement partnership.  He explained that he loves visiting the local Cannon River Winery because the winemaker, Vincent Negret is from Colombia just like Christopher’s wife.

But the key point was: Cannon Falls is actually referred to in his third novel!

He explained: “A few scenes in ‘Bad Weeds Never Die’ take place at a Paso Fino horse ranch modeled after the ranch in Cannon Falls.”

This immediately caught my attention because we have had such a ranch for the past 25 years... Spirit Song Paso Finos.  To surprise the author I e-mailed back our website: with our farm on it.

Christopher responded: “I didn’t realize... When I was researching the third book, I needed a ranch/farm where Paso Finos were bred in Minnesota and found Spirit Song in Cannon Falls. So my wife and I drove by one day, and then I "fictionalized" the farm in the novel. It plays a key role in the story.”

OK.  So let’s take a glimpse at his novel... and the role Cannon Falls has in it.  He writes:  “The sun moved in and out of darkening clouds as (Detective) Santana drove south on Highway 52, past the huge Pine Bend Oil Refinery, and through a flat landscape... to rural fields of soybeans and stalks of tall corn...”  (We have that.)

Turning off the highway about three miles from the farm on to the county road which was narrow and curving. (We have that.)

There was “...a windbreak of evergreens planted along the end of the pasture...”  (We have that.)

As he drove up the circular driveway (we have that)...  he saw a woman riding on a beautiful black Paso Fino.  (We have that!)

Here’s what we don’t have!

Detective “Santana recalled that Colombians liked to bury things of value... whenever a cartel kingpin was knocked off, the first thing the new leader did was dig up the yard and tear up the floors and walls of the former leader’s home, looking for... treasure.”

When setting up the scene for the murders the author describes the method a vet uses to euthanize an animal.    And the backhoe that digs the grave. 
The strange part is that this book was being written in 2010.   That’s the year we had to “put down” one of our horses because of illness.  And we decided to bury him on the farm so we needed to use a backhoe to dig the grave.  I’ve got a video on Youtube about our memory of him.

But that’s all that is buried there folks!

I’m looking forward to meeting the author when he visits Cannon Falls this spring.

Until then, a friend, Susan, loaned me some other crime novels written by another Minnesota author, John Sandford.  I opened Storm Prey, also from 2010, and to my surprise I read about “a horse ranch thirty miles south of St. Paul... 40 acres... round gravel driveway...” where two men who had stolen about $1 million in drugs went to hide it but were executed by a hired killer near the horse barn.

It seemed to me that this was all getting kind of creepy!

I was telling about this “literary connection” to one of Cannon Falls’ Police Officers and he just shook his head and said, “Now I suppose we’ll have to get a shovel and come out and dig.”

(Well, I’ve got a garden that could use some work!)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

           Some times a note from a friend sent to all during the holidays, deserves to be read again all year long.  Kevin Hogan, a well-known international public speaker, consultant, corporate trainer and author of 19 books (www.kevinhogan.comwent to high school in Cannon Falls.  He wrote to remind us of the important things in life.. in memory of his mother, Carol Swicker.  
            No Terror “Threats”... 
       every day was terror.

Guest Columnist: Kevin Hogan

There were no terror "threats." Every single day was living terror.  In World War II,  60 million people were killed. 
Each and every day, life was on the line for almost every family.

The battlefield in the harsh winter was unimaginable. Back home, the families of those fighting hoped that their kids would live to return, perhaps at Christmas, the time of year that families came together by tradition... 
It was a time that represented hope. Hope that the person you loved would come home...

For one young girl, that person she wanted to come home was her much older brother, Freddie.
There was no Christmas in her home when she was a kid...and she wanted to have Christmas. There was no money for a tree, gifts...

Christmas Eve 1944.
Mom had just turned 10.
She listened to the radio like most people, and she loved the music of Christmas...  "I'll Be Home for Christmas" played. Bing Crosby recorded it the year before. It was pretty much a vocal Christmas Card from a soldier to his family back home. It finishes, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."

As it played, there was a knock at the door and as soon as they opened the door, they knew what was coming.
A family friend in the military brought the telegram with the news that her brother Freddie, 24, had been killed in action, days earlier, fighting for Europe's Freedom. 
He took a bullet for another.  

Back in the States...many families had the knock on the door... or a telegram....and of course for some, the news had to come at Christmas...
That moment changed my Mom's life.
Being 10 and finding out that your big brother had died has to be devastating.

From my earliest days, I can remember, when I would hear one specific song, there was a sort of reverence in the house. Everyone would be quiet... and we had a big family... 
Mom would stop doing whatever. Sometimes she would cry. But she kept the "why" to herself until I was in my late teens ...and to this day, that song means the world to me.

When Mom died 13 years ago, it was one of three songs at her funeral. I don't imagine many have had that song played in that setting. For her, it was perfect. She would have approved.

Mom was the Mom that wanted to make Christmas magical for people for all the right reasons. Her spirit was unyielding in her desire to give people a special Christmas.....
Someone in town didn't have somewhere to go for Christmas, they came to our home. We didn't have stuff...we did have an overflow of love.

At Christmas... there is often a spirit of giving and goodness that I see and feel. The spirit of good intention. The spirit of wanting others to be feel find ways to give someone else a better life...a brighter day.

And as I think of these things this Christmas, I think of you.  
Maybe you'll be home for Christmas. Or maybe you'll be at someone else's home... 

Sixty-eight years ago, those soldiers made certain you and I would always be at home.

The best of the holiday to you and yours.