Friday, December 26, 2014

Miracle of the Littlest Christmas Tree!

 The story of the 
Littlest Christmas Tree...

(It’s true... and it happened in Cannon Falls.  Originally printed in the Beacon in 1979.  

Now on Youtube - The Miracle of the Littlest Christmas tree

The little pine tree sat in the city sales lot among many bigger and prettier Christmas trees.  Its trunk was crooked and shoppers pushed it aside in their search for the “perfect” tree to bring home and decorate for the  holiday.
One family was particularly sad that year because Grandpa had just died.  But they went on with the motions of preparing for the holidays.
And they bought a tree for their home.

No cheering up

But what about Grandma?  Her home was so empty without Grandpa.  Maybe a tree would cheer her up.
But by that time there was only the rather scraggly crooked pine tree left that would fit the purpose.  They took it.
But when they brought it to Grandma they saw that she was too heartbroken to have a real tree that year.
She only wanted the miniature artificial tree that one of the children had brought to Grandpa when he was in the hospital.
And so, the little pine tree was put aside... again.

But that’s not the end of the story!

The family left Grandma and went back home.
They tried to give away the little pine tree but it seemed everyone already had a tree.  But there just had to be a place for it!
Then they thought of a small church nearby.  The sanctuary was already decorated with a huge Christmas tree.
But a large room used for the Sunday School classes was empty.  So why not set up the little tree here?
The children could decorate it.  And they did.

But that’s still not the end of the story.

For Christmas Day came... bright and cold.
Especially cold.
The church’s furnace had gone out during the night.
The sanctuary was freezing.
But the auxiliary heater in the Sunday School room had kept on perking.  And that was the only warm place in the whole church!

And do you know where the Christmas Service was held?

In that room!
And do you know which tree was all lit up and glowing for the entire congregation?
Of course!
And it was a beautiful tree!
I know this story is true because I helped pick out the tree.

And I think it was really two miracles 

One was having a decorated tree for the Christmas Service and the other was seeing the beauty in something others had rejected.

And miracles like this will never end... 
as long as you and I look for them... 
every day of the year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My favorite Grinch… this Christmas! Enjoy!

My favorite “Grinch”... this Christmas!

( I previewed this column with some of the folks mentioned.  I changed some words because they had different meanings for them than for me.  
They may not agree with me but understood my wanting to express my view.  
One was concerned that readers wouldn’t read to the end for the concept I was trying to make.  Please show them they were wrong! )

The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy creature with a heart "two sizes too small" who lives on a steep mountain just north of Whoville, home of the merry and warm-hearted beings know as “Whos”.  (Or could that be our town and the folks known as “Whos-its”?)
But this favorite children’s book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, by Dr. Seuss, shows that the Grinch is really a soft sweet person inside when he finds out that the holiday celebration represents more than presents and parties.  
A new “Grinch”!

And this brings to mind a new friend of mine, Ken Kressin.  He has become somewhat well known in this area for his public confrontation of what he sees as problems in the Christian church via his challenging letters to the editor and picketing.
I got to know him a little because his book discussion group was reading topics I was interested in.  They’re called the Free Thinkers.  
I figured that included me - although some might think I fit better as a kind of  “Goofy Thinker”!  Anyway, I asked if I could come to their meeting.
It’s been a few months now and I’ve learned a lot.  I particularly enjoy how much we all laugh!   Although I think Ken is one of the more serious ones there, I see a gentle smile once in awhile.

“Token Christian”

One of them has nicknamed me “their token Christian”, as they mostly tend toward atheism.   At the first meeting they started picking on some of those in my faith but I didn’t have a problem with that because some of us need to be set straight.  But after a while, in a moment of silence... (not many of those you know!) I explained:  “I am a Christian... is that going to be a problem?”
They thought quietly for a moment and decided it wouldn’t. 

Enjoy the talk!

Here’s what I have found out.  We enjoy talking!
One of my favorite stories I related to them is about a former priest at St. Pius, Leon Bonin.  He allowed me to be an “outside the box” type of Christian.
On spur of the moments we would see each other and talk.
One time he was out for a walk.  We got on the topic of Catholicism.  He asked me if I had ever considered becoming a Catholic.  I was listening.  
He said they had changed some things in their doctrine so I would be able to change easier.  He mentioned one and I responded that I still had some reservations about that.  He suggested another and I had something that concerned me about that too.  He was going to tell me another one, when I stopped him and said,  (with tears in my eyes even to this day), “Don’t say anything more, because I just love you.”
In other words, I don’t have to agree with you but you mean a lot to me. 


And this brings me to my philosophy on my Free Thinker friends.  I mentioned to them that some atheist thinkers might consider themselves to have been created from the foam in an ancient sea.
But because I consider my friends to be part of a species that was made in the image of God, I may actually think more highly of them than they think of themselves!  Cool!
And l like to remember the ending of Dr. Seuss’ story about the Grinch... where they celebrate the festive season together because it has more meaning than presents and parties.

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas...  and may we all be happy “Grinches” in the New Year!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Memories misty...

Along the way... by Rosie

  Misty memories… 
         at the voting booth!
Tears misted my eyes as I checked off the names of friends and strangers in the voter registry while I was a judge at our township hall in the recent election.
But I wasn’t upset because I might not like whoever they were voting for!
It was because I had just watched a TV program a couple nights before about some folks in this world who wouldn’t allow me to have this experience of voting. 
Or probably even to live.
Their reason was that they wouldn’t approve of the way I dress or worship or what I eat or drink, etc.
(Now keep in mind that I don’t always approve of me either!)

Studied many ideas...

Over the years I’ve tried to study up on many different religions.    
Some relatives are in one of these groups. I’d see them at family reunions.  I believe they would rather I wear long hair and long skirts - not jeans and cowboy boots.
But we all loved to get together and talk about our belief in God.
And one year I told them how much I looked forward to seeing them because even though I probably irritated the "heck" out of them, (my word not theirs!), I had a great time feeling their love.

Plus those "non religious" ones...
Also, there is an atheist group that has kind of “adopted” me as their “token Christian”!  We get together because we are interested in similar topics of discussion.  
And now I’m wondering if we both might be combined as a target for some other group?

     But why get misty eyes?

But back to the importance of voting.  My dad taught me how much it meant to him.  Not by saying anything.  But by what he did.
He was older at the time and had just gotten out of the hospital.  He probably only had a few months to live.
But he was determined to go to his poling center and vote.
I wondered if I would have done that.
Why bother?

But remember...  
But then I remembered... he was an immigrant... had come over after WWI to start a new life.
And when I was a little kid... when my friends were all bragging about their ancestors coming from a variety of countries, my mother wouldn’t let me do that.  She told me that I was an American... and that was that. 
So I understood that it wasn’t so important who my ancestors were... or what my religion was... or who I was going to vote for...

But that I just take part in a process that is historically unique... and will bring me misty eyes.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tracking the James Gang across Goodhue County to their ill-fated raid on the Northfield Bank.

Tracking the James Gang...

The high spirited horses and their gentlemen riders might catch your attention as you take a moment from your chores and watch the dust floating up along the road in the rolling hills of Goodhue County back in 1876.
Some of the stories handed down through the years have been compiled by local historian, Bob Rohl of Kenyon.  And Loren Evenrud of Cannon Falls organized a bus tour to track the Jesse James gang as they traveled to their ill-fated raid of the Northfield Bank on September 7 of that year.  Recently twenty area residents climbed aboard the bus to take part in the historic event.  It was sponsored by the Shepherd's Center of Cannon Falls.
  The finale was a tour of the bank museum and watching the "shoot out" replicating the original robbery attempt.
Interest began... 
Bob first got interested in the outlaw route when he moved to his farm back in 1975. He recalls an older member of the community, Vince Benson, tellling him: “You know, Jesse James camped on your property.”
Bob thought suspiciously... “Ya right!”  But the suggestion put a seed of thought into his mind to find out if it could be so... and he discovered it could! 
Build a case...
What Bob wanted to do was “build a case.” And the result is this tour.  So hop on the bus, watch the rolling fields go by, let your imagination take you back to that time period and listen to Bob describe the possible movements of the James Gang as they traveled across the countryside.
It’s possible that the gang previously considered robbing a bank in Red Wing.  But there were not many escape routes because of the Mississippi River.
And a Mankato bank robbery was possibly foiled but another option is that they were there just scoping out escape routes.  
Their interest in the Northfield Bank might have been triggered by information that some of the bank officials had been involved in southern politics after the Civil War and rumor had it that they had left just ahead of a “tar and feather” posse.
Cannon Falls connection...
Also, a member of the gang, Bill Stiles, had been living in Cannon Falls with his sister, said to be a teacher here.  Stiles would have been able to get good information as to the layout of the area.
Stiles was one of the gang members shot and killed in the Northfield robbery.
Tracking the James Gang Tour...
The tour route began at the G. Anderson farm off Hwy 19 on County 6 Boulevard where the gang is reported to have stopped to ask directions.  Only a steel windmill remains today.  
Then on to White Rock where sources indicate that the gang watered their horses and may have had them shod at a local blacksmith.
Next stop was at what is considered to be the oldest standing residential sturcture in Goodhue County dating back to 1853... the Chandler House on County 8 Boulevard.  The gang may have stabled their horses in the barn.
The tiny town of Hader on Highway 52  was a major crossroad for travel in the mid 1800’s with a major stage coach route passing through.
The James gang was thought to have purchased grain at the Gjemse farm on 90th Avenue.    This was the great great grandfather of Rod Johnson of Cannon Falls.  It was also rumored that the gang bought horses here.  But Bob explained that this is doubtful because most farmers had work horses, not the high powered mounts the gang was riding.
Probably before Aspelund - at County 8 Boulevard and County 30 Boulevard -  it is believed that the gang split up so as not to attract too much attention.
More sites...
They may have gone through other sites including the old village of Norway, no longer there.  And here, the story goes, “a young lad with the name of Brandvold” was stopped by the horsemen and asked where the Brekke Bridge was. They also asked him the way to Northfield.  He told them and they tossed him a quarter - a good sum in those days.
In Northfield they met up with other members arriving from Mankato. 
That fateful day...
   On September 7, 1876 a total of eight gang members entered Northfield and in a period of seven minutes attempted to rob the Northfield Bank , with disastrous results.
Bill Stiles and Clell Miller were killed.  The Younger brothers: Cole , Jim, and Bob were all wounded and later captured at Madelia where Charlie Pitts was killed. Jesse and Frank James escaped to Missouri.
Other memories were given on the bus tour by Meg Judge, Don Reynolds and Don Anderson.

Photos by Loren Evenrud, Cannon Falls Cable Channel, and Rosie Schluter.
  See video on or Tracking the Jesse James gang across Goodhue county on Youtube.

Or click on the links:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Helping is key to enjoying life...

Paul Schluter

Helping is key to enjoying life

Paul Schluter discussed safety issues and the new highway roundabouts with a MnDOT representative at a recent TRIAD meeting.
Although he misses the camaraderie of the folks on the Stanton Planning Commission, Paul Schluter stepped down in 2013 after approximately 17 years due to a time conflict.

In retirement as an electrical engineer since the 1990s, Schluter has not slowed down much.
“I found a Bible College that I was interested in attending (which was) opening a branch in Minneapolis. Attending classes part time included the night of the planning commission meetings. Things appeared to be going well in the township so I wasn’t leaving under duress,” explained Schluter. “There are good people who carry on.”

Schluter said he likes the way of life he and his wife Rosie have enjoyed in their rural home and has always liked being a part of government at its lowest level, trying to follow the township ordinance.

“One resident told me that they appreciated being informed personally when I thought a project might affect them. I liked to keep people informed on what was going on in the township. We worked to accommodate people when they wanted building permits,” he said clarifying, “The problem is that you’re not going to be able to please everyone.”

While he calmed the nerves of people impacted by township matters, his continuing passion is helping people.

On the Library Foundation since 1998, and the board of the Shepherd’s Center of the Cannon Valley since it began 20 years ago, Schluter still found time to help people file their taxes with the free program sponsored by AARP/IRS for 15 years.

Another opportunity arose when Schluter was in extended care at Angels Care Center following back surgery. He developed friendships and now goes back to visit those new friends. “I take some of them out to our farm for a golf cart ride on the trails,” he shrugged, minimizing his kindness.

Now, following balloon angioplasty and insertion of a stent to his heart, Schluter is adding Meals on Wheels to his community involvement, and is facilitating the group of citizens and law enforcement professionals in the TRIAD organization which is working to promote a safer community. He just returned from their state convention and plans to help host that conference in Goodhue County next year.

To the community he advises, “There are lots of opportunities around here. I think you get more enjoyment out of life by helping people. I encourage people to get involved.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Amazing moments" 
part of TV family's life

In the background the music flowed from the radio and 18 year old Matthew Nelson, one of the identical twin sons of 1980’s teen idol Ricky Nelson, was at home where he was living with his dad, his “best friend”.
But on this night his dad wasn’t there.  He was on a concert tour.
And then Matthew's attention was drawn to the radio when heard the disk jockey announce that Teen Idol singer Ricky Nelson had just been killed in a plane crash.  Matthew passed out. 
He explained, “Usually in a tragic death the names are withheld from the media until the family is notified.”  But, Matthew continued, “when you’re in the public, those rules go out the window.”

Conversation a month earlier

It was just a month earlier that Ricky - who would come to Matthew and Gunnar's concerts but “hide in the background” -  would share how much he loved them.  
Matthew continued, his dad also said, “‘I admire you as my peers in music.’  And we all kind of cried.  It was one of those amazing moments.” 
“It was nice to get that kind of validation from my musical and personal hero.”
 A month later, Ricky Nelson was dead.
Matthew added, “The fact is that if you choose to be in entertainment you open yourself up to scrutiny and I’m okay with it... it toughens you up a little bit.
“But I must say that I enjoy being who I am.”

What was it like growing up?

Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky

In a recent interview with Matthew in respect to the twins’ upcoming concert in Cannon Falls on October 18 as a fundraiser for the Shepherd’s Center, he recalled some moments being the son of Ricky Nelson and the grandson of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson - who had one of the longest running sitcoms on television...  “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” which involved their whole family.
Matthew felt he got a good upbringing by being in the Nelson family.  He explained, Grandma and Grandpa always took time to relate to people.  They never acted like they were above anyone.
They were very humble about it and my Dad was the same way.  We were taught that we were fortunate to be able to do what we love to do.”

Matthew was about ten years old when Grandpa Ozzie died.  But Grandma Harriet would come to his sports activities.  And, he recalled, while she was in the grandstand she spent a lot of time talking to people.
Harriet had been a singer with the big bands before they started their show, Matthew continued, and actually took a little step back to be in her husband’s radio show.  And then the TV show ended up being one of the longest running sitcoms on TV.

Ricky’s surprise!

Although Ricky Nelson was on the road entertaining a lot, he came back for a special birthday party for the boys when they were 12 years old.  But he had planned a “twist” to the story!
You see, Ricky had told the boys they had dentist appointments that day!  (Bummer!)  Their mom (Kristen Harmon) was in on the deception and picked them up at school and dropped them off at the “dentist’s office”.  She told them she would park the car but they were late and had to get in the chair and get their fillings.
But as they walked into the building, Matthew noticed his brother’s drum set was there!  And then his guitar!  And the boys found out that it was really a recording studio!
Their dad had set up a recording session for them!  

Matthew and Gunnar had started playing instruments when we were about seven  years old.  And now they recorded one of the songs they had written.
The Pointer Sisters sang back-up vocals!
Then more family members showed up and they had cake in the control room!
Matthew recalled, “Only my dad could put something together like that!”

 What would you like to know?

  I had asked Facebook friends for questions so here are some of Matthew’s answers.

Wisdom from a teen idol?

Practical advice from his father, Ricky and his Grandma Harriet.  He was made to understand that because of their name, he and his brother would be given a “listen” as to their breaking into the music industry.  
But, they added,  “your talent will bring you in.”  
Also, “people will be more critical of you.” And Matthew recalled, “So we had to work harder”.  

                           Advice from Dad

They had their father’s experience to learn from.  Ricky had had to “re-invent” himself during his career.  After the teen-idol phase he went into a country-rock sound.  Ricky explained to the boys: “A career is a series of comebacks.”
He also advised, “Do what you feel is right and keep doing what you’re doing... and believe in what you’re doing.”  It’s persistence and integrity.
And... after five years of trying for a record deal they got their first one.  

What is important to you?

Matthew quickly responded, “My family and friends.  I enjoy being on stage... and making new friends...and to provide for my family and friends. Nothing else means anything... at the end of our lives the question is: did I make a difference to someone else’s life?

Living in the spotlight

Living in the spotlight of the Nelson family Matthew revealed,  “There were far more blessings than curses.  My father would love to play live concerts and my brother and I are the same way.  

      I kind of feel him around when we do the show.”

He confidently predicted, “You’ll see.”

(Video interview on