LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 39

The air is fragrant here at Red Oak House because all of the crab apple trees and lilacs are blooming. Thus, it is exceptionally pleasant to work at our gardening chores. The juneberry bush is loaded with blossoms, and our resident house wrens have returned. Their cheerful call makes our back patio an even more pleasant haven.

Jim has finished planting the vegetable garden, and it appears that this year’s asparagus crop is done. All vegetables have sprouted and there is a promise of fresh lettuce and spinach soon to come.

I’ve been busy planting annuals: 133 zinnias I sprouted in the basement earlier this spring and over a 100 impatiens. I’ve also completed the work I’ve been doing revamping a pathway around the side of the house from the gate to the patio — hard work. While I work, I listen to the brown thrasher, warbling vireo and Swainson’s thrush songs.

First, I dug in the stones, laying each on a bed of sand. Then, I planted 32 creeping thyme all around the stones. I crossed my fingers that these thrive and fill in the open space. My hope is that the dog drags into the house just a little less mud in the long run. I get mighty weary of mopping floors and have so many other things I’d rather do with my life.

While I worked in the flower beds, I found so much winter kill I just wanted to sit and have a cry about it, but Jim reminds me how much is still alive and growing.

The tulip strategy I used last fall, planting a row within the vegetable garden fence in order to foil the rabbits, worked perfectly, a cheerful row of bright colors.

Last spring, I transplanted from the Bad Lands Prairie Smoke (below), my favorite prairie wildflower, and it is blooming nicely so there is a success story.

The iris blooms are waiting in the wings. Any day now.

“The day you think you know, your death has happened — because now there will be no wonder and no joy and no surprise. Now you will live a dead life.” — Osho

MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery —Feathered Friends At The Lake

RON SCHALOW: Kevin Cramer’s Criminal Choice 

There are many public servants and oil executives to blame for their silence but only Kevin Cramer, Mr. North Dakota way, thinks he deserves a seat in the United States Senate. So, he has to answer for his failures.

“It took “more than 1,000 firefighters from 80 different municipalities in Quebec and from six counties in the state of Maine” to help with evacuations and fire-fighting efforts in the small town (Lac-Megantic) of only a few thousand people, according to a Transportation Safety Board of Canada report.” — Bellingham Herald

That was in was in July 2013. Forty-seven people died when a Bakken oil train careened off the tracks, which led to a series of violent explosions. Five victims were vaporized.

“(Congressman Kevin) Cramer said after 10 years (2003 to 2012) on North Dakota’s Public Service Commission, he was confident the state’s oil was safe.” —The Minot Daily News Sept. 12, 2014

I could go into why his statement to The Minot Daily News was so sociopathically dangerous and irresponsible because there were many more Bakken oil train disasters to come, but his inaction before and after one particular incident explains where his heart lies.

2008. Just outside of Luther, Okla., and 30 miles from Oklahoma City, the first train hauling Bakken crude derails and explodes. Big red flag.

(Would this spur you to action? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ec1JtY5kfXE)

“Among 14 cars that derailed in mixed freight train, eight cars of crude oil derailed. All spilled their contents, three from large gashes in their shells. The spilled oil caught fire and caused a massive explosion that was captured by a local TV news crew in a helicopter. About 35 people were evacuated but returned to their homes the same day. Crude oil originated in Fairview, Mont., in the Bakken region. Incident could have been an early sign of Bakken oil’s flammability.” — McClatchey, Jan. 27, 2014

Fairview straddles the North Dakota, Mont., border, but if any train originating in the Bakken explodes, it would raise concerns with any regulator with a conscience. No worries there.

But oil trains had stopped exploding on impact many decades ago, right?

Yes, but it was hurry hurry in the Bakken. The oil barons deliberately chose not to remove the explosive heptane, pentane, methane, propane, butane, ethane, isobutane and so on from the crude oil before filling the tanker cars. It was a choice. Oil companies decided, and regulators, like Kevin,  looked the other way.

“The oil industry says there is a ready market for the extracted gases in Texas, but none in North Dakota. Therefore, say the producers, the explosive gases are best shipped to refineries while still dissolved in the crude.” — Railway Age

Kevin Cramer knew what was in the liquid coming out of the ground, and he knew the concoction they poured into the tanker cars, which were designed  to haul corn syrup. And since trains have been derailing since they were invented, he knew what was likely to happen.

Unless Kevin was really bad at his job. It’s possible. Neither option is flattering.

Luther, Okla.; Lac-Megantic, Quebec; Aliceville, Ala.; Casselton, N.D.; Lynchburg, Va.; and more big booms, until Mosier, Ore., on June 3, 2016.

The fire chief of Mosier is still whiter than usual and shaking, just at the thought of what the damage would have been when a single sheared-off track bolt caused the derailment, fire and explosion of a Bakken oil train that would have burnt down the entire town had the wind been blowing like normal through the Columbia River Gorge. Spilled oil gummed up their sewage system, but none reached the river, so yay for abnormal weather conditions.

Trains are still making runs to the West Coast, and a facility was finally built in North Dakota to refine the explosive gases. All of the gases, for all of the wells? I don’t know.

On Sept.r 23, 2014, the North Dakota Industrial Commission holds a hearing:

“They (oil execs) testified that the oil was already safe, that train accidents were few and far between, and that regulations would cost the industry a lot of money.” — Prairie Public

“Already safe.”

Kevin Cramer, the proud owner of an oddly configured brain, said it is “discriminatory” to call Bakken crude by it’s given name, in a feeble attempt to obscure the source of the danger from the rest of the continent.

His words: “Well, whenever they refer to it as Bakken crude, you have to conclude they are discriminating because crude is not categorized, or characterized by its origin, by its location, by it’s geography.

“It should be characterized by its characteristics, it’s scientific and chemical make-up, so I think the rhetoric gets a little reckless. It tends to favor a particular point of view, a bias in advance, and that’s what I want to do away with on the 9th.

“I don’t know whether that (stabilization) is necessary or not. That’s part of what we will be exploring in our hearing in the science committee, because is it scientifically possible to strip it out? Obviously, of course, it is … but when you apply not just that, but the economics, and remember, you can strip those light elements off of the crude, but that has to be shipped as well, so in many respects, filling a train with nothing but the light elements, the more explosive, if you will, elements, and making that a bullet train; I’m not sure that is the right answer, so scientifically can you do it, sure, but you have to look at it holistically and consider all of the other elements; including economics, and is the benefit of doing something like that trump other things like speed of trains, and what kind of cars. There are other things to consider. That’s why I think a congressional hearing is the next best step, dealing specifically with the science of the crude.” — Kevin Cramer

“There are some benefits frankly to the stabilization process and that is stripping some of the liquids, some of the other gases off and using them in the marketplace. That is a far better solution that just stripping it for the sake of stripping it.”  Kevin Cramer

Free market ideology over public safety.

And this Cramer gem: “When you strip it, you now have highly explosive gases that have to get to market somehow. They have to go into a pipeline, they have to go on the train, making it even more explosive.”

“RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT is a crime consisting of acts that create a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person. The accused person isn’t required to intend the resulting or potential harm, but must have acted in a way that showed a disregard for the foreseeable consequences of the actions.”  USLegal.com

Is it any surprise that Harold Hamm is the Cramer campaign finance chair?

Kevin will do or say anything to protect his oil buds, even at the expense of human lives.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Freud And Murder

There has been another mass murder school shooting, this time Friday in Santa Fe, Texas.

Not long ago,m I wrote down some thoughts and an extract from the 92-page book “Civilization and Its Discontents” by the Austrian neurologist and writer Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

It was completed during the rise of Adolf Hitler, and among other insights the book anticipated the horrors of World War II. I first read the book in the 1960s as a college student. I happened upon a copy the other day and was struck again by Freud’s realistic view of human behavior.

Here’s the extract:

“Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved, and who at the most can defend themselves if they are attacked: They are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowment is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. As a result, their neighbor is for them not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their aggressiveness on him, to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him.”

In my opinion, Freud was correct and little has changed.

The state-sponsored mass destruction of humans continues around the world.

Closer to home, active shooter mass killings are regular occurrences in the U.S. And nearly every day, most of us hear of horrific individual murders in our own cities big and small.

Of course, Freud was generalizing. The world then and now is occupied by mostly good and humane people.

And yet one can’t deny that humanity has an evil side that constantly manifests itself. Today’s psychologists disagree with some of Freud’s theories, but agree that he got the evil part right.

CHRIS ALLEN: Photo Gallery — Wales Watching

Chris Allen, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, is currently on trip to London with a group of communication students. While there, he took a trip to Wales, a country in southwest Great Britain known for its rugged coastline, mountainous national parks, distinctive Welsh language and Celtic culture.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Eye For The Eagles

Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons has an eye for bald eagles. If you don’t believe it, these images will go a long way to disprove your skepticism. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery — Mission Accomplished

Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert recently happened upon this bald eagle nest near Lake Bemidji in northwestern Minnesota, just in time to see the male fly off to find something for dinner for its mate and little one(s).

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — A Proustian Moment

Here’s another photo from my visit Tuesday to the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum not far from our place in Bloomington, Minn.

These are hawthorn blossoms, French writer Marcel Proust’s favorite flower.

When I got home, I looked up what he had to say about them. Those who haven’t read Proust will notice he used long sentences.

“I found the whole path throbbing with the fragrance of hawthorn-blossom. The hedge resembled a series of chapels, whose walls were no longer visible under the mountains of flowers that were heaped upon their altars; while underneath, the sun cast a square of light upon the ground, as though it had shone in upon them through a window; the scent that swept out over me from them was as rich, and as circumscribed in its range, as though I had been standing before the Lady-altar, and the flowers, themselves adorned also, held out each its little bunch of glittering stamens with an air of inattention, fine, radiating ‘nerves’ in the flamboyant style of architecture, like those which, in church, framed the stair to the rood-loft or closed the perpendicular tracery of the windows, but here spread out into pools of fleshy white, like strawberry-beds in spring.

“How simple and rustic, in comparison with these, would seem the dog-roses which, in a few weeks’ time, would be climbing the same hillside path in the heat of the sun, dressed in the smooth silk of their blushing pink bodices, which would be undone and scattered by the first breath of wind.

“But it was in vain that I lingered before the hawthorns, to breathe in, to marshal before my mind (which knew not what to make of it), to lose in order to rediscover their invisible and unchanging odor, to absorb myself in the rhythm which disposed their flowers here and there with the light-heartedness of youth, and at intervals as unexpected as certain intervals of music; they offered me an indefinite continuation of the same charm, in an inexhaustible profusion, but without letting me delve into it any more deeply, like those melodies which one can play over a hundred times in succession without coming any nearer to their secret.”

Yup, that’s exactly what it was like Tuesday.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Ambush at Lindenwood Park

A political lobotomy must be in the plans for the Fargo Park Board.

When I drove by Lindenwood Park last week, I noticed something was different but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Thank goodness for concerned, interested neighbors! Apparently with no public discussion, the Fargo Park Board has been developing plans to close the park’s softball fields to allow for more RV lots.

First, let’s get one thing straight. They have already removed fencing around some fields at Lindenwood. That suggests more than “we’re considering it.” It looks more like “we’re doing it.” That begs the question: Who do these Park Board members, the ones who support eliminating the playing fields, think they are? Fargo’s parks have been there for a purpose. That purpose is to allow our citizens, young and old, to enjoy — at no direct cost to them — the beauty of nature, the excitement of games, and the enjoyment of family and group gatherings, among other things.

You cannot place a price on individual enjoyment in our parks. RV camping is fun, but it should never replace the true function of a park like Lindenwood. To expand services for the few (the RV campers) at the expense of our citizens is just plain wrong.

Taking down the fences around some playing fields, which just happen to be next to the existing RV camper sites, doesn’t seem like a coincidence if you apply a rational thought process. The excuse coming from the Park Board — “we’re just laying plans” — is political baloney.

The bike trails throughout the city also course through the parks. Men, women and children of all ages use them. Do you think the proposed change won’t affect them? Think again.

The board apparently believes that two new softball fields in North Fargo eliminate the need for two south Fargo fields. To that, I claim “foul!”

South Fargo has not shrunk; North Fargo has not grown. The people in the south deserve their parks. The RV folks can find places to park and enjoy life in other areas.

It makes one wonder if the fact that the park is in “old south Fargo” rather than in the newer plush “new south Fargo” is being factored in. In this political climate, you’d have to be brain dead to not recognize that “moneyed interests talk” and have much power here as elsewhere.

It’s a good thing the neighbors in the area are speaking up to sound the alarm. The board’s argument that there will be discussion about this at some time in the future apparently means it will be presented to the public after the parks plan has been completed. How about public input in creating the plan in the first place?

What is happening is obvious! Money talks. But in this context, people count, and the current plan to dumb down the parks must stop.

An aging population deserves park access just like the youngsters. You can participate, observe and enjoy the parks at any age. But you cannot replace the memories.

 So the Fargo Parks director has been quoted as saying the board has no interest in restoring the fields that were closed. That’s the thinking of a person who confuses his position with a dictator. That’s where the elected Park Board members come into play.
The Park Board is responsible to the people, and the people should let the board know that the director’s plans and comments do not comport with the best interests of the citizens of Fargo.


The Lindenwood neighbors have it right. This is already taking place. Without public voices to stop it, it will happen.

Your voice and your vote count. If you don’t speak up, you can’t complain. Make your voices heard, and put a stop to this ill-conceived idea. Amen.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Loving Pigs And Tom Terrific

You’d think grandparenting would be more like riding a bike — you just climb back on, and it all comes back to you.

That’s true of the most essential skills of wrangling tiny humans — appeasing their howls, juggling damp Pampers and stashing the cookies well out of reach. Some real-life lessons you never do forget, like not packing Kix to distract a wiggly toddler in church, or — if your family harbors cats — always covering the sandbox. (Round cereal, when dropped, ricochets under the pews like a handful of hypercharged BBs. The logic behind the latter should be self-evident.)

But other things have changed greatly since our daughter flew out of the family nest, and Russ and I are still playing catch-up with weird matters that pass for progress. Go-Gurt, for instance — whose idea was it to package such a slimy pastel snack in a toothpaste tube? Or consider the so-called “educational” chip-equipped toys that giggle and beep and babble in icky-sweet voices … the demonic scourge of the modern toybox, powered by an infinite number of double-A’s.

All that paled, though, when the World’s Leading Grandchild uttered her very first portentous word: “Peppa!”

Until our little Evelyn came along, we’d never heard of Peppa Pig. Perhaps you haven’t, either, if you’re old like us and long past the TV cartoon epoch. But if a grandchild is on the way, trust me: You will, and sooner than you think.

Peppa is a cartoon piglet with a lovely British lilt. She lives in a yellow house on a hill with Mommy Pig (contralto grunt), Daddy Pig (basso grunt) and her little brother George, who grunts and giggles.

Cartoon Peppa resembles a somehow-charming pink potato with a snout. She wears yellow galoshes to splash in muddy puddles. She plays well with friends like Susie Sheep, Danny Dog and Pedro Pony.  Her adventures tend toward picking flowers, playing wiggly worm and hunting for Tiddles the Tortoise, the turtle who likes to climb trees. Tiny, preverbal humans adore her.

Sweet young Peppa was invented in England and imported to America of late by Nick Junior, which replays her rather serene adventures seven days a week. Her oinks have been translated into 40 languages. Now she’s become a global star (and thus, hot licensing property), followed by children on every continent except Antarctica, where penguin mothers can still persuade their hatchlings to play outside.

Peppa entranced our Evi from the moment her parents discovered episodes on YouTube. Her eyes light up when she hears the theme song. She toddles up and touches her pig idol on the TV screen. She clings to a pink plush Peppa when she naps. Her reliable giggles inspire dignified grandparents to grunt. Said grandparents even scoured the Net for Peppa pillows and bedding to induce her to sleep in her big-girl bed. (It worked.)

But still, we’re rather mystified by this youngest generation’s taste. Russ and I cut our TV eyeteeth on Tom Terrific and Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog … then the more worldly Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, along with Boris Badunov, Natasha Fatale and Mr. Peabody. Now, that was good television! The only porkers who made much of an impression were Porky Pig and Piggly Wiggly.

We raised the mother of the World’s Leading Grandchild in the age of Smurfs. She started school with Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles. After she graduated to MTV, we pretty much lost touch with the ever-exploding cartoon universe — from the Powerpuff Girls to that bewildering SpongeBob SquarePants.

So we were rather baffled — and impressed — when our little sprout started chanting, “Peppa! Peppa! Peppa!” Until then, we’d had no luck spoiling her with our misguided choice of toddler bait. The Very Hungry Caterpillar elicits barely an eye roll. She has zero time for Dora the Explorer and, for that matter, dollies in general. Elmo seems to attract her from time to time, but his maniacal giggles get him tossed back into the toybox like a hot potato.

But piggish grunts? They never fail to make this girl laugh out loud.

You won’t be surprised, I know, to learn that Peppa Pig has become a global merchandise behemoth. Some 1,000 licensed Peppa manufacturers now peddle a mind-boggling array of perfect birthday presents for juniors from Paris to Bombay: Plush, huggable Peppas, Georges and all their charming anthropomorphic pals. Collector figurines. Doll houses. Tricycles. Race cars with pigs, elephants and foxes at the wheel. Storybooks. Night lights. Big-girl panties. Finger puppets. Toothbrushes. Shopping carts … well, you get the drift. There’s even a Peppa Pig World theme park with life-sized costumed characters — thankfully, in far-off England.

International business publications peg the Peppa empire at more than $1.2 billion, and it’s growing fast. I should know. We’ve contributed significantly to that growth, and there’s no end in sight.

But, of course, it could be worse. Evelyn could have been a boy … and we’d be up to our eyeballs in Lightning McQueen.