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Slices of life: Becoming a citizen

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Roy watched from the hill

Ailene Croup for PiCK News, August 18, 2017

I’ve had the great, good fortune of attending two 50-year class reunions this year in Pine County, first at Hinckley and this past weekend at Sandstone.
We were never planted anywhere during my school days. I attended six schools, finally graduating from Goose Creek High School in South Carolina. But, that is a whole other story.
Sandstone was a world away when we moved from Minneapolis to a very rural setting in Pine County. I was dragged there, as 12-year-old girl, kicking and screaming. I think I even said something like, “Just leave me here. I don’t want to go. I won’t know anyone.” Then, “There’s nothing to do out there.”
There was a remedy for that pretty quickly. We settled into a routine of farming, milking cows and making hay. School provided the social contact and became ultimately important for this transplanted teenager.
The four years I attended Sandstone High School left a lasting impression and permanent memories - some comforting, some unsettling.
This past weekend provided a better look at the past and acceptance of how the present is fleeting. We made the most of every minute.
Some of us gathered at the all-class reunion on Friday and we exchanged 50 years of joy, heartache and hugs like we were just coming back after summer vacation. Thanks for the nudge Pete (VanDerSchaegen). There were classmates as far back as 1952. I made lots of new friends such as Al and Louise. The all-class reunion was a way to meet and make new friends. Was Diane (Anderson) Ausmus really the youngest person there? This is how rumors start.
Many classmates stayed in the Pine County area or, like myself, felt compelled to “return to our roots” and moved back.
In rural Minnesota, reunions are planned around the town’s fair to attract as many classmates as possible who may be visiting family during that time.
The reunion experience would not have been complete without a 50-year reunion float in Sandstone’s Quarry Days parade. Usually, the mode of transportation is a hay wagon with chairs. Ours, thanks to local classmates Greg and Judy Wickstrom, went a step further and was decorated with basketball shorts and cheerleading jackets from the 60s (purchased at a garage sale for a quarter). It sported our school colors - purple and white.
As we rounded the corner on Commercial Avenue and were making our way to Old Hwy. 61, up on the hill to our left was our old school. Wheelchair-bound classmate, Roy Ubl, waved to us from the old school, affectionally known as The Rock, and our float came alive with emotion and cheers. We were sad but happy all at once. My mind’s eye conjured up a picture of a handsome 13-year-old boy who shared a crush with me in seventh grade. I’m thankful to have known him. He made my first year at that school something to look forward to. Happy Birthday, Roy.

As we neared the end of the parade route and the bags of candy were almost gone, I realized one thing - Maureen is a terrible candy-thrower.
The reunion dinner that evening was spent conversing with Laurie and Lola (sorry you couldn’t be there Ken) and Kathy. At the next reunion, five years away, we will pick up where we left off. We will always remember our classmates as the young vibrant friends of 1967. It’s a magical thing to look at your classmates and see them as they were 18,250 days ago. God Bless you all and a special thank you to Bobbie Jean and Dave for gathering the group which was scattered from the east to west coasts.
I’d like to pass on what I’ve learned to teenagers everywhere - from someone who was you - be carefree. Talk face-to-face with your friends. When you’re afraid, uncomfortable and unsure we all were, and that will change. Everything you do as a teenager, how you handle problems, how you love and how you interact with your friends counts. Listen more, talk less. Be a friend, expecting nothing in return. Be truthful.

Could roundabouts be nothing more than an April Fool's joke?

Ailene Croup for PiCK News, April 2, 2017

I’m beginning to believe roundabouts are simply experiments. Costly experiments.
Did someone in MnDOT decide roundabouts worked so well in Europe that we should have some here in the United States? What do truckers think of these obstructions? My brother is a trucker and speaks of them in expletives.
One night I was traveling on Highway 15 south of St. Cloud, on my way to Hutchinson. It is one of my destinations as a transport officer. It was my first trip to that city. There was very little traffic on the two-lane highway through the middle of farm country. Fields and farmhouses are the only attractions  and there is very little lighting other than an occasional yard light.
Then I saw a sign that looked like a rotary engine symbol followed by a blast of lighting up ahead. Before I knew it, there was a hill in front of me and I had to make a quick decision about where I should be going and where I should get off. If your intention is to go left at the intersecting road, there isn’t much time to realize it’s time to exit and you have merging traffic from the other three directions to maneuver around.
What I discovered was that both ends of Hutchinson, north and south on Highway 15, have roundabouts. They couldn’t have done a better job job of isolating or shutting off that city if they put a moat around it.
Warning - do not circle the roundabout more than twice or you’ll become disoriented and lose your sense of direction. My suggestion is, don’t look for where you should exit, just get off ASAP.
There should be pull off lanes so drivers can regain their equilibrium and figure out which direction they are pointed.
If you haven’t seen the roundabout traffic signs, familiarize yourself with them ahead of time because by the time you figure out what that symbol means, you’ll be climbing a hill in the middle of the highway.
Another costly roundabout experiment is about to take place at Moose Lake, Minnesota. It will be at the intersection of highways 27, 73 and 289 will cost $6 million.
What would the cost of a stoplight be at that intersection? If it’s $6 million, I have some swamp land I’d like to sell to MnDOT.

Task Force tallies drug seizures

The East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional Violent Crime Enforcement Team made up of the four partnering counties of Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec and Pine.
Sheriff Rick Duncan of Chisago County, Sheriff Chris Caulk of Isanti County, Sheriff Brian Smith of Kanabec County and Sheriff Jeff Nelson of Pine County serve as members on the Task Force Board and oversee the efforts of the assigned agents.
In 2016, the Task Force was involved in multiple undercover operations and over 410 investigations. During these investigations, the agents of the Task Force executed 70 search warrants and arrested 138 individuals for drug or violent crimes.
Throughout the year, the East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force seized approximately 3.9 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of over $50,700. The Agents also seized over 22 pounds of processed marijuana at a total street value of $69,366 and 580 locally grown marijuana plants. Other narcotics seizures include two methamphetamine labs, 10.7 ounces of liquid methamphetamine, 1.25 ounces of cocaine, 2 grams of marijuana wax, 172 grams of THC edibles, 246 prescription pills and 23 grams of heroin.
The East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force also recovered 120 firearms and seized other property for forfeiture, to include 6 firearms, 1 vehicle and $24,750 in U.S. currency.
The Task Force has also participated in 18 presentations to the community in 2016.
On Thursday, March 2, 2017, the East Central Drug and Violent Offenders Task Force worked with the Pine County Sheriff’s Office and Mille Lac Band Tribal Police to conduct a criminal interdiction saturation in Pine County.
The saturation resulted in 50 traffic stops, eight felony arrests and three citations. The arrests included one vehicle pursuit, five drug arrests and three warrant arrests.
The Pine County Sheriff’s Office is committed to the continued efforts and involvement of the Task Force. Drug trafficking does not respect any boundaries whether it be international or local. Drug addiction affects all of our communities. That is why we proudly join with our law enforcement partners to combat the problems associated with drug dealing and use.
We realize that enforcement is one piece of combating the drug problem in our society. To truly affect the communities we have also partnered with other stake holders and concerned parties. One such effort will be on May 16, at the Grand Casino in Hinckley. There will be a community forum focused on opioid and heroin use from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The Pine County Sheriff’s Office will be represented as will the Task Force, along with health professionals and treatment experts. Please look for additional details as they are announced.
Thank you for your continued support of the Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Jeff Nelson

Not to be negative, but...

Jill Pertler for PiCK News, March 21, 2017

Most of us like to think of ourselves as glass-half-full types of people. Positive and optimistic and all that. I try to be positive. Except in one key area where I have no choice or voice.
I blame my parents for my negativity. They both contributed equally to a situation I couldn’t change if I tried. To be fair, neither could they.
You might say it’s in my blood. Literally. I am one of the 10 to 15 percent of the population whose blood is negative (versus positive).
This negativity is due to the absence of a certain marker in the blood called the Rh factor, which is a recessive and inherited trait. The Rh factor was first discovered in the blood of Rhesus monkeys in 1940 (hence the name) and later in humans. Most humans have the factor. I do not.
For the most part, it’s no big deal. I’d never given it much thought. But then I went online and dangerously hit the Google and found a firestorm of theories – conspiracy and otherwise – as to how the difference between Rh-positive and negative came to be. Some of the more outlandish ideas involve an ancestry of extraterrestrials, angels or even lizards.
Here’s an actual quote from one *website: “Do the Rh-negatives amount to an underground army of human hybrids being carefully and secretly nurtured for reasons that might be nothing less than downright sinister and deadly?”
Human hybrids and ancient aliens who are downright sinister and deadly? How about the possibility that Rh-negative blood might simply be a genetic mutation? I think I like the angel theory the best.
I don’t often brood about my blood type. Most people don’t. The few I asked couldn’t tell me theirs. They thought it was a strange question, which I found to be a strange answer.
Being negative never impacted me in a negative way – until I got pregnant with my first child. Then I had to confront the gruesome reality that if given the chance, my body would turn on the unborn baby and attempt to kill it.
That’s because negative blood and positive blood are like oil and water. They don’t mix. They don’t even like each other. So things can get tricky and downright dangerous when an Rh-negative mama-to-be is carrying an Rh-positive baby, which I did – four times. If the blood from the fetus mixes with the blood from the mother, wham! Attack mode. The mother’s body sees the baby as a foreign entity – or alien – and tries to get rid of it.
Luckily for us negative types a drug was invented in the late 1960s to prevent a mom’s body from destroying the baby. I got poked with a needle a couple extra times during each pregnancy so I – and my babies – were safe.
Certain traits are rumored to correlate with Rh-negativity – some more interesting than others. People without the factor are thought to have an increased capacity for empathy and even psychic abilities. I wouldn’t have predicted that. Their body temperature is lower than their positive peers. They cannot be cloned, so you might see my doppelganger, but never my cloned twin. According to highly scientific Internet wisdom, people abducted by aliens are more likely to be Rh-negative. I better start locking my bedroom door at night.
There are a few positives related to being negative. Folks without the factor have a natural resistance (but not immunity) to HIV, smallpox and the bubonic plague. I guess I can finally quit worrying about succumbing to black death. Whew!
Scientists are interested in how Rh-negative came to be and why. Is there an advantage or disadvantage to being Rh-negative? If you asked me I’d say it’s a little of both. Disadvantage during pregnancy. Advantage toward plagues.
Add to that a probable propensity for leadership. Since the Rh factor was identified mid-last century, the website reports U.S. Presidents with Rh-negative blood include Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan, George W. Bush, Clinton and Obama. British royals Queen Elizabeth, Princes Charles, William and Harry are also part of the club. As was Princess Diana. That’s quite a group.
I guess I’m in pretty good company then. Perhaps my glass is half full after all.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

Lessons from mothers on the meaning of Christmas

Ailene Croup for PiCK News, Dec. 25, 2016

This has been a landmark year in many ways from contentious, nail-biting elections and the promise of reason in a new President Donald Trump to the death of a tyrannical leader Fidel Castro and the loss of the voice of reason in Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Where is our hope? Where do we put our faith and trust?
It wasn’t the rise of a potential leader, the death of a noxious leader, or the loss of a proven leader that inspired hope. It was the birth of our Savior which gives us hope.
Two thousand years later we are still inspired by his love.
Christmas is something we look forward to with anticipation from the time we are children. It marks the beginning of the path to our salvation which is our realization as adults. For children, it’s the bounty and with any luck at all, the adults around them have impressed on the children the reason we celebrate on December 25.
On Christmas Eve, I asked my husband, Terry, about his most memorable Christmas. He talked about the two toy trucks he received from his beloved brother who passed away, way to young - and the gift of a basketball from his mother.
They weren’t valuable in the sense of their price tag but priceless because of who they came from and the sacrifice involved.
There was little money for such frivolous gifts and everyone in his family had a job from the time they could deliver papers as young boys and through their military service and into their adult lives. His mother washed clothes to make money for herself and her three boys. She washed them by hand or wringer washer and hung them on the line, ironing every piece. Cotton was unforgiving when it came to wrinkles. This was the job she was able to do from home when the boys’ father died when the youngest, Terry was age 2.
Terry really wanted the basketball and he wore the cover off. The toy trucks he sold recently at a garage sale. It was hard for him to part with them.
These gifts were lessons for the boy when he became an adult. Giving is never a sacrifice if you do it with love.
One of my most memorable Christmases was in the 1980s.
My mother also had the job of raising us kids on her own. There were seven of us and she worked long hours to keep us fed and together.
Dad had disappeared in 1967 leaving her with six children from four months to 18 years old still at home. She didn’t know how she was going to keep us together, she told me when I was an adult. She only knew she would do whatever it would take.
By the 1980s, she was able to secure a decent job which paid well. It was a good job and they were fortunate to have her as an employee. She wasn’t afraid to work.
I have a picture in my mind of that Christmas in the 1980s. She had several grandchildren besides her children and their spouses, an aunt and both her parents - my grandparents who would be attending Christmas at her home.
Wrapped gifts rose up around her tree - a tree that bore lights and handmade ornaments from kids and grandkids as well as store-bought decorations. Mom had wrapped everything from nail clippers to pencils and crayons. It was so wonderful to see everyone’s face as gifts disappeared from under the tree to the laps and surrounding each family member.
I stole glances at her. Her joy was evident as we all marveled at the abundance and her efforts to make the day special for us all. She didn’t spend tons of money because she didn’t have it. She gave us love.
Hope comes from our faith in God. He inspires us with his love and it’s our duty to share that love.
Merry Christmas

Act like President of all people

Ailene Croup for PiCK News, Nov. 19, 2016

There, I’ve said it and I’m proud of it. Yes, I voted for him. He was my candidate from day one because I am tired of career politicians. Tired of oppressive, tyrannical government. Tired of my inalienable and Constitutional rights being taken away in favor of an uninformed, prejudiced president’s pet projects.
Obama’s actions and reactions have inflamed the nation and our allies and caused a resurgence of prejudice and racial conflict. I haven’t seen this kind of conflict since the early 60s. Obama has pitted neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend.
A thoughtful president would have encouraged Americans to open their hearts, to celebrate and embrace their differences rather than trying to legislate our consciences. You can’t legislate love. You can only be an example.
He has led with a chip on his shoulder, milked and led the hype of the inequality of white Americans versus black Americans.
If you’re raised with a chip on your shoulder, it becomes the weight of the world.
Prejudice isn’t confined only to black and white. It’s rich and poor and a hundred more words that separate and segregate us.
Has prejudice affected me? Absolutely. It has made me more tolerant of people’s differences and acutely aware of how easy it is to hurt someone's feelings. It has also made me aware of others’ shortcomings and more tolerant of them.
I have learned not to put so much store in what people say but to be aware of what they do.
President-elect Donald Trump, I encourage you to temper your sentiment for the higher purpose of uniting the country in a common goal - peace. National peace.

Don't go back on your campaign promises to the people who put you in office. But, be as fervent and unflinching as you can be in your position as a Constitutional advocate, and an example to the world in your actions and words while expressing your loyalty to our nation.

Legislators, not bureaucrats make laws

Terry Croup for PiCK News, Nov. 7, 2016

Let us talk about “administrative law” -  those rules and regulations government agencies set upon us. They are laws which government says are for our own good, but more likely are for their convenience. They are not legislative laws made by the people we vote into office.

You will recognize some of these rules and regulations such as which side of the road to drive on. That’s a good one. We won’t run into each other if we all stay on the right side of the road. Many of these regulations are made with good intentions perhaps, but they become laws none the less and have consequences. They are made by appointed people. People hired by the government.

The people we elect should be making the laws. Right?

I am now calling these rules and regulations ‘laws’ because they are enforced by police action. The punishment - you end up in a courtroom followed by fines and imprisonment or both. They must be laws if you can go to jail by violating them.

Agencies invoke their authority by requiring licenses, issuing permits and assessing fees. You can’t even take a walk in a federal or state park without purchasing a permit or license. Do I sound cynical? You bet.

The land being regulated is funded by our taxes. But, we aren’t done yet because there are so-called “user fees” in the form of permits.

What’s the trouble with all this you ask? Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work? They make a law and we should obey?

The way I see it, agencies should not be making laws. That job is for our elected representatives. Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) or the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or any other agency should not make a rule or regulation which comes with consequences that jeopardize our freedom with the threat of imprisonment. That would be a law.

We are seeing some kickback from citizens in the western states where land grazing, mining and forestry are highly regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and DNR. Ranchers. mine operators and lumber companies are balking at BLM’s claim they own the land.

One such rancher was Lavoy Finincum, forever to be remembered as the guy who got shot to death in Oregon. He said, “I was here first.”

Mr. Finicum was referring to the common rule of being first in line.

He once used this example: If you’re standing in line at a movie theater and have stood in line for a long time, you may have slept on the ground and waited all night to be first to get a ticket. Along comes a guy, who steps in front of you. The nerve, huh? You say, pardon me sir but I was here first. He tells you to go make love to yourself for all he cares.

Well, well, well. Now you have two choices. One, you can choose to be second in line. Or two, you can push him out of line. We well know what happens when you push BLM out of line, don’t we? It appears to me that citizens have had enough of the rules and regulations. Who is really in charge in our country, elected officials or agency/bureau employees.

In Lavoy’s case, he said he bought the grazing rights from the past rancher, and that rancher bought the grazing rights from the rancher before him, and this went way back even before Arizona was a state. First in line? I think Lavoy was right about this.

You say, but it’s the law.

Is it? Congress did not make these laws. Finicum violated “laws” made by BLM - an appointed person behind a desk somewhere, who was hired not elected.

Have politicians given agencies permission to act on their behalf? Is this out of laziness or have they taken on more than they can handle? More than the Constitution allows or gives them power to control? This happened slowly over more than 100 years in our country. Congress seems to have turned their heads or ignored much of what is deemed as their responsibility.

You say, we should be peaceful. We should talk to BLM about what we believe is wrong with them claiming to be the governing agency. That is what the ranchers did and their grievances were denied. They were taken to court for not paying BLM fees. And guess what, it went before a federal judge who enforced the regulation and declaring the agency in the right.

This and similar confrontations with agencies’ rules and regulations are taking place right now, November 2016. The latest being the North Dakota pipeline standoff, and there are other situations in the West dealing with mining and lumber.

Is this the country we want to be?

These confrontations should be a red flag for those of us who think we’re living in a free country. It’s a clear signal something is wrong in America.

So many citizens have chosen to fight back. They get arrested, get themselves injured, make sacrifices for their cause and even face death at times. The agencies call them terrorists. Are they?

What can we do prevent all this?

The politicians must take responsibility for lawmaking. They must rigidly oversee these agencies. They must take back control. I don’t mean by committee. Committee oversight is what they are doing now and it is not working.

I propose, at the very least on the federal level, each agency should have one congressman assigned to it. Congressmen should be picked at random so there is no favor. These assignments should be switched often so no one becomes too comfortable.

Each agency director should bring all proposed regulations to their overseeing congressman, who will in turn take the proposals to Congress to see if they meet the peoples’ approval to become a law. States could and should follow suit and we will have oversight across the country. A wonderful refreshing change.

Oh. By the way, there may be an additional benefit to having the politicians watching their assigned agency. It will keep them busy and out of trouble.

Say! Maybe Mr. Trump will read this and implement my suggestion. Go Trump.

Terry Croup is a contributing writer for PiCK News.

The trouble with cats

Ailene Croup for PiCK News, Oct.3, 2016

The trouble with cats is they start out as kittens.

I like cats but I don’t want one for a pet. I also don’t want fish or pigs, or cows, or chickens. We have four dogs who started out as adorable puppies. That’s still three more than I ever thought we’d have at one time and they don’t like cats but that’s their nature and they were here first.

My fear is that I will end up somewhere where they’re giving cats away and one will jump into my lap and start its motor. I avoid that at all cost. I refuse to listen to a kitten sob story.

A few days ago, my husband, Terry, worked late doing some paperwork and drove his patrol car home. I was gone when he came home. When I arrived, it was late. He asked me to come outside with him.

“Do you hear that? Is that a cat?” he asked.

It sure sounded like one but it took us a minute to decide where the meowing was coming from.

I heard it coming from the patrol car.

My husband went to get some gloves knowing that extracting a cat from a car could be very painful – for him. When it comes to stray, abandoned and orphaned animals, sharks to sheep, he’s a pushover. I was worried.

I sat on the deck with the porch light illuminating the front of the patrol car. Then I saw it.

As I called, “Kitty, kitty kitty” and used a secret weapon - my Finnish cat call which goes something like “Sssssk, sssssk” - a little paw poked out of a bumper vent.

Terry approached the car and the 10-week old kitten could be heard tramping around under the hood and then emerged from below the car.

She was small, skittish and hungry. Against my better judgement, I found something for her to eat. I’d broken the rule. Do not feed or pet animals because they then own you.

We sat on the deck for an hour with the kitten who purred and rubbed and looked at us with ownership in those little kitten eyes.

How did she get here? She was too small to have made it all the way to our house. She came by patrol car down the freeway at 70 m.p.h. and over two miles of dirt roads.

Neither of us said anything about it staying. We went to bed to avoid the question.

The next morning, we went out to see if the visitor was still around. She was. Terry and I began talking about what to do with her and whether it would be possible to keep her.

Let’s introduce the youngest of our Australian shepherd, Tippo, to her and see if they can tolerate each other.


That’s all it took for Tippo. They did the “get to know you” dance for a little while. They had to make friends quickly. The clock was ticking on the decision.

We decided to find a home for the kitten.

Our neighbor who is a dairy farmer took one look at the kitten, checked for gender, females stay closer to home and are expected to be good hunters, and he scooped up the little kitty.

We knew life would be full of bounty for the little grey hitchhiker who had survived a 20-mile trip inside the engine of the car.

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