By Bill Anderson
David-1, Goliath-0, so far, anyway. The Rutland Post Office, and other post offices in rural communities, have been saved, at least temporarily. Word was received here on Tuesday, December 13, that the U. S. Postal Service has imposed a moratorium on Post Office closings until May 15, 2012. The moratorium was imposed in response to a request from a substantial number of United States Senators, including those from Montana and South Dakota. Neither John Hoeven (R-ND) nor Kent Conrad (D-ND) were among the Senators requesting the moratorium, an omission that has not gone unnoticed by those engaged in the struggle to maintain services in rural North Dakota. The notice sent out by the Postal Service stated that the review process would continue during the moratorium period, so rural Post Office patrons will still have to pay attention lest they lose their appeal rights during the moratorium period. The hard work and diligent effort of Rutland postal patrons who wrote letters and sent in their comments on the Postal Service’s proposal to close the Post Office here has paid off, at least temporarily, with a moratorium that may lead to a permanent rescue of the local Post Office. Congratulations to the Rutland Community Club for leading the fight. The fight is not over yet, though, as this moratorium is only temporary, so rural postal patrons will have to stay awake and pay attention to make sure that a permanent fix for the Postal Service’s woes is found.
Chuck Sundlie of this community headed off to Palm Springs CA on Sunday Nov. 27, to visit at the home of his parents, Leif & Phyllis (Donaldson) Sundlie. Chuck Traveled via Allegiant Air to Los Angeles, then accompanied his brother, Stan, to Palm Springs. He reports that the weather was very nice, and a few rounds of golf were played. Chuck returned to Rutland on Sunday, December 4, and found the weather here to be pretty nice, too, at least for December.
John Harris & Andy Harris departed Rutland, bound for San Diego CA on Friday, December 2. The father-son team drove Andy’s pickup towing a trailer filled with household goods belonging to Andy and his wife, Sheila. John reports some treacherous driving conditions through the mountains of Colorado, and one instance in which a gust of wind caught the pickup and trailer broadside as they crossed an ice-covered overpass, blowing the entire unit from the right side of the road to the left before John regained control. He reports that the traffic from Las Vegas NV to San Diego is fierce, being bumper to bumper much of the way, and the traffic from San Diego going north to Los Angeles is even worse. John returned to Fargo via the Allegiant Air direct flight from Los Angeles on Thursday, December 8, and reports that he is glad to be home.
Local farmer/auctioneer Dollar Bill Smith stopped in at the Rutland General Store for a session at the Round Table on the afternoon of Friday, December 9. Bill reported that he had recently purchased a pickup truck, a 1995 model with a 7.3-liter diesel engine, on line from a party who resided in St. Louis MO. Bill had taken the bus from Fargo to Columbia MO, where he took delivery of his purchase, and reports that he was the quietest and least colorful personality on the passenger manifest of that Greyhound. That must have been one interesting trip.
Santa Claus was true to his word, and made his 66th annual appearance at Rutland’s Santa Claus Day here on Saturday, December 10. Due to the construction project currently under way at the Rutland Town Hall, Santa’s headquarters were situated in the Rutland Senior Center this time around. Activities started at 3:00 p.m. with the Seniors serving lunch, the Rutland Raiders 4-H Club holding a bake sale, raffle tickets being sold for Luther League gift baskets, and the Community Club sponsoring free BINGO for prizes of $5 Rutland Booster Bucks certificates. A free movie was also shown in the Community Room of the Sargent County Bank’s Rutland station. At 4:00 Jolly Old St. Nick arrived to visit with kids of all ages about their wishes for the Christmas season. A drawing for turkeys donated by local businesses was then held. Christmas turkey winners were: Tyler Banish; Launa Peterson; Janet Kiefer; Kaycee Hamilton; Gavin Christianson; Bill Woytassek; Whitney Mahrer; Caden Koziol; DuWayne Baldwin; Shelly Pherson; Doris Hoistad; Katie McLaen; Lyle Erickson; Kathy Wyum; Tyson Siemieniewski; Carolyn Christensen; EllaLou Nelson; Joyce Christianson; Norbert Kulzer; MaryAnn Gadberry; Joe Malstrom; Jacob Mehrer; Cher Speiker; Paul Anderson; Ava Preble; Otto Malpert; Jan Brash; Cory Pavek; June Pherson; Lolly Arneson; Val Pherson; Connie Gulleson; Rita Preble; PeeWee Breker; Rachel Olson; Hal Nelson; Diane Smith; and, Bill Anderson. The turkeys were donated by the following local businesses: Roger’s Plumbing & Heating; Rutland Oil Co.; Rutland General Store; Anderson Law Office; Bert Siemieniewski Catering; Jacobson Plumbing, Heating & Excavating; Bladow’s Used Machinery; Sargent County Bank; Bernard Mahrer Construction; Andrew Hoflen, gentleman farmer and man about town; Mayor Ron Narum; Rutland Postmaster Ione Pherson; Lariat Bar; Kulzer Feed & Seed; Dave Bergeman Insurance Agency; Lori McLaen; Joe’s Ag; and, Rutland-Cayuga Fire Department. Following the drawing, Pastor Ben Durbin was the MC for the Community Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the corner of First and Arthur Streets. He spoke briefly on the origins of the Christmas Tree in early 16th Century Germany, and then turned the proceedings over to Santa Claus, a lively and quick old fellow bearing a striking resemblance to Larry Christensen. Santa was given the honor of lighting the tree, after which the assembled crowd sang “Oh Christmas Tree,” as dusk began to fall. As the crowd dispersed, Santa handed out bags of candy and peanuts to the youngsters present, and promised to return on Christmas Eve, provided that they all remained nice until then.
Christmas trees and other decorations are brightening a number of Rutland businesses during the holiday season. Janice Christensen invites all to stop by the Lariat Bar to see the tree there, which has a unique characteristic. It’s a beautiful tree, but it gets even better looking at closing time. The Rutland Post Office, Rutland Café & General Store, Sargent County Bank’s Rutland station, the Erickson building and The Old Parsonage also have been attractively decorated for Christmas.
The First National Bank of Milnor held its annual Christmas party for employees at the Rutland General Store on the evening of Saturday, December 10. The menu included: appetizer of deep-fried stuffed mushrooms; cream soup; Caesar salad; entrée of prime rib or chicken cordon bleu with glazed carrots and twice baked potatoes; topped off with a dessert of Italian cream cake with caramel sauce and an apple wonton. A good time was had by all.
Roger & Sharon Brekke of Lisbon; Gerald Guy of Veblen; and, Georgia Ramos of Aberdeen; stopped in at the Rutland General Store and Café for dinner on Sunday, December 11, and then headed up into the hill south of town for a tour of the site of the Coteau des Prairies Lodge. Roger reports that the knee replacement surgery he had last summer has produced an unexpected benefit in that it convinced him to acquire a snowblower to keep his driveway clear of snow this winter, relieving him of the need to buy a new snow shovel for Sharon. So far, there has been no snow to move, though, and if buying a snow blower is what it takes to keep the snow away, we should all have one.
Construction has been proceeding on the massive log structure of the Coteau des Prairies Lodge, with construction and installation of the rafters being completed on Tuesday, December 13. The rafters, also made of logs, were lifted into place by a crane operated by a member of the Sundale Colony of Milnor.
Larry Erickson has informed friends here that he is heading for Sioux Falls SD on Wednesday, December 14, where he will have surgery to install a cochlear implant intended to improve his hearing ability. Larry has been hearing impaired since childhood, but recently suffered a loss of much of his remaining hearing ability. The cochlear implant performs the function of the inner ear in transmitting sound to the auditory nerves. Two weeks after the implant surgery on the 14th, an external device will be installed at Hearing Solutions in Fargo that will pick up sound and transmit it to the cochlear implant. Larry’s many friends here wish him good luck with the new procedure.
Friends of Pam Gulleson will be hosting a reception in her honor from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 29 in the Erickson Building at 202 First Street, according to Paul Anderson, one of the organizers of the event. The reception will also be a fund raiser for Pam’s 2012 Congressional campaign. The interior of the Erickson Building is not yet complete, but the location is in keeping with Pam’s campaign theme of building on the past to create a better future. Rodney Erickson, owner of the building, one of the oldest structures in the community, rescued it from demolition in the Summer of 2009, moved it to its present location, and has been working on the renovation project as time and resources have allowed for the past 2 years. Everyone is invited to attend, says Paul, so come on out to visit with Pam about the issues of the day, and to take a tour of Rodney’s old building, rebuilt for the future.
Donald C. “Soapy” Olson stopped in at the Rutland Café for breakfast on Saturday, December 10, and reminisced some about the historic events of the week with other patrons at the coffee counter. Last week had several significant anniversaries, the most significant of which was the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, described by President Roosevelt as “A date that will live in infamy!” The following day, on December 8, 1941, the Congress of the United States declared war on the Empire of Japan. Two days later, on December 10, Japan’s Axis allies, Germany and Italy, declared war on America, and on December 11, the United States reciprocated with a Declaration of War against those 2 European military powers. So, in the span of 4 days, the United States of America was catapulted from peace and complacency into a life or death struggle with the 2 greatest military powers of the day, Germany & Japan, and into an informal alliance with 2 doubtful allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, then in the process of being bludgeoned into submission by Germany. We now know the outcome of that struggle, but, back in 1941, the issue, indeed the very survival of the nation, was in doubt. At that time, Soapy Olson was a young man, 17 years old, whose parents operated a general store in the small town of Glover, a few miles north of Oakes. Three years later, Soapy was a soldier in the U. S. Army, newly arrived in France and just assigned to the 9th Armored Division, a unit in Gen. Patton’s 3rd Army, when, 67 years ago on this Friday, December 16, the German Army under Field Marshal von Rundstedt launched a massive offensive through the Ardennes region of northern France and Belgium. The German offensive smashed through the lightly defended American lines in the rough and forested area, and their armored units made big gains in the first few days. But some American units stubbornly hung on and held their ground, among them the famous 101st Airborne Division, which was surrounded and embattled in the Belgian rail center of Bastogne. The Third Army was assigned the task of mounting a counter-attack against the German Army, stopping their offensive and relieving the American forces in Bastogne. Gen. Patton immediately ordered 4 divisions of his Army into the fight, the 9th Armored Division being one of them. Soapy, who served as a rifleman, a machine gunner and a half-track driver in the 9th Armored, recalls being loaded into open trucks and hauled 80 kilometers north to begin the assault. The Winter of 1944-45 was a brutal one in northern Europe, very cold, and Soapy’s feet were numb from frostbite by the time they reached their destination. They were cold, wet and already exhausted when they hit the flank of the German Army, but the German soldiers were also cold, wet and exhausted, and worn down from several days of hard fighting when Soapy’s unit hit them, and the Americans moved forward. Soapy recalls being in combat with the Germans on the outskirts of Bastogne on Christmas Day, 1944, and that his Christmas dinner that day consisted of a can of cold C-rations. The next day, December 26, the 9th Armored broke through the German lines and entered Bastogne to be greeted by the stalwarts of the 101st Airborne Division who had held the position for more than a week against the Nazi juggernaut. The battle Soapy and his comrades were in later became known as “The Battle of the Bulge,” and the Germans were very nearly victorious. They were stopped by the steadfast courage and discipline of the American soldiers who met their assault and pushed it back. A few months later, Soapy’s unit was in Germany, and he recalls entering the German city of Cologne, which had literally been leveled by allied bombs and artillery. The only intact building seemed to be the huge Cathedral of Cologne, Soapy recalled, everything else had been smashed. The cathedral, though, which had taken over 700 years to build, had not been hit, and its survival seemed to be somewhat miraculous, Soapy recalls. So, this Christmas, as we enjoy the many blessings we have as Americans, remember those young Americans who, cold, wet, hungry and exhausted, have served in harms way during Christmases past to secure what we take for granted. Thanks, Soapy, and Merry Christmas.
And let’s not forget those young Americans who will be serving their country far from home this Christmas, either. Shelly Pherson of this community recently completed a semester’s internship in the Washington DC office of North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad. This week, Shelly departed with her North Dakota Air National Guard unit for Afghanistan to support the American military mission in that beleaguered country. The thoughts and prayers of all in the Rutland community are with Shelly and her comrades as they serve in harm’s way for us this Christmas season.
So far, it’s looking like a brown Christmas in Rutland this year. No snow, yet, and the temperature has been making it up into the 30’s on most days, and even up to 45 last Sunday, December 11. Freezing temperatures at night have produced ice on area lakes and sloughs, though, and fishing enthusiasts have been quick to take advantage of their seasonal ability to walk on water. Denny Pherson reports that the ice is about 9 inches thick at Buffalo Lake, and other reports of ice thickness ranging from 4 to 10 inches have been received. Anglers are reporting some perch and some walleyes caught at a number of fishing holes, but no “hotspots” have yet developed. Portable ice fishing houses were out on the “Crappie Crossing” slough and Peterson Slough along Highway #11 last weekend, but the fishermen had abandoned those waters by Tuesday. The self-propelled, self-contained ice fishing houses known as Snowbears are becoming increasingly popular with fishing enthusiasts, and there is now a dealer for the machines in this community. Mark Breker of Rutland is a partner in a Snowbear dealership and has been promoting the new business for several weeks. Give Mark a call at 724-6474 for more information about the Snowbear. It’s a North Dakota machine, manufactured in Fargo.
Doug Askerooth stopped by the General Store on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 13, and joined in the Round Table discussion with the Assembled Wise Men. Doug was wondering why it is that it always seems to take some trouble or misfortune to make an interesting story. For instance, he recalls making a trip with the Director of the Chahinkapa Zoo of Wahpeton to deliver some kangaroos to another zoo. While delivering kangaroos is not an every day occurrence, Doug says that the event would not be memorable except for the fact that they encountered icy roads in Nebraska and, while going up a long hill, his pickup was losing traction while pulling a trailer load of kangaroos that caused the weight of the unit to shift every time they jumped. As other vehicles passed him, and as he struggled to keep the pickup and trailer on the road and moving, Doug thought to himself, “I’ll remember this one.” And so it is, the Wise Men concurred.
Well, that’s the news from Rutland for this week. For more information about what’s going on in the little city that can, check out the community’s internet web site at www.rutlandnd.com, and stop by the Rutland blog and Facebook pages while you’re at it, too. Congratulations to all of those who worked to SAVE OUR POST OFFICE, but the fight is not over, yet. The moratorium is only a truce, not an unconditional surrender, so don’t let up. Later.