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Der Spiegel Goes to Fergus Falls

Claas will go to Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood’s — make that prairie’s — shade,
And interview the local bores.
Young man, approach this mindless sow
Make buddies with that cretin maid,
And brood on fact and truth no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon this country’s mystery;
For Fergus is your mason jar,
Containing all our kinfolk rude
And all our white supremacy
And all our politics bizarre.

Margaret Soltan, December 21, 2018 10:28AM
Posted in: kind of a little weird

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14 Responses to “Der Spiegel Goes to Fergus Falls”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Yes, but The Narrative …

    I think I learned more about Fergus Falls in a visit of about two hours a year ago than this supposed journalist did.

    Enjoy the Festive Season.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Stephen: I’m envious that you were able to visit; the whole thing makes me want to go there and check it out. Happy holidays to you too.

  3. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Heck, Bill Polley, who is a former econ blogger and current deputy dean at Western Illinois, is from near there, and he once had an internship at the Otter Tail Power Company, presumably the owner of the generating station the Spiegelfehler described.

    The Fergus Falls visit rated a photo essay on my site, September 2017.

  4. charlie Says:

    The New Republic says, “Meh, never let facts get in da way of a good story, right Steve?”

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Charlie: Yes – I thought of him too.

  6. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Ah, but if this poseur had simply ventured a few miles out of town, to the threshing bee in Dalton for the hot dish dinner prepared by the local Lutheran church, and for the deer rifles being traded at the swap meet, he might have had something to rile up the urbane types.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Stephen: Now I REALLY want to visit.

  8. Stephen Karlson Says:

    The threshing bee usually takes place the weekend after Labor Day, point your search engine at “Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen’s Association” for details. If you and Mr UD head there by way of Illinois, give a shout-out.

    Oh, and while I was there, in addition to discovering the power company general offices and the railway things, there was a pretty well stocked used book store on the main street.

  9. theprofessor Says:

    I’m a little surprised that Relotius (or the famed Der Spiegel fact-checkers) has not invoked the “fake, but accurate” defense.

    I am afraid, SK, that certain events such as the inevitable tractor pulls that go along with threshing festivals are not suitable for coastal sophisticates. They risk having their urbanity circuits blown out.

  10. Stephen Karlson Says:

    tp: There was no tractor pull at the Lake Region Pioneer Threshermen’s Association. Two steam traction engines collaborating to spin a sawmill, yes. Deer rifles at the swap meet, yes. Hot dish dinner prepared by the Lutheran church, yes. Calling the mid-day meal dinner would probably blow a few urbanity circuits, yes. Isn’t that how subverting dominant paradigms works?

  11. theprofessor Says:

    No tractor pull!!?? What the hell is The Flyover coming to?

    The dinner vs. supper distinction mostly seems generational these days. To my rural grandparents’ generation, “dinner” was uniformly used for the mid-day meal and “supper” for one in the early evening, but the distinction seems to have fallen out of use even for my generation. “Supper” seems to be falling out of use. The big mid-day meal itself likewise is vanishing.

  12. Stephen Karlson Says:

    tp: Tractor pulls are a county fair thing, not a threshing bee thing. That noted, county fairs aren’t what they used to be, what with feedlots for the livestock and fields committed in advance to a single crop for a single buyer, often an ethanol brewer.

    Thus, the 4-H displays at some county fairs are more about science projects than about raising cattle. All the same, the meal schedule for the 4-H-ers at the Minnesota State Fair had a midday dinner and an evening supper.

    It’s more of a regional thing, there are still bean suppers in Maine, as well as the term being in use in God’s Country. But yes, big mid-day meals (dinner once referring to the biggest meal of the day) have gone out of fashion. With air-conditioned tractors fitted with GPS, you might as well have a couple of sub sandwiches, oops, sorry, that’s “hoagies” for you coasties, and a thermos of lemonade in the cooler and eat while the autopilot harrows the rows.

  13. theprofessor Says:

    SK, I promise you that in the parts of the Midwest I hail from, tractor pulls (esp. “antique” tractor pulls, where “antique” is usually >1920 and <1980) are still big, not only at county fairs, but even annual town fairs. Inevitably, there are now hard-core, quasi-professional tractor pullers, which were definitely not a thing when I was a kid.

  14. Stephen Karlson Says:

    We’re talking about two different kinds of events. County fairs, with the carnival rides, multiple varieties of funnel cakes, livestock shows, and a grandstand suitable for harness racing and demolition derbies also host tractor pulls, including both the vintage gasoline tractors (1960-1980 sounds about right) and the unlimited classes, which have been with us for some time. The sports cartoon “Tank McNamara” once lampooned the unlimited class when an entrant showed up with a Space Shuttle.

    The Dalton event is a threshing bee, where the local steam power club demonstrates its stationary engines, and the hobbyists bring their mobile stationary engines, or steam traction engines, which might be able to pull a husk-saw or threshing machine from one site to another but were generally not robust enough to pull a plow. Generally, if people question model railroaders about their obsession, my response is to note that there are people who collect and restore the traction engines, not a cheap hobby at all.

    The food service at the threshing bees is generally different, with local caterers or churches doing most of the work, the food trucks are off at the county fairs dealing in the funnel cakes!

    Generally, the county fairs are separate from the threshing bees. The only exception I can think of is that the Freeport, Illinois steam power club’s museum is hard by the county fairgrounds, and the county fair and the threshing bee run concurrently. As that fairground is close enough to Wisconsin, you can even get a proper cream puff! There might be other such paired shows that haven’t come to my attention yet.

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