For the past thirty years readers of the Lake Country Echo in north-central Minnesota have enjoyed the bi-weekly column by Craig Nagel called “The Cracker Barrel.”
His essays have been photocopied and sent to friends, cut out and taped to the wall or stuck on the refrigerator door, read aloud at various meetings, reprinted in area newsletters and, on occasion, praised or damned in letters to the editor.
INTRODUCING FRED’S WAY
Fred’s Way is a coming-of-age novel about a young man torn between going off to college to become an ordained Lutheran pastor or staying home in Chicago to marry his high school sweetheart. It resonates with the agony of someone trying desperately—and often comically—to find his role in a society that refuses to fit his innocent expectations.
The central character, Fred Hansen, is at root a mystic, alive to the wonder and glory of life. Like a latter-day Don Quixote, he’s never quite in synch with what others call reality…
One of the things we humans do best is to sort our experiences into categories. Unlike other creatures, who seem to live in a seamless world of moment-to-moment events, our species has the capacity and evidently the obsession to pass judgment upon each and every thing that befalls us.
Letters to Theo
During this past winter’s depressing combination of below-freezing temperatures and COVID-induced seclusion, half ready to commit myself to a mental health facility, I stumbled upon a wonderful antidote to the blues of any sort. It’s titled “The Letters of Vincent van Gogh,” first published in 1914, and includes over 900 letters, more than 650 of which were written by Vincent to his beloved brother Theo.
One of my earliest memories is helping my mom and my grandpa plant a couple of trees. The planting occurred at Grandpa’s summer cottage some fifty miles north of Chicago, Illinois, and seemed to my young mind a fun, but altogether ordinary, thing to do. Mom had...
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