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Commute 004


Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Monday, September 10, 2001

Itís been twenty-four years since I took ninth grade biology, so it came as a real surprise when my teacher called me a couple of weeks ago. My name has changed since then, so he wasnít sure whom he was calling, but heíd read my column about Olivia, Minnesota. "Who were you when you lived in Olivia?" he asked. When I told him, he said, "This is Gary Russell, and Iím teaching over in Spring Valley."

"Mr. Russell?" I said, in a voice suddenly two octaves higher than usual. Turns out heís a native of Fillmore County. My favorite teachers always had an aura of mystery, almost an other-worldliness, as if enlightened beings from far off places were sent to teach us mortals. I had not known back then that the far off place from which Mr. Russell came was Fillmore County.

He was one of the good guys. My father was on the school board back then, and while some of my teachers in junior high enjoyed mentioning during class any unpopular decision my father had voted for, Mr. Russell had the grace to never mention my father. Or my brilliant sister who had passed through his class years earlier. He had a way of taking people as he found them, not requiring you to carry anyoneís "baggage" but your own.

He found me to be a little green in the face the day we dissected frogs. I remember really wanting to be "tough" and participate in this ritual of adolescence. But Iíd been cursed with a vivid imagination, and as my lab partner made the first incision, I was mentally comparing what I saw to the tuna noodle casserole served routinely in our cafeteria. Still, I was sure no one guessed how sick I felt until Mr. Russell walked over and quietly asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah."

"You donít have to do this," he said. "Itís not a requirement to pass the class."

It wasnít? But Iíd look like a wimp! I was too busy swallowing hard to argue with him, so at his suggestion I went to study hall for the remainder of the hour.

Another memory of ninth grade biology was the day we pricked our fingers to test our blood types. I was the only one in the class who ended up with a negative Rh factor. Right away I assumed Iíd made a mistake, but Mr. Russell accepted my results matter-of-factly.

Years later I was assured that Iíd done the test right as I endured a series of shots for negative Rh factor during my pregnancies.

My most lasting memory of Mr. Russellís class was a lesson he offered abo .....
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Are You Game?

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Monday, September 24, 2001

A lot has gone down in the world since the last column. The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. make sports seem terribly unimportant. But I must say it was nice to see Major League Baseball return last week so ..... 
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It's a Disaster!

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Monday, October 1, 2001

"It's a disaster!" I hear my father's voice, intonation and exact words come out of my mouth. I've just been trying to put a new coat of solid color stain on a wall of my house; it's not covering well; all the brush str ..... 
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Why Study Turtles Anyway?

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Weaver Dunes Field Report Late Summer 2001By John LevellMonday, August 20, 2001

With nesting finally completed, those of us working on the Weaver Dunes Blandingís Turtle Research Project can at last step back to enjoy a m ..... 
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A New Batch of Questions?

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, September 24, 2001

By Virginia Cooper

Dear Virginia,
I'm overwhelmed with the produce. Do you have any shortcuts for putting up the produce (such as tomatoes) for the busy gardener?

Dear Busy Gardener, ..... 
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The Sky Was Empty

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Monday, September 24, 2001

I was pretty sure when I got out of bed on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, that I was going to have a bad day. It was a day I had been dreading for weeks. Grumpy was hardly the word to describe my mood as I went about m ..... 
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Contemporary Bunkshooters

Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Monday, October 1, 2001

The Rev. Jerry Falwell is what poet Carl Sandburg would call a bunkshooter. Pat Robertson is one too.

Full-flushing, bonafide bunkshooters. Conjurers, magicians, illusionists, pulling the wool over many peopleí ..... 
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Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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Fri, Sep 28th, 2001
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