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News from the week of July 6, 2005

Historic church dedicated at End-O-Line Museum

The mood was jubilant Sunday as the First Presbyterian Church of Currie was rededicated at its new location at the End-O-Line Railroad Museum and Park.

“Everything down here is going to go great just as it always has,” said longtime member Maxine Silvernale.

The church building, which dates from the early 1870s, was moved from its original location on Church Street in Currie this May. Work to refurbish the historic church has been underway since then. Sunday, the First Presbyterian congregation gathered for a special service and program to mark the successful move.

“We’re not quitting. We are just changing things a little,” Silvernale said.

Pastor David Erickson gave a welcome and a devotion entitled “Memories.” Silvernale reviewed the congregation’s history. Organized in the fall of 1871 as the Lake Shetek Church, the congregation is the oldest in Murray County.

Parishioners and former members took turns sharing memories of the church. One past member said, “When you come into this church all you think is good things. We had so much fun here as kids. These walls are just full of great things.”

An honorary plaque for Zorada Silvernale Hoge, who donated $65,000 to move and restore the church, was presented. The Currie native, who now lives in Golden Valley, was ill and unable to attend the dedication. A celebration in honor of Hoge’s 90th birthday was held nonetheless. Parishioners released balloons into the sky as part of the festivities.

After the completion of a restoration project, the church will be open to museum visitors. The congregation will continue to use the building for church events during warm-weather months.

Wilder Pageant opens 28th season Friday night

The Wilder Pageant opens for its 28th season near Walnut Grove Friday.

Performances are planned Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 8-10. Gates open at 7 p.m., with the Pageant Singers performing at 8 p.m. followed by the show at 9 p.m. Performances are also set July 15-17, and 22-24.

The outdoor drama based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose writings provided the inspiration for TV’s “Little House on the Prairie.” Many of the stories in the Walnut Grove pageant are from Wilder’s book “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” In the Walnut Grove production, Laura (portrayed by Beth Kleven) reflects on her life in Walnut Grove in the 1870s and narrates the story. Errol Steffen and Mary Zwach portray Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Located in a natural amphitheater a mile southwest of Walnut Grove, the pageant attracts visitors from all over the country.

Ticket prices for the Wilder Pageant are $10 reserved seating and $8 general admission. Ages 5 and under are admitted free in general admission. Discounts are available for groups of 25 or more, and for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. The pageant grounds are handicapped accessible, and a sign language interpreter will be provided for the July 17 performance. Tickets may be ordered by calling 888-859-3102, or online at

Other pageant weekend activities include a Family Festival (July 9, 16, and 23, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Walnut Grove City Park), a Laura-Nellie Look-Alike contest (July 9 at noon) Pageant Suppers (served every evening before the pageant at the Walnut Grove Community Center from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.), a Black Powder Shoot (at 1 p.m. on July 9-10, located 2 miles south and 1 mile west of Walnut Grove), and historic bus tours.

Busy 4-Hers prepare for Redwood County Fair

By Kyle Lessman

Scores of 4-Hers are putting the finishing touches on their 4-H projects in preparation for the Redwood County Fair which begins Thursday, July 7.

Kasey Schmidt of the Springdale Climbers 4-H club is no different. She has been working on her projects throughout the year, but there is much to do in the last days before the fair.

“This is really crunch time. I’m trying to get everything finished up and ready to go.” says the 2004 Tracy Area High School grad.

Schmidt began halter breaking her 4-H calves this winter. Halter breaking is one of the most important aspects of showing cattle. She explains that a beef exhibitor who is able to smoothly lead their animal around the ring can present the animal better to a judge. Many other things must be accomplished in order to get the animals ready for the show ring.

“My days usually start pretty early.,” says Schmidt. “You want to get the animals in and out of the sun before it gets too hot. Then after I feed them I rinse them off and tie them in the barn under fans. Later I come out and comb their hair and cool them down with a water mister. In the evening I rinse them one more time before I feed them and let them out”

Schmidt says that it is very important to keep the cattle cool and clean because this aids in hair growth. She goes on to explain that a good hair coat is a large part of the show-day preparations. With the help of adhesive sprays and artful clipping of the hair it is possible to hide or downplay some of the weaknesses the cattle may have.

Besides spending long hours with her cattle, Schmidt has also been busy getting her sheep project ready. Before the fair the sheep need to be sheered and halter broke.

“Sheep are halter broke a little differently than cattle. We have this little cart that we tie them behind, and then we pull the cart behind the lawn mower. It’s actually really embarrassing pulling your sheep up and down the driveway behind the mower.”

The teen has a long history with the Redwood 4-H program and the county fair.

“I joined 4-H when I was seven years old and I have been exhibiting at the fair for the past 12 years.”

Her project areas include clothing, wildlife, and lamb lead. But her favorite areas are sheep and beef.. This year she plans to exhibit both a steer and a heifer for her beef project as well as five market lambs.

“I have been around livestock my entire life, and I have really grown up around the show ring. There was really no question when I joined 4-H that I would be showing animals.”

As a beginning seven-year-old 4-Her, Schmidt began showing sheep. She was simply too small to handle cattle.

“When I was little there was no way you could get me near the cattle.”

But she overcame her apprehensions and she began showing cattle two years latter. Here she found her niche.

“I really love showing cattle. Actually, now I enjoy working with them more than my sheep.”

Schmidt believes in the 4-H motto, “To Make the Best Better,” She says that being part of the 4-H program and especially the livestock project has helped her as a person.

“I definitely learned work ethic. It’s so easy to not work with an animal, then take it into the show ring and have it act up, then blame the animal when really it’s your own fault.”

Erickson wants compensation
for perceived lost property value

Chester “Chet” Erickson insists that he’s not mad at anyone.

“People tell me, ‘boy you must really be upset at the council members.’ No, I’m not upset at anyone. We have good people on the council and I give them credit for trying to do the right thing. But a lot of time they have to make decisions on things that they don’t have any background in.”

If he had been faced with the choice of spending $400,000 or $40,000 for two alternate sewer plans, Erickson says that he might have chosen the lower cost path too.

Nonetheless, the retired Chicago & Northwestern railroad worker feels that the City of Tracy made a mistake in installing the new sewer bypass structure in the front boulevard of his house at 219 Hollett St. East.

“They haven’t fixed anything. The problem is still there. This still allows the sanitary sewer to overflow into the storm sewer.”

Erickson says the city officials have explained to him, that a complete fix of the city’s overloaded sanitary sewer system in northeast Tracy—which sometimes now has to be diverted into a city storm sewer—would require tearing up segments of two relatively new streets. (Hollett St. and Second St. East). Erickson said that he understands that the City of Tracy faced a Minnesota Pollution Control deadline to either stop sanitary sewer discharges into the storm sewer, or install a new device with an alarm, flow meter, and gate. The state agency has to be notified each time the manually-operated gate is opened to allow sewage to flow into the storm sewer as an emergency measure to prevent sewage from backing up in basements.

But Erickson still feels that the city would have been better off spending the money to eliminate the need to discharge sewage into a storm sewer.

“When you get to be my age, you don’t have a lot of patience for having things fixed later,” said the 84-year-old.

Yes, Erickson agrees, the estimated $400,000 plan that would have taken the sewer bypass structure out of his yard was a lot of money. But, he notes, the city is now planning a half-million dollar drainage improvement plan in South Tracy. Why, he asks, is the city pursuing one project and not the other?

The City of Tracy spent about $5,000 to landscape around the nine by nine-foot concrete pad that surrounds the locked hatch which leads to the underground bypass device on his boulevard. City staff consulted with Erickson about the landscape plans, which were drafted by Greenwood Nursery. But Erickson feels that landscaping, framed by a white picket fence does little to mask the concrete pad.

“It would look nicer in somebody else’s yard,” he smiles. The bushes, and flowers, he adds, are difficult to maintain. He says that he feels bad about the loss of two large maple trees removed when the bypass structure was installed.

A sewer smell wafting up from the closed hatch, Erickson says, is a constant problem.

The World War II Navy veteran acknowledges that a sewer bypass device has long existed on his boulevard. But, he says, when he bought the home in he early 1990s, the hatch was covered with dirt and he was unaware of its existence. In recent years, Erickson says that the structure was hardly noticeable.

However, Erickson agrees that the city had the right to install the new bypass structure. The device was installed within the city’s 19-feet of right-of-way, he says.

While the city had a legal right to install the structure, Erickson feels that the council also has an obligation to treat its citizens fairly.

“This has made my house worth less,” Erickson says. “I’d like to sell my house, but I don’t know who would want to have that in their front yard.”

All he wants from the City of Tracy now, Erickson says, is to be compensated for the loss in value that he believes the sewer bypass structure has caused to his property.


County lowers value

Erickson requested, and received, a reduction in the estimated tax value of his property from the Lyon County Board of Appeals and Equalization June 13.

The board reduced the estimated market value on his house from $91,300 to $85,000. Erickson told the board that an appraisal done on his house prior to the installation of the new bypass device had come up with a value of $110,000. Erickson said that he had been unsuccessful in getting another appraisal done, because of the difficulty in finding comparable properties on which to base the appraisal.

Teen recovering from accident

David Jones, who was hospitalized two weeks ago in Sioux Valley’s intensive care unit after being in a two-vehicle accident near Amiret, reports that he is nearly back to his old self.

The sixteen-year-old Garvin resident gave family members a scare when he had to be airlifted to Sioux Falls after a collision that occurred Tuesday, June 21. The passengers in the other vehicle suffered no injuries.

Doctors initially thought Jones possibly had a broken vessel in the brain, since he had gotten a large cut in his head from the accident. Luckily, Jones only had a concussion, although it was a serious one. He was released 24 hours after his admittance.

The accident did give Jones a glimpse of the community’s generosity and care. He received many cards and phone calls, wishing him a fast recovery.

“It was nice that people thought about me. People still come up and ask how I’m doing. It makes you feel good.”

Fourteen days after the accident, Jones says he still gets headaches and feels light-headed at times. He also has some short-term memory loss, as a result of his head injury. However, he’s optimistic that it should go away soon: “Otherwise it’d be like I’m old before I’m old,” he laughs.

Tracy mentioned in 'Richest Man' book

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

Author V.J. Smith will never forget his experiences in Tracy.

The Brookings, S.D. man feels so strongly about them, in fact, that he has chosen to include the community in his new book, “The Richest Man in Town.”

The book chronicles Smith’s five-year relationship with Aaron Martinson, known to most people as just “Marty.” Martinson, a cashier at the Brookings, S.D. Wal-Mart, inspired Smith in many ways. He first encountered Marty in a check-out line, where Smith noticed that the cashier shook hands with and sincerely thanked each of his customers.

Fascinated, Smith wanted to learn more about the man who seemed so happy.

What he learned was that Marty was a survivor of the Depression, World War II, cancer, and a heart attack who had many important lessons to share. Smith talks about each of the lessons Marty taught him in the book.

First, “Relationships matter most in life.”

Second, “Try to do a little more.”

And third, “Only you can make you happy.”

Smith shares these simple statements and Marty’s story with audiences of all ages. His message has brought him to Tracy three times. The first time, he spoke to Tracy school staff members before the start of the 2004-2005 school year.

Staff members enjoyed Smith’s message so much that the elementary school teachers wanted to include Marty’s message in the year’s character education curriculum. Smith told Principal Scott Loeslie that not only would he love for them to use Marty’s story, he would come to the school for the October kick-off and speak to the students.

The audience included the youngest children Smith had ever spoken to. Beforehand, he was unsure how they would react, or if they would get the message. They did.

“I could get emotional about that day,” Smith said. “When you look into the eyes of a child and they’re totally engaged in what you say….”

The day at Tracy Elementary was emotional for other reasons as well. It was the first time Marty’s wife, Mickey, had accompanied Smith to a speaking engagement since her husband’s death six months earlier. When Marty was alive, both he and Mickey often went along when Smith shared his story.

Smith introduced Mrs. Martinson at the close of his speech.

“I knew I had to introduce her to show that Marty was a real person,” Smith said. He knew, however, that he wouldn’t be able to look at her while he was speaking.

After Smith’s talk, students unveiled banners listing Marty’s three lessons, which they would display and learn to follow throughout the school year.

All of the students in the room then stood and sang a song from the musical “Scrooge” as a thank you to Smith and Mrs. Martinson.

“When the kids sang ‘Thank You Very Much,’ that was powerful. That was really, really something,” Smith said. “Mickey still talks about it.”

Afterward, the students greeted Mrs. Martinson with hugs. Shortly thereafter, Smith received a packet of letters from students who shared how Marty’s story had touched them.

“I’ve kept all those letters,” Smith said. “I’ll never throw those letters away.”

Smith returned to Tracy a third time in January, when he was asked to share Marty’s story with the Tracy Lutheran Church congregation.

Smith shares his experiences in Tracy in the book’s final chapter, entitled, “Those Precious Few Moments.” He had been unsure where to end the story, but his editor felt strongly about ending the book there.

Smith hopes the more people will learn about Tracy through the chapter.

“I want everyone to know about Tracy, Minnesota,” he said.

• • •

While Smith uses Marty’s story to inspire others, Marty continues to be an inspiration to him.

A year after Marty’s death, Smith was sitting in an airport lounge during a layover. A young man with tattoos and gold necklaces sat down next to him.

Smith was reminded of one day when he was standing in Marty’s line during the yearly Sturgis motorcycle rally. Ahead of him in line was a burly, tattooed biker.

“Marty treated him like he was the mayor of Brookings,” Smith recalled. “He left our town, hopefully, with a pretty good taste in his mouth.”

Most importantly, said Smith, Marty didn’t judge the man based on his appearance.

“Marty didn’t judge him and I did.”

That day in the airport, Marty’s kindness to the biker inspired Smith to treat this young man in the same way.

“I immediately thought of Marty and said, ‘Don’t judge this guy.’”

Smith struck up a conversation and learned that the man was a Marine who’d been shot while serving in Iraq.

“I thanked Mart for teaching me not to be judgmental,” Smith said.

All across the country, he said, Marty’s story reaches others in the same way.

Why do so many people identify with Marty’s story? Smith believes it’s because Marty is someone we all want to be more like. He often reminds people of someone they know.

“People can identify with someone who is a good person and that’s who Marty was,” he said.

• • •

Smith’s book accomplishes two goals in his life.

First, he wanted more people to know Marty’s story. He also had a personal goal of writing a book before he dies. The result is “The Richest Man in Town,” which Smith self-published.

“I wanted to do it my way,” said Smith of his reasons for self-publishing. “Here’s Marty in his purest form.”

The cover is simple, prominently featuring Marty’s red, white and blue name badge. It’s a quick read, but the 94-page message is a powerful and touching tribute to a man who touched not only people’s hands—but also their hearts—when he greeted them.

Smith has sent the book to several publishing houses, and hopes to find a national publisher for the book. Even if he does not, he is comfortable knowing what Marty’s story has done for him and for many others already.

“Regardless of what happens, I’m content with it and so is Marty’s family.”

The book is currently available at