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Across The Lake

Flipping across the dial, I heard a song. I didn't know the words, in fact, I couldn't understand the words. Another station had a country-western suggestion to what was being played, but it had no similarity to what Gene Autry said about being Back in the Saddle Again. Mumbling, swallowing the words, bleating too close to the microphone are all things that become annoying as the listener finds his or her appreciation diminished with advancing age.

And then on an album of music from "my time" came a number that had me thinking very differently about those days and what we listened to then. Maybe you'll remember and maybe you'd as soon forget, this once-upon-a-time song and the words

"Flat foot flooogie with the floy floy, flat foot floogie with the floy floy." I reached over and turned off my memory right then.

Making a phone call might remind you. Same thing when you turn on a light, or watch the truck pull up to fill your propane tank. Or, you might not remember that for all these things, you're relying on a cooperative. This happens to be National Co-op Month, so I'd like to share some thoughts. (Right off, as you probably know, I'm on the board of directors of Beltrami Electric Cooperative -- more about that later).

My closest connection to cooperatives happened more than sixty years ago, when Beltrami had a few local power companies and virtually no service beyond city limits. The first rural electric co-ops were just being formed and when REA came to this area, my dad got his license and started working, wiring homes around here. People of the right age have even mentioned this.

The next connection with co-operatives came when I went to work for what was then the Minneapolis Star-Journal. You've read stories that have the dateline followed by the letters AP in parentheses or the words, Associated Press. That's a cooperative, too, as newspapers and other media pass their stories on to other papers, TV and radio. Papers a long time ago realized cooperation saved money and time and served the public a lot more efficiently and with greater speed.

When I moved into broadcasting, one of my first assignments again involved a cooperative -- the Farmer's Union Grain Terminal Association. I was the voice of their commercials and incidentally, a regular fan of Linda Lu, the yodeling voice of the Co-op Shoppers. Remember, "If you want to co-operate with your neighbor, save your pocketbook and what's more, lighten your labor, shop at the co-op..."

When My Favorite Reader and I "came home" we quickly became part of the local co-ops. We needed electricity, we needed propane. Blackduck Agricultural Service took care of the gas, Beltrami Electric the power. I soon learned that co-ops are owned by the members and are organized with by-laws providing for officers with responsibilities spelled out in state law and regulations. A year later I was asked to serve on the Beltrami board -- my current term is up next year

Beltrami Electric is large -- nearly 20,000 meters on BEC lines measure the volume of the current our members use. Still, large as that may seem, we're small compared to our neighbor cooperative just a block away. Paul Bunyan Telephone. It's the phone company for huge sections of northern Minnesota, including the Blackduck area which PBT acquired a year or two ago.

PBT is a lot more than a phone company. It's the leading provider of television service, the chosen connector to the Internet and where we look as we hear more and more about broadband and other services coming even to this rural part of the nation. Like all co-ops, it has its own board of directors elected by the members and working under the same general provisions affecting the cooperative way of doing business. Like Blackduck Ag, Beltrami Electric and the many local buyer groups working on the cooperative principle, they have chosen appropriately to observe this National Co-op Month with the slogan, "Local, Trusted, Serving You."

Thoughts while drying the dishes... Back to those opening paragraphs for a minute. Remember then fun we had with "Mairzydoats and dozedoats and liddlelams eat ivy. A kiddleeativy, too, woodn't chew?" Anybody remember if I've got the spelling right? I do remember the melody -- snappier than Three Little Fishes but lyrics not quite up to the level of "Nyaa, nyaa, nyaa said the little fox. Nyaa, nyaa, you can't catch me."