Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
That was a typical reaction when the talk around town turned to the vandals who spray-painted profanities and other inane messages on the recently opened Highway 371 bridge last week.
Their yearning for attention brought to mind the old bromide: "Fools' names and fools' faces often appear in public places."
These clowns didn't leave their names scrawled on the bridge. They weren't complete idiots. Instead they expressed themselves with dirty words, insults for the Brained Police Department and cogent messages such as "I hate you."
We're not dealing with honor roll students here.
Putting aside the vandals' pitiful communication skills, their defacement of the beautiful bridge that spans a nice, tree-lined stretch of the Mississippi was a huge disappointment to residents of this area.
Brainerd and Baxter residents were proud of their new bridge and bypass. Before its official opening on Aug. 9, we were like little kids trying to sneak a peek at it. Once the ceremonial ribbon was cut local folks drove the new highway segment for no other reason than to drive across the new bridge.
It's a modest bridge by most standards, yet the corner posts' simple carvings of nature icons -- a red pine cone, a white oak tree, a birch leaf and a river valley -- added just the right amount of artistic flourish to the project.
The bypass and bridge is the new front door to this lakes region for many north-bound visitors. The relatively undeveloped stretch of riverside property and the bridge's art work are pleasing to the eye and emphasize just a little bit of nature's beauty and why many of us enjoy living here.
Kevin Kosobud, resident engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, worked many hours on the bypass project. He was among those who were disappointed at the vandalism.
"It doesn't really achieve anything," he said.
It would be better if they could express themselves in some other way, Kosobud suggested, perhaps by writing for the newspaper.
Bring it on! Although they'll have to clean up their language.
The good-natured high jinks between Steve Anderson and Donny Vosen continue unabated. The two musicians have been pulling pranks and giving each other unwanted gifts for about 15 years.
Vosen, who plays guitar and sings at O'Madden's Pub, was the most recent recipient when he returned to his Birch Lane home last week to find hundreds of pink flamingos and cheesy lawn ornaments at his home. Anderson, who plays at area dinner clubs and is a music instructor at Central Lakes College, bore the brunt of the joke awhile back when he arrived to play at Bar Harbor and found his stage covered with tennis balls.
"We've been doing this back and forth with each other since about 1984-85," Anderson said. "We've been good friends for years.
"Paranoia is a healthy thing. Both of us are kind of on edge to see who gets it next."
Today's heroes will be tomorrow's pests. That's one lesson I've learned while watching television with my daughter.
She saw a white-haired Fran Tarkenton pitching some product on TV recently and said she didn't like him.
I expressed amazement and told her he was the Minnesota Vikings' first quarterback, a veteran of three Super Bowls and one of my childhood heroes.
Somewhat taken aback at my fervor, she tried to explain and backpedal.
"Oh, I just thought he was some annoying guy who sells insurance on TV," she replied.
Another ex-Viking, Jim Marshall, was in the news this month as word broke that he is fighting cancer.
The free-spirited defensive end never got his due when he set an NFL record by playing in 282 consecutive games in a 19-year career. The streak stretches to 409 if you throw in pre-season and playoff games.
The Baltimore Orioles' Cal Ripken was feted nation-wide when broke Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive baseball games. That's an incredible athletic feat but in my mind not nearly as impressive as Marshall's streak in a position that required him to battle with huge offensive linemen on every play. Marshall didn't just make token appearances in those games either. He played against the run and the pass.
Once Viking coach Bud Grant was asked to explain why he would take it easy on an aging Marshall during the long weeks of training camp.
"There's only so much tread on a tire," was the coach's reply.
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