By Emily Bialkowski
As we look forward to the possibilities that await in 2014, it’s only natural to look back and consider all that 2013 had to offer. Sometimes the news was sad, sometimes it was happy and often it did nothing more than reveal a moment in time in Caledonia, Minn.
In years past news offices would poll the staff for what they thought were the most interesting or most compelling pieces of journalism. Times changed last year when, for the the first time, the Caledonia Argus delivered what readers thought were the top ten. The conclusion was drawn from pageviews at hometownargus.com, the paper’s website.
With online tracking technology, I am able to share with you again, based on documented numbers, what our online readers thought were the most important stories of 2013. And let me just say you’ll never guess what number one is.
Number 10: 54-year-old Caledonia man killed in crash. Posted June 4, 2013.
A total of six fatalities were recorded on Minnesota roads in 24 hours this past weekend, one of which included Dennis Twite, 54, of Caledonia. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, at about 4 p.m. Friday, May 31 a semitrailer truck’s trailer crossed the centerline of Hwy. 76 in Houston County and struck an oncoming pickup truck driven by Twite.
Number 9: Teenager recovering from accident. Also posted June 4, 2013.
She was the perfect kind of beautiful every girl wants to be at her junior prom: long blonde hair swept to one side with just the right amount of curl and body; pink, sparkling gown offsetting her aquamarine blue eyes and flawless, glowing skin.
But, “It was really embarrassing because I knew everyone was staring at me. Being the girl in the wheelchair, you feel singled out.”
Caledonia 17-year-old Hannah Klinski’s life has changed dramatically since a Feb. 15 car accident left her unable to walk. She’s overcome a major concussion, several surgeries, navigating life in a wheelchair and caught up on school work lost during a 61-day stay at the hospital. She’s been thrust into the limelight and gets by “day by day,” she said. “It’s a very life-changing thing.”
Number 8: Plane crash victims named. Posted Nov. 2, 2013.
The names of three men killed in the Nov. 1 plane crash in Caledonia have been released and include Joel Alan Garrett, 79, of Troy, Mich.; Dale Edward Garrett, 49, of Berkely, Mich.; and John Paul Bergeron, 50, of Birmingham, Mich.
The sole survivor, Joseph Samuel Stevens, 61, of Bloomfield, Mich., was airlifted by Med Link to a La Crosse, Wis., hospital with critical injuries after a farmer reported a possible plane in a field at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Number 7: State of emergency. Posted June 24, 2013.
Houston County Emergency Management wants residents near flood prone areas and those residing on or near bluffs to be prepared to evacuate. The county was put under a state of emergency Sunday at 3 p.m. after heavy rains caused significant flooding over roadways throughout the county. One car was swept off the road on County 15, Houston County Emergency Management Director Kurt Kuhlers said. The incident resulted in the rescue of one individual. No other injuries or deaths have been reported at this time.
Preliminary damage estimates have already hit the $2,000,000 mark for the county highway system. Township officials have until this Friday to report road damage figures.
The water-saturated hillsides and valleys have officials on high alert.
“We’re very concerned. The bluffs can’t take much more moisture at this time, and we’re worried there will be mudslides,” Kuhlers said.
Number 6: Details of meth lab explosion uncovered. Posted Oct. 24, 2013.
Details from the Oct. 20 meth lab explosion in Houston County have been uncovered and indicate that Mark Link, 50, of Freeburg, was at his home at 5552 County Rd. 249 when the alleged eruption occurred.
White powder in foil; an internet recipe for making meth, $1,730 in cash, fire extinguisher dust and a large amount of lithium strips were found at the residence, according to search warrants obtained by The Caledonia Argus.
Lithium is an ingredient common in manufacturing methamphetamine and is very flammable when it comes into contact with water.
Houston County Dispatch received a call on Oct. 20 from a hospital in La Crosse reporting that Link had been dropped off at the emergency room by his sister after he drove to her house on County Road 3 in Houston County.
Link’s sister immediately drove him to the emergency room upon observing his injuries, the warrant states. Link was intubated, sedated and flown to a specialized medical facility due to the nature of his injuries.
Number 5: The #1 Holstein bull in the world comes from just down the road. Posted May 7, 2013.
Darin Meyer has racked up a stack of awards for his dairy operation. He’s won the Progressive Breeder award for the past 23 years – ever since the award came out. But, Darin doesn’t like to talk about awards. He doesn’t seek them out and doesn’t apply for ones that he justly deserves. “They don’t pay the bank,” Dustin Meyer, Darin’s brother, said.
But, talk about his bull, De Su Observer, and Meyer lights up like New York on New Year’s Eve. Meyer was recently informed that De Su Observer was named the #1 Holstein bull in the world. “Now, that’s a big deal,” Meyer admitted. “His placement is based on his genetic evaluation which is based on his daughters’ Total Performance Index or TPI,” Meyer said. “The TPI is a composite of production, health and phenotype.”
Number 4: HBO making film about Caledonia native. Posted April 9, 2013.
HBO Films is developing a film based on the adventures of Caledonia native Dave Kunst, who was the first documented person to have walked around the earth and who has a dedication marker honoring the feat at North Park on the corner of North Kingston and Hwy. 44 in Caledonia.
The story has become a bit obscure over time. Who are the Earthwalkers? Why is there a giant sign commemorating their effort in Caledonia? Why did it take over 40 years for someone to decide the story might make an interesting movie?
It all actually begins in Caledonia when Dave Kunst was born July 16, 1939. Now 73, and living in Costa Mesa, Calif., Kunst credits his early upbringing as a reason for later success.
Number 3: Man arrested in Caledonia for impersonating a police officer. Posted Dec. 18, 2013.
A La Crosse man was arrested by Caledonia police on Nov. 27 for impersonating a police officer, carrying a weapon without a permit and committing a crime while wearing a bullet-resistant vest.
According to Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder, Derek Dale Newman, 25, of La Crosse, befriended an officer on the Caledonia Police Department, and a 13-month relationship ensued.
Zehnder said the relationship began after Newman purchased items from one of his officers on Craigslist and struck up a conversation about being in law enforcement.
Newman claimed he had previously worked for Vernon County, Wis., full time, but due to budget cutbacks he went to part time status and was hired part time in Campbell, Wis., the police complaint states.
Number 2: Traffic fatality occurs in front of school. Posted Nov. 7, 2013.
On Nov. 5 Caledonia Police responded to a car versus pedestrian accident that resulted in the death of a 76-year-old female. The victim was struck by a 20-year-old female at approximately 8:40 p.m. on West Main Street in front of Caledonia Area Elementary School.
Caledonia Police, Caledonia Ambulance crews and the Minnesota State Patrol responded to the incident, which remains under investigation by the State Patrol.
“Any time there is an accident with major injuries or a fatality we call in the State Patrol reconstruction team,” Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder said.
The incident occurred approximately 40 minutes after the polls had closed at the elementary school for a special one day bond vote the district had on election day.
And the number 1 story according to website traffic in 2013 is:
A hunter’s perspective on killing wolf, a letter to the editor, posted Nov. 26, written by Matt Johnson of Minneapolis, Minn.
“I used to be a member of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA), the largest deer hunting advocacy group in the state. I started deer hunting as an adult as a way to harvest meat for my families’ consumption.
“Not long after joining MHDA they started sending emails promoting wolf killing. I also noticed that on their website there was a lot of talk about supporting the upcoming wolf season. That really bothered me since I thought the group was group focused on deer. I had given them a membership due so that I could learn more about deer hunting and here I find out the MDHA is lobbying heavily for a recreational wolf season!
“I have always had great pride in the Minnesota’s grey wolf population; wolves make the wilderness alive and healthy. I felt like I had betrayed myself by giving money to a group that was anti-science and anti-biodiversity. Wolves and other predators serve a critical role in the health of an ecosystem and without them we can expect to see fewer and fewer animal and plant species. In Yellowstone National Park, after wolves were reintroduced biodiversity increased greatly.
“While MDHA was pushing for this wolf hunt I went on their Facebook and started replying to the posts promoting wolf killing and said I didn’t agree with that stance. There were several people that agreed that MHDA was in the wrong pushing the wolf season. However there were many people angry with me and the others that didn’t go along with the groups’ position. I ended up trying to convince people on several occasions only to be met with resistance, ignorance and on one occasion threats of violence.
“I left MDHA and have serious concerns for wolves in Minnesota. Our hunters need education around ecology and they need to let go of old hatreds for any animal that “competes” for deer with them. Wolves only have one choice: They need to hunt for food. They can’t go to a grocery store and pick up food for their families.
“Did Minnesota really spend all these decades and money to restore our wolf population only to have a small mob of uneducated hunters and trappers take them back to the brink of extinction? For those of you that feel comfortable because the DNR is managing it, take a look at the moose, it’s facing extinction in Minnesota.
“This misuse and abuse of the wolf should not be acceptable to the people of Minnesota. If you want to join the conversation and work to end the recreational wolf killing, then contact one of the Minnesota basd groups actively fighting this years’ recreational wolf kill.”