I’m Homesick!

I want to return to my old neighborhood, the place where I felt welcome no matter which friend’s house I was in. I want to go back to the place where dark mysteries involved misplaced bats and balls and were normally solved long before nightfall.


I want to hear the children’s songs of “Double Dutch” accompanied by the sound of leather soled saddle shoes landing on the sidewalk in time to the rhythm. I listen to hear “Ante I Over” and “Pum Pum Pull Away” in the night-time air just before the curfew whistle.

I hunger to taste hearty homemade doughnuts cooked in an iron kettle full of lard, heated on an old cook stove. I want to hear the voices of women gossiping in country kitchens about neighbors and friends and who were and weren’t at church last week.

I want to turn the scratchy tuner of a wooden AM Radio to KOVC to catch the broadcast of the noontime market report, followed by an hour of Polka Party, hosted by Dale Olson, hawking bedroom suites from the local furniture store. I long to hear the “Rest of the story” from Paul Harvey and smell the sulfur of a match lighting a Chesterfield my father would smoke before heading back out in the field.

I wish to feel of the power of the old John Deere rumbling through the field, tugging a four bottom plow and listen to the flutter of the pheasants flushed from the slough as my old dog followed along in the field. I hope to catch the morning sun burning the dew off the pasture where our Holsteins spent the night.

I crave warm hugs from people who are now long gone that still serve up memories that encourage me to do my best at everything I do, that remind me that the best part of life is still coming and I have family and friends that love and need me with them.


Memories must serve as placeholders of dreams locked in my heart till I come home again in time.



                              By Clarence Holm

Feline prowler of a family’s lair,
Pampered daily, with great flair.
Coyly disregarding a parlor game,
With no suitable sense of shame.

Finicky sniffer of salmon filet
Pushed aside to my dismay.
Every whim, of course, was heeded.
Something crispy apparently is needed.

Tufts of fur whirl in space
Settling on my favorite place.
Lint brush carried in either hand
Even then I feel out-manned.

Idyllic rumblings perched upon my lap
Holding me prisoner in her trap.
Tail waiving in my face
Let’s everyone know this feline’s place!

Eagle’s Nest

On my way to a seminar this week I drove past a nesting pair of eagles. As a watched, both of them lifted off the nest and began their morning patrol, looking for an unwitting rabbit who might be blissfully unaware of its surroundings.

I’ve watched this particular pair of eagles for a number of years and every time I see them I want to pull over just to observe their grandeur.

Heaven’s  Guardian

-Clarence Holm

Silent searchers of temporal trails,
Spiraling upward on fiery swales.
Looking down through eyes so cold
Stealthy attacks, wings controlled.
Authority’s symbol of power precise
Constant vigilance for provisions suffice.
God’s regal hunter, seeking life by chance
Soaring ever higher, sustained by just a glance.

Karma Is A Slippery Slope!

Last night my wife got her car stuck in the driveway in the freshly fallen snow. She managed to get out of the car and trudge through about a foot of snow up the driveway into our house.

When she told me what had happened, I immediately rose (with manly manners) and said, “I’ll go out and drive the car up the driveway into the garage. — No problem!” With all the bravado I could muster I slipped on my tennis shoes along with a hooded sweatshirt and went out the front door.

Immediately my tennis shoes filled with snow from the deep snow drift that covered our sidewalk. Undeterred from the melting water in my shoes, I high-stepped my way to the driveway, only to notice that my wife’s car had been left very close to the side of the driveway very near a five foot pile of snow. “Boy” I thought. “She must have barely been able to slip out of the car.” I also started to wonder, “How I will be able to get between the car and that huge snow pile and still get in the door!”

Aware that neighbors were now watching my progress from the safety of their living room windows, I realized that my pride was at risk. “I would get in that car and I would gloriously drive it to the safety of our double garage (a mere 30 feet away).”

Pointing my right foot east and my left foot west, I edged my way alongside the car on the 6 inch ice covered gap between the two. Working my body into an entry position I reached with my left arm to the driver’s door. I felt both my feet slip slowly towards – then under the car. At the same time I fell backwards into the freshly piled bank of snow, sinking deeply in the welcome embrace of the wet and cold snow. It didn’t take me long to realize that:

1) I was trapped in the snow unable to get up.

2) The snow had slipped under my sweat shirt and was now melting in the small of my back and

3) Chances were very good my neighbors were preparing a “YouTube” video for upload to the Net.

As the blood found its way back into my brain, I worked on a plan to get up and out. The snow had me firmly imprisoned by the walls of the snow drift and my wife’s car, not allowing me to turn left or right. I was also unable to place my arms behind me (because of the deep snow) to help lift myself up. My only chance was to grab the door handles of the car and pull myself out of this predicament. With the resolve born of desperation, I grabbed both car handles and pulled as hard as I could – only to have the doors swing open above me, further pinning me to the snow.

As I paused there, considering if & when the spring thaw would arrive and save me, one of my neighbors ambled across the street and said, “Are you gonna get up?”

With humiliation creeping ever nearer, I made one last effort to crawl out backward, tunneling through the snow. Finally extricating myself from under the car, I nonchalantly brushed myself off. My neighbor said “Good! You got out.” and returned to clearing his own driveway.

Slowly I shuffled back up my driveway, through the snow covered sidewalk and finally staggered into my warm home, where I made myself some hot chocolate, all the while considering an early retirement and the overwhelming desire to permanently move south.


          – Clarence Holm
As we scroll through thoughts held dear,
Reliving dreams with well-worn veneers.
We dance with spirits who dwell in the posts,
Providing backgrounds to our playful boasts.

Like shoppers gazing through December windows,
Our words behave like dancing mind shadows.
Dreaming of a treasured Christmas morn
Thoughts lost all twisted, tossed, and shorn.

Solace we seek as we gaze on traditions,
In pursuit of reveries, some recalled ambitions.
Our stage is set inward, internally connecting,
Blindly defending, old wishes projecting.

Deeply we sip from our thoughts in this dream,
Quietly we ended our voyage midstream.
Flushing from memories, left out and stripped bare.
Waking from thoughts remembered and shared.

History of Accounting

Long ago there was a glen surrounded by a cool mountain stream that could only be accessed by crossing an ancient stone bridge. This bridge was the home of a family of trolls that derived their income from the sheep that were driven across the bridge to graze on the grass in the glen by shepherds that worked for surrounding small farms. For each sheep that crossed over the bridge the trolls collected a small fare.

Because the fare was so insignificant, the troll would have to keep records of each sheep and which farm owned it. At the end of each month they could collect for the number of times a farm’s sheep crossed the bridge.

For many years, the trolls kept track by placing small rocks for each sheep in piles that was assigned to particular farms. At the end of the month they would count the rocks and send each farm a bill for each of their sheep that crossed the bridge to graze on the lush grass.

This system worked very well for centuries until one day, the king of the country decided he wanted to build a new palace. His wife decided that she wanted the castle to be built of stone, so he proclaimed that henceforth all loose rocks were to be delivered to his property to be used for his new home.

The trolls were beside themselves! How would they ever be able to manage their business without rocks? Their business would go broke.

Luckily the trolls recalled hearing of a magician that kept track of all of the king’s subjects that passed through fences. (For that was how the King taxed his subjects, each time they went through a gate they were charged a fee!) So the trolls called on the magician to inquire on how he did it.

The mighty magician explained that he maintained a list of all peasants. Each time one went through a gate he would place a mark. These marks were tabulated once a month for each peasant. Then each peasant was handed a “Gate Bill”

The trolls were excited! They wanted lists that would work for them too. So the magician created lists for them and named them “Spread Sheeps”.

And that is how, even to this day, we keep track of sales and receipts.

To Increase Sales – Frozen Pizza Maker Cans the Brand

It might sound like a recipe for disaster, but a regional frozen pizza maker, whose pies were formerly known as Bernatello’s, has dropped that brand name in favor of pursuing an upscale clientele.

In a market where sales are declining nationally, studies have shown that customers are heading back to their favorite restaurants, instead of popping in a frozen pizza. It turns out that people prefer a fresher better tasting product. In order to compete, Bernatello’s Foods has had to increase the quality of their product to meet this new customer focus and downplay their former brand name.

Bernatello’s Foods has its’ roots in a small Minnesota Tavern where is began its’ corporate life in 1970 as “Bud’s Pizza”. In 1982 Marigold Foods purchased a 50% share and changed the name to Bernatello’s. From there it has grown to a multi-state venture employing about 400 people.

Now despite 10% annual growth and yearly sales of over $80 million the company has seen the writing on the wall and is dropping their name from the packaging to emphasize their new push to quality.

Despite competition from multi-national brand like Nestle’s Digiorno or Tombstone and regional giant Schwan’s Red Baron, local Bernatello’s continues to hold fast at #2 in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee markets.

So why should a small town agent care about this change of sales strategy, besides getting a good tip on where to get their next frozen snack.

This sales strategy should be a road map for a successful independent agent. By focusing on quality, sales can go up even in the face of national competition. Insurance agents need to understand that they will not be able to make their voice be heard over the billions of dollars being spent to build insurance brand names. In order to prosper you must rely on a value proposition of service, quality and dependability.

A newspaper article published in Business Horizons back in 1988, “The Service-Quality Puzzle” still rings true. “To earn a reputation for quality, an organization must meet-or exceed- customer expectations.” Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus is quoted as saying “The dollar bills the customer gets from the tellers in four banks are the same. What is different are the tellers.”

If insurance agents continue to sell based on price, they will fail to differentiate themselves from the other dollar bills. The surest way to avoid that is to emphasize quality and value. That recipe is the surest way yet to get a larger slice of the pie.

Dear Clarence*

Q: Clarence, I’ve noticed that you seem to know a lot about exercise, can you help me choose a place to exercise?
A: If you are at a gym and all of the other members are overweight and out of shape chances are you are not at a very good gym. I’ve also noticed the best places have HD TV and snack bars.
Q: A friend told me  I should cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: Your friend is misinformed. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products. Bacon is a good choice to round out any meal.
Q: On Opra, I heard them talking about body/fat ratio, how can I calculate my mine?
A: It’s very simple, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.
Q: Dear Clarence, my wife and I cannot agree on the most appropriate fork to use with fish when a dedicated fish fork is not available.

I prefer the genteel salad fork while my wife and son use the heaviest fork available.

Which do you prefer?
A: While I appreciate your desire to raise your fork etiquette to a higher level, it appears to me, you are working much too hard at this. The Minnesota State Fair solved this dilemma quite nicely by putting the fish on a stick, dipping it into batter and deep-frying it.
Q: Mr. Clarence, recently the car my wife drives started smoking. At first it happen every once in a while but now, it’s all the time. The car is quite old and has a lot of miles on it. What can we do?
A: Consider yourself lucky to be a Minnesotan. Our legislators have solved the problem for you. All you have to do is bring the car with you to your favorite bar or tavern. Thanks to the smoking ban now in place, your car will automatically quit smoking.

*Dear Clarence’s advice should be taken with a grain of salt or a dinner roll, depending on your appetite.

Dear Clarence*

Q: Dear Clarence, during the past month, I have noticed that the Minnesota Twins look pretty good. In fact, with the addition of a power hitter, I believe they could take it all. The guys in the bar think I am crazy, but I believe we just can’t lose. Do you think I’m listening to too much Sid Hartman?
A: Dear Rosie, fawning over Minnesota sports teams is a highly respected tradition. Take Ex-Governor Carlson. The man loved anything claiming the state’s name. If a team called Minnesota home, Carlson would back them. Even Governor Pawlenty wore a Twin’s Jersey when he signed the legislation enabling Carl Pohlad to get nearly a half a billion dollars. Your not crazy, you just need to run for public office.
Q: Dear Dave, Lately, my wife has noticed I have been confusing people’s names. It’s become embarrassing, especially when I call the preacher by the bar owner’s name!
Do you have any tricks to help me remember names?
                                      Aphasic Greeter
A: Dear So and So, aside from using generic greetings for the rest of your life, I’ve found that if you stick to places where you feel comfortable you won’t have a problem. Believe it or not, when I stay in the basement, my memory works fine. If I do have to go out, I just bring my wife, her memory is perfect.
*Dear Clarence’s advice should be taken with a grain of salt or a dinner roll, depending on your appetite.

Chicken Soup For My Soul

More years ago than I like to admit, I was raised on a small grain farm in North Dakota. It was about 500 acres of sandy loam soil that needed more water then it got and required all 6 of the children to work hard with my parents to scratch out a sharecropper’s living. If I learned anything from the experience, it was the value of good food to fuel my body for a hard day of chores.

The only things we had in abundance on that farm were vegetables from our huge garden and mean old clucking hens. As one of the younger children in the family, it was my daily job to gather the eggs from the coop. Everyday I had to confront those same old clucks who were intent on guarding the eggs in their care. With most chickens, a simple waive of the hand would send them running, but these evil creatures fought me hard with their beaks and claws.

It’s no wonder my favorite soup was chicken!

Of course I’m not talking about the soup that comes out of a red & white can! I’m talking about a soup that’s thick with chicken and vegetables and had battleship sized dumplings floating on the top. A soup that started on Monday, simmered on Tuesday, and only by Wednesday was ready for the table. It was the type of soup that didn’t need crackers and was served as a meal to give you the energy to work hard all day long.

Years later I’m finding, the values I learned on the farm are still valid today. Number one is, nobody likes an old cluck and two, that there is a huge difference between quick and easy and real homemade quality. People understand and appreciate the time and effort it takes to expertly combine high quality ingredients to make a product that satisfies.