Monday, August 19th


Life is sometimes like a blackberry patch.

That was the great epiphany that came to me last week while I was in the midst of harvesting the purplish-black fruit of summer.

The annual appearance of the rubus allegheniensis — the blackberry — is a late July and early August treat. The prolific plants grow throughout our hardwood forests and we try our best to harvest plenty of the berries for eating fresh, making jam, freezing and making wine.

It was a cool evening last week when my wife Sherry and I — with ice cream pails in hand — started on a patch that covers both sides of a hilltop field. It was quiet and peaceful and were we serenaded by the chirping of a cricket and bird song.

We got a late start because I was late getting home from work. In typical fashion my mind was busy with all that had to be done and all that was not done.

For the Hangartners, pie-eating competition is a family affair. Wilhelmina (age 5), Icean (9) and Kellee (12) all took the stage Thursday to enter the annual pie-eating contest held at the Jackson County Fair.

Contestants ranging age from three years old to adult took shifts downing chocolate/whipped cream pies. The winners received free milk shakes and “bragging rights,” said contest organizer and master of ceremonies Leonard Olson.

“Some of them are up there on a dare, and some of them are just willing to give it a whirl,” Olson said.

The Hangartner family of Melrose earned the most bragging rights. Icean and Kellee won their age groups.

For Icean, winning was an accomplishment because he’s not a huge fan of chocolate. He said, “I kind of like chocolate,” but doesn’t care for chocolate chips.

“All I did was start eating the big chunks first,” he said.

Kellee said it wasn’t difficult to consume the cream pie.

BLACK RIVER FALLS — An Eau Claire man faces charges of sixth-offense operating while intoxicated after his car was involved in a collision immediately after someone woke him up early Saturday in Black River Falls.


Chris McMillan also faces two counts of felony bail jumping and disorderly conduct. Additional charges are pending.

Black River Falls police were dispatched about 3:30 a.m. to a vehicle blocking a residential driveway in the 200 block of Harrison Street. A witness found the driver passed out in the vehicle. When the witness woke him, the driver’s vehicle rear-ended a parked car.

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Black River Falls Police Chief Kelly Bakken said the driver was identified as McMillan.

Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers recently offered dementia care training to new volunteers in its Time for You Program.

The training was held July 26 at Family Worship Assembly in Black River Falls and gave 16 volunteers and other individuals who work in area nursing home and elderly care facilities important caregiving skills.

Sharlene Bellefeuille, community outreach specialist from the Alzheimer’s Association, conducted the presentation entitled “Effective Communication Strategies.”

“Individuals with dementia cannot change to meet our needs – we must meet them where they are,” she said. “The Alzheimer’s Association has many great resources and you can call them with any questions, big or small.”

Interfaith’s Time for You Respite Program assists individuals with dementia and their caregivers. It is one of several programs that Interfaith offers in Jackson County and surrounding areas that serve older adults and people with disabilities.

“Many of our volunteers have cared for a loved one with dementia and want to be able to help others.

A recent survey revealed working parents in Jackson County have child care concerns.

The online survey, coordinated by a local taskforce, shows more than two-thirds of those surveyed have been unable to work overtime due to child care arrangements and just over 56 percent do not have alternative options if their child becomes ill.

“It’s important to gather the information to get a true picture of the impact childcare is having on our workforce and the community,” said Marianne Torkelson, Co-op Credit Union’s vice president of business development and training who is a member of the task force. “When working parents struggle to find appropriate child care, it affects the community as a whole.”

The Jackson County Childcare Task Force has been meeting to share concerns and look for solutions as the county grapples with a lack of adequate and available childcare.

The survey, which concluded in June, covered questions about what options parents currently utilize, what type of care children receive at their current providers and if or how arrangements have interfered with employment.