It's that time of the year to look back at the top local stories of the year for 2011. I hate to always stick with the mantra of "If it bleeds, it leads" but sometimes it's true. Any murder is tragic, but when it happens in our own backyard, people take notice. Yes, it can happen here and it did on October 8th when an elderly Paynesville man, Delbert Huber, shot and killed the son of one of his best friends on a farm near Belgrade. The victim was Tim Larson, the married father of two young kids, and a special education teacher in the St. Michael-Albertville school district. And what led up to his death seems so petty...he argued with the shooter and his son over whether they should be on Larson's father's farm, and Huber and his son accused Larson of stealing their tractor parts and some petty cash. I think if and when the trials take place this year, more details will emerge...apparently Huber's son and Larson and his family had a long-going fued. That story was tops on the local list. Number 2 was the state government shutdown. Number 3 was the psycho weather of 2011...first snowy, then wet and floods, then hot, then bone dry with a tornado and early killing frost tossed in for good measure. Then there was the local FFA kids raising the Willmar Poultry turkey that became the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoned by the president. Number 5 was the tragic rash of suicides rocking the local area, number 6 is the Bruce Gomm imbroglio at the Willmar Utilities, Number 7 is Ron Mackedanz getting his Silver Star from the Army about 42 years too late, and Number 8 is the group Mercy For Animals releasing a video that led to McDonalds giving the axe to Sparboe Farms. Number 9 is the fires that charred buildings in Cosmos, Atwater and Willmar, and Number 10 is a fond farewell to our friend Bud Hanson who died of cancer in April after 5 decades on-the-air at KWLM. Before chosing the final 10 stories from a much bigger list, I let my friends and colleagues make their choices. Not surprisingly, the people who live in the New London-Spicer area chose the suicide story as tops, the people from Renville County chose the weather story, and people from Willmar chose the Bud Hanson and Huber stories. And universally people also chose the government shutdown.
Everyone has their own local highlights and lowlights for 2011. I had a son who graduated from college and started his new life in Sioux Falls, and another son starting his sophmore year at St. John's. My wife continues working at a good job at Ridgewater and working toward her masters degree at Moorhead State. And I'm still here at the radio station, loving my job. I also continue teaching religious ed to energetic 4th graders at St. Mary's and serve on the Barn Theatre Board of Directors. I didn't get my 1000 miles in on my bike, but I did peform in two plays. No loved ones passed away in 2011, but as 2012 begins I have concerns about my little brother and hope he gets in to the doctor. I got an iPhone and have stepped up my use of Facebook and online apps...not sure if that's good or bad. My New Year's resolution...try to get back down to 200 pounds. You wouldn't think losing 15 pounds would be that hard, but as you get older, you have less energy, and once you get home from work, it's gets harder and harder to get out of that recliner and get to the gym. And there always seems to be snacks abounding. I turn 50 this year, and according to the Mayans, we'll all be dead by Christmas. Happy New Year!