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By Staff | Oct 11, 2018

Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter, Minnesota recently hosted the Nobel Conference, “Living Soil: A Universe Underfoot.”?In addition to the conference the college also hosted Jerry Nelson for a book signing of his book, “Dear County Agent Guy.”

Gustavus Adolphus is a picturesque little college that sits upon a hill at the edge of the picturesque town of St. Peter, Minnesota. When my wife and I recently visited Gustavus, the autumn trees were turning gold and scarlet and a dozen clean-cut college students were playing volleyball on an emerald lawn. It looked like a promotional brochure.

Since 1965, Gustavus Adolphus has held an annual Nobel Conference, an academic hoedown that features lectures by experts from around the globe. This year’s conference was themed Living Soil: A Universe Underfoot. I’m not an expert on anything, but as a farmer, I’m acquainted with dirt.

I was invited to Gustavus Adolphus by Molly Yunkers, manager of the campus bookstore, the Book Mark. Molly asked me to talk about my book, Dear County Agent Guy. I wouldn’t be at the actual venue where the Nobel Conference was being held, but in a building nearby. Close enough for me!

We motored into St. Peter as dusk was descending from an overcast sky and immediately got lost. I called Molly, who gave directions from the parking lot we had found. I went the wrong way and got lost again.

Molly talked us into a safe landing at a campus guest house. She showed us to our room, which one might describe as “snug.” It had a pair of twin beds, so my wife and I would be sleeping separately in the same room, not unlike a married couple in a 1950s sitcom.

I have never attended college. At age 60, I was about to have my first dorm room experience.

My wife and I were feeling a bit peckish and Molly recommended several nearby eateries. We chose a pub called Patrick’s.

Patrick’s is located in the heart of downtown St. Peter. Even though it was a Tuesday night, the joint was packed. We eventually found an empty table in a far corner.

It was trivia night at Patrick’s. A voice on their PA system was posing trivia questions, many of which involved historical events that my wife and I remembered because they occurred when we were, historically, alive at the time.

At the table to my wife’s left sat a quartet of young ladies who were obviously college students. My wife could hear them struggling with the trivia questions, so she began to whisper answers to them, including such historical tidbits as “the Beatles” and “Apollo 11” and “I am not a crook!”

The young ladies were appreciative of our help. After we’d finished our meal and were preparing to leave Patrick’s, my wife chatted with them briefly and told them that I would be presenting the next day at the Book Mark.

My wife said the young ladies seemed genuinely interested. I found it difficult to believe that they would care to hear the ramblings of a recovering dairy farmer.

Our room had no TV. No problem; I had my laptop. But I couldn’t get onto the Wi-Fi network, so I spent the rest of the evening reading a physical book. Which was good. I was thus given the authentic college student dorm life experience.

The next morning, Molly gave us tickets to the Nobel Conference. The Gustavus Adolphus Symphony Orchestra serenaded the assembly with a symphonic prelude. When they began to play one particular tune, my wife and I turned to each other and said, “The Lone Ranger!”

We listened to a scholarly lecture given by an English gentleman who spoke about the social aspects of soil conservation. I had never thought about that particular topic in that particular way. I could feel my mind expanding.

Following the lecture, my wife and I strolled back toward the Book Mark, stopping at an outdoor food stand to buy hot cocoas and a blueberry muffin. We sat in a flower-lined courtyard and enjoyed our cocoa. I hadn’t realized that the academic life could be so pleasant.

I gave my book talk in a seating area next to a coffee shop. The students studying there probably wondered why this old guy was prattling away about his dairy farming experiences and his book.

We sat at a table near the Book Mark to sign books and a young lady approached. She was one of the four whom we had helped with the trivia contest. The young lady asked me to sign a copy of my book, saying that it would be her dad’s Christmas present.

My wife is right: you should always be nice to everyone, because you never know what effect it will have on others.

In conclusion, we had an edifying experience at Gustavus Adolphus College. You might even say that it was ennobling.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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