Over a ten-day run, we got pretty comfortable tuning the television each night at 9 p.m. for the National Finals Rodeo. Watching Tanner Aus’ nightly bareback bronc riding even blended in with decorating our Christmas tree one evening. Our local, home grown pro-rodeo finalist did a great job once again, this time finishing third at the Nationals and earning a nice pile of money for his very athletic work. His traveling buddy, Ty Bruer of Mandan, North Dakota, who has also been here for the Western Fest Stampede Rodeo, also earned himself some nice cash out there. The steer wrestler from Milan, J.D. Struxness, made a good showing as well. Congratulations to each of them and their families for their support. There was a good sized local delegation out in Las Vegas for the Nationals and they did a good job of cheering on Tanner and the other guys with ties to our local rodeo. I certainly would have never tried any of those rodeo events as a young guy but it’s something that many of us have grown up with here and it isn’t hard to get back into watching and understanding what is going on during rodeo each go-round. Those cowboys and cowgirls often lose their hats during their wild rides and we’ll lose our hats by taking them off to recognize their hard work, tough bounces and triumphs in the rodeo arena. It’s fun to see their names and their hometowns show up on the television screen.

We’ll look forward to following them again next year. Meanwhile Tanner will be around over the holidays and will be the speaker at the kick-off for the annual Health Challenge, on Tuesday Jan. 2 at YME High School at 7 p.m.

A short ride along the river shows a lot of different ice conditions or the lack of ice. Any ice that is right above the Granite dam is relatively flat but a short ways upstream, there is a messy jumble of jangled ice chunks that have raised water levels at the Roe river access on the Dike Road, covering most of the boat ramp. That ice jam stretches for a good distance but there is flat ice again further up the Dike Road near the Gatchell farm. Above that, the river is largely open all the way to Montevideo.

The swift water below the Granite dam, stretching downstream past Minnesota Falls, keeps the river mostly open but there are areas of ice jams and flat ice, too. The river is mostly open at the Kinney landing downstream from Granite but above that and below, at least as far down as Upper Sioux Agency State Park and perhaps further, there are mixed areas of flat ice, ice jams and open water, showing where the river’s current runs strong or springs enter the river channel. It’s a dangerous array of conditions and something to avoid.

The automated weather station at the Granite Falls airport this week showed a recorded air temperature of 51 degrees at 2:15 on Monday afternoon. That certainly is not what most of us would call typical wintery conditions in Minnesota and more like winter in Arkansas or Oklahoma. Although it’s going to get chilly and downright cold later this week, it will be a good while before there is any river or creek ice that is safe to walk on, much less safe for any sort of vehicle. Lakes and ponds might be a bit safer but we hear there is a lot of variation in ice thickness with them, too. The only safe approach for a while will be to stay off the ice, particularly any river or creek ice. It isn’t safe. No family needs a tragedy that could have been avoided by good judgement.

When we answered the phone last Saturday we were caught a bit off guard to hear Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith on the other end of the line. The announcement of her appointment to the U.S. Senate by Governor Mark Dayton has her scrambling to prepare for that assignment and part of that was to contact various community leaders around the state to, in her words, “check in on community concerns and needs” and to set a pathway for staying in touch. I think that’s a good strategy, particularly in light of having to mount a campaign for that Senate seat next fall.

We’ve talked with her a couple dozen times over the past few years and were always impressed at her ability to listen to what’s being said and to ask good questions. She said she wanted to stay in touch and gather perspectives from all around the state. She seems to be very engaged and I think she’ll do a good job representing Minnesota. We’ll look forward to more conversations with our new Senator in the coming weeks and months.

We need to take a moment to send our holiday greetings to all the good readers out there. As we gather with families and friends, let’s all be grateful for the blessings we have and for those who we care for and those who care for us. Merry Christmas!