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Big Joe vs. Lars the Berserker

Ravalli Roundup- Part 1. What does an excavator have to do with a cage match? Read on!

My grandiose plans to rescue the world via the information war remain on hold as I stay busy with work, trying to save up a little coin for the Montana winter, when I establish my snowbound, wilderness-bunker studio where I’ll broadcast my interviews and video presentations. For now I’m too bushed to do much research and stay abreast of the latest round of the Apocalypse. In the mean time, KLA TV is trying to get some big fish for interviews (Alex Jones- faggetaboutit; David Icke- unlikely; Mike Yeadon- maybe; Eva Bartlett- so you’re saying I have a chance) but none are biting right now, so without juicy conspiracies or conversations with counter-culture luminaries, I’ll have to regale you with stories of local interest. That may sound mundane and tedious, but hey man, this is Montana, home of free spirits and crazies.

Thus we come to the latest two exhibits in the Bitterroot Personalities category, Big Joe Bergmann and Lars Hansen, two of my main employers and thus benefactors here in Montana. If not for the generosity of folks like Joe and Lars, and mechanic Steve up on the bluff, and Fred and Camila at the base of the Sapphire foothills, and Lee and Susan at their mountain redoubt off the highway to Idaho, and the Hollingsworths on the west side of the valley, and Barbara at her Missoula ranch, and Stan and Lucy in the gulch, and many more I’m ashamed not to name, I wouldn’t have a pot to piss in out here in the northern Rockies. Blanche DuBois “always depended on the kindness of strangers,” whereas out here in Montana you might say I’ve always depended on the kindness of strange friends, (strange like me- in a good sense, of course.)

If any of you are reading this, I thank you all!

So why do I say Big Joe versus Lars? Are they enemies? Are they in some kind of competition? Is a fight imminent? No, but both are very strong and Montana tough, and just as suburban teenage boys on the Saturday-night prowl in mom’s Mazda like to imagine a fight that will never happen between themselves and the two guys standing across the street (“Think we can take ‘em?”), it’s a fun-but-useless thought exercise to imagine Joe and Lars in a fight.

Let’s examine the tale of the tape on these two Montana maulers before we make our prediction. First, the similarities:

  • They’re both crazy strong.

  • They both seem impervious to the usual discomforts like pain and cold, relative to softies like me anyway.

  • They are both amazing handyman contractors, and can expertly handle just about any kind of tool or heavy equipment, and do anything related to building, landscaping, plumbing, electric work, you name it.

And the differences:

  • Joe is tall and huge; Lars is of average height, wiry and thin.

  • Although Lars stays out of trouble, he’s got the gleam in his eye and you have to wonder if he still pines for the fight, while Joe is a gentle giant. I’ve seen Joe holding babies at church, and I’ve seen Lars drop a conversation and look like a Doberman ready to pounce, when a car pulled up with noisy youth coming to visit his daughter. Lars has had his share of fisticuffs, but I don’t know how many fights Joe has been in; I’m guessing not many, as guys of his size and strength encounter few challengers, unless they’re putting themselves in situations, like the jealous man who brought his pretty wife to a bar on the south side where Leroy likes to roll the dice. And that’s not Joe’s style. You’re more likely to find him eating snails at Bistro Le Chevalier.

  • Joe is of German stock and Lars has Norwegian blood. OK, we could say this is a push as both ethnicities have the warrior/conqueror in them. Both groups were beyond problematic for the poor British Islanders. However, in one-on-one fighting, I guess I’d give the nod to the Norse bloodline. We imagine more organization, efficiency and group cohesion from the Hun, while the Norsk presents an image of the insane berserker. One group fights methodically, in large numbers, and settles the land after conquering the natives; the other attacks in smaller numbers, raping, pillaging, and savoring victory with the blood eagle, then leaves for more adventure.

Incidentally Lars told me an interesting story the other day, about his older brother, who was on duty for the air force in Bosnia during Clinton’s war to bring peace and democracy to the ungrateful and benighted Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks of the region. As Lars tells it, his older brother Thomas, bigger, even stronger and fiercer than Lars himself, went in for a haircut at the small town he was stationed at. Like Yugoslavia in general, the clientele at the only barber shop in town was a mixed bag. Local customers, as well as all the nationalities of the UN troops stationed there came in. On top of that, there was a regular Russian presence too. And the Russians considered themselves the kings of the hill in those parts. They were loud and cocky and strutted about- maybe they felt like the legitimate occupiers, with their long history of alliance with the Serbs, while the French, Dutch, English and Americans there had no business messing around in Eastern Europe. Anyway, the busty barber Belinda pushes up against Tom’s back, leans over his shoulder to read the name badge on his opposite breast, utters a loud word or two in Serbo-Croatian, then says in thickly-accented English. “Ahh! Hansen. Fighting blood!” Then she slaps her hands down on Thomas’ shoulders and says, “Yes. Hansen- a real berserker!” Then Tom looked over at the 3 Russians waiting for a cut and for some reason they now wouldn’t look him in the eye. Later that week he was walking the streets of Slunj, or whatever the town was named, and a couple Russian officers were coming his way. When they recognized the barber-shop berserker, they chose to go to the other side of the street to pass. “I guess the name Hansen struck fear into those Russkies,” said Lars, with a smile. “They knew about our reputation as the fighting clan from Norway.”

Well, that could be. Or it could just be that there is some bitter, lingering remembrance of the tough Swedes who came to raise hell and conquer Russia in the days of Peter the Great. There were no doubt plenty of Hansens in that army, who by the way, in spite of their fighting superiority and high kill ratio, were eventually destroyed completely by the Russians, who fought a long war of retreat and attrition, goading the ever-diminished army of tired Swedes deep into Cossack territory. Swedes, French, Germans, and now silly Ukranians, Poles and Americans. Still poking the Russian bear. Stay out of it, NATO! This one could be for keeps.

Anyhow, these are the types of fun stories Lars will tell me at the worksite while we’re on lunch break. Joe has stories too, from his youthful farm days back in Minnesota, to the adventures he’s had all over the US, especially in Texas and New Mexico.

Why do these guys hire me, anyway? I’m old and rusted, and I don’t have the Montana strength and toughness. And I know next to nothing about carpentry, maintenance, painting, landscaping, whatever. They could easily get a cheaper deal with some strapping Ravalli-county youth. The answer, I think, is that we are all ANW (awake not woke), and are concerned and curious about all the sh## going down, whereas youth has it’s priorities, and being informed and active in the fight for liberty and righteousness, to sound a bit corny about it, might not be high on their list. Plus Joe and Lars expect me to make something of my move to Montana. They have more trust in my ability to make a difference (and maybe an income) out of my talents than I do! Hiring me is a way to help me get started. And man, both of them are about as encouraging as you can be. Any difficulty I run into, Joe will say, “You’ll learn,” and Lars will say, “None of this stuff is that hard. It’s all easy, really. You just watch and follow. No problem.” This as Joe sticks his hand behind some awkward corner of the cramped sauna to wire a bundle of unseen circuits, or Lars perches himself on the top of the step ladder, itself perched on two stories of scaffolding, stretching himself out above the concrete walkway 27 feet below to stain the fascia. (No thanks.)

Yep, both Joe and Lars are as nice as can be to this old no-knack. And not only do they keep me working, they help me out in other ways. Joe is a computer and electronics whizz and is always trying to get me better educated and equipped for my interview and video work. He sold me his mint condition Lumix camera for cheap and is always trying to get me to read the manual, to no avail. He gave me an old computer that has all the memory and speed necessary for video work and keeps saying, “Are you learning it?” (not yet). He offers me food all the time, and he’s an excellent cook- using only the best, most healthy ingredients.

Lars invites me to eat with his family frequently; we had elk burgers the other day- of course from his own kill. And I always can hitch a ride with him to the work site.

The one worry I have about both of these guys is this: I might be keeping relatively fit for a 57 yr. old, but do they know the toll that years of sport has had on my body, first the pounding that it took after years of skiing, then basketball, soccer and other stuff? Is Joe aware that when he asks me to “put that log over there” that I’m on the verge of a hernia? Does Lars know that when I hoist my end of the 300 pound, refurbished cast iron sink made in 1946 that I’m on the verge of permanent back injury? Here’s what I think they think: Relax, you neophite! We’ve been in this business for 30 years and we know what a body can take. You’re stronger than you think and besides, if something happens we know how to get you back in shape.

In any case, if you guys are reading this, don’t take it as an excuse to leave me out of the tough jobs! I need the work! And plus, I’m gaining skills that will help me in the coming times of struggle. Why just today, Lars began teaching me a skill that may come in handy; after work he gave me an introductory lesson on his excavator. Now that was fun! (see short video above).

Anyway, back to the imaginary fight. Berserker vs. Teutonic Giant, 12 rounds, ten-point must:

Lars will use speed and rather than engage in a fistfight or a wrestling match with the hulking monster, he’ll go for the kill with a stranglehold while riding Joe’s back, or a swift, knock-out kick to the family jewels. But if Joe can keep Lars away from his neck and fun zone, and somehow get Lars in his grasp, it’s curtains for the Viking and we have to give him the nod here. Joe’s just too big and strong. But this is a big ‘if’- Lars’ speed and cunning could still win the day. Prediction: Joe will not be able to subdue Lars, and Lars will fail to summon the beserker spirit, as Joe is a friend, and the match will end in a draw, and the Ravalli crowd, here for blood and guts, will whistle and jeer and throw rotten tomatoes onto the ring.

That’s all for now from the Bitterroot.

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DW Shumway
DW Shumway