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A Frenchman's travels through stormy Middle East and beyond

This week our enjoyable new friend's name is Michael Parenteau from Motley. Since Mike expects not to be here long, how fortunate we are to hear a fine story quite different from those par for this locale.

Michael was born in 1937. His parents were Willard and Dorothy, who farmed near Montevideo, Minn. Wanting to try farming in a different part of the country, they moved to a wheat farm in Montana.

After a few years Willard got employment at Fort Ripley, so the family located in Little Falls. Mike graduated from high school in Pillager. He might have liked a four-year degree in electronic engineering, but got what he needed to know through in-house classes at Bechtel Corporation, his first employer.

The Bechtel Corporation is known world wide for installing power plants, gas turbines, cement plants and electrical distributors. Mike was employed by them for 25 years in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria.

Next came a long-term-hitch of 20 years for Mike at Daniel International, where he was a manager. Daniel also put up huge installations in the far east. Contracts for these companies did not come from governments, but like the big electrical distributor in Rayha, Syria, were privately owned.

Mike has traveled through most of the countries in Europe as well as all of the states. To relax, Mike sees nothing wrong with a lively party every now and then. There was a time he liked to hunt. Mike is 100 percent Frenchman.

After a half-century of observation in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Israel, Mike saw nothing to make him believe they will ever find peace. They don't want it -- wouldn't know what to do with it. Their children are taught to fight.

People in those countries hate Americans, mostly due to Jimmy Carter's policies who, during the regime he was president, messed with apartheid problems he didn't understand.

In Mike's opinion, Syria is a devastatingly destitute country. On visits back to the states, the wasting of almost everything seemed overwhelming.

After a short time under our big roof Mike will be headed for North Carolina, to be near one of his daughters. His other two girls live in Indiana.

At this juncture in his life, after all those years spent in hot climes, Mike really feels the cold.

We thank Mike for an interesting story that took us out of our particular snowbound hunk of real estate for even a short time.

While the year is still young let me admit that mistakes in stories can happen. I often take notes while standing, writing on a pad in my hand, more often than not next to a humming oxygen generator. When two sets of hearing aids join the mix, theirs and mine, along with the way memory and imagination tend to play hob with reality, the plot thickens.

Even so, we try to get it right and I believe most of the time we dog Bill Shakespeare called those kind of mistakes "whirligigs." Here's to fewer whirligigs in 2010!