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Published May 03, 2010, 03:28 PM

A weird few days

FARGO, N.D. — Recently, I ran into a fellow who alerted me to big things happening with genetically modified wheat. GM wheat made me think about cures for Fusarium head blight or “scab,” which was the scourge of wheat producers in the region in the mid-1990s — and that reminded me of how I acquired Bailey, the older of the two of my tri-color English setter dogs. Bailey turned 12 on April 21.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Recently, I ran into a fellow who alerted me to big things happening with genetically modified wheat. GM wheat made me think about cures for Fusarium head blight or “scab,” which was the scourge of wheat producers in the region in the mid-1990s — and that reminded me of how I acquired Bailey, the older of the two of my tri-color English setter dogs.

Bailey turned 12 on April 21.

In 1998, my children were in their 8- and 10-year-old years. They — and my wife who had grown up with farm dogs — had pressed for me to buy a dog for a family pet.

I’d read an article on family relations, going on about how a dog could make the family happier. The writer cautioned that parents should consider the dog their dog. I thought, OK, I’ll get a dog that might be able to hunt.

That July 1, I started looking for a hunting dog in the journalist’s price range. Weeks passed.

I was working for the Fargo (N.D.) Forum, covering wheat scab. I’d left from Fargo, heading toward Warren, Minn., to see a farmer who was a wheat industry leader. We talked until 11:30 p.m.

A good deal

I drove on to Karlstad, Minn., where I expected to stay in the motel and visit with a farmer in the cafe the next day. The motel was full, so I slept in the car. That morning, I went into the cafe where I saw an ad. I phoned the source, and a lady from Roseau, Minn., drove to Karlstad to show me three puppies left in the litter.

It was a good deal, but now I had a puppy on a piece of twine.

I proceeded to Hallock, Minn., to attend a farm auction sale at the Kittson County fairgrounds. The farmer had suffered too many years of wheat scab.

Bailey was 3 months old, so I thought the dog could cook in the car. I went door-to-door looking for some kid to watch my dog for a few bucks. No takers.

I went to the auction sale and parked the old Subaru wagon in a livestock barn, with the sun roof open and windows open enough to let in some air. Eventually, I waved to the auctioneer that I had to make an exit. I went back to town for a soda, and then Bailey and I made a couple of wheat scab interview stops before I zoomed back to Fargo in time for supper.

Wrong place, wrong time

All was well until the next day, when it was reported that Julie Holmquist, 16, had been abducted (murdered, tragically) at about 8:30 p.m., while inline skating outside Hallock.

A few nights later, I was writing my wheat scab story at the Forum office, when a photographer, Wallie, called me back to look at my photo negatives from Hallock. The Kittson County sheriff had called the newspaper, wanting to talk to the photographer who was in Hallock the day of the abduction. The photo chief had told them we didn’t have a photographer in Hallock. I was a reporter, and the photographer didn’t know I was in Hallock at all.

Hearing this, I called the sheriff’s dispatcher. Within hours, I eventually was interviewed by the sheriff, the chief deputy and called by the FBI. I was in the clear, though, because I was back in Fargo by 7 p.m. It was a weird few days. Years later, they caught the killer.

Meanwhile, the dog got a new nickname — F. Lee(less) Bailey — like the “O.J.” defense lawyer.

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