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Cranberry Red

A Novel

Jerry Apps

Publication Year: 2010

The fourth novel in Jerry Apps’s Ames County series, Cranberry Red brings the story into the present, portraying the challenges of agriculture in the twenty-first century.    
    As the novel opens, Ben Wesley has lost his job as agricultural agent for Ames County. He is soon hired as a research application specialist for Osborne University, a for-profit institution that has developed “Cranberry Red,” a new chemical that promises not only to improve cranberry crop yields but also to endow the fruits with the power to prevent heart disease, reduce brain damage from strokes, and ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Ben must promote the new product to cranberry growers in Ames County and beyond, but he worries whether the promised results are credible. Was Cranberry Red rushed to market?
    When the chemical does all that the university claims it will do, Ben is relieved . . . until disturbing side effects emerge. Can he criticize Cranberry Red and safeguard farmers and consumers without losing his job, or will Ben’s honesty get him fired while his community continues to get sicker?


Finalist, General Fiction, Midwest Book Awards

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. xi-xii

In September 2007 my son Steve and I were canoe-camping in the Boundary Waters Wilderness of northern Minnesota. It is here where . . .

Part 1

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1. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 3-6

Oscar . . . Oscar . . . I’ve hooked a big one . . . hooked a big one. Oscar, you hearin’ me? I need help,” Fred Russo yelled.
Fred, Oscar Anderson’s lifelong friend . . .

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2. Lost Job

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pp. 7-9

Ben Wesley hadn’t seen it coming; he should have, but he didn’t. When the news came, it felt like somebody kicked him in the stomach. The University of Wisconsin . . .

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3. Beth Wesley

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pp. 10-13

Ben Wesley quickly decided the worst part of losing his job was telling his wife. He and Beth had been married for twenty-one years. They had two kids: Liz, a . . .

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4. Local Agent Out

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pp. 14-16

The following article appeared in the Ames County Argus, the local newspaper, on June . . .

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5. Shotgun Slogum

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pp. 17-20

When the word got around that the legislature was closing all agricultural agent offices in the state, the phone calls began pouring into Ben Wesley’s office. One . . .

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6. Visiting Shotgun

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pp. 21-25

Shotgun, now in his late seventies, invited Ben out to his place for a talk; he didn’t say what about. Not everyone got along with Shotgun Slogum; as he got older, he . . .

Part 2

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7. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 29-31

This ain’t much of a boat,” said Fred Russo. He and Oscar Anderson were fishing in Round Lake, south of . . .

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8. Phone Call

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pp. 32-34

Good morning, Ames County Agent’s Office, this is Delores. How can I help you?” From his office, Ben heard the phone ring and his secretary . . .

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9. Dr. Sara Phillips

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pp. 35-41

The following Tuesday, Ben arrived at the Lone Pine restaurant about ten of twelve, wondering what Dr. Sara Phillips from Osborne University had on her mind. . . .

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10. New Job?

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pp. 42-44

How’d your lunch meeting go?” Beth Wesley asked when Ben returned home that afternoon.
“Okay,” Ben said. He tossed his cap on the chair by the door. . . .

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11. Beth and Osborne University

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pp. 45-47

Beth Wesley simply could not understand her husband, even after twenty-one years of marriage. Just when she thought she knew what interested . . .

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12. Shotgun’s Advice

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pp. 48-50

Ben Wesley valued Shotgun Slogum’s advice; he always did. Shotgun was one of those fellows who gave you his opinion whether you wanted it or . . .

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13. Conversation with Lars

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pp. 51-53

When Ben got home that night he called his old friend Lars Olson. “Lars, you got time for coffee tomorrow morning? I need to talk . . .

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14. Hailstorm

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pp. 54-59

A couple of days later Ben Wesley sat in his courthouse office looking out the window, a view he had enjoyed for twenty years. He had but a few more days left . . .

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15. Cranberry Red

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pp. 60-61

Today, scientists at Ira Osborne University, a for-profit educational and research institution with headquarters in Oshkosh, announced the development of a new . . .

Part 3

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16. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 65-67

What you got there, Fred?” asked Oscar Anderson. Oscar sat in a rocking chair on . . .

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17. Brittani Stone

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pp. 68-71

Brittani Stone got the news late Friday afternoon when she checked her e-mail before leaving her Oshkosh . . .

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18. The Osborne Dream

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pp. 72-77

Congratulations on the new job,” Dr. Sara Phillips said when Ben appeared at her office door on Wednesday afternoon, his first day on the job. She stood . . .

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19. Business Office

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pp. 78-81

So, how’d it go yesterday?” Brittani asked when Ben arrived at his office on Thursday. It was . . .

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20. Fourth of July

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pp. 82-85

Ben liked to sleep in on Saturday mornings. Except this particular Saturday happened also to be the Fourth of July.
“Ben, you up yet?” Beth called . . .

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21. Gunnar Godson

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pp. 86-91

The third and last day of Ben’s orientation involved learning about the activities of Osborne’s research station, located on the Tamarack River on the western edge . . .

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22. Farm Visit

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pp. 92-96

The first visit Brittani scheduled for Ben on Tuesday morning was with Joe and Julie Evans. Brittani took special care to write down their names, their address, including . . .

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23. Business of the Year

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pp. 97-98

The Office of Community Relations at Osborne University submitted the following news item to the . . .

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24. Ben and Brittani

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pp. 99-102

All that July, Ben Wesley struggled to keep up with the schedule that Brittani Stone laid out for him each day. She was the picture of . . .

Part 4

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25. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 105-107

July in central Wisconsin had been hot and humid. In the early part of the month, farmers complained that their hay just wasn’t drying well, that it took an extra . . .

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26. RFD

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pp. 108-109

A new Wisconsin youth organization officially began this week. The organization will be called the Wisconsin . . .

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27. Rules

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pp. 110-113

Ben Wesley was not aware of the fiery e-mail Brittani Stone sent off to Sara Phillips in Oshkosh, in which she asked for a transfer and suggested she could not . . .

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28. Promoting RFD

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pp. 114-119

The several hundred former 4-H members in Ames County, their parents, and the volunteer leaders hadn’t yet fully understood the elimination of the . . .

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29. RFD News

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pp. 120-121

Just a week after the RFD informational meeting, a variety of letters were printed in the . . .

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30. Celebration Planning

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pp. 122-126

After making sure he notified Dr. Phillips at Osborne headquarters in Oshkosh, Ben Wesley set up the first planning meeting for the 150-year celebration . . .

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31. Ames County Fair

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pp. 127-130

Of all the various activities Ben Wesley had been involved in when he was county agricultural agent, the Ames County Fair stood high on the list of those . . .

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32. Cranberry Red Meeting

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pp. 131-137

It was the Monday after the Ames County Fair had ended, and Ben was looking over the schedule of appointments that he and Brittani had gotten from . . .

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33. The Day After

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pp. 138-142

Back in the Willow River office the following day, Brittani and Ben met to discuss Ben’s upcoming . . .

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34. Office Problems

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pp. 143-145

Ben wasn’t one to notice such things, but he couldn’t miss the big, new, lighted sign that greeted him when he turned into the parking lot. “Osborne University . . .

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35. Fish Survey

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pp. 146-148

Gus Caldwell slowly backed the lime green Department of Natural Resources truck down the public boat landing on the Tamarack River. Gus, a . . .

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36. Fishing with Lars

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pp. 149-153

The weather had been pleasantly warm for late September in Wisconsin. The trees had begun turning color: brilliant red maples, bright yellow aspens. The sweet . . .

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37. Family Cookout

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pp. 154-158

When Ben arrived home with the fish, his daughter, Liz, met him at the door.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said. Liz was now a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Madison . . .

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38. Celebration News

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pp. 159-160

The committee planning the 150-year celebration of cranberr y growing in Wisconsin met this . . .

Part 5

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39. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 163-165

Every week or so Fred and Oscar met at the Lone Pine restaurant for coffee. They didn’t belong to the regular coffee group that met there every day, six days . . .

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40. Harvest at Shotgun’s

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pp. 166-172

October in central Wisconsin is the most beautiful time of the year, at least to Ben Wesley’s way of thinking. The trees—maples, aspen, birch, tamarack, . . .

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41. Gunnar’s Discovery

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pp. 173-177

Gunnar Godson had come to the United States from Sweden when he was a teenager. His family settled in New Jersey, where he grew up attending public . . .

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42. Budget Shortfall

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pp. 178-180

Ben was back in his office the Monday following the field day at Shotgun Slogum’s cranberry bog. He whistled a little tune as he came though the office door . . .

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43. Paul and Gloria Mayer

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pp. 181-185

That evening Ben was home alone because Beth had a hospital meeting. He was busy reading his latest edition of Horticulture Magazine, trying his best to keep up . . .

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44. Research Problem

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pp. 186-190

Before Gunnar Godson called Osborne’s vice president for research at the headquarters in Oshkosh, he captured four of the giant night crawlers, put . . .

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45. RFD Collapses

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pp. 191-192

Harry Hopkins, executive director of the new Wisconsin RFD youth program, this week announced the program’s suspension. The program became . . .

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46. Ben and Dr. Phillips

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pp. 193-198

How does my schedule look today?” Ben asked when he arrived at his office and greeted Brittani. Over the past several weeks, Ben and Brittani had reached . . .

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47. Healthy Always Cranberries

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pp. 199-201

Ben Wesley always liked October. But this year he was not enjoying the month at all. Each evening he arrived home from work exhausted. He had no . . .

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48. County Fair Eliminated

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pp. 202-207

On November 5, less than a month after the RFD program was suspended, the Ames County Argus published the following . . .

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49. Beth Wins Osborne Award

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pp. 208-211

After the initial hullabaloo about the Cranberry Red–treated cranberries, Ben’s office returned to some degree of normalcy, although Ben had yet . . .

Part 6

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50. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 215-219

Since their confrontation with the big, mean fish back in the spring, Fred Russo and Oscar Anderson had avoided fishing the Tamarack River. That summer . . .

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51. Phillips and the Outreach Office

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pp. 220-224

Ben enjoyed Christmas week. It was his first vacation since taking his new job back in July, and he appreciated not having to deal with a constant . . .

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52. Chris Martin

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pp. 225-229

Ben noticed several changes in Brittani since the meeting with Phillips on the first working day of the new year. Once or twice a week she arrived late, . . .

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53. Secret Meeting

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pp. 230-234

What was that fellow’s name?” Brittani asked after the tall, dark, and ramrod straight visitor left the . . .

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54. Teaching Strategies

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pp. 235-238

The next evening Ben called Shotgun. Ben told him that he would be more than happy to set up some sessions for the co-op members and would conduct . . .

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55. Gunnar’s Research

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pp. 239-240

Ben Wesley wasn’t the only Osborne employee doing things without the university’s knowledge. As a scientist, Gunnar Godson couldn’t forget about . . .

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56. Brittani and Chris

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pp. 241-245

The seasons can change abruptly in central Wisconsin. One day it’s winter, the next day spring comes out of the closet and announces itself with . . .

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57. Two Faces of Osborne

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pp. 246-249

No question about it, May was one of Ben Wesley’s favorite months of the year, along with October. By May winter gave up the battle once and for all . . .

Part 7

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58. Fred and Oscar

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pp. 253-254

At Fred Russo’s suggestion, he and Oscar Anderson opened the annual fishing season on the Willow River Millpond, a small body of water created . . .

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59. Queen Selection

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pp. 255-262

The Cranberry Queen selection committee consisted of Brittani Stone; Jeff Johnson; Mable Derleth, another cranberry grower, in her sixties, quiet, . . .

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60. Ups and Downs

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pp. 263-268

The early days of summer sped by. Ben met on four successiveWednesday evenings with members of the Ames County Fruit and Vegetable Growers . . .

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61. Cranberry One-Fifty

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pp. 269-276

Ben worked furiously the final days before the Cranberry One-Fifty celebration in August. He . . .

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62. Celebration Continues

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pp. 277-283

Willow River’s volunteer fire department swept clean and washed down Main Street and decorated it from one end to the other. Volunteers hung a huge . . .

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63. Anonymous Letter

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pp. 284-289

Ben arrived home that Sunday evening, exhausted but pleased that the Cranberry One-Fifty celebration had come off so well, even though some people . . .

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64. Gus and the Tamarack River

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pp. 290-292

Gus Caldwell remembered well that a year ago he and intern Kirsten Leary conducted a fish count on the Tamarack River and turned up a gigantic . . .

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65. Ben and Shotgun Slogum

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pp. 293-297

What’s your problem, Ben?” Beth asked the next day at the breakfast table. “You’re moping around like you lost your best . . .

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66. Ira Osborne Commemorative Park

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pp. 298-303

Fred Russo and Oscar Anderson arrived early for the ceremony at the park. They knew that parking was always a problem at events like this, and they . . .

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67. Fallout

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pp. 304-306

Two weeks after the aborted park dedication and Ben’s subsequent firing from his job with Osborne University, a letter arrived, again in a plain envelope . . .

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pp. 307-309

After the Osborne park incident, word quickly spread about the dangerous side effects of Cranberry Red, forcing Osborne University and its partner, . . .

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Author’s Note

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pp. 311-312

Readers of my other Ames County novels—The Travels of Increase Joseph, In a Pickle, and Blue Shadows Farm—often ask the location of Ames County . . .

E-ISBN-13: 9780299247737
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299247706

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Cranberries -- Wisconsin -- Marketing -- Fiction.
  • Cranberries -- Research -- Wisconsin -- Fiction.
  • County agricultural agents -- Wisconsin -- Fiction.
  • For-profit universities and colleges -- Corrupt practices -- Wisconsin -- Fiction.
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