Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Chokecherry Madness: An essay from local Cook County author John A. Bragstad

May 29, 2023 09:36AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: MN DNR

By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - May 29, 2023

I’m at it again - only this time, I’m planting cuttings for plum and 
chokecherry. I’m asking myself if it is a fool’s errand. I’m building on 

There were the fatal words on Google, “Keep in mind that deer love 
to graze on chokecherry trees, so if you don’t want deer, you don’t 
want chokecherry.” 

And how can I argue with that when I see the tops of poplar neatly 
clipped next to my driveway? And we’ve been overrun by deer 
down from the interior all winter. 

So put the two together, and the prognosis is not good for these 
small “sticks” that may become shrubs. 

So why do I do it, persist? Why do any of us sometimes engage in 
futile efforts? Why do we think we can defy nature? Why do we use 
precious time on seemingly dumb things? 

As I probe for soft earth in the middle of stony soil, I ask myself 
these questions. I am divided. One part of me says, “Nonsense.” 
Another part reminds me, “Give them a chance.” 

Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon in 1912, wrote a verse called “The 
Quitter.” He pens these words: “It’s easy to crawfish and crawl, But to 
fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight — Why, that’s the best 
game of them all!” 

So many endeavors in life have this note of impossibility. It is a 
somber note, and it haunts us. It can seep away at resolve. It can 
wither any grand design that begins with optimism and adventure 
and promise. We live with No and Nonsense. 

Why bother? Deer will one day discover many of these plantings.  
Unexpected, wholly unanticipated things may come. 

I spoke with a man who returned to his home along the shore this 
week. A white pine of some fifteen years had turned to rust—a fallen 
soldier in the equation of life. 

What makes new beginnings, taking chances, and fighting 
impossible odds worthwhile? Wouldn’t it be better if the results were 

But what of character? Sigurd F. Olson said it well: “One cannot run 
from a challenge without losing. To flee is signing a death warrant to 
dignity and character, and, having run, there is no return.” 

He adds: “Meeting a challenge, though one may be defeated, gives 
strength, character, and a certain assurance that regardless of 
outcome, one will survive or go down fighting.” 

With my little task today of putting in more cuttings, I expect some 
plum and chokecherry will survive. It’s perhaps a matter of numbers. 

But more importantly, I will flaunt a universe that says there is no 
point. I will stubbornly refuse the obvious and imagine a field of 
chokecherry and plum blossoms that one day will grace my 

Life always lives on that margin between potential and problems. 
Meanwhile, keep putting seeds and root cuttings in the ground.
“The Quitter,” from Rhymes of a Rolling Stone by Robert Service.
Quote taken from Reflections From the North Country by Sigurd F.  Olson.

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here