Facing Fears in Minnesota: Grand Tour part 3

Before leaving on our grand road trip across America, I was worried about two potential crises: (1) we would encounter bad weather, by which I mean tornadoes (and I wouldn’t recognize the warning signs and we would be swept away in a terrifying ordeal, brought to a bitter end in the land of our foremothers and fathers), and (2) we would have car trouble (again, with terrifying results such as axe murderers picking us up on the side of the road). On our next leg of the journey, I found the opportunity to face those fears.

We left Alexandria, Minnesota, early on a Sunday morning to arrive in Crookston, MN, before the archives there were supposed to close. I already had hotel reservations in Crookston for two nighs and had arranged to go out to the family farm and see our relatives there on the following day. The Museum in Crookston was a pleasure to visit. The volunteers there greeted us enthusiastically and tried to help me find information. In Crookston, I was searching especially for more info on where Grandma’s mother, Emma, went to sewing school around the turn of the century. I figured that it wouldn’t be too difficult to track this down. Obviously, it was quite an establishment — I have seen the professionally taken photograph of Emma’s sewing class.

Unfortunately, we were unable to track this information down, as it turned out. Nobody in the museum/archives had ever heard of there being a sewing school in town! We did track down a few entries in the phonebook of dressmakers and one who had a “studio.” My best guess is that this was the place. I was told that the area where that place had stood had been torn down to build the new firestation, but I was given directions to get there. Before we left, we also figured out which church Emma probably attended while she was at the dressmaker’s. That church, though boarded up, was still in situ. It was within easy walking distance of the dressmaker’s studio.

We left the museum and headed to the church first. It was in a fairly run-down neighborhood and the building was a mess. I was suprised to see a couple of Star of David wood designs on the sides of the church. Had it been used at some point as a synagogue or is there some other explanation? I took some photos by holding the camera aloft next to a broken window to see the inside of the church (which I couldn’t see directly because of the height of the window). The church seems to be used for storage, though I can image how dirty it must be inside with the broken windows letting in all manner of critters and dust. Still, I got to see the building. I tried to image Emma walking there from her boarding house and entering, taking her place in a pew near the back.

We left the church and drove over to the firestation to take a look around that immediate neighborhood. There is a railroad embankment right behind the station and the Red River in front (on the other side of the street). When I pulled up, there were a few firefighters in the open garage and I approached them to ask permission to poke around. The man whom I first encountered just pointed behind me and remarked quite casually, “You have a flat.” Eeghads, I hadn’t even realized it! Wonder where I picked that up?? Of course, it being at a firestation and all, the guys lent us a hand and changed the tire, putting on the “doughnut” for us. “Tire shop ‘ll be closed now, M’am. Sunday.” But the spare would see us through to the next day.

Of all the places we could have run into car trouble! I kept laughing and laughng. I wonder what the firefighters must have thought of me. I was just so relieved to experience the dreaded car trouble at last and have it be no trouble at all. For some odd reason, this gave me confidence. Illogical, but I figured this crisis was now checked off my list, as if it were inevitable that we would have car trouble, so good thing it happened in that specific place. Now we’d be safe. Funny things is, this really happened. We were “trouble” free the rest of the trip.

Hungry, we decided to go to dinner and then check into the hotel across the street. After a very “Minnesota Mayonaisey” kinda meal (if you’ve been to the midwest, you know that of which I speak), we at last arrived at our hotel. “Guests are just now leaving the breakfast area, so it’ll be fine for you to head up to your room,” said the clerk, to my blank stare.

“Pardon me?”

“You know, the sirens have stopped. The tornado warning is over.”

“Tornado??”

“Yeh, didn’t you hear? The siren’s been blaring for a few hours.”

“Nope. Must have missed that.”

The gal at the front desk stared at me now and handed me our room key. “Yeh, well, there wasn’t actually a tornado. I knew there wouldn’t be. You can tell, ya know. Something about the air.”

So there it was. “Bad weather” and we missed it! I laughed again. It was face your fears day in the land o’ lakes. And, just as with our car trouble, so too did we not experience a single bit of weather trouble after that. I mean, I don’t count thunderstorms, ’cause how could one escape those in summer in the midwest? But no tornado warnings, at least that we knew of!

The next day was beautiful and clear. We got the tire plugged for $15 at a shop on our way out of town south to Beltrami, to go see the family farm. We had a lovely visit with our family’s fourth generation farmer, Mike, and his wife DeAnn. My son got to ride and eventually drive a four-wheeler, a treat that equalled fishing in “awesomness” — though fishing has since risen back up to the top, I’m happy to say. We went for a drive out to the family cemetary and then visited with Mike’s folks, now retired. I got a few tidbits of info that day that I can use for Grandma’s book.

Emboldened by my giddy sense that we were unstoppable, we left the family in Beltrami and drove a considerable distance that afternoon to see the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca State Park. This was simply a marvelous experience. If you ever are in that part of the world, it’s well worth the trouble to get there. We headed to Bemijdi after that to see the land of Paul Bunyan and have dinner. Driving back to Crookston in the dark, we made up tag lines for Patsy Cline songs. (She feels so sorry for herself all the time — we couldn’t resist giving her some advice about how to turn things around!) Though we got back to the hotel very late that night, it was worth it. We were living it up.

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