NEARLY AN HOUR after picking him up outside Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Tuesday evening, my son and I embraced.
I wanted to wrap him in my arms immediately. But vehicles jammed the pick-up area. The hug would have to wait 45 minutes until we arrived home in Faribault. I recognized that if everyone stopped to hold their loved ones close, the traffic delays would only worsen. So he shoved his suitcase inside the van and climbed into the front passenger seat while I skirted the bag and slid the side door shut.
Randy and I’d already spent too much time waiting, creeping along toward arrivals. Mostly unfamiliar with the roads and lay-out of this terminal, Randy took a wrong turn and we ended up looping back around, back into the gridlock. In the end, that error proved OK timing wise.
I felt gratitude for drivers who allowed us to nudge into line. We did the same. I felt not so much appreciation for the driver of the big black pick-up truck with Wisconsin license plates. I observed bullying moves. But I suppose when you’re piloting a bulky truck…
I felt thankfulness also for the airport traffic director, attempting to create order from a traffic mess. I didn’t envy his job of keeping motorists and pedestrians safe.
In the end, I got that long-awaited hug. Six months have passed since I’ve seen my son, who moved to Indiana in August to pursue his PhD at Purdue University. Oh, the joy in that first hug. The love that filled my mama’s heart. We held each other tight. Lingering. Savoring the moment.
In only days, that will repeat with my second daughter, whom I have not seen since mid-May. I’m anticipating the moment when she and her husband pull into the driveway after a 4 ½ hour drive from Madison, Wisconsin. I will wrap her in my arms. Lingering. Savoring the moment.
On Sunday, the eldest daughter, her husband and our two grandchildren will join us, completing the family circle. This will be our first Christmas together in five years. There will be more hugging and lingering. And joy filling this mother’s heart.
EVERY DAY WE PASS BY sights which often become so woven into our environment that we no longer see them. Until one day we pause. And notice.
Recently, I stopped to look around me, standing in a parking lot along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street, a half-block off Central Avenue next to Corks & Pints.
I rotated, taking in seemingly ordinary scenes. Part of the fabric of Faribault. Past and present.
Cruikshank Construction. I don’t know whether Jack Cruikshank still has his construction business. But, many decades ago, he installed replacement windows in our home. And he operated a paint store that was our go-to place for paint. Jack knew paint and was willing to share his expertise. For a while, he also had a bookstore in his shop. Jack was/is an exceptional individual and businessman—trustworthy, friendly, kind, knowledgeable, genuine and caring…
I saw the same care written upon windows of a van, from which a couple disembarked while the driver of Cross Road Cab waited inside. I didn’t talk to him, but rather noted the messages of support for veterans, troops and freedom. Plus his stand against driving while intoxicated.
The pair walked toward Corks & Pints and 10,000 Drops Craft Distillers. A mural, “Ice Skating on the Straight River,” graces the side of 10,000 Drops. It’s based on a vintage photo. The transformation of this downtown anchor corner has been a real asset to our community. Pre-distillery, the building housed an antique shop and architectural salvage business. It was dark, cluttered and not all that appealing. But now, wow. With the inside gutted and opened up, the distillery interior features wood floors, exposed beams, brick walls and much more, including cozy spaces to visit. It’s unlike any other place in Faribault. An inviting setting to enjoy a locally handcrafted cocktail with friends. Inside, or outside on the patio. Corks & Pints is part of the complex, housed next door in the former F-Town Brewing located in a former garage. It’s a tap house and wine bar, another welcoming spot to connect and converse.
A while ago, Cry Baby Craig’s focused conversation in our downtown. Craig Kaiser moved his hot sauce business to Faribault, into a former sporting goods store at 405 Central Avenue North. CBC’s highly-acclaimed habanero and garlic hot sauce is a staple in our refrigerator. And it’s become a favorite among restaurants in the metro and beyond.
If you’re mostly unfamiliar with Faribault, I hope you’ve learned a thing or ten about our town via my pivoting parking lot perspective. And, if you’re local, I invite you to pause and appreciate all that our community offers.
WHITE ROCK. Belle Creek. Hader. They are among the 60-plus ghost towns of Goodhue County. Places that once thrived, marked now only by signs along a road, a cluster of homes, perhaps a church or abandoned buildings.
Yet, acknowledging their existence, as the Goodhue County Historical Society does with roadside signs, matters. Because these towns mattered to previous generations and still matter to those with connections to the likes of Aspelund, Burr Oak Springs, Crystal Springs, Eidsvold, Skyberg and so many more with names that hint at heritage and sound poetically beautiful.
On a road trip to Goodhue County a month ago, Randy and I followed County Road 8 east and then south of Cannon Falls back toward Faribault.
Our route took us past clusters of woods, some tinged in autumn hues.
Soon the road curved and swept into the valley, rows of corn rolling across the landscape. Only groves of trees surrounding farm sites broke the vista of endless unharvested fields.
Sometimes those farmyards hugged the paved road and I caught a close-up glimpse of farms, some with aged weathered barns and outbuildings, others updated with modern equipment and structures.
In Belle Creek, Randy and I noticed a white building, likely a former creamery. Creameries often graced these small settlements, a necessity for farmers who sold cream for butter-making.
Another building in Belle Creek left us guessing at its past life. Perhaps a general store. Then a dance hall. We could be way off…
Occasionally, we spotted cattle, cows, calves. Growing up on a dairy farm, I delight in seeing bovines, especially Holsteins. But rare are the small family farms today that still raise animals. Corporate and mega farms have mostly replaced that self-sufficient lifestyle. That’s reality.
Just like ghost towns, many farms have become, in some ways, ghost farms. They are but ghosts of the past. Ghosts of their former selves and purposes. I see that in decaying, empty buildings, especially barns. I see that in the absence of livestock. I see that in families who can no longer support themselves solely via the farm.
All of this is unsettling. But with time comes change. And with change must come acceptance and perhaps also an added historical appreciation for the past.
MINNESOTA’S DIVERSE LANDSCAPE inspires. From the vast prairie to the northwoods. From lakes to rivers. From hills to valleys. My home state, minus mountain ranges and ocean, is truly a beautiful place. We are so much more than cold and snow, as many non-residents equate with Minnesota.
Autumn, especially, showcases Minnesota’s natural beauty. This fall, Randy and I took many rural drives to immerse ourselves in the countryside and the season. We chose road trips over staying home and doing chores on the weekends. Our priorities change as we age. The work can wait. We recognize, too, the approach of winter. We felt an urgency, a need, to hit the road before the snow flies.
Often we choose a destination, this time Cannon Falls. But sometimes we simply head in a general direction, oversized Minnesota Atlas & Gazetteer available to guide us. We prefer paper maps to GPS. This trip, we aimed east toward Goodhue County, driving through the picturesque Sogn Valley.
I love this rural region defined by farms and fields and winding gravel roads. Hills and river valleys and prairie intermingle and it’s all like poetry writing upon the land.
As a farmer’s daughter, I hold a fondness for aged barns, at one time the anchor of an agrarian life. I labored for years on my southwestern Minnesota childhood family dairy and crop farm, most of that time inside the barn. Or the silo.
Now, when I pass by barns weathering in abandonment, I feel overcome by sadness. I recognize that a way of life is vanishing. I understand and appreciate advances in agriculture while simultaneously grieving the loss of farm life as I knew it.
I worry about all the barns we are losing. They hold history. Stories. Memories. And they are falling in heaps of rotted wood.
But, on this drive through the Sogn Valley, we happened upon a small country church that uplifted my spirits. Country churches and adjoining cemeteries rate as another draw for me deep into rural Minnesota. They are historically, poetically, spiritually and artistically relevant.
Along 70th Street in Goodhue County, on a small plot of land ringed by a row of trees and set among cornfields, Eidsvold Norwegian Methodist Church rises. The last service was held here in 1949. Yet, the aged clapboard structure remains. Important to someone. And on this Friday morning in mid-October, appreciated by me.
PLEASE CHECK BACK tomorrow as I take you on a tour around, but not inside (it was locked), Eidsvold church.
I VIEW THE WORLD through a creative lens. So when I see an exterior metal stairway, I see beyond the intended purpose of a pathway up or down. Rather, I see the angles, the details, the architectural, artsy side of the utilitarian.
And I appreciate, too, the fading ghost sign lettering for a dry goods and clothing store painted on the brick building.
JUST UP THE STREET a half a block away at the public library, a magnetic word board invites patrons to create. And while I didn’t, I took note of the coupling of words, whether by intentional placement or not:
smile just once
AMERICAN SPORTS are on fire
You bellow blind information like an ugly flood of manure
AMERICANS like cake more
WE AMERICANS ALSO LIKE our wine. Back across the street, near the artsy metal stairway, Cannon River Winery also embraces the arts with a sprawling mural on the side of its building. The scene depicts the area’s rural-ness and the business of growing grapes and crafting wine.
I’ll raise my glass to that—to the winery, to the library, to the antique shop and to all the places in, and people of, this Minnesota community who value the arts. Thank you. I am grateful for the creativity in Cannon Falls.
TUCKED INTO A SIDE CORNER, behind a nondescript cushioned seat for two, a bold mural pops color into the Cannon Falls Library.
I discovered the art on a recent day trip to this small Goodhue County community along the Cannon River. A sign in a downtown storefront window promoting the library’s “Mailbox Mysteries” program led me to the library. Once inside, I registered for the mystery challenge and then browsed. Not books. But art.
This tastefully and artfully decorated library creates an inviting setting in a cozy space. I felt comfortably at home here, where a fireplace angles into a corner with cushy seating nearby.
But it was that vivid mural which focused my attention. There’s so much to take in. Even now, as I scroll through my photos, I note details previously unnoticed. This mural requires study and an appreciation for nuances.
Titled “Once Upon a Time,” this artwork was created by local students under the direction of Cannon Falls native and New York artist Kelli Bickman. A similar, and much larger, Youth Mural Arts project graces the exterior of the local Chamber of Commerce building 1 ½ blocks away.
As a wordsmith, I especially appreciate the inspirational quotes incorporated into the painting: Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. The noblest art is that of making others happy.
And my favorite: Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light. How well that quote fits today as we deal with the darkness of a global pandemic. The artists could not have known that, just months after the dedication of this mural in June 2019, darkness would descend upon our world. Now, more than ever, those words of encouragement—of remembering to turn on the light—resonate.
Art is always open to interpretation. So what I take away from this mural may differ from the artists’ vision or from others who view it. I see strength and grace. I see reaching for the stars and achieving goals. I see fiery passion and the fluidity of life. I see going places that may lead far from Cannon Falls, from Minnesota even. I see dreams taking wing. I see how books and music and art and nature influence us.
I see that Once Upon a Time is our story to write. We write the words and paint the scenes to create the personalized murals which depict our lives. And, in the darkest of times, we can choose to switch on the light, to see happiness.
YOU CANLEARN much about a small town by simply walking. And looking, really looking.
On a recent day trip to Cannon Falls, I explored part of the downtown business district. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Cannon Falls Historic District includes 22 historically-significant structures.
Given my love of historic architecture, and art, this Goodhue County community of 4,220 within a 40-minute drive of Minneapolis and St. Paul rates as a favorite regional destination.
During my mid-October visit, I popped into a few shops (including the bakery), discovered the lovely library and admired a new downtown mural. Because of COVID concerns, I skipped dining and imbibing. It was too early in the day and too cool to enjoy either outdoors.
Still, I found plenty to take in from the colorful new mural to the art inside the library to ghost signage.
I noticed, too, hometown pride in the I LOVE CANNON FALLS! tees in a storefront window.
I noticed also notices taped in a display window, one of which alerted me to Mailbox Mysteries, which led me to the library around the corner which led me to sign up for this challenging endeavor. Now I’m trying to solve the “Gangster’s Gold” mystery with weekly clues snail mailed to me by the library.
Had I not done this walk-about through downtown Cannon Falls, I likely would have missed these nuances. The details which help define this community.
As I meandered, I paused to watch a John Deere tractor roll through downtown pulling a wagon heaped with golden kernels of corn. This is, after all, an agricultural region.
Later, Randy and I picnicked at Hannah’s Bend Park, the local grain elevator complex defining the nearby skyline. As we finished our lunch, a bald eagle soared overhead, wings spread wide. I expect the Cannon River drew the majestic bird here, to this small southeastern Minnesota town, this Cannon Falls.
THE SCENT OF HOMEMADE BREAD fresh from the oven. The taste of my late mother-in-law’s best-ever gooey caramel rolls. The rustic look of a cracked gingersnap cookie. All appeal to me. All bring a flood of memories.
I appreciate the love and labor that go into baking and the memories I associate with homemade baked goods.
Perhaps for those reasons I am drawn to small town bakeries, including a regional favorite, Hi Quality Bakery in Cannon Falls. On a recent day trip to that Goodhue County community, Randy and I made the bakery our second stop. After the local Chamber of Commerce office, where we were tipped off to buy-one-get-one-free Fritter Friday at the bakery a few doors down.
Soon we found ourselves inside the bakery, admiring the baked goods, but disciplining ourselves to ordering two fritters. Apple and blueberry.
This popular bakery has been a Cannon Falls mainstay since 1947 with original recipes passed through several changes in ownership. The fresh-baked treats and breads remain popular with locals, with visitors like us and with natives returning back home. A bakery clerk referenced a recent returnee from Texas who made Hi Quality her first stop.
I understand the draw. There’s something Norman Rockwell appealing about stepping inside a small town bakery. There’s something appealing about standing before glass cases of pastries and breads and sweet treats contemplating the choices. There’s something anticipatory about accepting a white paper bag with a pastry nestled inside.
Small town bakeries rate as one of life’s simple delights.
On this Friday morning inside the Cannon Falls bakery, I noticed an array of Halloween-themed cookies filling trays. And I thought of the artist who crafted these—the spiders and mummies and webs… Baking and decorating truly are art forms.
And I noticed, too, rows of rosettes neatly lining a baking sheet. The Norwegian cookie proved a popular buy during a recent local lutefisk dinner, a clerk shared.
Rosettes. Fritters. Cupcakes. Cookies. Breads. Donuts. And much more. A baker rose early to create these bakery delights. I’m grateful for that dedication to craft, for the baked goods that draw me into small town bakeries like Hi Quality in Cannon Falls.
TELL ME: Do you have a favorite local bakery? I’d like to hear. And if you have tips on the bakery’s specialty, I’d like to hear that, too.
It is the season of harvest, of church dinners, of stunning fall colors. Of football games and simmering soups and visits to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. September and October are, too, the season of craft shows here in southern Minnesota.
Recently, while returning from a fall color drive into the Sogn Valley and then on to Cannon Falls and back, Randy and I stopped at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale along Minnesota State Highway 56 on the north edge of Kenyon. This marks the event’s 48th year.
I’ve shopped here previously, perusing the handcrafted works of regional artists and crafters. From holiday decorations to art to baskets to candles to furniture to coveted homemade caramels and much more, the variety of items showcased inside a poleshed style building are endless. Although I walked in with my camera slung across my shoulder, I didn’t take any photos inside. As I recall, photography isn’t allowed to protect the works of creatives. I get that.
Instead, I aimed my lens at the scarecrows entered in the outdoor Scarecrow Contest. On a grassy area, scarecrows stake their spots and vie for visitors’ votes.
The gathering of scarecrows adds a festive, seasonal feel to the autumn event.
It’s fun to meander among them, to view the traditional, the scary, the unusual.
These scarecrows, too, define the season. They remind me that Halloween is fast-approaching—an anniversary year here in Minnesota. This October 31 marks 30 years since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. That four-day weather event dumped 28.4 inches of snow in the Twin Cities, with even more, 36.9 inches, in the Lake Superior port city of Duluth. Strong winds accompanied the overwhelming snowfall. And, yes, I remember.
But in this moment, at this place defined by the works of creatives, I appreciated the autumn day. Sunshine and blue sky. Scarecrows’ hair and clothing flapping in the October wind. Winter not yet welcome in this season of craft shows.
FYI: The 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Show continues from 10 am – 8 pm October 28-31 and November 4-7 (closes earlier on the final day).
FROM 7 am – 6 pm DAILY, Louise tends a tiny produce stand along a paved road in the unincorporated northwestern Steele County settlement of Meriden.
That’s where I met her on a recent mid-October Sunday afternoon—outside a shed the size of an outhouse. Louise lives right next door to Teb’s Food Stand, a seasonal business owned by her friend, Teborah Kath. Teb, she noted, was likely, in that moment, busy canning vegetables at her nearby country home.
Garden-fresh and canned vegetables define the bulk of inventory tucked inside this hand-built shed constructed of salvaged wood, galvanized metal and a modern front door.
Here quart and pint jars edge shelves. Green beans pack tightly inside jars labeled Dilly Beans. Rich red tomato sauce colors Teb’s salsa. Oranges and reds and yellows mix inside jars of Cherry Tomato Mix and Peppers, splashing vibrant autumn hues. For pickle lovers, Teb crafts dill and bread & butter pickles.
She also sells baked goods—I spotted a singular package of bread. Next to the face masks, accessories and scrubbies.
Seasonal fresh produce is sold here, too, and artfully staged. Piles of assorted squash fill metal tubs. Pumpkins hug a corner near the door. Decorative corn and gourds rest on shelves. And outside more pumpkins and a collection of mum plants define this as a seasonal mini marketplace.
Chatting with Louise, who stepped aside when I started taking photos, proved a delight. Considering her 11-hour days at this less-than-busy location, I asked how she passes the time. Reading? She’s not much of a reader, she said, referencing her farm upbringing and the need to stay physically active. Sometimes she leaves temporarily to do chores at home—like mowing her lawn. Or sometimes she simply has other things going on that take her away from the roadside stand.
A handwritten sign next to a locked honor system box directs customers to go next door or call Louise with questions. But don’t count on her having change. She doesn’t. I purchased two squash for $4, almost $5.
In addition to this small town produce stand, Teb also sells her garden and craft and baked goods at the Owatonna Farmers’ Market. Sales are good, even at the remote Meriden location, Louise noted.
Meriden is one of those rural places perhaps unknown to many. Driving into town, I noticed a former creamery, the brick building in remarkable condition.
But it is the cluster of mammoth grain bins which landmark Meriden. Homes line the road past the elevator to a dead end, an unwelcome warning sign marking the end of the street.
Back at Teb’s Food Stand, conversation halted when a train car and locomotive rolled into town, horn blaring. Soon it reversed course, crossing the tracks again, horn blaring.
By then I’d gathered enough photos and information to craft a story. To write about Lousie and Teb and this tiny produce stand edging a paved road next to a harvested bean field in Meriden, Minnesota.
NOTE: Teb’s Food Stand will close soon for the season, if it’s not already closed.