Emmaville Store, circa 1969

Thursday, November 14, 2013

And there he goes....

 Clayton, always a fan of the Weather Channel, had been paying extra attention to his favorite forecasters recently.  When they indicated the first snowstorm was headed toward southern Minnesota, Clayton decided it was time to bug out.  He left Emmaville a week ago Monday.
Thankfully, he made it down to Glenville, his winter home, safely.

Another year in the books.  Clayton may be moving a bit slower, and maybe sleeping more, but he's still always willing to help where he can and strike up a conversation whether its welcome or not.  We will miss him and we hope to see him again soon.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mowing Season

It's Mowing season in northern Minnesota. It's one of four seasons, the others being Raking season, Shoveling season, and Watching Mud Dry season. Mother Nature has her way with us in every season, but especially during Mowing season.  She plays a cruel game, getting us excited about the first green grass after the yard glaciers recede and then trapping us in an endless do-loop of mowing. Of course the fertilizer and mower companies aid in this ruse, baiting us with the idea of the perfect lawn, billions of green blades uniformly cut, a lawn so perfect it should hold gravestones.  Fools that we are, we chase this mirage.  We mow...and mow...and mow.

In Minnesota, we believe a large, correctly mowed lawn is a sign of domestic tranquility, moral rectitude and wisdom. Conversely, "weeds", otherwise known as grass that has been allowed to live its natural lifecycle, is a sign of poor character, questionable politics, a dysfunctional home or all of the above. We mow every blade of grass we can find.  We mow the ditches. We mow the neighbor's ditches, lest anyone think we live in a poor neighborhood. In dry years we mow the slough grass at the bottom of the hill. We hope the DNR won't notice. If our houses had sod roofs like the ones our great-great grandpas were born under, we'd mow them.

A typical Minnesotan spends three days out of the week mowing the lawn. Often when rain precludes mowing, we find ourselves finishing up one end of the yard, only to find that we need to start on the on the other end again. If Sisyphus were Minnesotan, he'd be pushing a lawn mower instead of a rock.

When the typical Minnesotan does finish, he turns and looks, hoping to see a glimpse of perfection. He doesn't look in that corner where the dandelions wave in yellow defiance. He averts is eyes from the area where the dog has created a moonscape. He looks for that one spot, where the ground is level and the tractor sprinkler doesn't get stuck.  That 90 square feet is a source of pride. When the sun hits it just right, he can imagine himself there, starring in a fertilizer commercial. Not the one with the annoying Scottish guy, but the one with Jennifer Aniston in a bikini.

Jennifer Aniston in a bikini - on the lawn? He wakes up and looks out the window.  No Jennifer. No perfection. He sees the dog scouting a new, craterless site to do his business and notices the grass is up to Spot's spots. He thinks back - what was that sound he heard last night?  Sort of a creaky, stretchy sound and some rustling. Was that the sound of the grass growing three inches?

And so he mows again.  His wife complains he's spending more time with his mower than with her.  He notices she's been eyeing that Scottish guy on TV. He can't blame her - he's bought more accessories for the mower than for her.  If they had purses down at the hardware store, it would help.

He thinks these thoughts as he mows because he doesn't have to focus on mowing.  He's memorized the route, analyzed all the angles. He knows the right combination of inside and outside turns needed for maximum efficiency.  He has perfected a tight figure-8 to finish with a flourish.  He thinks he is Picasso with a lawnmower.

He thinks Mowing season is not so bad.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clayton is back!

You'll be happy to know that Clayton is back in Emmaville, having arrived safe and sound last Thursday.  However, upon seeing him in the flesh, Mary and Mel became concerned.  To them, he seemed just too skinny. Clayton explained he had exercised all winter to work off all the weight he gained at Emmaville last year. So the ladies have rolled up their sleeves and are bound and determined to plump him up. 

Three squares a day, plus all the pie and ice cream he can eat ought to do it.

On a more serious note, it was 70 years ago this month that a scared 20-year-old kid from southern Minnesota found himself on the windswept island of Attu. Clayton, as a combat engineer, worked on shuttling supplies to shore and later building an airstrip.  He remembers the Battle of Attu, and remembers a sergeant saying "fix bayonets!" when the Japanese banzai charge began. Luckily, for Clayton, the closest he got to the action was catching a bullet in the smokestack of his bulldozer. He helped bury the dead Japanese soldiers after the battle. Clayton served out the rest of the war in the Aleutian Islands.

Let's remember our vets this Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Proclamation from Mayor Mel

A Proclamation

Not withstanding the approximately 2 feet of crusty, blackened snow covering every surface except those which are covered with 6 inches of ice, the daytime temperatures refusing to approach 40o F and the nighttime temperatures causing all bears in the vicinity to roll over and go back to sleep;

And despite the increasing delirium observed among our customers, the apparent lack of interest in returning among the many snowbirds who abandoned us last fall, and the general hopelessness that has descended upon the local populace;

Be it known that Her Honor Miss Mel, as the self-appointed, and therefore, infallible Mayor of Emmaville, hereby declares the


 and as such has caused to be commissioned that most appropriate symbol of Spring, the first Rhubarb Pie.

The Emmaville Café reopens tomorrow at 7 am. You snooze, you lose.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Remembering Betty

We were saddened this week to hear that Betty Jensen passed away this week.  Betty was one of the original "Emmaville Four" of Pop. 4 fame.  She and Cal Jensen bought Emmaville in 1976, when it was just a 30' by 40' store and a few cabins. The little store also served as the living quarters back then.

The Jensens embarked on an ambitious expansion project, adding a cafe, a bar, and a modern, attached house for them and the two kids, giving Emmaville its current look. The Jensens also replaced the one-room cabins with a modern motel and a 3-bedroom "cabin", the latter rumored to have been cobbled together from the old cabins. Eventually, they added storage sheds and a car wash.

But the Jensens didn't just change the physical features of our little town. Through their hard work, they soon established it as a tourist destination, a dependable supply stop for fishers, campers and hunters, and an anchor for the growing lake home community in the area.  Some of Emmaville's growing popularity could be attributed the funny signs they put up.  But I think most of their success came as as result of their blood, sweat and tears.

We first met Betty a few months after we opened, when her friend Pat Sargent and his son Mike brought her out for a look around the place.  As she quietly took in our version of Emmaville, tears welled up in her eyes.  We had put a shadow box display in the new counter, and had alot of items from Emmaville's history in it, including a brochure with a picture of Betty's kids when they were little.  When she saw it, she said, "oh, Pat, it's the babies" and hurried out the door.

Betty came back a few times after that, usually when her grandkids were visiting her.  We enjoyed visiting with her then, and soaked up as much advice as she would give us.  Mel especially appreciated Betty, finding a kindred spirit.  We know Betty loved this place and we know she'll always be part of Emmaville.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Its Squeaky Cold Out There

Here in Emmaville, the mercury, or whatever the red stuff is in the thermometers these days, is hiding out in the bottom bulb and won't come out.

This time of year, you squeak when you walk on the snow.  Cars make weird animal noises. They growl and groan like polar bears looking for a meal as they pull into the parking lot.  Backing out again, their wheels cranked, they mimic screech owls. Meanwhile, the real animals are quiet.  While humankind's machines protest, nature is silent.

Most Minnesotans don't mind the cold. We bundle up and get outside to get our work done or enjoy our favorite winter sport.  We can almost ignore the cold when we're prepared for it, feeling comfortable being outside even when the temperature approaches zero.  Some of us even welcome it, savoring the change in seasons, the circle of life, the existential meaning of the winter solstice, etc., etc.

But this cold is different.  This is squeaky cold.  It confronts us when we step out the door, daring us to take a breath.  There is no getting used to squeaky cold.  It presses in on all sides, looking for a way past our defenses.  We pull our zippers up until they pinch our necks and tug our hats down tighter.  Within minutes our faces sting, our fingers become useless and our toes feel like they're going break off.  This cold tells us we don't belong out there.

We usually relish these clear, cold days because the sun is out. The light, however faint and short-lived, is inviting and makes for pretty snow scenes. But when its this cold, squeaky cold, the sun seems to barely escape the horizon.  The sun is like a sick friend, peaking out of the covers, promising to get stronger, assuring us he'll be back to his old blazing self soon.  We pray for a miracle recovery.