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“On the Road” brings back a memory

April 30, 2010

This morning I went into the Doc for the cortisone injection in my left knee.  The little blonde med student wasn’t there and the entire thing was much less glamorous than last month’s visit when she was handling the hardware.  So I sucked it up, took the hit, and then went out and picked up the rental car to go across the state to the IWLA convention.

Coming back to the house I got a call from a lawyer that I was helping on some business from an old client.  That ended up with me going to a long lunch and “consulting,” which in turn required a memo from me before I could load up and get out-of-town.  I hit I-90 east at 3:00 pm, plugged in some oldie-CDs, and set the cruise for 80.  It’s not that I was trying not to be late; that was already a done deal — but not too heartbreaking when weighed against the consulting fee.  But the weather gurus were forecasting winds and 8″ of snow in the Black Hills tonight and the winds and heavy, dark, scudding clouds were already firmly established on my end of the prairie.

So, I boogied along and pulled through the rain, out of the clouds, and hit sunshine and much warmer temps around Kennebec.  I also noticed that the skunks were out and moving and I smelled 5 good road kills by the time I rolled into Mitchell and found a motel where I could ice my knee.

Listening to some old Statler Brothers tunes and smelling ex-skunks this afternoon had got me thinking about an old, old road trip from the mid-1950s.  Gunnar and I were in Clarks Grove Boy Scout troop back then and it was an unwritten article of faith that meetings on the hot, humid nights of the Minnesota summer were spent either at the Hollandale pool or the beach up at St. Olaf  Lake.  Our leadership mentors, Dick Rasmussen and my old-man didn’t like sitting around the old barn on a humid night any more than their bored, rebellious charges.  So, “swimming lessons” for the boys would be announced and off everyone went to the vehicles. 

On the particular night I was reminiscing about, the St. Olaf beach was our destination; a place located some miles north and west of Geneva, a sister municipality located north of Clarks Grove.  Back then  the beach was reached via a combination of Hwy 65 and a combination of  some nice tarred and well gravelled farm-market roads.  The traveler got a good look at the condition of lots of the corn and beans in the area on the way to the beach.

Rasmussen (a cool, good-looking, young adult) was driving his open, post-war Jeep Willys that night and could safely accommodate only three passengers — naturally the three older scouts that could beat the rest of us to a pulp asserted their right to ride.   The remainder of us were loaded like cord wood into my old-man’s De Soto.

Gunnar and I were approaching what we considered the age of passage, so we had the temerity to call spots in Dick”s Jeep on the way back from the lake.  Since Dick was in the immediate neighborhood, scouts Schoon, Halverson, and Wedge didn’t press our claim to the seats they were holding.

At the lake everyone swam and swatted mosquitos until it  was almost dark,  Then we loaded up to return to Clarks Grove.  As luck would have it, the older guys got to the Jeep before Gunnar and I did; worst luck of all, Dick was off somewhere jawing with my old-man and  we had not “passaged” sufficiently to physically assert our rights.  So it was back to the  De Soto where we shuffled some of the younger guys to the bottom of the pile and got in.

I never did find out what my old-man and Dick had been talking about that night, but what immediately  developed was a road race between the De Soto and the Jeep, and being a perceptive fellow, (i.e., he knew his De Soto was faster than the Jeep, even  overloaded with boy scouts) the old-man made a gravel-throwing bee-line out of the parking lot and into the lead.

This did not faze Dick, he gassed the Jeep through the gears and managed to close distance on the two-lane asphalt.  Both outfits blazed away; Dick pulling up to pass, his three scouts looking windswept and hanging on hard — the old man looking over, watching for a couple of seconds, then he grinned and goosed the De Soto back out front.

Night fell and the vehicles’  headlights were turned on.  The race continued in this fashion until we reached a long stretch of gravel road north of Geneva.  The old-man hit the gravel and held his speed, throwing up a dust plume the obliterated  the Jeep’s headlights — it was like we were suddenly alone in the night.  That spooked the old-man; he thought maybe Dick lost it when he hit the gravel and flipped the Jeep, so he slowed down.  About 15 seconds later the Jeep’s headlights reappeared, barreling down on the De Soto full of boy scouts.

The old-man’s competitive juices started to flow again and he decided to switch tactics; he’d run slower to enable the Jeep to stay close, but fast enough to choke the Jeep’s occupants with dirt and dust.  And so it continued for another mile.

Suddenly the old-man brought the De Soto over the crest of a slight rise in the gravel road where we saw a skunk ambling along down the middle of the road.  By the time the old-man finished screaming, “‘Roll up the windows!!” the thump of the skunk had  punctuated his alarm.  The skunk had become a semi-vaporized road-kill and was ejected backwards at the Jeep.

Suddenly the Jeep’s lights turned off the road and disappeared and the race ended.  The old-man proceeded to Geneva and stopped to wait.  Finally the Jeep showed up and pulled along side.  I recall the stench was great and the De Soto’s windows were again closed.  And we young scouts were treated to the sight of our three older tormentors, slumped in their seats, coughing, eyes watering and wondering whether anyone wanted to switch rides.  Both Dick and the old-man nixed that idea.

It was a great night at the lake, but afterwards our meetings always ended up at the Hollandale pool.

— Jim Margadant

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gunnar Berg permalink
    May 1, 2010 7:46 am


  2. Gunnar Berg permalink
    May 1, 2010 11:24 am


    Details, rather remembered or imagined, are great. It took me back to the very night.

    After I acquired my own set of wheels, we would often slip over to the Hollandale pool for a night cool down, shared with large families of Mexican field workers swimming in their underwear and nothing, depending on age. I wonder how the proper Dutch ladies of Hollandale would have felt if they realized by night the pool waters were being sullied by all those brown people who tilled their fields by day. All I know is they were good people to share a swim with.

    I was just thinking about the pool. “Pool” doesn’t really describe it well, does it? Who ever hear of a pool with a sand bottom and a beach of one side. A pool so big that to swim over and back was a serious commitment. A pool that besides three traditional diving boards, had a diving tower made from a farm windmill superstructure. I always thought that one day I’d get the courage to dive off, but I always had to climb down. My cousin Bob did it regularly. Hell, I saw macho Mexican boys do it the dark to impress the senoritas. I wanted to impress them too, but I couldn’t dive off a goddamn windmill. I didn’t have the cojones.

  3. May 2, 2010 3:53 pm

    We have one of those “pools” here in NC too. I don’t believe that the diving tower was created from an old windmill, looks more like a parachute training tower from the near by Army base.


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