I got some “bug” right after Labor Day…then had a medication reaction, so I decided I couldn’t visit my old stompin’ grounds September 19-22 in Crookston, Minnesota. No way could I drive seven-plus hours one way, spend a hectic weekend, then drive back.
I was not happy. I’d so looked forward to seeing old friends and just savoring time in a place I loved with people I love.
Although I haven’t lived there for many years, Crookston has always meant “home” to me.
Growing up on the farm left many good memories. I enjoyed college…the first two years in a dorm, the second two in married student housing. I also liked living in Brookings after graduation, while my husband was getting his master’s.
Initially, I wasn’t crazy about moving to northern Minnesota. At the time, it seemed like a foreign country, as I knew nothing about it and I didn’t know a soul. But my husband’s job was there, so that’s where we went.
My first impression was, “It’s so FLAT.” The Red River Valley is…flat. I didn’t recognize what sugar beets were. There were few if any fences; people don’t grow many animals there. The fertile soil is for wheat, sunflowers and sugar beets. I once said, “You could walk a mile in your sleep, and never stumble.” It’s that flat. I also referred to our residence as “Outer Siberia” in the winter.
Crookston is cut by the Red Lake River in seven places; hence, the “Woods Addition” or “Sampson’s Addition.” That old river has done its share of damage over the years, too, when the ice goes out.
I made an effort to adapt. I subbed at the Crookston Daily Times. I joined Mrs. Jaycees. I attended Faculty Women’s Club. And the most important part was, I got to know my neighbors and other “faculty women.” It was, in essence, a close-knit family.
Yet, it was diverse…with the strong Scandinavian influence, as well as Canadian, and the migrant workers who tended the sugar beets. Being a history nut, I loved the history of the ox carts and the Pembina Trail, and all the rest of this rich old riverbed’s background.
A couple of years later, I began working at University Relations as their writer…a wonderful experience. I enjoyed my co-workers and the stimulation of writing articles and doing publicity. I also loved writing the history of the old “ag school” that had preceded the University of Minnesota campus.
And a big plus was, I had most of my summers free.
I truly enjoyed our big old Victorian house in the Woods Addition. There were no locked doors…kids and neighbors walked in and out at random. Doorbells? No. You just stood at the back door and yelled, “Anybody home?”
There was simply a camaraderie I’d never encountered before…or since.
I love the Black Hills, but when the opportunity came to move there, I was torn. I didn’t want to leave the house, the town, the job, the people that I loved.
And after all these years, I’ve never recaptured that unique feeling of belonging that I felt in Minnesota.
I can still call someone there, and they recognize my voice. That’s home.
So, yes, I was disappointed that my body betrayed me, and I wasn’t up to the drive. I’ll probably feel better once we have a freeze.
But I WILL eventually make it up there, even if I have to hitchhike. I simply want to hear, “Well, hi, Ruth Anne. How are you?”
Home is always where the heart is…