John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for May 30, 2021

A SIMPLE LIFE WITH SIMPLE NEEDS

There you sit awaiting with baited breathe, anxious and wondering how things went today at Windsor Baptist Church. I know that many of my three loyal readers actually look forward to the latest news from the hallowed halls and sanctuary of the building in which a number of folks gather each week to worship and learn a little bit about the Bible. We all (me and you three or four) long to hear if things are perking up and looking better in that little church.

It is kind of like the stories Garrison Keillor once told about the legendary, yet fictitious town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Each Saturday Evening tens of thousands of listeners to public radio stations around the country would gather around their radios about two-thirds of the way through the two-hour entertainment program A Prairie Home Companion and hear the latest news from Lake Wobegon. The stories told and the yarns given were both humorous and strangely comforting as many would tune in and wished they could actually live in such a tiny place. The town had a number of businesses, a couple of churches and an assortment of activities with a number of mostly Norwegian families.

Before I talk a little about that show and its parallel universe to Windsor Baptist and its surrounding community, I do need to fill you in on today's service. My workers were mostly all there. Bobby Holland, who has been working on the outside in the parking lot, furnishing the outside worshippers with bulletins, communion and taking up the offerings, was not there today. He was taking care of one of our elderly ladies in the church who may be moving soon into an assisted living facility. She will be another of our regulars whose lovely face will not be gracing the church too much longer. We have had three or four in such condition and, most recently, our organist who will be incapacitated from here on out. She, too, is being added to that list.

Today we had the smallest attendance since I began my ministry there ten years ago. Let me rephrase that: We had the smallest attendance on a non-weather-event Sunday in ten years. Even though we have had rain over the last 36 hours, it wasn't something that would hinder most of our folks from attending. We had twelve to fifteen regulars out of town for the holiday, a few who are truly under the weather or recovering from illnesses and surgery. We have a couple who still will not go out of the house until the last person on the face of the earth has recovered from Covid-19. And, of course, we have those who are indifferent or just plan lazy and didn't want to venture out in cloudy weather.

The lowest attendance! Even on the worst attended Sunday of the year - each year - (the one between Christmas and New Years Day), we had less that those day from all the way back to when those attendance records were kept (1980) to the present. The worst being 29. Today, we had 28! That is truly low!

The offerings, by contrast were better than normal for the last Sunday of the month. In fact, we nearly made our weekly goal (which we have only done once in two years on the last Sunday of the month).

So, it was a day of the mixed bag of blessings. Something good, something average and something truly bad. I hate it that we had the lowest attendance - ever - today. I remember one Sunday, back in 2013 when we almost cancelled service due to snow and on that day we had 30 folks show up! There have been those times we cancelled services due to snow, once during a hurricane and five times due to Covid-19. But today, was a "normal" Sunday even if it was a holiday weekend. We gave usually run anywhere from 41 to 52 on Memorial Day Weekend and before we lost all our kids and youth workers to Elevate Church we used to have average attendance for the holiday.

Well enough of that. There is only so many whacks of a rod that I can beat that old horse with before he falls senseless.

Back to Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon: When I used to listen to the stories told about that mythical town, I found myself wishing, at times, to be in a place like that. A small town of about 800 people located in tiny Mist Country some thirty miles west of the real town of St. Cloud. Now Keillor once said that Lake Wobegon was the county seat which supposedly does not appear on maps because of the "incompetence of surveyors who mapped out the state in the 19th century". The town's slogan is Gateway to Central Minnesota.

Lake Wobegon is occasionally said to be near St. Olaf, Minnesota, another fictional town referred to in The Golden Girls television series. (There is actually a St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.) The town's school and amateur sports teams compete against the Uff-das of Upsala, a real town in southwest Morrison County, which is close to Holdingford. The town residents drink Wendy's Beer, brewed in St. Wendel, a real town in northeast Stearns County. The nearest good-sized town referred to in Keillor's monologues is St. Cloud. Lake Wobegon is sometimes compared favorably to a rival fictional town called Millet; a real town called Rice lies 20 miles north of St. Cloud.

The stories Keillor tells from this town are priceless, hilarious and yet simple. He chronicles a number of bizarre incidents in the fictional town's early history, akin to the events in Black River Falls in Wisconsin Death Trip.

Keillor identifies the original founders of what became Lake Wobegon as New England Unitarian missionaries, at least one of whom came to convert the Native American Ojibwe Indians through interpretive dance. A college was founded at what was then called New Albion, but the project was abandoned after a severe winter and numerous attacks by bears. The project had only one survivor, a very practical woman who married a French Canadian fur trapper who fed her in exchange for her help with the chores. This pragmatic couple were the founders of the current settlement.

New Albion's founders decided to settle at Lake Wobegon because they had gotten lost and did not know how to get back to where they had last been. To celebrate this, the colony's motto was Ubi Quid Ubi (Latin: "We're Here!...Where are we?"). Later the motto in the Lake Wobegon incorporated town seal is described as Sumus Quod Sumus (Latin: "We Are What We Are").

Most of the population are descendants of German immigrants, who are mostly members of the Catholic parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, and descendants of Norwegian and Swedish immigrants, who attend Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. Keillor's family were members of the Sanctified Brethren.

The 800 residents (1950 Census: 728) are proud of the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian (so called because the model left before the sculptor could get his name). Lake Wobegon is in competition with its fictional rival, St. Olaf, for having the most descendants of the same common ancestor. Lake Wobegon became a secret dumping ground of nuclear waste during the 1950s.

The fictional town is the home of the Whippets baseball team, tuna hotdish, snow, Norwegian bachelor farmers, ice fishing, tongues frozen to cold metal objects, and lutefisk—fish treated with lye which, after being reconstituted, is reminiscent of "the afterbirth of a dog or the world's largest chunk of phlegm." But it is also the home of the Mist County Fair, old-fashioned show yards with flowers "like Las Vegas showgirls", sweet corn, a magnificent grain elevator, and the pleasant lake itself.

When I used to listen, I would picture myself roaming the streets of Lake Wobegon, wondering in to some of the businesses, or one of the eating establishments and simply sitting around listening to the people talk. For a town of 800 there were a lot of places to go. There was:

Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery; "If you can't find it at Ralph's, you can probably get along (pretty good) without it."

Bertha's Kitty Boutique ("for persons who care about cats")

The Sidetrack Tap, run by Wally and Evelyn; "The dim little place in the dark where the pinball machine never tilts, the clock is a half-hour slow, and love never dies."

The Chatterbox Café, "The place to go that's just like home."

Café Boeuf, "Where the elite meet to greet and eat," with maitre d' Maurice.

Art's Baits & Night o' Rest Motel (Art got sick of people being around, so you can't rent rooms there these days.)

Jack's Auto Repair, including Jack's School of Thought (correspondence), Warm Car Service, Dry Goods Emporium, Jack's Fountain Lounge, and Jack's Home, "a rest spa for people of all ages"

As for churches there was:

Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church; Father Emil (retired), Father Wilmer (current)

Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church; Pastor Ingqvist (transferred), Pastor Barbara Ham (Interim Pastor), Pastor Liz (current)

If you needed a new or used car, there was:

Bunsen Motors (Ford dealer), run by Clint and Clarence Bunsen, local Lutherans

Krebsbach Chevrolet, run by Florian Krebsbach, local Catholic, and his son Carl.

Other places to see people were:

Moonlight Bay Supper Club

Buck's Rent-a-Tux

The Herald Star, town newspaper run by Harold Star

Skoeglin's 5 and Dime

LuAnne Magendanz's Bon Marché Beauty Parlor and Salon

Co-op Hardware (formerly Bigger Hammer Hardware, from the joke: "If at first you don't succeed, try using a bigger hammer.")

Clifford's (also known as "The Mercantile," which many residents still call it)

The Sons of Knute Temple, Norwegian fraternal organization

The Whippets, Town Team Baseball, "We'll Whip ya, whip ya good!"

The Herdsmen, champion church ushering team

The Curl Up and Dye, another local salon

Tentative Point, (better known as Lover's Lane)

Sons of Pitches, a men's chorus made up of the Original Main Street's finest in the Home of Sinclair Lewis

Lake Wobegon Piles ("twin 18-foot-high islands in the center of Lake Wobegon" created in 1956)

Mist County Historical Society Museum

Wally "Old Hard Hands" Bunsen Memorial Field (where The Whippets whip 'em all)

Lake Wobegon Loons (five-man football)

Powdermilk Biscuit Plant (on the road to Worthington)

Lake Wobegon High School and the Lake Wobegon Leonards high school sports teams

Municipal Sanitary Landfill

Statue of the Unknown Norwegian

Farmer's Union Grain Elevator

Bob's Bank, in the green mobile home

World's Largest Pile of Burlap Bags (created by Earl Dickmeyer to fund his and his wife's move to Fort Myers, Florida, and the centerpiece for a mysterious cure to ailments, such as kidney stones)

Lake Wobegon is called the "tiny town that time forgot and the decades could not improve." The opening words each week to Keillor's stories were: "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie." The closing words in his monologue were always these: "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

Stories! Stories about the simple life, with non-complex routines and happy occurrences - enough to fill several volumes of lore and never reduplicate a single story or event.

Windsor could be a lot like Lake Wobegon. Two churches, three if you count the soon-to-be megachurch of Elevate. Windsor Christian, much like the Lake Wobegon Catholic church, and Windsor Baptist, much like the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church are the traditional ones with many members, and now few people attending. But those that do attend have many stories and many happy events that make life in Windsor more attractive than in the big cities of Hampton Roads. But Windsor still is no Lake Wobegon.

The truth be told, I have always longed for the simple life. My love and longing is and has been to live in Vermont. Not because of their politics - HELL NO! But their mountains, small towns, simple, but happy lives and their folky style make for a wonderful "Walton's" way of life.

Am I asking for too much? Don't get me wrong. I love my FiOS television capabilities with over 600 channels, the fast, break-neck speeds of my FiOS internet service, the availability of competitive shopping experiences (seven different grocery stores within 3 miles of my house), easy access to just about anything at anytime. But that is because of me being spoiled. Had I grown up in Vermont, or a Lake Wobegon, I'd had nothing to take for granted and would not be living such a complex, head-spinning, ulcer inducing, rising blood pressure way of life.

You know - all I would really enjoy is to sit in a medium sixed room, listen to the radio (30's and 40's music), smoking a pipe, sipping on a gin and tonic, fire in the fireplace and snow gently falling outside - forever! Now what is wrong with that?

Blog for May 29 Blog for May 31

Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.