Thursday, August 19, 2010

Small Town Life, Small World

On a muggy morning recently I found myself on Highway 7 heading west toward Hutchinson, Minnesota, to pick up some childhood pictures of a famous female basketball player whose family lives out there. I spoke with Lindsay’s mother recently and she told me she’d leave the photos inside the side door along with her daughter’s wedding album. Though the atmosphere was a little glum, due to the humidity and cloud cover, the countryside was pleasant. I spotted some tundra swans lounging in a flooded field at one point, and a trio of pelicans flew by overhead as I passed Silver Lake. The home-made CD I was listening to—Sun Ra, Tomatito, Richard Galliano—began to sound a little raucous, so I popped in a Kate Wolf CD I’d purchased at the thrift store in Mora a few weeks ago, which better fit the mood of the hour—simple and suitably countrified, albeit a little mournful.

I bought some corn curls at a gas station just outside Hutchinson and immediately regretted it. It’s hard to get that greasy cheese powder off your hands, which is not good when you’re about to handle someone else’s heirloom family photos.

Hutchinson is a beautiful little town, a true gem, with shady streets, a vibrant main street stretching for five or six blocks, and a lovely central square. I found the house without difficult, went to the side door, and received the bundle of photos in a plastic bag from a young, friendly, shirtless man who seemed to have broken his leg. As I was pulling out of the driveway I glanced back at the backboard and hoop affixed to the garage. It looked just like ten thousand other backboards. And yet…

My next stop was the public library, where I washed my hands in the bathroom and then took a peek at what was in the bag. Good stuff. Sweet. Perfect. On my way out I purchased a book from the library's de-acquisition shelf called Picasso 1905-1906 for $2.00. (Not his best period by any means, but the book was in full color, and the fact that it’s in Spanish makes it even more appealing: I don’t know Spanish.) I asked the librarian if she had any archival stuff about Lindsay, and she recommended that I visit the county historical society a mile or so down the road.

The woman there was helpful, but came up with nothing. Nada. Zippo. "If people don't donate things to us, we won't have them," she explained apologetically.

Back downtown at the offices of the Hutchinson Leader I spent some time thumbing through the bound archives, which gave me a better sense of the community’s crimes, celebrations, civic challenges and successes. Mostly I looked at the sports sections, however, which contained plenty of information about the girl’s basketball teams from Hutchinson, Lester Prairie, Litchfield, and other towns but precious few photos of Lindsay herself.

My luck changed when the sports editor, Eric Kraushar, came out to say hello. Though twenty years younger than me, he was wearing the same outfit I was—blue golf shirt, white shorts. That was a good sign. We chatted, went back to his office, and eventually located some digital shots he’d taken personally at various Lynx games that they’d used for an article commemorating Lindsay’s return to Minnesota, along with one good picture from her high school years. A veritable gold mine. He emailed them off to me and at that point our conversation turned to the Twins. He’s been to the new stadium three or four times already. He and his girl friend even went to Chicago for the recent series. (It’s easier to get tickets for those games.) He’s originally from Highland Park, and when I told him I was from Mahtomedi he groaned. “They used to kill us every year in football.”

On my way out of town I stopped to buy a hotdog from a street vendor in the town square. The woman selling the hotdogs turned out to be the step-mother of a fellow who used to work with me years ago in the warehouse world. John Jodzio. He went on to become a writer (he was already a good story-teller when I knew him) won a Jerome grant, and just recently published a book of stories called If You Lived Here You’d Already be Home.

I told her to keep a lookout for the book about Lindsay. “Oh, I will,” she said. “She used to live just kitty-corner from us.”

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