June 27: Day off in Minnewaukan - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 27: Day off in Minnewaukan

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TAK, SAID THE MAN with grey hair and watery blue eyes. "It's Norwegian for 'thanks'", he added. We had just given him $14 for two full breakfasts. He added the words for "one hundred thanks" and then for "one hundred thousand thanks."

I said I knew only one word in Norwegian and that was Norge. I pronounced it Norr-hyuh. I do also know the words for yes, no and Oslo, but that would have seemed like bragging.

"What's that?" he asked. "I don't know that one."

I said it was Norwegian for Norway. It used to be on the stamps I collected as a kid.

"Are you from Norway?" I asked him.

"No, born and bred in North Dakota. Never been to Norway in my life."

Pancakes cooked by old soldiers
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The old boy was sitting beneath a picture of George Washington in the basement headquarters of Minnewaukan's American Legion. A board in the middle of the town's main junction - traffic isn't heavy or pressed for time around here - advertised Sunday breakfasts for all. Steph feels rough with a cold, the wind is due to blow and so we have opted for a day off. And a breakfast.

"This is pretty much all we do," explained an improbably tall, smiling man with a silver beard. "Every fourth Sunday."

Breakfast cooked for us on our day off. We didn't feel right without forage caps.
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A cabinet on the wall held a rack of antique guns and a gas mask. The man cooking pancakes wore a blue hat lettered in gold to say he had fought in Korea.

"But you'd be off to the trenches at a moment's notice when the call comes," I teased him. He was about 70.

"When you're 18, 19, you would be," he said. "Once you've been there, you ain't so keen to get back."

I asked the man with the watery eyes for the difference between the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"Says it pretty much in the title. You been in the military, you can join the Legion. To join the veterans, you got to have served abroad."

"Is there rivalry between the two?"

"A little, but not much. A lot of folk belong to both."

"And would they merge?"

"Can't see any reason as why they should."

"So why belong to both?"

"So's when they go to Washington, they can say they got so many members." "Are you from Norway?" I asked him. He told us much of his story, how he had been a teacher, first in the USA, then in Micronesia. All his children now worked in caring professions, he said with pride. His wife had died of cancer in 1976, he said, and he'd gone to teach on an Indian reservation.

I asked his opinion of reservations. I said we had done no more than enter one and that we had been fascinated by a land within a land.

"Can't speak for now, of course, but in the eighties it was a hard place."

"To live, or to work?"

"Both."

"In what way?"

"Well, I tell you, we used to have a horse. And that was getting stolen all the time and the saddle and harness'd be taken and they'd turn the horse loose. One time the horse got hit by a car because of that."

On the way back up the street, we noticed a poster in the shop offering rewards for news of who was setting fire to places on the reservation. The tone suggested that it wasn't the Indians themselves.

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