There is so much stuff to set and store. Having found myself almost incapable of throwing away some stuff that once meant something to me, I am now dealing with a box of stuff that . . . that meant little to my dad, except now it means something to me because it was connected to him. It’s enough to make a fellow get in the car and drive in a different direction than the one he usually takes - which in my case would be South by Southeast. (The sequel to the Hitchcock movie. You know the one? Starts with the train backing up from a tunnel, then it’s about some people who climb Mt. Rushmore, fly off to New York, and settle a case of mistaken identity.)

Not an option. It’s the Northwest Passage for me for the foreseeable future.

Highway Ten, to some of you long-term Bleatniks, may have a certain mythical status, based on my accounts.

It is entirely deserved.

You do not hop on Highway Ten, though. It’s not outside my door. I take 62 to 169, which dissolves in to city streets on the northwest side of the metro area until Ten presents itself, and even then it’s not a rip-roaring wide open road. It’s stutter-stop through a series of exurban towns that were founded as their own communities, but became absorbed into the whole Metro Blob. But as the miles pass the towns begin to space out, and somewhere around Royalton you know you’ve left the neutron-star gravity of the metro.

Poor Royalton.

What remains of the downtown is probably the only thing the downtown ever was - a half-block of two-story brick buildings that face an elevator and some train tracks. One of the buildings is a bar, and the other was an antique store closed for years, but still displaying the weather-beaten faded signage of its last use. I stopped there once, and it was the usual small-town rural resting place for all the things left behind and cast off into the jumbled heap of mismatched ceramic salt-and-pepper shakers, rusty farmhouse tools, busted Hot Wheels, magazines no one read, and commonplace items of the late 60s and 70s, scraped from the shelves of houses where nothing had changed in years, and no one washed the plastic plants, and the crocheted wall-hanging from 1972 was still hanging on the wood-grained paneling your father put up in ’65, and -

It was too depressing; that might be why it closed.

Lucky Royalton! It has Pirate’s Cove, the last remaining tourist-trap roadside attraction, aside from the giant Frazee Turkey.

Once you blast past that corner you’re en route to the unfortunately named . . .

MOTLEY, pop. 621 but you’d think there were more. When you hit Motley, you experience . . . the curve.

If you know a road, there are some points that tell you the journey has changed. I-94, which bores me, has one curve early on that points you down to the cities or levels you our for your run across the plains, depending on your perspective. The Ten version comes at Motley.

After Motley, the major towns start to space out, a place the farmers would be able to get to and from on a weekend by rudimentary travel.

Going up it’s the triplets - Staples, Verndale, Wadena. Staples is quiet and feels a bit deserted. The bypass was laid a few years back, and they responded with beautification and flags on the street lights and signs that invited you visit Historic Staples. But the biggest building is the old Bacher’s Department Store, closed for decades; the movie theater with the great STAPLES marquee shuttered a while back.

Lefty’s is still open.

I never feel right here, ever since I was confronted by a lady with a kid who thought I was from the Cities looking to buy the old department store and do something with it. As if I was checking out a movie location and they didn’t want my type around here. It was odd. It was the sort of scene that preceded shots of the locals all peeking through their curtains, then coming out of their houses, moving with silent purpose. They’d done this before and they’d have to do this again.

Wadena feels far more cosmopolitan. It has a healthy downtown:

The two towns really yin-yang the whole Greater Minnesota paradigm, as they say. (No one says that.)

In between, quiet Verndale, which has a park by the highway and the railroad tracks. I always stop here for a small cigar. Look at the names on the WW1 monument. It has a busted globe now. Lasted a hundred years and someone had to smash it.

After Wadena, the straight shot to Fargo, the cities spaced out in the standard distances. New York Mills has a strange downtown park dedicated to veterans and geological peculiarities.

You will find a prosperous lake-country town in Perham; Frazee has the largest turkey in the state.

Detroit Lakes is the most popular playground - it’s where the Fargo people want a cabin. Then the small blips of Hawley, Glyndon, and Dilworth - then and Moorhead, without fanfare or ceremony. You’re just there gradually and then all of a sudden.

It takes an hour longer. It’s worth it. Why? Well, there’s always going to be something coming up. On the interstate you are making time, and if you have to pull off for coffee or the bathroom or a bite, you have removed yourself from the flow, and all those people you passed have sped ahead. Civilization is always ten miles away from the exit ramp. You experience the country in chapters, not paragraphs.

After I’ve sold the house, how often will I go up? I went up for Dad, and I love my sis and bro-in-law, and Fargo is home.

But I have the feeling it’s the funeral road from now on.




It’s 1931.


Chipso, the wonder soap of the 20s, I think; that’s when the O suffix got popular. Okay, I’ll google, jeez

Looks like I’m right, probably. Proctor and Gamble made it, and the thin flakes could be used for dishwashing or laundry. Ew, somehow.

Anyway, the art bears a closer look. The artist would be happy to know that people were paying attention to his work so many years later; why not give his shade some respect?

Look, elegant rich women wash clothes by hand, just like you!


We don’t talk about dishpan hands anymore.

It’s the worst day of the week.

She’s too tired to wonder why he’s talking to Mrs. Brown in the f first place, and why they talk about soap. She brings it up? Why would a woman bring up soap to another husband?

Her failures mount, and are manifest in every aspect of her life

Everyone’s getting ready for the Chipso intervention, it seems.

No matter - Chipso is, in its own way, idiot proof! Even if you forget to use only the hot tap and open them both all the way, assuring a lukewarm basin, Chipso steps up and compensates for your failings.


The Sudsometer proves it!

More suds!

You want suds!

Suds in abundance are what you want!

Sudsundance! Say it!

Now the miracle is available in another manifestation whose name undercuts the “Chip” part but who cares!

Let's drop in on the far-away yet oh-so-relatable world of 1916, as seen through the work of Clare Briggs. See you around.



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