I went back to Fertile, MN at the end of May. This time I did a bit of walking on the gravel roads that criss-cross the area outside the town. The corn was just pushing up through the soil, and other crops hadn't germinated yet or were just greening the fields. There's beauty in the fields, but it isn't a beauty I want to spend my life surrounded by.
The town seemed a little less down and out than last time. The Gullicksen (a before and after picture) building now has tenants on the ground floor and that, by itself, spruces up that side of the street - the second picture is the before. Carole Larson is the owner of the Boutique of Joy, and she's trying her best to keep some things up to date - her shop has wifi and she plans on opening the network to her customers and folk who sit down on one of the plastic Adirondack chairs she keeps on the sidewalk. Carole also runs the Willow Creek Bed & Breakfast, about five miles outside the town. Her efforts as a booster for Fertile deserve recognition and approval.
I also noticed that the Sand Hill River Watershed has taken over the bank building that was empty and desolate the first time I was in Fertile, and some of the other North Mill Street buildings are now occupied.
Across the street from the Gullicksen building is a brand new War Memorial. It's right there, in the middle of town on the main street, so you can't miss it. It was a hot and sunny day, just before Memorial Day, so it felt quite appropriate to spend a few minutes there. The people of Fertile have sent soldiers to fight in every American war since the town was settled in the latter part of the 19th Century. It's a tasteful and attractive plaza.
A few days later I spoke with Eric Bergeson, the proprietor of the
Bergeson Nursery and a life-long resident. He was generally very positive about this project and the town in general. He seems to be smarter than average: he heads to Arizona every winter for three months or so, dodging the worst of the winter weather. I like him enough to read his column in the Fertile Journal, when our copy arrives at home. The Journal is old fashioned: they keep their subscriber lists on 3x5 file cards at the Journal, and don't send out reminders when the subscription ends ("the date's on the label," the nice lady at their office said to me when I mentioned it to her, as if anyone ever reads the label. When I got home, I noticed it's not there. Oh well.) They don't publish on the web, which makes sense if you are a weekly highly dependent on local advertising and subscriptions. Broadband access to the web is not a universal there, nor universally needed. Of course everyone in town reads the Journal and so do many of the town's expatriates.
I mentioned in a previous post the opening of the Willow Creek Bed & Breakfast. There was no way that I would stay anywhere else during this visit, and both Mary and I enjoyed our stay. The location is on quite a farm lane - and a quiet one, too - about five miles outside the town. The old farmhouse has been restored into a comfortable place to stay. It offers privacy and is about as scenic as this corner of NW Minnesota can be. Carole comes in every morning to cook a delicious Norwegian American farmer's breakfast. We took walks in the early morning and late afternoon along the back roads. For Mary, the house brought back memories because it was her Great Aunt Ida's home, and when she was a kid, she used to play in the attic. Carole let her go up there just to refresh her memories.
The best thing about a big city boy like me taking a vacation in this remote corner of Minnesota is how much it made me miss being home. You can take the boy out of the city but you can't take the city out of the boy.