Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Town

What do you call a place that has no center point, no sense of balance and not a single place to buy a quart of milk?
by Charlie Leck

In 1994, I wrote a letter to the editor of the weekly newspaper (if you dare call it that) that covers happenings in My Town and a handful of other villages in the region. I was trying to be satirical, but a friend of mine says that I don’t understand the subtleties of satire well enough to be a satirist. Sure enough, a handful of people took it all seriously and the paper got a “rash” (or is it “rasher?”) of follow-up letters from its readers, complaining about the raving idiot who was so confused about the town in which he lived.

It might make good Sunday reading for you to go back 15 years and read what I wrote about My Town. Then you can decide for yourself if I am truly the village idiot.

Dear Editor:

Independence, Minnesota! This is my town. I live here; though I rarely get to tell people that. I usually have to say that I’m from Maple Pain because that’s what my post office address says. And, there is a downtown area in Maple Plain and all of us seem to want to associate ourselves with some downtown. Sometime I tell people I’m from Lyndale, which is not really a town, but it’s a neighborhood only a half-mile up the road and there’s a bit of a downtown there (if a gas station and tavern can be called that). I tell firemen I know that I’m from Delano because it’s that town’s fire department that will respond to fire emergencies at my home – except, I tell a lot of folks from Minnetrista that I’m from their town because the part of my farm where the livestock live is in that township and I don’t want them to get confused because their fire department (which is really the Mound Fire Department) is supposed to respond to fires on that part of my property except that they have made special (informal) arrangements with Maple Plain to cover for them because Maple Plain can get there so much more quickly. Most of my friends think I live in Watertown because my telephone exchange is called the “Watertown exchange.”

Confused? It’s really only the beginning…. The fact is, I live in Independence. It’s my town – my kind of town. There’s something that brings us all together in this town. None of us is exactly sure what we should tell people when they ask us where we live. I often draw a complete blank from people when I tell them I live in Independence, so I don’t do that anymore unless it is someone I enjoy confusing.

Now we’ve got a new city government building. The officials there had a big discussion about what to call the building. I suggested they call it the Maple Plain/Delano/Watertown/Mound/Orono/Lyndale/Loretto/Rockford City Center in Independence. I was only joking, but a few people took me seriously. So they dismissed my terrific idea that they call it “Independence Hall” and hang a big, cracked bell out in front, because they thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

One of my city councilpersons – I think he tells people he lives in Loretto – has proposed that all Independence telephones fall under the 479 exchange. He’s proposed this because it makes sense and is totally logical. Therefore, this proposal doesn’t stand a tinker’s chance in _________________________ (insert the name of a town you really dislike).

Well, I’ve always wanted to write an extremely important Letter to the Editor and now I’ve done it. Feels good! I’m still confused, but I feel better. My only hope is that the various fire departments around me know exactly what’s going on. I have nightmares that there is this giant fire in my hay barn and, while it burns, Delano, Mound and Maple Plain stand around arguing about who is supposed to cover it. Silly, isn’t it? It could never happen.

The editor of the paper was extremely happy to publish the letter. He said he thought it was “laughable.” At first I thought he meant that the letter was funny or comical. Then I started to think “laughable” might mean something else entirely.

Just the other night we had a city council meeting here in My Town that made me very, very proud of this place – this town like no other town around. I came home that night and told my wife that this was the first time I’d really been proud to live here. The opposing party, of course, took that as a statement of disloyalty and claimed I was unpatriotic and didn’t deserve to be the First Lady.

I wondered how they overheard this statement I made to my wife in the privacy of our bedroom. Or, is my wife an informant for the opposition?

If we've got a downtown in My Town this is it. It's the Ox Yoke Inn. We just call it the Ox Yoke around here. Right across the street from it there's an auto mechanic's garage. That's it!

I’ll write about that wonderful council meeting in the next few days.

Thousands and thousands of acres in My Town still produce hay and other crops even though we're less than 25 miles from downtown Minneapolis.

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