Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Long Lake: Hubbard, Minn. Tues., 09. 18, 07

Left logging country--Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox Country--this morning; turned south off Rt 2 heading back in time to visit my Grandfather Neal and Grandmother Elsie's small resort on the east bank of Long Lake in Hubbard County MN. I only visited my grandparents there twice, each time for a single week long after I was an adult. My biological parents were divorced when I was two or three and I lost contact with my father Bud's parents--my grandparents--until I was twenty one. years old In the next ten years or so I was fortunate enough to visit Elsie and Neal near the village of Hubbard at their small resort (their home and 7 tiny cottages on stilts) on Long Lake.

I headed there this morning, drifting south about 150 miles from Rt 2, out of logging country into a mixture of farming and small resorts--lots of wild rice and fishing but like most of rural America, more and more decay and decline. I seem to find the old place easily, turning off the main highway onto East Lake Road and suddenly saw my grandparents turnoff. The old garden, so carefully nurtured by Neal and Elsie, was still there at the top of the hill but now just a pitiful remnant of its former glory. All the carefully tended raspberry bushes were gone, the gentle slope that carried the sheep manure mixed with water to the root crops and tomatoes also long gone. Now, on both sides of the old place were new large "camps" typical of the American excesses of recent years--"camps:" really fully insulated houses out sized and out of place for the forested lake shores they now dominate. Neal and Elsie's place was still there-a little run down--but still much the same as I remembered it from a more idyllic time.

Finding no one to speak with, I turned north first going into Hubbard looking for the village coffee shop--long gone--another casualty of the decline of rural America. Glad to be moving again, I now found myself in country quickly opening up, larger and certainly more prosperous farms--the Red River Valley --deep black soil, flat land, easy to cultivate; made difficult only by the enormous acreage each farmer and his family has to contend with. Enormous tractors, plows, implements: fields of sugar beets, wheat, sunflowers, corn and field after field full of round bales of hay. Only the high veldt of South Africa compares in my own experience, although the similar pampas of Argentina and Brazil are equally productive I'm sure.

A brief but wonderful lunch at Whitey's--founded as a speakeasy by Whitey Larson in the early 1920s--let me revel in the fabulous art deco of the period, so wonderfully preserved in Whitey's, East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The original Whitey's building was lost to the horrifying flood of 1997--6 feet of water in the restaurant--but the new owner, Greg Stennes, lovingly took it apart and put the original magnificent glass and neon back into a new building. Try the famous onion rings washed down with a good beer on tap drawn from the taps in the original magnificent art deco "Wunderbar" built by Whitey himself all those long, exciting, prohibition years ago.

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