(This post was written as part of a series. Start at Minnesota Memories 1 of 4 and continue to link 2 of 4, etc. to read.)
Johnny took the grocery list out of his shirt pocket. He knew there wouldn’t be much on the list as they were already well stocked for the winter season. His mother was a great cook. She had worked as a camp cook for lumberjacks before she married, and afterward, she cooked for her seven kids. It was no exaggeration when Johnny told people his mother spent half of her life in front of a cook stove.
For the long winter, Johnny’s mother had canned wild blueberries, choke cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, wild strawberries and rhubarb. The root-cellar was filled with potatoes, squash, and wild rice. Fresh eggs would come from the chickens, milk and butter from the cows, fresh fish from the lake, and Johnny would kill some deer to supply meat.
Hunting season would start soon, but a lot of the locals didn’t pay attention to it. As long as you used the game to feed your family, the game warden usually left you alone.
Johnny’s neighbor, Claus Olson, always kept deer hanging in his barn during deer season. And all those deer weren’t there to put food on the Olsons’ table.
Claus had extra deer for the so-called hunters that came from the Twin Cities to get drunk, and luckily for the real hunters, spent all their time in camp drinking. About all they hunted for was a can-opener for their beer cans. So that they wouldn’t go home empty-handed, they would buy deer from Claus for $100 each, which was no small sum for those days.
Johnny looked at the shopping list: sugar, baking powder, salt, and some blackberry brandy.
At the Piggly Wiggly grocery store Johnny picked up the requested supplies, plus some bones for Skippy.
“Are you ready for the winter?” the store manager asked as Johnny approached the cash register.
“I don’t know if I’m ever really ready for winter,” Johnny responded, “maybe as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Say hello to your mom and dad for me. I miss seeing them in the store,” the manager commented as Johnny headed for the door.
“I’ll do that.”
Johnny walked out of the store and to the movie theater, which wasn’t very far, since Bigfork only had five hundred residents. Maxine was inside stocking the snack bar when he walked in.
“You almost done?” Johnny queried.
“Yeah, sure. I just have to be back in a couple of hours. ‘Mighty Max’ is showing, and we’ll probably be pretty busy. What’s up?”
“Oh, I just thought you might want to go down by the river. I canoed in, and Skippy’s down by the canoe waiting. I bought her some bones and I’d like to feed them to her.”
“Sounds good to me. Let’s go.”
As they walked down to the canoe, Skippy started barking and wagging her tail, but still didn’t move from her position. Johnny and Maxine sat down on the river bank. He opened the bag of groceries and pulled out the bones and threw them near Skippy.
“Go get ‘em!” Johnny shouted, and Skippy bolted toward her treats.
Johnny and Maxine held each other tightly, to warm themselves, as they sat on the river bank watching Skippy enjoying her cow bones. The river gently flowed past, moving the reeds and making that special sound that rivers make, soothing and almost hypnotic. They sat in near silence as Johnny picked up pebbles and threw them in the river. Plop. Plop. The sound of the pebbles hitting the water echoed underneath the foot-bridge.
“You’re quieter today than usual,” Maxine commented as she snuggled closer to Johnny.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about something pretty important. Maxine, will you marry me?”