Remember that ad for Preparation H that was filmed in Kiester, Minnesota? It’s a rinky dink small farming town, with a population of 501 as of the 2010 decennial census. I’m sure it’s less by now. It reminds me a lot of Epworth, Iowa — about five blocks square worth of town, with a school, surrounded by working agricultural farms. In fact, Kiester is only about 2.5 miles from the Iowa border.
We had most of Sunday free of family obligations to be somewhere at an appointed time, so we day tripped.
Downtown Kiester looks exactly like it does in the commercial. Like most rural Midwest towns, it rolls up its sidewalks on Sunday, so the only things open were the grocery store, and the public restroom in the park. I contributed $2.84 to the local economy by popping in the grocery store to purchase a half gallon of bottled iced tea. The cashier (probably the only person in town working that day, besides the Lutheran pastor) was a half-pint elderly woman who looked like she’d been working there for the past 40-50 years. She was a doll. “May I help you find anything? Isn’t it nice that it’s not raining for a change? That’ll be two dollars and eighty four cents. Thank you, and you have a nice day!” My response was “You betcha. You, too.” Other than that, there was one guy driving his vintage restored 1940s car up and down Main St., with an American flag flying in the breeze (okay, it was a heavy, steady wind, into which I had to lean, to not get blown backwards) waving at us. Of course we waved back.
You have to love small town America. The upside is that everybody knows you. The downside is that everybody knows your business, and I don’t mean in a commercial sense. They’re friendly toward visitors, but anyone from out of town who moves in is viewed with suspicion, and is the subject of endless local gossip, until they join local civic groups, and get really involved in the community.
Kiester was phase one of our day trip. On the way back to Rochester, we stopped off in Austin to visit the Spam Museum. Yes, Spam as in Hormel, the canned pork product. Admission was free, so we figured why not? Besides, it was lunchtime, and we were getting a little hungry. It’s a decent sized town. Not everything was open on Sunday, but it doesn’t roll up its sidewalks, either. Found a pizza/Italian joint half a block away from the museum, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a liquor license. Oddly enough, none of us ordered pizza. We got sandwiches, and a pitcher of Blue Moon to share among the four of us was only $7. Pitchers of other things were $6, but we paid the extra buck for the Blue Moon, because it was a known quantity, so to speak, and Belgian White doesn’t really clash with any particular food. The entire bill for four people, including tax, came to less than $40. Whoa! I treated, since my SIL did the driving for this day trip. My SIL tried to shove a $20 at me, but I shoved it back at her. She capitulated. Our waitress got a really good tip. Always tip your waitress or waiter well, unless service is really crappy, even if you’re never going back there, because you live well over 1000 miles away.
The Spam Museum was actually pretty cool. My SIL said it would be a bummer if it didn’t have exhibits for Spamalot and the Monty Python Spam skit. It did. I wasn’t expecting much of it, but was very pleasantly surprised. It was actually very interesting. Go figure. The gift shop had the usual selection of overpriced tchotckes, and all 13 varieties of Spam, but some items were fairly priced for what they were. No fucking way was I going to pay $48 for a small wooden cutting board carved in the shape of a pig, but a fleece vest with a really unobtrusive Spam logo on one pocket was reasonably priced. You had to look at the price tags before deciding to buy anything, whether for yourself, or as gifts for others. Realy, it was a fun visit.