Well it has been a quiet week in Prior Lake Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie. A beautiful fall and it froze the other night, our first little frost triggering an almost alarm of hurried activity; leaf raking, Canadian waterfowl migrations, harvesting, etc..
My husband and I went to the VFW for the Friday Fish Fry hosted by the Lutheran Church ladies organization. We ran into Oly Olson and my husband, who enjoys hearing riled up Minnesota sing song accents, asks Oly a controversial question about whether he started his home wood-burning furnace yet. Many of the stoic Scandinavian immigrants decedents are brought up to be modest and self-effacing so they view starting the furnace too early is wasteful and boastful. Oly replied, “No, it isn’t too cold yet. Vat da heck would someone put the heeder on yet? Der isn’t even ice on da lake yet. I bet no good Yonson started a fire, I smelled da smoke from his place on Wednesday.” Since many people in this area heat their home with firewood it is easy to figure out who started a fire “too early”.
Oly continued with a story from his great grandfather. The following is a little background to provide context of his great grandfather's story. Following the Homestead Act of 1862, many Scandinavians pioneered the lands of the mid-west. These frontier settlers worked hard, and were justly proud of their new home in America. They were not above boasting about their new country, especially to settlers who came from the old country.
Oly went on to tell my husband this story. One man would often speak longingly of his old country to his neighbor, Sven, about the echoes in the mountains surrounding his old home. "I vould call out 'Yonson', " said he, "and 20 minutes later comes back such a strong echo that it would knock me to the ground. "
Well, Sven was not about to let that boast go unchallenged. "You call that an echo?" he scoffed. "Why, here in Minnesota, we can yell 'Yonson' and in less than a minute we'll get 500 echoes saying 'Vich Yonson?'!"
That's the news from Prior Lake, Minnesota.