Tales of St. Olaf Page 1 of 2
Rose's incredible stories of her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota.
Rose: I remember when I was a little girl back in St. Olaf. There was this old lady who lived up the street. She never smiled. I mean, she always looked angry. The kids said she'd kill anyone who even stepped on her property. We called her Mean Old Lady Higgenlooper.
Blanche: Yeah, kids can be pretty cruel.
Rose: No. That was her name. Mean Old Lady Higgenlooper. She had it changed legally 'cause everybody called her that anyway.
Blanche: Then how come your name isn't Big Dummy?
Rose: Well, there were already three other people in town with that name. But that's beside the point. One day I got up the courage to go up to Mean Old Lady Higgenlooper and ask her why she always frowned. Well, she had been born with no smiling muscles. I pointed out that a frown is just a smile turned upside down. So from then on, whenever I'd go by, she'd stand on her head and wave.
Rose: Therapy's a wonderful idea. Oh, I remember St. Olaf's most famous psychotherapists, the Freud brothers, Sigmund and Roy. You may have read their bestseller, "If I Have All the Cheese I Want, Why Am I Still Unhappy?"
Rose: Oh, good, you're home for the Festival of the Dancing Virgins. The sauce is almost ready.
Dorothy: I'm not staying for dinner tonight. There's a meeting at Mensa. That's the organization for people with high IQs like mine.
Rose: You know, in St. Olaf we had a chapter of Mensa, and across the room was Girlsa. No, wait, those were the bathrooms at St. Olaf's only Italian restaurant.
Rose: Well, it wasn't unnatural in St. Olaf. We not only took care of our old people, we revered them, honored them, put them on a pedestal. 'Course, that's how we got to be the broken hip capital of the Midwest.
Rose: That's a St. Olaf war bond. Charlie bought us those in '42. I didn't realize I still had those.
Blanche: Wait a minute. Are you telling me that St. Olaf printed its own war bonds?
Rose: Yes. Oh, we were very patriotic. In late '42, we wanted to fund the development of a top-secret weapon that we were sure would end the war. Attack cows.
Blanche: Take me now, Lord.
Rose: No one expects trouble from a cow. The plan was, we would drop these highly trained killer cows behind the enemy lines. It wasn't till they were airborne that we realized a cow can't pull a rip cord. Well, the project wasn't a total failure. If there's one thing the Germans hate, it's a mess.
Rose: Oh, speaking at Career Day is quite a responsibility. I still remember Career Day back in St. Olaf.
Sophia: Check, please.
Rose: Gunther Hanchap, St. Olaf's leading shepherd and notary, came to speak. It was so moving when he talked about his solitary existence with the sheep. No human contact for months at a time. Ugh. Just building a special relationship with God's simple creatures. I really wanted to help.
Blanche: So you decided to become a shepherd?
Rose: No. I decided to give Gunther a case of Scotch. And he really appreciated it, until he discovered what mean drunks sheep are. They're kind of like cows when they're drunk. You know what I mean?
Dorothy: Look, Marguerite is a lovely person. She just cannot do the job.
Rose: [sighs] I hate to admit it, but you're right. We had a similar situation back in St. Olaf, with Mrs. Gunderson, our grade school teacher. Oh, she was the nicest woman you'd ever want to meet, but as the years went by, she got her facts a little confused. In biology class she started telling kids that the human body was made up of 80% Ovaltine. While we were studying WWI, she told us mustard gas was something you got from eating too many hot dogs. That's why to this day in St. Olaf, everyone celebrates the 4th of July with a thin omelet on a bun.
Dorothy: What do you say after we fire Marguerite, we each chip in and get Rose a CAT scan.
Rose: I sure miss a traditional St. Olaf Christmas.
Dorothy: Excuse me, Rose, do we have time to run out and get hit by a bus?
Rose: First there'd be the Christmas pageant, with the shepherds and the angels and the two wise men.
Blanche: There were three wise men, Rose.
Rose: Not in St. Olaf. Then we'd all go down to the town square and try to form a circle. And then we'd all go home and smoke kippers.
Blanche: Why, Rose?
Rose: Because it's the best way to get your house to smell like kippers. And then in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, it was traditional to let all the animals sleep inside that night. And then, the next morning, the rumors would start. And they'd continue until New Year's, and we'd all make resolutions that it would never happen again. But then, the next year, all it took was a little eggnog and one wise guy saying, "What the hell! It's Christmas."
Rose: Dorothy, in times like these, you have to hold onto your faith, just like Hans Gluckenflunken, St. Olaf's greatest explorer.
Dorothy: Rose, please, let me have a little recovery time before you start a St. Olaf story.
Rose: You see, Hans Gluckenflunken set out for Florida to find the Fountain of Intelligence. Unfortunately, when he got to Duluth, he took a left instead of a right and he wound up back in St. Olaf. That's how he got his nickname, Wrong Way Gluckenflunken.
Dorothy: Rose, how is this a story about faith?
Rose: Well, when he got back, it was the dead of winter. Tired and hungry, but still clinging to his belief that he would find the Fountain of Intelligence, he saw the miracle water trickling out of the ground, and he fell to his knees and tasted it. Unfortunately, it was a broken sewer main. Two days later, he died of cholera.
Dorothy: What is the point, Rose?
Rose: He was positive he had found the Fountain of Intelligence. In fact, his dying words were, "I think I've learned something from this."
Rose: Please, Blanche, please. I'm too scared to go back to my room. This kind of thing has always frightened me, ever since I was a little girl, when I first heard my parents whispering about the St. Olaf slasher.
Rose: Yes. Oh, he terrorized St. Olaf for months. In the dark of night, he'd sneak into an unsuspecting farmer's field and mercilessly slash his scarecrow to shreds.
Blanche: He was a scarecrow slasher?
Rose: Primarily. Although he was suspected in the disfigurement of several whisk brooms. Oh, I was so scared at night, I'd sleep in the closet so he couldn't find me.
Blanche: Well, all right, Rose, how does it make you feel?
Rose: To be honest, a little bit like Mr. Snuffles.
Sophia: Blanche, would you mind? You're closer to the knife drawer.
Rose: One summer, when I was a little girl, Henrietta, our pig, gave birth to a litter of six. And the next day, my father won the annual St. Olaf watermelon-seed spitting contest and he brought home a prize piglet.
Blanche: Mr. Snuffles.
Sophia: You're listening?
Rose: Anyway, I loved Mr. Snuffles. I watched him grow. I suffered with him. The way Henrietta's brood made him feel like such an outsider. It was an awful thing to see.
Sophia: Hey, hearing it is no walk in the park.
Rose: Mr. Snuffles never did get over his feeling of alienation. He grew fat and despondent. The last report we had on him, he stowed away in a truck to Chicago and tearfully surrendered himself to the Oscar Mayer people. I don't want that to happen to me, Sophia.
Rose: We had a Festival of the Dancing Virgins in St. Olaf, too. Every year, we'd go down to the lake, and they'd be flopping around on the dock. Oh, no, wait. That was the Festival of the Dancing Sturgeons.
Dorothy: What is wrong with you, woman?
Rose: I think it's great that you want to have your baby here. Boy, in St. Olaf, the mother was always with the daughter when she gave birth. And if the mother was out of town, then the mother of the father was there. And if she was out of town, then we'd call Lucky Gunther.
Dorothy: Oh, what the hell. She has a birthday coming up. Why, Rose?
Rose: After the thresher accident, they replaced Lucky's arm with a forceps. Yep. Lucky Gunther. He was in charge of delivering babies and handing out corn at the Rotary picnics.
Dorothy: Shut up, Rose.
Rose: I can relate to the festivities part, Sophia. All our children were conceived on special St. Olaf holidays. Adam was conceived on the Day of the Princess Pig when they had the pig crowning, and Jeanella was conceived on Hay Day. That's the day we St. Olafians celebrate hay.
Dorothy: Rose, do you think you could wrap this up before Rebecca goes into labor?
Rose: Then there was the Day of the Wheat when everybody came to town dressed as sandwiches. Charlie and I forgot to put cheese between us and before I knew it, there was Kirsten.
Blanche: I guess it's just like that old saying: opposites attract.
Rose: Oh, that's very true. Back in St. Olaf, Ollie Canudenspringle and his wife Bridget were opposites in every way. I mean, he was fat, she was thin. He was neat, she was sloppy. He was tall, she was short. He was cheap, she was extravagant. He was...
Sophia: Opposites. We get the picture.
Rose: Well, anyway, I'll never forget the time they sang at our annual talent show, right after the herring juggling act.
Blanche: You mean to tell me that somebody actually juggled herring.
Rose: No. It was the herring who did the juggling. Tiny little Ginsu knives. Really very dangerous. I mean, one false move, they could have filleted themselves.