Hidden in Plain View

Dateline: Plainview, MN , pop. 3408,

The Heart of the Greenwood Prairie

Saturday, June 25, 2011
Country Breakfast on the Farm
Location: Little Valley Dairy
Donny & Holly Thompson, owners

Rochester is in the rear view mirror as we drift eastward through bucolic Olmsted County, a county without a lake, not a single one, in a state with the motto: Land of 10,000 Lakes.   Planning to neither fish nor swim today, as investigative journalists our objective is a 5 dollar pancake, cheese, sausage breakfast, on a “reported” dairy farm, with “supposedly” 182 Holsteins☀, 1 crossbred, and 1 Brown Swiss who are “speculated” to produce 27,000 pounds of milk a year.

This is an obvious undercover scam, because we all know milk comes from a refrigerated wall at Trader Joe’s®, produced in plastic milk cartons, free of rBST, @ $1.99/half gallon, between the 2% Greek yogurt to the left and the organic brown eggs on the right.

However, we arrive at the Little Valley Dairy on CR 10 NE, nearly 4 miles south of Plainview, along with 100’s of families who have been duped by this sign:

Time: 6:30 am – 11:30 a.m.
Details:  Enjoy a pancake breakfast.
Sponsor: Rochester Ag Committee, Olmsted County Farm Bureau Federation

Do these people look like someone you might trust ?

Tents, tables, vintage tractors, modern combines, milk parlor, barns, hay, more hay, cows, more cows, and celebrities;

“Victor”, the suspicious official mascot of the Minnesota Vikings attempting a ‘field goal’.  Behind the facade of this uniform, the now retired Brett Favre, who, has at last found a real job.  He still knows how to make a “pass”.

L- Mutant corn on the cob; R-Undercover agent

Donny Thompson in profile, Hollywood material for “Survivor-Dairy Farm”, a series coming to you soon

In spite of all the misconception, the people watching and the breakfast were both delicious.  Armed with a full tummy we learned that:

and except for a Dairy Queen, no one can consume 7 gallons of ice cream in a single day.

The sights, sounds, and the aroma combine to make this the most memorable Saturday morning ever.

Thank heavens for holsteins, John Deere, and little girls

¤Holstein- a black and white milk producing hybrid between a buffalo and a dalmatian, with four, very large, ice cream dispensers.

We came away, convinced, that the photo below is true, that milk subsidies are essential, calcium builds strong bones, and running a 970 acre dairy farm is fun, demanding, and at times, very dangerous, and the debt we owe Donny and Holly Thompson defies translation into words.


p.s. These two “tired” imps tried to convince this investigator that hamburger comes from feeder cattle and NOT McDonald’s, so I am off on a new assignment:

ooo❍❍❍OOO are you really Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC ???



Antidote for Alumapalooza


For those of you suffering an overdose of fun, friends, and adventure in Jackson Center, the following may offer temporary relief from indefatigable hilarity, and, like Beano® or Lactaid®, excess gas.

The Storm Team disaster, severe weather, catastrophic, tornado alert staff has turned on the stereophonic sirens and the three of us have descended to the safety basement shelter of our 1855 farmhouse.  I stare blankly at the ceiling, 2″ x 8″ joists of hand hewn oak beams, and wonder could this be the day ?  Really, the old house has stood for 156 years (56,989 days counting leap years) and this may be the big one.  I’m not making light of anyone’s misfortune and for the moment can empathize with the people of Joplin, MO.

Laundry table tornado emergency kit: wife, oxygen canister, Jack, candle, flashlight, cell phone, lighter, two beers, and a favorite photo of late mother-in-law

The warning subsided, so we left town, destination Rochester, MN.

Currently overlooking the Wisconsin River in picturesque, Guttenburg, Iowa, where barges float quietly toward the Mississippi.  Yes, that Guttenburg, honoring the famed printer of the 13th century, the same guy known for selling 21 copies of a well known, ostensibly non-fiction religious work.  He did not, however, ever reach #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.

Jack, driven to the levee in a Silverado Chevy, recalling his days with Rin Tin Sawyer aboard an old river houseboat

The ride north on US 52 is a memorable slice of the Iowan midwest; Garanvillo (“Gem of the Prairie”), Monona (“Garden City of Iowa”), Postville (“Hometown to the World”).  Vibrant small towns, farms, picturesque homes, farms, manicured lawns, more farms, active small businesses with neighbors sidewalk chatting, none of the buildings yet emaciated and now vacated by the “big box” phenomenon.  The largest sign entering the towns is either the list of community churches, or the line-up of service clubs; Lions, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, FFA.

Sun up on on the WI and IA border, at a scenic turnout overlooking the Wisconsin River

We’ve reached Rochester and already Jack is making friends with a neighbor, who, sadly, is made of molded water-extended polystyrene.

Yo, white boy.  Don’t you want a whiff of me ??  Hello.

Oh, to be at the Alumapalooza.

Folk Art & Pornography

share an adage, ” The definition eludes me, but I know it when I see it”. Today will be devoted to folk art.  

US 54 is an uncommon road, in contrast to the widely acknowledged US 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Sante Fe Trail, or the Natchez Trace.  Commencing a few miles north of Kingdom City, MO (think heaven) it meanders in a southwesterly path toward El Paso, TX and terminates 1120 miles later at the bridge to Juarez, MX (think hell).

We enjoy it most from Jefferson City, MO, the only US state capital not serviced by an interstate highway, to Tucumcari, NM.  Allowing a bypass of Kansas City, and an easy circumvention of Wichita, it is smooth sailing through dozens of towns, some small, others even smaller.  “Big” towns, county seat examples Pratt, KS (pop. 9437) and Meade, KS (pop. 4662) have a wal-mart, and often little else for the inquisitive, but I love the sidestreets.


In Pratt, KS, the Lesh Automotive promotes two auto marquees that no longer exist 

Greensburg, home to the country’s largest hand-dug well, has become a vibrant community, rebuilding after a disastrous EF5 tornado on May 4, 2007.  Take a moment to click on this photo, taken 12 days after the tornado, with highway 54 east-to-west in the foreground.

Most of the small towns on the highway are in a state of atrophy, shrinking gradually, in both population and economic prowess.  A haunting overture that they are becoming ghost towns in waiting. Boarded businesses, for sale, abandoned houses and shabby trailers, sprinkled among soon to fail ‘hispanic’ carnicerias and c-stores.

Enough gloom; not every lining has a silver cloud until you round the bend, cross the railroad bridge and approach Mullinville, KS ( est. pop. 28).  Here, for two hundred yards, stand several dozen metal windmills and whirligigs capturing the same currents that power the giant wind turbines in this stark, daunting landscape. Who and why they are here is a mystery;

  • no sign in advance to alert the upcoming traveler
  • no indication or recognition of the metal ‘artist’
  • no warning signs to stay away or keep out
  • no donation box

Jack and I walk to the steady hum of one mans’ passion, a sturdy, functional, patinated, and groaning passion.  Without a video, you must imagine the action as the winds whip them wildly. Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if this display fails to enrich the soul, check your pulse.  Much like the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo or the VW Beetles buried nose down in NM, here is a sampling:

dscn6053.JPG The Conductor



American comic book superhero of the 1940s oversees the home of the US 7th Fleet in southern Japan


Jack’s attention turns to a pocket gopherdscn6059.JPG 

Fluent in seven languages, he failed reading in English

From here, we head west to Meade, KS, another blip on our radar.  If they don’t have a gentlemen’s club, we’ll stop and visit the Hideout of the Dalton Gang.