Saturday, February 11, 2017

Small Town News

Waaay back in time, shortly after the wheel was invented, I went to college in the town of Northfield, Minnesota. It was a town of about 10,000 back then with not one, but two colleges. The sign on the road that leads into town says, "Northfield, Colleges, Cows, and Contentment." It was a sleepy little town only known for the day that Jesse James and his gang, combined with the Younger brothers, rode in to rob the bank. They hadn't counted on a tough bunch of farmers to shoot at them and all the robbers were wounded. The Younger gang were all caught and/or killed eventually and only Frank James and Jesse James escaped and survived. The banker and one of the Swedish farmers were killed. That was 1876.

That was the biggest news that Northfield ever had and every year around September 7th the town celebrates the Defeat of Jesse James Days. About  one hundred years later I was listening to the radio, another newfangled invention, and heard a voice that would become familiar to many people on the continent. It was Garrison Keillor on the Prairie Home Companion back when you could go to the World Theater in St. Paul, wait in line for ten minutes, and for a buck you could get in and see the show.

One of the segments of that show was Garrison reading the law enforcement report from the Northfield News. One of the most common reasons the police were called was because keys were locked in a car. The reason that this was such an eyebrow raiser was that not many people locked their cars back then and when they did it was usually by mistake, hence the keys were in the vehicle.

In a small town many folks recognize each other by the cars or trucks they drive and since it is a small town every one knows everyone else's business. Most people leave their keys in the car in case someone needs to borrow it. If you leave your purse or wallet on the front seat and someone takes it the merchants at the shops will recognize who the object belongs to. This is a great deterrent and keeps the crime rate low.

Here in Cook County we have a permanent population of just over 5000. In the town of Grand Marais, the social and cultural hub of the county, we have about 1150 souls if everyone stays home and doesn't seek adventure in the larger cities of Silver Bay or Two Harbors which are just down the shore about 50 and 90 miles respectively. If they head the other direction to Thunder Bay, Ontario, they need to bring a passport in order to get back into the U.S. Lately, I have heard some people are headed that way and don't bother with a passport, but I digress.

I wanted to give you all some examples of our Law Enforcement Report which appears weekly in our local fish wrapper newspaper and on our local radio station website. Examples are in italics followed by possible explanation.

Motorist assist.

Maybe a guy needs help with his carburetor.
911 hang up. Turned out to be a misdial. No emergency 

They meant to dial a 1-900 number.
Pick up sentence-to-serve inmate and return to jail.

If your prisoners are going to work they will need a ride.
School release. 

I thought school was released every day about the same time.
Traffic stop, warning given.

Don't do that again!
Century Link is doing some troubleshooting on the hospital phone lines.

This is a police matter?
Inmate visitation. 

They get lonely behind bars.

Vehicle stopped on roadside. 

Better than stopping in the middle of the road.
Party reported snow on the Ski Hill Rd, cannot get to Eagle Ridge.

Someone please come and shovel the road in front of me.
Foot patrol.

Police car out of gas.
Out with person walking on the side of the road. 

The person seemed to need some company.
Saw activity at store, was an employee.

Well, in all fairness, it was 3:30 in the morning.
Reporting the sled dog crossing does not give enough warning. 

I need more time to plan my sled dog watching.

80-year-old needs medical help.

By the time I'm 80 I'll need medical help, too.

Party turned self in on Cook County warrant.

I didn't want you to have to go to the trouble of picking me up at home.
Found stray cat. 

Maybe it wanted to be stray.

92-year-old needs medical help.

Must be the 80-year-old's older brother.
Would like deputy to call back. 

It gets lonely here in the winter.

That is just a small example of what our police department gets called to check on during a typical day or two. There is sometimes something more serious, so it is good that they are trained and prepared. They also don't put everything in these public reports. We did have an actual crime last week where someone broke into one of the laundromats and stole quite a bit of money. As you would expect, it was almost all in quarters.


  1. Small town news is always the best news.

  2. That's the kind of news we're enjoying these days - things like squabbles over developing a building site (they've been debating the issue for 29 years - no kidding). We had a big snowstorm a couple of days ago and a car slid off the road and down an embankment (no injuries) so that was big news, too. Did I mention I'm loving it here?

  3. Your news sounds much like the happenings in our little town. The odd time we do have a serious crime, but those times are few and far between thankfully.

  4. our claim to fame here in Farmington, Maine is Chester Greenwood: inventor of the ear muffs. We have a parade for him every fall.

    We have seven thousand full time residence that swells to nine thousand when college is in session (University of Maine)

    Movie tickets are four dollars and college students get in for two-dollars and fifty cents on Wednesday night.

    We have similar crime stats - usually automobile accidents - sometimes a collision with a moose.

    I love small towns
    the Ol'Buzzard

  5. I thought our town was small but we definitely have more crime than that. Lately much of it seems to be intersection-related. Seems people think a yellow light means "go like heck" ... the police are now cracking down on it. But we've had much worse, even murder. Within the last five years. I'd be grateful for slower news.

  6. Your explanations of the police reports are hilarious.


  7. Thanks for the chuckle and the smile. We will need lots of those in the next four years...

  8. that haul from the laundromat must have been heavy!

  9. It would be news when the 100 year old is doing fine without medical help.

  10. That the kind of news I like to read!

    I remember reading about a town in Canada where it's the law that you have to leave your vehicle unlocked with the keys in it. It for the case when someone encounters a bear and needs a way to escape.

  11. I'm excited to see you blogging again, friend. Prairie Home Companion is a great radio show.
    I laughed when I read about the car pulled over on the roadside. Yeah, good thing. Sheesh. That was a close one.
    Be well.

  12. I'm glad some people remember Jesse James as an outlaw rather than a folk hero. 'That was 1876' is a sentence that makes me think of every Western I ever saw. Some years have a mythic quality.

  13. The Angry Trout café or Sven&Ole's surely can provide a bit of weekend adventure?

  14. I smiled all the way through it. We need more peaceful places like this in our lives
    Love small towns, where you get in your car to drive a block to another store. Local news, Mrs so-and-so visited Mrs such-and -such for coffee Tuesday.
    When I worked for the Hudson's Bay company in Cambridge Bay NWT, there was a break in to the store warehouse and some cases of beer were taken. Limit in town was two cases per person per week, so you can see the motive. The guy left his mitts behind with his initials on them. We laughed that it still took the RCMP three weeks to solve teh crime as they had nothing to do so needed to drag it out.

  15. Ms. Moon, I have always appreciated small town news and humor. Maybe because I was raised in the big city.

    Diane, I am envious of your new location. Vehicles go off the road unintentionally all winter around here. It is only Big News in the summer.

    Cat Lover, We have serious crime every once in a while, but thankfully not very often.

    Ol'Buzzard, We also have the moose/vehicle thing once in a while and I miss the cheap movies of student days. We have to drive a minimum of a couple of hours to see a movie now. P.S. Farmington is mentioned at the beginning of chapter four in a book I just started, "Death in Oslo" by Anne Holt.

    jenny_o, We got our first and only traffic light about ten years ago. People are starting to get the hang of it now.

    Janie, It's just because I wonder about why people do the things they do. With no explanation I have to make things up.

    Sioux, All we can do is fight against the misery and look for a little diversion once in a while.

    anne marie, I wonder if anyone would be suspicious if someone tried to make a down payment on a vehicle with a wheelbarrow full of quarters?

    Bill, That would be the Big Story of the year! I wonder who it will be?

    Bill again, It must be someone with a lot of strength and endurance. Maybe that's a clue.

    Pixel Peeper, Probably someplace like Churchill, Manitoba, where tougher Canadians keep polar bears as companion animals.

    Robyn, I used to live farther up in the woods where you had to assume someone pulled over to relieve themselves. Not much plumbing in a national forest.

    Gorilla B, That was the U.S. Centennial year. Maybe Jesse and the boys needed to fund a big celebration. If they had worked a 9 to 5 job and pooled their money they may not have been shot.

    onevikinggirl, The Trout is closed for the season (ran into the owner at a hygge celebration the other night), but an Uff Da 'zah from S & O's can be had any time.

    Blog Fodder, The paper has a "down Memory Lane" section where they take news from the paper at 10,20,50, and 90 years ago. Here are two from 90 years ago. " The drug store had a telephone installed this week. Number 79." And " Several of the young girls hiked to Maple Hill Tuesday evening and had lunch with Mr. and Mrs, Alfred Berglund." Maybe lunch was an evening meal back then.

  16. I grew up in a one horse prairie town of 1700 people. I remember the days when no one locked their doors to their homes or cars, and left their keys in the car or even running in the winter, without fear of theft.

  17. Debra, I left my truck running and unlocked a couple of days ago while I went into the grocery store for a few things. It was very cold out. I only lock it if my camera or something like that is in it during peak tourist season.

  18. I once read about another laundromat robbery (or maybe it was a bunch of vending machines) where the accused person posted his bail in quarters! :)

  19. If you get a chance read the police reports on the official unalaska website ( its a small town in alaska)
    Your post reminded me if it......its hilarious

  20. Jennifer, The last time a laundromat in town was robbed (about 20 years ago) there was a security camera and the perp had on a football jersey with his name across the back.

    John Gray, Thanks for that. There used to be one in Montana that made it seem like the town was made up entirely of alcoholics doing foolish things.

  21. when my eldest son says that he will settle in western countries like London or European like Germany i say "but you will find peace in country sides not in big cities" but he is young so he has his plans to run his own business of software engineering which is more easy big cities.
    in my whole life i missed my native village and though we will be shifting near it in next some years i still want to live in the house where my childhood was passed with my parents and siblings

  22. our news is like that...except we have drugs now.

  23. I love all of these. We both come from a very small town much like this, and are all too familiar with so many of these types of police calls.

    Century Link is doing some troubleshooting on the hospital phone lines.

    This is a police matter?

    Yes, since it involves Century Link I believe the police terminology is "robbery in progress."

  24. baili, The way the world is now connected may give your eldest son the ability to work from anywhere. He will learn that someday.

    JACKIESUE, Tha seeps in just about everywhere, doesn't it?

    ABFTS, You forgot fraud in progress, too.

  25. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts and watch a lot of true crime documentaries. It's always funny to see what happens when small-town police officers get called to a crime like a murder. They're not used to any of it, even though they're trained. They often have to call for help from a nearby town.

  26. The evening news for your area must be quite peaceful. I liked the “foot patrol” and all the explanations you gave. Here, in greater Atlanta, GA., our evening news always includes some crime unfortunately. I read that we were number 18 out of the top 25 murder capitals in the US – not a ranking to be proud of. I hope this year we can move to our new house in Nashville. But there again, I bet the police has more to do than visiting the country music bars.