Minneapolis [14]

We’d hopped onto 81, heading north, then hopped off again on Kiowa road, heading into Minneapolis at its southern end.
Al pushed the eject button and put the Louis Armstrong cd away properly in its case, endearing me to him a little bit more. He put the box back on the floor between his long legs and silently looked out his window at the little houses we were passing.
He indicated that I should turn north on S. Rock as I reached that t-intersection, then softly said Grace’s name. She grumbled and roused herself slowly, her stretching arms reflected in my rearview.
“Left up here,” he said, pointing, as we reached 1st street. And two blocks later, “Left again.”
The Ottawa County Museum was a one-story steel building with a simple glass door in its front. It looked a lot like somebody just took a small highway department building and just repurposed it. There was a blue-letter sign on the facade reading, “Ottawa County Museum”. There was a wagon and a flagpole and a few old ploughs set up out front. A rural mailbox on a post to the left of the door. Nice and neat, basic, clean and simple.
On the door were the hours and posted in the sidelights were a few paper signs.
I parked at the kerb in front, and Albert hopped out, strode to the door and rapped with one knuckle- four quick knocks, three sort of hesitating ones, a quick and then two hesitating,a hesitating and two quicks, and then hesitating/quick/2 hesitating.
I didn’t know WHAT he was saying, but I knew he was saying it in Morse code.
Meanwhile, Grace and I got out of the car in a bit more leisurely fashion. I made the old lady groany noise as I stretched, she made the younger lady groany noise as she did the same. Our eyes met across the roof of the car and we laughed.
The sun was beginning to “wester”, heading into that golden hour light that photographers love to play with, and which is one of the more glorious things about Kansas. The morning had been chilly but- as is usual there- the afternoon was fairly warm. I’d taken off my jacket when we got into the car, and now I was regretting my morning’s choice of clothing as the thermometer inched upward. But there was no rethinking wardrobe for the time being.
A tall older man with a brown face and a white brushy mustache unlocked the door and pulled it open a bit, cocking his head slightly to one side as Albert quietly spoke to him.
I heard “it’s worse’n we thought” “made a dent” “gotta new one”. The man dropped his chin to his chest, heaved a big sigh, and yanked the door open wide. Albert turned, and gestured to the two of us to hurry inside.
Contrary to the neat, simple, and prosaic facade, the interior of the Ottawa County Museum is a fleamarketeer’s delight. The place is jam packed with amazing piles of stuff. Glass cases and shelves and dioramas and paintings and piles of old farming kit are cheek and jowl with dainty souvenir doll collections from around the world brought home by missionary types. And in one corner, prized above all else, is a small shrine venerating George Washington Carver, the genius horticulturalist who brought peanuts out of obscurity and in so doing, fed the world. Turns out that after having been born into slavery, abducted by slavers as an infant, raised by a series of foster families, and struggling to obtain his education while witnessing lynchings and murders of black folks the whole time, he managed to arrive in Minneapolis- and graduated high school there.
The tall brown-faced man rounded on Albert as soon as we were all safely out of sight of the doorway. “This is bad, Al, we cannot just leave things as they are.”
“Well, no, of course we can’t. But you also know that we cannot do this with the usual measures. We MUST escalate our endeavors.”
Grace harrumphed once, raising her chin a bit haughtily, and the men stopped speaking and looked at her. She rolled her eyes ever so slightly at them, and immediately turned her attention to a small display of fine china teacups on a nearby wall.
Albert reddened a bit and then cleared his throat himself.
“I apologize. Charlie, please meet Laurel. Laurel, Charlie.”
He took my hand in both of his large ones, bending forward slightly in a small almost-bow.
“Miss Laurel, I am most delighted to meet you,” he rumbled. “I’m afraid the current situation has both Albert and myself somewhat flummoxed and less than mindful of our manners.”
I was almost embarrassed to be the focus of such elevated attention. It was refreshing and pleasant, to say the least. I decided to channel the heroine from a historical novel, and demurely said, “Thank you so much. The pleasure is mine.”
A small twinkle flickered through Charlie’s eyes, and a ripple through the brush on his upper lip, but he said nothing more. He and Albert headed off to some back office, speaking in low voices.
Grace turned from the teacups and said, “I’m starving. Let’s get some lunch together.”

Published by goddesswest

I'm a painter and am writing something now. People keep asking me to put it together in an easier to access place, so here I am. Plan to get some of my artwork in here too, eventually.

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