Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Summer in a small town somewhere else

I was among a small group of three who decided to explore downtown Crosby, Minn., the nearest town to the lake house my husband’s family inhabited for a few days this past week.

The population is 2,300, so it has a few more residents than Carrington. This central Minnesota town had a fair amount of traffic that Saturday afternoon, however, a sight that I would love to see in New Rockford or Carrington.

No doubt the lake (one of Minnesota’s 10,000) – and the nearby Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area – are what draws visitors to this small town. And the business community certainly caters to them, with retail shops open long hours on weekends and restaurants and bars with outdoor seating to keep them fed and hydrated on a summer day.

That’s what I love about small towns. You can walk down the streets of one, and it will bear similarities to many others while having a unique flavor of its own.

The various murals reminded me of Bottineau, N.D., my oldest daughter’s new home. It was fun to walk around and see the creativity of the artists.

We were too late for the weekly Farmer’s Market, which is held Saturday mornings in the middle of Main Street, just like it is in Sheyenne. Their town square features wooden arbors providing shade for picnic tables, as well as a beautiful grandfather clock. The clock was a recent addition, as a placard at its base noted the year 2015 as well as the donors who had contributed.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that was evident at the Den of Antiquity, one of three antique stores within a few blocks. It also happened to be the only one open at the time.

Walking through the space, a well-worn historic building with water stains and cracks in its plaster ceiling, was like being in a time lapse video that spanned decades.

I found several items that spoke to me, some of which I would consider more vintage than antique. Take a walk with me through the decades, as seen at the Den of Antiquity:

• 1960s: A Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary from 1961, which cost 35 cents when it was new. There were 25,000 words defined in that small, green paperback, which also included population figures for the United States and Canada. Whenever there’s a question about spelling or grammar at the office, I consult the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It now has 470,000 words!

• 1970s: The Sports Afield Almanac from 1974, which featured a guide to the best fishing days in November of that year and a report that archery was the fastest-growing sport based on equipment purchases. My husband, an avid sportsman, was born in November.

• 1980s: A 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids doll – still sealed in the box – sat on top of a small shelf with square cubbies. She was wearing a red dress and bonnet with white lace trim, and had a plastic pacifier in her mouth. My aunt handmade us dolls that looked just like Cabbage Patch Kids when we were little, so I did what I would have done in my youth and stopped to gaze at the doll before moving on. For a moment I was back inside Berg's Variety Store in downtown Harvey, deciding how to spend the $1 my mom gave us on one of our Saturday shopping trips.

• 1990s: A rotating blacklight CD rack with bright neon colors that glow under a blacklight. I’m actually surprised that my teenage self didn’t have one of these, considering that I spent probably four years under blacklights during my high school and college days. All of my high school friends who came out to our farmhouse signed their name and painted pictures in blacklight paint on my bedroom walls. My husband and I spent a weekend repainting it while we were dating.

• 2000s: A copy of "Birds and Blooms" magazine from 2004, the year we moved back to North Dakota and stayed with my grandfather in Carrington for a few weeks. I remember my grandmother reading that magazine when I was a teenager. Grandma Vonnie loved her flowers – peonies, petunias, geraniums and begonias, to name a few – which she tended in the yard on 2nd Street North in Carrington.

We spent the most time at Victual, which was named the Retailer of the Year for 2022-23 by the Minnesota Retailers Association. This newcomer to the Crosby downtown scene offers some of the finest foods, spirits and gifts under one roof smack dab in the middle of rural Minnesota.

It was a gem of a store, with plenty of opportunity to part with your hard-earned cash. They even had cute gift bags for the wine and spirits, with funny sayings such as “Oaky Fruity Earthy Blah Blah Blah Just Open It,” “Hope you like to share” and “Good Lord you’re hard to buy for.”

It was there we found leather-bound journals. The cover of one read, “What you say disappears, but what you write remains.” That’s right, what I said in the store has been forgotten, yet this column about our trip will be archived and available to read more than 100 years from now.

The stickers also caught my eye. One said, “I’m silently correcting your grammar,” and featured a drawing of a pair of blue eyes and arched, dark eyebrows behind wire-rimmed glasses. The editor’s scowl, I surmised.

At Victual, I bought a bar of the creamiest dark chocolate I have ever tasted. The cacao is sourced from Uganda, Africa, and the chocolate is made in small batches. This particular bar was made with coconut milk and featured a delicious mix of sweet coconut and bitter cacao. My sister-in-law bought a round of Mexican chocolate, and we had a mini-sampling back at the lake house. The consensus was that the Mexican chocolate, although it had a gritty texture, was sweeter and thus more favored.

“That’s okay,” I said. “That means more for me!” It reminded me of when I was a kid, when my siblings and I would raid the bag of Hersey’s miniatures mom and dad brought home. I always got all the Special Dark bars, because no one else really liked them.

Maybe one day I’ll return to Crosby, and I’ll take the time to enjoy a meal and drinks on one of the rooftop patios we saw on our way back to the pickup. They certainly looked inviting that day, although we needed to get back for more family time.

On the trip back home, we stopped at a Casey’s General Store in Detroit Lakes. Interestingly enough, I bumped into a girl I went to high school with. She and her male companion were in town for meetings. Beth, it was nice seeing you! And at that moment the trip came full circle, as if I had walked into the Cenex station in Fessenden after school and stopped to talk to a friend.

I read one of the books from my summer reading list on the way home, “Famous in a Small Town” by Viola Shipman. I discovered that another small town awaits me, in another state I have yet to experience. Good Hart, Michigan, and its Tunnel of Trees is now on my small town bucket list. Yes, Jolene, it has a lake!