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COUNTY AGENT GUY

By Staff | Jul 15, 2011

So my wife and I were tooling around Red Wing, Minn. when we espied a sign that carried an ambiguous message: The Uffda Shop.

“At last!” I said, “A place where we Norwegians can stock up on our supply of uffdas. This would no doubt come in handy during times of extreme duress such as when a guy thumps his thumb with a hammer or accidentally drops his lutefisk on the floor.”

My wife thought I had totally misconstrued the meaning of the sign.

“It’s a place for people like me who are married to a dunderhead like you. I’d better go in and buy some extra uffdas for when you say or do something Norwegian. Lord knows I’ll need them!”

Turned out we were both wrong about the establishment. It was actually a gift shop that specialized in Nordic-themed gewgaws, bric-a-brac and knickknacks. You know, stuff.

I was deeply disappointed. My wife, however, was very pleased with this unexpected outcome and spent a good deal of time browsing the merchandise. I have no proof, but think that she was way ahead of me regarding the true meaning of that sign.

While at The Uffda Shop, I heard something about the World’s Largest Boot being housed at a nearby museum.

We of course had to go see this because: A.) it involved a museum, and B.) we are simply that wild and that crazy.

The Red Wing Shoe Store indeed had a museum and it undeniably contained the World’s Largest Boot. The giant clog is stitched with rope that’s as thick as a man’s wrist; its laces seem to have been designed for towing a supertanker.

A placard explained that the boot’s wearer would need to be 120 feet tall, which would make Paul Bunyan look like a runt.

Only in America would we build something so huge, yet so useless. Tears of patriotic pride stung my eyes as I peered down into the cavernous maw of this colossal clodhopper. Or maybe it was the sharp tang of larger-than-life foot odor.

I took some time to explore the museum’s collection of historic work boots, which felt like visiting old friends. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled on Red Wing work boots prior to embarking on morning chores.

Meanwhile, my wife, having found herself alone in a shoe store, located a chair and sat quietly in a corner.

Ha! As if! While I was perusing the museum, she was cruising the discount department. I have never understood why women need so many sets of shoes when they have but two feet.

Many husbands, should they peer into their wives’ closets, might conclude that they are married to a centipede.

All this excitement left us tired and hungry, so we decided to chase down the rumor that a nearby winery served wood-roasted pizza.

Following the directions we were given, we meandered down ever-smaller roads until, somewhere in the wilds of suburban Red Wing, they became a dirt path. My wife grew anxious.

“I think I just heard the banjo music from the movie Deliverance,” she said.

Undeterred, I bravely pressed onward until we reached the end of the dirt path. And there sat Falconer Winery.

Satisfied that we would survive and that there might be an opportunity to shop, my wife relaxed. But this was shopping I would enjoy, as it involved sampling wine.

I’m no connoisseur; my favorite vintage is whatever my glass currently contains. We asked about the rumored wood-roasted pizza. Yes, they served such a thing; would we like to give it a try?

Silly question. My wife and I ordered, then repaired to the winery’s patio area.

As if on cue, a pair of local musicians set up and began to croon an old James Taylor tune. We lounged on lawn chairs and soaked up the music as a soft drizzle fell on the secluded valley. Below us was a tangled riot of emerald and jade grapevines.

After we ate, I chatted with John Falconer, the vineyard’s owner.

“I grew up on a 30-cow dairy farm near Hutchinson,” he said. “I moved here in 1984 and restarted Red Wing Stoneware Company. I sold it in 1998, thinking I’d retire.

“That lasted about six months. We started planting grapes and built this winery and now I’m busier than when I was working!”

I thought about pointing out to John that he had come full circle, from milking cows as a kid to serving cheese nowadays on his delectable pizzas. But I bet this had already occurred to him.

So my wife and I headed back to our car, but not before purchasing some wine.

Only then did it dawn that this had been her plan all along.

Uffda!

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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