Two Harbors, MN – August 18, 2012
I checked the mirrors one last time and turned the key on Kenny’s pickup truck. The engine hummed to life, smooth and well taken care of. I slid the transmission into reverse, and eased out of the driveway.
“Take it wherever you want,” Kenny told me that morning when he dropped it off at his brother Keith’s place. “You can’t get lost in Two Harbors.”
I took a left and crossed a railroad track that Kenny and Keith used to drive trains on.
“Once you come over the ridge, it’s mountain grade all the way into town,” Keith told me. “You really have to watch it coming in.”
Not too far down the road, I passed the farm Gunner grew up in. There’s an old, red barn that looks like it comes out of a movie set.
“We used to play basketball all winter long up on the second story,” Kenny told me. “Gunner could really shoot.”
Another turn and I saw the harbor with its giant ore docks waiting to load freighters bound for steel mills.
“Those are the docks Gunner use to work on,” Kenny told me when he picked me up from the harbor yesterday. “His nickname was ‘The Godfather’ down there.”
The old Two Harbors lighthouse stood on the edge of the bay. It’s red brick bright against the blue lake behind it. Kenny and Keith had tried to buy it when it went up for sale a few years back.
“But they ended up selling it to the historical society for $1,” Kenny said.
“I bet you would have paid twice that!” I said.
“At least twice,” Kenny said.
Kenny found me at the Lake County News Chronicle office talking to Tammy Francois, an editor at the paper. He’d been picking up his grandkids in Minneapolis and wanted to make sure I was getting along ok.
“You need anything?” Kenny asked. “You know where the house is, right? Just walk on in, the door’s open for you.”
He’d shown me last night as we drove around town along with Gunner’s place, parents’ houses, old houses, his little brother’s restaurant Dixie with all-you-can-eat fried fish on Fridays, and a half-dozen other places they’d had a hand in building or living or growing up in. It seemed like I could have walked up to any building in town and found a piece of Kenny and Keith’s story woven through it.
I asked him to tell me how to get to his house one more time. I didn’t want to be the only person to get lost in Two Harbors.
Kenny smiled at me for a moment then explained it in a single turn.
“Up the street then left,” he said. “You can’t get lost in Two Harbors. Just go on in. The door’s open.”
I’d asked Tammy how she’d ended up in Two Harbors earlier and she answered me as we watched Kenny leave with his wife and grandkids to go to the mayor’s festival downtown.
“You can leave your door open here,” she said.
Tammy’s story about the trip is here: http://www.twoharborsmn.com/event/article/id/23904/
Tammy also wrote about my experience with the term “Minnesota Nice” and the kindness of strangers. That story can be found here: http://www.twoharborsmn.com/event/article/id/23941/group/Opinion/