It was long ago, but not all that far away.
Our folks took us kids to Grandpa’s farm near Medford most every Thanksgiving, Back in the Day.
We drove from Rochester, up Highway 14 West, through Dodge Center, to Claremont, and headed northwest into deepest, darkest Havana Township, past the mysterious city of Havana, unincorporated, and on into exotic Clinton Falls Township.
Finally we turned up the driveway of Grandpa’s 1870 farmhouse. And had to wait in the car while Grandpa settled down Timber, his enthusiastic German Shepherd partner.
A host of cousins usually joined us.
The uncles would gather in the living room with Grandpa, discussing the state of the Minnesota Vikings and the best routes to get from place to place in The Cities, while Grandpa smoked his cigar and nodded his approval.
“The Heck!” he’d exclaim upon hearing a bit of outlandish news.
Meanwhile, the aunts gathered in the kitchen and talked aunty stuff, while most of the kid cousins rampaged around outside.
Finally, we would eat, always a fantastic feast, topped by amazing desserts.
Dad let me drive us to the farm for Thanksgiving when I was learning to drive. Dessert one of those years included Grasshopper Pie, which includes a liqueur, Crème de Menthe.
I enjoyed three or four pieces of that amazing stuff. And Dad, figuring I was drunk, refused to let me drive home.
You can’t be too safe.
Little by little the aunts and uncles and cousins departed. Us Johnsons were usually the last to go, waving goodbye and hollering “Thanks for everything!” as we piled into the ol’ Ford Ranch Wagon.
It was dark, and cold until Dad got the heater going. He tapped his toe on the floor to give us bright headlights.
Mom would switch on the radio and swing through the channels ‘til she found “CBS Radio Mystery Theatre,” hosted spookily by E.G. Marshall, who was born in nearby Owatonna.
The national broadcast was always fascinating to a kid sitting in the back seat of a car heading into the pitch black of a chilly late autumn evening in southeastern Minnesota.
I can still picture my mom and dad up there, chatting occasionally as they led us home.
Us kids snuggled together in the back, listening to the radio drama unfold.
Ol’ E.G. always signed off in scary fashion: “Until next time, pleasant … dreams?”
All too soon we rolled up our gravel driveway, and Dad, as always, waited ‘til the last second to expertly apply the brakes.
We stormed back, a big, noisy crew, into our good old house, which always seemed glad to have us back.
If only I could do it all over again.
Great memories, though.
How lucky can one guy get?