The Last Windrow: What's it take to be a local?

A reflection on community acceptance.

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I heard a comment from a guy last week asking when he would live long enough in a community to be considered a "local". I got to thinking of what that word "local" meant and I've come up with some ideas of my own.

I moved to Minnesota over fifty years ago and I'm not yet sure I'm considered by some to be a real "local". I've tried to bleed into the fabric of the communities I've lived in here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and a few swamps, but I'm not totally sure I'm still received as a true "local". There are some guidelines. I'm sure the farm country I came from in Iowa has the same requirements of being a "local", but I'm not going into those here. Maybe later.

To be viewed as a true "local" the following suggestions could prove fruitful:

A true "local" knows who brings what dish to the community pot luck. You can depend on Shirley to bring the baked beans, Edith will bring her Waldorf salad, Jennie will tote in her slow cooked meatballs and Wilma will supply the fried chicken. If you want to be seen as a "local" in this group you would be wise to ask Helen about what you might want to add to the menu. Simply bringing a dish that you personally like will exclude you from wearing the "local" tag.

You won't be a seen as a true "local" at the downtown coffee sipper's table if you plop down in a chair that is usually reserved for one of the "local" sippers. There are quasi owners of those chairs and you would be seen as intrusive if you just came in the door and took a chair that was silently reserved for the guy who shows up at nine o'clock. Better to sit in a booth and wait for someone to leave before entering. "Locals" know when to come and when to go.


"Locals" know all the good fishing spots, blueberry patches and cranberry bogs in these parts. A true "local" would never ask another "local" where he found his bounty. Only those new to the area would venture to ask a "local" where he might catch a crappie or pick a ripe chokecherry. The question might go unanswered and some "locals" would actually lie to the newbie and send him or her in the wrong direction. I found that out after I was led astray by a "local" friend who was protecting his secret cranberry bog. Better not to ask a "local" such a question. Just keep your ears open.

If you want to come close to becoming a "local" it would behoove you to stop and help remove a "local's" car out of a un-plowed driveway. I call it "local" sweat equity. One must be seen as a giving soul before entering into the "local" category. I've dug frozen fish houses off lakes, dug snowmobiles out of lake slush, pulled "locals" out of ditches and donated ripe sweet corn to "locals" who didn't raise a garden. I'm making progress.

I read somewhere that you'll only be considered a true "local" after you've had two family members buried in the local cemetery. Well, there I qualify. It seems a bit harsh, don't you think. But maybe it's true?

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

So, to that person who was wondering about when they will become known as a "local", I say bide your time. The community will get around to welcoming you as a "local" when experience and history dictates it.

One sure way to get the "local" name tag up here in the Nordic country is to attend and dine at the annual lutefisk dinner. If there is only one thing you could do to hasten your being known as a "local", it would be to be seen with a fork-full of fish about to enter your mouth. Yes, that would do it.

I love my "locals" and wouldn't trade them for the world. Just so I'm clear on that. They're listening.

See you next time. Okay?

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