Every October, I head with the folks through southeastern Minnesota and into La Crosse, Wisconsin, to see the fall colors along the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley and its tributaries. It’s a family tradition dating back to when I was a young boy, and has been a pretty lucrative venue for smoker sightings, yielding about a half dozen sightings over the years. But far and away the best came in 2007, having just crossed the bridge from Wisconsin into La Crescent, Minnesota, where a Kwik Trip gas station is located past the first stoplight in the Minnesota side.
As luck would have it, my dad made a wrong turn and we had to cut through this Kwik Trip parking lot, at the very time a trio of young Amish people emptied out of a vehicle, including two 18-22ish guys and a girl no older than 16. Despite riding in an automobile, the trio were still decked out in traditional Amish clothing, with the long-haired blond girl wearing a very conservative light blue dress. There are hundreds of Amish families in Minnesota’s southeastern corner and I’m sure there’s a wide variety of different sects among them with a wide variety of adherence to Amish tradition, but I was still a little surprised to see these three young Amish people coming out of a car. But I was even more surprised to see that the Amish girl that was stepping out of the car had a smoldering cigarette in her hand.
I was under a compressed timeline here as my dad was meandering through this Kwik Trip lot and heading back to the highway, but I was able to look out the back windshield in complete fascination in observance of the cute and perky Amish girl brandishing a cigarette. As crazy as it was to see her smoking, it was even crazier than the guys in her company were not, and underscoring this reality was the sighting’s finale as the girl held open the Kwik Trip door and let the two guys in her company inside before she sat down on the curb and took a drag from her cigarette. I knew as my dad drove the car out of sight that I had just witnessed one of the most unusual smoker sightings I’d ever see, and more than three years later I can definitely continue to say that my initial instinct was right.