I’m a road trip junkie, navigating Minnesota and neighboring states on weekend safaris in the summer. As much as I enjoy these journeys, they rarely yield memorable sightings since I spend most of the time in the car. The one major exception to that rule was this epic monster from July 2001 in the small farm town of Madison, Minnesota, (population 1,700) near the South Dakota border.
To provide a little context for how much of a hayseed enclave this town is, the Scandinavian-influenced community proclaims itself the “lutefisk capital of North America” (and for those not familiar, lutefisk is an absolutely disgusting fish native to Scandinavia), where there are lutefisk caricatures painted on the water towers, carved into trees in the city park, and dotted along lampposts downtown. They’ve even made the national news for this goofy eccentricity and the annual lutefisk-eating festival. Farming is the primary economic engine of the aging and fairly depressed region.
Anyway, I was driving into town nearly 10 years ago and pulled into the local gas station to take a closer look at my map to find the best town to stop at for the evening. As I studied the map, I was distracted by the incoming noise of a minivan engine pulling into the gas station. I looked up to see the minivan pulling to a parking stall two stalls to my left, and saw a feminine arm wielding a cigarette hanging out the passenger side window. I didn’t see the girl from that angle, but could tell from my split-second glimpse from when she pulled in that she was young and cute. The door opened and out stepped this angellic 14-15ish blond with a cute ponytail….the very embodiment of the stereotypical “farmer’s daughter” who looked like a shoo-in for the county’s next “Dairy Princess” and/or the leader of the local Future Farmers of America chapter in her high school….yet there she was, holding a half-smoked cork-filter cigarette in her hand. After stepping out, she stretched her youthful body while dangling the cigarette from her lips. The stretch accentuated her perky young breasts and thin feminine bodily features, but it was hard not to look at that cigarette dangling from her lips.
And as if things weren’t hot enough, the back door of the minivan opened and out stepped a nonsmoking younger brother about 10 or 11 whose big sister proceeded to playfully ruffle his hair with the free hand not holding her cigarette (poor kid doesn’t stand a chance of avoiding the smoking fetish). Mother soon made an appearance from the driver’s seat, and wasn’t half bad herself with that cork filter in her hand. Both mother and daughter took final drags from their cigarettes before heading into the gas station and concluding my best mother-daughter sighting of all-time. At least here in the Midwest, small town convenience stores often make pizzas, and it was clear that this family was here to pick one up. For that reason, I waited forever for them to leave, but as I sat, I peered up to the inside of the minivan to find two packs of cigarettes (one Camel and one Marlboro red) stacked on top of each other lying on the dash. It was mind-blowingly hot to realize that these were the respective packs of both mother and daughter smokers. The family came outside with a hot pizza and drove off without lighting up again, but suffice it to say that I never go through Madison, Minnesota, without making a quick detour to this gas station to see if I can reinvent the wheel again.