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He found heaven in B.E. in 1991

By Staff | Apr 8, 2018

I thought I might take it easy this week, and borrow something someone else wrote to fill this space. That is not plagiarism if I attribute it, you know.

So, first a little background.

I received a lovely letter from former Blue Earth resident Marvel Schwen. She and her husband, Maurice, moved from here in 2003 to live full-time at their home on Gull Lake by Brainerd. The Schwen family has deep roots in Blue Earth, Marvel wrote, and many fond memories of the town.

She enclosed a faded, yellowed newspaper clipping which her daughter, Susan Schwen Johnson, had found when cleaning out old files at her home in Alexandria. It had been sent to her years ago by her mother-in-law who lived in Indiana.

The clipping was of a column called ‘Free Lance,’ written by a man named Jim McNeile. It was headlined “Heaven hiding in Blue Earth.” Marvel Schwen said it brought tears to her eyes when she read it and wanted to share it with me, and the readers of the Faribault County Register.

So, here it is.

I promised last summer to tell you about Blue Earth, Minnesota.

And here it is the 208th and final ‘Free Lance’ of 1991 and I haven’t gotten around to writing about Blue Earth. It’s not a difficult subject really. Blue Earth is the county seat of Faribault County in the corn and bean fields of southern Minnesota. Population 5,200. It’s easy enough to get there from Elkhart, like 10 hours of interstate which puts you at the Blue Earth exit of I-90.

So what’s with me and Blue Earth? A replacement perhaps for Olathe, Kansas, in the ‘Free Lance’ list of dull places? I must admit the thought crossed my mind. Name and location alone would seem to render Blue Earth as the perfect spot to watch someone bake an apple pie or darn wool socks.

Actually it was love that led us to Blue Earth in 1991. One of our sons was taking a bride at the end of August so Theresa and I spent several months marshalling family resources and planning to get there.

What happened was that in the three days surrounding wedding festivities, we fell in love ourselves with this area and its people.

Our spirits were lifted by friendly, warm individuals. They care for each other, they ooze with pride in land and community. Hard-working and generous, these people share in good times and bad from a lifestyle that depends on whether the Good Lord provides enough rain and sunshine to harvest the crop.

Blue Earth is clean. Merchants keep the downtown area attractive. A Green Giant processing plant for canning sweet corn that we buy in Elkhart is right in the middle of town. From the highway looms a mammoth plastic Green Giant statue that Blue Earth describes as its tourist attraction.

The only lodging is a Super 8 motel. No ordinary Super 8, this motel is owned by the former high school industrial arts teacher and his wife who decorated and painted each room after he built each piece of furniture. Window boxes on both floors are bursting with colorful petunias, the lobby is filled with local craft items and hot, fresh homemade rolls are available to guests each morning.

Two marvelous events lighted our life on this trip.

One was the wedding in a Lutheran church of Norwegian heritage on a gravel road near the very small town of Frost. Here was a Norman Rockwell setting a white, wooden frame building on a grassy knoll immaculately polished from altar to choir loft, with a shining cross glimmering in the sun like a sentinel overlooking miles and miles of golden corn.

I’ll never forget the minister. His solo “Our Father” boomed like an oratorio in a grand cathedral, not a small church in the middle of nowhere.

The second and most impressive experience for us was that of spending a few precious hours at the large efficient farm of Chuck and Barbara Baker, parents of our new daughter-in-law. They shared their home with two people from Elkhart who often are in too much of a hurry to watch the corn grow.

We learned with a great sense of admiration how the Bakers and all those like them producing corn and beans around Blue Earth make America’s heartland a very special place.

Nice words. I would hope that if a visitor from Elkhart, Indiana, came through Blue Earth now, in 2018, he or she would get this same sense of a warm and friendly town.

I think they would.