GAYS MILLS - What do rummage sales, going out for breakfast and meat lockers have in common. The answer? They are all things that remind me of my dad.
My dad’s name is Tom, he grew up around Beloit but became an honorary Kickapoogian when he married my mom, who by all accounts was a pure hillbilly heartthrob Kickapoogian gal. My dad will always tell you that the first time he met her (and pretty much every time he saw her all summer long) she was runnin’ around barefoot everywhere she went.
When my brother and I were little, my mom worked many a long hour for Rock County as a registered nurse in a long-term care facility.
My dad worked Monday through Friday for the City of Beloit. So often on the weekends we would wake up early with my dad, who will always tell you, “I’m a morning person, it’s the best time of the day,” and take off on some kind of adventure.
We would load up into his giant blue mid-80s Chevy truck, my dad behind the wheel, my brother jammed in the middle and me at the window. Occasionally, when my cousin Brandon would spend the night, he would jam in too, and share a seatbelt with me, safety first.
My brother and I would pick our favorite cassette tape, usually Bob Seger, roll the windows down and hit the road.
Our first order of business was usually breakfast at this small little greasy spoon called the Sundown Café in Clinton, Wisconsin.
I grew up (pre-age 13) on the outskirts of Beloit and my dad who prefers the slower things in life, always seemed to make any excuse to visit that sleepy village, which looking back reminds me a lot of Gays Mills or any other sleepy village in the tri-county radius.
We were regulars there and were greeted warmly by the family who ran the place. We would slide into our favorite booth and like magic be served exactly what we wanted, without even really needing to order.
From there, we would usually cruise the countryside in search of the elusive garage sale.
My dad always seemed to know where they were though. And if he didn’t know where a rummage sale was, he knew where he could score a free chicken, rabbit, pig, or some other barnyard friend.
Funny enough, the meat locker part of the Dad equation was what started my inspiration for this whole column.
I visited the Kickapoo Locker a couple of weeks ago to interview Jim Chellevold about his 40-plus years in the business of cutting meat.
As soon as I walked in, I smelled the classic scent of a retail meat locker. A smoky, meaty, kind of pleasant aroma that you really don’t find anywhere else.
Sitting down in his office, I was reminded of my Grandpa Schendel, my dad’s dad. I later told my brother that if Grandpa were to have an office, it would have looked just like Jim’s. They probably would have made great old timer friends, driving around, having coffee and chatting everyone’s ear off, since damn near everyone is their friend or aquatiance at the very least.
Being at the locker reminded me of driving to Sorgs Meat Locker.
I really couldn’t actually tell you where it was, but I remember it was a bit of a drive from our house. You always knew when you were close because you had to drive over this wild bridge that always seemed to be extremely unsafe.
As a kid, in my dad’s big truck, the bridge seemed to feel like it was swaying under the weight of the machine. I remember feeling extreme relief once we passed that obstacle and reached our destination. Once there, my dad would pick up meat he had ordered processed or occasionally he just buy steaks and hamburger.
Our ultimate reward was picking out beef jerky in the end to gnaw on in the truck the whole ride home. It must have been delicious because I have less memories of being afraid crossing the bridge to go home. The smell of Sorgs was just the same as Kickapoo Locker, and as long as I live, strange to say, it will probably always remind me of my dad.
I am lucky Thatcher is getting to know my dad so well. They seem to be two peas in a pod.
One favorite story around the office is the day I ran home to grab the lunch I had forgotten.
I opened the door, expecting to be greeted by the baby, my dad or the hound dog.
Immediately however, I saw the big hound fully sprawled across the sofa, snoring, my dad in the recliner, snoring, and Thatcher wedged up under his arm, snoring. I came and left and no one ever even knew I was there.
Thatcher has so many wonderful people in his life to be role models on how a person should get along in the world. And I’m glad that my dad can be apart of that.