While on vacation in late August I took along my copy of the book, “Lake Wobegon Days,” written by Garrison Keillor, first published in 1985.

It was a joy as I reread the entire book.

Older people remember that Keillor’s book is an account, often with humor, of fictitious Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, a small and rural community.

Keillor, best known over the years for hosting the public radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” shares some thoughts about small-town life that can and should be applicable today.

Visiting with family or friends, after supper at a house with a screened-in porch, was commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s. Not so much anymore.

“Society of summer evenings in Lake Wobegon was genteel,” wrote Keillor, “and humankind knows no finer amenity than the screened porch. It is the temple of family life.”

In fictitious Lake Wobegon he described the average porch, in the front or back of the house, as one with 10-foot-tall screens.

“People would sit in brown wicker chairs or rockers, visit and watch kids play in the yard,” wrote Keillor. “They would also watch other kids who were out bike riding.”

While growing up in Fergus Falls during the 1950s and 1960s, our family on West Cavour Avenue would often visit relatives who had a screened-in porch on South Court Street at the back of their house.

Nothing was better than visiting in the screened-in porch while enjoying lemonade, also knowing that the mosquitoes would be kept at bay.

“The porch was the sacred preserve of the luxurious custom known as visiting,” Keillor said.

Fall a good time for area picnics

Fall is one of the best times to enjoy outdoor picnics in Otter Tail County. We have many sunny days, slightly cool autumn breezes and rich blue-colored waters.

One of my favorite picnic spots is the shelter with picnic tables near the Chief Wenonga statue at Battle Lake. I particularly enjoy a sandwich, chips, coleslaw and lemonade while looking east toward West Battle Lake, past the leaves of oak trees and toward the railing and walkway along the roadway near the lake.

Another favorite place is the picnic shelter near the swimming beach at West Battle Lake, down the road from the Chief Wenonga statue, and the picnic shelter near the swimming beach at nearby Glendalough State Park.

On the southeast side of Otter Tail Lake, east of Balmoral and just west of Ottertail city, is the Wayside Rest with lots of picnic tables. I have many great memories of this area, dating back to the 1950s when my father grilled hamburgers and cooked his special pork and beans.

Research shows that fresh air during picnics in the outdoors does wonders for a person’s mental health. Spending time outside is shown to reduce levels of anxiety.

In fact, time in the sunshine is also related to an improved mood and reduced stress levels for the entire family.

So get out that picnic basket, fill it with food and head to one of Otter Tail County’s many lakes this fall. Prepare for some pure enjoyment.

Amazing history at Athletic Park

Most people who drive past Athletic Park along North Vine Street in Fergus Falls notice a softball field, tennis courts and playground equipment. It’s nothing much out of the ordinary, in their estimation.

But a look at history will prove them wrong. If those grounds could talk, people would be amazed.

On July 3, 1907, Vice President Charles Fairbanks spoke at the Athletic Park.

The vice president, at the time, served in the Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt administration.

Fergus Falls residents, seeing Fairbanks and hearing him speak, realized this was once in a lifetime.

A year later, in the fall of 1908, presidential candidate William Howard Taft spoke to a crowd at the Fergus Falls Great Northern railroad station, while passing through town. Later that fall Taft was elected president.

Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.

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