Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Viking, an otter, and a tower

Dempsey recently discovered a giant Viking. Of course, he didn’t discover it any more than Columbus “discovered” America – the Ojibwe could tell you that Big Ole has been there for years.

The “Alexandria” on Big Ole’s shield does not refer to Alexandria, Virginia, where Mt Vernon is located, but to Alexandria, Minnesota, where in the late 1800’s, during a Norse craze that swept America, Swedish immigrant Olaf Öhman claimed to have discovered the Kensington Runestone, which he said proves that Viking explorers settled in Minnesota in 1362.

Most scholars think the Kensington Runestone is only slightly more historic than Zeppelin IV, but it’s nonetheless the source of civic pride in Alexandria. Everywhere you go in Alexandria, there are businesses named “Viking” this or “Viking” that. But it's not just Alexandria. Many businesses here have “Viking” names or Viking imagery: Viking Carpet Cleaning, Viking Embroidery, Viking Blinds and Window Coverings, NordicWare.

I’m all for pride in one’s heritage, but this strikes me as funny. The Vikings: famous for raping, pillaging… and baking cupcakes.

Big Ole is not the only discovery Dempsey made that day. He also found the world’s largest fiberglass otter in Fergus Falls, seat of Otter Tail County, and the hometown of O.J. Simpson’s (living) girlfriend, whose father, curiously, runs a mental health clinic. (Interesting world we live in, no?)

Here's Dempsey by the giant otter, striking a pose:

Dempsey got in some good training that day, too. On the Lake Wobegon Trail in Avon, we found an observation tower which offers sweeping views of the prairie, from 20 feet up. Not exactly the Sears Tower, but with Doreen guarding the bottom of the stairs and me at the top, it was a great place to practice a tricky recall with Dempsey.

Stay tuned for more adventures, as I try blogging furiously to catch up.

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