Al Batt: Minn. man, Iowa man and Florida man walk into a column

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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Did you hear about the Iowa man who moved to Minnesota?

Some of his siblings thought he was being downwardly mobile, but my father wasn’t about to be deterred from entering the world of infinite improbabilities that awaited him in the Gopher State. Dad could be as stubborn as a mule’s grandpa.

According to a poll by a company that does polls, all 50 states tied for the goofiest. Florida gets more press because of the Florida man reports. Maybe the country tilts slightly toward the southeast, and the nation’s strangeness rolls to the Sunshine State. There’s a widespread cultural phenomenon in which journalists report on the alleged prevalence of the male Floridian’s unusual, irrational, absurd, and unhinged behavior, and those stories are shared on social media. You’re likely familiar with many of those reports. Here are a few headline examples.

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Florida man misspells “school” on a road’s warning sign—twice. Florida man learns the hard way that he stole laxatives, not opioids. Florida man charged with assault with a deadly weapon after throwing alligator through Wendy’s drive-thru window.

Did Florida gain its reputation because of the election recount fiasco involving hanging chads or the plethora of misspelled tattoos? Maybe it’s because Floridians have to deal with hurricanes, alligators, snakes big enough to swallow tour buses, iguanas falling from trees, seatbelt buckle burns, elderly drivers moving slowly in search of the Fountain of Youth, high humidity and higher humidity, fire ants and insects carrying flame throwers, more hurricanes, and shady people in a sunny place. But what angers a Floridian enough to spray paint a Canadian tourist? A broken air conditioner.

My father convinced my mother that moving north was a grand idea, despite concern that because the state bird is a loon, anyone moving to Minnesota might be a loonatic. Reasonable expectations allowed my parents to hope to be happier than ducks in the desert.

Despite the change of address, my father remained an Iowan in a foreign land. That was a wicked good thing. It gave me someone to share Iowa jokes with. Did you hear about the Iowa farmer who wore only one boot in the winter? He heard there was a 50% chance of snow.

An Iowan moved to Minnesota. Twenty years later, it was discovered that the Minnesota and Iowa border had been surveyed incorrectly. When told his house was actually situated 10 feet into Iowa, he said, “Hurrah! No more Minnesota winters.”

Several of my witticisms brought Dad to the verge of amusement.

A Minnesota man says “uffda” because it’s expected of him, rides a snowmobile in the 4th of July parade and includes his accent in his emails. A Minnesota man is an expert on tiny houses (fish houses) and never removes a winter survival kit from a vehicle. Camouflage clothing is a Minnesota man’s natural habitat. Many Minnesota men winter in Florida. My father wintered in Minnesota.

I was in a farm store recently when I encountered a man who reminded me of my father. “Remember your father,” he said.

My father worked incessantly. When you’re a dairy farmer, the work is never done. I remember bringing up the possibility of resurrecting an ancient automobile busily rusting away deep in the weeds. I felt the need to remind him it had worked once.

Dad remarked his grandpa said the same thing about a dead mule.

“It takes time to rebuild a car,” said Dad.

“How much time?” I asked. Being young and unwise, I thought everything could be repaired both lickety and split.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve never had that much time.”

Dad had his ways. We all have our quirks. Dad loved to see horses working, but he liked politicians better than horses because politicians didn’t poop in parades. My father enjoyed a slice of cheese on apple pie, watching professional wrestling and listening to every country singer named Hank. He didn’t need to collect things because he threw nothing away.
Those things weren’t goofy. My father was an Iowa man transplanted to Minnesota, not to Florida. He wasn’t required to do goofy things.

The only goofy thing Dad ever did was to have me as his son.

I remember him with love and respect.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune. every Wednesday.