The “Real Minnesotan” Essay Contest

We asked and you answered: What do you think defines a real Minnesotan? Is it something about our culture? Our politics? Our familiarity with frostbite treatments?

As promised, the winners will be receiving a prize any real Minnesotan would appreciate. A lifetime supply of Post-it notes? A five-pound Pearson’s nut roll? A Bundt pan? Check back to find out…


Winning Essay by Nate Worrell of Eden Prairie

Frigid polar air swoops down on a collision course with balmy heat that is lackadaisically swaggering up from the gulf. Their coitus spawns fierce storms of lightning and thunder, and whirling vortexes of power: simultaneously a force of death and an inspiration of new life. This confluence of diametric opposition defines the core of Minnesotans. We are amalgamations of paradox, which in the simplest terms means that a real Minnesotan is a bit nuts.
We are deranged. We find an aesthetic beauty in the ballet of gap-toothed gladiators balanced on blades. From the outside this may seem absurd. However, it is also a sign of our creativity.
We are bipolar. We love the coming of winter snow, as it transforms our fields into giant playgrounds. Yet we find ourselves cursing that same winter as the icy wind slips its finger down our 15-minute wardrobe. This winter that we love to hate teaches us how to laugh at absurdity. After all, what else can you do when the temperature rises 60 degrees in three days and it is still snowing?
We have multi-personality disorder. When we are romancing our summer, the city folk become country folk. Farmers find their way into the city to bring us their sweet corn.

Summer is our welcome liberation from the frozen purgatory we patiently endured. But again, our wooer plays dirty and swelters us with sweat and storms and ‘squitos. So we learn how to adjust and we learn tolerance as we continue to enjoy chasing after walleye. And our romance continues sizzling like grilled brats and as refreshing as cool beer.
We have attention deficit disorder. When we are not engaged in the volatile courtships of winter and summer we find our respite in the ethereal realms of new life and death. We witness nature’s most extraordinary palettes in spring and fall and understand what beauty truly is.
Our diagnosis is quite frightening: delusional, bipolar, multiple personality disorder, ADD, and a little masochistic (at least those of use who watch a hole in the ice in January). We do seem a bit insane, but at least we are not boring. A real Minnesotan is a hardy individual, yet is sentimental. The real Minnesotan is mysterious and changes with weather, but is consistently enduring. Most importantly, our zaniness is our gift because we know how to have fun in this spontaneous and whimsical world.


Honorable Mention by Sandra Goebel of Bloomington

Since Minnesotans are known to be a people of few words, and those few spoken generally involve the weather, a haiku poem of sorts:

Shovels snow in shorts and boots
Bad weather glee
On a stick

Honorable Mention by Robert Falsani of Duluth

The tablemates, multigenerational and politically diverse, exhibited the proper level of “winecraze” to launch the inane topic. I sought the real Minnesotan, not the apocryphal Prairie Home stereotype. Dr. Maki, a 100% Esko Finn of 82 years, announced his response through lips glistening with remnants of barbeque ribs (a form topical truth serum). “Uriah Heep,” he exhorted! Before we could appreciate the depth of his analysis, the party hostess, a self-proclaimed Conservative, shouted “Liberals” as if to say “Communists” in 1953. A couple of others suggested that Minnesotans are a diverse bunch and not much different than most blue state citizens. As evidence of this, I suggested that our “Rushites” recite his word each day no more fervently than southern brethren. Our relocated Chicago drug dealers, as well as the home grown variety, certainly do not disdain tattoos or support gun disarmament. Our “granolas” could easily slip their Birkies on in Portland without detection of Gopher state roots.

The party failed to reach a consensus regarding the real Minnesotan. The result in that regard did not differ from the pleasant disagreement on virtually every topic, including whether the carrot cake’s merit exceeded the “yuminess” of the brownies with cream cheese frosting.

About 3:00 a.m. the next morning, the epiphany hit me like a sleep shock foot cramp. Minnesota nice equals “Uriah Heep.” How many times had I been fooled in jury selection by the smiling visage plastered on the face of a “tin man/woman” juror? How many clients have started the relationship off with the statement “I’m not the suing type?” Later, they act like spectators at a dog fight, screaming for total victory.

Often the Minnesota “Heepist” professes deep religious conviction. This belief covers both sleeves, hats, dresses, pants, and even shoestrings. Conveniently, this holy covering allows the nice “Heepist” to lie to further God’s grand plana plan which just happens to further their own personal agenda. But, the whole process is conducted with great piety. Some of my most artery clogging moments as a trial lawyer have occurred at the moment of revelation that my nice client has “misremembered” a fact unearthed by my opponent. In response to my inquiry as to why I was not told of the negative fact, the response is virtually always the same. “It did not matter because our cause is a just one (a.k.a God is on our side).”

Minnesota nice, like Uriah, loves to hold a good grudge. Exaggerated politeness may mask a festering slight. Similarly, it’s nice to pretend to forgive. I once represented a pretty young woman who originally presented as the wronged party in a divorce matter. She hoped her husband would change his mind and just wanted to be fair if the divorce went through. Having moved to Minnesota not long before our meeting, I agreed to do the work for a small fee for this archetypal nice Minnesotan. Several contentious court hearings later, I began to see through the veil of niceness. Finally, she refused the use of the child car seat for visitation by her husband. How nice!

The nice Minnesotan lives life modestly, never overtly bragging. It would be very hard to be properly self-satisfied otherwise.

The state is full of male and female descendents of Uriah. Dickens invented Minnesota nice.

 Quotable Excerpts

We are hardy people, and can be counted on in a crisis. And if a bridge falls down out of the blue, we go to work helping people to safety.
—Leslie L. Jones, Stillwater

When I proudly tell out-of-area friends about surviving blizzards, white-outs, mosquitoes and below-zero temps, they ask why we love Minnesota. At one point, when we resided in a county without a single lake, I pondered the question. “‘I guess it’s the people,” I concluded. “Phonies and sissies don’t live there.”
—Coralee Krueger, Windom

With one of the shortest summers in the lower 48, it’s no surprise that we Minnesotans would rather let the paint peel off our homes than let our lawns look like anything but an ocean-side fairway at Pebble Beach.
—Ryan King, Robbinsdale

Afternoons were spent wallowing in Alex(andria). Lake smells were clear water and pine trees and forest soil. They got absorbed into our skin to take back home. After a supper of fish, we went fishing. We stayed until it was too dark to see the round red and white bobbers, and our cabin was just a blink in the darkness. We rowed in and went to bed, just like the woods around us. I loved Alex with memories that stayed, no matter how far away I drifted, or how many years before I finally came back.
Martha Valainis, Iowa City

We are an immigrant state and “Hope” has been the watch word since our inception. Hope was the word for my great grandpa, for us here and those that just arrived.
—Jack Anderson, Nevis