Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lovely and Friendly Luverne, MN

Monday afternoon, September 12th we left La Crosse, WI, crossed the mighty Mississippi for the last time on our western leg and headed across Minnesota to the western border town of Luverne and two nights at Blue Mounds State Park. The ride across the state impressed us with the realization that this part of the country is truly a breadbasket for the U.S. - farm after farm with fields of corn and soybeans. In many places there were windmills turning. A flatbed truck passed us on the highway carrying two windmill blades that covered the entire length of the bed. Wow! Those things are huge. In one place there must have been 15 or 20 windmills and all but one or two were still. There was plenty of wind which made us wonder if they turn them off at certain times of the day. It was getting on toward dusk -- concern for the bat population? They are an impressive sight. Wonder how much energy each one actually generates.

Travelling west we had a magnificent view of the sunset. I was driving so I didn't get a picture, but the sun was just sinking below the horizon as we turned off the highway for the short trip to the park. Blue Mounds is another scenic campground and we had our choice of sights. We were among three or four campers and when we left on Wednesday we were the only ones left. Talk about feeling rich. We owned the place!

One of our best memories of Luverne will be the little parish of St. Catherine's. We went to Mass Tuesday morning and there were about 15 people in the church mostly older. We must have stuck out because father stopped us after Mass and asked our names and where we were from. Then he proceeded to introduce the "visitors" to all his parishioners. What a friendly group. Later that evening, after a day of hiking at the park and visiting nearby Touch the Sky prairie, we were relaxing around a campfire when a car pulled in and drove through the campground. As we watched them, Larry commented that they must be scouting the park for a future visit. We do that sometimes. Well they were scouting, but we soon found out why. They stopped at our site and introduced themselves again as parishioners who were at Mass that morning. Dell and Eileen just wanted to see how we were doing. It touched our hearts.

We had spent the day hiking along the crest and the base of the "blue mounds," the Sioux quartzite rock that gives the park its name. There's an old quarry that was active for about a dozen years, 1919-1931. Very dramatic views from both the top and bottom. We met a man giving a basic climbing lesson to a gal although he didn't look fit enough to be much of a climber. We also met a hiker from Wisconsin who gave us some tips about good hiking areas around Lawrence, KS where we'll be meeting our daughter and family on the way home. We met him again later and he'd written down the names. We have met so many kind folks on our travels!

We attended morning Mass on Wednesday before heading west and, at the final blessing, Father paused and prayed over us for safe travels. After Mass he invited us to join him for coffee back in the office with some of his parishioners. We had a delightful visit and found out that Father is an avid gardener, had won a gorgeous quilt at the country fair nearby (The ladies were already soliciting it for a parish raffle.), and had created a "duck garden" in the church courtyard where he installed twelve little "apostles" who thrived until they were moved to a farm. We read the article from the local paper that was mounted on the wall near the courtyard door where the little ducklings lived for awhile.
The statues in the outside gardens around the church are absolutely beautiful! I especially loved one of Mary and Jesus that Father bought in memory of his dad after he died. We loved Blue Mounds for its beautiful cliffs and prairie land, for the buffalo herd we saw up close and personal, for the big skies, waving grasses, and colorful wildflowers; but mostly we'll remember Luverne for the Catholic family we found there. We joined hands in prayer with them for two short days, but we'll remember their kindness and friendliness as a highlight of our trip. It gave me a graphic illustration of St. Paul's heart link to the communities he founded on his missionary journeys. I can say with him, "I continually thank my God for you."

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