The Road To Gnome

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Years ago, a friend, let’s call her Lulu for her protection, took a road trip to Dawson Minnesota. Why may you ask? This small town is also known as Gnometown. Every year the town makes a gnome in the likeness of one of their residents. A tribute to the resident’s service to the town.
As I said this was a while ago, but by the town’s website, the practice is still being embraced by the community. I tried to find the original post that enticed me to con Lulu to come on this adventure of roadside kitschy. I do remember that the original post I read talked about gnomes everywhere. A cute café filled with gnome decor. A kitschy paradise.
It was a hot summer day as we followed the GPS directions towards Dawson Minnesota on our quest to see gnomes. I normally look at a map to get a rough idea of where we are going or print out Mapquest directions, but I did not on this trip. That was a big mistake. Twilight Zone mistake.
We happily drove along following the prompts from the GPS when we came to a detour. I obediently followed the detour sign. I looked in my rearview mirror I saw cars doing U-turns and heading away from the detour. I asked Lulu if we should do the same. We didn’t. We should have.
The detour was on a narrow road between two cornfields. Our cell phones didn’t work, and Lulu has map reading issues. I was about to pull to the side of the road to look at the map when out of nowhere a black truck appeared behind us. Neither Lulu or I had seen a crossroads or farm roads in the fields or a driveway. The cornfields were uninterrupted six-foot-tall corn stalks. Miles of uninterrupted corn. The truck did not come from the fields.
The truck stayed behind us at a reasonable distance. Then he somehow became a tailgater. There was no reason for this as we were on a very straight road and no oncoming traffic or any other vehicle but the truck and us. I pressed down on the gas pedal. Without spoken words, we both were getting nervous. Lulu tried her phone. No bars.
I was nervous along with Lulu, I mentioned a movie I saw as a child that a semi-truck terrorized a man all over the dessert. Lulu was not happy with my retelling of the movie. In our discussion of, we are in a horror movie, we realized the truck had disappeared. There were no roads for him to disappear on. He wasn’t on the side of the road. I pressed down on the gas.
A few miles later we came to an intersection that had detour signs pointing us to civilization. The GPS agreed. We enter a town. It had no name. Just a banner that said sidewalk sale today. We were hungry and in need of a bathroom, so we parked at the end of the street and walked down to find a restaurant. The vibe of this town was off. Perhaps it was because the temperature was so high.
As we walked past tables filled with items for sale, I would say hello to the proprietor of the table. Blank stares greeted me. Lulu tried by asking about an item she was holding. The seller took it from her hand, placed it back on the table, and gave her a blank stare.
I also notice after we passed a table if there were two people behind the table one would come around and adjust things from the front of the table. The “I am in a horror movie” feeling was amplified by the fact the people who were adjusting their wares began to follow us. We did see the restaurant with the open sign flashing. Lulu tried the door, it was locked.
One of the followers yelled, “The restaurant was closed. Try the bar.”
The bar was across the street. “Should we try it?” Lulu asked.
“Maybe we can find out where we are,” I said as I pulled Lulu towards the crosswalk. I wasn’t going to take a chance that we would serve a life sentence for j-walking.
As Lulu pulled the door open, the darkness that only a bar has, filled the doorway. We heard laughter and talking. I entered first. When Lulu stepped in behind me all talking and laughter stopped. We took the first table and sat down. I began looking for the bathroom as it was becoming a bladder control pad moment. Lulu leaned over the table. “Everyone at the bar has turned to watch us.”
I took a glance at the bar. Everyone had turned their stools around and were watching us. “We only have pizza here.” A woman of our same age had arrived at our table without us noticing her. “You should go to the highway about 5 miles north. There’s fast food.” The waitress of this eerie establishment we presumed, was pointing the direction we should take.
I took a glance at the bar. The stool sitting patrons were nodding their agreement. Lulu grabbed my arm and said, “That sounds good. Let’s go.” To the waitress, she said, “Thank you.”
A chill went up my spine with the waitress’s response, “Good choice.” Not your welcome, safe driving. A flat good choice.
As we left the darkness of the bar behind us and went into the bright hot daylight I said in a low voice, “Lulu do you think they are trying to find a virgin sacrifice for a good harvest, and we don’t fit the demographic?”
“Yep, and since we are far from pure virgins we will end up as oversize scarecrows in some field.”
We did make it to the highway and found a fast food place with the needed bathroom. Yes, there was an adventure, but it was more, this is disgusting, and glad we both had our Hep B vaccine.
You may wonder at this point why we didn’t turn around and go home. We are stubborn and wanted to see the gnomes. Also, what Syfy or horror film do the main characters make good decisions?
!5 Minutes to our destination the GPS announced. Lulu and I sighed in unison. We were almost there.
The GPS had us turning off the highway just before we hit the town of Dawson. On our left, there were cornfields, again. The GPS commanded, “Turn right.”
It was a dead end dirt road to a park. To the left was a cornfield with a path of trampled corn stock leading into the field. To our right is a small park. In front of us was a brand new bike. Not one gnome to be seen.
“Do you think we are in Children of the Corn meets Signs?” I asked Lulu.
“This is really creepy.” She responded. “That bike just parked there it is spooky. We need to tell someone. What if the child is lost in the corn?”
We got out to look around. We were hit with thick air, that had a horrible smell. The smell was familiar but neither of us could quite place it.
The heat and stillness and the quiet. No birds. A thickness of silence.
“What is that smell? Lulu asked.
“Alien farts,” I said as I walked back to the car. “According to the website, there is a restaurant near the gnomes we will go there and tell them about the bike. Also, there are supposed to be gnomes all over the town.”
We drove around town and didn’t see one gnome. We stopped at a garage sale in hopes to get directions to the park that had the gnomes. Also, to tell someone about the bike. When I pulled to stop across the street, I notice a shadow get up, open a garage door into the house and disappeared inside. I was sure the person would return soon. Lulu and I talked loudly as we waited for the person running the sale to reappear. After 5 minutes I knocked on the door, “Hi I have something I would like to buy.” Another 5 minutes past and I put the item back on the table and we left.
We drove around town, we didn’t see any gnomes, people, or animals. We came back to the highway the GPS had us leave and go to the gnomeless children of the corn park. There we found the gnome restaurant the web site gave 5 stars. The restaurant was closed. It appeared to had been closed since the website had written their article.
Across from the restaurant, we found the park filled with gnomes. We parked the car and were elated. We had found our gnome treasure. We sat in the car a moment. Not a soul was around. Lulu and I were cautious leaving the safety of our car.
We did finally get out of the car. The heat and thickness of the air hit us full force. The smell was intense. Perhaps it was the smell in the air that kept people away from the community pool. The pool was filled with water but no one was swimming. Was there some toxic spill we were unaware of happening?
The gnomes were a work of art. They were about 3 feet tall. Painted whimsically. We thought that at first until we started taking pictures. I had Lulu stand close to one to get a picture. I was standing near another gnome and realized he had an evil grin. I was certain he was going to attack me. Lulu, who doesn’t make things up came close to me, and whispered: “I think that gnome moved.”
I looked towards the gnome she was standing by and said, “Wasn’t he on the right side of the bush?”
Before Lulu could respond, I saw a sheriff’s car slowly passing the park. The windows were dark so neither of us could see the driver. I started towards the road motioning that I needed the sheriff to stop. We were still concerned about the bike. He or she or the alien driving sped away.
“Isn’t always the law enforcement of the town, the evil entity takes over in horror Syfy movies?” I asked Lulu.
“Yep, we are going to die,” she replied.
We took a few more pictures and it seemed the gnomes were more sinister as we walked among them. The sheriff’s car was passing slowly again. I was close to the road and gestured again for him to stop. Again, he sped out of sight.
We decided to leave. I pulled out the map to see how we could go home. Neither of us wanted to go home the way we came. I found a route that would get us home, but it required us to go back through town. As we drove the abandoned streets, I saw the nose of the sheriff’s car peek out then pull back behind an empty building.
We found the road that would lead us out of town and laughed as we passed the turkey processing plant. That answered what is that smell question. We never figured out the name of the town that we weren’t qualified to be virgin sacrifices.
I did learn never to go blindly with just a GPS on these trips. Look at a map to see if you are being directed in the right direction. Most importantly, check your state Department of Transportation to see if there are any detours along your journey. This may keep you from entering the Twilight Zone.
Over the years I have gone to several small towns that boast roadside kitschy, go when they are having a celebration. Otherwise, you may find yourself being a scarecrow in a field.

Notice the empty pool in the background.

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