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Root River Diary

By John Torgrimson, April 22, 2024

Root River area towns have stories to tell. (Map courtesy of Root River Trail Towns)

Root River Diary


SOUTHEAST MINNESOTA — Root River Current is beginning a new series devoted to the people that make the Root River valley such an interesting place to live. We’re calling it the “Root River Diary.”  

These short stories consist of those observations we make about our rural communities that are uniquely wholesome – random acts of kindness, cultural surprises, and Main Street connections – the normal day-to-day interactions that leave us smiling and grateful to be living close to or in a small town.

We all know that small towns can be fish bowls where everyone knows everyone else’s business – good and bad.  But the virtues of small towns are obvious if you look closely enough.

For example, years ago I reported on an incident that took place on a quiet summer afternoon:

A man who was being arrested south of Preston managed to steal the arresting deputy’s squad car. It turned out the man was wanted on a felony warrant in another state. The squad car was later found in a cornfield outside of Harmony, but the escapee was long gone.

It was now about sunset and the authorities planned to pick up the manhunt in the morning. But because the man was on foot, they were concerned that he might circle back to Harmony to steal a car.

Now the authorities knew that many residents of small towns often leave their car keys in their vehicles, it generally being a low crime area.

So, that evening, law enforcement and town volunteers walked the streets of Harmony looking into vehicles. And when they found a set of keys in the ignition or on the car seat, they took them out of the vehicle and tagged them, writing down the license plate.

There was no sign of the fugitive in Harmony that night. So, about 5:00 a.m. the next morning, the sheriff deputies and volunteers retraced their steps, putting keys back inside vehicles, just as they had found them. The citizens of Harmony waking up the next morning were none the wiser.

Only in a small town would law enforcement know enough about the behavior of their neighbors to, literally, walk the extra mile to protect their citizenry.

Perhaps this is the foundation of a small town – a place where we do things for each other without being asked to do so?

Do you have a personal story about small town life that you want to share? If so, follow the guidelines below to learn how to submit your own “Root River Diary” story.

“Root River Diary” Guidelines

Your story must be connected to the greater Root River valley area (Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted, Mower, and Winona counties) and no longer than 350 words. The story must be personally known to be true to the author; it cannot be libelous and cannot infringe on the privacy of others (people’s names cannot be used).  Hateful content will not be published.

By submitting a “Root River Diary” article, you are granting Root River Current royalty-free rights to reproduce and publicly display your story. You are also giving Root River Current permission to edit your story and amend your content for length and style.

You must provide your name, email, and phone number. Only your name and location (town) will be published on the Root River Current website.

Email submissions to editor@rootrivercurrent.org. In the subject line write: Root River Diary.

An editor will contact you if your submission is considered for publication.




John Torgrimson is the managing editor and co-publisher of Root River Current.



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