PINE ISLAND — “Not one person leaves here mad,” said Micky Sigrist. “Everyone has an opinion, but nobody is angry.”
Well, not with one another.
A group of men, ranging in age from old to older, meets each Monday morning for coffee, sometimes breakfast and a whole lot of jawing about politics, farming, the weather and their lives. But when their gathering spot, Shawna’s Cafe closed on the last Sunday in May, the group needed a new place to meet.
“We’ve closed more cafes over the years,” said Steve Nei. But most other times an establishment closed, there’d been another place to go Monday mornings.
That all changed when Shawna’s closed. Now the group of 15-20 men, with no place left to go, each brings his own coffee to the picnic shelter at Trailhead Park on the north end of downtown Pine Island to talk, laugh, bicker and keep the group going.
Nei said they’d like it if Betty Sue’s Better Brew Cafe opened on Mondays, but the owner needs a day off, and Monday is that day. And he understands. Still, meeting in the park is an imperfect and temporary solution for the Monday morning group.
But hauling their own coffee to the picnic shelter and sitting outdoors didn’t stop them from discussing topics of importance.
What was the attendance at the new swimming pool over the weekend? How many of the units in the new apartment building downtown on Main Street have been rented?
And what plans does the Prairie Island Indian Community have for the block of land it purchased from Tower Investments in the Elk Run development?
“We haven’t even talked about immigration,” Sigrist said. “That’s at least 30 minutes each time.”
Everyone who heard that comment laughed, probably because it’s close to the truth.
Dean Weis, a former Pine Island City Council member, said he can recall the group standing outside at the Kwik Trip and drinking coffee on Monday mornings. That is, until a new regional manager encouraged the group to move along and find somewhere else for its bull sessions.
Nei said where Kwik Trip currently sits was the location of a place called Paulson’s Cafe. That was where the group met when he first started showing up. Then there were other incarnations of coffee shops or eateries at that location and at Shawna’s over the years. Through it all, the group kept meeting.
Al Tretstad, who has been a member of the group since the 1960s — he said he was about 25 or so when he first joined what was then a long-established group — is likely its longest current member. Back when he farmed, he’d arrive early, drink his coffee and chat, then leave to milk his cows.
Now at age 83, he said, the “young guys” who are more connected help keep him up to date.
“They’re all good guys,” Tretstad said of his coffee buddies. “They might disagree with one another, but they’d help each other out if you need it.”
As they debate the events and interests of the day, they’re asked if they’ve ever solved any of the world’s problems.
“We only create (problems),” said Howard Glamm. “We don’t solve.”
He grinned as those in earshot laughed at his boast.