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Mychal Wilmes: Tax time leaves some out in the cold

Helicopter-sized snowflakes were crashing to the ground by the time I reached Vicki's tax-preparation office. I can only assume, being the optimistic sort — that she was thrilled to see me.

It's always good to renew your friendship with the tax preparer because it might motivate them to find every possible government-approved deduction. I've always been creative in offering suggestions, which usually cause Vicki to laugh.

It's good to keep the atmosphere light. All I want to do is break even, so what is returned by the feds is balanced out by whatever more the state needs.

Taxes were on my mind after seeing a man in Rochester who was sandwiched up as the Statue of Liberty, hawking for a tax service. He looked forlorn standing on a snow bank and bracing himself against the wind.

He could have used hot chocolate, or better yet a job that didn't require him to stand outside. Sandwich-sign people never get paid enough.


I leave Vicki's without taking any candy from the bowl meant for paying customers and move on to the hardware store for a furnace filter. It's been six months, and the filter is more filthy than our home's entrance floor, which I'm supposed to wash.

A few hellos and a withdrawal from the bank follow before moving on to Hanson's Trucking. I need to talk to mechanic Mark about Sam's Dodge. Mark had brought it back from the dead a week before for $300, but it had died again, this time worse than before. An ill-timed timing belt broke while Sam was driving in Mankato. The resuscitation would would come to the wrong side of $900.

Steve started by listing the car's other wrongs — two bad ball joints and struts. My mental calculator short-circuited at the thought.

"It may be time to let her go,'' Mark said.

Hanson's owner, Marv, volunteered to fetch the Dodge from Mankato.

It's nice to know people like Vicki, Mark and Marv. It's one of the advantages of living in a small town. Some say there is a downside, because people who know each other well don't always get along. Grudges can be held, but allowances are charitably given.

Jodie, the waitress at Omar's Cafe, knows all of us well. It's hard to keep secrets over breakfast. Our discussion, as necessary as coffee, ranges from the Super Bowl to the alleged price-fixing that's driven propane prices through the roof.

It's a male-dominated place early in the morning, so talk turns to what are perceived as peculiar female habits. Jodie represents her gender well.


Grandson Elliot is spending a week with us while his parents vacation. Grandpa, who has trouble dressing himself, is responsible for getting Elliot ready for day care. It's proven a thankless job.

"I hate you, Grandpa,'' Elliot says after a particularly painful attempt to get him to dress himself. The battlefield is littered with mis-matched gloves, inside-out shirts and a couple of stocking caps of questionable ownership.

Elliot's parents send mobile photos to remind us what we're missing in Florida.I want the energy to keep up with the kid more so than an escape from winter.Winter can be pretty. The front-yard oak remarkably clings to its frozen leaves, like a parent who braces their child against the wind.

Maybe the next time I see the fellow dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, I'll buy him hot chocolate and reassure him that he won't forever be a sandwich guy, no matter how noble the profession.

Mychal Wilmes is managing editor of Agri News, a weekly agriculture newspaper published by the Post-Bulletin Co.

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