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Do you ever watch people at a restaurant or driving down the road and wonder what their stories are? Where are they from? What are they doing?

I like to do that a lot. One of my favorite times occurred when we took a family trip to South Dakota. We stopped at a gas station in Mitchell; as I was filling up, bugs were hopping everywhere and I heard a woman nearby, in a British accent, say, “Oh, what are these horrid things?” I spoke up and told her they were locusts (not sure if I was right). She really went off then! “Oh, how horrid! Look, it’s locusts, girls!” she said to her companions.

We had some chuckles as we headed down the road, trying to figure out who these people were and where they were going. Funny thing - we saw them again. That night, we checked into a hotel in Murdo, and there she was again, pulling in not too long after we did! But wait, there’s more! We also saw that group at a restaurant in Wall Drug. What are the chances? We might never know just what their ultimate destination was, but we sure had fun making it up as we went along.

Trying to create stories for others can be fun, but there are plenty of times I’ll just go and find out. This started years ago at a Twins game. I was probably in my early teens and there with my summer baseball team. The Twins were playing Toronto, and by talking with some gentlemen near us at the game, I found out there were from Toronto and traveled to every Blue Jays game! We had a good time at that game, and I discovered a boldness, even in talking to strangers, that was rather fun.

I haven’t encountered many situations where I can’t find a conversation. The most recent example was my trip to the Home Run Derby at Target Field. I like to ride the train in to avoid the traffic downtown, and you can create many stories and meet many people on that 45-minute ride!

The one thing I found on this trip was just how well known NRHEG has become. Multiple people, when I told them I was from Ellendale and taught at NRHEG, immediately wanted to talk basketball. I ran into people who had watched our girls’ basketball team the past few years during the state tournament runs and wanted to know all about Carlie Wagner and just how good the girls might continue to be. (My answer: still pretty good, and keep an eye on our boys’ basketball team too!)

I met an optometrist from Blue Earth who had a front row seat by the dugout. He must have sold a few pairs of glasses since he mentioned bringing his entire staff to a suite for a Twins game. Another guy was from Long Prairie, and as we watched the rain cascade down and delay the Derby, he bemoaned how he had a two-hour trip home and had to be to work by 6 a.m. I got home about 2 a.m., and he must’ve been home later than me!

While watching the All-Star teams warm up, I met a young man who had a baseball glove almost identical to mine (which is hard to believe, considering mine is over 20 years old). This was an advantageous conversation since he later caught a ball tossed into the stands, and I at least got a chance to look at an All-Star baseball.

A pair of couples sitting in front of me asked if I’d take their picture together. This was after finding out one of the guys had gotten tickets only by agreeing to a challenge from Gillette (one of the sponsors) to come up after the Derby and shave off all his facial hair, of which he had quite a bit!

On the train ride home, not only did I meet a man from Owatonna who has a cabin on Beaver Lake, but also met the most fascinating character in the night’s epic story. A short-statured woman entertained the entire car once we started talking to her with her stories of the 49 All-Star Games she had attended!

Upon prodding, we discovered that she was a Cubs fan living in St. Louis, a Cardinal sin according to this lively lady. She knew many owners in MLB and had visited every stadium. She babysat for some of the players, who in turn helped pay for her liver transplant. She was friends with the Barry Bonds family and spouted out a number of other famous players she knew well.

Now, she could’ve created all these stories, the same way I sometimes do when I’m out and about. Or they could all have been true. It doesn’t really matter in the end; stories add flavor to our lives, even if they are fiction. One day in Minneapolis gave me a full flavor to tap into when I write, and you never know when one of the characters I meet might help spark a new story to write!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is hortatory, which means strongly urging, as in, “The hortatory crowd on the train begged the lady for more stories of baseball lore.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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