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Beards, break-ins, and basketball

By Staff | Mar 20, 2009

The year was 1992. It had been five years since I’d graduated from the Hallmark Institute of Photography; my class was going to be recognized. Naturally, I wanted to go and made the necessary arrangements. It was Class B basketball tournament time in North Dakota. True to pattern, early Thursday morning we started to receive lots of snow! I could see by the weather forecast the snow was going to be heavy all across the eastern United States, so I quickly repacked my bags before heading out to the Minot Airport. I had decided to be practical and only take a carry-on piece of luggage.

As Jan dropped me at the airport, the snow was getting heavy. As the plane flew away from Minot, the snow followed; the day was filled with delays because of the weather. I arrived at Logan Airport in Boston 6 hours late. Just getting to the hotel was a test, as the narrow streets were deep with snow. The Boston skyline buttressed the bursting snowflake atmosphere. At last the perfect place to view blanketed Boston from my hotel windows. I have always enjoyed Boston, but especially the museums. It was, in fact, for this reason I elected to stay in the city before heading out to the photography conference in western Massachusetts. The Museum of Fine Arts is filled with splendor and elegance, and I could not resist spending a bit of time viewing the latest exhibits.

My return to Logan Airport was to pick up my rental car for my travels west. Upon opening my wallet, I discovered my driver’s license was missing! (This was not going to be as pleasant as the museum.) Now, keep in mind, this was the time period when you did not have to show identification at the airport. If you had the ticket in your hand, you could board the plane.

“You cannot rent a car without a driver’s license!” bellowed the rental attendant. Great – now what do I do? Well, I have always felt when faced with complex problems, you need to bring all your brainpower to the challenge. His determination to detour me was like his beard-very present and solid. For a second, I yearned for a dark beard and dark eyes that would be piercing beneath heavy brows, indicating an imperious temper. Faced with reality, I figured this was an excellent time to show one of my redheaded, feisty moods. From limited past experience, I had discovered, to my delight, these moods can be quite intimidating to those who don’t know me well. I spouted back, “I am not leaving here without a car.”

In an unfaltering and positive tone, I explained that I understood that it was my problem. Yet, I expected him to be a more accommodating. After all, I am sure in the protocol of his customer service training, this would have been stressed. I stood there wondering where my driver’s license had disappeared. Suddenly, I realized exactly where it was – in our middle blue bedroom at 409 Third Street SW in Rugby, North Dakota. I recalled in my rush to downsize my luggage my wallet had dropped off the dresser. In the motion of this mishap, the wallet came open. It was obvious that my license had slipped out and was by the leg of our Queen Anne dresser.

Staying positive in thought and saying a hundred prayers-at least-I mentioned my next endeavor to the bearded fortress behind the counter. I said, “What if I was to present you with a photocopy of my license-would this suffice?” Now prior to this, I had explained to him where my license was and how I wished my wife were at home-but she was cheering at the Class B tournament! He agreed-knowing full well I would have to call the motor vehicle registration office. But he smiled and said, “Good luck!” I did attempt to explain my situation to the motor vehicle department, and they responded with, “Yes, please send $3, and we will send it out by mail!” (Keep in mind, this is pre-cell phone, and I am using the counter phone; you guessed it, his radar ears were tuned in!) He was smiling as I put down the receiver. With good, old-fashioned initiative, I requested another call, and he granted it! This time I called the Rugby Police Department. No more fooling around – I am taking this matter to the law enforcement.

I was immediately put in contact with Rugby policeman Jerry Harmel. There before the mighty bearded fortress of stubbornness, I explained my situation to Officer Harmel. Our conversation concluded with me explaining how he could enter our home. Unfortunately, all the doors and windows were locked, except the window in the blue bedroom upstairs. I also mentioned that there was a ladder in the garage that he could use to access this room.

I witnessed a great example of drop-jaw as I looked across the service counter. He said, “You just told that person how to break into your home – I can’t believe my ears!” Within a half hour, a remarkable photocopy of my driver’s license came across the fax machine, and we both stood there in awe! True to his promise, the car rental agent rented me the car; I was soon driving out of Boston.

Upon exiting the rental agency, I found the nearest phone booth and called Jerry and thanked him profusely. He did enlighten me with the entry details and mentioned that the license had been resting nicely by the dresser. Once again, I was reminded of the good fortune of living in the Midwest, where we are a community, where we know and trust each other and where police officers like Jerry Harmel are willing extend their hand (and an extension ladder!) in a time of need.

During all of this, Jan was enjoying the State B tournament, where she and countless other fans were cheering on their favorite teams. She was probably thinking (and wishing she had some!) of all the wonderful barbecues and pies that had been served at the Wolford games leading up to this premier and well-beloved North Dakota winter classic. Living on the Great Plains reminds us that homemade pies, tasty basketball barbecue and caring law enforcement officials add unyielding value to our lives.

I will not have to call on Jerry Harmel during this Class B tournament-(hopefully!) However in the very near future, I do plan to surprise him with one of my homemade pies delivered through the front door. I share with you two excellent recipes that have made countless appearances at the Wolford Public School Concession Stand. Both are high scorers.

Repnow is a Rugby resident.

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