The Muse of Winter

The Muse of winter has stirred me to impose a new set of stories on Hole News and Facebook friends with nothing better to do. We’ll visit Vintage Valley, Wisconsin and meet thinly-disguised folks from my past. The stories also have a trace of truth.

How long we’ll stay in Vintage Valley remains to be seen, for Johnson Junction beckons. You can’t resist a Swede Muse forever.

Ma’s Kaffe Stuga

A battered, gallon-size blue coffee pot rested on the stove at Ma Olson’s Kaffe Stuga in Vintage Valley, right where it had rested for nearly 50 years.  Ma’s egg coffee and home-style donuts were legendary, making the Kaffe Stuga a ritual stop on the main road north out of Milwaukee. A traveler’s mantra: Meet you a Ma’s.

That changed with the completion of the new Interstate just up the road. Traffic through town drastically dwindled; the Mobile and Standard stations moved to the exchange. The town’s only restaurant bought into an interchange franchise. Families moved and school was consolidated with the next town. The post office, Mike’s Hardware, a few small touristy shops, and two churches remained. The Valley Voice cut back to eight pages. Ma’s Kaffe Stuga became the only place in town to get a cup of coffee.

The Stuga had a six-stool counter, four small oilcloth-covered tables, and an antique oak table with two leaves in the far corner, where the elders met Thursday mornings, the town’s self-appointed watchdogs. They were drifting in now, led by Geoffrey Strom, recently widowed.

Last to enter: Miss Beth, retired sixth grade teacher and town clerk. Always prim, she wore a matching wool jacket and skirt, knee-length gray sox, and low-heeled black shoes. She carried the Valley Voice, hot off the press.

With fire in her eyes, she marched directly to Geoffrey Strom, opened the Voice to page one,  slapped it on the table and said, How could you!