Day 197: Red Wing Fling

From the southern border of the state up to just north of Red Wing, the Mississippi River is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Red Wing is a picturesque river city of around 16,000 inhabitants. It was once known for its pottery, but now its most famous industry is the Red Wing Shoe Company—a family-owned business known for its quality work shoes. It is also a town that has its own song. In 1907, Kerry Mills and Thurland Chattaway wrote a popular song with that title about a Native American girl who lost her love in a war. The song was popular enough that a bawdy parody of it was written in the 1960s.

Minnesota has more bald eagles than any of the U.S. states except Alaska, and Red Wing is a good place to see them. Though they are usually dispersed over a wide area during the nesting season, in late winter, when parts of the Mississippi River begin to be free from ice, the eagles can be found fishing in the open water of the Red Wing area in large numbers.

Laetitia met her group at the Historic St. James Hotel, where they would be spending the night. Laetitia planned to make a loop drive south along the river on the Minnesota side beneath the high bluffs, cross the river at Winona, return on the Wisconsin side, and cross the river back to Red Wing. On the way the group visited the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, a river town that is probably best known as the ostensible locale of Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men, although much of the filming of those movies was actually done in Red Wing.

Then they went across town to Slippery’s, the bar in Grumpy Old Men, which is right along the river and a place where even sober people can see eagles. On the wall was a poster of the German version of Grumpy Old Men, which was entitled Ein Verrückte Parr, a rather lame translation that means something like “one crazy pair.” This day’s group was having a great time in Slippery’s talking about Grumpy Old Men and other subjects as they looked out at the river and saw an occasional eagle. When the group was on its third round of drinks, Laetitia asked them if they were ready to continue on the tour. They were all having so much fun that they decided they didn’t want to leave, so Laetitia agreed that they would spend the afternoon at Slippery’s, return to Red Wing for the night, and then continue the loop tour tomorrow. The bartender at Slippery’s told Laetitia a Red Wing story that became the limerick of the day that was presented after dinner.

Six old ladies who lived in Red Wing
And went out on a New Years Eve fling
Shot fireworks from cars
As they drove between bars
When their revelry grew to full swing.