Excerpt From Day 9: “Rural Life”
SOME PLACES HAVE A VOICE OF THEIR OWN, AND IN THE AFTERNOON ON THIS DAY MEANT FOR JACOBSON, WE FOUND OURSELVES ON A SIDE TRIP FURTHER DOWNRIVER TO PALISADE TO HEAR THE VOICE OF WALDECK, MINNESOTA—POPULATION 2.
In all practicality, to hear the voice of a place, you should listen to the voices of its people, so we spent a few hours talking with Monique Lamke, a Wisconsin-native, single mother, and storyteller. She was seated at a large rectangular table waiting for us when we stepped into the Town Hall. Almost immediately, she passed us a packet of papers entitled “History of Waldeck” over the table, saying “I made you a copy,” as if this was expected, and I knew what the words printed there might hold in store.
Before diving into the story of Waldeck, Monique explained how she moved to Minnesota about seven years ago when her father died. Her parents had been living here for a while, and she wanted to be with her mom after his passing. Getting settled in the Palisade area was not easy, as employment opportunities are scarce and low-paying. She worked for a while at the local stove factory, but after the EPA put some restrictions on their production line, the factory closed and Monique was on the job hunt again.
Luckily, as we’d later learn from Palisade mayor Charlie Carlson, the city was working hard to make some changes, like adding a new city clerk and a few other full time employees. Monique was in the right place at the right time to land the city clerk position, and after three years in the job, she has become a fixture of the community.
She explained how they liked her for the position because she didn’t live in Palisade proper, but rather just in Palisade—that is, in one of a dozen little townships of over a thousand people that make up what is known as Palisade. The actual city of Palisade, however, is much smaller, registering a population of 167, according to the sign as you drive (or in our case, run) into town.
Monique expressed how she’s grown as attached to Palisade as the community is attached to her. She talked about her home on the water, located on 475 acres with a bridge to this one little spot on the Mississippi downstream of where the Willow River and the White Elk Logan—a notable oxbow on White Elk Creek—converge and flow into the main channel. A lot of people fish right near her place at “the point,” and at this point we all pulled out our phones to look at a map and locate this property and confluence of waters.
With all its endearing qualities, I wondered if Palisade presented any challenges for a single mother raising a young child. Monique’s first response was, “No. I would not change…if I had the chance to do it again”—and by that, I believe she meant move here—”I’d probably do it again,” she said confidently. However, she went on to admit that her first few jobs upon moving to Palisade put her perhaps below the poverty line, and definitely below her previous pay grade in Wisconsin. It’s been a long haul to get to the stable situation she was in when we met, working at the city with full benefits and seen as a leader in the community.