2003 – Joe and Mary

The Gnometown tale of “Joe and Mary”
Joe and Mary Givens

The buildings stood there, towering over Gnometown like stalagmites in the gnomes’ caverns of long ago; massive, beautiful, empty and still. A sign loomed over the entrance: Tri-County Cooperative Soybean Association. The words rang silent, but there was a feeling that their meaning would unfold over time; how much time, the gnomes knew not.

It was 1951 and two gnomes were making their way across the prairie from the east, over rivers, through ravines, across fields blooming with a short, leafy, green plant sporting strange white nodules with little black spots on them. Their destination was clear: Gnometown. As the tow, Joe and Mary, made their way across the perilous land, they discussed their plans, once Gnometown was reached. Joe resolved to find a way to convert the short leafy green plant into products for gnome and beast; and Mary reflected that she would master the wooden box with white and black keys, called a piano. They arrived in Gnometown, overwhelmed by the greeting they received from the local gnomes. They made their home under a resplendent canopy of leaves and twigs, near the school for young gnomes, and the church for Lutheran gnomes. Every day Joe walked to the Tri-County Cooperative Soybean Association, where machines gradually started whirring, with the help of many of the town’s gnomes with names like Bob, Doug, Esther, Bernice, Dave and Mike. A strange smell soon emanated from the site: roasty, toasty, earthy.  It was the smell of soybeans being converted first into oil, flakes, grits, and then into products like Tuffy’s dog food, Crisco oil, and more. In the meantime, Mary played the piano with such speed and conviction that some of the Gnometown natives were alarmed; but Mary said, “Don’t worry; my Bach is worse than my bite.” Mary and Joe raised three daughters; Mary taught piano to the town’s young gnomes, and directed the choir and played the organ at the church for Presbyterian gnomes. They prospered, added on to their home under the leaves, and traveled frequently to visit gnomes in other lands, always happy to return home to the paradise know to them as Gnometown.

Joe Givens was born in Chatfield, Minnesota; Mary, in LaCrosse Wisconsin. They first met while attending Carleton College in Northfield, Mn. Mary invited Joe to a dance one evening. Joe, although learned in all things having to do with chemical engineering, did not immediately recognize the chemistry generated by the evening. Five years later, Joe finally asked the young Mary out on a date, the two married in 1949, and raised three daughters; Beth, Claire and Ann. Joe retired in 1981 from Dawson Mills as its General Manager, and he and Mary lived half of the year in Edina, Mn and the other half in Naples, Florida. The two, seemingly not knowing the meaning of the word “retirement,” kept busy singing in two choirs, playing bridge, savoring sunsets on the beaches, playing golf every spare second, enjoying their wonderful group of friends and often reminiscing on their 30 years in Gnometown.


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