Meet Mitch Mense. 47. a.k.a., the
Bandanna Man and/or Minnesota Mitch, who was just happy to be back at one of his favorite stomping grounds.
shaggy-haired private contractor from
Minneapolis missed his calling as a vaudeville stand-up comic but was a
sizeable presence last Saturday near the
swimming beach at Hayes Lake State Park.
The Friends of Hayes Lake had selected last Saturday as
the day to begin screening in the pavilion, their
latest project to make Hayes Lake the
classiest little state park in Minnesota.
For several days prior, KJ-102 FM had put out the call for volunteers
to bring hammers and staple guns, much like the Jehovah Witnesses do when they decide to build a new church in just a couple of days.
hands make light work.
The problem was, the devoted didn't show.
But the Bandanna Man was there, and he sincerely believes that the
park is his domain.
good to be up at the park and be king," he declared as he gave orders
like a drill instructor.
At various times in the four hours that he was on the job, he barked orders at the four-man crew like they were Marine recruits.
Oh, he owned the park last Saturday, even going so far as to warn the park ranger, Lance Crandall, that he planned to return
with his boat and
outboard motor and
shake things up by violating the ban against outboard motors.
Maybe he was kidding, but the park ranger immediately cast a jaundiced eye toward Minnesota Mitch, who more than slightly resembles a grizzly bear.
He has camped at Hayes on several occasions, finding the hot water in the showers the finest comfort when he is in need of soap and water.
Had he not had a prior engagement, he would have worked the entire day for the Friends of
Hayes Lake, who appeared to be almost friendless.
were all the members?
They definitely would have been impressed.
Minnesota Mitch was right on the job. hammering away and plotting shortcuts to help the Friends save money on additional lumber they will need to complete the job.
That was not his initial response as
he assumed that the state was paying for the supplies,
belittled some of the
lumber that appeared to have been formerly the
habitat of termites.There was also plywood paneling
that was definitely worth stealing.But once
he learned that the Friends of Hayes Lake had
paid for everything, he worked like a Republican
looking for another tax loophole. He had two
very cooperative carpenters working right alongside
Steve Roseen and Gump
Olsen also volunteered their time and, while
the screening job did not get completed, they
managed to get three sides of the pavilion framed
in.About an hour before noon, a lady stepped
inside the pavilion and pointed out that two
of the 2 X 4 studs were not square, which prompted
the usual from Minnesota Mitch.
"Who the (expletive)
is she?" he snarled with a laugh. As it
was somebody's mother, the Bandanna Man took
the criticism in stride, pointing out that more
hammers were available and the lady could get
right to work.
Which she promptly
did, and he had another helper. And then the
Bandanna Man departed, and the joint got quiet
without the guy with the colorful vocabulary.
Deep In The Woods
On Sunday morning, Mitch was spotted somewhere south of
Axel Olson corner in the Beltrami Island
The site was not to be disclosed as he had earlier given a direct order
not to reveal his present
He poked his head out of the door, looking too big for his little camper that was more
suited for a dwarf.
begun to drizzle.
"It's perfect in dry weather,"
he said. "But if it rains, it leaks."
Always, with the Bandanna Man, a
nickname he acquired long ago as it is his
trademark headgear, there was a snappy comeback.
perfect," he said.
And then there was this tremendous
growl, as he cast his eyes skyward, and the Bandanna Man appeared to have a legitimate gripe.
His Twins had played the night before, as had the Golden Gopher, and, try as he could, he
could not catch a single score.
about to give a proper
on something that is dear to his heart.
Forget politics. Sports are his forte and he had a beef.
"The radio stations up here don't
cover the sports other
than the locals,"
he almost sneered as he reached toward his
little portable radio.
It was the final weekend of the regular season, and he expected to hear the score.
"And you can't get a Gophers football game," he said almost incredulously.
then he laughed.
"Bet you can get a Sioux
hockey game," he said. "I bet that comes in pretty damn clear."
And then he got around to a topic that puzzles him - Roseau and Warroad, where he has friends in both towns.
"I can't understand why the two towns don't get along," he said, pondering aloud whether it has to do with the hockey rivalry, which he dated back to the 1960's.
He was told that it goes back way further than that, almost as long
ago as Athens and Sparta.
Momentarily, he recalled when he played hockey and football for St. Louis Park and how they always wanted to beat the snot out of Edina, their closest rival.
Of course, they never did in hockey, which qualifies the Bandanna Man as a long-suffering member of "The coalition of the also-rans" as Edina beat Roseau and Warroad too many
times to remember.
At around 9 a.m. on Sunday, he looked decidedly out of place. His big, shaggy head looked almost naked.
For the first time ever, much like a
guy who always wears a
rug to cover his bald head, the Bandanna Man was without his trademark.
He must have noticed that he was being stared at
because he immediately
donned this week's special, a dollar handkerchief.
Inside the camper, he had so many of them that he would never require a box of Kleenex if he were to catch a cold.
"I got all kinds of
colors," he said, reaching for a stack of them, one of which was an
American flag handkerchief.
"When the war started, I
started wearing it for the troops," he said. "Right or wrong, I support the troops."
Until just recently, everybody in the backwoods knew him as the Bandanna Man.
But it is his other nom de plume, Minnesota Mitch, that just might catch on permanently.
Anybody who plays a game of cribbage with him for money will go home crying.
more than plays the game.
He now designs his own cribbage boards, has his own website -www.customcribbage.com - and has quite the product.
What he has created is the Cadillac of cribbage boards with a price tag to match. The selling prices
range from $120 to $225.
"I've sold 40 now in less than a year on the Internet," he said, mentioning that others were not for sale.
"I donate boards to the VA Hospital and also to the Abbott-Northwestern Rehab Clinic," he said.
The ones he's given to the VA Hospital have turned into
Apparently, the old vets
hide them in their rooms so they don't have to go looking for them when they want to
play a game
His South American hardwood cribbage boards come with brass pegs and a slot for a deck of cards.
"You don't have to go hunting for a deck of cards," he laughed. "It's a
Momentarily, he proceeded to give a very fine demonstration of how to peg on one of his custom-made cribbage boards.
He was way ahead and did not believe
in letting his opponent win.
"I play to win," he said.
"I'm no dummy."
then he was back to his favorite topic, which is being up in this neck of the woods, far off
the beaten path and where he is always ready
to lend a helping hand.
Sometime around 11 a.m. on Sunday, a tremendous thought came into his big, shaggy head.
There is still more work to be done for the Friends of Hayes Lake.
He plans to return and bring his boat and motor.
"It's a 35 horsepower
outboard," he said with a tremendous
He might even offer to give water skiing lessons to the park ranger.