We've just gotten our yearly invitation to the annual Minnesota Transplant party in Nebraska. It would be fun to go - it was always a good time when we could attend - but again we expect to be farther away when it occurs. I wrote before about this gathering (in February of 2007), and decided part of that was worth repeating.

When we lived in Nebraska, we were regulars at the event, along with around 350 other people. We stay in touch with the people who plan it every year - some of whom were also the originators of the idea long ago! - but since we moved we haven't yet made it back to join in the festivities.

This gathering started 26 years ago (note: over 30 years ago now!), and most of the attendees are folks who grew up in Minnesota, or are married to someone who did. Each year it follows the same formula: there is a Minnesota costume contest, a Minnesota trivia contest, some hilarious Minnesota songs are sung (made-up words to familiar tunes), and a Minnesota joke contest.

When we first received an invitation, I wondered what in the world a Minnesota costume looked like, as I couldn't imagine such a thing. Obviously others have better imaginations than I do. The winner one year was a couple who had grown up in Rochester; they wore green operating room scrubs and had come as transplant surgeons, I guess ready to do business on the rest of us transplants. Another year, the winner was a guy dressed up for winter chores, complete with high buckled overshoes. The effect was so good that I fully expected to smell manure on his boots when he got close to us. He even walked the part!

The thing that I looked forward to the most each year was the Minnesota joke contest. At first, like the Minnesota costume, I couldn't imagine what constituted a Minnesota joke. I soon found out; at least for transplants, a Minnesota joke is an Ole and Lena joke. When I heard the jokes the contestants were telling, I quickly joined the line of contestants. When it was my turn, I prefaced my story by saying that mine was not a joke, it was true, as Ole and Lena Peterson were my grandparents. I won second place that year.

For a few years after we moved away, we saved up Ole and Lena jokes and sent them to friends who are still there and also usually attend this get-together, just in case they were looking for options for their entry in the joke contest. We kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, however.

This year, when we got the invitation, I decided maybe it was time to face the reality that we would probably never again be in attendance at that event. So I sent an email, asking them to take us off the mailing list; it would save them a little money! But I could not resist sending along the latest Ole and Lena joke I'd heard, just in case someone was looking for one to use as an entry in this year's contest.

When Lena got off work up there at Perham, it was snowing heavily and blowing to the point that visibility was almost zero. She made her way to her car and wondered how she was going to get home. She sat in the car while it warmed up, and thought about her situation. She remembered Ole's advice that if she got caught in a blizzard, she should wait for a snowplow to come by and then follow behind it. That way she would not have to worry about going off the road or getting stuck in a snowdrift.

Sure enough, in a little while, a snowplow went by, so she pulled out and began to follow it. As she drove along behind the plow, she felt quite comfortable and snug as they continued on their way; she was not having any problems at all driving in this blizzard, or with the road conditions.

After some time had passed, she was somewhat surprised when the snowplow stopped. The driver got out of the cab and came back to her car. He signaled her to roll down her window, and he asked if she was all right, because he had noticed that she had been following him for a long time.

Lena appreciated his concern, and said she was fine. Then she told him of her husband's advice to follow a snowplow when caught in a blizzard. The driver replied that it was OK with him and that she could continue to follow him if she wanted. But he wanted her to know that he was done with the Walmart parking lot and was going over to Target next.

And dat's enough, den! I guess I won't be saving any more of those jokes. They never have been flattering about my grandparents anyway!