Minnesota: Where Even The Criminals Are Practical

July 13, 2011
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Back in 1987, Howard Mohr wrote a funny little book that taught non natives of Minnesota how to talk like us. Howard Mohr’s How To Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide was a bestseller here in the land of 10,000 lakes, though no one would ever admit to actually purchasing the book. We all borrowed it from someone who was from out of town. In his book he instructed people who were from the south, or either of the coasts, how to fit in while visiting this great north land. While teaching the fine art of using you betcha in a sentence he also illustrated how practical and understated we Minnesotans are.

In Minnesota we have a reason for doing everything. We are not fly by the seat of our pants people and most of our behavior is dictated by the weather. It’s either too hot or, more than likely, too cold in Minnesota to do what we want to do so we patiently wait until the seasons change to do that which we desire.

I ran across this article yesterday from and it struck me that while the story is rather ghastly it perfectly illustrates just how practical and understated Minnesotans are.

According to the remains of a missing woman were found buried under her home recently. Not really news anymore, we hear about this kind of thing everyday, sadly. What is a little different here is the reason she was murdered and how she was buried. Apparently Tamara Lee Mason, who was found buried on her own property, wanted to play Yahtzee with her three children over the winter holidays last December. The children did not want to play and after she got mad and stormed out, one of the boys strangled her and then the others put a plastic bag over her head and secured it with his belt eventually killing her.

No Minnesotan would dispute the use of the belt. It was available and handy. Probably closer to reach than duct tape.

But that isn’t the practical part of the story, though indeed it is very practical to use one’s belt when strangling someone. No, what was practical was that the sons stored her body in a large container, though detouring through South Dakota, and then wisely stored her in the garage until the ground thawed. Why waste energy trying to dig a hole in ground that is frozen solid?

It isn’t clear how the body was discovered, though I would bet it had something to do with foraging animals, however once found the local sheriff summed up the family dynamic as only a true Minnesotan could:

“It is very strange,” Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis told the Star Tribune Tuesday. “She wanted to play Yahtzee and they didn’t. That seemed to be, in their minds, what expedited her sudden demise.”

Of the family, Willis said, “It’s probably not the most functional family in the world, but it’s not the most dysfunctional, either.”

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  • Reply Madge July 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I was informed by a Minnesotan that if you really want to pronounce it right it’s Minnesnoda with emphasis on the “o”. But my favorite thing to say is ” as the crow flies” and “for corn sakes”

    • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:13 am

      I’ve never heard “for corn sakes”. Are you sure they weren’t talking about Corn Flakes?  We do say “as the crow flies” all the time, doesn’t everyone?

      • Reply Madge July 15, 2011 at 1:48 am

        Nope Bobby’s mom om Bobbies world used to say things like…
        Bobby now… Go into the bathroom and wash your hands…for corn sakes you could catch a virus … Or something. The only time I ever say as the crow flies is when I’m trying to sound like I’m from the midwest, um or Sara Palin. I can see Russia from my house it’s 20 miles as the crow flies.

        • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:52 am

          Love Bobby’s World! Listening to the mom talk was like a big hug from home.

  • Reply If I Were God... July 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    How is that NOT the most dysfunctional family?!  Killing mom over YAHTZEE?
    If it were Monopoly I could understand it, that game is cutthroat, but YAHTZEE?

    • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:08 am

      But in Monopoly someone always throws the board up and scatters all the pieces before anyone wins or gets murdered. I haven’t played Yahtzee since I was a kid but I do remember it causing all kinds of fights. 

      • Reply Linda R. July 16, 2011 at 3:32 am

         I like Yahtzee, and used to play it as a kid with my parents (no siblings).

  • Reply babs (beetle) July 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Oh my word!  There are some scary people in the world!

  • Reply BlogRehab July 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    That sound so much like the movie Fargo! I can just hear either of the two main characters saying that. Except that the characters in the movie were FICTIONAL!

    • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:04 am

      I had a boss, when I lived in Seattle, who loved that movie. He used to talk to me just so he could hear my accent and laugh. What a dumbass.

  • Reply BlogRehab July 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Whoops, I mean sounds.

  • Reply nonamedufus July 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Ha! Are Minnesotans funny? You betcha! But so are Canadians. Down east, up here in even more Canada we say things like “stay where you’re at ’till I come where you’re to”.

    • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:06 am

      That makes my head hurt a little. We say “where are you at?” all the time, it’s so wrong and I think I might have gotten my ear twisted for saying it at home but it is the way everyone talks.

  • Reply meleahrebeccah July 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Um…. this might be the most upsetting news story I’ve read in weeks!

    • Reply redheadranting July 15, 2011 at 1:05 am

      Really? You need to get out more. Killing someone over Yahtzee seems completely reasonable to me. 

      • Reply meleahrebeccah July 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm

        Yeah? Um.. Okay?

        *sorry for the delayed reply. Been crazy busy!

  • Reply Rachele July 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I love Yahtzee but am making a mental note to never try and force the kids to play with me.  Sheesh.  Good thing we can find all these games online so as not to bother the children.

  • Reply Linda R. July 16, 2011 at 3:36 am

    That is indeed a sad tale, killing someone over a simple game.  No one was acting rational.  I looked at the picture of those 3 boys (men?) and they all have creepy eyes, and the oldest kind of looks like a psycho.

  • Reply Don E. Chute July 16, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Oh Shitski this hits real close to home…Just last week-end I wanted to play Yahtzee and my Daughter really didn’t…Whew, she just left for a few days!

    Minn.  My Chute’s were gathered up Hanska(?) way…way back.  they ran a small Inn, then hightailed it west to California when the ‘Great Depression’ hit. Memories.

    Take it easy Redhead and Aloha From Sunny South Florida!

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