Tim Krohn

Tim Krohn

There is a survey out this week that rates the nation’s “manliest” cities, ranking Minneapolis as 18th.

This has brought considerable angst to some pundits and journalists in the Twin Cities, wondering how their city’s machismo could be so far behind the likes of Nashville, Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City.

I haven’t studied other cities around the country closely, but I’m guessing 18th is about right.

The problem is that the surveyors, by going to big cities, were looking in the wrong places. They should have been studying the rest of each state, where manliness is truly defined.

South of Mankato lives Doug “9 Toes” Marble, named because, well, he lost a toe. Which neither he, nor anyone else, thinks is a big deal.

He used to regularly jump his motorcycle over stuff or drive through flaming rings. Every once in a while he puts the word out, takes an old car somewhere, crawls inside and blows it up good.

Nine Toes doesn’t consider this a vocation because he doesn’t charge people anything to watch his exploits.

He does it because he likes to get together with his buddies and find new ways to blow things up. Put that in your Uptown latte and drink it, Minneapolis.

You can go anywhere in rural Minnesota on any summer evening and find guys in garages, tinkering on a vehicle, sharing a few beers. They aren’t working on Volvo wagons, but Super Duty Ford and Chevy Silverado pickups.

If they have no vehicle that is broken, they just take the engine out of one and take it apart. This would seem odd to metropolitan people, but no one in rural Minnesota would ask them why they do it. They understand why it’s necessary.

Manliness isn’t measured by exceptional feats or occasional actions, but by the way men live their everyday lives.

When I was a kid we hired out to take weeds out of soybean fields. It was a horridly hot, hard job that no one liked. Except for our neighbor, Carl Betzing. He walked from early morning to late afternoon wearing a T-shirt, covered with one of those thick, green, long-sleeved shirts buttoned to the collar, heavy cover-alls and big work boots. He never sweated; just smiled and whistled softly all day.

Many of our women are tough, too, and we view it as a virtue here in outstate Minnesota. Our lieutenant governor, Carol Molnau, who lives on a farm near Gaylord, once beat Jesse Ventura (one of the metropolitan area’s manly men) in a beer keg tossing contest.

Most Minneapolis men wouldn’t even drink beer from a keg, much less be able to toss one.

If you head Up North the manliness quotient goes off the charts.

When I visit my cabin in May and stop at my favorite watering hole, the Harriet Club, the locals are recounting details of the deer hunt from last November. Soon they will switch to spending the next six months talking about the prospects for the upcoming deer hunt.

They are satisfying and detailed stories, from the thought put in to proper tree-stand placement to the difficulty in gutting the deer in a sleet storm.

As the metropolitan media and bloggers discuss the manliness list, there is considerable debate over what in fact constitutes manliness. Some argue NASCAR and hunting, while others bring in the characteristics of sensitivity, responsibility and the ability to “listen.”

This, in itself, should explain the low ranking for Minneapolis. Rural residents don’t debate such things. They don’t need to. Guys wear their masculinity like a comfortable baseball cap.

Had the surveyors looked in rural Minnesota, we still might not have ranked at the very top. I’ve been through rural Tennessee and Montana and those country boys are some contenders.

But I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be 18th.

Tim Krohn is a Free Press staff writer. He can be contacted at 344-6383 or tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com

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