For Fun

Sprout’s Revenge

Minnesota is a great state, isn’t it? I mean, if you don’t count the Twin Cities. And summer just isn’t summer without a road trip.

My wife and I recently returned from a meandering Minnesota road trip during which we passed through 18 of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

We stopped by any and all roadside attractions that caught our eye.

Why? Well, restrooms for one reason, and for another, I’m doing research on these touristy landmarks, because some will appear in the Norwegian Pontoon Mafia series.

Or disappear…

Our stops included the fantastic Runestone Museum in Alexandria, the St. Urho statue in Menahga (why are Finns so weird?), the world’s largest tiger muskie statue in Nevis, and even the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove.

St. Urho statue in Menahga. This was before flyswatters were invented. 

We were, however, denied entrance to the Hewitt Historical Museum for refusing to offer a blood sacrifice to the god Moloch.

Hewitt Historical Museum. Admission price: Blood.

On the way home, we stopped in Blue Earth to see the nearly 60-foot Jolly Green Giant.

(Ho, ho, ho.)

We arrived while the actors were on lunch break, so all there was to see was the empty pedestal that says Welcome to Blue Earth. He and “Sprout” had ducked into the Dairy Queen at the north edge of the park.

TRAVEL TIP: The DQ in Blue Earth is the only franchise location to offer a novelty Brussels Blizzard, which consists of Brussels sprouts mixed in frozen textured dairy product. It’s served with a knife so you can chop off your own tongue before you drink it.

Irwin Robertson is the actor who plays the Jolly Green Giant statue. He insists that people call him “G.G.” when he’s in character, because he is a method actor of the highest calibre, which is Hollywood code for “he’s kind of an a-hole”.

Irwin Robertson demonstrating his powerful method acting as “G.G.” in Blue Earth, Minnesota.

He had a brief stint in the Fruit of the Loom advertising campaign back in the 1980s, but he had a run-in with the red apple character and “accidentally” crushed his Datsun 300ZX. 

Fruit of the Loom Guys with rare photo of Irwin Robertson as the Hardy Giant Kiwi.

You may also remember Irwin from his work in James and the Giant Peach at the Children’s Theatre. (He played the Peach.)

Irwin Robertson as The Giant Peach.

Now, I know there are some pretty rough jobs out there, but trying to look jolly all day with a four-foot-wide smile and standing still for tourists so they can take the same photos and make the same banal comments, like It’s not as big as I thought has got to be one of the worst jobs.

How difficult it must be not to shout back, “That’s what she said!” and scare them back to Missouri. Not all heroes wear capes, I guess.

Then again, what else would a 55-and-a-half foot man do other than act as the spokesmodel for a vegetable processing company? Poor guy was drummed out of the Marine Corps because of his temper, which was very short for such a tall man.

Apparently Irwin (or G.G.) manages his anger issues well enough while he’s in character, which is sunrise to sundown, seven days a week. After sundown, however, stuff happens that they don’t tell you about on the nicely painted placards. And don’t bother asking for any real info at the Museum: they all toe the company line there. For the real dirt, you have to talk to Gloria at the DQ or Bernie over at the Bomgaars.

After his traumatic experiences in the marines and in children’s theatre, Irwin resorted to drinking distilled pea liquor. As soon as the last tourists pulled out of Blue Earth, he would become a drunken maniac.

On more than one occasion he tried to have intimate relations with the drive-through window at the Dairy Queen. It happened often enough that the DQ barred the window to prevent “intrusion”, and now they can offer only very narrow to-go items.

Side rant: There’s always that one kid working the drive-through window who can’t figure out you can just turn the Dilly Bar sideways to make it fit through the bars, isn’t there?

Irwin’s violent behavior damaged his working relationship with coworkers, too, like his little side-kick, Sprout.

I had a chance to speak briefly with the actor who plays the Sprout statue, and he’s a super nice guy. His name is Russel Von Hinderloop, and originally he came to Minnesota from Denver for treatment at the Mayo Clinic for his rare leafy-green eczema disorder.

G.G. focused his drunken hijinks on poor little Sprout. More than one morning, park workers would have to pull Sprout from the drainage pipe near the parking lot after G.G. played a round of what he called “Sprout Ball”.

The “Sprout Spout” – now sealed.

It got so bad that the public works staff finally capped the drain entrance to keep G.G. from repeatedly shoving Sprout in the spout. Sprout told me that things were still pretty bad after that, and no matter how many times G.G. apologized and promised he’d quit drinking the pea liquor, things would always turn ugly after dark.

“I had to learn how to stand up for myself,” Sprout revealed. “And I figured I needed a way to humble G.G. Cut him down to size, so to speak.”

Russel “Sprout” Von Hinderloop, formerly of Denver, Colorado

Using the City of Blue Earth’s operating budget for the next fifteen years, Sprout ordered a giant wind turbine from Amazon. He tracked the shipment number and as the oversized trucks lumbered towards Blue Earth on Highway 90, Sprout taunted G.G., saying there was no way he could straddle the highway like a real giant. G.G., who had been hitting the sauce a little early that particular day, called Sprout a baby dink and marched right off to prove him wrong.

Some people recognize wind turbines as an alternate source of energy, but for those who had to drive through the bloody carnage on highway 90 after the convoy of wind turbine trucks roared between G.G.’s legs, they know that the blades of a wind turbine are even more effective at circumcising giants.

Wind turbines: alternate energy production or emasculating ball choppers?

Next time you visit, you’ll notice that under the leaf-strewn tunic of the Jolly Green Giant, G.G. is not “intact”, and the only way G.G. maintains his jolly demeanor is at the thought of kicking Sprout’s tiny ass all the way to the Spam Museum.

Sprout’s clever plan has worked pretty well, for the time being. He’s in good spirits and even told me a silly joke: Did you hear that the Jolly Green Giant’s balls got chopped off by a wind turbine?

Well, okay, it wasn’t so much a joke as it was a gleeful retelling of actual events.

Moheled Again

So life in Blue Earth, Minnesota, is pretty good for now. Under the drive-through window at the DQ hangs a sign that reads 271 days since last giant humping.

Now, there’s a t-shirt you can’t buy in the museum gift shop.

To order your commemorative t-shirt, send $52.99 to me. All proceeds go to the purchase of child labor.

Chaunce Stanton Author King of the Waves

Styled to Keep You Out of the Crowd

For my next novel (King of the Waves), I'm researching the year 1976, among numerous other rabbit-hole topics. I'm sharing a smattering of these fabulous finds to bring you with me back in time to the mid-1970s—back when they still made cars.

I mean REAL cars.

Hear the audio version of this post.

by Chaunce Stanton | Boxflap Podcast

Met the Ford Elite with a 351-in³ V8 engine. The asking price started at $4,879, but if you wanted some 8-track music with your AM/FM stereo, it ran you an extra $326.


Fuel efficient? Hell yeah! The Elite got 12 miles to the gallon. By comparison, a Boeing 747 gets about 0.2 miles per gallon, and, unlike a 747, you didn’t have to worry about those pesky seatbelt signs dinging on and off when you want to go to the bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong: the Ford Elite had seatbelts, but they were the kind you just kept buckled and sat on. And if you wanted to go to the bathroom while you were cruising, well, that’s why you kept an empty jar in the huge glove compartment.
There was no “Driver Confidence Package” to add on. If you drove a Ford Elite, you already had all the confidence you needed. There was no forward-collision warning system. If you ran into something with this car, you meant to do it.


The mirrors weren’t for parallel parking. There was no parallel parking this car. You just made a hard right turn in front of the Woolworths and put it park. Then you’d use your rear-view mirror to check your look. You only used the sideview mirrors to watch the state patrol saunter up to the driver’s window when he pulled you over.


When he asked, “You know why I pulled you over?” you’d answer, “Because you’re jealous that I’m driving a 1976 Ford Elite.”

These beauties are still around. The current average asking price for this classic is about $10,000.

Blank Slate Boarding House for Creatives

Boxflap & The Strange Recital

The World’s Greatest Mind Magician Reappears

One of my new favorite podcasts is The Strange Recital. It is, well, a strange recital of odd tales in audio podcast form, but I hasten to add, the stories and interviews are always of the highest literary quality.

In spite of that, they let me sneak in for episode 21042.

You can play that episode here in the player feature below:

I read the first chapter of The Blank Slate Boarding House for Creatives and discuss the world’s greatest mind magician, the anti-hero of that novel.

The shows start with a mysterious voice reading aloud an ethereal, or offbeat story. Then hosts Brent Robison and Tom Newton interview (dare I say probe?) the author for deeper insights.

Tom Newton, co-host, The Strange Recital
Brent Robison, co-host, The Strange Recital
F. Scott Fitzgerald (left), Chaunce Stanton (right)

The Strange Recital is is not your grandfather’s podcast – assuming your grandfather is still alive and young enough to have had access to the internet and indoor plumbing.

…and if you haven’t yet read The Blank Slate Boarding House for Creatives, may I be so bold as to encourage you to do so at this time?

Chaunce Stanton Author

Thoughts on Jacob Wetterling

One of Minnesota’s most memorable missing person cases touched my life, if only very peripherally. Eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling was abducted in 1989 from St. Joseph, Minnesota, only forty miles from my hometown of Annandale, Minnesota. I was eighteen at the time, and I remember the news roiled with coverage. Bizarre theories developed, including one that pointed the finger back at Jacob’s father as the culprit. 

Everyone wanted to know: Where is Jacob Wetterling?

At the time, I worked as campus security officer while attending Saint Cloud State University, which was only ten miles from where Jacob was taken. We adjusted our patrols to include state-owned quarries and the dark, far reaches of campus, to locate Jacob. We knew two things even then: it was highly unlikely we would find Jacob, and—even if we did—it was highly unlikely we would find him alive.

Fast forward to October 18, 2015. My dad and I drove from St. Paul to Annandale for a pancake breakfast fundraiser at Pioneer Park on Highway 55. We strolled around town, checking out the old house and main street. As we stood at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Spruce Drive, just two blocks from where I attended high school, there were two things my dad and I didn’t know: 1). My dad’s life soon would be upended by dementia, and 2). We were standing in front of the house where Jacob Wetterling’s killer lived.

Danny Heinrich was arrested at his home at 55 Myrtle Avenue in Annandale, Minnesota just ten days later on October 28, 2015. DNA evidence had tied him to the 1989 abduction and assault of a boy from Cold Spring, Minnesota. 

Danny Heinrich’s house in Annandale, Minnesota

Although Heinrich later admitted to abducting, raping, and murdering Jacob Wetterling—he led investigators Jacob’s grave in Paynesville—he was not charged for that crime, nor will he ever be tried for it, thanks to a generous plea deal. He also can’t be tried for the abduction and sexual assault of the other boy, because the statute of limitations have expired. 

The only crime for which Daniel Heinrich was convicted resulted from the discovery of child pornography in his Annandale home.

As of this writing in 2021, Heinrich is in a medium-security federal medical center in Ayer, Massachusetts (FMC-Devens) with about 800 hundred other prisoners with medical and/or mental health issues. The male inmates range from white-collar criminals to mobsters to sex offenders, like Heinrich. FMC-Devens has hosted the likes of the Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, mobster John Gambino, Bernie Madoff’s brother, and dick-picster Anthony Weiner.

What’s life like now for Danny Heinrich?

He’s allowed six visits a month, and (during non-pandemic conditions, at least) he’s allowed physical contact with visitors: a hug, a handshake, a pat on the back. He can receive mail. He can receive money. He receives counseling and treatment for his sex-offender “problem”. He can attend religious services. He can take adult continuing-education classes and has access to an electronic library where they can read up on case law and sentencing guidelines. 

He can breathe, eat, watch television, and hang out with other pedophiles. He can play floor hockey, basketball, and soccer. He can make his own greeting cards in the hobby craft room. He can practice an instrument in the music-practice room.

Last year (2020), the ACLU petitioned the Federal Bureau of Prisons to release vulnerable inmates who pose little public risk, because of concerns over COVID-19 rates among the incarcerated. U.S. Representative Lori Trahan echoed this sentiment in January 2021.

Danny Heinrich must be salivating at the thought of potentially being released early, a tantalus of viral infection and do-gooder political showboating waving another free pass under his nose. Too bad, Danny: so close, yet so far.

Meanwhile, he still is serving his 20-year sentence. His scheduled release date is November 9, 2032. He will be seventy years old when he gets out of FMC-Devens when Jacob Wetterling would have been fifty-four years-old. 

In 2032, Jacob may have been a father, maybe even a grandfather. He would have had a career. He would have had Christmases, Thanksgivings, ball games, first dates, a first love, first kiss, first car.

But a stranger, Danny Heinrich, Register Number: 18854-041, took life away from a scared boy in the woods next to a gravel pit in central Minnesota.

Heinrich damn sure doesn’t want to get sent back to Minnesota, because he likely would be committed to the state’s sex offender treatment program, which is essentially a life sentence.

We call it closure to know where Jacob’s body was hidden and to learn the gruesome details of his final moments of life.

But we can’t call it justice.

Jacob Wetterling
February 17, 1978 – October 22, 1989
Missing No More


Chaunce Stanton Author

Oh the Places You Won’t Go!

Who Just Got Seussed?

In the latest episode of the Boxflap podcast, we have fun with the dystopian classic 1984 and chuckle at the “canceling” of six Dr. Seuss books.

We laugh, because otherwise we would cry.

What’s the connection, funny or otherwise, between Dr. Seuss and George Orwell’s classic 1984?

Dr. Seuss books are getting memory-holed!

In the latest episode of Boxflap (Dr. Seuss and 1984), I included a Seussian-styled poem that just might curl the tips of your pointy shoes!

In the dystopian novel 1984, the main character (Winston Smith) works for the Ministry of Truth. Essentially his job is to change recorded history and news stories to align with current political thinking. He “memory-holes” the undesirable truths to replace them with approved truths, meaning the less desirable thoughts are erased in hopes they are forgotten.

Beyond Dr. Seuss, there are many living voices being cancelled right now. They are being labeled as racist, dangerous misinformation, transphobic, or pigeon-holed and marginalized in some other way.

These labels are just fancy ways of saying, “I don’t agree with that opinion” or even “the government doesn’t agree with that opinion”.

The problem with that approach is that if we don’t protect free speech for all, then there is no free speech. Just as if we don’t protect the rights of all individuals, then there can be no “greater good”.

As an author, I believe in free speech, whether I agree with the speech or not. Speech is a fundamental right for any civilized society. In fact, it is not an American issue. Freedom of speech is a basic human right. 

This is not about a political party or “left versus right”. This is only about rights versus the alternative, which is Not Right.

And let me be clear, when I say WE need to protect basic human rights, I am talking about YOU and ME. I am not referring to government. We should not – we cannot – entrust the guardianship of basic human rights to an exterior agency. We must acknowledge our own responsibility and duty in this regard.

If you’re familiar with satire, you’ll know that it plays an important role in using laughter to draw attention to important issues. And I gotta tell ya, we need A LOT of satire-driven laughter right now, because there are many “games afoot” to coin a phrase from Sherlock Holmes. In these games, you and I are not meant to win. That’s why we have a lot of laughs on Boxflap. For now.