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Madison to Minnesota on this late September day is a textbook study in fall beauty. The woods redden and yellowen as we roll north and west on I-94. Dead corn stalks wither among the green fields. All is bucolic, with a few jarring intrusions–giant indoor water sports empires with family lodges and Ralph Lauren and Nike outlet stores that sprout like spores.

We’re sixteen miles from Osseo, WI, tiny town in the woods, home of the Norske Nook, pie restaurant extraordinaire and hotbed of Norse American ethnicity. Shawn Nourse is particularly excited and keeps calling out from the far back seat, “How far to the Nook? Do you think we missed it?” Oh no, Shawn. We have not missed it.*Minutes later we’re knee deep in pie. Apple pie, blueberry pie, and even Shawn’s chocolate mint pie — one bite of which could throw a healthy grown man into a diabetic coma. Thankfully, Shawn is not a healthy grown man. As the sugar takes hold the cute young and older waitresses seem to dance around the tables, floating through the air with de-caf coffee pots and carafes of ice water. Dressed in traditional Swedish gowns, they take on the form of Scandinavian Angels in this Pie Heaven.

As we resume our drive westward toward Rob’s home state, Shawn peacefully snoring in the back seat, the sun beats us to the horizon, a long and complex sunset, like a Speyside single malt from a cherry cask (sorry, Scotland casts a long psychic shadow). We approach the Mississippi in shadow.*Shawn’s Norseness is of undetermined degree; he’s more Irish than anything else, some believe.

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