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An American icon. Daily story · 6 August, 2013
  • It was the only time I saw my grandmother truly transfixed. All she said was, “Holy Mackerel.” Didn’t even raise her voice. Her eyes bore down. Her lips parted and drew in a breath.

    She had just moved to Fargo from a tiny town in rural North Dakota — an area she’d lived almost all her life. We were riding in her brown hatchback on our way to pick up hot dogs and sodas for lunch.

    But when she saw the giant Ronald McDonald inflated in front of that McDonald’s… she was taken. Which is funny, because she was no stranger to giants. She’d visited the world’s biggest Buffalo dozens of times in Jamestown. The world’s largest prairie chicken in Rothsay. An otter the size of a house in Fergus Falls. And others. Each a giant watching over one small town somewhere on the high plains of the Upper Midwest. Not exactly protecting… but watching.

    The giants my grandmother knew were made of concrete, chicken wire, rebar, and years of paint. Her children climbed and pounded on them, heard their insides echo. They knew they’d be able to return someday with their own children.

    But this clown was a different sort of giant. Temporary. Fragile. From somewhere else. My grandmother was able to see past the uncanny eyes and exhausted posture. She saw past the synthetic fabric. And the fact that that he’d likely be gone before she passed here again.

    When she looked up at those eyes, she saw something else. Something seeing her right back. Something that said, “I’ve seen people all over this country. Movie stars, beauty queens, artists, and bank robbers. And now I’m seeing you.”

    “Look at that,” she said. “Do you see Ronald?” Crossing traffic, she pulled into the lot, whispering, “Let’s stop and have a look.”
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