Neighbors has carried several items about Joe Veracek, the man who cleaned windows in downtown Fargo several decades ago, and who was known as Injun Joe, Tornado Joe and the “Weather Man” because he told people he could predict the weather.
Now Mike O’Day, Dilworth, writes that “when I and my buddies were growing up during the 1960s, we would ride our bikes to the Island Park swimming pool (in Fargo), and we would see Joe ‘the Weather Man’ walking across the Main Avenue bridge. He would always have on the same attire: blue-jean bib overalls and a long blue jean jacket and he would be carrying a bucket, wood pole and squeegee.
“You see, Joe was always cleaning windows on storefronts. One of them was Berg Motors on Front Street.
“Joe asked the manager, ‘Do you want your windows washed?’ Joe was told that if he had more money on him than the store’s manager, Joe could wash the windows.
“The manager pulled out $50. Joe turned his back, reached into his jean jacket and a minute later pulled out $51! So the job was Joe’s, because he won the bet. And the storefront windows never looked better.
”When I got older,” Mike says, “I still saw Joe walking across the Main Avenue bridge, but he walked a lot slower.
“In the mid ’70s,” he continues, “I worked at the M&H gas station and restaurant on Main Avenue in Moorhead, which had the best hamburgers, fries and shakes in town.
“Joe would come in and rest a bit. I’d give him fries and a shake (on the house).
“After he ate, he would fall asleep. I’d say, ‘Joe, you can’t sleep in here!’ Joe would say, ‘I’m just resting my eyes.’ The he’d get up and be on his way.
“I asked him one time what was the funnest thing he ever saw. He told me it was when he was working in Jamestown, N.D., at the state hospital; he was in charge of milking cows to provide milk for the patients and staff.
“One day he was waiting at the depot for a train to Fargo when he saw a woman patient from the hospital who had escaped and was waiting for the Fargo train, too.
“Two male hospital employees tried to take the woman back to the hospital in a straitjacket.
“Joe started to laugh, then he told me the woman put up such a fight she tore the clothes off both of those men. The men were stark naked!
“That was Joe ‘the Weather Man,’ who was part of Fargo-Moorhead and my growing up years in the ’60s and ’70s,” Mike says; “the one we’d yell at, ‘How’s the weather, Joe?’ and he’d tell us.
“He lived above the Empire Bar in Moorhead.
“I heard that he had a six-figure bank account when he passed away.
“He was a very colorful man.”
Mike adds that he (Mike) worked at the state hospital in Jamestown in 1973-74, and he knows for a fact that the hospital used straitjackets because he once helped put one on a male patient.
Some time ago, Neighbors ran a story about a woman’s memories of attending a rural North Dakota school. Among them: playing in the snow and seeing wolves while heading for school.
That led The Forum’s editor who placed that column in the paper to use “snow” and “wolves” in the headline.
Well, the running of that story and headline proved to be a timing coincidence for Steve Strege, Fargo.
“My wife recently inherited a series of 10 paperback ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder,” Steve wrote Neighbors.
“But no one in the family wanted them, so she planned to give them to Dakota Boys Ranch (in Fargo).
“But I temporarily held them back for some personal reading.
“The first one I read was ‘Little House in the Big Woods,’ he says. “It told of winter and all the snow.
“Then I started reading the book titled ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and the last chapter I read yesterday was ‘The Wolf Pack.’”
So just like that, Steve had two sources of stories on snow and wolves, both of which you folks know are common in the area. Look out your window today and probably you’ll see some of the white stuff, at least. But hopefully, there isn’t a wolf howling at your door.
Incidentally, Steve ends his email by saying say that the “Little House” books “are written at the elementary school reading level, which means I’ve finally found some books I can understand.”
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.