It's easy for a traveller to miss the little things that truly define a place. Sometimes it takes living somewhere to really discover what is culturally self-evident. I've spent nearly five years in northern Minnesota, and some things that I pass every day it's taken that long to actually see.
Such are the small huts scattered throughout rural Minnesota's north country laneways. Used to shelter children from the bitter cold while waiting for the school bus at the end of a long country drive, it's Minnesota parents' way of ensuring their genetic investment keeps all its extremities through to adulthood. Though natural selection takes care of those who can't make it between their front door and the shelter, the huts are an effective means of escaping bitter temperatures that can reach as low as -50F (-45.5C)...without a wind chill.
Each is unique. Some are tall and skinny. Others are long and narrow to shelter several cramped young scholars. There's only so much for Mom and Dad to do on long winter nights north of Lake Superior. On a dark winter morning, glum-looking kids are part of the touristic experience.
But generally the huts are oddly reminiscent of outhouses, and I suspect more than a few are retired rustic lavatories, though I've seen none with the give-away crescent moon on its door. Likely a few have served as a sauna or ice fishing shelter in a past life. No matter their original purpose and protective value, the shelters are reminders of the school year. You won't see a kid within miles of one in July.
Most of the shelters are well built to keep out the wind-chill, and they are sometimes lined with insulation. Many have lighting, a few even have security systems; the average hut might sell for more than a house does in parts of Detroit or Lackawanna. Not surprising, all of these have windows.
The shelters frequently take on the character of the owner's distant house, but some are whimsically decorated, much like mailboxes you might see in the country. Color is also important, better to find a place in a land that's blindingly white for nearly six months of the year. I'll post additional pictures to this collage as I continue to discover the north country.
If you're ever in northern Minnesota, make sure to look for these emblems of the north country.