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The Pinke Post: How Vergas Hardware and this column are related

Katie Pinke met Vergas Hardware owner and reader of The Pinke Post column, Paul Pinke. An Agweek reader brings the column to Paul Pinke each week. Submitted photo

I started this column four years ago this month. Agweek management at the time asked for a name for my column and I didn’t know what to call it. The name of my blog, The Pinke Post, was given to my column.

I asked how often I should write and the feedback was “weekly.” Now, 200+ columns later, here we are.

In the summer of 2016, I went from a contractor to full-time employee of Agweek and the column continued. What I didn’t know was that by using my married name, Pinke, in my blog starting in 2007 and my column starting in 2015, would connect me to my husband’s relatives and their German ancestry.

Five years ago, I received a Facebook message from a cousin to my husband and father-in-law who sent me photos of handwritten notes from her late father showing the Pinke family lineage from Germany to Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota in the late 1800s. It was the most information any of us ever had or knew of my father-in-law, Eldon Pinke’s grandfather, Henry Pinke, and his brothers.

We looked at the information, talked and did nothing else with it. We haven’t created an ancestry.com account or tried to connect the dots anymore to relatives.

But last Saturday morning in Vergas, Minn., connecting this column to relatives came to life without any online messages or ancestry research. While I was with a colleague capturing the Maple Syrup Demonstration Day at Maplewood State Park, my husband, two daughters, mother-in-law, and father-in-law were in nearby Vergas for the Maple Days festivities and enjoying pancakes with plenty of real maple syrup.

Our daughter, Elizabeth, age 11, had done some phonebook research to know there was a Paul Pinke in Vergas and was determined to meet him. With a last name like Pinke, there aren’t many of us.

My father-in-law, Eldon, had a distant memory of hearing or knowing he had a cousin with a small town hardware store in Minnesota. My family crew visited Vergas Hardware and asked if Paul Pinke was available. As every good small town story goes, Paul Pinke was standing at the counter. He has owned Vergas Hardware for 40 years. After connections were made, Paul and Eldon determined their grandfathers were brothers and their dads first cousins, but they were raised hundreds of miles apart, in different states. I think more visits this summer will build a friendship between the two that they didn’t get in their earlier lives.

My girls later shared with me that from behind the counter, Paul pulled out a manila envelope of cut out Agweek columns, all labeled The Pinke Post, and shared that he reads every column I write and has been connected to our family from my writing.

Nathan, my husband, sent me a few texts and a photo while the interaction was happening. Later in the afternoon when the AgweekTV shoot was complete, I met up with Nathan at our lake place and we set out back to Vergas. I needed to meet Paul for myself.

I instantly loved Vergas Hardware. It is a small town dream store, with aisles full of anything you could need from household, hardware to gardening and all with a classic, homey feel to the store. We will support it often when we’re in Minnesota.

We were told by a friendly employee that Paul was doing book work but she went to get him. Paul came out to greet me by name. It was like meeting a longtime friend. He pulled out my columns and explained how every week a local farmer cuts out my column and brings it to town for him. Thank you, farmer.

The connection meant more than you could know this week. I needed a little spring boost and this was an unexpected joy of The Pinke Post, but most of all, a joy for my family. I’ll see you again soon, Paul. Thank you for reading.

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