Skip to content

11/19/2008 – News

Volume 125, Number 42           Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Maddock cafe in operation again as Gassy Fanny’s
BY SHELL EYL There’s an old saying, "You never know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone." We learned that lesson in Maddock a couple months ago when the only restaurant in town shut down. It’s funny, I never really noticed the smell of French fries when I walked past the bowling alley until it wasn’t there anymore. It was a sad day for the town and sad for me personally.
I’ve worked at Maddock Caf? & Lanes off and on for so many years it’s like a second home to me.
And I was never treated like an employee by Mark and Sharon Wheeler. They treated me like family. That says a lot about the kind of people they are.
I sat at their kitchen table for nearly six hours discussing the ups and downs of owning a restaurant in a small town. Suffice it to say, they could write a book on the subject. The main thing they wanted me to share was how much the support of this community has meant to them over the years. Knowing how much this community loves that caf?, all I can say is ditto. Thank you, Mark and Sharon Wheeler for 17 years of hard work.
The Wheelers bought Maddock Caf? & Lanes from her aunt and uncle, Marvel and Sherman Sylling in October of 1991. They’d discussed moving to the area from Phoenix, Ariz. after visiting Sharon’s parents, Hoyt and Yvonne Finley at Maddock the previous summer. They loved the slow pace of life here and thought it would be a great place to raise their kids. But there were no jobs here. So it seemed like a dream come true when Marvel and Sherman offered to sell the bowling alley and cafe to them. But they didn’t have a clue how to run a restaurant.
Sharon said, "We barely had the U-haul parked when Auntie Marvel called and wanted us to come to the bowling alley and meet our new customers."
Mark nodded, "And we hadn’t been there a week before the same ornery old customer made Sharon cry two nights in a row. She actually walked out and left me alone in there." It seems funny now but looking back on it they both agree the first year was tough.
But the good outweighed the bad by a long shot.
For instance, their son, Ryan, just five years old when they first took over the cafe, used to hop from table to table visiting with the customers — many of whom have since passed away.
And he turned out to be one of the best fry cooks the place had ever seen before he went off to college. The town of Maddock got to watch him grow up. Heck, we helped raise him. We talked about the food. Yvonne would come in at 3 a.m. to bake the homemade pies and cookies that made the mouths of visiting out-of-towners moisten with anticipation the minute they walked through the door. There was the roast beef hot plate that had to be on the menu every single day or invariably someone would complain. And the world would surely end if biscuits and gravy and knoephla soup wasn’t served on Wednesday.
There were funny times . . . like when Sharon baked a coffee filter into the middle of Dean Sorlie’s pancake. It was half gone before he noticed. Or the April Fool’s Day when Yvonne and I taped a remote control fart machine underneath a table and watched to see what would happen. Some customers politely tried to ignore the noise while others loudly proclaimed they didn’t do it.
Sometimes business was so slow they didn’t know how they would pay the help. Other times it was so busy the help couldn’t keep up. But through it all there were three things you could count on when you ate at Maddock Caf? & Lanes . . . good food, reasonable prices and Jimmy Gilbertson drinking coffee out of his little girl white cup.
There’s another old saying, "God never shuts a door without opening a window." When the Wheelers shut the doors of Maddock Cafe & Lanes for the last time a window of opportunity opened up for another Arizona couple. On November 7 in the middle of a snowstorm, deer season opened and so did the bowling alley and cafe — with different owners and a different name. Gassy Fanny’s Caf? & Lanes is cooking up a storm under the ownership of Debra Ann Shultz and her husband, James "Bear" Lyell. I, of course, had to find out the rest of the story.
After visiting friends in the area, and sick of city life and all that goes with it, Deb and Bear decided to move to Harvey from Payson, Ariz. That was a year and a half ago. They arrived in April in their T-shirts and unpacked furniture in a snowstorm the next day. Which only proved the truth in the aphorism, "If you get sick of the weather in North Dakota, just wait a minute and it’ll change."
According to Bear, who’s originally from Alabama, when the couple first moved north the plan was to make enough money to buy a hobby farm and raise a few horses. A little Internet research showed that property in North Dakota is relatively cheap.
So they settled in Harvey, where Deb takes care of an elderly man in his home and also works full-time in the St. Aloisius Medical Center activities department. She enjoys cooking Tex-Mex style and frequently brings things to share with people at work. Her food is so good people started urging her to open a restaurant.
Meanwhile Bear was working as a welder on the swing shift at Summers Manufacturing. Due to rising gas prices they decided to buy a second home in Maddock, where he would stay during the week. When they purchased the late Doug Hvinden’s trailer house, Doug’s daughter, Shirlene McKinnon, jokingly suggested they buy the bowling alley, too. And a short time later Pastor Lu Mathison called them, out of the blue, to inquire if they were interested in owning a restaurant.
Can you hear that window of opportunity opening?
Bear did. He laughed and in a slow southern drawl said, "We came here looking for something. We just didn’t know it was a restaurant. This could turn out to be the second best thing that‘s ever happened to me — marrying Deb being the first." Deb agrees on both counts.
I asked Deb what would possess a couple from Arizona to not only move to North Dakota, but to buy a restaurant in a tiny little town like Maddock. She looked out at the snow-covered streets, smiled and replied, "I always believed there was still a place where people treat each other right. This place is like Mayberry. I try to see the hand of God in everything. This community needed a cafe and I believe we were led here to fill that need." I believe she’s right.
One more old saying, "The more things change the more they stay the same." The bowling alley and cafe has new owners and a new name, but the same Southern hospitality, hard work ethic and community spirit we’re so accustomed to.
There are three things you can count on when you eat at Gassy Fanny’s Caf? & Lanes . . . good food, reasonable prices and Jimmy Gilbertson drinking coffee out of his little girl white cup.

The new owners of the Maddock cafe, renamed "Gassy Fanny’s Cafe & Lanes" are pictured. On the left is waitress Stephanie Rieger of Esmond with owners James "Bear" Lyell and his wife, Debra Ann Shultz.

Erickson honored
On June 28, ND Army National Guard Sergeant First Class Corey E. Erickson was awarded the State Achievement Ribbon from the 136th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. SFC Erickson provided meritorious service to members of the 132nd Quartermaster unit at Camp Ripley, Minn. during their annual training period June 14-24.
SFC Erickson provided assistance with lanes training, placement of obstacles and acted as an aggressor. He works for the city of Devils Lake and lives on Graham’s Island with his wife, Bonnie, who is the Benson County Auditor-Treasurer. They have three children; Alyssa, Austin and Bryer.

Politics at Leeds School
Leeds Elementary School students attended a political rally hosted by the Leeds High School history and college speech classes recently. Pictured here are the political candidates. Barack Obama (Jason Vallier) and John McCain (Trevor Torgerson) along with Uncle Sam (Devin Schwanke) surrounded by many of the elementary students. On Tuesday, Nov. 4 Leeds Elementary School students voted for president. Barack Obama won the student election by one vote.

Students of month
September students of the month at the Tate Topa Middle School were, left to right, back row: Oliver Gourd III, Willanette Goodshot, Kirsten Morken and Angela Belgarde. Front row: Alexis Lohnes, Shandiin Goodbird, Janessa Demarce and Amber Lovejoy.

Tate Topa Middle School students of the month for October are pictured. Left to right, back row, are Latrell Black, Zane Ross, Krista Ross and Clarissa Nomee. Front row: Ronald WalkingEagle, Abreanna Christianson, Ivana Twohearts, and Destiny Davidson.

Observe hat day
Tate Topa Middle School students and staff at Fort Totten participated in Hat Day during Red Ribbon Week. The theme for the day was "Put a Cap on Drugs."

Honor roll students
Students at the Tate Topa Middle School who were named to the first quarter honor roll were, left to right, back row: Oliver Gourd III, Willanette Goodshot, Kirsten Morken, Zane Ross and Lee Lenoir. Middle row: Sherea Lenoir, Bailee Longie, Alexis Lohnes, Mikayla Greywater and Destin Ironshield. Front row: Janessa Demarce, Karaleigh Omen, Nadeen Goodbird and Akiro Tomahawk. Not pictured are Shanda Littlewind, Ivana Twohearts and Keisha Shaw.

Leeds School holds election
The Leeds School held a mock election in which Barack Obama defeated John McCain by one vote.
Braydon Follman decides who he wants for president.

Joey Silliman casts his vote.

Macy Engstrom casts her vote.

Backstrom impressing at college level
A member of the 2006 Maddock Bobcats football team is getting his shot at the college level and people are liking what they see. Jordan Backstrom is a sophomore at Valley City State University (VCSU) and a freshman on its football team. The second half of this season he got some playing time and on Saturday, Nov. 1 made a huge impression in the VCSU Viking’s 34-14 win over the Hard Rockers of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Jordan was recognized as the Special Teams Player of the Game for three kick returns totaling 43 yards. He also carried the ball 17 times for 119 yards and a touchdown. There were times when it looked like Backstrom was stopped with little or no gain and that’s when fans in Valley City found out what Bobcats fans already know — good things come in small packages.  Backstrom did what he’s always done, kept running straight ahead and plowing through anyone who thought they were going to stop him.
The explosive 5’7", 170 lb. running back is the son of Philip and Carol Backstrom of Maddock. He is one of three brothers who contributed to Bobcats football from the mid-1990’s to 2006 and the smallest. Josh and Caleb are also older. Don’t let size fool you, though. Being the youngest and smallest made Jordan tougher and also taught him perseverance.
His high school career numbers include total rushing yards of 3,855 (1,981 his senior year) and receiving yards of 413. He scored 46 touchdowns and was credited with 292 points, including PATs.
Defensively Jordan led the Bobcats his senior year in solo tackles (62) and total tackles (162). Among the honors he received was the 2006 senior athlete of the year for North Dakota 9-Man Region 5 football.
As of November 14, the stats listed on the VCSU Web site show Jordan with 460 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards and 125 kick return yards.
So while his 2008 total yards of 625 aren’t quite as high as his 2006 total of 1,981, remember, he’s playing with the "big" boys in the DAC-10. It may take until next year for Jordan to beat his high school total.

Jordan Backstrom

Valley City State University Viking football fans got to see what Maddock Bobcat fans are familiar with, the explosive power of Jordan Backstrom. (Photo courtesy of the Valley City Times-Record.)

Win belt buckles
The North Dakota Roughrider Rodeo Association held its annual awards banquet November 8 at the K of C Club in Minot. Area competitors receiving awards were Bobbi Grann, 2008 finals women’s all-around champion; Britney Cudworth, 2008 year-end novice barrel racing reserve champion; and Lacey Grann, 2008 year-end novice barrel racing champion and 2008 finals novice barrel racing champion. Left to right with their buckles are Britney Cudworth, Bobbi Grann and Lacey Grann.

Olson honored
Oberon native and Maddock graduate Eric Olson (right) was recently named State Class A Football Coach of the Year by the North Dakota High School Coaches’ Association. Olson teaches and coaches at North Sargent School in Gwinner. His football team, the Milnor-North Sargent Bulldogs finished the season 7-2 and were co-champions of Region 1. Presenting his award was another former Maddock resident, Michael Sorlie, principal and athletic director at North Sargent School. Olson is married to the former Brook Kallenbach and they have a two-year-old daughter, Kinsey. Olson is the son of Jim and Anna Olson of Fargo, formerly of Oberon, and the grandson of Verdel and Luella Olson and Donna Rice of Maddock and the late Jerry Rice.

History of the Flag
The Theodore A. Togstad American Legion Post 123 of Maddock and its Auxiliary sponsored a "History of the Flag" coloring book contest in the Maddock School kindergarten class. Pictured receiving their awards are Mathew Ness, Malachi Dosch, Kaden Lee, Cole Wentz and Jace Arnold. Representing the Legion is Lonnie Nelson and representing the Auxiliary is Donna Rice.

Sherri Thompson gets Unsung Hero award
Sherri Thompson, Unsung Hero for November, received an enthusiastic nomination from leaders in her community in the form of a resolution. Clearly, she is loved by the community she loves Her nominators state, "Sherri is in her second year as president of the Minnewaukan Community Club and has been a driving force in getting projects done and keeping the organization running smoothly in critical times. She takes on many duties both large and small without hesitation. Special celebrations like Summerfest, Fffishtival and the annual community dinner are all successful projects because of her diligence."
She volunteered her services to spearhead the highly successful Minnewaukan Quasquicentennial All-School Reunion this summer. Her involvement began as secretary. Soon she became secretary as well as president. The goal for the celebration was to have 500 in attendance. They had 545 register. People came from throughout the United States and even one from Europe! Sherri says, "Everything fell into place." She doesn’t mention the work she did to make it so.
Sherri and her husband, Randy are both graduates of Minnewaukan High School where they were high school sweethearts. Now they are the proud parents of three active grade schoolers. They own and manage Randy’s Bait Shop as well as Sherri’s Hair Care. Needless to say, they have a busy household. Sherri is living proof of the adage, "Ask a busy person if you want to get something done."
Sherri has boundless energy. The scope of her community volunteer involvement is staggering. The list goes on and on. I will report as much as space allows. What is impressive is the broad range of her activities.
Sherri is active in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Minnewaukan. Not only does she teach Sunday school, she does a large portion of the routine cleaning of the building. She is involved in all aspects of volunteering, including the preparation and serving of meals at the church for funerals and other functions.
A business associate said, "I personally know of the energy she possesses. When I lost my resort, I also lost my office to practice massage therapy. Sherri offered to make room for me in the back room of her hair salon. When the decision was made, Sherri immediately began tearing down an existing wall. She gave up a great deal of personal space. Within two weeks new walls were erected and I had a new massage parlor and office. She made me feel welcome and continues to upgrade the space from time to time."
She is involved in the Horizons Project, an NDSU Extension Service program available to small towns with a poverty level of at least 10 percent. She is one of six facilitators who will identify problems and suggest possible solutions. Her understanding, compassion and devotion to the people of her community is evident when she speaks of this program.
When asked the secret of her success, Sherri parrots the words of another Unsung Hero, Claudette Carlson, saying, "I nag." Though each of these charming women claim to nag, I don’t think either one knows the meaning of the word. Sherri is an inspiring woman who has been a catalyst in her community. She is a motivator who brings out the best in those about her.

Sherri Thompson of Minnewaukan, center, received the Unsung Hero award for the Lake Region sponsored by Ramsey Bank and Lake Chevrolet of Devils Lake. On the left is Polly Kjelden, representing Ramsey Bank and on the right is Jeff Wahl of Lake Chevrolet.

Maddock royalty
Homecoming at the Maddock High School was held the week of September 28-October 3. The students enjoyed several dress-up days during the week including: pajama day, super hero day, bling-bling day, stoplight day and blue and gold day. Stephanie Johnson and Beau Buehler were crowned king and queen during coronation on Thursday. Friday the students participated in skits, games, a wagon parade and pep rally. A homecoming dance was held in the school gym following the football game against the Woodchucks of St. John. Maddock royalty are pictured, left to right, back row, Levi Slater, King Beau Buehler, Tyler Lang and Tyler Sears. Middle row: Alexis Buckmier, Queen Stephanie Johnson, Kristina Trautman and Kaidi Kenner. In front are Madyson Sears and Jacob Arnold.

Flower pinners were, left to right, Laura Taylor, Andy Backstrom, Erin Leier, Jason Smith, Rachel Olson, Drew Lauinger, Gabby Rehling and Karl Kenner.

Kirkeide brothers have terrific deer hunting year

The Kirkeide brothers of Baker had a great deer hunting year. Travis Kirkeide took this mule deer buck with a bow and arrow on August 31 near Amidon. This buck may make state record status for "in-velvet" bow hunting.

Tyler Kirkeide bagged this big buck November 8 near Baker. They are the sons of Tom and Kim Kirkeide of Baker.

Leave a Comment