All communities have their own gathering spots, whether formal or informal. Some are made by people just looking for a place to meet with friends over a cup of coffee or a hand of cards - that's the case for several groups meeting around Lyon County. But no matter the exact circumstances of a local hangout's origin, area residents say it's the friendships and the chance to socialize that bind everyone together.
In Cottonwood, a room a few doors down from the city offices has become the place to gather for morning coffee during the week. Depending on the day, around 20 people or so will sit down around long tables to catch up with each other, play cards or just shoot the breeze.
"It's a place for argument. It's total argument," joked Cliff Hanson. As he spoke, a cluster of men at the far end of the table were deep in conversation. But as much as the regular visitors liked to talk, he said, they kept things civil.
The Cottonwood morning gatherings have been going on for two or three years now, area residents said. They started up after the town's local cafe closed.
"There was an interlude after the cafe was gone," Evie Smith said. Then, a small group of people began having coffee and rolls at Village Court in Cottonwood's downtown area. After a while, Village Court proved a little too small and too busy, and the gathering moved to space in a building owned by John Murphy. "John's been so gracious."
Sometimes other local groups will also meet during the coffee gathering, Doug Warnke said.
"The card players come in, too,"?he said.
The regulars keep a calendar with special events and birthdays.
"We just kind of keep track of each other," Verdina Moslstad said.
"We're happy to have a place to hang out," said Audrey Hostetler.
Some local hangouts develop their own traditions. In Taunton, a weekly gathering with its own menu has been going for several years. On Mondays, people come to the Taunton Senior Center for caramel rolls and conversation.
Delores DeVos of Taunton said the group came together because the Corner Cafe in Taunton is closed on Mondays. People were looking for a place to go for coffee on the day off, she said, so they opened up the Senior Center.
Volunteers did a little work to get the word out, DeVos said, "And I tell ya, from then on, everyone came."
The group brings together people from around the Taunton area, DeVos said. People come to visit from Minneota, St. Leo, even Marshall.
"Yesterday we probably had 30 people. Some days there are a little more, some a little bit less," Marlene Polejewski said earlier this week. Both DeVos and Polejewski are part of the group of women who volunteer to bake caramel rolls and desserts each week for the Senior Center.
"There are about six of us who take turns," DeVos said.
"I've enjoyed it very much. I've started playing cards, even," Polejewski said. "It's a chance to see people."
"Everyone enjoys coming, and if you're not there on Monday, they miss you," DeVos said.
Some local hangouts have their own histories. The Roundup in Minneota has been running since 1977. Although the regular crowd is a little smaller now - "We used to have seven tables 30 years ago," said Minneota resident Omer Laleman - there are people who come and go throughout the day, from the morning coffee crowd to the noon and afternoon card players.
Earlier this week, the noon regulars were seated around a card table, intent on a game of pinochle.
"It's only buck euchre, pinochle and bean," they said of their preferred games.
The Roundup's origin was inspired by a card club in Minneota started by Harold Friend, Laleman said. In the 1970s, he said, "a bunch of us got together and said, 'Why don't we start our own?'" Although members chip in to help keep things running, it's a pretty good deal.
"You gotta admit, it's probably the cheapest place for a cup of coffee," Laleman said, laughing. "Fifty cents for a bottomless cup, and everything's on the honor system."
The main point of the gathering, however, was the opportunity to meet up with friends, Butch Kaas said.
"It's the best thing for community," Kaas said. Plus, he said, "It keeps us out of trouble."