The Case of the Missing Medallion is Resolved

Today I reveal a secret I’ve been keeping for several weeks. Hibbing’s Winter Frolic 2010 just wrapped up with the coronation of the new queen and the ceremonial helmetting of the Titan of Taconite. One of the mainstays of this Iron Range town’s annual festival is the Winter Frolic Medallion hunt. A series of clues are published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune that medallion hunters use to find a glass disc that earns them a large savings bond. For years, local English teacher Dan Bergan wrote the clues. This year, however, Dan was on vacation and yours truly was tapped to hide the medallion and write the clues.

Dan favored poetry and was well known for the highly descriptive and colorful verse in his clues. I took one attempt at mimicking this style and, for the good of the English language, decided to do it my way. Hence, for posterity, here is my six part mystery story that led to the discovery of the 2010 Winter Frolic Medallion this past weekend.

The Case of the 2010 Winter Frolic Medallion Clue #1

Winter’s the name. Sal Winter. I’m a private eye. Hibbing is my town.

It was cold that morning, the kind of cold that made you want to stay inside and provide exposition for a story no one asked you tell. She wore blue.

Her name was Mystery and her eyes told you what to do. The way she wore her dress could get a guy to settle down and accept his mortality. I wasn’t in the mood.

“We need to find the medallion,” she gasped, out of breath. My office is on the roof of the Androy.

“What medallion?” I asked. She was wearing a colorful button that drew my attention south.

“The Winter Frolic Medallion,” she said. “It’s a clear, round disc that will win a $1,000 prize for the person who finds it.”

“Where is it?”

She scowled at me the way snow packs under a man’s wheel well. “If I knew,” she said, “I wouldn’t be here. All I know is that it’s on public land somewhere here in Hibbing, Minnesota.”

“Public land,” I said. “So you’re saying that it’s not on any private property, such as homes, businesses, churches or land controlled by private steel trusts?” I was thinking about an old run-in I had with a fee holder over the Oliver Mining Co. Medallion. A ghost or two could tell tales in this town.

“That’s right,” she said. “It’s in a park, or by a school or college, maybe by some city building. And anyone with a Winter Frolic button can search for it and win the prize.”

“There’s a lot of public land in this town,” I said. (I would know. That’s where I sleep.) “I’ll help you,” I told her, “but just one thing. What’s in it for me?”

“There’s a reason I came to you,” she said in a sultry voice that melted my skepticism. “I think you know why.”

Winter Frolic 2010 just got a lot more interesting.


“We don’t have much time, Mr. Winter,” said Mystery, a stunning brunette in a blue dress. “Everyone is looking for the Winter Frolic Medallion. The person who finds it gets the prize, even if they don’t deserve it. You’ve got to help me so that a good person finds the prize, instead of … my ex-husband.”

It was a story I’ve heard a hundred times as a private investigator. Some pretty dame needs to find a translucent medallion that wins a $1,000 prize. You’ve got to have a Winter Frolic button to be eligible. The medallion is located on public land somewhere in Hibbing. Again and again; you could almost set your clock by it, just like the steam trams that run by my 1930s-era office.

“Your ex-husband?”

Yes, his name is Ted Dastardly.

That was a name I’d heard before. He was on the Parks board. A real hard case. “Dastardly?” I asked.

“You probably saw his name in the paper a few months ago,” she said. “For pushing children on the playground.”

“On the swings?”

“No, just in a general sort of way.”

“So your name is Mystery Dastardly?” I asked.

“It used to be,” she said. “I’ve gone back to my maiden name, Mystery Tobesolved.”

“That sounds hard to pronounce,” I said. “And this medallion sounds hard to find.”

“You know what they say, Mr. Winter,” she purred. “Mysteries are never easy.”


I saw Mystery again the next day. She wore a tight purple Vikings shirt and threatened to sack the European port cities of my heart. We had made arrangements to meet at her house on the east side. As a detective I’ve been to a lot of houses in Hibbing. Big ones, small ones, most of them built in the 1920s. This one was different: newer, and yet not quite new. Spilt entry, just like my mind when she brought my drink.

“I could have found any private detective, Mr. Winter, but I came to you because of your family history,” she said.

She knew my secret.

“We don’t have much time,” she said. “I think my evil ex-husband Ted Dastardly has hatched a scheme to intercept the Winter Frolic Medallion and take the money for himself and his Arctic whaling business. He hates whales, and also Hibbing since they dropped him from the Parks board for pushing down children on a playground. He’s figured out a way to plant the medallion and hire one of his whaling goons to claim it for himself. I found some of his paperwork when I packing up my things to leave him.”

“What’s in this for you?” I asked. I’ve heard plenty of conspiracy theories in my time.

The Winter Frolic Medallion hunt is a special tradition,” she said. “Anyone with a Winter Frolic button, from a miner’s daughter to a millwright’s son, can find the medallion on public land and claim the prize. It’s part of who we are, as a people. “

“That’s a nice speech,” I said. “But why me?”

“Because of your great-great grandfather, of course,” she said. “Former Hibbing Mayor Victor Power.”

I’ve lived in Hibbing 30 years and she was the first to connect the dots. But there was something she didn’t know.

“I’ve got to go,” I said. “I need to clear my head out by the edge of town.”


The road always brings me comfort at night. It’s the mother I never had, the father I never caught fishing in my piggy bank for gambling money when I was 6. Tonight, the road was 25th Street. Most folks who drive this byway, which becomes DuPont Road, head out to Carey Lake where the old blasting powder factory blew up, but not me. Not tonight. I pulled my Dodge Sunfire up to the snowy edge of Vic Power Park. I thought of Mystery, how to help her save the 2010 Winter Frolic Medallion for someone pure of heart (or at least wearing a Winter Frolic button) to find on public land in Hibbing, and how to kiss her without getting slapped.

Vic Power. It was a name I couldn’t escape. He was my great-great grandfather. He was a popular progressive Republican who fought the mining companies for the rights of Hibbing’s citizens when no one else would. Me, I was Sal Winter, a private eye just trying to get by, whose only political belief was that a man should have access to as much health care, whiskey and bullets as he needs, no questions asked.

As I wandered the edge of the park named for my kinsman, I saw something moving down the Carey Lake trail. A swooshing sound grew louder. Two cross country skiers approached. I overheard them talking as I crouched in the bushes.

“They’ll never figure this out, boss,” said a big man with a gravely voice.

“Just tell Beluga to head south on that avenue back there,” said the other man, in a voice I recognized from Hibbing Public Access Television. “I’ll have Bergan fix the clues so no one sees this coming.”

I couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “Bergan’s not writing the clues this year,” I said to the pair, now spitting distance from me and my older compact car. “And I’d know that voice anywhere, Dastardly. You won’t get away with it.”

Dastardly laughed. The other, much larger ox-like man pulled brass knuckles out of his pocket and sneered. Of all the days to forget my panic whistle in my other pants.


I was having a dream about the 2010 Winter Frolic Medallion. It was clear, the size of a big man’s fist. I was wearing my Winter Frolic button. I was on public land. But this medallion was just out of reach. I leaned and stretched, but just …. couldn’t …

“What does this mean?” screamed Mystery, the alluring brunette who’s made my week both a dream and nightmare. She had just burst into my office like a passionate hurricane with nice legs.

“What?” I burbled. It had been a hard night’s sleep on my office couch after crawling back from my beating at the park last night. She was waiving something around. It appeared I would have to look at it.

“Look at this,” she said, holding a tattered old political leaflet. “I found it in my ex-husband Ted Dastardly’s personal files which he stored in my underwear drawer for some inexplicable reason.”

The document was strange to me. “Vote William Jennings Bryan,” it read, featuring a picture of the 1896, 1900, and 1908 Democratic Party nominee for President.

“Bryan?” I said. “It doesn’t make sense. I thought you brought me on this case because of my great-great grandfather, Vic Power.

“No, Mr. Winter,” she said. “Vic Power Park was a trap set by my ex-husband, evil former Parks board member Ted Dastardly. I think the medallion is at a park a few blocks away from there, but which one? There’s a note on the back of this pamphlet that reads ‘1982.’ I don’t get it.”

“Mystery,” I said.


“It’s a Mystery.”

“Oh, right. Anyway, I think we should go look around.”

I agreed and hobbled with her out the door.

“I heard Dastardly talking about heading south from Vic Power Park,” I told Mystery. “I think he was talking about 19th Avenue.”

“19th Avenue?” she said. Why, there aren’t many public places out there, are there?”

“No, not many,” I said. “But there is one, and if my hunch is right it was founded in 1982, it has a playground, and that somehow seems a fitting narrative twist.”

“I’m trying not to fall in love with you, Mr. Winter.”

“I know,” I told her. It was already too late for me.


We arrived at Bryan Lake Park on 19th Avenue in Hibbing. We were hoping to intercept the villain Ted Dastardly before he cheated the Winter Frolic Medallion away from its rightful winner: You.

“Look over there,” said Mystery, the beautiful woman who spurred me, and a city, to action. “There’s a man over by that tree, in between the playground and the basketball court not far from 28th Street.”

I didn’t need to see the man. I knew it was Dastardly.

“That medallion is for the people,” I called out. “Provided they have a Winter Frolic Button.”

Dastardly looked up, his thick black moustache contrasting sharply with the February snow.

“You’ll never stop me, Winter. You’re just a remnant of the past, a leftover.”

“You don’t know me,” I said. “And you just pushed the wrong button.”

With that I summoned the only true super power I had. The power of running fast in the snow after some dude that made me angry, while dialing the police.


That was the sound my feet made through the snow along 28th Street. Dastardly tried to get away, but he was slow and also evil. I caught him in no time. The police arrived quickly. He was convicted of medallion fraud, a felony in this town.

“You’re so brave,” said Mystery, with a look that said “hello, you are not what I expected.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Just doing my job.”


Our first kiss happened the moment we heard Tim Staudahar and his family had found the medallion at Bryan Lake Park along 28th Street in Hibbing.

“I am so happy, Sal Winter,” said Mystery. “Someone has found the medallion and Winter Frolic 2010 was a huge success.”

“I’m happy, too,” I said. “Because we found each other.”

But I had a sneaking suspicion that we haven’t heard the last of Ted Dastardly, the enemy of Winter Frolic, peace, justice and everything in which good people believe. I only hope next year he doesn’t come around Hibbing. We’ll be ready for him.


I had fun writing this nonsense, but the best part — BY FAR — was choosing the location, hiding the medallion and keeping the secret. There are dozens of people who spend the entire week looking for the medallion nearly full time and they go wherever the writer sends them. Good times for a small time blogger like me.

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