Jerry Mevissen doesn't golf. He doesn't drink scotch. He doesn't watch TV.
So there are at least a few things that Mevissen does not do in retirement.
Now here's a partial list of things he does do: write books, tend Haflinger horses and Scottish Highland cattle, plant apple trees, raise chickens, split wood (seven cords last October), socialize in his small-town community and gaze out at the Crow Wing River from the 21-foot span of windows in the home he built on its shore.
"I'll tell you what, it is the way to go," said Mevissen with characteristic enthusiasm.
Mevissen was a "young boy" of 55 in 1987, when he retired after a 36-year career in marketing at Honeywell. "As much as I loved my job — and I did love my job — I lived for a living and I worked at Honeywell to live," Mevissen, now 82, likes to say.
Now he could pursue full-time living. His then-wife wanted to move into the city, but Mevissen wanted to go the opposite direction — he had grown up in Elk River and wanted to be out in the country again. So they went their separate ways, and Mevissen wound up buying 50 acres of land with half a mile of riverfront near Nimrod, Minn., 160 miles northeast of the Twin Cities.
Mevissen "fell in love with that place" for a lot of reasons, but mainly for its 68 residents. "The river got me there, but the people kept me there. They're wonderful, wonderful people."
Small-town Minnesota residents — seemingly ordinary folks leading quietly complex lives — have been the focus of his writing from the get-go. A friend died, a man who had cleared Mevissen's property to make way for his house, and he wrote a moving eulogy for the funeral. That prompted the editor of the local paper, the Sebeka Menahga Review Messenger, to offer him a job.
Mevissen began writing a weekly column (refusing to take pay) about events around town. A collection of those columns became his first book, "The Nimrod Chronicles," in 2005.
As he continued writing, Mevissen decided that his "real shtick is short stories." He took a writing class at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, which led to a membership and classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Every week he would drive down from Nimrod for his class — three hours one way — and back again afterward.
"My adrenaline was so high when I walked out of class, I could drive home without worrying about falling asleep," he said.
He hosts the Nimrod Literary Festival — an event whose purpose, he jokes, was to "convince the people down [in the Twin Cities] that there's civilization and talent and culture north of St. Cloud."
In 2008 he published "Broken Hart," his first story collection, set around a bar of that name in a fictional Minnesota town not unlike Nimrod. On his website (www.jerrymevissen.com), Mevissen describes the place in a bittersweet way: "It's the town where your grandparents lived, or where you summer vacationed at your cousin's farm, or where you watched the Memorial Day parade or the Fourth of July fireworks or the Sunday afternoon baseball games. It's a town that's declining."
"Good Shepherd," his next collection of stories, came out in 2014 and is set in an assisted-living center. Mevissen, who swears there's "no such thing as writer's block," is at work on his fourth book, another story collection tentatively titled "Animal Life." He expects to publish it this year.
"You didn't ask me why I'm in such a rush," Mevissen said. "I've got five grandkids, and I've got five books in me. And I have a lot of other things I want to do."
Paint, for example.
He has a couple of canvasses all prepped and ready to go. And sculpt. He has acquired some garage-sale items, scrap metal and a welder, and plans to create found-object sculpture.
"I'm into culture big time — art, theater, music," he said.
But that brings him to one other thing that he does not intend to do in retirement: "I love to dance," he said — "but I'm not going to take up dancing."