Fosston students celebrate Chuck Norris' 70th birthday
FOSSTON -- Famed as the home of Paul Bunyan's kid brother, the site for the county incinerator and the YouTube sensation "Straight Outta Fosston," this little town on the eastern end of Polk County is now famous for something else: Possibly the largest number of Chuck Norris fans per capita.
Oh, you think we're kidding?
Wednesday morning, 120 students and staff members from the high school gathered to celebrate Chuck's 70th birthday party, wearing T-shirts with the craggy visage of the eternally squinting, butt-kicking, name-taking, karate-chopping star of such hits as "Invasion U.S.A.," "The Delta Force" and, of course, "Walker, Texas Ranger."
They even held an impromptu roundhouse kicking competition in honor of Chuck's signature finishing move, though Chuck's kicks are usually repeated in slo-mo from different camera angles.
The students sold another 50 T-shirts, which, given the population of Fosston, makes at least 10 percent of the city Chuck Norris fans. At his peak in the winter of 1996, "Walker, Texas Ranger" had 13.7 million viewers, which was a little more than 5 percent of the population at the time.
The genius behind this movement is an eighth grader named Christian Landsverk. He made the T-shirts in art class, thought he'd sell it to five of his pals and ended up selling 170.
"It got out of hand," he said in that nervous manner that people have when they're not sure what just happened.
What just happened was the relentless, unstoppable appeal of Chuck Norris.
Oh, you think we're kidding?
While Chuck Norris is sometimes known for his martial arts prowess -- You know he invented his own martial arts right? -- his righteous Wild West persona and his inspirational skills on the Chuck Norris gym, for Christian and his friends, Chuck has transcended all that to become the Internet phenomenon known as Chuck Norris Facts, as in ChuckNorrisFacts.com.
The Chuck Norris of Chuck Norris Facts is neither man nor god, but simply the embodiment of all that is awesome and manly in the universe.
Here's one: "Chuck Norris doesn't blow out his birthday candles. The fire flees out of fear."
And another: "Chuck Norris sleeps with a pillow under his gun."
"Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch. He decides what time it is."
"Chuck Norris played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won."
"Google won't search for Chuck Norris because it knows you don't find Chuck Norris -- he finds you."
Power of Chuck
This is why when Christian asks people if they want to buy a Chuck Norris T-shirt, they say "yes" without really knowing why.
Superintendent Gene Paulson bought one and then gave the go ahead for a Chuck Norris birthday assembly.
"I just decided on the spot," he said. "It's called 'Go with the flow.'" There was going to be a 15-minute break at 10:15 a.m. anyway, he said.
Like that's an excuse.
Walking down the hall to the art classroom where it all started, he confessed: "I'm not in charge. I just got sucked in."
Art teacher Sarah Steinbrenner, "Mrs. S" to some of the kids, started out by giving an overly enthusiastic eighth grader permission to make Chuck Norris T-shirts for his independent art project and ended up calling Chuck Norris' agent in Hollywood to see if Chuck would come to Fosston. (He didn't make it. His awesomeness was needed elsewhere.)
Even Mr. S. got into the action.
Tom Steinbrenner said he kept hearing about this T-shirt and decided he had to have one, too. One day, he thought he'd drop in to see how things were going. "She had a mini-sweatshop going with these kids making all these T-shirts. It blew my mind."
"It's interesting to picture him in your mind doing this," Christian said, explaining the appeal of Chuck Norris Facts.
He and Caleb Curfman, who's also in Mrs. S' art class, started out picturing Chuck Norris as president because -- Why not? -- someone else had popularized Oprah for president. They made a blog called ChuckNorrisFor
Presedent.blogspot.com -- "A" for awesomeness, but "F" for spelling. -- with the slogan "Together We can Roundhouse kick Obama out of the white house." -- "F" for capitalization, also.
"He's not afraid to speak his mind," Christian said.
"He'd carry out whatever he said, too," Caleb said.
We know from movies such as "Lone Wolf McQuade" that Chuck Norris would roundhouse kick crime, from "Invasion U.S.A." that he would roundhouse kick Communists, from "The Delta Force" that he would roundhouse kick terrorists and from "The Delta Force 2" that he would roundhouse kick drug lords.
From "Forest Warrior," in the latter part of his oeuvre, we know he would roundhouse kick lumberjacks seeking to violate the sacred forests, an incongruously progressive if rather muscular environmentalist stance.
Christian and Caleb switched gears, though, when they realized Chuck's 70th birthday was coming up, Caleb said.
But it was the Web site that got them all the T-shirt orders, he said, turning a little art project into an afterschool enterprise.
Christian called area radio and TV stations to spread the word, though he said he was trying to be taken seriously and, sadly, missed the opportunity to evangelize with the Chuck Norris Facts.
Some in the news media, unfortunately, reflected poorly on the profession by being bafflingly clueless.
Three minutes into one conversation, a TV producer asked Christian, "So what class does he teach?"
On Wednesday, Christian was on pins and needles. The attention of the entire school and the news media were all on him.
"I'm incredibly scared," he said just before the assembly. "I didn't go to bed until 3. I just kept thinking 'What could go wrong?'"
Is this kid kidding?
He must've missed this one: "Murphy's Law doesn't apply to Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris is the law."
Just when the assembly was getting awkward following the short photo shoot -- Mrs. S was looking around wondering what to do next -- out of the blue, biology teacher Mike Ofstedal organized a roundhouse-kicking competition.
Because it would be awesome, that's why.
Let's just say the volunteers all got "A" for effort. Christian, suddenly the most popular boy in the entire school, got "A++" for accidentally sending his shoe -- Pow! -- hurtling 40 or 50 feet into someone in the crowd, which was followed shortly by the sound of wild applause.
They say that "Chuck Norris is the only person in the world who can e-mail a roundhouse kick," but 40 to 50 feet is pretty good for a disciple.
Here's to, as Mr. Ofstedal put it, "a young man whose idea became a dream and somehow made this a reality in small town Minnesota."
Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.