The residents of Rice Lake are in good hands, thanks to a group of guys who meet behind Hardee’s every morning between 8 and 10 a.m.
They swing through the drive-thru to get their coffee, sometimes even a pie or cookie, then head to the back of the parking lot, set up a chair and see who shows up.
Normally it’s the same 10 or 12. No women have yet joined their ranks. Most customers who go through the drive-thru wave a hand (with all their fingers, they clarify) smile or say hello.
One woman tried to get a donation from them for the local Paste, Paper, Pencils Program, offering to sell them pies, with the money used for school supplies.
They might look like a formidable bunch, but after getting their caffeine fix they are usually pretty sociable.
Hardee’s manager Ed Barnes confirmed that they are not ramble rousers, and they never leave any cups or packaging on the ground.
“They’re very respectful, and they’re a really good bunch of guys,” he said. He even knows whose vehicles are whose because they are so reliable in what they drive and where they park.
One of Tuesday morning’s topics was President Trump’s visit that day to Kenosha. None of them thought his presence would put out the blaze of unrest in that city.
Besides politics, other topics of discussion are the postal service, weather, fishing, sports, health concerns and the virus.
If they have more to say and time to get away, some of them return in the afternoon for another gab session from 2:30-3:30 p.m., which coincides with their afternoon coffee.
If it’s raining, they head to the pavilion at Moon Lake Park.
They say they are not opposed to wearing masks, and all of them have them close at hand. But they prefer “shooting the breeze” socially-distanced in the outdoors without masks.
“They have remained determined to get together just as they all did prior to coronavirus,” the restaurant manager said. “They’re very loyal.”
He added, “They’re hoping by the time it gets cooler, the dining room will be back open.”
In the meantime, the gang can be found out back, unnoticed by many who cruise down Main Street, keeping an eye on the restaurant, their drive-thru customers and the south side of the city.