Birdshot and backlashes

by Bob Cary

Joan Gilbertson, Bill Hudson and Joe Berglove were in Ely last week filming a news segment on snowshoes and snowshoeing for WCCO-TV. Hudson is the anchorman you see quite often on WCCO, Berglove is the cameraman who gets everything on film and Gilbertson is the producer who puts the show together.<BR><BR>They had been touring around the area, interviewing a snowshoe maker and looking for somebody on snowshoes. Maybe they were getting a little desperate, but they called up and wanted me to show up and do a little snowshoeing with Bill Hudson, which we did on a trail at Hidden Valley. High point was when I stumbled, fell into a snowdrift and had Hudson help get me back on my feet. And then we talked at some length about some of the people who traveled on snowshoes back in the old days.<BR><BR>It was pointed out that Ely at one time had some very sturdy snowshoe travelers, people like Bob Jacobsen and Einerd Johnson who patrolled the Game Refuge all winter on ’shoes between Ely and Gunflint. And the trappers who combed the back country looking for fur, men like Al Johnson and Alex Peura. <BR><BR>Folks who use snowshoes now do so for recreation, not out of necessity. There are still some U.S. Forest Service people who snowshoe the woods as part of their jobs, but webbing has given way to snowmobiles and other accoutrements of civilization. Most of the snowshoes a person sees these days are hanging on cabin walls over fireplaces.<BR><BR>After the filming was finished, Joan Gilbertson wanted to know about the ski trails at Hidden Valley, so she, Edith and I made a circle of the outside loops. As luck would have it on Tuesday, the temperature had climbed up to 28 degrees, the snow was a little wet and extremely fast, and we literally flew around the Bambas and Sommer loops. Gilbertson turned out to be an expert skier and was impressed with what Ely ski folks take for granted. As usual, Fred Rayman had the course in fine condition which further added to the enjoyment.<BR><BR>The last time we recalled WCCO-TV coming up here in the winter was a number of years ago when veteran anchorman Don Shelby arrived to do some skiing and ice fishing. He, too, is an excellent skier and we managed to pick off a few rainbow trout to cap the excursion. But the most memorable thing about that trip was dinner. Shelby wanted a big dinner and insisted we go to the Ely Steak House, which was fine with us.<BR><BR> After perusing the menu at length, he was trying to choose between Duke Bambas’ largest steak dinner and a similarly large shrimp feast with potatoes and the trimmings. He settled on the steak which was summarily consumed. As this was being finished up, he motioned to the waitress to come over and he then ordered the shrimp dinner. We were somewhat amazed, having never seen a person put away two massive dinners, one after the other, but he did it with flair and exuberance.<BR><BR>It was obvious that after a day in the outdoors, Don Shelby was certainly hungry. Still, his capacity for steak and shrimp dinners in tandem was wondrous to behold. No doubt he enjoys an incredible metabolism. He finished off those two dinners with gusto, wiped his mouth on a napkin and promptly ordered a substantial dessert. Fortunately, he also picked up the bill, much to the relief of Edith and I.<BR><BR>We also invited them to come back to Ely for some trout fishing and bring Don Shelby along. We did not explain that current fishing conditions are somewhat strained what with massive snow on top of the ice… and between the snow and the ice, a world class layer of slush. <BR><BR>The bane of all ice anglers and snowmobilers, slush seems at record proportions this winter. It probably is no worse than in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It is just that we haven’t had a typical winter for several years and we tend to forget what Ely winters are like.