Columnists

Sat
14
Jul

East of Ely – How our grandkids enable us to see

Our grandson is with us this week, so this column will be shorter than usual. He is nine years old and loves to swim, fish, collect bugs and does pretty much everything that kids do in summer at that age.
We did many of these things yesterday on a day trip to a small crystal-clear lake, fishing for trout, picnicking on a grassy campsite with a long sandy beach that compelled us to stay in the water, where we swatted away deer flies under a sunny eighty-degree sky.
I tried to show him how to catch minnows by burying a hand under the sand as a trap. He was more interested in catching crawfish, so I swam out to take a few casts as he gathered the courage to pick up larger and larger-clawed crawdads, until I swam up to him holding my fishing pole with a nice rainbow on the end of my line.
We waded deeper and took turns casting into the dark water beyond the beach until his grandmother decided to swim across the straight to another campsite.

Sat
07
Jul

Hook and Bullet Club by Nick wognum - Storm damage

My wife Mary and I were looking out our front windows Friday morning and watching 60+ mile an hour winds hammer the birch trees across the street.
A loud noise from our back yard caught our attention. A massive Norway pine came crashing down, missing our house and taking out a fence.
Like many who faced more challenges than us, we were faced with a major clean-up effort that would last two days.
This storm knocked out power for up to four days for people around the Ely area. Power poles were snapped off and trees were the main culprits to being able to turn the lights back on.
With or without power, gas chainsaws are the main tool for taking care of downed timber.
But the most important tool for us was people. Thanks to a lot of helping hands we were able to get our (and our neighbors’) backyards cleaned up in record time.

Fri
06
Jul

From the miscellaneous drawer - Loggers needed

Oh, to awaken to the sweet sounds of generators on a warm June morning.
To wonder if there will be enough water to flush the toilet, enough trash bags to empty the molding refrigerator.
Oh, the joy of arriving at the office on a Saturday morning only to discover that I have no three-pronged cane at my side, my morning pattern interrupted in a home with no lights.
The joy to look out into my yard, my two and a half acres and see that removing 60-70 trees by logging and another 9-11 trees in storms hasn’t saved me from the one across Van Vac Road which brought down the power line to my house.
My home is alongside Van Vac Road and does not have access to the high-price property adjacent to Burntside Lake.
I have a proposal to make to all the folks who live along Van Vac Road:
I’ll start with a pledge of $100.

Mon
02
Jul

The Dame of the Lake

The Native American depiction of North America as a “turtle island” has always struck me as eerily accurate, but in my vision that creature has to be a snapping turtle. After all, what kind of creature has a shell strong enough to carry the weight of our land? Or tough enough to a grow a Rocky Mountain rage of nasty spikes like its alligator-snapper cousin to the south?
Naturally, the human mind has no choice but to imagine how creatures that tiptoed between the feet of dinosaurs a hundred million years ago had no choice but to develop a mean disposition in order to survive. No wonder snapper lore decries their ability to bite off such things as the head of an axe, the blade of a canoe paddle, or a human arm.
In truth I was raised believing that once a snapping turtle gets ahold of your big toe, they won’t let go until it thunders.

Sat
30
Jun

From the miscellaneous drawer - Civility is among the missing

An opportunity to be useful.
Working as I do, I’m aware of the importance of that statement to life.
To be useful - to seize upon a problem and work or volunteer to resolve it.
Is that what our immigrant ancestors did? Is that what we as a nation have more need of now?
Who is stepping up? Who is recognizing the needs of the present and the potential of the future?
Not the “this is mine” and I have the money to sue to get it my way.
No, many who live here are those who are still aware of their roots: the trials in the original settlement here. Whose forebearers met un-imagined challenges, risking everything to create their better world, their understanding of American life.
Among the lessons learned was that of civility. There were a mix of people here, people with varying backgrounds, different languages, with varying potentials and varying needs.

Thu
21
Jun

Electric Heroes of Border Country

Life can be interesting at the end of the road, especially when the power goes out. This happened a few weeks ago after a storm front passed over and left us disconnected for thirty-six hours. Thankfully our small generator enabled us to continue working from our remote location with our refrigerator running.
Folks around us have learned to cope despite the frustration of waiting for the electric to come back to life, checking the power Co-op’s outage web page on the hour and then trying to fathom why it’s us who always seem have the short end of the power pole.
Yet we keep calm and bear it, while none us, except for a few disgruntled tourists, would think to complain about the power restorers working day and night, risking their necks to fix dropped lines and fried transformers.

Sun
17
Jun

Hook and Bullet Club by Nick wognum - Windshield time

There was plenty of windshield time this past weekend.
First Steve Groteboer and I took off Friday afternoon to pick up one of Roger Skraba’s clients in Crane Lake. We arrived right around the time we were told and couldn’t find our party. In fact, we didn’t find hardly anyone.
Figuring he would show up sooner or later we stopped at Voyagaire Lodge for a burger. Sure enough, as soon as we placed our order, Darryl Scott’s jet boat came zooming down the lake. Well, they had to unload the boat so we ate our lunch.
Bill Parsons had just finished his 29th guided canoe trip, 28 of them with Yatahey. “I’ve spent nearly half a year in my lifetime on trips up here,” said the 74-year-old.
We packed my rig full of empty coolers and packs before heading down to Ely via the Echo Trail. While Eric Sherman was able to snap a great photo of a moose and two calves by Ed Shave Lake, we saw deer and turtles.

Sat
16
Jun

From the miscellaneous drawer - Ooops

It isn’t just youth which makes mistakes, the elderly are guilty too.
There are things we should do (de-clutter, renew prescriptions, write letters and birthday cards) and don’t...
Probably worse are the things we do do, and shouldn’t.
For instance... a long-time friend of 53 years came to visit last week. As young moms we vacationed in Ely with our (now 50 year old) children.
Why not go back to the spot we so enjoyed in the early 1970s? Sure, sounds like fun. It could be interesting to see the old place...
“Boy, the road has certainly become bumpier than remembered... here’s the turn off. Oooh, looks like a few trees are down.
“Well, there’s no turning back. Good thing this is an old Jeep,” I say silently to myself.
My friend Sharon is not quite clutching the door handle, but she is checking her seat belt.

Tue
12
Jun

East of Ely - The Manitou Boogie, Part Three

This is the final chapter of my trip to Frank Befera’s cabin that took place a quarter century ago. So far the other two columns covered the trip up to Manitou Lake, the Befera Cabin camp and the secret wall of fine liquor, both of which you can still read on the Ely Echo website. Now it’s onto the second day and a cloudless morning of fishing.
The seven of us took off early in three boats with a plan to rendezvous for shore lunch at an island campsite five miles to the west of the cabin.
I was with Frank’s son, Tim who had been given specific orders to arrive on time and with at least four trout. I understood why Frank had done this the instant Tim informed me we would first spend a couple of hours on his favorite smallmouth lake a short portage off of the east end of Manitou Lake.

Fri
08
Jun

East of Ely - The Manitou Boogie, Part Two

Last week I began a three part series about taking a trip to Frank Befera’s cabin on Manitou Lake in northwest Ontario, and for those of you who may not have read Part One, the column can be accessed via the Ely Echo website. I left off at the moment we arrived at the island retreat after describing what appeared to be an ordinary northern lake camp, yet the kind of place you fell in love with the instant your feet hit the ground.
The main cabin was low and wide with a large kitchen, two small bedrooms, a six-bed bunkroom and a small vestibule that held a propane-powered refrigerator. Outside stood a large outhouse and a boathouse built to keep at least five boats running on demand. Nothing fancy but it was obvious that this was the kind of camp that fishermen dream of.

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