Trout Whisperer - Black night

I’m laying here listening to stars; they seem to be awfully quiet again tonight. I think it’s time to get up and finish this. I have a place I will air my mind, let the thoughts bound in daylight, maybe let them loose by sitting in the darkened porch.
In my wicker chair I can feel the slight breeze against my skin; I deep breathe that feeling right into me. I like when the night gives me cool fresh air.
Tonight, this darkness, all this quiet, if I believed in such things, would be like meeting the man in the long black coat. I strike a match, the candle is lit, and it pushes back against those thoughts.
Out there, up there, the tiny silver chips flicker, it’s one of my favorite unsung songs, for me it’s like watching a really good blues song, sung. Now I have only to listen to the music playing in my head.
I can feel it.
I can feel tonight.
It matters.


From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

Whether your family is heading for the Boundary Waters or the family cabin, there’s a definite lure to the north of Ely.
Creating a visual memory of canoeing and camping in the BWCA is the new children’s picture book, “One Summer Up North” by John Owens,
The hardcover book is published by the University of Minnesota Press and is $17.99.
It portrays a small family as they travel by canoe through the Boundary Waters. Along the way they see everything from loons to a moose. The woodlands and wildlife are also drawn on the colorful pages.
Most families have fond memories of their cabin visit and the nearby waters for fishing, swimming and blueberry picking.
Not too long ago, Ely’s Rebecca Stouffer illustrated “At the Cabin in the Woods by the Lake Up North” for Raven Productions ($9.95 in softcover, $17.95 in hardcover.


As VCC reopens, welcome back

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
All across the nation a familiar scene is playing out this weekend and next.
College students, some venturing off for the first time and others entering their second year of school or beyond, are packing up their belongings and loading tote crates into vehicles.
Often accompanied by parents and sometimes alone, they’re traveling to college towns, about to embark on nine months of education and life in another community.
Take a look around the next couple of days and there’s a good chance of noticing how this is playing out even in Ely.
It’s move-in weekend at Vermilion Community College, where classes begin this week and students are back on campus for the first time since March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The town will be abuzz with new and returning VCC students and more than a few parents, some experiencing Ely for the first time.


The rich legacy of the White Iron Chain of Lakes

History notes collected by
Paul Schurke, Aug 2020
The 75-mile long Kawishiwi River (Ojibwe name meaning “place of many beaver homes”) tumbles out of the BWCAW & widens to create the five lake chain: Birch-White Iron-Farm-South Farm-Garden. It heads back into the wilderness at Fall Lake to merge with other rivers and reach the Arctic Ocean at Hudson Bay 1,200 miles later.
• The chain of lakes are among 2,000 lakes within 50 miles of Ely. White Iron ranks among Minnesota’s 25 select “Sentinel Lakes” monitored for aquatic health by the DNR and the White Iron Chain of Lakes Association (WICOLA).
• The 35-mile-long lake chain flowage was a rich hunting, fishing and gathering grounds for early residents and today supports over resorts, outfitters, camps, campgrounds, including White Iron Beach, the area’s first resort in 1916.
• At Birch Lake’s River Point Resort & Outfitting, archaeologists in 1982 found a 2,000 year-old Laurel Culture village.


Don’t Play Tennis with the Garden Vegetables…

Next to suffering through Advanced Algebra, being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I know so much more AFTER my kids have grown up and have families of their own. Life doesn’t let you have any do overs.

The number one job as a parent is to shower these little wonders with love. It started the first time they were placed in my arms. The physical pain to get them here diminished once I looked at their little faces for the first time.

I heard years ago how the human mind has a tendency to forget pain and remember more good memories. I didn’t quite understand that statement then, but as I look back, I get it. I have a good “remembery” (memory) as my oldest said and I choose to focus more on good memories and the funny things my kids said and did.


On Stukel Way, summer nights and legacies

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Baseball, Ely and summer evenings have been intertwined for generations.
That may now seem matter-of-fact, given the beauty of Veterans Memorial Field and the community’s penchant for hosting baseball tournaments year after year, even in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But it wasn’t always that way, and the ballpark today bears little resemblance to its beginnings in the mid-1950s.
Then Matty Stukel came along.
While Matty had a lot of help along the way, nobody can deny that he was the driving force in putting Ely’s summer baseball program on the map.


Take that, COVID: Ely has its parade

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
Like the entire United States of America, the losses in Ely have piled up for the better part of four months.
Thanks to an invisible virus, we’ve lost businesses and jobs, the last 10 weeks of a school year, and a laundry list of community events, gatherings and festivals.
Our kids also lost their activities and sports and high school seniors had once-in-a-lifetime moments snatched away.
We couldn’t properly salute those who departed and those confined to nursing homes, assisted living or the hospital couldn’t even see their loved ones.
For several weeks, Ely was a virtual ghost town as many worked from home and evening drives and stops for takeout food served as highlights of drab days.
If Ely were a pro sports team, one could say it was in the midst of quite a losing streak.


Update from Ely Public Schools Superintendent Erik Erie

Early voting by absentee ballot for the $10 million bond referendum being proposed by the Ely School District starts June 26, with August 11 as Election Day for the bond referendum. In order for our citizens to have the opportunity to be informed voters the District has complied information about the bond referendum, on our District website: or visit our Facebook page:
We are also holding public forums that at the present time are scheduled to be in a virtual format, using Facebook Live where the public can ask questions through a chat feature. You can go directly to our Ely Facebook Page (see link above) or our District website (see link above) to connect.
The public forums are scheduled for the following dates and times:
Monday, June 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m.


Hook and Bullet Club

Searching for a sense of normal my wife and I found it twice this past weekend.
The first time was Friday night on Burtside Lake with Doug and Karen Luthanen. The four of us plus their lovable dog Rigby (remember the name) hopped on the pontoon boat and cruised the west end of the lake.
Doug grew up on Burntside and shared stories of his youth as we tooled along. He had a playlist of 200 songs for us to listen to and there wasn’t a clinker.
For those who don’t know, Doug is a bit of a Beatles fan. He taught a music class at the Folk School awhile back and the Beatles were the main chorus that night.
The pontoon replaces a runabout and it didn’t have a name yet. We agreed “Yellow Submarine” would be an apropos moniker.
There was a bit of nip in the air when we bucked the wind and then a heat wave that caused an outer layer to be removed when we headed into the sun.


When one of its own is in need, Ely rises up

by Tom Coombe
Echo editor
For the majority of my half-century on this earth, and continuously since mid-1993, Ely has been home.
Both work and pleasure-related travel take me away often and there have been years with better than 35,000 miles spent on the road.
Few of the amenities that draw people here have any pull on me, and nights at a ballpark, arena, gymnasium and trips to Las Vegas or a vibrant, urban downtown trump anything resembling a trip to the lake or the woods.
Yet there’s something reassuring every time the Ely water tower comes into view on Highway 169. It’s home.
An event last week proved once again why that’s so.
It was around noon on the Echo’s deadline day last Thursday when Nick raced by my office and said something about a fire on West Chapman, which for 13 years was my neighborhood.
Curiosity called and the view once aside was both fascinating and horrific.


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