Columnists

Sat
01
Feb

From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

The Norge Ski Club’s international winter ski jumping tournament returns for its 115th year. According to the Chicago Daily Herald, those years “included shipping snow to the site when area snowfall was scarce.”
The Fox River Grove club is known as “the oldest, continuously open ski club in the United States. The club was started in 1905 by a group of Norwegian men. Most lived in Chicago.” To make ski jumping available year around the club “purchased a new ski tower from Ely, Minnesota.”
Those were the days in Ely when ski jumping was a popular sport and attracted competitors from Canada and beyond.
It all makes sense to me.
My dad was a ski jumper growing up in the Glenwood/Starbuck area. He didn’t jump in Illinois, but he followed the sport. After WWII he bought Army-surplus cross country skis, but I don’t remember him or my siblings using them.
Ice skating was a different matter. We had our own winter rink in the side yard and we all skated.

Mon
27
Jan

From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

by Anne Swenson
I owe an apology, not only to visitors of 2 East Sheridan (an earlier Ely Echo HQ), but more especially, to my family. There really is no excuse for smoking.
At the old Echo, everyone but Jeanne Tome, Pam Roberts, Tom Coombe and Nick Wognum smoked. The building reeked of cigarette smoke. A haze was often seen over the desks of Mary, Vic, Bob and me.
Worse yet was smoking at home with both Warren and me smoking. Looking back I realize what a burden it was to Nick, Sandy and my Mom.
I learned to smoke in college, but it took until the 1970s for it to become a four-pack-a-day habit. Though many a cig burned out untouched in an ashtray, it was still too much. Sometime in the ’90s I finally quit.
Growing up, cigarette smoking was in movies, magazines and billboards. It purported to be the sophisticated thing to do and I got hooked. Kicking it was hard to do, but I succeeded.

Fri
24
Jan

Hook and Bullet Club

If you don’t own or drive a snowmobile you may not be aware of what it takes to make a top-notch trail system.
In the Ely area we have three groups working on trails, the clubs (Ely Igloo, Babbitt Snowmobile & ATV and the Vermilion Penguins in Tower).
Those clubs take care of miles and miles of trails. They own grooming tractors, drags and snowmobiles used to keep trails in top shape. Some have paid employees, some volunteer, it all comes together to make the trails great.
The Minnesota DNR takes care of the Taconite (Ely to Grand Rapids) and the Arrowhead (Tower to International Falls) trails. There has been a big turnover in employees there but it sounds like the grooming skills have now been passed to the new group of employees.
Groomer operators are often out on the trails in the middle of the night. That’s when the traffic is the least and it lets the snow set up and harden so the trails stay smoother for longer periods of time.

Fri
17
Jan

Trout Whisperer - Needing some fluff

It’s an extremely pastoral setting. Snow is falling outside, the big floaty flake kind. We have nowhere to go because we‘re there. The fire inside is glowing red orange warm coals. A very snoozy golden retriever is lying prone in front of the hearth.
He is at one side of the bench, I’m on the other, we’re not racing, but it’s a competition to see who can tie up the most flies before the other guy.
We started out with a really easy one, muddler minnows, with whitetail deer hair, a blob of deer hair, wind, wind, wind, tie-off, a drop of glue, trim, and on to the next one. I stomped him on the muddlers.
Next up, we did one of my personal favorites the “Mcginty.” When you’re done it looks just like a bumblebee and the dual lacing of the black and yellow chenille is fun to me, and having done them many years now, I just don’t think he stood a chance. Round two went solidly to me.

Fri
10
Jan

Hook and Bullet Club

There’s a logging operation taking place near Camp Cholesterol this winter. Evan and I have been out there to check it out and see what the “new” hunting grounds look like.
We agree there will definitely be opportunities for longer shots. Going to need to dial up the scopes.
After 20 years of hunting in that area we were ready for a change. A forest needs logging to renew periodically (and a lot better than fire).
When we started there was an area we called the “Christmas trees.” It was a stand of planted Norway where the trees were maybe five feet tall. Now they are closer to 20 feet up.
There have been several logging operations and each has provided new opportunities. We’ve relocated deer stands and adapted to the changes.
Seeing the large cut this year closes a 20-year chapter and opens a new one. Will the deer use this area as they did in the past? Only time will tell.

Fri
03
Jan

Trout Whisperer - Small bobber season

He saves things, like wine corks, and he dabbles them with high gloss paints, making, shaping, carving, creating his own floats. We call them bobbers, and he says, its small bobber season, but once he makes one, it’s a float.
Chunks of sponges, any color imaginable, driftwood chips, all sorts of insulating foam board pieces and sliced up plastic pop bottles are in bins and pails and buckets heaped to overflowing as well as half empty which are his warehouse of choosing choices.
He has a row of glue bottles, glue tubes and glue sticks and glue guns and its an oozy looking gobble of goop, like glue lava gone wild. But it all works once he re-warms it up.

Tue
31
Dec

From the miscellaneous drawer by Anne Swenson

The views of the holidays doesn’t vary much among the elderly. Well in the past is the hustle and bustle of gift giving. Even the meals are in the past. The Saturday before Christmas is when the day was celebrated. Mary cooked up a delicious brunch, we shared gifts and it was peaceful and pleasant.

Fri
27
Dec

Hook and Bullet Club

My son Evan and I took a ride last Sunday to check out a logging operation near our hunting shack.
After selling my sled at Hay Days I used Megan’s to make the trip. We hopped on the trails and were surprised by two things.
One, the trails are in really good condition for this early in the season. Despite some of the worst swamp conditions you can imagine, the local snowmobile clubs and the DNR have been able to now get groomers out after the swamps were packed.
Two, there was hardly anybody out on the trails. We didn’t meet a sled on the trail during our trip, other than two small groups stopped along the Taconite, including our friend Steve Groteboer out for a quick ride.
We pulled up near the shack to survey the changes. The logger had neatly stacked the trees in piles based on species, with some already cut to length.

Fri
20
Dec

From the miscellaneous drawer

Did you ever have to take an aptitude test when you were in school? Mine came back stating I should become a mechanic as an adult.
That wasn’t too surprising given that I repaired my bike when needed and changed car tires for my parents. I also took apart a small table top fan in the heat of the summer to fix it.
The only problem was that when I re-assembled it, the fan ran backwards, pushing the blades so they revolved over the motor which heated up easily.
Nobody had air conditioning back then, and I was stumped and hot. I was again working for my dad that summer and knew there were men in the plant who were handy.
I brought the small fan into work and convinced a worker to see what I had done wrong and to fix it.
Before long he came back to me and asked where the rest of the fan parts were. Somewhat embarrassed, I handed them over.
He returned with a working fan.
So much for my mechanic’s aptitude!

Fri
13
Dec

From the miscellaneous drawer

As winter cold arrives in the northland, folks reach out to friends and acquaintances to share the settling early darkness.
In 2002 a group of musicians gathered to light up an evening with music. Some listeners joined the evening affair to provide the audience.
Musicians in Ely can change with the seasons, as snowbirds come and go. Fortunately, there are a number of Ely musicians around.
Many years ago, Bob Cary’s Starlighters band practiced at my home for its summer appearances at Burntside Lodge at the time.
Over time, the music room had also hosted a reggae group, Canadian and Russian performers, and others.
This particular evening was by request of a spouse. He had been ailing and his piano playing wife, Carol Brude prescribed the evening. That night Dan Erzar was on drums and Byron Moren fulfilled the role for stand up bass. The year that followed was not kind to all, with health issues hitting two of them.

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