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West End News: August 23

Mink Frog
Mink Frog

WEN_finalcut_20120823.mp35.52 MB

I always love reporting on the activities of West End entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs are the engine of our economy, so it gives me great pleasure to report that the business formerly known as Nelson Towing in Tofte, is growing and thriving.  Pam James, from Tofte, along with her husband Paul, bought the towing business from the late Bud Nelson several years ago.  Recently, Pam has significantly grown the business.  The new name, Cook County Towing, reflects her expansion of the business to cover all of Cook County.  She purchased new equipment and now has service based in Hovland in addition to Tofte.  Jay Messingbring will be manning the Hovland tow truck, bringing his valuable mechanical knowledge and excellent reputation to the business.  Cook County Towing has been also now been authorized to offer AAA towing in all of Cook County.  We use Pam's services fairly often here at Sawbill and I can vouch for her professionalism and quick response times.  Congratulations to Pam and Paul on their continuing success.
I was driving into Tofte late at night last week, when I was startled to see a number of unidentified flying objects out over Lake Superior.  I've seen several strange lights out over the lake during my lifetime and almost every West End resident seems to have had similar experiences.  This time, the mystery was quickly solved though.  As I drove by the beach near Bluefin Bay Resort, I saw that a group was launching small, home-made hot air balloons, made from plastic garment bags and birthday candles.  I've seen this done before, but the difference this time was the sheer number - there must have been 50 or more of glowing orange objects in the air.  It was a breezy night, so the balloons were quickly swept out over the lake as they gained altitude.  While I was watching, some of them even disappeared into the clouds.  It was undeniably a beautiful sight to behold, but it may raise some questions about safety and littering.
Tom Berg, who is a part time resident of Schroeder, and an all around good guy, has written a book that will soon be published by the University of Minnesota Press.  The title is "Minnesota's Miracle" and is a political history of a time when Minnesota's state government was famous for it's efficiency and effectiveness.  Tom was an influential member of the legislature during those years and had a hand in creating a lot of well-respected legislation.  He describes the book as a "highly readable political science text book."  The book will be available in bookstores around October 1st and hopefully Tom will be doing local book signing events shortly after that.  For a political geek like me, this is big news indeed.
The big cell tower that AT&T wants to construct near Ely will now be built after a law suit has run its course through the courts.  The 450-foot tower, equipped with flashing lights, is controversial because it will be visible from some lakes within the BWCA Wilderness.  While some people view this as a wilderness issue, I see it more of a cell tower issue.  I feel like most people don't want a huge tower visible from where they live, work or play.  In my opinion, it would be better public policy to have more shorter towers that are sited and/or disguised so they have the least possible impact on the local scenery - especially in places of outstanding natural beauty.  For the phone companies, it is an issue of cost, with the taller, uglier towers being cheaper and quicker to amortize.  As I look at my monthly cell phone bill, I quickly lose sympathy for the phone companies' cost argument.  With the money they are making, they could easily absorb the slightly higher costs for the good of the community. 
That said, I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the lack of cell service in Cook County's West End.  It is long past time for reliable cell service to be available here, not to mention all of northeastern Minnesota.  It's an embarrassment that we as so far behind the rest of the world in this important part of modern life.  With all the traffic that passes through here, it has got to be profitable for the phone companies to offer service.  In any case, cell service should be universal now in American society, in my opinion. 
Has anyone else been seeing more frogs this year?  On a recent overnight camping trip, we witnessed a minor infestation of mink frogs on our campsite.  Since then, I've been noticing more mink frogs and wood frogs than I've seen in many years.  I've even seen a couple of leopard frogs, which I haven't seen for a long time.  Several frog species have all but disappeared from our woods over the last 30 years or so.  I'm hoping that my observation of more frogs this year signals a reversal of that trend.

Mink frog photo courtesy