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West End News

Clare Shirley

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Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

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Sled dogs

WEST END NEWS MARCH 27

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Joan Koski, the longtime campground host at Crescent Lake campground, has retired. Joan's tenure at Crescent Lake as a camper with her family and then as campground host stretches over more than 30 years. The remarkable thing is that this is more than 30 consecutive years, no breaks.

Every campground has its own character with a unique clientele. Crescent is used a lot by local folks who have developed groups of friends who camp together. The major attraction is fishing in the summer and deer and bear hunting in season. Joan has been a friend to what is now a couple of generations of campers.

She has worked with many game wardens, deputy sheriffs, forest service law enforcement, and forest service campground people. She was the eyes and ears on site for all folks who had any official business with the campground.

During her time she had many unique wildlife experiences. She was the person who rescued an exhausted eagle found on the shore of the lake. She put the eagle in the box of her pickup and started for Sawbill Outfitters to get help with it. The eagle was flopping around, so Joan stopped and put the eagle in the cab with her. This was a mature eagle. Fortunately it remained quiet and Joan got to help OK.

The eagle was taken to the rehab center at the U in the Cities. Eventually it was brought back to the spot where it had been found, for release. Joan got to hold the eagle in her arms at the moment of release and throw it into the air, restoring it to freedom. This was a very emotional moment for Joan. The eagle did not soar off into the sky, but instead flew into a small tree close by and sat there looking at the assembled crowd.

Several times Joan saw a cougar standing in the river near the campground. On one occasion she saw two cougars, standing together in the river, and one of the cats had a rabbit in its mouth.

Bill Hansen told a well-known nature photographer about this sighting. The photographer said that if he had taken a photo of the cougars with the rabbit he would have had the most salable photo of his career.

Joan will be missed by all of the regular campers at Crescent Lake. Now a search is on for her successor. Her equal will be hard to find.

There was a really unique wedding on Iron Lake near Ely last Sunday. The bride is Amy Voytilla and the groom is Dave Freeman, both longtime folks around the West End. Amy and Dave are partners in the Wilderness Classroom organization. Amy has done a lot of kayak instruction in the area. They have a home base on the Grade, near the Brule Lake road; but they are rarely there. They may be familiar to you because they are the leaders of really wide-ranging wilderness trips into the far north, South America, and other locations. This spring they will start out on a "honeymoon" three-year trip (in segments) starting on the West coast of the United States and proceeding east across the continent and then down the east coast.

The wedding was outdoors on Iron Lake. The guests traveled to the site via five dog teams, a snowmobile, ice skates, and on foot. The wedding was on land on a picture-perfect point. Now I have to ask your total trust in my veracity.

The bride and groom were dressed, not in rugged wilderness gear, but in real wedding finery. Amy featured a strapless wedding gown. Dave wore wedding attire as well. The ceremony was performed by Eric Frost, newly qualified for the ceremony. All went well. But come on- it was a sunny day, but the temp was in the 40s. Strapless? Only in the West End!

The only wrinkle was when the staked-out dogs decided to get into a dog fight during the ceremony. No problem, there were lots of people who knew about dog fights. Just a blip at worst.

Amy and Dave left the wedding site riding side by side on the back of their dog sled, pulled by their favorite dogs who have been with them for years. Should you wish to see pictures of this event go to Sawbill.com and enjoy.

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CensusLogo.jpg

West End News March 18

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Polly Erickson, coordinator of the recent West End blood drive, reports that the drive was successful once again. Colds and the flu forced some registered volunteers to skip donation; but the blood center people were pleased with the support extended to the program by our West End folks.

Polly wishes to thank all of the volunteer donors, and in return the West End community gives a lot of thanks to Polly for her dedication. There is more to bringing a blood drive to a successful result than meets the eye.

Polly says that the next blood drive at Zoar Church will be in July. Stay healthy!

Nothing is ever simple. The census, which is now ongoing, is a case in point. A very pertinent question involves "snowbirds,” local residents who escape from our winter weather to warmer places. The question is at what location should a snowbird be counted in the census? Here at home or winter refuge? The answer without any doubt is, declare your residence where you really live, here in Cook County. Please explain this to friends and relatives who are away for the winter.  This is no joke; we absolutely need every single resident to be counted here. If Minnesota loses a seat in Congress, legislative districts will need to be redrawn. The bulk of people in Minnesota now live in metropolitan areas. It is easy to guess that redistricting would favor those areas, and we would lose what little legislative power that we have now.

In the last census count, Cook and Aitkin counties had the lowest percentage of response of all the counties in the state. That is just plain dumb if this happens again. Fill out the very simple form and return it right away. Otherwise we may lose eligibility for many funding programs after the results of the census are counted.

A community effort is being organized to gather bicycles to provide transportation for our many summer workers. The workers need a way to get from home to work and to just get around in whichever community they are located while they are here. The bike path that runs along Highway 61 is a very efficient route for workers to get from one place to another in the West End, so bikes are practical in the West End.

If you have a bike that is in working condition, or that can be fixed up, the committee working on this would like to hear from you. There must be dozens of bikes that have not been used in a long time, which would be a big help to these workers.

For more information call Rick Schubert at 475-2778.

I must confess that I get a little edgy when there is any danger that the West End community is not a full partner in decisions that directly affect our well-being. We hear a lot about Superior National golf course, its funding, deficits, management and fate from county and city officials. I don't hear much about the West End town governments and business community contribution to decisions about this course. Very significant revenue comes to the West End from the course. The welfare of the West End economy should be one of the first considerations in any discussion about the course.

Let us hope that the new cooperative effort to join the various business promotion organizations is a first step toward giving everyone an equal voice in essential decisions. The fate of the golf course is an essential decision.

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A one room school house

West End News March 10

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Please remember that trained volunteers will be at Birch Grove Center to help West End folks prepare their income tax returns each Wednesday. The volunteers may help everyone 55 years old or older; as well as folks with low or moderate income. I continue to be unbelieving that moderate income for a couple with two dependent children is $80,000 a year. That should cover almost everyone in the county.

The service is first come, first served. The volunteers start at 9 a.m. There is no charge for the help.

There certainly is a lot of publicity about the upcoming census. This census is very important for Minnesota and for Cook County. Minnesota is within a margin of 1,000 residents of losing one congressional seat. The number of congressional seats is calculated with the population. If a congressional seat needs 400,000 people to exist, then the population of the state will be divided by 400,000 to get the number of seats that Minnesota will have. If there are a lot of people in an area, a small geographic area will get a seat. Fewer people means a larger area.

Our congressional district is already the district with the largest land area in the state. Should a congressional district be lost, the district will cover even more territory, and we will be included. So, it is important that we keep our present eight congressmen. Make it a personal responsibility to be sure that you are counted. Much funding and even more important adequate representation in Congress is at stake. We need all the representation we can get.

A good example is the current state of school financing in our state and nation. I have been connected with education at all levels for many years. I cannot remember a time when school financing was not a burning issue. Everyone agrees that public education is essential. For some reason there is always emotional tension about funding our schools. Right now the situation is worse than any time I can remember. Not just here, but all over.

The pioneer immigrants of the West End built a school right after they built their houses. These folks were tight with money; but they agreed that money spent on educating their children is money well spent. If you wanted to get in trouble in the West End, suggest something to harm the school. This attitude was communicated to the children. The children were expected to work hard in school and to learn their lessons.

The attitude of the West End folks was summed up neatly by Ted Tofte, a first generation child who became a well-known school superintendent in Minnesota. Ted said, “In the schools there are things that would be nice to have, there are things that the school ought to have, and things that the school has to have.”  This was the secret of the success of the West End schools in the early days; and the tradition is carried on to this day by Birch Grove School.

As a result, the academic achievements of these children then and now are impressive. Many academic and professional advanced degrees have been earned by West End children. Many matured to positions of leadership in their communities as well as at the state and national level.

The WTIP fund drive has the motto, "So Many Reasons.” This excellent radio station is key to community effort for the census, for volunteer participation, and for the unreserved support of all of our schools. Supporting this station is one way that we can preserve the quality of life that we all enjoy.

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Tracks in snow by Stephan Hoglund

West End News March 4

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The considered opinion of the folks who play in the snow is that this season has been as close to perfect as any season could be. Good, timely snow inland for the snow sleds, mushers, all varieties of skiers, and snowshoe folks.

An added benefit has been the mild temperatures and bright blue skies. So often snow is good, skies are blue, but high winds and bitter cold make snow sports downright uncomfortable. Other times snow is sparse, or there are problems with slush, or whatever. No need to extend the list. You all have lived through it, right?

So spread the word about how good the snow sports are now and will be for some time into the future. We can use the business.

Our family is going through an acute state of "What if?” Whenever our children were off on their various adventures, we worried about their health and safety, sometimes for good reason. Now we have the same worries about our grandchildren. Our children operated on the premise of "if we don't tell them, they won't have to worry.” The grandkids take the same position.

The massive earthquake in Chile reinforced our concerns. Our granddaughter, Clare, was in Chile from August through December 2008. She attended the university and lived in Vina del Mar, a coastal city very near Concepcion, the most ravaged city in Chile. Her significant other best friend, Dan, lived in Concepcion at the same time.

Since the quake they both have been trying to contact friends in Chile. They’ve had very little luck contacting Vina del Mar; but some luck in contacting Concepcion. So far those who they have talked to are OK. The report is that older buildings, constructed before modern earthquake engineering was in place, are significantly damaged. Buildings built to earthquake standards are OK so far as the building structure goes, but the contents of the buildings are a mess. They are told that it looks like the building was in a giant shaker that upset everything: pictures off the wall, dishes on the floor, furniture overturned and smashed, the works.

The blessing so far is that none of their friends are injured or missing. Property damage will be a burden.

We worried about Clare riding in rickety busses on single lane mountain roads into primitive communities; but we never thought of worrying about a record-breaking earthquake. So now we can add a new worry to our list. A grandson is about to go to Germany to study. Please tell us that Germany does not have earthquakes; but what about avalanches?

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The Tofte Fire Department

West End News Feb. 25

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It is time for a heads-up to all West End folks about an upcoming blood drive at Zoar church. The drive will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 2, from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m. By this time we all know about the chronic shortage of potentially life-saving blood and blood products.

More information is available from the blood drive coordinator, Polly Erickson, at 663-7398.

There is a very loyal group of donors who volunteer time after time. I asked Polly if she had any record of how many times the folks in her core group had donated. She did have that information and when she tabulated the data she and I both were surprised at the results. Over the years 23 folks have donated between 10 and 20 units of blood; 10 between 20 and 30 units; and six have given 30 or more units. Just using the 10-,20-, and 30-unit markers, this amounts to at least 610 units donated by our friends and neighbors. There are many more people who have also given from time to time. That is wonderful. To me, that’s what a community is all about.

I would imagine that filling out state and federal income tax forms is one of our least favorite things to do. Seniors need not despair. Help is at hand. Every Wednesday, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., trained volunteer tax preparers will be at the Birch Grove Center to help seniors with their tax returns. There is no charge for this service. Not only that, most returns can be filed electronically. If you have a refund due to you, electronic filing will get a check back to you in less than three weeks. Pretty nifty!

As the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns gets closer, the traffic gets heavier for the preparers, so if you can get it together, go to Birch Grove, and beat the crowd.

The feedback from West End folks who went to the story time at the Fishing Museum in Tofte to hear Walter Sve tell stories from his own personal experiences gave a "wonderful" rating to the event. A large crowd came to hear the stories. These events take place several times a year at the museum. This is really oral history from first-hand experiences. Thanks to Walter for his generous sharing with the community.

There is big news about the new fire truck that will soon be on line at the Tofte Fire Department. The word "new" is hardly understood in the Tofte department. From the beginning, finances only allowed for buying used equipment, always as good as possible for the money available. Hundreds of hours of volunteer time were invested in this used equipment both to get it ready for use and then to keep it running.

Tom Laine devoted a lot of energy to finding and acquiring what he called "good deals". His deals ranged from not so great to sensational. Along the way he picked up some surprising items. I remember mentioning to him that the Eden Prairie Fire Department was getting new turnout gear, and the old gear was surplus and available. I knew that because I worked in the Eden Prairie schools and the head custodian for the school district was a friend and also the fire chief. Tom took immediate action, and for quite a while the Tofte fire fighters had "Eden Prairie" printed on the back of the turnout gear.

Equipment came from wherever. The telephone company, back when there was just one telephone company, donated a surplus service pickup truck to the firemen. This was a neat truck with a lot of bins and drawers. This unit was Tofte's first unit assigned to the first responders. Then there was what looked like a homemade unit. It was a unit to slip into the bed of a pickup. It had a rectangular tank that held about 100 gallons of water. The power for the pump was a small Briggs and Stratton gas engine. It carried about 150 feet of inch-and-a-half rubber hose. This unit was for brush fires. It did the job on more than one occasion.

Over the years the equipment was improved, each unit a little better than the one it replaced. Fortunately the Tofte department has always been blessed with members who are excellent mechanics and heavy equipment operators.

Lutsen Fire was much the same story. Get what you could, fix it up, and keep it running as long as possible. The Lutsen department has had outstanding support from fundraisers and private donations, which have made a huge difference. The Schroeder department got off to a somewhat faster start. Back in the day when the town of Schroeder got quite a bit of money from the taconite operation, the town could afford to buy new or next-to-new equipment right away. Among other things, this gave the Schroeder department star status in the Fourth of July parades.

All along there has been a strong tradition of mutual aid among the departments. A fire in any one of the West End towns gets immediate cooperation from the other departments. No question, it happens. Many thanks to all of the volunteers, with their expertise, who have protected the West End communities for so many years.

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Bag Balm

West End News Feb. 17

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The West End community has lost another of our shining lights. Virginia Tofte died on Feb. 8, just two days short of her 93rd birthday. It is impossible to think about Virginia and Casey without smiling: Virginia for her never-ending friendliness, and Casey for his never-ending supply of stories.

I remember a time when we were on a canoe trip. We were going through a lake and of all things Casey and Virginia paddled up to us, going in the opposite direction. Casey was clearly having a bad day. Head down, scowling, he was paddling like he was trying to imitate a 25 horsepower motor. Virginia, on the other hand was riding in the bow seat, combing her hair, applying makeup and engaging passing canoes with friendly chatter.

Virginia did well whatever she happened to be doing. Her skill as an artist, painting in watercolors and oil, was recognized by the awards and prizes she won over the years. Folks in the West End who have one of Virginia's paintings hanging in their homes appreciate her talent and inspiration. Even though Virginia and Casey moved from the West End a decade ago, her presence is still with us.

When the time came recently to groom the cross-country ski trails at Sawbill, to Bill's dismay the long track heavy-duty snow sled he uses to track the trails would not run. All kinds of expensive possibilities came to mind. Bill hauled the machine to the Mayo Clinic for snowmobiles, to Gerry Gervais, the Snowmobile Doctor at Tofte. Gerry made the diagnosis in short order after examining the machine. Mice had built a nest in the muffler, which built up tremendous back pressure. Treatment is a new muffler. Only a modest cost, TTL.

You all know that I am a weather nut. Weather trivia which most folks find to be worth a big yawn, I find to be fascinating. So here is the weather trivia for the week. On Friday, Feb. 12, there was a 40-degree temperature difference between the shore of Lake Superior and the highest elevations in the West End. I am sure that you wanted to know that.

This morning I heard Jay Anderson tell about a family in New England who make a product called "Bag Balm,” intended for use with dairy cows for an obvious purpose, which had found many applications outside of the cow barn. There was a parallel product in Minnesota. Our daughter lives in Maple Lake. When her kids were in diapers and suffered rashes, she found a product at the drugstore in Buffalo, which was a remedy for diaper rash. The family who owned the store was named Ertl. The product was called "Ertl's Butt Cream,” made by the Ertl family. The applications found for this product also strayed widely from butts. Give folks a chance and ingenuity will emerge every time.

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Snow depths varied widely in the West End after the most recent storm.

West End News Feb. 10

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Once again we have a dramatic example of the many micro-climates in Cook County and specifically the West End. Snow depths from the weekend snowfall ranged from three inches to about a foot in some locations. Driving and visibility ranged from clear as a bell to zero visibility with borderline dangerous driving.

Lake Superior, combined with the rapid increase in elevation away from the shore, causes the complexity. Along the Sawbill Trail, for example, there is a zone from the lake to the top of the hill, then another from there to the Six Hundred road with a decrease in snow depth; then a stretch of several miles with an increase in snow, and finally in the higher elevations another decrease in depth.

Sometimes the National Weather Service calls during a storm to get a report on current conditions. Sawbill Outfitters is a volunteer weather observer. During the weekend the weather service in Duluth called. They were totally confused about the location. They said that the Google map showed the location to be on the shore, on the highway. Bill said "No.” Then they found Sawbill Landing on Google. This was the location of a small logging community and a log loading landing at one time. There has been nothing at that location for close to 50 years.

At this point Bill launched into an explanation of the history and geography of the area. This happens almost every time the weather bureau calls. Some years ago I sent the Duluth office of the weather bureau a copy of the large Superior National Forest map. Obviously that did not help.

The record snow on the east coast brought back a childhood memory. I grew up in Baltimore. We did not have many clear-cut snowfalls. Late in February one year we did have a snow just like the one that hit Baltimore and Washington last weekend. The deep snow was bad enough; but the temperature rose into the 60s right after the snow. Fast melting took place. The snow came off of roofs in mini-avalanches. The sliding snow ripped the rain gutters from our house in minutes. The aftereffects of that snow were worse than the snow itself.

Congratulations to the high school Alpine skiers, and special congrats to our West End snow bunnies, Molly Rider and Signe Larson, who go to the state meet as individual contestants. Both girls started skiing at about the time that they started to walk. Both girls have been running and skiing ever since. Family homes within walking distance of the ski hill must help. Perhaps Signe and Molly will follow in the ski tracks of Lutsen's legendary Olympic and World Cup skier, Cindy Nelson. I am sure that WTIP will broadcast the results of the state ski meet as soon as they are known. Our best wishes for good luck to the whole team.
 

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Frank remembers the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon of bygone days

West End News Feb. 3

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The recent Beargrease Marathon revived some memories of the early days of the event that became the Beargrease of today. Early on, the race was nothing like it is today.

I am sure that my recall is incomplete. My purpose is to enjoy some highlights from the early days.

The route of the race ran from Grand Marais, across the Grade road and then on back roads, ski trails and snowmobile trails through the county. Trail markers were just signs warning motorists and truckers that a race was in progress. The teams were disposed to running on the wrong side of the road; but fortune smiled and no one got hurt as the occasional car went into the ditch rather than colliding with a team.

Some of the early teams were interesting. Many teams were made up of what might be called classical Huskies. Big dogs, strong dogs, beautiful dogs, but not bred for speed. Actually a team of these freight haulers on one occasion pulled a car out of a ditch.

There was a picture-perfect team of Samoyeds. Snow white, affectionate, great crowd pleasers; but Samoyeds are guard dogs for flocks of sheep. They are not racers and are useless for pulling serious sleds fast. We got a harness and put one of our Samoyeds into a dog team. She laid down with her feet in the air and said, "Who me?” That ended her racing career.

Then there was the famous team of standard poodles. These were large dogs, very fast for their size for very short distances. That team lasted as far as the Sawbill Trail and then was mercifully withdrawn.

There was a carnival atmosphere at the Sawbill checkpoint. Locals set up a cook tent and made gallons of hot stew. Local volunteers directed traffic, both vehicle and personal. Rumors about the positions of the different teams, who had dropped a dog, the condition of the trail. Each and every rumor was spread by usually ill-informed pseudo-experts. Good spirits ruled the day.

Gradually the race gained prestige and attracted some very famous racers from Alaska and many other states. The simple arrangements became more specific. There were rules and officials and, along with all that, a need for communication.

At that time there were no cell phones, so communication with the checkpoints was difficult. Ham radio operators pitched in, but the ethics of ham radio as interpreted by the hams on the spot prohibited traffic tainted in any way by commercialization. So other kinds of communication were needed.

At Sawbill Outfitters we had radio telephone service, both a base station which sent a signal to a tower on Maple hill in Grand Marais, as well as mobile units in our cars and vans. We loaned a van equipped with a radio to the Sawbill checkpoint so information from that checkpoint could be sent out.

Transmitting from the checkpoint worked well, but receiving messages was confusing. The radio was our business radio, so all incoming calls were answered at the outfitters. We would take the message, explain to the caller that we would forward the message, and then call the checkpoint on the two-way radio. This was difficult to explain to radio and TV people who had no idea of the circumstances.

For a few years Cindy Hansen of Sawbill was the boss lady at the Sawbill checkpoint. That job was daunting. Cindy did enjoy the job in spite of all the difficulties. She got to talk to the famous racers and soon found out which ones were great folks and which ones were not so great. The job was exhausting but exciting.

There was chaos and high energy at the checkpoint for a couple of days and then it was all over. All that was left was the straw from the dog beds and trash where the handlers’ trucks had been parked.

This is the kind of event where the folks who are deeply involved say immediately after it is over, "Never again, not me.” Then they take a breath and say, "When do we start getting ready for next year?”

 

 

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Fresh snow on the North Shore

West End News Jan. 27

Events are ramping up at Birch Grove Center. This Saturday, Jan. 30, the Birch Grove PTO is sponsoring a Winter Extravaganza from 4:30 until 7:30 p.m. There will be all sorts of outdoor events at the outdoor facilities at Birch Grove, not the least of which is an outdoor movie.

On Friday and Saturday nights pizzas are available at Birch Grove. So you can buy a pizza, sit in a snow bank, and enjoy the movie. Only West End residents would understand, right?

Tuesday, February ninth, is the day for community lunch at Birch Grove. Good food, community fellowship, and an opportunity to visit with the students at the school.

Dr. Sandy Stover will be at the Birch Grove medical clinic from 12:50 until 4:30 on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Call the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 387-2330 for an appointment. The Birch Grove clinic is a great convenience for West End folks.

There’s an addition to the services offered to the community by Birch Grove this time of year—help with income tax preparation. This service is provided by well trained volunteers. For information about the help offered with income taxes, and/or the dates and times that volunteer tax folks are available, call Birch Grove Center at 663-7977.  The service is first come, first serve.

This past week I read a long article about what happens to family memories as time and generations move along. Subtle changes take place as the years roll by. Then the discovery of a family history document may show that stories told now about family history may be wildly different from what really happened.

I have already observed this in the community as stories are told about John Lyght, who recently left us. Many conversations about John included anecdotes about him. As I listened to the telling of the same incident several times over I discovered that each telling was a little bit different from all the rest; and John has only been gone for about a week. A simple example is his height and weight. I have heard estimates of height up to six feet eight inches; and weight up to two hundred and eighty pounds. John was a very large person, both in height and weight but nothing like that. Time will tell how tall and heavy John will become as time moves along.

Perhaps if you had transgressed, John might have appeared to be larger than life. As one person told me this week, “John pulled me over because I was speeding. When he was standing next to my car all that I saw was a belt buckle. He was big! At the time I did not know who he was, but soon found out. From that day on, every time I came into the county and drove through that stretch of road, I thought of John Lyght.”

We finally have received the fervently wished for snow fall. The precipitation amounted to little more than a mixture of freezing rain and snow right next to the shore of Lake Superior. However, as the elevation in altitude increased, the precipitation changed to heavy, wet snow.  In the higher elevations in the county close to a foot of snow fell. 
The temperature is slated to fall to normal cold temperatures, so this snow will stay with us for the rest of the winter. A good start, but we can always use more snow. Keep on wishing.
 

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John Lyght

West End News Jan. 20

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Usually I have no trouble writing a farewell piece in this column about West End friends who have recently left us, but writing about John Lyght's passing presents a problem. Where do I start writing about John? The stories about him are without end. I now realize that I knew John and counted him as a good friend for just over 50 years. A lot happens in that length of time.

John was certainly a no-nonsense person in all that he did, whether it was driving a truck in his younger years; or as sheriff for a couple of decades before retirement. An example of that was the crucial help that he gave Sawbill Outfitters when we were trying to get a radio telephone after our ancient hard wire phone line collapsed.

We had long time and expensive negotiations with the Federal Communication Commission. The problem was that AT&T still controlled all of the radio telephone licenses. For us to get a license, that monopoly would have to relinquish a license. AT&T had powerful influence with the FCC, so our application was rejected out of hand. Only intervention by then-Sen. Walter Mondale got our application retrieved from the wastebasket. We eventually cleared the FCC and then we had to contend with the Canadians for the reason that our signal might stray into Canada. The Canadians handled the situation by taking no action for more than a year.

John Lyght had written a strong letter in support of our getting a license since we were so remotely located. I told him of our problem with the Canadians. John said that he would see what he could do. He got dressed in full uniform, went across the border to Thunder Bay and convinced the people there to contact Ottawa on our behalf. Within a week we were informed that the Canadians had removed all objections because of the recommendation of Sheriff John Lyght. The statement from the Canadians read, "The senior law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction, one Sheriff John Lyght, finds no objection to this action.” Our State Department could have used John.

So John Lyght has left us. A legend in his own time, stories about John will be told for a long, long time.

The tragedy in Haiti revived memories of a long ago effort based here in Cook County to help a non-profit group in Haiti. I would guess that this all took place about 30 years ago.

Folks here were collecting lightly used bars of soap from motels in the county, and used clothing to send to Haiti. The problem was to get the collected soap and clothing to Haiti. The cost of shipping was prohibitive. A second consideration was the information that there was a high risk that the shipment would be stolen when it arrived in Haiti.

For some reason, which I do not remember, a unit of the Minnesota National Guard was shipping out to Haiti. One of the senior noncoms in the unit had a summer home in Lutsen. He became aware of the shipment problem and volunteered to have the stuff included in the National Guard material, no charge for shipping. He mentioned that the unit was looking for a project when they got to Haiti.

Carol and George Cole had a cabin about mid-trail on the Gunflint. George was a Mayo Clinic physician. He and Carol went to the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti for several months at a time to volunteer. The hospital was in bad physical shape. A lot of repairs of all kinds needed to be made. The suggestion was made to the Guard unit that the connection of Carol and George and the Cook County effort might make the hospital rehab a project.

The Guard unit was made up of members with all kinds of construction skills. There were plumbers, carpenters, electricians, refrigeration mechanics, auto mechanics and other skills as well. The hospital was approved as a project and the unit arrived like a swarm of bees. The guardsmen had the skills, and the military had the supplies. It took about a month to get the place all ship-shape. The final project was the repair of the staff swimming pool, which had not been in operation for years. It was fixed, the guardsmen took a swim, and then back to Minnesota. I Googled the hospital website to see how the earthquake had affected Hospital Albert Schweitzer.

The hospital is located about 40 miles north of Port-au-Prince. The hospital was undamaged, but almost immediately seriously wounded patients showed up. The patient load went from 75 to 80 patients a day to 500 admitted the day after the earthquake, most with critical injuries. Medical supplies are rapidly being exhausted. Patients are being treated in hallways and outdoors in the courtyard. The website said that anyone with any medical provider skills has come to the hospital from remote clinics in the hills. This situation is beyond even the talented Minnesota National Guard. It defies decisions about what action can be made which would make a difference. This is way beyond collecting soap.

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