Listen Now
Pledge Now


West End News

Clare Shirley

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.

What's On:
Sawbill's albino chickadee

West End News March 10

Finalcut_WEN_20110310.mp39.21 MB

Back in October we were surprised and delighted to discover an albino chickadee coming to our office window bird feeder. In more than 50 years of bird watching, I’d guess that I’ve seen thousands of chickadees, but I had never seen and albino until this little guy showed up. We broke out the camera right away, but it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to photograph an individual chickadee. It seemed to disappear as soon as we started paying special attention to it. When it finally came within range, it would invariably jump, twitch or fly just as the shutter clicked. But, with persistence, we finally got three decent pictures of him or her and duly posted them on our online newsletter.

It turns out that albino chickadees are relatively rare and our newsletter entry got picked up by a writer for the Duluth News Tribune and several other birding blogs. We quickly got several somewhat snippy emails from serious birders, patiently explaining to us that what we had was an albino finch, which are relatively common, not a chickadee. Being no expert on albinism in birds, I was willing to have an open mind, so the next time I got close the pale little bird I took a hard look. As I stared at the bird, less than five feet away, it opened it’s mouth and said “chick a dee dee dee.” Later that day I rounded up a witness and while we were both very focused on it at close range, it repeated the statement – case closed.

I have always wondered if the birds that come to our office bird feeders are the same birds that come to our house bird feeders that are only about 150 feet away, but not within sight of each other. All winter, Mighty Whitey was a constant visitor at the office, but never once did we see him at the house feeder. Then, about a week ago, a guest spotted an albino chickadee at our dining room feeder. It was a few days until we got a close up look at it – and lo and behold – it was a different albino chickadee. Both birds are about 95 per cent white, but have a little grey on the shoulders and tails. The beaks and feet of both birds are not exactly pink, but sort of flesh colored. But, the white chickadee at the house feeder has a distinct black dot on its tail about the size of a pea – unmistakably different than the office chickadee.

I hope both chickadees hang around, although I think the life span of the average chickadee in the wild isn’t too long. I would guess that white coloration provides camouflage during the winter – especially this winter. When the snow is gone though, the poor little guys are going to stick out like sore thumbs to the sharp eyes of predators.

Many people around here know the Gilsvick family from Two Harbors, as they have many connections to Cook County. Leif Gilsvik worked for us here at Sawbill last summer immediately after he graduated from Two Harbors High School. Leif ran cross country for Cook County High School for several years. His mother, whose maiden name was Patty Tome, grew up in Grand Marais and graduated from CCHS. His father, Dave Gilsvik, is very well know artist who occasionally teaches painting at the Art Colony in Grand Marais.


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

West End News March 3

Finalcut_West_End_News_20110303.mp37.35 MB

I've noticed that many people are starting to feel cranky about winter. I'm feeling a little cranky too, but not about the cold weather and plentiful snow, which always me happy - even at the end of the season.

The first thing I'm cranky about is the reservation system for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness entry permits. In the distant past, the Forest Service decided to contract out the reservation system. At some point it was acquired by a division of Ticketmaster, a company notorious for their high prices and terrible service. They make the phone companies look like the helpful folks at the corner grocery store.

For a number of years, there was a $12 nonrefundable fee that you paid to reserve a permit. This week, out of the blue, the Forest Service announced that the reservation fee was dropping by half - down to $6 for each permit reserved. This is, of course, good news in itself. What makes me cranky about it is that none of the outfitters, who reserve a large percentage of the permits on behalf of the canoeing public, were notified of the change. Even more annoying, this came two months into the permit reservation season. This catches all the outfitters and the Forest Service with their brochures and web sites all set with erroneous information. In my opinion, common courtesy would require a little "heads up" to the people most affected by the change. In fact, we are hearing through the local Forest Service offices that a large number of wilderness rangers, the people who actually work in the wilderness, have been laid off for the upcoming season. Couldn't that six dollars have been redirected to rehire those critical staff people?

A spokesperson for the Forest Service, in an interview here on WTIP, said the fee reduction was due to the efficiency introduced to the system be putting it on the internet. The system has been online for a number of years. I wonder how many millions of dollars the no-bid contract brought to the Canadian based Ticketmaster conglomerate over the past several years? It galls me that unearned dollars are pouring into distant corporate coffers while local people are being laid off.

Simultaneous with the reservation fee reduction, the permit reservation web site has undergone a recent overhaul and is now not working properly. We're told that the company is working on it, but it may be a while until it is fixed. I know a couple of local 13 year olds that could fix it for them in a heartbeat.

The second thing I'm cranky about is the recent announcement that the moose hunting quota for this year is being cut by half. The moose population in northeastern Minnesota is crashing. I rarely see any moose while driving the back roads of Cook County any more. In fact, I rarely even see the tracks. Even more disturbing, is that fact the moose population in northwestern Minnesota showed a similar decline a decade ago and moose are now virtually extinct in that part of the state.

I am not anti-hunting, but it sure seems like common sense that if an animal population is crashing, and a nearby population has recently gone practically to zero, and no one really knows why, that you would stop shooting them. If the moose disappear from Cook County, it will be a profound loss - for our culture, community and economy.

The third thing I'm cranky about is the childish anti-tax philosophy that seems to have an iron grip on our nation. Taxes that are fair and pay for things that are outstanding public investments are a good thing. As the former Republican Governor of Minnesota, Elmer L Anderson said, "Taxes are the way people join hands to get good things done. That's the tradition of Minnesota."

The reason I bring this up is not to touch off a debate about taxes or democracy, but to highlight an opportunity for the township residents of Cook County to take part in the uniquely grass roots process of Minnesota township government. The old saying that "the world is run by the people who show up" is literally true at the township level. Every year, the townships hold an annual meeting to which all township residents are invited. This year, the date is March 8th. The annual meeting is what really sets townships apart from other forms of government. At the meeting, the residents have a direct voice in how the township will be run. Citizens can propose township actions and have them voted up or down right then. Most importantly, the people at the meeting pass the levy of property taxes that the township is allowed to collect. The town board can only spend what has been authorized by the voters. It also allows your neighbors, friends and relatives - also known as the township board of supervisors - to explain what the town does and why. This is a wonderfully direct, effective and community building form of democracy. Just thinking about it causes me to forget my crankiness - that and the stunning blue sky with the golden, late winter sun shining down above the brilliant snow blessing our lakes, streams and trails.

Airdate: March 3, 2011

Photo courtesy of ShakataGaNai via Wikimedia.


Bill caught this picture of the bobcat under his deck! Yikes!

West End News Feb. 18

WEN_0218.MP37.91 MB

For many years, my dad, Frank Hansen reported the West End News, first for the Cook County News Herald and in recent years, for WTIP. The good folks at WTIP have asked me to continue Frank's legacy, which I have agreed to do with some trepidation - partly because I will never match Frank's knack for story telling and partly because he called me many times over the years and asked if I knew of something he could use in the column because the deadline was near and he was desperate for material. He always got it done though and I will try to do the same. As Frank always did, I encourage all West End residents to contact me if they have an event they want publicized or if they've had a unique experience, or know of anything newsworthy in the West End of Cook County. My phone number is 663-7150 and my email is

The big news recently has been the sudden appearance of bobcats all over Cook County. Here at Sawbill, our bobcat saga began when my child bride, Cindy, heard a commotion outside the office. When she went to the glass door to investigate she was astonished to see a bobcat standing on the front deck of the store with a squirrel in its mouth. All three of our dogs had joined her at the door and even they were so stunned that they didn't react at all. Then the squirrel gave a few dying kicks and that triggered the dogs to start barking frantically. The cat calmly set the not-quite-dead squirrel down, held it with his foot, gazed calmly at Cindy and the dogs for a minute, then picked up the squirrel and walked slowly away.

When I got home, I heard the story in detail, exclaimed at Cindy's good luck and the marveled at the novelty of the event. We figured that was the end of it, but no. The next day, the dogs were outside and suddenly started barking much more stridently than usual. I went outside to investigate and was again surprised as the bobcat appeared from behind the paddle rack and loped past, about five feet in front of me. The dogs were in pursuit, but not in hot pursuit. It was as though they were saying, "We want to chase you cat, but we don't really want to catch you."

They all wound up under the deck behind our house and our terrier, Phoebe, Chief of Outfitter Security, stayed under the deck and barked for the next several hours. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I put on coveralls and a headlamp and crawled under there. All I could see was a vigorously wagging terrier butt, up where the joists nearly meet the sloping ground. I could hear the bobcat growling as a steady counterpoint to the shrill barking. After I captured Phoebe and put her back in the house. I crawled back under and snapped some pictures of the cat still holed up between the joists. Phoebe had been nose to nose with it for all this time, but thankfully, no blood was spilled.

We decided for everyone's peace of mind, human, terrier and bobcat, to live trap the cat and release it far away. A little sliced turkey soon had the cat in the trap. We drove it to a snowmobile trail far from anyone's house and Cindy used the video camera to document how two nervous people release and angry bobcat from a live trap. Here it is:

We posted it to YouTube and it soon was picked up by a couple of blogs, including a blog from the Cities that posted it mainly to make fun of our accents, which they called "the best Minnesota accents since Fargo." I don't really know what they're talking about, but that's a different story.

Since then, we've heard of at least ten other homes in Cook County that have had similar bobcat experiences recently. It seems that when the snow is unusually deep and soft, the bobcats struggle to catch game and their extreme hunger blunts their normal fear of humans enough that they hang around bird feeders to grab the unwary squirrel. Sure enough, a couple of days later, we had a different bobcat show up at our feeder and it took at least one more squirrel off our hands. This one didn't hole up under the deck, so we left it in peace, except for a couple of more slow speed chases by the Chief of Outfitter Security.

This week's warm temperatures have caused - along with a couple of roof avalanches and a touch of premature spring fever - the bobcats to return to their usual haunts deep in the woods. Now, all we are seeing are their distinctive feline footprints on the ski trail, along with the usual pine marten, fox and wolf tracks.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen, with the West End News.



West End News July 16

FinalCut_WEN_20100716.mp34.65 MB
The selection of Florence and Henry Wehseler to be honored by the West End community at the Tofte Fourth of July celebration was right on. For many years Florence and Henry ran an outstanding business and, as well, provided an informal community center at the store for any purpose needed by the community at the time.

The Wehselers knew their customers well. If a customer needed community support, they saw to it that the support was forthcoming. They were also glad to provide little services almost without end. If you were trying to contact a person who you knew to be a customer at the store, the Wehselers were a surefire message center. There are not many businesses left with that amount of friendliness.
One of the most interesting relationships that the Wehselers developed was with the late Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila. The Wellstones vacationed at a friend's house in Tofte. Paul would walk to the store early in the morning. He would help Henry to carry the newspapers into the store as well as anything else that needed bringing in for the day's business.
Naturally, Henry and the senator would discuss the news, affairs, and politics of the day. Paul recognized Henry's down-to-earth grasp of these things and came to value Henry's opinions. On occasion, when Paul was not visiting in Tofte, and Henry had a matter to bring to the senator, Henry was free to call the Washington office of Senator Wellstone and the senator would take the call personally and entertain the call very seriously.
One of the more humorous incidents involving Wellstone and the store included the famous sausage that Dewey, the Market butcher, makes. Dewey gave Paul a sample of the sausage to take back to the cabin with a warning that the sausage was very hot and spicy. The next time Wellstone was in the store he gave his appraisal of the sausage. He said that it was delicious but not hot. He went on to say that he was Jewish, and the Jews made really hot sausage, so he knew what hot was like. He concluded with the offhand comment that Swedes and Norwegians knew very little about hot and spicy. Now that almost got him into trouble!
The Tofte Park just got another wonderful embellishment. John Nelson of Tofte built a beautiful arch at the entrance to the park. Drive by the park and look at the arch. The community thanks John for his craftsmanship and major effort to better the community. The word is that this arch turned out so well that John is going to build another one for the other end of the park. That is wonderful news.
John Nelson informed the Tofte Town Board that a box of old town records had been found in the attic of the town hall. I think I know where they came from.
Before the great financial depression there were several organized towns in Cook County. As the depression got worse the towns went out of business. This included the town of Tofte.
Years later when the taconite plant and railroad to the shipping dock were built it was realized that if the town of Schroeder was reorganized, a lot of money would come to the town. The folks in Schroeder got the message and revived the town. Tofte and Lutsen followed suit soon after.
I became the West End county commissioner in 1978. Sometime around then David Eckel told me that he had found several boxes of town records in the basement of the courthouse. We looked at them together and I took the Tofte records home for Mary Alice to deal with. She was the clerk of the town of Tofte at the time.
These were indeed the town records from the beginning of the town. They were well kept and fascinating to read.
I remember one entry. At issue was a major project that would involve quite a bit of money. The record showed that a motion was made to have the discussion in Norwegian and in Swedish as well as English so everyone present would be sure to understand. The issue passed.
We took the records to the town hall for safekeeping, and now they have been discovered once again. They are well worth treating well. This is the record of the roots of the town.
This column will be broadcast and published on WTIP just at the end of the WTIP current membership drive. All the West End residents who contributed have my thanks. By the magic of satellite and the Internet, you may read and listen to this column no matter where you are on the earth. Take WTIP with you and feel a part of the West End always.
Airdate: July 16, 2010


West End News July 9

FinalCut_WEN_20100709.mp34.07 MB
This is a totally different West End News column. I got thoroughly steeped in Fourth of July yesterday. Some items from long ago popped into my head and they won't leave until I write about them. So here goes.
I grew up in Baltimore, the location of Fort McHenry, which is the site of the battle that inspired the Star Spangled Banner. Every fifth grade public school student in Baltimore took a field trip to Fort McHenry. There were no school busses, so we traveled by streetcar to the wharf where we boarded an ancient steamboat for the brief trip across the harbor to the fort.
At that time Fort McHenry was in deteriorated condition. We got off the boat and tramped around the fort with very little explanation about what we were seeing. Then we assembled in the center of the fort, listened to a brief patriotic speech, sang the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner, got back on the boat and went home. A very confusing day for me and my classmates.
Many years later we attended the national convention of the Association of Counties. One of the entertainment items was a trip to Fort McHenry. By then there was a street to the fort, so we did not have to take the steamer.
I could not believe my eyes when we got there. The fort was totally rehabilitated. We were greeted by a uniformed re-enactor who portrayed a soldier of the revolutionary time. Just as we arrived a busload of school kids arrived. They looked like fifth graders to me. Their reception at the fort was worlds different than mine had been.
They were met at the gate by two soldiers who identified the group as recruits. They were lined up and told that the British were about to attack the fort from the sea. They would be responsible for manning the gun ports, but above all they needed to sound the alarm when the British ships were sighted.
One of the soldiers had a big spy telescope, which he handed to one of the kids to see if the British were in sight. The student yelled that a ship was in sight, and passed the glass around so others could see for themselves. The soldiers demanded to know if they were certain that the ship was British. They told the kids to look for the flag on the stern of the ship. Considerable panic took place because they could not see the flag.
The soldiers replaced the spyglass with a different one that they said was "stronger", and sure enough the flag could be seen, but it was an American flag! You can just imagine the reaction of the students after all of that build-up. The soldiers once again organized the students into formation and dismissed the troops from duty.
I was curious as to how the whole act was carried off. After telling the soldiers about my dismal experience at the fort decades before, they let me in on their secret. The spyglasses had transparent photos of a man of war in the front of the glass. The first ship had no visible flag, but the second had a very visible flag. A harmless trick that really pumped up a group of kids. I forgot my fifth grade trip to the fort. I am sure that this group of students never forgot theirs.
On the same trip we visited the Revolutionary War ship "Constellation" which was docked in the Baltimore Harbor. The reason for our trip was that a friend, Dick Brown, had served on the Constellation when he was a young man in the Navy. Dick is the father of Nancy Cihlar and Kathy O'Neill of Lutsen. Dick had asked us to see if we could take pictures of the interior of the ship for him. Would you believe that the first sign that we saw said “No Pictures.” We appealed our case to the ship commander who granted permission, seeing as how Dick had served on the ship, but we could not touch or move anything. So, mission accomplished then, but now I and WTIP have an immediate mission to accomplish. We ask your financial support for WTIP. The West End folks tell me that they listen to WTIP a lot. That is great to hear and now we ask that you call 387-1070 to offer financial support. Thanks a lot!


West End News July 2

FinalCut_WEN_20100702.mp35.31 MB
Once again the Tofte Fourth of July celebration is about to happen. The celebration reminds me of a self-running aquarium; it maintains, year after year. I took a course in management once. The instructor hammered away on the idea that if an organization is well done it will pretty much run itself. The Tofte Fourth of July must be well done, because many parts of it seem to be self-running.

This is not true of the annual Tofte Trek, the 10K wilderness run/walk. This is the 31st running this year. The Tofte Trek is very well-planned and managed following the model set by Jan Horak over his many years of leading the Trek. This is not a wimpy 10K on city streets. The word "wilderness" is accurate. The course is through the woods. In a good year there are swamps and running streams to deal with.

This may be the only 10K around which provides a hose to flush the mud off the runners as they finish the race.

The race is still open for entrants. E-mail April Wahlstrom at for the complete scoop on participating in the race.

The most fun at the Trek is the kids’ races. These races start at 9AM. The kids run their hearts out for the short dashes of the race.

I remember when our granddaughter Ruthie was small. I thought she was a pretty fast runner, so I encouraged her to enter the race. Ruthie wanted to know how far she would have to run. I told her that it would be about the same as running from our store to lunch when she heard the lunch bell on the intercom. She agreed that she could handle that distance.

She won her event at the Trek. Her ribbon and the ribbons that the other grandchildren won at the Trek may still be on display in the log house at Sawbill.

It would be nice to say that this was the start of a long and successful running career; but in truth that was pretty much the high point.

We attended the wedding of two former Sawbill employees on Saturday, June 26. The wedding was at the Tofte Park on a beautiful afternoon. What a great place the Tofte family dedicated to the community almost a century ago. The park is one of the lesser known gems along the North Shore. The West End community agrees that this is exactly the way the park should be, lesser known.

Jessa Wallendal and Eric Frost, now Mr. and Mrs. Frost, local folks, were the bride and groom. Their wedding was celebrated by family, friends, and especially fun for us, former fellow crew members from Sawbill Outfitters. The Sawbill crew members develop a firm relationship with each other. Showing up at each other's weddings is something that is just done. Like the Tofte Fourth of July, it happens.

The discussion of promotion of the Superior National golf course revives some memories of tourist promotion in the county during the era of Bud and Charlet Kratoska. They carried the tourist promotion at the county level on their backs for many years.

Bud and Charlet attended sports shows where they distributed literature and collected names of people at the shows who wanted more information. Then, as now, increased business was the goal. Then, as now, examples were cited of other vacation areas which spent multiples of the dollars spent here. The idea was: Spend more, get more business.

Bud and I were wondering how effective the advertising done really was. We decided to draw a random sample of the folks who had been sent literature at their request. We designed a questionnaire to send to the sample asking questions about what they did after they got the literature. Our basic question for us was "did what we were doing generate reservations.” That was the bottom line, and the answer was that not many reservations resulted from the bulk mailings or the thousands of brochures distributed at sports shows.

What did generate reservations was personal contact, and follow-up to see if the customer was pleased with their vacation experience in Cook County. Follow-up was almost never done. Hard to believe, but true.

In the day of Bud and Charlet individual contacts were expensive and difficult. There had to be a high margin of profit to justify the cost and effort. Today with all of our electronic tools, the cost is down and so is the effort.

Superior National is looking for golfers, not tourists in general, so the promotion should be very specific. It is well worth the time to take a breath and figure out how to identify potential golfing customers. Superior National has been open for a long time. If names and addresses of players are kept that would be a pool to work with. E-mail is a wonderful tool not available to Bud and Charlet.

I agree that we have a magnificent facility at Superior National. It is well worthwhile to invest in promotion for the course; but the promotion needs to move into the 21st century. It can be done, and we have many smart people in our community who can do it. As our 2-year-old great-granddaughter says, "I do it myself".

This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Airdate: July 2, 2010


West End News June 25

FinalCut_WEN_20100625.mp33.81 MB
Ed Erikson of Chetek, Wisconsin has been specializing in fishing Alton Lake for more than fifty years.
Alton is a wide, open lake and a strong wind can kick up large waves in just a minute or two. Ed is convinced that this lake is more productive when there are strong winds, but staying on the lake under high wind conditions in a canoe is hazardous.
During his working career, Ed was on the staff of the large Madison Vocational School. He and his fellow instructors designed and built an outrigger for his canoe which allows him to stay on the lake under conditions that would drive a prudent person on to shore.
Ed is a lucky and expert fisherman. He practices catch and release, but does keep a limit to take home.
Years ago, Ed and his wife were fishing on Alton. Ed had the honor of netting a walleye that his wife caught. The official scale at Sawbill Outfitters read fifteen pounds when they brought it in to be weighed.
They took this fish home, had it freeze-dried in a position which simulated a fish striking a lure. Then, they had a Plexiglas box built and had an artist paint an underwater scene on the back wall of the box. The lure used to catch this fish was dangling from the top of the box. The box has interior lighting.
The box is mounted on a wall of their recreation room. When Ed showed me a picture of the installation, I asked him if they had visiting hours and soft music to give proper respect to the fish. A life goal of Ed’s is to catch a walleye in Alton Lake which equal or exceeds his wife’s record fish. So far, no luck.
During his recent visit to Alton, Ed had a totally new experience. A loon attacked the stringer of fish hanging in the water. Ed pulled on the stringer and the loon held on to the stringer. After a brief struggle, Ed was able to get the stringer into the canoe. He wanted to donate that fish to the loon, but his partner objected. There was some statement about teaching loons bad habits.
Luke Opel, a Sawbill Outfitters crew member, was also fishing on Alton Lake. He had another loon experience. A loon swam under his canoe over and over again, for all the world appearing to be planning to strike Luke’s bait. Luke succeeded in avoiding that, but he did get a great underwater photo of the loon emerging from under the canoe. The photo is posted on the Sawbill website.
Le Vong Lo is another Alton specialist. He recently caught a forty-five-inch-long northern pike in Alton. His partner took an amazing picture of this giant fish and then the fish was returned to the lake to continue what must be a long life.
While I was preparing material for a talk at the Cook County Historical Society, I consulted the chapter on Sawbill Lodge in Mary Alice’s book, “Sawbill Tales.” There is a photo in the chapter of the large, wooden sign which greeted guests as they drove into the lodge. I believe that this sign may be the earliest example of texting in history. It read: “U,” capital u, “NO,” capital n and o, that “U,” capital u, “R,” capital r, at “SAWBILL.” How about that.
Busy is upon us. As one resident of Tofte said, “The highway is so busy, I have to look both ways before I run the stop sign.” Only in the West End.
This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Airdate: June 25, 2010

A beach in Lutsen/photo from picasaweb by PAUL

West End News June 3

FinalCut_WestEndNews_20100604.mp32.98 MB

When we were in graduate school we had a friend who could come up with an appropriate saying for any occasion. When life was not going well he would say, "The doctor said that there would be days like this; but he did not say that they would be so close together.”

We have had "days like this" recently, and they have been close together, so once again column deadline came and went with no time to write. Once again improvement is imminent, so there is time for a column.

I cannot remember a Memorial Day weekend that was so favorable weather-wise, fishing-wise, and almost problem-wise. The problem was that many folks did not pay attention to the sun, so some suffered serious sunburns. Sitting in a boat or canoe with the sun shining and the reflection of the ultraviolet light from the water is an invitation for a burn. It amounts to being in a waterborne tanning bed. Not a good thing.

Fishing reports were very favorable. Considering that the temperatures have been very warm, which brought the water temperature up in a hurry, the fishing was excellent. Even inland lake trout were caught in good numbers.

Folks felt pretty good about their lake trout catches until Bear Cihlar of Lutsen reported his witnessed catch of a 35-pound-plus trout. The fish was released and the location is secret, except that the location is "out of the country.”

In just a few days another school year will come to an end. The Birch Grove graduation was followed by the dedication of the beautiful mosaic at Birch Grove School. The themes for the panels were chosen by the students with guidance from adults. The planning and execution of the panels was again done by the students with the help of Kelly Dupre.

There are now three outstanding mosaic installations in the county. One is at the Co-op in Grand Marais, another at the WTIP building in Grand Marais, and now a third one at Birch Grove School.

A few years ago I was contacted by a man who catalogs the locations of very large paintings, both indoor and outdoor. I told him about the walls and trucks with paintings in Grand Marais and also the Birney Quick paintings at the Catholic church and the Grand Marais State Bank. I wonder if there is anyone who does the same thing for mosaics. Most likely there is.

Each year when the photos of the high school graduates are published in the papers I am intrigued by the first names of the graduates, year by year. This year there are many Ambers and Caitlins. How does this flow of first names happen? It is a puzzle.

The message from all parts of the business community is that Memorial Day was busy and profitable. Let's hope that this is a great beginning to an outstanding season.


Frank remembers Clara Sivertson, who worked to preserve the story of Cook County's commercial fishing families

West End News May 20

Finalcut_WestEnd_20100521.mp33.61 MB

A couple of weeks ago my child bride, Mary Alice, took a tumble and ended up with a cracked femur. That was disrupting to our regular routine. Lots of things were put on hold, including this column and broadcast.

I can't say that we are back to normal, but life is continuing with a lot of help from our friends and family. Mary Alice is doing well, so there is enough breathing room to write a column.

Let me tell you to never call 911 unless you mean it. Within five minutes of our call we had a deputy sheriff, first responders, EMTs, and an ambulance on duty here at our house. Everyone in the crew obviously knew what to do and how to do it.

Years ago I was a qualified EMT, so I really appreciated the obvious level of training and concern shown by the folks who helped us. Thanks to them, one and all.

I don't know what would be a proper title for Clara Sivertson, who left us recently. Words like "matriarch" and "commercial fishing royalty" come to mind. Clara and Stanley lived near Schroeder when they were first married. They lived what might be called a nomadic lifestyle, moving to Washington Island to fish as soon as the ice went out in the spring and then returning to the mainland at the last possible moment sometime in November.

Clara and Stanley, along with Ted Tofte, had the dream of a commercial fishing museum that would tell the story of commercial fishing and the fishermen and their families. They and a few others were the folks who got the fishing museum on the road, or maybe on the boat.

I remember the impassioned speech that Stanley gave at the ground breaking for the fishing museum at Tofte. He left no doubt in his audience about the contribution of the fisher families to the area. He also left no doubt about the difficulties that the fisher people had in dealing with the governmental agencies.

Clara and Stanley continued to support the museum. Stanley had passed before the opening of the museum; but Clara attended and was given the respect and attention that she so deserved. I noticed in her obituary that her family requests that her memory be honored by donations to the commercial fishing museum. I am sure that pleases Clara.

It is the custom at the museum to honor fishing pioneers with a net cork with an engraved brass plate on the cork. I am sure that Clara will be so honored. No one is more deserving.

It has been just about a year since Priscilla Revier retired from the position of postmaster at the Tofte post office. Priscilla worked for the post office for 34 years. She followed Joyce Krueger into the position of postmaster. These two ladies got the Tofte community absolutely spoiled with the level of service that they provided. They went way beyond the bare duties of the job. The many big and little favors provided by them were just part of the job in their eyes. Besides that, the post office was a community center and, to use fancy language that is now very popular, provided a networking facility for the community.

Even after a year no permanent replacement has been appointed. The community is hoping that Paul Hansen, who is doing the job now, will get the nod. It would be nice to continue the line of locals filling the postmaster position. Local acquaintance and knowledge is a big plus for the community. Keep your fingers crossed.


The dome at Sawbill Outfitters

West End News April 29

Finalcut_WestEnd_20100430.mp36.58 MB

We have all heard of delayed gratification. Delayed vindication, which is evidence that a decision made long ago turns out to be correct, even commendable, is not often discussed. I experienced delayed vindication recently. This is the story.

In the very early ‘70s Sawbill Outfitters was in dire need of more space. There was no possibility of further remodeling, so the need for a new building was obvious. The question was, what kind of building?

Sawbill is on a Forest Service lease, so we knew that any new building would have to be approved by the Forest Service. Preliminary conversations about what might be approved did not shed any light. The situation was: make a proposal, we will send it up the line, and we will let you know if the proposal flies or not.

I did get nostalgic about the approval that we went through when we built the public shower and laundry building designed by David Quick in 1965. Ed Wood, the Tofte Ranger at the time, drove out to Sawbill, looked at the plans, approved the project on the spot and said that he would write a letter to the Forest Supervisor and would include the plans. About a week later he called and said that everything was OK, but the Duluth office thought that there should be a drain in the laundry room floor. It was clear that the same informality no longer existed in 1975.

We began our research about the kind of building that would suit our purposes, always with one eye on the Forest Service. Eventually we discovered geodesic domes. The dome is quick to build, has loads of interior space, is very strong, comes pre-cut, and is uncomplicated to erect. So we chose a dome, had plans drawn, and approached the Forest Service about approval.

So far as anyone could find out, there was not another geodesic dome on Forest Service property in the nation. So this request really went up the line, all the way to Washington. The response was not enthusiastic. There was concern about appearance. What about resistance to wind loads? How about snow? Etc., etc., etc.

We had a customer who was a very competent structural engineer. He had been good enough to look at the plans before I submitted them and gave an unqualified, but informal OK. When I told him of the concern he wrote a letter stating that the building would withstand sustained winds of 120 miles an hour. Ten feet of snow burden would not cause collapse. He ended by writing that if local conditions ever got close to the limits of the dome everything around the dome would be flattened a long time before. I sent his opinion on to the USFS.

That resulted in a meeting with Forest Service folks at the district and forest level. It was obvious that someone had to make a decision. The conversation boiled down to, "It’s OK with me if everyone else is OK with it". Everyone in the room said that they felt the same way. I told them that I would take that to be a yes, and no one objected. So we built the dome.

Never in the 35 years that the dome has been in use have we ever had conditions anywhere near what caused so much concern. Now comes the vindication. Last week, at the DFL convention Bill Hansen met Denny Johnson, the contractor who built our dome. Denny is still building domes. He had a very current and amazing story to tell.

He has built three domes in Chile over the years. All three of the domes are located in the area devastated by the earthquake. All three of the domes survived the quake with no damage. So, after 35 years, we now know that we were right. Are we pleased? You bet.

We attended a performance of Treasure Island at the Playhouse. We have been to many, many performances at the Playhouse. This presentation has by far the best scenery, the best blocking, the best costumes, and the most consistent performances by the cast of any that we have attended. Just saying "creative" and "excellent" does not cover the performance. Every aspect is superb. We are so fortunate to have this wonderful facility and talented folks in our community. Thanks to the dozens of folks who prepared this treat for all of us.