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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:
Dave and Amy

West End News Dec. 3, 2009

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We should have expected that the perfect ice on Sawbill Lake would not last, and sure enough the temperature stayed above freezing, the ice melted and for one more year wilderness skating disappeared. Now the temperature is low enough, but snow is falling, which will ruin skating, so get out the cross-country skis.

The Christmas season would not be the same without the familiar Salvation Army red kettles. I can remember the kettles when I was small, and that is a while back. When my grandfather and I saw a kettle he would give me a few coins to put in. He would follow up with a couple of bills. I wonder when the kettles first started.

Once each year the Christian Science Monitor newspaper publishes a special issue about charitable giving. This issue was just published. One of the features of this issue is a list of the 50 largest charities in terms of dollars collected by each charity.

The Salvation Army has the largest income of all the charities. It also has the smallest administrative expense; the lowest paid administrators, and the largest proportion of funds collected spent on the support of the Army's many projects. Every rating agency gives the Salvation Army an A rating, the highest possible rating.

All of this allows me to feel some comfort when I throw my change into the kettle. I feel I know the money will be well used.

Dave Freeman, the founder of the Wilderness Inquiry educational program, and Amy are full of plans for the immediate future. Dave left today to truck equipment and supplies all the way to Inuvit, which is in the far northwestern corner of the Northwest Territories. The trip will take a week both ways. On the way he will drop off supplies and equipment for the trip he and Amy will take next spring as far as Skagway, Alaska. That will be the first part of a multi-year expedition, which will eventually cross the continent. Dave does not think small.

The expedition will start with kayak travel; but will also use dogsled travel and who knows what else. Their most recent trip across South America used custom-built bicycles for part of the trip. Dave and Amy stay in contact with thousands of schoolchildren enrolled in the Wilderness Inquiry program by way of satellite and laptop computer while they are progressing on their trips. The detailed preparation for these trips is awesome.

Remember that I want to list outstanding holiday displays in the West End. Many displays are already in place. Call soon and I will list them in the column that is published at I would like to be called before Dec. 14 so that I may get the list in the column published and broadcast later that week.



West End News Nov. 26, 2009

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A dream situation, which almost never comes true, is when the lakes freeze with a smooth surface and the ice is thick enough to be safe for skating. Right now the surface is perfect on some of the lakes, and we are waiting for the ice to be thick enough to be safe.

Usually good skating only lasts for a few days, then snow ruins the skating; but while it lasts there is nothing like skating as far as time allows on a wilderness lake.

When you plan a skating trip on the lakes good sense tells us that there is no such thing as completely safe ice out on the lakes. It is important to plan for a possible break through the ice by carrying ice picks to help in getting back out if you do suffer a dunking.

These warm temperatures that continue and the lack of snow are pleasant and convenient, but they could be an economic disaster for our snow-related winter businesses. I hear that the warm temperatures have prevented snow making for the downhill folks. Serious training for the mushers is definitely handicapped. The cross-country ski trails are ready and waiting. The snowmobiles are tuned to perfection. Think colder weather with snow.

Conditions can change in just a few hours. Some years ago there was no snow on the ground on Thanksgiving Day. After dinner we took a hike. That night and the next day a foot of snow fell. Campers who chose to take advantage of the mild weather for just one more camping trip were trapped until the snowplows could get the roads opened. So there is always hope.

I had a great time at the fundraiser held by the Birch Grove Foundation at Papa Charlie's. The foundation has developed, year by year, into a front line contributor to the West End community. In my mind, the support extended by the community at the fundraiser shows how highly the foundation is regarded.

Thanks also to Papa Charlie's, all of the volunteers at the dinner and silent auction, the donors of items for the auction, and above all you folks who came to this event. It will happen again next year for sure.

The craft sale at the Schroeder Town Hall, and the gala event across the highway at the Cross River Heritage Center, once again featured the appearance of Mrs. Claus at the heritage center while Santa was at the town hall. It was nice of them to take time out to come to Schroeder at what must be a very busy time for them.

Christmas displays are up already. I would welcome a list of the more elaborate displays in the West End. I will publish the list so we can drive by and enjoy the displays. It is shocking that Christmas is less than a month away.



West End News Nov. 18, 2009

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Polly Erickson, coordinator of the recent blood drive at Zoar church in Tofte, reports that the drive was very successful, once again. The roster was full and there were only two no shows.
Thanks again to Polly for her part in the drive. Setting up the drive is no small thing. Polly does it so well that we don't remember how much it takes for a successful blood drive. The next blood drive will be in the spring sometime.
The lakes are beginning to get their permanent coat of ice. In the recent past there have been skims of ice, which melted as the temperature rose during the day; but now serious icing of the lakes is imminent. Sawbill Lake froze over Monday night, Nov. 16.
This reminds me of an incident that happened on Sawbill Lake some years ago, which turned out well in the end.
Craig Blacklock, the well-known nature photographer, took a picture on Sawbill Lake late in the fall, just a little earlier in November than now. When the film was developed the image was useless because there had been a drop of water on the lens when the picture was taken.
A year later Craig came to Sawbill Lake again to repeat the shot. The picture had to be taken early in the morning, so he camped out overnight. During that night Sawbill Lake froze. The thickness of the ice was too thick to paddle through, but too thin to walk on.
Craig took his picture and by that time figured out a solution to his predicament. He decided to gunwale pump the canoe after a fashion to crack the ice as he went along. This worked, but was very slow. He headed for the shore, and then portaged through the woods to the landing. He was exhausted.
The photo was spectacular, but what an effort for just one picture. I guess that is what makes great photographers great.
Fundraisers have become the norm for non-profits to supplement their income. Between now and Nov. 30, Birch Grove School is raising funds through selling food items. More information can be obtained by stopping by Birch Grove School or calling Tina at 663-0170.
The beautiful weather, with a lot of sun and mild temperatures, clearly belongs to someone else, but we will take it anyway. Enjoy.
This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Blood donor

West End News Nov. 11, 2009

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The next blood drive in the West End is coming up fast. The drive will be at Zoar Lutheran Monday, Nov. 16 from 2:30 until 5:30 p.m. Polly Erickson is in charge of organizing the drive and the donors. For information about donating at Zoar on Monday, call Polly at 663-7398.
As usual, blood and blood products that are available for patients in need are in short supply. We all get skeptical when we are told that we need to take action or else a disaster will happen; but the need for blood is the truth. Locally, the group of donors for the summer drive includes some seasonal workers and residents who are gone now, so the donor supply is smaller. This makes it even more important to step forward if you are able to contribute. There are not many things that give as great a gift as donating a pint of blood.
Years ago, before there were the mobile units, if a family member, friend, or fellow employee needed a blood transfusion there was a frantic appeal for immediate donation. There was a poorly organized scramble. The present system, which protects both the donor and the person getting the blood, is much better.
The West End folks have an excellent record of volunteering.
Once again, the Birch Grove Foundation fundraiser is at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen Friday, Nov. 20. Dinner is served beginning at 4:30. The silent auction with fabulous items available for bidding will be ongoing, with a cut off at 7 p.m. and then the end of the auction at 8. So you have two chances to take home some great items donated by the community.
After the dinner and the auction, serious dancing will complete the evening. What more can you ask for? Good food, bargains, and fun… a West End dream evening.
The 1 percent sales tax revenue will eventually provide the money for continuing development of the Birch Grove Foundation, and through the Foundation, I feel, the money will greatly benefit the community. This will not happen overnight. Patience and good planning are what is required. Meanwhile we can dream of the good things which are on the way for our children and the greater community as well.


West End News Nov. 4, 2009

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The Sawtooth Mountain Clinic board held their October meeting at the Birch Grove Center Monday, Oct. 26. The board meets at the Grand Portage and Birch Grove clinics at least once a year so board members may see the facilities at the clinics.

In days past when we had grandchildren attending Birch Grove, we were in the Birch Grove building every week for one purpose or another; but I realized as I walked into the Center that it had been a long time since I was last there. I was pleased to see that the building is in great condition, obviously well tended.
Diane Norman, who is the Sawtooth Clinic nurse who usually is on duty during clinic days, took the board on a tour of the clinic. Diane pointed to a couple of pieces of furniture in one of the exam rooms which were from the era when the clinic was in a house in the community of Taconite Harbor. There was a small desk and a stool. Diane said that she could remember the desk and the stool from the time that she was very young. Diane grew up at Taconite Harbor.
When the clinic first moved to Birch Grove it was located right inside of the front door of the school. A couple of years ago the school office was moved to the location by the front door, and the clinic was moved to the rear of the building. This space was remodeled very nicely. It has very convenient access through the back door of the building, as well as immediate access to a handicapped accessible bathroom.
The West End should be very proud of the Birch Grove building and the many community programs that the building makes possible.
We really enjoyed the trick or treat crowd on Halloween. Most of the potential tricksters seemed to be 6 or 7 or younger. It is fun to see the little ones in their costumes.
There is always one child who manages to stand out from the crowd. As one group of five or six little ones was walking back down the driveway after getting their treats I called "Night, night" to them. One small person turned, walked all the way back to me and said,"I am not going night-night. I am going to more houses.” So there, that set me straight.

Frank is saving box tops to raise money for local schools

West End News Oct. 28, 2009

There are West End events that in my mind are in the "don't miss" category. The annual fundraiser at Papa Charlie's Friday, Nov. 20 is a "don't miss" for me. The fundraiser is a dinner and silent auction put on by the Birch Grove Foundation. The foundation contributes to the support of the Birch Grove Community School and many other community functions held at the Center.
Dinner is from 4 until 8 p.m. The silent auction will end in phases. One cutoff is at 7 and the other at 8. Everyone knows that fabulous things are offered at the silent auction. No telling what treasure might be waiting for you!
After dinner the pop-rock band D'Merritt will have its debut performance, beginning at 8. I know that this notice is a little early, but better early than late.
The other day I was searching through one of our junk drawers, looking for a part that I was sure that I had seen in the drawer. The part was not there, but I discovered a plastic bag with coupons from cereal box tops and some milk bottle caps in it. With a shock I realized that I had neglected the saving of coupons and bottle caps for Birch Grove. Shame on me!
The box top coupons must say something about education, and the cap must have 5 cents printed on the cap to be OK for saving. Throwing these things away is denying Birch Grove a small but, over the long haul, significant amount of money.
I saw a discussion about the merchandising lure of the "cash back" gimmick. Buy this item for $20 and get $2 cash back. The problem is that the coupon must be saved, the sales slip must be retained and then it all has to be mailed in for redemption.  Would you believe that often 90 percent of the cash backs are not redeemed? Box tops and milk caps are a form of cash back. Let's see the West End redeem 90 percent of them for Birch Grove.
I had a screen up on my TV that listed the current programs on about 10 different channels. The one that caught my eye read "National FFA convention.” FFA stands for Future Farmers of America. At one point in my career I participated in some group dynamics training sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Division with the student officers of the FFA and the FHA, Future Homemakers. Out of curiosity I brought up the channel to see what these organizations were doing after these many years.
A lot was the same. The same blue jackets. The same articulate, enthusiastic 16-, 17- and 18-year-old students. The tradition in these organizations is that all speeches and presentations are memorized: no notes and no teleprompters. You should understand that the students who are giving speeches and presentations at the convention have emerged, in this case, from hundreds of thousands of students who entered a selection process nationally. Their speeches have been prepared and rehearsed until perfection is achieved.
All of these students are not only high school students; but they also have some sort of business, connected with agriculture, which they personally own and run. An announcement stated that the receipts from FFA student businesses in 2008 were a little more then $4 billion.
Anyone who is pessimistic about our present crop of high school students should become aware of the FFA and FHA students. They will cheer you up a lot.

Istanbul, Turkey

West End News Oct. 21, 2009

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The Sawtooth Clinic board of directors will hold its monthly business meeting at the Birch Grove Center Monday, Oct. 25, at 5 p.m. The clinic board will inspect the clinic, which is housed in the center, before the meeting.

The clinic board welcomes anyone who wishes to attend the board meeting. We will be meeting in the conference room. If you have any questions about the satellite clinic at Birch Grove this is an opportunity to bring your questions to the board.

The clinic has been at Birch Grove ever since the community of Taconite Harbor was shut down by the mining company. While the community existed the clinic was located in a house at Tac Harbor. Many of us remember that facility. Residents of the West End are on the clinic board. You will be welcomed; come if you are interested.

Ann Mershon, a Cook County resident and a longtime teacher at Cook County High School, has published another book. You will remember that she wrote and published the story of a young Norwegian girl who immigrated to Cook County with her family. The story is based on the real family experiences of a Cook County resident, who Ann interviewed in the lady's elder years. That book is titled "Britta.”
The past few years Ann has been teaching in Turkey. She has a wonderful blog site with amazing pictures of the places she visits there. Her new book is titled "Istanbul's Bazaar Quarter.” It is recently available in this country. I hope that the county bookstores will stock the book so we can buy a copy. I know that I will never travel to Turkey; but I am sure that it is a beautiful book and well worth having. Go Ann!
The health care concerns, especially the funding of health care, command most of the attention of all the media, or at least that is how it seems to me. I always wonder who figures out the stated costs of one thing or another which results in what looks like an offhand estimate of hundreds of billions of dollars. Could the estimate possibly be anywhere close to accurate?
I have developed a personal index to help me make some sense of these huge numbers. This is how it goes. There are roughly 300 million folks living in the United States. If just $5 is spent on each and every person, that would cost $1.5 billion. Amazing, is it not?
Another problem is the way costs are presented. "$800 billion over 10 years.” Now does that mean that the total spent in 10 years will be $800 billion, $80 billion a year; or does it mean that $800 billion will be spent each and every year for 10 years?
When I was a county commissioner the county board would get "nasty grams" from the state auditor's office for the reason that we had not sent along a detailed budget for the next 10 years. Our position was that we could not tell what imposed mandates would be required by the state and the feds. So why bother with the silly game of projecting a budget for 10 years? That was not at all popular with the bean counters in the state auditor's office.
The same thing is true about the present estimates for health care "over the next 10 years.” Who really knows?
As a relief from all this big money, I’m going to vote yes for the 1 percent sales tax. At least with this proposal the goals and anticipated costs seem well worked out and affordable. I will be voting in favor of both issues on the ballot. I personally can't see anything that should lead to a "no" vote.
After the vote there should be resolve to stick to the agreed-upon projects and the agreed-upon scope of the projects when the tax is passed. What I am saying is, don't fall into the car-buying trap. "I just want a basic car, no frills.” Then somehow you end up with leather seats, GPS, surround sound, On Star communication, and other goodies, for only a few bucks more a month. We must only build what we vote for. Be strong and resist temptation.