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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 20

Dennis Todd
Dennis Todd

Wildersmith_finalcut_20130920.mp35.26 MB

Tragedy has once again hit the Gunflint community. For the second time this summer the area has lost one of its friends. Longtime Gunflint Lodge fishing guide, Dennis Todd, has been lost in a boating mishap. The incident occurred on a return fishing excursion from Northern Light Lake early last Thursday evening.

Accurate details of just what happen are unavailable as this week’s commentary was being prepared. It is known that a passenger in the boat was thrown into the icy waters of Trafalgar Bay along with Mr. Todd. This person was able to swim to a nearby island to safety, but the guide never resurfaced. The survivor, who was wearing a flotation device, was eventually able to summon assistance from another group of fishermen a short time later. Search operations for Dennis were initiated as soon as word got back to land communications, and was administered by Ontario authorities from the Thunder Bay Marine unit.
Mr. Todd’s body was recovered by divers in 46 feet of water just after noon last Sunday. He was the most senior member of the Gunflint Lodge’s guiding crew, and had been serving lodge guests in that capacity for 27 years. He lived in Missouri in the winters. The Gunflint Community offers heartfelt condolences to Dennis’ immediate family, his Gunflint Lodge family and his many friends and neighbors. His always jovial mood and smiling face will be missed!
Word has also been received about the passing of another area summer resident. Frank Smith of Black Mountain, North Carolina died of pneumonia complications this past week. Frank and wife Jean shared cabin property on the shores of Loon Lake, off North Loon Lake Road. Like many others, they had a deep affection for this precious place and had spent many joyous times here in the woods until ill health constrained them to assisted living back in Carolina. Sympathy from Frank’s Gunflint friends and neighbors is extended to Jean and his family.

With autumn about to become official, the weather in the area has followed suit.  Here on Gunflint Lake we’ve had several days that were just marvelous. On a couple occasions, the feeling was mindful of those late October times when brisk northwest winds over thrashing waters called for two layers to quell the cold shivers. And, we even received more rain!  Ahh, it’s getting to be my time of year!

The migration that started several weeks ago for some of the avian flocks is now in full swing. A day doesn’t seem to go by that I don’t see at least one flying “V” high in the sky, as a sense of urgency is permeating the northern latitudes.  Further, it would appear that our hummingbird gang has called it a season. The last filling of their sweet nectar station has gone untouched for the past several days, indicating they must be en route south.  Those winged critters who do hang out year-round have begun to circle the wagons, so to speak. I’m noticing an increased gathering of chickadees, red breasted nut hatches and blue jays after being AWOL most of the summer.

A big bird happening was reported by friends over on Hungry Jack Lake during a recent fishing venture. The event was initiated when a small fish was released back into the lake but did not survive. A watchful eagle soon made a pitch for the floating finny and lifted it high into the pines. An osprey apparently took notice of the goings-on and had another idea about who was going to get the fish dinner. It soared in and literally bumped the eagle from its perch. The underwater fare went tumbling earthward, and the raptor battle was on. An airborne attack ensued as the osprey continued strafing the eagle. The eagle finally had enough and retaliated. This soaring skirmish eventually ended up in mid-air, talon-to-talon combat. After several seconds of tumbling through the heavens and roughing each other up, the eagle disengaged and winged off into the wild blue. It is unknown if either celebrated victory with a filet-o-fish that afternoon. It would be a safe bet some other critter of the wild woods probably made off with the eagle’s catch, and might be wondering how this fish could be so far from water.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor this heaven on earth, as we celebrate, the equinox of fall!