West End News April 1

Frank reminisces about playing lacrosse
Frank reminisces about playing lacrosse

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A notice that an original member of the seasonal Gust Lake community, Dick Brown, had died brought back many memories.

Cap and Billie Peterson of Tait Lake owned most of the shoreline property on Gust Lake. Cap and Billie had set out to buy lake property and then never sell it so that it would be protected. That admirable goal was trumped by reality. They were caught up in the Depression and needed cash, so very reluctantly they decided to sell some of the Gust Lake property.

They had no money to pay for a proper survey. They laid out the lots by each holding one end of a rope, cut to the desired lot width, drove stakes for a starting point, and then walked toward the lakeshore, stretching the rope tightly between them. A county assessor's nightmare, right? All this was of very little purpose. Everyone else was caught by the Depression as well, so no lots were sold.

Then, right after the end of WWII, they tried again and did sell a couple of lots. One couple purchasing a lot was Dick and Phyllis Brown. The lots fronted on the Grade Road. At that time the Grade had not been improved. It was a horrible road full of oil-pan-destroying rocks, and where there were no rocks there were swamps. Years later Ed Thoreson and his crew improved the road, and the road was relocated somewhat. The Browns’ cabin had been built right on the edge of the road; but the relocation gave them an extra hundred feet or so of property in front of their cabin.

The road in front of the present cabins on Gust Lake is a remnant of the original railroad grade.

Dick was a skilled mechanical engineer. At that time, at the intersection of the Grade and the Sawbill Trail, in about the location of the Sawbill CCC Camp, Dick found a treasure trove of junk. It seemed that when the CCC went out of business a lot of two-man cross-cut saws, axes, Pulaskis and brush hooks were dumped there. Dick found an old electric generator. It was heavy, but he got help and hauled it to his cabin on Gust. He took it apart, repaired what needed repair, and got it running. It was a noisy small diesel engine, so Phyllis discouraged use of it when she was present.

Phyllis was a master crafter. Their small cabin was decorated with her production in many different crafts.

The Browns came to Gust Lake for many years. They would drive over to Sawbill Outfitters to use the phone and to visit with us. We also took messages for them and if it was an emergency we would drive over to Gust Lake at the peril of our vehicle to deliver the message. I don't know how she did it, but Phyllis always had a freshly baked treat on hand when we came. Dick and Phyllis were good friends. We extend our sympathy to Dick's family.

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. The current New Yorker magazine has an article about a famous lacrosse coach. Lacrosse was one of my passions when I was a kid. I lived in Baltimore, the lacrosse hotbed of the whole country at that time. The game was pretty much limited to high schools, colleges and club teams along the East coast.

The magazine article said that more than a half million high school students, boys and girls, now played the game on school and club teams. Not only that, it was played all over the country. My immediate reaction was, "When did this happen?" I inquired and found out that there were good teams right here in Minnesota. In fact the player who is recognized as the best of the best is from Eden Prairie where I was the school psychologist for many years, now many years ago.

I used to tell the athletic faculty about the wonders of the game, but never got any interest at all in the sport. Now they are turning out lacrosse players good enough for Division I teams. Imagine!

I am not aware of varsity teams or leagues or a state tournament. There must be, though. I have seen an occasional game on a sports channel, but don't hear the local in-state sports announcers ever mentioning the game. I am delighted to find out that the game is alive and well, but where was I when all of this was going on?

One time, a year or so ago, our senior Golden Moves exercise class met in one of the gyms at the high school. There was a barrel full of lacrosse sticks there. I picked one out of the barrel just for fun and then wondered why on earth lacrosse sticks were at the school. Lacrosse sticks belonged on the East coast. Little did I know!

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