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West End News: July 7

Earlier this week, I went to Duluth for a long list of mundane errands.  Among the chores was stopping at the sign store to pick up a banner for the front of the Sawbill Outfitters’ store.  I unfurled the banner and was suddenly struck by its message: “Sawbill Canoe Outfitters - Celebrating 60 Years!” 
I’ve seen this coming for a while, of course, but the reality strikes home this weekend when many of the Sawbill Outfitters crew members from the last 60 years return for a grand reunion.
I have been extraordinarily blessed to spend my life in such a sweet little corner of the world.  There is no paradise on earth, but Sawbill is close.  People tell me all the time that I have the best job in the world and I’m hard pressed to disagree with them. 
I believe there are three reasons that Sawbill Canoe Outfitters is a special place for so many people.  They are - the vision of the founders, Frank and Mary Alice Hansen; the wilderness; and the Sawbill Crew.
My parents started and operated the business in an generous, friendly and joyful way.  They definitely made it “success” in the narrow business sense of the word, but they also created an atmosphere of cooperation and congeniality that defined a much broader definition of success over the last six decades.  It has created what can only be described as a very extended family crewmembers and visitors.  My folks’ ability to build community, whether here at Sawbill, or around the county and beyond, is the key ingredient to the magic at Sawbill.  It has been a pleasure for us to try our best to continue in their tradition.
The wilderness, both big W and little w, are what makes Sawbill such a unique spot.  Sigurd Olson said it much better than I can, and I quote: “In wilderness people can find the silence and the solitude and the non-civilized surroundings that can connect them once again to their evolutionary heritage, and through an experience of the eternal mystery, can give them a sense of the sacredness of all creation.” Close quote.
Olson’s description is familiar to anyone who spends more than three days in a wilderness setting. The vast canoe country, with its awkward alphabet of a name, and the surrounding forest, are a well-proven source of refreshment, relaxation, renewal and self-confidence.  What a gift to be able to live in the midst of profound beauty every single day.
And finally, I’ve been privileged to know a cast of hundreds who have worked at Sawbill over the long years.  Due to our remote location, all of our crew live on-site.  When you live and work – hard – with people for a full season, or as is often the case, many seasons, you get to know them as true and beloved friends.  They are an amazing cast of vivid characters - each contributing in her or his own unique way - to the rich history of this place.
So, my life at Sawbill has taught me that those three ingredients: a vision of a better future; healthy natural surroundings; and true friendships; are really the secret to success in any human life.   They are surely the formula for success all over the wonderful West End.
And, I’d like to add, they are also the secret of success for a community radio station, like this one, WTIP. While it surely has vision and surrounding beauty in abundance, we all need to occasionally think about how WTIP is a true friend and deserving of our friendship in return. 
There are many ways to demonstrate friendship for this great radio station, but one of the crucial ways is to help, as you are able, with the financial demands of keeping the station up and running.  Please, if you are a listener, call or go online right now and show your support. It’s what friends do.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.