The Gunflint Trail lost a dear friend this month. Peggy Heston, from Heston’s Lodge, died at age 94. Peggy and her husband started up here in 1944 from Chicago. They built a fine resort which has remained in the family and is now run by her grandson and his wife.
Last Sunday, Bruce and I attended a celebration of Peggy’s life. Some of the things we do today, we learned from Peggy. Perhaps the one that is the most familiar to all our winter guests is that we feed the deer. Peggy was the first one to do it during the years when she ran the resort alone after her husband died. The deer were pets for her. They had names – Pretty Boy, Prince and Goldfine. A little collection pot on her counter helped pay for some of the corn. Today I took a little break and watched the deer feed outside my window. Thoughts of Peggy filled my mind.
As you might imagine, Peggy and Bruce’s mother, Justine, interacted on many occasions. Our favorite story has to do with driving lessons. Peggy never learned to drive. When she became a widow, Mother decided to give Peggy driving lessons so she could be more independent. In the back of Mom's mind, I believe it was unthinkable that a person could not just hop in the car anytime and take off.
As is sometimes the case with two feisty ladies, neither of them saw any need to go through the formalities of a learner’s permit. After all, they were just going down a few back roads. Everything worked out just fine until one winter day. Peggy was driving on the main Gunflint Trail approaching our junction. It is a well known fact that the safest way to make the turn onto our road in the winter is to be going slowly enough that you can take your foot off the brake before you turn. At the wrong temperature, most of us who live here can attest to the fact that you will go straight into the ditch if you still have your foot on the brake.
Well, along came Peggy and Mother. They were going fairly slowly and Mother “knew” she could react quickly enough to save any situation. Well, Mom couldn’t react quickly enough to keep them out of the ditch. They went way in and did considerable damage to the car. The next problem is that the driver (Peggy) was not a legal driver. The only way Mom’s insurance would cover is if Mom said she was the driver. It was not fun and Mom took a lot of kidding about her driving that winter.
Especially since I have been collecting stories for the “A Taste of the Gunflint Trail” cookbook and now the historical society, these pioneer people really get my attention. The general thought is bewilderment that I could have been so stupid to ignore all the wonderful stories they could tell me.
When Robert was in high school, his English teacher assigned the students a writing report. They had to go out and interview some of the “gray hairs” in the community. No one really approached the assignment with much enthusiasm. How their tune changed after the interview. Then no one could believe what these gray hairs had done. Now I think about the stories Peggy could have told.
Before I close, there is time for a short commercial break. For those of you who are moaning about the lack of snow for good skiing or snowmobiling, the various trails on the Gunflint are in excellent condition especially after this week’s snowfall. We may not have a two foot base, but all the rocks are covered, the trails are freshly groomed, and the woods are a delight to be in. February is a great month up here. We don’t get the extreme sub-zero temperatures and regular snow keeps all the trails in great shape. So give us a call and make plans to come up.