Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Totem Pole

Schools are staring and we don’t have as many children here.  Our big family are giving way to couples for the fall season.  Cabins are all full but not with as many people.  It is a little relaxing to slow down a bit.  We all need the break.  The weather is a little cooler which also helps.

I thought you might enjoy the story of our totem pole in the lodge.  It is one of those things that Bruce’s parents picked up to decorate the grounds and then we moved it inside.  So here it is:

This really ought to be called the “Wildwood Lodge Totem Pole.”  Before most of us were around thee used to be a resort on the west end of Seagull Lake called Wildwood Lodge.  It was started in 1931 by Andy and Sue Mayo.  They built the resort into a fine business.

In December of 1948, the folks on the Gunflint Trial decided to put out a tabloid called “Call of the Trail.”  It was four pages long and had stories about the various resorts and people living on the Gunflint trail at the time.  The section devoted to Seagull Lake contained the following article:

            “Wildwood Lodge is situated down at the west end of Sea Gull Lake about six miles by water from the Landing.  Last year the Mayos had a young man working for them who had a distinctive artistic frame of mind.  He worked during his spare hours on a full sized totem pole.  Completed it now is some twenty feet high, a mass of grotesque figures in brilliant colors and topped by a large carved bird with outstretched wings.  On each wing is painted a large door key.  The answer we like.  In the midst of our winter, this bird sits up there on his lofty perch and calls out, “KEY – KEY-KEYRYST IT’S COLD.”

In the early 1950’s Andy and Sue decided that they had had enough of running a resort.  Rather than sell the property they just stopped doing business.  After continuing to live at the resort for several more years, the Mayos sold to the Isaak Walton League in what would later become an expansion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Since the Izaak Walton League bought only the land, the Mayos sold the contents and buildings separately.  Bob and Marge Cushman bought the main lodge, disassembled it, towed it down the lake and reassembled it for their main lodge at Sea Island Resort.  Bruce remembers going out to Wildwood by boat with his parents during the contents sale.  On a whim, Bill and Justine bought the totem pole.

The Kerfoots transported the totem pole by boat across Seagull Lake and then down to Gunflint.  After giving it a fresh coat of paint, the totem pole was erected between the trading post building and the parking lot.  Today that would be in the southwest corner of the parking lot.  A small flower garden filled with peonies and iris was right in front of it.  Until the trading post building was replaced in 2001, that totem pole was the center post of many pictures taken by guests and visitors.

After almost 60 years of life and numerous paintings, our grand old totem pole has been retired to an easier life.  The harsh winter winds and summer rain are too much for her now.  She got a new coat of paint and moved into the warm climate in the main lodg where we think she still has many years of life. 


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Fruits of the Season

Last night was a zoo at the lodge.  We served about 160 people.  My job was to fill in as needed.  Eventually I ended up selling a fishing license.  It turned out that I had sold this gentleman a license last year and he lived in the town I grew up in – Arlington Heights, Illinois.  When I moved there in 1948, the town had a population of 10,000 people.  It was surrounded by corn fields.  Now all those fields are gone.  Arlington Heights is surrounded by towns named Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Prospect Heights.  The little two-lane backtopped road (Hwy 53) we used to drive to my aunt and uncles in Glen Ellen is now limited access with who knows how many lanes.  O’Hare Airport was a converted Army field with one small terminal then.  Further out about 25 miles from Arlington Heights was Barrington,  Illinois, where Bruce’s mother had been raised just 40 years earlier.  Somehow we all got together at Gunflint Lodge.  Who would have guessed when my family moved out from Chicago in 1948?

My garden is exploding.  The plants are huge and fruit and vegetables are almost ready for eating.  Yesterday I picked 8 red raspberries.  Today I picked a cup which we will eat for breakfast tomorrow.  We have had two red tomatoes.  If all the green tomatoes ripen, we will have 20 lbs of them.  My green peppers are about 2 inches long.  Eggplant has flowers on it.  Zucchini has yielded two nice ones.  I will be making zucchini bread soon.  My second crop of spinach is also ready to be picked.  I am going to make basil pesto next week.  Potatoes may even be past the new potatoes stage and into bakers.  Bruce and I will never be able to eat everything so I will give it away.  I wish you all lived closer so I could share it with you.

The lakes have been giving up their harvest too.  I have walleyes and lake trout in the freezer.  Bruce and I will be feasting on that too.  There is no sense in letting the fish dry out in the freezer when we can be eating it.  Walleye seems to be perfect fried but we think lake trout is best grilled.  I may even make some chowder with the lake trout.

All of this food tastes best when we eat on the screened in porch.  Tuesday is the third of my porch potlucks for the summer.  About 25 of us will gather to share some great food and great company while a nice breeze blows in through the screens.  We used to eat outside all the time at the Florida house.  In Minnesota this kind of dining is reserved for a few short months.  We try to make the most of it.

Not to put a damper on this nice tale of summer, but our days are already getting shorter.  Full daylight does not come until 7:00 a.m.  By 9:00 p.m. it is dark outside.  The leaves on the side of the road are turning yellow.  We all know what this means but we will enjoy every day of summer we get.


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Highlights of the Season

It is August today – unbelieveable!  The next four weeks are going to fly by if for no other reason than we are full of guests.  Many of them come practically every year.  It is like old home week for them and us.

July was the week we had Robert and Lee with their families visiting us.  In fact I am washing the sheets from Robert and Miranda’s visit as I write this.  As usual, every bed in the house is getting changed.  Miranda is always busy.  As a result many projects I have overlooked are now done.  They were also able to spend time fishing and blueberry picking.  The walleyes and blueberries went home with them.  I am hoping that they will bring back memories of Gunflint each time they eat them.

Lee and Eva spent 10 days with their children reminding us how active young children are.  We did get through almost all their requested activities during the visit. Othe family members haae been here.  Shawn’s daughter Emma is a waitress in the dining room.  Brian’s son Sam is a host with lots of other jobs to fill his time with. Bruce’s sister Pat and her husband, Jim, spent a few days with us.   One of my cousins was here for fishing with his son and grandson.  It was good to see them.  Seeing family during the summer is a great Minnesota tradition.  Walleyes and blueberries are also traditions.

During July and August, one of the most popular spots around the lodge is the patio overlooking the dock and swimming area.  Any warm day or evening will find it busy with guests from breakfast until dark.  Eating or just sitting outside can only happen a few months out of the year in northern Minnesota so the patio is a real treat.  That is what Lee and Eva thought when they put it in.  Everyone enjoys just watching the activity around a dock area.  Parents enjoy comfortable chairs to watch their children play at the beach.  No one really does much.  They just sit and look around.  Ducks, seagulls and eagles also add a bit of activity to keep your attention.

August, of course, brings summer to a close for us.  With the coming of Labor Day, we will see an end to children.  They will all be back in school.  It is amazing how far reaching this change of guests is.  The dining room will see much smaller parties.  The volume of cookies and hot chocolate will significantly go down.  Most high chairs will be put in the back room.  The ducks will gradually take back the beach area but corn will not be given to the ducks quite a liberally without children around.

One of the things that Bruce and I enjoy the most about our guests at the resort is how they change.  Summer is families.  Fall is for adults especially those who love to hike.  Even the late fall of October and November brings people who like their special charms – the first snow fall, walking through noisy leaves, crisp mornings.  By December and through March our guests are thinking more about the winter activities – cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, short days, cabins with fireplaces, etc.  Then in April some melting is evident.  The ice is black and we count the days until open water.  May’s open water brings fishing.  Days that seemed wonderfully warm at 35 degrees in March are frigid in May.  When summer comes, our guest cycle starts all over again.