Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thunder Lake Diary - Part 2

August 13 – It’s Turtle Race Day, one of several held in Longville every summer. So people were gathering and their main street was being blocked off and kids were all over the place. There is a circle about twenty-five or thirty feet across painted on the street, with a smaller circle about six or eight feet across inside it. People bring or "rent" turtles and in groups of ten stand in the inner circle. At a command, they put them down, then release them. First turtle crossing the outer circle boundary wins. Even adults will race a turtle. One turtle used the inner border as a highway and went very fast along it, to the disappointment of a little boy. We found a coffee house after an early lunch at Frosty’s (lots of flavors of ice cream and sandwiches and pizza, we had pizza – eh, not bad or good). Common Grounds didn’t seem to mind that we didn’t buy a beverage but sought a table and suddenly we were back in the world via our laptops! Sent my weblog entry to Killer Hobbies, noodled around the 'Net until one, then went over to the library to plug in to the electric power and INDULGE. It was nice . . . Found that book, Behind Barbed Wire, the Story of German POW Camps in Minnesota, and ordered it from Maybe it will tell me the location(s) of the camps in Cass County. I’ve been told of three locations, one in Longville (that’s incorrect), one near Baby Boy Lake, and the one over by Remer.

A man was selling sweet corn, tomatoes, onions and cantaloupes from the back of his pickup across the street from the library and I bought four ears. Came home, heated the leftover pizza, boiled the corn, and that was supper.

It’s 8 pm and the loons are starting in. The eaglet has been shrieking a whole lot less today. I wonder if he is learning how to fish yet. Or if he’s sitting up there slowly starving to death. I understand the majority of raptors don’t make it to adulthood.

Thursday – We went to The Lone Wolf, a bar that sells groceries, at eight in the morning to meet again with the retired men who come in for coffee and conversation every morning. The man everyone wanted me to talk to was there, and the discussion became very lively. I learned a lot about the "good old days." For example, the original owner of The Lone Wolf, a Mr. Brigham, had the only phone in the area during WWII, and so telegrams (you know, the sad kind about MIA and KIA) would come to his phone and he had to take them down and then deliver the news to the families. He hated that, and was glad when the draft finally came for him, a 35-year-old bachelor. They told old jokes and made old wisecracks. ("What did I say to make you go away? I want to say it sooner tomorrow.") Retired pro baseball players bought homes up in this area. Some were friendly, some were loners. A man used to capture wild ducks, attach a "collar" to their necks, run a string from the collar to a stool and rent the arrangement to duck hunters to lure free ducks to the field to be shot. The man who told that story has two of the collars in his possession. There was a bar with a famous door with bullet holes in it, said holes shot by John Dillinger – which was true, but the door was brought from Chicago! John D. Brigham built the Lone Wolf as a tiny outlet shop to sell bread and pastry he had made in a bakery (somewhere around here). It was just a tiny shop, but it grew over the years. Sideways and backwards, then the front porch got enclosed and a new one put on. For awhile it was a dance hall, with booths along one side. Now it’s a grocery as well as a bar. To get alcohol "to go" you have to go out front, down the porch, and into another entrance to an attached liquor store, some kind of state law. The place is still called "Brigham’s" by old-timers. People who gather wild rice have many restrictions. One is on the width of the boat used. A fellow’s boat was too wide, so he took a saw and cut it lengthwise, cut a few inches off down the keel, then nailed it back together. A local farmer had a wife who knew the right kind of clay to make bricks with, and they went out to find some and dug it up, mixed it with water, smoothed the "mud" into wooden forms and left it out all summer to dry. That winter the farmer baked the bricks a few at a time in his furnace and next summer built a fireplace. I guess in those days, if you wanted something, you made it yourself. When I mentioned that I’d heard that the reason the lake was named Thunder Lake was because it emitted, on rare occasions, a sound like thunder from its depths, the old men laughed. It got that name because, in winter, it freezes from shore to shore and, ice expanding as it grows colder, it pushes up against itself, groaning and grumbling and sending terrifying-to-ice-fishermen cracks skidding across its surface. A sound like thunder.

We parted on good terms, and soon after started for home.


Camille Minichino said...

Wonderful characters in your life, Monica!

But still my favorite part of the post is about the anomalous expansion of water -- thanks!

BeadKnitter said...

Oh wow! What a wonderful experience! I just love talking to old timers about the good ol' days. The stories are so fascinating. I'm green with envy today.