My father and I had a deer hunting tradition: Every November we would get up at some ungodly hour, grab the lunch and coffee that Mom made, and head off to some public land trying to get a good hunting spot before somebody beat us to it.

By 1978, Dad had enough of that and bought his own hunting land near Finlayson, Minn. The spot was a little piece of heaven he called the “North40.” It was 40 acres of good hunting land. Lots of trees, a couple of meadows and a creek. We still had to get up at an ungodly hour, but it was his sanctuary. We’ve hunted that land religiously for the last 40-plus years and have notched several deer on several stands.

Dad finally retired his rifle after 22 years there, with many stories of the ones he got and ones that got away. Mom and Dad decided it was time to pass the North40 on to me at that point, and I will be forever grateful. My only criticism was that Dad never wanted to put anything on the land to stay in so we wouldn’t have to get up so early.

But now the land was mine. I bought an old construction trailer and modified it with some bunk beds and a mini kitchen. I’d always envisioned a cabin near the creek, so that is where we put it. Dad passed away a few years ago and some of his ashes are near the shack beside the creek. Mom’s ashes joined him a year later.

The peace and joy that the North40 has brought to our family is immeasurable. The land now is in a trust so generations beyond me can enjoy Dad’s little piece of heaven.

Brad Oosterhuis, Forest Lake