Anderson: Fire singes Bud Grant's dream

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2013 - 11:28 PM

Bud Grant spent a half-century enjoying and improving a tract of land that is “all gone now, all burned.”

hide

Retired Vikings coach Bud Grant walked a portion of the 400 acres he’s owned for about a half-century in northwest Wisconsin. The land, where Grant hunts and fishes, was totally consumed in a recent wildfire inferno started by a logging machine.

Photo: Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Long a land of dreams and dreamers, this portion of Wisconsin bears a history embedded in its tall pines, watery bogs, blue lakes, famous rivers and sandy soils. This last — the sand — is rare among North American landscapes, and in some areas extends 600 feet above bedrock. It’s here that Bud Grant, as a kid in Superior, Wis., often hunted and fished, catching a ride when he could to the Brule River, or to Solon Springs, or Minong or Gordon, a fishing rod or gun in his hand.

The land inspired him, as it had the explorer Pierre Charles LeSueur in 1693 and, later, Ulysses S. Grant and presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower. “If I ever get the money,’’ Grant promised himself, “I’m going to buy some land up here.’’

Fast-forward to May 14.

Grant, 86, is en route from his Bloomington home to the northwest Wisconsin land he has owned for about a half-century, the first parcel of which — about 60 acres and 1,500 feet of lakeshore — he purchased for $1 a foot in 1945, the year he was discharged from the service.

Grant’s second land purchase, 400 acres of nearby hunting property that includes a small lake, would cost more. Still, when he bought it in the early 1960s, using money he made playing basketball for the old Minneapolis Lakers and, later, pro football for the Philadelphia Eagles and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the transaction was a bargain compared to today’s prices, pennies on the dollar.

But Grant wasn’t thinking about land values as he drove north. Instead, the late spring had set back everything at his modest lake home, the one sitting on 1,500 feet of shoreline. The dock needed to be put in, the leaves raked and his many birdhouses maintained. The retired Vikings coach wanted these chores behind him, and he wanted also to move his pontoon boat from its winter resting place near his lake home to the small lake lying within the 400 acres. It’s there that he enjoyed fishing with his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids, put-put-putting around the lake, searching for crappies and bass.

Grant had no way of knowing as he drove north that sparks from a logging machine earlier that day had gathered into flames and were spreading quickly among the tinder-dry pines that extended for miles in all directions of his two properties.

Already, fire departments from towns small and large, as well as state and federal governments, were on site of the blaze or headed there, hoping soon to extinguish a fire that would grow to 9 miles long and a mile wide.

Grant was perhaps midway between the Twin Cities and his lake home when the fire raced into and quickly through his 400 acres, the forest underbrush igniting ahead of itself in leaps and bounds, while pine crowns exploded.

Fueled by blustery, 30-mile-an-hour winds and 90-degree temperatures, the inferno was out of control.

• • •

Grant’s wife, Pat, died in 2009, and in the years since he has met a woman, Pat Smith, whose interests match his. These include spending time in northwest Wisconsin, and Smith would be following Grant north later that day in her own car.

But she was still at home in Mankato when her cellphone rang. It was a neighbor of Grant’s, Les Chandler, from up north.

“Have you seen Bud?’’ Chandler asked.

“No,’’ Smith said. “He’s up there, or should be. I think he left home a while a go.’’

“Everything’s on fire up here,’’ Chandler said, “and his land has burned. I’m there now, and the gate is open. Do you think he might have been in there?’’

“I don’t know.’’

Quickly, Smith called Grant’s home. No one answered, and she regretted again — as she has a hundred times — that he carried no cellphone.

  • related content

  • In fighting invasives, Minnesota boaters navigate more inspections

    Saturday May 25, 2013

    The forecast this summer calls for extra checks in lakes big and small to stop the spread of invasive species,...

  • A smoke plume rose high above a roadblock at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., on May 14. A fire started by a logging machine burned 8,700 acres.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close