An African lion used to live inside the cabin that we purchased in 1998.
The story goes that the lion was purchased from Busch Gardens and was used for promotional purposes at commercial establishments such as car dealerships and other business on the North Shore until 1978.
The lion would periodically escape from the cabin and would appear in neighbors' yards, causing panic.After numerous escapes, John Lyght, the Cook County Sheriff, and two others shot the lion in the driveway of our future cabin.
I had the occasion to speak to Sheriff Lyght many years ago, and he told me stories about how the lion would be spotted up and down the shoreline, and after numerous incidents, he had no other choice than to stop the neighborhood complaints.
Before buying our cabin on Caribou Lake, we were fortunate to have been part owners of a small family cabin in Schroeder on Lake Superior while our three boys were growing up.We spent many days fishing on nearby Lake Caribou.We looked over the years at a number of cabins on the lake.We often cruised by the "lion cabin" and admired the lot.
My wife, Patricia, often commented that if that place ever went up for sale that we should look at it.It did, and we bought it — a vertical log cabin with a couple of additions.We quickly learned the meaning of buyer's remorse.A local hardware store owner said he thought that whoever bought the cabin would tear it down and start over.We, however, were up for a challenge and spent weekends and vacations gutting and rebuilding the place.After a number of years, it is finally at a stage where we only have to do periodic maintenance and can now enjoy what the North Shore and Lake Caribou have to offer.
Submitted by reader Karl Karst
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Star Tribune note: Former Cook County Sheriff John Lyght talked about his encounter with the African lion and its aftermath during an interview with Margaret Robertson for an oral history project by the Minnesota Historical Society in March of 1992. Lyght became the only elected Black sheriff in Minnesota history in 1972. What follows is that excerpt:
Lyght: I was one of the only sheriffs that ever went safari hunting. This is one of the pictures. We had to kill a lion up here one time. That's an African lion, that is.
Robertson: What's the story behind this picture?
JL: It's quite a story. [Laughter]
MR: I know there must be a story behind that. [Laughter]
JL: There's quite a story about that one. That's quite a story. That was when newcomers had moved into the area and they brought a little cub lion up here. And then he decided he was going to raise it up here, that great big old lion. That lion at that time weighed about 500-and-some pounds.
The sad part about it was he was starving the poor animal. That was real sad. So it broke out of the cage one day. I guess he had threatened his wife about the lion, so she thought, well, maybe it was time for the lion to go. So she called us. He wasn't home, and so she called us and wanted the lion killed because it broke out.
There was no way she could put it back in the cage, and the cage wasn't that great, anyway. It was just a slab fence, and it had no big bars or nothing around the fence or anything like that, and he just broke through. He got hungry and broke out and went looking for food. So she called us right away, and we went up, one of the state troopers and my deputy and I there went up, and we got rid of it. That was it.
MR: That probably isn't in your job description.
JL: No, that was not in my job description. I'll tell you one thing, too, Margaret. Looking down the sights at a lion isn't like looking down the sights at a deer or a bear. It's a different story altogether. No, that was quite an experience, that was, but it was something that no other sheriff in the state of Minnesota ever did, though."