Fifty years ago my wife was tired of my absence for much of September and October hunting grouse and woodcock in Minnesota’s northern woods.
We scrimped and spent our meager savings, buying a 190-acre abandoned farm with an old farmhouse in Pine County near Markville, Minn., where she could join me during the fall hunting ventures.
That kind of land was cheap then and the abandoned hayfields were reverting to excellent forest game habitat.
We restored the old farmhouse to its 1920 glory and added a few modern conveniences. Five miles of walking trails were created and maintained — for many years by a hand-held brush cutter, then an ancient Ford 8N tractor.
Grouse and woodcock were abundant. So were porcupines, as our two golden retrievers learned. It was a wonderful recreation spot, but only in the fall of the year.
Our two teenage daughters hated the rudimentary vacation living in the old farmhouse with the multitudes of mosquitoes and ticks. They wanted lake property, which in hindsight we should have bought.
After 17 years the grouse and woodcock habitat grew too old, and their populations declined. The forest game bird hunting was replaced by pheasant hunting trips to the Dakotas. We sold the Pine County property and bought a lake cabin on the Minong Flowage in northwestern Wisconsin, but it was too late for our daughters. One was a professor in Atlanta and the other had her own family home on a metro lake.
The lake cabin was perfect for the two of us and similar-thinking guests — we could navigate up the Totogatic River in our Boston Whaler, kayak or old canoe, fishing for bass and walleyes while seeing ducks, eagles, deer, otter and bear and usually be by ourselves.
Although still enjoyable, the lake property eventually became too much. And it was never going to be a cabin passed down through the generations.
Because our forest and lake cabins were always more money pits than moneymakers, we could get by in our old age without the cash from a lake cabin sale. So we decided to “pay it forward“ in appreciation of the many years of enjoying wild areas of the Midwest. The sale money went into a charitable remainder trust and will get distributed to several conservation nonprofits, historical societies, educational institutions and scholarships. The Boston Whaler boat was given to a fire department to be used as a rescue boat, and the old Rehbein-made canoe donated to the Chik-Wauk Museum at the end of the Gunflint Trail.
Ed Sherman, Burnsville