Westward, ho!

Browns Valley is a city on Minnesota's western border bump, nestled at the Continental Divide between lakes that are the headwaters of the south-flowing Minnesota River (Big Stone Lake) and the north-flowing Red River (Lake Traverse). Mom and Dad taught in Browns Valley from 1956-60, enjoying the beauty of the area and treasuring lifelong friendships. Although they moved to teach from 1960-85 in Hastings, our family returned west to live every summer and enjoy lake life: swimming lessons, town team baseball, softball, hauling bales and picking rock for farmers, near-daily trips to the historic Carnegie library, and working/eating often at the famous Ike's Chicken Shack.

Fall hunting season also meant trips west, the car packed with parents, five kids and two dogs, and often pulling out of Hastings at 4 a.m. Saturday following a Friday night football game.

The family cabin was originally a one-room schoolhouse, bought from a nearby South Dakota township and moved to the Lake Traverse shoreline in 1961. The coal room became a bathroom, the coat room held bunk beds, and the school room was "open concept" before it was in style: kitchen, dining area, living room with pullout couches and the original slate blackboard and bulletin boards. Screened-in porches were added on each end.

When Mom and Dad retired from teaching in Hastings, they moved back to Browns Valley. While their year-round house "in town" boasts central air and cable TV, July 4th dinner at the lake remains a family tradition, although it can now happen at the original summertime schoolhouse or at one of five newer cabins owned by the next generation, my siblings and me. Our July 4, 2020, anti-COVID strategy was to enjoy dockside refreshments, delivered by boat, to separate family gatherings; different but fun! Mom passed away last summer, but Dad continues to tackle cabin upkeep.

Mom and Dad's grandchildren and great-grandchildren all enjoy heading "west" to build on the family's Lake Traverse legacy. We are blessed by past memories and look forward to future fun!

Jan Johnson LeClair, Prior Lake