When I was a “flatlander” from Illinois, about fourteen years old and living in an apartment with the folks outside Chicago, I think I knew maybe four things about Minnesota. One,
Frostbite Falls of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame was probably somewhere up there. Two, Bob Dylan was definitely from up there.
I had most of the Girl From The North Country album memorized – and at that age, those north country girls were definitely on my mind. Third, the new guy that moved in along with his mother to a downstairs apartment was extremely cool, played electric guitar and was from Minnesota. Perhaps he and Bob were best pals, I don’t know. Fourth, my friend, John Mattingly had a grandfather in Minnesota,
a farmer, who John visited in the summers and according to him, every other word out of the old fellow’s mouth was a swear word. A Grandfather farmer with foul mouth – for some reason that seemed cool to me as well.
Jump ahead 12 years and I’ve made the move north and living in Uptown in Minneapolis. I’ve got so much to learn. I’m introduced to new stories about my new home – Schoolcraft “discovering” the source of the Mississippi – the Dakota war of 1862 – Lumber barons and lumber towns, like nearby Stillwater – The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, established in 1978 – The St. Croix River, first in a select group of rivers nationwide to receive Wild and Scenic designation in 1968 – to name a few. Four years in Uptown and I moved to Stillwater and was now able to put my canoe in the water and within minutes escape to the backwaters north of town where the “stinkpots” (my friend, Dave Hedlund’s term for any craft with a motor) couldn’t navigate for the snags and shallow water.
About 12 years ago I began to spend almost all my local outdoor time on the last two miles or so of the Apple River, from the dam on County I to the snaky confluence with the St. Croix. That lovely stretch is managed as the St. Croix County Islands Wildlife Area by the State of Wisconsin. Historically, Sioux, Fox and Chippewa bands fished, hunted, riced and at times fought over this area. I knew it as an amazing wildlife habitat where you could paddle unmolested by big wakes from powerboats. Without realizing it, I’d been canoeing near a site marking a final chapter of sorts in the Sioux/Chippewa struggle for dominance in the St. Croix valley.
More on that event and the “Lost Tribe” of Chippewa in my next post. See ya soon, Corey