West End News: July 31

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The hot news from the West End this week is the ripening of the blueberries. We’re still at least a week from the peak, but ripe berries can be found now on south-facing slopes.  There is an anonymous couple from Duluth who stay in the Sawbill Campground and are the world’s leading experts on blueberries in the West End of Cook County.  They picked four quarts in a couple of hours last Saturday.  Based on the number of green berries, they are predicting one of the best berry crops in history this year, thanks to the plentiful moisture and abundant black flies earlier in the season.
 
The Sugarloaf Nature Center in Schroeder is having its annual meeting and ice cream social Saturday, Aug. 9, beginning at 1 p.m.  The festivities will also include a presentation from Andrea Crouse, aquatic ecologist from UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute.  Andrea will cover the health of North Shore streams and what you can do to help monitor, maintain or improve their quality.
 
Mark you calendar now for John Schroeder Lumberjack Day in Schroeder Saturday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  As usual, this fun event celebrates the rich timber harvesting history of Schroeder, with sawmill tours, kid activities, vendors, brats and the always popular history walks with Skip Lamb.
 
The next day, Sunday, Aug. 17, the Schroeder Area Historical Society will host a book signing with Carl Gawboy and Ron Morton, authors of “Talking Sky,” the fascinating book about Ojibway stories connected to the night sky.
 
The primary election ballots for the West End county commissioner race, and several statewide races, have been mailed and need to be returned by election day, which is Aug. 12.  This will determine which two candidates advance to the general election in November.  Primary elections can easily be won or lost by one or two votes, so it is critical that you exercise your democratic right to vote.
 
If you aren’t registered to vote, you can register at the Cook County  courthouse in Grand Marais.  To be eligible to vote in this election you must be a U.S. citizen and have lived in the West End for more than 20 days prior to the election.  You also have to be 18 years old by election day and not be a convicted felon.  You can register with a valid ID that shows an address in the precinct where you plan to vote, or you can bring along a registered voter from the precinct who can vouch that you’ve lived here for more than 20 days.  In Minnesota, you can register up to and on election day.
 
Thanks again to everyone who is running for office and keeping our democracy vital and relevant.
 
One of my favorite parts of working in a tourism business is never knowing who might walk in the door.
 
Last week, a gentleman approached me at the store counter and asked if there used to be a lodge at Sawbill.  When I told him that Sawbill Lodge existed here until the early 1980s, he told me that his father worked there when he was a young teenager in the 1950s.  When he said his father’s name was Don Sunde, I surprised him by telling him that I not only knew his father, but he had saved my life in 1957.
 
I was four years old and spent all day, every day at the Sawbill Lodge dock, where my dad was dock boy, in charge of renting boats and motors, dispensing bait and cleaning fish.  I spent my time exploring the dock area, especially the shoreline and Sawbill Creek.  I was fishing continuously, with a line in the water from dawn to dusk.  I fell in the lake at least twice a day.
 
I was pulled from the lake by my collar more times than I can remember, but one day I fell into the flooded creek when no one was around to see me.  I was washed down the creek and was unable to save myself.  Don Sunde just happened to be walking by and saw me go.  He ran through the woods and intercepted me as I was swept by.
 
I don’t actually remember the incident, but according to my parents, I was about three-quarters drowned by the time he got to me.  I can only remember waking up, sick and battered, with my parents’ very worried faces hovering over me.
 
So, 58 years later, in the midst of an ordinary working day, the son of the man who saved my life pointed his phone at me and said, “Say something to my dad.”  Across time and space I was able to say, “Thanks for saving my life.”
 

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