West End News: October 10

The Land of Dreams
The Land of Dreams

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A new program at the Birch Grove Community Center is starting up this week.  “Second Sunday Fundays” is just what it sounds like, fun activities for people of all ages from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month, starting Oct. 13.  The fun will include open gym, cards, games, and will wind up with a pizza from the hearth oven.   As always, cheese, sauce and dough will be provided, so you just have to bring your own toppings.  There is a small charge per person, but I’m sure no one will be turned away. Contact Patty at bgf@boreal.org or call 663-7977 for details.
 
Also, at Birch Grove School and Community Center is the West End social event of the year, the annual PTO Halloween Carnival.  This year it is on Sunday, Oct. 27 from 2 until 4 p.m.  This is a really fun event, with the traditional games and costumes, good food and a lot of neighborly visiting. 
 
Each time I attend the carnival, I’m instantly transported back to my childhood and the Endion Elementary School Carnival in Duluth.  I vividly remember how excited I was and how much fun I had racing from game to game.  I also remember being very surprised to see my parents running one of the games.  I won a set of Chinese finger cuffs, which made a big impression on me at the time.
 
Volunteers are always needed for the carnival.  I ran the bingo game for many years before a younger parent took over from me.  Calling bingo was a lot of pressure, because many of the players were experts and I was always worried that I’d make a mistake.  Of course, I made many mistakes, but they were kind to me and always made it fun.  Most of the volunteer positions are low pressure, though, so please help out if you can.  Call Diane at 663-0170 to sign up.
 
It is the time of year for getting your flu vaccine, which most people call a flu shot.  In the West End, the first round of shots will be offered Tuesday, Oct. 15.  The lovely and competent nurses from the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic will be at Moon Dance in Lutsen from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and then again in the clinic office at Birch Grove in Tofte from Noon until 1 p.m.
 
You must be more than 9 years old to receive a flu shot.  If you want to bill it to your insurance company, bring your information and insurance card.  Otherwise, you can pay the reasonable cost by check only.
 
A few years back, Norwegian author Vidar Sundstol wrote a murder mystery called “The Land of Dreams,” set here in the West End.  The protagonist is a Forest Service law enforcement officer named Lance Hansen.  The murder is committed at Father Baraga’s cross in Schroeder.  The subsequent investigation ranges from Duluth to Grand Portage and from present day back to the 19th century.
 
The novel, which won a prestigious prize for Scandinavian crime fiction, features many actual people from the West End, including yours truly in a bit part as the nephew of the hero.  All of the place names are real and Sundstol describes the places, people and culture of the West End in great detail.
 
“The Land of Dreams” has just been published in English.  Author Sundstol is actually in the midst of an author’s tour and will be visiting Cook County this week.  According to the publicity, Sundstol lived in Cook County for two years back in the early 2000s.  I don’t remember meeting him, but he was connected to the local Forest Service through his girlfriend, who was a Forest Service employee.
 
In the English edition, some names have been slightly altered from the real names, but it’s easy to tell who several of the characters are based on.  For instance, “Becky” Tofte is the paymaster at the Tofte Ranger District and is described as friendly, motherly and the person who takes care of everyone at the station.  It’s not a stretch to see Meg Tofte in that character. 
 
Oddly, Sid Backlund makes a cameo appearance as the owner of Sven and Ole’s Pizza in Grand Marais.  Perhaps he gave permission to use his real name in the English edition?  It will be interesting to find out.
 
I have become Gary Hansen, who owns and operates North Woods Outfitters on Sawbill Lake.  In the story, which I’m only halfway through, my uncle suspects me of having an affair with one of my young employees.  I hope he lets me off the hook on that charge before the end of the book.  He likes my fictional wife of 25 years, Barb, very much and doesn’t want me to hurt her feelings.  Barb is the name of my ex-wife, so Sundstol seems determined to get me in trouble with my real wife, Cindy.  Thankfully, I am told that I’m not the murderer, so I’m at least grateful for that.
 
It will be fun to hear the discussion that the book provokes as it makes its way around the community.  It is the first book of a trilogy, so there should be plenty to talk about for years to come.  It’s published by the University of Minnesota Press and is already available on Amazon.   It surely will be in local stores quite soon, if it isn’t there already.


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