Archived Southwest Angle Columns

Incredulous RobApril is when we're supposed to be moving into spring, but April 2008 had nearly as many inches of snowfall as any winter month. Lotsof things happened this month, read on...

If you don't understand all the terms, the lexicon is on the Home page.

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It was a pleasant surprise to find out my fishing license was good for a couple of extra months. Alyssa's 4-H group was scheduled to go fishing on Lake of the Woods and I decided to tag along.  We stopped in at the Riverside Saturday morning to pick up some gear and the nice gals at the till verified what I'd heard: the licenses are good through April 30th.

 It was a beautiful day to be on the lake and many people were taking the opportunity. A profusion of pickups, ATV's and snow-cats rolled across the lake to the favored destinations. We ended up fishing on 5-mile. Our luck wasn't too good; a small walleye and some perch were all we caught but the kids and adults all seemed to have a good time. There's about 4 feet of ice on the lake. I don't think it will be gone by tax day, maybe by fishing opener...

 Management called me while I was on the lake and said that tryouts for "Annie" were being held at the Zion Lutheran Church so would I please stop there with Alyssa? Like a good husband I said, "Yes." We stopped at the church and Alyssa tried out. While I was there I found out that the Warroad Summer Theatre was putting on "Sylvia" so I thought that might be something to take Management to. After the tryout, we stopped at the museum for a bit, then back home.

 It was an easy sell to convince Management to spend Sunday afternoon watching "Sylvia" with me. We had a nice date, I'd never seen the play or attended a performance of the WST before so it was a new experience.  

I've done a review of "Sylvia" that should appear on the pages of this newspaper. Some of you may be wondering if I'm qualified to review a play. I'll relate for you some of my experiences with theatre and you can be the judge. My first theatre experience was to play the character of Major Metcalf in an Itasca Community College presentation of Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap". I learned that I could do a somewhat credible British accent if need be. Later brushes with theatre included playing Potiphar in "Joseph and His Amazing Techinicolor Dreamcoat," the part of Benjamin in "7 Brides for 7 Brothers" and one of the ball players in "Damn Yankees." I also did build part of the set for "7 Brides" and headed the set building for "Damn Yankees," "Anna and the King of Siam" and "Cinderella". All of these later productions were done for the Grand Rapids Players; I served on their board for 6 years and worked in other parts of play production. I ended up taking a job that entailed shift work so working on sets ended up being easier to schedule than playing a part.

 My enterprising sister eventually stared up a group called Itasca Children's Theater so somehow I ended up doing sets for many of her productions. Often she'd wait until about a week before the production (or so it seemed) and come to me in a tizzy, saying, "Just come over for a little bit and tell these guys I have lined up what to do." Predictably, it always ended up being quite a bit more than that. Alyssa was a cast member in several of the productions and Management was on the board so I guess it was somehow fitting that Dad would build the sets. I did have some fun, though. One of the projects was building a little truck for "101 Dalmatians." I took a riding lawn mower, lengthened it out and a friend and I built a wooden panel body on it. It ended up being a neat parade vehicle long after the play was over.

 So, the question is, "Is Rob Crowe qualified to write a theatre review?" Well, I say if Jim Heffernan of the "Duluth New Tribune" can write a review, anyone can. That still doesn't say I'm qualified, you'll have to be the judge of that.

 The important thing to remember about a theatre review is that it is only a single person's opinion. I do my best to be objective and give credit where credit is due. The bottom line is that I think community theatre is an important part of a healthy community but I also think that it should be done well. Each production is a unique experience and I encourage everyone to experience it in one way or another.


It has been another very interesting week in Roseau County. Thursday I headed to Warroad to cover the Academic Letters awards at the High School. A great event to cover. The school has some pretty high standards to maintain for students to acquire an academic letter and 43 students achieved the standard. Congratulations to the students, parents and teachers.

 As I was waiting in Counselor Gary Olson's waiting room before the event, I happened to see an interesting tidbit on the wall. He, I'm guessing it's Gary, has this posted: "Give the world the best that you've got and you'll probably get kicked in the teeth. Give the best that you've got anyway."  I've been there.

 After the event, I slipped down to the Shop Department (I suppose the sophisticated call it Industrial Technologies, us oldsters still call it Shop) to check on things there. Jeremy Culleton had the class polishing the floor, I'm not sure what they did to have to do that. Anyway, he had the high mileage cars up on stands so I shot a picture of Andy Pelland with one of them. The frames are done and the powerplants will soon be mounted. He says the cars will be using ceramic skateboard bearings for some of the wheels for lower friction. We'll have to keep track of how the guys do.

 Saturday I attended the Roseau Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting. It was good to find out all the things they are doing.  I didn't realize that they also supplied the electricity for the Northwest Angle. They showed some pictures of the recent power line project up there and of cutting a line in the ice and laying cable. They didn't say if anyone tried trolling for walleye in the trench after they were through. Trapper didn't know about it or I know he'd have tried.

 Board of Directors President Erickson regaled the audience with a few stories. The last one he told fell in the "don't try this at home" category. He said, "Do you know how to find out who loves you the most, your dog or your wife? Just lock them in the trunk of your car for an hour and, when you open the trunk, see who is glad to see you..." Management says I'd better not try it, besides the Rolling Playhouse doesn't have a trunk.

 On a more serious note, the cooperative is doing well in improving the supply of alternate energy sources. The larger cooperative they are a part of, MinnKota, has contracted for buying electricity from a windmill farm in North Dakota that will provide a relatively substantial portion of the supply given that the wind will only blow hard enough about half the time to generate electricity.

 The down side of current events that is causing sleepless nights for the cooperative leaders, and sooner or later, us, is that the state legislatures are considering taxing carbon dioxide. This is major. MinnKota sees the need to build another coal fired generating plant due to increasing demand, however with the uncertainty of what the legislatures plan to do, they have delayed the decision.

Either way, this will cost the cooperative members money in the form of increased rates. If the legislatures tax carbon dioxide, it will cost us. If electricity use increases and the cooperative has to purchase it on the open market because they cannot supply it, it will cost us electric consumers more money.

 The Global Warming Craze, and that's what it is, a Craze, is starting to have a major impact. I invite anyone who thinks carbon dioxide is bad to stop breathing. It is as simple as that. There is no energy form that is anywhere close to being able to power our needs without heavy reliance on coal, petroleum or other fossil fuel. While many are working furiously towards a carbon free solution, it is not anywhere close nor is it even proved prudent.




While our busy lives and McDonalds have changed the restaurant scene, there is still nothing like a small town cafe. Probably the most classic cafe I've seen since coming to the area is Cafe 89 in Wannaska. I had heard much about the cafe, Trapper is a frequent visitor. Recently, it was in the news because the governor visited it to address the Bovine TB situation.

Trapper invited me to come and visit it Tuesday morning. He knew I was writing about the Bovine TB situation. I think it might be because he likes to see fireworks, anyway he picked me up and Abby the dog for the outing. Roseen's Corner wasn't open for coffee for awhile that morning.

We headed south, then west. Trapper's Chevy was having a problem with the hurricane-like winds, but I guess my Ford would have too. Abby started whining when we got close to Skoien's place, she wanted to stop to play with Rex the Border Collie, but it wasn't happening this morning.

The farms and land looked calm in the spring sunlight, the river ice is gone and water is running strong. If the wind had died down, it would be an idyllic morning, belying the undercurrents the TB situation is causing.

We reached the cafe and I let Abby out for a few minutes to mark her territory. We went into the cafe and I felt at home. It is a very neat, homey place. The walls are festooned with memorabilia, the most notable being a couple of old time ads featuring pretty girls in shorts and, on another wall, a clock stuck on 10:35.  A group of fellows was sitting at one of the tables, Trapper confiscated a corner table to hold court. The waitress came over with coffee, water, some menus and traded a couple of insults with Trapper, the sign of a really good cafe. She told us the specials, Trapper took the biscuits and gravy, I opted for the American Fries with sausage special.

The food came, mine was really good and I noticed that Trapper more or less inhaled his also. We could hear the guys at the other table talking about bovine TB, and the subject was brought up with each new arrival. I'd guess because I was a stranger it hadn't been talked about when we arrived. 

One of Trapper's old friends came into the cafe and sat down with us. Retired now, he jokingly referred to it as "retarded", he isn't being affected much by the TB. He told us who was sitting at the next table and how many cows each one had, if they had any.  Nothing like being in rural Roseau County.

After eating, I went over and talked to the patrons about their take on the TB situation. It was interesting, most were affected by the situation and it had caused major changes in some of their farming. The ones that still had cattle were looking closely at the provisions of the proposed state buyout.

Trapper bought my breakfast, he said it was because I'd bought the last one. That would be the 25 cent meal in Badger, the one more fitting for a newspaperman's budget. Thanks, Trapper. I'll get the next one. I think...

He took me across the street to the Hardware store to get some brake fluid. Then across the street for gas where Abby had to check out the river. Trip home was easy, wind at our backs this time.


I read with interest that popular author J K Rowling was taking someone to court in New York for publishing a Lexicon about her Harry Potter series. It seems that the woman was concerned that someone might make a few dollars on the book and that had to be stopped. Rowling hadn't bothered to do one herself and an enterprising fellow decided to take advantage of the oversight. Whether the lexicon will be stopped or not remains to be seen, but it led me to do some thinking, a dangerous situation.

 I started thinking about my more or less popular column; Southwest Angle. Someone might want to do a lexicon about my diverse bunch of characters since I haven't provided the readership with one. To head off a messy lawsuit, I might as well get started making one up.

 Since I haven't written multiple volumes yet like Rowling, it won't be big, just a quick reference paper one can attach to the refrigerator with a magnet for easy access.  So here goes:


Southwest Angle Lexicon

 Abby the dog - a pudgy, 4 year old yellow lab - terrier cross that spends every minute possible with the columnist.

 Big Kids - Travis, Heidi and Erin, columnist's oldest kids, grown up and moved out of the nest.

 Blue Star - Where columnist spends his afternoons melting pieces of steel together. This company builds toys. Guy's toys. 4-wheelers of divers sorts and snowmobiles.

 Hard Driving Editor - The editor here at the Pioneer. Has a Pontiac GTO, thus the hard driving moniker.

 Layton Oslin - Legendary marksman who bagged a Taurus with 2 shots one year.

 Little Girls - Alyssa, Katelyn and Valeri, the three youngest of the columnist's family.

Management - No explanation necessary

 Missus - the woman that more or less keeps Trapper in line, pretty much a full time job.

 Old Rocket - Chuck Lindner, Warroad entrepreneur, named the Old Rocket for his high placing in the 2007 Yellow rose 5-K run. Also does winter ultra-marathons on his bike.

 Pronunciations: There are some unique names in Roseau county. This bit of verse will help you remember the pronunciations of a couple of them.

 After moving up the rung in Malung,

I had to lay low in Salol, to avoid the fallen women of Falun. 

  Rolling Playhouse - RP for short, it is the old, rusty Econoline conversion van the little girls used for a playhouse before Management totaled two vehicles, now the primary vehicle for the family.

 SOTY - Slob of the Year, the only entry so far this year is the individual that cut down the "Hanging Tree" near Bemis Hill.

 Southwest Angle - Imaginary location off the southwest corner of the Lake of the Woods. Lots of things happen here, mostly in the mind of the columnist.

Trapper - Tough as nails Landlord/Philosopher. He farms, traps and holds court at the breakfast table at Roseen's Corner for whoever stops in for morning coffee. His most regular customer is the free-loading newspaper columnist.

 Yellow Rose - where Management works. Company makes windows; on the company logo is a big yellow rose.



What a week. I was just rolling through the nice spring that finally seemed to have arrived when Friday morning rolled around and I, along with the rest of the Southwest Angle, heard about the devastating fire at the Warroad Senior Care Center. Since I was deep into my morning responsibilities of getting the three little girls off to school, I had to wait a little before Abby the dog and I could go in to check it out and grab some photos for the newspaper.

 As most of you know, the devastation there was pretty much complete by the time I got there. I was able to get some far away pictures and happened to be standing in the right place when Roseau Chief Deputy Terry Bandemer was taking one of the Big Time TV Reporters into the site and asked if I wanted to ride along. Naturally I said yes and hopped in the patrol car. I got some closer pictures and also took an interesting picture of the Big Time TV guy interviewing Terry.

 The TV guy wanted a home video of the nighttime fire so I called Management to see if anyone at the Yellow Rose knew of any. She consulted her impeccable source and got a list of possibilities so I picked up the list and tracked down the Big Time TV guy at the Government Center and gave it to him. The Big Time TV guy complained that I hadn't given him any phone numbers with the names. I told him I wasn't going to do all his leg work and left him to his Big Time reporting.  

I had to leave the small time reporting and go work at the Blue Star that afternoon. I left work at about 9:00 PM and some snowflakes were in the air, soon to be joined by untold amounts more. It was storming pretty good when I got to Roseen's Corner so I gathered all the bikes scattered around the yard and wheeled them into the garage to keep the couple of inches of snow we were going to get off them.

 Did I say a couple of inches? The biggest snowstorm of the winter on April 26th. Abby the dog and the little girls loved it. Well, the small time reporter did too. Trapper had taken the Missus to Sandstone to a concert, the yard needed to be plowed so...I put the plow on my old Ford 4x4 Supercab and plowed the yard. No Chevies around to spoil the fun since Trapper, figuring he'd see some snow on his trip, smartly took the 4x4 Chevy pickup instead of the mini-van.

 There was a festive attitude in the Crowe household all day Saturday. Abby the dog was like a puppy playing in the snow. The girls played on the snowplow piles. Every half hour or so it seemed Management would laugh out loud. When I asked her why, she said, "the only weekend in April in Hibbing without snow was last weekend. Erin's wedding was last weekend!" That's true, we'd been at daughter Erin's wedding in lower northern Minnesota last weekend and, though the snow was mostly gone, the rivers were full from the two most recent snowstorms down there.

 I took the Rolling Playhouse into Warroad to buy some gas for the snowplow and cover apparently the only event in northern MN going on, the wildlife Food Plot Day at Streiff Sporting Goods. There were a couple of hardy souls there. Meandered into Warroad proper and snapped some of the snowy happenings. The devastation of the fire was barely visible through the blowing snow. The most weird was seeing a couple of rigs with boats behind down at the Point. An early spring fishing trip gone awry, I imagine...

 Sunday was a good day, cleaned up the rest of the snow in the drive, went to church, home to eat. Made up a sign and posted it on the door for Trapper when he came home: "This driveway plowed by a FORD on April 26, 2008."

 Trapper liked the sign when he got home. Go figure. Anyway, who'd 'a thunk the biggest storm of the winter would be on the last weekend of April. As Trapper says, "Someone go tell Al Gore this isn't Global Warming!"

On another front, most of you will remember Kari Nelson, the talented fiddler who went to Nashville to further her musical career. She's coming to Grand Forks to perform with her boyfriend, Phil Bernier. Phil was on the show “Dance War – Bruno vs. Carrie Anne” with the winning Team Bruno. The two of them will be appearing at their own  evening show at the Empire Arts Center in East Grand Forks, North Dakota, on May 10, 2008.  Phil composes his own music, he will play guitar and sing. Kari plays the fiddle and does background vocals for the duo.