Archived Southwest Angle Columns

Incredulous RobFebruary was a great month for the intrepid reporter/columnist. After reporting from long range on the Old Rocket's winter bike  ultra-marathon and tasting long milk for the firs time, the highlight of the month was a snowmobile trip to the real Angle, the Northwest Angle. David Johnson, Polaris co-founder, invited Trapper and I to snowmobile to  the Angle for an overnight stay. The Fishing Derby was a short few days later. A great Winter here in the Southwest Angle.

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Talked a little bit with the Old Rocket, AKA Check Lindner, the other day.  Regular readers will remember that he was training for an ultra-marathon, the Arrowhead Winter Ultra. He told me that by the time this newspaper hits the newsstands, he should have completed the race on his bicycle, riding 135 miles over 2 days on snowmobile trails. The race started Monday morning, February 4, south of International Falls and ends in Ely, he expects to finish sometime Tuesday evening. 

 I did some research on the Ultra, the marathon, not the Sno-cat. According to the event website: "The 2007 event was the coldest, ugliest race yet with only 10 finishers of 46 starters...The official temp at the airport during the start was -28F and -35F at low spots on the trail Monday night." Compared to last year, the temperatures this year will seem balmy.

 And then there is this: "There will be one race check point serving hot soup and water at a cabin about the midway point by Elephant Lake near the town of Orr. Otherwise, racers are fully self-supported with a cutoff time of 60 hours. Each racer is required to carry mandatory food, water and gear as outlined on the rules page to cover the 3 days and 2 nights outdoors. Participants and volunteers must review the Handbook information on winter camping, frostbite and hypothermia before entering the event."

The Old Rocket will be among 53 who started the race this year. He's been in training, taking a two day, 105 mile trip across the Lake of the Woods in preparation for the event. The event is as much a winter survival trek as much as a race. We wish him well.

 I was over at Trapper's place the other night for something or other. I happened to get there as he was pouring himself and the Missus some "long-milk". I'm not sure what it is except his recipe comes from the old country and when he drinks it, it leaves strings on his beard. I'm guessing that's where the name "long-milk" comes in. Seeing me, he poured an extra glass and invited me to participate in their nightly constitutional. Fortunately, a visitor had left some cookies on the table, by taking a sip of the thick, bitter drink and immediately cramming half a cookie in my mouth, after three or so cookies I was able to get the drink down.

 The Missus tried to tell me it tasted something like yogurt, but I told her I'd never tasted any yogurt like that. Trapper was disappointed in me. He said I hadn't passed that test. That hurt. The Missus then told me that the restaurants in Sweden all had big bowls of long-milk in the middle of the tables for the patrons. I said, "that's a good place for Sweden!"  I suddenly remembered I had something to do at home. Leaving before Trapper had a chance to pour me another glass seemed to be a good idea.  

 The other week when was on my way to do an interview southeast of Roseau, I saw a couple of deer bedded down in a field.  I've gone that way several times since, the number of deer in the field in broad daylight has swelled to over 30, some staying within a hundred yards from the road. Evidently they like whatever is planted under the snow. The deer look very healthy, and seemed to be enjoying the much warmer weather after the cold snap. With the light snow cover this winter the deer population should stay at record levels.

 See you next week!


Congratulations to the Old Rocket, Chuck Lindner, for finishing the Arrowhead Ultra last week. I talked to him while he was convalescing from the race in Lake Havasu City, AZ. He finished 9th, not bad for a first time participant in a 135 mile event that is part race, part survival course.  I didn't know winter biking had such a following, makes me want to get mine out... On second thought, I think I'll leave it right where it is.

 I'll be leaving with Trapper and David Johnson for an overnight trip to the Angle. I'll be leaving the PoleCat at home, David will be providing some newer Polaris machines for us to ride. Expect a full report next week.   

 Tucked into the week sometime is, for me, rose procurement day. The ladies call it Valentine's Day, but for me it means maintaining a 19 year tradition of getting Management a rose for that important day.

 Actually, the process of getting Management in a good mood started some time ago. When we moved here, her piano was put on the porch since there was no room in the house proper for it. When the heating season arrived and the propane bill for a tank fill was close to 4 figures, something had to be done since heating the porch wasn't in the budget for a newspaper writer. I temporarily closed off the porch with a sheet of styrofoam for starters since the old door had been removed some time ago.

 Then came the weeks long process of removing the old doorframe, prepping the hole for a new door, installing extension jambs on the new door Trapper's Missus had provided, moving an ancient, half-full freezer out of the dining area, moving the piano inside to the recently vacated spot and installing the altered door. I had to build a little cart for moving the freezer since it was much too heavy to lift or slide. The process had progressed to the point I was ready to make the big move Saturday afternoon.

Daughter Alyssa made one of her visits to Trapper's place and described the happenings to them. When Trapper's Missus heard about the impending move of the heavy objects, she must have figured Trapper needed some exercise so she sent him over to help. He arrived after I'd lifted the freezer up with blocks and a wonder bar and slid the cart underneath. We rolled the freezer away from the wall, moved the piano into the house and over to its new home. As usual, it lost 3 of its 4 castors during the move, but we got those put back in OK. The cart worked great, we easily rolled the freezer out to the porch and maneuvered it into the corner, then Trapper retrieved the cart while I lifted the freezer with the bar. We celebrated with coffee and fresh cookies the little girls had made, then he went back to report to the Missus.

 Inspired by success, I installed the door and wired an outlet for the freezer before I called it a day late in the evening. Management treated us to a half hour piano concert at bedtime, I cleaned up the mess the next day. Thank God for little successes.

 A big event coming up for the world...well, the nation...well...the state...well, the county, least anyone within driving, sno-catting or flying distance of the Lake. The Lake of the Woods, that is, and I'd guess it will be an international event anyway since some of our neighbors to the north will probably be dropping in on the event. Donna LaDuke of the Warroad Chamber e-mailed me the other day and let me know about the annual Fishing Derby on Muskeg Bay scheduled for Saturday, February 16. Springsteel Resort and the Warroad Chamber are hosting the annual fundraiser.

 When I heard that the grand prize was a car, I was interested, even if it is a Chevrolet... I did call my father-in-law to see if he wanted to come up for the event, he's one that looks for excuses like this to fish. It was an easy sell, I think the clincher was when I told him there was a $200 prize for the biggest berbot.

 Unfortunately, the vintage snowmobile races at Strathcona are held at the same time as the Fishing Derby.  Hopefully next year the two will be held on different weekends.

 See you next week!


This is a really tough job.  Just after sending in my articles for last week, it was a Sno-Cat trip to the Angle with Trapper and David Johnson, riding some of the latest in technological advancements coming from Polaris. Quite a switch from the old PoleCat, like riding a magic carpet in comparison to that.  I haven't moved it out of the shed since.

David was riding his FS IQ Touring. He'd given wife Eleanor's 600 IQ Touring to Trapper for the trip and had swiped son Mitchell's new '09 FS Widetrack for me. He must have figured my considerable girth required a big one. It was comfortable, a great touring machine.

Eleanor suggested we bring a compass along. Trapper and I didn't have any and David's was at the Angle, the macho three of us decided that we'd not need it anyway.

 We bundled up in our multiple layers and headed out. David was in the lead as we passed the Polaris factory on our way out of town. The blowing snow wasn't much of a problem at this point. That changed when we got to the lake. Trail markings were somewhat scant, we bypassed the trail since it headed south to Springsteel and we were going north. When we got in the vicinity of Buffalo Point, there was another marked trail but the two experienced guys figured it was too far west. We crossed it and headed northeast to find another trail.

Visibility wasn't the best. Since we had no compass and no trail came into sight, we found an occupied fish house and asked the owner where the trail was. He directed us back to the one we'd crossed.

three snowmobilersThe rest of the trip went well. David is a tough fellow, not too many around that celebrate their 85th birthday by guiding a 150 mile overnight snowmobile trip. He passed muster as a cook, steak for supper and pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Lots of deer and birds around the cabin to watch as we relaxed. Neighbor Tom Kastl came over and enjoyed breakfast with us.

Temperature at the Angle was 20 below on Wednesday morning. We'd worn plenty of layers so it was good riding. The lake trail had been groomed so the trip back went much faster. The sky was clear so we could actually see where we were going.

When we got back to Roseau, Trapper threatened to keep Eleanor's sled but we were able to pry his hands off the 600 IQ's handlebars long enough to strap him in the pickup to go home.

As usual, something happened to Management's vehicle while I was gone. The van stalled on her when she was coming home. Evidently she held up traffic at a major intersection in Warroad for a while. She said one of the Transit drivers named Mike helped her out and the Border Patrol provided emergency lights until Lee Olson of Warroad Motors came and towed her away.

Trapper, whose second career has become taking me somewhere in the Chevy pickup to rescue an old Ford for me, took me in to Warroad to bring the van home. We started up the van and, while it warmed up, took the opportunity to visit Lake Street Floral, it being February the 14th. I procured a rose for Management and Trapper picked out a potted plant for the Missus.

Made it home OK, after a little sleuthing, decided the problem was a water leak. I'd changed the water pump a month earlier, a couple of bolts had loosened up and, when the coolant level gets too low, the electronics don't work properly, causing the stalling condition.

Management liked the rose, Trapper said he made lots of points with the potted plant. Thursday night was a good night at Roseen's corner by all accounts...

Management's parents came up for the weekend. I'd called father-in-law Paul when I'd found out about the Fishing Derby, it was an easy sell to convince him to attend. It was harder to convince Trapper, but he did agree. Anyway, Saturday morning dawned bright and warm so we loaded the fishing equipment into Trapper's Chevy pickup. Trapper wanted to bring the chainsaw along to cut a trench and do some trolling but we were able to talk him out of it. We made our way to Springsteel and followed the long line of pickup trucks heading out onto the lake.  

DJThe folks at Springsteel and the Chamber put on a great event. A veritable village sprung up on the ice starting a 11:00, wind shelters of snow, cardboard, OSB and sundries other items dotted the Derby area. DJ Terry Olson was emceeing the event. Everyone appeared to be having a good time, even after the clear sky darkened and a good snowstorm dumped on the event.

Paul set up the fishing lines for the two novices, we weren't particularly successful. I did pull in a small perch but it wasn't big enough to weigh for the contest. The other two didn't get anything. They said I couldn't count the perch because it was too small. That hurt. I told them I'd eaten smaller brook trout.

Trapper's Missus was the big winner, staying at home she won a wildlife camera.

TrapperAnother week in the great north, see you next week!


Sometimes a person does something and has a totally unexpected result. Such is the case with Abby the dog. I first met Abby at Mike and Kitty's home; she was a pudgy, 4 year old yellow lab cross that was the family dog. I didn't pay much attention to her, petted her a few times in passing as is my habit with friendly dogs. The couple were preparing their Pokegama Lake home for sale and hired me to do some work on the place.

In the summer of '07, we lost our Springer spaniel to old age, however with our move north we weren't looking to get another dog just yet.

Mike and Kitty were also good friends. They had to move south to Rochester last August to a townhouse that prohibited pets so I mentioned to them that, if they couldn't find a home for Abby, we'd consider taking her. Some time later, I got a call from Mike that they were moving soon and would I still want Abby? I said I'd have to talk to Management, if she gave the OK, we'd pick her up. I then called Management. Kitty is one of her best friends, not surprising that Management didn't hesitate to say OK.

I called back and this time talked to Kitty. I said, "We can take Abby. We're heading north within a few minutes, does Abby ride well?"

 She said, "I don't know, she always stays at home. She does try to get in the car every time we leave..."

We picked up Abby along with 50 pounds of dog food and a big pillow for her to sleep on. She hopped right in, by the end of the week, she'd happily ridden about a thousand miles. I figured she'd be the girls' dog but she decided almost instantly that she was my dog, or I was her human, whatever the case may be.

She may look pudgy, but she could easily run 4 miles along with us as we rode bikes so I forgot about a diet for her. When I come home, she squirms and squeals with delight whether I've been away 10 minutes or 2 days. While she is inquisitive, she generally stays put, within command distance. She has a few bad habits, she likes to jump up on people and doesn't listen if she is chasing a cat or something like that.

AbbyManagement says that if Abby is sitting outside the bathroom looking at the door she knows who is inside. I generally take her with me most everywhere. For one thing, she is so disappointed if I leave without her. The other consideration is that she nearly always behaves well, either sitting in the vehicle waiting for me or else just staying with me as I work in Clayton's shop or log with Trapper. She seems to have a sense to stay out of the way most of the time. She's also learned to be quiet around the horses we've worked with at a couple of places.

The other morning, her desire to be with me was almost fatal for her. I made the early morning trip for coffee at Trapper's and we decided to measure up his building to figure out what length material we needed to construct an insulated shop space. Abby and I went home to get a tape measure, when we came out Trapper and daughter LaRae were over at the barn. A cow had just had a calf so I walked over there to see if I could help. I left Abby at the gate and told her to stay there.

Trapper wanted the cow and calf to go into the barn so we got them moving in that direction. The cow, a big black baldie, understandably protective of the newborn and not amenable to being moved. She charged us a couple of times but, using a gate, we moved her into a chute leading to the barn and LaRae went into the barn to prepare the pen.

Somehow Abby figured out where I was and how to get to me, she soon came running out the door of the barn toward me. The cow saw her and instantly whirled and charged her, butting Abby and rolling her into the wall of the chute. Abby was yelping, pretty much helpless. I kicked at the cow, she charged me a little and Abby got up and headed out of the pen.

We got things calmed down a bit and the cow started moving towards the barn. Trapper had a bat, I told him to keep the cow at bay and I would carry the calf into the pen while he kept the cow away. This did work, after a fashion. I carried the calf into the barn, but before I could get it into a pen, I heard a ruckus behind me. Abby had followed us, when the cow saw that, she took another run at her and butted her up against the fence again. After getting loose, this time Abby hightailed up to the house. I'm sure it was quite a lesson for the former house dog.

I deposited the calf in the straw in the clean pen and we herded the cow in and chained the gate. Abby seems to be none the worse for wear, hopefully a little wiser. Kitty says Abby is a terrier/yellow lab cross, from her toughness I'm beginning to believe the terrier must be bull terrier or something like that.

We never did measure up the building, left that for another day. Abby may not be perfect, but she's my dog, or I'm her human. Not sure which, but I know her home is right here.