January 2008 Southwest Angle Columns

Incredulous RobHere are the columns from January, 2008. We here in the Southwest Angle as well as our friends at the Northwest Angle are deep in the throes of a good, old fashioned winter that defies the global warming theorists to comment, although they do and look foolish as usual. 

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

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When moving to a new area it takes a while to get a sense of how people are perceived.  I've heard of Marvin windows for a long time, and used them almost exclusively in my construction business for the past several years.  I knew they were built in Warroad and had heard stories that the founders took a personal interest in their town. One of my long time friends back where I came from related a story to me of someone seeing Bill Marvin, up to his shirt sleeves in grease, helping install refrigeration equipment in a Warroad hockey arena one long gone day ago. I have no way of verifying whether the story is true or which Marvin was doing it. I'll just say that, true or not, it is part of the legend of the Marvin Family circulating in lower parts of Minnesota. The one who related it to me is faithfully buying Marvin Windows, I'm thinking at least partially because of the legend.

After moving here and starting the writing job with the Pioneer, I've had occasion to cover events where various members of the Marvin family would be present. One was Bill's 90th birthday party and it was evident that he was enjoying himself with his friends, they were legion. I had occasion last week to attend the ceremony at the elementary school where Bill was awarded the Friends of Education plaque for this year.

Bill and JudyA couple of things were striking to someone who has not known the people of the area or Bill Marvin well. The first was that nearly everyone who came took the time to greet Bill, either with a hug, caress or handshake and say a few things or banter with him. The other was that each person in the room appeared to have a story about a personal encounter with Bill and many took the opportunity to relate it to the assembled. 

 The following story was related to me afterward by Deanna Comstock and speaks for itself about Bill and Margaret Marvin and how they treated their friends.

 As a graduation tradition, Bill's granddaughter Paula Johnson was to pick a friend to bring with her to Bill and Margaret's home in Hawaii for Easter holiday.   Paula chose her friend Sara Comstock, Deanna's daughter. Evidently it was one of those picture perfect holidays for the girls. There was another pair of teen-aged boys along under similar circumstances and Bill and Margaret treated the four very well.  Bill let them use his own car, he rented one for himself. He also gave them a certain amount of spending money every day.  The teen-agers were allowed freedom, however didn't have free reign.  They were required to keep the adults informed of their whereabouts at all times. Deanna didn't say what all the kids did, but I'd expect the Hawaiian beach scene figured largely in their activities. The girls had a great time and Sara has great memories of the trip. She said that a favored activity was playing Scrabble with Margaret.

 Bill and Margaret planted a palm tree near their house for Sara with a plaque with her name on it and, over the next several years, sent her pictures of the tree annually.  They also bought fresh Hawaiian leis for the girls for graduation in 1993.  It was one of those one-of-a lifetime events for Sara.

 While I don't pretend to know Bill Marvin very well, I appreciate the chance to see just a little of the unique relationship he has with the Warroad community. 

 He is a very deserving recipient of the Friends of Education award for 2007-2008.



Quite a few things have happened since I sat down to write a column since last week’s paper was written and formatted before Christmas even though it was published last week.  A couple of things to cover from several weeks back. 

 Management, the little girls and I were invited to accompany David Johnson and his lovely wife Eleanor to the Angle Inlet School Christmas Program. We made the necessary arrangements for the trip, and the afternoon before we were supposed to leave, Eleanor called to say that someone had cancelled and asked if Trapper and his wife Karolyn could come. Karolyn had to work but Trapper jumped at the opportunity to go to the Angle so he trailed along with us.

 The trip up was nice, the roads were in good condition. We rode up in Eleanor’s Suburban and met David at the restaurant at the angle. Eleanor asked me to drive. The suburban is a nice vehicle, I felt quite at home when I hopped in and saw the odometer registered about 145,000 miles. Not sure I can drive a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles anymore, haven’t had one in recent memory. David and Eleanor treated us to supper at the restaurant. Hostess Karen Houston serves a very good cup of coffee, the burgers and fries are pretty good also. 

christmas playAfter the meal, it was over to the school for the program.  It was simply great, the kids did a great job telling the Christmas story.  The schoolhouse was packed and the performers never missed a line.  The story was written with humor and dignity and the kids performed well.  Kudos to the students and teacher Linda Kastl. This is a must attend event, if you ever have a chance to go, be like Trapper and leap at it.     

 Since we had two vehicles coming home, it worked out pretty good to have Trapper along. He rode with David on the way back. I think its reasonable to conclude part of the conversation in that vehicle was in Swedish, they’d tried some of it out at the supper table.

 annual meetingOn to other things. I’d received a press parking pass for covering the Marvin Annual meeting. I think that it was a pretty valuable commodity to have in Warroad on the day of the meeting. Management had volunteered to play piano for the men’s chorus that was performing for the event so we all got up early to accompany her to the event.  The group had a practice scheduled early and it didn’t make sense to take two vehicles with $3.00 gas.

 The Posse member directing traffic was understandably puzzled when we drove up in the rusty van with the crinkled right front fender and didn’t follow his directions to park at the middle school. He told us we had to park there, but when I presented the parking pass, his demeanor quickly changed and he waved us on to the Gardens. We parked at the arena and Management ran in to play for the guys. I told the Posse gal there that we were going to leave soon to take the kids to the Visitor center for the kid’s activities there. Since the parking rows were getting pretty tight, she had the foresight to direct me to park in a different place, which I did. I headed into the arena but Management called, she said she’d forgotten her music, would I please look for it in the van? I went back out and thankfully found the music she’d specially prepared for easy fingering. I took it back in. Management was ecstatic to see the music. I listened to the practice, the guys and their accompanist were doing pretty doggone well.

 After the practice, we took the kids to the Visitor Center, then back to the dollar store. Management wasn’t the only one to forget something, I’d forgotten my reading glasses. I picked up a couple to keep in reserve. We headed back to the Gardens where, even though the lot was pretty much full, the Posse gal found us a spot.

 The Annual meeting went pretty well, there was much security in evidence, likely due to some recent threats. The best parts were the delicious rolls, the singing and, naturally, the generous bonuses. Many thanks to the Marvin family for their diligence in business and generosity.

 See you next week!



Back where I came from I was the Clerk/Treasurer for the Township.  One of the responsibilities of being Clerk is to arrange for elections.  The most important thing about running a successful election is to have good election judges.  The regulations require that similar numbers of judges be from opposite parties.  This was usually accomplished, however sometimes a little fudging is done to get the right combination.

 My predecessor had several good judges and I was able to get some more judges to volunteer for the task.  The election judges, regardless of party affiliation, had several things in common.  They were generally of or well past retirement age, they were female, they were very nice and, seemingly the most important, they all were quilters.

 I was the odd person out on election day.  I know they all respected my position as clerk, however most of the conversation was way beyond me.  Quilting magazines were a staple for the long stretches during the day when no voters were present. I don't recall if they brought needlework along, but they did talk about their various projects and discuss plans for the next quilting meeting.   I often wondered what a bipartisan quilt looked like but couldn't convince them to make one for me.

 My former brush with quilting came to mind the other night when Management took me to Jim and Kay Cole's place for a little party.  Jim is her Director at the Yellow Rose and he'd invited the department over.  It was very nice once we found the place.  Directions are not Management's forte, but we finally made it.  The food was great.  I probably gained 3-4 pounds just in pure chocolate. 

 While I was sitting there trying to memorize the new names and follow the various conversations, hostess Kay brought out a quilt for us to look at.  Though it was colorful, to my untrained eye it wasn't all that notable at first.  Kay told us she had made the quilt and took it to a quilting event in the south where a quilt appraiser had told her it was worth $1800. 

 The appraiser said the value comes from the miles of hand stitching on the quilt, about 16 stitches to the inch, stitched evenly and in beautiful designs across the quilt.

 Kay said that the appraiser asked her where she stored it and why there was blood on it.  Kay replied that it was her "Grandma Quilt", it was kept on the couch and when her Granddaughter got hurt, she ran to wrap herself in Grandma's quilt and thus the bloodstain.

 Management got a tour of the sewing room.  Fortunately, she hasn't put in an order for a sewing machine yet but I suspect that may be coming at some point since the little girls are in 4-H.  Actually, maybe that's not too bad an idea, last summer I saw some neat quilts with blocks of tractors over at the Roosevelt Threshing Show...

 Not to be outdone, the man of the house took us out to his heated shop where he's restoring a Triumph sports car.  Jim has had the car since he was 17.  It's been stored in various places over the years and he's just now putting it back to like new condition.  He's got a long way to go, however it looks pretty good.  He's done quite a bit of fabrication and welding in fresh sheet metal where necessary. 

 Jim proudly showed us his Christmas present from one of his kids: a hood from a junked car!  Can tell the kid was raised right.  This provided him with some much needed fresh metal, he'd already cut out all the webbing and was ready to start fabricating some new body parts. 

 Now I'm just wondering: will the quilter be doing some custom upholstery in the Triumph?

 It is very interesting to see the wonderful things that people do in their spare time.  Trapper's Missus was working on a quillow the other night for her granddaughter.  It is a quilt with a pocket that allows it to be folded into itself and make a pillow. Neat stuff.

Diamond willowTrapper is also working on some artwork.  They live in a nice log house and one of the partition log wall openings has never been finished.  Trapper figures he should be able to attach a polished diamond willow forked tree trunk with a bungee cord and that should work just fine.  The Missus had a different idea and Trapper has been working more or less feverishly, or as close as he ever comes to that, to get the project done to her exacting specifications.  He had to make a cover board to fit the opening and jig saw out the log outlines.  He figures it looks pretty good right now, bungee cord and all, well, maybe one more bungee cord, he says...


See you next week!    





Don’t you just love this January weather. Haven’t heard much about Global Warming for the last week or so. It is interesting that the newscasters simply cannot resist adding the adjective “bitter” each time they mention the cold weather. Evidently their writers lost their thesauruses somewhere, there are a multitude of other words like frosty, arctic, wintry, and chilly that would probably work better. The object must be to make everything seem as bad as possible. I have heard the term “arctic blast” used a few times, at least that one has a little style to it.  

 Had a busy week. I was assigned to interview Senator Amy Klobuchar last week when she came to town. I don’t think the people in the Twin Cities have much of an idea about how big the Yellow Rose is. The contact person told me the Senator was going to tour the plant and meet with the owners from 8 to 9, I could interview her at 9. Figuring that the schedule seemed a little tight for a full blown plant tour and that it might be a little difficult to explain that to the contact, I just agreed to the time. I then set Management to the task of finding out the real schedule from inside the Yellow Rose. She did so and I was able to be in the right place at the right time for the interview.

 The Senator and the MarvinsThe Communications Director for the Senator allotted me 5 minutes for the interview. It went pretty well, fortunately I had a recorder along else I wouldn’t have gotten much written down since my shorthand ability is non-existent. The recorder worked well except when I reached down and started fiddling with it, trying to discern what was said in that part of the interview is challenging.

 The senator was very nice. I was almost as much a puffball interviewer as Terry Olson was earlier on his radio interview of the Senator. Being more of the conservative bent, I did have a tough question in my notes to ask but didn’t want to do an impersonation of a White House Press Corps reporter. That one didn’t get asked.

 The interview did end up running a little over 10 minutes, still not a long interview. The Senator was whisked away to the next location, her staff attempting to keep her more or less on time for the remainder of her 87 county tour.

 Sometimes an event happens that offends the sensibilities. Trapper took me over to his logging operation a couple of times, he’d comment on a unique willow tree standing near the Beltrami Forest road we took to get there. The tree was in the shape of a large Y, he called it the “hanging tree” for obvious reasons. He said that last year someone started chopping at the bottom of the tree. It didn’t seem to hurt the tree much but the vandalism wasn’t appreciated. The other morning, he was on his way to work with partner Earl Johnson and the tree was laying across the road. Some slob had cut it down and left it lay.  They had to cut it up to get past and go to work.

 A couple of things here. I think it is logical to conclude the cutting of the tree was not an official act by the DNR or other official entity. If that were the case, the mess would have been cleaned up. The perp or perps, whatever the case, endangered the safety of whoever was traveling on the road, it was just about daylight when the two were headed for the woods. It would have been hard to see coming up on it at night.

 Not much that can be done except to say this is the first entry in the 2008 Roseau County Slob Of The Year Award (SOTY).             

 Here at Roseen’s Corner, we have a new resident. A long haired, mostly gray calico cat showed up last month, Trapper’s Missus found it digging through the garbage. Abby the dog had some sport chasing it a few times, but the little girls found out that it was friendly and brought it in the house. Management figured two house cats were plenty, besides the house cats expressed extreme displeasure at the new arrival. The upshot is that the new cat has taken up residence in the garage, I figured that was best to protect her from the “arctic blast”. The dog is gradually getting used to the new resident.

 I’ve no idea what circumstances brought the cat to our place. It is very friendly, likes to be petted and appears to be housebroken. The girls named it Thunder for some reason or other. If Thunder got lost from your place, look me up.

 See you next week!



We've been able to enjoy some of the winter sports here at Roseen's Corner. Snowmobiling, sliding, skating, cutting firewood, you know, everything a normal person living in Roseau County would expect. Well, I haven't done any skating or sliding, those being activities for the little girls, but the other two I've done. The little girls spent a couple of hours at the Malung "Hill" and skating rink the other night. The "hill" is very nice, but a little smaller that what a person who's lived most of his life near Quadna Mountain would expect...

 polecat and passengersAs for the other "sports", several years ago, I was at one of my favorite places - a DNR auction.  Over the years, I purchased many items at these auctions. I've found a careful person can buy well maintained vehicles or other items there at a reasonable price. I wasn't necessarily in the market for a snowmobile, however one was going rather cheap so I bought it. One ski was rather bent up, but otherwise it looked OK. I took the '92 Arctic Cat Panther home but at some point I discovered that the track was in pretty poor shape.

 It didn't stop me from using the machine since all I ever did with it was to take the little girls and the dogs for rides around the farm. I have pictures of myself, two Springer spaniels and the three little girls on the machine for a ride. It was safe, I never went very fast and all involved enjoyed it immensely.

I found a nearly new track on E-bay and ended up with it at a reasonable price. It was off a Polaris and I was able to make it fit so I guess it can be said I have a PoleCat.

 The girls are older and the Springers, one died and one disappeared, the new dog Abbie doesn't like to ride so now it's just me and the girls. We can all ride but it's nicer when Trapper gets out his wide track Polaris and we cruise the farm. We split up the girls between us and tour his numerous properties.

 As for the firewood cutting, I went to the woods with Trapper and son-in law Hasso Saturday morning to help with that task. I took my trusty Stihl along so Trapper set me at the task of cutting down the bug-killed tamarack. He said I passed the test, felling the trees and helping him hook up, although an unwanted asthma attack made the task a little harder for me.    

 After several hours of R&R to recover, I took the girls on a couple of rides around the homestead, we all enjoyed that. Although Abbie the dog doesn't like to ride, she loves to run along on the shorter trips. I call it my canine exercise program...

 Sunday it was down to the Hayes Lake area. Clayton Skoien is thinning the jackpine around Mitch Vacura's homestead. Clayton uses horses to skid the logs and I'd volunteered to help him out. Since my previous experience with Clayton's horses consisted of kicking down their rather substantial manure droppings so I could stack lumber, I was interested to see how they work in the woods. I wasn't disappointed.

 I managed to find the logging site. I'd brought my trusty Stihl along again and Clayton put me to work on the landing, cutting up the logs after the horses skidded the logs up. He has a team of well-trained Black Percherons and the way the three of them work together is really remarkable.

Clayton and percherons He has his landing close to the felling site and the team skids the trees up one at a time. The operation is smooth, a quiet command or tug on the reigns lets the horses know what Clayton wants done, many times it seems like they instinctively know what to do or the best path to take to get the job done.

 My dad had told me about working in the woods with horses years ago and how well they do at skidding trees. He was right. While the production was not equivalent to a more mechanized operation, it works very well for Clayton. His sidekick Freddie runs an ancient Bobcat to stack the logs in the appropriate piles for hauling later. Since the jackpine is mature, much of it goes for firewood but he is getting saw bolts from 8 to 16 feet long for his sawmill.

 Expect a full blown story on Clayton and his horses in the near future. After the second day in a row of woods work, it was back home for some more R&R. Thankfully, no asthma today, just a great day in the northland experiencing a really unique culture.

 See you next week!