A few bent nails led to hours of fun

Published 6:16 pm Saturday, June 16, 2012

When I was growing up on the north side of Albert Lea I had a lot of options when it came to the outdoors. We lived on the west side of Bridge Avenue, north of town, and I can recall as a young boy that there weren’t many houses around when we first built ours.

Our house was actually one that my folks had purchased from Mabel Nelson. It originally sat back on the old mink farm, which was located where Bancroft Bay Park is today. They had it moved onto a new basement and then remodeled the inside. At the back of our lot was a pasture and I can remember my Grandpa Winjum’s cows grazing right up to the back of our land in the early years.

There have been a lot of changes to the area over the years, but every so often I will drive through the old neighborhood and reminisce about those days long past.

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As kids we were never lacking for things to do and being creative was what we were best at. Early summer was when we’d spend endless hours at the bridge catching minnows and frogs all the while keeping an eye out for bigger fish to swim through. This was a great way for a kid to learn about nature and the outdoors in general.

We were always trying to come up with a better minnow trap to catch minnows and small fish.

I can still remember how excited I would get if I caught a small sunfish or crappie in that minnow net I had rigged up. My minnow net was actually an old window screen that I had rigged with wire coming from the four corners to the center. After working on it in the garage for quite some time I stepped back and admired my handiwork all the while thinking that this is really going to work. Unfortunately in those days window screens were made with wood frames and wood floats.

When the time finally arrived for me to use my latest fish-catching invention I dropped it into the water and instead of sinking to the bottom as I had envisioned the fast flowing water of the crick was soon carrying my fish trap away. I had a rope on it which I had intended to use to haul in the bountiful catch that I had envisioned, but now it was needed to retrieve my escaping invention. I eventually added enough rocks to sink the thing, but as I recall that particular trap never did work all that well.

As summer moved on the water would get lower and the fish would be scarce so it would be time to move on to other adventures.

You needed a pretty good imagination and a little ingenuity to make most of my ideas work back then. I think that I may have had a 50-percent success rate at best on most of my ideas but that never kept me from trying.

Whenever I got the urge to build something out of wood I would have to ask before I could use a particular board that I had in mind. I usually ended up getting permission to use a board if I wanted to pull the nails out of it. I became a master of nail straightening because the nails for my building projects were to come out of the used nail can. I think I still have a can of those nails left from when we cleaned out the folks’ house — might need them some day!

I spent many summer days building and rebuilding my race car to be used on race day or any time I wanted to haul it to a hill.

My friend Kim Dilling lived across the street and we’d spend a lot of afternoons racing it down the hill by his house. It wasn’t a long hill, but it was fairly steep with a lot of oak trees to maneuver around, which gave me a chance to use a few more of those secondhand nails. We were big fans of stock car races, which were held every week at the fairgrounds.

When the fair came around they would feature Aut Swenson’s Daredevil’s in front of the Grandstand which was a thrill show with guys T-boning cars and crashing motorcycles through burning boards and the rollover contest which was one of my favorites.

There was also the guy that blew himself up with dynamite and the grand finale was the Ride of Death, a little cement car that would go down this long, steep ramp and do a summersault hopefully landing on the pad below.

I guess some guy died attempting it at one time so thus the name. Yes, these were some of the things we’d try to emulate with some boards, bent nails and a set of old wagon wheels. Every kid needed a role model back then but I think Roy, Gene or Hoppy were probably the ones that our parents would have preferred.


Fishing update

There have been some nice walleye caught below the dam in the past couple of weeks. While I was up north my grandson Trevor sent me a text message with a picture of a 27-inch walleye and a 17-incher that he had caught that morning. He also caught a couple more in the 17-inch range. He released the 27-inch fish and kept the rest for the table. There are also some sunfish and crappie being caught at various spots around Fountain Lake.

I know that the northern fishing has started to pick up after a steady decline for many years.

I have to think that the stocking of Goose Lake a couple of years back has had something to do with that. So if you’re thinking about wetting a line, there are plenty of spots for shore fishing to be found right in your own backyard.

Take a Kid Fishing weekend was last week, but there doesn’t have to be any designated time or date to help a kid enjoy the sport.

Buy yourself a license and take a little time to take a kid fishing. You may just remember how much fun you had as a kid or if you’ve never fished you might find out what makes us fishermen feel like kids every time we watch a bobber bouncing on the waves.

Our youth are the future of the sport of fishing and hunting and of the outdoors that we enjoy. I once had a T-shirt that had a picture of a man teaching a small boy how to fish and the words read simply, pass it on, and that about says it all.

Until next time, take some time to enjoy a little fishing and experience the magic of watching a bobber as it bounces lazily in the breeze. It’s a great way to spend time in the outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy these freedoms that we have today.

 Dick Herfindahl’s column appears each Sunday in the Tribune.