Animals in north woods are draws for the area

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 28, 2015

Column: Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

As I write this column, I am sitting in the cabin looking out the deck door at the lake and watching the birds feeding busily at the feeders.

My sister Judy and brother-in-law Mike stopped by on their way home from their cabin, which is up by Northome, about 40 miles northwest of my cabin.

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As we talked about different things, Mike and I began to discuss the different birds we have visiting our feeders. Just then, a thought occurred to me: 40 years ago, you’d never thought we’d be standing here today discussing birds.

It’s funny how time has a way of changing one’s priorities. Part of it is the growing older thing, but sometimes — not always — with age comes wisdom.

Some things that were important to me when I was younger have taken a back seat to other things. The only thing that hasn’t changed is my appreciation for the beauty of nature and the critters within. I have always been infatuated with wildlife and the habitat that is their home.

I love coming to the north woods because you can never tell what critters you may lay your eyes upon. So far this year, we had a porcupine walk under our deck on its way to the deep woods, and the last time I was up here, I saw a bear standing on the edge of the woods about a mile north of the cabin.

On my way to the cabin on Monday, a wolf trotted across the road in front of me about two miles south of the cabin. This is what I love about the north country and the area where we built our cabin. Even though it is over 300 miles from home, it’s well worth the drive.

I have written numerous times about my days as a youth and what a big part the crick and the slough that surrounded it played in my appreciation of nature.

I had many heroes, most fictional and some real, but they were always the guys in the white hats. My Uncle Ben was someone who I always looked up to because he was the one who took me fishing. Sometimes he and my Aunt Marcie would take me up north fishing for a week. This was about the only time while I was growing up that I actually experienced a real vacation. They would leave early in the morning, and I can remember standing in the yard looking down the road for headlights and getting chills of excitement every time a car’s headlights appeared in the distance.

Ben and Marcie had no children, so that is probably why they liked taking me with them once in a while. Ben would also take me fishing for a day in the Waterville area. He taught me a lot about fishing, things that still hold true in today’s world of modern technology.

The smell of fishing was the exhaust of that old green five-horsepower Johnson motor as we trolled the shoreline for northern pike and bass. It was basic, simple fishing that worked way back when and still works today.

For quite a few years, I had gotten into painting landscapes and wildlife, not because of my uncle Lloyd but because of my Dad. He loved painting horses, and when I started doing outdoors scenes and adding deer we would talk, and he would give me pointers on painting animals. I would do the same for his background scenes. We fed off of each other, and this gave me incentive to paint. My love of fishing and the outdoors showed in all of my paintings. If it wasn’t about fishing, it had some form of water in it.

Once Dad had his stroke and could no longer paint, I lost my enthusiasm for painting. Although my sister has done much to encourage me from time to time, I haven’t been able to bring myself to get back into it.

My sister Judy has taken over as the family artist and has gotten very good at it. We used to vacation together with our families at Spider Lake. A couple of years ago on Christmas, she gave me a watercolor painting she had done. One look at that picture, and I could put myself in the boat on Spider in that exact same spot on the lake. I have looked at that painting on many a winter day and imagined that I was there casting or trolling on a sunny summer’s day. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

Until next time, take advantage of summer and get outdoors to enjoy a walk by a lake, have a picnic in one of our many city parks or visit a county or state park. Whatever you do, just get outdoors and enjoy!

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

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