No-Man's Land Is Now Parkland
The back cover of the May–June issue, showing wildlife trackers near the Mendota Bridge at Fort Snelling State Park, brought this reminiscence and an artwork from a reader.
I believe it was the year I graduated from high school, 1950, that I made this watercolor of Ed's Landing. It was September, I remember that, the trees turning color and all bathed in a warm, hazy light, none of which I captured so that when I got home it went in the trash—but my mother, as mothers will do, saved it and had it framed, and I never saw it again until she died and it came back to me. I stowed it away with a bunch of other stuff and forgot about it until I got the issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer with this photo. "Hey—that's Ed's Landing!" I dug out the picture, then consulted Google Maps to find all this bottomland is now Fort Snelling State Park.
When I was a young lad, I thought this was sort of a no-man's land. People were squatting there. It would flood in the spring runoff, and people would move on to high ground, then back again when the water went down. Near Ed's Landing was a "roadhouse" that was set up so that parts would float—when the water receded, the road dried out, they were back in business, and if you could make it up the steps and through the door, they would serve you booze, no questions asked. Fine for us young guys, but no girls ever showed.
Somewhere south of here, during flood times, we would take our canoe down a road and, when it ended in water, put the canoe in and spend the day paddling through the woods, looking for wildlife, peeking in the second-story windows of old shack houses. Why people built here I don't know. Maybe it was free living in this bottomland? Anyway, for us it was adventure and certainly a different perspective of this river valley.
So I thank whoever for this fine little publication, MCV. This one has brought back many memories. Keep up the good work.
Rambling Bob Anderson, the Vagabond Kid
A Peace Corps volunteer and his class explore the state through MCV.
Alex Flower and his students have never been to Minnesota, but they know plenty about the state's flora, fauna, and outdoor culture. During Flower's 27-month Peace Corps assignment in the community of Bayandun Soum in Mongolia's Dornod Province, he and his students learned about the land of 10,000 lakes through the pages of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine.
The magazines arrived inside a care package to Peace Corps volunteer Sam Wisneski, and she left them when Flower took over the post. He put them to use as a resource in the classrooms where he helped teach English.
The magazines helped give students a different view of the United States. "They saw that Americans also farmed, worked with animals, and generally spent time outside," says Flower. "I think they had mostly seen America through pictures of New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., or through pop culture. For some students, it was the first time seeing this part of America, and there were parts that resembled life in Mongolia."
Since archery is a huge sport there, "Any article that described Americans bowhunting really got my students excited," says Flower, noting that an article on traditional archery, "A Stick and a String" (Sept.–Oct. 2016), was a favorite. "The Young Naturalists articles were also popular."
Alongside his students, Flower, who hails from Pennsylvania, found surprises as he read MCV. "I didn't realize that Minnesota had such diverse ecology," says Flower, who has plans to visit Minnesota. "I felt like I was learning from every issue."
How About Those Ticks?
Did you notice that the ticks this year were amazing? I recall a few that were unbelievably beautiful. One was a salmon color with a subtle and intricate golden filigree pattern on its back. The top side of another was an intense deep blue while its underside was a dark magenta. I spent several minutes turning it over and over in my fingers, amazed by the strikingly beautiful contrast in color. Another was bright orange and had green legs. I don't even remember seeing one of the pedestrian dark brown ticks.
Most years I have so many of these little critters around the place and, knowing from experience that they carry disease, I place strips of masking tape, doubled up into a loop, on tables near chairs in the cabin. That way when I pick a tick off my clothes or skin I don't have to grind off its head with my thumbnail or, if there's a fire in the stove, get out of the chair to drop it onto the hot surface where it dances for a few seconds. I just push the arachnid down onto the tape, where it struggles for a minute or two before accepting its fate. Often there are 5, 10, or 15 ticks of various sizes and species on one piece of tape. I call them ticker tapes. They're all over the cabin.
This year, those tapes were little art pieces: creamy colored masking tape adorned with brightly colored jewels. The memory brings me such pleasure!
Or was that a dream?
Lee Lewis, Minneapolis