What are winters in Minnesota like? They are cold! Part of the reason I left Minnesota was because I was not having fun pumping gas when it dropped to 40 degrees below zero. Gasoline tends to take on the temperature of the ground it is stored in. No matter what kind of gloves I wore, my hands always froze. During the winter, people tend to spend a lot more time inside. I remember curling up next to our wood burning stove with a quilt that Grandma Pearson had given me for Christmas, just reading a book and staying warm. I can also remember standing under the lamp in our front yard watching the huge snow flakes drift down like a white shower of rain. It felt good to stick my tongue out and catch them as they slowly fell on my face.
|The first sign that winter was approaching was the changing colors of the leaves in early fall, usually around the first part of September. Mike and I used to rake the yard and pile the leaves up into huge mounds. Then all of kids would run and jump into them, throw them at each other and just enjoy rolling around in them for hours at a time. Must have been nice for Mom and Dad to get a break and send us out of the house, at least once in a while.|
Then October would set in and some time around Scott's birthday, we would get our first real snow fall. It would cover all the dead leaves, brown grass and empty fields with a nice blanket of powder. I remember thinking that everything looked all fresh and clean again, just pure white as far as the eye could see. This first snowfall was usually when the weather was still fairly warm, and it would be a very wet snow with a lot of moisture. It was usually our only chance to make snowmen and have snowball fights. Later, when it got really cold, the snow would be so frozen, it did not like to stick together very much, so we would take advantage of the first fall to have fun.
One year, when I was about eleven, the first snow was very heavy. I can remember Mike, myself and our cousin Allen digging tunnels in a huge snow bank. We had a nice little fort carved out in the snow by the time we were done. It had three or four tunnels that led to a large room right in the middle of it. From there, we defended the fort from the attackers. They were mostly girls, of course. We did not want our space invaded by them. We built it and would only let in who we wanted to, when we wanted to. Once you were in the middle of the fort, the wind would no longer chill you to the bone. It was almost cozy in there.
|That year the snow was so heavy, Dad and his buddies spent a lot of time snowmobiling. We had two snowmobiles ourselves. One of them had an extra long seat and track. Dad could fit three or four of us kids behind him on it. I remember holding on to him as he would get a running start, then crank the handles and hit the brakes while driving across the ice covering the creek. He did that to clear the snow off so Mike and I could skate and play hockey. The other snowmobile was a high performance Polaris. He worked at the Polaris plant in Roseau for a long time as a welder. He made good money while there, but eventually his drinking habits caused him to miss a lot of work and he was fired. It was good while it lasted. Uncle Les worked with him there for a while also.|
Snowmobiling can be a lot of fun.
Mike and I used to have races across the fields. He was lighter than I was, so he always seemed to win. One time I insisted that we switch snowmobiles and race again. He still won. Maybe I was too scared to drive fast enough. We had very large ditches all around the house and we would often ride up and down the slopes for hours at a time. One time, I did not climb up the side of the ditch quickly enough as I approached a small road that ran out into a field. I hit the edge hard and the next thing I knew, I was flying one way and the snowmobile was flying another. I was lucky not to hurt myself or the snowmobile.
Another time, I took a trip through the back woods trails toward Bemis Hill with my friend, Billy Brandt. He lived down the road a mile and we hung out for a while. His used to tell me stories of driving to visit relatives in Florida over Christmas. I sure would have liked to escape the snow and sit on a hot beach once in a while too. I don't remember if Mike was along on this particular trip or not. At one point in the almost ten mile trip, Billy slammed on the brakes. I was too close to him and rammed into his snowmobile. One of the front skis jumped up and wedged itself between his track and the body of the seat. We tried and tried, but could not get the two cats, as we called them, apart. We ended up walking the trail for the last mile or so to Bemis Hill. We asked some man for help, but when we got back to the cats, they were separated already! Turns out, Billy's older brother happened to ride by with a friend shortly after we left and he pulled them apart. We thought it was magic for a while.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, Enor Johnson, our school bus driver that lived down the road a few miles, took me out for a snowmobile ride. I think Mike was on the other snowmobile with either Dad or Donny Hedstrom. We were racing across the Hedstrom's fields west of the house. I was sitting in front of Enor as he sent us flying across the snow. We were all bundled up in suits, with thick gloves and goggles to protect our eyes from the glare. Out of the corner of my eye I remember seeing the other snowmobile stop and they started waving at us. Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air, only to come sliding to a halt a few seconds later. Seems there was an electric fence going across field that Enor was not aware of. We hit it at about 40 miles per hour, and it caught me across the face, just above my mouth. When it did that, it jerked me back into Enor and threw us both off the snowmobile almost instantaneously. I don't remember a lot else, except that my upper lip was so swollen that for almost an entire week, all I could do was sip soup through a straw. I could not open my mouth enough to put any solid food into my system. I was very lucky though. If I had been two inches taller, the wire would have probably caught my throat and I might have been decapitated.
As much fun as we had snowmobiling, winter was made for hockey. Mike and I joined a hockey team when I was in the fifth and sixth grades. For two years, Mom took us to every practice and game we had. The first year there were a lot of kids on the team, enough for at least two full lines anyway. Wannaska was the biggest competition we had. Roseau had some good teams, but only the one with the Broten brothers, Aaron and Neil, were any real trouble for us country kids. The Broten boys went on to eventually play in the NHL. I think Mike could have made it too, if he would have tried. The second year, we did not have so many kids. Mike played goalie, Terry Brateng, his best friend, was our center, I played left wing and Kevin (don't remember his last name) played right wing. There were three other people on the team left to cover defense. Kevin's younger brother, Darryl, a kid named Brian, and one other kid who I don't remember anymore.
We looked funny out there, with one person in our box, while all the other teams had two or three whole lines they could rotate. We were pretty good though. Mike let in one goal during the entire season, against Wannaska. We were undefeated going in the playoffs. We were still undefeated when we met Wannaska for the championship. Mike allowed the second goal of the year go by him, but we also scored one against them to send it into overtime. After four overtime periods, we were so tired that we could hardly skate anymore. We were just wore out so badly, that the Wannaska team could skate rings around us and take shots at Mike almost at will. They finally managed to get past his defenses and ended the game.
I remember that I did not care if we lost or not by then, I just wanted the game to be over. We spend almost three full hours out on the ice playing as hard as we could. I was proud of the effort, but too wore out to continue. Something happened to my right hip that day, and now if I run a lot, like I did in the military, it still acts up once in a while. I never played too much hockey after that. Mike and I still played on the creek, but since I went off to the high school along with Kevin in Roseau the next year, the Malung-Falun school could not get a real team back together again. I still remember how much fun it was to be in the right place at the right time and pass the puck to Terry so he could shoot in it or to shoot one in myself.
Part 7 - Rambling On and On...
For information about Minnesota in general visit here or here.
Visit the home page of International Falls where I was born.
Also see the home page of Roseau, where I was raised.
Thunderbird Lodge is where my brother, Michael, works.
See Hayes Lake State Park, a few miles from where we lived.
Lake of the Woods where we often went fishing.
Find out more about Minnesota's natural resources.
The Virtual Sweden Site can tell you about where my grandparents came from.
Seattle, Washington is where I visited my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Maynard and saw the Space Needle.
Visit the International Peace Gardens. Many of my great-uncles and cousins helped build this beautiful place.
Dad worked at the Polaris plant for several years.
Both Mom and Dad worked at Marvin Windows at one time or another.