C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

The North quenches a thirst for Eden

For more than 70 years, from the time my parents first brought me here as a boy not yet in school, I have loved this glorious northern country.

Countless summers since then – and once again now, with my wife and our two grown daughters – I have returned.

The attractions are many: the fine, clear lakes and the abundance of sport fish they contain; the unfailing hospitality of Minnesota folk; the stillness of evening, far from the restless hum of city life; the haunting cry of loons at moonrise; the boundless reach of the star-dusted night sky.

Always before we’ve come purely for pleasure. But this time we came as refugees, fleeing the desiccated, dispirited region we call home.

Claiming the New York daughter at the Minneapolis airport, then stopping only briefly for a quick bite of supper, we arrived at our lodging here shortly before midnight.

And weary from that long day, we retired to sleep happily under double blankets.

We’ve read that the Missouri weather has finally turned. No matter. We’re where we want to be. And if we find on returning home that autumn has in fact arrived, so much the better.

We’re quartered in one in a line of comfortable little cabins, perched atop a bluff overlooking Blackduck Lake, a lovely 2,600-acre reach of water bordered by pine and birch forest on every shore.

The first day was devoted to getting settled, laying in provisions for the week and exploring some of the winding woodland roads that lead out from the town of Blackduck.

Then yesterday we fished – motoring across to a large-reed-rimmed island where our host suggested we might find some willing perch or northern pike.

There’s more to fishing, though, than just casting out a bait or lure. Different waters call for different methods.

And our usual techniques, good for largemouth bass and bluegill, seemed not to work.

I was shut out. But we didn’t entirely fail. One daughter caught a dinner-plate-size sunfish – the largest I’ve ever seen – and followed that by boating a 22- or 23-inch pike.

So we’re assured of at least one good meal of fish.

We woke this third day to a morning in the low 50s, a sky of fleecy clouds, with the sun lighting the wind-stirred leaves of the birches – a sun brilliant but with no unwanted heat.

We’ll try our luck at fishing again when the mood strikes us.

The girls remember how, when they were small, I’d wake them at some awful hour to be with me on the water at first light. They’re now autonomous adults, and I couldn’t make that happen, even if I wanted to.

We have no fixed program – no schedule to keep, no list to be checked off.

We’re in a beautiful place in a glorious season of the year, without any pressing obligations, far from the drought-savaged Midwest and glad not to be there.

What more could anyone ask of a late-summer vacation?