St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Monday, September 16, 2013


On the low flat below the cabin there was a touch of frost this morning.  On the open porch above, it was 36 degrees.   Likely the frost hit most of the area west of us--the Sterling Sand Barrens, where the sand gives up it's overnight heat quickly and the area is 100 feet below Hwy 87--a natural frost bowl!

Saturday was a nice day until late afternoon for the 26th (?) annual Hanson family 22 rifle competition.  Vince and Bill were the winners of the 5-shot at a target get-together.  

Brother Byron started it to get the younger generation to learn about gun safety and target shooting, to pass on something that was an important part of our lives in previous generations, but rapidly disappearing in the future ones. 

Cousin Susan and husband Dan came to join us from Isabella, MN.  Susan's father, Selden Hanson, a retired colonel in the military, was an avid target shooter and enjoyed the competitions with us for many years.  He and Dad were the last of the "boys" from that generation. Both made 89 years old, and passed on a few years ago, leaving my brothers and cousins the old timers left to pass on the traditions and hunting stories of when grandpa was a kid and seeing a deer or a bear was so rare that everyone in the Barron neighborhood got excited when that happened (and picked up a gun and en mass trailed it season or not).  

Dad and Seldon and his generation came through the era where conservation of natural resources became popular.  Hawks, eagles, owls, foxes, etc., were to be shot on site as a danger to the free run chickens, ducks and turkeys in every farm yard.  Hunting deer was a trip to the north woods as none were left in the farming areas. 

Gradually, with education and possibly memories of more abundant wildlife when they were children, brought my Dad's generation into appreciation of wild life, and into tolerance of some crop and animal depredation to allow the return of birds and animals long gone.  

The farm crop programs from the government encouraged leaving some fence row cover;  returning some wetlands to ponds, and into more careful farming to prevent runoff and silting or fertilizing of streams and ponds. 

In 1970, Dad hired his nephew Harvey to bulldoze out a silted in swamp on the home 40.  It filled in with water and soon attracted several pairs of nesting ducks each summer as well as geese and muskrats.  He was quite proud of "Dub" lake (his nickname from his brother's and sisters was "Dub.")   It continues to be a very nice pond for all sorts of wildlife, even though it is mostly surrounded by corn fields.   On the fields near the cabin, two low areas were converted back into small ponds and also support a few ducks each year.  Most years when they were cropped, the rains and standing water drowned or stunted the crops anyway. 

While most of the Hanson's are still deer hunters, a few hunting game birds too, and many are fishermen,  the conservation ethic is quite strong.  My grandparents (Eugene and P. H) started to understand what over hunting and fishing did to lessen the enjoyment of living in the country; my Dad's generation were sold on it by the time they were my age; and I think the rest of us from then on are very much attune to the balance of nature and man.  It is fascinating to see the changes over our own family.  

Nowadays, almost all of the neighbors and relatives are interested in birds and many feed them in the winter to enjoy their company.  When I was a kid, only Uncle Maurice and Aunt Myrtle did this--in the time when bird watchers and feeders were ridiculed by the average person (remember Jane Hathaway -- the "funny" bird watcher on the Beverly Hillbillies?).  Things have changed for the better, I think.
I rushed to the window to catch a shot of a flock of turkeys walking right by the cabin last night--by the time I got there one was left.  It was a couple of mother's and 5 young ones--almost full grown.  Turkeys were non-existent in this area 50 years ago when I grew up. Now they add interest to our surroundings as well as serve as an excellent game bird for those who want to test their chewing skills on probably the toughest meat available.