Duck Hunters

In 1918 John Knutson sold all the land between the road and Christina Lake, north of the gravel pit, to a club of eight hunters from Minneapolis. (The main club member was Shreve Archer, whose father started and owned the Archer Daniels Midland Company.) They built the hunting point about 100 feet longer than it is now. They called it the Minneapolis Point. I think they hired the road contractor that built the road past there that year to do it, taking gravel, clay, and rocks from the hill with horses and scrapers. They used the two-horse bulldozer to push the stuff out ahead, into the water. [16.119-4]

When we were little kids, one of the highlights of the year was for Marjory and me to get to go along with Pa down to the hunting camp on the Knutson place in the evening during hunting season to deliver things. The guide and cook was Ed Scomp. He was an old river rat that they brought up from the cities every fall to do the camp work, like putting out decoys and rowing after crippled ducks. He was also the housekeeper and cook. He got us to bring him milk and he got Ma to bake bread for them. He didn't have a car, so we would deliver them at least once a week in the evening. When Pa carried the stuff in, we would shyly tag along behind. [16.87-3]

They were the most friendly bunch, and would come out into the kitchen and shake hands with Pa and invite us to come into the living room and visit awhile. Shreve Archer was the one we always hoped would be there. He was a real handsome man and a millionaire. He always had a big, store-size carton of Hershey Bars, sometimes plain and sometimes with nuts. He would always come and give Marj and me each a big handful, and usually a few packages of gum. The rest of the club members were mostly Archer Daniel employees, in the upper bracket, but they didn't have the money to throw around. [16.87-4]

They were crazy for Ma's bran bread, which I hated. When they left for the cities, Shreve would take all the bread that was left for his father. That made the cook disgusted, because he had to have things to eat while they were gone, too. [16.89-2]

The first year, Ralph Bruce, our second favorite down there, sent us a five-pound box of candy for Christmas. We had never seen a five-pound box of candy before, and it was really rationed out, over several weeks. [16.88-2]

One night when we went down there they were in the middle of a poker game. They only used $20 bills and Shreve Archer supplied his son-in-law with all he needed, too. (Archer's daughter divorced the son-in-law, so we didn't see him again.) We didn't stay until it was over, so it's anybody's guess how much the stakes turned out to be. They had a guest that night from the cities and he seemed to be doing all the winning. I think he turned out to be a very expensive guest. [16.88-3]

I suppose we milked it too far and stayed too long sometimes, and the evenings there deteriorated a little each year. [16.87-5]

They always invited us in, but one time, instead of centering their interest and conversation on Pa, they discussed among themselves the merits of certain baseball players on their favorite teams. I figured that was so we would get bored and go home early, and we did. [16.88-1]

As the first ones got older, there were more and more sons and sons-in-law coming up and they weren't as friendly and free with their money as the old ones.

When the season was over, the cook would bring us the leftover supplies when he closed the camp. Among other things was a five-gallon can with two or three inches of pure maple syrup in it, which we had never tasted before. [16.88-5]

One year Ed Scomp went out early and put out the decoys and sat down in the blind to shoot a duck or two. One of the older and "lesser" members slipped up behind him just as a flock of canvasbacks decoyed in. He said, "Here goes my first duck," and just as he shot, old Ed got up quick to shoot, too. He got the shot from behind, right in the head. That dampened the spirit of the whole camp and it deteriorated fast after that. [16.88-6]

Clifford Hanson took over the guiding and cooking for a few years, and after that those younger ones that came up stayed at the Ashby Motel. [16.88-7]

When Shreve Archer was still in his prime, he brought up a swell new car, a Marmon, and Ralph Bruce was going to take it to town for something. He had a guest along and was pointing out something to him on the dashboard. He reached over to wipe off the dial and in so doing turned off the road into the trees, just a short way north of the camp. It was a big, heavy car, and Shreve Archer just went to the telephone and called the car dealer in the cities and told them to send out another new car and a big wrecker. [16.88-8]

In 1918 Pa leased our lakeshore for 10 years to another club of eight members, all "big wheels." Kenny was vice president of the Great Northern Railroad, and other members included O'Donnel of the O'Donnel Shoe Company and McGill of the McGill Lithograph Co. plus a couple of old doctors, etc. In 1919 they paid for building the point on our farm, and when the lease was up, Pa owned the point.

The point was built with local horses, including ours, and they used the same two-horse bulldozer (called a Mormon) but they didn't build as big and permanent as the other point. The material in the hill there wasn't as good -- not enough rocks and gravel. The ice heaves soon started shortening it up again, but it stayed for many years. [16.120-2]

These artificial points were outlawed years later, after Caterpillar machinery was invented, and after someone built a hunting pier clear across a lake. No doubt with some money in the right place, the Minneapolis Point club got permission to blast off 100 feet of the point, supposedly back to the original natural point, and use it again. Big joke! The natural point didn't stick out hardly at all, but they had plenty of money to talk with. [16.120-1]

Our point was posted as an illegal point until after Fred Johnson, the local game warden, retired. By then it had washed off so much they finally quit posting it. The two to the north of us also made a pretense of shortening their points (no doubt with money, too) and got them legalized. [16.122-1]

The hunting in the twenties was fantastic and the limit was 10 ducks per day, 30 in possession, for any kind of ducks. They tried to shoot only canvasbacks. [16.120-3]

I was plowing with three horses and a one-bottom "sulky plow" on the field down by the lake one Saturday when the two old doctors and the daughter of one of them and one other person were shooting from the point almost continuously. The wind was right and the canvasbacks were coming in over the decoys, one flock right after another. They wrote the record of the weekend hunt with pencil inside the warming house, right behind the door, and it's still there: 1,400 shells and 120 canvasbacks (the legal possession limit for four people). [16.120-5]

Those old guys could hardly hold up a gun. I guess they just shot at the flock, not any certain ducks. George Peterson said the daughter, Margaret David, couldn't hit anything, but she was an awfully good "claimer." I guess the guide shot most of the ducks for them. [16.121-1]

One time I happened to be in the depot and one of the hunters was waiting to go back to "the cities" on the local train. I saw him board that warm train carrying 30 ducks in one hand, tied together by the necks. He couldn't put them in the cool baggage car, because he wanted to show them off. I've always wondered whether they wound up in the roaster or the garbage can. [16.121-2]

Kenny would come up in a private railroad car and have it parked on the siding just west of the depot. He had a black cook, and his chauffeur would bring up a big, black Lincoln to ride back and forth to the hunting point in. [16.120-4]

The club on our place broke up after 10 years. The old hunters got too old and the others built their own places elsewhere. [16.120-3]

McGill of McGill Lithograph Co. bought Sam Lee's lakeshore and Mike Dayfield bought Sorensons' lakeshore. [16.108-8]

Almost every farmer sold his lakeshore to hunters or hunting clubs during the twenties, or before, for what they thought then was an exorbitant price. They got from $1,000 to $2,500 for the strip along the shore, and the farmer had to furnish them an access road, too. Those close to here who did that were Teisbergs on Pelican Lake and on Christina were John Knutson, Sam Lee, Sorensons and others farther away.

If I remember right, John Knutson sold all the land between the road and the lake for $800 and it had the best hunting point on this side of the lake. They all bought new kitchen stoves, cars, etc. and it was all gone in a short while. [16.121-4]

Pa wouldn't sell, but leased the shore for 10 years at a time for $100 a year for many years, beginning in 1918. Then there got to be competition for it and he got $500 a year for five or 10 years. Then another stretch for $300 a year, and almost continually since for $100 a year.

The small stretch on the Bert Lee farm next to ours wasn't worth anything, so they never got a chance to rent or sell. (It was just luck that Beaver got a chance to buy that farm, as various ones were beginning to think of buying it to get access to Lake Christina.) [16.121-5]

In later years, after the club on our point disbanded, the Minneapolis Point club leased our shore for a feeding and resting place for ducks. They didn't hunt there, but one day they decided to drive up along our shore to look at the ducks. Shreve Archer's big car mired down in the springs up by the point. They walked down to where we lived, because they had seen Pa shoveling off a load of ear corn down there. Our new "H" Farmall was there and they said if Pa would come up with it and pull them out, one of them would unload the corn. So one of them stayed and unloaded the corn while Pa pulled them out, which wasn't very hard, and Shreve Archer handed him a $20 bill.

(Shreve Archer later died, out on the west coast, from getting a chicken bone in his throat.) [16.89-1]

George Peterson was the local guide. He took care of the boats and decoys and chased the cripples, etc. He built a little shed down behind our point for a warming house. We have it for a tool shed now. We call it the "cat shack" because we raised a bunch of cats in there once. It has a new roof -- the shack George built only had a one-slant roof. [16.120-4]

George Peterson was the overseer for all of them. They would send up a sum of money to him for repairing the points every winter. He would hire Pa and Sam Schram and Pa's team and sleigh and dump planks and they would dig into the sand bank along the shore and haul the dirt out on the end of the point to replace what was washed off. It was mostly a "make-work" project to give George some income in the winter. He would only spend part of it for the help and get to keep the rest.

They would come back to our place for dinner and Ma got paid for that. The year the perch bit on Ask Lake she fed them fried perch most days and they were real happy with that, as the perch were big and almost like walleyes. [16.109-1]

Sam and Henry Lee helped on their place and Andrew and Hans Sorenson helped on their place. I think they went to their own places for dinner.

At noon Pa would drive through the barn with the dirt hauling sleigh and haul the manure out of the barn and turn the cows out to drink. Sam would spend most of that time coaxing the old gas engine to run and pump the stock tank full. I guess George mostly just caught his wind. [16.109-2]