Fins, Feathers And Fur

A lot of fish go from Pelican Lake up into Christina Lake to spawn and a lot of them stay there. The water usually goes bad during the winter in Christina [due to insufficient oxygen]. The fish pack into the open spring holes to get air. [276-4]

One Sunday, we were visiting at Oscar Olson's and Oscar said he had heard there were a lot of fish in the little creek on the north side of Christina Lake, just east of Highway #78 and we went over to look. [276-5]

There were 50 or more men there, strung out for half a mile on the creek. All they had to do was chop a hole in the ice, anywhere, and ram the spear down. It would have all the fish it would hold on it -- every kind of fish. They were carrying fish off by the sackful and three or four fellows came up toward the road dragging an Army blanket, tied together by the four corners, with all the fish it would hold. There were cars there from as far away as Iowa. [276-6]

I went back on Monday morning and it was still going on. I just got started with 1/4 of a sackful and two game wardens came walking down the creek, yelling at the top of their voices to get out of there. They couldn't arrest that many men and the fish were going to die anyway, so one of them stood up on the road. [277-1]

Those with only a fourth of a sack, or so, got by; for those who had more than that, they dumped the sacks on the road and divided them with those that didn't have any yet. I told them I was getting fish for two places and got to keep mine. [277-2]

Since then, they have put traps in the springs every year and hauled the fish in tank trucks to other lakes. [277-3]

One of those years, the State had a fish trap on the Christina side of the road in the creek and were hauling out the carp and bullheads and suckers that were coming back from Christina. The sunfish came up against it from Pelican Lake and you could catch them right off the bridge. [277-4]

Twila took the kids -- Jerri, Bobby and Kathy -- down there fishing and spent the whole day going home for food and Kool-Aid and in to Holger's Tackle Shop for more fishing tackle and to get reels fixed, etc. They caught 70 big sunfish that day and lesser numbers on other days, both there and on the Pelican Lake side. [277-5]

Along about then the Northern Pike had worked into Ask Lake and the spearing through the ice was fantastic for three or four years. Kent Skaar came over and we built the old fish house out of home-sawed lumber . We dragged it over to the lake with the Farmall a couple of years. It was quite a drag to get it off again, over the deep snow. [278-5]

Then Kimbers invented the canvas houses and that made things much simpler. We left it right there all winter, in years when the spearing was good. [278-6]

The Northerns didn't get very big before they died out again. They were mostly around two pounds, but some years some got up to three pounds, or so. As thick as they were, the Northerns never would bite on a hook and line in the winter time. The Northerns have really bit in Ask Lake about three different times in the summer, though. [278-7]

One year, Denny Anderson told Beaver and Richard that the Boy Scouts had camped overnight in Tollef Hoff's woods. Denny took a rod and reel along and made some pre-season casts off Tollef's wooded point, over near his west line, and hooked a Northern. [279-1]

Beaver and Richard and Denny took the steel boat over there and had some fantastic Northern fishing that summer. They were at that ideal age -- old enough to fish but not old enough to have to work all the time yet. I was stacking hay with the stacker over there and could see them pulling them in. That lasted only one year, though. [279-2]

A few years later, Walter Balgaard walked in from the railroad tracks through the woods and caught some Northerns from shore. He told everybody, including all his relatives, and there was almost standing room only, for a while. They all had to walk in across the tracks and through the woods to get there. I had to go over and check for open gates every night. I found the gates wide open a couple of times, with the whole herd of cattle in the pasture there. [279-3]

I guess the best day of spearing we ever had was one forenoon when Twila went along. They were bigger that year than any other year, too. We got so many that we put them in the pickup and hurried home, afraid that we would get caught with them. We hung them all along a water pipe in the basement and took a flash picture of them. In a very few days, the water went dead and the spearing was over for a few more years again. [279-4]

One day, Twila drove past the gravel pit with the three kids and they saw a big snapping turtle along the road. They started to holler that they wanted to see it, so she stopped and backed up and they got out on the sandy shoulder and looked at it. [277-6]

Clifford Hanson walked to town from the hunting camp that afternoon and saw their barefoot tracks in the sand or mud. There had been some stories about people seeing a bear in the area recently and he got all excited. He got the game warden (Fred Johnson) to go out and look at the "bear tracks." [277-7]

Fred got all excited, too, and took plaster casts of the tracks. He went back to town and told everyone about the "bear tracks" along the highway. When Twila heard it in town, she laughed her head off and "de-bunked" the bear story. [277-8]

That was the second time Fred got fooled. There had been some stories around Evansville about seeing a mountain lion. Early one morning, after a fresh snowfall, Fred got a call from Evansville that the mountain lion had gone through town. His tracks were the only ones that morning, right up the boulevard and out of town into the country west of Evansville. [277-9]

Fred hurried down there and made plaster casts of the "mountain lion" tracks. When Ray Elmer got up and heard the story, he took his big police dog up there and led him up the boulevard. The tracks were identical. [277-10]

Somewhere in that era, in the 1950s, we started acquiring pets until we had more pet chores than farm chores. First, it was several white angora rabbits. One of the nicest pets we had was a little jackrabbit I picked up in the field. He got real tame and lovable and we could let him loose on the lawn to play with him. One day Richard let him out and he got into the tall grass where Richard couldn't find him. The next day his "remains" were near where one of the cats had a litter of kittens. [302-3]

Then came deodorized skunks. The kids took one of the young skunks to school and left it in a cage there overnight. When the janitor came in the morning, he met the skunk in the hall. [302-4]

We had Bob White quail and Chuckar partridges. I kept them in cages on the wall in the three-cow barn in the winter. The Bob Whites really cheered up the place in the spring, calling "Bob White" almost steady. We opened the door and let them go wild but they all finally disappeared. [302-5]

One day, I was going to the sale barn and Mitzi said, "Bring me a little colt to raise, Daddy" -- and I brought home three. We also acquired a burro. He was much fun, especially for Richard. He was lazy and only went when he felt like it. [302-6]

The kids were riding the ponies around and around the house and Richard was riding the burro. He would lag farther and farther behind and finally just stop and let the others go on around. When they all went past him, he would start out again, but he had saved himself a whole trip around the house. [302-7]

The next fall, we found one of the colts dead and a year later, the burro died a lingering death. We figured someone had shot them with duck shot from the road. [302-8]

We had a little black Shetland pony that had a colt every year. When one of the little colts was about a week old, I took him to school under my arm and went around to the rooms and showed him to all the kids. He was awfully small. One of the Kindergarten kids lifted up his tail to see what was under there and then put his tail down again. [302-9]

We had three or four different goats. One was a really big billy I bought in the sale barn. They said he was used to being with sheep in the pasture and helped to keep them from being victims of dogs. A goat will keep the dogs' attention away from the sheep and won't run from them. He was a real magnificent goat, but when the sheep were home in the winter, he would get up into the feeders or grain bins or anywhere and paw and kick everything out or contaminate it. [303-1]

I took the old billy back to the sale barn and sold him for someone else to contend with. [303-3]

We had a small nanny goat another time and she was a real cute pet. Kathy would take her out toward the woodpile and hook her to the sled and turn her loose. She would tear for the barn as fast as she could go downhill, with Kathy on the sled behind. She had a little kid in June, down by the lake, but the kid was dead when we found it. We started to milk the mother with two cups of the milking machine, but I probably left it on too long and she got mastitis. [303-2]

When Richard was real small, we used to set him on the big Palomino horse's back. Billy was getting old and lazy and wouldn't move a foot for Richard. He was complaining about that and said, "I hitted him and I kicked him and I bited him and he still wouldn't go!" [303-4]

I was hauling hay from the Indian Mounds in October, pulling the wagons back and forth with a gravel truck, when a young, lost-looking, yellow and white dog came along, way up there. I took him along home in the truck. He was a shepherd or collie cross type and had evidently got dumped off down on the highway, across the railroad track. [303-5]

That was the cleanest, friendliest dog I have ever seen. He evidently had been raised indoors and would lie down when the radio was playing music and look at the radio like he was enjoying the music and was happy to find a home with kids. [303-6]

The next summer, when we were doing chores one evening, a sick-looking skunk came across the yard in front of the barn, headed directly for one of the kids. Our perfect dog ran to chase it, protecting the kid, and the skunk bit him hard on the shoulder. I broke the skunk's back with a crowbar and Dr. Emil Larson, the veterinarian, sent its head in to the University. The report came back: rabies. [303-7]

Then it wasn't long until some Minnesota State Veterinarians were in the yard, shooting all our pets. The dog and cats all went, also several deodorized pet skunks, including one mother skunk with a family of little skunks. They were in cages, but the theory was that the rabid one could have bitten them through the wire mesh. From then on, our menagerie of pets and birds was no more. All we had left was horses. [304-1]

One year when the kids were all home yet, [1957] it was time to start haying. I went over by Ask Lake and the Indian Mounds and made one trip around the big field with the mower. For some reason, I only made one round and didn't go back until 10 the next morning. Along the woods on the high hill south of Ask Lake was a really young little fawn, trying to get through the fence into the woods from the hay field. I had hit him the night before with the mower and had cut off two of his feet and a third leg higher up. I took him home on the tractor. [308-4]

I called the game warden to see what I should do. I thought they might want to have him mounted for a wildlife display, but he didn't want anything to do with him. Just get rid of him, he said. [308-5]

He hadn't bled at all and I thought we could make moccasins for his two hind legs where he had only lost his feet. Twila took him to Evansville to Dr. Emil Larson. He gave her medicine and bandaged the cut places. She made umpteen trips to Emil's when Bambi got infections, etc. He said he wouldn't charge her anything if she was willing to do all the driving. [308-6]

Bambi thrived on a bottle with a nipple and got to be part of the family, riding in the back seat of the car wherever we went that summer. Twila made him the padded leather moccasins he wore until the ends of his legs got calluses. He lived in the cow barn in the winter. [308-7]

The next July, he got something like pneumonia and died the next day. [When we came home from our trip to Yellowstone and the West Coast, Webster Ohren told us the deer had died while we were gone. --JL] [308-8]

I started hoping I could find another fawn to raise, although it was illegal to pick them up. One day someone found one, caught with one hind leg in the netting fence, south of the big slough. Whoever it was got him out of the fence and put him on the ground. Although he was obviously hurt, he took off, running. [308-9]

When Gayle Langlie and I came home from hauling gravel, I said I would like to catch him to raise. He was probably two weeks to a month old and could really run, but he couldn't get through the fence. Gayle finally ran him down in the slough and carried him home. He only lived a few days. Being hurt and running so hard had been too much for him. [309-1]

Probably a couple of years later, I went down to plow the field south of the gravel pit on Gust Melby's. I stopped for something just a little way from the gate, up along the woods. When I got back on the "M" Farmall, I looked down and there was a newborn fawn right in front of the big wheel. I would have killed her if I had gone ahead two more feet. [309-2]

I jumped off the tractor and picked her up and wrapped her in my jacket while she kicked and bleated like a scared calf or lamb. Leaving the plow, I tore for home as fast as the tractor would go, hoping no one would see me. [309-3]

To start with, she slept in the wood room in the basement. When she got bigger, she slept outside in the flower beds or down toward the garden. When she came in the house, she was as clean as a person, or more so, and never had one accident. [309-4]

After a couple of days in the cow barn, on the bottle, she, too, was like one of the family. We named her "Lambi" right away so that when someone would ask Mitzi in the drug store what all the lamb nipples we were buying were for she would say "for Lambi" instead of for a deer. She stuck to that, too, even when someone got quite persistent. [309-5]

Lambi was one of the two nicest pets we ever had, right up with the dog we lost to rabies because the rabid skunk bit it. She ran free all the time. She would take trips over on Tollef Hoff's, around Ask Lake, during the summer but would always come home and come in the house for her bottle of milk. [309-6]

When she got some size to her, we always shut the drapes, in case something would startle her and she would go out through the window. We would save everything like potato peelings and shelled corn, etc. for her when she got grown up, toward fall. [309-7]

The hunting season was only open one day that year. She came home for her bottle of milk early that day and we put her in the nursery room in the barn. An airplane was flying around at the time (probably the game warden) and when she disappeared into the barn it circled over and over, like they were looking for her. It would have been sure death if she had been near the road that day. [309-8]

Lambi started to associate with a flock of about 14 deer and came home less frequently and got more cautious. She was much bigger and shinier than her wild relatives. As soon as she got in the house, she was right at home, as always. Her last trip home was in February. She still had her bottle of milk with a nipple on it. [310-1]

When she was home the last time, she followed Twila upstairs to wake the kids up. Twila was scared to come down the stairs ahead of her, but she came down without any problems. [310-3]

The whole flock moved to a different area for two or three weeks and when they came back she was too shy to come to the house. [309-2]

During the next summer and fall, when several deer were out on the field and we would scare them, they would run into the woods. There was always one that would stop and look back until we got quite close. Then she would switch her tail and go with the others. We were sure that was Lambi. [310-5]

Lambi had a little fawn that first spring; it was wilder than she was. We always saw her on the edge of the field by Toleff's or Ask Lake and the Indian Mounds. The second spring, it seemed like she had only her own family with her. She had the yearling and two new fawns. [310-6]

The third spring, there were the four of them and another pair of twins. Sometimes I could get within 20 feet of her when we were haying, before she jumped the fence and walked into the woods. [310-7]

That winter, quite a few deer stayed in Teisbergs' evergreen grove. The snow was too deep to travel much, except down the railroad track. One morning when I was in town, someone came in and said the train had killed seven deer between the rails just east of Teisbergs. I went down there as fast as I could, to see if it was our deer herd. [310-8]

When she was real small, I had accidently shut the door on Lambi's nose and split her lip. She had let us stitch it, but she had a harelip from it. I figured if we ever found her, dead or alive, we would know it was her by that. [310-4]

I found that the oldest doe had been dragged by the train with her face down and her nose and mouth were all rubbed off. The harelip was gone, too, of course, so I couldn't identify her, but that flock of seven was never on the field again. [310-9]

The only time we hunted deer was the first year they opened the season around here, in the forties. It was for several days, with shotguns only, the first year. Pa and I both got licenses and the first day I shot a fawn that had evidently been in a mower and had one back leg missing from the knee down. The last day, I shot a big buck about two or three years old. He stretched nine feet from tip to tip, when hanging in a tree, and you could cut the steaks with a fork. [311-1]

We had so many trespassers that we decided the only way we could keep them off was to not hunt deer ourselves and to patrol the road all during the open season. [311-2]

One year, I was loading loose hay onto the gravel trucks up on the Indian Mounds and Beaver was driving them home and dumping them. I saw deer all afternoon, up on the edge of Tollef's woods, north of the "Ten acres." About 4 o'clock, two of them came down across his field, fighting. I drove the truck over there. Just as I got near, one of them put his horns under the other one and, with a mighty heave, lifted him off the ground. [311-3]

When he dropped him, his guts were hanging out. The injured deer jumped the fence in front of me and ran through the gate and up the bank on the east side of the gravel road. There he tried to jump the fence but fell back again. Just then, Beaver came back and I told him to hold him down while I stuck him. [311-4]

When Beaver got his horns and was holding him, the deer got up, with Beaver on his horns, and then fell down again. I went home and got the rifle and shot the deer and gutted him. [311-5]

I called the game warden. He said he would come and get him, but if we wanted him, we could have him for the price of a license: $5. We had him processed, but the meat was so strong and tough we have never wanted another deer. [311-6]

Another year, we found a big, dead buck by a haystack. He had such a big rack of horns [antlers] that Beaver took them to school to mount them in the shop. We didn't notice that there was an odd horn that stuck backward so the horns wouldn't set against a flat plaque. It was his first year in shop, but he figured out a way of putting several blocks on top of each other and did a beautiful job. [311-7]

Our woods was always the posted refuge during deer season and the deer soon learned it. They all came down there "pell-mell' when the shooting started up north. One year, we had a herd of 40 feeding in our corn shocks up on the Indian Mounds. There were a lot of pheasants then, too, and between them, they really raised Cain with the shocks, so they iced down and we could hardly chop them loose. [311-8]

One time we went with Kathy and Arg to a state park down by Clarkfield. There was a little orphaned fawn in a pen there and a little boy was trying to feed it grass through the fence. I was telling him and his mother that he was too young for grass and had to have milk in a bottle with a nipple. [322-4]

Then his dad came along and got in on my display of knowledge. I told them about the one I picked up and raised and how we put her in the barn the day the hunting season was open, etc. Then I said I knew it's not legal to pick them up, but there's not a thing the wardens can do if you don't pen them up. [322-5]

I asked him where they lived, etc. and what his work was. He said, "I'm a state game warden." He almost promised me to bring me another one if they got stuck with it, but he never did. [322-6]

In the fall of 1969, I looked down toward the big slough and there were several big Canada geese standing on dry land at the southwest corner. Having never tasted wild goose, that was just too tempting. I took the shotgun and some shells loaded with BBs and went down through the woods. [312-1]

After crawling on my stomach for a long way, I got behind a wood pile in just the right place. One shot and we had goose the next day. I could see a game warden behind every tree. That was really a good tasting goose, the only one I ever shot. [312-2]

Last spring, [1981] about 150 geese were coming out of Lake Christina and stripping the young sorghum cane plants that Beaver had planted for silage. They were molting and couldn't fly. I was wondering how goose would taste in June. [312-3]

One day I had a bright idea. I thought that as long as they couldn't fly, I would ride the three-wheel Honda among them and clip the neck of one with a small grass hook or scythe. But I was wrong. I didn't know how fast they could run. Before I got anywhere near them, they had all run very fast and were safely in the lake. [312-4]