I grew up in northwestern Wisconsin, went to medical school for two years in Duluth Minnesota, lived in Superior, Wisconsin for 7 years, and during and afterwards, supervised Emergency Rooms in International Falls, Moose Lake, Cloquet, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, Virginia, and Roseau, as well as worked at Baudette, Crosby, Aitken, Aurora, and Cook, Minnesota as well as the three hospitals in Ashland, Hayward, and Spooner, WI. I trapped and ice fished northern lakes. I've said before I have ice water in my veins. I cross-country skied, curled, and learned to skate. Working at all of these northern outposts such was my life to be on the road in the north country, I've seen cold, snow, ice, buried cars, gotten frostbite, broken through the ice, and along the way seen a lot of wildlife and especially, birds.
Lately though, I have taken to becoming a migrating bird, a creature of the sun, and more of a fan of sand and warm waves, than that of freezing fog and cold winds. I asked my wife to marry me just down the big lake they call Superior. Home though is north, and nothing feels better than the cold and snow of the north, so despite CDC advisories we went home for Christmas, but along the way, my father-in-law, Don Kramer, aged 94, fell, broke his femur and last Thursday night, died. I've known Don since I started hanging out with my future wife, his youngest daughter in 1989.
Don was an electrical engineer, went to the Univ of Wisconsin, and was part of the brain trust at Honeywell during the Sixties working up the corporate ladder in Europe. He had married a preacher's daughter from Wisconsin and had started a family, but the European life wasn't her cup of tea and as such decided to give that up for his family, and they moved back to Minneapolis. He tried consulting, ended up back at Honeywell, got laid off during the cutbacks after the space race in the Seventies and then he finished his career at the power plant in Elk River, possibly having forgone success and riches but had five kids, including a cute one which caught my eye. There is nothing wrong with that. Don had no vices. Created no waves, and well, was a model citizen.
Over the years we've gone on a couple of trips together. Don once caught a nice lake trout on a rather tough fishing trip to Ontario otherwise. There was a trip to Hawaii before my daughter was born, nothing bad happened, nothing weird happened. I remember going to a Luau, we ate poi. There were a few other trips, but like everything and everyone, we were busy with our lives, and in retrospect, maybe too busy. Don never said much but I guess that was okay, maybe I just didn't need a talking to? I don't have a lot of amusing anecdotes about him, he just wasn't that kind of guy to create many.
We ended up in northern Minnesota this weekend, remembering Grandpa. My wife was so distracted, she ran our of gas in the tunnel in downtown Duluth and had to get towed to a gas station. If there is a worse place to run out of gas for 300 miles, I don't know of it. We all needed some better distractions, and luckily Silja finally got up north safely.
The checklist of winter distractions for me:
Rough-legged hawk: check
Ruffed grouse: check
Boreal Chickadee: check
Canada jay: Check
Pine Grosbeak: check
White-winged crossbill: check
Great Gray Owl: Check (great sighting, just took off my lens cap and the click spooked it and it flew away
Snowy owl: check, well sort of, everyone else saw it but me
Common goldeneye: Check
King eider: check, ....a king eider? who knew?
Evening grosbeak, redpolls, spruce grouse, northern shrike, other owls, well, it is good to leave some meat on the bone for later.