August 23, 2011 1 Comment
Barnum, MN is more than a city with a population of 613 people, more than the home to the Carlton County Fair. To me, it is my Northwoods friend that stores memories as far back as I can remember.
Between 1970 and 1980, my Dad purchased 160 acres of land in the small town. He paid a total of $4,500 for two plots of land, making his first purchase when he was a mere 22 years old. There are two separate and equally interesting stories that accompany each plot of land.
The east plot is mainly made up of open fields, which a farming neighbor now rents for his crops. Many moons ago, a young man named Dick Smart went to work for the farmer who owned that plot of land. Dick was a hard worker and became very trusted by the farmer. When the farmer passed away he left Dick $30,000 and 120 acres of land. (There’s a little incentive to be a hard worker.) In 1970, Dick sold 80 acres of his land to my Dad.
About 10 years later my Dad purchased the west lot, a thickly-wooded area with a whole lot of baggage. The seller was Bob Duessler, a very paranoid individual. He was always concerned that people were going to try to rob him, so he did what most abnormal people would do and buried nearly everything he owned.
My Dad recalled one particular day before he purchased the land from Bob.
“I asked him if I could borrow a couple of tools from him. He told me to follow him, which I did. He led me into the woods where he dug up a full tool set, intensely wrapped in paper and plastic,” he said.
According to my Dad, Bob originally had a house, which people suspected he burned to the ground. You know, trying to escape being “found” and conforming to society. He eventually built a small shed closer to the road.
He decided the shed wasn’t hidden enough for the life he was trying to live, so he dug holes along the road and lined them with fur. My Dad said someone drove by one day and saw him wrapped head to toe in fur, lying in a hole in the ground. Welfare services were called and that was the end of Bob Duessler.
The old story ends with the fact that he did work as a deck hand on the Great Lakes for many years, making a comfortable living he never took advantage of. And where could that treasure be? Buried on our land with the tools, of course.
I have been camping in Barnum since I was just a little girl. There are mass amounts of individual smells, sights, sounds and feelings that jar particular memories for me. I made it to Barnum this past weekend for a camping trip with eight friends, eager to relive as many of those memories as possible.
The Bus is a memory of more recent years. This vintage bus is a story in itself, as it was once used as a hippie’s haven at Woodstock. My Dad picked it up one day from a job as a payment for work that went unpaid. The bus is actually really cool, it has a lot of character and quite a bit of potential. Except it still holds that chill in the air that makes you think someone was murdered in there. Still to this day we have to crack the same joke to people, urging them not to open any cupboards.
Exploring the Woods:
When we were little, my siblings and I would spend countless hours exploring the land. We would each grab a hiking stick, declare “Adventure!” and head into the thick brush. We loved to build forts and pretend that we were wanderers that called the woods home. Once the sun set the dares came out, each of us provoking the others to go deep into the woods alone. It was always a game, trying to see how far we would get before one of us started to cry, wet our pants or claimed we saw a ghost. I yanked Tamera into the woods with me this past weekend to gather kindling and those trees that have swayed so silently all these years still hold that dark, eerie feeling I remember as a child.
I’m not a huge fan of guns; the potential danger that is involved in them makes me feel very uneasy. Both Andy and my Dad own several guns that they use for clay pigeon shooting, I doubt either of them have ever shot an animal in their lives. I do feel at ease when Andy brings the guns to Barnum. It’s always done before the drinking happens and he requires everyone to listen to his safety talk before he hands the gun over to the first shooter. I opted against the shooting this time around, as I was shaky and ill feeling from the cocktails the previous night. I was asking Tamera to plug my ears for me; if I can’t gain the strength to plug my own ears, it’s best to stay away from the gun. PS. If there was a winner that day, it would have been Elliot.
The Demolition Derby:
I LOVE the Demolition Derby! It truly is the only sport (if you can call it that) that I get even remotely excited about. I have been going to the Figure 8 Races and the Demolition Derby at the Carlton County Fair for as long as I can remember. I love everything about it: the roaring of the engines, the crunching of the metal, the mud that flies in your face, and even the danger involved when a car bursts into flames.
It has been about three years since I have been to the Demo Derby so I was ecstatic, to say the least. We grabbed our seats in the grandstand and waited somewhat impatiently for the show to begin Sunday night. I felt a flood of memories rush over me as the first heat of cars started their engines. Let’s do some damage!
We stayed for about half the show before the crew decided it was time to begin the two-hour drive south to the Cities. I left the grandstand that night feeling completely satisfied. I was curious whether or not my friends enjoyed themselves, but failed to ask, thinking their mediocre enthusiasm would somehow disappoint me.
I had a great time in Barnum; it’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to travel to your past to relive a memory. I’m hoping there will be many more years of memories that I create in that small town. I’m sure someday I will sit and relive the memories I made this weekend, thinking of all the great times that have past.