Shades of the many who paved the way
ELY -- I looked across the frozen lake at the dock and was yanked back in time 49 years. I had stood on that dock as a scrawny 15-year-old in 1964. Back then, I was a kid growing up among wheat fields and soybeans in Kansas farm country. But for ...
ELY -- I looked across the frozen lake at the dock and was yanked back in time 49 years. I had stood on that dock as a scrawny 15-year-old in 1964.
Back then, I was a kid growing up among wheat fields and soybeans in Kansas farm country. But for two weeks back in '64, eight or 10 of us left behind hay racks and baler twine and drove north to the Charles L. Sommers High Adventure Base on Moose Lake near Ely. We were newly minted Explorer Scouts bound for 10 days in the canoe-country wilderness.
We had no idea what we were in for.
Now, on this sunny March morning, a friend and I were skiing up Moose Lake, headed for a little trout lake to do some fishing. And there was the dock at the Scout base.
I realized, thinking back over those years, that I wouldn't have been on the lake this week without the benevolence of many others. John Stone and Don Wenger, two men from our hometown in Kansas, served as adult leaders of our motley Explorer crew. They brought us all back in one piece.
Years later, after the dream to move north was born, my wife and I met Tom Ware, an Ely canoe outfitter, at a boat show in Kansas City. When we told him we wanted to move to the north woods and were looking for work, he took us seriously. Ware introduced us to Tom and Therese Harristhal, owners of Canadian Border Outfitters in Ely, who took a chance on a husband/wife package deal and hired us for a summer in 1976. We moved north.
We had a safety net when we left Kansas. Pat Patterson, my former boss there, promised to hold my job for me if we wanted to come back after a year. He didn't have to do that.
Once we settled in Ely, Bob Cary of the Ely Echo helped make it possible for me to get a job selling advertising at the paper. A year later, Anne Swenson, the Echo's publisher, let me start reporting for the newspaper with virtually no reporting experience. What was she thinking?
None of this would have happened if Phyllis, my wife, had not somehow agreed that quitting our jobs and moving to a little town near the Canadian border was a good idea. And when we announced those plans, neither my parents nor Phyllis' parents told us we were nuts.
Things just kept falling into place until finally Larry Fortner, former managing editor at the Duluth News Tribune, gave me a job here.
There are a million stories like this one -- people pulling up stakes, making a leap, finding doors opening.
We like to think we choose our own path in life, set our goals and make our way in the world. But sometimes we take for granted those who opened our eyes to new horizons, took a chance on us or provided course corrections along the way.
Skiing along on a sunny morning this week, I could see all the people who helped shape my journey from that dock at the canoe base to the islands in the distance.
Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @samcookoutdoors .