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Pathways Through Our Past

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Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The deer hunting season came and went without any excitement as far as I know. Didn't see much about it in the newspapers or on TV. Don't want to make light of it, but falling out of deer stands got the most attention.

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I really do miss the good old days when Blackduck had an upsurge of redcoats and a prosperous period, although short, when everyone came to town to stock up on groceries because their boys and friends were coming home to hunt. The "boys" made a quick stop at the liquor store and tavern to hear the latest news and what the hunting conditions were like and then it was off to bed to dream about the big one -- the trophy that was waiting for them.

Come to think of it though, I haven't seen an antlered deer posed on a fender for a lot of years. Times do change; now the deer are hidden away, sharing a trailer with a 4-wheeler or two. Don't those "boys" miss showing off their prowess like they use to? Yup, hunting has changed and our town will probably never be as lively as it was way back then.

Ice Harvests -- Here's a history story that fits in with our too soon winter season.

Before electricity and refrigeration in Good Hope Township, there was the root house and a bucket hanging in the well to keep things cold or cool. At best, to keep perishables from spoiling. And, then there was the ice house. The ice house was great for keeping things cold and if a family was lucky enough to own an ice box, better yet. The ice house was also a great place for the kids to play in the sawdust in the heat of summer... if they got away with it!

I remember an old "root cellar" on our farm that was used to store meat and stuff from my grandparents garden. My Aunt (Margaret Pafko Michalik), my Uncle Mike and my dad made many trips through the woods to "Fields" lake to chop ice for that cellar. They hauled small hunks on a sled and stacked them in the cellar.

I wasn't around yet in those days, but I do remember getting yelled at for playing in that old damp dirt hole, because it was ready to cave in. My dad eventually had someone come over with a big tractor of sorts, to knock the whole thing in and level it even with the field. (Maybe there are all kinds of treasures buried there -- hmmm?) Anyway...

The ice house could be any old building on the homestead that wasn't being used or needed for any other purpose. In Good Hope, as in many towns, cities and countryside, ice harvest came once a year, usually in January when it was very cold and at a time when the lake ice was the smoothest and clearest.

The Good Hope ice harvest was done either on Dunbar Lake or Round Lake. Ice harvest was hard work and was usually done as a neighborhood get-together project. With an ice saw and ice tongs, the ice saw was made like an old two-man saw, but specially for cutting ice by a single person.

With preferred ice conditions of 18-24 inches thick, sawing cubes was slow, hard work. Loading the 200 pound cakes on the horse-drawn sled was a he-man job.

Good Hope had Jack Pihlaja and his ice cutting machine. Mr. Pihlaja had improvised a modified wood saw rig, driven with a gas engine that was adjustable to cut to the desired depth of the ice. This was a good labor saver, together with Jack's gas driven elevator chain for loading the two hundred pound cakes of ice. Jack's ingenuity certainly made the ice harvest an easier task. With the coming of electricity and the refrigerator, the pail in the well and the ice harvest became a lost art.

Just a reminder or two... The History and Art Center will be closed Thanksgiving Thursday and the following Friday. We will be open Saturday. Also, don't forget our holiday "Cookies by the Pound" fundraiser Dec. 10. Hope your turkey wishbone wish comes true!

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