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Across The Lake

Driving truck isn't just about hauling pulp. For a couple dozen truckers from Blackduck and around, it's more like moving pipe, hauling water, doing all the other jobs that go with working around drilling rigs in the oil patch. "You go where the work is," said one man who went on to tell us, "and right now the work is out there in the Bakken." The Bakken is that part of North Dakota where 174 rigs are currently operating, producing more than 342,000 barrels of crude every day.

There's more of that geologic formation spreading into Montana and north into Saskatchewan but the heart of the play is in North Dakota and that's where the jobs seem to be, too. I was told truck drivers have a 10-days-on, 10 off, schedule and earn about $2,000 a stretch. Around Watford City in western North Dakota, if there's a basketball game, you can't find a parking spot anywhere near the high school. A lot of Blackduck fans are in the crowd, I'll bet.

Kristy Richardson has a husband and a dog and has had both about the same length of time. She and Steve met at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and moved to Bemidji when he took a sales job there. She followed and has a job at the Blackduck Resource Center. She came out of work one recent afternoon to confront a situation not covered in any of her resource manuals. She handled the problem deftly, which is how you describe taking the homeless kitten home. "What else could I do?" Answering the next question wasn't quite as easy. Her husband (of three years) is allergic to cats. (To be continued!)

Banghazi is a long way from Blackduck, but gasoline prices remind us that the world is indeed all on one planet. Muammar Qadhafi isn't on any of the reservation lists at Blackduck Lake resorts but he's on the minds of the owners. Even though Libyan oil has little affect on refinery runs in this country, it somehow gets into the price at the pump and from there into the kind of tourist season we can expect this summer and whether the lunch crowd at Trail's End will be bigger or smaller and how many shoppers will pick up local postcards while looking for gift items at Northlander in Blackduck.

All that expansion at the airport in Bemidji isn't apt to bring more passengers to the area as long as airlines keep boosting fares, either. Adding the additional cost from the Twin Cities to Bemidji keeps discouraging that part of the trip for a lot of would-be visitors. Someone mentioned at coffee the other day that the morning paper was different: not a single story about airline tickets going up another $10 or $20!

The average wage in 1923 would matter, but it's interesting none the less to look at the price of a trip to Bemidji that many years ago. We just came across the "receipt for cash fare" on a ticket for the ride from Hines to Bemidji aboard train number 34 of the Minnesota and International Railway Company, April 27 of that year. There were scheduled stops then at Tenstrike, Farley, Turtle River and Lavinia.

North of Hines, the next stop was Blackduck and after than Funkley, then Houpt and Orth. Other towns along the way included Waukanha, Wisner and Happyland until, between Little Fork and International Falls, you could include Nakoda as a stop. The receipt shows no less than 17 stations between Bemidji and Brainerd and bears the signature of the railroad company's president, Wm. J. Gemmell, for whom that town was probably named. Leaves one wondering, though, about the station named Happyland.

Thoughts while drying the dishes... Highway 72 out of Blackduck at one point briefly parallels the old M&I trackage which ran from Blackduck to Shooks and Kelliher. It's sometimes referred to as the Kelliher branch line, but that's not what it was called in "the olden days." The rail receipt identifies it then as the Bullhead Lake Branch. And while this may seem like useless information, remember that bits of trivia like that are very helpful in filling out the 700 or so words in this week's column.