I was working as an Industrial Engineer in Gwinner, North Dakota in 1975 and my Dad asked me to join him Deer Hunting in Blackduck, Minnesota. I gladly said yes and proceeded to join up with my Dad in Beltrami where we drove the long Highway #2 to the Blackduck Hunting Camp. Joining us at the Old Cabin were my Uncles Lloyd Ofstedal and Earnest Ofstedal. Lloyd was the Polk County Surveyor and Earnest was a Mechanic in the Rindal, Minnesota Area. The Old Cabin was rather unique: leftover from the logging days of the 1930s. The Crookston Logging Company built it for Business Purposes and later sold it to Lee Burke who then passed it on to the Ofstedal Brothers. The vertical post beam construction was a real eye opener when you arrived and gave you a warm fuzzy feeling after the sun went down and you realized there was no other place to go when the temperature zipped down to 20 degrees without warning.
The first day of deer hunting was really a familiarization process of the old trails, fences, trees, and stands in the area. Breakfast; cooked by Curtis Ogaard, was a ritual in which the pancake batter was chunky and the potatoes cooking had an onion smell that would drive the biggest buck from his bed and chase him North. Every morning all hunters took a shot of blackberry brandy for good luck hunting that day but it never helped. The deer population had depleted severely with three very tough winters from 1971-73. The beauty of the hunt was the camaraderie and camping in the old cabin. The fuel oil stove worked a hernia trying to keep the place warm and the slop pail by the entry door had an odor that did nothing for your appetite but eliminated the necessity to open the door each time the wash basin or dish water had to be emptied.
Each night after the hunt, with wet underwear and cold feet, we gathered around the big round oak table to discuss the happenings of the day and laugh at someone’s memory lack or ability to get lost 200 yards from the cabin! At the table Lloyd had a box of hunting data papers and an aerial map that showed how little the area really was but with the large trees and brush seemed to make one’s vision of the Wilderness come alive every morning in the dark. After analyzing the reason that no deer walked in front of us in the woods, we came up with ideas that might change the odds on the next day. It seemed like my assignments were to go as far North as man had ever gone on the Planet Earth, turn West and then after a 2 mile walk venture South where all the deer were sleeping and waiting for me to arrive? Oh Ya! The sound of another hunter’s rifle set the tone for my wild and vivid imagination: Big Buck, Big Miss, or a Big Story; then followed by a series of practice shots at a target in the clearing to justify the truth that “The Big Buck” did not have radar and moved just as I shot!
The reality of the hunt was somewhat tested when the last hunter had finished peeing in the snow at night and the lantern was turned off. Like a bolt of lightning the rodents that lived in the cabin came to life like a Night Time Olympics. I remember my dad laughing as a mouse ran across the rafters up in the attic stopping over Uncle Earnest’s bunk. “Is that your buddy” was the question as we all laughed under our covers with concern over gaining a buddy in our sleeping bags! After a few minutes a second Olympic Star was running wide open across the linoleum as his little claws made a scratching attempt at a 50MPH acceleration. After a 5 second run the mouse ran head on into the leg of the fuel oil stove and with a clamber type thunk. We all laughed until I thought we were never going to get to sleep! Hunting had changed temporarily into a Circus in which the amusement was held by the mice playing tag and making us all wish we were at home safe and dry. Not to be outdone by the mouse population that preceded him , old mouser number three was climbing onto the vanity that held the wash basin and located the slop pain next to it. In the dark I heard a splash as the mouse slipped off the stand into the slop pail! The next array of laughter was highlighted after the mouse’s scratching on the side of the pail deaccelarted from 20 scratches per second to only 3 and then came silence: one less mouse to deal with. After the comment “What a Fighter” and a great laugh I must have finally zipped my sleeping bag so that no critters could enter and drifted off into the dream land of large bucks and straight shooting.
The next morning was began by removing the dead slop pail mouse and getting the bacon frying as the day was growing with anticipation about a hunt that was only 45 minutes away! I am sure we all smelled like a Breakfast Food and had red eyes from poor night’s sleep wondering if there were critters in that cabin that were capable of chewing a hole in a Sears and Roebuck sleeping bag? I remember the drive home in my Dad’s car and the vivid memories of the previous four nights! I told my Dad how good I was going to sleep when I got home and he laughed and said “Ya a good night’s sleep without critters will seem like a Vacation”!
Today I own that cabin and I have every critter living in it you can imagine! Two chipmunks called Smootches A & B, mice, weasels, and a black bear tried to paw its way through the old door once for a bottle of molasses! As long as the cabin stands it supports life and holds the spirits of the men and critters who paid their DUES in the dark of the night at the “Mouse House”!!