Many moons ago, in the spring of 1976, newlyweds Carol and I moved from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. I was a long-haired young biologist working for an environmental consulting firm. I had spent a couple years of doing lab work identifying and counting algae, zooplankton and fish larvae under a microscope in Pittsburgh and doing field work on the Great Lakes and many rivers. Two colleagues and I were asked to start up a laboratory and conduct field work to assess the effects of Northern States Power Company electrical generating plants on rivers in this region. Our first laboratory was in a construction shed at the Allen S. King Power Plant on the St. Croix River at Bayport, Minn. That building was convenient but cold in the winter. We later leased a fine laboratory space in the upstairs of a building on Main Street in Stillwater. That place had a freight elevator and a big garage out back for the company trucks, boats and equipment. We enjoyed sandwiches from Brine’s Deli across the street and caught catfish off the wall along the river. Our company first put us up in the Hudson House Motel on the hill in Hudson. Besides the motel, a tire shop and the new Fleet Farm store, there wasn’t much else nearby but open farmland. Our friend’s Pittsburgh dog entertained himself by stealing pieces of scrap steel from the tire shop. Carol and I answered an ad for an old farm house to rent east of River Falls. It seemed like an awfully long drive out on County Road M, but the place suited our interests with good garden ground and a pleasant setting. We had no idea what the people in the neighborhood were like or how we would be received. Our landlords, Vernon and Lucille Kelly, were good to us. I helped Vernon with farm work to pay the rent. I helped install a new well after we found floating rodents in the cistern. Vernon gave me a box of plumbing fittings, some pipe, a pipe vice and thread-cutting dies so I learned how to run plumbing through the old basement. We drank gallons of coffee and had big dinners in Vernon and Lucille’s dining room. Vernon patiently taught me how to do farm mechanics and how not to turn a plow over. Our garden produced plenty of vegetables and strawberries. I hunted pheasants, grouse and ducks in the neighborhood and went trout fishing on the Kinnickinnic and Rush Rivers. Carol studied horticulture and soils at UWRF. We cut oak firewood and burned many cords during the winter to keep the old house barely warm. During our first winter here, I learned from the Brother’s bait store in Bayport that crappies were biting on Big Round Lake in Polk County. We drove up there late one afternoon, drilled holes and caught a pile of nice crappies as the sun was going down. Some guys were parked on the ice nearby with holes drilled around a big pile of snow covered with lanterns. They were having a good time catching fish and whooping it up. We walked over to say hello and found that they were our neighbors; Harold and Lloyd Jensen, Arnold and Lyle Roen and Willard Ott. We met them there again several more times that winter and caught more crappies. One Sunday morning in the spring, a woman in church clothes drove into the driveway in the Kelly’s old International Scout. She said that the Kelly’s barn was on fire. I called the sheriff and the River Falls Fire Department and we went to the Kelly farm down the road on Cottonwood Lane. When we arrived the fire was going in the hay mow. Others arrived and we opened the lever stanchions and shooed the cows safely out of the barn. The fire department hadn’t arrived yet and the milk house was threatened, so we used a tractor and chain to break out a wall and then salvage the bulk tank and other milking equipment. The fire department arrived but the pig barn down wind was threatened. The pigs were released into the same pasture with the cows. Many friends of the Kellys came with trucks and trailers. It was a bit of a circus to separate the cows from the pigs and get them loaded, but the cows were hauled to a barn outside of Ellsworth where they didn’t miss a milking with many friends helping. I had time coming from work so I helped the Kellys with clean-up and building a new barn. It was quite a learning experience for me with neighborhood sages such as George, Eugene, Dwayne, John and Roger Swenson, Gary Spear, Dean Bergseng, Harry Peskar, and Gary and Matt Grimm holding forth on farming, construction, politics and making electricity from cow manure. The Kellys brought us to town for pancake breakfasts where we met more of the River Falls area families with surnames of Huppert, Kusilek, Dusek, Cernohous, Pechacek, Morrow, Johnson, and many others. I went on to work for the Corps of Engineers down in Georgia where Vernon and Lucille Kelly visited us on their way to Florida. The South was interesting for us but we really didn’t like the culture. I transferred to a job with the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District. We moved back into the same old farmhouse on the Kelly farm and later built our own place in nearby Martell Township. Much has changed in this area since those days but the remarkably talented, generous and hard-working community remains. We were impressed at how much the neighbors helped each other and accepted us. We are fortunate to have landed here and become part of the community. Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net. --Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

         Many moons ago, in the spring of 1976, newlyweds Carol and I moved from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. I was a long-haired young biologist working for an environmental consulting firm. I had spent a couple years of doing lab work identifying and counting algae, zooplankton and fish larvae under a microscope in Pittsburgh and doing field work on the Great Lakes and many rivers. Two colleagues and I were asked to start up a laboratory and conduct field work to assess the effects of Northern States Power Company electrical generating plants on rivers in this region.Our first laboratory was in a construction shed at the Allen S. King Power Plant on the St. Croix River at Bayport, Minn. That building was convenient but cold in the winter. We later leased a fine laboratory space in the upstairs of a building on Main Street in Stillwater. That place had a freight elevator and a big garage out back for the company trucks, boats and equipment. We enjoyed sandwiches from Brine’s Deli across the street and caught catfish off the wall along the river.Our company first put us up in the Hudson House Motel on the hill in Hudson. Besides the motel, a tire shop and the new Fleet Farm store, there wasn’t much else nearby but open farmland. Our friend’s Pittsburgh dog entertained himself by stealing pieces of scrap steel from the tire shop. Carol and I answered an ad for an old farm house to rent east of River Falls. It seemed like an awfully long drive out on County Road M, but the place suited our interests with good garden ground and a pleasant setting. We had no idea what the people in the neighborhood were like or how we would be received.Our landlords, Vernon and Lucille Kelly, were good to us. I helped Vernon with farm work to pay the rent. I helped install a new well after we found floating rodents in the cistern. Vernon gave me a box of plumbing fittings, some pipe, a pipe vice and thread-cutting dies so I learned how to run plumbing through the old basement. We drank gallons of coffee and had big dinners in Vernon and Lucille’s dining room.Vernon patiently taught me how to do farm mechanics and how not to turn a plow over. Our garden produced plenty of vegetables and strawberries. I hunted pheasants, grouse and ducks in the neighborhood and went trout fishing on the Kinnickinnic and Rush Rivers. Carol studied horticulture and soils at UWRF. We cut oak firewood and burned many cords during the winter to keep the old house barely warm.During our first winter here, I learned from the Brother’s bait store in Bayport that crappies were biting on Big Round Lake in Polk County. We drove up there late one afternoon, drilled holes and caught a pile of nice crappies as the sun was going down.Some guys were parked on the ice nearby with holes drilled around a big pile of snow covered with lanterns. They were having a good time catching fish and whooping it up. We walked over to say hello and found that they were our neighbors; Harold and Lloyd Jensen, Arnold and Lyle Roen and Willard Ott. We met them there again several more times that winter and caught more crappies.One Sunday morning in the spring, a woman in church clothes drove into the driveway in the Kelly’s old International Scout. She said that the Kelly’s barn was on fire. I called the sheriff and the River Falls Fire Department and we went to the Kelly farm down the road on Cottonwood Lane. When we arrived the fire was going in the hay mow. Others arrived and we opened the lever stanchions and shooed the cows safely out of the barn. The fire department hadn’t arrived yet and the milk house was threatened, so we used a tractor and chain to break out a wall and then salvage the bulk tank and other milking equipment.The fire department arrived but the pig barn down wind was threatened. The pigs were released into the same pasture with the cows. Many friends of the Kellys came with trucks and trailers. It was a bit of a circus to separate the cows from the pigs and get them loaded, but the cows were hauled to a barn outside of Ellsworth where they didn’t miss a milking with many friends helping.I had time coming from work so I helped the Kellys with clean-up and building a new barn. It was quite a learning experience for me with neighborhood sages such as George, Eugene, Dwayne, John and Roger Swenson, Gary Spear, Dean Bergseng, Harry Peskar, and Gary and Matt Grimm holding forth on farming, construction, politics and making electricity from cow manure. The Kellys brought us to town for pancake breakfasts where we met more of the River Falls area families with surnames of Huppert, Kusilek, Dusek, Cernohous, Pechacek, Morrow, Johnson, and many others.I went on to work for the Corps of Engineers down in Georgia where Vernon and Lucille Kelly visited us on their way to Florida. The South was interesting for us but we really didn’t like the culture. I transferred to a job with the Corps of Engineers St. Paul District. We moved back into the same old farmhouse on the Kelly farm and later built our own place in nearby Martell Township.Much has changed in this area since those days but the remarkably talented, generous and hard-working community remains. We were impressed at how much the neighbors helped each other and accepted us. We are fortunate to have landed here and become part of the community.Please send any comments and suggestions for this column to me at rfjsports@rivertowns.net.--Dan Wilcox, outdoor columnist

     

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