Abby Smith

Meet Abby Smith—24 year-old local librarian. Left her home town of Crosby, MN for college some years ago thinking she would never come back. And yet, here she is, welcoming us in to the library, closed on a Sunday afternoon, brimming with pride about the work she does in this community and the lineage it comes from. You see, her grandmother was the first librarian at the Hallett Memorial Library, retiring in 2006 at the age of 88, followed by Peggy Besaris, and finally followed by Abby this past January. Thanks to her grandma as librarian and also living just …

Kent Lorentzen

In Jacobsen Minnesota just down the road from the old Farmer’s Hall lives a renaissance man. Most days you’ll find him in his garden along the river. In the winter he might be out in the woods gathering tamarack or spruce. Or he might be working up a crossword puzzle to sell to the New York Times. Living off the land is tough. Not just physically tough. You’re at the mercy of the weather and market prices and Kent’s one-man operation doesn’t allow for illness or injury. The work still needs to get done. We stopped by Kent’s place on …

Waldeck, Mn – Population 2

Some places have a voice of their own, and just after mid-day on the 17th in Jacobson, we took a side trip further downriver to Palisade to hear the voice of Waldeck, MN – Population 2. In all practicality, to hear the voice of a place, you should listen to the voice of its people, so we spent a few hours talking with Monique Lamke, City Clerk of Palisade, Wisconsin-native, single mother, storyteller. She was seated at a large rectangular table waiting for us when we stepped into the Town Hall, and almost immediately she passes a packet of papers …

Chuck and Charlie Carlson

Chuck and Charlie Carlson, father and son, number one citizen and mayor of Palisade respectively—we met with them on Thursday afternoon at Charlie’s house on the Great River Road. The house was once his father’s actually, but Charlie bought it from him a few years back. At that point Chuck moved into town, a “city slicker” he calls himself. The house is on the opposite side of the road as the river, but Charlie also owns the land on the other side where he keeps a shed. He grew up with two of his sisters playing in the river over …

Jeff and Sandy Bromenshenkel

Jeff and Sandy Bromenshenkel, river mile 1201, celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this coming Monday—married here along the river, and as Jeff says, they will end their days together in the same place they got their start. The Bromenshenkel’s are more than just another Mississippi River couple, they are a refuge along a long stretch of uninhabited Mississippi River terrain. Jeff and Sandy open their home to upwards of 50 paddlers—and now runner/cyclists—every year, some planned, others impromptu, people tired and weary of the unexpected trials of the first 150 river miles. Before we could even reach Grand Rapids, we …

Sally Fineday

Sally Fineday, born 1962, born and raised in Cass Lake, Minnesota on family tribal land. A member of the Leech Lake band of Ojibwe who has left home and returned multiple times out of a calling to serve her people. Sally’s Ojibwe name, Oshikawebie, means “one who crosses over,” and while the spiritual sentiment is inherent, I couldn’t help but recognize that the elder who gave her this name must have known she would also be crossing over the divide between native and non-native through the work she would do in her life and career. Our afternoon with Sally began …

Terry Larson

Terry Larson, mid sixties, born and raised in Itasca Township, now lives on Wolf Lake some 30-40 miles away, still along the Mississippi. Family land—Gulsvig Landing—remains an important fixture of his and his family’s life here at Itasca. He’s often considered the “first man of the river,” and he has been interviewed and written about many, many times before. He’s a practiced interviewee, coming with prepared stories and recitations, and yet the sentiment feels true and authentic. He launched our time together speaking of his family history and land as we met right upon it, and he wandered into a …