This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded by the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Stories from Main Street project, an initiative created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service for its traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."
"So, when I was a little kid and we would get out of church on a Sunday and my Dad would drive down to the river in the family car with all 8 of us kids and he would go fly in down river 60 mph on the ice on the Kettle. And you could drive down, I guess, about a mile and half to the first rapids and it was good ice that whole way or you could go up to the north up past Chris’ cabin – so that was a common thing when I grew up was that we would go riding on toboggans or sleds or skis and go flying up and down that river behind the car. So, I didn’t really realize it until my Dad told me later, but when we were bailing hay in the summertime, after a hot day of bailing hay, we would always go down to the river and take a dip and we were doing it within just a little ways away from where their log cabin was where they would spend their summers.
So, I did not realize how special it was to my Dad that he spent his childhood there. Yeah- they got married within 6 months of each other and my grandpa got a chance to pick the high ground 80 and that turned into be really valuable farmland and the younger sister and her husband got stuck with the swamp and she held a grudge about that until the day that she died. So, that was a mile and half south of here. Well, then during the dustbowl years, the pasture dried up and that was down on that Cloverdale Sand Plain - that is lighter soil -and the cattle were starving. So, my grandpa had bought a quarter section on the Kettle River and they build a log cabin and they lived in the summers down there just below the bridge and I could take you down to the dirt foundation of the log cabin that they lived in.
Well, it is special thing about the habitat along the river is that plant species ranges are further north along rivers and so you have a couple of tree types along the Kettle that you don’t find anywhere away from it like Butternut -- they are on richer soil – there are a few other spots locally – and Hickory. We were out there one time looking for Butternuts; we were going to try to collect them because there had been a huge crop that year. And we had only found a few and so we sat down and when my friend leaned back, this little mound behind him turned out to be Butternuts and the squirrels had clipped them all off the tree, dropped them to the ground and collected them and put them into this pile and it turned out to be over a bushel of Butternuts."