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 their We Are Water MN initiative, an outgrowth of our national traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."
"My name is Ruth Schaefer, and my husband and I moved to Kandiyohi County in 1988. I would have thought of water as total recreation. I would never have thought of water as a natural necessity in life that we could ever someday run out of. That idea never occurred to me. So, I think just taking the perception of water as something that should be used for recreational purposes and fun is now more of a necessity and something that we need to work more diligently at preserving. When my husband and I moved, we moved to Kandiyohi County, and we thought that was wonderful because this lake, this county is so privileged, lucky to have over 200 lakes, over 100 swimmable.
So we moved here in the winter of ‘88 and in the spring of 1989 we realized we were novices; you grow up with the ideals that living on a lake is going to be wonderful. Well it was a really rude awakening ; it was a tough lesson because the lake froze out and we had over 15 pickup loads of dead weeds and dead fish to clean up, so that was interesting. Yes, that was my first eye-opening, like, 'Wow! This is not what I expected.' So, you start off doing all these things like pulling every weed in your shoreline and having this manicured lawn and making everything look pretty and then the more you study it, the more you realize that all these things that you are doing ruin it, are bad for it. So then you correct your actions and you learn along the way.
I’m hoping through the lake association that there is a greater awareness that you leave the city to come out here to do what? To mow your lawn? And fertilize your lawn three times a year, or to mow your lawn six hours a day? Or to pull every weed from your shoreline? Or do you come out here to play with your kids and your grand kids and fish and enjoy the sunset and…. I think we need to stop changing every place we go to be what we left."