Skip to Main Content

Growing Up on the Kettle River in Minnesota--Ruth Pfaller

As told by Ruth Pfaller
Sandstone, Minnesota

Story Narrative:

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."

"My ancestors came to the Kettle River to - they were stonecutters, so my father’s father came to cut stone in the Sandstone Quarry. My Dad was one of the last journeyman stonecutters to die from, you know – one of the last. He has been gone since 1978. But we used to make forts–I remember that was really fun. You would use nothing but what you would found in the woods. We would use vines to twine them together. We would just spend so much time down there fishing and swimming. It was a kind of playground.

Well, it is kind of sentimental but it was–I am the baby of 8 and my Dad died when I was 17 and I remember my Mom and my Dad and I, which was a rare thing, just the three of us, went down to the river and we put in by Robinson Park and we canoed up to Hell’s Gates and we had a picnic on the other side of the river–on the east side and my Dad and I would canoe as hard as we could up Hells’ Gates and then go down. But I just remember–my Dad had cancer for two and a half years before he died--but it was one of those really fine memories of him–and just--he was feeling good and it was fun.

That’s probably one of my favorites. Well it was definitely the river that brought me back. I bought a cabin on the Kettle and once I got my cabin I just had to live there. I have always felt the pull of the river. I went home from work because I heard there was a flood and looked out the window and I could just slowly watch it–watch the water just slowly go up the path and it just kept - then it surrounded the house and you know, it seemed so weird like it was--I just thought it would stop. I have spent a lot of time on that river and I just feel so drawn to it. I could never stay away for very long."

Media Files: