Friday's Weekend Column
They Are Here

by James Glaser
January 6, 2002

I was driving over to Big Fork a town about 45 miles east of here on the Big Fork River, thus the name. It has been real cold here, twenty some below zero, so when I saw the two Indians hitchhiking I stopped for them. Well they weren't Indians. One was from Mexico and the other was from south of there, but he had only been here for five years so he couldn't tell me where. His partner was the interpreter.

These guys were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, maybe fifty miles as the crow flies from Canada and neither of them were legal. I drove them all the way to Grand Rapids, so at least the one guy who could speak English and I talked.

They had been to Duluth and their car broke down and they left it and started back "home" to Bemidji where they were working as roofers. Some how they got off track and ended up by Big Fork about forty miles off the highway they wanted to be on. This was the farthest north either of them had been. They wanted to go to Canada some day, but knew that they would be busted at the border.

I asked and they had no worry about being busted here in the United States as both of them had been stopped by police several times over the years. Every time they just smiled at the policeman and said "no English." Every time they were let go. So much for Homeland Security.

Like I said it has been real cold and if you ever get the chance go down to the shore of a big lake on a real cold day and listen to the lake moan and groan. The sounds are pretty indescribable. There are pings and cracks and rumbles. The lake is making ice and everything has to move and expand and contract at the same time. I have seen guys get off the ice and quit fishing because it is way too noisy.

When it is this cold the birds make fewer trips to the feeder and when they do stop to eat, they fluff out their whole body of feathers and look like fat little things. The chipmunks stay home and feel good about all of those seeds they stuffed into their cheeks to bring home just for a day like this. The gray squirrels do come, but when it is this cold they constantly fight. The raccoons have vanished ever since the cold hit.

Other than the sound the lake is making it is pretty quiet except for the trees snapping. Trees crack, almost like the report of a rifle shot. The moisture inside the tree freezes and expands, which splits the fiber of the wood and in the spring you can see the sap dripping from some of these in the maples. Also it wrecks the tree for lumber.

It is kind of strange looking out at the lake as it is a sheet of white, where all summer and fall it was a blue gray. Now it is flat and unmoving and in summer it either has the constant motion of the waves or looks like a mirror reflecting the clouds and trees out at the island. On a gray winter day it adds some brightness and on a sunny winter day it just blinds you with the reflection of the sun.

I guess that explains why I live up here. Each and every day there are lots of things happening and none of it involves other people. Nature is in constant motion and it just flows. Sure some times a couple squirrels will get in a tiff, but the next day they are both there eating. No wars here. In nature the predators are in the minority.

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