airport in Duluth isn't big, so
I can hardly miss the park ranger waiting for my arrival. Especially
as he is holding a sign which reads: Kathy Hodge Kathy Hodge. In
case I miss it the first time I guess. Like many of the other rangers
Apostle Island Lakeshore, Gene is a retired volunteer. I'm also
a volunteer of sorts, the Lakshore’s Artist-in-Residence.
I'll live for two weeks on nearly-deserted Sand Island, 3 miles
out in Lake Superior. My home will be a small cabin without electricity
or running water and only a shortwave radio to communicate with
the mainland. Heaven.
After Gene gives me a short tour of Duluth, we head east on Route
13 which arcs up and away from the industrial waterfront where grain
elevators, huge in scale, stand in rows. Like kicked off shoes,
ships lay at their feet. Two hours and a grocery stop later I am
deposited in Little Sand Bay to stay overnight in the Green Dorm,
top bunk. A park boat will take me out to Sand Island in the morning.
anyhow, then this. He went out and I asked him if I should go out
with him and he said no, you’d better stay home and bake the
bread because I had it rising in the pans. And that was the last
I saw of him. He drowned. He got caught in a storm out on the lake.
He never got back. He got crushed in an ice field in his boat. I
suppose one and one half to two miles outside the lighthouse. It’s
a pretty heavy water...
I went down by the docks and saw one boat that had come in and they
said “Did your Dad get in?” I said “No”.
And they said he’d had engine trouble. (It was) about four
in the afternoon and they said if he didn’t make it then he
probably wouldn’t. I went back to the house...and the dog
was pretty upset...
...the funny part was—that dog—we had found him on the
ice...my brother and I...were out on the ice and saw the dog and
it was over by York Island...saw the dog over there and took him
and brought him home and then it was our dog. And that night my
dad didn’t come back from drownin out on the lake—I’d
gone to bed, I was alone in the house. I heard this awful racket
on the porch and here it was the dog trying to get in. I just woke
from a dream and I heard the dog and I thought it was my dad knocking
at the door to get in.
Then of course within the next 2-3 days I had to have him put away
because I had to get out of there—I couldn’t stay.
—Melvin Dahl Nov 12, 1987
interview with Carol Ahlgren