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Of Woods and Words

Ada Igoe

Ada Igoe is proud to be homegrown on homegrown radio. Her radio career at WTIP began at an early age. As a child she tagged along to many of the meetings and fundraisers that lead to WTIP's formation. From 1999-2003, during her teenage years, she co-produced WTIP's Ragamuffin Radio, a weekly children's program. After graduating from the College of St. Scholastica in 2007 with a B.A. in English and Communication, she punted about the globe, temping in both London, England and the Twin Cities before realizing the woods and community of Cook County would always be home. She lives on the Gunflint Trail. Her commentary, "Of Woods and Words" can be heard on WTIP's A.M. Calendar program and on North Shore Weekend Saturday mornings. You can also subscribe to a podcast.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.


What's On:

Of Woods and Words: After Fire

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During the last five years, we’ve learned to love rocks at the end of the Gunflint Trail. When the Ham Lake wildfire roared through the area in spring 2007, the fire consumed over 75,000 acres of forest, more than 100 buildings, and a large amount of the topsoil covering hills of granite bedrock. The fire left charred, branchless tree trunks scratching at the sky, and exposed dark pink granite cliff faces.

Each winter it seems the snow scours the granite, making the rocks’ rosy and ivory hues gleam brightly from the roadside in the springtime. The proper geologic name for the granite is Saganaga Tonalite and it’s some of the oldest rock in the world. Until the wildfire, towering pines and brushy undergrowth stole the spotlight from this million-year-old rock. Now, moss is slowly regaining its footing in the granite cliffs’ nooks and crannies and soon the rock will once again disappear under a shroud of green.

Jack pine seedlings crowd the top of these granite hills. The tiny trees nestle so closely that their branches overlap and interlock, making them appear ready for the ultimate game of Red Rover. Each spring, the trees grow a little taller and stronger and now most of them are at least two feet tall.

Many people who pass these jack pine stands comment on how happy the little trees look. From their perch on hilltops, the little jack pines do seem friendly and decidedly less stand-offish than the remaining towering pines who stand sentinel with a rather bored dignity. These little trees are even newer to the world than we are and since they haven’t reached the size where they have to compete for their spot in the forest yet, they seem especially fresh-faced and optimistic.

Whenever I come close to stumbling into the cliché of marveling that fire was five years ago already, I remember that five years ago those cheerful little trees were nothing but the speck of an idea of a tree, tucked inside jack pine cones which require 122 degree Fahrenheit temps to release their seeds. The charred tree trunks that stood straight and inky blank in the days after the fire, now lean precariously and have faded to a silvery brown. The burnt trees that have fallen now disintegrate into a shower of rot when tapped with a foot.

There’s also no denying that I’m no longer the freshly minted college graduate who arrived on the Gunflint Trail May 19, 2007, exactly two weeks after the fire started. I spent that summer working for a canoe outfitter and shuttled many a slack-jawed tourist through the burn area as I transported them to the starting point of their canoe trip.

Now when I drive up the Trail, I’m heading home.

Five years have definitely passed. The evidence is everywhere. Cabins have been rebuilt, millions of trees planted, and landscapes that once stretched out all gray and black to the far horizon, now glimmer with the green of seedlings and undergrowth. We’ve all gotten a little older too.

I’ve never felt a need to dwell on what this little corner of the world would look like if it hadn’t caught fire in the spring of 2007, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t really learn this neck of the woods until after the fire. Still, I have to think that the sweet taste of blueberry pie, compliments of the bumper crops in the burn area, must wash away some of the angst and heartache the fire caused for so many.

There’s plenty of proof that this land will once again host towering pines it’s known for. But for the time being, I’ll enjoy the sight of happy little pine seedlings perched on top of bright pink granite cliffs, soaking up sunshine.

Airdate: April 25, 2012

Photo courtesy of Eli Sagor via Flickr.


Of Woods and Words: Spring Cleaning

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I’m not one for spring cleaning. Rather than correlating my scrubbing, mopping and dusting with the spring equinox, my deep cleaning is almost always a knee-jerk reaction to company coming over.

I doubt Better Homes and Gardens or Good Housekeeping will be calling any time soon to get my cleaning and organization tips. It’s a shame really. I have all sorts of handy tricks for utilizing a small living space, which I’m sure all modern housekeepers could benefit from learning.

These tricks include, but are not limited to, stuffing stacks of magazines under armchairs, balancing items at precarious positions in cupboards and closets and slamming the door shut before the items can topple over, and/or throwing everything else you’re not sure what to do with on top of the spare bed.

I don’t mind living in slightly unorganized hodgepodge. The cabin is never allowed to become downright disgustingly filthy, although Andy and I do play a game of chicken when it comes to cleaning the bathroom. We vacuum on a regular basis, although not as much as we could. After all, I once heard that you have a greater immune system if you live in a dusty house.

Still, if I just gave you a brief tour of the cabin, I might be able to fool you into thinking I’m not a ginormous slob. But under absolutely no conditions will I let you peek inside our shed.

We built the shed two summers back because the cabin wasn’t big enough to hold all of Andy’s camping gear. The shed quickly became the catch-all for anything we don’t want in the cabin. It’s where gardening equipment and snow shovels live in the off-season and it’s where we keep our recycling.

When you open the shed door, you’re sure to be greeted by heaps of plastic containers, bins overflowing with glass bottles and jars, an avalanche of mail-order catalogs, and a mountain of cardboard. Despite going to town at least once a week, we only make it to the recycling center two or three times a year. We don’t even think of taking in our recycling until getting through the shed’s doorway and past the recyclables requires a leap and pirouette.

I could blame the shed for keeping the recyclables out of sight and out of mind, but even when we lived in the 12 by 20 shack, we still let recyclables build up to dizzying heights before we did anything with them. I’ve seen enough cars headed down the Trail with plastic bottles stacked to the ceiling to know we’re not alone in making all-too-infrequent trips to the recycling center. While we all want to do the right, eco-conscious thing, somehow actually taking in the recycling gets pushed into tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’s to-do list.

But the other day I was seized with a surprisingly punctual bit of spring cleaning fever. Suddenly the recyclables simply had to go. I spent the next half hour cursing junk mail as I sorted all the paper we’d accumulated in a mere four months.

I felt fairly sheepish as we pulled up in front of the recycling center with our pick-up truck bed bursting with heaps of recyclables reeking of procrastination. But then I looked over at the truck next to ours.

Not only was the bed of this full-sized truck filled with recycling, there was also a trailer hitched on piled high with cardboard. By the time Andy and I were throwing our empty bins into our truck, the guys next to us were just halfway through unloading their winter’s worth of recycling. As we drove off, I realized that when it comes to recyclables, we’re all a bit of a mess.

Airdate: April 3, 2012

Photo courtesy of inf3ktion on Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: Desperately Seeking Springtime

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This time of year, I think everyone starts looking for signs of spring. By March, even the die-hard winter lovers have to admit that someday in the not-so-distant future, the snow and ice will give way to open water and muck and that this inevitable thaw is a good thing.

Lately, I’ve been on the look out for telltale signs of spring. This past weekend, we spied an eagle circling the bay. After spending the winter by Lake Superior’s open water, the eagle must be thinking of returning to its nest up here on the Trail. This first eagle sighting came two weeks earlier this year than last year and if that means ice out will be two weeks earlier this year, so be it, I say.

Nature is making other subtle shifts toward springtime. Icicles now drip off the eaves even on cloudy days and the days are gathering up an impressive amount of daylight as the weeks go by.

The calendar makes less subtle shifts. Already, while some of us are still shrugging off the last shadowy bits of seasonal affective disorder, we’re springing into spring. It looks likely that the snow will still lie knee-deep in the woods when the vernal equinox arrives on March 20.

Despite the promising signs of returning eagles, melting icicles, and longer days, for me the surest sign that winter will soon be over is when the Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament starts up over the second weekend of March. This annual four-day hockey tournament has played a central role in my life and because the tournament almost always coincides with my birthday, the tournament feels a bit like the axis my whole year turns on. The color commentary of intrepid tournament announcer Lou Nanne is the soundtrack to this annual weekend at my house.

The tournament is important for several reasons. For one thing, it signals the end of the winter sport season and the start of the spring thaw. For another, it marks a passing year. And lastly, it offers the best hockey in the world. On the rare occasions when I’ve been out of state at tournament time, I’ve made friends tape the championship games for me.

Because of the tournament’s importance, my family and I have come up with some pretty creative ways to get around the fact that none of us own a television on which to watch it. One time, my father came home from work with a borrowed tv so small, it fit inside his backpack. Another time, we borrowed a larger television, which only got reception in our unfinished basement. That year we huddled around the tv on the concrete floor between the wood pile and roaring wood furnace. More often than not, we ended up crashing at the home of some accommodating friend or relative to get our annual fill of hockey. Thanks to advances in technology, in recent years my parents have been able to stream the games on their computer.

I suppose the eagle and I have opposite springtime migrations. When I sense that first tremor of springtime at hockey tournament time, I leave my nest in the woods and head down to my childhood home on the north shore of Lake Superior, where there’s not only open water, but also televisions, high speed Internet and hockey action.

As sure as the winter constellations are slipping out of sight in the night sky, as sure as I’m cheering for Duluth East, Marshall, Hermantown and any other northern teams in this year’s hockey tournament, spring is coming.

I know it’ll be here soon. Any day now.

Airdate: March 14, 2012

Photo courtesy of Chrissy Wainwright via Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: On Snowmobiles and Happiness

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Almost as soon as he walks in the door each evening, Andy starts talking about snowmobiles. Since the ice fishing began this winter, he's been jonesing badly for a sled of his own. He hasn’t had a snowmobile since giving away a sputtering old machine that once hosted a wasps' nest to a coworker a few springs ago.

Back in the day, Andy says he used to spend winters whizzing around on the snowmobile trails. But considering the price tag of the snowmobile he wants (and Andy's not willing to consider alternatives; he knows what he wants and by gum, that's what he's going to get) it will be next winter at the earliest before a snow machine is a semi-permanent fixture behind our shed. Until then, our winter months will be devoted to silent sports.

I’ve only been on a snowmobile a handful of times, so it’s fair to say I don’t know what I’m missing. Still, we’ve weathered several winters happily and successfully without a snowmobile to either of our names. No doubt a snowmobile would speed up our treks to the fish hole du jour, but owning a snowmobile has little to no influence over whether or not we end the day with a lake trout dinner in our packs.

Despite knowing that a snowmobile is hardly the clincher for our eternal happiness, Andy’s been researching snowmobiles with a passion that borders on the maniacal. As I watch him queue up yet another snowmobile video on YouTube, I can’t help but think about want and happiness.

We want so many things. It seems to be the human condition to always be reaching beyond what we have. The darkness of this especially grey, yet un-wintery, winter seems to make us especially prone to pining for what we don’t have. Most mornings, when I sit down at my desk, it’s all I can do to get some work done rather than just stare through the window out across the lake and think about alternative realities and things I might like to have.

We hear all the time that we should be happy with what we have. But when the sun has taken to showing its face just on a biweekly basis, it’s only a matter of time before the winter blues set in, and lately the blues have been a deep dark navy blue.

It’s easy to notice the things we don’t have. Anymore, a typical evening involves me railing against the too-small, crammed-to-the-gills closet that has once again vomited winter camping gear all over the back bedroom. After that, I stomp out to the living room where I root around the base of a dying houseplant, wishing something other than icicles grew this time of year. Meanwhile, Andy sits placidly on the couch, Googling snowmobile finance plans.

“No,” I say when he looks up from the computer with a glimmer of an idea in the back of his eye. “Just no. We are not buying a snowmobile.”

Snowmobile or no, next weekend we will pick out a spot to fish. We’ll pack up our rods, tip-ups, minnows, and auger and we’ll trek into a quiet lake. We will sit in front of a crackling fire, eating cheese and crackers while watching tip-up flags flutter up.

For whatever reason, when I think of all this, I'm reminded of that Heath Ledger quote from “A Knight's Tale”: "And how did the nobles become noble in the first place? They took it, at the tip of a sword."

How do we find happiness? We take it, whether we have everything we want or not.

Airdate: February 15, 2012

Photo courtesy of Timo Newton-Syms via Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: Winter Neighbors

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Traditionally, winter marks a period of stillness in the North woods.

Most of the cabins around the lake perch darkly on the shoreline, waiting for their inhabitants to return next summer after the ice goes out. Under a snowy white blanket, plenty of animals are tucked away for their long winter’s sleep, including the pesky bear who, during the summer months, voluntarily turns my compost heap for me and occasionally takes off with the actual compost bucket when it gets carelessly left out on the deck overnight. The loons, who punctuate the days and nights with their striking tremolos and yodels, are just one of many species who have taken their leave for southern wintering spots.

Yet despite dwindling neighbors and a decided lack of marauding black bears and noisy loons, I never feel alone during the winter months. I swear, all of those non-hibernating animals have to be some of boldest and loudest critters out there.

From sunup until sunset, my backyard feeders produce a cacophony of chirps, squeaks, squabbles, and thumps. The squirrels seem determined to eat me out of house, home and sunflower seeds. These furry little bottomless pits make so many trips from the nearby patch of woods to the feeders that they’ve actually packed down a path in the snow. All day long they scamper about the backyard, stuffing their cheeks with seeds and shrieking loudly whenever another critter encroaches. The pine grosbeaks, redpolls, chickadees, and nuthatches ignore the squirrels’ protests, sneaking in plenty of sunflower seeds for themselves.

But when the pine marten comes to visit, the squirrels are quickly usurped of their “kings of the feeders” title. The pine marten is the residence drama queen, who likes to make her entrance by hurling herself off the highest point of the cabin roof and freefalling to the deck below before scurrying over to get into the feeders. I’ve heard that squirrels are pine martens’ favorite food, but apparently this pine marten isn’t one to pass up a free lunch.

The fox who has set up residence on the island at the mouth of the bay is a fan of the free lunch concept too. We figured out where his winter home was when he stole into the backyard one night to grab a venison scrap set out for the gray jays. As he took off in the moonlight with his prize, he practically danced across the frozen bay back to the island. Now, whenever we venture down the lake, we find a crisscross of fox tracks leading to and from the island.

The fox must not be too concerned about his two large cousins who are also rambling through these winter woods. Just when the lake was freezing over, I watched two wolves teeter across the fresh ice at sunset. I haven’t seen the pair since, but at night, I sometimes hear them howling, and on a recent walk down the lake, we stumbled on fresh tracks of two wolves. Although the wolves spent most of the time walking in their own tracks, occasionally they’d veer off separately through the snow, showing evidence of a small and large wolf traveling together.

As we followed the wolf tracks, the sun shone high in the sky, glinting off the snow covered hills. I trudged along, headed for home in a circuitous route, leaving behind my own set of tracks and thinking that my winter neighbors are far more fascinating than my summer ones.

Airdate: February 1, 2012

Photo courtesy of travelling.steve via Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: Serving Up Resolutions

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Last year, I really only made one New Year’s resolution. I resolved to throw out less food. Sure, plenty of petrified limes and lettuce slime escaped my best intentions, but by performing “fridge triage” on a regular basis, I was able to save plenty of food and associated food dollars from going the way of the compost bucket.

It seemed like a resolution worthy of carrying into this New Year too. In fact, one of the easiest ways to lead a greener life is to keep things from turning green in the fridge. But like most New Year’s resolutions, my resolve faced stiff adversity as I rounded the corner into 2012.

The holiday season gives us an excuse to buy all sorts of food items we would never buy any other time of the year. By early January, some unusual items had set up residence in my fridge…namely, a package of lefse and a paper-wrapped portion of smoked fish.

You won’t find lefse or smoked fish in my fridge on a regular basis because I don’t like them. While I’m sure both items were enjoyed by others during the holidays, now I was left with the leftovers. I didn’t want to throw them away, but I knew for a fact I wasn’t going to nosh on either item as a snack anytime soon. What could I do with them to make them appetizing enough to get them eaten?

Meanwhile, we’d also reached the point in the winter where I start to wonder what exactly I’m going to do with those canned goods I put up back when the days were long and the sun was warm. Sure, the pickled jalapenos sounded like a good idea in August when we were up to our ears with the spicy peppers, but I don’t have any recipes that actually call for pickled jalapenos. My mind rambled as I turned over the half pint can of jalapenos in my palm. You know what lefse looks a lot like, I thought: tortillas.

Bam. Smoked fish lefse enchiladas were born.

It was sacrilege, I knew. Most persons of Scandinavian descent who I know think ketchup is spicy. And here I was, about to take two profoundly Scandinavian items south of the border. I’d figured I’d take the fish, shred it and sauté it up with some onions, jalapenos, cumin, and chili powder, then roll the mixture up in the lefse. A white sauce, what I suppose people who aren’t Midwestern might call a Béchamel, would hold it all together. After it came out of the oven, I’d smother it with chopped tomatoes and avocados and a liberal dose of salsa verde.

As I chopped, sauteed, and whisked, things smelled promising. Still, I fretted after I popped the entrée in the oven. I wondered what I could whip up quickly for dinner if the dish turned out to be absolutely awful. On the first bite, we found a smoky, creamy concoction. The lefse “tortillas” made for a fluffy, subtle binder. It was actually really good. I relaxed as Andy went back for seconds. The enchiladas received the true mark of culinary success at our house the next morning when the leftovers were all eaten for breakfast.

Whatever your own New Year’s resolutions are this year, may you find them inspiring and rewarding. More importantly, may they make you thankful for the things you already have and allow you to see things in a new light.

Airdate: January 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of Kelly Bailey via Flickr.


Of Woods and Words: A Season of Diversions

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For many people, making it through the long Minnesota winter is all about diversionary tactics. In my opinion, the holiday season comes far too soon after winter’s beginning to do much good. Sure, things are a whirlwind of giftwrap, eggnog, and tinsel for a while. But just like that, the holidays are going to disappear with a poof on New Year’s Day, leaving us with what could easily be four more months of ice and snow to navigate through sans holiday cheer.

Granted, the quiet stillness of winter is a perk in and of itself. It’s the time when many Northwoods residents get to charge their batteries. In the long evening hours, I tackle larger knitting projects, plan the next summer’s garden, and often, as the night wears on, the cabin starts to smell like fresh chocolate chip cookies.

But you can only spend so much time cooped up inside, focused on silent, solitary pursuits. After a while, after you’ve finished that sweater, winter just starts to get long. Sometimes we need just a little extra something to push us through the short days. I suppose this is why some people cross-country ski, but to be honest, I find cross-country skiing a physical activity far too akin to running. I just can’t justify engaging in an exercise for the sole reason that “it feels so good when you stop.” If my main motivation is stopping, why bother starting at all?

In my family, our winter diversion of choice has always been ice-skating. But since moving up the Trail, and if I’m being completely honest, since heading off to college, I’ve found it tricky to make it to an ice rink with any regularity. The best bet for getting regular skating in during the winter is keeping a little patch of ice free of snow in the bay, but that’s trickier than it sounds.

Last year’s lake freeze-up came during a snowstorm, making the ice unskate-able from the get-go. In the last couple weeks, Andy and I have been holding our breath to see if this year’s freeze-up might bring more favorable skating conditions. Wonder of all wonders, the bay froze over during a string of snowless days, covering the lake with a smooth, clear pane of ice.

Of course, right when the ice was perfect, we left for the weekend and while we were gone, it snowed. Undeterred, almost as soon as we returned, Andy headed out to shovel out an ice rink. The ice must be kept snow-free to prevent slush and cracks forming. When Andy finished shoveling, we took a spin on the newly cleared ice.

But then the wind kicked up overnight, forming packed drifts in the corners of the rink. More shoveling. The next day, a dusting of snow fell. We headed out with brooms to sweep the rink clear.

To date we’ve spent more time shoveling the little ice rink then actually skating on it. But that’s the thing about winter diversions. It’s not what you do that matters. It’s that you’re doing something that makes all the difference.

Airdate: December 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of mhartford via Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: The Deer Hunters Round-Up

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In those dark pre-WTIP days, my brother and I used to listen to commercial radio from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For whatever reason, we made a point of tuning into the “Deer Hunters’ Roundup” every evening during Michigan’s deer hunting season. We’d sit on the cool, uneven wooden flooring in my brother’s bedroom, listening on an ancient radio that also had a slot for eight-track tapes, to a broadcast filled with stories of hunting successes, some contests, plenty of shooting the breeze from the hosts and a couple of songs from Da Yoopers.

We were two little kids in a vegetarian family and other than having to wear an orange hat and taking considerably fewer walks in the woods behind the house during the season, listening to “Deer Hunters’ Roundup” from WIMI was the only real exposure to deer hunting we ever got.

So the other day, after Andy had returned from another unsuccessful day in the deer stand, I realized why deer hunting season had seemed a little flat ever since reaching adulthood. Sure, I’d had a more hands-on experience with deer season ever since moving in with Andy. We spent much of the month leading up to deer season out in the woods scouting. Each evening, I watched him lay out multiple layers of woolen and blaze orange clothing to wear the next morning on the hunt. When he returned each afternoon, looking cold and rumpled, I peer up with both anticipation and dread, an unspoken question in my eyes: “Did you get anything?”

But deer seasons had become solo ventures. There was no sense of community. I missed hearing about other hunters’ successes.

“You know what we need,” I said one afternoon. “We need a local deer hunters’ roundup.” Andy seemed excited by the prospect. “You could totally do that for one of your commentaries,” he said. “You could call all the local hunters to see if they’ve had any success and get their stories.”

Well, I didn’t do that.

That’s because not too long after having that conversation, Andy shot a large buck not far from the cabin. I was in town at the time and by the time I’d driven the hour up the Trail to offer Andy both my camera and assistance, the deer was already hanging in our shed. Andy looked surprised to see me. It was if he was expecting someone else. And he was. Just a minute after I parked the car, a neighbor roared up, camera in hand, ready to inspect Andy’s “big buck.”

Apparently, Andy’s deer had become that day’s Moccasin Telegraph main headline almost as soon as he made the shot. A group of nearby hunters had heard the shot and assumed it was someone in their party who’d made it. They’d all left their stands to search for the shooter. Because not one of the people in that group had remained stationary, they had a little difficulty finding each other, but when they eventually learned the true story of the gunshot, it seems they started making some news-breaking phone calls.

Later that day, another neighbor swung by to see the deer and for the next week, whenever I struck conversations with neighbors, I realized I didn’t need to mention the deer, because people already knew. They didn’t just know that he’d shot a deer, they knew that Andy had just been driving down the Trail when he saw the tracks. That he’d pulled over, hiked up over the hill and spied the buck. By the time they finished telling me what they knew about the hunt, I had no details left to share.

So I decided not to do a “Deer Hunters Roundup” after all. It turns out, those deer hunters, they’re pretty good at rounding themselves up.

For WTIP, this is Ada Igoe with “Of Woods and Words.”

Photo courtesy of Mr. OutdoorGuy via Flickr.



Of Woods and Words: Deeply Rooted

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The other day, while I waited to check out at one of the local grocery stories, I noticed a familiar mug resting in the coffee corner. It was just an ordinary beige coffee mug, the 12-oz. kind that are ubiquitous in any Midwest cupboard. But that’s not why the mug was familiar. It was the teal logo that made the mug pop out. The logo showed a four-paned, curtain-framed window with an old-fashioned radio resting on the sill. Cook County Community Radio, the mug read.

Long before there was WTIP, there was Cook County Community Radio. It wasn’t an actual radio station, it was just a group of people who sat around kitchen tables and tried to figure out how to make a volunteer radio station work on the North Shore. I was just a little kid in the spring of 1992 when the organization formed and one of the kitchen tables this group of people often met around was my parents’. Although I was far too young to help with any of the grant-writing, researching, and fundraising necessary to make community radio in Cook County a reality, from that time forward, the radio project would be an important focal point in my life.

The dream for Cook County Community Radio was always to become a station run by local volunteers providing local information, entertainment, and music programming, but that was a very big dream. It was a dream requiring a studio space, FCC approval, and plenty of funds. During the six years it took to raise the $90,000 necessary to install a transmitter which would rebroadcast KUMD’s signal out of Duluth on WTIP’s space on the radio dial, there was many a bake sale held in Cook County Community Radio’s good name.

To generate interest in the project, Cook County Community Radio tried to have a presence in every Grand Marais Christmas parade. One year the volunteers marched through the Grand Marais streets with boom boxes perched on their shoulders as part of a “boom box army.” Another year, we tried to create a marching unit for the parade that would somehow communicate that the radio was the true center of a home. We spent hours painting a massive cardboard box with that Cook County Community Radio logo, then cut arm holes in the sides and made a very tall person wear the box with his head sticking out of the top. For some reason, for that particular parade, my brother and I ran around in dog and cow costumes; I suspect because those were the only custom sewn Halloween costumes we ever owned.

But getting a radio station on the air involved much more than slight ridiculousness in local parades. In the commissioners’ room of the courthouse, I perfected my mass mailing skills, folding fundraising letter after fundraising letter and stuffing them into Cook County Community Radio envelopes. For two Fisherman’s Picnics, we set up the concessions booth for the softball tournament in the Rec Park. We’d rent a small moving van to hold all brats, buns, toppings, and donuts. We’d begin those early August mornings smearing plain donuts with chocolate frosting and for the rest of the day, my brother and I would camp out in the back of the van until it was time to pack up the leftover chopped onions and relish in Tupperware containers at the end of the day. I burned my tongue on hot apple cider at another bake sale held in conjunction with some dog sled race and for one Fourth of July bake sale I drew 100 teeny U.S. flags to stick in the tops of 100 cupcakes.

Cook County Community Radio is deeply rooted in my childhood. Even after the radio station became a reality in 1998 and assumed its more familiar name of WTIP, the station remains an important part of my life. I’m proud to say that after nearly 20 years, Cook County Community Radio remains an endeavor well worth supporting. Just as that kooky Christmas parade float tried to demonstrate years ago, I believe WTIP really has become a local communications tool that brings people together and serves as the center of many a household. I hope you’ll take a minute now to think of all the ways WTIP is deeply rooted in your own life and if you’re able, I hope you’ll honor us with a pledge of support during this fall membership drive.

Airdate: November 9, 2011



Of Woods and Words: The Weekend Warrior

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About six months out of college, I discovered what it meant to “live for the weekend.” I’d just started as an administrative assistant for an extremely small international accounting recruitment firm. This start-up company seemed to think it needed an administrative assistant. In reality, it did not. And since I was the one getting a paycheck out of the illusion, I wasn’t about to let them in on this little secret.

Every day, I spent 45 minutes commuting to a two-person office that they’d managed to cram three desks into. I was in a city far, far away from my friends and family and while the glamour of it all was enough to buoy me along for a while, eight hours with nothing to do each day was still a very long time. In those early days of Facebook, there simply wasn’t eight hours of Internet surfing to do every day as I waited for the phone to ring or my coworker to find some new task for me that would take all of 10 minutes to do.

So I spent my days in the stuffy office planning my weekends. The week became something to be conquered; the weekend something to savor. If I could make it through the week thinking of things to search on Wikipedia, I was rewarded with museums, movies, hikes, and other adventures for two whole days come Saturday and Sunday.

But I haven’t worked a conventional 9 to 5, Monday through Friday job for two and a half years. My two back-to-back days off come smack dab in the middle of everyone else’s work week and those days off are often consumed by side projects like this here writing gig. While my schedule makes perfect sense to most people in this community where seasonal and hospitality jobs reign supreme, I have a harder time explaining myself to farther flung friends. The weekend warrior I once was is a thing of the past, although it is necessary for me to put up a fight if I want a Saturday and Sunday off during the summer season.

As a result, I am not only the friend who moved back to her hometown, then took a left at the woods and kept going, I’m also the friend who is constantly sending her regrets. I say no to bachelorette parties, showers, and casual get-togethers. I am the girl who has to explain why it will be a minor miracle if I make it to a holiday weekend wedding, let alone be a bridesmaid. The weekend everyone else is savoring is just the middle of the week to me.

When a friend asked me commit to being a bridesmaid 10 months in advance of her Labor Day wedding, I balked. I had no idea how it would work for me to be gone for at least three days over one of the busiest weekends of the year. But when I pleaded the bride’s unreasonableness, another friend took the bride’s side. It probably would be helpful for the bride to have her wedding party figured out. Turns out she wasn’t being a stick in the mud: I was.

And if I’m the stick in the mud, it seems I’m destined to wallow in the muck for a while. I don’t see a return of breezy weekends in my future. As a sole employee, I have major problems finding alternative staffing for weekends and will continue to have trouble until I get a coworker or another job. Even when I do finagle a weekend away, I often feel the weekends are exhausting, half-realized events. When it takes a good chunk of the day to get anywhere off the North Shore, the weekend jaunts are fleeting at best.

Anymore, my friends and I share a mutual confusion about weekends. I can’t understand how they can possibly need my bridesmaid dress measurements 10 months in advance; they can’t understand why I can’t commit to a weekend 10 months in advance. The distance between us is apparent not only by the miles, but also our differing weekend cultures. We’ve started to speak different languages.

TGIF? What’s that?

Airdate: October 17, 2011

Photo courtesy of Michael Gil via Flickr.