Was it a sign from Mother Nature that I was not meant to live in northern Minnesota? I sure thought so! I grew up on a hog farm in between Faribault and Northfield. So I was surrounded by fields, with some patches of trees here and there. I loved growing up on a farm in southern Minnesota and after my first summer living up north I was ready to head back south! I thought all you northern folk were crazy. I didn't learn until later that my first few months living up north were not the norm.
It was a summer of wild animal bombardment. It was like I was a wild animal magnet. I just assumed this was what it was like up north. You step outside and the wild animals frolic out of the woods are are like, "hey, what are you up to today? Do you mind if I scare the hell out of you?" Where I grew up, if you saw a deer (ever) it was a miracle. If I wanted to see non-farm animals, I went to the zoo.
I was temporarily living north of Grand Rapids at Spider Lake Resort which was owned by my husbands family. One sunny day the lake was perfectly calm, so calm and inviting that I felt it was my obligation to hunt down an air mattress, some suntan oil, and go float on the lake. As I lay relaxing peacefully on my float, I let my hands dip into the water. Where I grew up we floated on Fox lake and let our whole arms, even legs dip in the water because in southern Minnesota the animals just left us alone. They didn't feel the need to be our best friend. There were animal boundaries that were respected by all. That and the fact that there just weren't very many animals around. Like ever.
So as I'm floating, a fish swims up to my hand and decides to have a nibble. A startled scream leapt from my mouth as I ripped my hand away from the footlong piranha. Oh fine, it was a 4 inch baby fish. But still! Even though I wanted to get out of this clearly deadly and dangerous water, I decided to stay brave. It was just a fish after all and I was not going to let a fish ruin this beautify day. It's not often you can float in the lake without having to keep paddling back to your home base. The atmospheric conditions were idyllic for a sunbather.
After a bit, I felt like someone was watching me. I looked up and to my horror a beaver had his head sticking out of the water looking at me a mere 12 feet away. I screamed and started to paddle vigorously towards shore. The beaver went under the water and I was certain he and his huge weird teeth were heading towards me to bite a hole in my air mattress and then chew my leg off. Perhaps you up north people see beavers every day, but not this southern hog farming girl. I made it safely to shore and needless to say I never ever floated on an air mattress on that lake again.
My next animal encounter involved hitting a deer with my car. Which I now know is a typical experience in wilderness country, but at the time I was horrified. My car did not enjoy that experience either. But then about a week later I was driving to work on a country gravel road and as I rounded the corner, on the straight stretch, there stood a moose. I had no choice but to slam on my brakes because he literally took up the whole road. Other than an elephant, I had never seen such a huge animal, and he just stood there and stared at me. I had heard that moose are really mean and will charge you, so of course, again, I was terrified. He would not move and worse yet, continued to just stare me down. I honked my horn "beep beep". Nothing, he just stood there. Aren't animals supposed to be afraid of us? Especially noises like, "beep beep"? I inched my car forward and did a "beep beep" at the same time, thinking this strategy would surely terrify the moose. Yeah, no, the moose just kept standing there glaring at me. I continued, "beep beep" - move forward, "beep beep" - move forward. He moved toward me, and it seemed like he had murder in his eyes. It was then that I realized while I was protected inside my car, the moose was twice as big as my tiny car. The realization and knowing without a doubt that the moose was plotting to run towards me and smash my car with me in it, prompted me to put it in reverse, turn the hell around, and head home. I called in sick to work that day and took a different way to work from then on.
I figured people saw moose all the time, but apparently it is a rare occurrence. In the past 22 years I have not seen a moose since that day. I think I'm ok with that. At this point I wasn't sure if I wanted to live here and after my next experience, I knew I wanted to run back home to Faribault where animals were not everywhere you were, trying to kill you or nibble your fingers off.
I was staying in the guest house next to the main house that summer. It was a pitch black night and I needed to go to the main house to go to the bathroom. I did not put on my glasses, and that poor decision mixed with the black veil of night inhibited my sight. As I was walking towards the house I thought I saw something in front of me, and then I heard it; a hissing sound. I froze, squinted my eyes and recognized the skunk standing 10 feet before me hissing at me. I have no idea why he did not spray me, but am grateful he didn't! Once again (you know the routine), I screamed and ran back to the guest house. Needless to say, I found a bucket and went to the bathroom in that. Gross? Perhaps, but there was no way I was going back outside, in the dark, EVER again. it was either the bucket or wetting the bed.
Suffice it to say, after the skunk incident I was definitely ready to go back home! However, I stayed and the animal oddities calmed down. Now I call Grand Rapids my home and could not fathom living anywhere else. The beauty of nature, forests, lakes, and even wild animals is a gift and I feel blessed to be living amongst it all. I think the animals had to test me to make sure I was worthy to live here. It truly is paradise on earth.
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