How vulnerable we have become


From: Dick Gallien

The propane shortage and power outages remind us of how vulnerable we have become.

In 1947, when Jim Pfeiffer and I were 15, before TV, when most kids entertained themselves, we walked across the lake, over Garvin Heights and down into East Burns Valley. Following the creek upstream, we saw Helen Girtler coming out of her spring-fed milk house and asked if we could trap fox on her farm. Helen said we’d have to ask Sonny, her bachelor brother dairy farmer, who welcomed us.

I hated school. Trapping got me out at 3 instead of 4. Trapped 54 fox in two and a half months, when 16. Winona County paid a $4 bounty for the upper jaw. Across the river, one county paid $5 for the tail. Got out early in winter for hockey, and Sonny signed my work slip in spring. I never asked for pay, but Sonny paid me in more than money, for that accidental meeting introduced me to a more self-sufficient lifestyle. All they heated and cooked with was wood. There was no chain saw, but I admired what Sonny could do when trimming trees with his razor sharp double bitted axe.

Bought the adjoining farm and a double-bitted axe when 24, with a wife and two kids. Have heated only with wood for over 50 years. Unlike most school band instruments and school sports, where 98% of the few that do participate will never blow a note or play a game after graduation, cutting wood is my “lifetime sport.” Where most move to large cities for security and modern conveniences, feeling the heat when putting a piece of wood in the stove provides me with a connection and independence.

My granddad, Lincoln Gallien, was one of eleven born in a log cabin on Homer Ridge. I’d like to show him how much more efficient wood heat is today than that which allowed him to survive.


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