ElkFarm Stories

A Daily Dose of Writing

Category: Amery Stories (page 1 of 2)

Long Boards Long Time

Lou walked into Lampert’s Lumberyard in Amery last Thursday and told Mac behind the counter that he wanted lots of boards.

“We’re remodeling and adding on,” he bragged, as if he knew what he was doing.

Mac asked him how long he wanted them. Lou, confused, asked to use the phone to call Kathleen. After he got done, he said to Mac:

Kathleen says we’re going to nail them on so we’ll need them for a long time.

Mac? Speechless.


Ida Mae’s Cafe in Amery; Inquiring Minds

Ida Mae’s Cafe, downtown Amery. There’s the clock in the distance.

A stranger approached Kathleen and Lou as they scarfed down breakfast at Ida Mae’s Café. He introduced himself as traveling through the area and asked if they’d be able to answer a question.
“Go ahead,” Lou said with his mouth full of bacon.
“I’m headed for Clayton, I think that’s east here.”
Kathy and Lou nodded.
“What’s the quickest way to get there?”
Lou thought for a few seconds, took in an entire fried egg into his mouth, and asked him a question.
“You walking, biking, or driving a car.”
The guy thought that was a foolish question, but in all seriousness answered, “A car.”
Lou looked thoughtful, shoved a half a piece of toast in his mouth, and said to him, “Yeah, that’ll be the fastest.”

Lou and Kathy when they aren’t eating, a quite thoughtful pair of former teachers.

Margie and Me

She surprised me, alone on her bike by the Amery Beach. Told me she felt like a swim but the water safety class had the beach that July day.
“Hi, Loren.”
“Margie. Strange to see you here.”
She smiled and said little except to ask if I wanted to ride bike together. She straightened my collar. I pretended to punch her in the stomach.

“Think you can keep up with me,” followed by her famous chuckle.
We rode to the culvert area where North Twin runs into South Twin. Usually there’s  a lot of fishing going on at this spot but not today.
We sat down facing South Twin, and at the same time asked each other how summer was going.
For me it was going great with lots of reading and an upcoming family trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
For her, a family reunion, plenty of reading, and sleeping in.
Throwing rocks, skipping rocks, a few words.
“Mrs. Wilson was nice, wasn’t she.” We just finished 3rd grade.
Me, I never thought about teachers and nice. Just grumpy ones and regular ones, but I told her she was fine.
Both back on our bikes, I asked her if she knew about the church tent by the football field.
“Yeah, I came by it to get to the beach.”
The tent site was deserted. We rode up to it quietly before dropping our bikes on the grass. Still no signs of life.
The sign advertised the “Amery Revival” Three nights, and the question: “Have you accepted Christ as your personal savior?”
Nothing but chairs under the middle section, and a platform on the north end.

“What’s that tank for? Dunk tank?”
We laughed. Too small for a dunk tank.
We both saw the name BAPTISM on it at the same time. Catholic Margie and Lutheran Loren: clueless about tanks like this.
We stared at each other, gazing around for adults. Then we looked down at our clothes and decided quickly that they were swim-worthy.
She walked up the steps at one end, and I came up the other. Touching our toes in the water, we felt it pleasantly warm. Laughing, we couldn’t believe we’d soon be swimming.

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Toll Bridge: St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin

Recently on Facebook, someone posted this photo of a man who found a sign that at one time was used for a toll bridge. The current crossing, the modern multi-laned bridge, wasn’t always there to cross the St. Croix River between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The crossing is between St. Croix Falls, WI, and Taylors Falls, MN, both early settlements for settlers north of the even busier Stillwater, MN. It’s in Polk County, west of Amery.

Teams of mules in sets of 12 or more, 2 cents each to cross. Pigs, a penny. Passengers 3 cents each. Not sure what year the toll bridge operated, before 1900.

Tribute to a Great Father


My dad wasn’t a great communicator, wasn’t outwardly affectionate, and wasn’t a person who did a lot with me as a kid.

On that cold dark November evening as I drove to the hospital the night he died, I thought about my relationship with him and what he meant to me. Trite but true. “I didn’t know what I had until he was gone,” which summed up my feelings then and on to this day.

One thing my dad HAD, if I can label it that way was: He Was There. He was around. He and my mom attended my football and basketball games, he attended church with me and came for the church programs. We ice fished a few times, we went to Amery on winter Saturday mornings to deliver eggs and get feed. A couple times we went to the Andersen Corporation summer picnic. Oh, yeah,  a couple Sundays in the summer we ushered together at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. And after Dad died my mom told me that one of the few times she saw him weep was when he watched my confirmation in that church.

He worked hard, he didn’t have a temper, and he presented himself to me as a solid, moral person. What more can I expect or ask for, a wonderful example.

The photo above shows us standing in one of the harbors / villages in Door County, maybe Sister Bay or Ephriam. My wife told us to stand over there, in front of those boats, and in hindsight the background was great. This is the closest we came to hugging, but I remember a firm handshake after graduating from UW-Superior after the ceremony. My dad, Harold Elkin. What more could I ask for.

Female Veterinarian in Amery

Another unique sign I found on the internet somewhere. Not in Amery that I know of.

Growing up in Amery, we were used to the variety of doctors and other professionals that we saw nearly every day.

One veterinarian, Shirley Carver, ran a small and large animal practice, but she had another business on the side. One of her hobbies was taxidermy. She’d make anything from a mouse or rabbit to a dairy cow look as realistic as the day the animal died. People laughed about the Carver name, but she got used to the teasing. She had Mary Lou design a sign for her front yard where she lived east of Amery. The sign read:

Veterinary Services and Taxidermy–Bring in your cat or dog, and either way you get to bring it home.



A Bit of News from Amery

Mother Montese and her little girl Virginia  play in the waters of South Twin Lake near Mystery Island. Underwater game camera caught them interacting.

Drove to Amery Sunday. On the way through Augusta I stopped to attend a Mennonite service, their church located between Augusta and Cadott. What an eye opener, not exactly  what I expected. Quite friendly people (men), and the sexes are separated with men on the left, women on the right. Full house, and it was one of two days a year when they practice communion plus washing of feet (the men’s side). Anyway, a new experience, will blog in more detail later. A couple photos were taken, accidently, from the back of the church. Not sure how they feel about photos.

Attended another Sunday evening session at Apple River Community Church music night. The list of people to read something, as opposed to singing, was full when I got there. No room on the list for my reading.  I have something I wrote about a lady living east of Amery, now dead, who got through her final year with the help and inspiration of music. Some of you might know this fictional lady, Inez Dahlberg. Will blog this as well in the next week.

Also, someone snapped an underwater photo of 2 of the 3 hippos in Amery’s South Twin. You know, the animals planted there to keep kids, or anyone, from swimming before Memorial Day. Mom and daughter out by the island. (check earlier post/ blog)

Email me or contact me through this page. Please check this site regularly. If you have my business card, attach it onto the edge of the computer screen (if it’s a desktop computer), check out what’s new, and keep in touch. My email is   elkfarm@wctc.net

Currently at the Amery Library, looking out of the window where huge snowflakes were descending a couple hours ago. Just finished paying for the vase, below. Happy May 1st.

Here I am looking at the new art room at the Amery Library. (wink, wink) Always a careful fellow, occasionally I cause minor disasters.

Apple River Church Music for March

Another wonderful night of music, the March session. Deb is making the list of musicians, angels are practicing in the small classroom, and Ken is looking more distinguished than ever. Last Sunday of each month, an hour or more of gospels and songs of strong feeling. I’ll place the list of songs at the end, at the spot where you can read more if you want, but for now I want to sum up the night and remind you that the next “concert” will be on the 30th of April. Be there before 7:00, the warm-ups are enjoyable.

Guitar, autoharp, piano, harmonica, 4 part harmony, mandolin, flat guitar (photo left), and combinations of all of these. Ernie played a wicked harmonica, and the piano solo of “Blessed Assurance” had the ringing sound of the theme from “Chariots of Fire”. Engaging. Sue and Lois anchoring everything with their piano accompaniment.

A couple readings for variety, and the night of free entertainment felt so fulfilling. Much better, by far, than being home watching TV. The list of songs is included below, click to read the list if you want to.

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Finding General Grants

Steve jammed on his brakes when he saw the bag on the ground, we didn’t. Paul and I kept biking down Keller. It looked like a bag holding garbage. Waiting for him at the Amery Depot Park, he yelled but we couldn’t hear him down past Dalley Dale’s Standard Station.
“It’s a thousand dollars,” he yelled as he biked closer. “A thousand dollars!”
Paul and I laughed because we thought he was joking, but he biked up to us and pulled out a handful of cash. All the bills were $50 dollar bills.
“Twenty of these bills,” he said as he showed us the face of U.S. Grant.
Never had we seen so much money at one time. That General Grant, such a wonderful, beautiful man.
We all stopped making any sounds, any comments, anything at all for a minute. Each in our own way imagined having that much cash.
“Shall we advertise?”
“Do we bring it to the police station?”
“Could our families use it?”
“Vacation, anyone?”
More silence. Without a word we figured we’d make good use of it, we’d take care of it better than anyone. Anyway it was probably some rich guy who lost it.
Since we each had good math skills, we knew without discussion how much we’d each receive. No talk necessary here. Evenly divided we knew, all for one and money for all, or however that saying went.
“Who gets the extra dollar?”
“Steve. He found it.”
The jury has decided. Case closed, settled.
We each got six President Grants. After riding uptown, Steve walked into Union State Bank across from the Amery Theatre to get change for the rest of our payout.
Dividing it further on that hot August afternoon felt great, like nothing we’d ever done. Steve handed each of us a rubber band that he found in the bank. We each rubber banded our money.
Now for a treat. To the soda fountain at Danielson’s Drug Store to get the biggest malt they had, maybe two. And, not just a nickel candy bar, the dime size. Maybe a pound of cashews or deluxe mixed nuts to take with us.
After our brief celebration, we went our separate ways and never mentioned the money again.
A simple plan. I wonder what Steve and Paul did with theirs.


Accidents on Record 100 Years Ago

Barn raising in Polk County in the early 1900s.

Gunshots, dynamite, fingers and arms cut off, big toe shot, and horse/ railroad mishaps. Polk County accidents from 1910 is a short but painful list to read.

While researching deaths in the 1880s in Polk County, I found a record of unfortunate events that happened after 1900. State mandate, county board requirement, intern? For some reason, a short list, a baker’s dozen, of these became permanent county statistics.
No discernible pattern. Two fatal, 3 dynamite related, gunshot to foot, pulleys, horses, and shingle saw sliced off a finger. At a hoop mill a pulley injured a worker’s arm, and in another case a mortar box slid from a wagon and landed on a kid. The most gruesome would be the railroad wheels running over the upper legs of a railroad worker: fatal. The other death-causing event happened when a team of horses ran over a man who then died from internal injuries.
Why these injuries were recorded probably will never be known, but someone or some government body wanted to keep track. It gives a snapshot of pain and deforming accidents early in our county. Today these types of injury records, and treatments, would be handled in clinics and medical centers.
This was a column for The Amery Free Press in 2016.

Kindergarten Kids–Amery

The Amery Elementary KG class of 1954. All tossed to the wind now–a retired sewer pumper, a lady of leisure in Arkansas, a retired neurologist, a retired teacher, and others. Several have died including death by cancer, alcoholism, heart problems, suicide. If this information is faulty, it’ll be corrected.

This is the early version of the Amery Band. Not being very musical, the teacher only gave me one stick and warned me not to hit anyone. Or did she give me two sponges? Others played tambourines, two sticks, and cowbells.

Our wonderful teacher, described by one classmate as HOT,  was Miss Pehacek.  First name Arlene, just found that out. She may have stayed only one year; maybe dealing with us tuckered her out. She married and moved to the River Falls, WI, area.  One of my current projects is to search for her and see what happened to her after leaving Amery.

And the kid at the lower right was voted least likely to ever become a writer. Looking dazed and confused on this photo, but he was gifted with ears that would rival those of a bat. Now I’m having fun trying to make sense of those early years.


Young WI Teacher, 1904

Modern end but log structure. Probably larger school than she taught in (this is a file photo I found)


This letter was written by a young teacher who taught at a country school northeast of Amery. It’s a bit long, but if you read it through you’ll  get a sense of her loneliness, her frustration, and her adjustment to her environment. I’ve left in the spelling errors. A few local historians have pinpointed and named her school which is no longer standing.

Range, Wisconsin

October 30, 1904

Dear Aunt Hettie,
It is Sunday and a long lonesome day too. I thot I would write to you and that would help pass away the time. This is a terrible lonely country all the families live over two miles apart and most of them are bachelors. My school is very small only three pupils and most of the time only two. I don’t like teaching such a few but I think I would like it if I had more pupils. The school house is very small about as large as our kitchen at home.
All of the school board have been to visit the school. The treasurer can’t speak any English and he tried to talk to me but of course I did not understand him.
I have a fine boarding place with a family by the name of Swanson. They are so kind to me and I like them very much. They came here from St. Paul last spring. I guess they get pretty lonesome at times. They live near enough to the school house so I can go over there for my dinner.
There is wild game in abundance up here and hunters too. Some days it is a steady shoot all day long. We have lots of partridges to eat and they are just fine. Some hunters are camping down near the river their tent is about large enough for a dog to crawl into.
I do not teach at Range but five miles north of Range.

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Scenic Amery Wisconsin

Evening view over South Twin Lake



Elaine Meyer often goes for walks in Amery and sends photos of unique sightings, posting the photos on Facebook. These are two recent pictures.

Soon to come, 10 reasons you might want to travel to Amery. Working on the list, but if any Ameryites have suggestions and ideas, I’d welcome them. No waterparks or major historic sites in the area, but you’ll find a welcoming and lovely city. Amery–the City of Lakes.

Creek by Cross Street before it enters the Apple River.

Magnificent Hotel–St. Croix Falls

This post from Facebook tells of this great building in St. Croix Falls, Polk County Wisconsin. Being as curious as you are, I’m wondering what exactly was on the 4th floor. (my ideas; below the comments that came with the FB post)


I am often in awe of the buildings that stood in our county in the 1800s. The St. Croix House or Fisk Hotel/House is no exception. Here it is in the late 1800s. It stood on Adams Street between Kentucky and State in St. Croix Falls. Three floors played host to those in the lumber industry, those coming to the land office in St. Croix, and to those just looking to have fun.

Bud Harris Tribute

In the column that just came out in the Amery Free Press, I included the following tribute to a man who owned one of the two main clothing stores in Amery. The men’s store on main street, B and B Clothing, was in the area of the block above.

The recent death of Bud Harris surprised me, but I was lucky enough to talk with him a couple times at the Cabin Coffee Shop on Highway 8 last fall. The story came out about how he, owner of B and B Clothing Store, was in touch with D.K. Lien or someone from the Amery Schools and would learn about a family or two that needed help. He’d arrange to get them pants and shirts for school, at no cost to them. Little known story that stayed untold at the time, and for me a great Amery act of compassion.

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