Famous Borderities still mean so much

These bright, warm days remind me of our greatest sports figure, Canadian or American, because Bronco Nagurski regularly could be found sitting in the sun at the start of International Falls business street close to the bridge with a smile and friendly hello for everyone who came along.
The “Bronc” keeps coming up in sports flashbacks and annals continually, and most Borderites—men and women—can contribute something to his legend.
For instance, Marcia Shute, who grew up in the Falls, will show you his picture on a souvenir U.S. postage stamp. Another woman mentioned if he had served you gasoline, the gas cap on your car might not come off again easily because he was still so strong (from football he turned to wrestling).
The Minnesota football great, who was born at Rainy River, I believe, because he grew up there, was still a Canadian at heart, I learned from my few talks with him.
His name came up with Bruce Murray, once a local team player and still sports follower himself, with whom it’s fun to reminisce. I had mentioned another local Canadian, Bruce M. McLeod, who currently heads the Western Collegiate Hockey Association south of the border.
McLeod was a Fort Frances junior hockey star before he, like the “Bronc,” entered Minnesota U. His father brought me the WCHA magazine, which I promised to loan to Bruce Murray before I returned it.
I met two younger relatives of Nagurski—one a wartime welder with me at the Port Arthur shipyard who was nicknamed Manny and came from Rainy River also, and the other relative later in the RCAF.
It seemed that wherever you travelled, there would be folks asking about Bronco, whom I had not met by that time.
Later, when I approached him at his favourite bench at the gas station, he was so friendly I am still disappointed the U.S. long ago did not appoint him as a goodwill ambassador instead of wasting his social talents.
• • •
Along with the threat of forest fires after such a dry spring before last Monday’s heavy shower and hailstorm, the country people here worry about how their wells hold out.
We had no such fears during all our years on River Road in Crozier.
In addition to the river, which never overflowed but looked good always, our farm was blessed with abundant rainfall to keep our large stock pond supplied. We connected this with an underground pipeline to a heated shed behind the barn and had a year-round supply if needed.
The first well we put in was not strong, so we called in a driller for the house taps. This gave us a non-failing source of drinking water we enjoyed, especially for its purity!
You’ll never find a better watered farm wherever you go, plus a variety of sources that meant at least half the value of the whole place. Others have said water is where you find it and we were extremely lucky!
The pressure and presence of so much water spelled great protection in event of fires, too!
• • •
Sunday, April 17 provided a great ending to the Thunder’s hockey season as friends and relatives came together to cheer on head coach Dave Allison at his Scott Street home.
Some wonderful cooks among the ladies, including his wife, Marion, made the feasting memorable outdoors beside the trampoline Dave’s three daughters worked vigorously.
We imagine he will keep his Thunder team going again next season with all their playoff experience gained recently.
• • •
Certain vehicles arriving from the east appeared to have gone through a war zone after being walloped by the worst hailstorm we’ve had in years. The hail came and went repeatedly into evening a week ago Monday and there’s no doubt the insurance companies were well notified.
Some of these stones were as large around as eggs.
• • •
Wilbur Mose from Emo came along to remind me of the time he and older brother, Ray, helped me burn over a quarter-section next to the airport here that I had bought from Bill Lloyd.
Andy McRae, my wife’s uncle from Blackhawk, also was in on that project and this wasn’t the first time they had helped me make properties I acquired become more useful.
I always took an interest in nearby land for sale—and sometime wished I hadn’t!
• • •
Our almost forgotten fish hatchery, operated by the MNR behind the library, still bothers many who insist it should never have been moved to Kenora!
Well-managed by Neil Galbraith, it attracted much attention at this time of year as young game fish hatched out into tanks where we kids could go and get acquainted with nature.
And the commercial fishermen of this area were pleased to have their lake replenished—sometimes by emptying minnows from cream cans over their fishing grounds!
• • •
It’s surprising how often Mine Centre comes up in my memory because my parents and I lived there only two years. I would expect to be dwelling more on my war years or college or newspapering career, but here I am again wondering, for instance, whatever happened to Louis Johnson.
He was the neighbour who live on the hill separating the three-room cottage built by my dad from the old Mine Centre Village, which was obliterated after the Atikokan highway went through and passenger travel by trains stopped.
Someday I’ll meet Joe Bliss again and find out whatever happened to Louis, who was not young when we saw him last. That was after he lost the wife he acquired after many years as a bachelor and part-time prospector.
I heard she had drowned—one of several drownings I learned about—and I’m sure there were others.
Let’s see now, there was Arthur Stone, who befriended me and left me a bagful of rock samples. He and Doc Smiley were paddling across Shoal Lake when rough weather capsized their canoe.
And I’ll never forget my father’s employer, the mine owner Angelo Paccito, whose load of firewood broke through the ice. Shoal Lake could become very rough and it always was said Bad Vermilion had no bottom!
Every lake in this area has claimed its share of bodies.
But drowning season occurs everywhere in this district and is almost upon us again! Even the Rainy River here within town limits has taken a toll, mostly of young swimmers, including the Bolzans and a half-brother, little Pugi Toninato.
The latter reminder came from Joe Louis Bolzan, son of our Allan Cup coach, whose family had three drownings before their mother remarried and began raising Toninatos, including my chum, Pugi, who was with me when he disappeared off the Crowe Avenue dock that fateful day.

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