Monday, June 1, 2009

A refuge and a presence - Sand Island in Lake Superior

The other day I was happily surprised to receive the following email.
"I came across your writings, paintings and photos of Sand Island just now. It brought back many wonderful memories of my youth in the early to mid 1940's. My Uncle, Mel Dahl - whose interview by Carol Ahlgren I have, owned a cottage on the East Bay. Our family spent the summers of the war years at the Dahl cottage. I remember well the old Model A automobile hulk rusting away in the brush which you have in one of your photos. In the early 40's I and my cousin spent many moments sitting in the driver's seat, trying to drive that car down "the road" !"

The nephew of Melvin Dahl, who was interviewed in 1987, and whom I quoted in 1999 in my Journal of my Artist in Residence experience from Apostle Island National Lakeshore somehow discovered my pages on Sand Island and was nice enough to contact me. I love when this happens, sometimes I get a bigger kick out of people coming to my website for non-art reasons, especially when they share why they love the subject from a different perspective.

Here's the quote, it's quite an amazing glimpse into the struggles of those early Sand Island settlers, some of whom moved to the island as a way to ride out the Great Depression:

But anyhow, then this. He went out and I asked him if I should go out with him and he said no, you’d better stay home and bake the bread because I had it rising in the pans. And that was the last I saw of him. He drowned. He got caught in a storm out on the lake. He never got back. He got crushed in an ice field in his boat. I suppose one and one half to two miles outside the lighthouse. It’s a pretty heavy water...
I went down by the docks and saw one boat that had come in and they said “Did your Dad get in?” I said “No”. And they said he’d had engine trouble. (It was) about four in the afternoon and they said if he didn’t make it then he probably wouldn’t. I went back to the house...and the dog was pretty upset...
...the funny part was—that dog—we had found him on the brother and I...were out on the ice and saw the dog and it was over by York Island...saw the dog over there and took him and brought him home and then it was our dog. And that night my dad didn’t come back from drownin out on the lake—I’d gone to bed, I was alone in the house. I heard this awful racket on the porch and here it was the dog trying to get in. I just woke from a dream and I heard the dog and I thought it was my dad knocking at the door to get in.
Then of course within the next 2-3 days I had to have him put away because I had to get out of there—I couldn’t stay.

—Melvin Dahl Nov 12, 1987 interview with Carol Ahlgren

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