Fond du Lac Follies...Seventy years of adventure, good and bad
By: Jim Northrup, Pine Journal
My wife Patricia found a bar for a birthday party for me, my 70th birthday. I think about 60 people showed up to eat and drink. I used my K-Bar to cut the cake. As I thought about things I decided to go back decades in my long life.
In 1953, I was in Pipestone Boarding School and the US of A was fighting in Korea. This was a tough time for me and this country. We both survived those trying times. I learned that I didn’t know much of the Ojibwe language. No one seemed interested in teaching me and I continued learning English.
In 1963, I was a Marine infantryman having just escaped going to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the ship I was on went from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. We were prepared to make an amphibious landing in Cuba. The missiles were removed and now I had a good chance of seeing my 20th birthday. We made a 13 month Far
East tour practicing war in Okinawa, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and just visiting Hong Kong. During this decade, I went to war in Vietnam where I served with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines. In the last part of the decade I was a deputy sheriff on the Rez and a big city cop in Waukegan, Ill.
In 1973, I was a defense investigator for a public defender’s office. I was getting tired of city living. I was also dreading going to work in the mornings because it felt like I was walking in the sewer of humanity. During this decade I returned to the Rez to live with the seasons. I lived in a tipi off and on for six years on the shores of Perch Lake, a suburb of Sawyer. I began writing stories.
In 1983, I was working construction and helped build the house I still live in on Northrup Road. The road was unnamed so I made a sign and named it. I told my dad and kids I named the road for them. I got married for the best and last time during this decade. During this decade, I began to get my writing published and at the end of the decade the Fond du Lac Follies was born.
In 1993, my first book “Walking The Rez Road” was published. Meg Noodin edited the book and helped me find a publisher. I still owe her a debt of gratitude. I began making appearances at college literature classes. With my stories I have been to Scotland once and Norway twice. Pat and I have traveled to Mexico City. We even went to Red Lake. The largest crowd I recited poetry for was at LZ Lambeau in Green Bay, a statewide salute to Vietnam veterans, I got a standing ovation and the Patty Loew video made of the event won an Emmy.
In 2003, I began driving a 1964 Corvette and was in the middle of a mid-life crisis. The less said about that the better. The “Rez Road Follies” was published during this decade. Two sons, Joseph and Matthew, moved into houses next to me during this decade. “Anishinaabe Syndicated” and “Rez Salute” were published during this time period.
And now we find ourselves in 2013, “Walking The Rez Road, Golden Anniversary Edition” is published by Fulcrum Publishing, my new publisher is Sam Scinta. My family and I made maple syrup, birch bark fanning baskets and wild rice each year of the decades since the late ’70s.
It was a good birthday party, no one went to jail or to the hospital. Sam Scinta was there as well as Marines Ray Earley, Vern Northrup and Ted Charles. My son Joe volunteered to be a designated driver. Patricia did a great job of planning this birthday party. All in all turning 70 was fun — I know you only get to do it once.
The planning for Fond du Lac’s Language camp is done. We are just counting the days until we begin. As it stands now, Frank Montano will be making cedar flutes. Tuna Nahganub will be teaching how to smoke food to preserve it. Randy Gresczyk will be teaching how to make dance bells and drumsticks. Victoria Ellis will once again show people how to make dream catchers and scale model drums. Winnie LaPrairie will be teaching how to make moccasins. Vern Northrup and I will be showing how to work with birch bark, basswood and green willow to make a basket.
We moved the date of the camp forward so we don’t have a conflict with Enrollee’s Day. This gives Fonjalackers a chance to do both this year.
The invitation is here. Come learn more of the Ojibwe language at Kiwenz Campground, Sawyer on June 13, 14, 15 and 16.
The views expressed are those of the writer alone. They are not meant to represent the Rez, the Fonjalackers or anyone else. Comments and bingo packs can be sent to FdL Follies, PO Box 16, Sawyer, MN 55780-0016. Email is email@example.com or find him on Facebook.