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The Last Windrow: From farm to resort

One of the dreams my dad had working on that Iowa farm since his youth was being able to visit and maybe even to live in northern Minnesota.

He had served his time in India during World War II, and I think the heat got to him. So it was after farming all his life that his farmer's back forced a decision to find a new occupation while he could still walk.

He and my mother sold the farm and bought a small, "mom and pop" resort in northern Minnesota. Feeling some affinity to his home state, they named it Hawkeye Resort.

Mom and Dad had no experience in running a resort. But, a farmer learns fast how to fix anything or build anything by themselves. I don't remember an actual contractor ever entering our farmyard. Anything that needed fixing or repair was done pretty much by the farmer or friends or relatives who volunteered to help out.

Thus, it made sense that when it came to running a resort, those talents would be needed. My mother had washed uncountable diapers and clothing over her years on the farm and she did just as much physical labor as my dad when it came to running the farm. Her talents would be needed in running a resort. She was famous for baking her sticky, gooey cinnamon rolls, which she offered her resort guests on a regular basis.

Neither of my parents had much experience in customer relations. Dealing with a cranky resort customer was different than cussing at an uncaring tractor or a stubborn Holstein. A certain amount of tact was needed to appease a resort customer whose rented boat motor refused to start or whose stove's pilot light had gone out.

Unlike the farm where you knew your neighbors and relatives like family, resort customers didn't know you and you didn't really know them at the first meeting. Hence a certain amount of expertise was needed to get through a weeklong stay.

There were occurrences that proved foreign to both owners of this small resort. Situations that just didn't happen on the farm from which they came.

One situation occurred and my mother was not prepared for it. A man and a lady checked into one of Hawkeye Resort's cabins one Saturday afternoon. They were a friendly duo and had a friendly visit with my mother as she signed them into their cabin. They said they were excited to get out fishing as soon as possible. My mother watched them motor out to the main lake.

An hour or so later the phone at the resort house rang. My mother picked up the receiver and the woman's voice on the other end of the line asked my mother if she could get a message to George. My mother explained to the voice on the other end of the phone that George and his wife had just left the dock to go fishing.

"This IS his wife," the voice came back. My mother was befuddled to have become a part of a potential divorce.

The resort-owning couple also learned that sometimes customers take advantage of service.

To do a regular customer of the resort a favor one day, my dad volunteered to fillet the customer's five-bass catch. This service was offered out of pure generosity by a retired farmer who liked to do favors once in awhile for those he considered friends. No payment was expected.

And so, the five bass were filleted and the fillets were delivered to the customer's cabin, ready for the skillet. This favor was done un-asked for by my dad. Just being a good guy.

The next morning when Dad stepped out on the front step, he was greeted by another stringer of fish lying on the concrete step. The customer who had received the filleted fish the night before had evidently thought this was a service that came with the resort.

The stringer was promptly returned to cabin #3 and the fillet service went out of business, never to return. I'm sure an explanation of his "service" was rendered by the Iowa farmer.

The resort operated for over 30 years and is still in business today, but rented on a seasonal schedule, not week by week. Those who stay there basically take care of their needs themselves and little supervision is needed.

And there is no one answering the phone looking for George or placing a stringer of fish on the front step of the office anymore. The farmers have left the building.

See you next time. Okay?