The Last Windrow: Running a resort takes a lot of hard work
There are so fewer small resorts available now than there were in 1971. I hope those remaining can continue as ours is intended to do.
Clyde never did like swabbing rain water out of the resort fishing boats.
Small and large resorts all over this northern Minnesota country are busily brushing the cobwebs out of cabins, fixing docks, cleaning playground equipment and generally getting ready for what promises to be a busy season by the lake.
My parents were no different after purchasing a small resort in the year 1971. With no real experience catering to tourists (there weren't many tourists among the cornfields of Iowa), they were excited to see what their first season would bring.
I came north with them that year since I wasn't happily employed and I liked to fish. Little did I know that resort owners are usually the last people to be seen fishing on a lake. They are usually busy plugging leaking water lines, fixing light switches, doing laundry, answering the phone and a million other chores that are not seen by the guests in the cabins.
In earlier times, resort owners might actually take a guest out on the lake to show them the "hotspots." That doesn't happen much these days with the technology available to most fishermen. They all seem to have lake maps, and the secret spots that used to be secret aren't so secret anymore.
Dealing with customers you really don't know can also involve certain social skills. My mother was about as straight a shooter as one would find. She took anything you said as gospel, and she knew you wouldn't ever lie to her on purpose.
A couple showed up at Hawkeye Resort one summer Saturday and my mother dutifully booked them into their cabin. It didn't take the couple long before they climbed into the fishing boat and headed out across the water.
The resort phone rang shortly afterward and my mother answered it cheerfully as she always did. The woman's voice on the other end of the line asked my mother to speak to recently arrived George. Not thinking anything of it, Mom replied that George had just left the dock with his wife to go fishing.
The voice on the other end replied, "This IS his wife."
My mother was speechless as she heard the click on the other end. That was an eye-opener to her and she was much more careful answering the phone after that. Innocence had just departed in my mother's world.
Another longtime customer came from Milwaukee and Matt loved to fish bass. My dad decided one day to offer to fillet Matt's three-bass catch as a kind of "perk." Matt was thrilled to have this job done, but he didn't know that my dad's offer was kind of a one-time thing.
The next day as my dad was leaving the resort house he discovered three more bass lying on the house step. Matt filleted his own fish after that. You can only offer so many "perks" before it becomes abuse.
My siblings and I are selling the resort this year. Although we all loved the time we spent there over the years, as with all families we've moved apart and all have our own lives. Mom and Dad have passed on and none of us has the time or the inclination to continue to run this small Minnesota resort.
It is gratifying to know that the new owners plan to continue to operate the property as a resort. There are so fewer small resorts available now than there were in 1971. I hope those remaining can continue as ours is intended to do.
Resort owners are now busily getting ready for the coming season. Soon they will be doing the tasks that make a resort run, including swabbing out fishing boats after a rain.
Clyde never did like swabbing out fishing boats after a rain. He told me it reminded him of milking cows.
See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!