Back From Backus By Way Of Bagley And Bemidji

BACKUS, MINN. – A day trip, a mug of steaming black coffee, the ribbon of highway before me, time alone with the music of Fernando Ortega, old barns, an old boarded up church: These are a few of my favorite things!

One day this week I encountered them all.

My destination was Backus where I had been invited to speak at a Lutheran Women’s Missionary League zone rally in Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Topic of the day was, “Listen, God is Calling.” When He calls for me to do such things as this I’d rather not say no!

All total – about 380 miles on the RAV4 as I pulled into the garage 11 hours later.

I left home at 7 a.m. and headed east on U.S. Highway 2. Beyond Bemidji, at Cass Lake, Minn., I turned south on Highway 371. This is beautiful lake and resort country with woods all around and sunny blue skies above – the makings of an extra special day for a wide-eyed traveler.

I met the neatest ladies from several Minnesota towns at Emmanuel Church. It was an honor to be their speaker and to sing with them. The conversation, a variety of luscious luncheon salads and the peach pie we shared – all out-of-this-world.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Backus, Minn.

Emmanuel has 11 beautiful stained glass windows designed by Marilyn Joyce Miner Jensen in memory of Shirley Anne Miner and in thanksgiving for Gloria Jean Miner Ernest. The windows, crafted in faceted glass in 1989, were made by Statesville (N.C.) Stained Glass Inc. Near the door is this one which is “The Hand of God Raised in Blessing.”

I see it now as a sign of how much of a blessing this day would actually be!

Eleven stained glass windows in Emmanuel Lutheran were designed by Marilyn Joyce Miner Jensen in memory of Shirley Anne Miner and in thanksgiving for Gloria Jean Miner Ernest. They are crafted in faceted glass and made by Statesville Stained Glass Inc., Statesville, N.C.

Even before I arrived at the rally I knew what I would be doing when I left: snapping pictures starting with this one of an old barn on the outskirts of Backus.

Old barn right outside Backus, Minn.

Goodness do old barns do things to me – like resurrect memories of the hours I spent with my dad in our old red barn as he milked cows and harnessed horses. Yes, I go back to the horses. I was a tyke but I remember how they whinnied and the leather and brass they wore.

Memories also of how we poked down sweet clover from the loft to the feed trough below for the animals and how we kids and our cousins jumped from the rafters in the loft to land in the soft mountains of hay that had been hoisted and dumped in through a huge loft door. It all seemed bigger than life back then.

I drove around to the back of this barn wondering, who milked cows in here? Who played in this loft? Did they have as much fun as we did?_____________________________________________________

I drove on with my eyes on the lookout for more barns. Near Bagley I spotted this one.

An old barn on Whispering Pines Drive off U.S. Highway 2 near Bagley, Minn.

I pulled off U.S. Highway 2 onto Whispering Pines Drive to snap a photo from this barn’s backside. On the highway side was a sign which reads, “Anderson Trucking and Diesel,” plus a phone number which I called after I got home. Now here’s where a big blessing enters this story.

As I was speaking to a very pleasant young man named Kory Anderson something clicked. I listened to him more and finally asked, “What’s your mother’s name?” When he said, “Doris,” I nearly fell off my chair. “She’s my first cousin,” I said to Kory. “Your dad’s name is Harold. I was at their wedding.”

Turns out, Doris’ mother was my dad’s sister. Can you believe it? The Andersons moved to Bagley from the Devils Lake area in 1975 and I’ve probably seen Doris only at funerals over the years.

I so enjoyed visiting with Kory, who lives on this farm with his wife, Jennifer, and their sons Kody and Kameron. Kory has learned that this farm once belonged to the Sundahl brothers who were dairy farmers. They had another barn exactly like this one right in Bagley. The story is that they milked their cows in the country barn and kept the young calves in the town barn and they supplied the whole town of Bagley with milk. Kory has been told this barn was built of Tamarac wood, a super hard wood, which is why it stands so sturdy yet today.


Back on the road I nearly missed the next barn.

Old barn on the Lloyd and Della Abeldgaard farm near Fosston, Minn.

I turned around to get back to the farmyard of Lloyd and Della Abeldgaard and Harold and Betty Abeldgaard whose place is near Fosston, Minn. Lloyd got off his Bobcat to visit with me telling me they use their old barn as a shop. “Lots of old barns are getting torn down now,” he said.


Closer to Crookston I spotted this old white barn and a windmill nearby. There was no one here to talk to.

Old white barn near Crookston
Windmill near the white barn

 And in Gentilly, Minn., stands this lonely silo whose barn is long gone.

A lonely silo whose barn is long gone near Gentilly, Minn.

In Shevlin, Minn., I parked in front of this old church to ponder the stories its chipped painted walls could tell. People in the café could only tell me it’s a former Catholic Church. How I would have loved to step inside.

Closed church in Shelvin, Minn.

And, of course, I could not drive through Bemidji without stopping to say “Hi,” to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. They look pretty spiffy. The woman in the tourist center told me both Babe and Paul got a new coat of paint in the spring of 2011.

Paul Bunyan and Babe his Blue Ox

It was such a glorious day trip. I was sorry to see it end.

Until Soon




3 Responses

  1. I’ve always loved that stretch of Highway 2 west of Bagley. My most vivid memory is a moose galloping across the road right in front of my truck at dusk. Fortunately for both of us, we did not collide because it was tall enough to roll right over the hood and into my windshield. Even from inside my vehicle I could feel the concussion of hooves on the pavement as it lumbered passed.

  2. Delores Popp

    Bob & I are seasonal (summer) members of Emannuel at Backus, MN.

    Bob & I are seasonal (summer) members of Emmanuel Lutheran, Backus, MN. and this will be our 13th year there. We are blessed to worship there – what a wonderful congregation and Pastor. I am a LWML member here at home and enjoy LWML at Emmanuel too. Fellowship at Emmanuel is something you have to experience to really appreciate. Thanks too for your article following your speaking engagement at the rally hosted by Emmanuel LWML.

    Delores Popp

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