She bounded across the abandoned 36-hole, 400-acre golf course. I hadn’t expected an encounter on my October walk. She couldn’t be with the bank, could she? They foreclosed on the property ten months ago. Perhaps she was a guest at Loon Lake Lodge like me? Sam, the former owner, invited his lodge guests, adjacent lakeside condo owners, and the general public to walk on the golf course when players were absent.
“Hi, gorgeous day,” she bubbled.
“What a shame,” I replied while I shook my head and gazed over her shoulder toward tufts of grey native grass that poked through the formerly well manicured, bent grass turf of fairway nine.
“It’s getting close to winter,” she opined. “It’ll look better in spring.”
“Maybe,” I replied. “When the bank foreclosed, they discontinued maintenance. It shows.”
She stepped closer. “Are you a golfer?”
The air between us chilled as a cloud briefly blocked the sun. “Nope, dreams were lost here as well as jobs.”
“The land is going back to the way it was before the golf course,” she said through tightened lips. “And, not many jobs were lost. Are you from around here or a visitor?”
“Visitor.” I stepped back. “Are you with the bank?”
“I’m the owner,” she smiled like the Cheshire Cat. I felt like the mouse.
I took another step back. “I didn’t know the property changed hands.”
“This is private property and you’re trespassing,” she hissed, thrusting her fingers beneath her belt as she moved another step closer.
“Well, I guess I should leave,” I said. “We stay at the lodge, and I often walk here. I didn’t know I was trespassing. This is a loss for me. Sam’s death ended 80 years of family ownership. People worked, played, and died here. Sam’s great grandparents, grandparents, father, mother, and other family members are buried in the family plot in the woods. Family pets have graves here too.”
She stared arrows into my back as I retraced my steps to the lodge. I found Christina in the office with her baby daughter, Eloise, and six-year-old son, Justin. Christina was Sam’s daughter, fourth generation Smith family. But for Sam’s death and the bank’s immediate foreclosure on Christmas-eve day, Justin and Eloise would have been fifth generation Smith family to manage the property.
“Well, I met the new golf course owner,” I announced. “I’m not impressed with her hospitality.”
“We found a buyer for the property after the bank foreclosed,” Christina lamented. “The woman you met swooped in with her offer to the bank on Sunday before we had a chance to present our proposal on Monday. What kind of a bank makes a deal on a Sunday? Maybe that’s why she won’t speak with me?”
“I’m frustrated,” Christina continued. “I sent an email asking if we could walk on her property. She used to walk on the course after Dad sold her a lot on the lake where she built a summer home. She lives out of state. I’m stung by the irony. All I want to do is take Justin for a walk on the golf course to the spooky woods, as he calls it. He often asks when we will see the scary tree roots that poke from the rocky hillside.”
“I was headed in that direction when she confronted me,” I replied as I remembered last year’s stroll and those roots that like looked like fingers ready to snatch little boys who ventured into the spooky woods. I recalled the bog past the trees, one of many landforms created by the glacier that retreated 10,000 years ago.
Known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet, the glacier’s snowy grip covered Canada with fingers of ice that gripped North America as far as southern Wisconsin. Ice was a mile high here. The glacier gouged basins for future lakes and depressed the continent as it carried Artic boulders the size of automobiles to their final destination on what would eventually become the golf course where I met the new owner.
These boulders, too large to relocate, would determine the lay of the golf course, and become obstacles to achieve par game of golf. As the glacier retreated, and the land rose without the weight of the ice, scoured basins filled with melt water. Rivers and redirected water would eventually fill Loon Lake depression and the bog in the spooky woods.
Was this the time the new owner visualized when she said she wanted the land to return to the way it was? Or did she think of a million years before the glacier, when Lake Superior basin was formed? Maybe she meant 4.5 billion years ago when volcanic basalt created the Precambrian Shield that ultimately folded to create the world’s third largest continental rift that collected water in an aquifer, to later quench the thirst of dinosaurs, and then mix with glacial melt water to fill Lake Superior basin, Loon Lake and the bog in the spooky woods?
Maybe she spoke of the time when our First Peoples migrated to the region after the retreat of the glacier? Known as the Woodland and Mississippian cultures, these early residents created effigy mounds that still rise across Wisconsin. Decedents of First Peoples include today’s Huron, Menominee, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Chippewa), Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) tribes, and more. They hunted and camped nearby, and probably drank cool, clear water from the bog in the spooky woods.
Neither dinosaurs, Woodland First Peoples, Mississippians, native tribes and bands of today, Sam’s guests, or local residents needed permission to walk on the abandoned golf course - until now. What a shame.
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.