What lead to a career of 35 years with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Section of Fisheries and my love and passion for the outdoors?
I still remember walking to my country school in first and second grade and watching the grasshoppers fly off as I walked along the road shoulder. I remember the buzz of cicadas and the sight of garter snakes wiggling out of my way.
I will never forget my third grade book report on the hammerhead shark and how amazed I was that such a creature really existed. That report opened a whole new underwater world for me. The ocean’s and all their mystery and splendid beauty were awe-inspiring and still are today.
In seventh grade, I never missed an episode of the American Sportsman on television. Incredible pheasant and quail hunting trips with Bing Crosby and Phil Harris, who seemed to love being together outdoors and would make up musical lyrics and melodies during their adventures. I also loved episodes of Curt Gowdy and his trout fishing escapades. Wen asked to do a book report on my hero or favorite personality, Bing Crosby, the outdoorsman, was the obvious subject (sorry mom and dad).
It was also in seventh grade, when I completed my firearms safety course and could finally go duck hunting with my dad and two older brothers. Those early mornings I discovered - the smells of autumn leaves, coffee, and gunpowder; the sound’s of whistling wings and the chatter of winged ghosts and wood calls; cold breaths like smoke that faded into the mist; and the art of setting out homemade black 2x4 decoys.
How can I ever forget climbing through railroad culverts to get to spring holes in the ice full of mooneyes on Pigseye Lake. Trapping muskrats with my brother and muskrats, mink, and fox with my uncle, who thought he knew how to dispatch a skunk caught in a leg-hold trap with a stout pole. Know what it’s like riding in a car, windows down, with pipe smoke and an uncle saturated with one of the most wondrous odors in life?
Other memories early in life are of weekend adventures to my uncles’ island in northern Minnesota where I could seemingly walk forever along shore and fish. On rare occasions, mom and dad would let me take the wooden rowboat out fishing, always within sight. And then there were trolling adventures with dad, his pockets always overflowing with caramels and candies. Why does exhaust from a 1957 Johnson 5 horsepower outboard motor smell so good. Later in life, it was at Lake Vermillion, where I recreated my own American Sportsman episodes duck, deer, and roughed grouse hunting and fishing. Fishing skills were honed at Farm Island Lake where largemouth bass were teased from their vegetative mats.
So a career in some natural resources field seemed inevitable, a fisheries career was the given path. And as my career advanced and I continued to witness the amazing bounty, beauty, mystery, and loss of the natural resources I so love, it became my dedication.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that all three sons have the same love and passion for the outdoors and have each obtained Wildlife and Fisheries degrees (even a Masters and PhD). I had a long, successful, and rewarding career, but my sons are my proud legacy. Thanks to mom and dad Sundmark and Hancock, hammerhead sharks, and the American Sportsman with Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, and Curt Gowdy.