Friday, February 8, 2008

'Lake is the Boss' confession

OK, I've gotta come clean. I stole the name 'The Lake is the Boss' from a T-shirt. I actually bought the shirt which probably gives me absolutely no right to use the phrase but whatever. What I didn't realize is that the T-shirt folks lifted the line from the National Park Service, who used it in an orientation film that they made. The man who uttered the phrase was Julian Nelson.

Julian's exact quote was, ”The lake is the boss. No matter how big you are or what kind of a boat you’ve got, the lake is still the boss. Mother Nature dictates a lot of things". I emailed Ranger Bob for some background on Julian and also did some sleuthing on the net. Julian Nelson was born in Bayfield ninety plus years ago to Norwegian immigrant parents. He fished the Apostle Islands for many years commercially and his family had a camp on Stockton Island. In fact one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands or on Lake Superior for that matter is at Julian Bay, named after Mr. Nelson. After WW II he moved his fish camp to Rocky Island and continued to fish until the early '60's when lamprey eels, introduced when the St Lawrence Seaway was opened to the Atlantic, destroyed the native lake trout population. He served as mayor of Bayfield at the time when the National Lakeshore proposal was being debated. Even though it was fairly certain that his Rocky Island camp would be expropriated by the government and many locals who voted hated the idea, he came out in support of the proposal. Sure enough he lost the next election and was 'made an offer he couldn't refuse' by the park service for his Rocky Island camp. Just as an editorial aside, it seems funny that we buy out and get rid of the fisherman in the islands and then solicit funds and wring our hands over the lack of government funding to help reconstruct the Hokenson Fishery on Little Sand Bay and the Manitou Fish Camp on Manitou Island. If we had maybe worked out an equitable deal with them so they could stay, work, and maintain their authentic fish camps.......nah, never mind. Sorry I blew up.

Julian Nelson is still alive and kickin' in Bayfield at age 92 or so and serves on the board of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Ranger Bob said, "Personally, I regard Julian Nelson as a true 'profile in courage' and have met few men I admire more in my life". Dennis McCann, writing about Julian Bay in the Milwaukee Journal last summer said, "I even know Julian Nelson, the old commercial fisherman for whom the bay is named, a true gentleman". I would love to have the honor of meeting Mr Nelson and would like to personally thank him both for the slogan I heisted from him and his work to preserve the islands that we both love.


Silbs said...

You cannot copywrite a name or title. Besides, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Ranger Bob said...

Wonderful tribute, Dave. I'll get in touch with Julian's son and let him know about this so he can pass it along to his dad.

Joshua said...

I almost bought that shirt when we went to the apostles in June. I was gonna ask you if you'd seen it.