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Fish Tales Warm up S.D. Oahe Trip

Little, John. "Fish Tales Warm up S.D. Oahe Trip." Grand Forks Herald, 22 March 1990.


Rick Baumgartner guides for walleye on lakes Oahe and Sakakawea in the Dakotas and the Columbia River in Oregon.
OK, class, guess my destination. I leave Grand Forks on Monday, March 12, and head southwest past the Carl Ben Eielson cemetery. A few hours later, I toss a brief glance at the south end of the world's largest buffalo. I note that the south end faces east, towards Fargo. Can a south end be said to face? I ponder that question all the way through Gackle, take a right in Lehr, and stop in Wishek to pay homage to my friend, Ron Vossler.

But the Lariat Lounge isn't open yet, so I drive on to Hague. I've been driving the hypotenuse of the German-Russian triangle. North Dakota landscape is at its worst in early spring. The melted snow leaves a film of snirt, waiting for the first hard rain to fall. But the drive has been impressive: a corrugated blend of undulating browns and bleaks. Any undulation is impressive to a Red River flatlander.

Into German-Russian country

Last month, I read Ron Vossler's book, "Horse, I am Your Mother," a collection of short stories about German-Russian immigrants to south central North Dakota. Ron's stories suggest that the Germans from Russia were slow to give up their German heritage. The sight of the huge Catholic Church in Hauge makes me stop and see if Ron told the truth. I pull in at the Hauge Saloon.

I join four Hagueians at the bar and look around while they look me over. There are six posters on the bulletin board, three bull sales, three farm auctions. A poster on the door read

"Achtung
what? per frank tournament.
when? Mar. 17
where? Hauge Saloon"
One of the Hagueians explains that it's a card
tournament. Then he asks what I'm doing in Hauge.

I think about the possibilities. Ten miles is Strasburg, home of Lawrence Welk, of ah-one, ah-two, ah-tree, ah-four fame. I hope to get there. Thirty miles west is the burial site of Sitting Bull. I hope to go there. I decide to tell the truth.

"I'm going to Pollock to fish with a German-Russian by the name of Rick Baumgartner."

It turns out they know Rick, who may be Strasburg's second most famous citizen.

"You'll do well mit Rick," one says. "Er ist sehr gut, both hunting and fishing."

His friend responds in German, and suddenly I'm eavesdropping on a conversation that might have taken place in the Black Forest of Germany or the Black Sea of Russia. My one year of German is of no use. Ron had not exaggerated. I wish them "Guten Tag" and head on down to Pollock.

Pollock is just across the South Dakota state line. Founded on the banks of the Missouri in 1901, Pollock was moved in 1956 to its present site to avoid the rising waters of Oahe Reservoir. A view of Main Street tells newcomers that present day Pollock is a fishing village: Oahe Camps, Bait & Tackle, Dale's Bait Shop, Fin `N' Feather Supper Club.

Meet Rick Baumgartner

I met Rick Baumgartner a few years ago at a boat show in Fargo. Our paths have crossed a few times since. He's a big man, an outgoing outdoorsman, and he makes many paths. I want to call him a swashbuckler, but when I check the spelling, Webster says a swashbuckler is a "blustering, swaggering fighting man." That's harsh. Rick is a non-blustering, non-swaggering, mostly peaceful swashbuckler. More swash than buckler.

Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.

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