Louisville Swamp Trail
The Louisville Swamp is located off Highway169 near Jordan, Minn., south of Minneapolis. It is not far from where my dad had his hobby farm. My dad first bought the land as a place to store some equipment that he used in his cement business. After a few years, he planted a vegetable garden that grew larger each year. He named the farm Sunada after my sister Susan, me and my brother
When my dad found unclaimed stuff at his job sites, he brought it to the farm. Once he hauled in an old trailer. One fall day, he had the idea for all of us to paint a mural on the trailer. In fact, that day was the first time I brought Barry to meet my whole family. Barry launched right into painting the trailer because at the time he was helping his friend, Joe, paint a huge mural at a large company. He worked hard alongside us, painting the trailer with a landscape scene. After that experience, Barry was here to stay!
When my dad got an idea to start a tree farm at Sunada, Barry joined in to help plant trees! Four years later, Barry and I held our wedding reception at the farm with a square dance and pot luck dinner. Our wedding cake, baked and decorated by our friend Josie, was a replica of the YMCA pool where we met. Barry and I looked forward to a whole new life together, beginning with our honeymoon at a fishing camp in Canada where I was the only woman.
Each October, my dad hosted a Pumpkin Festival at Sunada. He roasted a whole pig in a pit with coals. We would bury it before bed, and you wouldn’t believe how good it smelled outside by morning!
Barry took over the T- shirt booth using an iron-on machine borrowed from his friend. My sister and I did the art work and he would press T-shirts all day. There were pony rides, a fish pond, games, clowns, lots of good food and, of course, everyone got a pumpkin! It was so much fun!!
It was also a lot of work for my Mom and Dad!
The trees we planted grew strong and some of the early ones planted were ready to be Christmas trees by the time our first child Kelly was about a year old. One day in December, the three of us went down to the farm to cut our tree. We left Kelly with my folks at the farm and tried to cross country ski on the Louisville Swamp Trail. There wasn’t much of a trail back then and it wasn’t tracked so the skiing was tough. It was fun for just the two of us to be out together.
I remember talking about our life plans as Barry was then starting a new design company. Once Kelly was born, he got very serious about making a living, and I was pretty excited to work on some new books. On that winter day, we had the world ahead of us.
We have great memories of the farm. But as life tends to go, we three siblings became busy with our own families and not able to get to Sunada as much and help with the garden and trees. So my mom and dad decided to sell it.
Where did the time go?
Now years later, I was hiking along the Minnesota River on the same Louisville Swamp Trail. It is a better trail today, obviously used a lot. I saw eagles and deer, but not another human during my hike. I had lots of time to remember those wonderful days so long ago.
After hiking for a of couple hours, I headed home, driving past Sunada. I was surprised to see that all the trees we planted were now huge. It no longer looked like a place where you could cut a Christmas tree. It was a thick, dark forest – like you imagine from fairytales. Seeing this physical passage of time startled me!
How did I get to be 61 years old? How did my kids grow up so fast? How did it happen that I have a husband with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), living out his days in the nursing home? I looked around and wondered what I would have done had I known about this tragedy coming in our future. Would I have chosen to not marry Barry and avoid all this heartbreak with FTD?
Not a chance! Those trees are still growing strong and so are we. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment in this journey.