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VIRG FOSS: Time for "summer vacation"

Since my retirement from full-time work in the newspaper business in 2005, April always signals the arrival of a bittersweet time of the year for me.

It marks the end of the college hockey season. I do love that sport.

It also marks the end of my seasonal column for the Grand Forks Herald sports pages from October through April, bracketing the busiest sports season.

This marks the ninth year I’ve written this column. This particular column also signals the end of my writing for the Herald for a while as I go on my unofficial five-month “summer vacation.”

As much as I enjoy writing a weekly column, I find that I am ready for a break this time of the year. It is a challenge to think of a topic each week. Writing itself is never easy.

But I also understand I enjoy staying involved with sports. More importantly, staying in touch with the readers of this fine newspaper. This column opens the window for me to do both.

So April is a time of change, to be sure, and not just for me.

Several of my esteemed former colleagues at the Herald are soon retiring or have in recent times. The face of the paper as I knew it as an employee is changing.

I think of publisher/editor Mike Jacobs, who just stepped down after filling so many roles at our paper. He will write far less in retirement, he says, citing the demands required for good writing he can now set aside a bit in retirement.

I worked with Ryan Bakken for years, and he too is retiring soon. He’ll leave in June, I’m told, as will chief photographer John Stennes, a talented artist.

And earlier, the extremely gifted Chuck Haga and multi-skilled Jeff Tiedemann retired from the paper, leaving two more huge holes in the staff as a wealth of talent marched into retirement and away from the printed pages.

Whether any of the words, pictures or work of those gifted journalists will find their way into the Herald in their retirement years, I have no idea. I truly hope so. They have much to offer, but that’s not my call.

Life moves on for all of us, ready or not. In recent years, I’ve written about the passing of my mother, who was mentioned in many of my columns. Later I wrote of the death of my dog Ole, and adventures of adopted shelter puppy Lena.

I heard from readers as much when I wrote about them as I did when I focused on sports. So understanding that, I’ve tried to sprinkle a healthy dose of daily life into my column, and not just focus on sports.

With that in mind, a special friend is waiting for me, and if I listen closely late at night, calling for me.

The friend is Blue Loon, my cabin of 31 years on Lake Beltrami just northeast of Bemidji.

I’ll head there early next week, to begin the ritual of opening it up for the season. Plans are set to first get the TV/phone/internet hooked up, and later, the water running, then the dock and boat in the water when the ice goes out.

I feed the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, racoons, an occasional red fox and other furry friends who come to visit me at the cabin.

I’m certain they know me by now. When I pull the car into the yard after being away all winter, there’s a small gathering forming in the front yard, waiting for me to break out the feed.

And so this cruel winter will pass us by in time, and the sun and warmth will return. So will the flowing blue waters of Lake Beltrami and the gathering of birds and creatures who are my friends.

I’m off now to stare in wonder at the bald eagles soaring over Blue Loon, and soon, soak in the magical call of the loons, piercing the night sky.

Virg Foss reported on sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement. He writes a column exclusively for the Herald from October through April. Contact him at or (701) 772-9272.