#7 voyageur statue: Big Louis in Barnum

Big Louis, the name of the statue in Barnum, is one of the biggest (seems about 40 feet tall) and most elaborate, like his possible brother Big Vic of Ranier. Made of fiberglass, he is also colorful, with a curly black beard and hair and a red-banded tuque hat. He’s dressed in white-striped and long-fringed full-length buckskins, winter wear, belted, not sashed. The long fringes  cover his feet. Big Louis is armed — a pistol tucked in his belt, a musket out front and his power horn in back! His face shows the joie de vivre characteristic of voyageurs — alert to a rival trader moving in to his territory and ready for the challenge. But there’s no paddle. He’s here for good. Big Louis stands sentinel over the Interstate 35 exit #220, checking out the lake on its east side. Next to him is a convenience store, gift shop and café, which are appropriate — voyageurs ran the very first shops in town. Up next: Pine City...
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#6 voyageur statue: Cloquet

Cloquet’s voyageur statue is 25 feet tall, made of fiberglass. He holds the short paddle of a middleman in his canoe. His apparel looks ready for winter — a long double-fringed buckskin tunic, tight leggings and a fur hat. His beard is trimmed and his hair as well. However, he looks gruff, like he misses the good old voyageur companions during the long winter nights. This guy faces inland, with his back to a very calm portion of the St. Louis River. My sister Kris, who led many Girl Scout canoe expeditions, and I are sitting on this guy’s really big feet. The official bronze sign says it was a bicentennial project dedicated July 5, 1976, by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, Rep. James Oberstar, Floyd D. Jaros, mayor, and Henry C. Larson, chairman. You can find him on Dunlap Island Park, with an old military fort nearby. Drivers will need to figure out which road twists under the bridge. Tomorrow: Big Louis in Barnum...
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#5: Two Harbors’ second voyageur

Two Harbor’s second voyageur is maybe 15 feet tall, which is shorter than his competitor Pierre (and historically accurate in that these guys had to be shorter than 5’6” to fit into the canoe). He has long hair and beard (better to keep out the dreaded mosquitoes and black flies) and is dressed in fringed — and laced — buckskins, a high fur hat and even laced boots. He holds the short wide paddle of the middleman. His eyes study the lake, watchful for the erratic weather that is a bane for voyageurs — fog, high waves, fast-building storms. He also looks hungry — like a winterer wondering how he is going to make it through the ravages of the season. Maybe he only has one year left of his contract. Sculptor John Gage created this statue from a tree trunk; the monument was dedicated to the Minnesota DNR in appreciation by the City of Two Harbors. This voyageur overlooks the harbor and Lake Superior, not far from the lighthouse. Next: Cloquet...
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#4 voyageur statue: Pierre of Two Harbors

Two Harbors is the proud home of two monuments. Pierre sports a laced tunic and tall boots, useful the dreaded muddy Savanna Portage. Locals told us he is known as Pierre the (Pants-less) Voyageur, due to his garb. But it’s correct and appropriate for the summer — being in and out of water would make fringed leather or wool trousers a misery. His short beard suggests that he was spiffed up for the rendezvous at Grand Portage. He holds his vermilion-painted gouvernail’s paddle ready to jam it between rocks to steer. His other arm is bent, fist at the waist (akimbo?) — as if to say, “Try me, river. I know you, and I can beat you.” At his feet is the front half of a birch bark canoe (for folks to pose in). Pierre has the right build — wide shoulders, short legs. And he is lit at night (note the trio of lights over his head), which again is appropriate — voyageurs enjoyed their allotted dram of high wine. Though a 25-foot concrete statue, he seems lively, totally in character with the real thing. The sign, which once told more, is no longer legible. He’s next to a sign announcing an award-winning “hidden food gem” café. Pierre stands on the east side of MN Highway 61, just before you get into town. Tomorrow: Two Harbors’ second voyageur...
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#3 voyageur statue: Ely

Pierre is the voyageur in Ely, a chainsaw sculpture. The wood is tinted so this fringed voyageur’s shirt is multi-toned and carved to look as if it were quill- or bead-embroidered. His moccasins look as if they were decorated with leather beads. His pants are light tan with leggings and decorated bands — definitely the best-dressed of the Minnesota lot. A bag of possibles hangs from his narrow sash — another small bag is just below his throat. His black beard is nicely trimmed. Looking this spiffy, maybe he’s just traded for new winter duds. Both hands are on on his short paddle of a middleman. But he looks a little sad; maybe this year’s cache of wild rice and dried fish won’t last the winter. At about 7 feet tall, this statue is the closest to life-size of all the monuments. It’s found outside Canoe Capital Realty, on Sheridan Street in Ely — they commissioned the award-winning chainsaw artist Justin Howland of Grizz Works Wood Sculpture in Maple, Wisconsin, to create it. Kerry Davis, CCR partner and real estate broker, kindly took this photo and sent it to me. Up next: Two Harbors...
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#2: Crane Lake and René Bourassa’s Fur Post

Crane Lake, Minnesota, boasts of a historic site — René Bourassa’s Post built in 1736. So the fiberglass statue must be René, dressed in a nicely fringed long buckskin shirt with a red sash. (Yes!) Hanging from the sash is a red and green bag of “possibles,” almost as if it were decorated with porcupine quills. His leggins are fringed over moccasins and tied at the thigh. With his long red tuque hat, a good haircut and well-trimmed beard, he looks very tidy — spruced up for someone, perhaps? One foot is raised, as if on a rock of a rough portage path. He’s leaning back while looking off over the lake and holding onto his short middleman’s paddle, which also is painted with a dramatic pattern. Maybe he’s sizing up the rapids or the waves, and thinking about the route his avant will choose. (The map shows nasty portages over Class 2-5 rapids — like High Falls, the Chute and the Gorge — for a total of 3 ½ miles. Ouch! So René is about to have hard work traveling inland.) At the site, a sign says “This memorial was erected by the Crane Lake Commercial Club to commemorate the French Canadian Voyageurs who explored and opened this country starting in the late 1600s. Thousands of these dauntless men rowed their birch bark canoes through these waterways in the quest of furs and the Northwest Passage. One of their forts was at the mouth of the Vermillion River in Crane Lake. The gay garb of these courageous happy men is typified by our memorial as he stands here proudly surveying the lands and waterways he once roamed. Home of the Voyageurs” The Vermillion River feeds Crane Lake, east of Rainy Lake, at the southern entrance to Voyageurs National Park and is at the southern entrance to Voyageurs National Park. It’s on the west edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. This photo was taken by my friend Jackie Bradbury, who enjoys cabin life there half the year. Tomorrow: Ely...
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