Linda Estel & Anne Tellett

Anne & Linda and family

A Wedding in Duluth


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Prologue: In May of 2013 the Minnesota state legislature passed, and the governor signed, a law allowing marriage equality. On August 23 of that year my sister, Linda Estel and her partner, Anne Tellett, after a 26-year committed relationship, were married at Hawk Ridge in Duluth. I was delighted to be there, and of course, the journey and all that happened must be recorded in one of my seemingly endless series of travel reports.

The Joy of Flying: I do not fear flying, but I don't enjoy it, especially long distance flights. Cramped seating, long waits in air terminals, long waits in the plane before it starts to move, long periods of taxiing to the runway, difficulty moving around planes, and the ever-present possibility of delays or lost luggage make "getting there" NONE of the fun.

Still, most of my trips have been OK, and with other obligations at home, I did not have time to do  a motor home trip this summer, so I booked my flight to Duluth and crossed my fingers. The first part of the trip was fine, especially since a mid-day departure meant I did not have to get up early. All was well on the flight from Fresno to Denver, but when I got off the plane, I immediately saw that my flight to Chicago was running 30 minutes late.

With a 45 minute layover in Chicago it would be tight but probably OK, but then it became 45 minute delay and my hope of getting to Duluth that evening diminished. As we boarded, gate staff told us that a lightning storm was approaching, and to please hurry so we could get away before it was too late. Once on board, our pilot announced that they had taken on extra fuel so they could go faster, but it was just not enough. We landed in Chicago as the plane for Duluth was taking off.

Airline staff had already identified those of us who missed our connection, and prepared boarding passes for the next flight (8:47 the next morning in my case), as well as vouchers for hotel and meals. We were met by an agent who handed out the documents and directed us to the shuttle that would take us to the hotel.

The only problem for me was that I had brought nothing in my carry-on for overnight use, so I made do with the same clothing I wore when leaving Fresno. I was dressed for summer in Fresno, but I was OK walking to the shuttle and in the hotel. The hotel at least was able to provide a toothbrush.

There was a brisk breeze the next morning (Windy City, remember?), but I had only a short wait outside, and got on the shuttle at 7:15, arrived at the airport, and went through the security check without problems. The plane left and arrived on time, and Linda picked me up about 10:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time.

: The wedding was the next day, and planning had reached its final stages, with everyone busy dealing with what they dubbed "the last minute minutia." This included a stop for gas and plans to get the Toyota Forerunner washed. Linda was annoyed to find that the station's car wash was closed, but we moved on to the next task, getting some photos printed and others scanned at a nearby Walgreen's. They were setting up a memorial table with photos of our parents and Anne's dad, all deceased.

She got the picture of Mother printed, but the photo of Dave Tellett was too small to enlarge, and the photo of our dad was not on the memory stick. She also had a bunch of photos to scan for a slide show, but decided to postpone this, and we headed for their house, which sits on 40 acres of woods about ten miles from downtown Duluth, outside the city limits.

On the way we stopped at the wedding location, Hawk Ridge. You can read details by clicking on the link, but briefly, this is a location where tens of thousands of raptors and other birds fly over during their migration south each fall. A number of birds are captured and banded, and Linda volunteers there several days a week during this activity. It is a beautiful location, surrounded by hardwoods and shrubs, with views of Lake Superior and the Duluth Harbor. There is a viewing platform where observers use spotting scopes to observe and count the birds. Nearby is a clearing with benches which is used for educational talks, and this would be the wedding location.

Not long after we got to their house, Susie, their friend and volunteer wedding planner arrived, along with her little dog Maggie, an unusually well-behaved representative of that species. Susie made sure that everyone had an assignment, and mine was to return to Walgreen's and finish getting the photos. We had found the photo of Dad, and Anne made arrangements with her sister Nancy to bring a good picture of their father.

I printed the photo of Dad, and scanned about 25 snapshots covering the years Linda and Anne have been together. It would be about a half hour before the disk and print would be ready, so I decided to take the Toyota and get it washed at a gas station across the street. This proved to be one of the most inefficient car washes I have ever seen, and it didn't do a good job on the large vehicle, but at least the worst of the dirt was gone. We have a drive-through wash in Clovis, Raceway, that can do a better job for less money on three cars in the time the one in Duluth took to do one.

I arrived back home with the completed photos and disk, and managed to avoid any further duties that day, with one limited exception.

The other wedding planners, in charge of the reception venue, were Pam and Kim, who have been together for 27 years, have two grown children, and were getting married a week later. Several days earlier they had given Anne and Linda a very special wedding gift - an offer to bring over dinner Thursday night, when there would be seven or eight people to be fed.

These included the brides to be, one of the two attendants, long-time friend Adriana, Anne's mother Lucille (Lu) and sister Nancy, Susie and myself, and of course, Pam and Kim.

They arrived about 6:30 with an ice chest and several boxes, which I helped carry in. They had already prepared several dishes which just needed to be zapped in the microwave, and had marinated chicken in tequila and lemon juice overnight. This went on the propane barbecue, and barely a half hour after they arrived we were sitting down to a delicious dinner.

Although I was still used to Pacific time (two hours earlier), at a reasonable hour I headed for Linda and Anne's trailer, which was set up and fully operational to be my bedroom.

Wedding Day
: Realizing that there would be a number of guests to be fed, but with her mind totally occupied elsewhere, Linda had purchased a large box of Special K. The previous day Susie had taken one look at this, and vowed to provide something better, and we enjoyed a breakfast of coffee cake, bagels, and fruit (in some cases mixed into a bowl of the cereal). Lu and Nancy, who had been offered the use of a vacationing neighbor's house, joined us.

Needless to say there were plenty of last minute or at least last day tasks to be accomplished, but everything went smoothly. A rehearsal was scheduled for 3 p.m., with the wedding at 6:00. With Susie keeping everything on track, the early preparations went well. Linda and Anne were sent off to take care of whatever brides do before the wedding, while Lu and Nancy left to meet her husband Jeff. Susie and I loaded four shiny new metal chairs and two folding chairs into the Toyota. There was also a metal arch that would be set up with artificial flower garlands, which we partially assembled and put in Susie's car, along with assorted real flowers.

Shortly after 2:00 Susie headed for Hawk Ridge with me following. Once we arrived, we had some help from her husband David as well as others, carrying everything up the short path to the wedding location. Anne's mother and sister had made foam pads covered with fabric to be tied to the wooden benches, and this simple touch converted a rather Spartan venue into something festive.

The only real hitch was the arch. We finished putting it together, and Susie's plan was to drill holes into the dirt, place short pieces of irrigation pipe in the holes, and insert the legs of the arch. The only drawback was the fact that "dirt" was in short supply, while rocks were plentiful. This area is known as the Canadian Shield, and consists of rock left behind by glaciers. Trying to make a hole, first by pounding the pipe in, then by digging with a screwdriver, and finally be scratching with the legs of the arch, all proved fruitless. If you could get past one rock, there was another rock beneath it. Finally we carried several large rocks that were used to line the path and the clearing, and placed them around the legs of the arch.

It looked as if it would hold, provided a wind did not come up, but even this method was not foolproof. In the middle of the rehearsal, which was touching and funny, everyone got a good laugh as a gust of wind brought the arch down on the unsuspecting brides. Their attendants, who had been instructed to catch the arch if it did fall, were engrossed in the the practice ceremony and failed utterly in this duty. A number of us began piling more rocks around the legs of the arch, and with about 500 pounds of rock around each leg, we finally achieved stability, and it held up to the end.

Once the rehearsal was completed everyone left to get dressed, while I stayed behind to keep an eye on things. I had my iPad with the Kindle app, so I had 20 or so books available to read. I was still working on the Roosevelt biography that I had started before my trip to a bluegrass festival two weeks earlier.

Except for a visit by a hummingbird, which quickly realized the flowers on the arch were fake, it was an uneventful wait. About 5:30 I went down to the car to put on my good shirt and shoes, and got comfortable in my chair as the guests began to arrive.

The wedding ceremony was everything you could hope for, with many touching and also humorous moments. Music was performed by Terrol & Jane, with numbers by Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Glenn Miller (in other words, music with a tune and intelligent words). Priscilla and Don, members of the Ojibwa nation and PhD professors at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) sang "Four Directions Love Song" in their native language. The officiant, Ellie Schoenfeld, read one of her poems, "Forever." (I highly recommend her work, like the ceremony it's either touching or funny or both.)

The ceremony concluded with the exchange of vows, written by the brides, exchange of rings, and the declaration of marriage. The plan was for Linda and Anne to walk down the path to the singing of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love," but they spontaneously began dancing, and danced their way out of the clearing, to greet their guests at the bottom of the path. Having achieved a goal they had wanted for decades, they had huge smiles that would remain throughout the day.

If this were a newspaper account of a wedding from the 1960s, at this point there would be a detailed description of what the bride(s) wore, what their mother(s) wore, what the attendants wore, everything but what any men involved wore. But it's not, so I will just say that the wedding party looked delightful, and the guests were dressed appropriately, even me.

After a number of photos by the road, with the expanse of Lake Superior as a background, we all headed for downtown Duluth and the reception at Midi Restaurant on Superior Street. This is located in Fitger's Hotel, which includes several restaurants, shops, and the hotel where Linda and Anne would stay overnight.

Terrol & Jane played  for a while as guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Anne and Linda danced and seemingly would continue indefinitely. Susie finally told them, "your guests are getting hungry, and they can't eat till you do. Stop dancing!"

We then enjoyed an excellent buffet, which included salmon, chicken and many other goodies. I sat with Nancy and Jeff, Susie and David, Sandy, a woman who had worked for Linda at New Moon Publishing, and her husband Joel Smith. We had a great time, sharing stories and general conversation. When Linda made the rounds and stopped at our table, I could not resist revealing her history as the operator of a turtle racing stable in southern California many years earlier -- history that was known to Anne, but to few others in Minnesota. Linda then provided the details for the guests.

We also viewed the slide show that had been set up on a laptop at the side, as well as the photos of Bob and Hazel Estel and Dave Tellett, now nicely framed and displayed on a "memorial table."

After a visit to the dessert table, where I could not resist a full piece of cheese cake and a small sample of some other decadently delicious chocolate delicacy, I said my goodbyes to the people I knew, and headed back to the country.

My arrival back at the house started with a small adventure. Maggie had been left in the mudroom, and it was clear as I unlocked the door that she wanted to go OUT RIGHT NOW. I put on her leash and she led me down the driveway toward the main road, which had been her normal walking route with Susie. We had just got started when Susie and David came driving up, which of course caused Maggie great excitement. She slipped out of her collar and ran in front of the car. I yelled, David hit the brakes, and all was well, or at least till we discovered that Maggie had expressed her displeasure at being left alone by getting into a bag of bird seed and spreading it around the floor. A brief "morning after" illness the next morning revealed that she had also eaten some.

Back to Hawk Ridge: On Saturday Ann and some of her family went to a memorial service for Dr. Arthur Aufderheide. He had been a professor at UMD, served in the army medical corps, wrote textbooks and many scholarly articles, and participated in several expeditions to the arctic. His wife attended nursing school with Lu back in the 1940s.

Linda had to return some traffic cones to Hawk Ridge that had been set up in the parking area at the wedding, so she asked if I wanted to ride along. We unloaded them near the viewing platform, then Linda asked if I wanted to see the banding station. This sounded interesting, so she called Frank Nicoletti, who was on duty with a new volunteer, to see if it would be OK. Normally access is not allowed, or is limited to scheduled visits.

We walked a brief trail into the woods where we found Frank on duty in a small wooden building facing a fair sized clearing. He explained how the capture process works, which is as follows: Several small birds are tied to cords that run into the building. If the spotters at the viewing platform see a hawk or other predatory bird approaching, they notify the person in the station (known as a bander) by walkie-talkie. He then begins pulling on the cords, causing the bait birds to fly up briefly, looking as if they are injured and therefore easy pray. They call this "fishing." If a hawk (or eagle, falcon, etc) dives, it is caught in a mist net, and the people working then rush out to free it and bring it into the building. Don't try this at home - they know how to handle unhappy predatory birds safely, avoiding the sharp talons. The bait birds are well cared for, never get eaten, and Linda said they work fewer hours than she does.

The captured bird is then placed in a can head first. For a smaller hawk, Pringles cans are used. The birds seem to recognize the futility of struggle and usually wait patiently for their release. Before this happens they are banded, weighed, and measured. This information, as well as the age, sex, date, time and band number are recorded. One or two small chest feathers are collected to be tested for mercury, and the bird is then set free.

Observation here starts August 15, but the major migration does not start until mid-September, and they have been seeing few birds, so I did not expect to witness a capture. Instead two sharp-shinned hawks arrived almost simultaneously, and Frank's intern went out to get the first one, while Frank went after the other. He had his inside the shed in short order, but the bander was having trouble, so Frank went out and together they brought in the other one.

After the banding process, I was allowed to release one of the birds. This involves carefully receiving the bird from the bander, handling it by gently gripping the lower body, tail and legs. When larger birds are released, such as eagles and red tailed hawks, they are given a boost, and released in the open area. With the smaller hawks, all you need to do is let go. When I did this, he flew directly toward the thick woods, and I thought he would land in a tree and get his bearings, but instead he went into the woods, swerving and dodging expertly, and was out of sight in seconds. I learned that they are forest dwellers, living and feeding there, so the they have excellent maneuverability. These two were determined to have hatched in May.

This experience was unexpected and needless to say, was the number two highlight of my visit after the wedding.

A while after we returned to the house, Anne and the family members who had gone to the memorial returned. Also around this time Anne's other sister, Carol and her daughter Laura arrived. Nancy, Jeff and Lu were heading back to Minneapolis-St. Paul, so they said their goodbyes. Then the rest of us went to the closest restaurant, the Breeze Inn, for a very good dinner.

Later that evening Adriana came over, and we built a fire in the outside fire pit (NOT for warmth). We had a nice time talking and sipping our drinks. After a brisk wind came up, Anne doused the fire with a hose, Adriana took her leave, and the rest of us headed for bed.

The Last Day
: Carol and Laura spent the night, and after breakfast we headed for the Duluth-Superior Harbor to take the cruise that is offered several times each day. This took about two hours, and included an informative narration regarding ship traffic and landmarks visible from the largest and busiest harbor on the Great Lakes. We sailed out under the unique lift bridge into the lake itself, then back in and around the perimeter of the Duluth section of the twin harbors.

There were a number of ships at various docks, loading or unloading grain, coal, taconite (an iron ore product), and other cargo. We also had outstanding views of the waterfront, downtown Duluth, and the hills above it. Outside the harbor was a Polish ship, awaiting the arrival of its cargo before entering the harbor. A check of the shipping news web site revealed that it had been anchored there since August 15, and was scheduled to enter the harbor the next day.

After we got back on land, we went to the Duluth Grill, a restaurant that had been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Others have reported that every place they tried that was recommended by this program met expectations, and our experience was no different. They make a point of using mostly local, fresh ingredients, so even the most ordinary dish was excellent, including my BLT sandwich.

Carol and Laura had brought their own car, and said goodbye after lunch, heading for the Twin Cities. Linda, Anne and I drove to Pam and Kim's home to present a thank-you gift for their help with the wedding, and to discuss plans for their own ceremony.

Then we took Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway, which winds through the hills above town, roughly parallel to the lake shore. From a rest stop/information center we had a great view of the harbor and areas we had traveled by boat. A little farther north we stopped at Enger Tower, which offers another great view of the area, then drove through the UMD campus, where Anne teaches and where Linda obtained her degree. We also went by two houses where Linda and Anne had lived before they bought their country place about 20 years ago.

We all agreed that we did not want dinner, but I had been without ice cream for the whole trip, so we made a quick stop for that and a few other items and started for home. Although the weather through Friday had been ideal, the temperature Sunday was a very unusual 95 or so, with a lot of humidity. Their house has a basement that is open on one side, but underground on the other, so it stays cooler, and we enjoyed the cocktail hour down there.

About 7 p.m. Linda and I went upstairs to get ice cream, and sat out on the porch. By this time a thunder storm had come in, making it a bit cooler. We had very little thunder and only a few drops of rain at first, but from that time till about 3 a.m. there was never a time when I could not see lightning flashes. The few drops of rain suddenly turned to a downpour, forcing us back under the porch roof overhang, and this continued off and on till after I went to bed. For the first 20 minutes or so the rain on the roof of the trailer was incredibly loud, preventing sleep, but it slacked off before long. I went out once during the night and could see the moon, stars and lightning all at the same time.

On My Way Home
: In the morning Linda and Anne finished the last crumbs of the coffee cake, while I had the other half of my BLT sandwich that I had brought home from the Duluth Grill. The crowd had thinned out to the point that I was the last one left, with my plane set to leave at 3:20. It was back to school for Anne, although she didn't go in until early afternoon.

Linda and I left for the airport a little before 2:00, and said our goodbyes at the terminal door. I got checked in and through security very quickly in the city's small airport, and was getting ready to get out my iPad and settle down for reading when I was paged to the counter.

"TSA is wondering about the lock on your suitcase," I was told. I explained that I had traveled from Fresno to Buffalo and back, and from Fresno to Duluth with it locked, and no complaint from anyone. Nevertheless, I had to hand over the key, which was returned within 15 minutes, with no explanation of what they saw in the scanner. Or perhaps they just select a random number of bags to be opened. No one can fathom the mystery that is TSA.

Duluth was the only airport without a full body scanner, just an old fashioned metal detector arch, and they didn't pat down my suspenders as happened at every other airport (can't take 'em off or my pants will fall down, and no one wants that).

The flight from Duluth to Chicago is quick, less than an hour actual flying time, and I enjoyed views of farmland and small towns most of the way until we flew over Lake Michigan into O'Hare. As soon as I checked the monitor, I found that the plane to Los Angeles would be delayed, but only about 30 minutes. This was not a problem since I had nearly a 90-minute layover in LA. As it turned out, we left 40 minutes late, but still landed only 10 minutes late, and the wait for my final flight to Fresno seemed longer than the hour or so it actually was.

We landed in Fresno about 11:20, and had a long wait for luggage, but I finally headed for my truck, paid the ransom, and arrived home close to midnight, very glad that I had made the trip.

A Few Final Comments:

The poem Ellie Schoenfeld read at the ceremony, "Forever," is found in the book The Dark Honey. Another shorter volume, Screaming Red Gladiolus!, contains a number of very funny poems about Barbie dolls, none of which would be appreciated by the Mattel Corporation, where Linda worked briefly when she lived in southern California.

The predatory birds encountered at Hawk Ridge are divided into several categories: Accipiters (goshawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and Cooper's hawks) are relatively small; Cooper's are common in the west; the others are seen only in the east. The larger hawks are buteos, and the other categories are eagles, falcons, vultures and harriers.

Of interest to my former work colleagues, many of the people I met are or were social workers or in related professions. The musician Terrol has written and issued a CD of "social work songs." Several others are professors or administrators at UMD.

The aerial lift bridge was built in 1908 and upgraded in 1929-30. The new portion was built inside the old. The bridge must be raised for any vessel taller than 14 feet, but it only goes up to its full height for the big cargo ships. Clearance at full height is 180 feet, and the span length is 386 feet. Limited horsepower is needed to raise the bridge, thanks to heavy concrete counterweights on each side. The bridge is operational 24 hours a day. 

I didn't take as many photos as usual, so some of those linked above or shown below are from my trip in 2002.

--Dick Estel, August 2013


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window) 


Susie and Maggie Anne and Linda's house They've won prizes at the state fair
with syrup from maples like this
The bird viewing platform Lake Superior with ship
anchored outside the harbor
Looking toward the harbor and downtown Duluth
The arch, now well-anchored Pam and Kim Terrol & Jane
Chatting before the wedding The brides arrive Dancing down the trail
Pinky swear vows Anne & Linda and family Lu Tellett (Anne's mom), Anne, Linda, Dick
Anne's niece Laura, Anne & Linda,
Adrianna, and the ring bearer
Linda Estel & Anne Tellett Adriana, Linda, Anne, Laura enjoy the bonfire

The big finale - burning an old pallet

Anne & Linda on the front porch Dick carefully receives a
sharp-shinned hawk from Frank
Ready to release We walked across this bridge
to our harbor cruise boat
One of the cruise boats at anchor
Another view of downtown The unique aerial lift bridge, built
in 1908 and upgraded in 1929
Duluth from the harbor area
John Blatnik Bridge and the inner Duluth Harbor Farmland in Minnesota Baseball fields in a small town
approaching Chicago
Related Links
Ellie Schoenfeld Poetry More about Dr. Aufderheide Duluth Harbor Web Cam
Duluth-Superior Harbor Superior, WI More about the lift bridge
Duluth, MN Canadian Shield Hawk Ridge
Mist Nets Accipiters Buteos
Ojibwa nation Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway Enger Tower
Duluth Grill University of Minnesota Duluth Fitger's Hotel
  The Breeze Inn Lake Superior
Ready to release

Pinky swear vows

Lake Superior with ship anchored outside the harbor

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Good Old Fashioned Bluegrass Festival A Wedding in Duluth
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Updated November 14, 2020