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Lee Foster’s Minnesota Boy Memoir Excerpt on Love of the Outdoors

I am posting some excerpts from my memoir about growing up in Minnesota, titled Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century. This post is about love of the outdoors.

See below an announcement about the book and then 5 of 82 sections (55, 12, 9, 10, 54), appropriate for this theme.

My decoys for duck hunting

My decoys for duck hunting

The Announcement:

Lee Foster Literary Book Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century Published

Lee Foster’s literary memoir about growing up in Minnesota has been re-published and released as Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century.Front Cover Minnesota Boy Lee Foster-300

The book was originally published in 1970 with the title Just 25 Cents and Three Wheaties Boxtops. Foster wrote the volume in the late 1960s when he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Stanford, studying writing and American Literature under Wallace Stegner, eventually receiving an MA Degree and completing ABD (All But Dissertation) on his PhD. Stegner liked the book and assisted Foster to get it agented and published. Stegner went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1972.

Minnesota Boy conveys the experience of growing up in a Minnesota mid-America that produced the sensibilities of people like Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Garrison Keillor, and Bob Dylan.

The book is not a standard chapter-by-chapter memoir. Rather, it is a collection of imagined conversations and recollections of what life was like in that Eisenhower Era 1950s, just as the times morphed into the Vietnam War and Protest 1960s. The book has 82 literary selections and 67 photos.

Minnesota Boy addresses a perennial and enduring question: What is it like growing up in America? The answer depends partly on the time and place.

The book informs about the strong hunting and fishing outdoor culture, Catholic religion sinner-can-be-saved ethic, egalitarian and inclusive all-children-are-equal spirit, progress-through-education-and-hard-work ideal, and optimism-about-a-better-future mindset that pervaded life in Mankato, Minnesota, in the 1950s. There was always, however, a nervous background worry about Nuclear Annihilation.

Black-and-white photos created by Foster in the 1960s, as he was beginning his writing/photography career, catalogue visually the now-vanished world of the child and family in that era in a Minnesota America. Visual details in the photos now have substantial archival value, with captions such as “My father’s fishing tackle box,” “Artifacts from a boy’s life in Minnesota,” “The garage at my family’s house,” and “A confessional at Saints Peter & Paul Church.”

The printed book ($14.95) and the ebook ($3.99) are available wherever books/ebooks are sold. ISBN for the print book is 978-0976084327 and for the ebook 978-0976084334.

The Amazon link is at

and on Lee Foster’s Amazon Author Page among his 19 books at

Bookstores and libraries can order the printed book through Ingram and the ebook through Smashwords.

This popular memoir book received a positive response from consumers on the day it was launched. The book ranked in sales as #65,318 of all the millions of books on Amazon, and #80 among books in a category Biographies/Memoirs.

For further information, contact:

Lee Foster
Foster Travel Publishing
1623 Martin Luther King
Berkeley, CA 94709

Here are 5 of 82 sections (55, 12, 9, 10, 54), appropriate for this theme.

Love of the Outdoors


Flying hard into the wind, the Canadian honker, big and solitary as a lost B52, drifted slowly up the Blue Earth River through blowing snow. The boy dropped the goose, luckily, with a clean shot, not more than 20 yards from his feet, close to several mallard decoys he had placed in an eddy near the shore. The bird splashed dead in the water.

Then his first goose began to drift slowly out of reach.

Edging cautiously over the rocks into a rush of cold water that swirled near the top of his hip boots, perched as precariously as a rabbit he had once observed jumping ice floes to cross the river, the boy reached out to catch the gander’s gray-brown wing. Missed.

The current swept his prize downriver. If the river had only been lower. Cold dampness seeped down his right pants leg into three pairs of thick, wool hunting socks. Dangerous, going in over his boots, when the air was 10 below. How easy to freeze. Could he swim in this water? What if he slipped on the rocks?

But the goose was already fixed firmly in a dream that starred the boy as a trophy hunter. He was a blood relative of all those deer hunters who suffered from “buck fever.” Was not this Canadian bigger than any goose he had seen others shoot? Was not such a prize too much to lose?

He thrust his single shot .20 gauge shot gun against the V of a low poplar limb, ripped off another branch to extend his reach, and raced downriver to a shallow shelf, where he waded out again on the mossy rocks, propped up with that one poplar stick against disaster. In August he had skinny-dipped off these rocks. The thought only chilled him further.

Along came the goose, floating high on the water, like an immense royal barge that did not wish to be moored, despising the mere commoner who would avert its course. The end of the poplar branch caught the bird for a moment, but the current pulled it away. What an undisturbed sheen that Canadian had! What size! It must have been a grain-fed Saskatchewan goose. The boy could imagine none bigger.

He scrambled a half mile downriver, cutting his left hand once on rough shore-ice, stopping at last at a place where he could not miss the goose. Here the river, completely iced over, spread into a small lake that looked like a giant’s white plate, the water disappearing with a mysterious rumble. He lay down and began crawling cautiously to the edge where the river rushed underneath. Wind had swept the area free of snow. An inch below him he could see air bubbles pushing past him with the current.

Only a few feet farther. Better that he should not have shot the goose than to have shot it and lost it.

His arms reached over the edge to snatch the stately gray neck that had flown so often through his imagination.

All around him the ice cracked. Both of his hands, and his head, went under. His left arm and leg caught the crust of the ice as the inexorable current pulled under his right leg and arm.

The goose was swept out of his hand and under the ice, but he scarcely noticed. His right hip boot filled with water and dragged him farther under. The river held him, pulling for a minute against all his strength, then released him. He broke away and rolled back.

His hands clawed for the traction they found in a small crust of snow.

How close, how very close to becoming a frozen block of ice that his parents would chip away at in the spring! He, their son, preserved immobile with his hand clasped around the neck of a magnificent Canadian honker!

A blast of wind ate through his wet collar at the defenseless skin of the neck. His wet face hardened with cold in a fixed death mask.

He ran off the ice, panting hot breath whitening the air. The nearest farmhouse was beyond a cornfield and up a hill, almost a mile away. How long would it be before the water in his right boot numbed his toes beyond walking? Already the feeling began to drain from his right hand as the chill wind nipped his entire body. His bleeding left hand throbbed more with each step.

“Never get wet. Never get your hands and feet wet.” How often had older hunters told him that? “Watch out for frostbite.”

Pulling his thumbs back into clenched fists in his mittens, then opening and closing the fists rapidly, he tried to warm his hands. He took them out of his mittens, rubbed them together, blew on them, shook them violently, opened his coat and stuck them under his armpits, and finally struck them against his legs. Still no feeling.

High drifts through a snow cornfield were now diabolical obstacles that stretched the distance between the farmhouse and himself. He limped along on just the heel of his right foot, crawling the last few feet up the hill like a leper before the wind’s will. His right leg became more wooden and unmanageable. He realized, near the top of the hill, that he might not make it. What if he did? What if his hands were unable to knock on the door? Could a knock, perhaps the battering of his head against the wood, be heard? Could he scream? Would anyone be home? Would anyone answer?

Thicker flurries covered the sky, smothering every hapless stump on which they fell, hiding each part of the frozen world in a twilight immobility until the spring thaw. He sat down; he could walk no farther.

From behind the barn two German shepherds came running at him, howling, snapping their teeth like wolves before a lame deer. Their barking brought a light to the farmer’s porch window.


“Any strikes?” asked the boy.

My father's fishing tackle box

My father’s fishing tackle box

The old man, his neighbor, set his pole against an oak stump and lit up a cigarette.

“Hell no. Not even a snap.’’

“Not even a measly sniff?”

“Nope, I’ve been casting for hours.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“You just starting, boy?”

“Uh. Uh.”

“There’s no fish today. That’s the truth. I’ve been fishing this lake since before you was as big as that lure you’re using. Say, what is it?”

“Sonic. It’s mostly magic.”

“Sonic? Maybe it’s a sheepshead lure! Hah. Fish in this lake take only Bass-Orenos and Lazy Ikes. I ought to know! You got rocks upstairs?”

“I don’t see anything breaking your nets.”

“Wise guy, huh? I suppose you think you’ll clean out the whole lake with that little piece of yellow plastic.”

“Yup. Up North all we used was Sonics.”

“Up North? Shit. This ain’t Up North, boy. You’re just shooting the breeze. You’ll beat the water to a froth.”

“Once the bass in this lake see a Sonic, they won’t take any other lure.”

“Oh, go to hell, boy. Say, that does cast nice.”

“Hey! Look! I’ve got a strike!”

“You lucky turd. Maybe it’s just a snag.”

“Snag? Look at it move. Must be a five-pounder!”

“I hope you lose it.”


In the woods he could always find solace in

a convention of woodpeckers

a small orchestra of nature’s chamber musicians, the frogs

the reading of streams, his first language and literature

the whirpwhirpwhirp haste of ducks jumping off the water

deceptively slow wing beats of Canadian geese rushing south

verbal and physical duels between chattering red squirrels and screaming jays

And the stately quiet repose in a marsh pond of one of the biggest birds in North America, a great blue heron, seeking supper in the shallows with its darting spike beak.

Crappies ready to be filleted

Crappies ready to be filleted


He blew on pressed thumbs of cupped hands to simulate a coo, which mourning doves and pigeons joined to make a dialogue.

His chatter with a steel whistle drew the heads of curious grey squirrels from their tree holes.

A red fox, suspicious of an unfamiliar but unmoving shape in an oak clump, made wide circles in the snow as the boy watched from the corner of his eye while blowing a dying rabbit call.

A flaring feed chuckle brought strings of pintails, redheads, and canvasback from the edge of the horizon into his decoys.


In the gray overcast light of a somber winter afternoon, the boy stomped his way through high drifts along a fencerow. Suddenly his foot stepped on an explosion of flying snow, frantic clucking, and a whirling spectrum of green, russet, gold, and black. Never had the boy come so close to the living body of a rooster pheasant. He could reach out and touch the aristocratic long tail feathers and elegant soft side plumage. Three feet out of the drift, blinded by the snow it scattered in a frenzied effort to escape, the regal bird flew into the random loop of a barbed-wire fence, and wrung its neck. The boy watched the last agonizing twitches. An icy wind nibbled quickly away at each remaining calorie of life’s heat.

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