Blaze orange clothes, tackle boxes, boots, wool pants and socks, deer rifles, old boxes of Remington Core-Lokt ammo and back issues of Sports Afield and Fur, Fish, and Game were on the shelves all around me and the smell of wood smoke and Hoppes No. 9 permeated the air. This was the place where my boyhood imagination was sparked and the dream of being a big game hunter and an outdoor writer was hatched. This was my Grandpa’s Workshop.
My Grandpa, George Torger Klippenes was born May 8, 1925 to Charlie and Nancy Klippenes in Brainerd, Minnesota. George grew up an integral part of the family farm, working hard to help feed the family and to put some spending money in his pocket. This work ethic served him well over the last 83 years, from his time with the 11th Airborne Division in World War II to the taconite mines of northern Minnesota where he earned a living for his family.
From the time I was little, Grandpa Klippenes was the personification of a man’s man to me. He worked hard, hunted, fished, trapped, farmed, and made personal sacrifices to raise his family with integrity and to honor God.
After moving to Oregon in the 5th grade, I didn’t have a chance to hunt the family farm in Minnesota with Grandpa until I returned for college. After waiting 18 years to hunt deer with Grandpa, I was thrilled to have the opportunity and didn’t get much sleep that night.
Opening day dawned clear and cold with temps hovering just below zero. As I sat on my stand waiting for the deer that never seemed to come, I thought of Grandpa in his stand on the other side of the field and all the deer seasons he had been a part of on the farm.
Three generations took to the field that day, caring more about filing the freezer and enjoying time together than antler size. In the end, I shot my first deer, a yearling whitetail doe and learned how to cut and wrap it with the rest of the deer taken that week. The meat was all split equally among the family, a tradition from days long gone, when the deer harvest could dictate how well we’d eat that winter.
During the week I absorbed the sights and sounds around the farm, re-established relationships with far flung family, and spent time gong through the old stacks of Sports Afield in the cabin. Someday I would be a writer like those in my Grandpa’s magazines…. I’d backpack steep mountains, hunt sheep like Jack O’Connor and hunt far more exotic places than the family farm.
Moving to Montana seemed to fill the bill, so when my newlywed bride Quenby and I had the chance to move west, we jumped on it. I promised to be back and hunt the farm each year, but raising a young family and running a business kept me from returning for several years.
When I was finally able to schedule the Minnesota hunt again, I could hardly wait to get back. I relished the opportunity to go and spend time with my Grandpa on the farm again. The sights and sounds were the same as always. The smell of wood smoke, gun oil and coffee mingled in the barn where preparat
ions for the hunt were under way. Tables were put up, gear laid out, and clothes hung by the wood stove to stay warm against the winter chill. This time all the family was back for the hunt and there was a feeling that something big was going to happen.
Mid-morning found me fighting the cold and inactivity on the deer stand, trying to stay put and not head back to the cabin for a cup of coffee, when I heard Grandpas rifle boom across the field. After 30 minutes, I couldn’t stand it anymore and headed off in the direction of Grandpa’s stand. My Dad was driving the
old International across the field and waved at me to jump on with him. The cold air turned frigid as it rushed by carrying with it the exhaust of the ancient, red tractor. However, when we turned into the wood lot, we warmed immediately at the sight of Grandpa with the largest buck anyone could remember coming off the farm. It was a big 5 point and he had put a huge grin on Grandpa’s face!
The rest of the week was a busy one, with 11 deer taken and lots of butchering and wrapping and time spent catching up with family. Again the allure of the farm, and Grandpa’s workshop drew me in and flooded my thoughts and dreams on the drive back to Montana.
Now, 17 years after that first deer hunt with Grandpa on the family farm, a lot has changed. I’ve solo backpack hunted for mountain goat, deer, and elk, taken a bighorn ram in a manner that would make O’Connor proud and sold the story to Sports Afield. I’ve worked hard in the hunting community, and accomplished much of what I dreamt of in the old workshop. Looking back on it though, all I really want is to be like my Grandpa.