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The Bullhead Queen

A Year on Pioneer Lake

Sue Leaf

Publication Year: 2009

The Western approach to nature has always operated under both spiritual and scientific views. While Christianity decrees that human beings have dominion over nature, evolutionary biology teaches us that we are but highly adapted animals among a biological network of millions of other species. What is our proper relationship to wild animals-and what is our responsibility to them?

In The Bullhead Queen, Sue Leaf exemplifies the moral aspect of humans to nature through a collection of engaging meditations on the places she sees every day on Pioneer Lake in east-central Minnesota. Reflecting on the birds she peers at through binoculars and the Lutheran church that anchors the lake's southern shore, Leaf contemplates how her relationship to nature has been colored by the Christian theology of her childhood. Acknowledging the influence of the church on her view of the natural world, she follows the liturgical calendar as a thread, chronicling the change of seasons over the year.

Leaf considers the results of the assumption that nature is ours to use: we continue to fish, trap, and hunt animals whose populations are ghosts of their former selves and produce mounting environmental pressures on their habitats. Observing the ways in which the heavy hand of human beings has changed the landscape of Pioneer Lake, and many others like it, she also rejoices in the ways in which the lakes remain wild and exuberant, influencing the lives of all who encounter them.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

...elms and thriving ash trees all line the sloping path to the lake. It is a mixed forest with species from both its natural past and its human habitation. On the northern end of the lake is a densely...

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pp. xi-xii

...shared her ideas on lake associations and on multiple, conflicting uses of a small lake. Jim Huot-Vickery graciously agreed to read and comment on the final draft of the manuscript. Tom Anderson, Darby Nelson, and Doug Owens-Pike read and commented on early versions of some...

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Waiting at Advent

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pp. 1-5

...winter sports that we thoroughly enjoy. Ice skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing—once cold weather settles in, we live our days for the hours we spend on the ice, on the slopes, on the trail, drinking in the cold air and the stark beauty of snow and ice. For me, nothing...

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Counting at Christmas

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pp. 6-17

...do. We all have called a time-out to the holiday madness of shopping malls, spitting cash registers, and congestion in the Camel Lot. Marked by the act of slinging a pair of binoculars around our necks, we have said...

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Wild Ice

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pp. 18-24

...yeasty fragrance of stollen, baking in the oven. I aim for the right mix of tradition and innovation in our holidays, so we can view the grand feast of the Incarnation, God in human form, with continuously new eyes...

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Christmas Hockey

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pp. 25-27

...them. The rink on the lake beckons. Christmas Day is luminous, with hoarfrost glittering on the trees. A weak solstice sun lights the landscape and snow crystals stairstepping down from heaven glint in midair...

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Morning Star

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pp. 28-34

...window at six thirty each morning. We eat a subdued breakfast, each of us thinking it would be better to be in bed. I light a single candle at the table, hoping to kindle a bit of life into the meal that breaks our nightly fast...

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Geese on the Ice

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pp. 35-42

...disassembled dock as a warming bench, the boys raced away, the anxious Sheltie at their heels. They soon reappeared with a report: the ice was smooth down to Grandstrand’s, the cracks looked to run four inches thick, and...

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Passing the Salt

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pp. 43-51

...what every local parent most fears. I could barely hear above the throbbing of my heart as the officer proceeded to tell me that John had spun out on the busy highway on his way home from school. Fortunately, no one had been coming from the other direction. Ours...

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Winter Geography

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pp. 52-56

...Lake never has fish houses—who would go to all that work for bullheads?—but North and South Center Lakes are well populated each winter. The villages appear at roughly the same spots from year to year, but...

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pp. 57-60

...when we had left, ten days previous. At home, I was disheartened, looking out over the snowy lumps and knobs that were my garden boxes. I had returned with thoughts of pansies and primroses and early leaf lettuce...

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Owl Invasion

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pp. 61-69

...arctic owls occurring in northern Minnesota. Four species of owls normally seen only in the far north were espied with increasing frequency. The most common ones, those that grabbed people’s attention...

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What Are Animals For?

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pp. 70-79

...exotic. Pioneer usually only attracts the most commonplace: mallards, teal, wood ducks, lesser scaup in spring. I heard a splash behind me and turned around to see two dark forms tussling in the water. I was momentarily...

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Ever Living Fire

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pp. 80-87

...much more so than in January. After a natural pause at the end of winter, leaves begin to form on trees, migratory birds arrive to start their breeding season, and other animals come out of hibernation to resume their lives...

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Winged Wonder

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pp. 88-94

...on so cool a day. The spring was still quite young. Our woods were naked, only the maples and box elder showing any signs of life. There were lingering traces of snow...

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The Rites of Spring

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pp. 95-102

...a Sunday morning, so spring begins on a subtle note, as if too much gaudy display would overwhelm our winter-weary selves. There is such a marked contrast between early spring and what happens in my birthday...

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The Nest Box War

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pp. 103-110

...past, cavity-nesting birds sought out woodpecker holes carved out of dead snags and, since the introduction of agriculture, holes in wooden fence posts, to serve as nest sites. However, with increasing human...

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pp. 111-117

...a babble of nonsense syllables. But celebrate, we did. The liturgical color for Pentecost is red, the color of the Church, and the sanctuary was hung with lengths of scarlet ribbon that undulated like tongues with...

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Illumined Courtship

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pp. 118-122

...to close windows? The night was particularly dark. Clouds had already moved in, erasing the stars. But as if to compensate for the loss of their heavenly sparkle, the meadow fronting our yard was a-twinkle...

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The Bullhead Queen

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pp. 123-127

...diligently one summer, salvaging wood from discarded construction lumber, measuring, sawing, pounding, painting. They even fashioned a chair of sorts, so that the person propelling the craft would ride high out of the water...

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Skiing at Flamin’ Feet

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pp. 128-136

...had a monitor, but when the MPCA released the compiled data on Minnesota lakes, Pioneer’s records were in the ranks. They showed what anyone could see with the naked eye: clarity in Pioneer was never any greater than two feet and usually less. The buoy pattern...

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The Green Season

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pp. 137-144

...herbaceous plants of the meadow are beginning to add some golden tones to the palette, and what once was bright and true is more faded and mature, jaundiced, olive and ochre. All too soon the vibrant scene will be colored by the warm yellows of...

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Rowing the Mutant Canoe

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pp. 145-150

...as a central seat for a rower. When flipped around, it becomes a cushy portage yoke for resting the craft on the shoulders. In addition, he has affixed a second contrivance, labeled by its manufacturer as a “rowing...

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Ordinary Time

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pp. 151-160

...could be seen to move and seemed to direct its ponderous cousin forward. I grasped the concept quickly, though there was a leap of translation involved: when the long hand points to the 3, call it fifteen, and when it points...

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Nighthawk Day

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pp. 161-166

...encountered this spectacular spiral of birds while on an early September walk around Pioneer Lake. The evenings were growing cooler and shorter, and I moved briskly to make it home before sunset, when I was brought...

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Via Dolorosa

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pp. 167-173

...roadkill. This is a frightening thought because roadkill is part of daily life in a technological society. It is the cost of “doing business.” It is collateral damage. To thrive in such a world as ours, a sane person needs to don emotional armor...

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Saints at Work, Saints at Rest

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pp. 174-182

...festive Reformation Day service, commemorating Martin Luther’s nailing of the ninety-five theses to the church door at Wittenberg. To pass the time, we discussed a recent article we’d seen in the Minneapolis...

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Everyone a King

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pp. 183-192

...coming winter. Its water has cleared as the algal population declines under the assault of colder and colder temperatures. Once more, I can see the silty bottom, littered with fallen box elder leaves, as I peer into the...

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About the Author

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p. 193-193

...A former college instructor in biology and environmental science, she holds a doctorate in zoology from the University of Minnesota. She is president of Wild River Audubon and lives in Center City, Minnesota, on the shore of Pioneer Lake...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816670611
E-ISBN-10: 0816670617
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665518

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human ecology -- Minnesota -- Chisago County.
  • Nature -- Effect of human beings on -- Minnesota -- Chisago County.
  • Natural history -- Minnesota -- Chisago County.
  • Chisago County (Minn.) -- History.
  • Chisago County (Minn.) -- Environmental conditions.
  • Chisago County (Minn.) -- Social life and customs.
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