Scary Hand clutching paddle. Text reads Legend of the BWCA Monster Contest

We asked you to submit your tall tales, to bring a BWCA monster out from the shadows and be immortalized on cans of Lake Monster beer. You voted on your top picks, and judges from MN Historical Society Press, WTIP North Shore Radio, Lake Monster Brewing and Friends of the Boundary Waters gathered to select a winner.

And the winning BWCA Legend is “The Jackerwocky” by Brian C. Edstrom! This poetically-depicted monster had a little bit of everything – claws, antlers, plaid, an ax…and a well-written rhyme that touched on both the geography of the BWCA, and a Leave No Trace philosophy that was (maple) icing on the (monster) cake.

Honorable Mentions were awarded to the top-voted “You’ve Got a Friend” by Molly Valentin, and the chilling tale of “The Tongue” by Susan Du. Congratulations to our winner, who earned a year’s supply of free beer at Lake Monster!

But we’re not finished yet. Stay tuned! We’ll be asking you soon to pick a beer style that represents the “Jackerwocky” BWCA Monster, and sharing the steps that go into this beer before it’s released in Spring of 2023. Be sure to read our winning entries and finalists below.

Winners (Click to Expand)

Winner

“The Jackerwocky” by Brian C. Edstrom

There are strange things done beyond Lake One
between the Pigeon and Nina Moose.
The Echo Trail has its secret tales
that would make your stool run loose.
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
but the strangest they ever did see
was that night as a boy on Lac LaCroix
when I toasted the Jackerwocky. (more…)

I had seen afloat an empty rowboat
and paddled out to assist.
And still in my mind is what I would find
as I approached it in the mist.
From under the stern curled claws that churned
the fathoms reflecting the night.
But, just as I saw them, they withdrew to the bottom
and left only murmuring fright.

When back on the shore, my neck tingled more
at a most unsettling sound:
a chorus of loons alarmed at the moon
and caused me to spin right around.
There rose a beast, an eight-footer at least,
emerging from out of the lake.
It gnashed and moaned and terribly groaned,
pulling an ax in its wake.

Covered in hair, it wasn’t quite bear,
or lynx, or wolf, or man.
It wore plaid on its back, its head crowned with a rack
of antlers impressively spanned.
I knew then and there I was fixed in the glare
of a legend few will see:
a lumberjack-passed and eternally tasked
to haunt, as Jackerwocky.

Cursed with the guilt of an industry built
to put profits ahead of what’s wild,
the Beast’s spectral aim was to stake out a claim
from which humans are mostly exiled.
Though I, just a boy, there camped on LaCroix
had trespassed into this space,
I knew my ancestors, through trials and testers,
had learned to remain in good grace.

A strong syrup craving was the secret to taming
the logger within the Demon.
So, under the stars, I held up two jars
That I’d brought along for this reason.
I raised both up high, and told the Beast why
I, too, loved the land it patrolled.
The syrup then glugged as it grabbed one and chugged
and put its rancor on hold.
Its breath was most foul, its voice still a growl
as it spoke, close to my face:
“I’ll spare you right now if you solemnly vow
to tread lightly and leave not a trace.
But, if you come back, please bring in your pack
a refreshment befit for a ghost.
So long as you do, I think I’ll make do
repeating this unearthly toast.”

It rose to full height, fading back into night
leaving my jar behind.
(Without any doubt, I packed it back out,
keeping my promise in mind.)
The rest of my journey was calm and unhurried
as I portaged and paddled towards home.
But each time a loon called, and when the wind howled,
I wondered if I was alone.

There are strange things done beyond Lake One

between the Pigeon and Nina Moose.
The Echo Trail has its secret tales
that would make your stool run loose.
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
but the strangest they ever did see
was that night as a boy on Lac LaCroix
when I toasted the Jackerwocky.

The Jackerwocky
Illustration by Evalyn Edstrom, Age 8

Honorable Mention

“You’ve Got a Friend” by Molly Valentin

Rachel grew up in a family that loved wilderness. Since the summer that she was seven, her parents and brothers and sisters had traveled from St. Paul to the remote Far North on their annual trip to the Boundary Waters.(More….)

As the baby of the family, her trail duties were light. The pecking order was clear. Rachel was more than satisfied in her role. She had the leisure to portage the lightest loads, and to explore when the rest of the family was busy packing up the campsite each day after breakfast was cooked, eaten, and cleaned. Each member of the family connected to their BWCA time for their own reasons, and the time together in this most pristine and sacred place was something they all looked forward to. Rachel held a secret and an ambition that she had kept to herself since that very first summer. When the trip pictures were developed, she had pulled out a very unique photo and had made the life-changing choice to keep the secret the image captured had relieved. The ripple effects of such a splash seemed too great a risk. She had even taken care to take the negative out. As much as she loved and trusted her family, she sensed that this image was for her alone. Even at seven, she knew that some things were meant to be kept unknown. Her older brother Ryan took the bulk of the family photos and this particular shot showed her father and sister Tracy beaming with pride at the huge string of fish that they’d caught that day. Rachel could remember how delicious they had tasted and how the sunlight had sparkled on the water that very day. When Rachel had looked closely at the picture, she’d noticed the shadowy figure of a very large, dark, and hairy creature standing among the tall green trees. It was the knowing and pleading look in the creature’s eyes that stayed with Rachel the most. This creature was intelligent. This creature had a soul. Rachel wanted to protect him/her/it?, and yet, Rachel yearned to know this creature. Could she do both? This summer, she was seventeen and it struck her that this was the tenth anniversary of her family’s first trip. Each summer, she could sense the creature’s presence even as her family laughed, played cards, bickered, and sang. It was on the seventh and final night of their trip, that Rachel had asked if she could paddle alone to a small island near her family’s campsite for the night. To her relief, her parents agreed without complaint. She knew they were proud of her. She felt such a freedom and a thrill as she set off alone. The water was clear and calm. Her paddling strokes were confident and smooth. She loved to see the water drips return to ripple the lake with each stroke. When she reached the island, she pulled the canoe up onto the shore. For the next hours, she searched the island, deep into the trees certain that this was the time for her to come face to face with this creature– the one she’d long considered to be her friend. She walked back to the canoe and sat crying along the shore. If not now, when? She took off her boots and soaked her feet. Her tears turned to sobs that she’d held back for such a long time. The toll of this great secret had weighed heavy on her heart. She felt a storm of emotions: hurt, disappointment, anger, and even a tinge of fear. As she dried her tears, she felt a lightness in her heart. A good cry was cleansing. She looked into her reflection in the water, and confirmed what she’d known for so many years. The form, the shape, and the figure that reflected behind her. She was not alone. It was the intelligence, caution, and kindness in the eyes, and assured her. Rachel was with her friend.

BWCA Creature "You've got a Friend"

Honorable Mention

“The Tongue” by Susan Du

The bald rock jutting into the eddy where the Kawishiwi River met Hudson Lake was a prime fishing point at dawn. Aaron couldn’t believe his luck as he reeled in a muscular walleye followed by a feisty northern that gnashed its needlelike teeth as it came thrashing out of the water. Before noon, he had enough to feed the whole party. (more…)

He cast just one more line, sailing his lure into the mist with a flick of his wrist. He dragged it lazily, with a gentle tug and a jig.

Something caught hold. Something big. Aaron planted his feet as the fishing pole arched violently down. He had a monster hooked.

“Hey! Hey I need some help here!” Aaron shouted over his shoulder. But his friends were all back at camp on the other side of the island and couldn’t hear him. The clouds parted and the sun burned off the last of the fog. Sweat rolled down his face. His fight with the thrashing leviathan in the water had become a war of attrition.

At last the tension snapped, sending Aaron stumbling back on his behind as his line flung through the air. Whatever it was had stolen away.

Aaron reeled his lure out of the woods where it had flown. But as it swung nearer, he could tell that something was attached. Curious, he took it in one hand and just as soon dropped it with a shriek.

It was a human tongue, mottled and green with rot. A great shudder surged through his entire body as he retched. Holding his breath, he cut the line, kicked the tongue into the trees and charged back to camp.

His friends didn’t believe him, and when they hiked back to the fishing point to take a look around, they couldn’t locate the tongue in the brush. They decided to move on, with Aaron determined to tell the authorities what he’d found just as soon as they exited the Boundary Waters.

From Hudson they paddled to Insula and followed the Kawishiwi out to Alice. They fought white caps that rippled beneath their canoes from bow to stern, with the wind so strong that the paddler in front could not hear the paddler in back.

Suddenly there came three unmistakable knocks on the bottom of Aaron’s canoe.

“What out for rocks,” he called nervously to his partner, even as he wondered if rocks could make that kind of sound.

They carried on. But by and by the knocking resumed – three sharp raps, like knucklebones on the underside of the boat.

“Watch out for tree branches!” Aaron called. This time an unsettling suspicion needled under his skin. In the churn of his oar, he thought he saw a shadowy form keeping pace beside the boat. And when they shouldered their packs on the last portage, Aaron could swear he heard a whisper weaving through the trees that did not sound like the wind. Some prickling sense made him turn and look repeatedly down the trail – a gut feeling of being followed.

Night fell and the party made camp. They built a fire, cooked the fish and passed a canteen of whisky. Bellies full, they retired to their tents just as storm clouds formed on the horizon.

Aaron lay still, listening to the wind rushing through the pines and the waves crashing ashore.

A low groan came up the beach. There was a wet slap and scraping sound, like flesh hitting the rocky outcropping of their campsite and dragging across the beach.

“My tongue,” a ghastly voice gurgled in the darkness. A slap, a scrape, as it crawled closer. “What have you done with my tongue…”

As a shadow loomed across the walls of his tent, Aaron pulled his sleeping bag up to his chin and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to keep silent.

A hand reached up. Bony fingers unzipped his tent. A sickening odor, like death itself, hovered over his face. Aaron couldn’t help it. He opened his eyes – and saw a half-decomposed corpse leering down at him with strips of skin hanging off its hollow cheeks.

Aaron screamed.

The corpse grinned.

“There’s my tongue,” it said.

Finalists (Click to Expand)

Finalist 1

“You’ve Got a Friend” by Molly Valentin

Rachel grew up in a family that loved wilderness. Since the summer that she was seven, her parents and brothers and sisters had traveled from St. Paul to the remote Far North on their annual trip to the Boundary Waters.(More….)

As the baby of the family, her trail duties were light. The pecking order was clear. Rachel was more than satisfied in her role. She had the leisure to portage the lightest loads, and to explore when the rest of the family was busy packing up the campsite each day after breakfast was cooked, eaten, and cleaned. Each member of the family connected to their BWCA time for their own reasons, and the time together in this most pristine and sacred place was something they all looked forward to. Rachel held a secret and an ambition that she had kept to herself since that very first summer. When the trip pictures were developed, she had pulled out a very unique photo and had made the life-changing choice to keep the secret the image captured had relieved. The ripple effects of such a splash seemed too great a risk. She had even taken care to take the negative out. As much as she loved and trusted her family, she sensed that this image was for her alone. Even at seven, she knew that some things were meant to be kept unknown. Her older brother Ryan took the bulk of the family photos and this particular shot showed her father and sister Tracy beaming with pride at the huge string of fish that they’d caught that day. Rachel could remember how delicious they had tasted and how the sunlight had sparkled on the water that very day. When Rachel had looked closely at the picture, she’d noticed the shadowy figure of a very large, dark, and hairy creature standing among the tall green trees. It was the knowing and pleading look in the creature’s eyes that stayed with Rachel the most. This creature was intelligent. This creature had a soul. Rachel wanted to protect him/her/it?, and yet, Rachel yearned to know this creature. Could she do both? This summer, she was seventeen and it struck her that this was the tenth anniversary of her family’s first trip. Each summer, she could sense the creature’s presence even as her family laughed, played cards, bickered, and sang. It was on the seventh and final night of their trip, that Rachel had asked if she could paddle alone to a small island near her family’s campsite for the night. To her relief, her parents agreed without complaint. She knew they were proud of her. She felt such a freedom and a thrill as she set off alone. The water was clear and calm. Her paddling strokes were confident and smooth. She loved to see the water drips return to ripple the lake with each stroke. When she reached the island, she pulled the canoe up onto the shore. For the next hours, she searched the island, deep into the trees certain that this was the time for her to come face to face with this creature– the one she’d long considered to be her friend. She walked back to the canoe and sat crying along the shore. If not now, when? She took off her boots and soaked her feet. Her tears turned to sobs that she’d held back for such a long time. The toll of this great secret had weighed heavy on her heart. She felt a storm of emotions: hurt, disappointment, anger, and even a tinge of fear. As she dried her tears, she felt a lightness in her heart. A good cry was cleansing. She looked into her reflection in the water, and confirmed what she’d known for so many years. The form, the shape, and the figure that reflected behind her. She was not alone. It was the intelligence, caution, and kindness in the eyes, and assured her. Rachel was with her friend.

BWCA Creature "You've got a Friend"

Finalist 2

“The Makagami” by Emily Schoenbeck

Up in the bold north of the Boundary Waters, a creature lies burrowed deep in the mud of Minnesota’s lakes. Most of the time, the Makagami is a benign creature nestled in the mud where no human has much hope of even spotting it. (more…)

But once a month, under the dark sky of a new moon, the Makagami emerges to walk the land. The Makagami wants to be friendly. A curious creature by nature, the Makagami cobbles together sticks for bones and leaves for skin so it can walk amongst the forest as people do. It will even steal clothes from campsites in hopes of blending in.
There’s just one problem. Normally, the Makagami eats the fish of the lakes it calls home, but when it walks the earth it gets very hungry away from its natural food source. Often when trying to join a group of people, the Makagami’s hunger will get the better of it, and it will devour the very humans it means to befriend.
To ward off a visit from the Makagami, wary campers can stack rocks around the perimeter of their camp and hang sticks in the shape of an X from trees surrounding their tent. These symbols confuse the Makagami who feels unwelcome by them and will move along to another site.
If, however, a camper wants to tempt fate and risk meeting the Makagami despite its hunger, they need only set up camp under a new moon and make a single trail of stones leading from the outside of their camp to a seat around the fire.

Makagami Hand
Illustration by Emily Schoenbeck

Finalist 3

“The Tongue” by Susan Du

The bald rock jutting into the eddy where the Kawishiwi River met Hudson Lake was a prime fishing point at dawn. Aaron couldn’t believe his luck as he reeled in a muscular walleye followed by a feisty northern that gnashed its needlelike teeth as it came thrashing out of the water. Before noon, he had enough to feed the whole party. (more…)

He cast just one more line, sailing his lure into the mist with a flick of his wrist. He dragged it lazily, with a gentle tug and a jig.

Something caught hold. Something big. Aaron planted his feet as the fishing pole arched violently down. He had a monster hooked.

“Hey! Hey I need some help here!” Aaron shouted over his shoulder. But his friends were all back at camp on the other side of the island and couldn’t hear him. The clouds parted and the sun burned off the last of the fog. Sweat rolled down his face. His fight with the thrashing leviathan in the water had become a war of attrition.

At last the tension snapped, sending Aaron stumbling back on his behind as his line flung through the air. Whatever it was had stolen away.

Aaron reeled his lure out of the woods where it had flown. But as it swung nearer, he could tell that something was attached. Curious, he took it in one hand and just as soon dropped it with a shriek.

It was a human tongue, mottled and green with rot. A great shudder surged through his entire body as he retched. Holding his breath, he cut the line, kicked the tongue into the trees and charged back to camp.

His friends didn’t believe him, and when they hiked back to the fishing point to take a look around, they couldn’t locate the tongue in the brush. They decided to move on, with Aaron determined to tell the authorities what he’d found just as soon as they exited the Boundary Waters.

From Hudson they paddled to Insula and followed the Kawishiwi out to Alice. They fought white caps that rippled beneath their canoes from bow to stern, with the wind so strong that the paddler in front could not hear the paddler in back.

Suddenly there came three unmistakable knocks on the bottom of Aaron’s canoe.

“What out for rocks,” he called nervously to his partner, even as he wondered if rocks could make that kind of sound.

They carried on. But by and by the knocking resumed – three sharp raps, like knucklebones on the underside of the boat.

“Watch out for tree branches!” Aaron called. This time an unsettling suspicion needled under his skin. In the churn of his oar, he thought he saw a shadowy form keeping pace beside the boat. And when they shouldered their packs on the last portage, Aaron could swear he heard a whisper weaving through the trees that did not sound like the wind. Some prickling sense made him turn and look repeatedly down the trail – a gut feeling of being followed.

Night fell and the party made camp. They built a fire, cooked the fish and passed a canteen of whisky. Bellies full, they retired to their tents just as storm clouds formed on the horizon.

Aaron lay still, listening to the wind rushing through the pines and the waves crashing ashore.

A low groan came up the beach. There was a wet slap and scraping sound, like flesh hitting the rocky outcropping of their campsite and dragging across the beach.

“My tongue,” a ghastly voice gurgled in the darkness. A slap, a scrape, as it crawled closer. “What have you done with my tongue…”

As a shadow loomed across the walls of his tent, Aaron pulled his sleeping bag up to his chin and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to keep silent.

A hand reached up. Bony fingers unzipped his tent. A sickening odor, like death itself, hovered over his face. Aaron couldn’t help it. He opened his eyes – and saw a half-decomposed corpse leering down at him with strips of skin hanging off its hollow cheeks.

Aaron screamed.

The corpse grinned.

“There’s my tongue,” it said.

Finalist 4

“The Jackerwocky” by Brian C. Edstrom

There are strange things done beyond Lake One
between the Pigeon and Nina Moose.
The Echo Trail has its secret tales
that would make your stool run loose.
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
but the strangest they ever did see
was that night as a boy on Lac LaCroix
when I toasted the Jackerwocky. 

(more…)

I had seen afloat an empty rowboat
and paddled out to assist.
And still in my mind is what I would find
as I approached it in the mist.
From under the stern curled claws that churned
the fathoms reflecting the night.
But, just as I saw them, they withdrew to the bottom
and left only murmuring fright.

When back on the shore, my neck tingled more
at a most unsettling sound:
a chorus of loons alarmed at the moon
and caused me to spin right around.
There rose a beast, an eight-footer at least,
emerging from out of the lake.
It gnashed and moaned and terribly groaned,
pulling an ax in its wake.

Covered in hair, it wasn’t quite bear,
or lynx, or wolf, or man.
It wore plaid on its back, its head crowned with a rack
of antlers impressively spanned.
I knew then and there I was fixed in the glare
of a legend few will see:
a lumberjack-passed and eternally tasked
to haunt, as Jackerwocky.

Cursed with the guilt of an industry built
to put profits ahead of what’s wild,
the Beast’s spectral aim was to stake out a claim
from which humans are mostly exiled.
Though I, just a boy, there camped on LaCroix
had trespassed into this space,
I knew my ancestors, through trials and testers,
had learned to remain in good grace.

A strong syrup craving was the secret to taming
the logger within the Demon.
So, under the stars, I held up two jars
That I’d brought along for this reason.
I raised both up high, and told the Beast why
I, too, loved the land it patrolled.
The syrup then glugged as it grabbed one and chugged
and put its rancor on hold.
Its breath was most foul, its voice still a growl
as it spoke, close to my face:
“I’ll spare you right now if you solemnly vow
to tread lightly and leave not a trace.
But, if you come back, please bring in your pack
a refreshment befit for a ghost.
So long as you do, I think I’ll make do
repeating this unearthly toast.”

It rose to full height, fading back into night
leaving my jar behind.
(Without any doubt, I packed it back out,
keeping my promise in mind.)
The rest of my journey was calm and unhurried
as I portaged and paddled towards home.
But each time a loon called, and when the wind howled,
I wondered if I was alone.

There are strange things done beyond Lake One

between the Pigeon and Nina Moose.
The Echo Trail has its secret tales
that would make your stool run loose.
The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
but the strangest they ever did see
was that night as a boy on Lac LaCroix
when I toasted the Jackerwocky.

The Jackerwocky
Illustration by Evalyn Edstrom, Age 8

Finalist 5

“Ghost Moose” by Bob

We were well into our late season canoe trip into the BWCA. As unusual as it was, we were headed for the third week of our adventure and barely had frost let alone any snow this year in late October. (more…)

Hauling out for the night on the northeast shore of Twentyfive Island we were nearly out of provisions but still hoped that we might get a glimpse of, and photograph, the aurora one last time for the season before the waters begin to ice over.

Having pitched our tents in near darkness we then huddled around our fire when we began to hear subtle but strange noises in the trees just beyond our camp. Sure we’re in the wilderness and we expect to have critters rummaging around us looking for food scraps left by the summer intruders, but what we didn’t expect was that the Guardian of our ancestors’ legends would suddenly become the night terror of all of our remaining days.

Standing at its full height, a massive Ghost Moose, white and shimmering like a summer cloud, snorted and edged closer to our camp. As it neared we could see what appeared to be vegetation dangling from its antlers. We soon came to realize that his rack held numerous trophies from his previous camper encounters. With earth shaking stomps of its huge forefeet and bone-shaking bellows it charged at us, snaring a tent fly in the process and remaining undeterred. Launching ourselves into the thicket on either side of camp to cheat certain death, we watched, breathless, as the Ghost Moose crashed through our fire sending embers skyward like fireflies and headed straight for the lake, suddenly rising above it and blending into the now swirling mist until it was gone from our sight.

Shaken and shaking, not knowing if it would return, we quickly doused our fire, grabbed our gear and made for our canoes to paddle for home like our lives depended on… knowing there would be no sleep for us here that night.

Finalist 6

“Disposable Camera” by Kate

I have a second hand story…spine tingling and leaves the monster up to the listeners imagination. A woman took a week long solo-trip into the boundary waters. Just her, her canoe, and her disposable camera. (more…)

She would stay up at night to look at the stars and then crawl into her tent and doze off. She had a wonderful trip breathing in the freshest air and was so proud of herself for conquering the solo adventure. Not aware that a monster was present until she got home…and developed her camera. On her camera were photos she most certainly did not take. There were pictures of her campsite in the dark of night and there was a photo of her, sound asleep in her tent. Goosebumps covered her body and a shiver went down her spine. She had no clue who or what could have taken those photos.

Finalist 7

“The Wendigo” by Chris Hansen

The pair of big black birds circling the point across the lake were freaking me out. I know that around the Canadian border ravens become more common than crows, and this is what I suppose they were. But these were really big–possibly bigger than an eagle. As they circled, the calls they made were unnerving. Nothing like the “caw” of a crow, the sounds were screeching drawn out croaks. (more…)

I fished my binoculars out of my pack to get a closer look. To the naked eye it looked like a typical rocky point on a shield lake—a smooth rock shoreline gave way to a stand of sparse bulrushes with a couple of boulders. I realized that one of the boulders was actually a dead moose that had floated up there. Then I saw something else. At first I thought it was a bear, coming down to take advantage of the dead moose. Then I saw the antlers. Some smaller trees parted and then what I at first thought was a moose stepped to the water’s edge. I’ve seen hundreds of moose in my time up here, but what I was seeing now didn’t make sense; it had antlers, and it was tall like a moose. But it was mostly without fur, and I could see its ribs. And its front legs weren’t really legs, they were more like long, gangly arms. Arms that ended in long bony fingers. Even though I was about 200 yards away I could see the glint of fangs. It stepped from the trees to the water’s edge. It paused and looked up at the circling birds. It let out a scream that hung in the air. One of my travelers let out a whimper, and I turned put a raised finger across my lips. I knew we were out of sight of what any typical animal could see, but this was far from typical.
I flashed back to my grandfather telling stories around the campfire. Flames flickered and birch logs crackled as he described an evil spirit called the Wendigo: Long ago a lost hunter turned to cannibalism to survive, and his evil deed transformed him into a horrific beast. A beast that roamed with an insatiable hunger for flesh. Human or otherwise. While this story terrified me as a child, I never gave it any thought as an adult. But here I was, miles from the nearest road, two strangers in my care, looking at the impossible.
The beast had now waded into the water and its claws began tearing at the moose carcass. It ripped off huge chunks of flesh, hide, and bone with ease, shoving them into is gaping mouth where they were crunched and swallowed. The water around the moose carcass was soon tinged red with blood and the pair of giant birds took roost in a tall pine above the beast. The carnage continued as the creature consumed impossible amounts in minutes. My travelers had every reason to be scared now. I’ve had face to face standoffs with wild bears, with big city gangs, with angry fathers. At least with those you have an idea of what you are dealing with. My grandfather never said how one would deal with a Wendigo.
With most of the moose consumed, the monster let out another scream. I was back to looking through binoculars, the beast’s face and chest were covered in blood, and flesh clung to its claws. Despite having consumed the better part of a moose it was still gaunt in appearance. It took a last look around and I stopped breathing when its gaze seemed to focus on our location for a moment. It slowly turned towards shore and then disappeared into the brush. This cued the black birds to come down for what was left. One bird rested on the moose’s hindquarter and picked away, the other rested on the head and feasted on the torn-open neck. After a few minutes they flew up silently, circled over our location and then headed in the general direction the Wendigo had gone.

Rendering of a creature with long claws and moose antlers

Finalist 8

“Quacker in the Crapper, or the Murderous Merganser” by Thomas A. Uehling

Ducks are often thought of as peaceful creatures swimming past a dock and slurping up bits of bread tossed onto the water by excited children. Due to the events of 40 years ago, I’ve come to believe that ducks are more like Donald Duck who was known for his nasty temperament, even to the point of being violent and unstable. (more…)

During a 1981 Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness camping trip with three of my high school friends, I encountered a perplexing latrine situation. This was back in the days of the sturdy wooden latrine with the heavy lid. On this particular campsite, the latrine hole was several feet deep and had standing “water” in the bottom. Unfortunately, and I am not making this up, it also had a merganser duck swimming in the bottom. Being late in the day, we were not in the mood to give up the campsite, but it was obvious something would need to be done. It was apparent the duck was unable to free itself so I conducted a rescue mission with a length of rope with a noose. After a few attempts, I was running toward the lake dangling an angry, filthy duck. I tossed the duck into the lake with the noose still around its neck. I was clinging to the clean end of the rope, and after an epic tug of war, the now somewhat cleaner duck tired. I was able to remove the noose from its neck and it swam off appearing to be in good health.
The story of the quacker in the crapper wasn’t over yet. The ensuing events made me realize that this particular duck did not consider me a hero but, rather, the instigator of its malodorous imprisonment. Our latrine duck was a common merganser which is capable of flying at 50 MPH and possesses a sharp beak (not the typical flat duck bill). In fact, another name for the merganser is sawbill.
Later that evening, the merganser flew past our campsite and, upon seeing me standing near the water, went into a nose dive, or beak dive I suppose, with my head clearly its intended target. I managed to dive behind a granite boulder. The deranged duck with dubious intent then circled around for another pass but this time aimed toward my friend Bill who, having just completed a swim, was already running across a rock outcropping and headed for the tree line. He didn’t make it and the duck implanted its needlelike beak into Bill’s keister all the way up to its little nostrils. As I was about to laugh at the site of our duck dangling from Bill’s backside in the last light of the day, it occurred to me that the situation was actually serious. There was no doubt that the beak of this brazen duck was sporting some nasty bacteria.
Our crew discussed the situation and, recalling advice to never remove a sharp object due to the potential for uncontrolled bleeding, we decided we would leave the now-unconscious duck inserted in Bill. Ironically, we used duck tape to strap the merganser to Bill’s leg and then laid them both in the bottom of the canoe. We spent the night paddling and portaging back to our entry point and then made the long drive to the emergency room at the Ely hospital.
Bill was released the next day with several stitches, a jug of antibiotics, and a bag filled with ice plus a merganser. Bill’s doting parents had driven up and were helping him to their car so I kept my distance. As Bill passed by, he held up the bag and quietly said “Vengeance is mine.”
Bill’s family is renowned for their willingness to eat any wild thing, and Bill is a good cook, so I knew he intended to eat that duck. However, mergansers are not known as good table fare. After four weeks, I called Bill to check how he was doing. I also asked him, “How did that duck taste?” Without hesitation he replied, “You know, it tasted a lot like eagle.”

Finalist 9

“The Northern Lights Terror” by Molly Valentin

Shelby had always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights. The ethereal swirling of beautiful colors in the sky had fascinated her and led her to become a painter. (more…)

She longed to see them in the remote beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and she planned an extended October canoe trip as a means of achieving that goal.

You can read reports and predictions of when and where the Northern Lights are likely to occur. The magic of it is that you never really know.

See them she did. It was a night so sharp and clear. So cold that it shocked all her senses. It was an isolation so strong that she almost forgot what it was to be in civilization.

The colors swirled and memorized. Greens, blues, and deep pink shades danced across the sky. The intensity grew and a howling began.

Could she be imagining this? The undulating colors seemed to take shape in the form of a shape, an outstretched hand, and, most heart stopping of all, a face with eyes that insinuated understanding.

The howling ceased. The indelible moment passed, and the creature was gone. The swirling colors remained.

You can read reports and predictions of when and where the Northern Lights are likely to occur. The magic of it is that you never really know. The terror of it is that you never really know.

Finalist 10

“The Legend of KaKa” by Bill

Many, many years ago, in ancient times, a long gone civilization lived in the North Woods. They were half man, half spirit. They were very wise and had lived there since the beginning of time. One year Mother Nature brought on the longest, coldest winter ever known, with snows for 3 moons, piling as high as the tops of the trees. (more…)

The elders of the community decided they needed someone to preserve their legends. They decided it should be Ka Ka, a respected and courageous member of the community. As the long winter progressed, their supply of food dwindled. They were forced to ration their remaining food. Slowly, the community began to die of starvation. Those few left, including Ka Ka, found shelter in a hidden cave. Unfortunately, their remaining supply of food was not enough to sustain the now small group of members. They all perished inside the cave, including Ka Ka.
Many years later, a young man by the name of Big Nose Trapper, stumbled across the hidden cave. It was dark and mysterious inside with a musty, unusual smell. As Big Nose Trapper entered the cave he sensed the presence of someone or something with him. As he looked around, the image of a spirit appeared. The spirit was none other than Ka Ka. He talked to Big Nose Trapper in a very deep, raspy voice, telling him he wanted him to be the “Keeper of the Legends.” Big Nose Trapper feared for his life so he agreed to be “Keeper of the Legends.” Little did he know what a heavy but important burden this would bring. It took all of his resources to maintain the legends but with the help of his community he prevailed. As “Keeper of the Legends” he was blessed with good health and wisdom, as long as he respected and passed along the legends to future generations. Eventually, the trapper aged and knew his time had come to pass along the legends. He choose a young lad to be “Keeper of the Legends” and made him pledge to keep the sacred stories alive. Walking with a cane, struggling thru swamps and steep hills, Big nose Trapper showed the young lad the secret cave. The lad promised to be the caretaker of the legends and spirits until it was his time to move on. He was the “Keeper” until 2022 when it came his time to pass on the sacred stories. He could not find a trustworthy person so he decided to allow Chik-Wauk Museum to find a special person to be the next “Keeper.” The new “Keeper” will be told the sacred stories and shown the hidden cave, which has been kept secret for many years.

Legend of Ka Ka

As the sky darkens and the water quiets at dusk in the Boundary Waters, it’s time to share stories around the fire after a long day’s paddle. But don’t get TOO comfortable! There might be something lurking in the woods, under a submerged log in the quiet bay, or even in the sky itself.

Contest Details

Submissions must be from 100-700 words in length, and received by October 27, 2022. All entrants will receive a BOGO beer at Lake Monster!

The winner will receive a year’s supply of Lake Monster beer (1 case/month or crowler equivalent) to be picked up at the taproom in St. Paul. Their concept will be turned into cans featuring the monster, and the winner will be honored at a Lake Monster event.

Contest winners will be chosen by a combination of online community feedback and a panel of judges that will be announced soon, and winners will be notified via email.

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