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Column: Through an era, this was one of year’s memorable day

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Oct. 16, 2004.

WORTHINGTON — Oh, what crowds there would be along the main streets of Worthington and Windom, Jackson and Luverne, Slayton and Pipestone this morning. Pheasant season begins.

In a time gone by, they would have been gathering in the streets around their cars by 8 in the morning, men and dogs, men in brown canvas hunting jackets and hats. They would fill the restaurants to overflowing and stop by the hardware stores for extra boxes of shells, maybe some gloves. They came from everywhere in Minnesota, by the hundreds — oh, by the thousands.

Ringneck pheasants teemed in the cornfields of southwest Minnesota like bullheads in a prairie lake. When the pheasants lifted, they lifted in flocks. And they nearly always flew, never ran. The concern was that the pheasants might fly from the far end of a field before the hunters got close.

I haven’t hunted for many years. In fact, Jack Sliver auctioned my shotgun. I called it quits one October afternoon on the west edge of Dundee. I left work at mid-afternoon and I was walking a triangular patch filled with weeds where the roads intersect.

Suddenly, a rooster pheasant lifted from a cornfield just beyond me. I shot. I knew something had happened, something was different, but I couldn’t appreciate what it was. When I got to the pheasant, there were two of them. I got two roosters with one shot. I guess I thought, “It can’t get better than this.” That came to be my last outing with a shotgun.

Thought of pheasant hunting brings to mind the good old game warden, Bert Getty, who spent most of his career working out of Worthington. I don’t mean disrespect to say that when Bert came in view, it was like seeing a Boy Scout.

He was always in uniform, looking freshly-scrubbed, always in ruddy good health with a smile flickering at his lips. Every now and again he was moved to salute whoever he was approaching.

Bert was a good fellow. He was known, among many things, for what he called Mulligan stews. Bert arranged sometime each winter for the kitchen and community room, which once were on the second floor of City Hall. He would cook pieces of wild game and tomatoes and potatoes and carrots — even more, probably — onions — in big pots through all of a day. At night he hosted his guests, a couple of hundred of them.

The business building next to First National Bank Brewster-Worthington was originally the hall for the Grand Army of the Republic. Bert had an apartment there, partitioned from a portion of the old, second-floor meeting rooms.

Larry Swenson owned the building when Bert died and Larry asked me to stop one day to look over a large, unorganized collection of stamps. They were clearing out Bert’s belongings. I was into stamps at that time.

Bert was frugal; no question of that. I was surprised, and I felt sad. Bert’s furnishings were plain and spare — and neat — as an army barracks. There were some duck stamps that might have been worth only several dollars. The postage stamps, only from Bert’s adult years, mostly cancelled, many duplicated, were common and all but worthless. It appeared Bert counted this collection one of his treasures.

Bert Getty came to Worthington just after one of the most shocking incidents in this region’s history.

Large quantities of bullheads, which were traced to Minnesota, were turning up in markets at Sioux Falls, S.D., and Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa. South Dakota and Iowa game wardens sent out notices.

A.M. Holt was a veteran warden at Worthington. D.P. Brady of Windom had served at times through much of the southwest region. It is believed Holt and Brady intercepted a large shipment of fish — they made no report. Together with Marcus Whipps, a warden at Kakato, they set off for the farm home of Bryant Baumgartner, who operated a fish market east of Mankato, near Waterville. It was an afternoon in the second week of July 1940.

The wardens asked Baumgartner to show his license. Baumgartner went into his cottage and emerged only a minute later with an automatic shotgun. He killed all three wardens — friends said he could drop five quail with five shots. He turned his gun on himself.

The massacre of the game wardens stunned a large region.

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