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Westra tells of the life of a forester's wife

Fair Oaks Lodge folks had a busy week that included doing things outside.

Grace Westra is our lady in the spotlight this week. Grace was born to Charles and Grace Harms in 1912 on a farm in Meadow Township. She graduated from high school in Sebeka.

After attending normal school Grace taught in country schools 32, 48 and 49 before she married Harley Westra, who was a forester.

The life of a forester's wife suited Grace fine. She liked being near trees and was interested in the same things as her husband. His territory covered many square miles in the Park Rapids area and beyond.

Grace climbed 100-foot towers where she watched for fires through binoculars. She talked to people in other towers. Grace spotted smoke more than once, sending Charles to check it out in his car. Most fires were started by campers who did not put their campfires out before leaving.

When the CCC camps started, Harley was more than just busy. About 84,000 young men were involved in the state. They lived in barracks, and worked in the timber planting new trees or cleaning out dead ones.

Watching for fires from towers slowly phased out. By 1970 planes, who could cover more ground in less time, had taken over. This did not mean that Charlie was out of work, as those stealing trees did not take a vacation.

With so many square miles to watch, Charles was always concerned about the thieves who took loads of first class timber from forest that lay farthest out in his district.

Grace did not find that time was a problem even though they had no family and she wasn't allowed to teach after she married.

The wives of foresters liked to read and books were treasured and passed around, especially the Westerns. The job really tied them down. There was no such things as a vacation.

The Westras lived in houses as near to Charles' work as possible, sometimes in houses at the foot of the towers. Winter roads were a problem although the counties tried to keep main roads for the foresters open.

A never-ending, yet never the same pastime was watching nature. Being close to animals was great. Wolves, fox, moose and many deer were plentiful as well as other woods creature. It was especially fun in the springtime when they trailed babies along.

An observation was that there are bullies even in the animal world.

After Charles died, Grace retired to a place near Nimrod, where she has relatives and friends. She has been under our big roof a bit more than a year.