Those who have enjoyed hearing the stories about Big Ernie, Needa Shortbottom or the Rev. Moon Shadow Peterson-Visnovic will be glad to know all those tales are now in one book, Tales From Lard Lake.
The characters and situations are all products of the mind of Aitkin’s Dr. Bill Stein, a retired dentist and current deacon at St. James Catholic Church.
Stein has compiled the columns he has written for the Aitkin Independent Age for 30 years or more. The result was this book just published through Amazon and is available in paperback at $9.99 and Kindle at $5.99. Just go to Amazon.com and under books, type in “Tales from Lard Lake” and it will take you right to it.
“If any of our local stores are interested in carrying it they can let me know,” said Stein.
A FANTASY COMMUNITY
Stein received some of his inspiration from a 1970s-era Aitkin Age columnist by the name of Wally Brodhead, who wrote a humor column, “More from Thor.”
“Wally and I became great friends,” said Stein.
“Most of the Lard Lake names began as derivations of Finnish ones,” explained Stein, “the spelling of which for some reason struck me as hilarious. Since then, the Lard Lake population has become a paragon of diversity with names that are mostly odd juxtapositions of ethnicity (I put this sentence together just to impress my college English teacher, Professor Paul Hague). Hague once said to me, ‘I think you just want to be a dentist so you can afford to be a writer.’”
Aitkinites will recognize the names of a few of Stein’s local buddies.
“The only real Lard Lake character is ‘Big Ernie,’” he said, “my great friend and neighbor near my hunting shack.”
“Bill has a gift for weaving episodes of sketchy adventures our locals banter on about at the friendly watering holes we frequent,” said Marv Midthun, a buddy ever since Bill arrived in Aitkin.
“Reading them often triggers a recollection of something you know in fact did happen – some individual you are very familiar with,” Midthun said. “Those recollections always bring a smile. I’m glad Tales From Lard Lake is out there to log those happy memories.”
After 40 years, at least 7,000 root canals and more tooth extractions than he could count, Dr. Stein left dentistry in 2015 to pursue other interests.
Having started his Aitkin practice in 1973, he operated solo until 2007, when he was joined part-time by Dr. Sean Fleming, who bought the practice in 2013.
Stein took up scuba diving in 1968. For many years, he and his wife, Terry, made an annual scuba diving trip to the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean.
The couple hasn’t been able to go the last few years because Bill has been plagued with back problems.
“Scuba diving was a huge part of my life as an instructor and member of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society,” he said. “Terry and I still enjoy watching the undersea videos that we made over the years.”
Stein served as the district news editor of Northwest Dentistry from 1985-99 and as executive editor from 1999 to 2015. He is now editor emeritus. He is also copy editor for Muskie Magazine, the publication of Muskies Incorporated.
Stein serves as a deacon at St. James Church and he and Terry have made some pilgrimages to places like Rome and the Holy Land.
And if you think Stein is busy enough in his retirement, there’s one more project coming.
“I’m presently working with a friend of mine on a murder mystery,” he said.
“Mystery writing is a first for me. We’ll see how it turns out, I’m clueless.”