Brainard: Give a hoot about owls (and also my missing cane)

LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER My cane, missing by some backroad in the Iowa-Minnesota border area, is a Komperdell brand in olive green color. It has a cork horizontal handle, plus cork vertical handle for use as a trekking pole, as well as a black fabric loop on the handle. Also, remember the International Owl Festival is coming.
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Bluff Country Newspaper Group

Today two topics are foremost in my mind. First, here’s a reminder that the 18th annual International Festival of Owls is taking place in Houston, Minn., the weekend of March 6 to 8. This fundraiser is the biggest one held each year for the International Owl Center in Houston with events at the center, the school, and elsewhere in the town and in Houston County.

Look for six or seven species of live owls from the Illinois Raptor Center; live owl programs throughout the weekend; an owl woodcarving exhibit; speakers from Nepal, Netherlands, Massachusetts, and Texas; and a raffle, vendors, meals, activities, and more. There’s a general admission fee and some activities have additional fees. All typically are offered at a discount with the purchase of a yearly membership to the International Owl Center. It allows unlimited visits and more.

Find the weekend schedule, registration info, and much more by going to

Lost my cane

I hate to admit it; I have misplaced yet another one of my much-needed walking cane/trekking poles. Aaaaaack!

Sometimes I’ll find one or somehow get it back. This time luck was not with me. First of all, we had a major snowfall. Secondly, my beloved truck had an issue, which meant I didn’t want to risk having it break down in the boonies to go looking for the cane (don’t be uptight about my calling the area “boonies;” that means it’s lovely in my book). When I first realized it was gone, it was night.

After a beautiful afternoon on Thursday, Feb. 6, I was out looking for a scenic landscape for a sunset shot. Driving backroads while singing along with a loud radio keeps me somewhat sane in the winter. I’ll even tell you where I went, in case anyone happened to pick up my cane before winter returned in a big, snowy way. The very fact I’m publicly sharing one of my backroads routes shows my dire circumstances.

Sigh… OK, I was south of Harmony, southbound on Highway 139 when at some point I turned right/west, and then left/south. Not sure on the exact roads now, but I ended up eventually on 370th Street in northeast Iowa. This gravel has a one-of-a-kind bridge over the Upper Iowa River. It has a low, well-signed clearance of 9 ft. Yes, only 9 ft. It’s very odd to see the low top of this bridge structure. I got out there to take a photo. Did I have my cane leaning on the bridge railing there and it perhaps fell through into the river, for canoers or tubers to later find? I don’t think so…

Continuing west on this road, I then turned left/south onto 345th Ave. At some crossroad I turned right/west. After a series of similar turns in this area, I think I took a left/south onto Yankee Ave., and then a right/west onto 50th St., where I finally ran into the hard-surface road from Cresco to Granger and headed home.

I made a few different stops along this whole route in both states, eyeing the landscape as well as progression of the sunset. Typically, my cane went along with me. I might lean it up against the truck. Much like a soda or cup of coffee you might place on the roof of your vehicle while doing something else, it’s a good way to kiss that item goodbye. Out of sight… out of mind.

Lost, found before

Once I left a cane at the Mississippi River backwaters boat ramp area at New Albin, Iowa. I realized before totally leaving the area, drove back, and found it. Luckily, I hadn’t run over it.

Last summer, I was at an event in Marquette, Iowa, held at the nice hotel of a few stories downtown. Behind it, the street that was formerly Highway 18 dead-ends at a river overlook where the old highway bridge crossed the Mississippi to Prairie du Chien, Wis. I stood taking photos with my cane leaned up against a railing (yeah, I detect a trend here). My cane fell through the railing into a small area of woods and brush behind the hotel. Sheesh. I drove around, looked at it, and determined I could only attempt to get up in there if I had my cane – which had already found its own way in without me, haha.

Looking at my phone’s satellite map, I determined it was city property. Marquette city offices are in the hotel building. I was camped at Yellow River State Forest around 15 miles away. The next morning, I called the city and asked if an employee might look for my cane. (I did this recalling how hard our Preston Tourism Center staff – of which I’m a part – worked to get a visitor’s car key fob back to him. It’s the gracious, right thing to do.) So, yes. Marquette had a public utility guy search. He readily found it. We set up a place to meet and he returned it to me.

I’m sure hoping this will be the case with my recent cane misplacement. I have partially broken models like it that I can use, but it is the best one. If you happen to find it – even in April or May or whenever – drop me a line at, an e-mail I set up especially for this. Thanks in advance for keeping your eyes open in that area.

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.