Anoka County history: What if? Looking back in history

For the past 10 years I have belonged to the Coon Rapids Writers Group.

Perhaps you are already familiar with some of our members: Jo Jordahl, Ron Taube, Bev Toppin, Mike Knight, and Lyle Bradley.

They all take turns writing the “Talking Nature” column for this paper.

The CR Writers Group meets at 1 p.m. every Monday in the Coon Rapids Senior Center to share our writings with each other.

Most often we write on a specific topic; sometimes not.

One Monday last October the subject was “What if?”

I had a little trouble with that one, but the others rose to the occasion. \Lyle Bradley even brought in a clothes basket of artifacts to illustrate his “what ifs.”

Taking a long look backward into time he asked, “What if these things hadn’t happened?” and “What have we learned from them?”

Lyle said if we had been sitting in this very room in the Coon Rapids Senior Center 350 million years ago we would have been at the bottom of a 160-foot deep inland sea that split the North American continent down the middle.

What if the land hadn’t risen and the sea was still here?

Lyle took a fossil out of his bottomless basket; the bone of a diplodocus, a dinosaur that roamed around in Wyoming and possibly Minnesota, for millions of years, before going extinct in a catastrophic event 65 million years ago.

What bad luck for the dinosaurs; what good luck for us.

The extinction of the dinosaur allowed for the rise of mammals, of which we humans are but one of the many species.

“What if the dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct?” he asked. “Would we be safe? Would we even be here at all?”

From his basket Lyle dug out another fossilized bone.

“Seven thousand years ago a large mammoth was trapped in a boggy area two miles north of where we are sitting today,” he said.

“Paleo Indians living in the area probably came upon the struggling creature and finished it off with arrows, spears and rocks; then they feasted.

“Mammoths are now extinct as are many large mammals that once roamed the earth — most of them done in by man.

“Two hundred years ago Thomas Jefferson, subscribing to the theory that nothing ever goes extinct, sent Lewis and Clark on an expedition west to search out, among other things, woolly mammoths.

“What if they had found one?”

Six hundred and  fifty years ago in 1362, eight Goths and 22 Norwegians left testimony of their visit carved on a stone that was found buried in the roots of a tree near Alexandria, Minnesota.

Regarded as a hoax for many years, the authenticity of the Kennsington Runestone has at last been verified by scientific analysis.

Its purpose? Most likely a medieval land claim.

What if these Norsemen had established a colony here?

Just 200 years ago Anoka County was part of a vast fur trading culture peopled by voyageurs and Indians.

What if Minnesota hadn’t become a U.S. territory in 1849 and joined the Union in 1858?

Would the Indians have been treated fairly?

One hundred fifty-two years ago Anokan Aaron Greenwald and his buddies were the first to heed President Lincoln’s call to arms to save the Union.

What if they, and others like them, hadn’t thought it was important?

One hundred fifty years ago starving Sioux Indians took out their frustration with the U.S. government by killing 800 settlers in southern Minnesota.

What if they had been treated fairly in the first place?

Ninety-nine years ago, the last of the once plentiful passenger pigeons died in the Cincinnati Zoo.

What if the others of their species hadn’t been killed for sport?

Eighty-five years ago a Minnesotan nicknamed “Lucky Lindy” flew across the Atlantic Ocean ushering in the age of air travel.

What if he had crashed?

Five years ago a major Minneapolis bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River due, in part, to neglect.

What if we don’t take care of our infrastructure?

Editor’s note: June Anderson is a volunteer/member of the Anoka County Historical Society.

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