Great people you meet and things you get roped into.

You never know when you will meet someone exceptional. Of course exceptional is in the eye of the beholder. This is about someone I met that makes me hope I can be like that when I grow up.

I had the great fortune to work at the Iron Range Research Center for over 20 years. During that time I was able to interview many people who lived really interesting lives. They shared their stories and reflections with me, a stranger. Technology allowed us to record those stories and archive them for future generations. Many, if not most of those people, have crossed over and left us behind. I am so glad we took the time to immortalize their lives.

My recent experience goes back a few years. I was on the St. Louis County Fair Board. I met some great people who really cared about agriculture. The Fair Board and IRRRB staff navigated the difficult process of relocating the Fairgrounds to Chisholm. Many people worked to make the Children’s Barn a reality. It is a place where children and animals can connect even if it is only for the “Five best days of summer”.

The grand opening was special. We worked up to the last minute and a few minutes more to get things ready. There were speeches, ceremony, accolades. What I remember most however was meeting Willard Pearson.. He is Marvin Pearson’s father. Marvin is a dairy farmer from Cook MN. He and I were on the board together.

Willard is the son of Swedish immigrants. His father came to the Cook area at the very beginning. Willard is 91 now but it really doesn’t matter because he was as young at heart now as he was when I met him at the Fair. His retirement passion, after a colorful career and life, is making ropes. Sometime after officially retiring, someone gave him a hand crank rope making machine. If you have never seen one, the best I can say is that they are magical.

Willard grew up on a farm. Farm children usually grow up to be self sufficient and down right handy. Willard looked at the primitive rope machine and decided to make some improvements. Scrounging some pulleys, angle iron, hooks and a crank he soon fashioned a pretty sophisticated super duper rope machine. It wasn’t long before he added an electric motor. The rest is history.

I was fortunate to be there when he arrived with his van. I helped him unload his portable model and watched him set it up. The colorful balls of twine, moving gears and spinning rope is truly an attention grabber. Soon the children and adults were lining up to watch him work his magic. At the end he presented them with their very own rope. His gift is his natural ability to work and converse. Each rope has a little bit of Willard in it. His passion was inspirational. I remember Marvin telling me to make sure he takes a break once in a while. Each rope took about ten minutes. Willard never wanted to disappoint anyone. Amazing!

Last fall I went to the annual Fair Board Meeting. I asked Marvin and Peggy how Willard was doing. They said pretty good except he couldn’t get out to make ropes as much as he would like. Shortly thereafter I called him and set up a meeting in hopes he could show me how to make ropes. I told him what I was doing with Mr.Ed,s Farm and he graciously agreed to share his secrets. After a wonderful afternoon of listening to his stories and trying my hand at making a rope, he did something amazing. He asked me if I wanted to borrow his portable rope machine. He didn’t need to ask me twice! I loaded it up in my van and took it home. I set it up in the Welcome Center and after a few ugly ropes, I began to get the feel. I started making ropes for children and quickly realized why he was energized by it.

I returned his machine yesterday as promised. However, he provided me with some parts that I was able to build my own rope making machine. He asked me how old I was. Fifty nine. He smiled, “well you have a lot of time to make ropes”.

I guess life is what you make it. You never know when you will be inspired. I hope I grow old to be a Willard.

Willard Pearson in his basement workshop showing me a special trick to make a perfect two color rope.

4 Replies to “Great people you meet and things you get roped into.”

  1. I loved this article; Willard is my uncle and I’m very proud of him and his many accomplishments.

  2. Hello Mr. Ed & Mrs. Ed,

    Thanks for sharing this story about Willard. Enjoyed it a lot!!

    Also, thank you so much for making my granddaughter, Makayla the rope. She loves it! Uses it to walk her Yorkshire puppies Cocoa & Lucky.

    We sure enjoyed our visit on Saturday, March 29 with you & your wife. You both are wonderful people & we loved the sleigh ride in the woods. My grandchildren especially loved Mick & Bud!!! We definitely will be coming back to visit all the wonderful animals.

    Thanks again, Kathleen, Makayla & Jared Stirewalt

  3. “I guess life is what you make it. You never know when you will be inspired. I hope I grow old to be a Willard.”

    Ed or Mr Ed however you prefer , We are all getting there one step at a time . I know that I am enjoying my self doing that , like Mr Willard . Enjoy the young ones and fill there minds with what we know and have done as they are the replacements of “getting older folks ”
    You are doing a Great service for a lot of folks young and older .
    Thank You Very Much
    Brother Leo

  4. What a delightful tribute! A few years ago, we had the pleasure of being at the Pearson’s one day and Willard came out and visited with us. Before you know it we were being treated to a rope making demo. Not long after we saw him start coming to the fair. He is a hoot, and I am so glad he taught you how to make rope. Someone should know how. When you are 91, don’t forget to teach someone else how to make a machine! 🙂

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