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Campfire in the Basement by Darrell J. Pedersen is filled with amusing retellings of his colorful family history and thought-provoking bits of wisdom garnered from a long life well lived. The book is eloquently and expertly written, and readers will enjoy the tales inspired by the author’s life as a child, teen, husband, father, pastor, and passionate outdoorsman.
A self-described “little dickens” during his growing up years, the author shares memories of a not-well-thought-out campfire in the basement and the tragic misadventures of being asked to care for the class goldfish over Christmas. Pedersen’s stories will remind readers of their youth when old country stores were “candy heaven” and how every little boy wanted to be like the cowboys from Gunsmoke.
Campfire in The Basement includes memories of heartache, loss, and long goodbyes. But these tough retellings create a perfect balance of relatable stories and raw authenticity. This book is not only a memoir; it is a reminder of the pure joys in life and how faith can help us through the good times and the bad. Campfire in the Basement will keep readers engaged from the first page to the last.
Darrell Pedersen’s Campfire in the Basement: Reflections from a North Woods Lake will entertain and charm you.
You will laugh out loud as, nearly naked, Darrell chases squirrels from his bird feeder on a late-winter morning. Your heart will stir when you stand with Darrell on the bank of the Artichoke River as his dad reveals a romantic secret. But there’s more. A stolen agate will remind you that as an adult, you must speak up about injustice and about the need to care for creation. The arrival of winter birds will help you appreciate the changing seasons, but will also remind you that we all need to care for each other all the way through to the winters of our lives.
So go ahead. Take this trip with Darrell. Just know that, having done so, you will be changed. His irresistible, self-deprecating wit will entice you to seek out grace in your own life–those unearned blessings bestowed upon you by the people you love. And you will see and feel the world around you with newly discovered and abundant gratitude.
Writer and Retired Teacher and education advocate, who is working on her own memoir.
Darrell Pedersen’s Campfire in the Basement takes us to a place in our midwestern soul where a bowl of steaming tomato soup is being served with a side of grilled cheese on a cold, winter’s night. The folklore of fishing at the lake, believing in monsters under the bed, and having a teacher that made us squirm, yet gets credit for our character formation isn’t just for one age group of listeners. The Great Depression seared some cellular memory into one generation that became the DNA in all its descendants. Campfire in the Basement takes some of our connected experiences and, just at the last moment, something not so common is thrown in.
Each telling of a story comes from a personal perspective. Pedersen’s tales flow out of a daily observation of his life, as it evolved in Northern Minnesota. With a soft, yet direct voice, he unrolls his magic carpet and you step on board, riding through small town football games, cowering with your family while a storm blows overhead, or enjoying a penny candy at a mercantile.
Depending on your generation, you will have heard similar stories or find yourself telling them, but Pedersen’s stories have a twist. A Campfire – in the basement. An assignment to read Silent Spring leads to environmental awareness. A scholarship for a full ride in college ends up changing his direction away from the prize. Without giving up details, I’ll just say that, this preacher presents his collection without being preachy. It is a joy to read. Maybe it will encourage you to tell your stories, too.
Janet E. Kurtz
Spanish Professor, Central Lakes College – Brainerd, Retired
Author of Northern Shores Southern Borders – Revelations of a Bilingual Life
I’m fortunate to have had a ringside seat as Campfire in the Basement came into being over the past fifteen years. I initially met Darrell Pedersen at a workshop and have been part of a small circle of writers as he created some of the stories included in this impressive collection. You may not know Darrell as I do—or at all—yet I’m sure you’ll feel as if you’ve gained a close friend as you read this book. His devotion to honest and empathetic writing is evident, and these are the qualities of a deep friendship after all.
Through his stories, Darrell helps us understand the dynamics of his childhood family and its heritage. He recalls his conflicted emotions as he watched his father shoot a black bear at his childhood Minnesota home. He describes the guilt he carries after taking a small polished agate from an unsuspecting merchant’s stall without paying for it.
Darrell remembers such things and more—and he cares. We readers get a sense from Campfire in the Basement that he cares for us too. He invites us to join him around a small Northwoods campfire where “even eternity comes to visit” us—if we only give it the time.
Steve Robert Simmons
Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota
Who Publishes Personal Essays Here
Campfire in the Basement: Reflections from a Northwoods Lake is a captivating
memoir of childhood stories supported by previous generations’ values, hard work, and life’s
Told through the eyes of “the little dickens” with authentic descriptive detail, this journey is woven with love throughout generations of family, community, and the world.
Readers will relate to the simplicity of growing up in the 50’s on Eire Lake in rural northern Minnesota along with stoic Scandinavian immigrant relatives. These reflections truly embrace recurring themes throughout the author’s predecessors’ lives, his own life, and the lives of his grandchildren: learn from disappointments or consequences (e.g., ruined cherished cowboy boots, poked holes in a screen door, or leaving the class goldfish over a holiday break). “Get an education,” and care for the critters and our natural world.
After laughing out loud and tearing up reading these stories, I found myself wanting to say, “Tell me another story!”
Special Education Teacher, Northfield Elementary School, Retired
When you have a good friend, you know what makes him tick, and why. CAMPFIRE IN THE BASEMENT contains all the “whats” and the “whys: that helped form author Darrell Pedersen and what makes him tick.
The ‘whats’ include lakes, woods and rivers, his family, his experiences, his loves, and his private tragedies. His “whys” are a list of motivations that drove this mischievous little dickens into becoming a sensitive human being, willing and able to share his “whats” and “whys” in words that elicit warmth, humor, and love. And, through it all, the silent work of God has woven his life.
Well done, good friend Darrell Pedersen!
Music Teacher, Pillager High School, Retired
‘Campfire in the Basement: Reflections from a North Woods Lake’ is a fantastic gift for Mom and dad, Grandpa & Grandma, Minnesota Fans, Lakelife Fans, and North Woods Fans!