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Mitch In The News .....

The Bandanna Man is the talk of the bush

Saturday, August 25, 2001
Roseau Times-Region

Over in the Beltrami Island State Forest this past week, the denizens were trying to figure out what had hit them by storm


by Jeff Olsen

And that included the local yokels as well as the animals.Mitch "Bandanna Man" Mense, 44, arrived here a week ago Friday and plans to be around this neck of the woods until Sunday because he wants to shoot a bear.He's a talking and laughing one-man army and should be in politics because he's a breath of fresh air.He dismissed the mosquito prob­lem like Jesse Ventura dismisses per­snickety little reporters who get in his way."If I bitch about the mosquitoes, who's going to do anything about it?" he said. "I'm up here to relax. Nothing bothers me."

He was asked to remove his ban­danna to see if he was bald, to which he obliged, and he will have to shave his head if he wants to be a really successful politician." Could I be a politician?" he mused on Tuesday evening at Hayes Lake State Park, where the skeeters were avoiding him like the plague. He pondered that and laughed, "Yeah, I could kiss the babies and steal their lollipops."


He was sporting his fashionable bandanna and said, "Could you imagine a President wearing a ban­danna?"

Mitch is a carpenter down in the Cities and was asked if he wears a bandanna underneath his hard hat."What's a hard hat?" he said with a chuckle.

Everywhere this past week, he has bumped into lots of people but seen no bears."I haven't had a hit yet," he said about his two baiting stations, which was not a good sign because the sea­son opened the following morning and maybe he's dealing with some finicky bears.If he's spotted no bears, he has rubbed elbows with some colorful haracters.He traded stories with Red Sprung, the graderman for the forestry, somewhere far off the beat­en path for 30 minutes.Possibly, Red needed a blood transfusion afterwards.

Heck, Mitch would talk to an accommodating moose if he ever runs into one."I like the people and I like the country," he said before he disclosed exactly where he's conducting his initial bear hunt. He hunts somewhere between Axle Olson Corner and Norris Camp, but he wasn't being specific because hunters disclose such secrets like a married person remains close lipped about a secret lover. It was the only time he was whis­pering like a Catholic telling some very personal sins in the confession­al. "You can't tell anyone," he said, and it was the only time he wasn't laughing. You pay attention because the Bandanna Man has good size to him and looks like he could wrestle a grizzly. 

He whipped out a topographical map and pointed to the exact loca-


The happy camper - Mitch "Bandanna Man" Mense talks shop from the forest

tion where he enjoys very good deer hunting and has seen lots of bears in. But he hadn't seen a solitary bear the day before the opener. If there were any questions about whether he knew what to bring along for his very first bear hunt, that con­cern was put to rest. 

For starters, he had 150 pounds of oats and cracked corn, molasses and liquid smoke, the latter of which he said is terrific as a scent attractor. And that was just barely taking the tarp off the field. He almost brought up a supermar­ket to stock his two baiting stations -which should be a veritable pig feed for an average bear. For an appetizer, there are 12 cases of sweet rolls. 

He even brought up a watermelon, which he gave to Gump, the grounds keeper at Hayes Lake. Whether or not black bears take a fancy to watermelon is anyone's guess. A fresh melon sure beats scrounging through stinky garbage cans. However, Gump spied that water-melon and apparently cut a deal.

Here was the Bandanna Man in the Hayes Lake State Park camp­ground talking up a storm and swearing like a sailor on Tuesday evening, and you forgot the mosqui­toes and listened to this guy who spends whole days out in the bush with just the skeeters and has no complaints

"When you live in the Cities, you like this area," he laughed and included several expletives that had to be edited out.

Right behind him was a beauty of a tent, which would be a mansion in Vietnam. Nice tent, he was told, and was asked how he liked it.

"I do things backwards," he explained. "I'm the only guy who sleeps in his truck and my tent will hold four."

"It's a better bed than the one I got at home," he said. So why was he staying in a camp­ground when he could be in the mid­dle of the bush. Perhaps, it's because he's such a talkative cuss and would go bananas being all alone if it were a steady diet. But he put that notion to rest.

He could stay out in the bush, he said, but his usual stomping grounds are presently saturated and so he stays at the park, where he almost had the place to himself.

He arrived last Friday and spends almost all day out in the bush with hordes of mosquitoes, which have no effect on him. He always carries a can of Repel mosquito repellent with 40 percent Deet and slaps it on like aftershave lotion. "It ain't for the girls," he says as he sprays some in his hands and then rubs it on his face. The mosquitoes wanted no part of him on Tuesday evening.

And then he got talking about bear hunting. He can shoot two, if he wants, but doesn't plan on it. "I can't eat two of them," he said with a belly laugh. "Not when I've got all the steaks in the world to choose from."

He threw another log on the fire. There was more to talk about. 

There always is when you're with a character who loves the bush and doesn't look forward to heading back to the Cites.

The Bandanna Man was at home with the skeeters and the critters on Tuesday evening. He had one last task to complete before hitting the sack in his pickup bed. 
"I gotta cut up some apples for the deer around here," he said.

He was smiling and looking for­ward to the bear hunt. Or, at least, maybe seeing one.

Saturday, October 9 ,2004
Roseau Times-Region

The Bandanna Man makes another appearance

Meet Mitch Mense. 47. a.k.a., the Bandanna Man and/or Minnesota Mitch, who was just happy to be back at one of his favorite stomping grounds.

Roseau County

Close-ups

by Jeff Olsen


The shaggy-haired private con­tractor from Minneapolis missed his calling as a vaudeville stand-up comic but was a sizeable presence last Saturday near the swimming beach at Hayes Lake State Park.

The Friends of Hayes Lake had selected last Saturday as the day to begin screening in the pavilion, their latest project to make Hayes Lake the classiest little state park in Minnesota.

For several days prior, KJ-102 FM had put out the call for volun­teers to bring hammers and staple guns, much like the Jehovah Witnesses do when they decide to build a new church in just a couple of days.
Many hands make light work.

The problem was, the devoted didn't show.
But the Bandanna Man was there, and he sincerely believes that the park is his domain.

'It's good to be up at the park and be king," he declared as he gave orders like a drill instructor. At various times in the four hours that he was on the job, he barked orders at the four-man crew like they were Marine recruits.

Oh, he owned the park last Saturday, even going so far as to warn the park ranger, Lance Crandall, that he planned to return with his boat and outboard motor and shake things up by violating the ban against outboard motors.

Maybe he was kidding, but the park ranger immediately cast a jaundiced eye toward Minnesota Mitch, who more than slightly resembles a grizzly bear.

He has camped at Hayes on sev­eral occasions, finding the hot water in the showers the finest comfort when he is in need of soap and water.Had he not had a prior engage­ment, he would have worked the entire day for the Friends of Hayes Lake, who appeared to be almost friendless. Where were all the members?

They definitely would have been impressed.

Minnesota Mitch was right on the job. hammering away and plotting shortcuts to help the Friends save money on additional lumber they will need to complete the job.

That was not his initial response as he assumed that the state was paying for the supplies, and he


Work crew - Steve Roseen, Gump Olsen
and the Bandanna Man

belittled some of the lumber that appeared to have been formerly the habitat of termites.There was also plywood paneling that was definitely worth stealing.But once he learned that the Friends of Hayes Lake had paid for everything, he worked like a Republican looking for another tax loophole. He had two very cooperative car­penters working right alongside of him.

Steve Roseen and Gump Olsen also volunteered their time and, while the screening job did not get completed, they managed to get three sides of the pavilion framed in.About an hour before noon, a lady stepped inside the pavilion and pointed out that two of the 2 X 4 studs were not square, which prompted the usual from Minnesota Mitch.

"Who the (expletive) is she?" he snarled with a laugh. As it was somebody's mother, the Bandanna Man took the criticism in stride, pointing out that more ham­mers were available and the lady could get right to work. Which she promptly did, and he had another helper. And then the Bandanna Man departed, and the joint got quiet without the guy with the colorful vocabulary.

Deep In The Woods

On Sunday morning, Mitch was spotted somewhere south of Axel Olson corner in the Beltrami Island State Forest. The site was not to be disclosed as he had earlier given a direct order not to reveal his present location. He poked his head out of the door, looking too big for his little camper that was more suited for a dwarf. It had begun to drizzle. "It's perfect in dry weather," he said. "But if it rains, it leaks." Always, with the Bandanna Man, a nickname he acquired long ago as it is his trademark headgear, there was a snappy comeback. "Nothing's perfect," he said.

And then there was this tremen­dous growl, as he cast his eyes sky­ward, and the Bandanna Man appeared to have a legitimate gripe. His Twins had played the night before, as had the Golden Gopher, and, try as he could, he could not catch a single score. He was about to give a proper discourse on something that is dear to his heart.

Forget politics. Sports are his forte and he had a beef. "The radio stations up here don't cover the sports other than the locals," he almost sneered as he reached toward his little portable radio. It was the final weekend of the regular season, and he expected to hear the score. "And you can't get a Gophers football game," he said almost incredulously. And then he laughed.

"Bet you can get a Sioux hockey game," he said. "I bet that comes in pretty damn clear." And then he got around to a topic that puzzles him - Roseau and Warroad, where he has friends in both towns. "I can't understand why the two towns don't get along," he said, pondering aloud whether it has to do with the hockey rivalry, which he dated back to the 1960's. He was told that it goes back way further than that, almost as long ago as Athens and Sparta. Momentarily, he recalled when he played hockey and football for St. Louis Park and how they always wanted to beat the snot out of Edina, their closest rival.

Of course, they never did in hock­ey, which qualifies the Bandanna Man as a long-suffering member of "The coalition of the also-rans" as Edina beat Roseau and Warroad too many times to remember.

At around 9 a.m. on Sunday, he looked decidedly out of place. His big, shaggy head looked almost naked. For the first time ever, much like a guy who always wears a rug to cover his bald head, the Bandanna Man was without his trademark. He must have noticed that he was being stared at because he immediately donned this week's special, a dollar handkerchief.

Inside the camper, he had so many of them that he would never require a box of Kleenex if he were to catch a cold. "I got all kinds of colors," he said, reaching for a stack of them, one of which was an American flag hand­kerchief. "When the war started, I started wearing it for the troops," he said. "Right or wrong, I support the troops." Until just recently, everybody in the backwoods knew him as the Bandanna Man. But it is his other nom de plume, Minnesota Mitch, that just might catch on permanently.

Anybody who plays a game of cribbage with him for money will go home crying. He more than plays the game. He now designs his own cribbage boards, has his own website -www.customcribbage.com - and has quite the product. What he has created is the Cadillac of cribbage boards with a price tag to match. The selling prices range from $120 to $225.

"I've sold 40 now in less than a year on the Internet," he said, men­tioning that others were not for sale. "I donate boards to the VA Hospital and also to the Abbott-Northwestern Rehab Clinic," he said. The ones he's given to the VA Hospital have turned into collector pieces. Apparently, the old vets hide them in their rooms so they don't have to go looking for them when they want to play a game. 

His South American hardwood cribbage boards come with brass pegs and a slot for a deck of cards. "You don't have to go hunting for a deck of cards," he laughed. "It's a new concept." Momentarily, he proceeded to give a very fine demonstration of how to peg on one of his custom-made cribbage boards. 

He was way ahead and did not believe in letting his opponent win. "I play to win," he said. "I'm no dummy." And then he was back to his favorite topic, which is being up in this neck of the woods, far off the beaten path and where he is always ready to lend a helping hand. 

Sometime around 11 a.m. on Sunday, a tremendous thought came into his big, shaggy head. There is still more work to be done for the Friends of Hayes Lake. He plans to return and bring his boat and motor. "It's a 35 horsepower outboard," he said with a tremendous laugh. 

He might even offer to give water skiing lessons to the park ranger.

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