Tricounty News

Words from Mike

By Mike Nistler

Many years ago, when I was a young newspaper reporter, I was approached by the Watkins Centennial Committee and asked if I would write a history book for the community's centennial celebration.

In all honesty and full disclosure, I was not the committee's first choice. That person was the Rev. Vincent Yzermans, who was a noted local historian and author of several history books for area communities and churches. However, Yzermans was getting older and did not wish to pen any more history books. He suggested that I might be a good substitute author. Yzermans, who has since passed and is now chronicling life in heaven, knew I was a writer and had grown up in the area.

I was honored, and overwhelmed. I agreed and wrote my first book, "The First 100 Years of Watkins."

A year later, when Eden Valley was looking for a writer to chronicle its first 100 years, the centennial committee thought it was only natural that I be given the opportunity to write their history as well. I agreed and wrote my second book, "The Valley of Eden."

Recently, my friend and former high school classmate, Tri-County News Editor and Publisher Jean Doran Matua, called and asked if I would do some writing for her. I agreed and, thus, these words of introduction.

I have always been closely connected to the Kimball and Watkins and Eden Valley communities, long before my writing days began.

My father, Jerome Nistler, was born in a house in Eden Valley in 1924. His parents were Henry and Mathilda Nistler. His grandfather was Charles Nistler, a carpenter who had a hand in building some of the churches in the Eden Valley, Watkins, Pearl Lake areas.

Pearl Lake was where my father farmed. That is where I went to elementary school at Holy Cross Catholic School.

I graduated from Kimball High School, but played town team baseball for the Pearl Lake Lakers. Our rivals were Kimball, Watkins, Eden Valley, St. Nicholas, Rockville and St. Augusta among others.

I remember playing one of my first town-team games against Eden Valley and the likes of Pete Werner and Rube Nathe. I thought I knew how to play baseball but, on that day, I learned a lot playing against those veterans - especially to watch out for the high-tight fastball on an 0-2 count.

Speaking of town-team baseball, when I wrote the history book for Watkins, a former first-baseman named Eugene McCarthy wrote the introduction for the book. McCarthy went on to a successful career in politics including a presidential run in 1968.

One of the first stories I ever had published in a newspaper was in the Tri-County News, in the late 1970s when I did a historical feature on Powder Ridge Ski Area. I wrote the headline, which I think still stands as one of my most clever: Powder Ridge: Moraine than snow. A moraine is a deposit of sand and gravel left behind by a glacier, which is exactly what happened to form Powder Ridge. In addition, I was going for the play on words, more rain than snow ... get it?

The name Mike Nistler is a common one in Eden Valley and Watkins history. One of the earliest settlers in Eden Valley was named Michael Nistler, and he earned the nickname "Uncle Mike." And while my stories may put some people to sleep, "Uncle Mike" did more than that: he was an "Undertaker and Embalmer," as an early newspaper advertisement read.

Names always make interesting feature stories. One of the stories I wrote for the St. Cloud Times had everything to do about a name, not mine but that of Mary Ruhland. You see, back in the 1980s there were at least three women in the area with the name Mary Ruhland. I wrote a feature about how confusing that was for some people, including the new foreign exchange student who arrived in town and the first two people she met were named Mary Ruhland. The poor student began thinking that every woman in town was named Mary Ruhland.

Since my newspaper days, I have gone on to do freelance work as well as publish Minnesota Moments Magazine. Some of you are subscribers to that publication. For those of you who have not discovered Minnesota Moments, you can visit www.minnesota

Now that I am writing an occasional story or two for the Tri-County News, maybe I will get to meet some of you and "tell" your story. If you have a good story to tell, or know of someone who does, send me an e-mail: mnistler@