Weather Forecast


EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Still filling the pages

PEQUOT LAKES ­— Craig Nagel knows that good things take time.

The Pequot Lakes home he spent years building with his own hands is evidence of his patience in waiting for great things to come to pass.

Nagel, a 40-year resident of the Brainerd lakes area, spent years perfecting his home built from logs cut from his own property and hand-crafted stonework.

“There’s something about stone that has always fascinated me,” Nagel said of his handiwork.

His home is not the only thing Nagel has invested a great deal of time in. Since 1981, Nagel has written a biweekly column, The Cracker Barrel, for the Lake Country Echo, compiling more than 700 essays during the last three decades. This spring, Nagel released his second self-published collection of columns in a book called “A Sense of Wonder: More Moments from an ordinary life.”

“It’s kind of fun,” Nagel said. “It’s like an ongoing history of the areas — 30 years worth of events.”

Nagel, a native of Chicago, moved to Minnesota as a college student at St. Olaf’s College and never went back. “I fell in love with Minnesota,” he said.

Nagel initially moved to the lakes area to teach English and German at Pequot Lakes school when he was approached with the idea of starting a newspaper — The Country Echo. Nagel had plenty of experience with his years editing college newspapers.

“I knew enough to be dangerous,” he said. “We had to work to get this thing to go.”

Nagel ran, and later owned, the Echo for six years before selling off it to pursue other passions. “I wanted to write,” he said. “I had been working God-awful hours at the Echo — 60-70 hours a week.” Nagel said he took a few years off to be with his family and catch up on life after operating in the news business and to start writing novels.

But the newspaper wasn’t done with Nagel yet.

In 1981, he was asked to write his biweekly column, The Cracker Barrel, named for the barrels of crackers kept in country stores.

“I wanted it to be suggestive of the friendly homespun character of an old-fashioned general store, with nothing too shrill or subversive,” Nagel explained in the Preface of “A Sense of Wonder.”

Over the years, Nagel’s columns have spanned every topic imaginable — from book reviews to Minnesota weather. The only topic he won’t touch is politics.

Nagel said after a few years of writing The Cracker Barrel, and collecting hundreds of loyal readers, he had the idea to compile a book of his past columns. “I could really make this work,” Nagel remembered thinking.

Nagel published his first book, “A Place Called Home,” in 2007.

Nagel’s most recent book includes 65 of his columns interweaved with an ongoing narrative of his adventures in writing.

In addition to his compilation books, Nagel has written four novels, none of which have been published. Yet. “I have high hopes for two of them,” Nagel said.

After three decades of story writing, and countless years of renovations, Nagel and his wife, Claire still live in their home tucked away in the woods outside of Pequot Lake.

“A Sense of Wonder” is available at Book World in Baxter, Turtle Town in Nisswa, Oasis Sport Shop in Pequot, The Wild Daisy in Pequot Lakes, Haven Books, Lakes Area Gallery, and Nordic Haus in Crosslake, and at Amazon and

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.