Bourke’s Bookshelf: ‘Reflections from a north woods lake’

This week's featured read is "Campfire in the Basement" by Baxter writer Darrell Pedersen.

Campfire in the Basement
"Campfire in the Basement" by Darrell Pedersen.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

One of the best things that has come out of my book review writing is the constant discovery of new local authors. Thanks to the team at Blue Cottage Agency, I’ve been introduced to so many writers here in the Brainerd lakes area.

Theresa Bourke headshot

As a journalist, I believe everyone has a story to tell. Whether I’m writing that story for a feature article, or I’m reading that story in a book format, I love getting to learn about my neighbors and what kinds of experiences have made them into the people they are today.

My latest local find is “Campfire in the Basement” by retired Baxter pastor Darrell Pedersen. Filled with short stories of Pedersen’s life growing up in the northwoods near Duluth in the 1950s and 1960s, the book brings a mix of funny little anecdotes and serious life lessons learned in northern Minnesota.

‘Campfire in the Basement’ by Darrell Pedersen (2023)

From accidentally condemning the class goldfish to death, stealing a polished agate from the shores of Lake Superior and — obviously — building a campfire in his parents’ basement, Pedersen writes of growing up in the northwoods on Eier Lake, the hardships his family faced both before and during his lifetime and the quest to become a pastor and make a good life for the next generation.

Mischief was easy to come by out among the trees and the lake and the wildlife, but Pedersen’s hardworking Scandinavian parents always kept him grounded, reminding him of the important things in life and what he needed to do to make his goals a reality.


I appreciated the old photos that accompanied the stories. I could see the impish grin on Pedersen’s face when he was a kid, the picturesque lake where we grew up and the faces of the many family members he mentions throughout the book. The photos brought another dimension to the book and made the stories come alive.

Beyond his boyhood adventures, we get to read about Pedersen’s higher education, the point where he decided to become a pastor and how those lessons he learned early on trickled down to his own parenting.

Pedersen spent nearly 40 years in ministry, with his most recent post at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter. He traded Eier Lake for White Sand Lake, where he lives with wife Jennifer.

The “Campfire in the Basement” stories are sure to be entertaining for Minnesota residents, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who needs a nice, light-hearted read.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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