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Bob Lind, Published December 12 2010

From lumber to legend: Delivery during snowstorm helped fulfill sea-faring dream

Thirty-seven years ago this month, during a snowstorm (if you can imagine a snowstorm in December), an important delivery was made: a load of lumber.

That 1973 shipment was unloaded at a shipyard in a community not exactly world-renowned as a ship-building center: Hawley, Minn.

But this load was the first of many lumber deliveries to wind up there, lumber with which Bob Asp would build the Viking ship Hjemkomst.

In 2006, the Hawley (Minn.) Herald carried a story about the Hjemkomst. Gail Zimmerman of Moorhead, sent it to Neighbors.

The story, by the Herald’s Jim Fawbush, concerned the dedication of the Bob Asp Park in Hawley that summer.

Jim compiled much information which, it seems to Neighbors, bears repeating, because while that ship on display at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead draws many visitors, some of its background may be overlooked despite the wealth of material about it available at the site.

Here are some of the facts Jim dug up:

A “vik” in old Norwegian means “harbor” or “bay.”

When the early Norwegians sailed for warfare or for settling purposes, it was said they were going “a-viking.”

“Hjemkomst” means “homecoming” in Norwegian. The ship was named by Hannah Foldoe, Bob Asp’s mother-in-law.

Bob began cutting and milling trees to get wood in 1972 near Oslo, Minn. He eventually cut down more than 100 white oak trees, providing about 11,000 feet of lumber.

Bob couldn’t find a place to build the ship for some time. Then Hawley offered him an old potato cellar. Bob took it, naming it the “Hawley Shipyard.”

Many Hawley residents volunteered to help Bob build the ship. On top of that, Hawley held a “Viking Holiday” in 1979 to celebrate the ship and to raise funds for it. Years later, Bob’s wife, Rose, told the Herald that the people of Hawley “were just tremendous in their support of Bob and the ship.”

Bob had taken on a huge challenge, that of building a Viking ship replica and sailing it to Norway. It was so huge that some people were skeptical.

Rose told the Herald that when members of the Sons of Norway in Fargo visited the “shipyard,” one of the women looked at the ship and said, “This man is crazy; he’s absolutely crazy.”

Yet Bob and his team pulled it off. The ship was completed in 1980, hauled to Duluth, Minn., that August and took a test sail on Lake Superior with Bob at the tiller.

But on Dec. 27 that year, Bob died from complications related to leukemia.

Bergen or bust

Members of Bob’s family and friends kept the Hjemkomst dream afloat.

In May 1982, a 12-member crew including Bob’s children set sail aboard the Hjemkomst for Norway.

It encountered storms and rough seas. But on July 19, it sailed into the harbor at Bergen, Norway, to be met by Rose, other members of her family and her friends.

Bob Asp’s dream had been realized, a dream that began to take shape that snowy day in December 1973 when that first load of lumber arrived at the Hawley Shipyard.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com