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A collection of memories

Elizabeth man’s decoys, lures, reels & radios take him back to yesteryear

By Carol Stender

Roger Rustad, 90, has collected duck decoys, lures, metal and wooden fishing reels and antique radios, which are displayed in at least two rooms of the house. His collection items are memories of his love of the outdoors and hunting and remembrances of time spent with family around the radio. Photo by Carol Stender

Getting old isn’t easy, said 90-year-old Roger Rustad.  The Elizabeth man had a fall a few months ago. He is doing physical therapy and relies on a walker to get around. But there is one way to cheer him up. Just mention his collections of duck decoys, wooden and metal reels, fishing lures and antique radios and his eyes light up like a child on Christmas morning.

He doesn’t say how many items he’s collected throughout his lifetime, but suffice it to say, he has a lot.

At least two rooms in the house Roger and his wife, Ginny call home, contain the pieces.

The decoys are placed on shelves that line a couple walls. Each one is easily viewed and a number on the bottom of the individual pieces corresponds with a log that details the piece.

A nearby board contains the fishing reels as the wood paneled radios seem to stand sentry over the collections. 

“My grandparents had old antique radios,” he said. “The problem with the radios is they take up so much space…but they are beautiful.”

The decoys were the first items he began to collect followed by the reels and lures. The accumulation of items reflects his love of hunting and the outdoors, and fond memories of his youth. 

Rustad was born in Grant County and grew up on the family farm between Ashby and Erdahl. He attended a country school that was just to the north of the farm, he said. When he reached grade 4, his family moved to Fergus Falls.

“It was hard times,” Rustad said. “It was the Great Depression.”

He attended school in Fergus Falls and, as a teenager, expressed an interest in hunting. His father was not a hunter, but he knew his only son longed for the outdoors. The elder Rustad took him to Roy Johnson’s farm near Ashby, by Pelican Lake, where Johnson mentored the young man on hunting and fishing.

Roger Rustad’s duck decoy collection is displayed in rows of shelves in his home. The bottom of each decoy is numbered and logged in a book noting the decoy’s information. Photo by Carol Stender

Throughout his life, Rustad was an avid outdoorsman who hunted a variety of game from deer to pheasants and ducks and geese.

He attended Wahpeton State College of Science for two years then, after marrying Ginny, moved to the Twin Cities where he studied business at the University of Minnesota. He got a job at Powers Dry Goods and Ginny worked for a CPA firm. It was a good job,” he said.

But Rustad longed to return to Otter Tail County and the couple moved to Fergus Falls in 1959.

Virginia got a job with Otter Tail County and became court administrator. She worked for OTC for 37 years. Rustad worked for Raymond Motors which later became Hyman Freightway (company hauled freight for the Sears).

Roger’s collection of antique radios definitely takes up the most room. Photo by Carol Stender

As he traveled with his job, Rustad stopped at a number of antique stores on his route. Of particular interest to him was antique radios.

When they weren’t working, the couple traveled to events where duck decoys and other sportsman memorabilia was displayed and sold. He often added to his collection during the trips. He continues to receive magazines featuring duck decoy collectibles.

Through his interests in art and wooden duck decoys, Rustad became friends with local artist Charles Beck and has some of his pieces.

Most of his decoy collection is wood, he said. While decoy production turned to plastics, they sell for a much lower price, he said. His collection also includes high school annuals.

Rustad has documented his knowledge of the area and genealogy and keeps it in three-ring binders along with numerous books in their living room. Ginny is the avid book reader, he notes. But he holds his own when it comes to historical information.

Roger’s collections include duck decoys, fishing lures, metal and wooden fishing reels and antique radios. Photo by Carol Stender

Although they lived in Fergus Falls, Rustad desired a place in the country. They purchased a farm near Elizabeth in 1972. The 180 acres includes woods and open fields, he said. Everyday is an opportunity to see nature. A bird feeder on their deck is a prime spot to note the variety of birds that stop for  food. And the wildlife stroll through the yard.

He doesn’t hunt much anymore, but family photos and his collections bring back fond memories of time spent with family and in the outdoors.

“I like the nature,” he said.

The Rustads have two daughters and seven grandchildren.

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