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Built with his own two hands

Marlin Rechtzigel built the 42-foot sailboat in the background -- the Rex Sea Gull -- and wrote a book about the experience. He also built a house and most of the buildings on his east Rosemount property. Nathan Hansen/Town Pages

Step into the yard of Marlin Rechtzigel's east Rosemount home and take a look around. See the barn? The big one? Rechtzigel built that. And the house where Marlin and his wife raised their children? He built that, too.

Come to think of it, there isn't much on Rechtzigel's property he didn't build.

The two silos? Yep. The machine shop? Absolutely. The eight grain storage buildings? Rechtzigel built them all.

Even the 42-foot sailboat that sits under a tarp in the yard is a product of Rechtzigel's own two hands.

Rechtzigel has been building things nearly all of his life. He chose to go to high school in South St. Paul rather than Rosemount, he said, because of that school's wood shop. At an age when many of his classmates were probably building rickety bird houses, Rechtzigel built a cedar chest and an end table that are still in use -- and that still look good -- in his home.

Rechtzigel started building on his Rosemount property not long after he got married. He couldn't afford to build the entire house at the time, so he built a garage. For a while, that garage was home for Rechtzigel, his wife and their young child. An attached utility room had a shower and a bathroom.

"We were pretty comfortable for a couple of years living in the garage," Rechtzigel said.

The family lived for two years in Germany while Rechtzigel served in the Army, then returned to Rosemount. The couple had two children at the time, so Rechtzigel figured it was about time he start work on a house. He started digging the basement in the fall, driving a tractor into the basement to scoop out dirt. He found time between milking cows and doing field work to lay block and get the frame up.

"I shingled the whole house alone," Rechtzigel said. "I was sick of shingling."

The house didn't last long in its original location. One year after he finished the job, a new interchange was installed at the nearby intersection of County Road 42 and Highway 52. Rechtzigel had to have the house moved back from the road. He turned his original basement into a swimming pool. Rechtzigel's children learned to swim in that pool. So did Rechtzigel.

"I almost drowned every time I went swimming, so I was concerned about that," Rechtzigel said.

Rechtzigel added the other buildings over time. There was a 50- by 100-foot barn, a milking parlor, and a calf barn. He said doing the work helped keep him in the dairy business. The construction was a welcome diversion from the tedium of farm work.

Rechtzigel also had a hand in building the current St. John's Lutheran Church building, serving as the church's representative to deal with contractors and pitching in to do some of the work himself.

The Rex Sea Gull

If building barns and silos was a distraction from farm work, building a boat was Rechtzigel's dream. It was something he'd thought about since he was an elementary school student and he walked to country school each day past a neighbor who was building his own rowboat.

He spent $500 for plans for his boat, but he waited another five years -- until his children were out of school -- before he started building.

He found the work relaxing.

"The boat building kept me milking cows, because I had something else to think about," he said. "I'd go down there milking cows and I'd be thinking, 'How am I going to drill that hole?'"

Rechtzigel made several trips on the boat down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. He liked the peace and quiet he could get there.

Rechtzigel doesn't get out on the boat much anymore. But he still likes talking about those trips. He wrote a book, "The Rex Sea Gull" about his experience building it.