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The Last Windrow: OK, folks, it's vacation time. Get with it!

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It was tough to get a farmer, during my growing up years, to take a vacation. The word rarely came up at family reunions or around the dinner table. Our life was to be a life of struggle, sweat-induced labor and trial and tribulation. 

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The feeling among some farm folk was that we deserved what we got. That was day after day of endless toil with the hope of gaining a dollar at the end of the harvest. I wanted to be optimistic, but knew that if I remained on the farm, I would not ever have a vacation.

I watched as my city relatives took touring trips out to Yellowstone Park or maybe the Grand Tetons or maybe to the Black Hills. These seemed exotic, unreachable places to me. A 30-mile trip to the Big Sioux River or sandpit was about all I could foresee ever accomplishing. 

I remember my aunts and uncles showing me pictures of them standing in front of a mountain landscape or near a thundering waterfall and wishing I might have been there. But, there was hay to bale and cows to milk and not much hope of any reprieve.

Then, one day after I’d turned 16, my dad came to me and told me that he and mom and some of my younger brothers and sisters were going to take a vacation! I could hardly believe my ears. But, the only condition was that I and my oldest sister stay home, do the chores and milk the cows. 

So much for my short-termed excitement. My family was going to northern Minnesota where my dad had spent one vacation before World War II. He had never forgotten that lake and the cool breezes that it provided, especially when he was sent to India for four years in the heat and humidity.

I had always looked forward to turning 16 and having my own driver’s license and becoming somewhat independent. But, I had never thought that achieving that age would make me ineligible to go on a vacation with my folks. What a bummer! But, I acted happy to hear of their plans while grinding my teeth. I told my father that I hoped he caught a lot of fish.

My taking total care of our farm and livestock did give me somewhat a dose of self-esteem. Knowing that I and my sister were the only persons responsible to take care of any problems put a certain positive spin on the whole situation. I was kind of proud to know that I had become a trusted semi-adult.

After Dad explained the family’s vacation plans, another bombshell went off. He said, “Since we’re going on vacation and you and Betty have to stay home, I think you’re old enough to drive yourself up to Minnesota after we get back and stay at the same resort we are. I think your friend Norman could go along and maybe cousin Bob.”

What? I was being given free rein to actually go on a vacation by myself? My adrenalin spiked, my ears went numb and visions of huge northern pike flopping in the bottom of the boat floated through my head. I was actually going to go someplace! The fog of hard labor suddenly lifted and I saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel! It was to be my first real vacation.

So, this time of year when summer is getting a little long in the tooth, the kids are all out of summer sports and camps, the grass has quit growing and the cicadas are beginning to sing their fall song, get with it and take that vacation you’ve been putting off!

One thing I know, no one will ever order you to take one. You have to do it yourself. Just like my dad did back there in the mid-60s when he decided that it had been too long since the family had really enjoyed themselves away from work. It’s important.

And, Norman and I and Bob did catch a bunch of fish. It was a great vacation! And, I never felt one bit guilty for taking it!

See you next time. Okay?

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