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The Last Windrow: Thinking about spring

I'm thinking spring.

Yes, I know that spring is still seven Mondays away, but I can feel it, especially this past week when the ice and snow were melting across my driveway and causing people to slip and slide their way to work.

The chickadees began to sing their spring mating song, and the owls were hooting, hoping to attract another owl of the opposite sex.

Those things are happening.

My mailbox says spring is around the corner. Over the past six weeks we have received no less than eight new, colorful seed catalogs. More are no doubt on the way. Evidently my wife has purchased a package of seeds from most of them and we're on a mailing list.

The red, green, yellow, purple and brown vegetables shown on the covers imitate Christmas cards in their colorful displays. All of the fruits and vegetables on those covers are blemish free and perfectly formed.

They do not resemble the produce that comes from our plot. I like to think of our garden as a place where things just grow free and have the freedom to create their own character. I did have a potato one year that resembled Richard Nixon, just like the one Cliff showed Norm on the TV series "Cheers" many years ago.

I brought mine into the coffee-klatch for their review and got a laugh or two before they turned their talk back to the inauguration.

My daughter's former horse pasture has been taken over by our garden. Where once a Palomino and Pinto chewed on grass and ate a ton of upland hay, now grow pumpkins, squash, spuds and sweetcorn, among the other green things.

I actually plowed an additional piece of sod a couple of years ago, doubling our acreage. Some might say I'm just making more work for myself, but when I get on a tractor with a plow, I just lose it. Blame it on those days long ago when I plowed those fields of Iowa stubble.

Spring also means that sooner or later the ice will leave the lakes and open water will again lap the shores of my favorite fishing lakes. Sports shows abound this time of year and provide an outlet for fisher-people and boaters who dream about a tug on their line or think about watching their grandkids learn to water ski.

I worked such a sports show back in the 1970s for Nisswa Bait and Tackle. Our booth featured fishing gear and depth finders and anything else we could conjure up to look appealing. Crowds of eager anglers filled the aisles, and a person's voice held out for about three days before the vocal cords caved in.

Our booth featured the very first plastic fishing bait with a tail that wiggled when pulled through the water. It was called Mister Twister. A gentleman from International Falls stopped by our Nisswa shop and demonstrated his new invention in the minnow tanks. He was on the way to the Minneapolis Sportshow.

I and my bosses, Marv Koep and his wife, Judy, watched in amazement as this plastic bait wiggled and squiggled its way across the minnow tank. We were mesmerized!

We were given the first shot at showing off and selling this product to the public. We hauled a large aquarium tank to our booth, filled it with water, put one of the baits on a string and pulled it back and forth across the tank with a stick for seven days.

That bait started a revolution and we basically paid for the booth with just the proceeds from selling the Mister Twister. Any angler with any sense of knowing how to catch a fish bought those lures by the dozen.

I found out then and there that having an exclusive product that the public wants is money in the bank. That was fun!

So, thinking about those two things are bringing me closer to spring. We may still suffer the ravages of an out-of-control Arctic blast, and we may have snowdrifts over our cars, and we may still have salt and grime stuck to our windshields, but spring is coming.

I find myself standing beside my boat inside our garage and thinking of towing in that first walleye.

And, I noticed the garden tiller sitting lonesome in the tool shed and thought about changing oil in anticipation of its first foray across the garden patch.

It is good for the soul to think of such things this time of year.

See you next time. Okay?

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