Joe and John always paid a visit to our farm this coming weekend. Always. Never missed a year. We didn't see them again until the following year. This weekend ushers in a time when people get together. The three-day weekend is seen as the beginning of "official" summer, although summer doesn't really start until mid-June. But that aside, people get together this weekend, Memorial Day. It is also a weekend that brings people together in cemeteries across the country.
There was a giant squirrel's nest hiding in the little outhouse behind the resort cabin at Hawkeye Resort. No one had bothered this squirrel for quite some time. That outhouse was a part of Minnesota's resort past. Minnesota seemed like a foreign country to a boy who grew up on the western plains of Iowa.
Well, this is the weekend that Minnesota men and women and kids have been waiting for all winter. It is the occasion of our joy, the top of the mountain, the peak of peaks!
They are loved and hated. They are missed and dismissed. They are appreciated and unappreciated. If they go missing, people are miffed. Of what do I speak? Well, the item is called a newspaper. I write columns for them. I wouldn't want to run one. It takes a special breed. My newspaper comes to my post office box every Thursday. Well, almost every Thursday. It is a weekly. A couple of weeks ago I strode to my mailbox, keyed it open and pulled out the ordinary amount of bills and some third class mail. At the bottom of this pile of paper usually lay my weekly newspaper. It wasn't there.
Our first delivery of garden seeds arrived this week. I'm excited! I didn't know it at the time, but I was a part of the "green" movement since birth. There were no social programs promoting growing your own food where I come from. Growing plants on the farm to devour came from necessity, not a social conscience. If you wanted to make it through without rickets or scurvy, you needed to eat something that once was green.
There was a time when I wanted to be a game warden. Every boy who loved the outdoors as I did harbored some thought of making a living from working in the outdoors. Farm kids got plenty of exposure to working in the outdoors, but that wasn't the same kind of work we were looking for. We wanted to work with pheasants and quail and deer and rabbits. Somehow they were more entertaining than a Holstein. And, you didn't have to milk them twice a day! So, I applied for Iowa game warden school after I graduated from high school.
I didn't want to do this column. I've resisted even thinking about it. Sometimes it is good to just walk away from something. I felt this year was such a year. But, due to the extraordinary pressure exerted on me by my friends and enemies, I have succumbed to the pressure and have relented.
Dad didn't like it when the government agent brought the land measuring wheel out to our farm in 1957. I was sending text messages back and forth to one of my nephews last week. My nephew was updating me on the 2015 ringneck pheasant forecast for Iowa and South Dakota after our somewhat mild winter. He lamented that about the only place he could find pheasants last fall in that northwest corner of Iowa or the southeast corner of South Dakota was next to a gamebird farm. I agreed that was a sad state of affairs and told him what the pheasants really needed was more grass.
There was a time before dual fuel. A time before solar heating. A time before heat exchangers and ground water heating. It was called "the woods" time. Last week I was able to borrow my brother's portable wood splitter. As I unloaded this piece of equipment from my trailer, I was thinking of the year my wife and I built our house, 1978.
If you've grown up close to the soil as I have, you notice little things that lead you to believe the winter is really over. Oh, I know the old proverb up in the the upper Midwest, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch!" But that phrase rings hollow as the southerly winds waft in our faces and our driveways turn to mud and car wash cash registers ring. Speaking of driveways, some of us remember those days when we put saw horses at the end of our lane-ways to preserve our farmyards.