A turkey never entered our farmhouse oven. Why would it? Thanksgiving is on the horizon and many of us are anticipating the annual food fest. We toss out the diet books, don't listen to the commercials that boast about weight reduction, forget our doctor's advice about eating too much high carb dressing. Basically, we go back to our caveman roots and choose to eat anything that looks chewable. It is as it should be. Life is too short to not enjoy the fruits of our land and labor. All summer long we who garden labored in our fields trying to secure a winter's worth of vegetables.
In my mind, I am writing my column this week from a tree stand in the northern Minnesota woods. I was not aware of what a tree stand was during my years on the Iowa prairie. We didn't have many trees to make a stand. Tree stands, for any of you out there who have never seen one, are structures created by humans with the hope that a deer will wander somewhere in their vicinity during a deer season. They come in many shapes and sizes and vary in height from the ground. I've built my share of them and some are actually still standing.
You may not be able to find your favorite salesperson behind the counter this weekend in Minnesota. You may have a meeting postponed. You may see more than two cars at the town's only stoplight. You may see a bright orange "glow" through the windows of your local cafe. In Minnesota, this weekend is one of two that could be considered a national holiday by the locals. Saturday, Nov. 7, is opening day of deer season.
I read somewhere that the best two years of a man's life were when he reached the age of 29 and when, if he were so lucky, he reached the age of 69. I hate to admit it, but I have achieved the latter. Last week I celebrated 69 years of being on this earth. Where I was before, is only speculation. But, on Oct. 22, 1946, I was brought into the world by the sisters at Sacred Heart Hospital in LeMars, Iowa.
I love South Dakota. A simple statement, but true. Not that I don't love my home state Iowa or my adopted state Minnesota, but I love South Dakota in a special way and always have. Having been born 30 miles from the South Dakota line and having a grandparent who was born in South Dakota, I always had a soft spot in my heart for this land of wide vistas and challenging weather and a few rattlesnakes. If you ever lived in South Dakota, you know of which I speak. I spent many days fishing on the Iowa side of the Big Sioux River as it flowed gently south toward the wide Missouri.
There were two seasons on the farm that were looked forward to - spring planting and fall harvesting. These two seasons are why many of my farm brothers and sisters loved and love that life. Spring planting was the promise and fall harvest was the delivery. The stuff that happened in between paled in comparison. Putting one seed in the ground in the spring and getting multiple seeds in return in October was a real "upper." It made you feel good. It is now harvest season. As my wife, daughter and I traveled to Winnipeg a few weeks ago, we saw the soybean harvest was in full swing.
I've been invited to go pheasant hunting this fall in South Dakota. Approaching the age of 69 in a month or so, do you think I should chance it? These old bones have traveled many a mile in pursuit of the wily ringneck pheasant. I've got a titanium hip to prove it. So far the knees have held out and the other hip is supposedly in good shape.
My wife's high school class of 1965 celebrated its 50th reunion this past weekend. They had a great turnout and relived memories that tend to last a lifetime. I also graduated in 1965. Not from Pine River High School, but from Hinton High School. We were the Blackhawks. The school is still operating and I hear they have had a great football team. We didn't have football when I attended that school. My 68-year-old knees are thankful for that. I got to thinking of how different the world is today than what we of the class of '65 knew in 1965. The year 2000 seemed so far away to us.
This will be the start of the 32nd year I've penned this column, The Last Windrow. Thirty-two years equals almost 1,675 weekly columns, plus or minus a few. That's a lot of stuff coming out of my brain. I was thinking the other day about why I write this thing called a column. My initial reason was to put to paper some of the happenings I experienced growing up on a true "small family farm." That place was where I grew up.
Hey, what ever happened to "Machinery Hill"? Those who ventured to state or county fairs around the country over the past few years have witnessed the demise of large machinery displays. That happening is directly related to the demise of the true small farm operation that I remember. There was a time in my young life where one of the highlights of the fair, besides eating greasy corn dogs, was crawling up into the seat of a brand new John Deere or Allis Chalmers tractor.