Simply walking up and down the aisles of our local grocery store, I can tell what time of year it is. You don't have to be brilliant to know that when you see stacks of pint and quart sized glass jars and canning lids and pickling salt nearby, it is the canning season. Why this season descends on us at the absolute hottest time of summer is beyond me. There is nothing like standing in an un-airconditioned house over a pot of boiling water.
I leaned back in my chair to see if I could see anything resembling a cook in the kitchen. It seemed as if the cook had left the building. We call them "mom and pop" cafes. These institutions of cuisine dot the landscape across this great country of ours. Oh, there are many less than there used to be due to the influx of the franchises, but still, in just about any lucky, small town you will find mom cooking in the back and dad hustling dishes and pouring coffee.
I heard my first cicada singing outside my open window last week as I removed last winter's remnants from the inside of my fireplace. The season is starting to change when this happens. There are certain tasks that are required to prepare for the coming cooler, colder seasons. One of them for me is to clean the built up creosote and ash from the inside of our fireplace.
I'm a small prairie wildflower. Growing on turf that is eons old. Growing on dark topsoil nearly six feet thick, and more in some places, and living among my 150-plus other wild, native plants that knew no plow until the white men came here and started to settle and farm. There are not many left of my kind and now I'm isolated from my kin.
I had the occasion to meet with a fellow generation-er last week. Pardon the addition to the dictionary with that gen... word! This fellow stopped by the place of my current employment and, after using the restroom, he sauntered into the information area of this place and signed our guest register. He was from Decorah, Iowa, over on the northeastern border of the corn belt state. I found out through our discussion that he had grown up in the early 1950s and 1960s on a 160-acre farm. We had similar backgrounds, even though on opposite ends of the state.
It was a walleye thunderstorm. As I write these lines a weather warning is blinking on my cell phone. The digital age has caught up with unforeseen weather. The colored map on my screen says we are going to have lots of lightning, tons of rain, maybe some hail and even a possible tornado. That is a long way from the day when we simply looked over the west hill of our farm and guessed what weather was coming from the heavens. One of the reasons I love living in the upper Midwest is the changeable weather.
I hate to tell you this, folks, but the days are getting shorter. You probably haven't noticed it yet, but the sun is going down about 10 minutes sooner than it did two weeks ago.
Some Fourth of July holidays you remember more vividly than others. I can almost smell the bratwurst and burgers cooking atop charcoal as I sit here this holiday week. Plans are finalized about who is coming to celebrate the nation's birthday. Kids are eagerly anticipating fireworks displays throughout the land and parades will see a ton or two of candy tossed to the waiting throngs lined up along crowded streets. It's as it should be. We don't celebrate enough, I think. There was one Fourth of July along about 1960 or so that I remember more than most others.
The last thing on my mind as I herded the WD Allis-Chalmers tractor and two-row cultivator down the green rows of young corn in 1959 was that at some time in the far future I would be helping to organize a summer festival. I didn't have the occasion to organize much during those growing up years. All organization was usually done by the mothers of we who worked and toiled on the soil.
The thought furthest from my mind as I guided the hay rake down that swath of new-mown alfalfa in June was fishing in Canada. As the dust settled on another farm day, thoughts of hauling in walleyes, northern pike and bass while floating on a glacial lake in the "bush" were not on my radar. They are now. One of the things that I learned after moving up into north central Minnesota 40 years ago was the fact that even though this area is blessed with an abundance of lakes and rivers, many of the residents who live here venture further north when it comes to a fishing trip. It must have somet