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.
Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Jim and Jesse, Bill Monroe, Blue Kentucky Girl, Grandpa Jones, the Soggy Mountain Boys, Sunny Side Of The Mountain, Mule Skinner Blues ... If you haven't guessed by now, this column is in a bluegrass music vein this week. You see, my community this week will welcome a bluegrass festival - we call it the Lakes Bluegrass Festival. Not to be confused with a "blues" festival, this is bluegrass music of the highest order. There is a difference. I cut my eye teeth on bluegrass and country music. Listening to my dad pick his guitar from an early age was always a treat.
Excuse me while I use some dental floss to get those sweet corn hulls out from between my teeth. Now, that does feel better. Our garden that seemed to take forever to produce this year is kicking it out as I write these words. Over 50 pints of sweet corn has already been frozen with about triple that amount still hanging on the stalk.
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.