John Wetrosky, Columnist
I knew it was coming. The low level "hint" that we go camping before the summer is over. I just heard it this morning while enjoying coffee on the back deck, watching the rose-breasted grosbeaks shelling sunflower seeds from the now dysfunctional bird feeder. The dysfunction caused by a recent visit by the masked bandit, raccoon No. 100.
The aroma of ether drifted across the parade grounds that December night so long ago. It smelled of danger. This is the time of year that parades stride across the land. It seems like every community has a parade of some sort during the summer months and even more months that occupy their calendars. We are having such a parade this week in our small community. It is called the Summerfest Parade.
"Be sure to put the shields in place on the power takeoff." Those were the warning words from my farm father as I hooked up the hay baler many years ago. I knew he would not have said those words if it hadn't been important. There was a potential danger there. In today's world the public is protected in almost every conceivable way by government regulations and warnings. You might think that human beings have become devoid of any sense at all of how to protect themselves without warning stickers and other safety features of the various implements and tools we use.
I learned certain things on that small Iowa farm that ensured I would reach the mellow age that I have now come to. Things that I did not learn from a textbook or in the school room. Things taught to me by my dad, mother and grandparents. Each rural teaching experience has stuck with me.
The ominous smell of nitrate hung heavy along the river bottom near the little fireworks shack. It was the week of the Fourth of July near the western Iowa border, and my dad turned the 1951 Chevy into the parking lot in front of the stand. Bright-colored signs featuring growling gorillas, hissing black cats and fanged snakes adorned the little wooden building that had seen its share of floods over the years. But, outward appearances meant nothing to a kid who accompanied his dad to this place that somehow seemed illegal.
Jerry's pig died. My Holstein calf developed a sprained front leg. Randy's sheep jumped the fence and headed up the blacktop toward LeMars. It was the week before the Plymouth County Fair. Our community is hosting the county fair again this year. It starts this week and there will be four fun-filled days, according to the posters around town. No doubt there will be visitors from around the area strolling through the midway and through the cattle barn and the chicken house.
The bull got up and disappeared over the hill. This is the time of year, after high school graduation, when many young people begin making decisions on where they hope to end up in the world. They have been seated in those hot high school auditoriums and listened to someone give a long-winded speech on how exciting their future will be if they just knuckle down, work hard and dream big.
I hope Canada doesn't decide to put a tariff on walleyes. I'm kind of worried about that. This part of northern Minnesota attracts thousands of anglers each year searching for walleyes, northern pike, bass and panfish. The highways are full of $100,000 boats pulled by shiny-wheeled pickups and cars. A long way from the rusted out pickup and beat up boats I remember making the trek in in earlier days.
Every small 1950s farm had one. Some called them the "machine shed;" some called them "the pump shed;" some called them the "shop." They were icons on a small farm and held the odds and ends of an operating farm. You might find the leftovers from an overhauled tractor or the pipes left over from a new well or spare wire left over from a fence project. If you couldn't find what you needed in the tractor's tool box, you might head for one of these small buildings and usually you could cobble something together from inside to get you back on the job.
An organization in our community had a "fun run" last weekend. Even though the north wind was blowing about 30 miles-an-hour and temps hovered in the low 40s, the runners showed up, pinned on their numbers and took off down the race route with smiles on their faces and yells of encouragement from their family and friends.