John Wetrosky, Columnist
I'm thinking spring. Yes, I know that spring is still seven Mondays away, but I can feel it, especially this past week when the ice and snow were melting across my driveway and causing people to slip and slide their way to work. The chickadees began to sing their spring mating song, and the owls were hooting, hoping to attract another owl of the opposite sex. Those things are happening.
"Now THAT'S a pork chop!" I uttered those words last week at our dinner table. My sister and her husband paid us a visit from southern Minnesota where my brother-in-law farms and raises livestock. As a kind gesture, he and my sister brought up some pork chops for one of our dinners. This pork chop was a sight to behold. Six inches across and an inch-and-a-half deep, rimmed with a thin layer of fat. It was the pork chop of my heydays on the farm. Thick, juicy and filling.
I came across an article last week that focused on very small towns in Minnesota. The article could have pertained to just about any rural area in any state. Contributors to the article spelled out why they were proud of their "little" towns. The towns were populated by anywhere from 500 persons on down to a town with the population of 5, and that number varied depending on whether any couple decided to call it quits and split or some kid decided to head out on his or her own.
The only "tweet" I ever heard while plowing the back forty was that of a yellow-breasted meadowlark, sitting on a post with its beak pointed heavenward. Now we have "tweets" aplenty. The recent political campaign was plagued with "tweets." Anyone who has lived as long as I have might have wondered what the world of communication was coming to. Instead of lengthy newspaper articles or informative hour-long forums, we got a lot of "tweets" from both parties. It was tough to keep track of who was tweeting who.
The sound of the huge elm branch scraping against the side of our farm home resembled fingernails being pulled across a chalkboard. The steady pounding of the wind against the walls of the house gave one the feeling that some giant being was about to enter uninvited. An Iowa ice storm was passing through the country. Giant cottonwood limbs were cracking, and the yard light was flickering.
I have a traditional column I submit each Christmas season and I hope you don't mind me re-submitting this season! I was recently asked to do a reading of this column for a local social club and the words always are new to me. The following Last Windrow "Classic" column was written in 1990 when my daughter was 5 years old. It was to be her first excursion to a Christmas tree farm that she could really remember. I wrote it as a Christmas card to her and I'm sending it out to Anna and my readers during this Christmas Day week. "The Ugliest Little Christmas Tree"
I like fruitcake. The gift that just keeps on giving, as Eddie said in "Christmas Vacation." I'm kind of tired of the lame jokes made about this holiday delicacy. I've heard my share of lutefisk jokes up here in the north country, but fruitcake jokes come in a close second. Comedians mock this traditional holiday treat, newscasters make jokes about it, and it rarely ends up on anyone's gift wish list. When's the last time you asked for a fruitcake for a gift? Fruitcake has been unjustly blamed for causing divisions within families, causing divorces and ending friendships.
The ice is a bit thin this year. Well, it's worse than that. There is no safe ice yet in the Northland. That could change this week. The ice fishermen are anxiously waiting onshore, casting a forlorn look across the still liquid waves of the lake. Those who do not live in this world where we drive pickups, cars and ATVs across frozen lake surfaces do not fully understand the anxiety endured by people who like to drill holes through lake ice. Actually, I did not understand that either when I first moved to northern Minnesota.
A credit card company didn't have to tell me to "shop small" during those growing up years on the farm. The fact was, there weren't any credit cards available then, and that was probably a good thing. Shopping small was what all of us farm kids did when Christmas time came around. The pay scale wasn't great on those Iowa acres, and our work was generously rewarded with great room and board accommodations. But, when Christmas came around each year, somehow each of my brothers and sisters received some spending money to be used to purchase gifts for the family.
A human can learn a lot from a squirrel. I'm writing this column looking out at a world of white. I mean really white! Last week's heavy snowstorm in northern Minnesota has snowmobilers cheering and snow-scoopers jeering. But so it goes up here where the glaciers only retreated a few thousand years ago. But just a day before I wrote this column I was sitting in the crotch of three huge red oak trees waiting to ambush a wayward buck whitetail deer. You find a way to quietly pass the time while waiting for a deer, and so it was with me.