John Wetrosky, Columnist
Someone must have told the sumac behind our house that fall is on the way. Two leaves dangling from this north country shrub have turned a brilliant red, contrasting harshly against the still green canopy. This sumac is telling us something.
It stands as the last monument to a farm family gone from the land. In the middle of the farmyard, on a slight hill, just above the now gone barn and next to where a windmill used to stand. It's rusted and bent and worn, but it is a testament to the fact that a family once lived here, played here, had kids here and maybe even died here. It is the farm's water pump, the center of the universe of the small family farm.
I just took the last of my 2015 Christmas lights down. Let's see, is it getting to be late August already? A lady who passed by while I was dangling precariously off the step ladder mentioned that I might have well just left the lights up; but no, it was my goal in May to take them down and I've fulfilled that goal. I feel better. There are a number of undone tasks around our home that started with good intentions this past spring, but have somehow floundered as the calendar pages flipped by. Stuff just gets in the way.
The largest fish I ever yanked out of a pond of water during my farm years was a 6-pound channel catfish. It came flipping out of the Big Sioux River on a sultry, hot August day. I remember that fish well. It bit on a piece of shrimp that I dropped into a pocket of water surrounded by huge cottonwood tree roots.
Storms I have known. We have had some lately. During my illustrious and dubious career as a fishing guide and fisherman, I've come to respect Mother Nature in her rawest form - storms. Those who are foolhardy enough to ignore her signals are asking for a pounding. I learned that after fishing northern Minnesota waters for nearly 40 years.
Our farm had a Yellow Boy threshing machine. In its later years it languished at the back of our grove of trees, rusting in the Iowa sun. But, in its heyday, it was a sight to see.
They call them "bedroom communities." I don't blame anyone for living in one, but it's not the kind of community I grew up with.
The Fourth of July holiday is knocking on the door. A time when a bratwurst will be devoured and a cold drink will be downed by even those who have sworn to take up a diet. Eating rules go out the door when it comes to eating on the Fourth. In the heat of a July 4 day, big men will be seen sweating over a barbecue grill. Such men take pride in their ability to get a wiener or a brat or a hamburger cooked just to perfection. Many of them have not cooked another blessed thing all year, but for some reason they seem obsessively drawn to cooking on the Fourth.
I've seen some hail. I've never seen grapefruit size hail. I saw it last Sunday at our home in north central Minnesota. I grew up in hail country, northwest Iowa. It wasn't anything unusual to have a hailstorm at anytime during the summer months. Searing heat and a cold front from Canada don't match up very well, and the result is usually something that will make you run for cover.
My dad passed away two years ago at the ripe age of 97. Father's Day is coming up and it got me to thinking of my dad and the lessons he passed on to me during my formative years. Most of his advice was given in a way that was not seen by me as preaching. He gave me examples of what seems to work and what does not, mostly drawn from his farm experience. I find those lessons still valid.