Gun control has long been one of the most controversial and divisive issues in American life and politics. I remember as a young man slapping a bumper sticker on my much-the-worse-for-wear old vehicle, which read "When Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns." I have long since learned that the issue is much more complicated than that. Still, there are few better ways to start a heated argument at a social event than to express your views on gun control.
A lot of guys I know have suffered through a minivan complex. I'm sure there are women who feel the same way about minivans, but I'll wager that far more guys have a problem with it. A minivan is not flashy or daring like a sports car, or macho like a tricked-out pickup truck.
In the very early hours of a day last week, I had an unexpected encounter with a man in camouflage. I had just parked my car in a clearing at the end of a logging access road in a patch of county forest. I was about to pull on waders, readying myself to take a path that winds downhill to a stream I'd come to fish. I saw him before I heard him, for the tall grass of the logging trail on which he was walking muffled any sounds from his footsteps. The patchwork of green, tan and gray tones of his pants and jacket would certainly have concealed him had he been motionless.
On a recent drive to a lake destination, just as we were cresting a wooded hill, a pair of sharp eyes in the front passenger seat spotted a dark silhouette moving cautiously out of the tall grass bordering the road. An outstretched neck atop a large round body, terminating in a long, downward-sloping tail almost immediately gave away its identity: wild turkey. That's not such an unusual sight here anymore, as is the case in so many parts of Minnesota.
Most of us are familiar with the statement that "freedom isn't free;" meaning, that it has taken sacrifices of blood and lives and treasure to preserve our freedoms. Another truism, one that strikes close to home for those who value opportunities to hunt, fish and enjoy the wilder side of the outdoors, is that there are real costs to maintaining these opportunities.
Here we are on the cusp of July, when thoughts of spring high school sports were, for most fans and participants, old news and past history. But that would only be true if you've not been paying attention to the fastest growing school-sponsored youth sport in Minnesota, whose season just recently concluded with qualifying competitions held in Alexandria, followed by the championship competition held in Prior Lake. The sport is clay target shooting.
Last Sunday, I attended a Memorial Day ceremony at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery, located at Camp Ripley just north of Little Falls. My father-in-law, a colonel when he retired from the military, had his ashes interred there last summer, and his widow, his son, my wife (his daughter) and I felt drawn to take part in this year's event. As you might imagine, it was a ceremony with lots of patriotic dimensions, from the music, to the flags, to the speeches and uniforms.
Last Saturday morning just after dawn, I guided my vehicle into the parking area of a cross country ski trail network not far from my home. There was no competition for parking space, which was not unexpected at that early hour. Unfortunately, this parking area has been empty more often than normal this winter, thanks to a scarcity of snow. Several days earlier we had a snowfall of about five inches, something we hadn't seen since before our brown Christmas.
There are issues that a cautious columnist might steer clear of if he wants to avoid alienating readers. If he's a political columnist it might be the issues of immigration or abortion. If he's an outdoor columnist it could be the issue of wolves, and the degree of protection — if otherwise — that they should have. But while it's good to be sensitive to differing opinions, it's important that there be a forum for discussing difficult issues. That may not be at the office Christmas party, where being agreeable and avoiding controversy are widely-understood rules of the game.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. That's a time-worn introduction to a joke, but it's also apropos of a writer who has been known to forget whether he has shared the same thoughts with readers before.