The Last Windrow: Staying home evokes memories of 'mud vacation'

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Those of a certain age who live around northern Minnesota or farm country in general will know the words "mud vacation." This latest coronavirus confinement kind of reminds me of that time, although we didn't get sick during "mud vacation."

This is the time of year that the pussy willows start blossoming, the robins return from the south and our local snowbirds are seen pulling their RVs back to their northern abodes. It is the time when you see men and women trying to pry the last vestiges of ice from the concrete in front of their garages.

It is also the time when country roads can and do turn to muck. Weight restrictions are in place.

Folks who live in the cities and towns where blacktop or concrete covers their roadways have not much recent experience with mud. They've been softened to the habit of driving to and from their destinations without even thinking whether they could get there or not.

That's not the way it was "back in the day" when every side road was viewed with suspicion as the driver would sit in his or her car and scan the road in front of the hood with the question in their minds of whether or not they might make it to their driveway.


Many rural farmers placed barricades at the end of their lanes. I remember my dad dragging out the sawhorses and hanging a piece of cardboard on each of them telling visitors to the farm to stop there and walk in. He was no doubt preserving the yard for the milk truck, which would tear giant ruts in the lane, but it was that truck that brought the milk check and so Dad put up with it.

We walked in wearing our four-buckle overshoes.

One of my favorite true stories of mud vacation around this part of northern Minnesota was that of my wife's uncle and his farm neighbor friend. The gravel/sand roads in front of their farms were just beginning to stiffen up after having running water coursing over them for three weeks. Evidently both of these farmers decided to head to town and they met in the middle of one of the roads.

As farmers are apt to do, they both crawled out of their pickups and began visiting while leaning over the hoods of their vehicles. As they talked about spring planting, new calves, the prices at the feed store and who was getting married in June, they didn't notice that their pickups were losing altitude.

It was too late when they discovered that both of their pickups had sunk down to their frames in the middle of the road. There the farmers sat, scratching their heads and telling each other they should have known better. It took a walk back to one of the farms to bring a tractor and chain out to dislodge the two sunken vehicles.

They laughed about that occasion many times afterward, but never repeated the exercise.

Kids loved mud vacation. School buses couldn't navigate the mire, so school was abandoned for sometimes up to two weeks. It was kind of like "spring break" before our now famous spring break started. Only then, schoolkids didn't even think about heading for the seashore. They were kept busy. Some were actually happy when school started up again.

And so, as we as a nation continue to hunker down and wait for the virus to abate, I think of those mud vacation days - just about this time of year on the calendar. And I think about those two pickup trucks, sunk to the fenders in the middle of the road with two bib overalled farmers standing there looking down at the mud.


You couldn't have written that scene any better.

See you next time. Okay? And, stay well!

John Wetrosky - Last Windrow.jpg

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