John Wetrosky, Columnist
This is kind of a Christmas story. It was a catnip Christmas on the farm. We milked cows on that small farm in Iowa many years ago. Our herd amounted to around 40 cows and as anyone who has ever milked cows knows, this was a twice-a-day job, every day of the year.
There was a rumble. A vibration. I stuck my head out of the door. It was an "ice quake." Ice fishermen are edging out on the lakes around these parts of northern Minnesota. They are a tentative bunch at first, being aware that a dip through the ice can be life-threatening. Each year the radio and newscasts warn ice anglers about how much ice it takes to keep a human atop the ice, how much ice will carry an ATV and then the coup de grace - when they can actually drive their vehicles out to their winter abodes.
The pheasant with the longest tail feather I ever harvested was on Thanksgiving Day many years ago. That feather was an award-winner. Most folks are headed for a Thanksgiving Day feast somewhere this week. There will be roast turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and tasty salads spread across white table cloths and in front of a crowd of humans with eating on their minds. It was no different for me back in the early 1960s when my family motored to the small town of Westfield, Iowa, in a quest to fill our bellies and enjoy the fruits of this great country.
It's the second week of deer hunting and I haven't seen a deer. The woods are bare of tracks and the cooler is bare of beer. Deer frolicked here just weeks ago, where the heck did they frolic to? Nary a white tail to be seen as through the swamp I go. I've sat in this tree, it seems now like years. With cold seeping through my coat and frost in my ears. I hear no shots coming from any direction. Last year from this very spot I saw more deer than I care to mention.
Well, the whooping and hollering are gone for another year. We've all be exposed to about every negative thought a human is capable of uttering during this midterm election. I've been watching past episodes of "Hogan's Heroes" and "Gomer Pyle" just to get away from current events. Those shows were really funny. I ran and was elected to a public office one time. My grandmother warned me against running for such an office many years ago. She told me that holding a public office exposed you to ridicule and loss of friends.
The migration has begun. Much like the giant herds of wildebeest traveling across the African plains, risking life and limb they cross rivers full of crocodiles, evading pursuing prides of lions intent on eating them as they march on to an unseen goal. In northern Minnesota, we call this happening the pre-deer season.
I admit I was a bit apprehensive. I'd heard of this event over the years, but being born into a family of Bohemians and Germans I had not experienced what I was about to experience. The leaves are leaving the trees around this part of the north country. We've had our first visible snowfall and a bit of ice covered our bird water basin one morning last week. There is no doubt that the heat and humidity of summer have left us not to return until next June. Truly, I won't miss those summer temps that make me perspire just carrying out the garbage.
My wife and I just returned from a short camping trip to Winnipeg. We've camped at Birds Hill many times and always find interesting things to do around the Manitoba city. This year we visited Fort Whyte, a historical depiction of life on the plains both for Indian people and white settlers alike. The facility also offers a great interpretive center, which is worth your time.
On a recent fishing trip our daughter bought a candy bar from a gas station along the way. It was her treat to us. The candy was one of those double-humped cherry bars with the chocolate on the outside with a cherry filling. Most of you know the candy bar of which I speak. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and opened the wrapper. It was with some surprise that I kind of had to search for the treat inside. Somehow this candy product that I remembered from my youth had seemed to shrink.
The red-faced rooster pheasant took flight from the standing cornfield and headed out over the flooded cattails. It was a cold South Dakota morning on opening day of the state's pheasant hunting "opener." The big black Lab dog came thundering out of the cornfield as a shot rang out and the rooster disappeared out over the cattails with a puff of feathers drifting over the frozen swamp. I heard the crash of breaking ice as the dog, now unseen, headed for a bird she couldn't see.