John Wetrosky, Columnist
Pheasant hunters may see more distance between roosters this fall. I just read the Pheasants Forever forecast for the upper Midwest and it ain't good. The Dakotas, Montana and Minnesota all experienced poor nesting, bad winter weather and drought this year. Not a good thing for the ringnecks. Road counts are down dramatically. It could be a tough season. But, hunters will still turn out. There will be non-resident licenses sold. Small-town cafes will glow with blaze orange, and dog whistles will be heard in the parking lots. Hope springs eternal in the hunter's breast.
I know how Max and King, if they were human, would have felt when they heard that they would soon be obsolete. Max and King were two old workhorses that remained on our farm in my early years. They had both been essential to the farm work that had been produced by my grandparents. Their broad backs and sturdy legs had been put to the plow, the mower and the wagon.
OK, OK, my Minnesota Twins forecast for this year is in the pits. I've heard about all the chiding I can stand. I'm a kind of person who admits it when he sees himself as wrong; and folks, I was wrong to make my dire prediction for the Twins season in April. So, kick me while I'm down!
The ruffed grouse season begins in Minnesota this coming weekend. Opening day got me to thinking of bird dogs I have known. Every one of them was a treasure while they escorted me through the woods. Every one but one.
It's not nice to trick older folks like me. I'm the beginning of the "baby boom" generation. They now have names for people of my age like the "silver tsunami" or the "silver streaks" or the "balding" generation. True, those words do pertain to me, but I've got lots of company. It doesn't seem so long ago that I could shoot the stem of a bull thistle in half with my .22 rifle from 25 yards away. My eyes were sharp and I could spot a rooster pheasant a quarter of a mile from the highway.
The velvet antlers of a young, fork-horned buck went dancing by our window just a couple of weeks ago. The young buck tossed its head and kicked up its heels as it scampered through the red oak trees that this year are heavily laden with acorns. Still green, soon the acorns will turn two shades of brown and drop to earth where, no doubt, this deer will find them. Fall is about to enter the northern landscape.
I've got "The Blue Virginia Blues" since I met the "Girl At The Crossroads Bar." I found out that she was a real "Kentucky Girl" with "A Love Of The Mountains." But, I was a "Rov'in Gambler" who was "Ragged But Right" and now I'm eating "Leftover Biscuits" and suffering with "Loneliness and Depression." So, I'm heading for that "Wide, Wide Dixie Highway."
Two dog and cat shelters recently opened in the area of Minnesota in which I reside. They are great facilities with state-of-the-art housing and were built with the animal's best interest taken to heart. I feel good to know they are here even though my wife and I are now dogless. It is good to know that there is a place for unwanted or orphaned pets. We didn't have animal shelters anywhere near our farm back in the day. We had plenty of cats and dogs during my tenure on the farm. Usually they provided a value to our farm as well as other neighboring farmyards.
They call it "a million dollar rain." We had one around here last week. Weather calls the tune when it comes to farming or gardening. All the technology, all the college courses, all the passed-down knowledge means zip if the weather doesn't cooperate. True, farmers can now provide water to their crops via irrigation, but not all practice that art. Most still rely on Mother Nature to water the crop.
I just watched a Willie Nelson special concert from Billy Bob's down in Texas. I see a lot of my dad in Willie's music. Music was a part of our country farm life. My family has a history of loving all kinds of music. I have a second cousin who played violin with the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. My great-grandfather hitchhiked his way to Sioux City and Omaha to play his clarinet in those community orchestras. I found the barrel of his clarinet in our farm garage one day. I have no idea of what happened to the rest of the instrument.