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A couple of weeks back I was having coffee with some friends and one of them asked if I remembered the “free shows” that a lot of small towns around the area put on many years ago. I told him I did indeed remember those times. The thought of those days gone by brought back many memories of my youth and when we attended those free shows. My Aunt Violet and Uncle Oliver lived in Twin Lakes and when the free show was held in Twin Lakes they would be held right in their front yard. I can remember anxiously looking forward to those warm summer nights and the fun of watching a movie on an outdoors screen. There would usually be a popcorn vendor who accompanied those shows, and a nickel would buy you a bag of that popcorn. It just wouldn’t be a movie without popcorn.

If I remember correctly, those shows were usually held on a Saturday night. Emmons would also host a free show, but not at the same time as the one in Twin Lakes. I think they alternated from town to town so everyone had a chance to host it. The one in Emmons was on the northwest corner if you turned north going toward the school.

When the movie in Twin Lakes was shown on my uncle’s front yard, it was right next door to the local beer joint (it’s what they were called in the day), so some of the adults would frequent that establishment while the kids and others watched the movie. What a great way for a kid to spend a summer evening! I can remember going to Bath for a movie, which I believe was on a Sunday night, but I don’t think we stayed for the whole thing because my dad had to get up for work the next morning.

In those days we didn’t have a lot of money for extras, but my dad always had horses and he also liked westerns with John Wayne being his favorite actor. One Saturday night my dad said we were going to the Starlight Drive-in movie theater, which I don’t believe had been open all that long. I can remember looking forward to my first drive-in movie and how excited I got when my mother popped up a big bag of popcorn to eat while we watched the show. As my dad drove our old ‘48 Buick, I stood up behind the back seat anticipating the big event. As we neared the drive-in, he turned down a gravel road behind the Starlight and parked on the crest of a hill. He sounded pleased with himself as he proclaimed we could see the screen perfectly, and it actually wasn’t a bad view; but where was the sound?

I have occasionally thought about that night, but I’ve never really tried to overanalyze it. I do wonder, though, if we were really that poor or if my dad was just trying to see how enjoyable watching a movie from atop a nearby hill would be? I can’t really remember if the movie was a John Wayne, Hopalong Cassidy or Cisco Kid movie, but I do remember the hero wore black clothes and the usual white hat; I’m sure my dad could have told you about every horse in the movie. Although my mom and dad grew up with silent movies, it just wasn’t the same to a kid when there was no sound.

I haven’t heard much about the fishing on our area lakes, but I do know the crappie bite has been pretty good on Hall Lake in the Fairmont area. From what I’ve been hearing, the area by the beach on Fountain has been giving up a few sunfish, perch and crappie, but not much size. With the approach of warmer weather, I don’t know what the next few weeks will have in store. If a person wants a little open water fishing, a drive east to Lanesboro could be productive if you want to do a little trout fishing. The stream trout season in the southeastern part of the state is catch-and-release only and runs until April 15.

Tax time provides opportunity to help wildlife

Line 21 of the Minnesota income tax form – marked by a loon – provides people with an opportunity to help more than 800 species of nongame wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. When taxpayers designate an amount they would like to donate to the Nongame Wildlife Program, their tax-deductible donations are matched 1:1 by state conservation license plate funds.

“The Nongame Wildlife checkoff offers a rare opportunity to direct funding to something we all care about,” said DNR Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor Carrol Henderson. “It’s an investment in a future where kids can still chase a frog or a snake through the grass, hear a loon at night or see a bald eagle – in person or on a webcam.”

For more information on the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, its success stories and ways to volunteer and donate, visit the nongame page.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoor rinks, sledding and fishing our area lakes, but always be careful when you decide to venture out because no ice is ever 100 percent safe.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, not only during the holiday season, but for the rest of the year. They are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

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