This past week we received some much needed rain, which could go a long way towards easing the burning restrictions we have been under in the area. I was pleased to hear that the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners did what I felt was the right thing and voted not to issue a permit for a gravel pit by Lower Twin Lake which, in my opinion, would have had a negative ecological impact on the area and would also have taken away precious habitat. As it is, far too many acres of valuable wildlife habitat have already disappeared.
Whenever I drive north on Bridge Avenue and pass over the place that kids who grew up in that area referred to as “the bridge,” I get a good feeling. We would spend many hours exploring the slough and enjoying the wildlife that lived there. I have mentioned before the unmistakable call of the red wing blackbird and each spring the return of those birds surely meant that “spring had sprung” as my dad used to say in his tongue-in-cheek humor. The feeling I get today when passing by this area is one of gratitude to the DNR and many local habitat groups for making sure that this area and others like it are preserved even though the land surrounding this area is slowly being developed.
This is the place where I used to spend my Saturdays tromping through the slough while I explored the vast wilderness of the area. To a kid, at least this one, this really was a vast wilderness that was enhanced by a good imagination and a desire to create my own fun. I spent many Saturday mornings watching kids shows on the old Zenith that on a good day could pull in three channels or maybe four if the tin foil was in the right place on the antennae wire. Once I had grown eye weary from watching that snowy screen I would be out of the house in search of another adventure that involved the slough.
Whenever I drive past the slough I can look to the south and see that the hill we used to slide on is still there. It really wasn’t much of a hill because it was short but very steep so the thrill, like the hill, (poet) offered a quick but exciting ride. After dragging our sleds through the slough to reach that hill we would spend a couple of hours taking the steep climb to the top so we could zip down the hill to that sudden stop at the bottom. In those days I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
I had a neighbor named Roger who was a couple of years older than me and in some ways kind of a bully. When he had friends or cousins visiting him he treated me like the enemy and would from time to time for no apparent reason give me a good pounding. When I was the only one around, we were friends and he would let me hang out with him. Roger had an old duck boat that his dad had given him and one spring when the water in the “crick” was extremely high, he asked me to go along with him to explore the slough.
I jumped at the chance because, after all, he was the oldest kid on the block and wanted to hang out with me, so life was good. As we set out on our adventure I found out that the boat had a couple of pretty big leaks in it and he had thoughtfully brought along a 2-lb. Hills Brothers coffee can especially for me so that I could bail water out of the boat while he rowed and enjoyed the sights. In hindsight I could have probably passed for one of those guys on the slave ships that I used to see at the movie theater. When we returned to his house at the end of the day, both me and my new best friend were soaking wet. Even though Roger and I were now friends, I for some reason took pleasure in hearing his mother scold him for taking that boat out in that fast running current and for getting us both soaking wet.
Although Roger and I didn’t always agree on things (especially me when I was getting pounded on) we both had a great appreciation of that slough, its wildlife and the habitat that it provided then and still does provide today.
Until next time, it's time to get outdoors, wet a line whenever the opportunity arises and if you don't want to fish, just take a walk or ride your bike around the lake; it’s all good.
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.