100 Days Of Solitude

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.

– Henry David Thoreau

I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day…(I) think I’ll get out of town.

– Neil Young

By the time this blog sees the light of day, it’ll have been 100 days since I exchanged the bustle of the city for the quiet of the life on a lightly traveled gravel road ‘up north’.

Not an insignificant amount of time when hours are the currency of the realm here in Lake Country. Enough hours certainly to have made the conversion to life w/ a traffic count significantly lower. I would estimate that the vehicles that went by the condo in an afternoon rush hour to be close to the number that will go by the trailer the entire time I’m there. And if that’s not exactly the case, it certainly seems like it.

2400 hours later has put a sizeable dent in the time that’s been allocated for ‘summer vacation’, to be sure.

It’s not fall yet, but it’s getting there. And although I’m still unsettled as to my date of departure-either/or on a calendar right now-my time ‘up north’ for 2015 is dwindling.

But w/ the dwindle comes the payoff.

August is the month when the wood ticks have receded deep into the woods. The deer flies have thinned out to a negligible number, and high temps in the upper 70’s/lower 80’s are the norm.

In other words, the best days of summer.

Accordingly, I make an adjustment to the weekly regimen. One or two days of the bike ride being replaced w/ morning walks in the woods w/ Girl.

The dearth of ticks and flies make the foray into the forest a lot more doable. So does a lower temperature. And heading into the woods means no motorized traffic to contend w/ for longer stretches of the routine. AND NO ATTACKS FROM THE LUNGING LABS!

What does come in more in play is a possible encounter w/ critters such as porcupines-I’ve removed quills from a dog’s snout before-but I have no problem w/ exchanging concern for trouble from fast-moving vehicles and other dogs to animals in the wild. I’ll spin that wheel every time and take my chances.

Actually, the walk is along a snowmobile trail cut right through the woods for a couple of miles. Depending on the rights or lefts taken, you can have a jaunt between 7-10 miles. At least 10 miles has been the farthest we’ve gone in the past. There comes a time when you have to start heading home, after all.

The trail is lined w/ patches of wild raspberry and blackberry bushes to snack on as you make your way through. And there were still berries to be found on Sunday, which keeps your eyes wide open.

When we eventually reach the tarred roadway,  it’s a two mile jog back to home base and a dip in the lake to finish off the morning routine. Smooth.

But it’s in the woods where all the serenity is flowing. The quiet is the ideal setting for a morning musing. Just let the mind wander. No need for much surveillance of the pup. She’s busy in her world, and I’m lost in mine.

Still, there’s a wordless connection between us that keeps our journey in synch. I stay in tune w/ her movements as almost an afterthought. There’s an awareness, but not a full concentration. She’s hunting. I’m thinking. And we’re both good w/ that!

Frequently, of course, she does find ‘quarry’ on her hunt. Her nose for deer is exquisite right now. And when she darts off the trail and into the woods odds are that that is just what she’s stumbled upon. I’ll look up to see a white tail going deeper into the trees. Thankfully, she thinks her job is complete when that happens. I make sure to praise her to accentuate the point that that is all she has to do when ‘hunting deer’.

If not deer, it could be turkey. She’s got that scent in her nostrils as well. She’s flushed singles and doubles w/ a quick move into the interior. And earlier this week a rafter of gobblers were set to flight when she followed her nose off-road.

Grouse, too. But not as often w/ those birds. I don’t know if we’re into the lower end of the grouse cycle-or that she’s just not honed in on that scent as well-but she flushes more turkey than grouse.

The swim is the perfect way to end these August mornings spent in the woods. The water’s still plenty warm when you’ve broken a sweat. A refreshing lake bath to clean everybody up after all the morning fun!

Getting plenty of fresh air, exercise and clearing the mind while watching your dog going about her business w/ a worry-free mind -having all the fun that she was bred for -is the total good living package. And to finish all that off w/ a swim? Well, I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You can feel somethin’ happenin’ in the air…Gettin’ ready for the county fair.

– Bruce Springsteen

The fair of my youth, the Dakota County Fair, begins today.  I’m biased, of course, but I believe this to be the best county fair in the state. But that is an opinion that was formed by years of attendance and has, thus, hardened in my mind as if it were a straight forward fact to be found in a textbook.

The slogan years ago was ‘Where memories are made.’ For some reason the Fair Board decided to change it up and this year, I see, the slogan is  ‘Just for the fun of it.’ Decades away from my first experience-and years away from my last visit-‘Where memories are made’ rings more true to my way of thinking.

I not only grew up in Farmington-where it was real convenient to ‘go to the fair’ every day-I also was fortunate enough to work at the fairgrounds for three summers.

The employment was possible due to a federal government program that was known as CETA. CETA was short for Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a program that was decried from almost it’s beginning as a waste of tax dollars.

Not so from my perspective. It supplied me and my cohorts w/ 32 hours a week of summer work and a nice paycheck for a teenager every two. We certainly benefitted from the program!

But it wasn’t just the paychecks that made the experience a success. Long after those dollars and cents were spent I still can recall the fun we all had working at the fairgrounds-getting everything prepared for the fair-and then the final week of work cleaning the fairgrounds up after the annual event.

So many good memories, really. I remember painting chairs for weeks and still seeing them in service at the 4-H building w/ that paint job decades later. I remember cleaning out the hog barn after the fair much more fondly right now than I do at the time.

I remember how us teenagers related to our 70 something bosses. Sometimes for better. Sometimes for worse. But I still remember.

Ernie Ahlberg was the head honcho. His title was Fair Director, and he probably held that position for close to 30 years. At the time that I worked at the fairgrounds he was probably a bit past halfway of his run. I’m not sure. I do know that he was old enough to collect social security checks at the time. So he did more driving than walking around the fairgrounds on a daily basis. Inspecting. Very slow in his blue Cadillac making sure all was in order.

Big Ernie.

There was another ‘boss’ as well who was the one in charge of giving out the work details. He was Gordie Lagerquist, the Fair Board President, and a firecracker of a man even in his 70’s. He’d get so worked up about the work assignments that it would only be a matter of time before his fuse went off. Then the spittle would start flying out of his mouth as he got so excited trying to verbally correct what he felt to be the tomfoolery that was being substituted for the labor that he demanded. And even though you look back smilingly at such small things that would get the old man out of whack, he was probably right to get upset in real time. There was probably some tomfoolery going on.

Gordie was just an excitable boy, even in his 70’s. Nothing he or anybody could do about that, but go w/ it. And we did. He cooled off fast, though. You could be back in his good graces in an hour by just attending to your task with some new found enthusiasm. Then everything would be copasetic again at the fairgrounds.

He had a good heart-and most of us kids knew that-even if he could go off from time to time dealing w/ a generation two to three removed from his own. During fair week he’d escort all the youth workers into the demolition derbies. tractor pulls or rodeos past the ticket booth for our free admission. Don’t think we didn’t feel a little important when that happened. We did.

And he always threw a small party on the last day of work for the work crew and thanked us for our work to make the fair the best county fair in Minnesota. Everyone finished the summer w/ good feelings about what was accomplished in the months prior to make sure the fair was seen as a success. Back then they set attendance records every year, so we must have been doing something right. And filling out the CETA application the next year, I made sure to request the same work station as the year before.

In fact, I still consider that job to be the best job I’ve ever had, all these years later. It still produces those good feelings when I look back to that time in August all those years ago.

Gordie’s favorite line of encouragement was ‘now you’re cooking w/ gas’.

35 plus years later, I still prefer my soup heated up under an open flame.

Happy musings.
















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