February 24th…“DESCRIBE A PLACE YOU LIKED TO GO TO BE ALONE.”
Solitude was easy to achieve on our farm there in southern Minnesota. Our folks owned 120 acres of rich, black farmland and a giant “thicket” (large woods) that was located on both sides of Brush Creek. On top of that, Dad rented and farmed another 120 acres that were adjacent to our land.
I ascertained, from an early age, that I could be just as easily pleased in the quiet joys of aloneness, as well as being in the company of family or friends. I was never one who followed the crowd in school days. I preferred being secure in my singular quietness, if necessary, rather than trying to find my worth in shadowing or following along with some one person or group. This attribute of entertaining myself was likely brought about because my elder siblings were 8 years and 11 years older than myself so they already had friends of their own “generation” to enjoy. And, as far as my younger sister was concerned, ……well, she was, after all, a GIRL! 😉
On many a brilliant Minnesota morning, I’d sometimes take a bandanna containing yummies like crackers, cheese, etc. and head off for Brush Creek that ran from west to east across the south border of our pasture land. I’d spend the whole day exploring the water’s edges up one side and down that cool little river as mud squirted between my toes. With my blue jeans rolled up past my knees, I’d drink in the beauty of Nature’s ways as that little creek meandered it’s way towards the mighty Mississippi River far to our east.
There were times, on those sultry Minnesota Summer days, that I’d find myself hidden in the bends of the creek, so I’d peel off those human layers (called clothes) and bask in the “flesh of my birthday suit” while the swift prairie winds funneled their way down the creek beds for my cooling enjoyment. 🙂 If I heard the grinding of gravel under a car or tractor tires, I’d launch my nakedness under the nearest shady clump of grass or cliff of the creek bed for momentary shelter.
One of the tiny warriors living in Brush Creek were the crawdads. Like itty-bitty lobsters they were fascinating and WOWSA, could they ever move fast! To catch ’em, you’d have to aim your hand just right for your fingers to grasp them behind their front pinchers. If you missed……..they, instead, became the pincher and YOU became the PINCHEE!!! Within seconds, it was now you who were the subject of their tiny wrath for having disturbed their day.
One of my favorite little “wild things” were the baby frogs called “Tadpoles” (although some also label them as polliwogs). There were abundant “schools” of them in Brush Creek as they’d create a ribbon effect while their tiny tails whipped and plied the waters looking for shade and food. I’d scoop up loads of them in a large Mason jar from Mom’s kitchen and then take them home for a day or so to enjoy in my bedroom. Then, I’d hike back down to the creek to release them so they could continue life to their own mature “froghood” 😉
Along those joyous creek banks of my “play land”, I could see the mud slides cut into the embankments that were created by the mink and muskrat that lived and played in these same waters I was enjoying. They would climb up from the creek level to the flat pasture land to bask in the sun or play with their buddies. At their whim, being playful creatures that they are, they’d then greasily slip down their muddy slide and back into the creek waters below. Later, in my youth, a gentle farmer named Clarence Johnson, taught me how to set traps for these creatures and we skinned their hides for market to furriers in the town of Faribault, Minnesota. In those days, I was more interested in making some money for myself; but in the retrospect of age and wisdom, I would been the wiser to have allowed these little creatures of the creek land to live to a ripe old age, rather than killing them for their fur.
One of the annoyances of creek life, was the usual “danger” of getting leeches (also known as “blood suckers”) stuck to your legs. After hours of adventures in the water, I’d sometimes come out to the dry land of the surrounding pasture and realize I had as many as four or more “blood suckers” stuck to the skin of my legs. Their tiny mouth had opened and with itty-bitty teeth had latched into my skin as they began to suck out my blood from the wound they inflicted on me. Our parents counseled us that it was NOT wise to just yank them off, because their “teeth” may still be attached to my skin. Dad would usually light a match, blow it out, and then touch the HOT head of the match to the sucking creature, which would make them “let go” and come off. Other times, I remember putting salt on the leech (which burnt the creature to where their mouth would open) and then rubbing it off my leg. All these methods of removal were precautions for preventing any disease the “blood sucker” may have with it and transferring it to you.
I vividly remember how hours and hours would pass while I’d be in a little boy’s wonderland that allowed me to just lay on the banks of Brush Creek while watching the glistening waters ebbing and flowing by for the peaceful enjoyment of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.