July 15th…“IN YOUR MINNESOTA DAYS, TELL ABOUT A SCHOOL PICNIC THAT WAS SPECIAL”
Sunlight winked at us through the shaded canopy of Elm and Cottonwood trees as we bounded out of our school bus and drank in the fragrant breezes that floated off of Rice Lake. A rite of passage was about to be celebrated by myself and the entire 6th Grade of our school there in our beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. June of 1966 welcomed in a perfect Midwest day and brought to an end the era of my Grade School experience, encompassing Kindergarten through 6th Grade. In the Fall, my classmates and I were to begin our first year of High School. True, it was technically a Junior High of Seventh and Eighth Grade, but our grade levels and that of the Ninth through Twelfth Grades, shared the same building. It, therefore, felt, in all regards as if we were locked arms with our upper classmates in our local educational school system.
Once our teachers (Mrs. Barton & Mrs. Scofield) had given us 6th Graders the expected parameters of proper behavior, we were released to explore the joyful wonders of Pihl’s (sounds like “peels”) Park. That lovely rural park setting was named after Mr. Joseph Pihl who donated his personal retreat to the community for all to enjoy……and THAT we did!!
While a gluttonous gala of picnic foods were being prepared, a number of us guys explored the shores of lovely Rice Lake. The shimmering waters were inviting as they reflected the sapphire blue of that Minnesota sky above. I wish I had brought along our family’s bamboo fishing pole that day. From past experience, I knew there were plenty of Bullheads (a Midwest name for Catfish) just awaitin’ off shore for me to toss in a tasty worm on a hook 😉
Knowing well our proclivity to having tons of energy at that age, our teachers provided an array of activities and races to help us make this celebration day festive. Foot races, potato sack races, tug of war and a myriad of other events exercised not only our bodies, but also our smile muscles to the very limits. Of course, in addition to the racing games, there were swing sets and other equipment to pass this glorious day away in activities to make for tired bodies and marvelous memories.
A gentle phenomenon also permeated the sweet joy of that special picnic day. It was the genesis and palpitating pangs of what the world knows as “Puppy Love”. The magical wonders of our young lives were entering a maturing phase that was both fun and fearful as we guys began to notice our classmates of the opposite gender in a more personal and “new chapter” way. I recall a couple young ladies of my class whom I had twitterpations for as we sat side by side on the swings that day and chatted. One young lady even came and snuggled onto my lap on the same swing……..ohhh myyy goodness……be still my pounding heart!!! 😉 Warm summer breezes off of the lake caused the long hair of this feminine fair maid to float, as if in a dream, as we shyly talked of how very special this whole day had been.
This picnic was not only the culmination of an educational chapter of life, but, by the returning feminine smiles I received that afternoon, I saw the ushering in of a new and even more exciting life adventure for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.