We have reached the apex of the summer here in the Northland. It is Fourth of July week and many have either taken an early holiday vacation or will be remaining after all the fireworks have exploded on the Fourth. Either way, there will be sunburns aplenty when the week ends.
I don't like to think about it yet, but this week marks the middle of summer around here. The corn is at least knee high, if it hasn't flooded or been hailed out, the geese have molted their wing feathers and are getting ready to start flocking, the deer have their spotted fawns toddling alongside and soon we will be hearing the cicadas humming from their hidden perches alongside our houses. Summer is moving along.
This was the time of year we began to think about summer vacations down in Iowa farm country. The first crop of hay was safely stacked inside the barn, the corn had been cultivated twice and the weeds had been pulled from the bean fields. And, it was hot.
Not just warm, but steaming hot. Every year there would be a picture of someone frying an egg on a manhole cover in Sioux City about this time. It was a tradition.
The North Country always called to us from our non-air conditioned farm houses. One never slept well with the temps hovering in the 80s overnight. All a fan did was blow the hot air around and we'd wake up feeling as if we never slept. I could hear the loons calling me and the lap of the waves hitting the beach on a northern lake and the thought of that kept me going through those hot days and nights. I knew soon I would be tossing a Johnson Silver Minnow toward some unknowing and desperate northern pike.
Getting ready for those northern excursions was a lengthy task. We would start planning our menus weeks ahead of departure. For some strange reason, we always thought we needed to take all our groceries with us. We evidently thought we were going to get ripped off by some tourist trap grocery store, so we planned to take everything but the kitchen sink to our vacation hotspot.
You've all probably heard the story about the Iowa farm family that took a chicken along on vacation and ate fresh eggs all week long and on Friday they killed the chicken and ate it for their last vacation meal? Well, we didn't take a chicken, but just about everything else.
It was also a tradition to buy all our fishing tackle in Iowa. Why we thought some guy in Le Mars knew what they were biting on in Pine River, I'll never know. We hauled fishing lures to lakes and never caught a fish on most of them. Only after talking to the minnow dealer in our vacation town did we find out what they were really biting on. We bought our minnows from a lady who ran "Charlie's Minnows." I never did meet Charlie, but his wife could talk fishing with the best of them. And, when you asked her for a dozen suckers, that's what you got, not 11 and not 13. Twelve minnows only swam in your bucket. We figured she was rather frugal with her count because she had to suffer through a long winter.
That first waft of northern pine scented air was soothing to the soul. After having our lungs chaffed from super-heated air for a month, any cool breeze was welcome. I remember sleeping the sleep of the dead those first couple of nights, window open and even using a blanket to keep warm. What a treasure that was.
The weeks always ended too soon and we sadly loaded our vehicles for the trip back to sauna-land. But, it was enough of a strong memory that one day I actually found a way to move up here and I've never regretted it.
And, now I buy all my groceries locally as well as my fishing tackle and I'm the better for it. Enjoy the rest of summer. The birds are beginning to flock. The cicadas are about to start singing in the treetops.
See you next time. Okay?
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