The Great Turtle Rapture of 1968….

I noticed the first one crossing the road just outside of Pelican Rapids.  I gasped as the right front wheel of my son’s Camry missed her by inches.   A few miles farther north, I spotted what looked from a distance to be a large hub cap in the other lane. Then, near Park Rapids, there was another enormous one that had met her fate.

It is turtle swerving season in Minnesota once more.

Between Fergus Falls and home, I counted almost two dozen turtles crossing the highway.  I am happy to report that we were not responsible for murdering any of them even though the first one was really just lucky. When I see turtles squashed on the road I’m always puzzled. After all, how hard is it to avoid a turtle, for crying out loud?  It isn’t as if they line up in the tall grass along the highway, wait for a car to approach and then dart out just for kicks!  You almost have to want to hit a turtle.

Last weekend I took the dog for a walk up at the lake. Maggie isn’t impressed with turtles in the slightest and so, even when we came upon one laying eggs, she refused to make eye contact and just snuffled past, minding her own business.   Being a momma turtle looks like a lot of work to me. All that digging of holes with your back legs takes forever, for one thing. Then you lay a bunch of eggs and have to push all the sand you just dug out back into the hole. And then, after you’ve spent like an entire afternoon working, you still have to try to make back to the river without getting squashed along the way.  Then, there’s a very high probability that a skunk is going to show up as just soon as the moon rises to dig your eggs up and eat them before your eggs even get to be actual turtles. 

Back before the health department put the fear of salmonella poisoning into the hearts and minds of every mother in America, every dime store had an aquarium filled with baby red ear turtles for sale.  If you are old enough to remember begging your own mother to buy you one, you also probably remember that raising a red ear turtle was a lot harder than it looked.  They usually ended up floating, rather than swimming, in their little plastic turtle dishes with the fake palm trees a lot sooner than anyone expected. We only had one that survived infancy.  He was a good climber and one night, after what must have taken a lot of planning, he made his escape.  In the morning, when we went to feed him his turtle flakes, he was AWOL from his dish.

For weeks, we looked for him throughout the house under beds and behind the curtains, wondering where he could possibly have gone.  We looked high and low for that turtle.  We sniffed around for a decaying turtle corpse.  We wondered if some sort of Turtle Rapture had taken him off the planet in a blinding flash of light while we slept, completely unaware.

Then, months later, he was discovered behind the washer and dryer in the basement. He was a whole lot dustier than we remembered, but still very much alive. Somehow, he’d  managed to make it down two flights of stairs after his escape and had survived on basement bugs throughout the long, cold, winter. We scooped him up and deposited back in his dish, glad to see him. However, he’d tasted freedom and was never quite the same after that, I’m sad to say.

Perhaps turtles are bigger thrill seekers than we think they are.






The baby chipmunk peered at me from the other side of the screen door at the lake and chirped, begging for a treat.  I was in the middle of clearing everything off the lowest utility room shelf so that the workers could determine why the floor under the water heater and pressure tank had started to sag toward the Black Hole of a crawl space below the house. Trust me when I tell you that I was in no mood for visitors, cute, furry, or otherwise.  Nonetheless, I dug a few stale Cocoa Krispies out of the box, opened the screen door and tossed them out on the step.

And that’s when I noticed that my little visitor was wearing what looked to be a chipmunk-sized green lace scarf around her neck.

I went outside to take a closer look and upon further chipmunk inspection, realized that she wasn’t actually trying to be fabulous at all.  Her begging, curious, ways must have found her with her head stuck in part of a minnow net that she’d chewed her way out of.  All that remained was a little fashion statement tied around her neck.  I’m hoping that she can be tamed enough for me to cut it off before the end of the summer.  Chipmunks, after all, need to breathe.

Houses, too.  When Mike and Mike arrived to check out the sagging floor, they explained that to me and so we’ll be working on getting some more air flow through our old, wheezy place.  It is the newest item on our To-Do List from Hell.  If you have a cabin, you probably have your own list so you know how this goes.  Check an item off the top……add an item to the bottom.  It is penance for trying to own property smack in the middle of Nature.

And so, I ponder that chipmunk and our damp spot next to the river, gaining perspective about what matters and what really doesn’t during this awful month of images on the evening news of tiny Palestinian children in hospital beds and body bags in Ukrainian farm fields. I’m grateful that the biggest problem I have, at least this week, is trying to figure out how to coax a chipmunk onto my lap to offer a little humanitarian aid of my own.

Humbled, once more, by the enormity of my many blessings as one of the luckier members of the Human Race riding a planet that seems, of late, so randomly cruel.

Buns and pickles, pickles and buns…..

I am seeing pickles in my dreams.  Barrels and barrels of pickle slices, swimming in brine like flat green jellyfish.  Scooping them for six straight hours in the Avenue of Pines Lions Club hamburger stand will do that to a gal who thought she’d left that life behind back when she was a waitress and cook many, many moons ago.

I don’t even like pickles.

The Wild Rice Festival of 2014 was a rousing success, according to my family. This, despite the rain delays for the long-anticipated Dweebs concert on Saturday night and a chilly October-ish parade on Sunday.  They ate too many hamburgers (some with pickles, some without), fry bread tacos, and mini do-nuts and drank their weight in beer. To atone for their sinning ways (or maybe they were just hungry again), they visited both the Methodist and Catholic church basements where they found wild rice hotdish and pie in the first, turkey and cupcakes in the one next door.

They talked about going on the Tilt-a-Whirl but then, thought better of it and walked “uptown” to the Flea Market instead. They listened to stories about growing up in a place where the Rice Festival was the highlight of the year, every year. They didn’t win a baby turtle by throwing a ping pong ball into a glass bowl or 500 bucks by having their number called, but oh, well…..they weren’t really expecting either thing to happen, anyway. They stood with family and friends beneath a misty Super Moon watching the fireworks light up the night sky.

But mostly, what they did was spend time together with their big, loud, messy, gluttonous, extended family. One that, more often than not, feels too spread out and busy. They listened to old stories about the town where their moms were born and raised.  A town their moms know by heart.

This town. 

I’m thankful for everything but the pickles.




Bubble wrap and gunpowder…..

I’m happy to report that, for one more year, nobody I’m related to needed a steel plate in their head on July 5th. 

Our luck holds.  Fourteen years and counting….

Although Nurse Lexie and Chuck the EMT were both in the boathouse, we made it through the annual fireworks extravaganza at the lake without either of them being called into action. However, as one of several mothers/aunts/cousins praying and waiting for the madness to end, I will say that having both of them trained to apply a tourniquet was comforting. 

When our Boys-Who-Love-Fireworks were small, we did a lot of yelling from that boathouse. And that was with both of their fathers down on the dock supervising.  We were the moms up above screaming into the dark, “BE CAREFUL! GET BACK!! ONLY ONE OF YOU ON THE DOCK AT A TIME!!!” every darn Fourth of July. As the smell of gunpowder from the Grand Finale wafted across the lake, with visions of body parts floating toward the Big Island still dancing in our mom heads, we would look at each other and say, “Thank goodness that’s over for another year.” 

We still do.

This is because even the cautionary tale of the dude in Fargo a few years ago who literally blew his own head off (this really happened….Google it if you dare)  while lighting a firework falls on four deaf ears. Both young men just look at me and shrug their man-sized shoulders because they are young, and hard-headed and well, male. They do not see themselves as people who get their heads blown off. They imagine futures with heads.  Gee…thanks, Ventura.

Fireworks shenanigans aside, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about heads this past month because one of the more sensible female children in the family ended up with some pretty serious injuries to her own lovely noggin while rollerblading a couple of weeks ago.  There is a certain amount of irony to parenting, isn’t there? Sometimes you worry about bubble wrapping the wrong kid.

But they are all young and strong and beautiful, these kids of our ours who are in the Summertime of their lives. As their parents, the best we can do is hope that the bumps and bruises yet to come in each of their lives will heal, and that any scars that remain will be gentle reminders and not terrible, cautionary tales.

And mostly,  we can continue to pray that they will have the brains to back away from the fuses in Life they’ve lit themselves.