Parents and grandparents watched while rambunctious children rode the merry-go-round on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The playground fixture, called a roundabout in some circles, had not lost its appeal for a generation that may be too dependent on bell-and-whistle games.
Grownups listened to the riders’ shrieks, ate hot dogs and pie served from a small food stand, and remembered when they were nimble enough to ride along. Older children competed in a kickball game on the ball field.
The field is a gift from a nearby farmer who thought the community would benefit from a place to play. A one-room schoolhouse once abutted the backstop, its foundation laid on what is now the church’s parking lot.
“I used to walk more than a mile to the school,’’ said retired dairy farmer Karl Germscheid, whose son and his family lives on the farmstead now.
Small talk about the weather and emerging corn is mixed in with fishing hotspots and jobs. Those who were once young are much older now, which testifies to the truth that time moves much too quickly.
“You are only as old as you feel,’’ someone said while eating the last piece of rhubarb pie. “This is the best I have ever tasted; well, it’s almost as good as my mother’s.’’
An opinion follows that rhubarb pie — without the addition of strawberries and other fruit — does not receive the respect it deserves. It needs just the right balance between sour and sweet to be at its best.
Master gardener Laurie joins me to talk about the best flowers to plant at my parent’s grave. The variety needs to do well in dry conditions because watering can be hit and miss. We walk near and talk near the cemetery, but she does not move close to the monuments. Laurie has heard about the garter snakes that inhabit the place, and since she is deathly afraid of them, refuses to get too close. We do not share the phobia, perhaps because snakes caught in a grain bundle or hay bale were fun finds way back when.
“You do know garter snakes are not poisonous,’’ I said while urging her to walk with me.
“I don’t care,’’ she said. “They still make my skin crawl.’’
I have my own phobias that include refusing to drive in the heart of the Twin Cities. It did not used to bother, but somewhere along the way a good sense of direction, speeding cars, and crowds is overwhelming.
With directional aides, Kathy says there is no grounds for fear.
The divide between rural and urban is too great to overcome. The chasm also seems to be growing across the country. Voters in a handful of eastern Oregon counties recently voted to break away from the state to join Idaho because they claim that Portland and other metropolitan areas in Oregon do not represent their interests.
The vote is more symbolic than meaningful because Congress would have to approve the move.
In Minnesota, a couple of lawmakers have proposed splitting the metropolitan Twin Cities from the rest of the state so that rural interests are better represented. Their complaint hinges on the conviction that rural lawmakers are underrepresented in St. Paul. The proposal, immediately after it was unveiled, was called a harmless political stunt.
However, it reveals the ongoing and worsening divide. It should not be that way given that a nation with shared values is stronger than one divided.
The church has a fundraising drive to raise money to repair cracks in the ceiling. The condition is not surprising given the structure is more than 170 years old. It is our shared responsibility to maintain it so that the children who played at the merry-go-round will themselves protect and preserve their heritage in rapidly changing times.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.