Learning, without a computer, of dandelion wishes, upturned oak leaves and the importance of a good dog
"Computers are fine instruments in the classroom, in tractor cabs, and offices, but useless when hunting for morel mushrooms among rotting logs, watching barn swallows gather on an electrical line, or taking on a walk along a gravel road."
My grandson, whose computer tablet takes him to make believe places where superheroes battle powerful villains, has little extra time to exercise his own imagination.
The opportunity came when we pulled two tall stocks from a ripe dandelion.
“Make a wish," I said. “Blow hard, and your wish will be carried to heaven."
Elliot spoke his wish, and asked grandpa to follow suit.
There is so much to wish for. Good weather is needed for planting to be finished, sunshine and rain for crops to grow, and good health for all. Farmers have a deep faith that what is planted in hope will yield its reward.
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I hope that Elliot might find great joy in dandelion wishes, upturned oak leaves that indicate coming rain, and the male cardinal seen at the feeder. Computers are fine instruments in the classroom, in tractor cabs, and offices, but useless when hunting for morel mushrooms among rotting logs, watching barn swallows gather on an electrical line, or taking on a walk along a gravel road.
Even a coyote’s cry has its place, although its sound is unsettling during a star-filled summer night. Native American cultures west of the Mississippi River regard coyotes as tricksters that remind humans of their own frailties. In some legends, the coyote helps humans; in others he represents greed and recklessness.
Coyotes were unheard in southern Minnesota farm country in the 1960s. Fox, mink, wayward dogs, and hawks were the bane of chicken flock owners then. Mother set traps without much success, and shotguns were readied.
Nothing was worse than a pack of wild dogs.
Law enforcement and Department of Natural Resources people showed up at our farmstead on a harsh winter day loaded to the gills with guns and ammunition. Dogs had chased weakened deer through deep snow and killed some. The dogs had tasted blood and would continue to rampage until stopped.
For a few minutes, the sound of fired guns echoed.
Mother tried to reform our farm dogs that had gone astray.
Chicken killer and egg-eating canines topped her list of enemies. To reform an offender, a dead chicken was tied around its neck; eggs were seasoned with homemade spices and fed to the wayward. The treatments almost always failed, but reform efforts were worth it because an otherwise good farm dog was much more than a pet.
Our collie was a good one. Laddie helped corral the hogs that escaped the fence, dug in the lawn, and messed the garden. It walked behind the cows when they did not pay attention to come-boss milking time calls.
It was understandable that Dad did not want to kill it a week after it had tangled with a rabid skunk. He loaded the shotgun and paced around the house and beneath the yard light a long while before it came time.
The collie was the best dog we ever had, he said. There were other great ones, including a rat terrier that rode with me to do chores, slept on the couch, and was a friend through thick and thin. When it died, I promised not to cry. But I did. It was buried on the garden’s edge with a field stone as a marker.
Our walk ends in the garden where it began. Elliot is in his 12th year, a time when awkward steps toward adulthood quicken. My pace along the path has slowed, but he and I are blessed to be able to share a little of the journey.
The walk wears him out. A tall glass of chocolate milk, a cookie, and a nap awaits. He fought the nap because he certainly is too old to take one. Grandpa settles into his chair, admitting to himself that a mid-afternoon nap has become a necessity.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.