Thursday, May 26, 2011

Travelogue: Life Lessons

You would have thought that by the time I was nearly fifty I would have learned that my father is sort-of into teachable moments. Let's face it; Dad has always been ahead of his time. He has been doing this to me since before I can remember.

When he tells you where the gas can is "…just in case you need it…" you should take it as read that he knows full well you will need it and you're probably better off just going and getting it now instead of waiting until you run out at the far end of the yard, up the hill, down the road and at least 100 yards from the shed with the gas can in it.

I don't know where Dad gets this from, but I would not be surprised to discover that it comes from his father who had that triple-play of pragmatism; he was 1) a dairy farmer, 2) a Midwesterner, and 3) of Scandinavian descent. Farmers are known for their practicality and thrift, Midwesterners doubly so. And Scandinavians…? Well, for gosh sake! They invented flat-pack furniture!

One of the earliest of these manufactured "teachable moments" I can recall was when I was seven or eight. We'd gotten a motor for the family canoe, a big, behemoth of a thing that the entire family – all six of us and the daschund – could fit into with our cooler, picnic basket and other ancillary gear. The thing (which we used to call "Big Bertha – The War Canoe") hung over both ends of our family station wagon when it was lashed to the roof.

Anyway, we'd gotten this small (five-or-six horse power, I should think…) kicker for the canoe and Dad and I were going to take it for a spin on Lake Okeechobee. Packing the canoe for the trip, dad secreted the paddles on the bottom of the boat beneath some gear and made a big ceremony of "checking the fuel" in the motor.

We then set off along the bays and bayous along the edge of the southern edge of the lake near our camp. We'd been going about 30 minutes when the kicker conked and killed. It was bone dry! The lesson I was supposed to take away from this was probably something like "always pack paddles," or "always check the gas yourself," or something like that. But it was pretty-much lost on me. As I recall it was a lovely cool day (cool by South Florida standards) and it was a fun day on the lake with my dad alone, rowing a canoe among the marshes and hammocks as we raced to beat the thunder storm (a real palmetto pounder, as I recall) back to camp.

So, what if I had to walk a bit this morning, it is a lovely cool day in Minnesota. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and to be any nicer, cartoon birds and woodland creatures would have to pitch-in and help-out with the chores. To put it succinctly, it is a beautiful day here! Who cares if I ran out of gas while mowing the acreage?

Wherever you are today, I hope that you will have a beautiful day as well!

Don Bergquist – May 26, 2011 – Kensington, Minnesota, USA

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