Walnuts on the shed’s roof

The loud bang on our machine-shed’s roof nearly made me jump out of my work-shoes the other day when yet another black walnut fell from a tree and hit the roof’s steel.

A person might expect to have become accustomed to things that happen out there, but it never seems to be the case. No matter how much I prepare myself, that shed seems to be a place that continues to surprise me.

The surprises can start when I fling open its big overhead door. As I do that, I brace myself this time of the year for seeing some crickets and grasshoppers bounding to and fro – me always wondering what might attract them to the door’s base. And, I always worry that a snake that’s been known to sun itself or cool itself along the door, depending on which side the critter is lying, will slither away (oh, how I hate those things).

I know when I enter the shed that I’ll walk into some cobwebs and have to deal with some cobwebs on the work-bench, even if I’d cleared them out only the previous day.

And, of course, there are times during the warmer seasons when the rain snare-drums loudly onto the shed’s steel roof. Anyone who’s ever been in a steel pole-shed when the rain falls knows how a light drizzle can be amplified to sound like a torrential rain of softballs falling from the sky; a heavy rain is deafening.

My father, were he still around, might tell me to stop thinking about being startled by the shed’s noises and get back to my task-at-hand. Perhaps it’s that way in people raised in other walks of life, but that seemed to be one of my pa’s great retorts while I was growing up on our family dairy farm a bit to the east of here.

Even more likely would be the notion espoused by so many that my shed-noises are examples of the need to expect the unexpected. I’ll argue, though, we can expect the unexpected but still be startled, hurt, or even saddened when the unexpected happens.

We have some big doses of the unexpected slapping us around in these parts. No matter how much we’ve prepared ourselves to expect such unexpected things, they still have managed to startle us and kick us in our collective guts.

We know that terrible rains could hit, dumping 2 inches, 5 inches, 7 inches or more of rain onto us in a few hours.

We know that heavy rains could swell our coulees’ wetlands, creeks and rivers.

We know rain-swollen wetlands creeks and rivers could cause some of our communities to flood, damaging homes and businesses.

We know that heavy rains could wash out our crops and roads a couple of times.

We know to expect an occasional dose of high winds that, in moments, can tear up trees and knock down buildings throughout our northern Driftless Area.

We know that, just as we get too much rain, there are times of drought.

We know to expect extreme cold of winter and extreme heat of summer; blizzards and parched soil.

We know to expect the illness or losses of family and friends, and that there could be accidents on the highways, farms, industries and homes that will bring great pain and grief.

In all of those things, we know to expect for the unexpected and can plan to keep moving forward to get the work done, as my father would have suggested. But when those unexpected things happen, I think it’s OK for us to react the same way I react when those black walnuts drop onto my shed’s roof, or when I walk into one of its spider-webs, or am startled by a cricket or grasshopper or snake.

When those unexpected things strike us, we will proverbially jump out of our work-shoes and somehow be surprised that they happened. Who’s to tell us we’re not allowed that reaction?

We’re allowed the reactions but nonetheless get back to work.

After a deep breath we collectively gather ourselves and return to the tasks-at-hand. Indeed, the resilience of human nature might be the greatest thing I note about people in these parts – or in any parts, for that matter – when the unexpected arrives.

We, the people of the soil, settle back into our work-shoes and lace them up even more tightly.

Black walnuts always will fall onto our sheds’ roofs and make us jump, but we always recover. And then, we get back to work.

— Scott Schultz


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