Summer break

The blankets pulled snugly around me on that August morning, in a laughing dare for me to get out of bed.

An August mornings too often are of miserable heat and humidity, that of the sort which make rising from bed as good of an alternative as any in the old Eimon Homestead farmhouse. It’s when summer happens, with so much to do before the day’s heat pulls itself around every breath a being tries to draw.

A hint of autumn seemed to be in that morning’s air; the sounds of a gentle summer rain pattering on the old house’s roof and on the leaves of the willow, oaks and walnuts added comfort to my spirit.

Even the birds around the farmyard’s trees and at our feeding stations seemed to tell me what I was feeling as I pulled the blankets ever-so-closer around my body, a couple families of about 20 young grosbeaks talking about it at the feeders in soft-toned “mweep, mweep, mweep.” The birds that morning were low-key in their voices in the same ways I was feeling low-key.

The conscience of the old farm inside my spirit reminded me that this wasn’t the sort of day that the corn on so many of our ridges would need. This time of the year, the corn begs for a few extra sweltering days of sun and humidity – those summer dog-days when little more than the corn and a few heat-miser humans like. It was the antonyms of the sorts of summer days when Dad would have said, “Yep, you can hear the corn growing today” in response to my whines that the day was too hot.

My conscience also reminded me that most parts of our county wouldn’t need the extra rain that was falling, parts downstream from our ridge already having been oft-flooded by this season’s overflowed banks of ditches, creeks and rivers.

One of our dairy-farming neighbors across the ridge confirmed later that day how I was right about my worries that the crops other than our farmyards’ lawns were gaining much on a day such as this; another soul south toward Old Man River confirmed that we didn’t need more rain.

As I started to gather my morning wits I started wondering what, then, might be joyous in my feelings about such a cool and otherwise rainy and drab summer morning? It was too early in August to even declare that the morning was an arrived-too-early precursor to autumn’s cool splendor.

It eventually occurred to me that my very physical response to what I’d woken to was the answer: This day is one in which nature has called a short time-out to allow us to recover enough to help us be ready for the month’s single final push of summer.

Sometime near the end of each May, we and everything around us downshifts and revs our collective engines’ RPMs to make a big push into the late spring and through summer. All goes high-velocity and high-paced to make things happen – playing, growing crops, gardening, doing home repairs, community festivals, livestock shows, the county fair, fixing highways…. We start in a rush and keep the pace fast until we start to feel autumn’s cool days.

We even seem to relax in a hurry.

Long spans of daylight allow us to pick up the pace even more, especially when we start to see the daylight faltering ever-so-slowly and we start to hear the distant sounds of school bells.

We nearly panic as we hear the click-clack of high school football players’ cleats hitting sidewalks as the players head toward their schools’ practice fields. If football season is nigh, how soon can it be before we see leaves changing colors and falling from trees and then feel the onset of winter’s freeze? It’s click-clack time, then, to get all that’s summer packed into what remains of summer.

Our beloved northern Driftless Area is a place where most of us take pride and happiness in living life at a pace that’s a bit slower than in many other parts of this big old world, but even here we can find ourselves in a constant road-race everywhere between Osseo and Trempealeau.

And then that cool and rainy morning arrived in early August, it holding the summer coolness and moisture that we didn’t necessarily need. Its arrival slowed us down for a while, the morning reining some of us to a complete stop.

Life went on as usual, and there certainly were those whose pace couldn’t be slowed by that morning’s coolness and steady summer rain. But as I finally pulled the blankets from my chin and rose, I think I heard a collective sigh echoing across the northern Driftless Area’s ridges and valleys.

The land, its people, its crops and even the air got an ever-so-brief moment to rest from summer’s fast pace — a pace I noted as I pulled the blankets higher and drifted back into a morning slumber.

— Scott Schultz




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