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When Memories are as Clear as Mud

–Photos and Old Highway 61 Blog by Gail Gates

“Sometimes I return back to the state of mind I had as a child  when I believed nothing was impossible.”
― Jonathan Harnisch



Early April and the snow banks resemble dirty meringue sagging over day old French Silk Pie.  Ah, spring in Minnesota.

I was returning from a trip to Sandstone and opted to drive along Old Highway 61 instead of I35.  Finger tapping to the car radio and lost in thought, it occurred to me that as much as I love the area there are prettier seasons.

Fields are strips of sterile brown and white, trees are waiting for permission to bud, and the sky seems too often grey…fifty shades or not.  I know that soon all of it will burst into feverish bloom and the summer will pass in a heartbeat, but for now, well, it’s a little grim.

Then something caught my eye and sent me hurtling back in time.  At the end of a muddy road a bike leaned against a small shelter.  Wow. How clearly I remember my childhood walks from the school bus to our house on our farm’s dirt road.

That country road wasn’t just mud, it was wet clay so fierce that it sucked your boots down and held tight.  The frost boils oozed and the creek roared through the culvert that kept the road from washing out. Barely.

As bad as it was, and no matter how much I got scolded for dragging mud into the house, it was rather fun, too.  The dirt smelled good, alive, after a long cold winter.  That culvert? A perfect place to send chunks of board (mighty ships in my mind) through the swirling water.  The trick was to catch the boards before they escaped beyond my grasp and disappeared into the pasture via the swollen creek.

All those memories from one quick glimpse of a bike on a snowy dirt road…I pulled over to take a photograph.



As I stared at the scene in front of me I admired the kid who felt riding a bike through the rutted spring road was a better than walking.  It has to be hard work getting those tires to churn through the sludge.  I also felt happy that there remains trust, or innocence, or faith, that the bike would not be stolen.

So, yeah. It’s not real pretty out there at the moment, but I would encourage anyone who wants to remember rural times to venture up and down Old Highway 61. And if you were never a country kid, explore the area to get a feel for how it is, how it was.  Walk in the mud, watch the geese return; and visit rivers running wild with snow melt.

In other words, life is too short to stay clean.  Invite the kid inside of you to come out and play.

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