KIds Sledding in 1924, Minnesota
If my camera worked you would be looking at a snowy, forested hill densely dotted with red, orange, yellow, purple, green sleds and a dozen multi-colored kids tromping up that hill. One picture that comes to mind is an impish 3rd grade boy with a blaze orange hat, piercing blue mischievous eyes, and smiling cheeks full of freckles. He's laying in the snow - blissfully dazed - smiling up at the universe that counts wiping out at the bottom of this sledding hill as a school day.
I spent the day with nearly 50 3rd and 4th graders at the Bonanza Nature Center in Big Stone County. We built snow forts, snowshoed, went cross country skiing and sledding. Oh what joy- oh what a day! I went down that hill so many times and got enough "air" over the bumps to enjoy a slight concussion headache in the evening.
Once the snow was flattened down on the hill we could pick up enough speed to make it past (if you were lucky) the big trees at the bottom of the hill and go over the edge of another small cliff onto the lake. We egged every sledder on screaming "Too the Lake! Too the Lake" A couple kids made it intact. Finally a teacher had to stand at the bottom of the hill to keep us from hitting the trees. We actually cracked the front of one of the toboggans on the trees. Funny- our tobaggan was identical to the one in the MN Historical Society picture, above. Really- we are sorry about cracking the toboggan.
Here's the deal. Bonanza is a Scientific and Natural area with virgin prairies, trails, and a nature center on Big Stone Lake. But what's more- about five little schools in our area support that Nature Center to provide programming for our kids. It is a blessing and a grace--a true retreat. Mr. Mike is the naturalist who keeps the place going. Bonanza is one very small part of our school district budget.
Our little school district is a fine, fiscally responsible endeavor of the communities of Clinton, Graceville, and Beardsley Minnesota. What little we've saved in our rainy day fund has been permanently "borrowed" by the state of Minnesota.
I'm concerned these days about the center sucking the life out of the periphery. That means St. Paul taking reserves from Big Stone County (among the poorest in the State). Washington taking resources from Minnesotans (the price charged to the generations to come). The United States sucking resources and capital from the rest of the world. The overwhelmingly strong desire to maintain power- and support our non-negotiable way of life. How do we manage the decline of an empire? Can we cradle it in our arms and grieve its passing?
I want to note the passing of Cousin Marion. She lived for music. Played the organ at the church in Hayfield for over 40 years. She was good to us children and we loved her, her laugh, and her special look. She always seemed like one of us kids. I will miss her.
Between now and the end - I plan to keep sliding down those hills as fast as I can- screaming as loud as I can- the spray of fine snow blasting my face. Then gaze up at the sky above in dazed contentment with this one precious life. May it be well lived.