Sheds, shells and solitude

With the sun shining and just a hint of wind Sunday afternoon, I eagerly headed out to the family farm. There were no deadlines to meet, no demands on my time, nothing on my schedule. It was my time, and my soul hungered for solitude.

I’ve found there are few places on Earth where I can go to just get away from it all. My favorites are at the farm and at the lake — both just a short drive from Worthington.

As the afternoon progressed, I pulled on my coat, called for my dog Molly and headed out the back door of the farmhouse to reconnect with the prairie. I was eager to stroll among the battered trees and the tamped down grasses of the farm’s grove.

It’s still a mess after the ice storm of nearly one year ago. We did what we could before tick season began and the brown grass gave way to green last spring. Then, there was a disagreement between a nephew and me regarding how much debris should be cleaned up. What he saw as new habitat for critters, I saw as tripping hazards. And so, tree limbs still lay haphazardly across lanes, their branches have become weapons to poke anyone on approach.

I wasn’t too far into my exploration before I began picking up the limbs and tossing them over the fence into the cattle yard. There, a burn pile already awaits the day when the wind doesn’t blow, the grass is green and the fire can be contained.

Now, sitting at my computer, I see the little red welts and scratches on my hands. I’d forgotten to wear gloves. But then, I’d never intended to start the daunting task of cleaning out the grove.

Actually, my mission of relaxation began as more of a search. Dad said it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I was willing to at least try.

The story begins with an incident late last fall, when the nephews were testing out their rifles and scouring the grove for critters.

A Buntjer boy, who shall remain nameless, lost a nearly-full box of .22 rifle shells. Anyone who hunts knows how difficult it is to find such shells on the store shelves these days.
Well, the kids searched for hours to no avail, and the ensuing days piled several inches of snow across the landscape. Any hopes of finding the ammo were dashed — at least until spring.

For nearly two hours Sunday, I roamed up and down the lanes looking for this box of shells — and deer antler sheds — without success. Instead of deer antlers I found deer droppings and instead of rifle shells I found varmint holes. Meanwhile, the birds chirped overhead and a terrified bunny rustled through the grass on a mission to outpace my Molly.

Ah, nature. How I’ve missed thee.

After supper, I returned to the grove with the four-wheeler, more intent this time on hauling branches out of the grove and into the cattle yard. On my first pass through the south end of the grove, something red caught my eye. I stopped, put the ATV in reverse, backed up too far and then, there it was — a box of Winchester rifle shells, minus the first row of bullets — resting among the dried brown grass.

I’d found the needle in the haystack. The nephew is happy.

I told him he owed me one, and I plan to collect the next time he comes to Grandpa’s house — he can help me haul more tree limbs out of the grove.

6 thoughts on “Sheds, shells and solitude

  1. You really nailed it!

    Born and raised on a farm on the prairie in ND, my folks moved us to town in the 50″s when things got too tough. I worked for over 40 years in the city for one company, all the while missing that farm and farm life. When I retired a few years ago, I bought a farm closer to our home in the country South of Fargo. This is where my grandkids and I get away to ride our horses, plant corn, and raise a couple of cows.
    In your piece, Sheds, shells, and solitude, you describe EXACTLY how I feel! A couple of weeks ago I did the same thing….I had no excuse or practical reason to go, but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to walk around and enjoy the solitude. Even though it will be several weeks until we can begin getting the fields ready for planting and move the cows and calves from their winter home, as I walked around I found myself making the plans in my mind just how it would all go. I’ve found that the thinking and planning is half the fun, and, although I do that all winter long, it takes that first quiet visit to the farm with my dog to really kick it into gear.

    Thanks for your article…I will watch for more!

    Steve Hulbert

    • Thanks for reading, Steve. I’m so glad others feel the same way I do about farm life! It’s just so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature. I miss the land, but I’m fortunate to go out to the family farm in search of solitude. :)

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