My town is very unusual and plenty of my friends wonder why I live out here, so far from the excitement of life!
by Charlie Leck
My dog and I took a little ride yesterday. The Gopher (University of Minnesota) football game was over and they lost again – this time to the Michigan State University Spartans – after playing tough for three quarters. I needed to shake some cob webs from my head, as they say, and I cranked up the old car and drove out our gravel driveway and up our gravel road and just roamed around my town, looking here and there at pretty much nothing.
What is it that inveigles me so much about this town? When one realizes that it is part of the metropolitan complex – a virtually suburban community – only 25 miles from the heart of Minneapolis – one is then caught up in its wonder. How can there be such opens spaces – these meadows, rolling hills, wetlands and beautiful farms – in such a large and populated urban setting?
Someone did something right a number of years ago and I owe them a lot of gratitude. This land and these opens spaces, you see, are protected. Housing developments and commercial or industrial complexes are forbidden out here.
I drove straight north on our tidy, but graveled, road. I passed two handsome golf courses, at least five pretty, little farms, acres and acres of pastureland and a couple dozen cozy houses nestled on very large plats of land. At the highway I zigged right and then quickly zagged north again on another gravel road. I looked out at two or three more small farms neatly fenced and maintained, a few houses sitting on the shores of a small lake and a nursery where a fellow grows trees to sell. After a couple miles the road climbed a small hill and wound this way and then that and I found myself in a very attractive county park.
I pushed the car slowly through the park. There were still some colorful leaves clinging to oak, maple and elm trees, but the wind was strong today and the leaves were falling gently all around the open land. A large lake was at the center – the heart – of the parkland. As I drove on, I saw the bike trails and hiking trails snaking through the park hither and yon.
There are plenty of people out here who want to put an end to all of this. They think they missed out on the American dream – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They figure there should be housing developments over here and an industrial park right there. At the southwest corner of this fantastic parkland there should be a Super Target complex with a big, macadam parking lot with those white lines into which ones squeezes a thousand cars. I visualize the big lamps that give light to the commercial corner at night. The sign for the Target Store is bright red and lit up at night and the field of black soil that gives birth to yearly crops is no longer there. Kentucky Fried Chicken will want to put a drive-through nearby and someone will figure we need a fitness center and a bigger gas station and convenience market. And then the roads will need to be paved because who wants to drive his black Lexus over dusty roads on a dry summer day. (Should there be a question-mark here? I don’t think so!)
What will happen to our wild turkeys and the red fox who like it here? To the white tailed deer who frolic over the lands and through the trees? To the bald eagles who nest in the tree-tops along the lake shore? To the fellow who nurses beautiful trees to just the right size and shape? To the creek that runs with clear, clean water all the way through our town to the little known lake on its south boundary?
I drive past John and Kathy’s pleasant horse farm, with the red and white jumps neatly set up in their riding ring. There’s Whee’s remarkable place on nearly 600 acres of lovingly cared-for, heavily forested land. Virgil’s house is at the end of that pretty driveway lined with drooping willows.
There are no gated communities and no sprawling housing complexes. I don’t pass a single blinking light trying to convince me I’m hungry or thirsty. If I want fast-food, I need to drive east toward the city – to where the suburban sprawl spreads its ugliness across the land. Or, I can drive west six miles to where the sprawl once again commences. But here – here in the same county that is home to Minneapolis – there is nothing to distract the eye from the beauty of the land – from the rolling meadows, patches of forest, streams and creeks, fence-lined farms and long, long driveways leading to hidden homes.
I suddenly realize that I’ve been driving for nearly two hours. The sun is very low and the shadows that spread across the open fields are very, very long. The autumn sky in the west is painted in marvelous hues of red, pink, blue, yellow and orange. Some incredible artist did this work. I pull the car to the shoulder and climb from it. The sunset is spectacular and I wish that I’d brought my camera.
“You don’t need to capture it,” I tell myself. “Just enjoy it.”
This is my town and I love it here. The dog’s head and shoulders are sticking out of the car’s rear window. He is watching me and wondering, I think, why I am so melancholy. I don’t how to explain it to him. I free him from the car and he sits at my feet and we watch the sunset together.
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