I love living in my town – out here in the countryside – where it’s so quiet, peaceful and interesting!
by Charlie Leck
We’ve been living out here, 25 miles west of Minneapolis, for 22 years now. We’ve owned this lovely piece of property for more than 30 years. Perhaps it’s a guardianship rather than ownership. I like the concept that many Native Americans have – certainly that the Dakota have – that concedes that you can’t really own land. It belongs to something far greater than you. We are called to be kind to the land and to leave it behind, when we depart, as healthy and as good as it was when we took that guardianship.
“…the eastern Dakotas, whom Europeans frequently referred to as the Santee Sioux – Mdewakantons, Wahpekutes, Sissetons, and Wahpetons – were a woodland people and stayed behind in the bountiful land of the Upper Mississippi River, where prairie and forest met to provide a rich array of resources. The forests, lakes and rivers teemed with game, waterfowl, and fish; herds of buffalo still roamed the prairie; lush vegetation provide a variety of foodstuffs that included wild rice, berries, nuts, and edible roots; and sugar maples yield the sweetness of their sap. The rich soil also proved ideal for the cultivation of small plots of maize in the short northern summers. The seasonal harvest of all these resources led to an annual pattern of circular migration for the Dakotas, often by way of the rivers and lakes that ribboned the region. European observers would describe the Dakotas as ‘always wandering,’ but in fact they moved with purpose in an age-old cycle that followed the rhythm of the seasons.” [Mary Lethert Wingerd*]
To the Dakota, as Wingerd says in another section of her extraordinary book, North Country, “…land was not a commodity to be bought and sold…” and “…a concept of exclusive land rights was incomprehensible, even immoral, to the Indians.”
It was this concept about private ownership of something that could not be owned or possessed, that led to the violent disputes between the Dakota and the white settlers in this region. In their treaties with the white settlers the, Dakota thought they were agreeing to share the right to inhabit their lands and not to own and destroy the resources that the land provided.
And, now, here I am, proudly owning this parcelle de terre that really belongs only to Great Mother Earth.
Years ago – 30 perhaps – my dear wife, Anne, and a neighbor, Lucy, with whom she shared an adventurous spirit and a respect for nature, plotted to restore the wild turkey to their part of the countryside. They ordered crates of young turkeys that they could distribute throughout the neighborhood. All of us, who knew them and their quirkiness, chuckled and passed it off as just another silly waste of money. They cared not! They believed!
I cannot and do not say it was their activities back then that is responsible for Minnesota now having a wild turkey hunting season, but perhaps… Who knows? They likely share the credit with some other goofy dreamers.
Now, however, we share this belle terre upon which we live with a large number of turkeys who wander throughout the woods and over our fields. They are well acquainted with our big bins in which we store corn for the winter feeding of our flock of sheep and lambs – good, yummy, healthy, organic corn that is difficult to find.
As you can see from the photograph, they have a bit of the prehistoric look about them. They are snobbish and removed and appear to have distaste for us. And, they do not like to be observed. They act almost as if we have some kind of perversion in our desire to photograph them.
I keep my camera close at hand, waiting for a moment to capture them. They move more quickly than one would imagine. They won’t show themselves full-faced to me.
This photograph in the heading is the best I’ve done so far. Would that I had a better, larger lens in place that day, but, alas, I did not.
Notice how they blend in with the leaves and the surrounding woodland. It’s difficult to contrast them and separate them from their surroundings.
Jasper, our wonder-dog, seems to have some great respect for them. While I was trying to photograph them from the driver’s seat of my car, this respectful, black dog was cowering over on the other side of the back seat, unwilling to even glance out at them. I suspect he may have tangled with them once upon a time and learned a lesson or two from them.
Anne and I are overjoyed that they are here and we are willing to share this lopin de terre de Dieu with them. Hunters are not welcomed here. We think the turkeys deserve the corn they rustle from us and we like the mellow sounds they produce when they are passing by.
As for me, I’ve put a larger lens in place and I will keep carrying my camera with me and hope for another meet-up with these elegant creatures with whom we share cette terre.
*Wingerd, Mary Lethert: North Country, The Making of Minnesota [University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2010]
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