Column: Visit from a large reptile could end late-summer doldrums

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2003

Narrative hook. Of course, you all know all about the narrative hook. Composition teachers have dwelt on it, preached on it, gloated over it, not for years, but for centuries. The narrative hook is the first paragraph, or better yet the first sentence of a novel, a short story, an essay or a column like this that’s supposed to make you eager to read the rest of whatever the literary piece is.

There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, that a professor at Oxford University so emphasized the importance of an exciting narrative hook that one of his students &045; and mind you this was in the Victorian era when ladies were ladies and duchesses were duchesses &045; began a novel:

&uot;’Hell!’ said the duchess, lighting her cigar.&uot;

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A composition teacher I had said that had the Oxford student’s follow up been as good as his beginning sentence he probably would have gone down in literary circles as one of our most talented writers.

To tell you the truth, I’ve always been a little uncertain about my narrative hooks. I have an uncomfortable feeling that my first novel, began when I was about 10, began like Snoopy’s with the &uot;It was a dark and stormy night&uot; bit. Just as well, it never got finished.

I’m even a little uncomfortable about the beginnings of my columns. Readers have been so kind to me that I feel they deserve the best.

You can’t imagine how often I sit down at my computer with a deadline around the corner and have all I can do to refrain from writing, &uot;Regarding the dinosaur browsing on my front lawn.&uot;

I even have ungrateful moments, particularly at this time of the year, when I feel that I deserve a dinosaur, at least a small one.

I know that calendar-wise, fall does not officially begin until Sept. 21. For me, fall begins on Labor Day and the end of summer always puts me into a moulty mood. I know that it’s probably the most beautiful season Minnesota can offer us. I also know that it comes just before the season with which Minnesota clobbers us.

I remember that one of the first friends I had at the University, not long after arriving in Albert Lea, was a young woman from West Virginia.

&uot;Do you like Minnesota?&uot; she asked me.

&uot;All except the climate,&uot; was my honest answer.

My new friend regarded me in some bewilderment. &uot;What else is there?&uot;

Every fall I try to reason with myself about winter. I tell myself that it doesn’t last one bit longer than summer. I used to insist to myself that September and October were almost summer months. That was before we had that Halloween ice storm in 1991.

I used to tell myself that once we were through March &045; giving us a total of not more than six months of actual winter &045; we would have good weather. That was before the April 22 blizzard back around 1945, when I was doing social work in Mower County. My mother had taken a bus from Alber Lea to Austin to visit me. There was no return bus for three days.

Since I came to Albert Lea in November, 1937, it has snowed on three Mother’s Days. I know that only Wisconsin rivals us in our longevity record, but why wouldn’t we achieve long years? We’re frozen more than six months of a year.

Moreover, much as I’d like to wish you a wonderfully happy Labor Day, it’s hard for me to rise to the wish. Labor Day was the day on which some 81 years ago I started to school. Yes, on Labor Day. Only a half day, because it was a holiday, but it only took me a half day to discover that I’d

been oversold on the whole school proposition. As I’ve said before, had it been left to me I’d have been the first first-grade drop out.

I’ll admit, September isn’t all bad. Some of my best friends have birthdays in September. I started to work at the Tribune in September, 1949. I resumed writing my column in September, 2000. Our Writers Group began two years ago in September.

September, as its name indicates, used to be the seventh month in the year. Now it’s the ninth. It’s a fine month for wiener roasts, the kind where you stand around a fire roasting wieners and singing, &uot;Shine On Harvest Moon.&uot;

Despite of all I’ve said, I hope you have a good month and a wonderful holiday. I shall be cozily at home, peering out of my front window, waiting for a browsing dinosaur to show up.

(Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.)