Albert Lea indeed is a beautiful place with beautiful people

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yesterday evening I was driving into the parking lot at Albert Lea High School, turning off Hammer Road into the school driveway near the pond that sits on the west side of the school. I was relieved to see a familiar sight. For six years each spring I’ve driven in that school entrance and seen two geese milling around the pond area.

Just these two geese alone are not necessarily the familiar sight I’m excited to see. Geese are known as beautiful creatures, but their beauty is often marred by their reputation as prolific poopers. These two geese often manage to heavily splotch the south entry to the high school with their bodily releases. That, combined with the reputation of geese all over the Upper Midwest to inhabit golf courses — one of my personal favorite summer respites — and similarly splotch that landscape causes me to not be a huge fan of the particular species of bird.

No, the familiar sight I have seen six years running as I pull into my place of employment is the spring birth of a gaggle of geese. Now I am not one who swoons and oohs and aahs at human baby pictures, but I am a sucker for the cute factor this gaggle has. I hadn’t seen the flock yet this year, although I had noticed the one goose looking mighty plump, moving rather slowly and with the other goose watching the plump one’s every step, as if concerned. In fact, as I drove by a couple days earlier with the windows down I could’ve sworn I heard the one goose yell to the other goose “Honey, I’m craving pickles and ice cream! Will you run to the store?”

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And then yesterday evening, as I turned off Hammer Road, there they were, a mother, sitting surrounded by her babies. Aahhhhhh. Their hair looks matted and fluffy and yellow. They will follow her every move for weeks now, growing at ridiculous speeds. When high school graduation rolls around in a few weeks they’ll hardly be cute anymore, somehow already morphing from “aahhhhhh” into prolific poopers.

I love this kind of beauty. Simple and real. I’m by no means what you’d call an outdoorsman, although I do spend a lot of time outdoors golfing each summer. But I do know what I find aesthetically pleasing, and this town and this county and this area have a lot of it.

As a person who has lived in central Minnesota, western Wisconsin, the Twin Cities area and Texas, plus has a portion of my family from northern Minnesota, I’ve seen a variety of places. Truly I’ve found unique beauty in each place I’ve lived. Truly. I mean that. Part of that is my generally positive outlook on life. Having a happy outlook on life makes it possible to find beauty in anything and in any location.

Another part of that outlook is the realization of how lucky I am to live here. Albert Lea seems to have an unusually high percentage of people who’ve lived here their entire lives, or at least for the majority of their lives. Hopefully those people appreciate the beauty by which they’re surrounded. I’m guessing they do, or they wouldn’t have remained here.

My wife and I love to take drives around the area to discover all the beauty this area has to offer. One of our favorite drives is from Albert Lea to Lake Mills, Iowa. The wildlife you can see on that drive is often immense. My wife grew up in the bluff country of western Wisconsin. Granted, the bluffs are pretty to look at, but they’re not necessarily user-friendly. The beauty in this area is much more user-friendly. This area is what my wife calls “naturally beautiful.” And in my opinion she’s an expert in natural beauty. Most days my wife wears little or no makeup, and she is gorgeous. I’m not just saying that. She truly is.

Certainly there’s more to picking a place to live than its aesthetic pleasure. Jobs tend to dictate where people live. We’ve got a great school system, wonderful hospital and numerous local businesses, some employing hundreds of people. Could there be more jobs? Certainly, but that’s not a problem unique to this area.

Also making a community vibrant and beautiful are the people who inhabit it. The following is a true story: The other day I called my wife and said, “What should I write my column about?” See, she came up with about 80 percent of the ideas. She’s always been the brains of the operation. She thinks for a couple seconds and seems to have nothing. So I decide to bounce an idea off her. My idea is to write about what a wonderful community in which we chose to live. But just as I started to open my mouth she said — and I’m not making this up — “How about you write about how lucky we are to live where we do?”

This isn’t the first time we’ve thought eerily similar thoughts, which for me is a good thing. If I’m thinking the same things as someone that smart then I must be doing OK.

So we talked it out. Not only is it a beautiful area to live, but it’s inhabited by magnificent people. I was fortunate to work closely with some of those brilliant people last weekend, as a bunch of them took vacation days from their jobs to create a wonderful experience for their own children, plus another 90 children and many parents visiting from out of town for an event we put together. I got to know some other fantastic people a little better through working with them and seeing their hospitality. Jeff, Denise, Mike, Eric and all the staff at Green Lea Golf Course. Donnie and Ryan and all the staff at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. We are lucky to have two such splendid relaxation venues as these.

For me I am thanking these two golf communities, with whom I work so closely each spring as a high school golf coach. For you the natural beauty and the great people may be elsewhere. The key is learning to appreciate it.

I know I am. The geese are daily reminders of that.


Albert Lea resident Riley Worth can be reached at