Dick Herfindahl: An appreciation of nature starts at an early age

Published 9:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2017

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl

This past week, we have experienced some very pleasant spring-like weather but, alas, there was always the threat of the big snowstorm looming on the horizon. I am usually not one to anticipate the upcoming inches of snow while in the midst of a beautiful winter’s day, but instead I like to savor the moment and let the chips or flakes fall as they may. As I write this column, there is a damp coolness in the air, which is a tell-tale sign of things yet to come.

I know of some folks who never take the time to enjoy the present. In fact, a conversation with one of these folks may go something like this: you might say in a typical Minnesota type conversation starter, “nice day.” And that person will in turn say “Yeah it is, but we are in for a big snowstorm.” They may also add “I heard that we are going to get at least a foot.”

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So much for living in the present.

As a kid, I always looked forward to the coming of a snowfall, although there didn’t seem to be the hype and the snowfall predictions that we have in these times. School didn’t get cancelled too often in those days, but the local radio station would let us know when busses would run on plowed roads only. I lived only a few blocks away from Hammer School, so unless I lost my overshoes I could always make it to school.

As a kid, I can recall the times when I would trek out on a winter adventure in the local slough. There were many times when I would let my imagination take me back to the days of the fur trappers and frontiersmen I had read about. As a kid, with a little imagination you could become any one of the heroes you chose to be. There were times when I would be mesmerized by the sight of a frozen stream that had an opening of flowing water. My first thought would always be, “What kind of fish are lurking below the surface of the ice?” I would stare for a time at the open flowing water hoping for a glimpse of some sort of aquatic life. Doing something as simple as this helped fuel not only my imagination but also my appreciation of nature and the outdoors world.

Having a little open water on an otherwise frozen stream would pop up as a challenge to us future outdoorsmen. Discovering how close you could get to the open spot on the ice without falling in was a lose-lose situation because we were bound and determined to find the answer. We kids were always finding new ways to push the envelope on the way to an adventure, which eventually would lead to a wet pant leg and an overshoe full of ice cold water.

Walking on new, clear ice with a current pushing the water beneath it was always fascinating to me. I considered this my window to enjoying the underwater world of the crick that I loved. Nature has an unending array of beauty and mysteries that are there for our enjoyment if we pause for only a moment to take it all in.

Which would you prefer: Staring at a video game on a TV screen in your living room or watching the mysteries of nature as they unfold right before your very eyes? I would always choose the latter, of course, there were no video games to cloud my judgement when I was a young tadpole of a kid.

As kids, we would spend the time after ice-out until mid-summer hanging out at the bridge, which was located just a short distance from our neighborhood on Bridge Avenue. This was our hangout as kids and we enjoyed watching nature as it turned tadpoles into frogs and sent us schools of minnows so thick that you couldn’t see the bottom of the creek bed. We would get excited whenever we would see a fish, that wasn’t a bullhead, swimming past on its way to Goose Lake.

This was all part of what I considered fun and it was, no doubt, a big contributor to my appreciation of the beauty of nature and the outdoors in general. 

Just a reminder: With the milder weather, ice is deteriorating quickly and creating some potentially dangerous conditions. Ice that has thawed and refrozen is only HALF as strong as new, clear ice!

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.