Dick Herfindahl: Remembering those dog days of yesterday

Published 11:09 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl


With the way the weather has been this month, we seem to be living the “real time” version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” I would hope that we would eventually turn to fall-like weather and not have summer right up until winter sets in and miss fall like we did spring.

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This past weekend I had a chance to connect with John Barnett, a cousin who I had never met before and Pat Hanson, another cousin from Albert Lea that I had also never met. John contacted me this past winter and said that he and his wife were planning a trip to Minnesota to look up some relatives and find out about the “Hammer” side of our family. He wanted to get together with myself and my sister Judy, who he had actually met years ago when her and my mom, along with my mother’s sister, Ruby, and her brother, Orville, visited them in Canada. His grandmother, Alice, and my grandmother, Eda Winjum, were sisters, so this is our connection. During our visit, I found that there were many other folks from this area that I am related to. I had a great time connecting some of the dots in the family puzzle.

When I look back to my days as a youth living north of town, I am reminded of what I considered the dog days of August. My version of those days took place after the fair and before the start of the next school year. Once another fair was in the books, I would begin to anticipate the upcoming school year. When I attended country school at Hammer School, there wasn’t a lot of suspense going into the next year. The teachers would change from time to time, but the school mates remained pretty much the same.

Once I had moved on to junior high things changed. I never knew who I would have for a teacher until school started, nor did I know who my classmates would be. This made the time between the fair and the start of school a time of uncertainty. One part of me was anxious to start a new school year, and another part of me was a little apprehensive.

As fall approached, I looked forward to football season so I decided to play the sport that I had always loved. Now I wasn’t that big in stature in those days and my lack of size was complimented by my lack of speed, so I knew then that I was destined to be a lineman. So much for my hopes of being a running back.

Getting back to the dog days, after spending the lion’s share of the summer hanging out at “the Bridge” I would move on. The water in the crick had now slowed from a rushing stream to a trickle of what it was earlier in the summer. I still visited the crick from time to time, but it didn’t generate the same excitement as it did earlier. There were still plenty of frogs around, but the minnows and fish were scarce and even if I spotted some it didn’t generate that same excitement that I had when exploring said crick in the spring.

I can remember walking through Vernon Torgeson’s field, which was just north of the fairgrounds, shortly after it had been harvested. The straw had been baled and stacked to be used for bedding for the animals. The hot August sun would beat down as I walked through the now barren field while the stubble of the field crackled underfoot. The grasshoppers and frogs were jumping about everywhere as they searched for new cover in which to hide. This almost certainly signaled the beginning of the end of summer, which left an almost hollow feeling in my stomach.

In looking back, I can remember my grandpa Turbin standing with me as the field across the road from our house was being harvested. Vernon Torgeson had a threshing machine and he was, no doubt, hired by my uncle Orville to thresh the grain as it was picked. I don’t really remember how it worked, but I do remember getting to go with my mother and my aunts, Ruby and Millie, to feed the threshers. They would feed them fresh baked buns with egg salad, peanut butter or meat on them and they would make nectar, put it in a quart jar with wax paper covering the mouth. Even though I was very young at the time, I can still remember thinking what a big deal it was to be able to eat lunch with the threshers.

In looking back, I now understand the meaning of the phrase that my mother would use when seeing a huge meal laid out in front of her, “there’s enough food here to feed the threshers”.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoors and maybe even take a little time to hang out by a lake, wet a line or just sit back, relax and take it all in.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms we have today.