Tag Archives: values

Father, son and values tested in superb WWI novel

June 8, 2014

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cartographerThe moral life takes center stage in P.S. Duffy’s “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” a World War I novel that centers around a family and village in Nova Scotia and the impact of the first “war to end all wars.”

To go to war or not, to fight or to give up, to love or go through the motions, to admire or be repulsed by, to change or carry on — the story lines come at the reader like the torrent of artillery shells pounding at the trenches one chapter and like the waves of the North Atlantic sweeping fishermen overboard the next.

Caught in the middle are a father and son, and the novel jumps back and forth between their thoughts and dreams, their expectations and the experiences life throws their way.

Along the way Duffy sneaks in the dirty bit of history of bigotry that put ethnic-German Canadian citizens in detainment camps along with prisoners of war and “suspicious” aliens.

Those familiar with the writing of ancient Greece will appreciate references to the classics scattered throughout. Phrases from Scripture pop up, too, as wartime puts long-accepted values to the test both in France and back on the home front.

World War I garners a small percentage of battle literature in comparison to WWII, it seems to me, and the stories of Canadian soldiers even a smaller spot on the shelves compared to books about U.S. and British forces.

“The Cartographer of No Man’s Land” puts a dent into those imbalances with a handful of captivating parallel plots, meaty characters, splashes of intense action and superb writing.

This Liveright Publishing Corporation release last fall is a marvelous example of the writer’s craft, and it offers great possibilities for a sequel. Introduced to these intriguing people, readers will surely want to know what happens next in their lives, and Duffy has set the stage well with plenty of ambiguity.

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Finally… some deer in Montana!

December 2, 2013

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After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

When I hunt whitetail deer in Montana, it’s usually not a matter of if I get a deer, but when. This year was different, however.

Vastly different. I went to Great Falls with my wife Julie and four kids, and three of us bought whitetail doe tags. With the price of a buck tag set at $500-plus, going after does is the only affordable option.

Unfortunately, this year featured a severe outbreak of a disease called EHD, which is spread by a midge that hatches in water. Massive whitetail die-offs were reported across the state in late September and early October. Some areas saw death rates as high as 90 percent.

We normally hunt about an hour east of Great Falls. My father-in-law, Bob Guditis, said he saw only one or two whitetails in the area the entire fall before we got out there on Nov. 24. His outlook was bleak, to the point of suggesting that we try hunting for something different, like ducks and geese.

We contemplated this option, but in the end, felt like we wanted to try for whitetails. The allure of venison is just too strong for us to resist. Besides, we were trying to get deer for people here in Minnesota who walked away from the firearms season empty-handed.

So, my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, and I all bought the doe tags and decided to struggle through the tough conditions. We found out very quickly that Grandpa Bob was spot on about the whitetails. On the first morning of our hunt, we went to the usual places where we had killed deer in the past, and saw no whitetails anywhere.

Time for Plan B

So, we had to formulate a different option. Because hunting for whitetails was closed north and west of the Missouri River, which cuts through Great Falls, we had to stay south and east. We found some state land and Block Management Area parcels to hunt, and went at it on Tuesday. Plus, Grandpa Bob owned a small piece of land right on the Missouri, on the side of the river open to hunting.

We did see some whitetails, but the sightings were way down from previous years. It’s a spot-and-stalk game in Montana, and we were able to go on just four stalks the entire week. I was trying to help the boys get their deer, so when we were together, I always tried to let them be the shooters. When we split up, I could take my turn on the trigger.

Problem was, every time we split up, the result was always the same for me – no deer. That didn’t bother me, as long as the boys still got their chances.

They had a nice opportunity on Wednesday evening, when a doe and fawn came out into a field. However, they couldn’t get as close as they wanted, and had to take long shots, which they missed. I was about a half mile away and heard the shots, but nothing came out for me.

Finally, on Friday about 1 p.m., we saw a group of does with a buck on a piece of state land. The three of us began the stalk, with the conditions being favorable. The deer were facing away from us and the wind was in our face. Plus, there was just enough contour on the land to allow us to move in undetected.

However, about 200 yards in, a doe jumped up to our left and ran behind us. We figured it was one of the deer in the group we originally spotted, and that it had seen us and spooked. The others were sure to jump up and run, too, we thought. But, they didn’t. And, amazingly, this particular doe eventually stopped about 500 yards beyond us and stood there. Not only that, she was looking away from us.

Time for action

So, Andy decided to try and stalk in on this deer, while Joe and I went after the others. Andy got to within about 150 yards and laid down for a shot. Meanwhile, Joe and I snuck in on the other does and buck. Joe made it to a post that was well within rifle range and sat up to get ready to shoot. I hung back to make sure I didn’t spook any deer before he got a chance to pull the trigger.

I alternated between watching Joe and watching Andy. Eventually, I saw Andy get ready to shoot, and then heard his shot. I watched the deer through my binoculars as it ran off. It went about 75 to 100 yards and dropped. Then, I turned my attention to Joe, who was still lining up his shot. I found out later the strong winds blowing in his face were making it very difficult to steady his rifle. Unfortunately, it was not possible to lay down for the shot, which is one effective way of dealing with wind.

Finally, Joe took a shot at one of the does, which was bedded in the grass. He thinks his shot went low. The two does and buck jumped up and ran off. He shot again, but didn’t connect. It is about impossible to hit a deer that is spooked and running at full speed.

The good news is, Joe got another chance the very next day. This time, the deer was only about 80 yards away and standing broadside. Joe didn’t miss this time, and that pushed our deer total to two for the trip.

As for me, I never fired a shot the entire time. That’s OK. I wanted the boys to get a deer way more than I wanted one for myself. I have been in the woods quite a bit this fall, and was able to take my first deer with a bow. That makes my season a success, no matter what would happen after that. Joe, on the other hand, had only the six days of this trip to deer hunt. When we spotted the two does on Saturday, he offered me the chance to stalk in on them, based on the fact that he had shot at deer twice already.

But, there was no way I was going to take this chance away from him. And, the smile on his face after the doe went down confirmed that I had made the right choice. It meant that all three deer hunters in our family got a deer this year.

Tough season overall

That’s an amazing feat, considering how tough the season has been this year. Theories abound as to why, but almost every deer hunter in Minnesota this year is saying that it has been a tough season and that deer sightings are down. And, of course, the disease outbreak in Montana is making its whitetail hunting even more difficult than in Minnesota.

So, I am VERY happy with our results this year. And, deer hunting is not over yet. There is the archery season here in Minnesota, which goes until the end of the month. I hope to get out a time or two before it closes. I’m thinking it would be nice to get out after we have some snow on the ground. Then, you can see where the deer are moving. Plus, tracking is a lot easier with snow on the ground. That was the case when I shot my buck with a bow in early November.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another deer with my bow. That would be fun. And, it would give me more venison to eat and share with family and friends.

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What a bass means to a boy

August 21, 2013

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Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

I’ve never been so excited about a 16 1/2-inch largemouth bass as I was last Friday.

And, it wasn’t even my fish. The lucky angler was my nephew, Michael. I think I was as joyful as he was when we hoisted his prize over the gunwale.

The chunky fish was the largest he had ever caught. And, the look on his face made that point clear. It matched a fish I had landed about an hour earlier, providing an excellent start to a meal for my brother and his family.

Times like this create summer memories that last well into adulthood. But, I had started wondering if a moment like this was going to happen for Michael or his older brother Matthew. I had spent the early afternoon trying to teach them how to catch bass on plastic baits, but with little success. There definitely is a steep learning curve for this endeavor, and early attempts can be filled with frustration and futility.

This occasion was no different. There were bites, hooksets that weren’t nearly stout enough, and numerous escapes by the bass.

The good news was, the fish were there and plenty willing to grab onto the baits. I was hoping, in time, one of the boys’ hooks would work its way into a largemouth’s jaw.

Sure enough, in the last hour, Michael pierced the mouth of a bass with a worm hook I had let him use. The battle was on! Usually, if the hook gets through the fish’s bony jaw, it’s curtains for the bass, unless the line gives way.

Michael played his fish well, and the fish eventually came belly up to the side of my boat. A quick swoop of the landing net, and the young lad tasted success at last.

I did my best to applaud his skills and acknowledge his success, hoping this would hook him on bass fishing – and plastics – for life. Meanwhile, another task just as important tugged for my attention.

Matthew never did land a fish that day, and he struggled with tangled line on top of that. This is an opportunity for gentle teaching and encouragement, and I took some time after we got off the water to have a little talk with him. My brother felt bad for his oldest son, but I told him that experiences like this can create a hunger that can make a person hungry and determined to conquer the learning curve.

I reminded him that I have been bow hunting for two years, and have yet to tag a deer. Guess what? I am more eager than ever to get out there and try to shoot and recover a whitetail. So, I noted, Matthew’s unsuccessful try at catching a bass on a plastic worm is not necessarily going to sour him on fishing.

Hopefully, it will keep him coming back for more. I have a feeling he is going to want to top his brother’s bass.

Now’s the time to turn to the next page of his young fishing career. Largemouth class will be in session next summer!

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Where are the Women?

April 13, 2013

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Creative Commons license by wonderline

Mary anoints Jesus’ feet.

 

During the conclave I happened across a group of protesters outside of the Archdiocesan Chancery office.  As I was leaving the Cathedral parking lot, I noticed a woman parking her car.  She paused to pull a sign out of her trunk.  I watched in amazement as this woman took advantage of the free parking in the Cathedral parking lot (Intended for visitors to the Cathedral) while she took the opportunity to stand in some sort of protest against the Catholic Church.   Talk about taking advantage of Christian hospitality.  I would have towed her car!

As I left the lot and took a look at the signs they were carrying. They said, “Hey Cardinals, where are the women?”  I almost pulled over my car, jumped out and said, “I am right here!”

 

There are so many things wrong with this scenario – I felt compelled to set it right.

  1. First off – there is no Cardinal inside of the building they were protesting.  Just our Archbishop.
  2. If they took the time to check – they would find out that Archbishop Nienstedt has more women in his Cabinet (roughly equivalent to a board of directors) than most Fortune 500 companies.  These are strong woman in decision making positions.
  3. The fact that women are not ordained  in no way diminishes the role of women in the church.  Priests have a certain role in God’ s plan for the Church just as married couples, single people, religious orders and yes – women!

If you haven’t ever read Pope John Paul’s letter to women, you can find it here.  When I first read it I was able to realize that being a Catholic Feminist (In the context of the new feminism – much like the new evangelization) is not an oxymoron.

Pope Francis even dedicated his first Wednesday audience talk on women in the church.   http://www.news.va/en/news/audience-the-fundamental-role-of-women-in-the-chur

As the Pope notes, the first witness of the resurrection were women.  In fact Jesus and the founding Fathers of the Church elevated women in a way that was unprecedented in their time,  Christ spoke to the Samarian woman, had women disciples, and the early church was supported by women. Besides the more familiar names of Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene, check out Pricilla and Lydia, the maker of purple cloth. Women have shaped the church from it’s origin.

Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. – Luke 8:3

Let’s not talk of ancient history only.  Throughout the history of the church we have many women who have served the church.  The list of saints are full of them.  Four  women are considered Doctors of the Church (This is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints. This title indicates that the writings and preachings of such a person are useful to Christians “in any age of the Church.” Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings.) Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, and Hildegard of Bingen.  All of these saints are models of women in the Church. These aren’t wimpy women.  They all faced hardships of their times and helped to shape the Catholic Church we know today.

Let’s move on to present day.  Women have been aiding the mission of the Church locally and in a very tangible way through the work of the Council of Catholic Women.  This year they celebrate 81 years of service to the Catholic church.  Check out the topics at their convention in May – Be the Voice of Catholic Women.

I couldn’t talk about women in the church today without mentioning one of my heroins: Helen Alvare.  Here is her Bio:  Professor of Law at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches and writes in the areas of family law and law and religion. She is a consultor to Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, a consultant for ABCNews, and the Chair of the Conscience Protection Task Force at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. She co-authored and edited the book, Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves. Professor Alvaré received her law degree from Cornell University and her master’s in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America.

In addition to the credits above she started the movement “Women Speak for Themselves.

I was blessed to hear her talk recently for the Siena Symposium.  Instead of me trying to share her wisdom and spirit – see it for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYM-FbOU5Hw&feature=share

She reminds me that women can have it all.  If we know what “all” means.

Like I said – She is my hero!

I hear there is a “Women’s Argument of the Month Club coming soon.  The idea is women getting together to learn and discuss what it means to be a Catholic woman.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Catholic Faith Formation more information can be found here.

So in answer to the question posed on the protest signs; “Where are the women?”  My answer is: “We are right here!!”

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Deer hunting at night?

November 29, 2012

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I read a shocking article in the StarTribune yesterday, in which outdoors writer Doug Smith described the attempt by Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin to allow night hunting for whitetail deer.

My first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then, as I continued to reflect on this disturbing action by the tribes, I recalled that this is exactly the kind of thing I have feared all along in the ongoing treaty rights debate.

I wondered if the victories won by the tribes would lead to more actions like this. It’s understandable that, after winning a major victory, they might try to win more rights.

But, where do you draw the line? That’s the question I keep asking. I understand that we have to honor whatever rights the treaties have granted. But, I think it can be very hard to understand just what rights the bands are entitled to. And, with so many more people using the resources now than when the treaties were signed 150 years ago, the implications are more dramatic.

For me, a big issue is the whole concept of “sovereign nation” status that the tribes have. I would like to see that come to an end and have everyone in the country governed by one set of laws. I don’t necessarily mean just take over the bands and forces our laws upon them. But rather, enter into intense and determined negotiations to settle the matter once and for all.

If we don’t, things like the night-hunting proposal will keep popping up. And, I don’t believe things like this do one bit of good in helping build relations between Indians and non-Indians. Building bridges between the two cultures is desperately needed and long overdue. I don’t think it is a good long-term solution to continue to have sovereign nation status. If the bands continue to get more rights, there is going to be a pushback. Imagine deer hunters setting up camp on the eve of the firearms opener, then hearing shots in the dark and seeing flashlights shining in the woods.

Thankfully, a judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked the band’s plan to night hunt for deer. But, the issue is far from over. There still must be a final ruling in the case, which sets up the possibility of night hunting in Wisconsin for deer.

I, for one, hope this never happens. Deer hunters – and the deer themselves – deserve better.

 

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Big buck appears in season’s final minutes

November 12, 2012

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I was sitting high in a ladder stand yesterday near Red Wing during the final day of the 3A firearms season. In several days afield, including several dawn to dusk sits, I had seen only two deer – a buck that was too small based on the Zone 3, southeast Minnesota four-point antler restriction, and a doe that spooked and ran before I could shoot.

So, it had been a frustrating season. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out hunting yesterday, but my friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, persuaded me to give it one last try. He was gearing up for an all-day sit. I didn’t know if I wanted to hunt that long.

From the outset, the weather was brutal. It was cold, very windy and it rained some. I couldn’t sit all day, so we got down for lunch and came back at 1:30 for the afternoon sit. In the morning, I had been sitting in the stand  where he had shot a nice 10-pointer the previous weekend, plus seen lots of does. After lunch, I decided to sit in a stand on the far south end of the property that I just put up last year. Bernie saw a buck from it last year, and only sat in it once this year. I thought that might help, as the deer would be less disturbed.
This buck came out with only about 10-15 minutes of shooting light left. I ranged him out in the picked bean field at 180 yards, which would have been a very long shot with a shotgun, and one I would prefer not to take. I decided that I would try it in the last five minutes if he didn’t come in.
But, guess what? He turned toward me and trotted right at me. He passed the tip of a finger of woods that I had ranged at 100 yards, and he kept coming farther, then turned and gave me a great broadside shot. I shot more than once, and am not sure which one was the kill shot. He came right to the edge of the woods where my stand was and went in just a few yards and died.
I knew he was nice when I saw him come in, but was too busy getting ready for a shot to examine his antlers. He’s a beauty! He was a 10-pointer originally, but he broke off one of this brow tines, plus another small point near the tip of one of his main beams.
Fortunately, the five points on the opposite side are intact. He’s got a 19-inch inside spread, and I’m going to have him mounted. That was the only deer I saw all day. I just kept telling myself, “I only need to see one deer.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with a doe, as it would have provided some venison for the freezer.
This afternoon, I called Lou Cornicelli of the DNR to tell him about my hunt. I also asked him to delete an email I had sent last week, in which I railed on the four-point rule because it keeps me from shooting a deer for the table.
If I had shot the small buck I saw on opening day, I never would have had a chance at this one, which will be at the taxidermist very soon. And, just as important, I will have lots of venison to enjoy in the months ahead. Praise God for this great blessing!
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“Remember who brought you to the dance!”

September 18, 2012

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Remember who brought you to the dance!

We have all heard it; “I believe in God but I don’t go in for religion” or “I don’t need church to have a relationship with Jesus” or “Who needs the Church anyway?”

We as Catholics have to respond to these statements and occasionally it seems difficult to come up with the reasons why we need the institution of the Church. It seems especially difficult when we have been confronted with a militant church lady, political pastor, an unorganized youth minister or decisions made by the church that affect us like closing or merging of our parish or dealing with the politics of the marriage amendment. It is at times like these that we may ask ourselves why we need the bureaucracy at all. I, myself, work for the Archdiocese Central Corporation and it can sometimes feel more like an institution than a community of people united to serve God and others.

I recently spent an evening with a few friends discussing our varying opinions on the stance of the church on different issues. We have all felt some frustration on some level with the bureaucracy and politics of the “Church” from the local parish all the way to the Vatican.

Then, we received a phone call about a member of our parish who was hurt in an accident. There was nothing we could do but pray. So there, amongst our wine glasses and appetizers we prayed together as a community of people united to serve God and others. It would seem that this was “church” not the building on the hill, not the Cathedral in St. Paul, not even the Vatican.

We are a faith of and/also not either/or.

Then it occurred to me that Yes, the church is this group of friends spontaneously praying for one another and/also the institution of the Church. Without the institution of the Church, capital “C”, the church of us praying together wouldn’t have happened. What brought us together as friends is our faith, what taught us how to pray is the Catechism, CCD classes and our Catholic schools, what taught us the value of prayer at all and the idea that prayer even means anything is the institution of the Church – capitol “C”. Without the bureaucracy, doctrine and dogma i.e.; without the institution – we wouldn’t have had our faith handed down to us for over 2000 years.

So, if you ever feel like the church is just an institution and you are tempted to leave, tempted to stay at home on Sunday morning, tempted to say “I believe in God, but not formalized religion,” or if you ever want to just give up on the dogma, doctrine and doo doo that we sometimes see as the Church– just remember who brought you to the dance.

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A beautiful afternoon on Lake Mille Lacs

August 27, 2012

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I got to spend an afternoon on Lake Mille Lacs last week. Actually, it was for an assignment for The Catholic Spirit (my outdoors column). One of the highlights was a nice sunset. I was not able to take advantage of the amazing walleye bite of May and June, but talked to someone who did.

Father Troy Przybilla got out on the water a number of times earlier this summer and confirmed that the action was blazing hot. On the flip side, keeper fish were very hard to come by. In about 10 or 12 trips, he managed to catch just two keepers outside of the 17- to 28-inch protected slot. He caught a bunch that were just beyond the 17-inch mark.

I had felt frustrated about not being able to join the ranks of anglers who capitalized on the sizzling bite, but far less so after hearing about the lack of keepers. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy catching walleyes, but I like having at least a few for the frying pan.

There was a similar problem on Upper Red Lake back when it reopened to walleye fishing in 2006, but it wasn’t nearly this bad. If you fished long enough, you eventually caught your two fish under 17 inches. There were lots of fish in all size ranges, so you just had to keep at it until you found the keepers.

Now, it appears as though there aren’t many keepers in Mille Lacs. So, if it’s a shore lunch you want, Lake Lacs may not be the place to go.

Father Przybilla thinks it’s time for the DNR to modify the harvest rules for walleyes. He suggested a total inch count for walleyes, with anglers able to keep fish of any size, as long as the total inch count doesn’t exceed a certain number.

I like his idea, in terms of balancing the size of fish taken. When you have both sport anglers and Indian tribes targeting small fish, it stands to reason that, at some point, the number of those fish will go down.

In this case, it appears as if it’s going way down. I like the rule they had on Lake of the Woods about eight or nine years ago. You could keep six walleyes, with only one over 20 inches. My friend, Pete Wolney, and I went up in the fall the last year of that rule, and had an absolute walleye bonanza. We each took one fish home between 20 and 21 inches, plus several that were in the 19 1/2-inch range.

Now, you can keep four walleyes, and none between 19 1/2 and 28 inches. That still leaves plenty of fish to keep, and Pete and I have no trouble catching our limit of keepers, as long as the weather doesn’t mess things up.

Lake of the Woods is in good shape, but Mille Lacs has an imbalanced walleye population. I hope the DNR can figure out a way to correct the problem.

I think it’s time to let anglers start keeping at least a few of the bigger fish. Some of those fish are dying after being caught. Why not let anglers keep some of them, rather than feed them to the seagulls?

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Enjoying a drive in the country

July 13, 2012

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Not many folks in the country live within walking distance of their church. Pete and Regina Poncelet are fortunate enough to enjoy this blessing.

After visiting with them this morning, I went on a drive up Highway 47 near Goodhue to see their church, St. Columbkill (pictured above). Because they share a pastor with two other churches, they only have one Mass on Sundays. Sometimes, they walk.

It’s hard not to envy people who are surrounded by this type of rural scenery every day. I make any excuse I can to get out into the country.

The Poncelets don’t have to. They can just go into the garage, get out their bikes and start riding. Sitting down with them and four of their five children (their oldest, Laura, is down in Miami where she is studying to be an architect), their wholesomeness was as easy to spot as the cornstalks in view out their back window.

Because both of our families have kids around the same age, we thought it would be fun to get together and compare notes on parenthood, faith and life. I enjoyed the discussion, not to mention the beautiful drive down Highway 52, with a detour  through Cannon Falls.

That area seems to have rebounded from the flooding a month ago. In fact, the Poncelets say that the whole region now could use some rain.

Fortunately, rain fell overnight and there was a sprinkle or two left as I drove down. With more forecast for tonight, I think farmers will be in good shape. The corn stalks I saw looked thick and green – and high! The old saying used to be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” It’s closer to chin high now.

One of the Poncelet children has taken a special interest in all things farming. Michael, about to turn 15, has wanted to be a farmer since he was a toddler. With both Pete and Regina having relatives who farm, Michael is getting plenty of opportunity. He seems very determined to do it for a living someday.

We need many more like him to keep farming going strong.  There aren’t as many small, family farms as there used to be, but the Poncelets noted that organic farms are now dotting the landscape and doing well.

I just hope the rural landscape stays unspoiled until long past Michael’s retirement!

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