Woony Memories

Drift Away

By Dan Hagman, Corona, Calif.
I’ve spent the last month or so recovering from knee replacement. That’s a lot of time sitting around, listening to music and daydreaming. I tend to drift away during some of those dreams. One of my favorite mental things to do is to walk around my Grandpa’s farm.
It’s been gone for 30 years, but I can see it perfectly. I go in the barn, climb into the hay mow and chase away the pigeons. The shop still has the corrugated tin roof and a wall of tools. There’s the wood pile, pig barn and chicken coop. I walk into the granary and smell the dusty stuffiness of the old burlap bags. A few Hereford cows drink from the circular water tank close by. It’s all stuck in 1976, the year Grandpa died.
In reality, there is a big hole in the ground where the house used to be and weeds cover the well pipe. That beautiful shelter belt was killed off in one of the nasty winters for which South Dakota is famous. All those ugly dead trees don’t matter because I can edit the view.
In my mind’s eye, I can see lots of perfect branches for a tree fort and we can still pick chokecherries or plums. The apple tree along the path is still producing. The lilac smell is so strong, that it nearly makes me sick. The gorgeous blue spruce still stands 30-foot tall to the south of the house. It was never cut down to move the house off its foundation. Grandma’s gladiolas are in bloom and the strawberries are to die for…especially if you put a little real cream on them. Rhubarb keeps growing every year and the asparagus keeps up as well.
I can hear the cows crying out for their hay breakfast and see their warm breath as they crowd around the chilly morn feeding pile. If I happened to look in a mirror right then, I’d see an eight-year-old boy in coveralls with rubber snap boots and a dorky stocking cap. He would kill to jump off the back of the tractor to open one more gate for his Grandpa.
I think I just figured out why people farm. It’s the senses…all five. You are totally alive when you are out in the elements of a family farm. Oh, it can be brutally hard. South Dakota is the recipient of all four seasons to the extreme. But how could it possibly get better than living this full gamut of the sights, sounds and scents on a Sanborn prairie?
The few years that I lived out on that farm filled me with a form of spirituality. It’s in my cells and difficult to explain. It must be the fulfillment that one gets when all your senses activate.
If you’ve never smelled silage in the winter after it’s been uncovered or felt the sting of a 30 below northerly… if you’ve never seen a hill covered in crocuses or smelled a branding… if you’ve never washed a truck in the rain or walked in snowshoes to the mailbox… if you’ve never touched an electric fence or heard a pheasant call, then perhaps you still have some sensory work to do. These experiences aren’t all necessarily enjoyable, but they accumulate in a way that completes a person.
My visits home, whether actual or mental, remind me how lucky I was to have lived this sort of sensory spectrum. It’s no wonder Grandpa never wanted to go anywhere. He was most alive out there on that prairie land. And so am I when I drift away.

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