Guest Columnist

Looking forward to feeling the burn

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.

The gloom continues on this day, cloudy, snow-covered ground, gray everywhere. Drinking my coffee this morning I stood at the kitchen window watching three wild turkeys working the edge of the lane where the snowplow uncovered the grass. They are very methodical, like they have a plan. The story about founding father Benjamin Franklin nominating the wild turkey to be our national bird is false, but even so the birds are pretty cool.

As the three move up the lane a couple of deer watch them from about twenty yards away. I expect they all know each other. Turkeys move a lot of air when they take flight, consequently when a few of them are startled the whoosh sound is unbelievably unnerving, heart attack material.

Later in the day I stopped on the graveled road that runs by my house so that I could watch six pheasants doing exactly what the turkeys were doing, working the edge of the road where the county snowplow uncovered grass. Talk about gorgeous animals; I cannot imagine a mentality that encourages one to blast away at these creatures, then pick up the beautifully plumed iridescent beings that once drew breath.

As we stumble in to February none of us knows what to expect. Well, I certainly don’t. But I do know this: my mailbox will be happily devoid of political propaganda for a while. I receive multiple pieces daily, from Steyer, Biden, Trump, Trump’s wife (I’ve forgotten her name), Warren, Sanders, everybody. I do not read them, instead tossing them in to a pile as I pass through the basement, knowing that in February I will have a lovely burn in my limestone rock fire pit on the ridge, limestone rocks left by glaciers from a time long past, today surrounded by snow. I know, I know, I should be recycling, but burning just feels so much better, watching the photographic faces of politicians bend and curl as the flames take them.

White smoke from the political junk mail fire will rise quickly above the trees, like some signal being sent back a few thousand years to the good, gentle people who used to live on this land, no less American than any of us. Only their spirits remain, spirits well versed in the decline and fall of empire and civilization, voices eager to tell us that relying on the promises and the good will of others is a fool’s errand. We should pay attention to their spirits. I look forward to the fire.

Last week I spent a while shoveling snow, using an old steel shovel manufactured about 30 miles from here, and my age quickly told me to take numerous breaks, which I did. The snow was wet and heavy and I didn’t want to create a scenario wherein neighbors come to realize they haven’t seen me for a while, and non-political mail has been piling up in the box up at the road. Death frightens me and I catch glimpses of her every once in a while, sometimes in the woods when turkeys take flight and sometimes in the last lift of heavy snow. She is quite beautiful but I don’t wish to meet her just yet.

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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