Guest Columnist

Persevere, even if buzzards circle

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

The hollow beyond my house continues to host a continuous stream of water, which is surprising because for most of my years out here the creek bed has been dry. That has changed dramatically in recent years and water has been rolling through the hollow at some point every year, and continuously for the past six months.

So I’ve been out on the Gator, hauling loads and loads of large rocks to fill in spots where water has eroded the stream banks, banks I need to cross with a tractor. As I work I think of Doris Day and find myself singing “Sentimental Journey “out loud, a hit song she recorded in 1952. “Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease …”

And, for reasons unknown to me, I go from Doris Day to Danny Kaye. Does anyone remember Danny Kaye? I move from “Sentimental Journey” to Kaye’s song “Inchworm” from the 1952 film “Hans Christian Anderson.” So I sing “Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds, you and your arithmetic will probably go far.”

Reminds me of something President Donald Trump said about his daughter in a recent interview with “The Atlantic” magazine. With a straight face he said that his daughter Ivanka would be a great President of the World Bank Group because, “She’s very good with numbers.” Uh, OK. I know eighth-graders who are really good with numbers but I sure as hell wouldn’t want them heading up the World Bank.

Next thing you know we’ll appoint someone to head the Department of Education who never attended public school, or appoint someone to head the Department of Defense who never served in the military.

At one point in the rock hauling three turkey buzzards circled overhead and I prayed that their actions had nothing to do with me. I feel I still have miles to go. Then I smelled death, probably a deer or turkey in the trees and I felt better, sort of. Out in nature we are not part of the rhythm of the place, or its events and more often than not we interrupt it. Driving the Gator over a hill east of my pond I frightened two Canada geese that had been simply enjoying the afternoon on quiet water. I felt bad but thrilled to watch them sprint across the water before they became airborne. You want ballet? Move to the country.

Wild plum trees in the woods have flowered, beautiful, delicate, and very welcome after such a long, hard winter. As summer fades the plums will ripen and, as I do every year, I’ll take big bite of one, knowing that I’m biting into perhaps the sourest thing since Dick Cheney. It’s odd the things we do even when we know what the result will be.

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I see this in sports all of the time, high school kids who get out on the wrestling mat, or run a cross country meet, knowing damned well that they will not win, yet they get out there every day, pushing and pushing, aware that they are not the best, aware that they will never win, yet they persevere. These are my people, and I wish they’d run for office.

• 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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