Guest Columnist

Two trips as pandemic refuses to drift away

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

Since the madness of coronavirus began I’ve ventured out in to the wide world a couple of times, one time for me (purely selfish) and one time for someone else (absolutely necessary).

The selfish trip? I was running out of Scotch.

Have I told you how much I enjoy Scotch? Probably have. The first time I tasted Scotch was forty years ago. I was sitting in a bar in Edinburgh, Scotland, and figured what better place to give it a shot, or two or three. These days I’m a dedicated Scotch drinker, thus I firmly believe that places that sell liquor are absolutely essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies, so I found myself in a well-spaced line in a liquor store in Illinois, two bottles of Scotch in my hands, six feet behind another old man.

I felt positively un-American because the old coots around me were all loading up grocery carts with insane amounts of domestic beer. You could practically see a cartoon bubble over their heads, “You hoard some toilet paper, Honey; I’ll get the beer.”

Out here grass is beginning to find its way to the surface and the deer really appreciate it. After a relatively rambunctious season last autumn I’m guessing most of the does will be giving birth late spring and early summer. I so look forward to it. Within a day of being born gorgeous little long-legged fawns begin stumbling around behind their mums, while human babies take many hard-earned months to even stand up. There’s a bigger story in these things but I’ll leave it to others to explain, poets maybe.

This is the year I’ll have my lane re-graveled. For the past couple of years I’ve been able to get by with my tractor and blade, pulling washed out gravel back up the hill. Not much gravel remaining, just the crushed stuff called sand, so it’s time. I’ll use my tax refund to pay for it.

A hundred yards from my house an ancient tree finally fell to the ground this winter. It was dead when I showed up more than twenty years ago and I expected it to collapse at any moment, but it hung in there, home to many redheaded woodpeckers over the years. After it fell a neighbor asked if he could cut it up for firewood. I want to be there when he begins to burn it. That sort of tree should not go unheralded and we’ll toast its long life.

Oh, the other trip out in to the world I mentioned? A day or so ago my oldest friend and I drove north on the big highway east of my place to pick up drugs for her and with the exception of large trucks we were mostly alone. On the radio came an old song from 1973, one that caused me without embarrassment to sing along in full voice with Dobie Gray on “Drift Away.” You all know the song. Just a bit beyond halfway through the song a fog lifted and from the great dimness we call Alzheimer’s and my old friend began clapping her hands to the music. It was perfect, and beautiful. “Give me the beat boys and free my soul.” Spring may yet surprise us and turn out pretty well.

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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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