Guest Columnist

White-tails escape, but the pandemic won't leave

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

I’m old, and my hearing isn’t as good as it once was, but I don’t mind because stuff like the following happens: the other day I was working on my computer and local television news and weather was on in the background. Here is what I heard, “Make sure you keep your reindeer handy.” I looked up, wondering what kind of Santa advice was being offered in October. I loved the idea but what weathercaster actually said was, “Keep your rain gear handy.”

There are no reindeer out here but we make up for it by being home to countless, gorgeous white-tailed deer. Just before sitting down this morning eight female deer sprinted across the field in front of my house, clearly running away from something, likely a male deer, a stag. Their purposeful movements were spectacular, hoofs barely touching the tall grass and I hope they avoid their stalker.

American bald eagles have returned from wherever it is they hang out during the summer months, perhaps in high trees over beautiful blue northern Minnesota lakes and rivers.

A couple of days ago up the graveled road from my place two adult eagles and a juvenile were working away at some roadkill, a raccoon I think. I slowed my car as I approached because eagles are very slow to rise into the air. These are not sparrows after all, so their ascent is graceful, magnificent, verging on the miraculous, but slow.

One might think an eagle lifting off makes a big sound, but no; very quiet, much like their little voices, unlike the James Earl Jones sounds you might expect. And then there is the turkey. A couple of weeks back I startled a wild turkey in the woods behind my place. Oh. My. Gosh. The sound of a turkey lifting off the ground is a sonic detonation. I had to stop, catch my breath, and slow my heart.

Farmers continue their days in the fields, lifting dust high into the air which, on sunny days, causes gorgeous orange sunsets as light refracts through dust particles. This season is coming to an end but we lay aside thoughts of winter because it seems too soon, too soon to receive Christmas catalogs, too soon to weather another season of decay before next spring.

The pandemic lies long and lonely out here. My family was not one for intimacy of any sort, never hugging, never kissing, so staying away from other people feels about right to me but I know others aren’t faring as well. Family physicians are recommending that families not get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas as November and December will likely mean much higher numbers of COVID-19 and, as much as we love and trust our family members, we don’t really know if they carry an infection.

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It’s clear an election waits impatiently on the horizon. How could one not notice? I don’t watch much television; my broadcasting source is an antenna in my attic, but a brief glance during the evening has made it clear that local television stations won’t have to worry about cash anytime soon. The amount of money dumped into politics is annoying, appalling, and borderline sinful. So much good could be done with that kind of cash.

Anyway, it will all be over soon, winter will rush in to do what it does so well, but I can help you get through it with what I trust is good, hopeful advice, “Keep your reindeer handy.”

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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