He was a big man, the one I picked up the other day, and he was lugging three large garbage bags filled with cans he’d found in the ditches along the roadside. He was headed toward town to turn his tin and plastic in to cash, but town was still a long ways off, so I stopped to offer him a ride. He was glad to have it.
Winter rode hard and long this year and many have found themselves a little short on reserves, so they do what they can to supplement whatever income they have. More propane was used than in previous years, the tires you thought could make it through another winter didn’t, income taxes got all screwed up because the wealthy enjoyed the real breaks and, you know, it was just more difficult than any of us planned.
Out here the gravel road at the top of my lane is no longer gravel. It’s soft, and what gravel was once there is now sand. My vehicles are pushed and pulled from side to side as I drive up to the hardtop. School buses are not traveling the gravel roads here. Initially ice kept buses only on the hard-surfaced roads, now this. Good luck to those who need to get their child to a place where a bus can pick them up.
This is the time of year when I pull on leather gloves and begin the task of picking up rocks and stones out in the woods. These are stones left after the retreat of the last Ice Age, thousands of years ago, stones that have risen to the surface over the centuries and are perfect for stacking. Thus I have a long stone wall behind my house at the edge of the woods.
Just like a dozen years ago, Democratic candidates for the U.S. presidency have been showing up out here, not at my place but in towns about 30 miles from me. This is the opportunity for graduates of Yale University, Dartmouth College, University of Chicago and Harvard University to tell us how very much like us they are. Uh, huh. Thus far there have not been any “I grew up in a log cabin” stories but the campaigns are just getting started.
Canada geese have been working the low thermals, heading north and I hear them overhead daily. Their sounds haunt me very much and cause me to be sad, like I’ve lost someone recently, which I haven’t. They are on their way to the Upper Midwest, not knowing that there still is snow cover up there, snow cover that will cause the big rivers down here to swell for the next six weeks.
When the can picker and I met it was one of those days we have so many of this time of year, mid to upper forties, just warm enough that if you’re working hard you break into a serious sweat. He was sweating. When he slid in to the passenger seat he shook my hand and said, “Thank you, man.” I cracked the window just a little. Spring is here.
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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.