Scrunch, Scrinch, Scrackle...

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Did you walk in the newest snow in the winter wonderland foisted upon the state over the weekend? Those hardy souls who shoveled and swore and scraped discovered sleet, a bit of freezing rain and all manner of snow bits pelting their backsides, and for that matter, frontsides. The song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” has long gone sour! This generous presentation of precipitation left a quarter to an eighth of an inch of crackling ice atop the gift of snow. A curiosity for humans, but a bane to the existence of our feathered and furred fellow creatures. Hmmm, wonder how cut glass feels against a deer’s shins?

For many human bi-peds, the grainy white stuff has been a dream come true, as witnessed by our sons who traveled to Lutsen on Lake Superior’s North Shore, where skiing addicts AND their dogs relished snowboarding and skiing. (Yes, the guys discovered that dogs love ski-boarding.)

Listening to the crackling booms of water upon rock is a thrill, and viewing the frozen spectacle of water on rock, enormous ice coated slabs, was a constant reminder of nature’s power and thrust upon that enormous lake. It all depends upon how one views ice and snow doesn’t it? On Thursday the 15th, LeSueur’s Bruce Bjork captured some curious squiggles, etchings and ‘poofs’ in the ice on Coachlight Pond. Reminds one of angel ringlets. By Friday, the spirit-wakening images were covered in winter’s icy grip, never to be viewed again. (Encourages one to ‘live for the moment, the opportunity may not come again.’) For most of us, naught is noticed other than white stuff everywhere. Over the mid-January weekend, traveling on any area roadway was dangerous and disastrous for some, especially for the daring driver who enjoys moosh and sloosh, salt-packed underpinnings of automobiles, and practicing the Minnesota winter tango while using parking areas, sidewalks, steps, stairs; and slinking into stores where greasy kid-stuff invites falls, bumps and breaks.

Once in a while of late, when snowing and blowing ceases for a bit, one may view the constellation ORION marching across winter sky almost directly overhead. Upon finding the three stars making up his belt, Orion’s foot, shoulder, a dangling sword, and a massive metallic club will become apparent in this constellation whose name is derived from Greek mythology. Orion is depicted as a mighty hunter viewed and recognized by many cultures.

A few days before January 2020 overthrew December, a hunter among Henderson’s citizens flew to join other sky nimrods, namely, Willard Bird. Hundreds of Henderson Hilltop School youngsters knew him as “Mr. Bird,” in that he was a custodian in the LeSueur-Henderson school district for 35 years, much of that time at Hilltop. Willard was a ‘master naturalist’ without being bestowed with the title. He knew every fox den, every beaver and muskrat lodge, sent tremors down the spines of raccoons, coyotes and deer. By the time he reached the grand age of eighty-two, Willard experienced the demise and then resurgence of the bald eagle, trumpeter swans, white-tailed deer; the introduction of the wild turkey, this knowledgeable man knew exactly when to plant potatoes, which tomatoes tasted best, and oh so much more about Mother Earth.

When Hilltop School was completed in mid-1950’s, the immediate area surrounding the school was largely devoid of vegetation other than grass. Once upon a day, Mr. Bird visited the office of the superintendent of schools and said, “The area around Hilltop is pretty bare except for some willows, could we have a little money for trees?” “Money is in short supply, you’ll have to find your own trees,” was the alleged reply. Creative Willard went to the flood plain near Henderson and dug some saplings. Next, he obtained a broom handle, and along the little creek that flows through the cattails west of the building, he poked holes with the make-shift tool, and planted the trees every twenty feet. Those trees now tower over an educational park which student, parents…and a broom handle…created.

Mighty hunter before his Master, naturalist, creative woodcarver, tiller of the soil, adventurer, Willard has gone to join his beloved Elverda with the bright stars over Henderson. Mr. Bird, with Elverda’s assistance, did their part to make Henderson and environs a more livable space for children of the present and future. May he rest.