Picnic season

Farm Forum

Summertime has truly arrived. Proof of this is the fact that the mosquitoes have become so thick, I have to fill out a blood donor card before walking to the mailbox.

Despite all the pests – annoying gnats, avaricious ants, troublesome ticks – this is the time of year when eating alfresco peaks in popularity. There is a good reason for this. It’s called winter.

The idea of dining outdoors helped us endure the long months of Ice Age-like conditions. Eating outside is an act of defiance. It’s like sticking out your grape popsicle-stained tongue at Mother Nature and saying, “Neener neener! I’m sitting outside in short sleeves and I’m eating! How do you like those apples?”

At that point, it would be prudent to seek shelter as Mother Nature might throw a lightning bolt at you for being so annoying.

But we endure the leaves in our lemonade and the pollen in our potato salad because we know that in a few months we will gaze dolefully across a sea of snowdrifts and think, “Those were the good old days!”

In this part of the world, the urge to have picnics is so strong that we concoct reasons to eat outside. Some of these reasons are better than others. For instance, having a picnic in honor of seeing your first dandelion blossom might be considered lame. On the other hand, my wife and I found a very good rationale for an outdoor potluck when we attended the first ever all-school reunion for Oslo District 95.

Oslo District 95 was a one-room country school where I attended first grade. My older sisters went to school there as did our dad, uncles, aunts and all the farm kids who lived within a few miles of the schoolhouse. In other words, almost everyone in the whole world.

Bonnie (Husby) Kiesow and her brothers organized the reunion and contacted as many former District 95 students as they could find. This must have been a task that was on par with counting the hairs on a squirrel’s tail. It’s been several decades since classes were last held at District 95 and it’s not like we shared email addresses with each other as the school was being shuttered.

“Do you know all those people?” my wife asked as strolled toward the Hillcrest Park picnic shelter.

“I’m not exactly sure who everyone is,” I replied. “After all, I haven’t seen some of them in fifty years.”

I had to stop and think about what I’d just said.

“That bites. I used fifty years as an exaggeration, but in this case it’s true!”

I managed to recognize most of the former District 95 students who were at the picnic. Bonnie had thoughtfully provided name tags to help those (such as me) whose minds are as airtight as a screen door.

Among the honored attendees was Mrs. Phelps, who taught at District 95. I asked Mrs. Phelps to give me the skinny regarding how lucrative it was to teach in a one-room country school.

“My first year of teaching, I lived with the family of one of the school board members and was paid $80 per month,” she replied. “But Social Security took out of my paycheck and I had to pay into the teacher’s retirement fund. I never got to see the whole $80!”

I got the distinct feeling that Mrs. Phelps was still a bit miffed about that.

We District 95ers spent a couple of pleasant hours of catching up. As we said our goodbyes, we vowed to not let another fifty years pass before holding another get-together.

Among the most excellent excuses for outdoor eating is Independence Day. Nothing says “Happy birthday, America!” like sharing your fruit salad with a panhandling June bug.

Each year, our family holds a Fourth of July Extravaganza. Central to this gathering is a potluck picnic that involves victuals that are so rich and delicious, passersby have reported putting on pounds simply by inhaling the aromas.

Another important feature is a cutthroat bean bag toss tournament. I won’t go into details regarding this year’s tournament other than to state that my brother-in-law Barry and I were robbed and that an appeal has been filed with the Professional Organization Of Tossers.

It was a glorious Fourth. The weather was heavenly and the food was tummy-stretching yummy. Bean bags soared and thumped; the air was often pierced by shrieks of joy and groans of frustration.

My wife squeezed my hand and asked, “What do you think?”

I took a sip of cold beer, gazed across the emerald lawn and replied, “These are the good old days!”

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