What’s That Smelt? …Fry?

It is getting to be that time of year again, the running of the Smelt. The breaking temperatures of late winter means the smelt will be heading upstream to party like it is 2022. Their annual river bacchanal is needed to create the next generation of bait fish for the big fish in Gitche Gumee. While the Smelt get their freak on, humans get to enjoy of the joyful side benefit of the annual Smelt Run; the annual Smelt Fry.

A Smelt Fry is a welcome distraction from the run of the mill Lenten fish fry your local Lions or Kiwanis or Volunteer Firemen or etc… are throwing to raise funds. A traditional fish fry means all-you-can-eat deep fried cod (if you are lucky) or pollock (maybe) along with all the fixins’. The problem with the traditional fish fry is the fried fish. As I’ve alluded to; once that fillet is battered and deep fried, you could be eating carp for all you know. Fried fish is only as good as the word of the person frying it. But a Smelt Fry is another thing entirely, because smelt are small enough to clean with a scissors and are fried bones and all, you know you eating smelt. The satisfying crunch of the little bones (and sometimes the look on the little smelts’ face) is an unmistakable pleasure.

And you still get all you can eat fixins’.

You can put your money on groundhogs or robins or whatever else you look to as a sign of spring. As far as I know, when I’m crunching the smelt, I know spring is just around the corner.


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A Light in the Darkness

She had been driving for what seemed like the entire day. The weariness that comes from being “busy” but not really accomplishing anything had settled on her like someone had thrown a leaden shawl around her shoulders. No matter how she turned her head or arranged herself in the car seat, the ache in her neck and between her shoulder blades would just not go away.

Even though she had made the meetings on time and had said all of the right things, she didn’t feel much satisfaction. All of her training, all of the preparation had not helped her deal with the negative attitudes she had encountered that day. Some days she wondered exactly why she put up with this crap. The traveling, the bad diet, the ever escalating expectations of her boss. Her feelings toward this job had changed from an initial impression of opportunity to a dread-filled vision of one huge dead end sign.

Her thoughts were now fixated on dinner, followed by a date with a deep tub filled with hot water and lots and lots of bubbles.

She let her mind wander, drifting along with the Sinatra tune playing on the radio. Suddenly, she felt a huge thump and immediately her car began to leap and buck, the wheel pulling suddenly into the oncoming traffic lane. It took about 3 seconds for her to regain control of the car and for her to realize what had happened – a flat tire on the front left of her car. What next!

Once control of the car was affirmed in her mind, she eased the car over onto the shoulder of the road. What to do now? Her mind raced back to what she had learned in drivers training, so far back in the past. She could hear her father’s voice in her head – “Make sure you pull far enough off the road, so you don’t get hit by some knucklehead not paying attention”.

After she had pulled over, far over off the road, she made the call on her cell phone. The AAA guy was sympathetic, but it would take him over two hours to get out to her. Perfect! Here she was, on the side of the road, in the dark with sore feet, sore neck and now a sore disposition.

It was then she heard the tap on the window. She saw through the side window a boy of about 14 looking at her with a look that was half quizzical and half expectation. “What now?” raced through her mind as she brought the window down a crack, far enough for the half-man to ask her “Do you need some help with that tire?” She smiled and said “I’ve called the tow truck and they are on their way. Thank you though.” He ignored her answer and told her to pop the trunk and he’d have it changed in a “jiffy”. She told the boy that she didn’t have any cash to pay him but he just said, “That’s OK, I don’t expect any money, I’m a boy scout and I need to do my good deed for the day.”

Within 15 minutes, the tire was changed and she was back on the road. As she drove through the next small town on her way, she noticed the sign read Rich Prairie and the slogan underneath the city name said “We’ve got your back.”

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It’s Worth it.

Yesterday, my son, married his best friend. They are two individuals who spent part of their lives apart until they found each other. Love happened and now they are together. They like each other as they found each other and now they unconditionally love each other. Isn’t that neat?

If love were the driving motivating factor in the world today, what a different world in which we would live. Imagine a world in which our interactions with each other are guided by concern for one another; what would your day involve? What would you do differently today?

Lucas & Kelsey

Unfortunately, this type of unconditional love is hard. I don’t mean the bio-chemical reaction in the brain which causes two humans to be attracted to one another, I mean the love you have for another when there is absolutely nothing in it for you – unconditional love.

Love means one has to put someone else above your own self-interest – by your own choice. Love means someone else takes center stage in the drama of your life, someone else’s needs get put first.  However, the great thing about love is, if applied properly, it becomes reciprocal. It is very difficult for a human being to be the object of love without returning love back. It may take awhile for them to come around, but even the hardest heart can be changed with love.

Yes, love is hard – but worth it.

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10 %

What is your 10%?

I was 41 years old when I discovered the secret to living a happy, fulfilled life. What I found through study and instruction of others is that only 10 percent of what we do during our daily lives is truly important.

Since that day, the rest of my life has been a search for that 10 percent. I think I am close. How about you?

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The Beast of Rich Prairie

Minus 20 degrees is not a temperature, it is a presence. Going outside at 20 degrees below zero isn’t a simple endeavor, it requires one to prepare to fight the Beast without. The beast of that kind of cold will try to suck the warmth out of your body, it attacks your skin, tries to turn your feet and hands into wood and it will gladly kill you if you allow it.

Preparation to fight this Beast requires multiple layers, a comfortable set of long underwear will quickly become your friend. We all know we must break out the parka, chopper mittens and our best set of insulated boots. We denizens of Rich Prairie know to invest in good equipment, hardy perennials and warm clothing; all due to the Beast which comes in winter.

The visit of the Beast is not all bad however. There are a few good things coming with this kind of temperature. One is that it either kills or chases away a myriad of pests that plague warmer climates. Another benefit is that the communal suffering which we residents of Rich Prairie endure brings us closer in our misery. We don’t bother to discuss the weather during these cold outbreaks, we just give each other “the nod”. We know it is cold, we know it isn’t fun and we know it won’t last forever, we just endure.

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Writing the Dash

If you have ever read or heard the famous poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, you understand the importance of a life well lived. Having the awesome responsibility of attempting to relate someone else’s “dash” in the form of a eulogy can be hard and taxing work; when it is the life of your parents or sibling, it is emotionally draining also.
I’ve had that responsibility for two of my brothers just in the past 10 weeks. Even though we laid my last brother to rest about three weeks ago, I am just now starting to put the experience into perspective. I hope to not have to do that ever again – not soon anyway.

Writing someone else’s eulogy is not only an exercise in tracking down the important details of their lives, it is also important to relate how they made those around them satisfied with their own lives. It is the lessons that others learned from them and the joyful moments they shared that their loved ones will remember. Those memories of security and happiness are what end up really being their “dash”.

The one lesson I’ve from writing 7 (maybe more) eulogies in my life is to be very cognizant of how I am living my dash. How about you?

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In the Hands of God

The tumult and confusion of the political scene reaches us even here in Rich Prairie. Politics seems to be the default topic of discussion since our winter has been so mild. It is difficult to keep our minds on the important things in life when the news and social media seems determined to distract us with those matters over which we have no control. We can talk about them yes, but other than fulfill our civic duties by voting, what else would you do? Armed insurrection? Do you know how hard that makes it to grow a decent garden?

Faith is still one of the quaint, enduring values you will find out here on the Prairie. Good thing too, because at the beginning and end of the day, the only thing one can really do is put the country and the future into the Hands of God and let him deal with the whole thing.

Then, one can get back to ice fishing, walking in the beautiful winter weather and planning next summer’s garden; you know – the important things in life.

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Fog and Sun

Weather on the Prairie is a funny thing. Cold & snow in October, foggy New Year. One thing about the weather though, it can always surprise and bring joy. Of course, joy is fleeting, so we need to grab it when it comes; even when it comes in the form of a foggy day turned bright. A walk was called for…

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Because I co-host the daily call in show UpFront, I get stopped on the street by local citizens frequently. One of the most common questions I am asked is: “What is going on in the US today?”

It seems the craziness of politics has reached into everyone’s lives, even people who are normally not very political in their everyday lives. Many are concerned and worried due to events that seem to be spinning out of control and no one in authority seems to have any satisfactory answers. The only answer I can give that really makes sense to me comes from 1 John 5:19:

“We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one.”

Keep in mind that this world is the domain of sin and evil, run by mostly evil men fighting over power, money and prestige. When you choose to keep your focus on higher things than this world, it will make more sense and give you peace.

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Imagination without hard work is usually barren: and what is more, the brighter the imagination the greater the amount of work required to its full fruition. – Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856 – 1943) Educator

The world is filled with brilliant people. One half of the world is above average. So why do so few truly reach their full potential?

The difference: effort, persistence, goal setting.

If you have unopened gifts from God, if you have talents unused or intelligence unrealized, that tragedy falls on no one else but you. There is no grand conspiracy against you, keeping you down or thwarting your success. There is only your motivation to make the best of what God has given you. Are you willing to do what is necessary?

The great thing about life is as long as we have breath in our body, it is never too late to go to work and pursue a goal.

Start small, start today.

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