The river of change


by Frances Edstrom

It was rash, I know, and if there are repercussions, I'll take full responsibility.

I wore a pair of khaki pants and a blouse without a sweater to work today. It just seems that with only one week left in the long, long, month of March, we ought to have a little respite from winter.

My sister says that about this time, all your sweaters seem just too darn dirty to wear, and you yearn for a nice cotton outfit. So I gave in to the most human of impulses, and if it snows a foot or two because of it, I'm sorry. I had to do it.

Any ice that is left has that frosted glass look as it rots and gets ready to disappear. We drove down from Minneapolis on Sunday, and eagles were throwing caution to the wind, and sitting on the ice, sunning themselves, ice fishing.

Everybody and his brother (his old, slow brother) was out for a Sunday drive, moseying up and down the Great River Road at a snail's pace, tending to wander over the various lines on the road as they took in the late winter vistas.

I'm starting to think about summer on the river. I've been wanting a new boat for absolutely ever. This one is about 20 years old, and as long as it still runs, it stays. John doesn't believe in updating things just because they are old. (Thank you, God, for sending the bolt of lightning that finally did in the avocado-colored refrigerator.)

When we got this boat, the kids were all excited. Of course they had noticed the houseboats and cruisers in the marinas with names painted on them, so they wanted to name ours. John explained that people didn't usually name a plain old motor boat, but they were not deterred.

They thought and thought of all sorts of nautical names, when Jake, who was about three years old, had apparently had enough dilly-dallying and said, "I think we should name him Frank."

It was behind that boat that Jake had his first water-ski lesson. John drove the boat, Morgan and her friend Ruth were the spotters, and I steadied Jake on the shore. He's off! but then fell, and didn't let go. Morgan and Ruth were yakking and totally ignored his plight. Jake is plowing through the water, getting a mouthful, I'm sure, I'm screaming from the shore, and finally, John turned his head and saw what was happening. Not an auspicious start.

Mostly we pulled the kids through the sloughs on a big inner tube. They could do it for hours, never tiring.

These days, we take the dog in the boat, one thing he isn't afraid of, for some odd reason. We have to lift him into the car, but he jumps right in the boat with no urging whatsoever. We usually go out after work, and wend our way through the backwaters, scaring up herons and turtles before stopping for something to eat.

This summer will be different, in a very sad way. Buster Smith died yesterday. Buster was a fixture on Pollywog Slough, sitting on the lawn in the shade outside his yellow cottage on the point. As we went slowly past, he always waved, a big, slow wave. We will miss him "” a wonderful man and an institution on the river.

But that's the thing about this river, and its mysterious currents and backwaters. We are only a blink in its history, our time on it a mere split second in eons. We share this river with the past and the future, not just the present.


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