Dairy Queen is running a series of Blizzard commercials that assert “summer is not over yet.”
Well, it is for me. I don’t want to sound particularly displeased about that, however, because the approaching fall has plenty of charms. While there will be a mad scramble of busy, there will be new students to meet, a whole faculty series of speeches to coordinate, a new newspaper staff—many things I will like a lot. It’s funny, when school is in session, I feel impatient for it to end. When it’s over, I’m impatient for it to start again. It is kind of like RAGBRAI—crowded, noisy, tiring and busy—but the school year lasts for nine months.
Anyway, I was not sitting by a river Friday night, listening to appealing music and thinking of summers in my younger years. I was not only sitting by a river, I was sitting by The River Friday night, thinking of my young summers along that same mighty stream.
On Friday, I was with my wife and youngest daughter in Guttenberg, Iowa. Cathy Barton, who play a fiddle tune on the hammered dulcimer like nobody else I know, and Dave Para, her husband and fellow folk music performer, where giving a concert in a city park that sits right on the banks of the Mississippi, just above a lock and dam.
At one point, a barge glided by nearly silently, and it reminded me of watching tug boats shoving long strings of those flat-bottomed cargo holders up and down the river in Clinton or Muscatine back in the 1960s and 1970s when I grew up in those two river towns. At another point, a train rumbled by, unseen by not unheard, several blocks to our west. It sounded its horn at every street crossing, and those tracks cross lots of streets.
Well, that sound too reminded me of younger days, particularly Clinton, where our first rental house was not many blocks from the railroad tracks that you had to cross to get to Riverfront Park.
One summer afternoon, using scrap lumber I found in a vacant lot, I built a raft, planning to float away from my current life and live, on the river, like Huckleberry Finn.
The plan didn’t work. After I wheeled it east past the tracks on to the waters at the edge of the park, the raft sank immediately, and nothing above my ankles got wet. I was 9, and I ended up continuing to live another decade at home.
Back to the present. Cedar Rapids is a pleasant town, and in 2008 declared the year of the river before the Cedar River decided to flood and declare 2008 to be the year it ate the town. The Cedar River is pretty, and I enjoy my bike rides along its banks, but let me be honest. If you really want river, you want the father of all waters, not some pretentious creek.
At Friday’s concert, my wife was observing that this has been, in a minor way, a reunion summer. We have kept running into old friends.
On Friday, we enjoyed chatting with Dave and Cathy. RAGBRAI this summer was a bit of a reunion tour of my first ride—was it 2011?
I do wish we had, as we originally planned, found a way to travel to Norwich, England, this summer, as it will be a while before we can schedule such a journey again—but we hope to be there in spring of 2016. I guess a presidential election year is a good time to flee the country, if only briefly.
This summer we haven’t used our kayaks near enough, but one recent afternoon, maybe a Tuesday about two weeks ago (I’m not sure of the day and I don’t care enough to research it) we took the boats to Pleasant Creek State Park for an outing.
First, my daughter and wife kayaked while I tried, but failed, to capture a picture of a Monarch Butterfly that was teasing me and making me wish I had my good camera. Then, I was alone on the lake, watching the fish—the water was unusually clear—looking at ducks and seeking turtles. I didn’t spot any turtles, but there was a swimming snake I saw, so the reptile quote was definitely met.
Summer of 2015, I’m going to say you’re not over yet. I can tell myself that minor lie and try to believe it. But even if you’re already in the memory banks, you did make some good ones.
Including some along the waters. I guess that’s all one can ask of a summer.