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Pickled Patooties
by Duane Behrens

My son and I spent yesterday hauling brush to the local disposal facility. (I'm old enough to remember when we called them "dumps.") Six loads of brush were pulled from that front stand of trees - 12 loads last week. Finally we're seeing the results; you can actually see the service road through that front grove now. The local landfill is good enough to accept this type of material without charge to local residents.

As we completed unloading the debris on our final trip, two young men in a white suburban pulled up with a trailer load of stumps, waiting their turn. I waved at them as we left, like I most always do. The driver sat, staring at me, stone-faced. My son said, "Wow, he's got a pickle up his patootie," borrowing one of my favorites. "Yeah," I said. "Maybe it's the weather."

It has been rather wet, gray and cold this week in Ely, and perhaps it does affect people's moods. It's good in a way, identifying and nudging us toward those who are steady in their good humor in spite of the weather. Fortunately, there are plenty of those as well.

Dan, for instance, tends the local landfill on Wednesdays and Saturdays, assisting visitors, organizing and consolidating the various recycling bins. Eighty four years old now, he still seems spry, healthy, happy and . . . well, young. I checked in as we left, and noted that business seemed a bit slow today. "Yah," he agreed. "Summertime you know, the days go by quick - lots of folks coming in and plenty to do. Days like these, though - cold and wet - days like these can go by kinda slow." Then he smiled and shrugged. "But when it's raining, I've got this double-insulated hut, a nice warm heater and a radio to listen to. So what's to complain about?"

I grinned. There's nothing to complain about. We're lucky to be alive, lucky to be alive here. Lucky, even, to be hauling trash on a rainy, cold Saturday morning.

Quite lucky indeed to be offering a smile and a wave to old friends and pickled patooties alike.


About the Author

Duane Behrens grew up in a small village in southern Minnesota. When he's not mowing the lawn or shoveling snow in Ely, he owns and manages an environmental testing firm in Southern California. He and his wife Jane, an English citizen, divide their time between their two homes along with their eleven year old son, "O.C." and, of course, Muttley.

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