Hitting the Road Instead of the Books (p5)

18 07 2018

It was over an hour since we left the Twine Ball. An enormous smile still graced my lips, as the sun warmed my bare arm cantilevered out the driver’s side window. The pinnacle of our trip had just happened, and we were riding the high from Darwin, Minnesota, heading north to see the World’s Largest Prairie Chicken. Life was good.


That’s when it hit me. The corners of my mouth dropped abruptly as I realized what we had done. “Oh my goodness…” I turned to my copilot, “We FORGOT ABOUT GWENDOLYN!” Jamie turned his head to glance at the back of the bus, where her white head peaked over the bench seat. Her two little black eyes stared blankly back at us.


Indeed, in all the excitement, clamoring to rush out and see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, we completely forgot to get Gwendolyn out of the car for her own photo with the Ball. We were the worst lawn-ornament-kidnappers ever. We were just a week into our road trip, and had already established a pattern of taking anonymous photos of our kidnapped goose to be mailed back to her family in Michigan, and clearly the Ball of Twine was going to be the highlight. “Should we turn around?” we debated. No, we had ground to cover, and a Twine Ball postcard from Gwendolyn would just have to be enough.


Our day wasn’t over yet, and we were determined to make it up to Gwen at out next stop: Rothsay, MN. We had another hour and a half to go before our arrival at the World’s Largest Prairie Chicken. Unlike the Twine Ball, this next mecca was not a real live article of wonder, but more of an homage to the prairie chicken. In 1975, Rothsay was designated “Prairie Chicken Capital of Minnesota.” This statue of a booming prairie chicken was designed and built by Art Fosse and his community. The 9,000 pound chicken towers at 13 feet tall and 18 feet long. It was placed on this site to honor the actual prairie chickens that are historically native to this area. We thought that this might even be more meaningful to Gwendolyn, given her own heritage as a ceramic goose. Hopefully she would forgive our earlier mistake once she saw what we had in store for her!


Though still sunny, the wind cut across the prairies, buffeting Sam from side to side. Driving a 1969 VW Bus is a bit like driving a brick wall in terms of aerodynamics. I was grateful for our stop to take a break from driving, and we pulled up, the only vehicle around. Jamie and I walked up to read the plaque, with Gwendolyn waiting patiently for her turn. Honestly, the statue was pretty ugly, but it wasn’t my opinion that mattered. We were here for Gwen. I set up my camera with the timer, and we ran up for our photo op.


Then it was Gwen’s turn. She had to be in the photo by herself, so that her family wouldn’t know the identity of her kidnappers. I set her up on the concrete ledge, right below the massive chicken, and ran back 15 feet. I crouched down in order to take her photo and get the entirety of the statue in my field of view. I snapped her portrait, so proud of her ability to commune with her distant relative. Just as I stood up to walk back over to her, a big gust of wind blew across the field.


Like it was in slow motion, Jamie and I both watched in horror as Gwendolyn’s concrete feet tipped up, and we ran, screaming, “NOOOOO!” but we were too late. Before we could reach her in time, we heard the loud CRACK as her head hit the concrete, shattering. I felt like bursting into tears.


We began picking up the pieces of our new friend, as her one beady eye stared coldly back at me, still attached to her beak and about a third of her head. The back of her skull was crushed into smithereens, as it took the brunt of the force. Her neck, surprisingly broke into rather large slivers, and I could begin to see how the puzzle once was a goose. We grabbed a bag from the bus and poured her pieces into it, carrying the bag and the headless body back to the bus to regroup.


I was not willing to give up on her. Gwendolyn, I vowed, would be resuscitated. We loaded up, buckled our seatbelts, and continued our journey. We had just enough time to reach our campsite before dark, with one added stop along the way.


In 1998 it was still challenging in rural Minnesota to find a place to get your film developed in just an hour, which was critical given our pace of travel. Wal-Mart was our regular spot, which allowed us to find medical supplies for Gwen’s recovery. As the film clerk developed the eerily fateful photo taken just hours earlier, Jamie and I scoured the store, brainstorming about what we could use to mend our friend. We ended up buying superglue, plater of paris, grey spray paint, and a scrap of green fabric.


That night, as we settled into our campground, it was triage time. I got to work gluing the big pieces back together, assessing which fragments were too small to be of use. Jamie stuffed her hollow neck with plastic bags to create a core, over which he applied the plaster to fill in between the super glued pieces. With a screwdriver, he carefully scored the smooth plaster surface in an attempt to blend in with her feathered pattern elsewhere on her body. Finally, as her new neck began to firm, we rubbed grey paint across her bionic feathers, to match her original mottled coloring.


Her scars were evident to us, and obviously she herself was traumatized. The next morning, I fashioned a tiny kerchief from the scrap of fabric, to enable her to heal in privacy. Gwen looked almost as good as new. We asked her if she wanted to continue with us on this perilous journey, and she bravely concurred. Onward, to the West!!


“Heat Wave”

3 07 2018

a cool breeze lifts the heat from my stomach

one droplet of sweat at a time.

My torso lies still against this orange patterned towel,

A damp, half inch layer between my skin and the grass.

My toes hang off, blades of grass tickling

The overheated surface of my skin.

The sun shoots across my pupils, quickly,

As I shift my weight to rest my tired arms.

The book in my hands, servings as an umbrella,

Gives a little shade to my warm, lazy smile.

Turning onto my naked side, I peer out

To see my beautiful beach mate resting too.

Her curves glisten in the unrelenting heat,

Sweat dancing across colorful tattoos.

She senses my gaze and opens her eyes with a smile.

Despite the heavy heat, a chill runs down my spine

As I relish in her refreshing love.

It’s the most amazing way I could ever imagine

To suffer from a record heat wave at a Michigan lake.




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