Home, home on the range - elks, dogs and the lakeAfter I thought about crayons — this was last week — I thought more about being back in school. I thought about sitting at our desks and singing. We did that. Teachers had pitch pipes, no guitars, no pianos.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — After I thought about crayons — this was last week — I thought more about being back in school. I thought about sitting at our desks and singing. We did that. Teachers had pitch pipes, no guitars, no pianos.
“My county tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing…”
I think it was in the sixth grade that we learned, “Home On the Range.”
“Give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and antelope play…”
Deer play still across this, our home range. One of our early immigrants saw an elk beside a creek one morning on his homestead north of Worthington. This is how Elk Township came by its name.
Ours certainly was buffalo country. Thousands of buffalo (not bison) grazed across northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota through ages. The belief is Indians drove buffalo over the rims of the Blue Mound to get their flesh and their hides.
“Here we dwell, in the sweet land of liberty where the buffalo roamed and the deer play still…” Ice cream, wind surfing and Turkey Day besides. We have for ourselves a place in this world other people only dream of, a place people sing of still. Tony Bennett: I left my heart in Chautauqua Park and Okoboji.
Of creatures we see often and live with, I suppose dogs are the most common, as they were amid the Indian lodges, as they were on the homesteads and on the farms, as they were (and are) in all our towns and villages. Worthington has a Puppy Park now.
It is my impression — I see people walking by with dogs every day, every evening — it is my impression many more dogs today are what are thought of as quality dogs than was the case in times gone by. In times gone by, you did not often see people walking dogs. Dogs were turned out on the town, and there is no denying this was cause for griefs and grievances.
There always were some Labs, some Shepherds, some Cocker Spaniel. There always were many, many mutts.
We had (in particular) one little black dog that my brother called Spuddy. We all picked up on that name.
Everyone seemed to have good feelings for Spuddy. That little dog’s weakness was chasing cars in the street out front. This distressed us until one morning my mother made a recognition. When Mother hung clothes on the clothes line, Spuddy would not wander 10 feet, even if a truck rolled past. He stood watch. Mother took to keeping something on the clothes line. A rug would do. This was end of dog chasing cars.
There was a woman in the neighborhood who wanted a dog but she said she couldn’t afford to keep one. Someone did locate a (free) short-haired little dog for that neighbor and (of course) she found a way to afford it. She took the expense in stride.
I was thinking about this by chance that morning the Daily Globe arrived with the front page story of the algae and the stink across Lake Okabena. This surely is distressing.
In a time not long gone, Worthington made important efforts to deepen Lake Okabena and to remove the silt which flows in year by year. The city maneuvered to obtain the surplus Mississippi River dredge Shawano at the close of World War II. Dredging began. Along the way, the city worked earnestly to keep algae under control. Okabena was never Stink Lake.
One legacy of the dredging is portions of Okabena which still are relatively deep. We have Olson Park and Centennial Park. Both of these parks were lowlands — sloughs. The parks came into being from the lake bottom which was pumped ashore. The parks are a precious legacy. I can’t guess what a price tag Worthington would place on Olson Park or Centennial Park today.
I know it is said dredging and algae control can no longer be afforded. I suspect this is akin to the neighbor protesting she could not afford a dog. I think maintaining Lake Okabena is one of those expenses you take in stride and count it money spent well.
“Sweet land of liberty…” (I am still singing.)
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.