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The Farm Bleat: Rustling up some excitement

When I reached my destination, a spot where the wildflowers dot the hillside, I stopped to admire a patch of Rough Blazingstar. As I pondered their root depth — I was considering digging some up for transplant — I heard a rustling through the tall grass just off to my right.

Julie 2019 mug.jpg
Julie Buntjer

It was one of those rare, sunny Sundays, oh about a month ago, that I’d realized it had been far too long since I’d taken Dad’s four-wheeler out to the back 40 to check on things.

The waterway is still running high — it’s been that way for two summer seasons now — and it’s still a gamble to attempt to get to my favorite spot on a hillside overlooking Peterson Slough. It’s a gamble because, while the water ponded in a low spot that doesn’t look too deep, I know it would be my luck to get stuck and no one would be around to save me.

After all, I still have visions of Niece Jessica and her boyfriend covered in mud splatter when they thought they could make it through the puddle last spring.

I avoided that particular trail, then, and headed west to cross the waterway at the place where the tile runs underneath a rocky pass.

The grass was tall; any evidence of the trail I’d once used was covered with growth. The land was telling me I hadn’t been out to visit for a while.

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I journeyed along at a leisurely pace, watching bees collect nectar from the pinkish-purple blooms on some volunteer alfalfa. I scanned the soybean field in search of deer and looked up to admire the puffy clouds.

It really was a beautiful day. It seems we’ve had far too few of them this year.

When I reached my destination, a spot where the wildflowers dot the hillside, I stopped to admire a patch of Rough Blazingstar (Liatris aspera). As I pondered their root depth — I was considering digging some up for transplant — I heard a rustling through the tall grass just off to my right.

As my eyes focused on the swishing grass, I noticed a critter with its nose in the air and a hurry-up in his step. You know the species: it has black fur separated by a white stripe up the middle.

Well, I’m not one to cuss or swear in public, but you might imagine the words swirling through my head at that moment. What could I do? What should I do?

Certainly I couldn’t scream, although a gutteral sound did escape from my lips.

I pulled my toe off the brake, jerked the handlebars in a tight left and my thumb pressed the gas lever to get the heck out of there!

You’ve heard of life flashing before your eyes? My imagination filled with tomato juice baths and clean clothes and working from home for a while.

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But a miracle happened that day — the skunk decided not to spray.

At least not that I noticed. I didn’t stick around to get a whiff.

I’m sure I broke my personal speed record on the ATV as I hightailed it back to the safety of the farmhouse. Just thinking about how many more skunks could have been lurking in the tall grass between home and the far reaches of the Buntjer farm gave me chills. Or maybe it was just the cold air hitting my face.

A week ago, I finally mustered the courage to venture out back with the four-wheeler. Much to my relief, the farmer-renter had mowed and baled the grass, and the short stubble that remained made it easy to see my surroundings, including the varmint holes where, I assume, the skunks, badgers and other critters were lurking out of sight.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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