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JERRY NELSON

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Sit on my front deck these days and you’ll be subjected to a blizzard, courtesy of the trio of towering cottonwood trees in my front yard.

Because of the trees’ promiscuous lifestyle a person dare not take a nap out on the deck. Your mouth may fall open while you snooze and you might accidentally swallow a piece of cottonwood floss. You then awake with a start, believing you just ate a gnat. You think, “gross!” and trot inside to chug a slug of water.

You thus give the cottonwood seed exactly what it was seeking: a warm, dark place with plenty of moisture.

You soon begin to experience digestive difficulties. One day you pass out, and when you regain consciousness you’re at the Mayo Clinic. Some guy in a surgical mask is looming over you. He’s yanking on the starter cord of a chain saw and saying, “Don’t you worry none, I’m a trained arborist!”

Speaking of trees, it saddens me to report that one of the two sugar maples I planted a few years back didn’t make it through the winter. Evidence indicates that a buck killed it when he polished his horns on the struggling sapling.

It isn’t so much the death of the tree that bothers me as the demise of a fantasy.

I had imagined that the tree would eventually grow large enough to produce a harvestable amount of sap – a cupful would be enough. I would boil the sap down and get maybe a thimbleful of syrup, which I would present to my wife one morning to sweeten her French toast.

Twenty years to get a tiny smidgeon of homemade maple syrup might seem a bit ridiculous. But those of us who weren’t lucky enough to be born with Brad Pitt-like looks must often go to great lengths to impress girls.

Impressing a girl is what the buck had in mind when he sharpened his antlers on my maple, and that’s something I can totally empathize with. Still, I wish he hadn’t chosen my sweet little tree when he began to think about impressing his sweetie.

Speaking of deer, my mom’s roses were recently clipped off by a wastrel whitetail. This is an outrage! We endure our interminable winters, clinging to the promise of summer and greenery and flowers, only to have our hopes nipped,

literally, in the bud!

Everything is green these days, so why did the devious deer choose to clip Mom’s roses? Perhaps the deer had heard that she should “gather ye rosebuds while ye may,” but, this is taking things a bit too far.

After getting off to a late start due to a drawn-out home improvement project, our garden is finally established. With food so cheap at the supermarket, I have yet to figure out why we bother with a garden. I guess maybe it’s because we can thus try to produce some novel produce.

For instance, last year we raised some hot red peppers. They were purported to be cayenne, but I think they were actually mutant weaponized peppers from outer space.

I picked and dried the peppers as they matured. Once I had a bunch I pulverized them to dust in my coffer grinder.

The resulting ruby red powder is multiple magnitudes hotter than any cayenne known to man. It’s the key ingredient for my super-spicy gut-busting chili, which has been described by my wife as “thermonuclear.”

Plus, my morning coffee now has a bit of a kick.

A novel (for us) crop we decided to try to raise this year is sweet potatoes.

My knowledge of sweet potatoes begins and ends with the fact that they grow underground. I don’t even personally like sweet potatoes, but my wife thinks them sumptuous. And as I said, we non-good-looking guys must often go to great extents to impress the ladies in our lives.

I can’t tell the difference between a sweet potato and a yam, which must be related to my congenital inability to differentiate between a camel and a dromedary.

This may mean that I’m actually raising yams. Would that make me a yammer?

I often sit on my deck in the wonderful warm stillness of these early summer evenings and ponder this and many other similarly weighty questions. The blizzard of fluff drifts lazily earthward, which reminds me of the blizzards we suffered through last winter.

And I fight the urge to take a nap as I rest there on the deck. Because, as you know, taking an outdoor nap in the midst of a summer snowstorm can be every bit as dangerous as

sleeping outside during the season of wintertime windchills.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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