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Monday, December 20, 2010




 Monday, 8:30 AM.  7.5 degrees, up three degrees in the last half hour.  Wind WSW, calm.  A reluctant sun is struggling to rise through the lake smoke.  The rest of the sky  is mostly clear, and the barometer is predicting partly  cloudy skies.
    Yesterday afternoon we decided to go out to dinner in Cornucopia, taking our time to get there just before dark.  First we checked out the Sioux River above Big Rock to see if it was frozen over, and it was not.  This section of the river, upstream from the bridge on Big Rock Road, is usually very photogenic, and it did not disappoint.  I resolved then and there to do some serious trout fishing early next spring.  The last time I photographed this part of the river some idiot(s) had erected a whole phalanx of stone monuments (stone fishermen, witches cairns?) in the water.  Thankfully they are gone now, either toppled by rushing storm runoff or by some good Samaritan with a better sense of outdoor aesthetics .  From there we drove west on Star Route, which was snow covered and slippery but otherwise uneventful; however, the sky turned a spectacular blue, pink and mauve with the light of the setting sun reflecting off the massive cloud formation of an oncoming front.  In order to get a decent photo I turned south on Mountain road, and I just managed to catch the last of the colors as they faded right before my eyes. We ended up eating at Fish Lips Tavern in Corny where we had a good down-home meal and a warming drink.
    I have mentioned before that one of my simple joys is finding a book in my library that I have not read, and I recently found a little paperback that I purchased almost half a century ago, and have probably packed and unpacked a half-dozen times without ever opening the cover.  It is “Notes from Little Lakes,” by the late Milwaukee Journal outdoor writer Mel Ellis.  Published in 1963 by the Journal, it is a compilation of very short articles he wrote for the Sunday edition over a period of years.  I had at one time probably read them all individually along with Ellis’ other outdoor stories.  I followed his hunting and dog tales avidly in those younger years, as I was then very much into bird hunting and bird dogs.  I imagine the book is now long out of print and difficult to find, but it is filled with “notes” on wildlife, conservation, and training and living with dogs, horses, all kinds of animals, and of course his wife and children, as the “notes” are mostly about family life on his exurban homestead, “Little Lakes.” There is a lot of wisdom in this simple book, but it is often rather somber, as it recounts tragedies, small and large, along with the joys of life.  It is a good, philosophical read for a long winter's night if you can find it.

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