Mysteries Abound, Even When You’re Not Expecting

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Why did the chicken cross the highway? Rather, why did the peacock chase a semi? Recently friend Vern Bienfang was sitting on the front porch of his Highway #169 poultry ranch, donning his work shoes for a day of labor among his many feathered folks. The ducks were ducky, hens were happy, geese gabbing, cats snoozing, when cometh a loud clamor from the peacock yard, an incredible ear-piercing screech! Flying past the porch where Vern sat was one of his finest most beautiful peacocks, just a-screaming. Down the driveway it flew, gorgeous feathers streaming in the wind, it tried to cross Highway #169 and WHAP! FEATHERS! What, who, how frightened an otherwise brave and bossy peacock? Requiescat in pace. (Rest in pieces.) Theories welcome.

Friends. Want a pleasant drive? Take Hwy #19 to East Henderson Station Road east. At the corner of EHSR and River Road, glance to the north. If, by July 14th, drought hasn’t destroyed the vegetation, you will view one of the most spectacular growths of Butterfly Weed you’ll ever have the good fortune to see. When the west entrance of the Ney Center was being repaired years ago, some wise DNR employee or MNDOT member decided to plant those sun loving beauties as an erosion preventative, along with echinacea and many grasses. Surely the short drive Hwy 19 is worth it, IF the Precipitation Patriarchs grace us with H2O. As long as you are that far, continue on the trail four blocks to the famous Pumpkin Hill entry. Take a sharp right, trek up the hill, and about two hundred feet up on the south side of the verdant fern-covered hillside, a pair of girl’s or small woman’s shoes rest on a snag…in plain view. WHAT is the story of that sight?
One NEEDS good shoes to get up the well maintained but sharp gravel and stone roadway. WHY would anyone take off her shoes at that point? What’s up with the shoes? (Perhaps an alien abduction?) Further up Pumpkin Hill, one will come upon a hair-pin turn in the road. Take great care at that spot, as strangers often come off the top of the hill at break-neck speed, caring naught for the lives of others. (Are they accustomed to riding ferris wheels?)

At the top of Pumpkin Hill, housing has developed, giving residents a sweeping view of the Minnesota River Valley. Yet for hundreds of years, Native Americans made the top of the bluffs their summer homes and burial places. The reason? For one, their departed spirits would be close to the heavens. There are many documented tales of their bones resting in Mother Earth for miles to the north and south along the ridge rims. In addition, a number of the chieftains brought their traveling tribes to the tops of the hills to ward off mosquitos! Yes, mosquitos were not just a present-day phenomenon or affliction, rather, a persistent pest from the present to the past. Wonder what those who came before us used for mosquito dope? It’s fortunate that Mastodons and Wooly Mammoths west across the valley had thick hair and hides!

As one continues on scenic Pumpkin Hill Road, and when one is in sight of the LeSueur water tower near highway #169, one will note three interesting vegetations, two very prominent. Another is hidden like a rattlesnake in the ditches. The first is a white flower, about knee high, rather beautiful, nomenclature… Queen Anne’s Lace. (That’s a long story for another day.)
The second is an invasive creeping yellow blanket of flowers, encompassing ditches, gravel areas, in all directions around the LeSueur area. (For spite, we call it a yellow form of Creeping Charlie.) This is Birdsfoot Trefoil, native of North Africa. The plant has many names, but one source calls it “eggs and bacon.” It’s a perennial, brought in to prevent roadside erosion. Grazing, trampling, mowing, little seems to phase it. What can’t be cured, must be endured.

Now for a really well- hidden invasive menace. Area farm residents have just received a message from the LeSueur County Administrator. A TOXIC plant is in our ditches, and creeping into fields. “Contact with the sap and exposure to sunlight can produce painful burning blisters.” Isn’t that sweet? Chemical control, mowing and burning are three solutions. We thought Canada thistles were bad..stinging the feet of little shoeless farm kids, but this ‘stuff’ has no redeeming qualities. Friends, where does it all end? Solutions are welcome in this space.