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Prime Time | Muriel Keaveny: The country stays in the girl who left

You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

How true. I couldn’t wait to get to the big city when I was 18, and I loved the bright lights for many years. However, things change.

Seventeen years ago when I retired and moved to Bemidji I helped my son Mickey load his lambs for the drive to the stockyards in Bagley. Now we go to Winger, Minn., at the edge of the prairie.

I went to his place in Wilton on the shipping day to help. We locked the sheep in a shed, and then we loaded them in the back of his pickup. At that time we lifted the lambs over the tailgate into the pickup. We did it this way for several years, but one year as I was getting older I asked, “Why don’t you build a chute?”

Being a clever man, he did. It made the job much easier. I was getting older, and I wasn’t able to be of as much help.

But I just couldn’t give up. It was tradition.

I was able to guard the door so the loose sheep didn’t get out, and then I grabbed them by the wool on their rear ends so they couldn’t get loose. I love wrestling those guys.

As we prepared for the trip to the market this year, Mickey said someone told him how to make it much easier. Just put the rope around the neck then around the snout and up through the neck loose, and they would follow calmly. Piece of cake. He was shipping an old ewe, so we decided to load her first.

We got the rope around her neck and in place, and we got her through the door; then she rebelled, and all hell broke loose. She put down on all fours, dug her hooves into the dirt, and laid there. We couldn’t budge her. We should have had a cattle prod. I looked around for a stick but none were within reach. We tugged and pulled and finally got her into the truck, but she wasn’t happy. At one point we were afraid we might choke her. She put up a brave fight. The rest loaded up uneventfully.

Next was our drive to Winger to the stockyard. I settled back and got ready for the trip into the west.

As we went through Bagley the fields flattened out, and I could see forever. It was late afternoon, and the sun was sinking into the horizon. There is nothing like the sunrise and sunsets on the prairie. The newly plowed black dirt called to me. I longed to stop and get out and dig my fingers in the rich black loam and inhale the rich smell of nature.

This was only a teaser. Now I long to go to Tintah and roam the countryside and watch the sunset a few times, and see the full moon come over the horizon. One thing no longer seen is totally dark night. The yard lights and other lights dot the horizon. I missed the harvest this year.

Every year I feel the longing to make a trip to Tintah and the farm where I grew up, and drive through the countryside. I drive around the farm where I grew up and talk to the ghosts and spirits. I know my dad is there waiting to see me every time. He tells me it isn’t the same, but in our hearts it is still home. Life is good.