History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monument to nature: "World's largest pheasant" (Huron)

World's largest pheasant - Huron SD - image from "Panoramio"
Nature isn't always easy to find in the prairie portions of the state. Farmland presides.
I remember the meadowlark with its distinct call being part of the backdrop of living in rural Morris when I was a kid. We lived on the north edge which was a little more remote then. No Superior Industries with its massive operations. Still, there's a feeling of country where we live (knock on wood).
The beauty of the natural world usually breaks through even where man has a strong imprint. The prevalent and bountiful farmland doesn't stand in the way of the pheasant. Some years are better than others for this wonderfully colored bird. We can hope that the low points never get too extreme.
Something about the habitat has caused the meadowlark to leave us. If the meadowlark were around, I would surely know it because the call is unmistakable.
We have seen the eagle depart and then come back to a certain extent. Eagles are known around Lake Crystal. I well remember the grand profile of a bald eagle up near the top of a tree by the Pomme de Terre dam.
Geese were once a pretty rare sight in this county. So rare, people would pause and gawk skyward when they were overhead. The Canada goose was a rare delight to see in the 1960s, but we were treated occasionally to flocks of "blues" and "snows" (blue geese and snow geese) passing overhead in the fall.
If you were a hunter and got a goose, you could tell people as if bragging. The Canada goose not only rebounded, its vitality became such that the now-deceased writer Doug Rasmusson described them as "sky carp." Doug would really love the Internet. His writing would win wider renown.
Geese are attracted to Lake Crystal along with coots. It can be quite the panorama for the Waddell family of the Waddell trailer park to enjoy. They tell me the sunsets across the lake can be quite special. Raccoons are known to be quite comfortable in that vicinity. I suppose raccoons are on the undesirable side of nature's presence, but they seem industrious. Skunks can go elsewhere.
As I write this (on 11/9) there is a big bloated dead skunk on the south shoulder of the highway between Prairie Inn and Fastenal. I stopped by the City of Morris office in the middle of last week to inform of this. I swear the dead animal has been there a week. I have noticed there is no odor issue with it, as I passed by it on bike one day. But it's an unacceptable eyesore. It's inexcusable for the City of Morris to ignore this, while at the same time our City Police go out and about looking to give citations to people not wearing seat belts - tantamount to harassment.
And then when we need the City to provide a service - removing a big dead skunk - they do nothing. Maybe the tea partiers are right and government is all out of whack.
Pheasants are the most desirable part of nature. No bird can "run" like a pheasant. The booming sound of a "flushing" pheasant can truly startle. Be aware of this when taking a walk on the biking/walking trail around Pomme de Terre River.
The pheasant numbers are reportedly low now. Hunters were advised that the pheasant population was down about 30 per cent from 2012. Cited as factors were the extended winter and cool wet spring. Also, the state's farmers have been plowing up more grassland to grow corn and other crops because of high prices. The trend is likely to continue.
Pheasants are mostly in the south half of the state. Southwest Minnesota offers the best numbers. Governor Mark Dayton went to Madelia in southern Minnesota for the opener.
 
A pheasant to symbolize
Back in the early 1980s I suggested that Morris establish some community iconography: the world's largest pheasant. Wheaton has the world's largest mallard. Another community lays claim to the world's largest bullhead. I wasn't aware at the time, but another community does in fact present the "world's largest pheasant." The Internet helps us find out such things today.
You can do a Google image search and find "the world's largest pheasant." Congratulations to Huron, South Dakota, on having this asset. The late Governor Rudy Perpich once said South Dakota was "50th in everything." Remember? Maybe you don't, but "Governor Goofy" as he was sometimes called, had to concede that South Dakota was No. 1 with its iconic pheasant, located along Highway 14 in Huron. It's a 22-ton sculpture made of fiberglass and steel, and it's an advertisement to attract hunters. It spans over 40 feet from the beak to the tip of its feathered tail.
There's even some fascinating mythology associated with this grand bird. It seems remindful of Native American religion. Andy Rooney once said Native American religion stood for nothing, but we know better.
 
Inspiration from folklore
From where does the howling prairie wind come from? Turns out, Huron's big sculpture was once a living, real bird, a giant bird, according to the legend. The legend dates back to when the first settlers came to the Dakota Territory in the early 1880s.
Stories spread of this giant pheasant with colors so magnificent, in flight it could be mistaken for a brilliant rainbow. It had incredible speed on the ground and in the air. Settlers felt the volatile winds of the Dakota prairie were caused by this bird running across the grassland. 
As with "Champ" the sea monster of Lake Champlain, out east, many people claimed to see the fascinating bird, but nothing could be authenticated.
One day in the distant past, a boy with a gun is said to have confronted the bird. The boy raised his gun but he paused, as the beauty overwhelmed him. "Why not kill me?" the bird asked (so, it's anthropomorphic). The boy responded, "You are a magnificent bird."
The bird then said to the spellbound boy: "If you spare my life, I won't move from this perch until everyone in the world has seen my family of pheasants and me. And to honor me, I ask that you give your word that you'll hunt only roosters and only in the fall and winter months."
The boy was quite agreeable to the terms.
The pheasant also asked that a ritual be established. The Huron-ites would release a single ringneck to christen the hunting season, and if the bird were to fly toward the James River, hunters would find a bountiful early season, and if the direction was away from the river, the late-season would be most rewarding.
I'm sure hunting is important to the Huron economy. I'm sure it has impact for our Morris too. As a young person I hunted. I find no appeal in the pastime anymore. My father and I both lost our interest. My father said "live and let live." We would appreciate the meadowlarks' beauty without feeling we'd have to kill any such thing. Killing is an odd way to express admiration for nature's presence.
Take a walk along the biking/walking trail. Enjoy the deer, striped gophers, squirrels and the array of birds. Show the proper awe and respect, in the same manner as Native Americans do. Andy Rooney was all wet.
 
To symbolize Morris
What about community iconography for Morris? We must cross the world's largest pheasant off our list. What then to consider?
I'll suggest, again, that maybe we could erect a replica of that well-known sign between Morris and Cyrus, the one that proclaims "Stop and smell the roses." The best location would be that grassy area where the highways meet in front of McDonald's. At bottom-right could be printed "Morris Minnesota," and somewhere else could be printed the name of the person inspiring it: the late Dan Helberg. The sign could be illuminated at night. It would be the answer to the "star" and "buck" of Starbuck. It would essentially be a billboard, something our Terry Timmerman could handle quite professionally.
I'll always appreciate that Terry, when he was with the Morris newspaper, knew my favorite soft drink was the Mountain Dew "Code Red."
Every community should consider a defining icon of some kind. Morris could use a little extra PR push. We're supposedly accenting tourism now. Some of us laughed at that at first. But why not pursue it? Let's "stop and smell the roses" and appreciate all the nature out and about, even the raccoon. I love the junco bird during the winter months. It's a hardy companion.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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