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The International Writers Magazine - Our 24th Year: US Backyard - Archives

Bass Ponds
Tyrel Nelson

I hadn’t been here in forever. The biting wind made my eyes water as I watched my breath drift away and disappear into the morning air. Sniffling to fight off a runny nose, a familiar feeling came over me while I listened to dead leaves dance atop the asphalt. It was definitely November in Minnesota.

Suddenly, I recognized something else. Slowly approaching me from the other side of the empty lot was that same old Chevy Cavalier, same old tree-shaped freshener dangling from the rearview and the same old blues eyes piercing through the windshield. The white auto rolled past me and parked next to my black Ford Ranger.
"Well, if it isn’t my son … and his better looking dad!" the graying man exclaimed while getting out of the car, grinning behind his wild beard.
"Hey Pop!" I replied, sporting a smile larger than his.
"It’s been a while since we’ve been here," he said.
"Yeah, but it’s good to be back. I’ve always liked this place."

After dodging a few of his jabs (my dad likes pretending to box), I followed my father, and we gradually descended the sloped entrance into Bloomington’s Bass Ponds.

It didn’t take long before I could see not much had changed. Ducks still lazily floated on the calm waters, the dam beavers continued to leave a path of destruction (evident by countless fallen or half-eaten trunks, which were on the verge of collapsing), and the surrounding branches donned striking yellow, green, and auburn hues like they always had during this season.

Meandering amongst the scenery, I took a walk down memory lane, too. I reflected upon yesteryear and envisioned a much younger version of myself. I saw me stepping on the same gravelly trails, standing no taller than my dad’s bellybutton, and frequently stopping with him to observe various birds fly overhead, turtles sunbathe on logs, as well as the occasional deer that crossed our path. I also chuckled when I thought about my pop’s keen eye. We would spend hours upon hours scanning the wilderness due to his genuine appreciation of nature. He never rushed because he didn’t want to miss something—a trait I’ve always admired.

Returning to the present, I noticed that my father hadn’t lost his sixth sense. He often spun around to rustles I couldn’t hear and would frequently squint deep into the woods. I still found myself pausing whenever he did, looking and listening intently to the things he pointed out. More often than not, he would show me an animal staring back at us with its beady eyes or a critter I almost stepped on. But I didn’t come to the Bass Ponds just to study the outdoors.

Aside from spotting wildlife, Jay Nelson has guided me in other ways. He’s always listened, provided me with invaluable advice, and has usually steered me in the right direction. On this day, he was giving his seemingly lost, unemployed son a much-needed confidence boost.

"Ease up on yourself. You’ve got a lot to be proud of. I know I’m proud of you," he said while slapping me on the back. "Something good will happen if you just hang in there."
We kept walking and talking, exploring all of the woodland trails. And after hearing my pop’s reassurances throughout the morning, I could somehow see the forest instead of the trees.

It was midday when we began the hike back to our vehicles. I recalled how I used to lag way behind my towering dad because the uphill climb was quite a struggle for me when I was little. I then shook my head in disbelief when I realized how much time had flown. Now, we were pretty much the same size, and I walked alongside him as we exited the Bass Ponds, stride for stride.

I also realized that, although we stood shoulder to shoulder, I still looked up to my father. And I always will.

© Tyrel Nelson August 2009

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