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In to the Wind

February 6, 2013
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Have you ever dreamed of going back in time to one of those singular events in your life? To perhaps a singular pivotal event that defines you? I have.

It's hard for me to pin-point a particular event that defines me, but I do often "go back" to certain events in my life which bring me pleasure-and perhaps unfortunately-bring pain. The former is a device to bridge the bad times, and the latter serve as reinforcement for doing better, and remind me how stupid I once was (am).

I remember my first kiss with bittersweet recall. I was on top of the world at that moment, but the evolution of where that kiss took me brings pain.

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I remember the sickening sound of the crusty snow in that ditch deforming the metal on my father's car when I had my first accident. Icy roads were to blame; I was at fault.

I remember leveling my shotgun at a flushed bird and making my first wing shot. In that instant I had triumphed over nature. I also remember several instances prior to that shot where my failure to lead the bird resulted in a miss. My failures were instructional in allowing my success.

I remember being in awe when I saw a mat of dark hair when my first son was born. Nothing in this world was as great as holding him and having him sleep on my chest that first night out of the womb.

I remember the day my oldest wouldn't hold my hand while we walked, but my youngest would.

I remember my first day of school and wondering why a couple of those kids were crying. I didn't understand that! Here was a new adventure for which I had prepped and eagerly anticipated.

I remember when grandpa told me Pepper, the first dog at least partially mine had to be put down. That was a particularly wounding experience.

I remember walking the fairgrounds after the fair ended, with grandpa, looking for coins shaken loose from their owner's pockets. We always made a haul, at least by the perspective of a child.

It wasn't until years later I figured out the dollar and change my grandpa claimed as his from the find was to clandestinely buy beer. Grandma did not want grandpa to drink, so he had to do it on the sly. I'm sure I made a great cover for grandpa's covert activities; and at the time I didn't have a clue.

I love him no less now. His love and attention for me will always be remembered. Grandpa always had some new adventure in mind for "us," and I was a willing participant.

For many years, we kids would take the train out to Colorado with my mom. It was the Rock Island Line. The train was the Des Moines Rocket. We went to stay with my grandparents for the summer. My dad would drive out and pick us up right before school started in the fall. Those trips hold a bunch of cherished memories for me.

I remember mom insisting we kids look out the window at the steam engines working the yard at Council Bluffs as we waited our turn to cross the Union Pacific trestle spanning the Missouri River. She told us they were disappearing, and the next time we might not get to see them.

I remember watching for Pikes Peak as we neared Colorado Springs. It was a sure indicator we were almost there.

At the end of summer, on the trip back home, after asking at least a hundred times if we were there yet, I remember my nose telling me when we were getting close. To this day, and perhaps because of those experiences, one of my favorite smells is that of fresh cut alfalfa.

I remember those Rock Island train adventures instilled a lifelong fascination with trains, rolling stock, and the behemoths that pull those trains. I remember waiting patiently at crossings for trains to pass. I can't remember how many times I tried to count the cars, but I did, and often. I still like to watch the trains as they pass.

There is a new distraction too, while watching the passing trains. Many of the cars now wear colorful graffiti. I don't ever remember that as a kid. When I first saw this, I was somewhat appalled. Now I think some of them are very creative. I do wonder what the owners of the rolling stock think.

So, because in my estimation, and because I have lived a mostly charmed life, there is not a singular, defining moment to which I cling. If life could be divided into eras, or segments, then there are defining moments for which I am thankful.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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