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Friday, March 25, 2016

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #36: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Conclusion, Part XV: The River of Our Times

Sub Terra Vita
By Tim Krenz
February 22, 2016

Chronicle #36: A Brief Autobiography of the Valley Underground: Conclusion, Part XV: The River of Our Times

On our St. Croix River, we would both push the limits of idiot notions of our careless youth and our awkward courage. Like all generations of Osceola, we mostly survived those less prudent notions, and lived to some more responsible lives. Some did not pass to the present, on and off the river. We mourned. But in the culture of our Valley, in the underground especially, the river remains the right of passage. The older pass that right to younger, to explore inwardly and outward, the times in which they think, feel, and live.

I made lots of water and hiking trips up, down, and along the river.

During middle school one summer break, our local Boy Scout Troop 131 spent eight days and seven nights on the “great discovery” of the St. Croix River, like modern-day Lewis and Clark but only one short day from home and the comforts of a bed and the television. We did let loose, especially with the scout masters out of sight. The first night we camped upriver from Oz, at a place called Sandy Hill Heights.

We talked like sailors, raised heck, and even rammed one of our flotilla's fishing boats, almost cutting it in half. Later, another boat blew up, with a twenty-five foot mushroom cloud of fire. Nobody got physically hurt on this trip, but it did teach us something about limits of safety and youthful impressions. All fun, I suppose. Lessons aplenty.

In high school, the August Saturday following the Friday night football opening game (which we lost), Paul, Mark, Todd, Dale and I came down from Interstate Park, on our way to Osceola Landing, and we camped at the same site on the Wisconsin as I did in Scouts—Sandy Hill Heights. We swam in the lagoon, a lagoon until the dam upriver opened the gates and the water rose, which also almost floated the canoes off the shore by morning.

Our dinner fare, not too complicated for high school kids, served up hot dogs roasted over the fire, on bread (we forgot buns), and chips. Aside from not having enough food, we had a good time, walking the trails in daylight and sharing the nighttime bonfire until packing into the tents. Nothing as adventurous or frightening as blowing up fishing boats, we just had fun.

Two summers later, in early, hot August, after graduation from high school, I came down the river one Friday night by myself. I had a hard year going, not only uncertain what stood ahead in the future, but perplexed at what had happened in my life the previous 12 months.

My father and brother drove me and a canoe to Interstate. I camped, for the last time, at Sandy Hill Heights. The site has since closed to prevent erosion of that river bank. Nothing much happened on this trip, as I walked around, enjoyed a fire, and slept outside with only a tarp over my sleeping bag and head, which did not help with the billions of mosquitoes gnawing me. I woke before dawn the next morning, and made Osceola by 8 A.M.

A week or so later, I traveled for ten days to Winnipeg. I came back to a clear house, drove to the new house my parents built on their new farm in Ubet, and a few days later, I moved into a college dorm. Odd it seemed, that last trip to Sandy Hill Heights. Everything no longer looked young and new to me. I made the passage, and moved on to new things, adulthood and the uncertainty we all feel at the big question, “What comes next?” I had new undergrounds to explore. And this fifteen-part brief autobiography of the Valley underground concludes with the note to the young, again: Live well, but use common sense, and “Seize the World!” Life belongs to the living.


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