Watching the snow banks dwindle with the warmer temperatures and the ice slowly disappearing in Lake Tomah, the mind drifts back to the days walking home from the Oak Grove Ridge one-room country school in the late 1940s and early 1950s outside Seneca in the middle of Crawford County
Phillip, Bob, and I walked together and in the my later years at Oak Grove, we were joined by younger sisters, Catharine, Rita, and Diane. We were mixed in with a whole parcel of Kozelka kids; Gloria, Nancy, RuthAnn, Jimmy, Gary, David. Shuffling along, talking, laughing, joking, throwing snowballs, sticks and gravel pieces. We boasted, bragged, hit, and shouted at each other, the way all kids act.
The distance from our farm to Oak Grove School was only one mile. But when you are a little tyke, a mile seems like ten miles. We left Oak Grove School at 3:30 PM heading southeast. When the snow was melting in the spring, the water in the ditch alongside the road ran down a slight slope in the direction we were going. The water came from both directions to the low spot in the road, entered a culvert that ran under the road and out the culvert.
We’d put twigs in the stream and race them, to see whose twig was the fastest. Then the twigs would disappear into the culvert and we would rush to other side of the road and watch them shoot out the culvert. Culverts were about a foot in diameter, and sometimes that torrent of water would shoot out 10 or 15 feet.
The water was on its way down to Kettle Creek, which emptied into the Mississippi River north of Lynxville. We would argue about how long it would take our twig to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
Bob said “The Mississippi River runs about two miles an hour downstream. It’s about 1200 miles from La Crosse to New Orleans. So, it was goin’ take about 600 hours, and that’s about 25 days.”.
Past the dip in the road, round a slight curve, off to the left was the long driveway into the Mickelson place. To the right was a huge rock, about 60 feet into the woods, not observable except when the leaves were off the trees. A few times, when we weren’t too concerned about getting home when we should, we would climb up on the high side of that rock.
A bit past the Big Rock was an apple tree, less than 30 feet inside the property line fence on the Ingram farm. The apple tree grew many apples, they were all small ones, due to lack or pruning. They were perfect for picking and taking a small bite, then throwing the rest at a sibling or one of the Kozelka kids or a telephone pole.