There are many reasons I find winter in our area so beautiful. Bright snow and frost cling to the thick pines. A variety of sizes and shapes of feet leave their mark in the deep snow in our yard. Rolling drifts of white glisten in the sunlight.
One not-so-glamorous reason is that the snow covers up not just the trees and the landscape, but also the junk that piled up in our yard and our woods for many years before we moved in.
In the summer the leaves and brush grow high up and over the rusty snowmobile frames, mattress and box spring, and broken bottles and jars. Only a close look at berry-picking time reveals the largely unnatural grounds. When the leaves come down in autumn allowing deeper visibility into the woods, the disintegrating bicycles and tin cans show through the nooks and crannies of our yard.
But with the fresh, clean bleaching of the winter snow cover, I can forget for a few months about the junk that lies beneath. It's not until the snow melts into the muddy wet ground that I remember how much work there is yet to do to clear out the mess.
Since we moved in almost two years ago, we've filled garbage bags full of pieces of glass and aluminum cans. The scrap metal guy has hauled one load of car pieces and other completely unrecognizable chunks of steel away. We have taken two trailers full of stuff to the dump.
Tom has worked for hours on end pulling tangled clumps of barbed wire, chicken wire and plastic coated wire out from trees and bushes behind the house. Still the piles appear never-ending, and we wonder if we'll ever get rid of it all.
The junk isn't just in the yard, however. A dilapidated shed built of wood leans to the east on one end of our property. Except for the interesting vertical rough half-log siding, the shed in itself should be classified as junk. The windows are broken and the uneven shape usually has the door stuck in one unbudgeable position. We've gone in from time to time to see what we could salvage. A few filthy mason jars and a couple of dented oil pans were all we found usable. The rest, we thought, was a pile of broken and rusted junk.
Leave it to a young boy, however, to find adventure and treasure in our pile of junk. Our 8-year-old friend Craig spotted a tennis racquet through the broken window one day and couldn't get it out of his mind. He was intrigued beyond control. Upon each visit to our home, he asked whether he could get that tennis racquet. We explained that the snow was high and the door was stuck, but he could dig his way in if he wanted.
That must have sounded like too much work, because it sat untouched until he couldn't stand the suspense any longer. One winter day after a fresh snow, he shoveled his way to the shed and managed to pry open the door. When he came back to the house, he proudly carried one 30- or 40-year-old tennis racquet with all the strings intact. In addition, he had a badminton racquet, and golf ball and club.
After showing off his exciting discoveries, he went back for more. Shortly he came back with a tiny pocket level, welder's goggles, a miniature pocketknife, seven dice and a key ring with a small, leather hiking boot dangling from the chain.
On another recent visit to the "gold mine," he brought back with him some old and odd shaped keys. He was most excited, though, that they were dangling from a strong magnet -- attached to part of an old car speaker.
I never knew there were magnets in speakers, but it was as if Craig had struck gold. He spent a good part of the day seeing what that magnet would stick to -- the refrigerator, the handles of the cross country ski exerciser. He showed us how he could roll a decorative tin across the living room floor without touching it.
Digging through the piles in the shed and the yard still looms as a huge chore ahead of us. We're anxious to get to the bottom of the pile, but neither the pile nor we are going anywhere fast. But, a young boy's sense of adventure and enthusiasm of discovery helps us to look at the job in a new light. Maybe more gold lies just below the rusty and dusty surface.
(Diane McCormack is a correspondent for The Brainerd Dispatch and a freelance writer living in north central Minnesota. Send comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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