My father taught me how to fight when I was so young that I probably would have had trouble beating up a chicken. He started by showing me the proper way to make a fist. I was never sure who I was supposed to be fighting or what sort of brawls, if any, my dad … Continue reading The Skinny Kid
Winter is a grim time for any mailman, but so long as the temperature is above zero and the wind isn't blowing too strong, it isn't that bad. My job was a comfort to me, the dull uniformity of it. At work, at least I knew what to expect. I delighted in hearing coworkers endlessly … Continue reading Devil Birds
The first person I ever knew with cancer was my grandmother. It killed her when I was about fifteen. Growing up, we drove to Watertown, South Dakota and visited my father's parents once or twice a year for the holidays. My grandfather had been a gunner in the Army Air Corp in World War II. … Continue reading Black Brains
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking Penguin 2000) is an epic adventure of men battling nature to stay alive. The Essex disaster was the real-life inspiration for Herman Melville’s immortal classic, Moby Dick. The survivors of the Essex--a Nantucket whaling vessel that sank after being intentionally … Continue reading The White Whale of Privilege
Early on in my postal career I had this little apartment building on my route with mostly Somalis living in it. A little boy with a round mischievous face began coming out to watch me put the letters in the boxes. "Hello, mailbox!" he would say to me. This got to be his little joke. … Continue reading Hello, Mailbox
My brother gave me an album of photographs and important papers that my father left behind. I keep it out of sight in the basement. But sometimes, late at night, when the rest of my family is asleep, I drink too much wine and think about the past.
My father sits on a stool in blue jeans with a coffee mug held on his thigh. His back is straight as he smiles broadly for the camera. He is barrel-chested and powerful. His hair and beard are dark. He wears a khaki military shirt and cap without insignia. He looks like Fidel Castro.
He smiles wryly at me from another photograph, his senior portrait. He is nattily attired in a suit and tie. It shocks me to see how much we look alike. He is thin and handsome. Alcohol and age have yet to thicken his features. His dark eyes convey…
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This is what I need. This is what I can carry. This is what I want. These are the existential considerations of the backpacker for whom everything is about weight. You inventory it as you hike: the water sloshing around in your water bottle, the bottle itself, maps, trail mix, cheese sticks, energy bars, dehydrated … Continue reading Weight: An Outdoor Adventurer’s Guide to Parenthood
On Father’s Day, I took my older boy down to where Minnehaha Creek flows into the Mississippi River. We parked our bikes by some bushes where the path eroded away into sand. My son wanted to look for lost fishing lures to place in the little tacklebox I had given him. He carried it everywhere, … Continue reading Lost and Found
As a boy driving through the South Dakota countryside with my father, I used to see these signs in the ditch with a red X and the word THINK followed by an exclamation mark. The signs indicated that at some moment in the past someone had died in an automobile accident at that spot. Sometimes … Continue reading THINK!
A map is formed with memory. The places you’ve gone and the things you’ve done. Say a mental image of you fishing with your father when you pass a spot on a lake. Or you might think of your daughter when she was small as you drive by a deserted playground where you, long … Continue reading A Map of Memory