Archived Story

Missed out on festival’s water war opportunity

Published 10:01am Friday, July 6, 2012

I’m kicking myself because when I read through the Freedom Fest schedule last week I did not notice the plan for fire department water wars on Wednesday afternoon. Instead of sitting inside complaining about the heat I could have been over watching fire departments push a barrel back and forth with streams of water.

Water wars were a staple of community festivals when I was a kid in southern Wisconsin, although we called them water fights. At most festivals, the water fights took place in the evening right after the tug of war which, while not strictly a fire department event, mostly involved teams made up of firefighters from the area’s various volunteer departments. I always wanted to grow up to be as muscular as those guys; didn’t happen, though.

I’m not sure that I ever saw the end of a water war. There was inevitably either a tornado watch or, at the least, a thundery looking cloud on the horizon that would cause my mother to hustle us into the car so we could go home and hide in the basement.

Wednesday was hot, but there were no storms in sight and in any case my mother is 200 miles away, so I could have enjoyed the whole water war event. Maybe next year.


Driving to work down First Avenue Thursday morning, I sat for the usual nearly endless time at the Fourth Avenue SW intersection. As I have complained about previously, the old-school stop light there halts 1st Ave. traffic whether or not there is a car at or approaching the intersection on Fourth Avenue.

I bet 1,000 gallons of gas a year are burned at that intersection by idling engines.

On Thursday, I was able to fill the time by watching the next stoplight in line – at 4th Ave. SW – in error mode, flashing red and stopping traffic from both directions. It occurred to me that the broken stoplight was probably an upgrade from the way they usually work.


At least a couple of times a year there’s a news story reporting that a bear has been sighted in some semi-urban area such as the Twin Cities suburbs. This week it was an Associated Press report about bears being seen in southeastern Minnesota.

Although people tend to think about bears as animals from “up north,” the reality is that their regular range extends down just about to the Twin Cities and the likelihood is that some are routine inhabitants of forested areas quite a bit farther south. Seeing a bear shouldn’t be a major surprise much of anywhere where there’s woodland habitat.

At least equally interesting is the success of coyotes in expanding their range into suburban and urban areas. The small – typically less than 30 pounds – dog-type animals make just about every corner of the state their home and are, the DNR reports, increasing in the Twin Cities metro area.

In fact, coyotes are known to be present in significant numbers even in Cook County, Ill., one of the nation’s largest urban areas.

So it’s a safe bet that they are going about their business – hunting smaller animals, reproducing, staying out of sight – along the wooded river ways and creek beds around Austin.

But coyotes’ greatest skill seems to be avoiding detection. I’ve never seen one around here, but sure would like to.


Does the hot weather bother wild animals as much as it bothers us? Tuesday night, trying to cool down after a long, annoying day of travel, we contented ourselves with watching the deer, raccoons and bats through our picture window rather than sit out on the screen porch where it was still 90-plus.

To my uneducated eye, it didn’t look like there was any less animal activity out there. We did feel sorry for the robins, which were hopping around the yard like usual but surely not finding any worms in the dry, brown grass.

We’d rather conserve water than have green grass, but we can usually count on having a green lawn at least until the end of July. This year, the grass had pretty much browned out and stopped growing by late June. We really need some rain.

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