Brent Olson; So You're Living the Country Life | Living the Country Life

Brent Olson; So You're Living the Country Life

What I always hope for is the occasional year when the yellow roses bloom in time for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is all about flowers. OK, it's also about remembering, honoring, crying a little, even barbecuing. But flowers are right up there.

My family has lived in the same place for 130 years. What that means is we can visit five cemeteries where our people are buried, all within 20 miles of our home. And, of course, on Memorial Day, it's always nice to have flowers on the graves.

For quite some time, I didn't recognize the uniqueness of my total family immersion. Americans are so mobile now that most people spend Memorial Day remembering family whose resting place may well be a thousand miles away or more. Shoot, I know people who can't identify where their grandparents are buried, let alone great-grandparents. This spring I'll be able to take my grandchildren to see their great-great-great-grandparents' graves. It's only a five-minute drive, even if we get stuck in traffic behind a tractor.

Tracing history
I see it as fortunate that many of my people stayed in the same place and came here recently, so to speak. Some of my wife's ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Her family wore white stockings and buckled shoes, and climbed off a ship purchased exclusively for their voyage. My family just double-knotted their work boots be-fore they climbed over the side of a herring freighter.

The downside is we have graves to visit in five cemeteries, and that takes a lot of flowers. In western Minnesota in May, the flower situation can be a little dodgy. A month later, we'd have all kinds of gala foliage around, but May? I've shoveled snow in May. We don't have a lot of orchids in bloom. The lilacs are past their peak, and it's a little early for iris.

The yellow roses
What I always hope for is the occasional year when the yellow roses bloom in time for Memorial Day. They come from a scruffy bush in the corner of the yard, under an ash tree and nudging the side of the septic tank. Over the last half century, they've been mowed off, burned, choked by wild plum brush, and accidently spritzed with weed killers. They were planted by Anna Elvabakke, my great-uncle's housekeeper, who probably looked out the kitchen window and yearned for just a splash of color.

As far as rose bushes go, this one isn't very impressive. New sprouts rise haphazardly from the ground. The blossoms are about the size of a half dollar and quite often have little black bugs crawling out of them. They are guarded by thorns the size and sharpness of a bowie knife. Yet their scent is pure, penetrating rose, and even Shakespeare thought that scent was all that really mattered.

We have some thorns
Maybe that's why I treasure those particular blossoms for the Memorial Day graves. My clan can be scruffy, a little prickly, a little bit buggy. We're not going to end up in anyone's hothouse to be admired for our esthetic qualities. But when it comes to flourishing where we are planted -- despite droughts, floods, and the occasional mower mishap -- we do OK.

That's what I'll be thinking about on Memorial Day.

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