In the grass along the ditch that flows into the small trout stream down the road from the family cabin, there is a reminder of the summer solstice. While I am not always around to see them in full bloom, and sometimes they are not at this stage yet due to schedules and seasonal conditions, I often think back to the discovery I made on a cool and humid summer. moving weeds on the shore. at the pickup area along the road. Amid the curls of green swamp grass, the purple and white bulbs of a showy square of slippers stood out, their beauty hard to miss. Ornate and flowery, like many other orchid species, at this time of year, I look for the symbol that recalls the beginning of summer.
Their summer display now also coincides with the end of another spring event that draws me to the cabin every year: the State High School Clay Target League Tournament in Horace, Dakota. North. What i call “the big show” by talking to our young participants. While my weekend is often hectic with driving back and forth to the huge shooting park before a night out near the event, the morning or night walks with the dog slow down a bit, while I ‘inspects the lawn for the flowers I first found about eight years ago. Similar to the stacks of medals kids collect in competition, with orange, blue, and yellow ribbons for third, second, and first place – and if they are really active on their competition day, the black ribbon d A general winner – the color and rarity of lady’s slippers are also a symbol of seasonal transition and a developing tradition.
On a pre-dawn walk, just before hitting the road for the first day of this year’s competition, I stopped to inspect the most likely spot where the ladies’ slipper patch was in the past. While I hadn’t seen the flowers the previous season, as the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic, I was hoping the time was right and they would be there. In the first light of day, squinting through my glasses, I saw multiple splashes of white against the dark grass and stepped into the ditch. The plot had extended along the fault line that drained into the swamp wooded area below, and 30 or more flowers were in bloom. But the expansion wasn’t limited to the only ones I remembered as I stopped to take a few photos before driving down Highway 10.
In three other groups on the edge, dozens of other lady’s slippers bloomed just above the top of the grass, and I was stunned. A follow-up walk that night would reveal another set a few more yards down the road, and I was amazed at how many there were and what shape they were in, especially being such a rare flower. The unique wildflower bouquets lifted my spirits and set the stage for the weekend.
Coming out of a spring that challenged our shooters – with wind, snow, rain and cold temperatures the norm from March through early May – those who had registered for the State Tournament had certainly deserved their moment in the sun. The first two days of the event gave them exactly that, both figuratively and literally, as the hot and windy conditions on Friday and the perfection of heat and calm on Saturday were a bit of a change from in the regular season which again produced a number of top honors. for die-hard young shooters. The Sunday wind and rain, which served as the last slap in the spring before the seasonal schedule change, didn’t matter as the last schools persevered in more familiar conditions and excelled beyond expectations.
At the end of each day of competition, the toll of medals echoed in the parking lot and the sparkle of the plaques for their accomplishments shone like their dazzling smiles. In the end, our crews boasted of the Class 1A Male Champion, the best male and female skeet cannons, the best score in the Class 2A Male Trap, the Female Champion and Class 3A Trap Finalist, and dozens of others who made the podium with the top three in their Varsity, Junior Varsity and Novice divisions. After a year of absence, this was the most successful ending our attendees have ever had and a testament to their hard work and persistence through a difficult time.
With those memories locked away, I walked back to the cabin and as I pulled to a stop I took one last look at the flowers in the ditch, catching the first rays of sunshine of the day as the storm system was moving away from the area and the last light of spring was shining on the flowers. Like the screams, hugs and punches shared by family and friends as shooters wrapped up their record-breaking tours and the tense calm gave way to celebration, the flowers served the same purpose – a showy ending to one. season and the herald of another which would begin, at least heavenly, shortly after sunset in the spring and a new season would begin… in our exteriors.